The More we Try to Fix it, the Worse it Seems to Get – Dan Ellis – Florida Panthers

imagesIn the 1990’s there was a very popular TV show called “Home Improvement”.  It starred Tim Allen as a handyman and TV show host who would try to use his skills to do a project, either a repair or a build.  And almost every time, the project would go awry and often lead to a spectacular fail.  And the more effort he would put into fixing the problem, the worse it seemed to get.  And we would learn quickly that this same problem presented itself in life outside his TV show.  When he would face problems in his marriage, parenting , friendships, planning, or many other areas of life, it would also not go as planned and would often lead to more turmoil.

predators (2)

Dan Ellis was dealt from Dallas to Florida at the trade deadline

Dan Ellis, newly acquired goaltender for the Florida Panthers talked about this truth happening in his life too.   Check out the article from Chad Bonham at Inspiring Athletes.  Ellis talks about life spinning out of his control and how he, in a human reaction we can all relate to, would try to take control and fix the situation.  And the end result would be a reminder that he was not in control at all and had to lean on his faith in God to work out the best solution – and often God’s solution was better than seemed possible in the midst of the problem.  He sums it up by saying “Things that don’t make sense don’t need to because God the Father has a plan for us.  As we put our faith in Him, we will see that plan through and be better off than we ever could have imagined” 

Check out Ellis’ story from CBN:

Ellis’ career has been a journey.  Today’s trade means that Ellis will suit up for his 6th different NHL team in

FCA hockey

Ellis (in pads) at FCA camp in Omaha

his 11 year career.  But the 33 year old goaltender is glad to be in the NHL at all.  In high school he got into drugs and partying and that impacted his grades and his hockey game.  That meant there were no colleges offering scholarships, there was no major junior team looking at him.  He played junior hockey for the Omaha Lancers – not a common place for NHL scouts to hang out.  He says it was a way to travel around the U.S. for free before it was time to get a job.  But instead a scholarship offer came, and from that, he was drafted and has been in and around the NHL ever since.  He even holds the Nashville Predators record for longest shutout streak (233 minutes 39 seconds – just short of 4 games worth of shutout hockey).  I enjoyed reading his story.  God has been doing amazing things in Ellis’ life and continues to work out His plan.  Ellis enjoys sharing about his faith in God too, at events like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes hockey camps

Here are my takeaways from Ellis’ story.

imgres

Ellis – here with the Hurricane – is in his 11th season.

1- We are terrible Handymen! –  And yet, even though we have failed so many times to right our situations on our own, we keep trying.  We are so hesitant to surrender control and lean on God for help.  We try to make things happen in our own time and by our own effort and then seem surprised when they fail or fall apart.  I pray that we can learn to trust God in all parts of our life.  His plan is always the best.  I shared the story of Jonah to a group of kids this week and it seems applicable to this story as well.  Jonah tried to carry out his own plan and it was a spectacular failure, but God’s plan ultimately prevailed and lives were changed for the better because of it.

2- Who do we strive to please? –  In the video above we hear this:

dan-ellis-back

Ellis pays tribute to his 2 kids and his faith in God on his hockey masks

The more he studied his Bible, the more he realized following Christ was the only way.  “The other way of living wasn’t helping me in any way.  It was maybe making me accepted with my friends but being accepted with your friends doesn’t really make your life work out. ” 

And yet we care so much about what others will think about us and the choices we make.  We are so nervous about fitting in and not rocking the boat, lest we find ourselves on the outside looking in.  But in reality, the worst “outside looking in” we can experience is missing out on the reward of heaven that awaits us for living for God.  He is the only one that we need to concern ourselves with and He is waiting and willing to help us live for Him.  It all comes down to surrender.  Are you willing to give up living for yourself and live for Him?  It is a challenge that will face us every day of our lives.  I pray that we will learn to surrender control and lean of God to fix our issues.  He is the ultimate handyman!

How does the World see you – Peter Budaj – Montreal Canadiens

ddd-1

Habs Goalie – Peter Budaj

944800_10152059758159819_625247670_n_crop_north

Budaj’s mask featuring Ned Flanders

With the Olympics done and the NHL set to return to the hockey spotlight, I will try to tie to two together with this story of Peter Budaj and his eye-catching mask.  It started off innocently enough.  He was new to the NHL.   He was a back-up goalie for the Colorado Avalanche and was making the important decision of what artwork he would put on his mask.  An equipment manager for the Avalanche, who may not have had the best understanding of what true faith in God looks like, went to the best reference that he could think of.  He suggested Ned Flanders – the do-good, devout Christian neighbor of the Simpsons on the popular tv cartoon.  While Flanders may be a caricature of how the world views Christians, the point is not to be missed.  Even early in his career, Budaj had made his faith known enough that teammates and those associated with the team knew that it was an important part of who he is.

images

Budaj was on Team Slovakia in 2014 – his 3rd Olympics

And though Budaj is not a fan of the Simpsons – according to this article from Living Light News, he has only seen about 15 minutes total of the show in his life.

Budaj, a three time Olympian for Slovakia – and the first Slovak goalie to reach 100 career wins was raised in a Christian home.  His dad told Peter just before he left to play hockey in Ontario, Canada at the age of 16 the decision was his – would he like to have a relationship with God or not.  Peter chose to hold tight to his faith and it has helped guide his life and career to this point.  He knows he has not lived a perfect life.  Like all of us, he slips up, but he also sees many opportunities to represent God and to help others know Him, too.  And how does he want to represent Christ?  He hopes that people will stop seeing God as a big bad God looking to strike people down, but instead to focus on God’s love and forgiveness, available to all.

Here are my takeaways from Budaj’s story.

9427221

Budaj and Canadiens Teammate/Fellow Olympian Carey Price

1- Live out Loud – Steven Curtis Chapman sings a song by that name, and the point of it is that people should know us by our actions, by the love we have for each other.  Budaj’s actions spoke loud enough that those around him identified him as a Christian and even in an endearing way. We read in the article that he desires to represent God in a realistic and true way.  God is not the mean evil God looking to punish us the moment we stray.  He is a loving God who wants to know us and show his love for us.    How obvious is our faith to those around us?  Are we living out loud for God?  Do we represent God in such a way that those who do not know Him would be drawn to Him?

2- Our Own Choice – In the article, we read that Budaj’s dad challenged him to make his choice to follow God or not.  He was about to enter a world where depending heavily on faith in God would be important to avoid the trappings that come from success, celebrity, money and the world in general.  So when we read later that Budaj is careful in how he is raising his own son, striving to be a Christlike example so Peter Jr. will also be drawn to follow Christ.

We would love to be able to make the choice for our kids or others in this life that we love.  We can’t.  But the way we are living can help others discover who the true God really is.  That is a challenge worth taking on.

Sochi Special Part 2 – Anne Schleper & Gigi Marvin – U.S. Women’s hockey

sochiIn Canada, while we absolutely celebrate any medal that the Olympians bring home, our national identity lies on the hockey rink.  I do enjoy hockey, and of course would love a Canadian hockey gold medal sweep, but I am even more excited to share with you the story of two of the U.S. women’s hockey players.  Not only are they Christ followers, but both are from my current home state of Minnesota and are former members of the University of Minnesota’s excellent hockey program.  So with the excitement of a “hometown” story, check out the video testimonies of these 2 Olympians.

 

First, Anne Schleper via Beyond the Ultimate

And now Gigi Marvin also via Beyond the Ultimate

gigi

Gigi Marvin

Here are the challenges that I take from their stories

1- Put on Christ – Marvin talks about putting on the USA jersey and being part of the team.  And that the name on the back of her shirt is not the important thing but the team she represents and identifies with.  Paul wrote in Galatians 3 that those who are baptized in Christ (acknowledge Him as Lord) “put on Christ” or “clothe yourself with Christ”   No matter what we have done and how imperfect and sinful we are,  when we are forgiven of our sin it is like we put on His perfection.  He covers our sins through his death and resurrection,  and we are made perfect, not through anything that we have done other than acknowledging our own sinfulness and accepting Him as our Savior.

2-Give 100% to the one that gave 100% for you – Schleper makes the comment in her video about giving 100% for the One that gave 100% for you.  What is it that we are striving for in this life?  What are the goals that we have?  Where are we putting our effort and our energy.  Our one goal and purpose is to keep Christ as the most important part of our life.  Our striving should be only to follow His will, wherever it takes us.  If we have chosen to live for Christ, and we consider what He did to make a way for us to be with Him at all, then we really have no other choice than to give our all, our 100% to serve Him in all we do and to make everything in our lives acts of worship to God.  What a challenge for us!  My prayer for myself is that I would put my all into serving Him!

images

Anne Schleper

3 – Audience of One – In a related thought, the only thing, then that we would need to be concerned with is living to honor God.  The Olympics come with a certain amount of scrutiny.  Some Olympians (U.S. women’s hockey team for example) are expected to win a medal, and anything less than a gold would be deemed a failure by some.  We can drive ourselves insane trying to live up to the expectations of others.  We can kill ourselves trying to please others, and our failures can lead to their disappointment and in some cases vicious attacks.  But if we understand that our soul purpose is to live for Christ and that His idea of success tends to be different than the worlds.  He is all about bring us closer to Him – even if, as we hear in the Schleper video, He needs to grab our attention through hard things – like injuries.  He ultimately wants to draw us closer to Him, we ultimately need to learn that anything we do gives us an opportunity to honor Him.

I am greatly challenged by these stories and these thoughts that God brought to my mind through them.  May we all strive to honor God above everything else.

 

The Hero of a Nation and the Biggest day of His Life – Paul Henderson – Team Canada 1972

I live in the USA.  When I talk to people here about big goals, important moments in the world of hockey, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team’s win over the Soviet Union comes immediately to mind.  And it should.  It was a great moment for US hockey and Al Michael’s “Do you believe in miracles?” call is one of the most well known in sports.  But growing up in Canada, that moment pales in comparison to another one that occurred almost 8 years earlier.

It was the final game of an epic 8 game series between Canada’s best (plus 1 American and 1 Czechoslovakian) against the best in the USSR.  USSR started off well, finishing the first 4 games of the series (all played in Canada) with 2 wins and a tie.  Canada had to go to Moscow and win 3 of the 4 games to win the series.  Then they lost the first game in Moscow.  That meant they needed to win all 3 remaining games to win the series.

Let me introduce to you Paul Henderson.  I heard him speak at my church years ago, but being too young to have experienced the Summit Series, I didn’t really know the whole Henderson story.  A talented winger, Henderson had spent a decade in the NHL.  He had scored 20 or more goals in a season 6 times and gone over 30 twice.  He joined Team Canada for the Summit series and as it would turn out, would become a house hold name from coast to coast with what would transpire.

In game 6, Canada scored 3 goals in less than 90 seconds.  The third, scored by Henderson, turned out to be the winning goal.  Game 7 came and Henderson scored with just over 2 minutes left in the game to break the tie and send Canada to a 4-3 win.  That set the stage for the 8th and final game.  Each team had won 3 and there was 1 tie.  The winner of game 8 would win the series.   The first period ended 2-2,  the USSR scored 3 times with Canada only managing 1 so with 20 minutes left, USSR led 5-3.

Canada got an early goal in the 3rd period, and tied it up with just over 7 minutes to play.  The stage was set for a dramatic finish and it was delivered, again, by Paul Henderson.  Here is the final scene, as it was called by Foster Hewitt.

For those of you keeping score at home,  that is 3 game winning goals in a row in the games that decide the series.  If anyone in hockey-crazy Canada didn’t know who Paul Henderson was before this series – the knew him now.

But something that I have really come to understand from looking into the stories of pro athletes.  The success that they have never fulfills them.  As you can read in this post on Heaven4sure.com, Henderson, despite the success and fame he had as a result of the Summit Series, still felt empty, angry and bitter.  Life was still hard, and his best coping strategy was drinking and partying.

Then came the knock on his door.  It was Mel Stevens, a friend and mentor of Henderson’s that wanted to invite him to help out at a Christian Hockey camp.  That started 2 years of Bible reading, question asking, soul searching time for Henderson that led him, on March 12, 1975 to choose to live his life to honor God.  To this day, Henderson calls that day the most memorable and best day of his life!

Henderson’s hockey career ended in 1981, and from that point on, he has been active in sharing his faith as a motivational speaker, hockey instructor and minister.  You can read his testimony in his own words in this article from Power to Change.  And while he is now battling for his life with cancer, he has peace, in knowing that he is heaven-bound when this life is over.  And as you can read from most articles you can find about him, he wants as many people to be there with him as can be.  Check out his reflection on life and on “the goal” in this article by sportsnet.ca

How many times do we need to hear how the things of this world are unsatisfying and that God is the ONLY thing that satisfies.  May our hearts beat only to attain that which God calls us to.  Let’s not to be distracted by the temptations of this world.  Let’s boldly follow Him, and invite others to do so too.

James Reimer – Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltender James Reimer

I am on vacation in Canada this week, and so, as a tribute to my Home and Native Land, I am going to share the story of the guy who has one of the most pressure filled jobs in all of sports – Starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are neck and neck for being the team with the combination of craziest fans and tightest media coverage and scrutiny of any of the pro sports.  They have the fans that are the most excited when teams are doing well and most vocal (as in booing) of teams that are doing poorly.  They also have the tightest, most intense media coverage anywhere, and what I believe gives the Maple Leafs the edge at being the most intense place to play is that they have gone longer without a championship – it has been 45 years since they last hoisted the Stanley Cup.

So how do you deal with all that pressure?  James Reimer (aka Optimus Reim)- the current Maple Leafe #1 goalie, leans on his relationship with God.  As you can read in this article from christianweek.org, Reimer chose to follow God at a young age and even in hard times, his faith helped him persevere.  And his rise to fame with the Maple Leafs is an amazing story, too.  Read about it in this article from Chill Magazine.  There is also a great article to check out from thestar.com

Reimer makes a great save

 

I’ve written on this blog about finding a way to express your faith in little ways.  Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays and Matt LaPorta of the Cleveland Indians use Christian music as their walk up songs, Colin Kaepernick shares how his tattoos reflect his faith in God. Reimer has chosen to use his goalie mask to represent his faith in God.  As you can see in the picture below, he has an image of Jesus helping Peter out of the water after Peter had been walking on water and began to sink.

The image from the back of one of Reimer's goalie masks.

Why that image?  Because, as Reimer says,

“It’s my story, in a modern way.  When Peter lost focus on Jesus, things began to go badly for him, but when he focused on the Lord and was confident in his faith then he had the ability to do anything. When Jesus walked on water and asked why did you doubt me, that’s how I feel sometimes. There were a lot of people who did not believe I would ever make it to the NHL but my faith carried me through.”

We can all tend to allow doubt to make us hesitant to act, but like Peter, when we step out in faith into something that seems challenging, unlikely or even impossible, we are amazingly met by the God who can do the impossible.