Tebow, Prayer, & Bahamian Street Hockey

2012 Stanley Conch ChampionsThis might be the strangest title I have ever used for a blog post, so I should probably connect the dots for my readers.

After moving to The Bahamas in June 2010, I joined the Nassau Street Hockey league—playing for the Potter’s Cay Pirates in my first year and then playing for the (Stanley Conch Champion) Nassau Hurricanes in year two.

Aside from the fun I have playing hockey with a great bunch of guys, it has been amusing to observe how my teammates and opponents have engaged me. I’m pretty sure that a few of these guys aren’t used to having a pastor around, and I’m likely the first “preacher” to play regularly in the NSHL.

Some of the players have admitted to testing me with behind-the-play “bumps”, elbows, and theologically rich chirping. One of the comments I’ve heard a couple of times has followed my making a save, “Rev., let’s see you Tebow!” (In the event you don’t know what “Tebowing” is you will need to read this article.)

For many of these guys, the frame of reference for a devout Christian playing sports is Tim Tebow. I am a huge Tebow fan, but I’ve always resisted the invitation to “Tebow” after a big save. Which leads me to the reason for this post. How does a devout Christian engage God prior to, and during, a competitive match?

My instinct is to pray. I pray a lot before the game, and I pray a lot during the game. To my teammates and opponents it probably just looks like I’m intensely focussed. I don’t bow my head. I don’t close my eyes. I don’t “Tebow”. But I pray.

Tim Tebow

What do I pray for?

I pray for a bunch of things, but one thing I don’t pray for is a win. I wonder if my inspiration for not praying for a win will surprise you…It’s Tim Tebow. I’ve enjoyed reading Tebow’s autobiography, “Through My Eyes”, and hugely resonated with this comment in particular:

“I’m not sure God is into who wins or loses—He probably is more concerned with what you do in the process and what you will do with either result.”

I’m acutely aware that my attitude and actions on the rink can positively or negatively impact another person’s view of Christ and Christianity. Hockey is a rough sport and there is a fine line between playing tough and still keeping it clean. Accordingly, my most frequent prayer is for my attitude towards others. I’ve been speared, butt-ended, and even thrown into the net—it’s not fun, and it tests your self-control. That’s part of the reason I need to pray.

As a goalie, I also pray that I don’t let in any weak goals. That probably sounds very close to praying for a win, but I can honestly say that I don’t mind losing. What I mind is being the cause of our losing. I let in some bad goals this year, but thankfully that wasn’t the case in the Stanley Conch Finals.

I didn’t sign up to play goalie. Although I played goalie in ice hockey for 30 years, I didn’t like the idea of putting on all that gear in this tropical Bahamian heat. But when our regular goalie quit, I was pressed into action without even having all of the necessary equipment. Accordingly, I did pray for a measure of safety as one of the pieces of equipment I was missing was a cup. If Chris Wheaton had hit me with a shot there, I might never have walked quite right again.

So yes, pray before you play and, as you have opportunity, pray while you play. I don’t want to be overly demonstrative with that. I don’t want to draw attention to myself when I’m praying. But I do need to pray. I do so remembering the apostle Paul’s instruction, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess. 5:16-18).

I thank God for the opportunity to play street hockey in The Bahamas, and I am grateful to do so with a great bunch of guys–even when they slash me.

Good Intervention

We typically resist people who want to “get into our business”, don’t we? And yet, I want to suggest to you that there are occasions when interference by others can actually be a good thing.

I vividly recall being challenged to engage in an after-school fight when I was ten years-old. Foolishly, I agreed.

When the final bell rang I proceeded reluctantly to the designated spot where my opponent and his motley crew were waiting for me. As I approached, my opponent scoffed at me, taunting me to make the first move . . . until we were interrupted by the sound of a man’s voice.

The crowd which had assembled quickly scattered as the man approached. He summoned me forward and ordered the rest of the children to go home.

It was my father.

So you see, interference can be a good thing; especially if the one who is interfering knows better than we do. Interference can be a good thing if the one interfering has abilities that we lack to remedy a problem.

We are reminded at Christmas that this is the story of God’s intervention in human history. Conceivably, God could have left us to our own devices, but He knew that the problem was beyond our ability to remedy.

The core problem, as is identified throughout Scripture, is the problem of sin. Sure, there were, and are, other problems—problems of war, problems of injustice, and problems of poverty—but, clearly, these are the symptoms of the core problem.

What we soon learn is that Jesus did not come to this earth to give us a band-aid solution to our problems. This is not heaven’s version of a public relations visit. Jesus did not come merely to provide humanity with a helpful body of teachings, as if sufficient education could fix our problems. This was a rescue mission. Jesus came to overcome for us the fundamental barrier between God and humanity.

I appreciate the specific details provided by the angel in Matthew’s narrative. Otherwise, we might have missed the primary purpose of Jesus’ birth. Without the angel’s words we might have imagined that our sin was not that big of a problem. Without the angel’s words we might have imagined, as many did, that the role of the Messiah was to be a national liberator. Thankfully, the angel leaves no doubt about what we need saving from: “give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).

In the person of Jesus, born two thousand years ago, God powerfully entered into the affairs of humanity. It was a profound interruption in human history; it was interference of the best kind.

While we recognize and celebrate the intervention of God in human history at Christmas, I also want to invite you to think about the intervention of God in your personal history. Has there been a point in your life where you discerned that God was breaking in? Perhaps, even now, you sense His presence. Perhaps, even now, you detect God wanting to intervene—wanting to change the trajectory of your life and to shower you with His grace.

My plea is for you to allow God to “get into your business”. Interference can be a good thing. Interference from God will always be a good thing. This Christmas, and beyond, my encouragement is for you to let God in.

5 Reasons I Cheer For Tim Tebow

Tim TebowTim Tebow has been referred to as the most polarizing individual in the NFL. Fans seem to either adore him or loathe him.

On the field, Tebow is a proven winner. In 2007, he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophmore. In 2008, Tebow led the Florida Gators to their 2nd National Championship in 3 years. As I write this, Tebow is 7-1 as a starter for the Denver Broncos (who began the season 1-4). Of those 7 wins, 6 were 4th quarter comebacks (unprecedented). Not surprising that “Tebow-mania” is running wild.

When he’s not eluding tacklers or throwing to receivers, Tebow is promoting his faith in Jesus Christ. For some people, this is a turn-off. Critics ask rhetorically whether God actually cares who wins a football game. Others chirp, suggesting that if God was with Tebow, “He would throw a tighter spiral”. Some television analysts (former NFL QBs) have implored Tebow to “tone it down”. Even Kurt Warner (fellow Christian, and former NFL QB) has suggested that Tebow do less talking, with regard to his relationship with Christ.

I happen to be among those who hugely respect Tim Tebow and the way he carries himself on, and off, the field. It’s not just because he’s a Christian (and a pastor’s son)–there are Christians on every NFL team. Tebow is different. He’s special. And here are the 5 main reasons I love to cheer for Tim Tebow:

5) His Toughness

You could argue that toughness comes easily when you are 6’3 and 250 lbs. Tebow is no Doug Flutie. And yet, in a league filled with QBs of similar physical proportions, none take on tacklers the way Tebow does. In his junior year of high school football, Tebow suffered an injury to his right leg late in the first half of a game. Originally thought by the coaching staff to be a bad cramp, Tebow played the entire second half with a broken fibula, at one point rushing for a 29-yard touchdown.

4) His Sticktoitiveness

Tebow has this attribute on and off the field. On the field, the clearest demonstration of Tebow’s sticktoitiveness are his six 4th quarter comebacks. Sure, there were some long field goals and big defensive stands, but Tebow was the engineer of those comebacks and is undisputed leader of his team. Off the field, Tebow has been equally passionate and persistent in his promotion of Jesus Christ. Critics plead for his silence. Reporters attempt to draw him away from talking about God. Peers exhort him to “just play football”. But Tebow is undeterred. By every appearance, talking about Jesus Christ is the natural overflow of Tebow’s love for Christ. In the face of great pressure to stop talking about Jesus, Tim Tebow keeps talking about Jesus.

3) His Boldness

Tim Tebow eye paintTebow rarely misses an opportunity to promote Jesus Christ. In his college playing days, Tebow even wore Bible verses on his eye paint. In 2010, a new rule for the next NCAA football season, dubbed “The Tebow Rule” by media, banned messages on eye paint. In the 2009 BCS Championship Game, Tebow wore John 3:16 on his eye paint, and as a result, 92 million people searched “John 3:16″ on Google during or shortly after the game. When Tebow switched to another verse, there were 3.43 million searches of “Tim Tebow” and “Proverbs 3:5-6″ together. On the sidelines, Tebow is so often seen praying that the action is now widely known as ‘Tebowing’. The technical definition for Tebowing is “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”

2) His Generosity

Not too many 24 year-old athletes have set up foundations designed to help impoverished people. The Tim Tebow Foundation is the outgrowth of an initiative from his college days, “First and 15″. Tebow’s foundation has raised funds for Uncle Dick’s Orphanage in the Phillipines, Shands Hospital (Pediatric Cancer Center) in Gainesville, FL, and the foundation is currently raising funds to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines. Tim Tebow is serious about helping others.

1) His Christian Integrity

We’re familiar with the saying, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you had better be prepared to walk the walk.” Tim Tebow talks about Christ, but more importantly, Tim Tebow lives in a manner consistent with the ways of Christ. While critics continue to dissect the technical aspects of Tebow’s passing game, none have been able to find fault or failure with Tebow’s lifestyle choices. No, Tim Tebow, is not perfect—we all get that. But there is a consistency to his message and manner which I find winsome and inspiring.

I’ve never been a Broncos fan (I’m a Niagara Falls born boy who grew up cheering for the Bills), but Tebow has changed that. I’m now cheering for the Broncos. And I’m cheering for Tim Tebow—on and off the field.

GB2

<<<   >>>

Tim Tebow touchdown passAfter writing this post on Dec. 15, the Broncos lost 3 in a row and backed into the playoffs at 8-8. Tebow struggled massively in those three games. Today, Tebow and the Broncos shocked the football world and the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 29-23 win in OT. It was Tebow’s best ever professional game.

When asked for his immediate reaction to the game winning touchdown, Tebow responded, ”When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him — Like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I’ve done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans.”

My copy of Tebow’s book, “Through My Eyes”, arrived in Nassau on Friday. I look forward to that read and posting a review in the coming weeks.

GB2

A Big Mac For Thanksgiving

McDonald's Big MacMy Canadian friends celebrated Thanksgiving more than a month ago. My American friends celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. In The Bahamas, Thanksgiving is not an official holiday, but many here recognized and celebrated the day.

I was among those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, but I did not celebrate in the traditional manner.  I didn’t watch NFL football. I didn’t travel to visit family. I didn’t eat a big turkey dinner. I had a Big Mac for dinner.

I had a Big Mac for Thanksgiving dinner and it closed off one of the most special Thanksgiving celebrations I’ve ever been a part of.

The day began packing a massive amount of canned and boxed food items into 42 large bags.

The food was donated by members and adherents at St. Andrew’s Kirk as a part of an initiative to distribute groceries to the neediest of families who live in one of the more impoverished communities in Nassau, Bain & Grant’s Town.

Because of the strong partnership that the Kirk has with the Bain & Grant’s Town Urban Renewal Centre, myself, along with another Kirk member, were driven through the neighbourhood to homes that were selected by the URC staff as housing particularly vulnerable individuals. Most were senior citizens; many were disabled persons; all were appreciative recipients of our offering of groceries.

I don’t feel comfortable describing in print some of the conditions that we came across. But I can tell you that it is a heart-wrenching experience. And while it is a delight to us, and an encouragement to those we visited, to deliver some food items, I’m acutely aware of the fact that the ongoing need massively exceeds what a bag of groceries can supply.

Once the grocery delivery was done, I traveled back to the Kirk to prepare to receive 100 children from the Bain & Grant’s Town and Farm Road Urban Renewal Centres. We were hosting Thanksgiving Dinner—McDonald’s—thanks to a generous donor.

In a few short minutes our Kirk Hall filled with 100 excited children. A few minutes later, an additional bus load arrived. McDonald’s quickly adapted and ordered 50 more meals to be delivered to accommodate a crowd that was now close to 140. McDonald’s didn’t simply drop the food off—they sent along staff to serve each child their meal. McDonald’s even provided an entertainer—an energetic man, along with his sidekick, “Charlie”, and a few hundred pieces of candy to delight the hearts of these beautiful children.

There are few sights more precious than seeing 100+ smiling children. This was a dinner I won’t soon forget. And I suspect it will be for these children a Thanksgiving to be remembered.

As I reflected this morning on the day, a verse immediately came to mind: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

First, let me say that I don’t regard my “works” to have been all that special. I did not supply the dinner for the children. The groceries came from several dozen donors. My role was little more than delivery boy during the day and custodian during the evening.

The reason why I think this verse is relevant is because I’m not sure the command to “let your let shine” is aimed at individual behaviour. In this passage, Jesus is speaking amid a very large crowd. Matthew makes a point of telling us that Jesus spoke directly to His disciples…”Let your (plural) light shine…that they may see your (plural) good works and glorify your (plural) Father who is in heaven.

Yesterday, in a community just over the hill, beyond downtown Nassau, St. Andrew’s Kirk shone a light. The good works of a particular community of people who follow Jesus made an impact.

And do you know what was the most gratifying part for me? Not too many of the recipients said, “Thank you”. Instead, what we more commonly heard was “God is good” and “To God be the glory”.

I was reminded yesterday—by the Scriptures, and by the people of Bain & Grant’s Town—that we don’t serve others in order to be thanked. We do good deeds, we serve others, with the hope that those we serve might turn and glorify their Father who is in heaven.

I was privileged to witness that happen yesterday.

I had a Big Mac for Thanksgiving dinner and it closed off one of the most special Thanksgiving celebrations I’ve ever been a part of.

Becoming Agents Of Transformation

The leaders at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas recently developed a mission statement to better direct our focus and activity: Pursuing Christ-likeness and community transformation according to the Word of God. The launch and promotion of this new mission statement included a 10-week sermon series from The Book of Nehemiah, changes to our signage, changes to our website and, most recently, this promotional video.

The footage for this video was shot by the very talented Tim Aylen. The editing for this video was executed beautifully by his daughter, Julia. My role was simply that of the narrator and cheerleader for my tech experts.

I’ll let this 2 minute video tell most of the story, but if I had to add a point it would be this: Our growth in Christ-likeness should benefit other people. As we experience transformation by Christ’s Spirit, we also become agents of transformation by Christ’s Spirit—we become God’s difference-makers in our local communities.