Tag Archives: sports

When a fastball looks more like a change up: Relying on God’s strength instead of your own

Power pitcher, Roger Clemons, won over 350 games, struck out 4672 batters, and won two World Series Championships during his illustrious major league baseball career that spanned over twenty years with four different teams. Roger was elected to his first of 11 All Star teams in 1986, his third year in the league. Clemons took the mound as the starting pitcher for his American League team in the bottom of the first inning and though he was able to get through the inning without giving up a run, he was clearly nervous.


As a Boston Red Sox, playing in the American League, where a designated hitter is allowed, Roger had not had to bat during his major league career. Now playing the All Star game in a National League ballpark, where there is no designated hitter, Roger stepped to the plate in the top of the second inning to face National League counterpart, Dwight Gooden. Clemons struck out looking at three straight pitches. As the story goes, he returned to the dugout and asked his fellow teammates if his pitches looked the same as the ones he just faced. A teammate responded, “No, you pitch harder.” Clemons returned to the mound brimming with confidence and pitched two more shutout innings. He earned the All Star game MVP and went on that season to not only win his first of 7 Cy Young Awards (an award given to the best pitcher in each league) but also the American League MVP award, which is rarely given to a pitcher.


Like Clemons, I wonder how often I lose confidence and grow insecure because I lose perspective. Clemons needed to be reminded of the strength and power behind his fastball. I need to be reminded of God’s strength and power through me. Unfortunately, Roger’s ability to throw a 90 mile per hour fastball faded over time and his career eventually ended. Fortunately, God’s strength and power never fades and are at my disposal at all times.

However, much of the time, it sure doesn’t feel like it! Instead of an All Star, power pitcher able to strike out the side, I typically feel like an old, washed up knuckleballer getting hit all over the park!  And in those moments of weakness I realize three things:

1. I’ve often lost sight of my identity in Christ. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” As God’s child, I have been called up to play in the major leagues yet I often act as if I’m still in the minors.

2. Because I lose sight that I am a child of God, I begin to rely on my own strength and abilities. However 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

3. I tend to forget that the moments of weakness, when my confidence has been shaken, are the times when God’s power is most evident. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul says, “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” And when God’s power is made evident in my life, God’s name is glorified, and my confidence grows… not confidence in my own ability. No. My confidence in my identity as God’s child grows, a child who has access to her Father’s strength and power to do things that are beyond comprehension or imagination.




Why I HATE Running (and do it anyway)


I’ve always hated running. The mile run in gym class was my personal nemesis each and every year. I dreaded it so much. I can still hear my PE teacher, Mr. Reimers, shouting “I can crawl a mile in 15 minutes so you all better finish faster than that!” I always made it, but not by much! So no one was more surprised than me when I took up running four years ago. I still hate running, and I don’t think that will ever change. I do it anyway, and here’s why.

1. I’m an ugly runner. It’s truly painful to watch. (Don’t believe me? Check out the pics in Running with Jesus.) But God’s creation is beautiful. I don’t even listen to music while running anymore. Instead I pay attention to the smell of lilacs in full bloom, the trees swaying in the breeze, and the stars, which have always been one of my favorite things in all of God’s creation!

2. I hate how I feel during a run, but I love how I feel after a run. Truthfully, I feel like I might die during a run. My lungs burn, my legs feel like dead weights, and my joints ache with every pounding step. But I love the adrenaline rush when it is all over! I feel stronger. I feel calmer. Somehow stress seems to melt away during a run and after there’s a new sense of clarity.

3. I hate that I’m not good at it, but I love that I’m getting better. Running is so concrete and measurable. I can see the improvement as I run longer and improve my pace. There’s a new “PR” possible with every time out.

4. I hate that I can’t compete with other runners, but I love the encouragement runners offer one another. It is a beautiful example of what Christian community is supposed to look like. Throughout his letters, Paul repeatedly urged followers of Jesus to encourage one another, build each other up, to be of one mind, and to live in peace. This is exemplified in the running community. No fellow runner, regardless of their skill level, has ever demeaned me for mine. Instead, I’ve received nothing but encouragement. I’ve even experienced more skilled, faster runners, coming back to cheer me on as I struggle to finish a race. I pray the Christian community learns to follow the lead of runners!

5. I hate how challenging running is for me, but I love taking on the challenge. Nothing is quite as satisfying as accomplishing something you weren’t quite sure you could do. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie “A League of Their Own.” The coach of the Rockford Peaches looks at his star player who has just quit the team because it “got too hard” and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” How true! There is little satisfaction in doing something that’s easy.

6. I hate that running forces me to realize just how out of shape I really am, but I love that running is helping me take better care of my body. God has given me an earthly body and asked that I take care of it. I’m going to be honest, I don’t do a good job of caring for my body. The worse the food is for you, the more likely it is to be one of my favorites! And I can easily spend an entire day (or week) just laying on the couch, watching countless hours of television. But caring for my body means eating foods that are good for me and moving to the point of sweating. Running encourages me to eat in a more healthy way and gets my behind off the couch. I want the energy and stamina to serve God for many years to come, which means I need to take good care of the body He has given me!


7. I hate running but I love the way it has improved my spiritual life. I connect with Jesus when I run. I has done wonders for my prayer life because I’m in need of Jesus’ strength the entire time! I connect with God in a wonderful, unique, and inexplicable way when I’m running. Perhaps it is because running is often used as a metaphor for the journey of following Jesus. Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah speak of God’s strength allowing those who trust in Him to run and not grow faint or weary. Paul urges Jesus followers to run with purpose and determination in 1 Corinthians. In Hebrews, running is used as a way to encourage Christians to persevere even when life is difficult. Since I’m not planning on buying a sheep farm anytime soon, running is one of the Biblical analogies I can participate in and experience first hand.


And that’s where the connection to identity comes into play. The more I experience my relationship with Jesus in real and tangible ways, the more I am able to understand that my identity is found in His love for me. The more I rely on Him to do things that are difficult and challenging, the more I experience that love in real and powerful ways. So I’ll likely always hate running, but I’ll keep doing it anyway because I’ll always love what it does for my life.


Healing Hurts


I spent nearly every summer of my youth on a softball diamond. Sports, especially softball, is a wonderful teacher of life lessons. I learned about teamwork, respect, the power of believing in yourself, winning, losing, hard work, humility, sacrifice, and pain. Yes, I learned a lot about pain! Most people are “playing hurt” by the end of the season, but I also witnessed my fair share of season ending injuries.

One such injury happened on an otherwise routine play at the plate. I was playing first base and my friend, Megan, was pitching. After a wild pitch, Megan ran to cover home plate in an attempt to prevent the runner at third, now charging down the line, from scoring. Unfortunately, she set her feet incorrectly and as the runner slid into home, instead of sliding between Megan’s feet, she slid right UP Megan’s right leg, now blocking the way to the plate. Playing first base meant I had rotated to the pitcher’s mound and had a front row view of the metal cleat slicing through Megan’s uniform and driving up her calf. However, the strangest thing happened. This gruesome injury didn’t bleed! Not one drop hit the ground or shown through onto her white uniform pants. It seemed that as the runner slid into Megan’s leg, her body drug an abundance of dirt with her than packed the fresh wound.


Gross, I know… but there are many lessons about healing emotionally in this story. When emotional wounds happen, there are three main ways we can respond. One, we can stuff the pain and pretend everything is fine. Like the dirt that filled my friend’s wound, we stuff the wound with busyness, alcohol use, good grades, or anything else we can think of to try to stop the bleeding. And it does stop the bleeding, but it doesn’t lead to healing. Eventually the dirt needs to be cleaned out for the wound to truly heal.

Sometimes we get stuck in the hurt and believe that everything is wrong. We take on a victim mentality and are no longer able to see anything good happening in life. Like a child with a cut, we want everyone to see our injury, but we don’t trust anyone to touch it. Our wound becomes our identity and does get people to tend to and care for us, but again, the wound does not heal.

There is a healthy response. We can share the hurt with God and with others. There are four steps to sharing our pain. First, name the pain. When Jesus passed by, those in need of healing cried out over the bustling crowd to get Jesus’ attention. They were often scoffed at and told to be quiet, but they were desperate and yelled all the louder. They acknowledged that they had pain and that they needed healing.imagesCA2XBI6S

Second, acknowledge Jesus is the only place to received true healing. Before performing a miracle, Jesus often asked the person, “What do you want?” What a strange question! Certainly Jesus knows that a blind man wants to see or a lame person wants to walk! Jesus wanted the person in need of healing to acknowledge that he alone is the source of true healing. When we are in pain, we don’t just need healing, we need Jesus.

Third, receive Jesus’ healing touch. In 21 of 34 recorded miracles, Jesus touches the person he heals. Allow Jesus to draw close enough to your woundedness and pain that he can touch you. Give him access to the darkest, deepest and most painful parts of the wound. Allow his loving and gentle touch to bring a kind of healing that you could never imagine.

Finally, share the comfort you have received with others still hurting. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

This is no easy process. Healing hurts. We know and accept this when it applies to physical wounds. Everyone has experienced the sting of cleaning out a wound and know that it typically hurts worse than getting the wound in the first place. Anyone who has had surgery knows that recovery hurts worse than the injury itself. Physical therapy is often slow and painful. But there is healing in the hurt. Emotional wounds are no different. They need to be cleaned out and bandaged and tended to in order to heal properly. Yes, healing hurts, but it also makes us stronger and draws us closer to God. My prayer is that during this Lenten season, you will find the strength to share your wounds with Jesus, the provider of true healing. It may hurt, but the hurt is worth it.