Christians in the NFL – Lessons learned from Devin Hester – Chicago Bears.

Well, humble pie is a lot like stewed carrots.  It doesn’t taste very good, but it is good for you.  I have to write this post choking down a little humble pie of my own.  And it comes to me courtesy of a story I read about Devin Hester, one of the most exciting players currently in the NFL.

I have been a fan of Devin Hester since I first saw him return a kickoff for a touchdown.  I think kickoffs are exciting plays anyway, and then when someone takes the ball the distance, it is positively electrifying. And Hester just keeps doing it.  He is a punt/kick return star.
I learned that he shared his faith story at a Father’s Day event at a church in the Chicago suburbs and thought that it sounded like an event that I, as a dad, would have liked to attend.  You can read the details about it here (check it out if you are in the Chicago area next Father’s Day).

What he shared though, at this event struck a chord with me.  He spoke (as you can read in this article) about how he wants more than anything, for his kid(s) to say that he was a great dad. That is more important to him then success on the field or fame and fortune.  In fact being a good dad is so important to him, and something he sees as important to a child’s development, that he has begun writing a monthly column in Chicago Parent magazine.

This resonated with me as I was trying to get this post put together.  As I was reading the stories linked to above, and deciding what angle to write my post from, my 2 year old daughter came into the kitchen where I was working, to see what I was doing.  She and her sister had been in the living room watching a movie but she had become bored and wandered out to see me.  My reaction, I am ashamed to say, was to try and encourage her back to the movie, so I could post my blog.  She wasn’t interested in the movie anymore, she wanted some quality daddy time.  She asked to sit on my lap, and I let her.  I clicked back on the story, and as I read it, I was convicted that I was guilty of not taking this chance to love on her and receive her affection, too.  I quietly, closed the article, pushed the laptop away and turned my attention to her.  We interacted for a few minutes and then she contentedly went back to the movie. 

Point made.  Lessons learned.  Here are the thoughts that I have from this mornings experience.
1- Times like this when my precious daughter wants to snuggle with me and just be with me are many now, but will get fewer.  I need to take advantage of each one, because they are all a treasure beyond value.

2- Our heavenly father never treats us the way that I treated my daughter today, too busy to interact with us.  He is always there, listening, and knowing completely our situation.  He eagerly awaits quality time spent with each of us.  Sometimes, though, we are like the teenager who is too busy or too cool to engage with our Father in a meaningful way. We need to be excited to hang out with Jesus, find that quality time and let him love on us.

3- Work is never more important than family.  I believe that healthy priorities in this life go in this order.  1- Relationship with God, 2- Relationship with spouse, 3- Children/family 4- work, 5- everything else.  I had this confirmed at a conference I attended last week.  Pastor Mark Driscoll was talking about the importance of friendship with your spouse as you work through this life, whatever your vocation is. He spoke about many famous Christians in history who had terrible family lives because they sacrificed family for their work,  Yet, this morning, I chose my blog (a hobby of mine) over quality time with my cherished daughter.  The irony of the  situation was not lost on me.  I was not spending time with my daughter because I was eye deep in articles to read so I could post some thoughts on a football player who wants to encourage men to be a good dad.

4- The final thought that came to me about quality parent/child time was that I am posting this and having all these thoughts on September 13, 2011.  Today is my parents 43rd wedding anniversary.  I would have very much enjoyed being able to step out of what I am doing and spend some quality time with them on this day that celebrates their marriage and partnership in life over all these years. But they are 2000 miles away so I will have to use my blog instead to say:  Happy Anniversary mom and dad,  May you have many, many MANY more wonderful years together.  I love you both very much!

And as a thank you/tribute to Devin Hester’s skills and the part he played in this post, here is a compilation of all of his record 14 return TD’s  enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwXHdPTFfZ4]

Christians in the NFL – Lessons learned from Matt Birk – Baltimore Ravens

This is the 4th installment in my series on Christian NFLers. Today’s topic is Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens.

As I began to look into Birk’s story, I noticed a couple similarities to my own story.  We are about the same age, (I am 9 days older) and our strong pro-life stances were strengthened when our first children were born.  Read a story about his pro-life stand here.  And you can read my earlier posted thoughts about being a dad here.

Another thing that captured my attention as I read the story is that Birk’s job as an Offensive Lineman is very important and often thankless.  Birk is a 6 time pro-bowler but still not a common household name outside of Baltimore (and Minnesota where he is from and where he began his pro career) He is very good at his role – one of the best in the league. But the very nature of his job is a thankless one – His nose gets bloodied almost every game it seems –  It is, however, an important role.  If he does his job, his quarterback and running back will have every opportunity to be stars.  He makes them look good by protecting quarterbacks from being hit and opening holes for the running backs to run.  

This spoke to me because sometimes serving others in ministry can be long, hard, thankless work. We may even get hurt.  But ultimately, we don’t need to get the attention on us, it isn’t about us at all. It is God who we want to draw attention to.  By working away for Him, and following his plan for us, we make Him look good. That is a definition that I have heard for glorifying God – making God look good.  He doesn’t need us to make Him look good, but He gives us the opportunity to point others to Him.

And the final thing that I learned from Birk’s story is how he is using his status and fame to spread the Gospel around the world.  He and several other members of the Baltimore Ravens were speakers and panel discussion members for a fund raising event “Football & Faith”.  The event was to raise funds for Kingdom Rain – an organization that trains and coaches Christians in the most unreached areas of the world to reach the people in their countries and share God’s love with them.  It is a very cool and extremely necessary organization and I am grateful for their work.  For more information about them, check out the Kingdom Rain website.

Birk’s story challenges me to serve, even when it seems thankless and hard, and to stand strong for my beliefs to reach those close to me and those around the world.  Acts 1.8 tells us to be witesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  We can participate his glorifying God everywhere.  Let’s go do it!

Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Colt McCoy – Cleveland Browns

This is the third entry in my blog series on Christian Football Players.  Today’s subject – Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
Colt was a record setting NCAA quarterback, a star in the making, a Heisman Candidate, and according to most prognosticators,  a early draft pick in the NFL.  He lived up to much of the hype, delivering the Texas Longhorns into the Championship game.  I remember watching the game and hoping that the Longhorns would walk away victorious in the game.  Then I saw a hit on McCoy, and next thing I notice, he is being escorted out of the game, off the field and into the dressing room to be evaluated.  That  was all he would play in this game.  His team would lose the championship and McCoy didn’t even get to really play in the game.
Some questions may have begun to creep in. 

Is this really how the season, and his college career was supposed to end?   How serious is his injury?  Will it affect where he is drafted?  Will he be drafted at all?  Will he play at the level he expects to at all anymore? 

Read more of the account and what was going on in his mind at this article that McCoy wrote himself.  I found it at faithinthegame. You can also read about his life in the NFL in this article from Sharing the Victory Magazine

Well, that night didn’t work out like McCoy wished,  I am sure. But he did get drafted and began his career in the NFL.  He even took over the starting job as a rookie, which was not expected, and remains at the top of their depth chart. 

A couple things that came to my mind as I looked at his story in the articles above. 

1- Faith grows through trials – I know this isn’t a deep thought, but when partnered with the idea that life is going to be hard and that “in everything you do, do as unto the Lord” that I shared in my last post,  that means in how we deal with failure and struggle, too.  I was challenged by this paragraph from the STV story.

“In a personal rock-bottom moment, experiencing deep physical and emotional pain, Colt McCoy met God where He was at work—not where McCoy thought He should be. Instead of praising Christ while holding a trophy like he’d hoped, the battered quarterback stood in front of a national TV audience in a postgame interview and told the nation, “God’s in control of my life and, if nothing else, I’m standing on the Rock.”

It is so easy to play the blame game when things go bad.  We say that this isn’t right, or thin that this can’t possibly be God’s will.  But in that moment, there wasn’t a hint of this in what he said.  He understood that this situation wasn’t more than God could handle.  He also knew that God was with Him and would be all that he needed.

2- God faithfully carried McCoy through to an NFL career.  Colt stepped in and took over the starting QB job in his rookie year.  He said
 “It was tough jumping into a huddle with guys who were older—who had families and kids. It was a challenge in and of itself telling them what play we were running and how we were going to do it, but to get on them when we weren’t doing well and praise them when we were was another thing.”
We’ve seen it before –  a young player steps into a role of leadership.  It requires great care, humility, and awareness of others, while at the same time, exuding confidence enough that others will follow your lead and buy into what you are saying. 
Timothy may have felt the same thing.  He was a young apprentice to Paul while Paul was travelling all over (when he was not in prison).  It is an inspiring story to see young Timothy grow into his leadership role and lead the churches (filled no doubt with people who were older than he) on their spiritual journey. 
But maybe, Timothy, like McCoy, found it hard to be in a position of leadership over these older men in the church.  Paul gives him great advice which is there to both encourage and challenge Timothy in his role.  1 Timothy 4.12 says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, life, love, faith and purity. 
What a call to action.  Paul is saying – God has put you in this place, and has equiped you to lead.  Stay true to what you know, remain humble, and lead confidently.  God is with you and will be glorified through your example. 

1 Timothy 4.12 is the theme verse for the 5th and 6th grade youth group I lead.  We desire to instill in these young people the confidence to be who God created them to be, and to live life for Him starting now.  Others will notice, and will be challenged to live their lives for Christ, too. 
Fifth and Sixth grade ministry is a passion of mine.  I will share more on working with this age in the future in this blog.  My hope and prayer for them is that they will grasp that living a life for Christ is a choice that they can make today, and live out for the rest of their lives.  God wants to use them to accomplish His goals.

Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Troy Polamalu- Pittsburgh Steelers

This is the second installment in my series on Christian football players.  Today, I turn the focus on one of my absolute favorite players – Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

I grew up in Canada, and as such, I was always a hockey fan.  I loved the speed of the game, and the constant action.  I am not a big guy by any stretch, but I also like the physical nature of hockey – a well delivered (legal) body check is a thing of beauty.  I now live in the US, and hockey is not as popular here, but NFL football is huge and I like it a lot too.  Troy Polamalu is one of my favorite players because, as I have told some friends, he plays football like a hockey player.  He is a vicious hitter, quick to close in on an opponent and stop their forward progress with a jarring hit.  He is strong, compact and an elite player.

So it is such a contrast to see Polamalu interviewed off the field. He is a such a soft-spoken guy, giving barely a hint of the power and toughness with which he plays the game on the field.  He is a man who is passionate about all aspects of life, from football to family, to his relationship with God.  Check out his testimony from this CBN video. And you can read a story that goes with it here

http://downloads.cbn.com/cbnnewsplayer/cbnplayer.swf?aid=1387

The things that I really took away from this video are:

1- Humility is important.  He talks about serving his wife and son, serving his teammates and coaches.  This is a great reminder of how as followers of Christ, we are called to serve others – to put their wishes and desires first and consider them ahead of our self.
Unfortunately, so often in sports and in other areas of life, we see people who are told that everything revolves around them and they have come to believe that it is true.  They look out for themselves, getting their stats up so they can get a big contract. They are not being willing to change their roles to help the team.  They live an irresponsible lifestyle that affects their game, and by extension their teammates.  How cool to see a player truly put others first.

2- It isn’t all about football.  There is no doubt that Polamalu is passionate about playing the game of football.  But we hear him say that he desires to live with the same passion for his wife and family, and following God.  I am reminded of Colossians 3.  Two times in this chapter, we are instructed “whatever you do, do it for the Lord.  I know that I tend to remember this when I am doing things that I see as really important like serving at church, and working at my job. But I often stop too soon.  The passage says “in whatever you do, word or deed”…  That means when I am talking to friends, when I am parenting my children, when I am having a bad day and feel frustration and anger begin to come in.  That is when I need to remember that if I am professing faith in God, my words and my deeds need to always reflect God.  It is also a challenge to read the part that says “work at it with all your heart”.  Sometimes it is easier to coast.  Most of the time it is easier to coast.  But that is also not a good representation of God.  So even when it is hard, and I am tired, and I don’t think that what I am doing matters much in the grand scheme of things, I still misrepresent God if I don’t act wholeheartedly.

3- Deal with temptation. Polamalu also reminds me in the interview that resisting temptations seems like it would be easy enough.  Like he says, we don’t go around looking for ways to sin.  It is the little things – the little compromises that we make to the standards that God has.  Those little rationalizations and justifications we make so we feel okay about the decisions that we make and then all of a sudden, we find ourselves in a place where we have crossed over the line and are acting in a way that we know is wrong.  And we can’t even believe that we are doing it, because it “snuck up on us” through little lies and deceptions that Satan has convinced us are fine.  We need to guard against that.  I heard someone say once that the way to guard against deception is to get familiar with truth.  Tellers at a bank don’t study all the differences that counterfeiters may use, they just get so familiar with the real thing that if a fake comes along, they think “Wait, there is something wrong with that”.

As I looked into Polamalu’s story, these thoughts came to me.  Hopefully, as I put my thoughts into words, they challenge us all to serve God whole heartedly and put Him first in all we do.

Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

When I decided to start this blog, I decided to base the name for the blog on my last name.  It is at the same time pretty cool and very challenging to know that my name “Page” means “servant”.  As a follower of Christ, I must check myself constantly to see if I am living up to my name – am I living in service to the King of Kings.  Or am I serving myself and trying to make it all about me.

I am not alone in this struggle.  We all desire recognition, we like our name to be known, and people will go to great lengths to carve out a place for themselves and capture whatever fleeting moments of fame that they can.  
William Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night 
 “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  
There is a lot of truth in these words. Some people are born with natural gifts that carry them to the top.  Some work hard and overcome great odds to “make it” and some, through a perfect storm of outside circumstances, have fame and renown land on their shoulders.
Ultimately,  we all desire to “make a name for ourselves”.  
Being a Christ-follower does not mean that we stop trying to carve our niche.  There are countless Christian professionals in all walks of life that try and labor as hard as anyone to reach the top of their profession.  The difference is not in the trying, it is in what you learn from the lessons along the way, and the motivations behind the life we live.  What will the legacy of our life be? Will it be a life lived to honor ourselves, or is it a life lived to honor God?

I came across Dallas Morning News story about Andy Dalton, rookie quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.  He was a stand-out college QB at Texas Christian University, setting records for passing yards, TD’s and wins. He established quite a football legacy.  
I have never spoken with Dalton, but from what I have discovered through reading articles, I expect that the legacy that he is more glad to leave behind is the one that points others to Jesus Christ.  
You see, last spring, right about the time he was going through final preparations for the NFL draft,  he and a group of 10 others sensed a need for TCU students to have a place where they could experience God.  So they began a ministry called “Ignite“.  It would be a place where students could gather together and worship God as one body.  The first meeting was set up for April 5th, at 9:00pm.  400 people showed up, and the numbers have grown since.  Check out the video below to learn more.  

Dalton was a successful college football player.  Will his skills translate to success in the pros?  Time will tell. I, for one, hope that he is very successful if only for the reason that it will give him opportunities to tell a large audience what God is doing in his life.  In the long run, Dalton’s eyes and heart seem to be focused on the Kingdom of God and sharing the truth about Jesus Christ. May that name always be the name that Dalton seeks to make known above all else!