Archive for the ‘Sports Devotionals’ Category

(Photo Credit: PennLive.com)

(Photo Credit: PennLive.com)

This past week, SEC Media Day took place in Hoover, Alabama. As we get closer and closer to the start of the college football season, the talk of the town has centered around Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman won the Heisman Trophy and led an upset of two-time national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season.

This year, the talk about Manziel has been what he has done off the field. The 20-year-old has hung out with LeBron, played golf at Pebble Beach, and had courtside seats to the NBA Finals. Now, Manziel is in the news for oversleeping at the Manning passing academy and for his tweets last month about how he couldn’t wait to leave Texas A&M.

The one tweet I want to focus on is the one where Manziel said back on June 16th:

Don’t ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes.”

Now, I am 20 years old just like Manziel. He’s right that he’s not your normal 20 year old. I wouldn’t know how he lives in a world where everybody knows who he is. As I was thinking about it, I thought about how at times we wonder if we can find anyone who can truly say, “I understand what you are going through.”

The only One who knows our problems is Jesus. When Jesus was on this Earth, he became fully human. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He was thirsty, He wept, and He was tired. In order to become the propitiation for our sins, He had to make himself low, to the point of dieing on a cross, so that we can have Salvation.

When we go to the Lord with our problems, He is always there to listen and He knows what we are going through.

The author of Hebrews talks about how Jesus is our High Priest. In the Old Testament, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies and offer up one giant sacrifice for the sins of Israel. Now that Christ redeemed us from our sins by being the ultimate sacrifice, we have a High Priest that does not look down on us in a lowly manner.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Today, I exhort you to think about this next time you pray. Remember that Jesus cares about you and always listens to your problems, no matter how big or small they are. Once Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. That meant there was no longer separation between God and man. Jesus took a walk in our shoes on this Earth. However, we must remember that we could never have walk in His shoes and pay the price for our sins like Jesus did for us on that cross. Now, we can go to God in any situation to receive mercy for our sins and confidence in our daily walk with Him.

Photo: blumoon photoraphy

Photo: blumoon photography

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and Mitchell’s picture says what his life is all about I Am Second. Mitchell’s first priority in life is to glorify God in everything he does especially baseball where he gets to step on the hill and strike out batters. Mitchell’s story is very inspiring and I hope in some way it will bless you as it has me. In a way I guess you can call him the comeback kid.

Mitchell was born and raised in a suburb of Houston, TX, in a place called SugarLand. He lived there until 17, actually his family moved up to their ranch his senior year of high school. They got it around 2003 and finally just decided to make it home…the ranch is in Navasota, TX, which is about 20 miles south of College Station (Texas A&M). He has two loving parents, a younger brother, and a younger sister. This is what he said about them:

“To be frank with you, my family comes before everything but God. They are indeed my best friends, each in their own specific role and way, and I am so grateful for God blessing me with their presence in my life. We are extremely close; people say they haven’t ever seen anything like it. My brother actually will be attending TCU next year as a student, and my sister hopes to attend for volleyball, although she is only a freshman in high school.”

What made you go to TCU?

The distance and the “feel” of the campus…it just felt like the place I was supposed to be I guess. No place is perfect, and to be honest I was fortunate enough to have a lot of amazing options coming out of high school, but God made a way with TCU so here I am.

So instead of me trying to write his story for him, I’m going to let Mitchell tell it himself. So sit back and listen to this young man’s walk through adversity. In a way I guess you can call him the comeback kid.

To keep things as brief as possible…Going into my senior year of high school I had a good amount of attention from the professional end of baseball; I honestly didn’t know if I would be in Surprise, AZ or Fort Worth, TX come August…well, things started to happen I guess, weird things. My fingers started to go numb to the point where I’d look into my glove to make sure I was actually holding the ball. My command of the baseball obviously went completely out the window, and everyone started to notice. The pain started to show up, but I continued to tell no one except for my family. I thought it was in my head, I thought I was just being a baby, and I wanted to prove to my team that I wasn’t that draft guy all in it for myself; I wanted to win it for THEM. I did everything I could. Some of those moments on the hill are terrifying memories; I never knew a spot in the middle of so many people could make you feel so alone. As I continued to pitch through this monster of an injury, my mechanics began to break down simply because I didn’t really know where my arm was when I was throwing. Come first round of playoffs…had forearm tightness all week, of course that wasn’t going to stop me from throwing. I cruised through 3 innings, somehow finding ways to just throw strikes and get outs like I had to all year, but my arm really felt bad that day. 4th inning came, and there my elbow went. My arm shot back on a fastball with 2 quick outs already in the books. I tried to throw a curveball…50 footer. Motioned to my coach for one last pitch; I knew it was the last pitch I’d ever throw in high school. As the ball went soaring inside for a ball, I had an immense amount of pain. Weeks went by, MRI’s in the books…we still didn’t know. The day before the draft, we find out after another doctor’s diagnosis that I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; that’s what was causing all the numbness in my arm. I had surgery to relieve it, and figured the elbow would be fine because the MRI’s came out okay…as I rehabbed all summer, finishing 4 weeks ahead of schedule, I began to toss again, and with the tossing came the pain I knew too well. I got another MRI and found out I had actually ripped my UCL off of my forearm bone, and would need Tommy John Surgery to repair it, even though the ligament itself was not torn. TJ has an average recovery of 13 months…I was immediately medically red-shirted, and so the story continued. I got surgery on August 31, of 2012, and threw my first ball off of the mound on April 20, 2013. I should be clear for competition by mid-late summer, which would put me about 3 months ahead of the average pace, and to be honest, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Yeah…I went from potential Day One pick in the draft as an 18-year old high school student, to a kid who wouldn’t throw a ball off the mound in 358 days in about 4 months…yeah, people said I was all hype, said I couldn’t handle the pressure, said that I would never come back from one surgery that ended Chris Carpenter’s career, let alone Tommy John Surgery immediately after…and yes, I have never had that much on my plate at once in my entire life…but never…ever…have I seen the light of Jesus so clearly shone upon my life as I have in these moments. As it says in Psalm 32:8…”I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go, I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” That is EXACTLY what He did… He gave me confidence in that fact that I didn’t have to worry about my future, no matter what my present contained…He gave my a hope for what was to come and the fruit that would bear from the tireless work I put in…and He gave me every single thing I needed at the EXACT moment I needed it….

this isn’t the story of perfection; this is the story of someone who is eternally grateful for Jesus Christ and His ability to find perfection in my imperfection.

I needed these things to happen in my life for a distinct purpose…TOS and TJ are in no way hurdles to overcome; they are 2 pillars that kept my foundation from falling…They are the best things that have ever happened to me, and I pray I have received, and will continue to receive everything God has for me through these experiences…its been a battle, but moreover, it’s been such a blessing because He has walked with me every step. “To God be the glory.”

What a battle through adversity that Mitchell went through but his foundation in Christ helped him keep his focus through this storm in his life. Mitchell now shares how he made his faith his own.

Tell me about your Spiritual Journey in life?

Well, in case my story didn’t reveal enough…I grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ around age 6 or 7, and can honestly say I’ve been a “pretty good kid” my whole life. I have never drank a drop of alcohol in my entire life, I am a virgin, and I haven’t committed any felonies unless a speeding ticket counts. But when I really made my faith my own, and really worked on “my walk” rather than the basic “good person” people think of when they think of a Christian, was when I realized God gave me a gift, and it was my responsibility to max it out. I have always dreamed of being a Major League Baseball Player till I can’t play anymore, and when I saw the signs that He equipped me to do just that, my entire perspective on life changed. I began to work hard, I found out what initiative, determination, resilience, and so many other things really mean…to be honest, as ironic as this sounds, the reason why baseball never was my identity is simply because baseball was the means in which I found out my true identity that comes from Jesus Christ. And now, the two are completely independent…I play for Christ, seeking to honor Him through this game I love so much. Baseball is a gift, and a means in which I can meet others that love Him or don’t even know Him…it’s a spiritual battleground.

It is inspiring to  know that Mitchell is truly striving to be more ike Jesus every day. The sports world and media for the past few months have been talking about gay athletes. I wonder how many would talk about a baseball payer being a virgin. I’m guessing not many but young people need to hear more stories ike Mitchell’s.

Share your story of how Christ has changed your life.

The truth of Jesus Christ really gives my life purpose. Ultimately, I believe everyone tends to struggle with significance…and as an athlete; we tend to try to solve that problem through our respective sport, and with that come many other things. God made it clear early on that I was significant enough to die for…all of my lying, cheating, lusting, stealing, everything…He knew I would do it, and still died for me.

As soon as I UNDERSTOOD that, that was it for me; I knew that this life was going to be an extraordinary journey.

Each one of us are on a journey in life with its mountains and valleys, storms and rainbows and lessons along the way. The most important journey in life is our spiritual one because when it is all said and done, it’s the only journey that will matter.

When did you start your journey with Christ?

Officially age 6 or 7…but when it really became real and alive was around age 12-13 when I discovered the gift He gave me in the game of baseball…. because the game meant so much to me, Him giving me that gift just because He can meant so much more. I realized it wasn’t about me…it was about Him.

Who instilled your faith in you?

My parents set a Godly example from day one…if I ever have a shadow of a doubt of what to do, or what Godliness looks like, I look to them. I pray I can be half the parents to my kids, that my parents were to me…I don’t have words to express my love and gratitude for them. There just aren’t any.

When we walk on this earth there are people who help us by influencing each step we take in our journey in life. Here are some of the ones who have influenced Mitchell’s journey.

Was there someone one in your life who influenced you spiritually?

My parents, family as a whole, friends, Lecrae, Dr. David Pendergrass, and even people like Tim Tebow.

 Is there someone now that helps you in your spiritual walk?

My family, Lecrae, Tripp Lee, Chauncey Franks (FCA Leader), Michael Lorenzen, and then to be more specific seeing I haven’t bragged on him yet, my brother. He is an incredible writer, has an awesome story of his own, and his transformation and walk is honestly a daily dose of inspiration for me to look up, get up, and never get up…He is one of my few heroes, even though he is 13 months younger than me. I love him very, very much.

Is there anyone who has changed your life or inspired you in your walk?

My Dad, my Mom, my brother, my sister, Dr. David Pendergrass, Lecrae, Tim Tebow, and Michael Lorenzen are the names that come to my mind. Actually there is one more…her name is Laura Valby; she is one of my best friends if not my best friend apart from my family. She has changed my life in so many ways it’s incredible. She is the epitome of what a Christian girl fixed with her eyes on Jesus looks like…she’s my superstar.

Where do you attend church at?

Community of Faith is the name of the church I attend back home. At TCU I attend a weekly chapel service called Ignite…It’s difficult to find a church here with baseball always on the weekend. But don’t you worry; I’ll find a way.

Did you ever have to choose between faith and sports growing up and today?

Kind of. I realized that what “baseball” may be to some, isn’t what it is to me. I don’t dip…I don’t cuss…I don’t look for fights on the field or talk trash…I don’t go sleep with “my girl” after the game, or find cleat-chasers to hang with following a big win…I have had to always keep in mind that baseball is a gift, and to whom much is given much is also required…I do everything I can not to take this opportunity a gift for granted, and part of that is refusing to mess around with those things and focusing on 3 things…my effort, my attitude, and my preparation. That’s plenty to work on…. Trying to be great is a daily decision, just as being follow of Christ is.

Is it hard to be a Christian and play college baseball?

Not for me to be honest. I don’t mean that in an arrogant sense by any means… temptation is always there. But He always seems to protect me from it. I’ve learned that if I live for people’s acceptance, ill die from their rejection…so I don’t seek to “fit in.” It’s not surprising that people think I am just a goody-goody teddy bear, or that its “cute” I don’t drink or cuss, or that I wont be tat guy that gets the hottest girl in the room…I expect those things, and day by day He has aided me in understanding how to deal with those realities, while never forgetting…the cream rises to the top; He has, and always will have my back. Dishonoring Him just because its “too hard” simply isn’t an option; it’s just not.

Any great stories of how you have witness to others about Jesus?

I do everything I can to walk the 1 Peter 3:15 life…always being ready to give an “apologia” for my faith…It’s not my job or my place to press Jesus on people. I don’t walk around telling people what they do wrong, what they should be doing, or how badly they need Jesus. Instead, I befriend people out of true love; I view people as people, not projects. If I am asked a question, which I am asked PLENTY, I answer the best way I can. I set the best example I can and realize my decisions don’t just affect me or impact my life… people are always watching. My life is my testimony; it’s my walk that I seek to be the ultimate witness to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. People notice…doesn’t mean they change their lives on the spot, but they definitely see that I have a reason to do what I do, and if that puts the pebble in their shoe that they have to take a look at come sometime than praise God for that. And don’t get me wrong, I’m no where near perfect, nor do I try to be…I just do my best to be articulate about my life’s “why” questions, and do my best to let others know my hand isn’t fit for the gavel; im their friend not their judge.

Do your teammates know you’re a Christian?

Yes they do.

Has sports challenged your faith?

Absolutely. There was a time when all this happened with my surgeries, and I wondered if I had wasted the last 10 years of my life on something I thought I was supposed to do, but really wasn’t at all being called to do. The enemy sneaks into the smallest crevices…but I was reminded God is not the author of confusion it is that fact that immediately fired me up and got my roaring to go again. Any kind of hardship challenges your faith…but adversity is a beautiful thing; the greatest of characters are seared with scars.

What does it mean to be a role model?

My goodness…a role model. It’s humbling. Yeah…it’s very humbling because to be honest I’m not any more special than the kid who sits next to me in my Calculus class.

“You see, the definition of me changed the moment Christ stepped in…it is no longer I who lives, but He who lives in me; we are a team, an inseparable team. So when it comes to “being a role model”, I think that goes hand in hand with being a Christian…I’m humbled to be viewed in such an honorable manner, but I realize that I don’t deserve the credit, I don’t deserve the limelight…there is a One who deserves all of that, and His name is Jesus Christ.”

What a powerful statement about being a role model in today’s world. This goes back to Mitchell’s picture, I Am Second. Mitchell gives all the credit and glory to Christ for having the opportunity to be an example to others. 

Is it hard as a Christian athlete w/ temptations that are all around you?

No doubt about it. Temptation is a battle for all people, Christian or not. Christianity doesn’t protect you from anything, if anything, it puts a big red X on your back. I’m a target, but I’m not alone…so I fall, I get back up, and I never stop fighting. The War was one 2000 years ago… so I really don’t worry about what happens to me or about the mistakes I make, those things are like a sunk cost; you knew they’d happen long before they did. It’s my response to all those things that acts as compass for the path I choose to travel…though I may fall, I will respond with my eyes on Christ.

Before a game do you spend time in prayer?

Absolutely. Before every inning, after I throw my last warm-up pitch, I get ball back, face home plate and pray whatever my heart has on it. After I give it up to him, I step onto the rubber, look up to home plate, and go to battle.

Does the team pray?

Some guys do. After we break from signs and whatnot after infield and outfield, most of the guys take knees individually and pray what’s on their heart, and most of them silently. Some guys get with one another though.

Are there other teammates who share your faith?

Yes, although I wont say them by name, there are a few other guys on the team that are believers and are active in their pursuit of Jesus and His calling on their life.

Fav. scripture?

Geeze…so tough! Psalms is my favorite book, as I seem to give a lot of qualities similar to that of King David, or so I am told. I would say my favorite verse is probably Psalm 18:31-34…I love Psalm 91, 1 Corinthians 2:9, Romans 12:2, Jeremiah 29:11, Jeremiah 17:7, Matthew 17:20, and John 16:33 to name a few others.

What verse has been the most powerful to you with your walk with Christ and how has it?

1 Corinthians 2:9…”No eye has seen, no ear has heard, what the Lord has in store for those who love Him.” No matter what monsters I face in this life, and no matter how hard things get…He has my back, and He has me covered.

“All I have to do is continue to MAXOUT what He has given me in my life…because I love Him, He will be with me always…it’s only the beginning.”

We have been hearing so many stories of athletes in the news who have decided to share about their homosexual lifestyle, who have got arrested for drugs and so many other stories.  Here is a story of a TCU pitcher who has given his life to Jesus Christ and who truly is a role model. Please share this glimpse into the life of Mitchell Traver with your friends, family and even ESPN. One day we will see the comeback kid take he hill and throw out a pitch for the Houston Astros. His story of keeping his faith through adversity inspired me and I hope it will do the same for you.

Mitchell thank you for inspiring us to walk our journey and MAXOUT what God has given us. We are rooting for you and know that God has a plan and purpose for you. Keep on walking in his steps.

Be Thankful

Posted: November 21, 2012 by John D. Hayden in Sports Devotionals
Tags: ,

“Be thankful not just on Thanksgivining Day, but every day of the week.” Look at what God did for you, is doing for you and what he will do for you in the years to come. You might not score 138 points in a basketball game, but be thankful for the talents God has given you.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is hard to live by this passage, to give thanks no matter what circumstance you are in. We need to be reminded where Paul is when he wrote this passage, in a Roman jail cell. There is always something to be thankful for in our lives. Thankfulnes, or graitude, is a heart posture. We can’t fake being thankful and we can’t fight it either. We need to take long deep look inside our hearts. We can hurt and struggle day by day but knowing that Jesus died for me and went through so much for me, gives me that peace and thankfulness in my heart.  So take the time this week to count your blessings and see what God has done for you and turn your eyes upon Jesus. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

(Photo: Twitter/Josh Whipp)

With the Olympics now almost reaching an end, there have been many memorable moments so far in this London 2012 games. There was Michael Phelps in the pool winning his 22nd career medal and 18th gold of his career, establishing himself as one of the best Olympians of all-time. On the track, there was Usain Bolt, who became the first man to repeat as the 100 meter dash champion since American Carl Lewis.

However, I want to keep my focus here on one event that caught my eye during last week. That was the gymnastics. Before the Olympics began, I filled out a prayer request form from a group called Athletes in Action. In the e-mail I got sent back, I received the names of five Christian athletes from all around the world to pray for throughout the Games. They came from a variety of sports from table tennis to swimming to soccer.

The one sport I watched over the past week that made me praise God most of all was the gymnastics. In particular, the athlete I want to spotlight is 16-year-old American Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas. Douglas won the women’s all-around competition last Thursday night, ending it in style with a dazzling floor routine.

It was her comments to NBC afterwards that made me a huge fan of hers.  This is what she told the NBC reporter:

“It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”

Douglas is absolutely right! When we give glory to God, win or lose, we are rewarded. However, it is not an earthly reward we should expect, but a heavenly reward. You can still bring glory to God in whatever you do, even if you are not a gold-medal athlete.  Paul tells the people about this in a letter to the Colossians:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

Today, I exhort you to continue bringing glory to God in whatever you do. Remember that without God, we would not be able to do anything. He gets the glory and like Gabby said, all the blessings come down to us. The love of Jesus should always remain in our hearts! True, we can win a gold medal or eighteen like Michael Phelps, but the ultimate prize that we have is eternal life given through the death of Jesus on the cross!

The Miami Heat: A Lesson In Humility

Posted: June 23, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in NBA, Sports Devotionals

Photo Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

The whole sports world is buzzing over the coronation of the “king”. On Thursday night, the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. More importantly, it was the first NBA Championship ring for Lebron James. The man who had the infamous “Decision” two years ago now finally got his time in the limelight for the right reasons. He told ESPN that it was about time and he was right.

After nine years of high expectations that were Jordanesque, playoff failures, and comments about telling the media to live our lives, LeBron finally got that title. Two years ago, I was a Lebron James fan. Then, when he announced his decision to join Dwyane Wade in South Beach, I became a person that rooted against him. I was so happy last year when Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks showed that you could still win the championship as a team and not just because you have two superstars.

However, in these playoffs, we saw a different Miami Heat team. They went through so much adversity whether it was the series deficits to Indiana and Boston, the injury to Chris Bosh, a Game 1 2nd half collapse against OKC or cramps to James in Game 4, Miami always had an answer. They fed off the tough Finals’ loss from a year ago and realized that we couldn’t just win the championship by showing up. There had to be hard work put in and teamwork that was shown with James and Wade getting guys like Bosh, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers involved in the offense.

I always thought after last year, especially with the big party the Big Three threw after the Decision, that this team was too focused on their egos and that greatness was just going to come in a matter of seconds. You can just flashback to the not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7 titles comments by James at that party as an example.

Thursday night, I heard a different LeBron James and one that I could get back to not disliking him again because I think he finally felt humble and realized he needed to win this not for the haters, but for himself and his teammates. Take a look at some quotes I took from the Game 5 postgame news conference.

“It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person,” he said. “I was just happy I was able to get back to this position. I was happy I was able to do it the right way, and do it for myself and not for anyone else.”

“The best thing that happened to me was losing the Finals, and me playing the way I played,” he revealed, “because basically, I got back to the basics. I knew I was going to have to change as a basketball player and as a person to get what I wanted. It just happened one year later.” (NBA.com)

As Christians, we can all learn a lesson from LeBron James and the Miami Heat. It is all about being humble. We can have good success at our jobs or with our friends and feel good about it, but the danger comes when we think we are the greatest. It becomes a trap of falling in love with wordly things rather than focusing on God above who gives us the gifts to achieve that success and His unfailing love that brings us encouragement to succeed.

The perfect example of that humility is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul talks about Jesus’ loving example in his epistle to the Philippians. He talks about us taking on the interests of others rather than ourselves, but more importantly, imitating the mindset of Jesus. God’s Son was of high esteem in Heaven, but because God loved us so much, He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins so that by faith in who He is and what He did we could be forgiven. Talk about going from the top of the mountain to being mocked on the cross as a criminal. This is what Paul writes:

“but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:7-10)

Now LeBron is not Jesus, but looking at “king James” helps to remind me of the true KING! Jesus is the King of Kings and He is great and Holy! Today, I exhort you to trust in the Lord in all things and continue to remain humble. Always put the Lord first in everything that you do because without Him, none of it would be possible. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew: 

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”(Matthew 23:12)

I pray that I, as well as all of you, continue to remember that the Lord gives us our platforms to spread the Gospel, and, even though some might praise us for our efforts, remember that all the praise and the glory does not go to us, it goes to the Lord! We do it ALL FOR HIM!

 

Mother’s Day

Posted: May 12, 2012 by John D. Hayden in NBA, Sports Devotionals

I have been watching the NBA playoffs this year mostly because my favorite teams: The Thunder and the Celtics are still in it. Something I have noticed lately is how many times the camera focuses on a players mother and then the commentators make a comment about her. I have seen Kevin Durant’s mom on the screen several times this year smiling, clapping and at times jumping up and down and cheering for her son.
I even had the opportunity to visit with a mother who’ son plays basketball for the Jayhawks. Even during the Championship game this year, the camera focused on her face for a quick second. It is great to have the support of your mom while you pursue your dreams. It is great to watch these Mom’s on the camera cheering and even at times crying for their sons.

God tells us in Ephesians 6:1-3:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Growing up I always dreamed about being the next John Elway and John Stockton. My Grandpa told me that I had a great arm and should play quarterback. I played neighborhood football and even flag football but when it was time to play tackle my dream was crushed. My mom wouldn’t let me play because she was afraid I would get injured and break my neck. So instead of playing football my parents bought me a moped and on the first day to drive it, I wrecked it and broke my collarbone. So basketball was my next dream to fufill but again my dream was crushed because Im not a great basketball player. I played in Junior High and my mom was at every game cheering me on even when I was on the bench.
When I got into High School, I decided to go out for track cause I thought I could be in the Olympics one day. (very funny) So I signed up to run distance and throw the Javelin. Well I never made it to the Olympics but I did get to run the 800 at the Ulysses Invitational track meet in front of hundreds of people. To be completely honest I cheated at track by not practicing like I should havs. Our coach would drop us off at in the countrt and we would need to run back to the track. Well I had a friend pick me up and drop me off a block from the track and I would get some water to wet myself down to look like I was sweating. So on the day of our invitational track meet I get to show everyone that Im not in shape at all. So we line up for our race, the gun goes off and Im in first place for awhile until I totally run out of gas and everyone passes me and I end up in last place. I keep running and get passed again by half of the runners. Everyone makes it to the finish line except for me and before I even get there they are starting up another race. I decide to just quit until I hear this voice saying, you can do it John David. That voice was my sweet mother who has always been there for me during this race called life.
I finished that race and my mom just a few months ago finished her race. This year has been really tough for me, losing my job and losing my mom. My mom is my hero, my spiritual mentor, my support and who I dearly miss. I regret not being able to see her as much as I would have like too. Tomorrow we celebrate Mother’s Day and this will be the first year I wont be able to call my mom or send her a card in the mail.
Just as Timothy had his mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, pass their faith to him, my mom did the same for my sister and me.
She would pray for me, she would read the bible to me, she took me to worship right after I was born and taught me about what Jesus did for me. My mom, Sandra Hayden, never had a camera focused on her, never had the tv commentators talk about her but my mom is the greatest mom that a son could ever have.
Today I want to shine the spotlight on her and let the world know how blessed I am to have her in my life. When football, basketball and track didnt work out, Tennis was my next choice and at every tennis match there was my mom cheering me on even when she didnt know the rules of the game. Every dream I has my mom supported me in it even when some of those dreams never were fulfilled. It is because of the values, principles, morals that she lived by and passed on to me is the reason Im the man who I am today.
She taught me how to love, laugh, dream, live for Jesus, be a servant, care for others, smile and make others wonder what you are up to and she taught me to be myself. I remember my Junior year of high school when I got into a fight with Greg Oxford. I pushed him because he made fun of my mom and when I turn back around he punched me in the nose and I bled everywhere. My mom was 4′ 8″ and I was teased about her in junior high and high school. This particular day my mom had to come and pick me up from school. When the principal told her the story of what happened and the reason I got into this fight, she started to cry because I stood up for her.
There are so many stories about her but I want to leave you with one. When she was in the hospital in Wichita, KS dealing with bleeding and her liver I wanted to go see her but I didnt have the money to go. I called her a few times and the last time I talked to her was when she was in the ICU because of a sweet nurse letting my mom use her phone. During our phone conversation everytime I wanted to ask how she was she ended up turning it around asking about how I was and how my family was. She knew we were struggling and cared so much about our pain and forgot about her own. She told me on the phone to be strong, trust God, love my family, tell my family she loved them and to never give up on my dreams. That was the last time I talked to her and two days later my wife shows up to work to tell me my mom died. I miss you mom so much but I know you are in Heaven cheering me on like you always did and from the crowd yelling at me, John David, you can do it and keep running the race and never give up.
So this Mother’s Day, wrap your mothers with love and show them how much you admire them and appreciate them because you never know how much longer you will have them in your life.
Happy Mother’s Day to the greatest mom who ever lived and who taught me so much. I love you
mom !!

Running The Race: A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Posted: May 11, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in Sports Devotionals

Throughout my entire life of watching sports, some of the people I have had the most respect for has been endurance runners. They put in hard work for 364 days a year in training for that one event. Then, on Marathon Day, the training all comes into fruition.

I was never a marathon runner, nor even a person who was interested in running a race. However, as I walk on the road with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I realize that it is not a sprint, but a MARATHON! Along the path of the race, the apostle Peter tells us about how there will be many trials and tribulations that come along our way. In any of the major sports, teams will face tough stretches where their teamwork will be tested, but it’s how they come out of those tests that determine whether or not they are “championship material”.

When I first came up with this very site, I looked at a verse that eventually became my mission statement. The two verses, which come from Hebrews read like this:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

This verse stood out to me because the writer is trying to tell his readers that when you follow Jesus, you have to endure the entire marathon. The first step is to run the race and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior who was the propitiation for your sins. He finished the grueling part of the race that we could never finish!

As the runner is participating in the long race, fatigue begins to set in. In the heavenly race, we can consider fatigue to be temptation whether it is not praying every day or letting your Bible collect dust, etc. We all face these kinds of temptations and at times, we succumb to those temptations. However, Jesus wants us to drink the living water and trust in Him at all times.  Jesus told the woman at the well at Samaria to drink the living water that ultimately leads to our salvation.

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

With the exception of a few gifted runners, most people run a marathon to finish the race! As Christians, we are taught to run to the finish line or in other words, until the Lord calls us home to be with Him!After you accept the walk, there is still training that we all need in order to become fully enriched into God’s Word.

Spiritual training is something we all need to do 365 days a year in order to run the race every day. It takes a lot of effort to stay on the course and sometimes we may slip up, but the goal we have to remember is receiving that heavenly reward when we come to be with the Lord. Take a look at what Paul tells the people of Corinth about the need for self-discipline:

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV)

In ancient Greece, runners used to compete for an olive wreath that would be placed around their heads. We need to keep running for that heavenly reward at the finish line rather than be distracted by the earthly rewards that are trying to be our stumbling blocks.

Just being in the competition is not enough! We can’t just say that now we are saved by the blood of Jesus that we can do whatever we want. It does not work that way. Paul told Timothy that “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5, ESV).

While God did save us from the curse of the Law, this does not mean we should ignore the commandments that God has placed in our hearts and minds. That is why the training becomes important during our running. While it may get discouraging that people may pass you along the way, you should keep your head up, put your trust in the Lord because He knows what is best for you!

Today, I exhort you to keep running that race. While it may seem difficult at times and the easy path might seem tempting, remember the heavenly reward that God has set before you once you finish the race. His Son ran the grueling part of the race for us when He suffered and died on the cross for us so that we can have eternal life and have a heavenly reward! I also exhort you to keep reading the Word of God! When we are equipped with the Gospel, we can withstand any test the devil throws at us just like our Savior did in the wilderness. (Matthew 4)

When I made this site, I wanted other sports fans who did not know Jesus to come run the race with me. So as I end this devotion, I wanted to take an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that summed this up the best. I pray that you will spread this devotion to Christians and non-Christians alike and continue to press on toward the ultimate goal!

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)