Prayer, Plain and Simple

For the moment, Minnesota is the epicenter of the sports world. Brett Favre and the Vikings out dueled Favre’s old team, the Green Bay Packers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Yes, I watched. Yes, the drama played out as billed. On Sunday the Twins, three games back with four to play closed the regular season with a victory forcing a tie breaking game 163 tonight in the same Metrodome against the tailspinning Detroit Tigers, who by the way are all abuzz with speculation of why their star Miguel Cabrera was drunk at 6 AM on Sunday – the day of their final game of the season – and how he got bruises on his face. Police say it was a “scuffle with his wife Rosangel. Ah, the melodrama! And yes, I will be watching. Add to this the running of the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, the University of Minnesota Gopher’s near miraculous comeback against Wisconsin on Saturday in their new TCF Field – and yes, I listened to the game on the radio – and wow… We’re a state full of emotionally wired Norwegians!   

I’m only half kidding. I love watching and playing sports. But there is a certain cost. Emotional capacity is a zero sum game. Our time and our energy works on a budget. Jesus says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” He means that what we focus on we’ll care about. Our passion follows our presence. If we give ourselves to fabricating the instincts of tribal loyalty by rooting hard for the home team, we’ll in turn CARE about the home team and then in turn not have capacity to care about other things. We humans work under the law and limits of the reality of displacement. One thing in our lives always displaces another. Nowhere is this principle more true than in sports. When I commit time to watching the Tigers vs. the Twins tonight – I will – I will be taking time away from feeding the poor, praying for the sick, writing this blog…

I’m not feeling guilty about this. That’s not my point. There’s nothing “sinful” about watching a good dramatic spectacle. I’m simply saying it’s good to remember that there is a cost.  

We Viking’s fans still bear an 11 year old wound when we lost the NFC championship game to the Atlanta Falcons. I can still tell you where I was when the tragedy struck. My eight year old daughter Elisabeth and I were attending a Sunday afternoon meeting for a Mexico outreach trip to Juarez where we were headed to work in an orphanage. Before the meeting began we stood around a big screen TV to watch the last quarter of the game. To our horror, the Vikings blew the lead and lost the game. There were about 100 people in the room and honestly, some were crying. I was stunned and sickened. I felt like something had died. I recall still the painful ache of real grief.

Why? Why did I “grieve” over such a thing? And worse, I was emotionally spent. We had our outreach meeting, and began watching a video of students working in Juarez, battling entrenched poverty, caring for parentless children, sharing their lives and the love of Jesus. It was a powerful picture of a REAL battle for life and death. But… I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything! I was spent. I had vented my heart on that football game.  I had compartmentalized, and had nothing left for what really counted. 

The point is there’s a cost to parceling out our hearts. We have many things in our lives; we have to know that we’re on a budget, of time and energy. Where my treasure is, there my heart will be.

I will be watching the Twins and Tigers tonight. But I’m also going to deliberately budget time (my real treasure) for some truly important spiritually priorities – purpose – including praying for earthquake and Typhoon victims in Asia, praying for victims of terror and war, praying for my friend in the hospital, for the couple we know struggling in their marriage, that the families we know without work would have the provision we need. I believe in the power of prayer and also know that prayer works on me – to direct my passions in directions that really matter.

That said, Go Twins!

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