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

Olympic Fever – Christians at the 2012 Olympics

I Love the Olympics.  I was born in an Olympic year , just a couple of days before the events kicked off – and the Olympics were happening in Canada (my home and native land).  And s0 I have always been interested in these games that bring the world together.  Now Canada, during those 1976 Olympics, were (and still are) the only host country to fail to win a single gold medal at the Olympic games that they host, and so while I do, naturally, cheer on all members of Team Canada, I also enjoy learning about the lives of other competitors and finding that I want them to be successful too.  That being said, I will, over the course of the Olympics, be sharing some collections of stories that I find about Christians who will be competing in London during these next 2 weeks.

Let’s start with these stories.

First we have Brittany Viola– U.S.A. Platform diver.

Brittany Viola

Let’s start off with a local connection (local to Minneapolis – where I live now that is).  Brittany Viola is the daughter of former major league pitcher Frank Viola.  He was a long time Twin, Cy Young winner in 1988 and the MVP of the 1987  world series.  His daughter will compete in London this summer and as you can read in this story from Athletes in Action, she is looking forward to her Olympic experience.  She has battled injury and an eating disorder.  As she was getting treatment for the latter, a staff member at the center where she was getting help told her that ultimate healing would come from a relationship with God.

 

David Boudia

Next, we have another diver – David Boudia – USA Platform and Synchro Diver.

This will be David’s second Olympic Experience having also competed in Beijing in 2008.  He was fresh out of high school and living life for himself.  He was into the party scene as College started and feeling empty and unfulfilled in life.  A time of hard partying left him calling out for help.  His coach at Purdue, along with the coach’s wife told him about Jesus and His offer of salvation.  Boudia accepted Christ and now faces the joys and struggles of life with this new found perspective.  You can read his story, as told by Athletes in Action, here. 

 

Zambia sprinter Gerald Phiri

Gerald Phiri – Zambia – sprinter (100m  & 200m)

Born in Zambia, and living in the Chicagoland area, Phiri has also spent time in South Africa and the UK as his father, Huggins, is a pastor and church planter and has journeyed to these places as he follows God’s leading.  Phiri is competing for Zambia and hoping to put his homeland in the spotlight in London, but ultimately as you can read in this story, from Athletes in Action, that running to honor God is the reason behind his racing.

Phiri  has known some success in his American Collegiate career and he knows that training and discipline are vital to that success.  They are also vital to the Christian walk.  As is a short memory.  He talks about the need to forget when you have a bad race and focus on the next one.  The same thing happens when we mess up in our Christian walk.  Satan is always going to be trying to remind us of the things we’ve done and tell us that we are not good enough.  We need to ignore that, get back on track and refocus on Christ.

 

Elodie Li Yuk Lo - Mauritius Beach Volley Ball Player

Elodie Li Yuk Lo – Mauritius – Beach Volleyball

Growing up in Toronto Canada, where she moved at age 6, Elodie Li Yuk Lo loved swimming and softball dreamed of competing in the Olympics – likely in the pool.  At age 12, she took up the sport of Volleyball, and was introduced to beach volleyball by a coach who recommended that players take it up so they could keep their skills sharp in the off-season.  So she started playing beach volleyball, and took to it strongly.  In 2006, hoping to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, she went to Mauritius looking for a partner, but came back empty.  Missing out on Beijing, she kept looking and eventually found a partner in Natacha Rigobert -a Mauritius native living in France.  They teamed up, and practiced together, competed together and qualified for London by winning the African Championship in Rwanda in May.  She had found that sports often conflicted with going to church, but that with they didn’t have to be exclusive activities.  She could worship God and build her faith while on the volleyball court.  You can read her story here.

I found all of these stories through Athletes in Action – I really appreciate the work AIA does and the role they play in the lives of young athletes and the dreams that they have.  I thank them for sharing these stories.  here are some other resources that I will use as well. More to come in the coming days.  Come back and check.

Living for God in a “major” way – Christians in the PGA – Stewart Cink

Well it is British Open time – the third major of the golf year, and this time around, the competition is on at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Course in Lancashire, England.  As we reach the weekend, and the cut has been made, lots of big names have missed the cut.  Included among the “casualties of the cut” was Stewart Cink, the subject of today’s post.

PGA golfer Stewart Cink

Cink is originally from Alabama, and has been part of the PGA tour since 1995.  In that time, he has posted 6 wins, including the 2009 British Open.  You can link here to the the highlights of his win there.  It is an interesting story – he won, although 90+% of the gallery (and probably even the world) was rooting against him, simply because he was going against 59 year old Tom Watson, who over the course of the week had won the hearts of the general spectator with his outstanding (and unexpected) run at the title.  As he started dropping shots on the closing holes, the possibility of a playoff grew.

Cink wins the Claret Jug in 2009

And when it  Cink won, people were happy enough for him.  It was easy to find articles like this one that talk about how they are glad, after the fact, that Cink won, but they were cheering for Watson during the playoff.  It also shares the story of how Cink came to decide that he needed Christ in his life.  This time around, as mentioned, he didn’t make it to weekend play, and if you are interested in knowing all about it,  check out his Twitter account – He is very active and has over a million followers.  He shares a lot about what he is doing and about life in general.  As you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, Cink wants to live a life that draws people in to pick his brain – to “live a life that demands an explanation”.

It’s working.  Check this story about when his integrity was questioned, and how he chose not to act the way he wanted to, but rather to let Christ guide his reaction or check out this blog post from someone whose attention was captured by the way he thanked God after winning the British Open.  The writer mentioned that it seemed a much more refreshing to hear how Cink referenced his faith over how some others do.

The other reason that I chose to feature Cink this week is that he is the one that put together the weekly devotional thoughts on Ben Crane’s website.  Click the link, then click on British Open & True South Classic.

Good thoughts and reflections from Cink.  This wasn’t his year at the British Open, but he will take it all in stride and keep drawing others to Christ.

And the winner is… Webb Simpson – U.S. Open Champion!

What a great tournament!  And what a tough course.  For only the third time in the last 35 years that the champion’s score was above par.  That is not an indication of the skill level of the players.  It is an indictment on the difficulty of the Olympic Course in San Francisco, which hosted the tournament for the 5th time.  Of the five, only 2 champions have won with scores under par, one even and 2 over par.

As I watched the rounds go by, and the scores climb up, I imagined what score I would piece together on such a tough course – It may take me 4 days to complete 1 round! So on Sunday, I enjoyed a couple drinks of Arnold Palmer half and half, then watched Webb Simpson win the title, unaware of the connection between the two.

the 2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson

There sure was a lot of intrigue and entertainment value in the rounds that I watched (Saturday and Sunday).  There is a lot of talk about how no one would be interested by the end as Tiger Woods fell out of competition.  I found myself rooting for Michael Thompson, who finished third, largely because he was proclaimed a “surprise leader who would likely not be around at the end” on Friday – and because I blogged about him earlier in the week, and I was also excited to see  Simpson, another golfer I blogged about a month ago, come back into the picture, and eventually, of course, claim the title.  You can read the posts I wrote about them by clicking on their names above

With Webb Simpson winning this time around, and Bubba Watson winning the Master’s a couple months ago, it is exciting to see these up and coming golfers making a name for themselves, and using their budding fame and success to share the importance God plays in their lives.  I can’t wait until the British Open to see what happens!  Tune back in then to find more stories of faith on the PGA tour.

And a final quick update on the others I blogged about this week.  K.J. Choi had a great final round shooting a -1 to climb to a tie for 15th,  Kevin Streelman shot a +5 on the day to finish in 60th and Michael Thompson turned things back around and finished tied for 2nd, 1 shot back with the low round of the day (-3).