James McCann – Mark 10:27

 

James McCann

Detroit Tiger Catcher, James McCann.  Photo by Keith Allison

 

1-in-4.

Jim and Carla McCann were a Christian couple living in Southern California.  About 5 years into their marriage, they were ready to start a family.  Carla became pregnant, and, for nearly 9 months, everything was perfect.  About 3 days before he was due to be born, the boy stopped kicking.  Carla went to the doctors and learned that her greatest fear had become reality; her baby boy had died in the womb.

The doctors told the young couple that they could try again, but that it would likely take a long time for her to conceive, due to the trauma her body had just experienced.  A few months later, however, she was expecting another baby.

13 weeks into the pregnancy, Carla receive terrible news.  She had suffered a tear in the amniotic sac.  The child in her womb was given a 1-in-4 chance of surviving.  Even if he did survive, however, he was almost certain to be born with mental or physical disabilities.  They were given their options and advised to have an abortion.

Carla tells Jason Beck of mlb.com; “Being people of faith, we decided we were going to see it through.  It was a leap of faith, but it really wasn’t more than what other people do every day – putting one foot in front of the other.”

Only Carla didn’t take many steps at all for the next 6 months.  She stayed in bed, watching a lot of Lakers games and a lot of Dodgers baseball games.  She jokes that she named her son James after James Worthy, and knew he would be a baseball fan because of how much baseball she watched.

On June 13, 1990, Carla gave birth to a healthy baby boy!  He had no physical handicap.  No mental handicap.  When she first saw her newborn child, her first words to him were “not bad for a 1-in-4 chance.”

That child grew up to be an All-American Catcher at the University of Arkansas.  He became the 76th overall pick for the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd Round of the 2011 draft.  He made his major league debut on September 1, 2014, and became the Tigers starting catcher the following year; pretty impressive for a man that was never supposed to be born in the first place!

James McCann knows why this all happened.  It was all a gift from God.  He now includes his favorite Bible Verse, Mark 10:27, along with the autographs he signs.  Jesus says “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  This verse is very personal to McCann.  He explained in an interview with Liberty University; “From day one, the doctors said it was impossible.  That’s man telling my parents it was impossible.  And, obviously, God had other plans… But when you put your faith in God and you trust in god, He has a bigger and better plan that that.”

In Galatian 6:17, Paul says that he bears in his body the marks of Jesus.  He urges the Christians in Galatia that, when they gaze upon the scars from the beatings he suffered for trying to preach the Gospel, they should be reminded of the wounds that Jesus suffered for them on the cross.  Likewise, the life, health, and success of James McCann serve as a daily reminder of the power of God.  To Him, all things are possible; even what man says is impossible.

Chase Whitley – John 3:16

 

Chase Whitley.jpg

Tampa Bay Rays Reliever Chase Whitley.  Photo by Keith Allison

 

It’s the end of July.  That means it’s the heart of the Major League baseball season.  For many of you it’s summer vacation time.  And for others of you, this time of year is best described by 3 little letters; V.B.S.

Vacation Bible School

For Christians across the country, it’s a week of decorating, dressing in goofy costumes, preparing snacks, and coming up with creative object lessons and classes.  If you’re like me, it’s a week in which your normally healthy diet is replaced with Oreo Cookies and pizza.  Sleeping gets replaced with feverishly planning for the next day.  The whole time you hope and pray it makes a difference.

It made a difference for Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chase Whitley.

Whitley told Unashamed Athletes; “I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 9 years old at Vacation Bible School.  The message was on the verse John 3:16;For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”  “I felt God tell me at that very moment it could be the difference between me going to Heaven or Hell.  When the message was over, I went down and accepted Christ as my Savior.  I thank God that He saved me at such a young age.  With Christ as my side, He battled the temptations of adolescence for me.  When the temptations got too much for me, there is no better person to fight off the Devil than the God of the Universe.”

But can hearing a Bible Verse at Vacation Bible School as a child really change your life?

God had helped Whitley resist temptation as an adolescence, but the challenges weren’t nearly over yet.  After graduating High School, Whitley enrolled in junior college, where he had freedom for the first time.  Would he embrace the faith his parents taught him?  Would he follow their paths or choose something different?  Would he do the right thing or would he go wild?  He found himself really wrestling with those questions for the first time.

But God was still at Whitley’s side, helping him fight off the temptations.  “I could have gone wild, but thank be to God, He used this time to develop my faith in Him.  I am so thankful He did.  I began reading His Word daily and grew more in those two years than ever before.”

The temptations, though, kept coming.  After two years of growth in junior college, Whitley transferred to Troy University, where he faced more temptations.  But again, God surrounded him with good Christians and he dedicated himself to baseball and Bible study and walking in God’s path.

In 2010, Whitley was drafted in the 15th Round by the New York Yankees.  He moved to Staten Island to begin his career.  “Being from a small town, Staten Island was a major test for me.  I was completely outside of my comfort zone being in one of the biggest cities in America.  However, God gave me a peace and direction while I was there to be a missionary through the game of baseball.  I don’t beat people over the head with my faith, but if God creates an opportunity to share, I pray I will always have boldness and wisdom to speak up for His Name.”

Proverbs 22:6 says; Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Whitley is a great example of that.

So, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a sleep-deprived VBS volunteer, think about the story of Chase Whitley.  The work you do makes a difference.  God makes the seeds you plant grow.  The impressions that God makes through you can last a lifetime!