What does it mean to worship? Adoration, glory, exaltation are all synonyms. In terms of loving Jesus, worshipping is not limited to putting your hands up during worship music or praying before you step on the field. Our God is so big that he is worthy of so much more worship than those simple actions. At UTC, I learned how to truly surrender my heart to Him.
I sit here writing this post in awe of the week I recently experienced. A week ago, I arrived home following a 17 hour (super eventful) drive from Ft. Collins, Colorado. What brought me there? The Athletes in Action Ultimate Training Camp. A life changing, heart transforming experience that I will never be able to write about to its entirety. God MOVED people. But, anything I say will not do this camp justice. It was easily the best week of my life. I would love to be back there right now.
150 top college athletes gathered together for seven days to learn how to worship God in sports. There is so much more to it than that though. From the moment we walked in, the energy at the camp was through the roof and it stayed that way every single day. We got to know each other the first days by going bowling and having a friendly (non-athletic) competition. Then the principles began. We learned five different principles that apply directly to our sport and also are able to be applied when we enter real life (workplace).
The biggest lesson I learned this week was that no matter where I go in life, God will be able to use my love for people and work ethic. I will not be able to play soccer forever, so knowing that I can glorify God in everything I do is powerful.
The camp as a whole was so incredible. I struggled with words to describe the camp, so I decided to ask other campers what UTC did in their lives.
I met Alex during the draft process and we got to lead our team together through the SPECIAL. He wrote a personal account about what the SPECIAL did to his body and heart.
At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified
Sweetly Broken, Jeremy Riddle
For the past 20 years of my life and throughout the 15 years of my competitive career, I had always thought that I was doing things the right way: worshipping and bringing glory to God’s name through sport. The Ultimate Training Camp revealed to me that there is so much more to a relationship with your Creator than what I had originally understood.The SPECIAL broke me down in a way that my body has never been broken before. Exhaustion set in about 10 hours in to the 20-hour experience leaving me with nothing left to offer emotionally, physically or mentally. Through the cramps and unending drops of sweat, I learned that I could not rely on my own strength. I asked the Lord to fill me with His grace, strength, favor, and love in order to finish the tasks at hand and lead my team in a manner that reflected Christ as much as possible. He appeared in each competition, filling each of us with the mindset that He is our one and only source of motivation: our Audience of One. While my physically body ached, my spiritual body grew stronger as His unfailing love showed itself throughout the SPECIAL. Before this, I was too prideful to fully give my heart to my Savior. The SPECIAL left me sweetly broken, wholly surrendered. I had no choice but to drop to my knees, lower my head, lift my hands, and submit all I had to His Kingdom.
That act of surrender was the best thing I have ever done in my life.
As humans, our nature desires control over our own lives. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”God wants us to repudiate our selfish nature so that He can bless us in overwhelming abundance. He wants us to feel His unfailing love. He wants everything you have to offer, and it is all for the best. That is why He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus died the death we deserve so we can live this undeserved life. May 25th to 31st in Fort Collins, Colorado changed my life forever. The SPECIAL opened my eyes to the true sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ. He broke down the worldly idols that had previously motivated me and built a renewed mind. I realized that through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I already have the ultimate victory.
University of Pennsylvania- Football
My best friend, Kayla McDowell, had the opportunity to experience the camp with 19 other Missouri athletes. So I asked her how she would bring back what she learned. I am so genuinely happy for her desire to surrender her heart.
A lot of times we have really emotional experiences where we encounter God and then after that experience we feel that we need to be back in those same circumstances in order to feel the same things. After UTC it would be easy to say to myself “I just want to be at camp because it is easy there.” It’s easy to be vulnerable with other Christians, it is easy to surround yourself with believers, and it is easy to make God your priority. Those are the three things that I personally need in order to continue to grow near to the Lord, this summer, post UTC.
Being vulnerable is difficult in the first place, but we were not made to do life on our own. When you share struggles, you are not only seeking counsel but, you are able to process things out loud. A lot of times we listen to ourselves, instead of speaking the truth to ourselves, so having another believer to help me recognize Satan’s lies is something that I need to continue to grow. When you have someone you are real with, you not only have accountability but you are able to encourage and be encouraged. I struggled to surround myself with believers the first half of this past year, but moving forward I know that God has placed some really amazing people in my life. I know that we were meant to be in community with other believers so I am going to surround myself with other people who love Jesus. Together we can not only have a blast, but do things the right way to glorify him.
Lastly I want to make God not only my Savior but my LORD. I know that I need him to forgive my sins but I want to make him my number one. I want him involved in every part of my life. I know that I need to be intentional about giving him EVERY area of my life, not only the areas that I feel comfortable surrendering. Doing things my own way hasn’t really worked in the past, I think it’s about time to surrender every part of my life to Him. Even though I think sometimes that I know what is best for me, I feel freedom as I give everything up to him. I am SO excited to see what God does not only this summer, but this next year!
Missouri University- Basketball
One of my SPECIAL teammates powered through an event during the SPECIAL. Her reliance on the Lord was awe-inspiring. (We also shared a collective fear of T-Mac)
“Everyone grab a wall!’ T-Mac yelled on his unbearable sounding microphone. Already exhausted from the hour-long concentrated game of ultimate Frisbee and tug-of-war, I found the furthest spot in the basketball gym where no intern or assistant could see me. When T-Mac told us to pick a spot on the wall for wall-sits, I assumed he would only make us go for 3-5 minutes. Well, I was unfortunately flawed.
The horrific starting noise of T-Mac’s microphone sounded and it is time to go. With my legs in a perfect 90-degree angle, I sit against the wall, arms folded, feeling superior to everyone else; “This is my time to shine”, I think to myself. None of the interns or coaches are telling me how long I’ve been up for but everyone around me is dropping like flies. I know I am doing well when the 6’4, 260lb Mizzou strength coach drops to his knees after the unspecified amount of time of wall-sits.
At this point, out of 150 athletes, there are about 30 let in this competition, including myself. My quads are beginning to vibrate and my lower back is feeling like it’s going to cramp with any wrong move I make. So, as the devil begins creeping in my head telling me to give up, I begin repeatedly singing the lyrics that I generally listen to before my track meets:
“Oh what I would do to have the kind of strength to stand before a giant with just a sling and a stone. Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor wishing they’d have had the strength to stand. But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me time and time again ‘Boy, you’ll never win! You’ll never win.’ But the voice of truth tells me a different story and the voice of truth says ‘Do not be afraid!’ The voice of truth says ‘This is for My glory’. Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”
For a short moment, I suddenly gain my strength back. It is unbelievable how God is pushing back the dark in my head. Feeling like I have the strength of Samson in the Bible, I continue singing to myself:
Already feeling on top of the world, one of the interns appears in front of my eyes and with a certain passion and love in her shaky voice she reads Matthew 17:20, “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith.’ Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” With the grave nature of her voice, she looks into my eyes and says to me “I know your faith is far larger than a mustard seed, so move mountains girl!” At this point, my eyes are tightly closed, body curled up as much as possible in a wall sit position, and I begin to weep uncontrollably.
In this very moment, with my eyes now shut, I envision the atrocious journey Jesus Christ takes to His death. I picture Him being beaten and whipped almost to the point of death but enough to keep Him alive. I see Him carrying the 300-pound cross on the Road to Calvary, in His fragile state of life. I imagine Jesus as He is being nailed to the cross with everyone ridiculing Him. Making it more personal, I am now looking from His perspective. Jesus Christ was envisioning me, thinking about me specifically when He was suffering on the 6×8 piece of wood. Jesus came to this earth to complete what His Father set out for him to do and I was His motivation for finishing the race.
I was in so much pain from a measly 13-minute wall sit. That did not even begin to compare to the amount of pain and betrayal Jesus felt on the day of His death. For the first time in my life, I felt the Holy Spirit fill me up and a peace come over me. I realized how much Jesus loves me. Letting the pride of winning go and opening up my heart completely, I fell to the ground weeping. I had never felt or understood a love like that until that very moment. In a short flash, I felt every sin, every fear, and every part of my heart that had ever been broken taken away from me. I was healed. God healed my heart and forgave me of all my sins. I felt it. For the first time in my life I was free.
University of Florida- Track
Their contributions are greatly appreciated and they truly helped capture the essence of the camp. I could talk about this camp all day, so if you have any questions or are interested in going, please get a hold of me and I will point you in the right direction!
As always, Jesus loves you!