Brian Holman: I had to go back to the basics. And the basics of pitching is, get ahead; throw strikes. Keep the ball down. Throw inside. Don’t hang a slider to Canseco, all these things that you go back to the basics of what you know as a pitcher.
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John Fuller: Former Major League pitcher Brian Holman says getting back to basics is what Christians need to do when life gets challenging. And you’ll hear some poignant examples from his own family on today’s Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, Brian Holman is a good friend to this ministry and you might remember him as that Major League pitcher from the 90’s– he has an amazing story to tell. So let’s get right to it, we don’t have a lot of time.
John: Alright– here’s Brian Holman speaking at Calvary Chapel Eastside in Bellevue, Washington on Focus on the Family.
Brian: Have you ever had a bad day? We’ve all had bad days. We’ve all dealt with tough things. We’ve all dealt with life when … when things don’t go well. Well, everybody’s gonna have bad days. In fact, Jesus says, “In this world you will have tribulation.” It’s not a question of “if;” it’s only a matter of “when.” We will always have some sort of tribulation. We live in this fallen world. And so, like baseball players, uh … Christians are not exempt from having bad days.
I came to Christ in 1988 at the ripe old age of 23, after being in the big leagues uh … for about a half a year. I realized that, as I got to the Major Leagues, that there’s got to be more to this world than all this fame and fortune and money and all these things. You know, even your face on a baseball card … is not the greatest thing in the world, even though you think it is at the time.
And you come to Christ and then you think, “Well, I’m a Christian now. I should never have anything … anything that’s hard or difficulties or troubles or struggles. Everything should be a piece of cake now…” ‘cause you’re a baby Christian and you just don’t realize what the world is going to offer you.
So, again, John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.”But He says, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” That’s the basics. Remember, you go back to the basics. Consider yourself a pitcher. You go back to the basics. No matter how bad things are, you go back to the basics.
My son calls me now as a professional baseball player and we’d always talk about the basics. As Christians, remember, He has overcome the world and this is why it’s so important. Who do you trust? And what do you do when your family is thrown headlong into chaos and fear and turmoil and when your kids get sick? There’s really only one place to go.
That question was put before us February 15th, 1999. My wife, Jamie and I were livin’ in Ellensburg, Washington, kinda livin’ the life. I was retired. We had a beautiful farm. We were takin’ it easy. We’d always wanted to live in the country and have horses and everything was goin’ great. It was our 13thwedding anniversary and we decided really for the first time, we weren’t gonna go anywhere. We were gonna hang out on the farm.
I said, “What do you want to do?” She goes, “Well, I would really like to go buy something for you.” And I said, (Sigh) “I’d like a brand-new power sprayer man. (Laughter) I want to … I want the ultra 1500 PSI, baby, I want to be able to, you know, shoot the … the paint off a tank if I have to. I want to be able to have that thing.” I said, “What do you want?” She wanted some “floofie” decorative thing for her barn or somethin’.
So, anyway we were goin’ around and lookin’ at that stuff, havin’ a great day and my cell phone rings. And as my cell phone rings, I answer the phone and there’s a very panicked mom on the other end. And all I could get out of her was, “Chairlift … David fell.”
And I keep thinking, you know, what happened? What’s goin’ on? “Chair lift … David fell.” As we began to get better cell phone coverage and she calmed down, she explained to me that David was at Snuoqualmie Pass on the last snowboard run of the day. He was on the high-speed quad and right as he began to get off the quad, he was icy and wet. The quad began to slow down and David fell 30 feet out of the chairlift.
He hit the ground and he broke his left femur in four places, broke his left arm and wrist, had a concussion, had a tear in his liver, tear in his kidney, hole in his lung, collapsed lung, all these injuries. They rushed him to Harborview Medical Center. Well, they took him to Overlake first and said, this boy’s hurt too bad; we gotta take him to Harborview.
As Jamie and I never went under 100 miles an hour, tryin’ to get over the pass. I’ll never forget, as you run into the hospital, you run past everybody and you see your son laying there for the first time. And he’s broken and he’s scared and he’s hurting. And I remember he just got big tears in his eyes and he said, “Oh.” You could just see the relief on his face that his mom and dad were there.
We told him what was goin’ on. They took him to Harborview. They began to run tests on him and did a CAT Scan and all this stuff, was preparing him for surgery. And as they get him ready for surgery, they said, “You know, we see a small spot on this CT Scan, so we’re gonna do surgery and then we’re gonna do an MRI tomorrow and … and make sure everything’s okay.
They go through surgery and they get his leg set and uh … of course, I’m tellin’ the doctors, “Do you know what you’re doin’? Are you gonna do this right? He’s gonna be a Major League baseball player one day, so you better fix this the right way.” And … and uh … they assured me that they … they knew what they were doin’.
And so, we waited. That next night uh … doctors came in and I’d seen the look on their face that was a little scary and they said, uh … “Mr. and Mrs. Holman, we’re to … sorry to tell you this, but the MRI revealed that David has a brain tumor.” I’m thinkin’, “no he doesn’t; he just got hurt in a skiing accident.” And they said, “Well, the … the spot on David’s brain’s a tumor.”
I remember that night sitting in his room in intensive care. I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. And dawning on me how fragile life is, how quickly life can change from “everything’s fine” one moment to tragedy the next moment. That one pitch, that one phone call and the next thing I know, I’m sittin’ there looking at this beautiful 8-year-old healthy little boy and now he’s broken. He’s got tubes all over him. He’s clinging to life and he has a brain tumor. And I just began to weep. I was exhausted.
Abraham Lincoln says, “I’m often reminded that when I’m on my knees, it’s because I have nowhere else to go.” And there I was, a father. I couldn’t kiss this away. I couldn’t put a Band-Aid on it. I couldn’t just make it better. And then I had to tell him about the tumor. And in … in his fashion he said, “You know, dad, it’s okay; we’re gonna get through this.”And … and uh … he began to do his rehab and he was in a wheelchair for six months and he did all his rehab and was coming back and gettin’ healthy.
And in the meantime, we adopted a little girl from the Marshall Islands. We brought Kassidy home and she was incre … the coolest little kid, man, a miracle in and of itself how we even got her in our lives and how God orchestrated that and it’s a three-hour story, so we can’t do that this morning. But the fact is, is that God knew that she needed to be in our lives.
We had Kassidy home about a year. David’s rehabbing and gettin’ better and stronger. Kassy goes to preschool one day. She’s 5-years-old. Her teacher and called and says, “Hey, Kassy’s not feelin’ very well and um … she’s runnin’ a little bit of a temperature. You might want to come get her.” So, Jamie went and picked her up, brought her home, decided to take her to the doctor. Went to the doctor; the doctor looked her over um … thought she might have the flu or somethin’, so he sent her back home.
The next day Kassy was runnin’ 104 degree temperature. We couldn’t get it down and Jamie’s getting’ pretty nervous and she calls me from work and I said, “You know, you need to go ahead and take her into the … into the doctor.” “The doctor’s closed.” I said, “Well, then get her to the emergency room.” She got to the emergency room. They went in and started doin’ some tests. The doctor came out and I’d seen that same look that doctors don’t want to pass on when they have bad news.
And they said, “Mr. and Mrs. Holman, we’re sorry to have to tell you this, but Kassy has leukemia.” I have a son with a brain tumor and daughter with leukemia. And I’m thinking, Lord, I am on my knees, ‘cause I have nowhere else to go.
As these things began to unfold and get crazy, of course, we rushed her to Children’s and we began chemotherapy and all the stuff that was goin’ on and losin’ hair and … and just everything that cancer brings. And it’s scary stuff. It’s scary stuff. And when your kids are involved, it’s beyond devastating for a parent. And you’re praying, “God give me the grace and the wisdom and the guidance to help them through this tragedy. But why in the world did You allow all this in my family? We love You. We trust You. We want to serve You and now we’ve got all … all this goin’ on.”
Well, Kassidy, we get her in remission and she’s doin’ great. Battlin’ and she’s getting better and getting stronger, but those questions always, “why us, Lord? What’d we do wrong?” The fear and just bitterness and anger and unbelief. All those thing happen because the more you see ‘em get sick, the first time she loses all her hair, all these things, you’re just blown away.
I’m talkin’ to David and tryin’ to get him through things. And one day we’re sitting there; Kassidy’s getting chemotherapy. Uh … they … they determined that David’s brain tumor was probably benign, but that it could start growing and we had to watch it. And so, David is uh … sitting in there. We talked to the doctor and Kassidy’s getting chemo. While Kassidy’s getting chemotherapy, the doctor comes in and says, “We’re sorry to tell you this, but David’s brain tumor’s growing. We’re gonna have to have it removed.”
So, we had to sit David down and tell him that this brain tumor was growing and he was gonna have to have it removed and he was close to his 11thbirthday, the surgery was scheduled in July. And I tell this story about David, because we forget as parents the weight that our kids carry sometimes and how they’re tryin’ to deal with so many things.
And it’s his birthday. He was turning 11-years-old. We go to the Little League game. I’m his Little League coach and we got the team and it’s baseball season. And we go to the game and he just struggled. He struck out three times in the game. He was trying to pitch. He walked four guys. And he was just havin’ a tough, tough day. Made two or three errors and game was over and we go up and we sit down and we’re eatin’ donuts and hangin’ out with everybody. But you can just tell David is in another place. He’s really, really struggling. The weight of the world’s on this little boy’s shoulders.
And we get in the car; we drive home and we’re talkin’. And he begins to cry. And I said, “You know, it’s okay man. I’ve had lots of bad games. I mean, I … my … had a career on bad games. I mean, it’s just (Laughter) … you know, that’s just the way it is. Baseball players, you’re gonna deal with that stuff. You know, that’s failure.” And I begin to give the dad talk. And he just … he just started to weep.
And he said, “Oh, daddy, it’s not that. Daddy, what if this is my last birthday?” And what do you say to your son at that moment? I remember I just pulled the car over and I pulled him up in my lap and I hugged him and I cried with him and I prayed with him. Again, what do you say in those situations?
I called Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr. and Lou Pinella and a bunch of guys and we decided that since he had to have his head shaved for surgery, we were gonna have a party. And we went down to Safeco Field and Bone gave him a Buhner buzz cut and we had a great time. And … and two days later he was in surgery.
And he woke up from surgery and there were complications. The brain tumor had infiltrated his motor strip and when they did the surgery, he was paralyzed on his left side. He had had a stroke. When he woke up from the surgery, he couldn’t move his left arm. His face was droopin’. His left leg wouldn’t work. He couldn’t move his hand.
The first thing he said to me is, “Dad, I can’t play baseball like this. How am I supposed to play baseball like this?” And I said, “You know how? You’re never gonna quit. You’re gonna battle and fight and keep your eye on the prize every second. Never take your eye off the prize. You never stop battling it. That’s what you want and that’s your desire, we’re gonna do it.”
And he began to rehab and rehab and rehab, months and months. The story I tell that’s so amazing is, we made him play the piano. He wasn’t gonna be a pi … piano player, but we made him play the piano to make him move his fingers. And he’d pick his arm up and he’d put it on the keys and he’d begin to try to make the keys make a noise and nothing.
Pretty soon, after two or three months, you’d hear “Dink. Dink. Dink.” Then it would get a little louder and a little louder. He started bein’ able to move his hand and rehab it back and get stronger and bigger. And that boy never quit. He stayed focused.
And I’m proud to say today that he’s a 6’6”, 225 lb., right-handed pitcher and just finished his first year in rookie ball with the Seattle Mariners. (Audience reaction) He never stopped. (Applause)
John: Former Major League pitcher Brian Holman on Focus on the Family. And we have a CD of this program. We’ll send a complimentary copy of that to you for a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY or donate and request that CD at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Alright, here’s Brian Holman turning to the subject of his daughter Kassidy, adopted from the Marshall Islands. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just five years old after about a year in the Holman family.
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Brian:Well, Kassidy battled and fought and battled and fought and she never quit clear up to the day that she took her last breath. She gave everything she had because she loved her family. As she was strugglin’ one day, Jamie just broke down and started cryin’. And she called a friend of hers and … and her friend reminded her that when Jamie prayed, she said, “You prayed to save the life of a child. You didn’t give God parameters. You just said, ‘save the life of a child.’ You just didn’t know she was gonna get leukemia. But because she’s in your family, you led her to Christ. You gave her six more years than she was gonna have regardless of … if she was on the island. And you loved her and served her and she impacted thousands and thousands and thousands of lives for Jesus.”
About nine days before she went into a coma, we were layin’ in bed and we were talkin’ and she said, “You know, daddy, I don’t want to die. I love you and I love mom and I love Jeffey and I love David sometimes and love Toughy and … and I want to get married. I want to have babies. I want to live by you and mom.” All these things began to pour out of this little girl as she was looking at the finite situation of life.
And as I’m trying to come up with a moment as a father, I’m praying, “God, give me the words.” And I said, “You know, God brought you into our lives for a reason. He had it ordained from the beginning of time. And He knew you were gonna get sick. And He knew that your mom and I and your brothers and your sister were gonna love you unconditionally and that you were gonna change lives.”
And I said, “You know, honey,” I said, “sometimes there are people that are so special in this world that He decides to take them to heaven early and reward them early, where there’s no tears; there’s no pain.There’s no suffering, where you have hair.”
And she thought about it for a minute and she said, “Okay, but you know, I’m … I’m gonna miss you, dad.” And I said, “Well, you know what? In heaven’s there’s no time, so you’re gonna be … I’m gonna be right there instantly.” I don’t know if that’s perfectly true or not, but it sounded good at the time (Chuckling), as I’m tryin’ to deal with that, as I’m sobbing like a baby. How do you … how do you talk to someone … how do you talk to your almost 11-year-old child about that? Tough, tough stuff.
She lasted about another nine days and then … when she took her last breath, guys, I just … you just … you can’t describe that kind of grief, as you watch your wife and your daughter and your boys grieve to that level as their lose their … their sister.
And all I could think about was how much God the Father must have felt as He sent His only Son to the cross and what He endured during that time, so that we could have eternal life. Go back to the basics, back to the basics of why I’m here. What am I doing? How do I get through these things?
Well, also in the midst of all that, I ended up having a valve in my heart started leaking for no apparent reason. I had to have open-heart surgery and uh … was not a … not a fun deal. And all this, as it’s goin’ on, I kept goin’ back to, “what do I need to do and what do I need to learn as I’m dealing with all these things? How do you do it?”
Well, as Christians, you gotta go back to what you know. What’s in God’s Word? What are the basics? Throw first pitch strikes. Get ahead. Throw inside. You know, sometimes you gotta drill a hitter in the neck if it makes the difference in the game. (laughter)Be a team player, all these things, as you begin to go through.
And one of the things that really blessed me during this time was, I thought, what do I know? What do I truly know about God’s Word? Well, for one thing, relying on God’s promises and the truth that He holds through Scripture is huge. First of all, in Titus 1:2 and Hebrew 6:18,the Bible says, I … God says, “I cannot lie.” He can’t lie. It’s in Scripture. Therefore, I know what He is telling me is absolute truth. He is never gonna lie to me.
So, I know if I look at God’s promises, that I will get through this and I can rely on Him. I encourage you guys, go to His promises. No matter how hard things get, go to what you know.
And here are just some promises I’d like to go over with you this morning. Pretty cool. 2 Peter 1:3 through 4, “As His divine power has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lusts.”He says, “I’ve given you all these promises.” Focus on them.
Psalm 119:49 through 50: “Remember your promise to me, for it is my only hope. Your promises revives me; it comforts me in all of my troubles.” God said “Go to My promises. This is why I’ve written them.”
John 3:16, we all know this verse, but that is a promise from God, a promise from God.
John 14:6, Jesus said, “I’m the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” That’s a promise. There’s only one way to heaven, through Jesus Christ.
James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised those who love Him.” Again, you stay focused on the goal and the prize. Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you, not forsake you.”We take that so for granted. We take that so for granted and it’s the truth. He will neverleave us or forsake us. That’s His promise.
John 14:15 through 17: “I will pray to the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him, nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”The Holy Spirit is a promise of God.
Romans 8:28, we all know this, but do you understand how … how huge that is. It’s meat to believers when we’re goin’ through tough times.
Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of God, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”God’s grace is a promise. And you know, sometimes God will pour His grace out in a thimble. And other times He will pour it out in a waterfall. And I’m here to tell you, my family has experienced grace in waterfall proportions, as God has met us at a point where (Emotion) you have nowhere else to turn. And His grace is sufficient in all things.
1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you, except such is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear. And with that temptation, will also come the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God’s grace is there again. He will allow you to bear it.
The promises of Jesus are the hook that man hangs his soul on, because that’s all we have at times. What are you hooking your soul on?
During these difficult times I often thought about Job. I’m not Job. I didn’t lost all my family. I didn’t lose, you know, everything that I had. I … my wife still loves me, um … still thinks I’m cool.She’s [a] neat … neat person. I read this chapter of Job everywhere I share, because I read it every single day. I still read it every day.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Job 23. Here Job’s sittin’ here and he’s really strugglin’ obviously. And we have all been here and this is why I read this every day. Job 23, Job says, “Even today my complaint is bitter. My hand is listless because of my groaning.” By the way, I’m in the New King James version, so it’s gonna be different than the NIV.
But “O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat. I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.” Have you ever been there? God, if You just listen to me, I could contend with You. I’m gonna argue my case here and You could surely know what I’m talkin’ about.
He goes on to say in verse 5, “I would know the words which He would answer me and I’d understand what He would say to me.”Would He connect with me His great power. No. But He would at least take note of me. There the upright could reason with Him and I would be delivered forever from my judge.”
So, Job was goin’, “Dude, if You would just listen and understand what I’m goin’ through. Can you possibly imagine? Look at what I’m dealing with right here. If I could just argue my case, I would feel better.” Have you ever been there, people?
But he says in verse 8, “Look, I go forward and He’s not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him and when He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps. I have kept His way and I have not turned aside. I have not departed from His commandment of His lips and I have treasured the words … (Emotional)I have treasured the words of His mouth, more than my necessary food.”
This is all he had left; all he had left was God’s Word and He said it was sufficient at that moment. It was sufficient. I understand what that’s like. It’s not a fun place to be, but it’s okay.
So, when you’re strugglin’ and you’re goin’ through these hard things and you’re dealin’ with tough times, Satan’s gonna come in there and hammer ya. I’m gonna give you some advice. Make His Word your hobby; dwell on this. Study it. Learn it. Know it, so that you go back to the basics every single time you’re goin’ through tough things.
Remember to trust God and His promises. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”God upholds us.
No matter how hard things get, don’t ever, ever quit– ever. Keep your eye focused on the prize and the goal.Whenever you cross the lines of a baseball field or a football field or a soccer field—is soccer a real sport?—or (Laughter) football or any of those things, when you cross the lines, especially when you cross the lines of life, you play like your stinkin’ hair’son fireevery second, every second. You play all out all the time, because you only get one chance. You only get one chance.
And you never want to look in the mirror and say, “If I just would’ve done this or if I just would’ve done that.” I know you’re weary. I know you get tired. I know you’re battlin’, whether it’s finances or health or dealing with crazy kids or a hard boss or whatever, but stay focused on the prize. Stay focused on the goal. Go back to your basics and always trust in God’s promises.
John: Words of wisdom from someone who’s been there. That’s former Major League pitcher Brian Holman on today’s Focus on the Family.
Jim: John, what a great reminder there from Brian that we need to do our best in this life because it’s the only life we get! And to stand firm in the truths of God that we find in His Word, the Bible. I love how Brian likens the Christian walk to baseball or any other sport– I was a football guy– but when you get in trouble in life or on the field, you have to remember to go back to the basics. And for a Christian, those basics include reading your Bible, meditating on God’s promises and standing firm in your convictions.
Also, praying and using what you see in God’s Word. Even praying His truths back to Him. And if you need wise counsel and don’t know where to turn, give us a call. We have caring Christian counselors who would be happy to pray with you and guide you in those next steps.
And if you know of someone who really needs to hear this message, we’re offering this CD for donation of any amount. So please, call us so that we can help you get it into their hands. When you give, give generously to cover the costs of having our highly-trained counseling staff here on a daily basis. Because without your support, they would not be here for you and for others.
John: And you can donate when you call 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Well, have a great weekend and be sure to be back with us on Monday as Mark and Susan Merrill explain how they overcame some pretty bumpy years as a younger couple.
Mark Merrill: I love to say that more marriages might survive if people remembered that ‘better’ often comes after ‘worse’!
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