Modern Monday – Finding the Cure – Brandon Marshall – WR – New York Jets

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NFL had a “My Cleats My Cause” campaign this weekend. I wonder if Brandon Marshall was part of the reason why.

This past weekend in the NFL, players were permitted to wear specialized cleats drawing attention to a cause or charity of their choice. It was great to see some of the charities and foundations that the NFL players are involved with and a nice step by the NFL to relax its strict uniform policy if even for just one week. I wonder if Brandon Marshall had anything to do with this. You see it was 3 years ago that Brandon Marshall, then with the Chicago Bears, wore bright green cleats with his uniform. The result was a $10,500 fine. Marshall matched that fine with a donation to charities working with Mental Health Issues. This is a cause near and dear to Marshall as in 2011 he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Psycom.net sums up the symptoms as : Intense mood swings, impulsive behaviors, and extreme reactions can make it difficult for people with borderline personality disorder to complete schooling, maintain stable jobs and have long-lasting, healthy relationships.

That seems to fit what Marshall himself said was going on in his life when he sought treatment at McLean Hospital in Belmont Massachusetts.  Check out the video of his story from The Increase.

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Marshall, wearing the green cleats that got him a $10,500 fine. He wore them in 2011 to raise awareness of mental health issues. His journey of recovery is a great demonstration of God at work to change lives.

Marshall had identified as a Christian for several years, but as he shares in the video, on a flight, a stranger asked if he was a Christian.  This started a journey as he began to pray for clarity in his life. In reality, his life was not going great. His marriage was in danger, Marshall was bitter about his wife reaching out for help, thinking he was giving her all she needed. Eventually he went to McLean Hospital trying to figure out what was going on in his life. In this process that he really sensed God at work, through the help he was seeking. He continued asking God for clarity, and in the midst of this time at McLean’s he sensed God at work. When he returned, his wife was going to tell him that she was not going to come back to him, but in their initial conversation, she saw the change in Marshall.

It is a great story of lived changed and marriage redeemed. And through this journey, Marshall also saw his mother, father, sister and brother come to faith in Christ. As you can see in this video, his journey is also impacting people he doesn’t know because of the platform of football and his openness to share what is going on in his life. Meet Megan Armstrong.

Here are my takeaways from Marshall’s story:

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Marshall has been very outspoken about his Borderline Personality Disorder as well as his faith in God.

1- Finding the Cure – Marshall shares how over and over he would get frustrated that he was unable to deal with the issues that were causing his troubles off the field. He knew that something is off, but didn’t know how to fix it.  He got the help that he needed and is beating this issue in his life. Brandon said “We didn’t understand the root of it. The missing piece is Jesus at the center of our life.” This is the story that we are all living. We all battle a disease – the disease of sin. And there is a cure out there- as  Brandon said, what was missing for him – the cure that he was looking for – was Jesus at the center of his life.  The truth is that He is the cure for the disease of sin that we battle. Jesus died to make a way for our sin to be beaten and our life to have purpose. Do you accept that you need Him to cure your sinfulness? Do you accept your purpose of telling others all the He has done in your life. This can be life changing for you and those around you. Jesus is the Cure!

 

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Jets Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall.

2- Don’t Shy Away –  Because our lives are our story, there are countless ways that what happens in our lives can teach us lessons – lessons about who God is, what life is about and what our purpose is.  But like Brandon, we need to be open, willing to make ourselves vulnerable, to truly see the depth of how God has worked in our story and to effective in helping others. The more we try to hide the more limit the connection we have with others who may be struggling through the same issues.  God is good and his plan is perfect. He has given us our stories and worked to free us from so many issues and problems. Let’s be honest with those problems and issues and let’s allow our story, bumps, warts and all to be used by Him to draw us closer to Him and share our story with others.

TBT – Persistance – Rayfield Wright – OL/TE – Dallas Cowboys

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Dr. Seuss’s persistence finally got his first book published

I have worked with kids for a number of years and I have 4 children of my own so I have developed a great appreciation of Dr. Seuss. I enjoy his writing myself and have even written some Seussian-Style poetry of my own. My girls each have favorite Seuss stories and often ask for them to be read at bed-time and any other time too. So just imagine that those great stories were never available for us to enjoy. That would be a sad day. And yet, one of the amazing stories of Dr. Seuss’ writing career is that his first book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” was according to Wikipedia rejected by “at least 20 publishers” before it was published by an old college classmate. At what point do you say “well, I guess that didn’t work out” and try a different career path. Especially with the first attempt. But Seuss kept on trying and I for one am glad that he did.

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Cowboys Tackle Rayfield Wright

The story of Rayfield Wright has some similarities. As you can read in this story from from cjonline, Wright went from a high school “walk-on” to a Hall of Fame NFL lineman. Along the way, he played in 13 NFL seasons, playing in over 200 games, 5 Super Bowls (winning 2). He was a 6 time All-Pro, 6 time Pro Bowler, 1972 Lineman of the year and NFL Hall of Fame inductee (2006). He tried out for football in each of his 4 years in high school. He didn’t make the team as a freshman, sophomore or junior. For some, the temptation may be to give up and try something different. But Wright tried out again as a senior, this time he made the team. Scouts came to check out some teammates, but Wright caught their eye, too. And the Dallas Cowboys would eventually choose Wright in the 7th round of the 1967 draft. He began his career as a Tight End, but was transitioned to Offensive Line in his third season. Read here about his first game at Tackle was against Hall of Fame D Lineman Deacon Jones.

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Rayfield Wright (70) became a fierce blocker. He was named the the 1970’s All-Decade team

“Before the Cowboys’ first snap that day, Wright recalled, Jones barked a question at him from the other side of the line of scrimmage in his deep voice, “Boy, does your mama know you’re out here?” Wright said he momentarily lost the concentration and focus he had been trained to maintain. Jones cleaned Wright’s clock on that first play. As he picked himself up from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum turf, Wright told Jones, “You don’t know my mama, so don’t talk about her.” Jones never reached Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach during the game, and Wright’s work blocking him didn’t go unnoticed. “I got the game ball,” Wright recalled, “and coach Landry never took me out of right tackle.””

Wright was raised by his mother and grandmother who instilled in him the need for relationship with God and “At age 10 he prayed, with his grandmother listening, that God would give him the opportunity to help his family and others in his life. “Grandma said, ‘Son, do you believe in what you prayed?’ ” Wright said. “I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I believe.’ She said, ‘Well, you keep that in front of you and don’t ever let it go.’ “Wright stressed the importance of young people having adults who believe in them — and let them know it. He encouraged the audience to “reach out” and help young people and make a difference in their lives. “We’re all significant,” Wright said. “We’re all important. God has a plan for us. If you don’t know what that plan is, get on your knees and pray to God, because he created you and he called you.

Here are my takeaways from Wright’s Story

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Wright went from being cut from his high school team to a Hall of Fame NFL career.

1- Be Persistent –  Theodore Seuss was persistent with his first book finally getting it published after many rejections, Wright was persistent in sticking with football even though he didn’t make the team the first few times he tried.  We all have opportunities to show persistence. How willing are you to stick with it? I promise you that sticking with God’s plan and following it even in the face of resistance and opposition is worth it? But my favorite story of persistence in the Bible is found in a verse in Revelation 3.20. Jesus says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” Jesus is persistent with us. The Bible is full of people turning away from God and God giving them another chance. That is our story too! We turn away from God and put other things ahead of Him. But He comes after us, He presents Himself to us. He stands at the door and knocks. He says “I am here, I want to be with you, to be known by you, please invite me in”. That persistence won my heart, hopefully you will open up to Him too, if you have not already.

2- We are all significant– God’s plan for us is the best. He sent his Son so that our lives could be saved from destruction. Living for Jesus gives our lives significance. Don’t lose sight of your significance. Take notice of what God thinks of you – He sacrificed His one and only Son for your life. He calls us to chose Him and asks us to share His love with others. Let that be your purpose, your motivation for life. Know you are significant and live your purpose.

 

 

Modern Monday – How Big is Your Audience – Carson Wentz – QB – Philadelphia Eagles

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As the #2 draft pick last spring, Eagles QB Carson Wentz has some high expectations on his shoulders

North Dakota State University Bisons football team play their home games at the Fargodome in Fargo ND. Its capacity for a football game is 18,700. It is often a packed house when the Bisons play – they have won 5 consecutive FCS National Championships and have 8 former players playing in the NFL. That is a pretty impressive record. Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was on roster for 4 of those championships and was the starting quarterback for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. They drafted him with the number 2 overall pick last spring and over the course of the summer, named him their starting quarterback. That would be a big change in the number of people that would be watching Wentz play. Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia holds 69,176 for a football game.  But for Wentz, the number of spectators didn’t seem too troubling. The Eagles started off the season winning each of their first three games. And while their record didn’t remain perfect, Wentz has had a solid rookie season thus far. He has completed 63% of his passes and has an 11-7 TD to interception ration. He has an 84.2 QB rating. And while much is expected out of first round quarterbacks, He has silenced many critics about his readiness to play at the NFL level with his play this season.

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Wentz started for 2 championship teams and played on 5 in his time at NDSU. It was also during this time that Wentz really began growing in his faith.

 

Maybe it is because despite the vastly different numbers in attendance, Wentz’ plays for a very consistent audience. As you can read in this article, Wentz acknowledges that he plays for an audience of 1. From the article “On the underside of his right wrist, he has a tattoo that reads, “AO1,” which stands for “Audience of One.” This is Wentz’s reminder to play only for the Lord.  “It was kind of a motto I picked up early in my career, and I finally put it on my body just to live with the Lord as my audience,” Wentz says. “Whether it was playing football, going to school or whatever I’m doing in my life.

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Wentz’ NFL career got off to a great start with 3 straight wins. He has been winning over the fans and teammates in Philly.

This acknowledgement is evident to his teammates as well. Read what teammate Jordan Matthews said about Wentz earlier this season. “He doesn’t play for you, he doesn’t play for his parents, he doesn’t play for me. He plays for God straight up. So when you do that, there is no pressure…  So that is why anytime he says something he says, ‘AO1,’ and everybody wants to say, ‘Oh, is it this? Or is it this?’ No. He puts himself in a position where he doesn’t have to put pressure on himself. He plays for God, and that makes it that much easier on him.”

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Wentz has a few tattoos that reflect his Christian faith.

The sentiment is not his only tattoo of spiritual significance.  In this article about the many Christians on the Eagles roster, Wentz shares about the Isaiah 41.10 tattoo on his back. He says “For me, it’s just a reminder — do not fear, for I am with you — that whatever it is I’m doing, he’s got my back. God’s already gone before me. He’s got a plan. And in the end, it says he’ll uphold you with his righteous right hand. So just do everything for him, and it will all work out.”

And as Wentz career begins, and his platform for sharing his faith grows, I am excited to see how many people he will have a chance to share his faith in God with.

Here are my takeaways from Wentz’ story:

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Wentz has silenced many critics about his NFL readiness. But as his tattoos indicate, his main goal is to play for God.

1- Audience of One – It is hard to imagine that when playing in front of tens of thousands of fans on a weekly basis and into the millions when you consider television coverage that it can all boil down to playing for an “audience of one”. What does that even mean?  Well it means that Wentz knows that it is impossible to please everyone or live up to the expectations that those millions of people will have for him. Instead, he chooses to block that out, and concern himself only with honoring God and playing for Him. And that Audience of One goes beyond the lines of the football field, too. It means in every part of life, honoring God and making choices that reflect Him being the most important part of your life. So with that thought in mind, it is a challenge for all of us who call ourselves Christians. Are we living each day for God alone? Is He the most important part of our life? It is easy to get caught up in what others think of you and it is easy to drive yourself crazy trying to keep everyone satisfied with your performance. But God knows us, our faults and our shortcomings. He also knows the gifts and talents that we have and the opportunities we get to display them in a way that honors Him. He went to great lengths to show us what He thinks of us – We were worth dying for. And so not only is He our audience, He is anxious to cheer us on, encourage us, and help us play the game of life successfully which is to live for His purposes. In whatever your playing field looks like, will you join me in accepting this challenge to play for Him alone and let Him be the only one we concern ourselves with!

2- The Pressure is Off -Continuing the first point, when we do live for God, it is a relief of pressure. God promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises his Spirit, his very presence to those who believe in Him. He values us, loves us and wants the best for us. That takes a lot of pressure off because we don’t have to prove our worthiness to Him. We couldn’t do that anyway because we are not worthy of his love, forgiveness or grace. But He gives these things to us willingly. In all other parts of life, people are out to tear us down, take our place or give us unrealistic expectations to live up to. That is not the way God works. He is for us and so if the God who created the universe and everything in it is for us, what can possible stand against us. He has already won, and invited us to the victory party. The pressure is off! Rest in Him and get ready to celebrate forever!

Throwback Thursday Thanksgiving Edition – Steelers vs. Colts – Donnie Shell (S) and Hunter Smith (P)

imgresHappy Thanksgiving everyone!

To celebrate the day, it is time for a Throwback Thursday post where I will focus on former players from both teams that face off in the final game of the day. Today, we look into the stories of Steelers safety Donnie Shell and Colts punter Hunter Smith.

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Steelers Safety Donnie Shell

Donnie Shell – S – Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-1985

Shell had an outstanding career on the football field.  He was selected to 5 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro teams and was a member of three Super Bowl Championship teams with the mighty “Steel Curtain” defense that dominated the era of football. He played 201 career NFL games, all with the Steelers. He was a ferocious hitter on defense and for that skill was given the nickname “Torpedo”. According to Wikipedia, he now serves as the Director of Spiritual Life at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC.

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Donnie “Torpedo” Shell was a fierce hitter who was a part of the Steel Curtain defense

But one of my favorite parts of Shell’s story is the hard hitting impact he made on a young teammate in 1977. Shell’s new roommate at training camp was an undrafted defensive back named Tony Dungy. As you can read in this article from billygraham.org, Shell played an important role in Dungy choosing to live his life for Christ. Dungy was a quarterback in college and was learning a new position in the NFL so he was with Shell a lot, learning how to be a defensive back. He calls Shell “probably the most on-fire Christian guy I had ever met at that point in time” Shell shares the story like this:

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 06:  Tony Dungy (R), former NFL player and head coach, poses next to his bronze bust with friend and former NFL player, presenter Donnie Shell (L), during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Canton, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Shell (L) presented Tony Dungy (r) for induction into Hall of Fame. Shell also talked faith with Dungy and helped Dungy choose to live for God.

“He (Dungy) really thought he wasn’t going to make the team. I saw the concerned look on his face. And I said, ‘Well, you know, maybe in this instance you’re putting football before God and before the things He wants you to learn from what you’re going through.” Dungy responded “‘Man, I never thought about that. “His testimony about that is in the first book he wrote, about how that moment turned his life around spiritually and helped put his priorities in order.”

You can read more about Torpedo’s story here.

My takeaway from Shell’s story is this:

You Never Know the Role You’ll Play– The story on Tony Dungy talks about the many people that influenced Dungy in his Christian Walk. Donnie Shell was one of those people. Here was a guy he was just meeting, someone who was looking to make an NFL team. And Shell suggests that maybe football is not the most important thing that Dungy should be focussed on. Maybe God is trying to show him a lesson. We are great at making up excuses. I know that I am. It is easy to find reasons to back-burner our faith around others. But there are many examples of people who didn’t shy away from these conversations – people who put God first in everything and that means talking openly about Him and the role He plays in their lives. God has a path laid out for us and it is not simply a path to get us from point A to point B. It is also full of opportunities to share what God is doing with others around us. Are you ready to “give reason for the faith that is in you” (1 Peter 3.15). Dungy has become one of the most outspoken Christians in the sports world. He has mentored others (Michael Vick for example) on the field and in Spiritual Life. And God used Donnie Shell to help bring this to be. Who is God calling you to share your faith with? How could God use them to reach others? Let’s not shy away, let’s let the world know why Jesus is our Lord.

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Colts Punter Hunter Smith kicking in Super Bowl XLI.

Hunter Smith P Indianapolis Colts 1999-2008

Hunter Smith punted for the Indianapolis Colts for a decade. He finished his career with 2 seasons in Washington. He was named to the 1999 All-Rookie Team and won a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2006. He is the only Special Teams player in NFL history to score a rushing TD and a passing TD in the same season.

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Smith’s post football career is singing with Hunter Smith Band

And like Shell, Smith’s off the field life also deserves some mention. He is an author having released a book called “The Jersey Effect”. The goal of the book is to “provide a proper perspective on sports. God has more for us than just sports. Our culture says sports is everything, but God says He is everything. We are trying to direct people to a healthy relationship with God“.  He is a singer songwriter with Connorsvine and now with the Hunter Smith Band. Read about the story of his careers here. Check out his musical skills.

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Smith played with the Colts for a decade

A career in the NFL means lots of travel, living out of suitcases and so a transition to country/rock band may be easy enough to do, but as you can read in this interview with Beliefnet, Hunter Smith got to live out a band tour experience traveling with Christian Band Third Day. Smith says “It was not a musical thing. It was just a spiritual thing for them as a band. They asked me to come on and lead them in Bible studies and kind of be a tour pastor–sort of Bible study leader for them. I did that a few times with them.”

And while he enjoyed playing football and he enjoys playing music, that is not where he finds his identity. This is a lesson that was driven home after winning the Super Bowl in Feb 2007.  From an Indy Star article Smith realized quickly after winning the big game against the Chicago Bears in Miami that the glory was short-lived.“Can the Colts repeat in 2007?” reporters began asking the next day.“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Can we repeat?’ ” Smith said. “We just won. Can’t we just stop and celebrate this one?”Smith had what he calls an epiphany on the flight back to Indianapolis.“This doesn’t last. There are things in life that last. And this is not one of them,” he said. “I learned about the temporal things of this earth a lot more and the eternal things. Family and God.”

My takeaway from Smith’s story

What Really Matters?- I think this is a great thing to remember and remind ourselves of daily. We get so caught up focussing on stuff that doesn’t really matter. We convince ourself that we will be so much better off if this or that happens but when it does, it is fleeting, unsatisfying and we start looking for the next thing. I think I am going to write it on signs in my car, on my desk at work, on my closet door at home – Three simple words – “What Really Matters?” This thing, whatever it may be, does it matter? Is it forever? If not, it is time to readjust the focus back to God.

Throwback Thursday – A Life in Balance – Mike Minter – S – Carolina Panthers

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Former Panthers S Mike Minter

Time for another Throwback Thursday post. This time our journey takes us to the Carolina where we will look into the story of former Panthers Safety Mike Minter. He was drafted by the Panthers in the second round of the 1997 draft. He played in 148 games with the Panthers, starting all but 7 of them. At his retirement, he was the leading tackler in Panthers history. He also led the franchise in defensive touchdowns with 4. He played with the Panthers in Super Bowl 38.   A chance to play for the top prize in football. And to think that just 2 seasons earlier, finished 1-15. They won their opener that season then lost the next 15. Minter suffered through that adversity with the rest of the 2001 Panthers. Adversity was not new to Minter. As you can read in this story from CBN, Minter had a rough childhood after the death of his father when Minter was a young boy. Raised with his 3 siblings by his single mom, Minter grew up in poverty. He took up football and it became the most important thing in his life. But when he was in High School, he suffered an injury that took football away from him for a period of time.  From the CBN article “As he laid on his back that night injured on the football field, Mike asked himself, “Is this what life is all about?  What can you put your trust in that can’t be taken away?” After that, Mike went on a quest to find out the meaning of life. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes had a strong presence on their school campus, and Mike started attending Bible study.Mike tried to make a deal with God, “I’ll go to the Bible study if you heal me and put me back on the football field,” he said. Mike says today that even though he went into the Bible study with the wrong motives, God still used that time to plant seeds in his heart.”

Check out this video of Minter sharing about his faith.

This is just one in a series of videos that Minter did for Pro Football Camp, an organization that puts on camps in Colorado Springs each year open for all that provides drills and skill development for players with Christian values and ethics.

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Now in retirement, Minter looks for any chance to tell people what God is doing in his life.

As you can read in this article, Minter is involved in a lot of things off the field. He preaches in churches, he is a spokesperson for a variety of charities, he serves in many charities, too. He has gone on mission trips, developed real estate properties, co-ownership of a salon and more.

Minter knew at the end of his playing career that he would be busy in retirement giving back to the community and sharing his faith. From the CBN article again: “Mike Minter said before he retired from football that he wanted to go into ministry and to work his way from the bottom to being a pastor. Minter said he wants to preach, so he can more fully share his faith in Christ. He also said he wants to coach. He added that he has been given a lot in life, so he wants to give back.” 

Here are my takeaways from Minter’s story:

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Minter retired as the leading tackler and defensive TD scorer in Panthers history.

1- Blame and Credit – Minter was a member of the Carolina Panthers team that won their season opener and then lost their next 15 games. In response to that Minter said “You deal with the failure the same way you deal with success,” says Mike. “You can’t let yourself get too low.” I have noticed the same is true in the rest of life, too. I have been involved in youth and children’s ministry for over 20 years. In that time I have known the joy of seeing people chose to make Jesus Lord of their life. I’ve also known the heartache of kids in my youth group who chose not to follow God’s path for their life. I know that we are called to help others know God and working or volunteering in ministry gives great opportunities to do that. However, as much as I wish I could make the decision for each and every person I talk to about Jesus to follow Him and give make Him the most important part of their lives, I don’t get to do that. It is a personal choice that each of us gets to make. My wife’s parents have served in youth ministry for a number of years and one thing that I have heard them say several times is that we can’t take too much credit for success stories or too much blame for failures. This is an important lesson for me. I will try to keep telling everyone I can about Him and let God do the work in their lives.

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Minter played for a 1-15 team and 2 years later, played in the Super Bowl. He has talked about the importance of Balance in football and in life.

2- Balance – Football is a game where balance is important. Balance keeps you on your feet and keeps you moving forward. Balance gives leverage to stand against opposition and win the battle on the line. It is important to have good balance if you are going to succeed as a football player. You need to understand your center of gravity and how to keep from stretching yourself too far. Stretching too far leads to you being taken down. The same is true in our Christian life. Minter talks about Jesus being like our center of gravity. Staying close to Him keeps us balanced. When we stray too far from Him, it becomes much easier to knock us down and stop our progress. But God is always close to us. We don’t need to go searching for Him. He is with us and the Bible tells us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Is your life feeling out of balance? Draw close to Him, Center your life on Him and let Him help you stay on path toward the goal!