Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 – Throwback Edition – Jonathan Cheechoo (San Jose) and Blake Geoffrion (Nashville)

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Game 6 goes tonight in Nashville

As I considered writing a post about men of faith in the Sharks/Predators series, I did find a player on each team that I could shine the spotlight on. However, I have already written posts about each of them – click here for my article on Predators forward Mike Fisher and head here for my article on Sharks goaltender James Reimer. And so with those 2 articles already in the archives, I decided to go “throwback” for this series on Living Up to My Name.

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Former Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo

First, Former San Jose Sharks Jonathan Cheechoo.

Jonathan Cheechoo left his home in Moose Factory, Ontario at age 14, beginning a journey that he hoped would lead him to the NHL. And it did. He was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1998. This article from the salvationist.ca tells about how in 2002, Jonathan Cheechoo became the first member of Cree First Nation to play in the NHL. He would play 501 NHL games over the next 8 years with the Sharks and Ottawa Senators, winning the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2005-2006. He still holds some Sharks scoring records (including most goals, hat tricks and Power Play goals in a season).  These days, he is playing professionally with Dynamo Minsk in the KHL. All told, it has been quite a ride for Cheechoo who was one of my favorite players during his NHL days.

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Cheechoo and the Maurice Richard trophy as NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2005-2006

Cheechoo is the son of a pastor and growing up, faith in God was an important foundation for life. As you can read in this article from CanadianChristianity.com, his faith in God remains important to him. He shares how he came to faith in God and how God helps guide him in his career and his life. He says “I feel God has really had his blessing over me. If you live for him, he’ll bless you. It’s all his doing. I just work hard – and I know he’ll help me out.”

Here is a piece of his story from a few years back, before he went to play in the KHL.

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Cheechoo collecting hats after one of his 5 career hat tricks.

Here is my main takeaway from Cheechoo’s story:

Worth the Sacrifice – Cheechoo’s incredible journey required a lot of sacrifice.  Thinking about my childhood, there is a lot I would have missed out on if I had left home at 14. Yet Cheechoo, with the amazing support of a loving family and community and trusting God to order his steps, saw it work out. Looking back on the journey, it was worth the sacrifice. In our faith walk, there will be sacrifices. There is a constant battle between our natural wants and wishes and setting those things aside for the sake of following God. And while sometimes those things we sacrifice here seem to be significant, when weighed on the scales of eternity, their importance fades. Following God is worth the sacrifice. In Philippians 3 Paul gives his resume of being at the top and “having it all”. But check out the conclusion he has  in verses 7-9a  These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. Knowing and following God is the most important thing in our life and worth sacrificing everything else.

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Former Predators’ forward Blake Geoffrion

And now to the Nashville Predators:

Blake Geoffrion‘s story is one worth sharing on Living up to My Name because He had a name to live up to. Blake is a 4th generation NHL hockey player following in the footsteps of his father Dan, his grandfather (Hall of Famer and 6 time Stanley Cup Champion) Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and his great-grandfather (inaugural Hall of Fame member) Howie Morenz. That is a long legacy to live up to. And Blake was well on his way. He won the Hobey Baker award as best US collegiate player in 2010. As you can read in this story from ESPN, Geoffrion became the first 4th generation player in the NHL. Not only that, but after parts of 2 seasons with the Nashville Predators, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. This was cool because all 3 previous generations had played for the Canadiens. Morenz’ #7 and Boom Boom’s #5 have been retired by the Canadiens. Blake chose to wear jersey #57 to honor them. He played 13 games with them following the trade from the Preds in February 2012.

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Legacy of Hockey (l to r) Howie Morenz, Bernie, Dan and Blake Geoffrion. the first 4 generation NHL family

But the start of the next season was delayed by a lockout, so Blake began the season with the AHL affiliate for the Canadiens, the Hamilton Bulldogs. During a game with the Bulldogs at the Canadiens’ arena, Blake was body-checked by an opponent. As you can read in the above story, and in this article from Brentwoodhomepage.com, it was a clean body check, but it resulted in a fractured skull and was not only career ending, but life threatening. Quick action from the medical staff on hand and at the local Crystal Hospital saved Blake’s life.

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Geoffrion playing for the Montreal Canadiens – another 4 generation legacy

This could be a shocking and devastating blow to a young hockey player and to a family with such a legacy of hockey, but as you can read in this story from Brentwoodhomepage.com, the family’s faith in God and trust in His plan were more powerful. Perhaps this legacy of faith came from Boom Boom himself. You can read about his conversion to faith in God in this article from Hockey Ministries International. Blake says “My career has been incredible, and I truly believe the Lord has a plan for me. Our family has great faith. I have met and established relationships with some really great people and accomplished almost every hockey goal I had set for myself. I am proud for what my family and life has taught me, and I am proud to have worn the Geoffrion name on my back.

Here is the hit that changed Blake Geoffrion’s life

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Blake and Boom Boom shared a name, a love for hockey and a faith in God.

My Takeaway from Blake’s story

1- Make the Most out of it – It seems basic and obvious but it is a reality that still takes me by surprise. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Tonight is not guaranteed. The next minute is not guaranteed. What is important in your life? Do you know what will happen when it changes drastically and turns out different than you dreamed it would? Do you know what happens when this life ends? It is a question that is considered by everyone at some point or other. The faith that I have in God gives me assurance that at the end of my life, if it is 80 years from now or if it is before I go to sleep tonight, I will spend eternity with the God who created me and loves me perfectly. I will be in a place where there will be no more tears, sorrow or pain, just all who chose to follow Him living the way we were created to. In perfect, unhindered relationship with Him. I am so looking forward to it and I hope and pray that I will see you there!

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 – David Backes (St. Louis) and Jim Nill (Dallas)

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Second Round Series between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues

The second round of the NHL playoffs are well underway and since my beloved Bruins find themselves again on the outside looking in, it is time to fine reasons to cheer on some of the other teams that are still in it. I hope to share several posts like this in the coming weeks as we come closer to seeing a new NHL champ crowned.

Last night, the Stars won in overtime to even their series with the Blues at 2 wins a piece. Living Up to My Name would like to share a couple of stories with you about why we would be OK with either team winning this series. It comes down to these 2 great stories.

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Jim Nill the player, 13 seasons, 5 teams, 500+ NHL games played. Gotta love the “V is for Vancouver” jerseys they wore

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Jim Nill, NHL executive – 4 time champion and now leading the Dallas Stars

First to the Dallas Stars.

Jim Nill was drafted by the St. Louis Blues, so he has a history with both teams in this series. He is currently the General Manager of the Dallas Stars, responsible for assembling the players on the team and negotiating their contracts. He has served as the GM for the past 3 seasons, and has helped the Dallas Stars become a top contender in the league. During his playing days, he appeared in 61 games with the blues and over 500 NHL games in all in with 5 different teams. After playing, he moved in to scouting with the Ottawa Senators and then the Detroit Red Wings where he was part 4 Stanley Cup Championship teams (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008), earning promotion to the position of Assistant General Manager.  As you can read in this article from Hockey Ministries International, during his time playing with the Winnipeg Jets, Nill became friends with Laurie Boschman and Doug Smail, two Christians on the team.  That friendship led Nill to participate in the HMI hockey camps and their influence, along with his wife Bekki who had been praying for him for 20 years, Nill became a Christian. He says “knowing Christ has completely changed my life and brought a feeling of peace to not only me but my family“. And as I have shared many times on these pages, a faith in God does not remove the challenges or hardships that life brings. Instead, he just shows up to walk through them with us.  In 1999, Bekki Nill was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She went through treatment and was Cancer free for years. But in May, 2011 the cancer returned. She was given 2 months to live. Check out her story in this video from the Dallas Stars.

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Jim and Bekki Nill drop ceremonial first puck and discuss the battle she has been fighting with cancer.

Nill took the job in Dallas with his wife’s encouragement, but God is definitely the priority in how he is living his life and doing his job. Check out this article from the Boston Globe, where we learn that Nill “begins the year with a meeting in which he brings in the chaplains and introduces them. He explains his faith.”  He adds “I’ve been exposed to it (chapel services) now and have a strong faith, so it’s easy for me to say, ‘Why not have it?

My main takeaway from Nill’s story is this:

Live out your Purpose –  Jim Nill talks about how cancer has affected his family’s life. He says “Even as she (my wife) goes through this illness, she knows it’s not about her, that it is God’s will and His journey. If the journey is made for her to touch another person’s heart, she is willing and able to do that.”  God rarely takes all the obstacles out of our path. Instead, he makes his presence evident in the midst of the struggles so that we realize that only through Him does our life have purpose. His purpose is for us to know Him and tell others about Him. Our story is His story lived out for others to see. How can He use your story to draw others closer to Him?

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St. Louis Blues captain David Backes

And now to the St. Louis Blues.

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Backes is currently 2nd on the team in goals and 3rd in scoring in the playoffs.

Team Captain David Backes has had a solid career so far. Backes played high school hockey at Spring Lake Park High School, which is about 4 miles away from my house, where I am writing this article. He was a second round draft pick by the blues in 2003 draft. He played college hockey in Mankato and made his NHL debut in 2006. He was named captain of the Blues prior to the start of the 2011-12 season. He has played in over 700 NHL games, all with the blues and has represented the USA internationally at 2 olympics and 3 world championship tournaments.  All that he has experienced in hockey go far beyond what Backes ever imagined. As you can read in this article from Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Backes didn’t imagine himself as a pro hockey player, and now looks for opportunities to share God’s love with those in the game and around the world. Check out this video of Backes and his wife bringing the gift of hearing to children in Kenya. The article says that the trip “brought Mark 7:37 to life right before them: “They were extremely astonished and said, ‘He has done everything well! He even makes deaf people hear, and people unable to speak, talk!’”

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David and Kelly Backes taking hearing aids to kids in Africa

As you can read in this article from FCA Magazine, Backes grew up attending church but when he went away to college, his parents began to grow in their faith. This triggered a similar growth in Backes’ faith. He now regularly attends chapel services with the Blues, as well as a multi-sport bible study in St. Louis, lead by former NFLer Grant Williams.

Backes says “In my faith walk, I’ve needed to surrender and recognize He has a bigger plan for me. This is not my own will, and I am right where He wants me to be.”  Where Backes finds himself right now is the Captain of a Stanley Cup contender battling against the Dallas Stars presently for a chance to move a step closer to the Stanley Cup – far beyond his wildest dreams.

My takeaway from Backes’ story is:

God’s plan is Always bigger –  I touched on this earlier when I talked about Jim Nill and how God can use our story to tell others about Him. But to be honest, when we stop and take stock of the adventure this life has lead us on, it is hard to believe how God has worked all the details out for us. He accomplishes far more than we can ask or imagine by his power at work in us. (Ephesians 3.20) He does have a plan for each of us and His plan goes far beyond what we could imagine. So choose to follow Him and then brace yourself for the adventure of a lifetime!

Oscar Night Special – Jack Carlson – former NHL and WHA player

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Oscar Night is Here. So Living Up to My Name talks Movies today

Tonight is Oscar Night! Earlier in my life, this was a day I would mark on my calendar and plan events with friends. I was a big movie fan and would set my goal to watch all of the “Best Picture” nominees before Oscar Night so I could make informed picks on my “Oscar Pool” prediction sheet. Nowadays, life has changed a little. I’m lucky to have heard of 75 percent of the nominees before Oscar Night and the chances that I have seen any of them? Very small.  The category that I am most familiar with is likely “Best Animated Film”. With 3 movie loving daughters in the house, it is likely that some of these nominees have been on screen here (more than 1 time).

And so as a throwback to the movie fan in me, and in celebration of the Oscars, I will pay tribute today to a former hockey player who turned down a role in the hockey classic “Slap Shot” to pursue a professional career.

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Jack Carlson with the Minnesota Fighting Saints

Jack Carlson was born in Virginia, Minnesota – a 3 hour drive north of the Twin Cities. As you can read in this article from Vintage Minnesota Hockey, the part of the now famous “Hanson Brothers” from the Slap Shot movies were based on the real-life Carlson Brothers from northern Minnesota. The movie has become a great success, even being considered as one of the greatest sports movies of all-time. And while I have never seen the movie myself, and cannot speak to its appropriateness, it is part of the story of Jack Carlson, who missed the filming of the movie because his career came calling.

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Carlson’s 2 brothers Jeff and Steve with Dave Hanson as Jack in “SlapShot”

In 1976, just as his brothers were learning about their upcoming movie role, the Edmonton Oilers were calling. Carlson had been playing for the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA, but they were going to fold, making their players available for other teams to sign. That is when Edmonton came calling. Jack agreed to play for the Oilers, turned down the movie role and went on to play over 500 professional games between the WHA and the NHL.  And predictably, the part of the game that Jack Carlson was most known for was the rough stuff. He amassed 1111 penalty minutes in his 508 professional games.

As you can read in this article from Living Light NewsCarlson shares how lonely it was to play this game. H says “Looking back it was a pretty lonely life. The score was 6 to 1, you’re losing, and all of sudden the coach taps you on the back …“I wish I wasn’t that type of a player. I had some talent. I had some skills. But I wasn’t gonna be on a team scoring goals or setting up plays. I knew what my role was and so did everyone else,”

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Carlson with the Minnesota North Stars

Jack retired from hockey in 1987, but as you read in the article, the destructive lifestyle did not stop when his career did. One night, after separating from his wife, he is staying with a friend and one night, his life took a new direction.  “I was staying at a friend’s place and looking for something to watch on TV and here I click on the Billy Graham Crusade.” He spotted old friend and teammate Bill Butters speaking about how Christ had changed his life.”

Butters had not only been a teammate of Carlson’s but was also a scrappy player who fought his way through his career. He became a Christian helping out at youth hockey camps. Now he was sharing his story at Billy Graham crusades. Carlson called the number on the screen and the next day, Butters shared with Carlson about Jesus offer of forgiveness and salvation. Carlson accepted Christ as Savior over the course of their conversation.

These days, Carlson works as a referee, and helps Butters put on youth hockey camps though Hockey Ministries International.

My takeaways from Carlson’s story

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Billy Butters and Jack Carlson have lots in common, Born in Minnesota, teammates and believers in Christ. Butters led Carlson to faith in God.

1- Paying our Price – I like the analogy Butters uses to explain Jesus sacrifice. It is one I have used myself in explaining this concept to kids. It is like when the goalie on a hockey team commits a penalty. Someone else goes and serves the penalty in his place. That is what Jesus did for us. He served our penalty. But our penalty carried a much greater cost that 2 minutes out of the game. Our penalty was separation from God forever. And Jesus took that on for us. He sat in our penalty box and served the penalty in our place. What an amazing gift this is!

2- Lessons from your own Life –  Jack Carlson had the rare privilege of seeing a version of his life on the movie screen. I can’t imagine what it would look like to have my life depicted on a movie screen. What would be shown? If we step back and see what the story of our life is, how happy are we with what we see? I know that my character would be very flawed, would hurt others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally. What parts of our story would we want to share and what parts would we want to hide? The truth is that our story is known – the good and the bad – by the God who created the world and everything in it. And knowing us as He does, He still offers to serve our penalty for us and welcome us to join Him at His place forever. What an amazing love our God shows!

Exposed – Adam McQuaid – Boston Bruins

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Are you ready for some HOCKEY? Let’s take it outdoors!

Happy New Year from Living Up to My Name. When I was a teenager, I didn’t really get the new year celebration.  I didn’t really have much in my life to get excited about. I struggled to find a purpose for my life and every opportunity to look back at what the past year had held often left me feeling sad, unfulfilled and without direction. Then things started to change. God proved himself to be true, I met the woman that I would marry and my life began to have purpose. Steph and I were married on New Year’s Eve in 2004 and so for the last 11 years, ringing in the New Year took on a new and exciting meaning for me. And now I really enjoy this time of the year.

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Adam McQuaid scored the goal that sent them to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals

And today, as a sports fan, hockey fan and Boston Bruins fan, I get to watch one of the coolest sporting events of the year (and I likely mean that both literally and figuratively) The NHL Outdoor Classic this year will be played at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

And since the game will feature my favorite hockey team, imagine the giddy excitement with which I share the story of a member of the Bruins – Adam McQuaid.

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Stanley Cup Champion Adam McQuaid raises the cup in Vancouver in June 2011.

 

Born in Charlottetown PEI, (I also enjoy sharing stories of fellow Atlantic Canadians) McQuaid was a second round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005. He was traded to the Bruins before playing a professional game and has been with them at the NHL level since the 2009-2010 season – including winning a Stanley Cup in 2011. But it was this article from the Boston Globe that really excited me about Adam McQuaid. In it we read about how McQuaid has grown to be more bold and outspoken about his faith in God and the role that it plays in his life. Injuries are a part of a hockey career and it was during the battles with various injuries that McQuaid sustained that his faith in God strengthened. The article says “He rededicated himself in the fog of doctor appointments and rehab, with pains and aches dragging on his mind and his career. This, he thought, maybe this is the reason I’ve had to go through all of this. Maybe it was to bring me closer to my faith.

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McQuaid’s injuries drew him closer to God

He has begun attending a non-denominational church in suburban Boston where he is able to remain somewhat anonymous. The article shares a funny story about one Sunday when he went to church. “At the start of the service, the congregation is encouraged to greet those in the seats near, to shake a hand or two. The man sitting one row behind McQuaid reaches out, looks in McQuaid’s eyes. “Basketball? Take an elbow to the face?” he asks, noting the blackened left eye and the stitches on the cheekbone.

McQuaid shakes the man’s hand. “Something like that,” he says.

Here are my takeaways from McQuaid’s story

1- Personal Journey with others – Our faith journey is one that we take alone. We have to chose to follow God and make our relationship with Him our own. But there are others around us that are also trying to live out the purpose for their life by following God. In this article, the players mentioned were encouraged and excited to find out about other believers in the league. McQuaid took lessons and challenges from the stories of Tony Dungy, Tim Tebow and Clayton Kershaw. It is this very reason that I started this blog in the first place. My faith is not in the men that I write about – they are all flawed like me – but a very real God is doing very real work in their lives and so their stories encourage me to follow God and thank Him for the way he works out His plan in our lives. How have you been encouraged in your faith walk by the stories of others? How can your story encourage others who are living for God around you. Let’s live out this personal journey of faith in God, but let’s also celebrate that there are others around us that are living for Him, too.  Let’s encourage one another and build each other up.

Jan 7, 2014 - Anaheim, California, U.S. - Anaheim Ducks Patrick Maroon, left, gets checked by Adam McQuaid of the Boston Bruins during the first period at the Honda Center. (Credit Image: © Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com)

McQuaid is known for his physical game. He is also becoming known for his boldness in discussing his faith in God.

2- Exposed – In the article, Dan Hamhuis,  talks about being a Christian in an NHL locker room. He came to the NHL with the Nashville Predators, and there were other believers there so “He was comfortable, he said, and “not afraid if it came up that I was going to be exposed (…) In a hockey dressing room if you do anything out of the norm you’re going to get called out on it, whether it’s a funny hat you wear, a new pair of shoes, or a bad haircut,” said Hamhuis. “So you’re always kind of on guard and aware of yourself. In matters of faith, it could be something that guys might give you a hard time about, and if you’re not real mature in your faith, you might not be comfortable defending it.” It can be a delicate thing. The Bible is clear that we are to acknowledge God before others and I know that to be true but to really share the truth of who God is and how important He is to your life requires an effort to not frighten or alienate people. We need to earn a place to be heard. Let’s be true to Him and not hide the importance He plays in our lives while being loving to others. Let’s allow our words and presence in the lives of people who don’t know God represent Him in a way that will invite them to see the difference He can make in their lives.

Stanley Cup Special Part 2 – In the Corner – Don Cherry – CBC Broadcaster

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Cherry (in his “Cherry blazer” with Coach’s Corner host Ron MacLean)

Last time I wrote about an icon of U.S. hockey broadcasting – Doc Emrick, and his faith in God.  Today, I will do the same north of the border.  I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.  Coaches Corner was always an entertaining part of the program.  In that brief segment during the first intermission, host Ron MacLean and former NHL coach Don Cherry would give their opinion about something that was going on in the hockey world at the time.  Don Cherry tends to be a very divisive figure.  He is loud (both in voice and in wardrobe), opinionated, and outspoken.  He would occasionally spark controversy with his comments and people tend to either love him or hate him.  But enough people loved him that he was named to MacLean Magazine (no relation to Ron that I know of) as one of the 10 greatest Canadians in history.  I didn’t mind him most of the time.  He is entertaining and passionate about hockey and I can get that.

But imagine my pleasant surprise when I came across this video that he did with Canadian T.V. host Lorna Dueck

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Don Cherry as a player with the Rochester Americans

In this video, Cherry speaks of a desperate prayer that he made at the age of 36, worried about what the future would hold.  He felt God answer his prayer by telling him to “go back to hockey” and 2 years later, he is coaching in the N.H.L. In the book “Along Came God: Miracles in Everyday Life” by George Slater. Cherry tells his journey from being unemployed to His successful return to hockey.  The credit?  Cherry says “I remember my first game behind the Boston bench[…] I thought back to my room in Rochester where I couldn’t get a job sweeping floors and how I asked the Lord for help and to show me the way[…] In only three years He pointed the way back and I was on top of the world. In just three years, and they say there is no God!” The Lord rescued me in my darkest hour.  If you are having a hard time in life like I was and you believe, He will help you”.

Here are my takeaways from Cherry’s story:

1- Pray for Help and Be Willing to Work –  Cherry had reached his end.  He prayed for help and God directed him back to hockey.  But he had some work to do to get back in game shape.  He was 25 pounds overweight.  He was 36 years old.  But he worked hard to lose the weight and get back into game shape and made the team.  God has a plan and power to carry out that plan but he also gives us the chance to be obedient.  Cherry trusted God and went to work.  What has God called you to?  Are you ready to put in the work of obedience to Him?  If so, prepare yourself.  He can take us far beyond our greatest dream or our most extravagant imagination.

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Don Cherry the Coach. Behind  the bench of the Boston Bruins.

2- Ready to Give Back –  Near the end of the interview with Lorna Dueck, Cherry talks about speaking with kids, talking about the hard issue of suicide.  Now I don’t know how close Cherry was to going down that road, but he says repeatedly in the articles that I read that it was his darkest, most depressing time of his life.  That was when he called out to God and God answered his prayer.  Now he is speaking to those who are battling through some dark days.  He spoke in the interview of second chances.  We have all been given a second chance.  (and many more than that even).  We deserve death as a penalty for our disobedience to God, but Jesus paid that death penalty for us and offers us a second chance.

3- Who do you worship –  The interview and the stories that I read often referred to hockey as the national religion of Canada.  Sadly, I think there is some truth to that – but it is not just a problem of Canadian hockey fans.  We all have things that we worship and make more important than God.  Work, family, money, stuff, celebrities, just to name a few examples.  But in the end, all of those will fall short and let us down.  God is the only One that is worthy of our worship.  Let’s keep Him as the focus of our life and let’s save our worship for Him alone!

4- No expectation of perfection – The temptation can be to think that  so-and-so can’t possible be a Christian – look at what they say or what they do.  I’ve seen them ____ fill in the blank with a sin or behavior that is unacceptable for a Christian to do.  And there is something to be said about the fruit that our lives produce. But would I ever hate to have that lens pointed at my life.  Cherry knows that he is still messes up.  ““I always get a guilty feeling about them, and I try to smarten up the next time.”  I hope that we can all understand that we make mistakes and learn from them.