Monday, September 05, 2005

Spiritual Experiences During Super Bowl Weeks

Good morning, Happy Souls!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so.

The Super Bowl has come to have a very tawdry connotation . . . I'm sure it will be a long time before anyone forgets the 2004 halftime show where a woman's breast was bared for the whole world to see. And if you want to find tawdry and sinful things to do, the Super Bowl environment will certainly provide lots of opportunities to defy God's will for you.

I've had just the opposite experience though. I've found that God sends His messengers to provide spiritual opportunities at His Super Bowl.

Let me explain.

Think about celebrations in the end zone after a team scores a touchdown. Some players will strut. Others will pound themselves on the chest (it's hard to pound yourself on the back . . . someone else has to do that for you) with pride virtually bursting from them. But others will quietly kneel down and say a prayer. Others will silently look up and point to the sky . . . thanking God for His help. Whenever someone chooses a moment of glory to praise God, I, too, feel full of God's grace. It's a wonderful example that helps me to remember to thank God for all of the great things He does for me every day. I say a little prayer along with them.

Think about the pre and post game interviews. Some players will sport enormous diamonds and other gaudy displays of wealth. Others will be rude. Still others will refuse to speak with anyone. But some will start their comments with giving God thanks for helping them and their team. And some of those who wear signs of their Christian faith, such as a cross around their neck. I always praise God when that happens.

I also find that God sends me messengers during those visits. I keep an eye out for those messengers and do my best to welcome them.

Let me explain. During my first Super Bowl, I found myself with my family in a flea bag of a hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the University of Michigan . . . a great university town. In the lobby every day was a neatly dressed man who held himself with pride while offering shoe shines. And no one was asking him to shine their shoes. I decided to ask him for a shoe shine and we started talking. I asked him about his business, and he told me that this was just a stop gap because he was out of work . . . having lost his job making cars. But he had faith in the Lord and knew that something good would come his way. We spoke about God, and I felt like I had found my own pastor to lead me in the right paths while I was in Ann Arbor. We talked every day, and he helped me keep God in my week's celebration. Thank you!

At the next Super Bowl, I decided to entertain a client and to bring my family again. Since the event was in Pasadena near where my parents and sister lived, we arranged to spend some time together near Disneyland. While there, my uncle and his wife joined us for breakfast one morning. Dad and he had once been close, but had not spent much time together for many years. We discussed plans for the game, and my uncle and Dad announced that they would both love to go to the game the next day. This was uncharacteristic of both of them. They both looked at me expectantly.

Now, I didn't have any other tickets. I didn't have any extra cash with me to buy any tickets . . . or any room on a credit card. I did have some checks but I knew a ticket broker wouldn't take a check . . . because I had already tried. I stayed silent and thought about what I could do. I decided that I should send my Dad and uncle to the game. After scrambling around, I found a way to get the cash, managed to buy the last two tickets available from my ticket broker and bought them bus tickets to and from the game. They had a ball. Ever since then until Dad died, he and his brother were just as close as when they were boys. I felt like God had granted me a mighty favor in being able to bond them together again in such a beautiful way. It still brings a smile to my face to remember that happy event.

My third Super Bowl was in Tampa, and I wrote about this one before. I took my two sons down and we went to Disney World . . . except to drive over to the game on Sunday. The weather was horrible while we were there until Super Sunday and we hadn't brought warm enough clothes. My boys were discouraged because the teams they had rooted for had lost each of the last two Super Bowls. But they had high hopes for the Raiders in this Super Bowl. All during the day, they kept telling me that the perfect day for them would be to be able to meet Marcus Allen and to see the Raiders win. Naturally, I was doubtful . . . but we cheerfully went ahead anyway. I secretly planned ways to ease their disappointment. But God was listening and wanted to prove that all things are possible with His will. As we walked into the stadium, the Raiders arrived in a bus and walked across the crowd right next to us (something we had not sought out) and Marcus Allen was right next to us . . . look down at my sons and smiled at them. They were delighted. And, of course, the final score of 38-9 over the Redskins who had defeated their beloved Dolphins the year before was sweet too. I thanked God for allowing me to provide my sons with such a perfect day. I knew that He had blessed us.

My next Super Bowl was held in Northern California at Stanford University. I would have skipped this one, but Joe Montana was due to quarterback again and I had become a big fan after my first Super Bowl. Money was tight for us that year, and we stayed in a Motel 6 in Oakland . . . a great distance from the game. My wife joined me this year. My Mom and Dad drove to the area to spend time with us, but declined going to the game. We saw a masterful game that made us realize how important teamwork is. The great Dan Marino was overmatched because his brilliant arm couldn't overcome the advantage of the 49er team.

Our spiritual epiphany came with regard to drinking. We had both been eager users of alcohol since we got out of graduate school. And there is a lot of drinking at Super Bowl games. But a college stadium doesn't have nearly as many bathrooms as a pro stadium does. Before long, those with bulging bladders were lined up against every wall inside and outside of the stadium relieving themselves. It was like being in a large public, outdoor urinal. And it was pretty disgusting. We both looked at each other and said that we would never again drink enough at a game to require more than one bathroom trip while there. Fortunately, our moderation allowed us to use the Stanford facilities rather than the Stanford walls. It was a lesson that has served me well since then. I now consume an average of one drink every six months and often feel like I should cut down further. And I feel great! Thank you, God!

The next Super Bowl was a special one for me. My beloved New England Patriots made their first appearance. I was so excited. Because I couldn't find a hotel room, I lived with a stock broker who was a friend of a mutual friend for the week. From him, I learned a lot about the New Orleans culture. My favorite new experience was the King cake. Once a week, you buy a cake at a bakery with a little gizmo baked in it. Then you share the cake with your friends. Whoever gets the gizmo brings the next cake. And on it goes.

God still wanted me to learn more about alcohol. Walking down the French Quarter one night, I was astonished by the behavior of the drunken fans. It wasn't pretty. I asked my host how often he came down to party there. He said he hadn't been there in years. Only tourists wanted to get involved with all of that disgusting stuff. I felt like I was walking through Sodom and Gomorrah! My drinking dropped even lower after that week. The Patriots lost, but thanks to God, I won.

The next Super Bowl was in Pasadena again. I invited my Mom and Dad to join my wife and I. All the children stayed home that year. School was on and they couldn't afford to take the time off. We decided to take Mom and Dad to Hawaii afterward. This was an early 45th anniversary present for them. They had never had a honeymoon, so we called it a honeymoon for them. We all had a marvelous time, and I realized that Super Bowls were best when they were family affairs. We had a lovely time with many nature walks together both in California and Hawaii and could feel God all around us.

Let me skip ahead to tell you about one more Super Bowl. Two years later, Mom and my wife had decided they had had enough Super Bowls. They usually brought books along to read during the games. They felt like they would rather spend the money in different ways, and the prices of the tickets were starting to climb rapidly. The game was in Miami. My Dad's other brother lived near Cape Canaveral, and Dad and he had not seen one another very often. Dad's brother with whom he had shared a Super Bowl was also visiting in Florida at the time. I invited both sets of aunts and uncles to join Dad and me in south Florida for the weekend. We stayed at a lovely beach resort and walked several times a day on the beach. The six of us had a perfectly good time together. It was like a family reunion. One of my aunts told me that she and my uncle had not ever stayed in a resort in Florida even though they lived there for many years. She said it was like a second honeymoon for them both. A few months later, my uncle was dead . . . from complications related to having been an alcoholic for decades. My aunt didn't live much longer after that. That golden weekend was our last chance to be a family together. God once again wanted me to think very hard about drinking.

Joe Montana was back. Dad and I were looking forward to a superb game. And that's what we got. With a little time left, the 49ers were behind. But they were driving. We knew that the 49ers would win. And they did! We thanked God and felt blessed as the winning drive was directed towards the end zone where we were sitting. It was a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

Let me leave you with two other thoughts. In all the Super Bowls I've attended, few people are handing out religious materials. I think that's a missed opportunity. So perhaps if you cannot go to the game, you can be there to testify about your faith.

Also, I always meet desperately poor people who tell me about their hardships. I always enjoy sharing what I have with them, blessing them in God's name and helping them in any other way I can. I always feel like God has sent them to me as messengers to remember what He wants for us . . . even when we are focused on the Super Bowl!

I could give you more examples, but I think you get the idea. God is not only everywhere. He is everywhere helping us. Thank you, Lord!

May God bless you!

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Conciege

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell


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