Steven Souza Jr. – The Importance of Teammates

 

Steven Souza Jr.

Outfielder, Steven Souza Jr. Photo by Keith Allison 

 

It is not good for man to be alone.

When God first created Adam in the garden, he was all alone.  No spouse.  No friends.  No family.  Our Triune God knew that we couldn’t live out our lives in His image if we had no one to love and care for.  So God created Eve to give Adam a partner, helper, and friend.  After sin entered the world, we needed each other more than ever.  We all need other people in our lives to encourage us and to keep us from straying in our walk with God.  The story of Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder, Steven Souza, shows why.

Souza was raised in church, but refers to himself as a prodigal son.  He quickly found himself wandering from the faith he was raised in and living life his own way instead.  Instead of living for others, he lived for himself.  He explained to the Increase, “I thought everything revolved around me.  Elevating myself in every environment I was in – whether I was with my family, friends, or teammates – I developed a lot of pride.”  But Souza soon found himself in a dark place and began to feel like he was losing his identity.

God sent teammate Michael Taylor into Souza’s life.  One day, as Souza’s life in a dark place continued, Taylor asked him how his walk with Christ was going.  Souza lied.  He said that everything was going fine, though that could not have been farther from the truth.  Perhaps Taylor saw through it, because the next thing he did was encourage him to start reading God’s Word.  Souza went to God in prayer that night, asking God to do something to show him that He was real.  But nothing happened.

Though God may not have performed the miracle Souza had been seeking, He was still at work in his life.  As Souza recalls; “over the next few days, God continued to bring key people into my life who pointed me towards Christ. One of those people – a friend of mine – invited me to church that week.”  God touched his heart that day.  Not long after – on January 31, 2012, Steven Souza was baptized.  He recalls now that, after his baptism, some things in his life changed completely right away, but other changes have been more of a slow, gradual, refining process.

To this day, God is still using other people in Souza’s life.  In another article on the Increase, he explained how God has continued to use others to help in his Christian life.  He said of his time with the Tampa Bay Rays;

“We have a team Bible study that meets once a week which has really blown up. There’s a giant group of guys that come and it’s been really fun to grow in community and knowledge of the Lord together. The relationships that we’ve been able to create with each other have been awesome, though there’s only so close you can get with a large group of guys. But there are two guys who I’ve really been able to really go deeper with. Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley have become two of my best friends and men with whom I have been able to establish solid accountability. Alex, Chase, and I have found a community with each other where we can challenge, encourage, and grow closer to God together. The three of us are able to really energize and uplift one another; within this brotherhood we can really feel the presence and blessing of the Lord. Desiring to go deeper with each other in our faith and friendship, we’ve committed to meeting daily with each other, whether over breakfast or by our lockers, to check in and share what’s on our hearts.   I’ve seen incredible encouragement and growth in my own life come as a result of these men’s fellowship. I remember last year Chase and Alex approached me one day with something that they had observed in my life—something that was manifesting itself on the field. I didn’t have wrong intentions in my heart, but I was coming across in a way that demonstrated less-than-Christlike behavior. Out of genuine care and concern for me, they pointed out to me the way that my demeanor was portrayed in certain situations on the field and encouraged me to be more careful about how I act so that I can be a good light for Christ. I immediately recognized what they were saying and was surprised at how I had not been able to see this. So thankful for their desire to lead me on a good path, I began to work on paying closer attention to my responses and actions during the game… This type of daily community and faithful accountability is what Jesus calls us to find in our brothers and sisters.”

In the article, Souza points to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” 

This year, things will be different for Souza.  The Rays spent the offseason clearing payroll and investing in the future.  The Rays waved Whitley, who was then claimed by the Braves.  Alex Cobb remains an unsigned free agent as of this writing.  Two other fellow Christians, Peter Bourjos and Steve Cishek, both signed with the Cubs.  After watching some of his brothers in Christ move to other cities, Souza surprisingly learned that he was the next to go.  On February 20, 2018, he – along with Yankees minor league pitcher, Taylor Widener was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 3-team trade.  The Yankees received infielder Brandon Drury in the deal, with the Rays picking up a group of prospects, headlined by pitcher Anthony Banda and infielder Nick Solak.

2018 will mark a new beginning for Souza. He begins the season on a new team in a new city in a new clubhouse.  Now, it will be him who stands alongside new teammates, encouraging them with the Gospel and serving as a living example of what a man of God should be.

Sometimes, instead of sending miracles into people’s lives to show them His presence, He sends us.  God came to Souza in his time of need through his teammates.  God uses us, too, to come into people’s lives at just the right time to point them to Christ.  We should remember that in all of our relationships and in every interaction we have.  We’re there to point other people to Jesus and to be lights that shine for Him!

Steve Cishek – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Steve Cishek

Pitcher Steve Cishek.  Photo by Keith Allison

The New Year will soon be upon us.  We prepare to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in 2018.  Many of us will use this as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to live better lives than we’ve been living. 

My very first blog post here on A Lamp unto My Cleats was about relief pitcher Steve Cishek.  Cishek will be experiencing a new beginning this year as well.  On December 16, 2017, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs; his 4th big league team.

Below are Cishek’s thoughts about New Years Day;

“So many people go out and make New Year resolutions.  New Year resolutions are a great thing, but how many people actually stick to it and follow those changes they want to make?  Let’s look at a list of New Year resolutions made by people this year:

  1. Weight Loss/ Working Out
  2. Stop Smoking
  3. Learn Something New
  4. Eat Healthier and Diet
  5. Be Less Stressed
  6. Drink Less
  7. Make a Health Appointment
  8. Devote More Time to Hobbies
  9. Visit a New Destination
  10. Help Someone Else (described: so it will make you feel better)

All of these resolutions are not necessarily bad things.  In fact many, if not all, are good ideas.  However what [is] the common theme of these resolutions?  Self.  Self improvement, making yourself feel better, satisfying yourself… you get the idea.  As Christians, we need deeper and less self-centered resolutions.  Resolutions that bring God all the Glory.  1 Corinthings 10:31 says, “so, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Cishek has some suggestions as to what a Christian New Year’s Resolution should look like.

  1. Resolve to serve Christians in the church
  2. Resolve to believe God is good, wise, and sovereign when life is tough
  3. Engage in Gospel conversations with people in my life
  4. Putting to death fear of man
  5. Resolve to softening our hearts while listening to the Word.
  6. Pray and actively engage in these resolutions

May God bless each and every one of you with a safe, happy, and healthy 2018!  To read further on Cishek’s New Year’s Resolutions, check out his blog.

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.

Robinson Chirinos – Mark 9:23

Robinson Chirinos

Texas Rangers Catcher Robinson Chirinos.  Photo by Keith Allison

Robinson Chirinos was always a long shot to make it to the major leagues.  In 2000, he was signed as an infielder by the Chicago Cubs out of Punto Fijo, in the oil producing region of Venezuela.  But, as his minor league career progressed, it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it as an infielder.  After nearly a decade of work, the Cubs decided Chirinos career as an infielder was over.  In 2008, they decided to try something else; they auditioned him as a catcher.  The position change meant more work, more learning, more time to hone his craft in the minor leagues.  The soft-spoken Chirinos kept plugging away, chasing his dream to become a major leaguer.  He spent over a decade in the Cubs minor league system, but never made it to Wrigley Field.  In 2011, he was included as part of the blockbuster trade which sent star pitcher Matt Garza to the Cubs from the Tampa Rays in exchange for a package headlined by future All Star pitcher, Chris Archer.  He finally got his chance that year, playing 20 games in the majors.

2012 was supposed to be his year.  He went into spring training, hoping to have a greater role.  Not only was he hoping to seize a great opportunity professionally, but he was also growing spiritually.  Chirinos recalls attending the team’s chapel service on the morning of March 11, and feeling closer to God than ever before.  That morning, he became a Christian.  He told T.R. Sullivan of mlb.com; “He talked to me — and that morning, I really felt Him in my heart. It was hard to run away. I’m not like other people who had people talking to them about God. It wasn’t like other people talking to me about God; it was Him. It was something I never forgot.”

But that afternoon, everything changed, as Chirinos crashed from a spiritual high to a physical low.  The Rays were playing a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates when foul ball ricocheted off a bat straight backward, and hit him directly in the face mask.  It stung, as foul balls do, but he felt fine and he stayed in the game.  When he got to the dugout, however, things started getting worse.  Before he knew it, he had to be carried off in a stretcher.   It was quickly discovered that Chirinos had suffered a concussion.

What started as a concussion, however, didn’t end there.  He began suffering constant headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision and anxiety.  He could hardly walk and could barely sleep.  It took months for his symptoms to subside, and Chirinos feared that his Major League career might be over before it really had the chance to start.  The 2012 season came and went, and he missed the whole thing.

As Chirinos struggled through the year, however, he knew he wasn’t alone.  “He is the one who gave me the strength to keep me believing I was getting better and giving me the strength to get through that, and then my family being around me and all the people who pushed me trying to get me where I am.”

Finally, with the help of a concussion expert, Dr. Michael Collins from the University of Pittsburgh, Chirinos began to heal.  By 2013, he was ready for another shot at the big leagues.  On April 8, 2013, his contract was purchased by the Texas Rangers.  Now he had a team, but would not have much of an opportunity.  The Rangers had a roster full of stars, and already had veteran AJ Pierzynski and Geovany Soto on the roster.  As expected, he spent most of the season in the minors, only seeing 13 games in the big leagues.

2014 was not looking any more promising.  Pierzysnki was gone, but the Rangers still had Soto and had added JP Arencibia, who was coming off a 21 home run season with the Blue Jays.  The 30 year old Chirinos was considered nothing more than a depth piece in the minors.  But then Soto got hurt and Arencibia was struggling.  Suddenly, he found himself the starting catcher.

All was finally going well for Chirinos.  Soon, however, history seemed that it would repeat itself.  A foul ball struck him in the mask again.  And again.  And again.  Before the season was over, he estimates taking about 15 foul balls off his facemask.  Thanks be to God, he stayed healthy and did not suffer any more concussions.

To this day, Chirinos knows that God is with him.  He regularly speaks about God’s presence in his life and often includes Bible verses on his Instagram page.  One of his favorites is Mark 9:23.  In this passage, a man whose son had been possessed by a demon approached Jesus, and asked Him if He could heal his son.  Jesus responds to the man; “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”   Chirinos has learned firsthand what it means to trust in God and to trust in His power and presence.  He explains; “There is only one true hero and He is the greatest man in history; His name is Jesus Christ. He had no servants and they called Him Lord. He had no title and they called Him master.  He had no army and the Kings feared Him. He didn’t win military battles, and yet He conquered the world. He didn’t commit a crime and He was crucified, died and buried.  He loved me first without my knowing Him. He was buried in a tomb and on the third day rose and even today lives and accompanies me always…  So I proudly say; ‘I love You my God.  Thank You for being always with me, with my family… I am proud to believe in You.”*

God was with Chirinos throughout all of his struggles and will also be with you in yours.  Remember that God is always with you, in good times and in bad times, and will help you in every time of need.

* Translated from Spanish

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!

Peter Bourjos – Proverbs 3:5

 

Peter Bourjos

Former Los Angeles Angel’s outfielder, Peter Bourjos.  Photo by Keith Allison

Before there was Mike Trout, there was Peter Bourjos.

 

Before Trout lit up centerfield at Angel Stadium with highlight plays, Bourjos was the exciting center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Going into the 2010 season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the #2 prospect in the Angels system.  He made his major league debut in August that year.  His career really took off in 2011.  He hit .271 with 12 HR and 22 stolen bases.  He also tied Austin Jackson for the American League lead in triples with 11.  He appeared to have a bright future ahead of him, plaBeying for the Angels.  The 2012 Baseball Prospectus said of his spectacular defense; “Bourjos covered so much ground as a center fielder that is sometimes backfired early in the season.  His corner outfielders, unaccustomed to flanking a player with such range, sometimes weren’t giving way to Bourjos, while other times they flinched or back away at his mere approach.  The turf war ended around June, when Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells learned what we all learned; When Peter Bourjos is chasing a ball, it’s more fun to just watch.”

In 2012, the outfield in the Big A was getting full.  The Angels had All-Stars Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter manning the corners, super prospect Mike Trout slated for centerfield, and Kendrys Morales taking more of the bats at DH.  Suddenly, playing time was difficult to come by.  To make matters worse, in September, Bourjos was hit by a pitch, and suffered wrist soreness.

In 2013, Bourjos had another opportunity.  Hunter had signed with the Tigers and Morales had been traded to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Jason Vargas, leaving the Angels outfield a lot less crowded.  Through June 29, Bourjos was batting .333, Trout was moved mostly to left field, and Bourjos was receiving regular playing time in center again.  He then, however, was hit by a pitch in his wrist again, this time breaking it.  That season would be his last in an Angel’s uniform.  In November, he was traded, along with Randal Grichuk, to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman David Freese and pitcher Fernando Salas.

While Bourjos may have planned on being an Angel, God had other plans.  Bourjos explained to Rob Maaddi in Baseball Faith: 52 MLB Stars Reflect on their Faith; “I grew up Catholic.  It’s not that I didn’t take it seriously, but I don’t think a lot of kids enjoy going to church.  When I got to St. Louis and met a lot of Christian players on the team, we would have Bible study once a week.  That kind of got me going again and following Christ, and that changed my life.  Things happen for a reason.  When I got traded to the Cardinals, I didn’t understand what that reason was; but when I left, I realized it was to bring me closer to Christ and get me back going to church and believing again.”

One of Bourjos’ favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5; Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  He says that “this verse helps me calm down.  There’s so much going on in baseball and in life that you can’t control, so when I read this verse, it puts me at peace.  It puts everything in perspective for me.”

After the 2015 season, Bourjos’ time with the Cardinals came to an end.  He was claimed off of waivers by the Phillies, with whom he spent the 2016 season.  Prior to the 2017 season, he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox, who traded him before the season began to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Chris Heisey – Philippians 2:3-4

Chris Heisey

Chris Heisey, now with the Minnesota Twins – photo by Keith Allison

At the time of this post, the Washington Nationals are in the 2016 Divisional Playoffs, one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.  It’s a glorious time to be a Washington National.

But for National’s outfielder Chris Heisey, life hasn’t always been glorious.  He has a different word he uses to describe his roots; humble.

Chris Heisey considers himself to be a regular kid from a regular family.  He grew up in Mount Joy, PA and was the son of two loving Christian parents, Craig and Linda.  Heisey says of his childhood in an interview with Beyond the Ultimate; “I grew up going to church every Sunday.  Ever since I can remember, even when I’d wake up to go to school, my mom would have a Bible verse on the table with the Bible flipped open.  So it was a non-stop reminder of who I was living for, and how to represent Christ as I was going to school or going to hand out with my friends.”

Growing up, sports always played a large role in Chris’ life.  “I had a bat in my hand when I was about two years old, and my parents were a big part of introducing me to sports and being active.”  Chris played baseball in high school and was the top player on his team, but he never really caught anyone’s attention.  He didn’t receive any Division I scholarship offers.  He wasn’t attracting big league scouts.  A career in baseball wasn’t even on his radar.

Instead, Heisey planned to go to a nearby Christian college, Messiah College.  He hoped to play baseball while he attended school, graduate, and become an elementary school teacher.  Seeking the glory of Major League Baseball wasn’t even on his radar.

It was Heisey’s best friend and college teammate who had the big dreams.  He wanted to make it to the majors and play for the Padres.  He went to open tryout camps the summer after he and Heisey’s freshmen year to try to garner some attention from pro scouts.  Heisey went along with him.

The following summer, Heisey learned that he’d been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 17th Round of the 2006 Amateur Baseball Draft.  Heisey recalls; It was a shock; I didn’t expect it to happen.  It was something I prayed about, and felt like I might not get the opportunity ever again to go after this dream.  I decided, ‘Hey, this may end up working out.  I may get to play in the big leagues.’  He added in an interview with Steve King for his Messiah College newspaper; “You have [to] work hard and keep Christ as your focus.  To be honest, I didn’t’ think I had much of [a] shot to be an MLB player, but I continued to work hard.  If you fall short, you’ll still end up in a great place with Christ as the center.”

Just like his amateur career, his minor league career got off to a humble beginning.  He was far from appearing on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect lists.  He didn’t even appear on Cincinnati Reds top 30 lists.  He flew under the radar for several seasons in the lower levels of the Reds organization.

That all changed in 2009.  Heisey hit a combined .314 with 22 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .900 OPS.  His performance led him to win the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award as the Reds minor league player of the year.  In 2010, Heisey’s distant dream of becoming a Major League baseball became a reality; from humble beginnings to the big show.

But one thing that never changed was the humility.  Throughout his career, Heisey has been continually complemented on his character.  Jamie Ramsey of mlb.com says of him; “He’s an honest and wholesome man, a man of God, who feels he can also do better in life.  Humble, yet competitive, Heisey has the qualities of a Frank Capra character- a role model, not just for kids, but for adults alike.”  When Heisey was playing for the Reds, the Red Reporter blog informed their readers that “aside from his still-emerging talent, Reds fans should feel privileged to root for Heisey, who exudes humility and class.”  Even Heisey’s High School basketball team bus driver had the desire to chime in; “Chris is such an inspiration to all who know him… not because he is a major league baseball player, but because he is a good man, [and an] awesome son who helps his mom every chance he gets… [a] devoted husband to his wife Lisa and great friend all around.  His humble attitude is real folks… what you see is what you get with Chris… They don’t come any better!”

Humility is important to Heisey.  He told Beyond the Ultimate that one of his favorite Bible verses is Philippians 2:3-4; Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  He explains; Being humble is something that we’re called to do.  It’s pretty easy for me not to have a ‘big head’ because I’m just Chris Heisey, the same guy who was going to college to become a school teacher.  Just because I happened to get lucky and worked hard and got to the big leagues doesn’t mean I need to change that.”  Deep down, Heisey feels like the same guy he was when his baseball life humbly began in Mount Joy, PA.  He told Messiah College Assistant Athletic Director Cory Furman; “I’m not good at estimating, but I figure I’ve signed over 15,000 autographs during all of this.  I just don’t understand why anyone would want my autograph.  Because I can hit a ball?  It seems to me we should be getting the autographs of teachers, who make a difference to so many people, or doctors who save peoples’ lives.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for glory.  Chris Heisey sets a beautiful example for us that we should all strive instead to be humility.  After all, that’s what Jesus did.  Philippians 2 goes on to say; Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   That’s humility.  Jesus did nothing for His own glory, but gave up everything to save you!  May we all live for others as Jesus lived and died for us!

 

Steve Cishek – Colossians 3:23

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Steve Cishek, Relief Pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Photo by Laura Smith

When God first gave the Ten Commandments to His people, He also provided the following instructions; And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).  For Seattle Mariner’s pitchers, Steve Cishek, perhaps we should say it a bit differently; write them on a piece of paper, tuck them in your pocket, and carry them to the pitcher’s mound.

Every time Cishek takes the mound, he carries with him a small, square, laminated piece of paper, tattered and wrinkled on the corners.  On that piece of paper are the words of his favorite Bible verse, Colossians 3:23 – whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for a human master.”  Before facing his first batter, he reads these words.  

Cishek explained to mlb.com’s Jenifer Langosch;  “I could recite it in my head, but pulling it out of my back pocket makes me slow down and take my time a little bit when I just want to go, go, go.  I can sit back and read some scripture to really set my mind and get after it with hitters.”  He added in a JesusnSports interview; “It reminds me that when I am pitching, I can’t pitch to impress our coaches of staff or any team mates. I’m working for God’s glory. With good outings or bad outings He doesn’t care how I pitch. No matter what He loves me. So it takes an enormous amount of pressure off me to perform for a crowd or coaches. And good outing or terrible outing I always thank the Lord for what He has done in my life and for allowing for me to play baseball.”

Whatever we do in our lives, we do well to remember God’s Word from Colossians 3.  We should do nothing in life to bring glory to ourselves.  Instead, we should constantly remember that all that we do is for God and His glory.  That’s the model that Jesus set for us.  He came, not to be served, glorified, or honored, but instead He made Himself nothing that we might be saved. Everything that Jesus did, He worked at it with all His heart, as working for the Lord, not for a human master.