“The Holy Spirit is Moving Through Our Locker Room” Says NBA MVP Stephen Curry

“I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I gave my life to Christ. I was in fourth grade, and I recall hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and walking down the aisle to give my life to Him.” –Stephen Curry

Stephen_Curry(Oakland, CA)—My dad may have been playing in the NBA at the time, but the best basketball games I remember from my childhood were the ones between my little brother, Seth, and me on our backyard basketball court in Charlotte, NC. We’d play for hours and hours, oftentimes well into the night with the use of a bright stage light shining on the court, until our mom would yell out the window for us to come in. Those games would get pretty heated, but that was the norm for brothers as close as we were. (Photo by: Keith Allison/via Wikipedia)

Our whole family was very close in fact, even when it came to school. My mom started a Christian Montessori school when I was in first grade, so we all went there together—Mom was in charge as the head mistress, our aunt was our teacher, and our grandmother was the cook. My brother and sister and I were blessed to have such great influences in our lives, and I can honestly say that my mom and dad were the best. They raised us to believe in God, and we were at church every Wednesday for youth Bible studies and every Sunday for services.

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I gave my life to Christ. I was in fourth grade, and I recall hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and walking down the aisle to give my life to Him. My parents continued to pour into my faith from that point on, making sure I understood the commitment I’d just made. Starting in middle school I attended Charlotte Christian School, which allowed me to hear the Gospel on a daily basis. Looking back, my childhood was filled with the Lord’s presence.

Wanting to follow in my dad’s footsteps on the hardwood, I had my sights set on Virginia Tech during my high school years. Unfortunately, the Hokies and other ACC schools weren’t interested. I was confident the Lord had blessed me with the talent to play the game, and I just wanted to go where He wanted me to be. That place became as clear as day to me once I met Bob McKillop, Davidson’s head coach. He explained his vision for my career at Davidson and how he could help me achieve my goals. Plus, he was a man of God, so it was an added bonus to play for a leader who was grounded in faith. The entire recruiting and signing experience taught me about patience and seeking God’s will, because He had a plan all along. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I trusted He knew what was best for me.

During our Cinderella run to the 2008 Elite Eight, I knew the Lord was preparing me for a bigger stage to represent and be a witness for Him on the basketball court. I remembered my mom telling me from day one at Davidson that God puts His people in different areas of life so that they can reach more people for Him. I tried to use that time for His glory.

Stephen_Curry_Davidson_croppedThen, in 2009, it was a surreal moment and a dream realized to be sitting in the green room with my family hearing my name called as the seventh overall pick of the NBA Draft. (Photo by David Hogg/via Wikipedia)

Fast-forward to now—my fourth year with the Warriors—and my faith continues to be my driving force. God’s blessed me with an awesome support system in Oakland, starting with my head coach, Mark Jackson, who is a pastor of a congregation in Southern California. It’s rare to have such an outspoken Believer leading an NBA team. We also have about 10 guys on our team who attend our pregame chapels and pray together before games.

The Holy Spirit is moving through our locker room in a way I’ve never experienced before. It’s allowing us to reach a lot of people, and personally I am just trying to use this stage to share how God has been a blessing to my life and how He can be the same in everyone else’s.

God’s given me talents to play basketball for a living, but I still have to work hard to improve every day. I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is just a game that can be taken from me at any moment. But I love that basketball gives me the opportunities to do good things for people and to point them towards the Man who died for our sins on the cross. I know I have a place in Heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top.

There’s more to me than just this jersey I wear, and that’s Christ living inside of me.

Credit – Stephen Curry

Image & Content courtesy of BreakingChristianNews.com

For the original article click here

Submitted by Ken Cross.

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It’s JUST a Game!

Its JUST a GameI’ve said it. You’ve probably said it. It’s uttered every Saturday on fields and courts across the country. It’s the ultimate retort to any sore loser or hyper-competitor. It goes like this:
“It’s just a game!”

The fact is though, it’s just not true.

As a sports minister, I said this to angry coaches and players frequently. Never once did someone say, “You’re right! I need to calm down.” Instead, it provoked them to further anger.

Beyond the fact that it provokes people, I would like to advocate eliminating this phrase from the vernacular of sports. Here’s why:

1. Condescension has no place for a minister. As we all know, many people struggle with the idolatry of sports. Remember, an idol is anything we’ve put in the place of God. This is no trivial thing. It does no good to speak condescendingly to a sports idolater by saying it’s just a game. If you want to address the idolatry, due it carefully and cautiously with a humble heart. Trust me, both you and the idolater will grow as product of this posture.

2. It creates a false dichotomy. Behind that saying is a belief that says, “Some things are important and some things are not. Games are not important.” God tells us a different story though. In 1 Corinthians 31, it says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Games are important because they can be done for the glory of God, just like anything else. Using this above statement lowers the bar for competition. People don’t need a lower view of sports, they need a higher one! (For more on this idea, take a look at The Ultimate Question or For the Love of the Game.)

What do you say though? Have you used this statement? Has it been helpful?

Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.
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Remembering the Gospel

Reminders. They are a part of our daily life.Remembering the Gospel

We have them on our phones. We post them on our refrigerators. We have them wherever we regularly frequent.

On the reminders, we are reminded of appointments, important dates, tasks, thoughts to carry with us, maybe even Bible verses.

We need these reminders for one simple reason – WE TEND TO FORGET!

While this tendency may get worse with age, the forgetting malady knows no age discrimination. Like death and taxes, everyone is affected by it.

Also, forgetfulness is not just something of this age. It has been around since we left the Garden years ago.

Paul understood this problem as he wrote his good friends at Corinth. The eighteen months Paul spent with the Corinthians, to plant and lead the church during his 2nd missionary journey, is his longest recorded visit in Acts. While in Ephesus during his 3rd missionary, he hears of some significant problems in this church he knows so well. In response, Paul writes what we know as 1Corinthians. In this letter, Paul addresses these problems – such as division, sexual immorality, jealousy, strife, abuses in worship and pride.

After he exposes problems and provides solutions, Paul gives an overarching idea that brings all these problems together and unites their solutions. “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel…..(1Corinthians 15:1). In the verses that follow, Paul tells the Corinthians

- Why they need to remember the gospel

- What is the gospel they are to remember

- How to go about remembering the gospel

On the first point, Paul gives two primary reasons for remembering the gospel. The first, we tend to forget. The second, when we forget the gospel we lose the present experience of the saving power of the gospel. Put in the positive, we need to remember the gospel to experience the saving power of the gospel. Paul says, “By this gospel you are saved.” Present tense – “You are being saved” might be a little clearer.

Remember from the first verse who Paul is writing to here – “Now, brothers.” These are fellow believers. Paul is saying to them “If you want to experience the power of God in your lives, especially to overcome the problems I just went over in this letter, remember the gospel.”

(I recently spoke on this passage at First Baptist Church – Matthews. Here is a link to that message that develops further these three points.)

I don’t know exactly where you are today but my guess is that you want to experience more of the power of God wherever you are. If so, follow Paul’s advice to the Corinthians. Remember the gospel.

This reminder may be the most important you get today.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now


Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.
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Does God Really Care About Football (or other sports for that matter)?

Does God Really Care About FootballDoes God really care about football? It depends on who you ask. Here’s a typical answer:

“Not one whit,” said Joe Price, a professor in the religious studies department at Whittier College. “But does God care about people who play football? You betcha.” (Link)

I would disagree with the above statement though. God definitely cares about who plays football but he cares about football as well. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourselves these questions:

  • Are there really things that God doesn’t care about? When you read Genesis 1 and 2, you notice that God created everything. It seems to me that God cares very much for the things he creates.
  • If there are things that God doesn’t care about–how do we determine what those things are? What’s the criteria to determine what’s important and what’s not in God’s economy? To make these distinctions is to create a sacred/secular divide and leads us to compartmentalization.

Still not convinced? That’s ok. The important part is that you wrestle with the topic. To continue the “wrestling” please check out our series of posts entitled Does God Care Who Wins?


Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

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Encourage

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” -Charles Schwab

When was the last time you truly encouraged someone?
When was the last time you told someone they were special, valuable, needed, etc.?

Do you remember the last time someone encouraged you?
How did it make you feel? Pretty good?! Is it so hard to pass it on and encourage the people around you?

What does God’s Word say?:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Because I like to tease folks and have been known to have just a touch of sarcasm from time to time, encouraging others is not always a strength for me. David Landrith jokingly told me once, “LB, you have the greatest gift of discouragement I have ever seen!”

Whether encouraging others comes with ease, or great difficultly, it is something we all need to be doing each day with those we come into contact with. Send someone a handwritten note today. Not an email or text, but an actual note in your own handwriting. Let them know you cared enough to take the time to write them a note, put a stamp on it and drop it in the mail!

So here is my attempt at encouraging YOU this day! Be encouraged! “Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it!”
Just a thought!


Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.

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God’s Approval

“Be more concerned with what God thinks about you than what people think about you.” -Author Unknown

That is easier said than done! We all want to be accepted and well liked by our peers.
Remember getting your tray in the cafeteria in middle school? You would stand there looking out over this wide expanse of tables and hope that there was just one seat left at the “cool” table. You had two goals as you moved out with your tray of food and chocolate milk; 1) don’t drop the tray (I did that once) and 2) don’t get stuck at the table of misfits. Why? Because we were young and immature, so we cared more about fitting in than standing out.

Sadly, this has been going on since the beginning of time. Adam ate the apple that Eve gave him because of good old fashion peer pressure. He desired acceptance from Eve more than he desired obeying God. And even though we have matured physically since our middle school cafeteria days, I wonder just how much we have matured in regards to our concerns about what others think.

Aren’t we all guilty of that? Why else would we tell the latest crude joke, use foul language, cheat, compromise our name, etc.? Because we desire the praise of men, instead of giving praise to the One who made man!

Peter and John were told to quit sharing about Christ, or they would be put to death, now that is peer pressure! Please take note of their reply:

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4: 18-20

Wow! I pray that at the moment of truth I will have the boldness of Peter and John. However, I find conforming to the world around us is too easy. After all, we have to live with the folks around us everyday, why not compromise our faith a little so that they will like us.

It is true that we do have to live with those around us, but we also have to answer to the One who made us? We have spent too much time pleasing people and loving God. It is time for us to start loving people and pleasing God!
Just a thought!


Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.

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“This is not what I have ever seen sports be!”

So said Steve Hartman, of CBS’ “On the Road,” as he covered a very unusual game between the Gainesville State School and Vanguard College Prep in Waco, Texas.

To understand why he said this we need to understand the story. Gainesville State School is a juvenile correction facility for felony offenders. The Tornadoes normally do not have many if any fans at their games, particularly away games. Two players at Waco Prep, Hudson Bradley and Ben Martinson, thought this wasn’t right. Therefore, they refused to play Gainesville under those conditions.

It just wasn’t right in their eyes. No fans, no play. Fans, then play. They got the great idea to recruit some of the Vanguard fans to root for Gainesville during the home game with them at Vanguard. They got signs made and recruited cheerleaders to cheer for the Gainesville Tornadoes, all without them knowing anything about it.

That was until they came out at the beginning of the game. They heard the cheers. They saw the signs. They stared at the cheerleaders. “How can this be?” must have run through their minds.

All during the game, the cheering just kept building until the whole gym was rooting for the Tornadoes.

After the game, Steve Hartman sat down with Hudson and Ben, and said, “This is not what I’ve ever seen sports be!” to which Hudson responds, “In a way, this is how sports should be.”

Don’t let that comment just slip by. Do you hear what is being said amidst this competition? Vanguard wasn’t following the examples of the day and striving against Gainesville. Vanguard was moving in a different direction – striving with Gainesville in this basketball game. In doing so, they stood out to this broadcaster and many others by demonstrating what sports were really designed to be.

I watched the video below of Steve’s report for CBS News and was moved. I bet you will be too.

For us at CSO, Vanguard’s action are a demonstration of redeemed sports. A great demonstration as a matter of fact. The impact? It moved those involved as well.

  • “Something I won’t forget. When I am an old man I will still think about this thing,” said one Gainesville player.
  • “I’ll probably remember this for the rest of my life,” said another.

We bring it to your attention in the hope that seeing examples like this would move you to a particular end. That end we have in mind would be for each of you to:

  • Reject the broken examples being put forth so loudly today
  • Embrace the quieter examples of redeemed sports like this one
  • To personally move, like Hudson and Ben did, to set out to redeem sports in your own way.

By the way, if you know of other examples like this one, let us know. We’d love to write about them and spread the vision. Honestly, I hope I am writing about something you did as a result of this example in the very near future.


Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

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“Soulless” Patriots with a “Soul Coach”?

Many NFL teams have chaplains. However, unlike the Seahawks or the Ravens, the Patriots have never been known for their spirituality.

That was before the Aaron Hernandez situation racked the team. In response, the Patriots hired Jack Easterby, who, as their chaplain, had walked the Kansas City Chiefs through the murder suicide of player Javon Belcher..

Unlike many team chaplains who are local pastors doing volunteer or part-time work as a chaplain, Easterby is full-time with an office close to Bill Belichick’s. He 
hosts Bible study, works coaches’ hours in his office counseling players and their wives, throws passes in practice to Darrelle Revis and sometimes even jumps in on scout-team drills. When he’s not listening, he’s texting. When he’s not texting, he’s writing players and coaches individual notes, recapping their personal goals and reminding them of how thankful he is to know them. He prefers to be called a character coach, not a chaplain, because he doesn’t push religion on anyone. In the following video, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham refers to him as the “soul” of New England and a “soul” coach.

Tom Brady calls him “just a great person and friend.” He goes on to say, “”You feel a special connection with him and with his genuine caring for all the people in his life.” This is Tom Brady talking, not someone known necessarily for his relational sensitivity. He even tells friends Easterby is one of the main reasons for the Patriots’ success this past year.

As I read this article and watched this video, honestly, I was stunned. The story slapped me and reminded me that all men, no matter how big or strong or macho they are, long to be loved, to be cared for in their trials, to be listened to and known. This reminder pointed my heart to The Gospel and the place where the need to be loved is most testified to and most satisfied.

Thanks, Jack Easterby for your life and example that points me to the great “lover of my soul,” Jesus.


Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

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Love in the Time of Deflategate

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Feb. 16 Gambling Issue.

ON THE NIGHT of Dec. 1, 2012, a man named Jack Easterby — a lanky and balding former college basketball player and golfer with a thick Southern accent and a demeanor so relentlessly positive that it approaches goofy — stood before the Kansas City Chiefs and tried to make sense of death. Not just death: a murder-suicide.

That morning, shortly after killing his girlfriend with 10 shots, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher arrived at the team parking lot with a handgun. He was distraught, crazed, panicked. A few team officials surrounded him, pleading with him to surrender his weapon and to not do any more damage. From down the road a police siren grew louder. Belcher decided it was over. “You know that I’ve been having some major problems at home and with my girlfriend,” he said. “I have hurt my girl already, and I can’t go back now.” Belcher knelt behind his car, made the sign of a cross on his chest and shot himself in the head.

Easterby, the Chiefs’ chaplain, was in the team building preparing a Saturday service when the gun went off. Just hours later, players and coaches were waiting for consoling words from a man who, if the team hadn’t drafted punter Ryan Succop out of South Carolina with the very last pick in 2009, they never would have known. Easterby had been the chaplain at South Carolina. Early in his second season, Succop asked Easterby to lead Bible study for the Chiefs, and Easterby demonstrated such an innate ability to connect with players — listening rather than talking, investing more in their lives than their games, assigning homework rather than uttering empty maxims — that Chiefs GM Scott Pioli came to personally pay for his flights from Columbia, South Carolina, to Kansas City.

That night, while players wondered what they could have done to prevent tragedy, Easterby felt prepared for his talk as if he had been born for it. “There is hope beyond these moments,” he began. “There’s something bigger going on.” He told them that if they prepared for death and for the life that continued after it, today’s devastation would linger less. He hugged a lot of guys. He gave everyone in the room a list of notes from his speech. He told them they could call him at any time. He combated crisis with love, plain and simple. “Men left encouraged,” former Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker remembers. “And they left in tears.”

Eight months later, in July 2013, the Patriots opened training camp with many wondering whether they had lost their way. The arrest of Aaron Hernandez on murder charges rattled many on the team. The post-Spygate years had seen them lose two Super Bowls, which gave license for some to question the validity of the three they had won. Some players privately struggled with the ruthless reality of life in the NFL, where the machine and the pressure can become too much. Something bigger than football seemed to be at stake. The team needed someone. Strange as it sounds, special-teams star Matt Slater says, they needed someone who would “offer love with no strings attached.”

They hired Jack Easterby.

“TONIGHT, MY GOAL is that you’ll never be the same.”

Easterby says that often in his devotionals, with the swagger of a hitter calling his shot. It’s an invitation, and dozens of athletes and coaches — from Tom Brady to Brady Quinn, from Bill Belichick to South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley — have accepted it. They don’t always buy into Easterby’s gospel, but they buy into Easterby himself. His job is to be trustworthy, and it doesn’t help him earn trust if he’s out there talking about it, which is why he politely declined to speak for this story. “He’s just a great person and friend,” Brady says. “You feel a special connection with him and with his genuine caring for all the people in his life.”

Inline: Jack Easterby
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Inline: Jack Easterby
David Eulitt/TNS/Zuma Press

When Jovan Belcher committed murder-suicide, the Chiefs turned to Easterby–pictured above at the scene–for guidance.

The Patriots, since his hire, say they are not the same, no matter what happens in Super Bowl XLIX and no matter the result of Ted Wells’ investigation into whether the team illegally deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. Owner Robert Kraft calls Easterby a “wonderful individual,” and Brady has told friends Easterby is one of the main reasons for the Patriots’ success this past year. Safety Devin McCourty calls him “a godsend to this team” who has “helped create better men.”

Easterby’s presence in New England has been as welcome as it is strange. A man known for being a “big hugger, a loud hugger,” as Pioli says, now roams the halls of a building where men are so lost in thought they often neglect to say hello as they beeline to their offices. An organization that proudly suffers wins as hard as it does losses — once, after the Pats missed a fourth-and-inches in a blowout win, Belichick griped to the players, “Fourth and the size of my d— and we can’t get the first down?” — now relies on an eternal optimist who, rather than referring to the Ten Commandments as “Thou Shalt Nots” calls them “the list of God’s dos.”

Easterby has a gift for making others feel better about themselves. Players say it’s hard to overstate how precious that is, working for a fiercely bottom-line team and in a league they believe targets them unfairly. When Easterby talks to players or coaches, he pulls them in for an embrace, raising their handshake to his heart. He fixes his eyes to theirs so long without blinking that it’s both awkward and somehow liberating. He is 31 years old, young enough to relate but old enough to have some scars. He tells them football is temporary, to never forget how blessed they are and to focus on their gifts — their beautiful wives or girlfriends or children, their ability to earn a living playing sports. He always closes by reminding them he’s a quick judge of character, and he can tell by the look in their eyes they are men of integrity. It’s not something Patriots players and coaches have heard much since 2007, and certainly not a term used to describe them during the deflated footballs controversy in the run-up to Super Bowl XLIX.

THE TYPICAL TEAM chaplain is a pastor at a local church who volunteers to host Saturday chapel for 10 or so players who attend and is compensated with cash in a collection plate. In New England, Easterby has an office — and it’s near Belichick’s. He is a classic Belichick hire: The more he can do, the more he does. He 
hosts Bible study, works coaches’ hours in his office counseling players and their wives, throws passes in practice to Darrelle Revis and sometimes even jumps in on scout-team drills. When he’s not listening, he’s texting. When he’s not texting, he’s writing players and coaches individual notes, recapping their personal goals and reminding them of how thankful he is to know them. He prefers to be called a character coach, not a chaplain, because he doesn’t push religion on anyone. “He just wants to love you,” Slater says. “He just wants to be your friend. How can you not love a guy like that?”

Love doesn’t come up often in football, but when guys speak of Easterby they use the word all the time. His first job after graduating with a degree in sports management from Newberry College in South Carolina, his home state, was in the ticket office of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Easterby later told friends it felt empty. After he had devoted his life to Christ as a freshman in college, he envisioned a career in helping people: part father, part brother, part friend. In 2005, he got a job as the academic adviser for the Gamecocks men’s basketball team. He began hosting Bible study for all of USC’s athletes and coaches, and he learned how to bond with all kinds of young men — fatherless, fathers themselves, black, white, rich, poor — by focusing like a laser on what they needed, not what he wanted. “Jack cut across all religious beliefs,” says then-coach Dave Odom.

Like Belichick and Brady, Easterby is obsessed with process — only his process is self-actualization. He challenges those he counsels to be better people the way coaches challenge them to be better players. He speaks to them in language they’re familiar with, with occasional cuss words and the drive of a former athlete. He’s written a devotion called the Competitor’s Creed. I am a Competitor now and forever. I am made to strive, to strain, to stretch and to succeed in the arena of competition. … My attitude on and off the field is above reproach, my conduct beyond criticism. Whether I am preparing, practicing or playing, I submit to God’s authority and those He has put over me. I respect my coaches, officials, teammates and competitors out of respect for the Lord.

Once in a note to a coach, Easterby quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s speech about being the “man in the arena” who was daring to be great, and he signed it:
Aiming to be the man in the arena,
Jack

Inline: Jack Easterby (Tom Brady)
Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images

The upbeat spin many Patriots players, including Brady, tried to put on Deflategate was a telltale sign of Easterby’s influence.

Professional football players are drawn to type-A personalities like Easterby, who years ago as the officiant of Brady Quinn’s wedding wrestled the schedule away from the wedding planner and streamlined the process to make it easier for the bride and groom. Players can relate to a deep-seated desire to be great. Easterby is not the only character coach in the NFL, but he might be the most ambitious one. He leaves his wife, Holly, and two young daughters in South Carolina and spends Thursday to Monday in Foxborough, arriving at 5 a.m. most mornings. “He makes personal sacrifices, and guys recognize that,” Pioli says. And when your ambition is to give, it tends to bring out the best in those around you. Says Odom, “He is so good at helping players understand the opportunity 
they have to give to others; ‘I care and give — now you go care and give.’”

After one loss during the disastrous 2012 season in Kansas City, Easterby searched the building for Pioli. Easterby’s three years with the Chiefs, he later told people, stretched him. He saw a playoff team and he saw a 2-14 season. He saw a murder-suicide. And he learned — right before he got a call from the Patriots saying, “We heard you’re the best in the league at what you do and we want to bring you up here” — how important simple acts of devotion are in the silent turmoil of an NFL facility. That day, Pioli avoided Easterby because he knew what Jack wanted. He wanted to give him a hug. Pioli didn’t want a hug. Well, that wasn’t quite true. He did want a hug, but he didn’t want to admit he wanted one. For years, he had heard Bill Parcells and Belichick grouse about the lonely life at the top, and now Pioli felt it. Easterby, undeterred, seemed to sense it. When he finally cornered Pioli, the two of them stared at each other like it was a gunfight.

“Jack,” Pioli said sternly, “don’t do it.”

Jack did it, all right. And held it a few seconds long too.

FOR A MOMENT, put aside the report that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs in the AFC championship game were found to be underinflated. Stop wondering what might have happened in the 90 seconds a Patriots ball boy is reported to have spent in the men’s room. Now imagine life with no benefit of the doubt. With guilt by association. With people dismissing your life’s work as a byproduct of a culture of cheating. And with the presumption that you’re shady because your organization’s past indiscretion is hanging over your every move as you prepare to play in the biggest game of the year.

It’s exhausting. It’s dispiriting. And blind anger — the clichéd us-against-them mentality — only goes so far. Belichick always tells his players nobody is going to feel sorry for them.

But Jack Easterby does.

“As macho as we are in this locker room, we all want to be loved,” Slater says. “As men, sometimes we don’t know how to deal with different emotions or ups and downs. We don’t grieve the way we should, experience sadness the way we should or express joy the way we should, because we’re so focused on the job. Jack has been there to say, ‘It’s OK to be down. It’s OK to have heartache.’”

In 2013, Slater broke his wrist and missed four games. He felt something worse than the dull panic common to injured athletes. He felt self-pity. Easterby indulged the feeling rather than burying it, saw it through rather than trivializing it and softened Slater’s anger rather than inflating it. One of Easterby’s aims is to help players unearth an inner joy that is more sustaining than having a chip on their shoulder. “If proving yourself becomes your identity,” he tells guys, “it’s a dangerous way to live.” Slater emerged liberated and somehow thinking clearer. “The game of football can be taken away at any time,” Easterby said. “Never forget what Jesus has done for you. Don’t forget what’s important.” That, Slater says now, “was freeing to me. I said, ‘You know what? The sadness and disappointment is temporary.’” Slater ended the season at the Pro Bowl.

Throughout the Deflategate investigation, Easterby has become something more than a character coach. Like a defense attorney, he serves his clients come what may. If the Pats are exonerated, he’ll have helped them weather the storm. If not, he will embrace the chance to help them learn from it. You could see traces of Easterby’s language in the language of the Patriots during Super Bowl week. Brady first admitted he “personalized” attacks on his character, a pristine reputation that some seemed so eager to trash. But he soon refocused. “Everyone will say, ‘God, it’s been a tough week for you,’” he said. “But it’s been a great week for me, to really be able to recalibrate the things that are important in my life and understand the people that support me, and love me, and care about me.”

It seemed too earnest to be true, but it also seemed to help. And as the team spent 
Super Bowl week deflecting questions about its character, the character coach texted guys to say he was grateful for “another opportunity to serve” and “blessed to have a chance to impact.”

IN THE THIRD quarter of the AFC championship game, Easterby stood on the sideline in the rain. That quarter was the decisive moment of the game. The Patriots scored 21 unanswered points, all with legal footballs. The players and the crowd began to smell a Super Bowl trip. At the time, nobody knew that an investigation was looming. Players started to shout, to celebrate and dance.

Team chaplains often say they don’t feel part of the team. They are expected to be on call, with little reward beyond the work itself. Sensing this, Slater approached Easterby, jumping and yelling, all but imploring him to join in. But for once, Easterby didn’t offer hugs. For once, he seemed overwhelmed by the moment.

“I’m so humbled to be a part of this,” he said, and turned back to the game, ready to serve.

Credit – Seth Wickersham, ESPN The Magazine senior writer.
Image & Content courtesy of ESPN.GO.COM
For the original article click here
Submitted by Ken Cross.
scnoriginalsmall1

Serve

service
“Most people wish to serve God-but only in an advisory capacity.”
Let’s say you take a job and you tell your new boss, “I’m ready to work, but I will only do what I want to do and what feels comfortable to me. You can make suggestions and I will pray about it and see if it fits my schedule.” How do you think that would go over? Welcome to the unemployment line! You would not make it a day! However, every day of our lives this is exactly how we treat the Lord of the universe.

  • “Lord, I’m ready to follow you, but I’m going to that big party Friday night and I may have a few of beers and after that I may…”
  • “Lord, I’m ready to serve you but, don’t ask me to share my faith with those around me.”
  • “Lord, I love you but, I’m just too busy to spend 10-15 minutes praying and reading your Word everyday.”


What does God’s Word have to say?:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. I Peter 5:6
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

If we truly understand what Christ did for us on the cross and we have truly asked Him into ours lives, then there should be a natural passion to serve and follow Him. Right?
We serve for Christ, not because we have to, but we serve Him because we get to! What will you do today? Serve the Big Boss or call in sick?
Just a thought!

Credit: Lance Brown – Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.
scnoriginalsmall1

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