Modern Monday – Brighten the Day of those around you – Ty Blach – San Francisco Giants

Giants Lefty Ty Blach

About a year and a half ago, I took on a second job, working at Trader Joe’s. I remember one of the interview questions was something to the effect of “what does a good day look like to you?” I thought about it for a moment and what came to mind when I thought about having a “good day” was that I would be able to make better the day of everyone I was in contact with. I don’t know that I achieved that many times in my 18 months of working there – I’d like to think that I did, but it is something that I know I wanted to strive for.  And I think that it is a valid goal to set for every day life, not just in the customer-centered world of retail.

Earlier this week, Ty Blach made life for his Giants teammates better by pitching 8 strong innings against the Oakland A’s striking out 6, and giving up only 2 runs, 1 less than he drove in with his first career home run, which you can watch in this video.

Black came to the Giants as a 5th round pick in the 2012 draft after 3 years as one of the “most dominating left-handed pitchers in Creighton History“. He made his Giants debut with them last September and made the team out of Spring Training this year, starting off in the bullpen before taking a spot in the rotation when Madison Bumgarner got hurt.

Blach has shown promising signs for the Giants who have struggled as a team this year.

As you can read in this interview with Unashamed Athletes, Blach places importance on following God and living to impact the world for Him. He says “I say a prayer before every inning that I pitch in order to help me keep my eyes on God and play for Him. I also like to read a few chapters of the Bible before each start that I make so that I have His word fresh in my mind while I’m on the field. Off the field I try to lead a life pleasing to God. I am always trying to be upbeat and positive and see if there is any way that I can brighten the day of the people around me.” When asked his favorite verse, he says “My favorite verse is Matthew 6:33. It says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you” When I was a kid I got an autograph from Terry Shumpert who was a utility infielder for the Colorado Rockies. Under his signature he had this verse written. Ever since that day, that verse has never left me. It reminds me that in everything that I do, I should put God first and God will help take care of everything else. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shumpert a year or so ago and I told him about the autograph and the Bible verse that he put with it and the impact it still has on me to this day. He made an impact on me with that Bible verse and I too hope to make an impact on someone’s life when I include Matt 6:33 on my autographs for fans.”

Blach hopes to be a positive influence to the world around him and honor God in his play and his life

By the end of the interview, he encourages all to be open about their faith, even if it is scary at times.  He says “It can be difficult and you may feel unaccepted by some people in society today, but you will come to find out that there are a lot of people in the world who are very accepting of God’s love. Someone may just be needing a ray of hope in a tough time or someone else might be just as afraid to show their faith just like you. No matter what the case, God has put you in this world to make an impact on the people around you so don’t be afraid to live for Him. ”

Here are my takeaways from Blach’s story:

1 – Positive Impact – Blach said he hopes that he can brighten the day of the people around him. I said something similar in my job interview. In reality, it should be a goal for each of us, and an easy enough goal to reach as a Christian. You see, we have hope, we have joy offered to us, we have Spirit of the Creator of the Universe living inside of us and the promise of heaven awaiting us. We have a lot of joy to share. Let’s take stock of all that God has done in our lives and let’s be open and grateful. Let’s ask Him to show us the needs of the people around us and how the path He has had us walk can help meet those needs. and Let’s let His love flow through us to those who still need to learn about it. We have the Joy of the Lord as our strength (Psalm 28.7). It is easy to get so caught up in the challenges of this life, but if we reset our focus and thoughts on Him, we will see that He is at work and has been faithful to all He promised us. Let those thoughts be what guides us to make a positive impact to the world around us.

2- Seek First – This ties nicely into the first point. Seeking God’s Kingdom, putting Him first will help us keep the proper perspective and allow us to demonstrate the joy He provides. That verse in Matthew is directly after a call not to worry about how our needs will be met, instead we can put our minds on the things of God and following His path for us. And He will take care of the rest of the details. They are not in our control anyway, so why try to pretend they are.  And Part 2 of this thought is how God’s word is powerful and will not return void (Isaiah 55.11). A reference written as part of an autograph a young boy got from a baseball hero. And it continued to encourage that boy as he, himself grew into a Major Leaguer. He now signs his autograph with the same verse. Something seemingly simple, yet God works through it. I know I don’t want to miss anything that He is doing. I pray that we will all be reminded daily to “seek first the kingdom of God…”

Modern Monday – Make me an Animal – Josh Fields – Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Fields

Trade Deadline has passed!

Did you favorite team buy or sell at the deadline?

I am fascinated by trade deadline day in any sport. It is something that is very much a sports-only phenomenon. I try to imagine something similar in other contexts.  For example:

Target: Hey WalMart! This is our year and so we really are interested in adding some important pieces. We are interested in your store manager. We’d like to bring him in to work for us.  What will it take to make that happen?

WalMart: Well, he is available, but its going to take 3 of your top 20 up and coming cashiers, 2 Seasonal workers and a pharmacist to be named later.

Sounds pretty far fetched to me, yet in sports, that’s what we have. Competing entities swapping their “staff” to each other. What a unique world the world of sports is.

Josh Fields (bible in hand) in the minors with the Red Sox. God used a demotion to the minors to help Josh gain perspective on what is important.

Today, I am going to share some of the story of a player who has been part of 2 trade deadline deals in his career, including the one that sent him from Houston to Los Angeles last season when Josh Fields was traded to the Dodgers for a minor league infielder.  Originally drafted in the first round by the Seattle Mariners, he also was dealt on Trade Deadline Day in 2011 when the Mariners shipped him to the Red Sox along with Eric Bedard. After joining the Dodgers last season, he pitched very well. He resigned with them in the off-season and he has been very solid for the best team in baseball this season. He is 5-0 holding batters to an average of under .200.

As you can read in this article from the Portland Press Herald, Fields says a prayer before throwing his first pitch. He says “‘I always take off my cap and say a little prayer before I take the mound, just try to remind myself why I’m here. I’m not here to gain glory for myself.’ Fields calls his mindset “an eternal perspective” as he talks to God before he throws a pitch.”

So does he pray for? wins? strikeouts? No, instead, he says “One thing I always pray for is ‘God, make me an animal out here.’ I want to dominate these guys. I want to go after them as hard as I can — 100 percent — and not back down.” and while this article from yard barker.com, talks about a demotion to the minors in 2014, that time was used to help Fields reset his perspective on what is important and also to learn a new pitch that has helped him remain largely  successful since.

As you can read in this LA times story, Fields made some changes to his delivery and

Fields has been a key part of the Dodgers bullpen this season. Postseason appearance seems likely

Here are my takeaways from Field’s story:

1- Make me an Animal – That is the prayer that Fields prays before appearances. He doesn’t pray for wins or strikeouts, he simply asks that God would make him an animal. That he would give everything he’s got and that he would not back down. I think that is a prayer that we could ask God for ourselves. That we would not back down from opportunities to honor Him. That we would give all we’ve got to our service to Him. Fields also said that he reminds himself why he is there – not for his own glory but for God. I am challenged to give God my all.

Fields has twice been traded at the trade deadline. His goal for baseball is to build solid relationships with others and be open about his faith in God.

2- Traded – I started this post talking about yesterday’s trade deadline. And how strange it is to be dealt from one team to a competitor. From one day being a star of one team to the day, trying to overtake that team and win with the new team. I was thinking about how to connect the concept of “trade” to our spiritual life. Immediately, my mind went to the late 90’s worship tune “Trading my Sorrows” by Darrell Evans. I can see so many mission trip participants singing this song and acting out motions as they led services on these trips. And while I did get tired of the song, the concept is biblically sound. Psalm 30.11-12 talks about mourning being turned into dancing. Ephesians 4.21-22 talks about trading in the old self and putting on the new. And Romans 12.2 talks about not conforming to the ways of the world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind. So there is a trade there. We trade in the uniform of sin, pride, rebellion and selfishness and put on the righteousness of Christ. He gives us the “new self”, he transforms our mind so we can resist worldly ways, He transforms us by changing the way we think when we set our minds to follow Him. And later in Romans 12, it tells us that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes”. So even in the midst of our sorrow, he is working to bring good. It is on us to allow him to do that. Let’s not get caught up remembering the old, let’s trade it in for the new and better that comes from following Christ.

 

Throwback Thursday – Jekyll & Hyde – Aubrey Huff – Tampa Bay Rays

I visited the Jekyll & Hyde club in 1997. 

My first time in Manhattan, I had the fun experience of eating at the “Jekyll & Hyde club.  The food was quite good, but the experience was very cool. It is a spooky restaurant that is set up to reflect the well known story by Robert Louis Stevenseon “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.  You are probably familiar with the name and characters of the story, but in case you are not, it is the story of Gabriel John Utterson a lawyer who is trying to solve a mystery where a murderous villain (Hyde) is a personality that comes out when Dr. Jekyll drinks a serum. It has been re-interpreted and performed countless times. And it has also become a familiar term for a person who seems to embody good or at least normalcy in one moment, and evil depravity the next. And while the Stevenson book is a work of fiction, if we are honest, we can relate to the story more than we would like to admit.

Huff’s 13 year career started in Tampa Bay where he spent 7 seasons and almost 800 games.

Aubrey Huff played 13 years in the Majors on 5 different teams.  He was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 5th round of the 1998 draft after a Hall of Fame career at University of Miami. He made his debut in August of 2000 and would play more than 1600 games in the majors. He was a Silver Slugger award winner in 2008 with the Orioles and a 2 time World Series champ (2010 and 2012) with the San Francisco Giants. It is a great story of persevering through some gigantic obstacles. When Huff was 6 years old, his father was killed trying to be a peacemaker in a domestic dispute while working as an electrician. Read about that story in this article from mlive.com. His mom raised him and his sister as a single parent. She had a batting cage installed at their house so Huff could work on his skills.

And while Huff put up some great numbers as a baseball player, he battled some things off the field that threatened to ruin his career, his marriage and even his life. During his career, he formed an addiction to Adderall. It helped his baseball career improve, but the effects of taking this drug, and then quitting it tool their toll. This is where he related to Jekyll and Hyde. Learn more about it in this video from CBN.

During Huff’s World Series days, he was battling addiction to Adderall – an addiction that almost cost him his marriage and his life.

In the video he talks about his introduction to Adderall and the positive effects it seemed to have for him. It also relates how addictive it was . He says “I had every intention to quit it during the off-season. And I found myself in the offseason taking it the very first day. When I didn’t take it in the morning, I felt depressed, bored, anxious, and irritable.  It made me a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It turned me into somebody I hated.” He also talks about the day when the cravings ended, thanks – he says to God’s help. He said “I remember getting on my knees and praying, crying to God, I got to get off this stuff, Lord, please Jesus, I need you. I cannot do this anymore. I take the pills I dump them down the toilet at 4:00 in the morning and flush them. And I woke up the next morning. I thought for sure I’d want a pill. I didn’t want one. The next day I didn’t want one. From that moment on, I never had a craving to take another Adderall in my life.”

Huff details his addiction and how God helped him find the path to recovery.

But that was not the end of his struggles.  His wife had filed for divorce, and while the craving for Adderall had ended, he began feeling anxiety and panic, culminating in him holding his gun to his head, on the verge of suicide. He continues “I realized my dad was murdered with this same caliber weapon. And I’m like wow — put it down! I started crying to God. You were supposed to be here with me. I thought you were in my life. And this thought came to me. He’s like ‘Aubrey, if you want my perfect peace, you have to give up control and have faith in me’. And it was that day where I realized I’ve got to start living for Him. Not just pretending!”

God restored Huff, reconciled his marriage to Baubi and even led him to co-write a book about his story, addiction and recovery.

Here are my takeaways from Huff’s story:

1- Jekyll and Hyde –  Huff shared about how Adderall changed him into “someone he hated”. He talked about how he had these 2 distinct versions of himself. – Brash, cocky, confident and focused while on Adderall, and bored, depressed, anxious off of Adderall – however, he was not in control of it. His addiction was in control. I see strong similarities in our spiritual life. We battle every day between glorifying God and glorifying ourselves. We have a natural inclination to worship something or someone, and battle everyday to keep that worship from being aimed at ourself. And while our addiction may not be to Adderall, our addiction to control over our own lives and putting ourselves first is equally as strong and as lethal. Huff saw God help him in his addiction and we need the same in our addiction to self. We need God’s intervention. We need to surrender control to Him.  Only He has the serum that takes away our evil depraved side.

Huff with his wife Baubi and their 2 sons celebrating a championship. God intervened and preserved their marriage.

2- Gain by Giving Up – Control is a funny thing. We think we have it, we hold onto it like it is actually in our hands in the first place, but in reality, we are not really in control of very much at all. We trick ourselves into thinking that we have say in how things are going to go and what life is going to bring our way. When Huff put down the gun he had aimed at himself, He called out to God. He recounts “ He’s like ‘Aubrey, if you want my perfect peace, you have to give up control and have faith in me”.  Since things are out of our control anyway, it makes the most sense to learn to trust the one that actually is in control. God has a plan for our lives and invites us to trust him AND give up control to Him. He can and will show up in amazing ways to guide us. He will also be with us in the hardest times. I know that I need to ask him daily to help me give up control to Him. I invite you to do the same.

Modern Monday – Who do you Represent? – Wil Myers – San Diego Padres

Wil Myers (far right) and 3 other new Padres are introduced at a press conference – a common occurrence for players joining new teams

As the Trade Deadline approaches, I have to confess that it is one of my favorite days of the season – in any sport. It is exciting when a veteran player joins a new team. There is a press conference and the new player pulls on a jersey of the new team to meet the press and be introduced to the fan base. There is an association that happens – the player now represents his/her new team and the team is proud to have the new player join the franchise. I really like Draft day too! There is something to be said about a young aspiring player having the next step in his/her dream fulfilled when his/her name is called by one of the teams in the professional leagues. They are, in essence saying I see the potential on you and we are going to take action because we see you as a fit for our team. Then the player, if they are in attendance at the draft, go forward, meet the decision makers of the team and pull on a jersey of the new team that they now associate with.

Padres OF/1B Wil Myers

With that lead in, we will check out the story of Wil Myers of the San Diego Padres. He is the most well known name on the Padres largely due to his 2013 Rookie of the Year win with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was an All-Star for the Padres last season, and now that the NFL’s Chargers have moved up the coast to Los Angeles, Myers has become the most well known sports star in the city.

Drafted out of High School by the Kansas City Royals in the 2009 draft. He would be traded to the Rays before playing a game for the Royals.  Before the trade, Myers had torn up the minors at the AA and AAA levels. He won the Rookie of the Year despite playing only half a season, but still led all rookies in RBI. However, after his successful Rookie of the Year season, injuries limited his playing time and his effectiveness for the next 2 seasons. He was dealt to a rebuilding Padres team to be a key player hopefully speeding up the rebuild.

Myers was an All-Star last season, and a participant in the Home Run Derby

After his All-Star season last year, Myers entered this season with lofty goals. You can check them out in this article from the San Diego Tribune. In the article, he also talks about the “All-Star Hangover”. He says “When I got to the All-Star break I felt like my season was done, It was like, ‘I’m an All-Star. I did it.’ And then I had 2 1/2 months left to play. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t lock back in quick enough into the second half. I was still in that All-Star hangover. When I found out, shoot, I’ve got to get going again, it was too late, and I started to panic.” So this year, the hope was to recover the torrid pace he had set in June last year. His numbers are on par with his season last year, falling a little short of his 40-40 goals. He is looking to avoid a repeat of last year, when his numbers fell off after the All-Star break. And as we can read in this San Diego Tribune article, Myers does learn from his past. The article shares how his mother and father instilled in him the value of taking responsibility for his own actions. We read “When Wil was in middle school, he was playing in a game down in Concord and slammed his helmet to the ground after making a third out. When he got back to the dugout after the next half-inning, Pam was removing his bag from the hook on the fence. “He said, ‘Momma, what are you doing?’ “ Pam recalled. “I said, ‘Wil, you don’t throw your helmet. You’re not playing like that.’ He said, ‘Momma, I promise I won’t do that again.’ ”Pam relented, but not before a scolding reminder that “You represent me and your daddy. You represent this family. We don’t do that.

So a player may pull on a jersey of a new team to meet the fan base and media, but they represent more than their new team when they play the game. We read that Myers family also takes ownership of his play and his actions – he represents them by his work and his attitude. And as you can learn in this video below, he also represents Christ as he plays.

He says “Jesus is your Lord and Savior. He’s the one who died for your sins. He’s the guide to make disciples of all nations for Him. You go out there and every time you get that voice in your head to talk about Him you just got to do it!

Here are my takeaways from Myers’ story

Myers was the 2013 A.L. Rookie of the Year. Myers says “You go out there and every time you get that voice in your head to talk about Him you just got to do it!”

1- Who do you represent? –  Myers talks about following the prompting of the Holy Spirit when it comes to sharing about his faith. He knows that just like he is the face of sports in San Diego and he represents the city and his team with the way he acts and plays, as a believer, he also represents Christ to fans, teammates and opposing players. He says “You just got to do it” when you hear that voice in your head to talk about Jesus. As believers, we are representatives of Christ. It is true that we are always being an example, always influencing those around us. The question we must ask is what kind of example are we being? What kind of influence do we have on others? Is it a positive one that points them to the love of Jesus or is it the selfish me-first attitude that we battle against every day? What kind of mark do we leave on our surroundings. Christian Rock band Send the Beggar has a song called “Leaving Jesus” The lyric from the song that came to mind as I wrote this article is the part where they sing. “They don’t call me Jesus, but I leave your name every where I go.  I prove that you’re here by being here Like tracks in the snow“. That is our challenge – to show Jesus everywhere we go.

After last years All Star game, Myers struggled to continue at the pace he had been hitting. He aims for a better second half this season

2-  Stay Prepared – Myers shared how he struggled after the All Star break last season. He said “When I got to the All-Star break I felt like my season was done, It was like, ‘I’m an All-Star. I did it.’ And then I had 2 1/2 months left to play. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t lock back in quick enough into the second half” For Myers, he rested on his accomplishments and didn’t keep the same mindset and drive in the second half of the season. I’ve heard it said “The only way to coast is downhill” and while rest is important, we need to stay in the battle, constantly asking God to guide us and help us through the struggle. Satan will never leave us alone, but he is sneaky and looking for a chance to attack when we are vulnerable. Let’s stay locked in to following God and putting our all into following Him.

TBT – Dream a Little Dream – Joe Carter – Toronto Blue Jays

Former Blue Jays OF, Slugger and Hero Joe Carter

It is amazing how God can use “normal” things in everyday life to draw us to Him. One of the coolest stories that I have come across was that of a man that I met 15 years ago at a conference I attended. I was there on my own and found myself sitting next to a guy before one of the sessions. We struck up a conversation, and he told me how he came to know that God was real. He went with some people from his church to a Promise Keepers conference. While there, he heard some things from the Bible that stirred his heart a little. But he was not completely convinced. He prayed a prayer asking God specifically for a “flashing sign” to show that He was real. He went into a session of worship and teaching and as the band played, to his surprise, God gave him what he asked for. This man’s name was Roland and from where he was standing, as the singer rocked back and forth one song, the name brand of the key board came in and out of view. So as he watched the stage, he saw “Roland! Roland! Roland!” He remembered his prayer for a flashing sign and was amazed at how God worked it out. He committed to following Christ that night.

The biggest moment it Blue Jays history happened in part because God told Carter in a dream to stay in Toronto.

Cool story of how God used the brand name of a keyboard to draw a man to himself. For Blue Jays legendary slugger Joe Carter, his flashing sign was actually blue jays. As you can read in this article from sportscollectorsdigest.com it was a dream that led him to stay in Toronto instead of leaving for a more lucrative contract from the Royals. He had just been part of the World Series champs in 1992 and his contract was up. The Jays offered a 3 year deal. The Royals approached with a 4-year offer for more money. Then, the dream. Joe said “I went to bed one night and I had a dream. I saw myself walking with Devon White (his Blue Jay teammate in 1992) to a stadium and I was dribbling a basketball. Why I had a basketball, I don’t know, but it was pitch black when we walked in and the scoreboard said, ‘Welcome to SkyDome.’’ That was sign No. 1. The next sign came when he awoke and his wife told him to look out the window. He saw blue jays all over his backyard.”

Carter sees the dream and the appearance of blue jays, not unseen but rare in Kansas City, as a sign from God. He says “I figured God was making it pretty clear to me what I should do”. So he re-upped with the Blue Jays, and they would go on to win it all again. They won in 6 with Joe Carter hitting a walk-off homer that is among the most memorable moments in baseball history. Most Canadians know where they were when this home run was hit. I was sitting in the front seat of a car as a leader at Scout Camp, waiting for another leader to return to the camp with my sleeping bag. (Another long story for a different time). Anyway, in case you have never seen it, here is Joe’s moment.

Carter’s exuberant trip around the bases after the home run is one of the most well known moments in baseball history

The result of this home run was not only a win for the Blue Jays and a legacy moment for Joe Carter, it increased his platform size as people would love to hear his story. With that platform, he has shared the excitement of the moment and also his desire to honor God through his life.  From the book “Famous People Speak about Jesus” Carter shares “I am thankful and I give honor to God, and to my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say that because you see a lot of athletes nowadays on TV say, `I want to thank God for the game that I had and thank God for what He’s done for me.’ But what God are they really talking about? I found myself listening to that and said `I want to be different because I want to leave no doubt as to who I am talking about and who I’m serving and that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ I want to really emphasize that because He is the true leader of my life and that the way I want to be remembered.”

Carter had a dream and saw a blue jay in his back yard. God used those moments to guide Carter to stay in Toronto. And the World Series stayed north of the boarder. He now talks openly about how God worked to guide him and how he wants to live his life for God.

My takeaways from Carter’s story:

1- No Insignificance with God – By themselves, there is nothing spectacular about a blue jay in your back yard or a Roland keyboard, yet God used these items to guide people to understanding His plan for them. What has God used in your life that really show His creativity. How has He shown up in unexpected ways to show Himself to you and demonstrate his Love, forgiveness and grace to draw you close? God is not undone by our skepticism and He doesn’t abandon us in our unbelief. Instead, he patiently shows Himself in ways that can only be orchestrated by the Maestro of creation. But the other part that we can’t miss is that He also takes care of the little things, the things that we have not dared to share with other people, the quiet doubts and concerns that we may have. He patiently shows up to calm all of those and show us He is real, He is with us and He has an amazing adventure for us.

2- Legacy moment – Joe Carter is known for a successful baseball career, but the defining moment of that career was a walk-off World Series winning Home Run in Game six of the 1993 World Series. It is only the second time in all of baseball history where the World Series was won with a walk off home run. And while that moment’s significance seems greater because of the situation and the 10’s of millions of witnesses, but if you ask my friend Roland, he would say the “flashing sign” that he was was also life-changingly significant. When God shows up and changes our life, He writes that unique part of our story which then becomes part of our legacy. How has God changed your life? Where did He show up and show a personal touch to you that drew you into his very presence. This is your legacy and He gives it to you to share and encourage others. Don’t turn away from your story. Embrace it and share it.