Run The Dang Ball, Burt!

Dang BallOne of our family’s favorite movies is “The Blind Side.” As you know this is the one about the rich white family takes in and adopts the homeless black young man. Seventeen year old Michael Oher, an extremely large, physically imposing black youth, grew up in the projects in Memphis. He no longer lives with his drug addicted mother, but is in foster care when he isn’t running away to sleep wherever else he can find. Out of circumstances including Coach Burt Cotton’s belief that he would be an asset to the school’s football program based solely on his size and seeing him move, Michael is accepted into Wingate Christian School – an exclusive private school – despite his abysmal 0.6 GPA. After Michael starts attending classes at Wingate, most of his teachers believe he is unteachable, except his science teacher, Mrs. Boswell, who begins to understand that he learns in a different way.

Believing he is indeed homeless, Caucasian and staunch Republican Leigh Anne Tuohy – mother of Wingate students, teen Collins Tuohy and adolescent S.J. Tuohy, and wife to Sean Tuohy, franchise owner of several Taco Bells – invites Michael to stay in the Tuohy’s upscale home for the night. But that one night slowly extends itself both in terms of time and emotion as the Tuohys begin to treat Michael like one of the family and vice versa. Part of that emotional investment for Leigh Anne is fully understanding Michael as a person so that he can fulfill his potential as a human being, which includes giving him opportunities such as what Coach Cotton initially saw in Michael as a potential left tackle. Potential problems include Michael’s poor academic standing which may prohibit him from participating in extracurricular activities at the school, his learning disability which may extend to other aspects of his life beyond his schooling, whether he actually can play football, and authorities questioning Leigh Anne and all the Tuohy’s motivations in inviting Michael into their home and family. I tend to believe that the Tuohy family did what they did because of their faith and not of their love of Ole Miss football.

There are a couple lines in the movie that make my ears perk up. One is the conversation between Sean and Leigh Anne, as they watch their Ole Miss tutor who has come to help Michael. The tutor has just confessed that she was different – she was a Democrat. Sean looks at Leigh Anne and says; “I never imagined that we would know a Democrat before we would have black son.”

The second is the thought I had for today. It is their first football game with Michael playing. Burt kept calling for plays for passing the ball. It wasn’t working. Leigh Anne took out her cell phone and called Burt (on the field) from the stands. Her words were pointed, direct and forceful: “Run the dang ball, Burt!” Apparently Burt, even though  a coach, couldn’t see what his team needed to do, where their strengths are, or how they could get the job done. He needed someone to remind him what to do.

Sometimes we are just like Burt, we don’t see the real problem or a way around the problems before us. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. We were taught that Marines adapt, innovate and overcome. So what if there is this little old hill 881 in front of us… So what if they have machine guns, mortars and rockets on top of that hill… We have the will to win. We can call in air power to even out the battlefield. We don’t just sit there on our blessed assurances, we point our troops in the right direction and take that hill. And so we did one more time on Easter Sunday 1968. Indecision and procrastination can destroy our will to win. Identify the problem, check out your resources, and move forward to win the prize – fulfill your mission.

In checking your resources don’t forget to know that our greatest resource is the Spirit of God living within us, empowering us to overcome and move forward. Walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He is the way through and the power to adapt and overcome.


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Angel & Soccer Star

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Shirley posted these two pictures several years ago as throw back pictures on Facebook and they popped up as a memory on Facebook the other day. I remember these pictures from a long time ago. I think this was one of Noah’s first years playing recreational soccer at Pleasant Garden, and perhaps Abby’s second Christmas program at the church. I look back on those precious faces and I see so much hope and trust in them. Who would believe that yesterday Noah entered school as a High School freshman and Abby entered the seventh grade? (BTW – Noah still advertises (after all these years) Nike Sportswear, and Payton Manning stoled Abby’s play signal and used it right up to his last game.)

I think back over the years and wonder… did we do it right? Did they always know they were loved? Did they know we were always there for them? Did we make life better for them? And the big question is did they see Christ in us?

Time flies by and we forget along the way to stop in the moment and ask those questions of ourselves. If we are making an impact on our grandchildren is it for good, bad or indifferent? We look with great pride on Joy and Stephen and the love they have and express for their children. They would do battle with the devil himself over those children. They have taught them by example a great sense of responsibility for themselves and to their community and friends. They are always at church helping out where they can… doing what needs to be done. They have done for Noah and Abby that which we could not do for Stephen… give them roots. It has been a joy to watch them grow up at Pleasant Garden with their friends and family… a support system who cares enough to never let them down.

Thanks to all the PGUMC family for accepting, loving and caring for my family. You make me so proud to have been a small part of that church.


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“How Could God Allow Such a Thing?”

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O Lord, how long will You look on? … Psalms 35:17a

Recently, a friend related to me an incident where a man lost his entire family in a fire accident. She told me how inconsolable the man had been, how he had become hysterical, even to the point he had to be sedated. Her comment was, “Everyone who watched the whole thing kept asking how God could allow such a thing to happen.”

Indeed, she spoke for many of us. When we see bad things happen around us, we wonder how God could just look on and not do anything. When there is a great loss of life that often comes as a result of a natural disaster, we demand to know where God was, and why He didn’t intervene.

The Psalmist also demanded to know the same thing from the Lord. Fearing for his personal safety, it seems as if his words are accusing God of complacency, while the enemy plots his destruction.

Similarly, in our distress, we sometimes accuse God of being complacent — not caring or being aloof — when we encounter unpleasant situations.

While reading this devotion, you may probably be asking the same question.

Perhaps your entire world is coming apart at the seams, and you are demanding to know how God could allow that to happen. You are, after all, His child; you were baptized in the Name of the Triune God, and you partake of the blessed meal, the Eucharist, so why does God allow such bad things to happen to you?

I may not know what has happened or is happening, or why. I may not even know the amount of pain and hurt you are experiencing, but I do know this: during the times when I have faced difficult situations, I have always found comfort in the Book of Psalms.

And I would like to draw your attention to Psalm 42. Here the author laments the bad that has happened to him. He says people are asking him where is his God. Their criticism and comments indicate they believe if God loved him, then all these bad things would not be happening.

In spite of all this, the Psalmist refused to focus on the bad which has happened or even why it has happened. Verse 11 of the same Psalm reads: “Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should turn a blind eye on your suffering or pretend it isn’t happening. I am saying acknowledge your pain and then turn to God for help. He does care. The amount of that caring was shown in the life, suffering and death of His Son. Standing at the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, we know — beyond any doubt — ours is a God who loves us and will always do what is best for us.

Dear Lord, even when I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid; for you, Lord, are where you have always been – even when I didn’t realize it – right beside me, in and through Jesus. Keep holding on to me Lord, keep holding on. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Steve


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Breaks My Heart

syria-airstrikeI have been captured by the picture of this little boy and cannot get this image – and all that it could mean – out of my mind. It is so haunting… so inhumane, so descriptive of the capacity we have in the human spirit to do great harm even to the most innocent of God’s children. It is beyond me how anyone can see this little boy and allow such evil to continue or participate in that evil. If we see this picture and do nothing I must conclude that we do NOT have a heart.

This past week a 12-14 year old blew himself up at a wedding in Turkey and in the process intentionally killed 50 some people… 22 of whom were children. Now here is the deal; they did this evil in the name of God. That is so mixed up… so up side down… so not God. It doesn’t matter if they pulled their sacred book out of the Ark… it is STILL NOT GOD!!!

In the picture of this little boy you can’t really see his face all that well. If you look close you could see your own son, your grandson… someone you care deeply about. Close your eyes and imagine the pain and fear this little one is going through. Tell me his life is going to remain untouched by anything close to PTSD… he is just going to smile all through his life as if no one has ever tried to kill him. You do know his brother died in this same action?

So, what do we do? How do we help? How do we effect change for the good? I think at least part of it… and a big part at that… is what James Howell mentioned in his sermon Sunday; we have got to spend more time with God… so much that we start to allow change in ourselves… change so clear that others see Jesus in you and want to live a life of peace and brotherhood. Beyond that be a peacemaker and not a peace breaker… a healer and not a divider… lift up others and not put them down… come together with love.

Grace and Peace

Steve


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What A Special Time

swim1I must admit that I approached the Olympics this year with some skepticism and low expectations. After all, I had seen the reports of the filthy ocean we were warned to to swim in or open our mouths. They were reporting about many of the venues not being ready to hold the Olympics. My major concern was the thought that this would be the perfect place for some nut with a bomb to kill a lot of people – I mean thousands.

Well, thank goodness I was wrong – my fears were not realized – especially the terror part.

What we did get to see was young, dedicated, sacrificing, talented athletes compete to the very best of their abilities. Some won medals. Some did not. All won our appreciation for giving so much to their sport and country.

I think the one sport that really got to me was gymnastics. We witnessed Simeon Biles tumble through the air as if gravity did not affect her like it does us; walk, flip, spin and jump on a 4” balance beam I could not even walk on if it were on the floor. These girls were absolutely amazing… and we are so very proud of them.

Of course my second love was basketball. I still remember those years when we were limited to college athletes while the rest of the world used professional players. Well, since the playing field has been made even we have done quite well (men and women). Men won their third Gold Medal in a row while the women I believe have won six in a row.

I couldn’t – still can’t – believe how fast Bolt is… laughing as he crosses the line. Nor could I believe the little lady won blew the 10,000M World Record out of the stadium. We were all touched as one lady runner stopped to help a runner from another country who had fallen. Now, that was very special… and really what we are seeking to accomplish in these games – bring the world together to see how much alike we really are.

What can we say about the swimming except WOW!!! Phelps was his usual superman in the water. But Ledecky made them have to use a wide angle camera to be able to see the other people racing with her. Someone needs to check to see if she didn’t have a motor under the water.

There were a few hick ups… but all in all things went very well. A special thanks to all who made this such a special time. Hopefully, all people thought a little about being under the loving arms of Christ, The Redeemer.

Grace and Peace

Steve


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