The Power of Sin & the Cross

forgiven

As Christians, we all hopefully agree sin is something we should strive to avoid daily.  It’s certainly a full-time job for us, in addition to all of our other duties.   Unfortunately, for many of us, sin becomes almost like a daily duty.   We know the difference between right and wrong, but find a way to justify wrong. We know what God would want us to do in most situations, but we somehow make a good excuse for doing the opposite or more commonly do “a little good” and “a little wrong.”   Sinning Christians can be creative.  We are constantly finding new ways to either sin or to justify sin.

For the purposes of this brief discussion let’s assume we’ve made the wrong decision, taken the wrong path, aligned with the wrong group, or whatever other line can accurately describe our sin.  So what now?  Satan wins, right?  Yes, to the extent that we had a choice and we chose the sinful option, Satan won that battle.  No sugar-coating justification can change that.   We can’t talk our way out of the sin we committed.  We knew the difference between right and wrong and in the face of God and every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we chose to do what Satan would want us to do.  That’s deep and can be overwhelming to many.   In fact, Satan is counting on the magnitude of our sin to hold us captive of that sin.   That’s the power of sin.  It can end lives, literally and figuratively.  Some people live the rest of their earthly lives under the weight of a single sin.

It doesn’t seem right that Satan is the one pushing the guilt cart when it comes to our sin, but he is.  Satan wants us to not only feel guilty and ashamed but he wants us to allow those feelings of shame and inadequacy to weigh us down to the point that we are paralyzed and ineffective Christians.   If we are ashamed and assume God is also ashamed of us, we are likely to be less active in spreading our testimony to others and more likely to take a less aggressive role in being that “candle to the world” God wants us to be.

God made me and He made you.  He knows everything about us.  Our every weakness and tendency.   He knows our sinful thought and deed before we think or do them.  He isn’t ashamed of us.  Disappointed and hurt? Yes.  But not ashamed.   God hates sin, not sinners…Thank God! He doesn’t want us to lay in shame.  He definitely doesn’t want His children to hide their light because we feel that we aren’t worthy to let it shine due to a sinful act we’ve committed.   Forgiveness should never be viewed as an easy way out.  Jesus died for that.  It wasn’t easy.   However, because of that sacrifice, it is easy to gain forgiveness, and to allow sin to beat us up and take us out of the game is simply allowing Satan to win again.  As believers, we know how the story ends.  God wins.   Let Him win!!

To be clear, we can’t repeat the same sins over and over and simply ask forgiveness knowing we are going to be doing the same thing again in the near future.  With true forgiveness must come true repentance, and we can’t be truly repentant if we continue living in the same sin, but neither can we afford to take ourselves out of the game, so to speak, effectively making us useless Christians until we repent. Ask for forgiveness, learn from it and move on. Remove our shame and selfishness from the equation after we sin.  Let God fulfil the purpose for which He sent His Son to die.   Don’t allow Satan to minimize the power of that amazing sacrifice.

“Let the wicked forsake his way,  And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”

Isaiah 55:7

God loves you.  He knows everything about you…more than even you know about yourself.   If you’re a Christian, He doesn’t want you to sin, but He is never surprised when we do.  When we do, He wants to forgive us.  He is waiting, patiently waiting for us to confess, repent and ask for that forgiveness.  Avoid sin, but when we do it, and we will, avoid allowing Satan to steal or even delay the power of the Cross.  The power of the Cross will get us back in the game with no shame, only grace.  And it’s that grace that makes our light shine especially bright for others to see.

 

God Bless.

 

Coach

The Power of Choice

[I was killing some time on Twitter and stumbled onto The Sporting News feed.  As I scrolled back through the last few months, I saw a link to one of their stories from over the summer.  It was on of their lists, “The 12 Worst No. 1 (MLB) Picks of All-Time.”  I looked through it and found someone at the top that many people have never heard of.  Obviously, this a list of busts, so it’s not a real surprise few people have heard of these guys.  But it reminded me of something I wrote nearly exactly 4 years ago about the player sitting at the top of their list, Brien Taylor.  It also reminded me how fleeting success can be and how precious our opportunities really are.  We all have only so many pivotal times in our lives.  Let’s hope we make the right decisions at the right times.]

Highway to Heaven

The Path of Brien Taylor

By A.H.

November 20, 2013

If you wrote a script for a new baseball movie based on the rise of a small-town player to the biggest stage of Major League Baseball, you could easily use Brien Taylor as the blueprint. Taylor is from Beaufort, North Carolina, a coastal town of about 4,000 residents whose most famous, or maybe infamous, former resident was a pirate nicknamed “Blackbeard.” Brien Taylor, while as a teenager created his own fame, and subsequently in just a few short years, his own infamy.

Taylor was born the day after Christmas in 1971 to Ray and Bettie Taylor, who would predictably remain his most loyal fans throughout his playing days and beyond. Taylor grew up in a trailer, which in Carteret County was not uncommon at all and graduated from East Carteret High School just down the road, where his senior year in 88 innings the left-hander struck out 213, usually doing so with his 95-99 mph fastball. For his overall high school stats Taylor struck out 476 batters in 239 innings, going 29-6 with a 1.25 ERA, an ERA that stands as the 11th best in North Carolina high school history.

There was no shortage of acclaim for the young southpaw. Mike Fox, head coach at the University of North Carolina, said of Taylor, “There are certain pitchers who come along every so often and you don’t know how to describe them. Well, you can describe Brien pretty quickly: No one could touch him.” His eventual agent, the ‘super-agent’ Scott Boras, took praise of Taylor up a level when he said, “I’ve been through 28 drafts and Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher Taylor cardI’ve seen in my life.” Many experienced scouts began calling Taylor a left-handed Dwight Gooden, a hard-thrower who took the baseball world by storm just half a dozen years earlier. Expectations were lofty.

Following Taylor’s storied high school career and stellar senior season with pro scouts crowding behind the fence at nearly every game, there was much buzz leading up to the 1991 MLB Draft. It seemed like an endless stream of scouts were contacting Brien’s parents setting up meetings so they could see if the mental make-up and character matched the golden arm. Taylor’s mom lost count of how many times she gave directions to the Taylor’s trailer: “Just go past the Mount Tabor Baptist Church,” she would say, “and turn right down the 2nd dirt path.” That second dirt path would eventually become Brien Taylor Lane, the starting point of Taylor’s “Highway to Heaven.”

As expected, Taylor went high in the draft. He was actually the #1 overall pick taken by the New York Yankees who initially offered $300,000 as a signing bonus. Taylor or more specifically, Bettie Taylor felt that was a low-ball offer. Consequently, New York increased their offer to $650,000, then $850,000. Each time the Yankees were rebuffed. Taylor’s eventual agent, Scott Boras, only served to help Bettie dig her heels in against the Bronx Bombers. The stand-off lasted all summer and as Taylor was preparing to enroll at Louisburg College, Boras sent word to the Yankees that Brien will begin classes at the junior college rather than accept the new $1.2 million offer. The day before classes were to begin, New York tendered a $1.55 million offer, to that point the highest signing bonus ever and one Bettie Taylor finally felt worthy of her star son. Because of the holdout, Taylor would have to wait until 1992 to make his debut in the Yankee organization. Before even throwing a pitch, Taylor was already ranked by Baseball America as the best prospect in baseball.

Taylor would spend 1992 in the Florida State League. He threw 161.1 innings in 27 starts racking up 187 strikeouts while surrendering 66 walks and only 3 homeruns culminating in his selection to the Florida State All-Star Team. His velocity had lost nothing since his senior year at East Carteret touching 98 and consistently sitting at 95 mph. In 1992, Taylor’s prospect ranking dropped, but only slightly, to #2 behind the future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. Taylor was still on the tip of every baseball soothsayer’s tongue with many scouts already predicting a big league call-up at the end of 1992. Taylor’s 1993 stats at Double-A were similar but a little less impressive; still, nothing to dTaylor and Ryanampen the Taylor-mania that was sweeping through the Yankee organization and fan base.

Taylor was promoted to Double-A Albany for the 1993 season. His results were mixed going 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA. His strikeouts fell somewhat and his walks rose somewhat. He did finish in the Eastern League’s top 5 in ERA and tied for 2nd in the league for wins. League managers voted him the #4 prospect for that year behind Cliff Lee, Manny Ramirez and Rondell White; but Taylor was ranked above all other pitchers. Baseball America tagged Taylor as the #18 prospect in baseball. While his accolades had cooled from his white hot status just 2 years prior, there was little doubt among baseball people in the know that Taylor was on track to becoming a Major League star. Scott Boras also knew that when it came time for Taylor to sign his first big league contract, the sky would very nearly be the limit.

Taylor was handling the instant rise to fame to this point relatively well. His only financial splurge being a black Ford Mustang 5.0 that he bought for himself in 1991 and the house he paid to have built for his parents replacing the trailer. After the end of the 1993 season, Taylor headed back to Beaufort for an off-season he hoped would help prepare him for an eventful 1994 season, which would potentially include a big league call-up just 3 years following his drafting. It would, in fact, be an eventful off-season…one that would definitely impact not only the upcoming season but the rest of his life.

On the evening of December 18, Brenden Taylor, Brien’s older brother, came to the Taylor home to get a gun before storming back out. He had gotten into an argument days earlier with a local guy already on parole for another crime (Ron Wilson) and on this night he was planning to continue the dispute. Once finding out where his brother was headed, Brien took off to Wilson’s home to assist. Despite being restricted by a curfew, Wilson eventually came out to confront Taylor. Brien threw a full swing punch that missed its target completely, the most costly wild pitch of his career if you will, leading to his intended victim and another guy tackling Brien to the ground. After the skirmish had cleared and Brien had returned home, he knew he had hurt his shoulder, yes his throwing shoulder; but he had no idea how extensively.

The missed punch and subsequent dog pile had virtually ripped Taylor’s left arm out of socket. His shoulder was dislocated and both his labrum and capsule were torn. Renowned specialist, Dr. Frank Jobe, claimed it was one of the worst shoulder injuries he had ever seen. Taylor would obviously require surgery forcing him out of the entire 1994 season and sending him, in terms of his baseball career, back to square one. Luke Decock of the Raleigh News & Observer may have summed up the bazaar incident the best: “The can’t-miss prospect threw a punch and missed.”
Once he finally made it back on the field, halfway through the 1995 season, Taylor had lost 5 to 8 mph on his fastball. He went 2-5 in the Gulf Coast League with a 6.08 ERA in 40 innings striking out only 38 while giving up 29 hits and walking 54. No one expected him to be 100% sharp but the significant drop in velocity worried everyone, including Taylor. All hopes that Taylor would rediscover the magic in that arm were soon dashed. Over the next three seasons (1996-1998) Taylor threw a total of 68.2 innings at the lowest levels of baseball. His numbers were abysmal. The magic was gone. The Yankees were ready to move on. Former Yankees General Manager, Gene Michael summed up the organization’s feelings: “That incident was really unfortunate. It made me sick to see that ability go down the drain like that.” After the 1998 season, Taylor was officially released. He managed to get signed by Seattle during the off-season, but they too let him go prior to Spring Training. Cleveland then decided to take a chance but after just 2 2/3 innings and 8 runs surrendered, Taylor was released for the last time. His career stats since being baseball’s #1 guy just 8 years prior were unimpressive: a record of 22-30 with a 5.12 ERA and 352 walks in 435.2 innings. Taylor became just the second #1 draft pick in the history of baseball not to make it to the Major Leagues. He returned to North Carolina expectedly dejected and totally aimless. He was not prepared to do anything but pitch. The only other skill he had, thanks to his father, was laying bricks. Whether he chose masonry or not, Taylor had lots of rebuilding ahead of him. It was a critical point in his life and those of his daughters.

When Taylor returned to North Carolina he lived in Raleigh where he began work as a UPS package handler. He would soon be driving a beer truck before deciding to move back home to Beaufort. Everyone can imagine what that may have been like. The town’s favorite son moving back after failing to do what he was seemingly born to do. Brien, however, seemed to be dealing with the disappointment better than some in his own family and hometown. While certainly disappointed with the outcome of his baseball career, he was, at least publicly, at peace with the decision he had made back in December of 1993:

“If I’d been doing things that were stupid and didn’t make any sense, I would have felt a lot worse about it. I feel that what happened with me is a family thing and I was there for my family, but I don’t feel bad about it for one day because the reason it happened is not because I was being stupid out there.”

Once back in Beaufort by 1996, Taylor began helping his father as a mason. He settled into as normal of a life as was possible. The pain from the residue of his shoulder injury was compounded by the hard manual nature of his new occupation forcing Taylor to become more and more reliant on pain killers. This reliance eventually evolved into an addiction. His livelihood and that of his 4 daughters depended on it, so he felt he had no choice. Unfortunately, an addiction to painkillers was only the beginning of his real life problems. In January of 2005, he was charged with misdemeanor child abuse when he allegedly left his 4 daughters (ages 2 to 11) alone for more than 8 hours. He probably could have straightened the situation out, but he chose to miss his court date. At one point, Taylor had 4 outstanding warrants for his arrest. Problems were beginning to mount and Taylor’s life was beginning to sink.

In 2010, Taylor was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which forced him to stop working and to go on disability. He was living with his parents, who helped him raise his daughters but the roughly $900 a month he was collecting in disability would not go very far to help provide Taylor with any future independence, nor would it allow him any sustainable opportunity to support his family. Taylor was surely feeling the pressure. These are often the times people resort to desperate means.

In early 2012, a joint narcotics task force consisting of agents from the Carteret County Sheriff’s Department and Morehead City Police Department conducted a series of drug transactions using undercover officers. One of the individuals from whom agents were able to purchase a large amount of crack and powder cocaine was Brien Taylor. In all he was caught distributing more than 200 grams of crack and about 100 grams of powdeTaylor Glover. They finally made their move and arrested Taylor on March 1. Unable to afford defense, the former #1 pick once represented by Scott Boras now put his future, or at least the next 40 years of it, in the hands of Halerie Mahan, a federal public defender.

Taylor entered a plea of guilty and seemed to take full responsibility for his actions. According to court testimony during the sentencing hearing, Taylor had begun dealing drugs in 2003, about 7 years after returning to Beaufort. At the sentencing, Taylor issued an apologetic statement: “I just want to say I’m sorry for all the harm I caused to individuals and their families. I’m sorry to my children for letting them down…I made poor decisions.” Mahan told reporters how regretful her client was about the decisions that he had made and that he was…“embarrassed where he is today.” On November 7, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Louise W. Flanagan, sentenced Taylor to 38 months in federal prison and an additional 3 years of supervised release. Thomas Walker, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a statement to ESPN that effectively summed up everyone’s sentiment: “This is a tragic story—all too often our professional athletes spiral into criminal activity after an athletic disappointment or injury. I think all of us hope that Mr. Taylor, like many others who have gone down this road, will put their activity behind them and move to a better place in their life.”

Judge Flanagan made several interesting comments to Taylor during the sentencing hearing including a warning to be on his best behavior and to pay careful attention when choosing people with whom to associate after his release. Flanagan reflected that “[Taylor] seemed completely unprepared for life after baseball, which he was confronted with almost immediately.” The federal judge also addressed his former stature in the community: “You were viewed by many in our community as a hero because of your baseball career. A hero dealing drugs is a dangerous person.”
The hero had come full circle. He fully realized what he had done and he knew why he did it. Many family and friends were worried that the situation would not be any different once released from prison. Nevertheless, he received sympathetic support from most in his hometown. His parents were left to care for his daugtaylor mughters and one can only imagine the pain felt by his loving mother. She told a reporter soon after the sentencing, “We will always love Brien, and stand by him. If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I don’t know how we would be getting through this.” The “Highway to Heaven” took a detour to Butner Federal Correctional Complex just north of Raleigh. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Taylor may not be paroled but he may have his sentence reduced due to good behavior; behavior opposite of what got Taylor there to begin with.

Today, you can visit 147 Brien Taylor Lane. The 2nd dirt path just past Mount Tabor Baptist Church is now paved but you can still see the house he had built for his parents. His parents still live there. Brien Taylor will not be there…at least not until September 14, 2014, his scheduled release date. You will probably see his black Ford Mustang he bought in 1991 as you turn around in front of the Taylor residence. You have to turn around in front of their house. For you see, Brien Taylor Lane is a short, dead-end street. Some find it convenient to compare it with Taylor’s career, and while that may be accurate from a baseball perspective, it is still Brien’s “Highway to Heaven.” It is to where he will eventually be able to return and find his parents and his daughters. It is where he spent his childhood dreaming about a glamorous life and where he will have to rebuild what is left of it.

Sources:
• Luke Decock—Raleigh News & Observer
• Wall Street Journal
• George Vecsey—The New York Times
• Mike Valerio—WCTI 12 News
• Associated Press
• Wayne Coffey—New York Daily News
• Willie Weinbaum—ESPN.com
• Richard Webster—The Examiner
• Anthony Rieber—Newsday
• Jeff Passan—Yahoo Sports
• Baseball Reference (.com)
• North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA)

[Taylor was actually released on September 12, 2015. As you look back over his life to this point, most of his problems resulted from decisions that Taylor felt were “necessary” at the time and even, in some situations, were ones he didn’t necessarily regret and he indicates he would do again. From taking up for his brother to taking care of his daughters, he could always justify what he did no matter how badly it may turn out or how illegal it was to begin with. It’s so easy to justify at the time instead of thinking about the possible effects. Life can get going out of control so fast. That’s when we need God and Godly people around us to help slow it and us down. It’s too easy to judge but one wonders how Brien’s life would have turned out if he would have turned to God or if someone had stepped in on God’s behalf to help guide him during those handful of pivotal times in his life.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

While God may know the plans he has for us, He gives us free will to make decisions.  What we do with our opportunities is up to us.  God has a hopeful future in store for Christians.  However, the decisions we make can and will influence that future.  The proverbial ‘fork in the road,’ the point at which we have to make a choice that may or may not affect the rest of our lives, is a powerful moment.  We must have the wisdom, self-control and faith to make the right decision.  Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we will get another chance, sometimes we won’t.]

 

God Bless.

Coach

 

Defeating Giants

Daniel Nava stood 4’8” and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman. Daniel Nava hit a grand slam in his first Major League at-bat in Fenway Park. Which of these statements do you believe is true? If you said both, you are correct. No matter how you look at it, the two statements are not normally connected with the same person. Sure, Nava has grown some since he was 15; but not as much as you may be suspecting. Size was just one of the obstacles he had to deal with and subsequently overcome.

The first time Nava set foot on a Major League field was during Little League. His grandmother had entered his name in a contest to throw out the first pitch at an Oakland A’s gamenava… and he won. He bravely wore his Little League Dodgers uniform. It wasn’t the last time Nava would be on a Major League field. But the trip from the first time to the second was not a direct route.

After graduating high school, Nava attended Santa Clara University but failed to make the team. Santa Clara head coach, Mike O’Brien, simply said, “…he couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield.” The only role in the Santa Clara baseball program Nava was offered was the equipment manager. While most players facing the same situation would have walked away, Nava accepted and was set to spend his freshman year washing, instead of wearing, the Santa Clara uniform; compiling game film instead of being in it; charting pitches instead of hitting them. He had personally shifted his baseball dreams from playing to scouting or coaching. “The door had been shut,” he said. “I thought that my time was over.” However, without the option of playing, Nava and his family quickly realized they could not afford the tuition at Santa Clara. This seemingly insult to injury may have actually saved his baseball playing dream. He moved on to junior college in San Mateo where he would have the chance to play. After a successful season he returned to Santa Clara as a senior, but this time on full scholarship. Despite batting .395 Nava went undrafted and was once again faced with a decision. Was it time to call it quits or should he give independent ball a shot?

By now, you probably know the answer. In 2006, Nava decided to try out for the Chico Outlaws, a member of the Golden Baseball Independent League. Nava did not make the team. At this point he had not made the decision to give up but his options were seemingly non-existent. In 2007, while playing on a co-ed softball team, Nava received a phone call from a coach. It was not the Yankees or Dodgers. Nonetheless, it gave him hope. It was the coach of the Chico Outlaws. He did not give Nava a spot on the team. He simply called him to let him know they were having another tryout. This time Nava made the team. He was back in baseball, such as it was. That year, Nava batted .371 and hit 12 home runs in 256 at-bats. This performance got him named Baseball America’s Independent Player of the Year for 2007. It also got the attention of the Boston Red Sox who bought out Nava’s independent contract. It wasn’t exactly a huge investment. Boston had bought Daniel Nava’s future for $1. Nava couldn’t care less about that. He had finally gotten a chance to achieve his life’s goal. But $1 doesn’t buy a player many opportunities. Nava knew he would have to perform immediately or risk being sent back to either the Independent League or a co-ed softball team.

Nava spent two years in Boston’s minor league system before being called up in 2010. The unknown Nava did something only one other player had ever done the history of Major League Baseball. Nava hit a grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw. How do you top that? Well, for Nava, he wouldn’t hit another major league homer for 2 years. He finished his rookie season in 2010 with a modest .241 average in 161 at-bats. Boston left him in the minors for the entire 2011 season before calling him up during the 2012 season, during which time he batted a similar .243 in 267 at-bats.

In 2013, Nava made the big league squad out of spring training.

“It’s been fun, that’s for sure, and I’m grateful for all the things that have led up to this point because they’ve definitely shaped who I am. It’s interesting. It’s unique. But it’s been a lot of fun. I’d be lying to say it hasn’t been fun.”

As an update, since 2013, Nava has been with Toronto, back to Boston, Tampa, back to Toronto, LA Angels, Kansas City and in 2017 he played in 80 games batting over .300 and knocking in 21 runs…for the Phillies, the team he hit that grand slam off of. Next year will be Nava’s 8th MLB season. He is still living his unlikely dream…unlikely to others.

Think about it..if Nava had allowed his pride to overshadow his passion, what a life he would have missed!  Many guys would have given up after getting cut at Santa Clara.  We all have so many ‘jumping off points’ in our life–an opportunity to save our pride, so to speak.  To get out while we can.  What do we miss when we jump off early?

*****

The first 2 games of the 2007 World Series between the Red Sox and Rockies were played in Boston. For Game 3, the series moved to Coors Field in Denver. Outside the visiting player’s entrance stood a security guard whose job it was to identify all the Red Sox players and not to let anyone in who shouldn’t be (lost fans, autograph seekers, etc.). One of the people he stopped and refused entry was Boston’s starting 2nd baseman, Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia had to pull out his ID to get in to play. The guard didn’t think it was possible that this little guy could possibly be a professional baseball player. Pedroia has been proving people wrong his entire life.pedroia

Along the way, there were some major obstacles, however. In 2002, while playing with Team USA in the Netherlands, Pedroia was struck in the eye by a ground ball that he was attempting to field. It crushed his eye socket breaking 6 bones in addition to giving him a concussion. It was 2 weeks before he was even able to open the eye and find out if he could see. Fortunately, his eyesight was fine and the scars would eventually disappear nearly completely, but one thing lingered…the fear of getting hit again. Pedroia’s hitting was fine, but he had lost his desire to play infield. He requested to be moved to the outfield. He couldn’t get over the mental block.
His college coach, Pat Murphy, set him up with a sports psychologist who he felt could help him. The following excerpt from Dustin’s book, Born To Play: My Life In The Game, describes their interaction in Pedroia’s own words:

Coach Murphy said he wanted me to work with a sports psychologist he knew. He said, “I trust him, he’s awesome, he’ll get you out of it.”

I said, “Okay, who is he?”

“Harvey Dorfman.”

I said, “Who in the (world) is Harvey Dorfman?” I had just turned nineteen and I had no idea what a sports psychologist was. I didn’t know that Harvey Dorfman was the best sports psychologist there was, the best in the world.

Harvey said to me, “So what’s your problem? What is it that’s bothering you?”

I said, “Well, I got knocked out by a ground ball—a concussion, six broken bones, plastic surgery, the whole gig.”

Then I told him, “I don’t want to take a ground ball. I’m afraid.”

Harvey said, “Well, what are you afraid of?”

I said, “What the (heck) do you think I’m afraid of? If I get hit again in the face by a ground ball, it’ll probably hurt a lot more than the last time.”

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, it probably will.”

He thought about it for a second and then said, “But weren’t you born to play this game?”

I said, “Yeah, I am, I’d like to think so.”

“Okay,” he said, “So stop being a (wimp) and just go out and do it then.” It was like he was pulling this drill-sergeant (stuff).

He said, “If you’re afraid of the ball, then why don’t you go out and play short with a catcher’s mask on? You’re going to look like an idiot, and people will call you a (wimp), but at least it’ll all be over with, being afraid of the ball.”

And I’m just staring at him and not saying anything. I’m just sitting there thinking. Harvey Dorfman’s the man…

Harvey asked me what the worst thing that could happen was. “It already happened,” he said. “And you got through it. What you’re feeling is understandable. You’re human. Anyone in your shoes would be this way.”

I’d felt all along that it was unnatural for me to react the way I had. I’d never shied away from doing anything in my life. It felt like to be afraid was to be taking my manhood away.

From then on, it was done. That’s because Harvey Dorfman had figured out who I was, and had figured out exactly what needed to be said. He matched his message with the person who needed to hear it, which is exactly why he’s the best sports psychologist in the world.

Pedroia had to overcome a lot to get where he’s at, but it seems most of it was the perception others had of him. He never lost his confidence in himself, other than his brief lack of confidence in his ability to field a ground ball. He was constantly battling the lack of confidence others had in him. This probably forced him to be overkill confident at times because he found himself always having to convince someone. We like to think that in life all that matters is what we think.

Unfortunately, for most of us, it matters very much what others think. For Pedroia, if Coach Murphy at Arizona State or the Red Sox scouts had not been able to see past the small stature, he may not have had the opportunity to do what he’s done to this point in his baseball career. We should be careful whose opinions we seek and value, but there is always someone in a position such that their opinion matters. It matters what we do and how well we do it. We can’t simply say, “I’m going to do me” and expect something special to happen, especially if “Me” isn’t as good as we think. It’s vital to be honest about your talent and your potential. In reality, what we think isn’t all that matters and just because you can dream it doesn’t necessarily mean you can achieve it. Dreaming doesn’t take talent. Achieving does.

Another great lesson to be learned from this part of Pedroia’s story is that everyone, no matter how good, is going to experience doubt. Pedroia is about as tough as they come, but he has been beaten up by life just like everyone else.  And he came close to giving up, at least on playing infield.  The saying, “don’t get too high…it’s a long fall” is definitely true. As Dorfman said, Pedroia had great reason to go through self-doubt after getting hit in the eye. But he pointed out to him that fear is something that can be overcome and many times can be done so just by putting things in perspective. Often, our fears are something that we’ve built up in our mind without really thinking them through. Most of our fears are truly irrational because we normally put no rational thought into their creation. Once we start thinking rationally about the situation, we often see that the true risk is allowing a fear to beat us and rob us of something that we otherwise could have done. Imagine if Pedroia had allowed that one bad hop to beat him and rob him of his ability to play infield!

*****

david_and_goliath_outline

Most people have heard of the story of David and Goliath. But how much have we overlooked? The Valley of Elah was a strategic area of modern day Israel. It lay between the mountain plain and the coastal plain. The Israelite army under the command of King Saul were dug in on the northern ridge while the Philistines (from the Island of Crete) were dug in on the southern ridge. Neither side was going to retreat…but neither side was going to advance either, because advancing meant crossing over ground that was completely exposed to the enemy. So, eventually the Philistines sent their mightiest warrior who challenged the Israelites to do the same. It was a custom during that time called “single combat.” If two armies couldn’t decide the victor with their armies, it would be decided one on one. The man sent by the Philistines was a giant name Goliath. He stood somewhere between 6’9” and 8’ tall and carried with him multiple weapons including a sword, shield and spear. For these obvious reasons there were no volunteers from within Saul’s army to go down and participate in the single combat. (Remember, whoever lost not only lost their life but the entire losing side would become slaves of the other. No one wanted that responsibility.)

David, a shepherd boy visiting his brother who was an Israelite soldier, learned of what was happening and promptly volunteered. In his mind, he didn’t need too much of a reason to fight a guy who would dare insult his people and his God. King Saul reluctantly accepted the offer (the only one he had), but told David he must put on the battle armor. David tried it on but quickly decided there was no way. He wasn’t a soldier, he didn’t know how to fight in that. So, David set out. All the while, Goliath continued to hurl insults at David, the Israelites and their God. After all, Goliath surely reasoned, what kind of army would send out a kid with only a staff and a sling to do a man’s job? David, without returning any of Goliath’s insults, took out his sling and loaded it with a stone. Seconds later, Goliath was on the ground. David approached him, drew Goliath’s own sword from him and detached the giant head from the giant body. The battle was won.

That’s the story we all are familiar with. Today, we still associate David and Goliath with the story of an underdog. But sometimes, we are took quick to assume someone is an underdog or too quick to assume we are the underdog. God gives all of us talents and abilities. We often feel “outmanned” or “outgunned” in life, but many times it’s more about how we perceive the situation rather than how the situation really is.
Usually the first disadvantage many people accuse David of is being so small compared to Goliath. Was that really a disadvantage in this situation? If the two had planned on hand to hand combat, maybe size would have mattered more, but David never intended on getting any closer to Goliath than the effective range of his sling required. Furthermore, the size of Goliath actually served as a disadvantage for the giant in that he was a bigger target and mobility was obviously not going to be one of his weapons. So, size was an assumed disadvantage for David…an incorrect assumption.

As we take a second look at the David and Goliath story, we can almost say, and justifiably so, that Goliath didn’t have a chance. David was supposed to win that day. If you had asked David he would have told you that before he started down the hill to meet the giant.

Many people say “David only had a sling shot.” Well, there’s a reason shepherds carried those. They were lethal. Ask Goliath. David may not have had the sword, or great spear, or shield, or body armor of Goliath, but he was an expert at handling that sling. And he had a God on his side who wanted him to win. (And God had a fearless and willing warrior.) The key is not the weapons or the size of the two combatants. The key is that David, unlike the entire Israelite army, didn’t allow fear of his apparent disadvantages to obscure the real advantages he knew he had.

As Christians, we too often allow our apparent disadvantages to stop us in our tracks. We are paralyzed by them. We allow Satan to use them against us robbing us of unknown opportunities. And most astonishingly we forget that, if we are doing something within God’s will, He is on our side!! It may be professionally, recreationally or spiritually, but how many great achievements have we missed out on by giving in and giving up due to fear or the feeling of impending defeat? We too often avoid even trying something because we’ve done the math, so to speak, and we don’t feel we have a chance to succeed.

Who are your giants?  It may be something specifically preventing you from accomplishing something you want.  It may be a strained relationship.  It may be something you’ve already tried but failed or something that you’re wanting to do but are afraid to.  There are so many things in our lives which seem impossible or simply ‘not worth it’…at first glance. Whatever it is, turn your focus from your apparent disadvantages and start focusing on your advantages.  Stop focusing on what’s stopping you and start focusing on what can help you get it done.

And always keep in mind that what may seem like a disadvantage to some can be turned into an advantage, and with God’s help, absolutely anything is possible.  Match your dreaming with your praying.  Spend more time listening to God and less time listening to the critics or to that little voice that always seems to show up when we have the opportunity to do something great.  Whether it was David, or Daniel Nava or Dustin Pedroia, there were two keys: faith in themselves and the ability to overcome fear, not the absence of fear!!  Fear is a natural state but it’s also something we, as Christians, should be able to cope with and overcome better than anyone else…IF we can find the ability to trust God even in the toughest of times.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

The baseball careers of Nava and Pedroia are proof that both in their own way have accomplished something few thought they ever would.  Both of them had many chances to quit or throw up their hands and say, “I’ve done all I can,” or “I’ve already exceeded everyone’s expectations.” The giants they had to slay early and throughout their ongoing careers included their physical size relative to other baseball players, failures and injuries.  David went from a shepherd boy to eventual King of Israel.  The first step was killing his giant, literally.

Slay your giant.  Take the step of faith and don’t be afraid of what others will think with regard to your failure or success.  Nava, Pedroia and David made many mistakes throughout and there were many times that others wouldn’t have been able to overcome the struggle or the embarassment.  Those who do, and don’t merely dream, soon realize that what others think while you’re struggling is temporary.  Lasting is what you achieve in the end.

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For Christians, the challenge is clear.  Live a fearless life that has a positive impact on others.  Don’t allow your testimony to be hid or shielded by fear of what others may think.  Strive daily to do things that would encourage others to turn to God, and also strive daily to avoid doing things which could cause others to turn away.  You may be the only Christian someone personally knows.  What kind are you?

 

God Bless.

Coach

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

natural-disasters-of-earths-past-and-futureThe most recent natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, wildfires) and shooting in Las Vegas have left many Americans wondering “Why did this happen?”  Some have even asked “Why did God allow this to happen?”  That’s a deep question and one that’s not easy to answer.

First and foremost, SIN is the reason for evil in this world.  Satan looks to unleash as much as he can on us, especially as Christians.  Adversity doesn’t mean God is necessarily punishing us…it means we live in a sinful world…a fact that we should never forget.  God created this world along with Adam and Eve without a blemish.  Sin entered into it only after Eve, then Adam, made a sinful decision and felt their way was better than God’s.  Humans have been dealing with sin since.
God decides what will and won’t happen to His children.  What God allows is what He thinks…knows in fact, we can handle.  In His infinite wisdom, we will not be asked to endure more than we can endure.  Sometimes, we don’t live up to our capabilities and we give way under the strain.  That’s when we need to learn to lean on our earthly family and our Christian family.  Adversity helps remind us of our weaknesses, vulnerability and our need for God.

The Bible tells us about Job, a wealthy landowner and faithful Christian.  There was a spiritual battle between Satan and God over Job’s life and testimony.  Satan challenged God to allow him to take away all of Job’s earthly possessions and he pledged that Job would curse God and never follow Him again.  God agreed to allow Satan to do anything to Job except kill him.  In the course of one day, Job received four separate couriers with news that got worse with each message.  Due to bandits and natural disaster, Job had lost his livestock, servants and all 10 of his children.  Job reacted like many of us, going into a deep state of mourning.  Job seemed to be questioning why God would allow this to happen to him when he stated, “Show me why You contend with me.” (Job 10:2)  I think we can understand why Job was finding it hard to understanding what was happening to him.  Satan, frustrated that Job was remaining faithful to God, wanted more.  He inflicted Job with terrible skin sores during his already agonizing time of mourning.  Job’s friends and even his wife encouraged him to curse God for letting all of this befall him.  Job then goes on a spiritual journey searching for answers and justification for why so much calamity had come to him and his family.  The true answer was that no particular sin Job had committed led to his suffering.  It was a spiritual battle between God and Satan…a battle that still rages today.  Adversity is evidence of this battle and, as Christians, no matter how much we tend to forget this, we are part of this battle.  We can’t be detached from it and be a Christian at the same time.

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Many non-Christians, and sometimes Christians, will wonder why God doesn’t keep His children from suffering.  When we feel at our lowest and beaten down by adversity, let us remember the greatest sacrifice of all…the Crucifixion of Jesus.  We know God had the ability to prevent the Romans from killing his son.  Jesus was mocked by Roman soldiers and other bystanders who questioned why, if He was indeed the ‘Son of God’, he couldn’t get himself out of His situation.  One of the thieves being crucified along with Jesus told him, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  The other criminal rebuked him by saying, “Don’t you fear God?  For we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Jesus was truly innocent of any wrongdoing, yet He died for our sins anyway.  God, his father, allowed it to happen so that we all would have the opportunity to enjoy absolute forgiveness and everlasting life.  Which of the thieves do we most resemble when we face adversity and hardships?  It’s never easy understanding why bad things happen to good people, but we must strive to understand that God loves us no matter what may befall us.  His love is unwavering even in the darkest of times when we struggle to see it.  Matthew 27:46 tells us that just before death, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  We feel the same way sometimes.  Jesus knew his purpose and he knew the reason for his suffering.  It is the greatest of challenges for us to find the purpose for our struggles and, if we don’t know anything else, we must always remember God’s everlasting love for us.  A task that is easier said than done.  Evangelist Billy Graham once said that, instead of asking “Why me?” we should say, “God, I believe You are the great and mighty God.  I don’t understand all the things that are happening in my life, but, God, I trust in You.” It’s a hard thing to do in the midst of adversity and sorrow, but that’s where our faith is tested and eventually strengthened.

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Adversity is indeed a faith test and a faith filter.  It forces us to re-examine ourselves and how we live as well as the order of our priorities.  Coincidently, good times tend to change people just as much as rough times.  When everything is going great, we often drift away from the most important things in our life (Our faith, family and true purpose).  Bad times usually force us to take stock and readjust our direction, hopefully in a better direction.

We’ve all heard, and maybe said, “It’s nice to know who my real friends are.”  Adversity can be also be a great friend tester and filter.  Sometimes we can learn quickly who really cares and who doesn’t.  More importantly, it tests our friendship towards others when they go through struggles.  Are we there for them?  Are we praying for them like we should?  Are we helping them to keep their perspective and focus on praising God when it’s the most difficult to do so.

Adversity allows us the opportunity to share a little of what Christ suffered for us and to be able to help others.  There is no greater benefit of struggle than to have the knowledge and ability to help others who may go through something similar.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

II Corinthians 1:3-4

And just as we should share our experiences if they can help someone else at a certain time, but we should also share with others about the sacrifice that God made for all of us.  It is often in life’s darkest moments that people are at their most sensitive and open to making a change.

Finally, as Christians, we can rest assured of one simple yet profound fact…suffering isn’t the end.  Human nature often dictates that we only worry about “Now” but for Christians there’s more…there will always be more and better for Christians.

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:20-21

There is no easy way to get through hard times but with the help of God and those around us, we can not only get through them but we can prosper because of them.  When you go through adversity, remember God’s words and look in the right direction for strength.  When you see others going through adversity, remind them where true strength and hope comes from.

God Bless.

Coach

 

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”  Luke 12:48

What’s Your ‘Why’?

Viktor Frankl wrote a book in 1959 entitled Man’s Search for Meaning.  The fact that Frankl was a Jew who survived three years in a Nazi concentration camp adds some value to his perspective.  In short, Frankl struggled to cope after being taken by the Nazis.  Everything he had and everyone he knew were taken from him.  His family, his home, his profession as a psychiatrist, his freedom, everything.  He started seeing most of the prisoners around him give in and give up to their situation.  Frankl struggled to find a reason to have hope.

What Frankl discovered was that in order to have hope he must find meaning.  He needed to find his “Why?”  Not why he was put into a concentration camp and subjected to such brutal treatment, but why he was put on earth to begin with and what he can do in his current situation!  He decided he was not going to die without finding his purpose.  He then set out to discover how to defeat the all-encompassing depression that most concentration camp prisoners fell into shortly after arriving.  He eventually found meaning to his life, a life that he assumed would end very soon, by helping others.  He turned his attention away from his own dire situation and awoke each day with the expressed purpose of finding someone worse off than he was.  At meal times he would search out those hungrier than he was so he could share some of his food, and at all times of the day he made a conscious effort to locate those who were in a visibly deep depression so he could share a positive and encouraging word or gesture.  Not only did he once again feel human, but he once again felt like his life had meaning.  He was eager to awake each day because he knew he had a real purpose in life.  Consequently, countless of others benefited from Frankl’s new found meaning.  Frankl survived the concentration camp and went on to live a very influential life.  He didn’t allow an unthinkable situation to steal meaning from his life.

meaning of life

The only thing I wanted to be when I was growing up was a professional baseball player.  I didn’t feel the need to complicate my life by coming up with a “Plan B.”  We all know how my childhood dream worked out.  What is the meaning of your life?  What is your purpose here on earth?  What is your ‘Why’?  Have you ever wondered?  It’s good if you have and it’s probably normal if you haven’t.  God wants you to wonder and He wants you to know.  The real questions are ‘how do we find out?’ and ‘how will we know if we find it?’

You may feel everyone is telling you what your ‘Why’ is or should be.  Parents, teachers, coaches, friends, society…you probably hear it from many different directions.  While many of those people probably have great intentions, the truth is that each of us has to discover our ‘Why’ ourselves. Our family and friends can definitely help steer us in the right direction, but it’s a personal discovery.  God wants us to know.  He doesn’t purposefully keep it hidden from us wanting us to have to go on some extravagant scavenger hunt until we see the “light” and discover our meaning for existence.  Some seem to find it at an earlier age than others.  Some apparently discover it, only to find out it was something else all along.  Others, most tragically, never find it.  Is your passion your ‘why’?  Is your favorite sport your ‘Why’?  Is your most prolific talent your ‘why’?  One or all of those may be true, or none of those may be true.  Only God knows…and that is the key to finding our ‘Why.’  We first must find God’s ‘Why’ for us.  How do we do this?  We must talk to God, but most importantly, we must listen to God.  No one else can tell you what God has planned for you.  His plan is always perfect.  It may be the last thing we want to do but it’s flawless.  The trick is for us to accept it as such and be willing to be used by God.

Proverbs 16:9

“A man’s heart plans his way: but the Lord directs his steps.”

I mentioned God’s plan is perfect, but you know what? We don’t have to be.  God knows us inside out.  He knows we aren’t perfect.  I have a friend who keeps putting off playing golf because he is afraid he will embarrass himself.  He says he has to practice before he goes.  He’s been saying that for over 2 years.  Think of all the fun he’s missed in the last 2 years because he’s avoiding “looking bad.”  Many Christians do the same thing.  We put off things, things maybe God is encouraging us to do, and things we know we should do, but we put it off because we feel ‘I’m just not ready yet.  I’ll do it though.’  Time is too precious.

Also, it’s a tough distinction for us to make sometimes, our ‘Why’ or God’s ‘Why,’ because we are all selfish in our own special way.  If we spend all of our time and energy finding what we want or what we are good at, assuming that must naturally be our meaning for life, we will spend much of that life wandering aimlessly with little true joy and accomplishment.  But if we find what God wants for us, we can experience joy and accomplishment through God because we are living out His will.  Have you ever wondered why so many wealthy people are seemingly so miserable while others who have much less in the form of material goods seem to be so happy?  How can this be?  God no doubt appreciates the hard work wealthy people put in to get what they have, but that wealth is a temporary crown.

Proverbs 23:4-5

“Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!

Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”

Matthew 6:21

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

God doesn’t hate wealth or success, but once they alone become our ‘Why’ then we’ve put them above all else and we can’t serve God like that.  There are countless rich and successful people who have been able to keep things in perspective and use their elevated platform to advance God’s word, but there seems to be so many who squander that opportunity.

I encourage you to watch the I Am Second videos below, which show how Albert Pujols and David Murphy, two Major League Baseball players, who have learned to keep their fame and wealth in perspective and not let it become their ‘Why.’  One thing I remember from Pujols’ testimony was a friend challenging him to ask base runners when they got to 1st base, “What is the most important thing in your life?”  We see fielders talking to opposing base runners all the time, but I never imagined that may be what Pujols was saying to them.  Not only was it a great opportunity for him to share his faith and testimony but I’m sure it also forced others to think about their own life and their true ‘Why’ and whether or not that’s how they really wanted to be remembered.

Albert Pujols ‘I Am Second’pujols

David Murphy ‘I Am Second’Murphy

I’ve seen a quote that has been attributed to William Shakespeare and to Pablo Picasso, so I’m going to call it anonymous.  But either way, it’s fitting.  The quote goes something like this: “The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to share it with others.”  The quote itself is fine and it conveys a positive message on using our talents to help others, but I doubt whoever said it was doing so from a Christian perspective.  The gift we’ve all been given, regardless of class, race, fame, talent, profession or nationality, is the greatest gift possible.  Jesus died for our sins so we can live forever…if we ask God into our hearts to become our Lord and Savior.  We all have been given that gift.  The greatest purpose or meaning that we can attach to our lives is to help others hear about and understand that message.  There are so many different avenues and platforms for this, but, as a Christian, if our ‘Why’ doesn’t have something to do with reaching and influencing others for Christ, we must take a long hard look at our lives and genuinely challenge our purpose, our meaning, our ‘Why.’

That is my challenge to you.  Question why you do what you do.  Question why you treat people the way you do.  Question why you squander opportunities to influence others for Christ like you do.  Question why you allow jealousy and competition to destroy or prevent friendships.  Ask yourself if you are being what God would have you be.  I believe the true meaning of our lives, or value of our lives, is yet to be determined.  It will be determined by those we help and lead and influence in the name of Christ.  In short, God alone will determine the meaning one day.  He surely knows what He wants for us right now.  He will evaluate how we did.

What did your life mean? What was your ‘Why’?

Gods-will

God Bless.

Coach

 

 

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”  Luke 12:48

 

Friends

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How many friends or followers do you have on Instagram or Twitter or maybe Facebook for the oldies?  Too many people base the very value of their very existence on just that.  And God forbid if someone “unfriends” or “unfollows” them out of nowhere!  It is my hope that you understand the difference between those type of friends and true friends.  It is also my hope that you can distinguish between those who you should allow to have influence over your life and those who you should keep as far away from as possible.  But before you run too far away, think about this…

God wants us to fellowship with others who we feel a connection to or feel we have something in common with. God also wants us to be friendly with everyone.  Friends are often what gets us through some of our toughest moments.  Unfortunately, for some, friends are the reason for their most difficult times. Knowing God wants us to love everyone is daunting at times.  There are people I meet every day who I’m tempted to question if even God loves them…not exactly a Christian attitude.  We also need to be able to identify those who will help us and those who will hurt us in terms of our walk of faith.  We should be friendly to the world, but should we be friends with the world?

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One of the toughest things to do as a Christian, especially as a teenager, is to try and live a righteous life around those who do not.  Peer pressure is something powerful and real.  But sometimes we make it tougher than it has to be.  If we constantly put ourselves in situations where we know very little good can possibly result, we are going to constantly fail to live the life God wants us to live.

 

 

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are all “In the World,” meaning we are living among some who either don’t believe in God or are living a lifestyle they know to be wrong.  We do not have to be “Of the World.”  We have the ability every day to choose who we spend our time with, what we pay attention to, and what we value.  Make those decisions wisely.  Often, the world’s definition of the “best friend” is the one who helps you have the “most fun.”  We have to be able to see beyond that and know the difference between a fun person and a true friend.  And at some point, we as the positive influence should step up and be the dominant force in the friendship.  Someone will be influenced.  Influence them!

I Corinthians 15:33

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” 

We aren’t to hate the world.  God wants us to hate sin with all of our heart, and to love sinners with that very same heart.  Sounds paradoxical, but it makes perfect sense to a Christian, if we are thinking with our heart instead of our mind.  Re

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member, we are sinners too and God loved us enough to send his only son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  That is a truth that should be our guide for how we treat people, how we select friends and how we influence everyone.

Find friends who share your values and who can help you spiritually through tough times. But also be a friend who will have a positive influence on others.  We also need to always identify those who, while we may not view as a close friend, are not living their life righteously and maybe they aren’t saved.  They may not even know what God is all about.  Strive to be just as much of a positive influence on them as we are on our close friends.

 

 

Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

I’m going to end with a personal story that is all too true.  This took place about 20 years ago.  I had just finished college and was asked to coach an All-Star team consisting of 15-year old players.  The group was very talented with 6 or 7 going on to play college baseball and a couple were even eventually drafted.  We advanced through the levels necessary and made it to the Regional tournament in Florida.  It was a fun experience for all of us and I still stay in contact with many from that team.  About a year after we played together I got a call receiving news that one of the players from that team, an outfielder that we will call BK, had been killed in a car wreck.  BK was loved by everyone on the team.  He seemed to be able to get along with anyone.  As we started finding out more details about what happened, we were even more shocked and saddened.  BK had been at a party and decided to rush to another party going on about 5 miles away.  The car he was riding in was speeding and everyone in the car had been drinking.  The car went straight through a sharp curve hitting a tree head-on.  BK was killed instantly.  The driver, as we were to find out, was also a baseball player, and he was also BK’s best friend who I’ll refer to as Ryan.  BK and Ryan did everything together.  Ryan was badly injured but did survive.  He wasn’t physically able to be at the funeral and, quite honestly, I’m not sure if he would have come either way.  It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do as a coach.  I had the team meet in front of the funeral home on the night of the viewing.  It seemed as if the entire town of Kernersville was there.  It took us nearly an hour just to move forward to the main room where the casket lie.  As we turned the corner and first saw the casket and BK’s family, reality set in for all of us.  BK’s mom could hardly look at us because I’m sure it reminded her of some of the great memories she had of her son playing baseball.  As we neared the casket all of us either had tears in our eyes or were outwardly crying.  Guys were putting things in the casket next to BK’s body such as their State Championship pin or a necklace with a cross.  It’s something I can still picture today and it still is emotional.

There are some important lessons to be learned just from the story as I’ve told it so far.  But there’s something else that I feel is so powerful.  One of the players from that team spoke with Ryan, BK’s best friend, a couple of weeks after the wreck.  I don’t know everything that was said, but here is some of what Ryan replied. “I loved him like a brother.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.  I wish I was dead and BK was alive.  I will never forgive myself.”  There’s one other thing Ryan said that I think sheds light on what type of friends we as Christians should be.  He said, “If I had only known what was going to happen that night when we left the party… I wish someone had stopped us.”

I honestly don’t know how I would deal with something like that.  Ryan was a great guy who made a terrible decision that took the life of his best friend.  Presumably, we have never done anything that led to the death of anyone, much less one of our close friends.  But think about what Ryan said…”If I had only known…” and “I wish someone had stopped us.”

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know this, if you have a friend who isn’t saved or who is living outside the will of God and not doing what is right, they are also on a road to destruction.  If they don’t get saved, they are going to die without knowing God…unless someone stops them!  The greatest thing you can ever do as a friend is to help your friends become a Christian and to live a righteous life.  Not a perfect life, but a righteous life.  You don’t have to be able to lead them to Christ yourself, just direct them to someone who can and show them the power of God in how your live your life every day.

Live right and help those around you do the same.  This simple creed will add more purpose and value to your life than some people will ever posses.  It will also give you a great amount of influence over people you may not even know.

Highway

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I urge you to pray and read your Bible daily.  If you have questions, feel free to ask someone you trust.  If you aren’t sure you’re saved and going to Heaven when you die or maybe you don’t even know what that means.  Either way, I will be glad to talk with you or direct you to someone who can help you with that.  Don’t put it off.  We literally do not know what the future holds.

 

God Bless.

Coach

 

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”  Luke 12:48