March Madness and MVP’s: It’s All in the Assists

It’s March Madness and I’m a Hoosier.  Every stereotype about Hoosier Hysteria lives in my hometown, in my own house.  I married Mr.  MVP, who comes from a family of basketball MVPs.  My babygirl received a basketball hoop for her first birthday.  No pressure.  My oldest two sons are shooting hoops these days.  And making assists.
leather basketball isolated on a white background

For those of you not-so-basketball-savy, an assist is a pass a player makes to the scoring shooter.  The shooter gets the glory.  The person assisting gets – a tallymark.

As a basketball mom, I’ve seen my kids learn a lot from the sport.  They’ve learned hard work and perseverance.  They’re not the leading scorer.  Recently, I watched one of them make several assists.   As I watched Junior pass the ball off to another teammate who scored, I was reminded he’s learning a valuable life skill.  A life skill I need to be reminded of, too.

In any sphere of life, there’s competition, envy, and longings.  We all dream of making that “winning shot” in our little corner of the world.  Even if we don’t want to be top-dog, it’s natural to desire recognition, achievement, success.

Making that winning shot and hearing the crowd roar = euphoria

But Michael Jordan, most of us are not.  Most of us aren’t the CEO, top salesperson, Teacher of the Year, or winner on The Voice.   Most of us assist those who reach the headlines or receive the yearly bonus.

After watching years of basketball, I’ve observed players making assists are selfless in the act.  Many of them have a perfect shot to make, but they pass it off, giving other players an opportunity not only to score for the team, but to put themselves on the boards.  To receive recognition.  To succeed.

God calls this act humility.

Definitions of humility include (dictionary.com)

  • not proud or arrogant; modest
  • having a feeling of insignificance
  • low in rank, importance, status
  • courteously, respectful

I’m challenged as I watch high school players pass off the ball to the star shooter.   I’m a sucker for the underdog.  I want that guy to shoot when he’s got a good shot.  But when I see him pass it off to a better player?  I see character.  I see selflessness.  I see humility.

I want that.  I’m never going to dominate the basketball court, but I can learn to assist in the areas where God has placed me.   Does is matter if I get the credit for an idea I originated?  How can I serve the leaders around me so they can excel in the areas God has gifted them?  How can I make the “teams” I am a part of a success?  Do I “pass off” tasks I do well so others can learn and grow, including my kids and husband?  Do I give others an opportunity to succeed?

These are challenging questions.  Christ calls this servanthood.  While it’s not natural for us to pass the ball off, submitting to His Spirit makes it easier, even desirable.

He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30  (NASV)

Where do you need for Him increase so you can serve and assist those around you?   Where do you rank in assisting others.  Is it easy for you to pass the success to others, or do you struggle with wanting to score big?  

It’s satisfying to watch plays happen, with players passing the ball to each other so the best player can make the strategic shot.  The managers keep track of contributions each player makes to the effort.   Basketball Team in HuddleThose tally marks speak loudly at the end of the season.    Often the tally marks make the Most Valuable Player the best all-around team member, not the best shooter.

I’m thankful that’s how God is, too.  He doesn’t just reward the most successful.   When no one else sees, He does, keeping tally of each act of service, each assist.  His rewards are eternal, reminding us we are building treasures in Heaven.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”  Matthew 6:21-22 (NIV)

In the end, I’d rather be God’s MVP.

As long as I get a really, really big trophy.

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(how about you?)

PS – If your reading this before Monday, March 25, 8:00 AM EST, you can still enter the giveaway for Hannah’s Prayer by Kenneth Gividend.  Click here for more information.

Fear, Security, And Stereotypes

Recently my daughter and I traveled to an East Coast city to look at an internship site she is considering for next summer.  We’ve never been to this city.  We booked a B&B, made arrangements to meet with a mutual friend, and off we went.

I was marked by the experiences we gathered in that twenty-four hour period.  She’ll be interning at a small local charity that ministers to refugees.  In the ninety minutes we were there, we interacted with individuals and families from MP900227710the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Thailand, and others who, we were instructed, did not know their true nationalities because they have been in so many refugee camps before arriving in the United States.

Each person was at home in this neighborhood ministry.  The ministry provides their clients assistance with food, clothing, and childcare while learning the English language.  In the face of each person I saw my immigrant grandparents.  In the face of the director and her assistant, and soon my daughter, I saw my social hero, Jane Addams.

When my grandmother came to America in 1930, she did not know anyone but my grandfather, of whom she had been Maria Quaranta Lazzaraseparated since 1924.  He came to the United States by himself, leaving his wife and infant children behind.  Both only knew his brother and wife.   When Maria Lazzara came, she left her family and village behind.  She didn’t know the language.  My father remembers going to citizenship classes with her as a small child.  This summer, her great-granddaughter will be teaching English to immigrant refugees.  Full circle, by God’s creative grace.

While we were also on this trip, we worshiped in an inner-city Latino church, attending both their Christmas program and Sunday morning worship.  Though Baby Girl is fluent in Spanish, I am not.  But I didn’t need to be.  I was moved by the joy, the music, the facial expressions of those around me.  I didn’t need a translator.  These individuals loved Christ with their entire being.  I was blessed.

We walked through different neighborhoods.  According to the news, these streets are dangerous.  But as one person said, “They are just regular people going about their lives, going to their jobs, raising their families.”  Good counsel. MC900434912

That same weekend, a place I’m most familiar with experienced heinous violence.  “Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families.”  Now, according to the news, the school environment is considered dangerous.

Baby Girl left for Guatemala this weekend.   She’s returning to a place on a mountain that captured her heart this summer.  This time, she will be entering the jungles to translate for medical teams, near villages where drug wars broke out this summer.  Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families. 

I hear a lot about stereotypes, fear, and keeping safe these days. If I submitted myself to stereotypes and fears, I would shrink back from encouraging BG to pursue these experiences.   It’s challenging to step outside comfort zones to engage with people and cultures we’re not familiar with.   It’s scary to step into places where dangerous things happen.

But in 2013, where does danger lurk?   What is security these days, where does it lie?

MP900403070For me, danger does not reside with people holding weapons, and neither does security.  Security comes when we get to know one another, when we look into each other’s eyes, seeking to understand each other.  Fear builds when we add another “group” to be afraid of.   In our reach for more security, I’m afraid we’re reaching for more fear.

Mom, anywhere I go, it’ll be dangerous.  I feel safe” she says.

A challenging statement.  Everyday I drive my car, not knowing with whom I’m interacting with on the roads.   It’s potentially dangerous, yet I feel safe.

  A paradox.

Yet, it’s not.  I know in whom my security lies.  It’s my Heavenly Father of whom gives peace in the midst of pain, trouble, and danger. In Him lies my hope, my rest, and trust.

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”   1 John 4:18

I don’t fear death.  But I don’t want to fear life.

  In between, the challenge is finding and receiving peace.

Doing Life Together

I have the privilege to share how I’ve been blessed by doing life together with friends and community as a guest writer for Amelia Rhodes.  I met Amelia at a conference this summer and have had the honor to get to know her.  She is a gifted writer, has a servant’s heart, and is about ready to have her first book released in January, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? about doing life together.

Have a great Monday, and please visit Amelia and I this Monday on doing life together at www.ameliarhodes.com.