Posts

The Rushmore Report: Two Baseball Greats You Didn’t Know Were Christians

The race to the playoffs for Major League baseball is in its stretch run. Teams are gearing up for one final push toward their goal of a 2017 World Series Championship. In the history of team sports, there is no title more coveted than this. Personally, I’m pulling for my hometown Astros to win their first title since – ever. But two perennial All-Stars are chasing a higher crown. This is their story.

There are a lot of believers who fill Major League rosters. But two players really stand out.

1. Clayton Kershaw

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace has accomplished many things on the baseball field and has three National League Cy Young Awards to show for it. But to Kershaw, what matters more than his accolades on the field is the impact he makes off the field.

“For me, it’s about the legacy you leave off the field. It’s about how many people I can affect with the platform God gave me,” Kershaw wrote.

“Being a Christian means you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re supposed to stand out, you’re supposed to be different, you’re supposed to act boldly in your faith,” he added. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth the fight.”

Kershaw highlights Colossians 3:23 in his Bible. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

2. Andrew McCutchen

The five-time All-Star outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates grew up with a pastor for a dad. He says his dad instilled Romans 8:28 into his heart.

“I know God gave me talents to use to the best of my ability for His glory and to be able to help others. The game is not mine. It doesn’t control me. I give it all to God,” he says. “People say that when something happens to you with the Lord, you start seeing things differently. That’s kind of the way I started seeing things; and the more I started to see things differently, the more my game took off.”

Being in a sport in which failing seven out of ten times is considered a success, McCutchen said that his relationship with the Lord has made failure easier for him to encounter.

“You understand it’s just an obstacle He put you through to get where He wants you to go,” McCutchen added.

On a side note, you will have plenty of chances to catch Clayton Kershaw pitching in this year’s playoffs. His Dodgers have the best record in baseball. As for McCutchen, you better watch him now. The only way the Pirates will get into the playoffs is if they buy tickets.

The Rushmore Report: How Michael Jordan Helped Jordan Spieth Win the Open

To say Jordan Spieth was leaking oil on Sunday at The Open Championship would be an affront to the Exxon Valdez. Spieth had bogeyed three of his first four holes and was fading hard. That’s when his caddie Michael Greller stepped in with a reminder. Much like Rory McIlroy’s caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, reminded him earlier in the week, Greller shared a similar sentiment with Spieth.

A few weeks ago, Spieth took a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with his girlfriend and some friends to charge his batteries before The Open. He met up with Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Russell Wilson, and others. Spieth tweeted out a photo of them together at dinner.

On Sunday, when it was all going sideways at Royal Birkdale, Greller reminded Spieth of that photo.

Spieth said, “Michael did a great thing today. He said, ‘Do you remember that group you were with in Cabo last week? You belong in that group.’ This was on seven tee box. We walked off the tee box, and he made me come back. He said, ‘I’ve got something to say to you.’ He said, ‘Do you remember that group you were with? You’re that caliber of an athlete. But I need you to believe that right now because you’re in a great position in this tournament. This is a new tournament. We’re starting over here.'”

Heady stuff, and Spieth said it carried him throughout the rest of the round.

“I definitely thought about what he was saying while I was over some of those key putts I made. I mean, for the way it was looking, those weren’t easy; those 3-footers were like 10-footers to me. And all of a sudden the lid came off. And the 30-footers were 2-footers to me. I don’t know why I can’t make it a little more boring sometimes.”

Spieth went on to explain why self belief is so important in golf and how he’s able to channel it in the most absurd moments (which is what I think makes him so great).

“I think just a little bit of belief that you are the best, you know?” said Spieth. “Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps are the greatest to ever do what they did, and I’m not. But if you believe that you are, then you’re almost as good as being that. And it’s so hard in that situation to believe that, but just having the slightest bit of belief in it makes you so confident. And I thought that that was so well said. It was just such the right time.

“I’ll never forget what Michael – how he told me that, when he told me that and the significance that it had. And just that bit of confidence that when he had said that early in the round and then he had another thing to say – that momentum is on our side. ‘Just do exactly what you’ve been doing, it’s going to go your way.’ Just his belief, when I know him so well, just fed over a bit.”

Greller certainly was worth every bit of his 10 percent of Spieth’s $1.85 million payday on Sunday. And now his boss has three major championships with a fourth on deck.

About the Author

Kyle Porter is a writer for CBS Sports.

The Rushmore Report: Kirk Cousins Turns Down $53M – Because of His Faith

Kirk Cousins is citing his faith as the ultimate reason he is turning down a long-term deal with the Washington Redskins, insisting that he wants to follow God’s plan for him. Instead of committing to sign with the Redskins for the next few years, the 28-year-old Christian quarterback opted to sign a franchise one-year deal with the team. The All-Pro explained the importance of hearing from God.

In a report last week, Cousins opened up about how his faith influences his career decisions.

“First of all, what rarely ever gets reported is that ultimately this decision is not about anything more important than my faith,” Cousins said. “My faith is ultimately driving this decision. Do I feel like the Lord is leading me to make this decision or that decision and where does he give me peace?’

Throughout the years, the QB has been vocal about his belief that God brought him to Washington, D.C. to play for the Redskins. He echoed those sentiments on a CBS radio show.

Cousins said, “He brought me to D.C. then. He had a plan for me. I didn’t know if it was going to be for football or for something else, but he placed me in Washington, D.C. for a reason. I believe that with my whole heart, and as a result, I was content to be patient and allow time to reveal that and to continue to just wait on the Lord.”

While some may not understand his decision to not commit to a long-term football career with the Redskins, Cousins said he is trusting in the Lord.

“He’s done far more for me in my five seasons here in Washington than I ever thought he would. And so here I sit and people are saying, ‘It appears to be a dead end. After this year, what’s going to happen to Kirk?'”

Cousins continued, “I tell them I’m trusting in the Lord.”

The QB has made it his goal to lead on and off the field. His greater goal is to lead men to Christ. “I think naturally I am a leader. I believe that leadership at the end of the day is influence. I think that more than anything as a Christian I want to be able to influence my teammates for Christ and that’s not going to change.”

The Rushmore Report: The Faith and Humility of Roger Federer

As I watched the Wimbledon Finals the other day, I quickly realized that I was witnessing one of the best athletes the world has ever seen in action. Roger Federer has to be in the top five greatest athletes ever, and I have been privileged to watch him throughout his career. But he’s completely humble in his manner. He is quiet about his profound Catholic faith, and the consummate gentleman.

Federer destroys his opponents without needing to psyche them out in any way other than being so good. And when it’s all over he shakes hands, gives them a pat on the back, and moves on. I always note that he looks like s sports star when he has his Nike bandana on, but as soon as he takes it off, he just looks like a regular guy. There is nothing about his physique that makes him look like a sporting star.

Roger is a major supporter of The Humpty Dumpty Foundation, an Australian charity. He donates his time to participate in private tennis matches and raises funds to purchase equipment that has saved untold lives.

Roger Federer is the perfect role model of how I believe we should do life. No matter how good we are or successful we might be, we can do it by being humble and genuine. That does not mean we should not be proud of what we do, and not carry a sense of pride about ourselves, but it is remaining aware of the fact that we don’t need to rub others’ noses in our success.

People genuinely know a little more about you than you think, and so you may not need to be so forthcoming in telling others of all the success you have achieved. Being proud of what you have achieved is awesome. Making sure everyone is more than aware of it is unnecessary.

Roger Federer was – and probably still is – an anonymous donor to The Humpty Dumpty Foundation. Who knows how many other charities and individuals he helps with his fortune? We can all learn a lot from him.

About the Author

Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media, publishers of My Christian Daily. He also blogs at www.mattdanswan.com.

Note

By winning his eighth Wimbledon championship and 19th Grand Slam Title, Federer further cemented himself as the greatest tennis player of all time. Though quiet about his faith, he is a devout Catholic who considers one of his great highlights meeting the Pope.

 

Lou Gehrig’s Historic Day

He was one of baseball’s all-time greats. Lou Gehrig, known as the “Iron Horse,” set the record for most consecutive games played. He still owns the record for most career grand slams. But it was what he did on this day in history – July 4, 1939 – that made him more than a great baseball player. It made him a great man.

Upon learning that he had ALS, a disease he knew would soon take his life, the Yankees’ first baseman stepped up to the microphone on Independence Day at Yankee Stadium, before a big game. And this is what he said . . .

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men [pointing to his teammates]. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing.

“When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

Lou Gehrig was dying – while in the prime of life. Still, he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Still he considered life a “blessing.” Still, he said, “I have an awful lot to live for.”

This is a national holiday, as it should be. But it is also a good time to remember baseball immortality at its finest. Remember Lou Gehrig. Remember the speech. Remember those timeless words – from 77 years ago today.

Jackie Robinson’s Big Day

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in a Major League baseball game. Over the next ten years, he would win numerous awards: Rookie of the Year, National League Most Valuable Player, World Series champion, National League batting champion, two-time stolen base leader, and six-time All-Star.

But it was this day in history that his family will forever cherish. On July 2, 1962, Jackie Robinson was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, on the first ballot.

Robinson died at the young age of 53. He is buried near his son and mother-in-law. But it is what is written on his tomb that I find most interesting. One of his personal quotes immortalizes his life, even in death. Written on this tombstone are these words: “Life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

I think men go through three stages in life – at least they should. In phase one, they are consumed with success. In phase two, beginning around age 40, they focus on significance. Their final stage is a focus on legacy.

Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player. But more than that, he was a great man. The world is a better place because of Jackie Robinson.

What will be your legacy? How is the world made different because of you?

The Bite of the Century

It happened 20 years ago today – the Bite of the Century. It was also known as Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II. In a classic rematch, the two heavyweights fought for the WBA boxing championship of the world. As in their first fight, Tyson won. But it was how he won that made history.

Not once, but twice, Tyson bit the champion’s ears. After the second biting, in the fourth round, referee Mills Lane stepped in and disqualified Iron Mike, and the fight was over. Holyfield, ahead on all cards, retained his crown.

Tyson never returned to boxing greatness. Holyfield, on the other hand, would become the only four-time world heavyweight boxing champion in history.

Fast forward 12 years to October 16, 2009. Tyson and Holyfield made a joint appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Before millions of viewers, Tyson apologized to Holyfield, who accepted his apology. Actually, Holyfield had stated his forgiveness years earlier, on the basis of his faith in God and his Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is our love for each other that marks us as true believers, said Jesus. That is what makes Christianity real.

I have had the privilege of meeting both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. I found Tyson to be surprisingly surreal, measured, and calm. When I sat down with Holyfield for several minutes, he wanted to talk mostly about his faith – and forgiveness. He really did forgive Mike Tyson. He told me he had no other choice. “How can I claim to be a follower of Christ and not forgive others?” he asked.

His boxing nickname was “Real Deal.” They always introduced him in the ring as “Evander The Real Deal Holyfield.” And that is right. Evander Holyfield is the real deal – not because he beat Mike Tyson 20 years ago today – for the second time – but because of the forgiveness that rules his heart.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith of MVP Kevin Durant

One of the most fun periods of my life was serving as a chaplain for the Houston Rockets. One of the players I met was Kevin Durant, the MVP of the NBA Finals, with his Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championship Monday night. Whenever his team played in Houston, Durant never missed chapel. But what do we know abut his faith, beliefs, and commitment to Jesus Christ?

During a 2012 interview with Beyond the Ultimate, Durant said, “The Bible both pumps me up and balances me to play my best.”

It’s easy for anybody like Durant to get a swelled head amidst the constant praise and admiration heaped by the public. But he gives all the glory to God.

“The Bible says the Lord exalts humility, and that’s one thing I try to be all the time. When people tell me I’m great, I remind myself that I can always be better. Humility comes before honor,” he said.

Speaking to Liberty News, Durant added, “The Lord has blessed me with these talents to do something special. But it is not about me. I want my career and my life to be a reflection of his love and his grace and mercy. Whether it is winning games, losing games, making shots, or missing shots, it is all about giving glory to God.”

Now, Kevin is a champion. But in God’s Book, he already was.

The Rushmore Report: How Michael Vick Found God

Former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick, whose involvement in a dog fighting ring landed him in federal prison for 18 months, has found God. In a recent radio interview, Vick said that his fall from grace showed him that “God is real.” The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback is ten years past that horrific time, and is now speaking out about what prison taught him about faith, grace, and second chances.

Raised in a Christian home, as a boy Michael slept with a Bible under his pillow. His singular goal and prayer was that God would give him a career in professional football. But when his dream became reality, his worldview began to change.

Vick said, “There was a time when I was starting to feel like, ‘Oh, I made it. I arrived. That’s it.’ In all that, you start to think about what is really important. You start to think that money is more important and chasing money is more important and contracts that you have – companies and appearances and staying out late and not working as hard as you can,” Vick explained.

“It was basically, pretty much just being, not naive, but comfortable in the position that I was in. Not thinking things could always go in a different direction, whether positive or negative, but mostly negative. I mostly never paid attention to it until it happened.”

It “happened” in the form of a 23-month federal sentence for his involvement in the “Bad Newz Kennels” dog fighting ring in which over 70 dogs were seized by authorities at Vick’s property in Virginia. Vick’s time in prison cost him two seasons during the prime of his football career.

When asked how God was involved in the ordeal, Vick said, “I knew it was God the entire time. When I was going through everything that I was going through, I just felt for a long time that there was a black cloud over my head, there was nothing that I could do right. I knew the things that I was trying to hide from were finally catching up with me and it showed me that God was real, that you are not bigger than anybody, not better than anybody.”

Vick continued, “I was blessed and He blessed me. I had plenty of chances to do the right thing and I didn’t do it right. It was all about just putting myself in a position where I could see life in a different form. I think it took me 18 months to realize that, from being in a prison cell.”

While in jail, Vick said he leaned on Scripture, especially the Book of Psalms, during his worst times of sorrow.

“The Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Job – they were extremely important to me in my walk and my understanding. The Book of Psalms was very powerful. I leaned on the Book of Psalms in my toughest and my most sorrowful moments when I felt like I had no fight left. Those were the nights that I read those Scriptures and was able to wake up a new man the next day,” he explained. “I always seemed to get broken down and have to resort back to the Bible and resort back to reading it as a source of comfort and that comfort came from God.”

Vick added that while he was in prison, he prayed for a second chance.

Although he was released by the Atlanta Falcons before he was released from prison, Vick eventually signed and played with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2009 season. In 2010, he started 12 games for the Eagles, and in 2011, he started 13 games. Following his time in prison, Vick played a total of seven more seasons with three different NFL teams.

“It took a long time for me to understand how I needed to live my life,” he said. “Life is a lesson. You make mistakes and you learn from them. If you don’t learn from them, you really don’t get second and third opportunities, especially in my profession. You can end up in places where you don’t want to be.”

Vick concluded, “I messed up one time. I prayed for another opportunity, and God has given me that. Now – the promises I’ve made to God – I have to fulfill them.”

 

The Rushmore Report: Lessons from Tiger Wood’s Latest Failure

Early Sunday morning, Tiger Woods was arrested for driving under the influence. Fifteen hours later, he issued a statement in an attempt to save face. Following the incident 30 miles from his home in Jupiter, Florida, Woods said that alcohol was not involved, and that his condition resulted from “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” I see four lessons from Tiger’s latest fall from grace.

First, let’s consider his statement. Woods said, “I understand the severity of what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.” Woods then apologized to his fans and pledged to “do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again.” He closed his statement by thanking the Jupiter Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

So what are we to make of this latest event in the life of the man who sat atop the world golf rankings longer than any player in history? On the plus side, Woods has been a great father and perhaps the most driven and successful golfer who ever picked up a set of clubs.

On the down side, Woods is an admitted sex addict who was unfaithful to his wife through the entirety of their marriage. Add to that previous DUI arrests and huge anger problems, and you have one complicated man.

Tossing the latest failure into the mix, I offer a few observations.

1. Tiger is more like us than we may like to admit.

Tiger Woods was unfaithful to his wife. So are most married men. On occasion, Tiger drinks too much. So does about half of the American population. Tiger is consumed with personal achievement. So are most of us. Tiger Woods has personal struggles. So do we all.

2. There is one big difference between Tiger Woods and most of us.

Here it is – Tiger lives his life on the public stage. I can’t imagine what this must be like. There are three groups of people. There are those who live in total anonymity. Then there are public figures who can retreat to places of anonymity when they so choose. And then there are public figures who are so well known that there is no place to hide. Tiger Woods falls into that category.

3. Life is about what happens after the fall.

Muhammad Ali, the greatest athlete who ever lived (in my humble opinion) famously said, “What matters is not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up.” Tiger Woods has been knocked down more times than any of us can possibly know. He has been knocked down by physical injuries, the loss of his best friend and dad, a failed marriage, addiction, and countless personal flaws. But in life, as with his golf game, he keeps swinging. Last week, he vowed (again) to return to the game that made him famous and wildly successful. It seems that no injury, no personal failure, and no mistake – regardless how great – can keep Tiger down. For that he deserves great credit.

4. God is about redemption.

One of the most poignant things any of us can say, when contemplating tossing rocks Tiger’s way is this – “If not for the grace of God that could be me.” Your failures are probably not Tiger’s failures. But you have failures he does not have. The closer to God I get, the further away I realize I still am. And the more I recognize my own faults, the less I see faults in others. Life is about redemption.

Tiger Woods’ life is an open book. And it is an interesting book. But make no mistake. It is a book whose final chapter has yet to be written.