Go for the Goal – David Wise

Go for the Goal – David WiseThe 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are almost over, but, on March 7th, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 additional days. What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series. As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we have been offering a special series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

David and Alexandra Wise are the youth leaders at Valley View Christian Fellowship in Reno, Nevada. As of Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, David is also an Olympic Champion. While the city of Reno was asleep, David won the gold medal in Halfpipe Skiing at Sochi.

David is perfectly willing to confirm what the word pretty much already knows about the party atmosphere of freestyle skiing and snowboarding competition, but he is also quick to point out that he does not live the X-Games lifestyle. As he says, “I’m going to do the best I can to be a big part of this sport, but who I am is who I am.” He says that “Faith plays a huge role, because it enables me to be confident. I can trust God, and He’s going to see me through.”

You might be led to believe that David’s skiing success is due in large part to living at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and within a short distance from some of the best skiing facilities in the U.S. That it is a part of his success is undeniable. It is difficult to ski in a wheat field. But he looks at the big picture for his overall, personal success.

“If I’m not spiritually in tune, then the rest of me is not going to be in tune either.” He says that he always tries to begin his day with some quiet time, during which his purpose it to “really feel connected to God and what He’s trying to say or speak into my life.”

Like the “wise” man who built his house upon the rock, David Wise has chosen to be more than a hearer of the Word and to be pleasing to the Lord by living his life in conformity to it. Or, as he says, “I’d rather be known for my actions rather than my words.”

In a sad postscript to this story, a commentator for NBC apparently referred to David’s faith as an “alternative lifestyle.” We need to understand that it is becoming increasingly more important for believers in Christ to let our light shine in this ever-darkening world.

Headlines everywhere should have proclaimed, “Wise Man Earns Olympic Gold.”

Source material for this story included the Christian Post, The Washington Times and Slate.

Go for the Goal – Gigi Marvin

Go for the Goal – Gigi MarvinThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Giselle “Gigi” Marvin is a member of the US Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Her list of accomplishments are impressive. For instance – and this is just a short list – she won gold in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013  as a member of the US National Team in the IHF World Women’s Championships. She added silver medals in 2007 and 2012, along with the Olympic silver at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Now she is headed to Sochi.

We have just scratched the surface of her athletic accomplishments. But what is more impressive than her collection of gold and silver is what I see when I go her blog or visit her Twitter account. Let me explain.

  • The second tweet on her account as of today is “Want success? Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3.”

  • Just a few tweets down the page is one that says “If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31.”

  • On January 16th, she tweeted “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:14”

  • On January 17th, it was “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1”

Now, that is impressive!

But wait! There’s more! A recent blog on her BlogSpot is titled, “The Power of Words,” and it begins with “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,” Proverbs 17:27, and in it she explains the power of words, beginning with God saying, “Let there be light.” Her next blog on the page talks about the “Gold Medal Standard of Life,” an essay based on Hebrews 12:22, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Other titles on her blog include “Church on a Hockey Bus,” “Being Rebuilt,” based on Jeremiah 31:4, “Playbook for Life,” based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and “Crushing Satan Step by Step.” She wrote that last blog based on Romans 16:10, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

What impresses me, and what ought to impress you, is that this girl lives by the faith she claims to believe. God bless her for her bold and unashamed witness of the Gospel of Christ.

You may follow Gigi on her BlogSpot and on Twitter.

Go for the Goal – Curt Tomasevicz

Go for the Goal – Curt TomaseviczThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Curt Tomasevicz has already tasted Olympic gold as part of the “Night Train” four-man U.S. Bobsled Team at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Now, four years later, he is on his way to Sochi to compete as a pusher for the sled that has now been officially designated as USA-1. But Curt is not “just another Olympic pusher,” he is considered one of the most powerful pushers in the world.

“It’s a great thrill to know that you have given everything you could to try to win and at the same time, done it with honor and integrity. I discovered this at a young age and it has proven to be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.”

Curt grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at a young age, and has managed to keep his eyes on the prize for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus more than on earthly rewards that will eventually pass away. But that does not mean, and never has meant, that he cannot be an athlete. What it does mean is that Curt’s passion to serve the Lord is where he gets the strength to perform well and to Go for the Goal.

Curt graduated from the University of Nebraska in 2003. He took up the sport of bobsledding the following year, teaming up with drivers Steve Holcomb and Mike Kohn. He has served as either a push athlete or a brakeman for both drivers in four-man and two-man events. His first gold medal came in the World Cup two-man competition in Cesana Pariol in February 2007. That was a breakthrough event, as he is now among the truly elite, winning bronze, silver and gold on the World Cup circuit on a consistent and regular basis. He has been the recipient of eight World Cup and World Championship gold medals and six silver since the 2010 Olympics.

In a few days, Curt will go for the gold in Sochi. When you watch him and his team, keep in mind His description of how he lives his life for Christ first. Then, let us all do the same.

“As I live my life today as a full-time athlete, I’ve found that I’m in a fantastic position to influence many people in a number of different ways. I have the opportunity to be viewed as a role model for millions of children. When I compete for the USA, I feel an enormous amount of pride knowing that my job is to represent the entire country on an international level. The way that I conduct myself could be seen around the world. In the heat of competitions, emotions run high. It can be easy to lose tempers, get mad, or argue with officials or opponents. But the person that keeps Christ as a priority throughout the competition seems to be the winner no matter what the score is in the end. A great Christian can remain calm in pressure situations, upbeat in the face of defeat, and even content with not winning. It’s important to be consistently reminded that winning and losing are not the most important things in life. The bigger picture is serving God the right way. I pray that I will always compete as a man with a strong apparent faith.”

Source material included Athletes in Action and the official U.S. Olympic Team websites.

Go for the Goal – Jilleanne Rookard

Go for the Goal – Jilleanne RookardThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we forget that world-class athletes are human. We watch them on TV and wonder why they don’t always perform up to our personal expectations. We forget that they, too, have injuries, sickness, sorrow, and other burdens to bear – ones that we do not see on television. Jilleanne Rookard is a perfect example.

After winning the World Cup 3000 meter speed skating event in 2009, she went on to participate in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. She failed to medal, placing 12th in the 3000m, 24th in the 1500m and 4th in Ladies Team Pursuit. Disappointing? Sure. But not nearly as disappointing as losing her mother to cancer in December 2009. That devastating loss was like having an elephant strapped on her back every time she strapped on her skates.

Jilleanne walked away from the sport, a broken woman, just before the 2013 world championships eleven months ago. She had been so highly focused on her skating success that she had been unable during the intervening years to adequately deal with her mother’s death. She described herself as a mental mess. She cried when she practiced, as she continued to fall apart emotionally. Her performance declined. So she took some time off to “decompress.”

Having accepted Christ in 2006, she looked to Him for the strength to make it through. She says, “It was strange, because God didn’t solve my problems, but it seemed as though He was giving me the strength to handle more. I thank God every day for the lessons He has taught me along this journey. I’ve learned that success is not defined by the outcome, but by the courage it takes to chase God-sized dreams.”

Oh, just in case you were wondering, Jilleanne has returned to the sport and she has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team with a winning time in the 3000m of just 0.4 seconds under the five minute mark. Jilleanne Rookard left her heavy burden at the cross and is pressing on to the glory of God. When you watch her race in Sochi, think about this story and pray for her.

Preach Go for the Goal

Preach for the GoalWhat Are You Preaching That Relates to the Upcoming Winter Olympic Games?

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will soon be front-page news in America. The games will be held February 7-23 in Sochi, Russia and will feature world-class competitors who are vying to become recognized athletic champions.

Pastors, you can turn all that news and attention into spiritual lessons taught at your church! Preach through the sermon series Go for the Goal: Becoming a Spiritual Champion.

To view the series, go here:

Go for the Goal – Noelle Pikus-Pace

Go for the Goal – Noelle Pikus-PaceThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

American Olympic hopeful, Noelle Pikus-Pace appears to be on track to win a medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games. This is not Noelle’s first Olympics. She finished fourth in the skeleton competition in Vancouver in 2010. She left the sport after Vancouver to give birth to and begin raising her second child. She has returned and is blazing a trail of glory down the slopes on the World Cup tour as she prepares for Sochi.

During the first race of 2014 Noelle was tied for the lead at the end of her first run. But, in hopes of gaining speed, she made a strategic adjustment that ended up costing her less than six-tenths of a second, putting her on the podium, but in second-place. This race at Winterberg, Germany, is the fourth time in a row that she has finished second on the World Cup circuit this winter. Her finish also propelled her from fourth place to second in the overall standings. Given the margin that would be needed to gain first place at this point in the overall standings, it is not likely that she should be expected to win the World Cup this year. However, she did win the 2005 World Cup, becoming the first U.S. female skeleton athlete to ever achieve that goal.

In the 2006-2007 World Cup she finished second overall and, in January 2007, she gained another American first by becoming the first U.S. woman to win the World Championships in St. Moritz. Not only did she win the gold, but she won by the largest margin in the history of the sport.

Pikus-Pace has a long list of impressive medals indicative of her hard work to “Go for the Goal.” But, from an eternal perspective, she presses on to the higher calling of God in Christ Jesus. “The only thing that keeps me going is striving to do my heavenly Father’s will. That lightens my burden, so it’s not all about me. It’s about trying to be a good example to those around me and showing an example that Christ would have shown.”

May we remember to cheer Noelle on as she Goes for the Goal in Sochi and, even more so, as she strives to live for Christ and to be a light in the darkness, regardless of how she finishes in the Olympics.

(Sources for this story included NBC Sports, the official website of the U.S. Olympic team and the Christian Science Monitor.)

UPDATE: Noelle Pikus-Pace WINS SILVER at #Sochi2014
Salt Lake Tribune | Facebook | NBC Olympics | NBC  Olympics | NCAA | Her Website | Medal Stand | TV Interview

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Go for the Goal – Ken DeLong

Go for the Goal – Ken DeLongThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Ken DeLong’s story may be the most unusual in our series, but it may also be the most representative of Going for the Goal.  Ken grew up in Roanoke, Virginia with aspirations of being an Olympic athlete.  He never made it to the Olympics.  But he is about to.

After high school, Ken went to Milligan College, a highly-rated Christian liberal arts school in Tennessee where he earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.  He obtained his graduate degree while working as a strength and conditioning coach at Texas A&M.  Subsequently, he ended up accepting a strength and conditioning internship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY.  While there, he became the fourth man for one of the U.S. bobsled teams.  He recalls that “It was a fantastic experience – a little scary, but really exciting.”  Unfortunately for the 26-year old Ken, his team placed seventh in the Olympic trials and that appeared to be the end of the story.

But this is a story about how God blesses faithfulness, so the story does not end.

Ken decided to make his home in upstate New York, and he has lived there for 30 years.  For the first five years he held the job of Recreation Specialist at the Raybrook Federal Penitentiary near Lake Placid.  Over the past 25 years, he has worked with Northeast Parent and Child, a residential facility for troubled teenagers.  One of the things that Ken brought to NPC was the idea of bobsledding as a way of teaching the teens how to make a commitment to something greater than themselves.  For 30 long years, Ken worked with criminals and at-risk teenagers, helping them to see a better way.  No fame.  No fortune.  No Olympics.  But during this span he also took and passed the exams for officiating at skeleton and bobsled races in 2002 and 2003, respectively.  He has been officiating ever since.

On February 5th, 2014, Ken DeLong will board a flight to Russia, where, at long last, he will participate in the Olympic Games at Sochi as an official at the skeleton races.  He received his invitation from the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing.  All of his expenses are paid by the Russian Olympic Committee.  While in Sochi he will be part of the team responsible for maintaining the safety of the track as well as ensuring athletes’ credentials and that the races are run according to the rules.

The chairman of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation put the fulfillment of Ken DeLong’s childhood Olympic dreams into perspective, describing the assignment as being the same as being a referee at the Super Bowl.  He called Ken “One of the most widely-respected jury officials in the United States.”

On February 7th, 2014, when the Sochi Olympic Games open, Ken DeLong will have reached his goal.

Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-Peltz

Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-PeltzThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

It can become very confusing when you talk about Nancy Swider-Peltz because there are two of them.  To avoid confusion, we are going to talk about the Olympian, Nancy Swider-Peltz.  Unfortunately, that still does not reduce the confusion, because there are still two of them.  Let’s narrow it down a bit more.  Let’s talk about the Olympic speed skater, Nancy Swider-Peltz. As it happens, that doesn’t help either, because there are still two of them.  The only way we can do this is to talk about mother, Nancy Swider-Peltz Sr., and daughter, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr.  As Nancy Jr. describes the two of them, they share the “Same name – same sport – same faith.”

 As this story is being written, the younger Nancy is training for the U.S. Olympic trials that begin on December 27th, under the tutelage of her coach, and four-time Olympian, Nancy Sr.  One of the struggles that Nancy Jr. faces is the innate self-centeredness that it takes for athletes to focus on being prepared.  She believes that her faith is made stronger by seeking to glorify God in all things, not just in winning or on the podium, but in her training as well.  Her preparation is steeped in focusing on bringing glory to Christ and not unto herself.

Nancy Jr. has said that, “I have to thank my mom, my dad, and the rest of my family for their godly examples and for teaching me from their experiences how to mature in my faith in Jesus Christ. Along with Christ, they have been there for me through every trial and victory and have taught me so many life lessons I use every day. I have been blessed beyond comprehension. From parents who have raised me on strong Bible-believing values from birth, to providing me with opportunities for me to achieve my goals in life, God has been there for me every step of the way and has never failed me. I give all the glory to God!”

People often ask if mother and daughter have ever actually competed against each other.  Yes, in fact, they have.  Not only did they compete in the 2002 Olympic trials (Nancy Sr. at age 45 and Nancy Jr. at age 14), but they raced against each other, an historic event even if they had not been related, because they became the oldest and youngest competitors ever to compete against each other in the trials.

Nancy Sr.’s hopes to have another Swider-Peltz become an Olympic speed skater and a pillar of faith.  The odds are in her favor, because, in yet another twist to this story, there is also another Swider-Peltz hoping to make the U.S. team.  Thankfully, his name is not Nancy.  It is Jeffrey.  After competing in the 2006 Olympic trials while still in high school, he left competitive skating while attending Wheaton College.  Eventually, he was drawn back by his love of the sport.  His faith in Christ is just as evident as his sister’s.  Jeffrey believes that “Skating is great, but it’s not everything, and it can’t be where I find value within myself. It’s hard to spend so much time focusing on becoming the best skater you can possibly be and keeping a proper perspective on life – it’s such an obsessive culture. I only know that I must seek approval solely from God and not rely on being justified by any personal achievements or the opinions of others.”

The Swider-Peltz family understands that the glitter of Olympic gold can never compare to the crowns they will receive in Heaven and lay at Jesus’ feet.  May they be an example and an encouragement to us all.

Go for the Goal – Elana Meyers

Go for the Goal – Elana MeyersThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we begin a series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Her Twitter profile reads “Christ follower, Olympic & World Champ medalist in women’s bobsled, MBA student.”  Her name is Elana Meyers, and she has her priorities in order.  But it wasn’t always like that.  There was a time when bobsledding was not her sport and Jesus Christ was not her passion.  In fact, her biography on the Beyond the Ultimate website, explains that sports in general was her all-consuming passion; especially softball, which she played in both high school and college.

Elana, who hails from Douglasville, Georgia, where this writer once lived, had become so consumed with softball in her freshman year in college that she spiraled out of control by trying to be in control of her performance, her team’s success, and her life.  In her efforts to control her playing weight, she began a cycle of starvation, bingeing and purging.  As it usually does, this preoccupation with weight and controlling it (for whatever purpose it is intended to serve), drew Elana into the bondage of what she called “a vicious addiction.”

When, after desperately seeking help, she realized that psychological programs provided only a different approach to trying to personally control things, she began to search for something entirely different and effective.  She began to read a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life” that a friend had bought for her.  During a two-hour workout on an elliptical device, she realized that she needed to yield control of her life to Christ.  She recalls that “Just as easily as I was caught up in the addiction that is an eating disorder, God removed my addiction and set me free.  It wasn’t until I found Jesus that I realized I didn’t need control and would never have it.”

In 2007 Elana took up bobsledding.  In the 2010 Olympic Winter Games she help to bring home the bronze for Team USA as the pusher on the two-woman team.  She is now preparing for the 2014 Sochi Games as the driver.  After already winning a slew of medals in the last half of the 2012-2013 season, on Friday, December 6, 2013, she and her current teammate, Aja Evens won the gold medal at the Women’s World Cup in Park City, Utah.  It was the first U.S. women’s victory since January 2011.

It looks like Elana Meyers is prepared to “Go for the Goal” in Sochi in February.  The difference now, as she says, is “I do not have to have all the answers.  I just have to trust Him.  Being an Olympian is one of the greatest achievements one can achieve in this life. Although God has allowed me to achieve much, I know it’s all to glorify His holy name, and that I am working toward a much greater accomplishment in the next life.”

To read more about Elana Meyers, go to http://beyondtheultimate.org/athlete/Elana-Meyers, or follow her on Twitter at @eamslider24.

Go for the Goal – Janet Lynn

Go for the Goal – Janet LynnThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we begin a series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.  We begin with American figure skater, Janet Lynn.

Janet Lynn is now 60 years old.  She never won Olympic gold, but she caused the sport to change dramatically simply by her outstanding freestyle performance ability.  If she were to skate under today’s rules – the very rules that were changed because of her – she would likely have an entire collection of gold medals.  When Janet competed in the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, she was 19 years old and America’s hope for gold.  Why she did not win the gold depends upon whether you see the cup as half-full or half-empty.  It was either the fact that she was weak in the compulsory part of the program or that her strength, freestyle, which she clearly won, was not allotted a large enough portion of the total score at that time.  The question might be raised, “How much is a large enough portion?”  The simple answer is that, as of the early 1990’s, there is no longer a compulsory portion of the competition.  It was Janet’s exquisite freestyle performance, despite a disastrous fall on the ice, that was instrumental in changing the perspective of figure skating officials’ opinions of how to best score the events.

Janet Lynn is a five-time U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, a two-time World Figure Skating medalist, and the 1972 Winter Olympic bronze medal winner.  She was one of the first women to land a triple jump in competition.  She turned professional in 1973, becoming the highest paid female athlete at that time, and, one year later, became the World Professional Champion.  Many experts believe that she is one of the greatest freestyle figure skaters of all time.  Her shining example for figure skating, however, pales in the light of how she has shined for Christ amidst the darkness of this world.

In a speech given at the dedication of the Janet Lynn Ice Arena in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, in July 2000, Janet boldly proclaimed that, “Through the joys and difficulties, Jesus Christ has been my stability. He has a plan for my life and it certainly included skating. The faith that my family introduced me to through regular church attendance ultimately enabled me to focus on the good and persevere through the unpleasant things. My faith in Christ, knowing that the loving God can take even broken dreams and make something beautiful in His time, has been the hope of my life. This faith was a foundation of my skating.”

She spoke to the heartbreak she experienced after completing the compulsories in 1972.  She had realized that her entire life, “as well as my personal dreams and ambitions for self, country, and God, were wrapped up in this competition.” She told how she had spent the day weeping and arguing with God in the Olympic Village.  But she also shared that “a thought came into my mind:  If I could not win, then all I could do was to finish the competition and decide to dedicate my free skating to show God’s love to all who watched. A medal no longer mattered. Somehow, God heard my cries and answered a girl’s prayers in ways I could not have imagined.”

After the 1972 Olympics, Janet returned to Japan and responded consistently that it was her faith in Christ and her desire to live for Him that kept here smiling after her infamous fall on the ice.  Fifteen years later, on a subsequent trip to Japan, a woman handed her a note in which she explained that she had been depressed and ready to take her own life, until she had heard Janet speak of her faith and hope in Jesus Christ.  She decided to place her hope in Christ as a result.  Janet may not have won the gold, but that Japanese woman won eternal life.

On a broader scale, Janet says, “It disturbs me greatly to see instances in our nation where people try to exclude God or create fear of talking about God in public. He has blessed this nation so richly; why would anyone want to shut Him out?”

Quotes are from Janet Lynn’s speech, “Family Faith, and Freedom.”