Christian in the NFL – Lessons learned from Jacques Cesaire – San Diego Chargers

This is the 12th installment in my blog series on Christian football players.  This time around, we will look into the story of Jacques Cesaire, defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers.

One of the strongest arguments that I can find to support the existence of God is what I have seen and sensed Him doing in my life.  He is at work in such obvious and amazing ways – from providing for my family, answering prayers and leading me to the place where he has me now, working with tweens and young kids to little things that I always thought would be fun, but never imagined I would actually get a chance to do.  He is the God of the “big” things and the “small” details.
I also see my faith grow when I see, read stories of people whose lives were also changed through their relationship with God.  The Bible is full of these stories, and so is the life around us.  That is why I started this blog in the first place – to share these amazing stories that I come across in hopes that anyone else may be challenged and encouraged in their faith as I am each time I post one of these accounts of God at work.

So with all that in mind, check out the story of Jacques Cesaire

Some things that stand out about his story (and lessons that come to mind for me from his story) are:

1- God draws people to himself.  Cesaire tells the story himself.  After struggling with the temptations and influences that life brought along, he was in a place where something needed to change.  At his mother’s request, he began reading a Bible and attending the new chapel services that his college team was offering.  He was skeptical,  but he was there, sitting in the back row.  Skepticism doesn’t scare God.  When Cesaire was exposed to who God is, He chose to follow Christ.  Sometimes, we make it too complicated when we are trying to share God’s love with others.  We look to find a way to make a relationship with God attractive –   a hook to draw people to God. But God can do that on his own.  His word of truth and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit is what changes lives.  He chooses to use us, and gives us the opportunity to share in changing lives through our obedience, but God is enough on his own, to soften even the hardest heart.
2- God doesn’t make it easy, just because you follow Him.  – I know that this is basic, and yet, the perception still tends to be that life is hard until you choose to follow God, then miraculously it is smooth sailing after that.  There is an element of truth to that in that with God, there is a peace in the midst of trouble and hard times and without God in your life, there is no hope.  In Cesaire’s story, he decided to give his life to Christ, but he was not then miraculously transformed into a super star.  He had to work hard and be dedicated and disciplined in his football work to catch the attention of a team.  It is strange that the perception is one of an easy life, when the opposite is far more accurate.  When we are living life for God, that is when the hardest things come at us.  There will be more temptations to mess up, more distractions to keep our eyes from being fixed on Jesus, and more attacks on all fronts.  When things are hard, we tend to pay attention to the lessons and teaching that God is doing in our lives.
Cesaire’s is a story that encourages us to keep pointing others to God.  He is using his place as a pro football player to do that as you can read in this article from North County times.  It talks about Cesaire (and a handful of others) participating in an outreach put on by The Rock Church.  The pastor of the church is former Chargers player Miles MacPherson.  He has some really neat things going on at his church, and in the ministries he is involved in.  Check it out and pray for these men of God who are looking to impact San Diego and the world for Jesus Christ

Christians in the World Series

I really enjoy baseball, no matter who is playing, but there is something about World Series time that seems to be special every year.  Maybe it goes back to my mother whose birthday is frequently on a day of a World Series game.  We would celebrate her birthday, then turn on the game so she could see who would hit a home run for her.  Reggie Jackson was always her favorite player.  His 3 hr game against the Dodgers in 1977 came the day after her birthday, but since there was not a game on her birthday, she says he did that for her.

So it is a great time of year, for the nostalgia, and also because there is something about watching teams reach the pinnacle of the league and battle for ultimate supremacy.  This year is fun because I like some players on both teams, neither team was really expected to be there.  Yet here they are.  And I also really like that there are so many outspoken Christ-followers on both teams.  And they are playing great!  Pujols had his own 3 hr game last night, Nelson Cruz had a huge series against the Tigers.  Both of them are on this video, as well as a few others.  Check out this video from CBN sports.  Others featured in the video are Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Josh Hamilton.

And there is a third team that is on the field, playing an important role in the way the series plays out.  That is, of course, the umpires.  Read this article by Tim Ellsworth that I read at Baptist press about 3 Christians on the crew working the World Series – Tim Barrett, Gary Cederstrom, and Alphonso Marquez. It also brings some attention to the ministry he helped start “Calling for Christ” – a ministry to major and minor league umpires.

The umpires have a thankless job, calling safes/outs, fairs/fouls, balls/strikes.  Only if they mess up do they get any attention and it isn’t good attention.  They are not given as much grace as players, who if they commit an error, get another chance to make up for it.  Umpires are immediately booed on bad calls.  There can be a lot of stress to get it right.  But when your goal is to live a life that honors and glorifies God, then your identity is not tied to what others think about you.  I appreciate that Christians are so central to the World Series, and I am praying that God will use them to make this great series a platform for others to be drawn to Him, through the faithful representation of his followers on all 3 teams!

Amazing Racers – The Story of Andy Finch

I am a big fan of the TV show “Amazing Race”.  I think it appeals to my love of travel and my fascination of other cultures around the world.  I have watched many of the seasons, though not all of them, and each year I have a team that I find myself rooting for.

This time around, I think it is the team of Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin – professional snowboarders from California.  They have been doing well, and unlike most teams that compete, have been completely laid back the whole journey thus far.

When looking into who they were, I came across Andy Finch’s story on a cool website for ThisIzMyStory ministries.  They are a ministry that exists to spread the story of what God is doing in and through the lives of a handful of surfers, wakeboarders, snowboarders and more (Brian Jennings and Bethany Hamilton included).  Check out the video below.

Through his story, we see why he seems so laid back on the show.  He has had to deal with some hard times in his life – and now he is taking advantage of a chance to travel around the world, see some sights and enjoy it all as he does it.

He has some other videos both of his snowboarding and lessons about God he is learning from snowboarding on the YouTube channel for thisizmystory

Trade Deadline special from Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Aaron Curry – Oakland Raiders

This is the 11th installment in my blog series on Christian NFLers. Today we look at the story of new Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry.

Aaron Curry was the #4 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2009, taken by the Seahawks.  He ran into some issues in Seattle.  He has been considered a draft bust.  And as the NFL trade deadline arrives, he was traded to Oakland.  He debuts in their starting lineup on Sunday.

In Seattle, his critics were loud and everywhere.  Twitter was blowing up with chatter about the wasted pick used to draft him, and the excitement that they had that he was traded.  It was pretty harsh.

This week though, as you can read in this ESPN article, was a week unlike most for Curry.  Monday, generally a day off,  the Seahawks as a team, were celebrating an win against the Giants, Tuesday it was back to work, and back to his reps as a backup linebacker.  Wednesday, rumors started swirling about a trade and Thursday he was dealt to Oakland.  Friday he was named the new starting weak side linebacker for Raiders, and tomorrow, he will play his first game for his new team.

Curry is looking forward to a new situation and a chance to start fresh in Oakland.  Coach Hue Jackson has offered him a clean slate and a new start, forgetting what has been said about Curry and his work ethic, and grasp of the game.  He knows that the critics are many and vocal.  As you can read in this Seattle Times article. He entered the season, looking to improve on.  Patience, playbook learning and discipline.

He credits his faith in God for helping him focus on these areas in an effort to improve his game.  There are a lot of lessons we can take from this story, too.

1- Patience. – Patience, Playbook learning, and Discipline.  These are things that we all need in our Christian walk, too.  Patience has many chances to develop in our walk with God.  Dealing with other people, waiting on God’s plan, being pruned to bear more fruit, dealing with the “flaming arrows of the enemy” – any trial that we have, we will have a chance to have patience grow in our lives.

2 – Playbook Learning – It is vital, as a football player, to know the playbook inside and out.  Without complete knowledge, he  will be hindered in his effectiveness.  It is an easy step to see how we need to know our playbook, the bible, in the same way. If we study, we will be more effective in how God can use us.  God is able to do anything, including working through our shortcomings, but if we do all we can to know God and seek his direction, we will see Him do incredible things in and through us.  Without study, we will be lost, confused and be ineffective.
Knowing the Bible completely will help us know and understand God’s plan, our role and the final outcome of the battle.  No NFL playbook can do that.  If you want God to use you effectively, it is important that you spend time studying the playbook.

3- Discipline –  This is important because it will help us put out the effort to grow in our Christian faith.  We need discipline to tithe, to make time with God a priority, to serve others, and to make God #1 in our lives.  This requires a plan, some intentionality to sacrifice the things we want for the things we need.  By nature we want to look out for ourselves and do what we want, not thinking of God or others.  Discipline means to set that aside and know that the work will be worth the effort.

4- A New Start – Coach Jackson offered Curry what he needed – another chance and willingness to forget the past.  Does that sound familiar?  God offers the same to all people who choose to follow Him.  One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Philippians 3.  It is a great picture of what God offers.  Paul tells us that he isn’t “there” yet in his walk with God.  “But this is what I do” he continues  “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.”
Aaron Curry can leave the past behind and start anew, and we can as well.  God offers forgiveness to any who ask for it.  We can forget our past and strain to what lies ahead. It will be a struggle (strain) but God has a plan and we will be victorious in Him. 

I hope that Aaron Curry’s career gets righted in this Oakland.  I appreciate his openness with his faith.  He is always sharing verses and thoughts about God on his Twitter account.  Some people are turned off by this, but he doesn’t let it deter him.  Check out some of the feedback on his tweets here.  I’d like to link to his page, but with the trade, he has shut down his twitter account.  I expect he will open a new one soon with Raiders info.  Best of luck to him,  may he keep looking forward, straining ahead and keep sharing God’s word, in voice, on twitter, and everywhere God leads him.  If you want to follow his twitter feed, find him at @aaroncurry51.

The Champs are back in Town

We are the Champions!  It has been 20 years since any professional sports team brought a championship to the Twin Cities.  The Twins were the last champs, and the Vikings are 0/4 in SuperBowls, The Wild have not made a mark in the playoffs and the Timberwolves have been rebuilding for the past 6 years or so.

Well, the wait is over.

I just wanted to take a quick moment and say congrats to the Minnesota Lynx on their WNBA championship.  They swept the Atlanta Dream in the finals and claimed their first ever title.  There were a lot of instrumental pieces to make this team a success.  One of those pieces was WNBA rookie of the year Maya Moore.

Here is a great article on her from Sports Spectrum Magazine.

Thanks to Maya for being such a great part of this team, and for boldly proclaiming her desire to use her talents for his glory.

Congrats to the Lynx