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About once every two years, I get to see my hometown football team play ball. That’s how often we go to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and the “Lincoln County Red Devils” are inevitably still playing, usually in the third round of the playoffs. For this round, the team was picked to lose, but defeated the Wilcox County Patriots 27-12.

Lincoln County is a small dot on the Georgia map with little claim to fame (except to bluegrass gospel fans, who know it as the Lewis Family‘s home base). The county was named for Benjamin Lincoln, a corpulent Revolutionary War general who manages a footnote in most history books because, when the British Lord Cornwallis sent his second-in-command rather than surrendering in person at Yorktown, George Washington also refused to appear and sent Lincoln to accept Cornwallis’ sword.

I dare say most people in Lincoln County don’t know that story about the county’s namesake — but they do know about the local football team, a perennial contender for Georgia’s Class A (the smallest class) championship, and that’s worth some respect.

Sitting beside my father in a chilling rain, I couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm of the young players from both teams. As they lined up for the kickoff, they were so pumped with excitement and so high on testosterone that they bounced in place as if standing on a hill of the area’s ubiquitous fire ants.

The players ran, they jumped, they yelled, they high-fived and chest-bumped — and that was for the coin toss. In the stands, overly zealous fans shook milk jugs with ball-bearings inside — instruments of war that can render nearby patrons deaf in a matter of minutes.

I remember playing on the same field 40 years ago, always so hyped as to be on the bare edge of control, playing each game as if the world would end if we didn’t win.

If only, I mused, if only I had just a touch of that ebullience when it comes to following Jesus and proclaiming the gospel and loving my neighbors. If only our churches could be as fervent about doing missions and supporting missions … if only our Sunday morning praise could match the ardor of our Friday night cheers … if we could care about the hurting even half as much as a bunch of boys can care about winning a game …

can you imagine?

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