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Art Monk finally enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- To God be the glory

I try not to have too many non-technical entries here, but just as I like to share thoughts that may offer new ways of looking at technical problems, I want to offer a similar twist on conventional wisdom, this time with respect to the long delay in Redskin Art Monk finally being enshrined in the Pro Football hall of fame. Why did it take so long? Maybe it wasn't the man-centered delay that it may at first seem (a delay that was hard to take for a life-long 'Skins fan like myself). Let me explain how he regarded it.

The long wait, it had become epic in some minds

First some context: if you watched the inductions last night, you may have noticed comments before and even subtle references in his speech to how his snub for so many years was becoming the stuff of legend.

In fact, to get a clearer sense of the delay and the surprise to many, there's a site that was devoted to making the case for his induction, not so much presenting his career as showing all the many references over the years from many hall of famers who just assumed that Monk would make the Hall of Fame.

Reading that, you're naturally left scratching your head, wondering "why the long wait?" Some will assert various reasons, from his "being so quiet", to some voters feeling justified because of his numbers not impressing them, etc.

But perhaps there's a different explanation that's not been considered by many. Surely some appreciated it. While many may have been moved by his eloquent speech and the 4-minute standing ovation that started it, others will have noted and appreciated his frequent references to his faith in Christ, his heartfelt appreciation for the teammates who first shared the gospel with him, and most to the point here, his acknowledgement of God's being the reason for his success.

But as Art himself said, "what I've tried to convey to those who were upset about the process was that I was okay with it". Why? I'll let him speak for himself. You can read the complete transcript here, and I offer the most significant excerpts (related to this aspect of his speech) below.

So why the long wait? God's Providence

So here's a different take on why his induction may have been so delayed: God's providential hand. By holding back some of the voters, it made the whole matter take on a much more prominent place in the mind of the media, NFL, and fans paying attention.

Surely many were paying more attention to his speech to hear "what's he gonna say?" than may have bothered if he'd gotten in on the first or even first couple of ballots.

But what did they hear as his response to that long wait? Nothing salacious, bitter, nor even much for sound bytes.

Instead, he (and his son speaking just before him) praised God, representing Christ and Christians everywhere wonderfully and without reserve. In a world where Christians are so often lampooned and dismissed, it was a joy to see God glorified on such a national stage.

God orchestrates all things to His glory. I'm sure Art himself may see this eventually (if not already) as his "desert experience": painful in the moment, but with patience and faith, it all works out in the end, for "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Excerpt from his son's speech

Here's the key related excerpt from his son's introductory speech, unedited here:

"Dad's greatness never came from his ability to play football, but it came because he wanted to be used by God for his glory, above all.

He realized and held onto the gifts and talents that God blessed him with. And the bible says to build your foundation on a rock. Solid rock. For when the storm comes, you will not shake or you will not be moved for your foundation is well built.

Dad built his foundation on the strongest rock of all and that was Jesus Christ.

And because of this he was able to weather many storms and stay consistently strong on the football field, at home, at church, and at work. And from his actions I have learned the following: I've learned that less is more. I've learned not only to become a man of success, but be a man of value; that my decisions should be guided by Christian principles.

It is not hard to make the right decision when you know your value and where you stand. Through the outcomes of hard work and dedication is success. That there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ.

That the reward for hard work is the opportunity to do more. Nobody gets anywhere in this world by just being content with where you are. And that my identity does not come from this world or what people say or write or think about you, but it comes from the one and only Jesus Christ.

So to answer the question, do you want to be like Art Monk when you grow up, my answer is I'd rather be like dad.

Dad, thank you for being the man of God, that God has called you to be and for raising me in the same."

Excerpts from Art's speech

And here are the key related excerpts from Art's speech:

"What I've tried to convey to those who were upset about the process was that I was okay with it. But in all due respect, that as great as this honor is, it's not what really defines who I am or the things that I've been able to accomplish in my life.

I'll always be known as a Redskin.

That's right. And even now as a Hall of Famer, the one thing I want to make very clear is that my identity and my security is found in the Lord. And what defines me and my validation comes in having accepted his son Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And what defines me is the word of God and it's the word of God that will continue to shape and mold me into the person that I know he's called me to be.

So I've learned a long time ago never to put my faith or trust in man, for man will always fail you. Man will always disappoint you. But the word of God says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And he will never fail you.

And that is what I live by and what I stand on."

And later he would acknowledge those who shared the Gospel with him:

"I'm close with a lot of my former teammates that really helped me along the way. But there's one specific group that has become like family to me. There's Monte Coleman, there's Charles Mann, Darrell Green, there's Tim Johnson and Ken Coffey. Because they're the ones who not only took the time to share the gospel to me, but they also demonstrated it in their lives, which allowed me to receive the gospel for myself.

And this was a life changing experience for me. Their example showed me what it meant to love and serve and honor your wife and to be faithful to her and to be the right example for my children. I greatly appreciate God using them and putting them in my life. Thank you, guys."

But I'd like to conclude my excerpts with another section where he again gave God the glory:

"There's a scripture that I think about almost every day and I've come to personalize it to my life. It says: Lord who am I that you are mindful of me? And the Apostle Paul says think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth. And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.

But I understand and I know that I'm here not by in and of my own strength but it's by the grace and the power of God upon my life who I know gave me favor along the way and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.

So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, hey, look at me, look what I did. But if I'm going to boast, I'm going to boast today in the Lord, for it's because of him that I'm here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me."

Amen to that.

If you would ask, what is "the gospel"?, there are various presentations online to learn more. Here's a well-done, reasonably brief yet complete one. Sadly, it can't be communicated in a single sentence, without doing injustice to the complete message. And it's in your interest to hear the complete message, which is indeed the Good News to those who hear and respond to it.

Comments
This is a welcomed off-topic post about a great topic.

Nice change from the normal geek posts I read daily. Thanks Charlie!
# Posted By John C. Bland II | 8/3/08 4:09 PM
A very welcome blog post indeed...most especially for the reason! As a life-long diehard Redskins fan, it's been frustrating to see one of my all-time favorite players overlooked by the voters and even more frustrating to see people disparage him and his contribution to both his team and to the sport in general. I love your take on the matter, and how he will be remembered all the more for the person that he is, than just the numbers on the field. In my own life, I recently have been getting some important reminders about how God can take great tragedy and bring good out of it, if you simply ask for his help and guidance. It's not what happens to us that matters so much as how we rise to the challenge.

Here's the link to his speech on the NFL site:

http://www.nfl.com/v...
# Posted By Mary Jo Sminkey | 8/3/08 4:36 PM
Thanks John and Mary Jo for the encouragement, and thanks especially for the link to the recording!

Only a couple of bummers: they didn't include his son's equally eloquent (and extended) introduction, and worse, they edited out the standing ovation. On the recording, it's about 20-30 seconds, while it was more like 3-4 minutes, causing the ESPN crew to comment afterwards that it may have been the longest ever in the history of the HoF induction ceremonies. I can see some motivation for editing it to make the streaming/downloading of the video faster, it does take away from some of the moment.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/3/08 4:59 PM
Ah, well, here at least is the text of both speeches:

http://sports.espn.g...

And I've pulled out here some of the highlights of his comments, with respect to this discussion:

"And even now as a Hall of Famer, the one thing I want to make very clear is that my identity and my security is found in the Lord. And what defines me and my validation comes in having accepted his son Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And what defines me is the word of God and it's the word of God that will continue to shape and mold me into the person that I know he's called me to be.

So I've learned a long time ago never to put my faith or trust in man, for man will always fail you. Man will always disappoint you. But the word of God says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And he will never fail you.

And that is what I live by and what I stand on.

....

There's a scripture that I think about almost every day and I've come to personalize it to my life. It says: "Lord who am I that you are mindful of me? And the Apostle Paul says think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth." And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.

But I understand and I know that I'm here not by in and of my own strength but it's by the grace and the power of God upon my life who I know gave me favor along the way and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.

So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, hey, look at me, look what I did. But if I'm going to boast, I'm going to boast today in the Lord, for it's because of him that I'm here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me.

...

I'm close with a lot of my former teammates that really helped me along the way. But there's one specific group that has become like family to me. There's Monte Coleman, there's Charles Mann, Darrell Green, there's Tim Johnson and Ken Coffey. Because they're the ones who not only took the time to share the gospel to me, but they also demonstrated it in their lives, which allowed me to receive the gospel for myself.

And this was a life changing experience for me. Their example showed me what it meant to love and serve and honor your wife and to be faithful to her and to be the right example for my children. I greatly appreciate God using them and putting them in my life. Thank you, guys.

...

The Bible says he who finds a wife finds a good thing. And our children are a blessing from the Lord. And I can't tell you, I can't think of the words appropriate enough to really explain how truly blessed I am to have my wife Desiree of 26 years.

...

I learned a lot of things from a lot of people but it's been the influence of my parents and my sister and the biblical foundations they've laid in my life that has made me the person I am today. Of course they encouraged and supported everything that I've ever done. But they also demonstrated a life of Godly and steady fast character. It was what I saw in them in the life that they lived that made the difference more than what they said. They taught me not to just become a man of success, but a man of value and character. And it's those same values that I've tried to instill in my children.

And it's these qualities that I also live by what most people have come to know me for."

Of course, he said a lot more and it was all moving, and worthy of an HoF speech. But my wife and I were just so moved by his speech, first as fans of him as a legendary Redskin, but all the more as fans of him as a Christian brother, willing to put his faith out there.

Being a Christian isn't about bashing people over the head to get them to believe (though many professing Christians are indeed guilty of that). Rather, it's about being salt and light to the world, as well as representing God, pointing to his glory, and sharing the gospel, whenever we can. Art was a good and faithful servant in this regard. His act inspired me to do the same, and I trust that God to take it from there. :-)
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/3/08 5:17 PM
Hi, Charlie,

Loved seeing this. I'm 37 and a life-long Skins fan, literally. My Dad had season tickets from 1962 through the closing of RFK and I was privileged enough to go to 4 Skins games a year from 1971 (yep, the old man took me in and sat me on his lap four Sundays a year, even when I was still in diapers) through 1992, when I graduated from college (caught a few between 1992 and 1995). For us die-hards, this was the greatest era in our team's history and I feel honored to have watched Art, worn a replica of his jersey and cheered him on throughout his career.

I even got to meet him once (my brother-in-law's Law firm represented him) and I can tell you in all honesty, he is a wonderful and kind man. He took the time to say hi to a geeky 18-year-old kid (uh, me) when he was in for an appointment (my brother-in-law got me a job as a messenger at his firm during the summers). He did not deserver the years of snubs but, as you say, it really made yesterday all the more poignant.

I love the post and it's always great to see Skins fans in the CF community...as we say back home...HAIL TO EM!!!
# Posted By Craig | 8/3/08 5:26 PM
Hi Craig, great to meet another 'Skins/CF fan.

Hey, while I'm here, I'll add that I just got a chance to hear fellow 'Skin Darrell Green's speech, too. I had missed that, as it was earlier last night. Gotta give a shout out to him, too, with respect to his giving glory to God. Here are some of those highlights:

"They were the Melendez family and a good friend named Doug Taft, and they told me about a man named Jesus. Jesus saved my soul, gave me a different perspective on life. He showed me I could be a man and walk right, the things my son talked about. I can have integrity. I can be honest. I can be faithful. I can be true.

And so I brought what my parents had taught me and what Jesus had said, and I put that to work in my NFL career. And God told me not to leave Washington, D.C., so I was there for 20 years. That was during free-agency time.

Yes, I was a part of that. I was a part of that free agency. But God had a plan for me. I stayed the course. Not only did I stay the course on the field, I stayed the course faithfully to this woman for almost 24 years. Faithfully to my community. Faithfully to my pastor, pastor Brett Fuller, and the Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va., faithful to my community and the centers and the other works and faithful to the people.

...

I believe that this day is a part of the continuation of God's sovereign purpose and righteous destiny for my life. And that being knowing Jesus, loving him and making him known. I did that even as a professional football player everywhere I went.

And that was done through the visibility, the influence, the access, all that God gives us, the Lord gives us, while we play a childhood game. Can I tell you today at the expense of sounding real self-righteous, I belong here. I belong here.

I belong here. I belong here because I know what to do with it. I know what to do with God's fame, with God's dollars, with God's visibility, God's influence and relationships. I know what to do with it.

To Jesus be the glory. Thank you. Bless you."

Amen, Darrell and Art. Way to represent! And may we, your brothers and sisters in Christ, all take a cue.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/3/08 7:42 PM
Thanks for sharing the text of those speeches, both truly ones that I hope many of the players today will listen and learn from.

@Craig - aww I'm jealous! My dad never saw the point of paying so much money to go see a game that you could just as easily watch for free on TV and I've never made it to the game as an adult. I would guess there are few 'Skins fan as dedicated as I that have never actually *been* to a game! Particularly regret never getting to at least see a game at RFK, but hope *someday* to get to a game, whether at home, or maybe up here in PA at an Eagles game (nothing like cheering on the visiting team while surrounded by the enemy, ha!)

Here's my little connection though... my parents have run a clown magic/kid's party business in the DC area for 20+ years. And many years ago, my mom did a show for one of Darrell Green's kids!
# Posted By Mary Jo Sminkey | 8/3/08 8:29 PM
Now that god has Art Monk's induction into the NFL Hall Of Fame out of the way, perhaps he/she can find time to do something about the genocide in Darfur.
# Posted By Gus | 8/3/08 8:33 PM
That could a sincere cry of confusion, Gus, or a skeptical dig. Either way, let me offer some thoughts. God commands us to be ready to give a defense for the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:15). I pray that He'll give me the strength to answer your question with charity and truth.

Yes, a little "g" god who had a hand in lifting one man's life while neglecting thousands of others would be no god to praise. But the God we're referring to is not that god. And no, it's not about small or capital letters.

Many who do not know God will inevitably be confused by the fact that He could be sovereign, having his hand and will over everything, and yet that there could still be pain and suffering in the world. You're certainly not the first to ask, but the fact is that the question has been answered repeatedly for thousands of years.

God's means can seem mysterious to us, but His Word makes his plan clear. For those who've not yet read it completely nor been inspired by the Holy Spirit to see his Truth, there have been many who have tried to address this common question.

Some would say God uses pain and suffering to shape, direct, and unite people. Here's one resource that addresses your question in that context: http://www.rbc.org/u...

Some would say that God uses pain and suffering to drive us to develop trust in Him through an active bible life, prayer life, and church life (more at http://www.ccel.org/...)

Still others would say God uses pain and suffering to keep this world from becoming too attractive to us, as well as to teach us to pray, to purify us, make us sympathetic, appreciative, more dependent on him, and to bring out our best. He even uses it to give an occasion to silence the enemies of God. You can find more on these points here: http://www.ccel.org/...

Turning that last point a little differently, one may say that God's used the pain and suffering you've observed to cause you to ask the question, so that you can be pointed to the truth, again to give Him glory.

Or taking another turn, some would ask whether the pain and suffering is God's doing at all, or simply the result of what he's allowed to happen in the world. It may be the result of our own actions, or the work of Satan, or indeed it may be the result of God's chastisement. See http://www.ccel.org/... for more.

The last point above is what most atheists or agnostics might camp on, as it's the one that seems most "unfair", even unacceptable. Of course, the very gospel is that we live in a fallen world, by man's choice, and that our only hope is in the gift of salvation God offers in His grace, accepted by our repentant faith in His son, Jesus Christ.

I realize that, if not checked, these comments could degrade into a tragic litany of folks wanting to offer what they think is THE answer that proves Christianity wrong on this question of suffering, and in total. Rather than hear each of them out, I'll say please, keep them to yourself. Instead, if you're that sincere in wanting to make your point about God and suffering, please instead have the integrity to consider as sincerely the refutation offered by so many as are offered at a site like this: http://www.whereisgo...

Or perhaps some may find more interesting the books by CS Lewis, "The Problem of Pain" and "A Grief Observed". In the first he explains his own transition from the atheistic perspective on the dilemma. In the second, twenty years later, he "puts meat on the bones" in dealing with the tragic death from cancer of his own wife. Some say the first speaks to the head, the second to the heart.

I realize someone may want to offer their own resource list. Look, I don't want to see this entry degrade that way. It's what happens on any blog that has the temerity to make a statement in favor of God. You've raised a contention, and I've offered an answer.

It's the very reason I praised Art (and Darrell) for making their strong statements of faith. Doing that, as in my speaking out on their behalf, inevitably leads to castigation by the enemy (Satan). That is indeed what God has promised we can expect (anyone who focuses on Christianity being some miracle pill for happiness, that itself prevents suffering, is simply not being biblical.)

It can also bring out the sincere questions of those who simply haven't heard the truth. I've tried to keep both perspectives in mind here.

So short answer to the skeptic: as for the assertion that there is no God or that He is feeble and uncaring, it's not a clever assertion. It shows one's fallen human nature, in need of salvation, and for that I pray for you, and I sincerely hope that you'll look into any of the many resources above, if not read God's word. It has the plan our Creator has made from the beginning of time to ultimately bring Himself glory. Ours is to learn and follow that plan. Soli Deo Gloria.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/3/08 10:04 PM
Hey Charlie,

As a long-time Giants fan (it was a condition of winning my wife's hand for marriage 18 years ago today), I can honestly say that my feelings towards the 'Skins are inherited from my Long Island in-laws, with all that entails :) However, I can also say, without reservation, that I used to love watching Art Monk play, and I was so pleased to see him finally get his due from the league.

As for God's timing on this one, Charlie, I think you're spot on, and thank you for the witness! How often in sports do we just see the rant or the gripe or the self-glorification, and then these opportunities come up, like Art's speech or Tony Dungee's acceptance of the Lombardi 2 years ago, and He gets his name out there in front of rapt fans. So, not only does that audience of people grow by having to wait so long for Art to get in, but how many other references to God have been broadcast by Art and others over the intervening years, I wonder? Love to see the good guys win, and love it even more when God gets his due. Thanks again for the witness!

-jfish
# Posted By Jason Fisher | 8/3/08 10:17 PM
Thanks, Jason. Here's another: Zach Johnson, who was vocal in his witness in his Masters win last year. I'm sure there are many others, and yes, great to see.

BTW, my father's mother was a Fisher, a line that's been in Maryland for a couple hundred years, owning a farm in Rockville until early last century. For those who know how valuable that land is now, nah, we didn't get any inheritance from that! Great people, though. Who knows, maybe we're related. :-)
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/3/08 10:33 PM
We're lifelong Redskin fans - my father used to have seasonal tickets to the game and has tons of fan items surrounding the tv in the kitchen. It's really good to see Art Monk finally getting the honor that he deserves. And it's good to see that he was very gracious and giving proper thanks for the blessing given to him.
# Posted By Lola LB | 8/4/08 7:43 AM
Charlie,

I'm not your enemy. We just have a different view of "the truth".
I have no interest in changing your view, or challenging your faith.

Peace,
Gus
# Posted By Gus | 8/4/08 8:01 AM
Gus, I'm not saying your my enemy, at all. But I will say that as long as man remains at enmity with God, or denies His sovereignty, man is by definition declaring Him as his enemy. That's the tragic stance I was arguing against.

On rereading my note, I see how at least one sentence in particular could have been misread. I've added a word of clarification, where I said, "Doing that, as in my speaking out on their behalf, inevitably leads to castigation by the enemy (Satan). " That final word makes it clear who I meant by "the enemy".

I also reworded the first sentence and next to last paragraph to again make it clear that I wasn't speaking only to the skeptic but to someone sincerely seeking truth. Even so, trading thoughts on a blog is a poor substitute for personal interaction, and it's just so easy to misread and be misread. I meant no offense.

I tried to answer you question charitably, pointing you to truth. You say, 'We just have a different view of "the truth"', and I understand that perspective, but there are no two versions of truth, by definition. There can be only one. Indeed, you say you have "no interest in changing my view", but I won't deny that I am hoping to see you change yours. In this postmodern world where we regard everyone's "right to their opinion" as sacred, I realize both my assertions there must sound odd, but again a Christian's primary duty is to point others to the Word of God, its truth, and our collective hope of salvation.

I totally understand not getting that, though. I didn't, for most of my life, but by God's grace He opened my eyes. For all those with whom I can't talk about this one on one, I can only pray that He'll open your eyes, too, and send loving, caring people to shepherd you to His waiting arms, His forgiveness, and life everlasting.

Again, if doubting folks would like something to read that may appeal to their head, CS Lewis writes of his own transition from disbelief to belief, and why it all makes perfectly logical sense, in his book, Mere Christianity. It's available as an online recording in some places, too, such as:

http://www.bringyou....

I think many of the frequent readers of this blog (techie folk) would really find considerable value in listening even to a little of Lewis' book. Of course, no book replaces the Word of God, and I've pointed again and again to that. But I do sincerely understand how that may not be the first place some want to look, as long as their eyes remain shut. As the Bible itself says, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14), and "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Cor 1:18)

Just one quote from Lewis, though, shows how he captures much of the confusion we all face in contemplating what we've heard about God, Jesus, our salvation, and he helps one reason through the minefield. Here's a classic passage:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Gus, you don't need to regard this as directed at you. I offer it to all readers who may share your perspective. I understand it. I really do.

I hope those who know me will attest that I don't go around bashing people over the head with this. This entry was a unique chance to share these thoughts. To folks who will remain vehemently in disagreement with me, I'll consider you as much my friend as I always have.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 8/4/08 11:18 AM
Charlie, i gotta say - this is powerful gutsy stuff. I like pro football, i like Art Monk, i like CF but i love the Lord. Your writings are very clear and non threatening. God has gifted you a "writter smith"...
I watched the induction speech - i will sit my boys down and plugging them into the speech and your comments about faith.

I pray and encourage you to continue with both your CF insights and powerful witness.
# Posted By james mergenthler | 4/22/09 3:04 PM
Thanks so much, James, and sorry for my delay in responding. Great to hear from another believer in the community, and I really appreciate your encouragement, personally and professionally.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 4/28/09 8:59 PM
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