Posts Tagged ‘NFL

24
Apr
20

The Right Hand of Hope

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”    Isaiah 41:10, NRSV

Shaquem GriffinIn case you were not aware, today is Day Two of the NFL (National Football League) Draft.

It is the time when elite college football players wait nervously by the phone for the call telling them they have been selected to play for one of the 32 teams in the NFL.

Considering the astronomical odds they face, this is truly a time of hope… for both the players and the teams who select them.

According to the official website of the NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association), slightly more than one million young men play high school football. Of that number, 73,000 (or 7.3%) go on to play football in college… at any level. Of those 73,000 college football players, 254 were selected by a team in the 2019 NFL draft… or .34%

If those odds sound hopeless to you, imagine how you would feel if you were a high school football player missing one of your hands. This is Shaquem Griffin’s story.

Shaquem Griffin was born with a condition called amniotic band syndrome affecting his left hand. This condition caused the fingers on his left hand not to fully develop. The condition was so painful that Shaquem’s mother found him in the kitchen one day, at the age of four, trying to amputate his own hand with a butcher’s knife.

The next day, Shaquem’s parents scheduled a surgical amputation of the hand.

Even after losing his hand, Shaquem continued playing football, alongside his twin brother, Shaquill. After high school, Shaquill was offered a full scholarship to play for the University of Miami Hurricanes, but turned down the scholarship because Miami did not extend the same offer to his twin brother. The brothers eventually went on to play together for the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando.

Even though Shaquem Griffin proved to be an excellent defensive player throughout his collegiate career, he faced not only those staggering .34% odds of playing football beyond graduation day, but also the cold, hard fact that no NFL team – in the history of the NFL – had ever drafted a one-handed player.

EVER.

And yet, in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft, with the 141st pick, the Seattle Seahawks chose Shaquem, reuniting him with his twin brother who had graduated UCF a year earlier. Shaq’s performance with the Seahawks that year – leading the team in tackles – proved that this was not a choice based on pity or sentiment.

He had earned his way onto an NFL roster.

In receiving the 2019 NCAA Inspiration Award, Shaquem Griffin credited his parents with instilling a competitive fire in him. He said that whether playing Ping-Pong or card games, his mother, Tangie, and father, Terry, exuded intensity, which he was eager to absorb. “It was a competitive household,” he said. “If I wanted to win at something, I had to work for it. It made me understand I could do anything I put my mind to.”

Today you and I may not be facing the kind of extreme odds Shaquem Griffin faced in his quest to play professional football. But there are no doubt times when we each feel as if the obstacles in front of us are completely insurmountable.

When those times arise for us, we look around for an injection of hope and possibility. As we have seen, Shaquem Griffin’s “booster shot of hope” came from his parents.

And just in case you might be tempted to say, “Well good for him, but I don’t have that kind of person in my life right now,” I will hasten to disagree. Every one of us who dares to reach out to God is a recipient of the same promise that God made to the Israelites… that God will, “…strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).

In case you feel that the odds are hopelessly stacked against you, it is good to remember that The Creator of All That Is is right there in your corner, reaching out his hand.

Abundant blessings;

28
Jan
20

Glorious Grind

Baby spinach“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”            1 Corinthians 10:31, NRSV

The other night we had some people over for dinner. Joan decided a big spinach salad would be the perfect accompaniment for the main dish she was preparing. She gave me the job of rinsing the spinach leaves and pulling all the stems off.

Because Lord knows, you can’t have a proper spinach salad with a bunch of stemmy spinach leaves, right?

And so, being the jolly team player I am, I set about my task… whistling as I worked.

Did I mention it was a BIG bag of baby spinach… with lots and lots of individual pieces of spinach in it… and that each spinach leaf had a stem attached to it?

Soon enough, my whistling stopped. The pile of un-destemmed spinach looked larger than it did when I started. The de-stemmed pile seemed impossibly small.

It was one of those repetitive, mindless jobs that I have never been a big fan of. It was fun having Joan there beside me doing her part of the dinner prep (her job, incidentally, was preparing the dressing and all of the other ingredients for the spinach salad… a job that involved skill and creativity). So at least I was able to divert my attention from the drudgery of the moment with some light, engaging banter with my wife.

But still…

That moment took me back to a couple of jobs I held a long time ago that involved a heavy dose of monotonous, repetitive work.

Mind you, these were not jobs that lasted only as long as it took to de-stem a 12-ounce bag of baby spinach.

These were jobs that lasted a whole lot longer.

One of those involved working for our next-door neighbor as a 12-year old kid. Miss Williams had some prize rose gardens back behind the house and my job was to go through each plant and pick off any aphids I could find.

For that mind-numbing work, I made the princely sum of 35 cents an hour. After three hours of aphid-picking, I had a solid DOLLAR in my pocket… with no taxes withheld. (Sorry, IRS!)

Later, when I was older, I worked in the factory of a company that manufactured hydraulic and pneumatic valves. For eight hours a day, five days a week, I put little rubber O-rings onto the end of the pistons inside the valves. O-rings – as I’m sure you know – keep the air or fluid from leaking into the piston.

I have to confess that I mostly hated those jobs. Every day I dreaded showing up and could not wait for the end of my workday. As soon as I found something else, I was out of there!

It was not until much later that I realized a couple of things about those jobs. First, I realized that for some people ANY job – even a monotonous job – is a godsend. It is the means to providing food and shelter for them or for their family. That job provides a place where they can contribute to the world and stay gainfully occupied. The job I whine about just might be a lifesaver for someone else.

My second realization was that almost EVERY endeavor includes a grinding, monotonous, mindless component at some stage. A brilliant concert pianist has had to spend hours and hours in tedious, repetitive practice. A gifted NFL quarterback (like, oh, for example, PATRICK MAHOMES) has had to throw thousands of balls on a practice field, away from the bright lights, every day, on his own. The charismatic, gifted preacher has sweated bullets over multiple drafts of that sermon and thrown away more pages than she has kept.

It all makes me think of Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 13thcentury Christian monastic. For his entire life as a monk, Brother Lawrence worked in the monastery kitchen, cooking for the other monks and cleaning up their dirty dishes. He had no time to sit in quiet contemplation of heavenly realities, listening for the voice of God. There was always the next meal to prepare.

And yet, somehow, Brother Lawrence found holiness there in the kitchen. Here is the prayer that is attributed to him:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

Amen

Yeah… but did he ever have to de-stem a whole bag of baby spinach?

24
Jan
19

Tree of Light

christmas treeYes, it’s true.

Today is January 24 and our Christmas tree is still up.

Fully decorated and lighted.

Know what else?

It will probably be up for another two days.

Every other scrap of indoor and outdoor Christmas décor has been carefully returned to its off-season storage place… waiting patiently for next year’s winter pageant.

But somehow we felt the need to hang on to the tree… for just a little while longer.

It might be because it has been a rougher-than-usual winter this year.

Part of that roughness is because it is snowier and colder here this year than the past six years combined. The childlike wonder with which I once greeted a snowstorm evaporated about the time I stopped celebrating school’s cancellation for a SNOW DAY.

For the past week, we have also been trying to cope with a sudden and heartbreaking end to the professional football season here in our hometown. I mean, sure… in the grand scheme of things, it is a trifling concern. But sometimes football fans forget to focus on “the grand scheme of things.”

I suspect there might be another reason we feel the need to hang on to the lights and shiny ornaments a little longer than usual.

I suspect it might have something to do with a shadow that fell onto our house about four months ago; a shadow that first showed up on a routine CAT scan that led to nine weeks of chemotherapy, a major surgery, and nine more weeks of chemotherapy; a shadow that caused both silent and out loud tears to be shed, but which also brought forth amazing outpourings of prayer, love, support, and hope.

So yes, we still kind of feel the need to have the tree here to twinkle and blink and light up the room.

But we are just about ready to pack it up and then try and see if we can find another source of light and joy.

I think I just might have an idea…




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