Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat. A reflection of March Madness and Palm Sunday

If you examine the image above, you’ll notice it’s my bracket for the Men’s March Madness tournament. I’ve not done too poorly, and I feel confident about selecting U Conn to take the championship once more. However, numerous red x’s mark where I incorrectly predicted the winning team. With only 16 teams remaining, 52 teams have suffered losses and exited the competition. What began with immense hope and cheering has concluded with tears, disappointment, and in many instances, supporters blaming players and/or coaches for their team’s premature departure. Some fans might have even removed their school’s apparel to avoid mockery.

On Palm Sunday, while attending church, I was struck by the parallels between Jesus entering Jerusalem to the sound of “Hosanna in the highest”  and the 68 teams entering the NCAA tournament. Both the people lining the streets to worship Jesus with palm fronds and the losing teams’ boosters showing their school’s colors, ended up very disappointed. Peter was the ultimate disappointed fan denying Christ 3 times.
In both situations, people in the stands and on the road into Jerusalem, were putting their trust in man versus God.  Fans called for coaches to be fired and in Jesus’ sake, the crowds shouted “Crucify Him”!  

So the question for us this Holy Week is “where will we put our trust?”  Do you yearn for what the Kingdom in Heaven or the world has to offer? Deuteronomy 8 offers this great reminder.  You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

God through His son Jesus Christ (not coaches or players) gives us the ultimate victory.  As we prepare for Easter,   “Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. Deuteronomy 8:6-9

May your Hosannas be cried out whether you are being challenged or blessed. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  I can be reached via email at [email protected]   Please subscribe to receive email notifications when new content is published.  HAPPY EASTER!   

The importance of having an inner circle

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” – Ecclesiastes 7:14

You might ask why I would begin this post with such a sober verse from the Bible? Last week I challenged everyone to make the word gratitude a verb. My goal was to have you see pouring out your gratitude on others not only encourages you, it makes the recipient experience gratitude as well. It is about giving to grow and growing to give. Here is an interesting family resource So what does this have to do with who is in your inner circle?

It has been two years since I have been with my extended family. All but one of my brothers and sisters and their families came together for Thanksgiving. My son and his wife generously opened their home to make it happen. As I looked around the island before offering the blessing, I was touched by the magnitude of us being in the same room. Sure, Covid, but more than that, serious sickness, accidents, and yes, even disagreements, could have caused us not to be giving thanks together. The only family group missing was because the newest member of the Guthrie Clan entered the world a little over a week ago. Dad and Mom honored by Reiley Jane being both of their middle names.
That scene of 26 and the 8 from Richmond missing but present in our hearts filled my heart with gratitude. It made me realize once again, you need a tribe around you to remain thankful in all things whether “in good times or in bad.” I am grateful for my group of people but your tribe does not have to be as large or even family. It is about finding folks who you can truly trust. Who are going to love you no matter what. Life is not to be lived alone. Dr. Margaret Paul says it this way. “We are not meant to live alone. We are meant to live in caring communities with people to turn to for love and connection, and for help when we need it. Love, connection and support are vital for our health and wellbeing.” Even Jesus sent the disciples out into the world in pairs. Matthew 10.

The first step is yours. Choose who it is you want walking along side you. It may be starting a new relationship or repairing one that has gone astray. If you are side ways with someone, use this season of advent to reach out with a willingness to start anew. If you are alone, reach out to others. You will find people who will welcome you into their world. If you are blessed to have others in your life, take a look around and invite others in who are in need of friendship.

I will close with this example. A widow lamented on social media that she had no desire to put up her Christmas decorations. Another widow saw the post and offered to help because it gave her a distraction form her recent loss. What an amazing example of how serving others can indeed lift us up out of our own dismay. On this first Sunday of Advent, Prepare your heart answering this question from Mother Teresa. “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by finding, loving and serving others with God’s own love and concern.”