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Sunday, April 7, 2013

NCAA Basketball Championship, Ethiopia, and What Matters Most

I am an avid fan of the University of Michigan's men's basketball team.  Go Wolverines!  Naturally with them in the national championship game, I am very excited.  To get to that point, they had to win last night, and they did, a 61-56 victory over Syracuse.  People at my church, a UNC hotbed, know how much I love the Wolverines.  Many wanted to talk basketball with me this morning and we did.

But then the worship service happened.  And by the time it was over, I had no interest in talking basketball at all.  As people were leaving, some, bearing big smiles, were ready to pick up the basketball talk again, and I just couldn't.

Recall my blog of almost three weeks ago -  We had just returned from our mission trip to Ethiopia and Holy Week was about to start.  My focus was on God and on the materially impoverished but spiritually rich children we had spent a week loving.  I call them "spiritually rich" because they know how needy they are and they know the best thing they can receive from me is a smile and a hug and a kiss.  And they can offer that to me in as much abundance as I can give it.  Their knowledge of their own need and their ability to openly, shamelessly love makes them spiritually rich.

Thinking about them, I did not care too much about basketball even though I thought Michigan had a great shot to win the whole thing.  Now, Michigan is in the championship game and I have loved the ride.  It has been fun.  But this morning in church our team reported on the Ethiopia trip.  Every member shared their perspective and it was brilliant.  Emily Bailey did a magnificent job making a slide-show of images that filled my heart with joy and raw emotion.  The awareness of need the children have was conveyed to me.  As we told the church about the trip, I longed to love them and receive love from them.  And in that  reality, I couldn't care less if Michigan wins or loses.

Tomorrow night of course, I will watch every minute of the game.  I will be overjoyed with a Wolverine victory and grumpy if the lose.  But I am thankful that really, it his just basketball.   I am thankful I know how important it is.  I am thankful God has shown me what is truly important.  I am thankful I get to travel to Ethiopia and to love children.  I immensely thankful.  Hearing my teammates - Sarah, Matthew, Les, Brett, Heidi, and Emily - inspired me.  

Some things truly matter.  I want my life to be about what truly matters.

I recently heard a story of someone who retired wealthy and has now bought a yacht.  His plan is to spend his retirement sailing around the Caribbean.  It sounds fun and maybe exciting and maybe wonderful.  I want no part of it - ever.  OK, I'd enjoy a week or so on a yacht as a little vacation.  But for my life, I want to be involved in things that matter; things that matter to God.  Whether it is in Ethiopia or North Carolina, loving children matters to God.  Helping people who are materially poor get food and get education so they can jobs and be independent and help others - doing that matters to God.  Taking a group of Christians out of their comfort zone so they can discover who Jesus is; that matters to God.  Friendships that develop in the midst of mission work; that matters to God.  I have not achieved any of this.  God has graciously allowed me a role.  I am thankful.

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