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Winning Goal
Steve Teel

A year ago life changed for Brandi Chastain. On July 10, 1999 she took the winning penalty kick that defeated China and gave the U.S. Women's soccer team the 1999 World Cup. Though people subsequently debated whether Chastain should have taken off her jersey off in celebration, no one can dispute that Chastain's kick changed her life.

The interesting thing is that Brandi Chastain was not supposed to be the one to take the fifth kick for the U.S. team. The U.S. coaches had to give a list of the five players who would take the penalty kicks. If Coach DiCicco had stuck to his original list, Julie Foudy would have taken the fifth kick. Because Chastain had struggled over the previous year with her penalty kicks, she had been dropped from the top five penalty takers. Just a few moments before the list with Foudy's name at fifth was to be handed over to officials, Coach DiCicco decided to follow a sudden gut instinct. He wrote in Brandi Chastain to take the kick, and her life has not been the same since.

She is only the second person to be featured on the cover of these magazines at the same time: Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated. Following the World Cup she was immediately thrust into the media spotlight. In fact, Chastain now receives more interview requests than teammate Mia Hamm.

But things would be very different if not for two things. One, for whatever reason, Coach DiCicco changed Chastain's life by following his hunch to put her as the fifth kicker. Two, Chastain made the most of her opportunity. She nailed the winner.

What if she had hit the crossbar? Even now, Chastain says, "Every time I see it (the penalty kick), the ball gets closer and closer to the post -- how it very easily could have gone on the other side. But I keep telling myself, 'Brandi, it went in.'"

She scored. The country celebrated. Brandi Chastain's life would never be the same.

You never know when life will present an opportunity to you. Maybe it is not the World Cup winning goal. Maybe it won't lead to magazine covers and commercials. But maybe God presents you with an opportunity to reach out to a person who doesn't feel like part of the team. Maybe it is an opportunity to encourage a teammate. It may be the chance to share the love of Jesus with a hurting person. These kinds of opportunities don't lead to fame or worldwide acclaim. David Letterman won't be calling soon. But Jesus said these opportunities lead to eternal rewards from God.

In fact, Jesus even pointed out that a simple act of kindness would be rewarded by God. "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42

I believe that God presents us many opportunities to show Jesus to others. Make the most of it. It may not change your life. But it might just change another person's life.

The Bible says, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

Christ My Coach -

Steve Teel

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