Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Devotional:
In Spite of What Others Say ...

Saturday mornings this time of year find me working the floor of the gymnasium at our church in Midland, offering halftime devotionals during Upward Basketball games. I was inspired to prepare this week's devotional by one of many stories coing out of Dallas this weekend as they host the NBA All-Star Game.

Upward, by the way, is one of the the world’s largest Christian sports program for children, and was created with a vision to provide the best sports experience possible for every child. An estimated 1-million people around the world play, coach, referee or volunteer in some way to support Upward sports activities, hosted by more than 2,600 churches - there are four churches here, in Midland, including my own First Presbyterian.

The organization notes that, "anyone – children and volunteers of any faith or no faith – can participate in Upward sports. Specifically designed for children in K5- sixth grade, Upward aims to bring out 'the winner' in every child – regardless of the game’s score."

Really, not a bad venue for discussing a man who might never have become a professional basketball player if he listened to what everyone else said, instead of listening to his heart. Thirty years ago, I told today's crowd, a young boy named Anthony was playing high school basketball in Dallas, and doing pretty well. He had good skills, but – and this was pointed out to him more than once – he was also ‘five-foot-nothing,’ as the saying goes, and just didn’t have the size to succeeed in basketball. But Anthony didn’t see it that way. He had a dream and he was ready to work hard to realize that dream.

I cited two lines of Scripture, one from the Second Book of Chronicles ... “but as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded" and another from the Book of Matthew ... “seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (NIV)

Anthony found himself having to knock on one door after another. They said he was too small to play basketball, period – but he showed them otherwise. Then they said he was too small to play high school basketball – but he proved them wrong. Then they said he was too small to play varsity high school basketball – but he finally got his chance to get off the bench and onto the court, becoming one of his school’s top scorers, and being named to the Texas High School Basketball All-State Team.

Yet with all those accomplishments and statistics, he still couldn’t raise any interest among college basketball programs – especially the major colleges. Finally, he was invited to join a program at a junior college in West Texas. So it was that Anthony ‘Spud’ Webb became a Midland College Chaparral. In the course of his two tears here, he became one of MC’s top scorers, was named an NJCAA All American, and led the Chaps to the National Championship where he was named tournament MVP.

This was followed by a write-up in Sports Illustrated and an invitation to join the Jim Valvano's basketball program at the University of North Carolina. Later, he was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. A couple years after that, Spud Webb was back in his hometown of Dallas for the NBA All-Star Game, where he won the Slam Dunk Contest – and he’s back there this weekend as a judge for this year’s slam dunk contest.
Out here, I reminded the crowd, is a court full of young people with dreams and aspirations of their own – and not necessarily basketball, but something in their life that draws them upward. I thanked the for being there for the kids that day, cheering them on, and supporting their dreams and aspirations.

By the way, whoever you are and wherever you are, we would love to have you on our team! If you're the parent of a youngster who wants to play basketball, soccer, flag football or cheer, chances are
Upward has a league or camp near you. What? No kids? No problem ... Upward programs always need volunteers to coach teams, to referee games, to operate game clocks, to rustle-up snacks for the kids, or offer devotionals at halftime.

I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.

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