My mother is a casual baseball fan. Her favorite part of the baseball season is seeing who will hit a homerun for her (she claims) on her birthday. Her Birthday is today, but since my parents live on the East Coast of Canada, last night’s game ended after midnight, and therefore “today”. So I don’t know that she stayed up to see it, but last night’s game ended with a home run by Travis Ishikawa, sending the Giants to the World Series to face the Kansas City Royals. In case you missed it, here is the game winning 3 run blast.
For Ishikawa, it was a great moment, and the cherry on top of the long journey he has been on since winning a World Series Ring in 2010 with the Giants. After spending that year as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, he appeared in 10 playoff games (10 at bats, showing he was primarily again used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. In the spring of 2011, he received his World Series ring, but did not make the team and would not play for them that season. After 2011, he was a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent a full season there, and was released at the end of the season. He bounced around a little, playing in the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox organizations, including a couple very brief stints in the Majors (totaling 7 games).
You can hear about his story and how God was at work in his life through the process in this video taken at Giants faith day in August.
Frustrated by not making it back to the majors, Ishikawa decided to give it one more try. He began this season in Pittsburgh, but when they acquired first baseman Ike Davis, Ishikawa was the odd man out. He was released and became a free agent on April 23rd. The next day, the Giants signed him and sent him to their AAA team in Fresno. After considering his options and talking with his wife, Ishikawa was at the point where he considered retiring from baseball. He called a friend in tears, ready to give up on baseball. His friend reminded him of Romans 8.25 – Who can separate you from the Love of God?
The video cuts out, but it goes far enough to challenge me. Here are my takeaways from Ishikawa’s story
1- God is enough – When everything else seems to be falling apart, things are not going the way we want them to, Romans 8.25 reminds us that God is all that we need. Ishikawa is at the point where he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do, and his friend reminds him of the truth of this verse. God has not forgotten or abandoned you. He is all that you need and His plan is the best for you. And what a plan it has been. An injury would bring Ishikawa to the Giants in July, and he would spend the rest of the season earning a place on their post-season roster. Last night’s heroics show that he still has some baseball left in him, and is a tribute to God. God is all we need in good or in bad times. And the Bible is full of examples of God doing more in us and in our lives then we ever could have imagined, when we put the focus back on Him, and live each day to honor Him.
2- Remember Him wherever He leads you - Now Ishikawa, and his unlikely story find themselves on the biggest stage in baseball. Who gets the credit for Ishikawa being where he is? I’m sure that he will gladly proclaim to any who ask that it is because of God’s grace and goodness that the story of Travis Ishikawa is being shared and celebrated. I’m looking forward to a great World Series full of more incredible moments and opportunities for God to show how amazing He is through the players on both teams that love Him and live their lives to honor Him.
Ryan Broyles grew up in Norman Oklahoma. The southern part of the United States is often referred to as the “Bible Belt”. This means a place where church attendance is part of regular life for the vast majority of people. Broyles was no exception. He could be regularly found at church with his mother, a single mom, and his 3 siblings. As he shares in this interview with unpackin’it, at the age of 14, his mother gave him the choice of going to church or not. Through high school and college, Broyles presence at church became less and less frequent. He would still attend occasionally, but given the choice, he chose to skip more often than not.
Fast forward to 2007. Broyles is arrested for attempting to steal gas from a station in Norman OK. He is suspended from the team indefinitely. The time for searching out the meaning and purpose outside of football begins. In 2010, things began to change for Broyles. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife) said that they needed to make some changes in how they were living their lives. They decided to start reading and studying the Bible together, joined a church and began to get involved.
He shares in this article that in the midst of his record setting season with Oklahoma, he also began studying the Bible with Sooner quarterback Landry Jones. He enjoyed learning more and more about the Bible and God, but still something was missing. The table was set for a life changing experience for Broyles. That experience would come in the form of a mission trip to Haiti. He returned from his experience there a changed man. He was beginning to understand that living for God was about giving Him your all. It was not about taking things for granted.
Broyles was in one of the poorest places on earth, and what he found was people of deep faith in God, living joy-filled lives. And he was jealous of them and their joy. He had been learning a lot about God, but serving God and seeing the joy of other believers, Broyles heart made a connection. He came back from that trip with a desire to live for God everyday.
Here are my takeaways from Broyles’ story:
1- The Choice is Ours – I find it interesting that Broyles shared that his mother gave him a choice at about age 14 of whether he would go to church or not. The truth is that as a parent, we would love to make all the decisions for our kids, but the reality is that each one of us gets to choose for themselves how important God is going to be in our life. As I read this portion of the story, I thought about Joshua 24. God has used Joshua to lead the Israelites to the promised land. He gathers them all together and reminds the assembly of all that God has done to bring them to this place. He finishes with this challenge. “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped(…) Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve(…) But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
As parents, this is what we ultimately must do for our kids. Leave no doubt where we stand in our own faith, but remember that the decision is ultimately up to each individual to choose how important God will be in their lives. I am sure that when she offered her son the choice of going to church or not, Ryan Broyles mom prayed that God would remind him of all the things he learned in church, and prayed that God would draw Ryan back to Him. That is what happened, and Broyles is using his platform as a football player to serve God
2- When you see what is important, what you see becomes important - Broyles trip to Haiti, and his journey of faith has helped him realize what is most important – living for God. But when you are living to honor and serve God, whatever he calls you to do, then becomes of great importance, too. Colossians 3.23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”, trip Broyles talks about training hard and putting in a lot of work in practice and in film study so he can be the best player he can be. Does he do this to be a star and have everyone talk about how amazing he is? No. He does this because to work at his craft (football) with all his heart is what God asks of him.
That is the challenge I am taking from Broyles story. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men! (Col. 3.23)
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has been a key part of the Bears offence since being drafted out of Tulane by the Bears in 2008. Forte was drafted to compete with Bears incumbent running back Cedric Benson. But Benson was cut due to legal issues, and so Forte, as a rookie, took on a major role with the Bears. In his debut, he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown. He was named player of the game for his efforts. He would go on to rush for over 1,200 yards. It would be the first of 4 seasons in which Forte would rush for more than 1,000 yards. In the 2 seasons that he missed the 1,000 yard plateau, he missed by 3 and 71 yards. He has also played in 2 Pro Bowls.
Forte, though is not all about football. When asked in this article from Chicagoparent.com about his priorities in life, football came fourth, after faith, family and education. When it comes to the legacy he will leave, Forte says “I want to leave a legacy as a father, too, and by impacting young kids’ lives. I don’t want my tombstone to just say: Matt Forte, football player.”
His faith is a foundation for his life, his career and his family. It is a faith that was instilled in him by his family. Forte placed his faith in Christ at the age of 15. He knows that God has been working in his life throughout his career, in great times and through hard things. In this article from Sports Spectrum, He says “It’s easy to praise God and be all happy and tell everyone when things are going well…But when things go bad, how do you act, and what’s your character like?“
After each touchdown, Forte celebrates by pointing to heaven and then flexing his biceps. In this article from the Post-Tribune, it is not a conceited thing. “he’s giving thanks to God for giving him his strength, pointing to heaven before he flexes his bulging muscles.”
Now here is a cool part of that which fits in with the “Living up to my Name” theme of this blog. Forte is from Louisiana. His surname is french and means “strength”. Forte knows that his “strength” comes from God, and I find flexing his muscles a fitting tribute to the God who has written an amazing story thus far for the Bears running back.
Here are my takeaways from Forte’s story.
1- God IS our Forte – John 15 reminds us that apart from God, we can do nothing. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes “My (God’s) power is strongest when you (Paul) are weak.” So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness…when I’m weak, I’m strong“. Forte knows that all he has and all he will ever achieve in football and in life only comes from God’s strength working in and through him. His strength comes from the Lord. God gives us great gifts. He gives us what we need and equips us to thrive when we allow His strength to work through us.
2- What is your legacy – We will be known for what we place importance on in our lives. The rich young ruler (Matthew 19.16-22) shows us this. He placed importance on material things and left sad when God asked him to give it all away. The same is true for us. What is important to you? What are your priorities? Forte talks about the legacy of being a good father and impacting the lives of the people he has influence over. What do you want others to take away from your presence in their life? Where do you place your importance? Is it on the name you make for yourself or is it in serving others, introducing them to God and changing their lives for the better. I hope that my legacy will be leading others to an eternity with their loving creator,
Tim Masthay has been valuable to his team, the Green Bay Packers since joining them in 2009. Three times he has been the NFC special teams player of the week. He is a Super Bowl Champion. In 2011, he set a new Packers record for kicking distances. He even has a perfect passing rating, completing his one career pass (a shovel pass to TE Tom Crabtree) for a 27 yard TD on a fake FG. Here is a look at his amazing passing proficiency.
Masthay’s value as a football player was not always at the point where it is now. He was undrafted out of college. He signed a free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, but was cut before the first pre-season game. He spent that season out of football completely, hoping for his phone to ring, and another chance at the NFL. During that time, his wife Amanda was working as a bank teller. Tim was tutoring for $10/hour. You can read about their journey in this article from packerpedia.com. He says something amazing about his wife in this interview with ESPN. When talking about the start of his career when he was cut by the Colts and waiting for another chance, he says that “It’s just great because my value to her doesn’t change at all regardless of if I’m in the league or out of the league, if I have a job or don’t have a job. She’s just been great.”
The call did come, and Masthay is now in his 5th year with the Packers. When asked about the important things in life, Masthay often discusses his faith in God and the role that it plays. He goes on to say in the Packerpedia profile that “I waited for ‘success’ to return, but knew in my heart that only God could fill the voids and restore me…Instead of quitting I just decided to lean on God for strength and stick it out. And man, am I glad that’s the path I wound up walking down”
Here are my takeaways from Masthay’s story:
1- The benefit of a great partner – The Bible talks about how we as Christians are the bride of Christ. I have learned a lot about what true love is from my married life. My wife is amazing and wonderful. God has taught me about His unconditional love through her love for me. She loves me for who I am and values who God is making me to be. What a picture of the value that God places on us. With her and God on my side, I can move confidently, knowing that even if I mess up, I will be loved. And I get to play the same role for her. To be her cheerleader, to be her encourager, and to be her loving support as we walk through this life together. God knew what he was doing when he set up the marriage relationship like He did. I hope and pray that as Christians, we will always fight for our marriages – that they will remind us of God’s perfect love for our imperfect selves.
2- We are Valuable – Sometimes we don’t feel like we are worth much. But to God, our value is immense. Christian Band Everybody Duck writes in their song “Tetelestai” this great thought.
“And when there’s no love, I have you Lord, before the earth was formed your plan for me you knew.
And in this day when someone’s worth is based on what someone would pay, it’s nice to know I’m worth one Jesus to you”
We are like coupons in the Sunday paper. While it seems like we are nothing more than paper, when God redeems us, we take on a value that is immeasurable. God has done it. There is nothing that we do to earn God’s love or make ourselves more valuable to Him. He chose to make us valuable enough to send Jesus to redeem us. However, if we choose not to allow God to redeem us, then we are like an unused coupon. Our life is worthless!
Football season is underway – week 5 starts tonight with the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Green Bay Packers. And now that baseball’s regular season is done, I will be changing my focus to the NFL for the coming weeks. My journey through the NFL teams begins where I live – in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with one of their off-season acquisitions, defensive back Captain Munnerlyn.
First of all, he has a great story behind his name. As you can read on his web-site, He was named after his great-great grandfather, and what a great name to take on. It speaks to leadership, dedication and responsibility – all great areas of life to grow and thrive in. But if you check out the story of his life, as recorded by kfan, his journey to the NFL was rooted in his faith in God. It is a faith that he came to at a young age and in the face of deep tragedy and difficulty.
His father was killed when Captain was 6 years old, and a few years later, his oldest brother Timothy was convicted of killing someone. His other older brothers were involved in the drug trade in and around Mobile Alabama. The outlook was grim for Captain. But his mother, having suffered through all these tragic episodes and losses, turned to God for comfort and direction. Her new found faith changed not only her life, but her son’s life too. “If the head of the household can change her life, it can change everyone’s life,” Munnerlyn said. Part of her turn to faith meant that Captain – still in elementary school at the time, would also go to church, attend Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study, too. And with the positive, God-centered environment now in the picture, Captain chose to surrender to God, too – as a sixth grader.
With God on his side, Captain was able to overcome, not only his past and the hurt that it involved, but also his size. Seen by many as undersized for football, he has worked hard to change those perceptions. God used sports to help guide Captain out of the difficult life situation that he had experienced. And God’s plan was to lead Captain to the NFL, where he has played and played well for 5 seasons. His sixth NFL season is his first for the Vikings.
Here are my takeaways from Captain’s story
1- Living up to my name – The name “Captain” implies leadership, responsibility, and dedication. Names are a point of focus for this blog. It is named as a challenge to live up to my name – Page – which means a servant to the King. I strive to serve God – the King of Kings – each and every day. I also call myself a Christian. To live up to that name means to follow God and do what He asks. God calls us to different things, but he also calls us all to some certain things. He calls us all to go into the world and make disciples. He calls us to Love one another as this will be the demonstration. He calls us to decrease, so He can increase – to die to ourselves and allow Him to take control. When we are following Him and giving Him control, He can take us from wherever we are – on top of the world, or in the depths of despair, and make an amazing story out of our story. What is your name? What do you call yourself? Are you living up to it? Let’s ask God to help us live up to has who He has created us to be.
2- No More Excuses – I work as an after school program director. In my job, I have the privilege of telling a daily bible story to a group of elementary aged students. For the past couple weeks, we have been talking about the life of Moses. What stood out to me about the part of the story we covered today is how often the Israelites complained. They complained when Moses led them away from the Egyptians to the shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). They complained when they didn’t have water or food immediately available for them (Exodus 16 and 17). And they are just getting started. Looking at Captain Munnerlyn’s story, I think back to my own upbringing. I grew up with loving parents and siblings, all of whom are following God. I can’t even begin to understand all that Captain has gone through. But I also know that I have always been prone to spend more time complaining and seeing the negative side of life then I ever spent showing gratitude for what God has been up to. I am challenged by Munnerlyn’s story to see how great God is and to be grateful that I have breath, a loving God, and forgiveness for my sins. I have no reason to complain about anything. How I wish that all the words from my mouth were words of praise to the Almighty God who provides for me in miraculous ways. He is all I need and His plan is the only one I wish to follow!
The title for this post is taken from a couple of commonly found activities that we experience as children. We’ve played countless games of hide and seek and participated in lots of show and tell activities in school And these activities came to mind today when I came across the story of Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen. The story is amazing enough that he went from a 23rd round draft pick to a major league player in less than 13 months. It is even more astounding when you read the back story (Tommy John surgery, cut from University of Central Florida, dropping 7 rounds in the draft).
Allen made his debut with the Indians on July 12, 2012. He would appear in 27 games with Cleveland that season and then in over 70 games in each of the past 2 seasons, taking over the role of closer full time this season. Check out his story from Athletes in Action.
In the video he talks about getting the call to go to the majors and how every day he is trying to stay grounded. He wants to go out and do his job to the best of his ability. Part of that is understanding that sometimes he will fail at what he is trying to do. The reality is that if a pitcher plays in over 70 games a season, sometimes those games won’t go the way he wants them too. To Allen, handling failure well is important. And as he says in the video, his purpose every day is for his words and actions to glorify God.
Allen has been great as a pro baseball player. He has turned heads with his amazing curveball and secured the role of Indians closer over the course of this season. He is not perfect but he is ready every day to prove himself again. Entering the final weekend of the season, Allen has a record of 6-4 this season and 12-6 overall. The second number on both of those ratios is losses – times that Allen has not accomplished what was asked of him. He knows that the next day is a new day and a new game and as opportunities present themselves again, he will get a chance to be successful again.
Here are my takeaways from Allen’s story
1 – “Sometimes I’ll be terrible” – As he talked about this in the video, I thought about our Christian walk. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we give in to sinfulness, rebellion or poor decisions. Sometimes we try to control everything ourselves and not surrender to God. When we do this, that gives a new tool for the enemy to use against us. Satan will be right there to remind us of our failures and how horrible and unforgivable we are. But the reality of God’s grace contradicts this. When we ask for God’s forgiveness it is given and we are made new. The bible talks in Micah 7.19 that God “will throw all our sins into the deep sea.” When we confess our sins he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. It is His choice to do this and He does it out of the depths of His amazing love. Knowing this, we can face the new day and the new challenges confident that we have been truly forgiven.
2- Hide and Seek or Show and Tell - Allen talked about how he desires to be a light to his teammates, so that even those that are new to the team and new to the major leagues will know that He is a Christian. He wants to be able to share his faith with his teammates both in his words and his actions. As Christians we all have a choice of whether we will acknowledge that we are followers of Christ or if we will try to keep our faith under wraps. Matthew 10.32-33 says “So I will acknowledge in front of my Father in heaven that person who acknowledges me in front of others. But I will tell my Father in heaven that I don’t know the person who tells others that he doesn’t know me” . The challenge then is to ask ourselves how we will live our our faith in God. Will we hide it from others until them seek us to ask about out faith in God, or will we boldly show and gladly tell about all He has done for us, including His love and forgiveness.
Let’s Show and Tell!!
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s became known for “Moneyball” – introducing the new “sabermetrics” rage to the baseball world. He was known for taking a chance on players who had been written off by most other baseball teams. When the Washington Nationals took Billy Burns in the 32nd round of the 2011 Amateur Draft, he was considered a long-shot by most to make it to the majors. The Oakland A’s traded for him last December and despite being a later round draft pick, he was called up to the majors for a brief stint earlier this year.
Burns is not a “5 tool athlete” like many top prospects. He is really known for one thing – speed. In his career, he has played 393 games and has stolen 181 bases. He has only been caught 23 times. That is a success rate of over 88%. But despite the critics and doubters that see him as a one-trick pony, he knows that if God wants him to make it as a major leaguer, he will make it. Check out this video from CBN.
Burns story makes me think of 1924 Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell. Liddell was very outspoken about his faith and his trust in God’s plan. His story is told in the movie Chariots of Fire. The famous quote from that movie is when the Liddell character says
” I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure“. I find some similarities between Liddell’s words and Burns’. Burns knows that God has a perfect plan. He is ready for whatever God brings on the field. He says ” God’s going to put me in a position that is going to allow me to make the best of that opportunity; whatever that opportunity may be for baseball.”
Burns hopes to make be an everyday player in the majors, but his is going to influence people wherever he goes. This spring, when he joined his new team - (Midland Rockhounds) at the start of the year, he sought to involve himself with a local high school ministry. He says “I’m involved with stuff like that because my walk with God is a big part of my life. So I try to help the kids in high school to have a role model, someone they can kind of follow into that path, because in high school I wasn’t a Christian at all.”
Here are my takeaways from Burns’ story.
1- God Made me Fast – God can and does do impossible things. But He also works with the amazing gifts and abilities that He has given us to use for His glory. Burns talks about this with regards to his skills and his major league potential. The CBN interviewer asks him about what his critics have said about him. Burns says ” it’s not up to me. If God wants me to make it, I’m going to make it no matter what kind of disadvantages I have on the baseball field or what weaknesses some would say I have.” God is not hindered by our apparent shortcomings. Instead, he may grant us success despite our shortcomings so that we know it is only because of Him that we are where we are, and He is glorified by our acknowledging Him and giving Him the credit for doing the things that only He is able to do.
2- Stop Running – Burns had been successful in high school. He was great on the field, he was getting good grades, he was popular with the girls, but still he felt empty. He loved playing sports and excelling, but he knew there was something more. He was known for his speed, but in his life, it was when he stopped running that he connected with God. Now, he identifies himself as a Christian who happens to play baseball. The same holds true for each of us. We can get so caught up in being busy, or in trying to do things ourselves, running from God’s plan or His leading. But when we stop and realize that it is only when following God’s plan that we find fulfillment and satisfaction, that is when He begins to change our lives in way that truly impacts us. When we make God our priority, He meets us and works His plan out in a way that can only be His doing. Let’s stop trying to do things on our own, stop trying to run from God, and let Him do amazing, miraculous, impossible things in our lives for His glory!
I know that with a title like that, I need to explain myself a little. But first, let me set the stage by introducing my subject for this post.
In 1978, the cover of Sports Illustrated featured an up and coming player in the Royals system who they labelled “This Year’s Phenom”. His name - Clint Hurdle. However Hurdle’s playing career did not match the potential the Royals saw in him when they made him the number nine overall pick in the draft. He played only 2 full seasons with the Royals, and after bouncing around to a few other teams, he played his last game in 1987. He may be considered a bust, But that was not the end of Clint Hurdle.
He began his managerial career in 1988 in the Mets system. He returned to the majors as a hitting coach with the Rockies in 1997. In 2002, he took over as manager. Hurdle had committed his life to Christ at the age of 17 but during his playing days, his commitment wavered. By his own admission, he treated God like an ATM – mostly staying away until he needed something. He also battled alcoholism.
As you can read in this story from Sports Spectrum, it was during his stint as a coach for Colorado that Hurdle recommitted his life to following Christ. As a manager, he has been quite successful. He lead the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. He was a hitting instructor for the Texas Rangers in 2010, when they won their first American League pennant, and then in 2013, he led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years. He won the Manager of the Year award for his work, and Pittsburgh has been over .500 for the past 2 seasons, too.
Here he is explaining the ATM reference as a member of the Rangers staff.
While Hurdle still strives to be successful on the field and lead his team to the playoffs for a second straight year. His ultimate goal, as you can read here, is to hold his players accountable and help them be successful off the field as well. The article says “To inspire others, he regularly reads the writings of Christian leaders such as Chuck Swindoll and Rick Warren and challenges men with Romans 14:12, “So each of us is accountable to God.”
Hurdle challenges all men to get over their specific hurdles that keep them from having a servant’s heart.
Here are my takeaways from Hurdle’s Story:
1- Jesus is for Losers – This is a strange statement to make on a web-site about Christian Athletes but when you think about it, there is a lot of truth to the statement. In fact, Jesus himself said a couple of things that prove this point. He said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5.3) and “those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose t heir lives for me will find them.” Songwriter Steve Taylor wrote a song in the early 90′s called Jesus is for Losers. As the song nears it’s end, he sings “Just as I am at a total loss. Jesus is for losers broken at the foot of the cross” Clint Hurdle as a player did not meet the potential seen in him. He was a bust, a loser. As a manager, he took over a team that had lost more games than they won for 20 straight years. Yet, just like any of us, when he realized how lost he was, Jesus was there to meet him and to give his life meaning and purpose. When we realize that without God, we are doomed and will lose in the end, it is comforting to realize that Jesus died on a cross for us – to offer us a chance to be victorious and receive the most incredible reward around.
2- God is not an ATM – This is a good analogy that I had never heard before reading Hurdle’s story. But it rings so true. Many times I know that I go to God when I have an urgent need. He is convenient, I get what I need from Him and go back to living my life on my own, not surrendering control to God or anyone else. I try to hold on to control until things get desperate. Then I go to God and ask for help. When things seem to turn around, I’m ready to go it alone again. The truth is that God doesn’t exist for us, we exist for Him. He is our purpose and the only meaning in our life. God wants us to give Him complete control. This is not a one time thing. It is something that must happen daily, hourly, even minute by minute. God is gracious and will help us when we seek Him.