Olympic Faith Part 1 -History Makers- Maame Biney, Seun Adigun and Simidele Adeagbo


 

The Olympics are now on day 4 of competition and it has been a lot of fun to watch. I think the Olympics are my favorite overall Sporting event. I was born just a few days before the start of the Montreal Olympics, and I remember fondly watching almost every Olympics since then. I enjoy the stories of the athletes, most lesser known than the “professionals” that absorb most of the sports landscape in North America. Many have incredible journeys and vast measures of sticktoitiveness to make it to the Olympics. Today, I want to share 3 of those stories.

Maame Biney – USA Short Track Speed Skater

Maame Biney

It doesn’t take long to become a fan of Maame Biney. Maybe it is her father, Kweku, holding a sign saying “Kick some Hiney Biney!” at Olympic Trials. Maybe it is the huge smile that is seen almost all the time flashing across her face – except at race time.  Maybe it is the dance of excitement she breaks into when she is successful in a race. Maybe it is a bit of all this wrapped together with an amazing story of moving from Ghana to Virginia, being separated by all those miles from her mother and younger brother. You can check out the story in this CNN article. It shares how 3 months after arriving in America, her dad pointed out a “learn to skate” sign for figure skating lessons. That didn’t take, but her coach suggested that her speed and energy would work well in speed skating. And there, at age 5, began the journey that has sent her now to PyeongChang, South Korea.

Upon qualifying for the Olympics, Biney shared the importance God plays in her life. She wrote “I want to start off by thanking God.  I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Him. If God hadn’t given my dad the strength to wake up, and take me to practice, I wouldn’t be here today. I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this.” It is this last line that catches my attention. God has given us all passion to do different things. What is your passion? How can  God use you for His purposes?

The almost constant smile of Maame Biney

The other part of her story that I kept coming back to was something her father said to her after she felt she had a bad result at a skating event. He said “No matter what happens tomorrow, whether you get last or whether you get first, just know that I love you not because you’re a speed skater but because you’re Maame and you’re my daughter,” I love that because it is similar to how God views us. No matter what happens tomorrow, He loves us – not because of what we accomplish, but because we are His creation. What a great place to rest in – His perfect, unending love.

Seun Adigun – Nigeria Bobsled team captain

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga are making history as the Nigerian Bobsled team

Seun represented Nigeria in the 2012 Olympics in the 100m hurdles. She had sustained a leg injury and was not at 100% for those 2012 games. As you can read in this article from TMC she was not content with the results failing to qualify from her opening heat, so she tried out for Team USA bobsled in hoping to redeem her Olympic experience.  She is a duel citizen of USA and Nigeria and her bobsled training experience, partnered with the fact that 2 of her friends in Houston were also track and field athletes and also duel citizens from Nigeria, to put together the first ever bobsled team from an African country.

The Nigerian Bobsled team is the first African entry in the Olympic Bobsled competition.

She built a makeshift bobsled out of wood, to “simulate the bobsled in Lake Placid, where I trained with the U.S. team“. And while she is still adjusting to the Winter weather – she talks about numb hands and frostbite – she has accomplished her goal of putting together the first Bobsled team from an African Nation. Oh, and she also completed her doctorate. When asked how she balanced her schedule and accomplished all this, she says “When you ride on faith, you’re able to live in that element of selflessness. You’re able to live in that moment of fearlessness. I don’t attribute any type of individual success to myself, but more so to God’s will to put me in places to allow things to flourish or opportunities to present themselves,

What opportunities are presenting themselves in your life? How can God help you flourish in those opportunities?

 

Simidele Adeagbo – Nigerian Skelton

Nigerian Skelton competitor Simidele Adeagbo.

If Seun and the other bobsledders were hoping to inspire other with their historical efforts, they don’t have to look very far to see that they have. Meet Simidele Adeagbo.  When she heard about the Nigerian Bobsled team, she was inspired to chase her own Olympic dream as well. She had been pursuing her hopes to make the Olympics her whole life, as a Track and Field athlete. She had not been successful, and finally saw her opportunity present itself in an unexpected way – in the Winter Olympics.  You can read about it in this interview from Punchng.com.  She learned about the bobsled team and it inspired her to take up a new sport – Skelton. She has only been active in the sport since last September.

Adeagbo only picked up the sport of Skelton last September. To qualify for PyeongChang is an amazing accomplishment.

The interviewer from Punch asked “who is Simidele Adeagbo? Her answer? “Simidele Adeagbo is a creative force, she is very determined, a pioneer, a business woman, an extraordinary athlete and a Nigerian. She is a sister, a friend, a Christian and she loves God and through this journey, God has even shown her how faith is most important because faith made this possible.

Faith is most important. It can lead us down roads we never would have dreamed of. Where is God asking you to trust Him and step out in an exercise of faith? Are you ready for the adventure that awaits?

 

Super Bowl LII – Who are you gonna cheer for?


Every year at this time, 15/16ths of NFL fans have already seen their team’s season end unsatisfactorily. The hopes of a championship crushed by the reality that this is simply not our team’s year. For some of us, the roller coaster of emotions and expectations for our favorite team lasted longer than others. I am a Saints fan, and after an 0-2 start, things looked grim, then things turned around and they strung together win after win en route to a division title and a playoff birth. Then, it looked like they would pull off a huge, unexpected comeback against the Vikings, only to watch those hopes dashed spectacularly on a play now known in these parts as the “Minneapolis Miracle“. Vikings, fresh off this win, looked like a team of destiny, a lock to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium – something that has never happened before. But their express train into history came off the tracks against the Eagles and Vikings fans had yet another tough pill to swallow. Those examples of how the seasons ended for a couple of teams that I have an interest in. There are story lines in 28 other fan bases of a season without a championship.

That being said, The Super Bowl is a big event that will be watched by far more people than the fan bases of the 2 teams in the game.  There will be general football fans, prop betters, commercial gawkers, halftime show watchers and social butterflies celebrating a reason to get together with friends and eat piles of good (if not good for you) food. It is a day to celebrate, getting together and hanging out, even if we don’t care much about the results of the game.

But if you are going to watch the game and are wondering who to cheer for, check out the videos below – one from CBN (link only) and one from Sports Spectrum Magazine, for the faith stories of many players in the game. I will also link to the players involved in the game that I have written about on these virtual pages. Feel free to comment below who you are rooting for, or your comments on these faith stories!  Enjoy the game everyone!

From Sports Spectrum

Check out the Sports Spectrum Article here

And the CBN video that features from the Eagles TE Zack Ertz, Safety Malcolm Jenkins, OT Will Beatty, QB Nick Foles,

and from the Patriots WR Matthew Slater, OL Nate Solder, DB Duron Harmon, DB Devin McCourty, TE Dennis Allen,

can be seen at this link

And click on the names of the following players/coaches to read the posts I wrote about them:

New England Patriots

OL Nate Solder

RB Rex Burkhead

OL Marcus Cannon

DB Devin McCourty

Patriots in Super Bowl LI

Patriots at Super Bowl XLIX

Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

Philadelphia Eagles

QB Nick Foles

QB Carson Wentz

TE Trey Burton

OL Stefen Wisniewski 

DB Chris Maragos

DB Malcolm Jenkins

Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich 

Filled


It is almost Super Bowl time and many of us have plans in place to get together with friends and take in the festivities together. Some are invested in the game, but not all. Some will have their stop watches out to time how long it will take Pink to sing the National Anthem. Others will be eager for stoppages in play so they can check out the newly released Super Bowl commercials, and still others will await anxiously to see what surprises will accompany Justin Timberlake and the Half-Time show.

Now imagine that you are just about to watch the second half of the game kick off.  You are still recovering from the half-time show and wondering if the Eagles can hold off the Patriots or if they will be planning another parade in the greater Boston area.  Then, there is a panic – the food is gone. There is no more coming. What do you think the reaction of the houseguests will be? Some may think “it’s okay, I’ve really eaten enough”, some will look to order pizza, some will maybe revolt or at least black list this place for next year. For the host of the party, it would be an embarrassing oversight to run out of food on Super Bowl Sunday.

Now, let’s take a look at a potentially embarrassing moment at a celebration in the Bible.  This time, we are looking at John 2. It is not a Super Bowl party, but instead, it is a wedding – a joyous celebration that could go on for days. And in this moment, the wine has run out. It is a potentially embarrassing situation for the hosts. Mary, Jesus’ mother hears about the issue and brings it to His attention. He doesn’t jump at the chance to take action. Instead, he tells her that “my time has not yet come (vs 4)”. But she then instructs the servants to “do whatever he tells you (vs 5)”

And to the surprise (I’m sure) of these servants, Jesus tells them to fill these large jugs with water. The bible points out that this is means fetching between 120-180 gallons of water – many trips to the well – it would take lots of work to make this happen. And what do you suppose they were thinking. We have all these guests and we are going to give them water? This is a disaster! Who is this guy and why are we listening to Him? This is going to take a long time and…water at a wedding?  We will be the laughing stock of the whole region. This is going from bad to worse.

But it doesn’t go from bad to worse. Instead, this is the first miracle that Jesus does publicly. It becomes a real circle-the-date-on-your-calendar moment. Miraculously, Jesus transforms the water in these vessels into the finest wine served. A sampling is taken to the head of the banquet and he is surprised by the quality of the wine that he tastes. The guests are none the wiser and the reputation of the bride and groom is preserved.

The takeaways from this story are:

1- Be faithful in the little things – What Jesus said would seem crazy and with the servants and the wedding planners on the edge of being embarrassed by this wine-shortage. And they had no reason to believe that anything miraculous was going to come from this exchange with Jesus. He had not yet established his history of miraculous wonders and built his reputation of awe-inspiring feats. He was just a guy at a wedding reception. But they did listen to Him. They did trust that He would do something helpful for their case. It would have taken time and effort to fill those vessels with water – time that could easily have allowed doubt to stop them from filling the jugs all up – but they persisted and their faith was rewarded.  They are the ones that got to witness this miracle. God is still in the business of helping people in miraculous ways. We are invited to trust Him – and to obey Him in the little things.

2- The Disciples Believe – Verse 11 tells us that this was the first time that Jesus revealed his glory and the disciples believed in Him. This story doesn’t tell us if they were privy to the information about the wine running out, but it does show us that they spent time with him and that their lives were changing. They would of course continue to travel down an unpredictable path where they would learn from the Master and see things far beyond what they could imagine. It is amazing how life changing time spent with God can be. Will you spend time with Him and allow him to change your life. Will you believe him, trust him and allow Him to lead you on the adventure of a lifetime?

Hidden Blessings – Nate Solder – New England Patriots – OL


Patriots OT Nate Solder

Football can be a brutal sport. Every year there are players whose lives are impacted by an injury in one way or another. Sometimes it will be the end of the season, sometimes it can lead to the end of a career. For Patriots Offensive Lineman Nate Solder the injury he sustained on October 11,2015 provided a way to be with his family during a particularly trying time.

In a win against the Cowboys, Solder suffered a tear in his right biceps that would cost him the remainder of the season. Eight days later, the 2011 Patriots 1st round pick out of University of Colorado would learn that his infant son Hudson had been diagnosed with a Wilms tumor (a rare form of cancer) on his Kidney. Solder, and his wife Lexi would see their 3 month-old son undergo a series of Cancer treatments. As the Patriots and Solder prepared for the Super Bowl last February (15 months later), Solder shared the lessons he has learned on this journey with his family. He says “We get caught up in our own personal issues, our own personal pains and sufferings, and we forget that there’s a lot of other people out there that are suffering. “We have an opportunity to help those people and not to get lost in our own pain.” He continues “It’s not just about suffering well in your own life,” he said. “It’s about entering into other people’s suffering, just as Christ would.

Lexi and Nate Solder with son Hudson

Solder sees this challenge as another way that God has shown up in his life.  The story of Hudson has resonated with people in a powerful way. Solder says “I think it was totally in the providence of God, as all things are.”… And after they came out publicly about Hudson’s condition, he heard from several parents who resonated with his story. “That was just one of the many ways that God’s used Hudson’s issue to touch other people’s lives. I don’t know why God does all of the things that He does, but it’s been an eye-opening experience, for sure.”

Where did this strength of faith come from? Well, remarkably, this hasn’t been the first encounter this young family has had with cancer. Just 3 weeks before Nate and Lexi were married, it was discovered that Nate had testicular cancer.  He underwent surgery and treatment that has left him cancer free.  In this article from Patriots.com we learn that dealing with his own cancer brought him a renewed trust and dependence on God.

Solder and Tom Brady after Solder’s Surprising TD catch against the Colts in the 2014 AFC championship game.

The article says “And through the surgery, his recovery, his wedding, his championship season, and his imminent fatherhood, Solder revealed he has become something else in the past year: a renewed Christian. He found his faith strengthened by the cancer ordeal, and chose to be baptized again because he felt like he was making a conscious decision to recommit his life to his religious beliefs.`It happened so quickly,” added Solder, “I had such a minor case, I had such good care with the doctors and trainers here, the fact that Lexi is such a strong person, we were able to weather the storm, and our faith through the whole deal was made stronger. It was such a blessing to have that.‘”

Their faith and desire to be positive in the face of challenging circumstances have been noticed by the Patriots family who named Solder the winner of their Ed Block Courage award last season.

But far beyond success on the field, awards, Super Bowls or recognition, The new perspective that Solder has on life is his biggest takeaway. He says “I just know how frail everything is, how easily it can be taken away and how fortunate we are to be out here every single day. But I have my priorities set, and my top priority is God and then my family. When those things are squared away, everything else falls into line. My faith in the Lord is so much bigger than anything we’re doing here, so much bigger than the Super Bowl.”

Nate and Hudson celebrating a Super Bowl victory a year ago.

Here are my takeaways from Solder’s story.

1- Striving– Why are we so inclined to think that fame, success and reaching the pinnacle of what the world seems to value will truly satisfy? Over and over again on these pages, I have come across stories of people who have learned that putting God first and living the way He desires of us is the best way to live. We can dress it up any way we want, but putting other things ahead of God is a recipe for disaster. We see it over and over in the Bible, and it is easy to see in our own lives, too. I pray that we may all be able to say, as Solder did, that our faith in the Lord is so much bigger than anything we are doing here. If we are going to strive, let’s strive to show His importance above all else in our lives.

2- Hidden Blessings –  Solder suffered a painful injury that ended his 2015 season. But that injury turned out to be a blessing because it freed him up to be with his young family as they navigated through their son’s cancer diagnosis. For the Solder family, they found blessings in their hardship. Cancer diagnosis for Nate leads them to renewing their faith in God. An injury to Nate helps the family be together in a time of crisis. God uses all parts of our story to draw us closer to Him. Anything that does that is a blessing.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own world as we are trying  to carve our spot, secure our place and build our legacy that it becomes hard to trust God’s plan. Sometimes, bad news helps us out. It invites us to trust in Him, lean on Him, cling to Him and know that with Him, all things are possible.

Keeping Track


This is the third post in a mini-series among the Tangible Truths that our Radical Jesus has challenged us with. We talked about loving our enemies, we talked about loving our neighbor, even if that neighbor is an enemy. And as we have talked about loving others, we will finish this mini-series by looking at what true forgiveness is in relation to the love we are called to show to others. Our text is Matthew 18. verses 21-35.

Here we see Peter comes to Jesus and asks a bit of a loaded question. “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Now there is not a lot of context here as to what Peter may have been thinking, but I picture it as Peter attempting to show Jesus how he “gets it”. He is showing Jesus he understands what Jesus has been teaching and demonstrates this learning with what he feels like is a pretty radical concept. Forgive someone seven times?  After all teaching of the day suggested that forgiving 3 times was the limit. So imagine how Peter’s mind would be blown by the answer of seventy times seven. If Peter is attempting to prove the depth of his spirituality, he is outdone by Jesus answer.

But here is the way my mind was blown as I was studying this story. I read it just a couple days after a bible study that focused on 1 Corinthians 13. And there in the midst of that chapter, clear as day, it says in verse 5 (love) keeps no record of wrongs.  Did you catch that?  Now let’s put it together with the “loving others” we’ve been talking about for the past few Tangible Truths. If we are loving others, we are not to keep record of the wrongs they do to us. If we are loving them, we will not dig out our tally sheet and put another notch on the page beside their name. That is not loving forgiveness. And again, Jesus models this for us as the writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 8.12For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

But in case you missed it, Jesus drives his point home with a parable. He talks about a servant who owed a great debt to the King who has called for his debts to be settled. This servant doesn’t have the means to repay the large debt and the King calls for him and his family to be sold to repay what they owed. The servant pleads with the King, and the King, taking pity on him, releases him and forgives the debt completely. He owes nothing!

This servant, freed from this penalty, finds another man who owes him a small sum. Like the servant with the king, this man also pleads for mercy, saying he cannot repay the debt. Finding that unacceptable, the servant grabs the second man by the neck and begins to choke him. He then has that man thrown in prison until the small debt could be repaid. Word got back to the King who called the first servant back in, reinstated the debt and had the first servant thrown into prison until the large amount he owed was paid in full.

We deserve to be on the hook to repay everything that has been done for us, but God knowing that we will never be able to repay that debt, doesn’t require it of us. He has cancelled the debt and freed us from any sentence that it held. But as we discussed in the previous two Tangible Truths, He calls us to do the same for others – forgive them, not hold their actions against them and remember that we are no better than them. We also have been forgiven of much greater offenses than another person could ever commit against us.

I am challenged by these lessons on love. It is so much easier to hold on to grudges and withhold mercy and forgiveness when people hurt us. But if we want to follow the example Jesus set for us – if we want to follow His teaching and live the life He calls us to, then we are compelled to remember that He calls us to love others – our neighbors, our enemies, those who are hurtful to us. I pray that I will never again overlook these lessons and that His presence in my life would be demonstrated by helping me carry out His commands to love and forgive.