A World of Faith – Faith in God at the World Cup – Team U.S.A.

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U.S. Captain Clint Dempsey

imgresWhile I am not an American citizen, I am a green card holding resident and as such, I am hoping for a great showing for the Yanks at the World Cup in Brazil.  It brings me great joy to share the stories of a few members of the USNMT and their faith in God.

Here we go:

Clint Dempsey:

You can read in this feature on him by Sports Spectrum Magazine that Dempsey has lived a life affected by tragedy.  At the age of 12, his older sister (aged 16) died of a brain aneurysm.  In college two of his teammates were involved in a car accident – one killed and the other would never play soccer again.  But through all that he has faced, his faith in God – instilled in him by his grand-mother, has become very important to Him.  This article from Christiantoday.com talks about the role that faith plays in his life even now on the biggest soccer stage in the world

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U.S. Goal Keeper Tim Howard

Like Dempsey (and all of us, too), Tim Howard has also faced some challenges in this life.  As you can read in this article from Athletes in Action, his parents divorced when he was 3.  At the age of 12 he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome.  And also like Dempsey, his faith in God was greatly influenced by his grandmother.  Now he enjoys using soccer as a platform to share his faith with others, encouraging them to trust God, no matter what their struggles are, and to understand that winning, losing, playing time – all those things are pretty insignificant compared to knowing God!

Here is a video of him talking about his faith

 

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U.S. Goal Keeper Brad Guzan

Beyond the Ultimate did this feature on US Goal Keeper Brad Guzan.  In it we learn about Guzan’s faith that his parents instilled in him at an early age, and how it has helped guide his life since that young age.  He knows that God has been with him all along.  In the article, Guzan gives a great reminder that “when things are going well – great – I give praise to Him; and when things are not going well, I ask for His guidance and His help to keep me going in the right path.” He goes on to say that he knows that soccer and all it has provided for him can be taken away in the blink of an eye and that following God is all that really matters.  Check out the video below.

 

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U.S. midfielder turned defender DaMarcus Beasley

DaMarcus Beasley :

I also want to draw your attention to Beasley.  U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann asked him to change position from mid-fielder to left back (defender). This is a pretty drastic change.  He had been one of the top scoring threats for U.S. for a decade,  but with the change Beasley said

“the goal was now to stop strikers from doing to him what he’d been trying to do to others for so long“.

He had been one of the U.S.’ top scoring threats for the past decade and now, his focus would be on defending his own end.  He agreed and finds himself playing in his 4th World Cup.  When asked why he made this big change without hesitation of complaint when, he said

Even if I thought things were not going the way they were supposed to go, I have always had faith that God would open that next door for me to walk through. A lot of what I do is based on the grounding I have with faith. 

There is a lot to learn from the example of these men.  Depend on God in hard times.  Trust Him at all times.  Be willing to follow where He leads and understand He is more important than anything else.

 

World Cup Special – David Luiz – Brazil

imgresThe World Cup kicks off tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  And while soccer is not a huge blip on the radar of most North American sports fans, it is the most popular sport in the rest of the world.  And much like the Olympics showcases the best of hockey around the world, the World Cup puts on display the best soccer players in the world playing the best soccer one can see.

Some of the star footballers that will be playing are using their celebrity and the world wide attention that the World Cup brings to shine a light on the problem of sexually exploited children.  Check of the video from itsapenalty.com.

Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are big problems, everyday, worldwide.  My wife has become an activist against human trafficking and is working to raise awareness of the issue so those caught up in this terrible world can get the help they need.  Check out what she has going on at Stories Cafe.

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David Luiz praying for his Chelsea teammate.

luizFor the purposes of this blog, I also want to share a little about Brazilian defender David Luiz.

He first appeared for Brazil in 2007, and went on to captain them in 2012.  He has been playing in Europe since 2007 – most recently with Chelsea in the Premier League.  He is a fan favorite in Chelsea and can often be seen sporting his “God is Faithful” t-shirt under his jersey.

Luiz is very outspoken about his faith in God.  As you can read in this post on Sports Almighty, He likes to talk about football but enjoys talking about his relationship with God as well.

Over the coming weeks, as the World Cup is played out, I will feature a few more soccer/futbol players from around the world and high light their faith in God as well.

Enjoy the great soccer to come and keep checking back for more stories of the Christians at the World Cup.

 

Sochi Special – Kelly Clark – U.S.A. Snowboard half-pipe

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3 time Olympian and 2 time medalist Kelly Clark

sochiI love the Olympics – summer or winter – doesn’t matter.  Every 2 years, I again get to enjoy the spectacle of many of the best athletes in the world coming together and showcasing their talents.  I was born just as an Olympiad was starting, and I wonder if that contributes to my enjoyment of each Games.  So with my fondness for Olympics and with this medium to put my thoughts and share stories with you, I will be taking the next couple of weeks to share the stories of some of the athletes who will compete representing their home countries, but will also compete representing their faith in Christ as well.

Kelly Clark won an Olympic gold medal at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.  It would be amazing to be an Olympian, more amazing still to do so in your own country and maybe as good as it gets in the sporting world to win a Gold medal in your own country.  That is part of Clark’s story.  She was on top of the world, and as a snowboarding half-piper, she was actually soaring up in the air above the top of the world.  Here is a video that talks about Clark and her gold medal run.

And yet, despite the fanfare and the congratulations and fame that now surrounded her.  You can read in her story that there was an emptiness that was not filled by her successes.  And it was weighing on her.  She was still competing well, but inside, she was trying to find a purpose to her life.  Then, at a competition, she overheard a comment made to a competitor that did not qualify for the next round.  A supporting friend told this competitor that “God still loves you”.  That comment sat with Clark, to the point where later on, Kelly would go and seek this girl out and ask her about God, and from that start, Clark spend some time getting to know God, reading His word and discovering the meaning to life  that to that point had been eluding her.

Check out this video of Clark sharing her story:

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Her Snowboard reads: Jesus I can not hide my love

She continues to be at a great competitor in the snowboarding world.  She won a bronze in Vancouver in 2010.  She is in Sochi this year, competing again and ready to do her best and share her purpose with others.

Here are my takeaways from Kelly’s story

1- You never know who’s listening, so be ready – Kelly was not having a conversation with this Christian on the slopes, but the words that were spoken stirred in her heart a yearning desire to know God.   There is a challenge in this to not shy away from speaking about God and sharing His love wherever you go.  Deuteronomy 6, in talking about God’s commands, tells us…

6 Take to heart these words that I give you today.7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. 8 Write them down, and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

We are to let what God has done in our lives be evident in our thoughts, words and actions.  And how cool is it that a passing remark made to encourage one who needed it, would go to encourage another who needed it that wasn’t in on the conversation in the first place.

2- Never stop seeking God! – Clark heard those words about God’s love and it stirred her heart to take action.  She sought out this God whose love was so expansive and continued to search for answers until she was convinced that God was the answer she had been looking for.  Do we search with that same intensity once we know God or do we settle in to complacency and laziness settling on the God we think we know and losing the awe that drew us to Him in the first place.  I know that I am challenged to continue to be fervent in my desire to know God more.  He is faithful and will continue to reveal himself to us as we seek Him  Jeremiah 29.13 tells us that when we seek God we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.  Nothing halfway.  He persistently pursues us to show us His love.  Let’s keep seeking Him so we can experience that love and be equipped to share it with others.

World Series Preview – Boston Strong!

The Red Sox emblem demonstrating their support for a city greatly affected by a Patriot's Day bombing

Here we go!  It is World Series time and as I prepare to deal with either the joy of my beloved Red Sox winning the championship or the agony of watching them tuning up their second fiddle, it is with great excitement that I anticipate a great series and a deserving championship crown to be placed atop the victor, whomever it may be.  You see, the joy of writing a blog such as this, is that I can easily find reason to celebrate the victory for either team, based on the amazing stories I read of the believers on each team.  And while I openly declare that my preference would be to see the Red Sox win for the third time  in the last ten years, it is awfully hard to cheer against the many Christ- followers that play for the Cardinals.

But in an effort to sway you, O dear reader, I present the joy that it would bring to the city of Boston to see the Red Sox crowned the champs.  April 2013 will be remembered in Massachussetts because life in Beantown changed dramatically when two bombs rocked the  Boston Marathon thereby ensuring that the 2013 running of the race would not simply blend into the landscape of all the other Boston Marathons.  It will, instead, live on in infamy as it was the day of the “Boston Bombing”.    These bombs killed three and injured many more and led to a huge manhunt where eventually the two culprits were found, one killed in the process.  There was a lot of hurt and anger in the city at that time.

the start of the 2013 Boston Marathon

Salty and Boston's Bearded Brotherhood take on the Cardinals in the World Series

It is easy, in cases of senseless violence like this, to get angry and demand justice for the pain and agony caused. We are quick to condemn and demand payback.  But Jesus, when he was here, gave us a different standard to strive for.  He told us in Matthew 5.43-48 t0… Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. It is very easy to hold a grudge.  It is easy to pay lip service, claiming to forgive, yet holding on to our feelings of hurt, betrayal or pain caused by another.  Jesus knew this.  He would know betrayal more than most when even his closest friends would abandon him and deny knowing Him.  And yet his challenge is to forgive those who hurt you or make life miserable for you.  He demonstrated this in the cross when he plead for the forgiveness of all who “know not what they do”

A few months back, I wrote a post about Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia – you can read it here.   Saltalamacchia was one of the featured Christ-followers in a piece by Christian Broadcast  Network in the aftermath of the attacks.  Check it out.

In this video,  those interviewed, say that the best option is to forgive those responsible.   If we are truly going to live a life that honors God and reflects Him to those around us, then we need to be ready to forgive even those who do the  most selfish and awful acts.  God offers love and forgiveness ALL who need it.  If we hold on to our anger and seek revenge, not only do we fail to show a true representation of who God really is, we imprison ourselves in these feeling of anger that affect every aspect of our lives.  Jesus offers forgiveness to each of us for all the mistakes and bad things that we have said, done or thought.  He offers the same grace, like it or not, to the ones we would consider the worst among us.  Why?   Because He loved and died for them too, that their sins may be forgiven and that they may know the One true God! We must remember that our sin separated us from God just like theirs does.   He calls us to remember the forgiveness we  received and to show the same love and forgiveness to others, too.

If we are “all in” for God, that means that we allow the attitudes of God to overtake our own.  His love is to be shown to even the most undeserving because that is what defines the depth of God’s love. The only way that we are able to forgive others for what they’ve done and love them in spite of it is by surrendering our lives to Him.

God offers love to everyone, even the ones that we see as unlovable, and he  pleads with them to come to know Him.  His forgiveness in spite what we have done  is where our hope can be found.

As I enjoy the World series, I know I’ll be challenged by these thoughts – let’s be a loving, forgiving representation of the God who offers forgiveness and love to all!

 

Olympic Fever – Christians at the London Olympics

Day 3 at the London games are in the books and here is  another installment in my Blog series on Christians Olympians.  This time I will be focusing on some stories that I found at Inspiring Athletes Blog – a great blog on Christian Athletes by Chad Bonham, -a writer,blogger and media specialist based in Oklahoma.  He has done many interviews with Christian Athletes that I have referenced and used in my posts.  I appreciate his work and his heart to share the stories of these athletes, challenging and encouraging us as we read them.

Missy Franklin – U.S. Swimming

Missy Franklin - 2 medals and counting

To start with, let’s look at the new darling of the U.S. swim team – and one who could emerge as the breakout star of these Olympics.  She has already picked up 2 medals and has a chance for 5 more.  At 17 years old we are just starting to hear her name, but with the potential she has showed, we could hear about her for years to come.  What I enjoy about her story is that she is from a small town, and she stayed there.  I grew up in a small town and had some friends that moved away for sports.  I am not saying that that was not the  best thing for them, but as a friend that got left behind, it was hard to watch them move away.  I think it is great that even though the options to move away were likely there, she stayed at home, with her long time coach, and seems to be doing OK for herself.  And as a Canadian, I like that her parents are Canadians living in the U.S.A.  just because they have that in common with me.  Anyway, here is her conversation with Chad Bonham at Inspiring Athletes.

As a side note,  her high school is in Aurora, Colorado.  You can read this article from Breaking Christian News to see her response to the events that transpired there just under 2 weeks ago.

Brady Elison - left and teammates with their silver medals

 

Brady Ellison – USA mens archery

And other medalist at these 2012 Olympics in London.  Ellison was a member of the  U.S. team that won silver – the first US medal of the games.  Brady Ellison enjoys hunting and got into archery through hunting.  He grew up in church, accepting Christ at a young age.  But not until a car accident did he really connect with Christ and allow Christ to guide his life.  You can check out Ellison’s conversation with Bonham here.

 

 

Ryan Hall – U.S. Marathoner

Ryan Hall - 2 time Olympic Marathon Runner

This is an athlete that has been on my radar for a little while.  He  is quite active on Twitter and often shares thoughts about God and life.  As you can read in this conversation with Chad Bonham, Hall sees some parallels between living life for God, and life as an Olympian.  The fact that as an athletes, you come up short more than you succeed and that it is all about getting back up and getting back at it.  There is a good lesson to learn there.  We will mess up daily in this life and fail often, but we also know that God will not give up on us.  I like this quote from Hall in the article.  ” Its not my job to accomplish great things, its my job to stay close to God and to simply be all that He has created me to be. If I do this then the results will be exactly what they are suppose to be and I will accomplish God’s mission for my life”.

Where is your identity found – in success by the world’s standards or by following God even if it looks like failure to others.

Glory of the Games

Great stuff from Inspiring Athletes.  Check it  out for thee and other stories of Christians at the Olympics.   And Check out Bonham’s  book “Glory of the Games” featuring stories of 18 current and former Olympians and their stories of faith