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Previous Message From Virtual Church

March Madness

Paloten College is nestled in the green and rolling hills of Tennessee. With only a few hundred students who came to the college for its renowned music and art program, the sport of basketball was of little importance. Paloten's basketball team had lost every game for the last three years and no one cared. The players didn't care. The coach didn't care. The students didn't care. The college was part of a sports conference made up of similar-sized colleges but with vastly different attitudes about sports and winning than the attitudes at Paloten. It was the last game of the season and the game was a relief for the Paloten players because the players could suspend practice and would not have to face humiliating jokes from family and friends about the longest losing streak in Paloten's history. Remarkably, in this last game of the season, the score was tied with 1:13 showing on the clock. With the score tied, there was a chance Paloten might actually win the game.

Rich Pappen was a starting guard for the Paloten team and was selected by the players as the team captain. As the clock wound down, the other Paloten guard passed Rich the ball but as the ball got midway between the other guard and Rich, everything stopped. Everything froze. Nothing moved. All the sound and crowd noise stopped. The ball stopped moving in mid-air. All the players quit moving and were frozen in place. The cheerleaders were frozen in mid-air as they were about to hit the floor from doing a cheer. The few fans in the stands were frozen in place and were unmoving. The game clock stopped moving. The second hand on the regular clock on the wall stopped moving. No one, and no thing was moving anywhere, except for Rich. Stunned beyond belief, Rich looked around and could not believe what he was seeing. A few seconds after everything froze, one man stood up in the stands, walked down to the floor, and called Rich's name. The man from the stands walked out on the floor and said to Rich, "Don't worry, they can't see either of us or hear us. Everyone and everything is frozen in time. For all intents and purposes, time has stopped everywhere in the universe. But first, let me identify myself. My name is John Discanten, and I am from the future. I know you are stunned by all of this, with everything being frozen and all, but I shall explain. Now I want you to look over at your bench. Sitting on your bench is a kid you call, Squeaker. In fact, Squeaker is the reason everything has been frozen in place. I have come from the future because in the future, millions of people will die, but Squeaker, because of his life and work, can save them. In fact Rich, your great, great, great, great grandchild will die without Squeaker doing his vital research in bio-chemistry. You see, Rich, Squeaker is a genius. Oh, he may not appear to be a genius now. He only gets B's and C's in his classes here in college. However, Squeaker's genius is hidden because Squeaker knows nothing about winning. Squeaker knows nothing about victory. All Squeaker knows anything about is losing. And winning and losing is why everything has been frozen. I have come back in time from the future to get you to win this game. If you win this game, your winning will inspire Squeaker to finish a little research paper Squeaker is working on in his chemistry class. If you win the game and the victory inspires Squeaker, Squeaker will get the first "A" of his college career. Then, with the winning and with the "A", Squeaker will have the motivation to actually use his genius in the field of chemistry although right now he is a graphic arts major. Squeaker's genius will produce an invention or development in the field of bio-chemistry that will lay unused and dormant for eighty years. Squeaker will die and never know his invention will ever be used. But Squeaker's invention will save the lives of millions in the future, long after Squeaker is gone. If you lose this game, Squeaker does not get an "A", Squeaker does not go on to develop an invention, and millions will perish." Not only was Rich stunned, he was double-stunned. Almost without the ability to speak, Rich blurted out, "Wait, no, wait, this can't be happening. This is just a dream. No, no, wait it can't be." Waiting for a few seconds, John said, "I realize all this seems a bit far-fetched and totally unbelievable. Those of us who go back have this kind of response all the time when we freeze things up like this. But you do not need to believe me. You do have to trust me and you do have to do absolutely everything in your power to win the game. It is critical to save lives, millions of lives, even if you do not believe me, for you to win the game. Losing for you and for Squeaker has become a habit. Everyone on your team expects to lose. It is as if you have your own form of March Madness. The only problem is your madness really is madness. The madness of losing is a madness that distorts your reality and causes bad things to happen because you never expect to win. After the game, after you have won, you will be able to verify with Squeaker about the paper he is doing in his chemistry class. Of course, Squeaker does not know about his invention, for the invention comes many years into the future. What Squeaker needs to know right now is winning is possible." Rich stared at John and then looked over at the bench where Squeaker was sitting. Squeaker, frozen in time like everyone and everything else, was not even watching the game. Squeaker had his back turned toward the players on the floor and was waving at someone in the stands. Rich thought, how pathetic. Rich turned to John and said, "I don't believe you, but just in case you are telling the truth, what do you want me to do." John said, "OK, here is what you do. You will get the ball from the other guard on your team. Pass the ball to your center, and fake left to get the man guarding you off balance and then run by your center as if you are going for a lay-up. Your center will pass you the ball as you run by. You can hit a lay-up. The guy guarding your center will come at you as you try to shoot, so fake him out first then put up the shot. If you miss the shot, your center should be able to rebound the ball. Whatever you do, make sure you hit the rim so the shot clock will reset if you miss. There are two full 30-second possessions plus a few seconds more left on the clock. Whether you make or miss the basket, guard the player who takes the ball up the court for the other team from the time the player gets the ball. I cannot control what happens on the court and I cannot predict any outcomes. However, from what I observed in previous play, you may have an opportunity to steal the ball. If you steal the ball, run down to your end of the floor, and hit a lay-up after making the steal. If you hit two lay-ups you will be one point ahead even if the other team hits a three pointer. Now listen carefully. I am going to go back up into the stands. As soon as I sit down, play will resume as if nothing happened. No one will know anything about being frozen in time. Be sure and turn toward the ball and don't look at me. Good luck." John walked off the floor and up into the stands. John turned to sit down and Rich turned to where the ball was frozen in mid-air. Suddenly, everything came back to life. Rich caught the ball, dribbled right and dribbled left. The center came open and Rich passed the ball to the center. Rich did a head and shoulder fake and ran past the man guarding him. Just as Rich got under the basket, the center passed Rich the ball, and Rich shot a lay-up. The ball bounced all over the rim for what seemed like an eternity. Finally the ball fell into the net. The small crowd roared. Even Squeaker was paying attention. The best ball handler for the other team quickly charged up the floor, but at about the ten second line, the ball took an odd bounce in Rich's direction. Rich grabbed the ball and headed down the floor unguarded. As Rich got under his own basket, he pushed the ball up toward the backboard and waited for the ball to fall into the goal. The ball bounced off the backboard but only hit the back of the rim and did not go through the net. Rich grabbed for the ball but an opposing player got to the ball first and took the ball up the court. Rich guarded the opposing player as closely as possible but unfortunately a foul was called on Rich. The opposing player had just made 12 free throws in a row and things were looking like another loss could take place. If the player shooting the foul shot made both free throws, at the very least the score would be tied and Rich's team would get the ball back. The home crowd, along with Squeaker, was now standing and screaming at the opposing player to miss the free throw. The opposing player shot the first free throw and the shot went in. The lead was now only one point. Rich's coach should have called time out to freeze the player shooting the free throw, but since the coach didn't care about winning, no time out was called. The opposing player shot the second free throw and the second free shot went in. The score was tied. Rich took the ball out of bounds and passed the ball to his teammate playing guard. As Rich got near the ten second line, Rich received a pass and quickly ran across the ten second line to avoid a ten second penalty. There were 35 seconds showing on the clock. Rich dribbled from one sideline to the other sideline. Rich saw his center come open and passed the ball to the center. As Rich ran toward the basket to get a rebound, the center turned and lofted the ball gently toward the basket. The ball bounced off the side of the rim to the right. As the ball got midway between the basket and the floor, Rich jumped for the ball and in one motion, pushed the ball back up toward the goal. As the clock expired, the ball rolled around the rim three times and fell into the net. Chaos and pandemonium broke out. Fans rushed the floor. Squeaker danced on top of the scorer's table.

After the players showered and as they headed out of the dressing room, Rich asked Squeaker about a paper Squeaker was working on in chemistry. Squeaker wanted to know how Rich knew and Rich gave only half an answer. Squeaker said the paper was about how viruses are thought to mutate when exposed to certain kinds of chemical compounds. Rich then said to Squeaker, "Be a winner and get an A." Squeaker replied, "You got it."

Rich was the last to leave the gym that night. The lights had all been turned out except for the exit light signs that cast an eerie glow over the floor and the stands. Rich's mind was filled with questions, doubts, joy, and elation. Did it really happen? Was it just a dream? Was it some kind of hallucination? Rich sat down on the front row of bleachers to think. A voice Rich recognized as John's said, "It was not a dream. And thank you. If Squeaker will apply himself, millions will be spared. I know you have questions and I cannot answer them all. I can tell you a few things. We discovered time wobbles. We then discovered we can dodge and weave between the wobbles. We have been able to go back in time by weaving our way between the wobble waves of time. I am forbidden to tell you anything about the future other than what I have already told you. What I can tell you is something about your present state of mind. Like I said during the game, your losing became a sort of madness. When you expect to lose, you guarantee yourself you will lose. In every aspect of your life you must expect to win. Even when the odds seem grossly in favor of your losing, you must expect to win. It is your expectation of winning that can bias the odds in your favor. It is the expectation of winning that generates a supernatural energy to bias the outcome to be more in your favor. Always expect to win. When you expect to win, even when you lose, you have tapped into a supernatural power that stays with you for life. It was not revealed to me whether you believe in God, but if you do not, I suggest you acquire religious faith. Religious faith, like many other kinds of faith, requires you to look forward in hope of winning. Victory comes only to those who have faith and believe. I must leave you now. Please consider all I have told you." John turned around and walked out the nearest exit door.

Rich never saw John again. Squeaker got an "A" on his paper. Rich got serious about God and trying to live as God wants all of us to live…with an expectation to win in every circumstance.

1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (NIV)

This story is fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

The following is not fiction. I grew up in a small town nestled in the corn and soy bean fields of Indiana. I grew up on Indiana high school basketball fever with March Madness (called Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana) running through my veins. This is the first article I've ever written about basketball, which in my utmost humility, shows I have a supernatural amount of self-discipline :). As of this writing, (February 28, 2004) my high school team, the Waldron Mohawks of Waldron, IN finished their regular season play undefeated at a record 20 - 0, and are poised to win the Indiana High School state basketball championship in their division. Go Mohawks!

Update, March 27, 2004: Today, the Waldron Mohawks finished the season undefeated. The Mohawks rolled through the state sectional, regional, and semi-state basketball tournament with with big wins. Today, on Saturday, March 27, 2004 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Waldron team handily won the Class 1A state championship under first-year head coach Jason Delaney. Waldron High School made history today by being the smallest school, enrollment 252 students, to ever finish the Indiana basketball season undefeated. Waldron was also only the ninth team in history to ever finish a high school basketball season in Indiana undefeated. The class 1A championship is the first state championship for the school in any sport. Congratulations to the players, coaches, administrators, and fans. What a ride! 

The play of my college alma mater, the Purdue Boilermakers men's team, this year is a matter to be discussed at another time. However, the play of Purdue women's team, under head coach Christy Curry, has been outstanding. And no…I do not aspire to write sports.

This story without updates appeared as the March, 2004, Virtual Church message in Shepherd's Care Ministries virtual church site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Entire contents copyright © 1999 - 2010 by Rev. Patrick Kelly, All rights reserved.
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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018