Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

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.

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Photo: Bob Jones University Athletics

Photo: Bob Jones University Athletics

“I just want to exalt Jesus Christ as much as I can.”

I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with Ray Holden, JR about his passion in life. Ray plays basketball for the Bob Jones University Bruins. This past season was the inaugural season for the Bruins basketball program but this also was the first athletic season for the University.  The Bruins play in the USA South Athletic Conference and are a Division III athletic program. Bob Jones is a Liberal Arts College located in Greenville, SC and has an enrollment of about 4,000 students. Ray is one of them majoring in Youth Ministry and playing basketball. He wants to exalt Jesus in every dribble he makes on the court and every walk he takes off the court. His passion is sharing the love of Christ with everyone around him. Here is his interview with me:

Tell me a little about yourself-where u from? family?

My name is Raymond (Ray) Holden Jr., I’m 19 years old, a freshman Youth Ministries major at Bob Jones University. I am a proud athlete for the BJU Bruins basketball program. I’m from the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland and I have five other siblings, three older brothers, one older and one younger sister. My dad passed away six years ago and God has blessed me with a great mom who is loving, hard-working, and amazing in all that she does.

What made you go to Bob Jones University? talk about Bob Jones a little bit please.

It was truly the Lord’s plan for me to attend Bob Jones University. At the time I was running away from basketball and BJU didn’t have a team but they do have an outstanding ministry program and that’s the primary reason why I was attracted to the school. Bob Jones is a Liberal Arts College with an emphasis on building their students up to be great men and women for Jesus Christ. The school does a great job exposing its students to a number of things whether its drama, operas, sports, etc.

Talk a little about your coaches.

I couldn’t have been blessed with a better coaching staff. All the coaches have impacted me not only to be a better player but to be a better man as I grow in the Lord. I have been given books to read and inspirational posters or text messages a number of times that have encouraged me to do my best for God’s glory.

I saw that you are majoring in Youth Ministry? Is that your passion?

Youth Ministry is the biggest passion I have! Jesus Christ saved me at a young age and has changed my life dramatically as a teenager. I believe that teenagers and even those who are younger are the future and reaching them for Jesus Christ can have a huge impact on the World.

What is your passion in life? Would you like to go to the NBA one day?

My biggest passion in life is Youth Ministry but I would love to play in the NBA if I ever had the chance to. Reason why is because it’s such a huge platform to share Christ with others. Sometimes I dream of being the Tim Tebow of basketball.

Is there a difference going to Christian college than a non-Christian college?

I believe there is a difference between attending a Christian College and a non-Christian College. I have experienced both and I am more appreciative of attending a Christian College because I am constantly fed the Word of God whether it’s through class, chapel, small groups, basketball or personal devotions. Also, the environments are totally different in a number of ways and at a Christian College you really don’t have to worry about a lot of things. Well at Bob Jones you don’t lol.

What is its advantages and disadvantages?

Some advantages of a Christian College are spending time in God’s Word in chapel every day. Opening God’s Word with a body of believers is a blessing and having that freedom to worship is a privilege. Another advantage is that there are a lot of people who share the same faith as you. Also, the teachers and faculty do their best to help you grow in Christ as well. In addition, at a Christian College you really don’t have to worry about things like safety or things being stolen. Some disadvantages of a Christian College are becoming “stale” in your faith. Sometimes it is easy to hear God’s Word and tune out the preacher. Another disadvantage of going to a Christian College is meeting people who think they are holier than others.

Tell me about the Bruins? Was this season their first basketball season?

We just finished up our inaugural season and it was a great experience. Even though it was our first ever basketball season we did a good job being competitive with most of the teams we played and represented Christ well. We also progressed and learned how to deal with adversity as the season went on.

Your theme this year was Know God. What does that mean to you?

To me, knowing God is more than just having a head-knowledge of who God is. Knowing God is knowing Him through experience and having that personal relationship with Him that is solid and genuine. There’s a difference between knowing of someone and getting to know someone. When you get to know someone you spend time getting to know all about that person to help build your relationship.

Tell me about your Spiritual Journey in life: Share your story of how Christ has changed your life.

Growing up I was a rebellious kid with a really hard heart. I honestly didn’t care about life and I was quick to step on someone else to get the things that I wanted. To make a long story short by experiencing things the hard way and through a number of circumstances God got my attention and I trusted Him as my Savior at the age of nine. I struggled living the Christian life because I was living a double life. Around my friends I would do things to make it seem like I was tough but in church I would put on a whole new facade that people could see and know that I was a believer. I was challenged a number of times through sermons I’ve heard to be sold out for Jesus and not live a double life like James 1:8 tells us. So, I responded and told God I wanted to go into full-time Christian service. Ever since I’ve made that decision I have moments where I struggle but God is always shaping me and refining me through the refiner’s fire to convict me of sin so that I can confess it to Him and repent from it. It’s an ongoing process.

When did you start your journey with Christ?

March of 2004 is when I accepted Christ as my Savior and ever since then God has been faithful and has been molding me into the man who He wants me to be.

Who instilled your faith in you?

My Youth Pastor Aaron Finley

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

Three men come to mind: My Youth Pastor Aaron Finley, my high school coach Chris Gorham, and a teacher in my high school John Gorham. These three men have always been there to answer questions for me or just sit down and talk with me on how to live a spirit filled life. These three men have influenced and inspired me so much growing up and I thank them for that.

Has there been any dramatic events in your life that has shaken your faith or pulled you away from it? If so, how did not let your faith been shaken and how did you stay strong?

Although I didn’t have the best relationship with my father, I think when He passed I struggled the most because I know he died without Christ. I was always questioning God and asking Him why did He allow that to happen. Shortly after I lost my dad my best friend since 1st grade was hit by a car and killed. I didn’t understand but I would constantly remind myself that God’s ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9). I also viewed the death of my father as God calling me to the ministry because our lives in this world are only but a vapor and if I’m going to share Christ with someone I cannot hesitate and think that they will be here forever because they won’t. So it has encouraged me to step up and share the gospel when I’m given the opportunity to.

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

My coaches here at BJU, my high school coach and my youth pastor.

Where do you attend church at?

Grace Bible Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

Yes, Steve Pettit my sophomore year of high school, that summer had preached a message on double-mindedness and I realized I was double minded because I wanted to play basketball for the rest of my life but also be in the ministry.

Is it hard to be a Christian and play basketball?

It can get tough because as a believer in Christ you always have to be careful of how you react to different things on and off the court.

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

I was in Chicago doing a basketball missions trip with my high school team and we made bracelets just like the wordless book bracelets with the colors-black, red, white, green, and yellow-but instead of string we used a basketball net. Anyway, we were doing some sight-seeing in downtown Chicago and someone came up to me and asked what was the meaning of my bracelet. I shared the gospel with the teen and asked him if he knew Jesus Christ as his personal Savior he said no. So I asked if he was interested in accepting Christ as his Savior and he said yes. That day in the inner city of Chicago near the Giant bean I led a teen to Christ, gave him a bracelet, and encouraged him to tell his friends the gospel as well.

Has sports challenged your faith or faith challenged your sports?

My faith has challenged my sports by testing me on whether or not I was really playing sports for my glory or God’s glory.

What does it mean to be a role model?

To be a role model is to be a leader or an example setter. These people have to be willing to lead others in a positive way, and to impact the lives of those following their examples.

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

It is difficult because people tend to place you on a pedal stool and soon pride will creep in just before you stumble. I try to remind myself daily that the pleasure in Heaven is far more and far greater than the temporary pleasures we can receive instantly down here on Earth.

Faviorte scripture? Faviorte song?

Two Favorite songs because I can’t have one haha are His Robes for Mine by Chris Anderson and Struggle by Tenth Avenue North. My favorite passage in the Bible is Acts 20:19-24

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

Philippians 3:7-8 says, “But what things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may WIN Christ.” The things in this world that I achieve and gain are nothing compared to what I can have in Jesus Christ.

What advice would you give my 11 yr old son who plays basketball but has to sit on the bench sometimes.

Remember if you quit now that will be the pattern of your life. Your time will come and once you are given that one shining moment make sure you play hard to please your Savior not man and God will bless you for that. 1 Cor 10:31

Any other comments you might like to say.

“What it all boils down to is that I’m a nobody who knows Somebody that everybody should know and that’s Jesus Christ!”

Ray tore his ACL and Meniscus recently. This is what he said about going through this ordeal in life. “At first I was a little down about it but I thought to myself maybe this is God trying to get my attention. When sheep wander away from the shepherd, excuse the analogy, but the Shepherd breaks the leg of the sheep so that the sheep would not wander away anymore and now has to depend on the Shepherd. God has something to teach me and I’m honored that He chose me to have this injury because He wants our relationship to grow.”

Ray is a great young man and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to share his passion with you all. I decided to start writing more about Christ and sports. The best way to do that is to interview these athletes who are passionate more about Christ than they are about the sport they are playing. Look for more interviews to come. Thanks to Ray for blessing us with his story and sharing with us his passion.