Deanne Grachen

Deanne Grachen

Kobe Bryant

  • 01 May 2016 |

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Runin such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crownthat will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

 

The end has finally arrived. Not only that, but it has come and gone. I don’t think I was prepared for it. Not that I didn’t have ample time to prepare, I just don’t know if you can prepare for something this life changing. This loss will not only affect me, but will have an impact on millions. If you haven’t realized by now (and you skipped the title), I am referring to the retirement of the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba has played 20 years in the league so I literally grew up watching him go from high school to NBA first round draft pick to five-time NBA champion. His accomplishments over his 20 years are incredible. Outside of the five championships, Kobe has 18 all-star appearances, 833 career wins, an NBA MVP trophy, 9 first-team all-defense selections, is third on the all-time scoring list, is the only player to play for 20 seasons with one team, and the list can continue to go on and on. Those who have spent any significant time with me know that I refer to Kobe on a regular basis. And, fun fact, even attempted to name my son Kobe (didn’t fly with Abbey). However, to the surprise of some, I will refer to him not only when discussing basketball, but also in the context of ministry and my Christian faith.

 

Why this may surprise people is because though Kobe is considered one of the greatest on the basketball court, his life has been marred with several questionable decisions. He has, on several occasions, been known to drive people away with his arrogant and demanding demeanor, he has had multiple clashes with teammates, and maybe the most incriminating to the Black Mamba was a sexual assault charge brought against him by a 19 year-old hotel employee.

 

As someone who has served in ministry to young people for almost a decade, I realize the impact role models have on the minds of our youth. They begin to worship their teen idols and start to live their life to look like the culture their idol lives in. So with that knowledge, it is a legitimate question to wonder why I would hold Kobe Bryant, the confirmed adulterer/pride-filled, non-forgiving basketball player as an example. I even questioned myself at times about the legitimacy of using him as a positive example. Then, in his last game in which he not only scored 60 points, but brought his team the victory, I realized why I am so drawn to Kobe.

 

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, talks about running a race. He challenges the struggling church in Corinth by not coddling them, but telling them that it is going to take hard work. It is going to take sacrifice, patience, endurance, and the intention of your entire being to live the life God has called us to. When I read verses like the one quoted above and others like it, I use Kobe as an example because he demonstrates the meaning of Paul’s command so clearly. There is an important distinction that I am always careful to make when referencing Kobe, which is that Kobe has felt that his purpose is to play the best basketball and our primary purpose as Christians is to love God and others.

 

But, his commitment to his calling puts our level of commitment to shame. If we as Christians were as committed to loving others (what God has called us to) as Kobe was to his career as a basketball player, I believe this world would look very different. What if we put in the same hours, training, intensity, thoughtfulness, and single minded focus into living a life that pleases God? I know that, like Kobe, my life would begin to bear the fruit of this hard work and focus. So let’s take a page from the Mamba and “run in such a way as to get the prize!”   - Pastor Andrew Nishimoto

Measuring Success

  • 13 April 2016 |

Over the past 9 years, I've gotten to be involved in a weekly meal for the homeless and low income people of our community. It's been a wonderful experience! We begin with a short devotional shared from scripture, we sing a hymn, and then we share prayer requests and pray for each other. There is a clothing cart where they can get clothes. There is a resource table where they can get information about employment, a place to stay, rehabilitation, other food resources, etc.And then we share a meal together. We have a great team of cooks and servers who take turns lovingly preparing and dishing out a great meal. Seated at each table in our Friendship Center are people who are homeless, people who are barely hanging onto their apartment/trailer/house, as well as, Bethany members. They eat and engage in conversation together. Over the past 9 years, significant relationships have been formed around these meals. We have formed community through these meals. It's really something to see!Recently, a friend asked if I felt like our meals were being successful. I had to think for a second and then I answered, "It depends on what I am looking at." If I am looking at people who have significantly turned their lives around, then it is easy to get frustrated. Sure, we've been able to celebrate a few who have gotten jobs, some who have chosen to enter into rehab, even several who have gotten apartments to live in. Those times of celebration have been sweet, especially because of the hope that it gives to the others in our community. But because it is so difficult for people in these conditions to turn things around, especially when there is addiction involved, the percentage of those making significant change has been small. But if I look at the relationships that have been formed, I say, "Yes! We have had success!" I think of people who come timidly at first. People who would barely make eye contact. People who anticipated being treated like an object of charity...someone who needs to be fixed...someone who is not worthy of friendship. I have seen them blossom and grow in confidence. Some even take on "leadership roles" within the community.It's happened because some special Bethany Church members have decided to invest in the lives of people that others have chosen to look at as throw-away people. They have chosen to value them as people worthy of respect.The ultimate sign of success? Over the years, a few of the long-term members of this community that we've formed have become members of the Bethany congregation. They didn't stop attending our weekly meal because they are now in the position where they are giving back and investing in others' lives. But they've chosen to also become a part of the Bethany community because they have felt loved and learned first hand what being loved by God feels like.And to that, we shout "Yahoo!"  - Pastor Lon Wagner

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