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Power To Win
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Like little girls who meet hanging upside down from a monkey bar or pumping their legs furiously on the swing set, Barb Lindquist and Sheila Taormina also met on a playground of sorts: the World Cup circuit of the International Triathlon Union (ITU). The two shared the same passion for the sport of swimming from younger years and extended that love to the triathlon. They soon discovered, though, that they had an even stronger passion that bonded them together, as well.
Lindquist came to know the Lord as a preteen, whereas Taormina did not commit her life to Christ until her late 20s. Still, both women know the importance of trusting God with their entire lives. They've watched as He's guided them both and even led them to one another.
Some athletes take the slightest opportunity to shred their opponents, talking smack about those who might steal their glory. But at the heart of this pair's sisterhood was a genuine pride in the other's gifts and strengths. There have been high moments and disappointments. But in everything, they have been encouragers for one another and have pointed to Christ with their sport and with their lives.
Young, rich, successful, and Christian. The first three words could fit many college-graduated young executives in the North Texas area. But Ben Crane, an Oregon native turned Texas resident, is determined to make sure the fourth description makes a difference as he reaches for his goal of becoming a world-class golfer.
He's struggled along the way, from suffering with back problems to an incident with Rory Sabbatini in 2005. But his faith has remained unwavering. "As Christian players, sometimes we struggle with knowing we are not what our scores say we are," he says. "Scripture says God will take you through all the tough times, and that's what we have to focus on." Comments like this come from a deep-seated relationship with the Lord that began to grow as soon as Crane accepted Christ as a young age.
Throughout his career, God has planted Crane and his wife Heather in areas where they can encourage others and grow themselves. He's taught them a lot about valuing people over money and using their blessings to glorify God.
So the next time fans watch Crane tee off, they'll be looking at a man who undoubtedly loves golf--but who loves God more.
With a franchise history winning percentage under .400, having won 70 games just once (2004 in both cases), the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are baseball's default cellar-dweller. Yet, perhaps their cellar-dwelling is a perfect platform from which to launch. "The feeling I get from everybody is we're on the verge of something great here, if we can just put it together," says shortstop Ben Zobrist. Pitcher Seth McClung adds that the losing is forcing them to learn. "We're learning through the bumps and bruises."
In order for Tampa Bay to start winning, they will need faith, and Zobrist and McClung have no trouble there. Their faith comes from their faith, as in their faith in Jesus Christ. They want to be healthy influences on their teammates. Such influence comes from Christ through them, they believe. "The first thing I want to do is love them the way Christ would love them," Zobrist says.
McClung desires to use Christ's help on the field. "I don't ask God to help me win but to make me strong in pressure situations. If we're all strong in pressure situations, we'll start making the right decisions on the field that make us winners."
Bethany Hamilton was born a surfer girl. Her parents were surfers and her older brothers were surfers. Then, on October 31, 2003, a 14-foot tiger shark changed Bethany's world. She lay peacefully atop her surfboard when a large, gray shape loomed on her left side. She felt an odd tug on her left arm. Then the water filled with blood. "Please, God, help me. God, let me get to the beach," she prayed. Hamilton's prayer was answered. She made it to the beach and the hospital. "He kept me alive that day because He had plans for me," recalls Hamilton.
Hamilton came right into the glare of the camera when the world found out about this young surfer's story. There were interviews on Inside Edition, 20/20, and The Today Show. She also visited the Crystal Cathedral and talked with Robert Schuller. Bethany has used this platform to tell others about Jesus. "I really believe God was in this whole thing. If I didn't have one arm, I wouldn't be sharing God's Word with everyone," says Bethany.
Despite all the publicity, Hamilton wants to be a typical 17-year-old girl. She is leaving her future in God's hands and taking one day at a time.
After facing injuries and being part of two teams that went out of business, Betty Lennox found a home in Seattle playing for the Storm. Lennox was named MVP for last year's WNBA Finals, leading the Storm past the Connecticut Suns. Sports Spectrum and Betty Lennox got together for a little Q and A.
SS: When did you trust Jesus as your Savior?
Lennox: Shortly after my father passed away, I came to Christ. I always knew His presence was there, but I needed to trust Him.
SS: Have you been able to connect with other Christians to help you dig into the Bible, being prayer partners, and seek accountability?
Lennox: Yes, I have prayer partners, and I pray a lot by myself. It happens through people I have gotten to know through Jesus, and my brother and uncle who are connected with my church.
SS: During the 2004 season, you averaged 11.6 points a game. In the WNBA finals, you went crazy, averaging 22.3 points a game in the finals. How were you able to double your scoring average in the biggest games of your life?
Lennox: All I can say is that it was the grace of God.
Reliant Stadium towers 245 feet above street level, dwarfing the adjacent Astrodome, and it could accurately be called "The Stadium That Bob McNair Built."
McNair was the man whose vision, can-do spirit, and determination earned Houston another NFL franchise, and because of that, there are those who view him not simply as a community icon, but as a bona fide savior.
It's rather uncomfortable for McNair to confront this reality. He is certain that his savior status will disappear if the Texans don't challenge for a playoff spot next season. He is even more certain that there is only one Savior.
"I just don't pay much attention to [the adulation]," he says. "I recognize that a lot of it is the result of the position I'm in. If I weren't in this position, they wouldn't be saying all those nice things. The Lord's blessed me with a lot of wealth, but if I didn't have that wealth, the people who call on me wouldn't be doing that.
"Basically, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have values. You have accepted the values He has taught. So when you have done that, you have established standards for yourself, and they are a guidepost."
In the words of "Old Blue Eyes," if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. True to those words, Braden Looper certainly has made it--with the Mets in New York, the Marlins in Florida, and the Cardinals in Missouri. Originally from a small Oklahoma town, Looper never imagined going this far. "I never had a clue that God...had this awesome path planned."
That awesome path began with a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, continued with an All-American college career at WSU, and culminated in a noteworthy major league career. But more significant than this is that, while in the minor leagues, Looper gave his heart to Christ. After a youth spent going to church for all the wrong reasons, Looper finally realized his need for the Lord.
Everything in his life has gone according to God's plan, Looper says. "I never would have imagined that playing baseball...in high school would lead to where I am today." Even with his amassed fame and wealth, he's still the small-town guy with small-town values. He loves the Lord, his family, and has opportunities to share his testimony with many. "I have everything I need," he says. "I know I am blessed"
If you think Brandon Webb lacks heart just because he's a calm, laid-back baseball player, think again! It's a mistake others have made, including his dad. Brandon's dad has since rethought his earlier assessment. "I think because he was always so laid-back, and still is, that I questioned his heart, but I guess with Brandon it's all inside."
Webb was one of the top pitchers in the majors in 2006 as he won the National League Cy Young Award. He still has a desire to keep improving, even to the point of achieving a couple other goals, including making the Hall of Fame.
Webb has been trusting in the Lord's will since he was a young teen and he received Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. "Having Jesus Christ in my life has been huge. My parents taught me at an early age to follow the Lord, and as a Christian I really need Him."
Webb also desires to share his faith with others. "When you've played baseball professionally, it opens doors to talk to people, and then you can tell them things that really will matter for eternity."
Phillip Webb is right. "It just don't get any better than that!"
Down the quiet hallways of a children's hospital walks Brian Roberts--abandoning the cheers from the crowds at the baseball field to bring cheer to the lives of children, even if only for a few moments. The visits for him are deeply empathetic, perhaps because of his own open-heart surgery at age five..
Roberts works with kids whenever possible, not just visiting hospitals but organizing baseball camps and making a difference as God opens doors for him. "We're very blessed to be in the situation we're in," he says of being a professional athlete. "I know that a lot of kids watch everything we do. So you just try to live your life...in a way that reflects Christ's image."
As Roberts continues to progress in his sport, he never forgets his foundation. "He's as genuine off the field, and that's important when you're going through this baseball thing as a Christian," pitcher Steve Reed says.
Above Roberts' locker is a photo of an infant boy and his 5-year-old sister with a note that reads: "Thanks for visiting me and Nemo. Love, Emma." Nemo passed away, and every time Roberts sees that picture, he's reminded of his own blessings and purpose. And, for a moment, baseball fades into the background.
"I'm not much to brag about," Bruce Crisman, X Games freestyle bike park gold medalist, says from his apartment in his hometown of Tigard, Oregon.
Truth is, Crisman really can't brag about his success because he never intended for it to happen. Crisman wasn't counting on a win at Summer X Games VII in Philadelphia in 2001. But God, Crisman believes, had other ideas.
"That day He said, 'I'm gonna change things a little and allow you to witness more,'" Crisman said.
By "trying to keep that reputation" of being a genuine follower of Christ, Crisman has had to resist some social activities when traveling with pro bike tours.
"I've been on the road a lot over the past few years," he said. "I've tried my best, by the glory of God, to not get involved with the partying and drinking crowd."
That attitude is what has drawn young Christian BMX fans to follow Crisman's pro career.
"It happens quite often that a little kid will come over and say they're stoked to see another believer on the tour," Crisman said. "And I'm always stoked to see kids putting Jesus stickers on their bikes. It's good to see the results, but that's God's love. That's not me."