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Category Archives: Religion

Small Gestures

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.  His name was Kyle.  It looked like he was carrying all of his books.  I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd.  I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.  They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.  His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.  He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.  My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks.  They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!”  There was a big smile on his face.  It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.  I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.  As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.

He said he had gone to private school before now.  I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.  We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.  He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.  I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends.  He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.  I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!”  He just laughed and handed me half of the books.  Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.  When we were seniors, we began to think about college.

Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke.  I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.  He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.  Kyle was valedictorian of our class.  I teased him all the time about being a nerd.  He had to prepare a speech for graduation.  I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On Graduation day, I saw Kyle.  He looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.  He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.  He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.  Boy, sometimes I was jealous.  Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!”  He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.  “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your
friends…I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.  I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met.  He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.  He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.  “Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.  I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.  Not until that moment did I realize it’s depth.  Never underestimate the power of your actions.  With one small gesture you can change a person’s life.  For better or for worse.  God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way.  Look for God in others.

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”  There is no beginning or end.  Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.

I did not, I repeat, I did not write this story but I did want to share it with each of you because it is one that may touch you or a loved one the way it touched me.  You see, I was that glasses wearing nerd in high school.  And even though I was tall and athletic, I lacked confidence and self-esteem at that time in my life and know that I am not alone in that respect.  It is my sincere hope that you will share this with a friend as my best friend once shared this with me.  Thank you.

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Life, Love, Relationships, Religion

 

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Check Mate

Many of us grew up playing board games like Monopoly, Sorry and Scrabble and I was no different.  I loved to compete and would always take no prisoners when I played.  If I was going to take the time to set up the game, count out the money or spread out letters then I was going to do everything I could to beat you.  Some of those games actually come in handy later on in life.  They can help you spell, count or even draw.

The game that helps you think though is the age-old game of chess.  Chess takes strategy in order to best your opponent.  You have to be thinking several moves ahead in order to trap the king and ultimately win the game.  One of my favorite clichés is “Checkers vs. Chess” because it differentiates the thinkers.  I have played both games many times and one calls for thinking ahead, several moves ahead, and the other for simply one move at a time.

We hear in sports all of the time how the best players anticipate where the play is going while the average players are playing in the now or where the play is.  Knowing what your next move is going to be, or at the very least what your move options are, will serve you well in this game of life.

I am reminded of a story that I once heard about a very successful preacher in Southern California during the 80’s.  His congregation was growing by leaps and bounds every Sunday and the outside world was really starting to take notice.  One day after another huge Communion Sunday service the pastor was approached by a savvy marketing executive who was interested in purchasing the mailing list of all the church’s members.  Names, addresses and phone numbers were all given a handsome price of $500,000.

Without blinking the pastor told the executive that he had no interest in selling his church members’ personal information to his firm or any other no matter what the price.  This executive would not be denied so he decided to get on the agenda of the church’s next board meeting.  At the meeting the board was furious to learn that the pastor had turned down the rich financial offer without consulting with them first.  They were excited about all of the changes for the better that could be made at the church with that amount of money.  They were not very concerned with the privacy of their members as they were for the enrichment of their coffers.

Unfortunately the board was unable to accept the marketing executive’s offer without the agreement of the sitting pastor.  Some wise board members wrote that into board policy decades ago and now it was keeping the board from moving forward today.  The pastor knew the rules were on his side so he dug in and refused to move from his position.

The fact that the board did not want to share this information with the church membership really upset the pastor because he felt that they had a right to know their personal information was being sold to a third-party for a hefty sum.  The board now found themselves in an unwinnable position.  They could not get the pastor to budge and they certainly did not want the membership to know their plans.

With the board’s frustration mounting daily, a few of them decided to approach the pastor’s wife.  Surely she could convince him to see things their way and let the payoff go forward.  They argued nightly and the pastor shared his disappointment in his wife with her taking the board’s side against him.  She thought that they could benefit financially from the transaction and her greed got the best of her.  She was playing checkers.

The battle between the board and the pastor continued on for weeks until the board decided their only recourse was to have the pastor removed in favor of a sitting pastor that would okay their transaction with the marketing firm.  The entire church membership would participate in this historical vote and just like most elections not all of the members came out to support their pastor.  Most figured he would win in a landslide and then the board would go through a shake up of its own.

Well as luck would have it, the pastor’s detractors came out in full force but his backers were a little less motivated.  They figured he would be fine and he wasn’t.  The vote was very close and, believe it or not, the decision to oust the beloved pastor came down to just one vote…the one cast by his wife.  She sided with the church board and not her husband so now he was out.

What she did not realize immediately was that she was out as well.  There was no financial windfall realized by her betrayal.  In fact, the result was just the opposite.  The church sent someone to retrieve the couple’s beautiful Cadillac as it was paid for by the church.  The pastor’s wife was even more shocked when the sheriff came knocking at her door to inform her that she would have to vacate the premises in a timely manner.  The church paid the mortgage on their home and now that home was there for the new pastor and his family.

Now it all made sense to her that she was out too but it was too late.  Had she stood strong with her husband she would not have lost her home, her car and soon thereafter, her marriage.  The pastor was down for a few months but his faith sustained him while he founded a new church and soon went on to marry again.  He lived another twenty years of church and marital bliss before he died suddenly of a heart attack.

Thousands of people turned out to attend his funeral which was held in of all places, the very church that had ousted him decades ago.  You see, the membership declined under the leadership of the replacement pastor and some members got wind of the church board’s greedy manuever regarding their personal information and went to worship elsewhere.

Everyone lost in that transaction many years ago.  The church lost a charismatic leader and their membership growth.  The marketing firm never converted the data or sold the membership the products and services they had hoped so they lost.  The pastor’s traitorous wife lost most of all and then died alone.  The pastor did recover nicely because he was a pretty good chess player.  He didn’t see wis wife’s betrayal coming but because he knew it was an option her move didn’t sink him.

The pastor often spoke to his church members about strategic thinking with regards to their faith.  If they expected to one day end up in heaven they would have to stay a few moves ahead.  Ahead of the devil.  Ahead of the flesh.  Ahead of their futures sins.  Because if they died while playing checkers, their name was probably not going to be called at those pearly gates.  Think about it…a few moves ahead.

 
 

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The Train

The story comes in many varieties but it always ends the same way…with a missed opportunity.  If you’re lucky, I mean really lucky, your chance may come around again but the odds are not in your favor.  My favorite story that I like to tell others about missed opportunities is “The Girl on the Train.”

If you are a guy reading this, you have probably been in this situation at least once in your life and missed out.  You are on the train and a beautiful girl catches your eye.  You stare at her intensely until she glances your way and then you look away and play like you were not aware of her.  Your initial hope is that she gets off at the same stop you are so that you can win some sort of dating lottery.

This “staring and then look away” game goes on stop after stop as your prayers are repeatedly answered as she doesn’t rise from her seat to get off the train before you.  The knot in your throat tightens as your own stop is drawing closer and closer.  You wonder if she is really going to get off at your stop because, of course, that is when you plan to make your move.

Suddenly, your stop is next and she is making no preparations to get off of the train.  Now your mind starts to race with questions.  The biggest one is why you didn’t make your move several stops ago.  Now there is no time for a rushed introduction because the train will soon stop and your  momentum, should you gain any, will be lost as you exit.  And remember, you are still not even sure that there is any interest from her side.  Oh, what to do?

You decide to not take the chance and just rise to exit the train for your stop.  After you pass through the double doors and find yourself on the platform, you can’t help but take one more look.  You look at her, she looks at you for what seems like hours, and then she knowingly smiles to let you know that had you shown the courage you would have been rewarded.  Of course that smile comes as the doors close and the train is pulling away with you powerless to stop it.

This is where the accounts can and usually differ.  When that happened to me many moons ago, my next move was to look at my watch and note the time.  If I could be on that very same train at the very same time tomorrow I would be able to have my chance encounter, right?  Wrong. The truth is I will probably never see her again and another agonizing truth is that I don’t deserve to.  She’s thinking, “he had his shot and he didn’t take it.  Too bad…maybe the next one will have the cojones needed to ask me my name and number.”

Two summers ago, LeBron James was on the same train and he did the courageous thing.  He asked her for her name and number.  She said her name was Miami and gave him a number that started with area code 305.  For seven years LeBron had been taking the same train in Cleveland and ending his season without the championship he coveted.  The only way to break that cycle in his mind, and in my opinion, was to start taking a new train that had a different destination with different passengers.

LeBron James has already made it to the top of the mountain in one sense.  He has become like the teams and the players that everyone tunes in to see whenever they are on television.  The Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Lakers are 3 of the teams that everyone tunes in to see.  Most want to see them win but many want to see them lose.  Either way the games are almost always highly anticipated and highly rated to boot.

Tiger Woods was, is and will probably always be the golfer that everyone tunes in to see win or lose.  First because of his greatness but more recently because of his human failings.  Kobe Bryant sort of fits that same mold as Tiger but he managed to get new sponsors, get more rings and gain even more popularity since his legal troubles of a decade ago.

LeBron James is disliked for exercising the freedoms that we would all like to have.  He honored his contract and then he took another train.  We, not me necessarily, just didn’t like the “way” in which he chose to make and then announce his decision to the world.  He’s gone on record as admitting he would change  some parts of the process if he had it to do over again but I liked his decision to join his friends and go for it all in Miami.

The major hangup was, and will probably always be, the arrogance surrounding the “Decision” and then the “Promise.”  At the end of the day, people always want you to do things the way they would have done them if given the chance.  Those people just need to get over it.  LeBron James did not leave the Cavs with nothing like it is always reported.  He allowed the Cavs to sign him and then trade him to Miami for future draft picks.  He did not have to do that.  He could have been a jerk like his former team owner was very upset over the news he was losing his superstar.

It is not always easy to know when you are on that fateful train in life but ask yourself if you will have the courage to ask her “for her name and number” or will you let the train pull out of the station.  You only get one life so I say live the one with the least regret and the one that says you left everything you had out on the playing field of life.

 
 

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