Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Important Way of Thinking About Health: Caring for the Poor

Every season, we bring in a professional nutritionist to address the importance of good eating habits with the cross country team. The day before a meet, we coaches remind runners they are to hydrate, finish a well balanced meal of carbs and protein and get a good night's sleep.  We make recommendations of what's to eat on race day, especially when nerves are raw.  Being healthy and staying healthy are foundational for success.  Who would have thought that caring for the poor is another. 

In "Our Need to Give to the Poor," Ron Rolheiser writes "We need to give to the poor, not because they need it, though they do, but because we need to do that in order to be healthy. That's an axiom that is grounded in Scripture where time and again, we are taught that giving to the poor is something that we need to do for our own health. We see this expressed in many religion and cultures." He lists a number of practices and examples that speak to this truth.  He has also named a truth that is a challenge for all of us to recognize and practice in the fabric of our everyday lives.

I spoke with the athletic director about getting our sports teams in-season to participate in our Thursday Morning Comfort Runs.  This program was started at St. Ignatius by students who went on the Tacoma Immersion.  On that service-mission trip, students accompany members of St. Leo's parish as they hand out sandwiches and juice to the hungry on the streets of Tacoma.  
A great way for a team to bond.  Make those sandwiches together!
The comfort run is as informal and organic and its gets. Parishoners saw a need. They decided anyone could purchase, prepare, bake or donate healthy food give it away from the back of someone's van. This van drives to two different locations and feeds nearly 100 people. Service need not be complicated.  Ask yourself What's the need? and fill it. Or in this case—fill them. 

And so the Comfort Run now has a satellite location!  Every Thursday, students at SI meet at 6:45 in the garage on campus, where a faculty member drives a school van to the Tenderloin. Five, eight or ten students hand out sandwiches that were prepared by students the day before to feed men and women on the street.
I hope sports teams will consider going on the Comfort Run or committing as an entire team to making the sandwiches that we give away.  

Making the sandwiches together is not complicated.  Ask captains to organize who is going to bring what—bread, lunch meat, cheese and mustard (I can see it now...some of you are calling for peppers, lettuce...onion...tomato, right?!).  Set up an assembly line before or after practice.  Again, this is as informal and organic and it gets.  And it's also a new way to talk to each other about our physical and spiritual health.  

How do you feel when you are hungry?  Would you be able to practice or compete?  And beyond the physical reality, how does feeding the poor enhance our health?  Invite your team into this discussion. For my athletes at SI, it's another way to give meat to our motto: AMDG. Have a great season!

Photo Credits
Two Key Ingredients

Sando Prep

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The US Open: AMDG

Considering that my vacation started on June 1, I'm not looking for any sympathy. But, I'm exhausted. I have no doubt my fellow teachers would agree. The beginning of the school year is akin to getting a plane off the ground.  It takes tremendous energy and momentum to get a flight into the air. Teaching high school just isn't much different. Which is exactly why I am grateful for the fourth and final grand slam of the year—the US Open. 
Andy Murray will defend both his 2012 US Open title and the last grand slam event—Wimbledon 2013

The US Open is the contrast I need. For the past ten years, I came home from a full day of teaching and coaching cross country unable to move. The couch is my solace, ESPN my savior. Watching the world’s greatest tennis players grind it out late at night in New York is electric. My body may not move, but my mind revels in seeing these elite athletes sweat it out under the lights.

On the rare occasion that I caught a brilliant match or an epic upset, I could not wait to return to school the next day to discuss it with my colleague Bill, a tennis fan and tennis coach. The energy excitement from a great match gave a me a buzz better than my morning coffee. 

The U.S. Open that will forever stay with me was in 2006: Andre Agassi’s final championship. My student, Matt, was proud of his Cyprian Greek heritage. Imagine his delight when the number eight player in the world, Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus played Andre Agassi.

In his autobiography "Open" Agassi relives that incredible night.
In the first round I play Andrei Pavel, from Romania. My back seizes up midway through the match, but despite standing stick straight I tough out a win. I ask Darren to arrange a cortisone shot for the next day. Even with the shot, I don't know if I'll be able to play my next match.
I certainly won't be able to win. Not against Marcos Baghdatis. He's ranked No. 8 in the world. He's a big strong kid from Cyprus, in the midst of a great year. He's reached the final of the Australian Open and the semis of Wimbledon. 
And then somehow I beat him, in five furious, agonizing sets. Afterward I'm barely able to stagger up the tunnel and into the locker room before my back gives out. Darren and Gil lift me onto the training table, while Baghdatis's people hoist him onto the table beside me. He's cramping badly. A trainer says the doctors are on the way. He turns on the TV above the table, and everyone clears out, leaving just me and Baghdatis, both of us writhing and groaning in pain. 
The TV flashes highlights from our match. SportsCenter. In my peripheral vision I detect slight movement. I turn to see Baghdatis extending his hand. His face says, We did that. I reach out, take his hand, and we remain this way, holding hands, as the TV flickers with highlights of our savage battle. We relive the match, and then I relive my life.
How many athletes can look at one another and say "We did that."

I remember that match, because despite my exhaustion, I didn’t fall asleep...I couldn’t go to bed until the winner prevailed. An Agassi fan, my heart went out to Matt and his kin. To read Agassi’s take-away from that evening confirms it was something much more than a routine or regular tennis match. Also, it was much more of a game. You can watch highlights here.

When athletes raise the level of the game to a place where one can reach out his hand to the other, where each can say “we did that”...not “I did that,” I have a much better sense of what AMDG means.

AMDG or “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” is the Latin motto for the Society of Jesus meaning “for the greater glory of God.” Perhaps you find its meaning self-evident, but I need some teeth to it. Questions that help me understand it include:

What does AMDG look like? When did I see it last? How would this community be different if AMDG did not guide us?  This match is a shining example. I can think of a few others—the 2013 Masters is one.  

What does AMDG look like to you?  Have you found it at a sports event?  The 2013 US Open is underway....teachers—put your feet up and enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

3 Things You Might Not Know....

Hard to believe, but another school year is underway. The first day of class is a bit of a song-and-dance.  I assign seats, introduce the course, hand out the syllabus—in short, I do too much of the talking. To break the monotony, I ask students to write "three things you might not know about me." I read these out loud without revealing who the author is.  It's a fun task for the class to guess who wrote what.

With any activity, it's important that the teacher model it first.  For the purpose of the blog, here are my three as they relate to sports and three that relate to the spiritual life.  It might be fun for you to come up with your own.
Jennifer Brennan doesn't know what it means not to be in season...
1.  I am quasi-obsessed with the multi-sport athlete.
This may come as a surprise to no one given the airtime the multi-sport athlete gets on this blog, but if you are looking to engage in a conversation I will never end, this is the topic. It's also a hot topic because the high school three-sport athlete is exceedingly rare. At St. Ignatius where I teach, last year just two seniors—one male and one female—played three varsity sports.

With that in mind, imagine my fascination with Sports Illustrated's collegiate athlete of the year finalist, Jennifer Brenner. Honestly, I don't know why she didn't win.  A four-sport athlete at the University of Oregon—I repeat 4-sports (in 3 seasons!) at a D-1 school—is more than an anomaly. it's incredible. I held court for five minutes asking my colleague to guess what those sports were.  
My vote for the 2013 NL MVP 
One of my favorite athletes right now is Andrew McCutchen.  I attended the Giants' 2012 Opening Day vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was hard not to notice the Buccs' center-fielder  "Cutch" looks like he could play any number of sports on demand.  He is fast, focused, competitive and understated.  Hard on offense and defense, I wasn't surprised to read he played football in high school and ran track on the championship 4x100 m relay team for the state of FLORIDA.  I could engage in you with a hypothetical conversation about what position he played in football for too long.  Cornerback is my guess. 

My niece a lefty with my cousin, another lefty
2. I wish I were left-handed.Lefties may be 11% of American society but their impact is big in sports.   They bring something different and valuable to the court, field, and diamond.  Lefties open it up.  

The list of southpaws is not short—give it a shot. Some of my favorites include David Lee and Chris Mullin (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Will Clark (Giants), Bubba Watson (golf), Steve Young and Tim Tebow (football), Yannick Noah (tennis) among others.  

And I find it even more fascinating that two athletes at the top of their gameplay it left-handed but are righties.  Can you guess? Phil Mickelson is the gimme. The other? Rafael Nadal.  

When it became apparent my niece and God-daughter Grace was a lefty, I found yet another reason to delight in God's creation.

3.  I wish I were more competitive.
I consider myself a fairly competitive person, but as an athlete, I wish I had that edge that I see in some of the greats.  To play at the highest levels, that wiring to win is necessary.  I am fascinated by the many faces of sheer drive in some athletes. 

Case in point.  Michelle Akers was named by FIFA as the female player of the century.  She is also one of two women named to FIFA's top 100 soccer players of all time.  My favorite vignette from ESPN's "9 for IX: The '99ers" is when her coach, Tony DiCicco talks about her as they flash images of the midfielder/forward in action.  He says "she was by far the most technically gifted player on the field. And she was a warrior. That warrior mentality is why we won."
One minute later, we see Akers talking about playing on that team. She said "I went into every game, ready to face my opponent with the attitude It’s going to be bad day for you guys.  We are stronger and fitter.  It’s going to be a hard day for you!:

She meant every word and she backed it up.  If I were to play Akers, it would be a bad day let alone week for me.  Awesome.
One of my all-time favorite quotes by an athlete: It's going to be a bad day for you. 
1.  Inclusive language is very important to me.

I don't consider myself to be a raging feminist; I've never wanted to change history to "herstory" but I do believe communal prayers should be as inclusive as possible.  When changes were made to the Mass, I wish this had been taken into consideration.  Yes, I find value in saying "humankind" over "mankind."  I don't identify God and "He" or as "She" but as God.  Perhaps God-self would agree.  I take no issue in referring to God as "Father" because that indicates a relationship, but in other examples, I wish the Church was more sensitive and thoughtful to word choice.

2. I like a short mass: But then again, who doesn't—right? 

I should thank the Mormons for setting the bar high. Their four-hour services put Catholics to shame. I make it to mass every Sunday, religiously (pun intended) and know what I am in for. The hour-long obligation isn't asking too much. 

I've read that a good pastor is like a barometer—they read the energy and sentiment of their community.  I guarantee it's a rare group that is hoping for a 20-minute plus homily (sorry Father).  

A wise person once said, "leave 'em laughing."  Not bad advice....and leave them wanting more. The mass already has its ritual and order; its grace and the power of our presence should not be underestimated.  But to do that in under an hour is just so sweet...

3. I think Confession is underrated.
Most Catholics have a hard time with this sacrament. It's not easy to take an inventory of our sins and articulate them to another person.  It can be humiliating and uncomfortable, but I also opens us up to God's grace like nothing else.

In the confessional, I have been told I am being too hard on myself.  I have been challenged to work harder and to love more. I have been advised in ways I would have never imagined on my own.  I have felt God's mercy and I have come to know my own ability to forgive others and myself in a profound way.

I return to Confession because my need for God's grace and mercy never ends.  Loving in the way Christ does is not easy; He never said it would be.  I'm grateful I have the support of the sacrament to continue on that journey.

Have fun with your three (or six) items!  Here's to a great (school) year!

Photo Credits

Michelle Akers

Thursday, August 22, 2013

US Women's Soccer:The '99ers. Both Pioneers AND an Anomaly

Filmed by women, about women ESPN's "Nine for IX" series celebrates 40 years of Title IX with great stories about female athletes in professional athletics. In theory "The 99ers" should hold little to no interest to me. I have written about this before, and I am embarrassed to write it again, but, I wish I liked soccer. I don't. I'm almost ashamed of myself for I know the sport's social, political and cultural appeal is "a pearl of great price."
I also wish I cared more about women's professional sports.  I should regularly follow the WNBA, women's tennis and more.  Many Olympic sports like swimming, gymnastics and track showcase women's athletics are its very best.  I tune in and out; it should be different. And yet, that's exactly what "The '99ers" is--different.  That team and their story has captured my imagination.

Toward the conclusion of the program, Julie Foudy, co-captain of the team and producer of the film shares with her teammates a provocative question she was asked: Were you pioneers? or was ‘99 an anomaly? She replied "that question has haunted me for a long time.  Because we so badly didn’t want to be the only ones.  We thought: this is going to be the standard that everyone else as followed." She turned to her teammates and queried, Do you think that happened?
Co-captain Julie Foudy provided hours of unseen footage from her video taping.
What a great question. And the look on every woman's face revealed that. The politically safe answer would have been to identify as pioneers. It would have been much easier to point to the continued development of soccer for girls and women in our country and the strides it has made professionally. But just by looking at them, you know that's not the full truth; it's not that simple.

"The '99ers"said their goals was to "push along a cultural shift that would put women’s teams more on par with men’s We came up with a mission statement and that mission statement is to stage a break through event for women’s sports.  And to inspire the next generation of female athletes."  In many ways they succeeded.

Their match against Denmark at Giants Stadium in the first round of the 1999 World Cup was the largest crowd ever to watch a women’s sporting event in the US. And to this day, their win over Norway in the finals of the World Cup is the most watched soccer match in US history. President Bill Clinton said "this was the most exciting sporting event he had ever attended. I cannot thank you enough for the gifts that you have given to the United States of America, which is even bigger than this."
Honored at the White House, the '99 team once again meets with Pres. Bill Clinton who attended the final match.
Since that time, the US women's soccer team has won three gold medals, but has yet to win another World Cup championship (we lost to Japan in 2011). Professional women's leagues have struggled to succeed.  Many have folded—Women's Professional Soccer and Women's United Soccer Association and yet new ones like the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) have arisen.  More girls play soccer today than they every have, but more girls play more sports period.

So it should come as no surprise that the Warrior, the most technically gifted player on the team, the awe-inspiring Michelle Akers gave what was in fact a very Catholic answer.

She broke the ice when she said "it’s both…and I think it will always be both.  It can never be duplicated. It inspired so much we will never understand."
Richard McBrien writes that "Catholicism is characterized, therefore by a both/and rather than an either/or approach. It is not nature or grace, but graced nature; not reason or faith, but reason illumined by faith; not law or Gospel, but law inspired by the Gospel; not Scripture or tradition, but normative tradition within Scripture; not faith or works, but faith issuing in works and works as expressions of faith; not authority or freedom, but authority in service of freedom; not unity or diversity, but unity in diversity. In a word Catholicism is catholic (universal)."

And I love this about Catholicism.  The both/and outlook is inclusive and invitational. We need quantify the Divine as one or the other, but something in relationship with the other. And that team fits this model effectively.  

Akers adds "I think that team, that group—we were kind of an anomaly.  That group of people was so special; yet, it was meant to be that we would do this incredible thing together to make all these changes and start this wave."

For a long time it was hard for people to understand that a female could be an athlete. It's not an either or but a both/and: females and athletes, pioneers and an anomaly. And for me—soccer and captivating.  Thank you ESPN "9 for IX" for telling this story...and the 8 others. Professional women's sports truly has something to say, teach and offer the world.  

Photo Credits
The '99ers

Monday, August 19, 2013

Read the Signs

This one's for the teachers....
I envy musicians. Men and women who take center stage to perform, only to showcase their gifts and talents in the mode of musical entertainment.  Nothing beats a singer/songwriter who puts it all on the line and dedicates it to that special someone.  For one moment, I will do the same and throw this out there for all the educators who will be returning to the classroom in the days and weeks ahead.
This icon reflects Christ's two natures

On Friday, August 16, 2013 I spoke at the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Faith Formation day to over 150 K-8 teachers.  My talk, Morality Matters: The Spirituality of it All was content rich and example laden.  Thanks to the theologian Rev. Richard Gula, S.S. I was able to address his claim "Simply put, there is no morality without spirituality and no spirituality without morality.  To appreciate how the two are interconnected, we need to understand what each entails." And so we did.  For one hour, we unpacked what spirituality is and how it shapes our worldview. 

Spirituality invites us to go deeper.  We affirm this in the Nicene creed when we say "I believe in things visible and invisible."  Spirituality is the breath that gives us life; it animates our vision. It is about our relationship to what we love and what gives life meaning.  For the Christian, Christian spirituality believes that God's love for us is revealed in Jesus Christ.  His life—the Incarnation—gives ultimate foundation, meaning, worth, energy and direction for our lives. "The moral life grows out of the holy longing to love and to be loved." Indeed, morality is the public face of spirituality. Powerful stuff—no?

These statements are big and bold. Their implications are magnanimous.  I asked teachers to determine whether or not such claims resonate with their beliefs and whether or not my examples "checked out" with their experiences.  Enter in my instructional error.  Rather than ask members of the audience to break! and discuss and idea with the person next to them, I marched through the content.  Rather than require each teacher to write a thought or three, I carried on. I could see their minds processing and questions forming. Their body language was positive but it also needed to engage with another.  I regret the error.
A key concept from "Silver Linings Playbook" is read the signs.  I have prided myself for years on my ability to do that and resented those who did not—the priest whose homily never ends, the guest who never knows when to leave and my Napoloenic spin instructor who never gave us a break.

For about two years, I was a regular at my gym's 6:00 a.m. spin class.  I love completing my workout early in the morning and this class had a regular and fun crew of riders.  The instructor was hard driving (good) and moody (bad); we never knew who would show up (I suppose this kept it interesting).  One class, the playlist was limited to Def Leppard's album "Hysteria." Riders were livid that our teacher was unwilling to change the music; I loved every minute of it.
Regardless, the biggest challenge I faced in that class was the momentum the instructor held onto so tightly.  Ever cyclist knows that after a warm-up, the in class ride involves a number of circuits and "climbs" standing up from the saddle and sitting back down.  After a long and hard "climb," riders anticipate a downhill release and the time to relax and rehydrate (while still pedaling).  But Dave never conceded.  Rather than give us a break when we needed it (or thought we did) he would push us harder and further.  I suppose that was his style, his way to make us stronger and more fit.

For me, it backfired. I needed the break—both physically and mentally— so that I could come back ready to work harder.  I became distrustful of his method as I saw those around me struggling to keep up and stay with the pace.  Just once, I wish he had been slightly intuitive, that he noticed our sentiments. I wish he had just read the signs. 

And here I am all these years later, guilty of the same misdemeanor.  I write this posting not a self-flagellation but to offer a lesson learned. This year, I promise to Read the signs. I will take an inventory How are my students feeling? How is their energy?  Do they need a break? Are they still climbing? When the content is heavy or intense, take the pulse; what is their heart rate?  Build better and stronger, but don't be afraid to coast when the time is right. Your students will thank you for it. Ride on...

Photo Credits
Jesus and Fully Human, Fully Divine
Read the Signs
Spin Class

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's in your backpack? tennis bag? heart?

It's back to school!  A time of year that is met with mixed emotions for teachers and students alike.  It's hard to say goodbye to summer—no alarm clocks, no homework or grading, or rules to break or follow. But, the promise of a new year, new friends, new challenges AND something no one, no matter what age ever tires of—those fresh school supplies. 
I have always been a fan of the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil.  I was particular about my binder and loved to pick out each and every folder (aka the PeeChee) for differnet subjects. I can also recall when I got to high school, it was very impoortant to me to have this one particular preppy red Jansport backpack.  I was ready to break the trend of carrying it on one shoulder only; I was in the two-strap camp.  I knew who else who their backpack as I did.  I can see them now...

How students carry their backpacks and what they carry is a question I challenged teachers to think about at the onset of the 2013-2014 school year.  In a talk called "Morality Matters: The Spirituality of it All," I invited 150 K-8 teachers for the Archdiocese of San Francisco to consider this image metaphorically.

Our students come to us with crowded backpacks, filled with homework that is complete and incomplete, corrected exams, and maybe even their favorite book.  But that backpack also includes their joys and burdens, questions and fears.  

They come to our classroom as their own individual person, but from a home or space that shaped so much of who they are.  Sometimes their backpacks are lacking—literally.  My sister who taught at a low income school often had to check that her first graders brought enough food for lunch. Too many of these boys and girls came from food insecure schools.  At other times, they are heavy—weighed down by problems that we may or may not be privy to knowing.  And every student (and teacher) knows that a light backpack is a treat—no homework! no books! no studying for tonight. Perhaps on those days, we can carry a friend's...
In his autobiography "Open," Andre Agassi said "your tennis bag is a lot like your heart—you have to know what's in it at all times."  A hope I hold for this year is to  make time to take inventory.  

As someone who spent 20 minutes cleaning out my golf bag today, Agassi's image is quite fitting, regardless of the sport. My golf bag was disorganized. I encountered a few surprise items, even a treat.  When I completed my task, I felt ready for my round tomorrow.  My heart isn't that much different.  My prayer this evening will include asking Jesus to take a look in there.

Perhaps you will let the Lord carry your backpack from time to time this year or ask Him to carry your students'.  Here's to the journey...summer 2014 is how many days from now?!

Photo Credits

Monday, August 12, 2013

Walking With Jack: Spiritual Guidance From The Game Of Golf (Part II)

This blog posting features the work of Kyle Smith.A former caddy, golfer (a lefty), sports fan and a Christian, Smith responded to Dan Snyder's book, "Walking with Jack: A Father's Journey to Becoming His Son's Caddy" with spiritual lessons and truth.  Below are three of his ten gems.

I hope you will consider the way a sport you love relates to the spiritual life.

5. Live Life One Shot At A Time
“Everybody talks about how you have to stay focused ONE SHOT AT A TIME. Well, here’s how you do that, Jack. You break the golf course into pieces. And claim ownership of it one piece at a time” (80)

“I don’t think in this life it is what it is. I think it is what you make it” (318)

I’ve quoted one of the more beautiful and thoughtful notes I’ve ever received below. It reinforces this idea: to live in the moment. While it’s prudent to plan for the future, the future shouldn’t come at the expense of allowing life to pass you by. 

Yes, sacrifices must be made at the present to achieve our goals. But we cannot dwell on the what-ifs. We have to accept our situations at the present and devote our concentration and energy to doing the best we can now. And when another opportunity arises, we can make the appropriate choice that is best for us at that moment. However, the key is not to get carried away with our desires at the present. Because a failure to delay gratification, to always desire more at the present, only draws our energy away from the here and now. From what we can control at the present. And that is what we must not forget.

“In a world full of opportunities, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the “what-ifs” and to live life with both feet firmly planted where you are. There’s an unlimited amount of doors we can open and close, but by choosing one, we lose the option to go through the others that are present at that time. And seeing them and wondering what lies behind them is difficult because surely they contain good things, surely you would benefit from wandering down whatever path lies within their stoop. But while we can’t have them all, we can give our all to whatever way we do choose - and follow it to our next set of doors where we can pick once again from a set of opportunities that are fitting for our current stage. And the beautiful thing is that there is no “wrong” door. Yes - there are some that will push us, pain us even, and those we cannot run through quickly enough, but through each of those doors lies a chance for growth and a chance to become that person we idealize ourselves to be.”

7. Bear Witness To The Beauty
 “I’m going to start not taking myself so seriously. I’m going to bear witness to the beauty instead” (160)
How easy is it for us to get wrapped up in the “what-ifs” of life? Or to project and plan so far ahead that we lose sight of what’s important at the moment? We let our thoughts wander so far ahead that we let the beauty of the present become distorted by our desires or dreams. Surely dreams are good to have. Dreams push us, grow us, and make life worth living. But we can’t ignore the beauty in every day. 
Beautiful Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland, site of the 2013 British Open.  It wasn't as green this year!
Snyder writes of one caddy’s attitude when preparing to head out onto the links in Scotland in treacherous and miserable conditions. While some of the caddies complained about the weather, he provided a little perspective: “It ain’t Normandy” (193). We’re blessed with the people around us and the opportunities that we have. Sometimes we fail to see that. 

There’s plenty in this world to laugh at, smile at, and joke about. In fact, beauty is everywhere if you take the time to look for it. Sometimes, like the wise caddy’s advice, it’s just a matter of perspective. 

Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” My favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. In the final scene, George Baily makes the choice to cherish the love of his friends and family instead of worrying about his other problems. “Isn’t it wonderful, I’m going to jail!” he exclaims. His financial problems are insignificant when compared to his love for his family and friends. This year, I put a sign up in my room that said, “What are you thankful for today?” And it helped me recognize even the smallest piece of goodness that found its way into my day. That’s what we’re constantly called to do – to bear witness to beauty.
Jason Dufner blows the PGA Championship Title in 2011
10. Have Faith: Be Not Afraid
 “You only get once chance.”
“Not if there’s still one person left who believes in you” (143)

“Though the game of golf is played on magnificent ground, it is perfected inside the mind.” (172)

Sometimes we pass up opportunities. Sometimes we fall short. But as long as there is forgiveness, as long as there is a deeply held belief in us, we are always given another opportunity to grow, change, and chase our dreams. How many times do we find ourselves asking for God’s forgiveness? Without fail, He will welcome us back with open arms. He will always work to find the lost sheep – He never gives up on us. As long as we accept responsibility for our failings and shortcomings, we are always welcomed back. I went to a talk in Dallas this past year sponsored by a group called Young Catholic Professionals. The speaker was Mr. James Moroney, CEO of the Dallas Morning News. He provided a valuable reminder for all present that night about the value of faith:

“A clever person once said that the key to managing your life well was akin to juggling balls, some of which were rubber and some of which were made of glass.  He said the trick was to never drop the ones made of glass. So, FYI, there are only three made of glass.  Faith.  Family. Friends.  Don’t get confused and think your work is one of those made of glass. If you do, I can almost guarantee you that your focus on your work will cause you to drop one of those balls that are really made of glass.  And when your faith is broken, when your family is broken, when your relationship with your friends is broken, you are broken, whether you know it or not.  And if you don’t know it, that’s the worst of all.”
Victory is sweet!  J-Duf wins the 2013 PGA Championship
Our lives, our decisions, our actions are all a result of our faith. In Matthew 9:20, Jesus heals a woman who has been subject to bleeding for twelve years and tells her: “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” We are called to daily live our faith through all of our actions, and most importantly, through prayer and the sacraments. To some extent, what we think, we become. Having a strong prayer life can help us become closer to God and give us the strength to help others. Prayer is a fantastic way to express gratitude daily and develop spiritually. If we have faith first, the other aspects of our lives will flourish.

If you would like to read Kyle Smith's full reflection, please let me know and I will send a PDF copy of it. 

Photo Credits
J-Duf wins

Dufner collapse