Being raised in middle America I was always interested in Sports.
I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old my Dad said he would put up a basketball goal for me and I just thought that was crazy.
The next year, my interest in sports became real and it has stuck with me ever since.
I grew up in Blue Springs Missouri and in the 1960's they had a good little league program. (Yes, I was safe at the plate in the picture above!)
I will always be grateful for those early years where I played baseball. The coaches and volunteers helped shape me growing up. I held a desire to play professional baseball all through those early years.
My Mother sent me to a Catholic School there (St.John La Lande) where I was given some of the best role models growing up. Our coach was our Parish Priest.
I credit him with instilling in me desire to do better, to never touch drugs, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. During all this time I was always "first string", I never rode the bench. I was always among the first to be picked when choosing teams.
There was always great competition and I was always involved with these little league programs all throughout my grade school years. My Mother was in a terrible automobile accident in 1969 breaking her back in two places. It took her a year or more to recover.
So, for a time, my Brother and I lived with one of our Aunts in Southern Missouri. I was able to continue playing sports in the school.
I loved the football program as that was my favorite sport. All throughout my high school and college years I continued playing "first string" to include my military unit's teams.
All my life, I have never rode the bench. I worked hard developing my skills and I enjoyed playing all those years.
This past week I was discussing with Steve Ray on Deepertruth Radio the idea that all of us are "first-string" when it comes to serving on God's team. We are all most valuable players, I would think many of our ladies with gray hair are very important because they really storm heaven with many prayers. There are many leaders in the field and one thing I am so thankful for is being on God's "first string"!
Through my athletic prowess growing up, I have learned some important attributes that have helped me being a disciple.
Confidence in my self, believing and having a grasp on my potential have helped me a lot.
To be a good example and role model in getting things done right, to work as a team I found very important.
Growing up in my Catholic Faith, I have learned the virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity). These are central for all of God's "first string".
I love how the scriptures many times will use athletic prowess to make a spiritual point.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith".
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, "Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion, for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future".
St.Paul says, "Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race,but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we am imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
The key for us is to imitate the apostolic tradition (1 Corinthians 11:1), we are to hold fast to the traditions that were handed down to us (1 Corinthians 11:2).
By doing so, you are developing the correct values and virtues to be on God's "first string".
All it takes to be on God's "first string" is to be a faithful Catholic!
Apathy, sin, lukewarmness and rebellion will get you knocked off your "high-horse" quicker than you can say snorkel!
With this in mind, I encourage you to train yourself for the ways of His righteousness, to do His will. Surround yourself with committed teachers of the Catholic Faith who do not compromise their faith for the way of the world.
To be "first string" for God, we must want to be a "Godpleaser", not a "manpleaser".