Friday, August 11, 2017

Shall I Pray for Success?

Earlier this summer I received a call from a man whose son was playing in a baseball tournament and working out in a series of showcases in the pursuit of an offer to play for a college team. I have known his daughter, who played golf at our university and attended our Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings. The father and I had only met, face to face, one time.

He called as he was trying to discern whether it was proper to pray for his son to be successful. We had a great chat and a number of the ideas discussed are below. Much of what I told him was that it depends upon how one defines success. We chatted a couple more times during the summer as the process moved along and they contemplated opportunities.

I greatly respect John Wooden’s definition of success:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden
In this economy of success, yes, I believe it altogether appropriate to pray for success. In the world of sport’s normal economy of success: that I win every time, that I am first, that I am the greatest of all time; not so much.

I always pray for those I am serving to be successful, but I never pray regarding the results on the scoreboard. I pray that they fulfill their highest potential, that they compete to their absolute best ability, that they experience the best of their sport, that they are great teammates, that they experience the Lord Jesus' presence and pleasure in sport, that they find joy and satisfaction as they compete, and more. I believe this is success in sport.

A few of the prayers I have written for competitors to pray are below. I believe they are emblematic of this approach to success.

Powerful God of Heaven and earth,

Today's competition will require my absolute best and the same of my teammates.

Please give us to be at the heights of our abilities.

Please enable our hearts to be united.

Please grant us insight and wisdom.

Please infuse us with strength, speed, and endurance.

We would honor You with each and every second of this contest.

In Jesus' strong name we pray,

Amen.


Strong Father in heaven,

It is game day and I am ready.

Every fiber of my being is poised and prepared for a great day of competition.

I commit every moment, every breath, every movement,  and every thought to You.

May I be blessed with Your provision as I compete?

May I be honored by Your presence in this game?

May I bring Your heart pleasure throughout this day?

I pray and compete in Jesus' name,

Amen.


Father,

It is almost game time and my heart is racing.

My mind is full of anxiety.

My body is tense and tight.

Please quiet my heart.

Please speak peace to my mind.

Please relax my body.

This competition is for Your honor, for Your glory, and for Your pleasure.

I pledge to You the greatest devotion of my heart, the best thoughts of my mind, and the strongest efforts of my body.

In Jesus' strong name,

Amen. 


Earlier this week I received notice that the young player had received an offer from an NCAA Division I university to play baseball. The family expressed their thanks for praying with them about the process, and the young man tweeted his thanks to God for the offer. The player’s mother said, “This was such a God thing,” and promised to tell me the story about how the offer came about. I was pleased that they were seeking God’s counsel throughout the process, even more than simply comparing offers, academic programs, dormitory rooms, and team gear. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Did God Create Sport?

With his permission, I would like to share a recently received reflection from our dear friend and esteemed colleague, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport in the UK. http://www.veritesport.org/ Don’t miss the piercing question at the end.

Did God create sport?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth Genesis 1:1

Genesis contains in the first two chapters a magnificent account of the creation of the world. God is the creator of every single thing in this world, which the story pronounces over and over again ‘was good’. At the end of Genesis 1, we read: ‘God saw all that he had made and it was very good’. (v.31)

If we understand this and remember it, our attitude to God will be transformed. We will realise that we must worship him in all things and at all times.

So did God actually create sport as well as creating everything else? God did not actually create athletics or basketball but it was God who created people and made them able to run, jump, kick and catch. Sport is simply organized play in which we have the opportunity to use the talents that God has given us.

Reflection: If I really believed that my involvement in sport was an integral part of my Christian life, how would it change my attitude to sport?


If you would like to subscribe to Stuart’s weekly emails of similar content, simply email him at: stuart@veritesport.org

Friday, July 28, 2017

How can one’s spouse contribute to his or her ministry with sportspeople?

How can one’s spouse contribute to his or her ministry with sportspeople? Where are the opportunities for a spouse to enhance the ministry in a significant way? Across my twenty-three years of such service, my service has been greatly enhanced by my wife in several ways. Let’s consider some of the possibilities.

·        A spouse can be a tremendous complement to one’s service, in serving sportspeople in the home. In my case, my wife is tremendously gifted in hospitality. She is an excellent and creative cook, thus part of our service of sportspeople includes having them in our home for breakfast, dinner, dessert, or just snacks. As we host meetings or individuals in our home, the hospitality provided by my wife really sets the stage for my service. Her service makes mine better. If she was not willing to have people “invade our space” it would be much more difficult to serve and the setting for some of our most effective service would be lost.
·        A spouse can add perspective to one’s service, due to his or her personality, experience, and giftedness. As most couples are, my wife and I are much different in terms of style, temperament, and giftedness. I am an extrovert, she is an introvert. She serves very naturally, I have to think about it. She is intuitive about people and their motives, I am much more likely to judge things by their appearance. I trust her intuition about people and their motives. We compare notes about situations and her counsel leads to better decisions.
·        A spouse can be a valuable anchor to a sports chaplain’s busy life of travel. Sometimes a sports chaplain’s life may include travel with teams, to conferences, to training events, or other travel opportunities. In my case, I love to travel, but my wife does not. Some spouses love to travel with their busy sports chaplain husband or wife, but others would prefer to stay home. My wife, after forty-two years of marriage, does not want to tag along with me, just to have me work all the time, and leaving her to hang out in a hotel room. “No, thanks,” she says. The benefit to me is that when I travel in my sports chaplain role, I am able to be 100% on all the time. I spend no time thinking about pleasing her as we travel, nor adjusting to her speed. I am able to be my intense, extroverted, deeply engaged self with total freedom. Whether your spouse likes to travel with you or not, he or she may be a tremendous asset to your service.
·        A spouse can be an effective oasis for one’s consuming life with people of sport. In our roles, we often take on the stress, concerns, pain, successes, and failures of others. This can certainly wear one down, leading to fatigue and other effects upon our hearts. A wise, loving spouse can help distract us from the busyness and second hand pain we bear. My wife keeps me engaged in our extended family, helps me see other people in our community, and enables me to serve some of the people behind the scenes of the sports world. She volunteers in the equipment room with that staff during football preseason and then on game days. Her care for and personal connections with these people affords me unique opportunities to serve this often overlooked team of selfless people.

These are just a few of the myriad ways a spouse can be a tremendous complement to a sports chaplain, a character coach, or a sports mentor. I am reminded of the proverb, “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” I have certainly found a good wife, she is very good, and I have obtained great favor from the Lord. I pray that you find or have found a good spouse, and that you find similar favor from the Lord.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What about your service as a sports chaplain will matter in one hundred years?

What about your service as a sports chaplain, character coach, or sports mentor will matter in ten years, in twenty, in one hundred years? What do you do, how do you impact lives, whose lives are affected strongly enough that your service of them will have long lasting benefits? Let’s think about this challenging set of questions.

What about your service as a sports chaplain will matter in ten years? What you taught and modeled for them about success in life can have this sort of effect. When people see your approach to work, how you engage with people, your study habits, and other life skills, they can be significantly influenced for a good period of time.
What about your service as a sports chaplain will matter in twenty years? I would assert that what you taught and modeled for them about God honoring relationships have a strong effect for at least this long. As they observe your loving interaction with your spouse and children, they will be directly affected in a great way. What you teach them about relationships with teammates, coaches, support staff, people of the opposite sex, sports officials, and their opponents on the field of competition will shape their lives for decades.
What about your service as a sports chaplain will matter in one hundred years? What you taught and modeled for them about the person and work of Christ Jesus, that will matter after you and they are all dead, buried, and mostly forgotten. The clear and direct communication of the gospel of Christ will make an eternal difference. Your introduction to faith in the Lord Jesus can break generations of curses, foolish lifestyles, and condemnation that has been a millstone around the necks of many.
Whether your term of service with people in sport is a few weeks, a few months, a few years, or even a few decades, make investments in their minds, their hearts, and their lives. There will be fruit from your faithful service. It may appear in ten years, it may be most evident in twenty years, and it may be most strongly effective in one hundred years. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may send more workers into His field, this field, the field of sport.

Friday, July 14, 2017

When is it Time to Withdraw?

When is it time to withdraw? How does one know when it’s the right time to resign his or her role in serving sportspeople? This is likely the most painful part of our tenure of service because of the tearing it does at the fabric of our hearts. When we serve relationally, the loss of relationship hurts, and we feel the loss very personally. A USA colleague of mine was recently released from his role with a prominent university and it was very painful to him. He is seeking his next station of service, and I am certain he will land on his feet, but neither his, my, your, nor my opportunities last forever.

Below are some thoughts about factors that may make it time to withdraw from your service as a sports chaplain, character coach, or sports mentor.
·        When your opportunity evaporates. Whether due to coaching changes, management or administration decisions, or other factors, it’s pretty common that one’s opportunity to serve a team or club could simply evaporate. This has happened to me at least twice over the years. In each case I approached the new coaching staff properly, offered to serve, but the offer was declined. Suddenly the opportunity was gone. It was time to seek new opportunity, and it has appeared each time.
·        When you lose your passion for the people and the process. The moment that I find that I am more annoyed with the people of a particular team than I am energized by them, it will be time to leave this role to another person. When I begin to dread visits to the practice field, the court, the pool, the track, or the ballpark, it will be time to get out. When I can no longer handle long bus rides, hours at practices, the alternating elation of victory and crushing pain of loss, it will be time to leave.
·        When you sense God’s calling to some other avenue of service. It is altogether proper for one to serve in various ways, in differing capacities, with different communities across his or her lifetime. There are certainly seasons to sports culture, and there are seasons to one’s service of Christ. Observe Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. His areas of service varied widely as the geography changed and the people groups he encountered changed. His did not hang out at Jacob’s well throughout his ministry, just during John chapter 4. He was in Galilee for a season, in Jerusalem frequently, east of the Jordan on occasion, and even venturing through Samaria. We may find the Lord leading our hearts to a new station in our service. If so, seek a way to transition wisely, leaving this opportunity to another who is called to serve.
·        When you can no longer fulfill the role’s demands. There will probably be a day when your body will no longer be able to handle the physical rigors that come with your role as a sports chaplain. The way I have chosen to serve requires a good deal of energy, walking, standing, and long periods of concentration. My way of serving is very physically demanding and at sixty-one years of age, I can still do it. What about at age seventy? What about beyond that? If I cannot change how I serve, and I can no longer meet the physical demands, it may be time to withdraw.

These are just a few of the factors that may inform our hearts that it is time to leave this avenue of service to another. I would ask you, as I ask myself, to evaluate your service at the conclusion of each season, to look forward to the next one, and to either commit completely to serving with abandon, or to wisely withdraw, enabling another to serve in your place. 

The Apostle Paul challenges us at Ephesians 4:1 with these words, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…” I would echo his challenge by asking you to serve the people of sport with passion, energy, wisdom, and full commitment. That is service worthy of the calling with which we were called. Anything less is not worthy of Christ Jesus. When I can no longer do that, I will gladly walk away.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Restore


Restore. According to the dictionary, to restore is: re·store – to bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate.
To return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position. What is there about you that needs to be restored? What about you is broken and needs to be returned to a former condition, place, or position?

Across twenty-three years of serving in this role, I have been occasionally broken in various ways. I am often in need of restoration. Relationships get strained and need to be restored, more often than we would like. At sixty-one years of age, I need some occasional physical restoration. I find that my attitude is often a little sideways and needs restoration. How I think about particular issues, people, or groups often needs to be restored.

Regardless of the nature or the degree of your brokenness, find a way to be restored. There are certainly a number of ways to be restored, and I have listed some of the ways I have found to be most effective. These are often a little radical, but they are also very effective.

1.   Rest. Brokenness and pain is often the result of fatigue, sleep deprivation, and the loss of margin in our lives. Take some time off, rest, and be restored.
2.   Repent. Some of our brokenness is simply due to willful sin and foolish patterns of lifestyle. Repent. Change direction. Stop it. Be restored.
3.   Confess. Agree with God, and with trusted friends, that your brokenness is sin, and receive God’s forgiveness. Read I John 1:9 again, and again. Be restored.
4.   Ask forgiveness. The path to restoring relationships is to ask forgiveness and to extend it to others. Find a way to express your heart, bury your pride, and be restored.
5.   Resign. My brokenness is often because I’m overcommitted and serving outside my giftedness and calling. Yours could be as well. Resign from such roles and be restored.
6.   Refocus. As our brokenness dissipates and our vision clears, we are better able to focus on our calling from God, our giftedness, our strengths and weaknesses. This process of restoration enables us to refocus on wise and God-honoring goals. Refocus and be restored.

These ideas may seem really simple, and they are. Broken people don’t need complexity, they need a simple plan to be restored. Please take the time to appropriate one or more of these strategies and be restored. Those who care about you, those who work with you, those whom you serve; we all need you at your best. Restore.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Refuel

Refuel. It’s likely that you are occasionally feeling that you are out of gas. You seem to be running on empty. Your normal passion and energy seems to be in short supply, but you press on anyway because people are counting on you. You need to refuel. How? What does that for us?

In twenty-three years of serving people in sport, I have had a few occasions like that. In most cases it was due to being overly busy, distracted with unproductive tasks, and losing touch with my “Why.” In his excellent book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek challenges leaders to operate from their “Why,” the central reason they do what they do. The people we lead, the people we serve, those with whom we serve certainly experience “What” we do. They also perceive “How” we do it, but how clearly do we communicate the “Why” that is central to the whole process? The “Why” provides passion, purpose, and long-term direction for our service. Sinek calls this the golden circle, as illustrated here.

What we do, serving the men and women of sport in the name of Christ Jesus, is certainly shaped by How we do it, with humility, respect, compassion, understanding, and other important values, but if our service is not connected with a clearly defined Why, it will probably not endure for long and will likely wander from a wise and productive path.


If you are running on empty, take some time to contemplate on the Why of your ministry. Why do you do this? For the paycheck? I hope not, as most of us are volunteers. Why then? To apprehend this idea, to write it down, to distill it into an easily expressed sentence, can be a key part of refueling your passions, your energy, and your impact. I recommend the reading of Start with Why, as Sinek’s explanation and examples of those who do this very well. Refuel.

Shall I Pray for Success?

Earlier this summer I received a call from a man whose son was playing in a baseball tournament and working out in a series of showcases in...