Wichita State. Kansas State University. Kansas University. All favorites of mine in the NCAA college basketball tournament. All with impressive records. All loaded with talent. And all failed to make the final four. They could have/should have and would have except for one thing—they didn’t. Until next year, I now would put away my lucky t-shirts bragging of my college loyalties.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the only game in town. The USA team prevailed in the World Baseball Classic, crushing Puerto Rico in the final game 8-0.
Go, America!!! Much better news from the baseball front.
Or maybe not. The next day, a friend explained that Puerto Rico is in economic shambles. Murders are rampant as are rapes and thievery, but all that stopped during the two weeks of the baseball tournament. The citizens unified…so much so that the country ran out of blonde hair dye as the locals copied the hair color of every player who, when introduced on the field, removed his cap and rubbed his yellow-tinted locks. For two weeks, Puerto Ricans relived every game, huddled in groups on corners to discuss each play their beloved team had made.
Not so much the United States. To most of us, it was another game, another evening of something to watch on television, filling our (YAWN) bored time.
Now I felt bad for Puerto Rico. They needed the win much more than we did. I had rooted against them, and now I thought differently.
I am good at that.
In the book “Alone With God: Rediscovering the Power and Passion of Prayer,” I had underlined what author John Macarthur wrote about the godly Old Testament Jews: “…their prayers encompassed the good of the community and were not isolated to the individual. For example, the rabbis asked God not to listen to the prayer of a traveler. That’s because he might pray for an easy journey with good weather and accommodating skies when the people in that vicinity actually needed rain for their crops.”
Laura Story made that warning personal when she wrote the song “Blessings” (one of my favorites) after her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and her prayers seemed to go unanswered. She begins by listing all the things we pray for—blessings, peace, comfort for family, healing, etc. Then we hear this chorus:
“…what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”
Oh, to count the number of times I have prayed selfishly without considering the bigger picture! And when I don’t get what I want? I forget that God’s answers many times expose my sins and fears and show up, uninvited, as loss, sorrow, conflict and disappointment.
Isaiah 55:8—“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
You can say that again. And again. And again.
The message was a slam-dunk. God must be a Tar Heels’ fan.