published Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Kemp speaks at prayer breakfast

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    Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond leads attendees in prayer during the Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast held at the Chattanooga Convention Center early Tuesday morning. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

With a nod to the tornadoes that killed scores of people in the tri-state area in the last week, former National Football League quarterback Jeff Kemp said life often sends tough things our way.

“We face challenges in life, and they come at us relentlessly and with little notice,” Kemp told about 1,580 people Tuesday at the 33rd annual Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Kemp, the founder and president of Washington state-based Stronger Families, said people must realize they are made to live for eternity and that’s where their hope should live.

He said he appeared to have it all when he was a graduating student at Dartmouth College and had secured a shot at the NFL. Kemp, though, said he wanted to be in charge of his life, so “God was [only] an insurance policy in my pocket.”

Ultimately, he said, he felt “a growing ache inside me” and that “all that success amounted for nothing.” Kemp pledged that God would be his purpose from then on.

Life since, he said, has not always been a picnic. He recalled being booed in the NFL, a marriage one of his sons once told him would need Krazy Glue to keep together, having “a personal pity party” after being cut from the NFL at age 33 and the death of his inspirational father — former pro quarterback and U.S. Housing Secretary Jack Kemp — two years ago.

Yet, Kemp said, “it’s a process,” but God “wants to give us a great life. He has a purpose beyond any imagination [for us].”

Chuck Baker, 58, executive director of Bethel Bible Village, said he enjoyed hearing about the former quarterback’s walk with Christ.

“Anytime you hear from professional athletes about how God led their life,” he said, “it’s inspirational to me.”

Monica Middlebrooks, 42, of Chattanooga, said that when the country faces difficult times, people need prayer and that leaders in the Chattanooga area surely appreciate that kind of support.

She said Kemp “put life in perspective” in “trying to serve [God’s] purpose” while inspiring others to live their lives in a “right personal direction.”

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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