Enemy


In my most recent athlete post, I share the story of Giorgio Tavecchio. Part of his story included a missed field goal. The miss happened after he had made the field goal, but had committed a penalty so it didn’t count. Those missing points would have been enough for his team to win the game, and without them, they lost.

He shared that he received a lot of hateful messages on his Facebook page. His response? Pray for each of those who sent him the message. This was a great representation of todays “tangible truth”.  In Matthew 5, there is a wealth of teaching for us to wrap our heads around, and in verse 44, Jesus says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I looked up the definition of persecute and here is what I found. “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; relentless subjection to annoyance or suffering”  That goes against our instincts and in many cases, our sense of justice. We were wronged, we were hurt, we should be able to hold their actions against them.

But one time, a few years ago, as I read this passage something shocking dawned on me. Sometimes, I am the enemy. Sometimes my words are injurious, my actions harassing, or at least relentlessly annoying. I am the youngest of 3 brothers, I am sure they would support me in this claim.

There is a well known verse later in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7.12). It says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”. So let’s put these 2 verses together. When I am mean, oppressive, hurtful to others- when I am their enemy, how would I want them to treat me?  Do I want them to hate me back, carry a grudge and wish mean, harmful things to happen to me? Or do I want them to love me, pray for me, go against what I deserve from them and be shown grace? Definitely option number 2. So with that in mind, how then should I treat those that are oppressing, hurting or insulting me? With love, grace, prayer and forgiveness.

And if we need an example of what that looks like, consider what Paul wrote in Romans 5.8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were enemies of God. We were against Him, living in outright rebellion. That is when he went to the cross so we could be shown love and forgiveness.  In Psalm 103.12, we read that the Lord has taken our sins “farther than the East is from the West”.  Why East and West instead of North and South? well, there is a North and South Pole. There is a finite distance between those two points. There is a point that you can reach where you are as North as you can go.  No point like that exists when you look at East and West. If I were to get in an airplane and fly east until I reached the end, I would never get there. I can always go East. It is an immeasurable distance and God says our sins are taken away farther than that! He loved his enemies. He showed love, grace and forgiveness to the very ones that were sentencing him to death. (I’m not picking on the Jews in Israel at this moment, I’m talking about every sinner that has ever lived!) And He calls us to do the same, to show undeserved love and grace to those who oppress us. And when we see what that looks like modeled in our own forgiveness, we are challenged to do the same. God please help us to lean on your presence in our life to carry this out!

 

Disappointment – Giorgio Tavecchio – K – Oakland Raiders


Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio

Today, I get to shine the Living Up to My Name spotlight on Giorgio Tavecchio. He has had a long, winding road to the NFL where he made his regular season debut this year with the Oakland Raiders.

Born in Milan, Italy in 1990, he moved at a young age to America. He recounts in this article from raiders.com, that his family moved around quite a bit when he was growing up.  He was the kicker for his high school football team and loved it so much that he turned down a scholarship at UC Davis to walk-on as kicker at UC Berkley. He played with the Golden Bears for 4 seasons, finishing 5th on their all-time scoring list.

Tavecchio looks in disbelief at the missed field goal that would make him the target of anger and even hatred from Cal fans.

During his junior year, he and the Bears had a chance to upset No.1 ranked Oregon. He lined up a 24- yard Field Goal in the fourth quarter to take the lead and hammered it through the uprights. But he had taken a short step before the snap and was penalized for a false start. The ball was moved back 5 yards – still a makable 29 yard attempt. But he missed it to the right. Oregon held on to win the game.  Giorgio was blamed. The disappointment of a miss like this could have been enormous. But for Tavecchio, as you can read in this article from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Tevecchio turned it into a “chance to grow.”He got hateful messages on his Facebook page. He chose to pray for those who clicked “send.“” Disappointment didn’t get the best of him. 

After many seasons of not making the regular season roster, Tavecchio got his chance this season. He hit 4 FG in his debut against the Titans.

And that was probably a good thing as there was more opportunity for disappointment that would come. Tavecchio was not invited showcase his skills at the NFL combine. So it would fall to the Cal pro day to show off his skills. Scouts would come to see all the prospective NFL players at Cal. The Vegas Review Journal recounts the Cal pro day like this “As he warmed up to punctuate the afternoon, rain fell on Berkeley. Scouts flipped up their jacket hoods. They lowered their heads to keep their faces dry. Having seen the top prospects, they left the field and retired to the parking lot…”By the time I was done with my set, maybe 45 minutes later, I had kicked probably 30 field goals, a couple kickoffs,” Tavecchio said. “There was just my team chaplain (Kevin Knox) and a couple teammates.

He was not drafted in the NFL. He went to a tryout for the San Francisco 49ers and earned an invite to training camp. He was cut before the regular season started. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers the next year and the Detroit Lions the following year, and again cut before the season started. The Raiders claimed him a couple days later, but cut him 3 days later. They would sign him in the off-season and cut him before the regular season 3 more times including this season, before bringing him back to replace an injured Sabastian Janikowski. He would finally get his chance. And on opening day this year, he hit 4 Field Goals for the Raiders, 2 of them were over 50 yards – he became the first kicker in NFL history to hit 2 50-yard-or-longer kicks in his debut. Now 8 games into his career (He plays his ninth game this evening), he is 10 of 12 in FGs and 19 of 20 in PAT. It has been a process, but Giorgio has arrived as an NFL kicker.

“When we depend on God we will never be disappointed” Tevecchio said.

Tavecchio talked about praying for the haters that sent him messages when he was in college. Part of the reason that he has been able to go through all the steps in this journey is that he has a great mindset when it comes to facing disappointment. Check out his story from Beyond the Ultimate.  He says “One of the things I’ve really embraced is dependence on God. That takes the pressure off me. Whatever happens on the field is going to happen. But if I trust in God, I will never be disappointed. What I’ve learned has made me into a better person, and I have drawn closer to God. My purpose here is not just football. I have the confidence that He can get me through things as long as I don’t trust in my own capabilities.” 

Here are my takeaways from Tavecchio’s story:

1- Pray for the Haters – In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” We see that lived out in Tavecchio’s story. It is so easy to return anger for anger and hatred for hatred. But that is not the example Jesus lived for us. Instead, he loves and pleads for those who oppose him to turn to Him.  He is not condemning, He is loving. The time for condemnation will come but until it does, He pleads and yearns for all to come to Him and know Him. I’m challenged by this response that Giorgio showed. I know that I get defensive, even if I know that I messed up and it is my fault, I will battle anyone that tries to remind me of that fact. Defensiveness is never the solution. Prayer, humility, love and respect for those who oppose us is much more beneficial and it is what Jesus calls us to.

2- Dealing with Disappointment – Tavecchio has had lots of opportunity to deal with disappointment. Missing a clutch kick that could have led to an upset, no one watching him at his pro day, not getting drafted, getting signed and cut over and over again (6 times!) It would be easy to battle against disappointment. But if we are truly trusting God and His plan, then when things don’t go the best way WE can see, it invites us to trust in God and depend on Him to work it out for us. And when He does, we start to see the depth of his plan and can have confidence that He will lead us through. Let’s let trust trump disappointment.

Value


In the previous “Tangible Truths” post, I talked about going through the motions of Christianity versus true sacrifice. That led me to make this one my next “Tangible Truth”.

This series focusses on some of the radical things Jesus said and how, when inspected more closely, they are both very true and very challenging. Today’s passage is from Matthew 13.45-46. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Two little verses that pack a punch. Let’s imagine the scene like this.

Man: Wow! look at that pearl! I’ve never seen one like it in my life! It is beautiful!  I simply must have it.  How much?

Merchant: How much do you have?

Man: umm. well, let’s see, I have, uh… $1,000 cash on me.

Merchant: I’ll take everything you’ve got.

Man: Oof! Hefty price, but I’ve got more in the bank account, so I’ll take it! $1,000. It’s a deal.

Merchant: I said, I’ll take everything you’ve got- bank account too!

Man: Empty my account? Wow! ummm, but look at it- I’ve never seen its equal. OK, deal, I’ll drain the bank account. It’s so worth it.

Merchant: OK.

Man: What a deal! Now where did I park my car?

Merchant: Wait! You have a car?

Man: (drawn out) yessss.

Merchant: The deal was for everything you’ve got!

Man: You want my car, too? Sheesh! I mean its a few years old and needs some work, but I need it to get around!

Merchant: The deal was for EVERYTHING.

Man: wow! um… ok, let me think about it… It is a pretty steep price, but it is so perfect, so beautiful, so valuable. You know what, OK, you can have the car, too. Here are the keys, we can take care of the title and all that, I guess.  But, uh, can you drive me to my house?

Merchant: You have a house? Our deal was for everything you’ve got!

Man: You want my HOUSE??? Now wait a minute. Let me take another look at that pearl. (looks at it). It sure is flawless though. This is crazy! OK, you can have the house too. I can’t believe I just said that, but I HAVE to have this pearl. When you drive me to my house, can you explain to my family that we are homeless and carless?

Merchant: You have a family? The deal was for everything that you’ve got!

Man: YOU WANT ME TO GIVE YOU MY FAMILY? Are you crazy? I can’t give up my family! But I can’t give this pearl back to you either – Now that I’ve seen it and held it, I have to have it. um…OK, I guess they are yours.

Merchant: Great, now can you do something for me?

Man: What could I do for you?

Merchant: You know the family you just gave me? They are mine – don’t forget that. But I want you to take care of them for me. Treat them great. Tell them about me, share your pearl with them.  And the house you gave me. It is my house. But I want you to live in it, take care of it, and use it to show this pearl to others. Tell them about me – I have lots of perfect pearls – I’d love to strike up a deal with them too.

Man: OK.

Merchant: And the car you gave me – it is mine now. I own it – but  I would like you to use it – for my purposes. Help other people out with it, and the money you gave me. It is my money now, but I am going to entrust it back to you. Use it wisely, use it how I instruct you to. Use it to help others find a pearl of their own that they can enjoy like you will enjoy your pearl.

Man: I understand. Thanks! This is the best deal ever!

Merchant: Tell others about the deal you got.

Now, God is not a swindler or a tricky salesman. He is the source of all that we have in the first place. The cost of this pearl is great, but the value far outweighs that cost. Our challenge is surrendering ALL to Jesus and making him more important than EVERYTHING else in our life. I think that sometimes we lose sight of that, and feel that we have done this on our own. Everything we have is a gift from Him. And giving Him everything makes sense since it is all His to start with. So knowing that, let’s joyfully surrender ALL to Him and share the beauty of the treasure He offers for others to see.

Do Not Fear – Jared Abbrederis – Detroit Lions WR


Lions WR Jared Abbrederis

It is construction season here in Minnesota. Yes, construction begins as soon as the snow leaves and they can get to work, but this time of year, it seems like things amp up a bit as the crews try to scramble to get as much in as possible. The result is that the routes we take to get where we are going are often slower than we want to travel and occasionally lead us in a completely different direction then we want to go. It is the story of our commute, but it is also the story of our life. Things don’t often go the most direct route. There seems to be times of waiting, unexpected detours and even the occasional fender-bender. The difference between our life (if we know Christ) and our commute is that with Jesus, when we finally get to where we are going, we see that the route we took makes the most sense and turned out to be the perfect path and timing. I don’t ever feel that way about construction traffic.

Abbrederis played college football as a walk-on at Wisconsin

Jared Abbrederis has had a long journey in football. He had success in High School as you can read in this article from whatchristianswanttoknow.com, but it didn’t translate into recruiters beating down his door to play at the college level. At Wisconsin, he went from walk-on quarterback to a top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He owns a few receiving and return records for the Badgers. He was impressive enough in college that the Green Bay Packers chose him in the 5th round of the 2014 draft. He played in 15 regular season and 2 post season games with the Packers before an injury led to his release from the team. The Lions signed him in January and he has been active for 4 games with them so far, hauling in 3 catches.

For Abbrederis, setting out on the new adventure of college was where he truly made the decision to live his life for Christ. You can read his story in his own words in this article from Beyond the Ultimate.  And in this article from the Milwaukee Journey-Sentinel, his first semester at college is described like this.

His first semester in Madison — a campus with a sterling party reputation — Abbrederis said he made decisions he regrets. Nothing too vile. He didn’t spend any nights in jail. Still, Abbrederis admits he was heading in the wrong direction. He partied too much, hung “with the wrong crowds” and felt “empty.” A huge part of someone’s life is your freshman year of college,” he said. “You leave your parents. You leave your community that you had and grow up yourself. … If I didn’t go through that, I don’t think I’d be as strong as I am today.

Here are my takeaways from Abbrederis’ story

1- Do something about it! – Abbrederis shared that he knew he was making some bad choices and was not happy with how college was going so (from the first linked article) “The second semester Jared decided to reach out. He began to participate in college age ministries through Blackhawk Church in Middleton. He also got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Athletes in Action (AIA), and Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). He was going somewhere almost every night.  This participation was the beginning that brought new life to his walk with the Lord.”

He saw the issues that were arising and he took action. When we chose to follow God, he allows His Spirit to come and live in us. Part of what the Holy Spirit does is put that voice inside us that triggers when we are making bad decisions. What do we do when we hear that voice suggest that we make a different choice? I know that I can be pretty good at blocking out the voice and carrying on down the path I choose. And often that leads me to a place I don’t want to go. I’m challenged by this part of Jared’s story to take action and listen to the Holy Spirit guide me away from danger and bad choices.

Abbrederis believes God led him to Detroit.

2 – Context is important. I have been learning this over and over again as I study the Bible. I read a passage that contains verses that I have known for much of my life, but to read the whole story of what is happening sometimes magnifies the lessons even more. That is the case for the featured Bible verse in this post tonight. It is a verse that Abbrederis started writing on his arms in High School and continues to reference now as a pro. The verse is Joshua 1.9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Moses has just been replaced as the leader of the Jews who left Egyptian slavery to go to the Promised Land. Along the way, there have been stumbles by the people, miracles showing God’s power and hard lessons to learn. Joshua takes over as leader, and is preparing to enter the Promised Land. There could be many things to be fearful of. “Will the people listen to Joshua and follow? Will they be ready to trust God? Will they be ready for the battles that may be ahead as they take the land from others? But God’s promise is amazing. “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God leads us all on a journey to His Promised life. There will be lots of things that could bring fear and discouragement – it is a constant battle to fight. But He is with us, He will not leave us. Wherever we go, He is there. We can trust in Him and in that promise that He will work things our for our best. Hard times lie ahead, but with God as our guide, we can face those hard times with confidence knowing that He is with us, and He has a promise that He is keeping to lead us to the place He has designed for us. Let’s Go!!

Faith on Display at World Series – 2017 – Astros vs Dodgers


It is World Series time! And as a lifelong baseball fan, it is one of the highlights of my sports year. And this year, the games have been especially entertaining. And with game 4 today and game 5 tomorrow it is possible that the end of the baseball season will come this weekend. The Dodgers are hoping to send it back to LA next week. Do you have a cheering interest? If not, Let me share this video from CBN that focusses on 3 players from each team.

 

I have featured many of these players before – here are the links to the posts I’ve written for the players involved.

Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw – One of the earliest posts on my blog – shares about Kershaw’s efforts to help out an orphanage in Africa.

Josh Fields – Earlier this season, I wrote a post about Fields, being traded and giving it his all every time out.

Astros

Carlos Beltran – Last season, at the All-Star break, I shared a little of Beltran’s story and coping with tragedy.

Jose Altuve –  at 5’6″ Altuve impresses every time he takes the field. Here is the post I wrote about him and his work and effort to realize his dream of playing baseball.

And some more information about Curtis Granderson and Will Harris both of whom have participated in Baseball Chapel videos.  Check them out below!

If you want more, check out the posts I wrote on Carlos Correia and Lance McCullers Jr.

Enjoy the rest of the Games.