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A Familiar Voice

“Oh come on!  It’s only me”  Indeed it was only Vin Scully the long time announcer of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  How long is long time?  How about 67 years!  Who does that?  How many people have you ever heard of  did a job for 67 years?  After 67 years the day came when Vin was finally getting honored.  The ceremony was before a Dodger game and the place was packed.  Many of the people that Vin had touched through the years were there to speak.  One of them was a great pitcher of yesterday named Sandy Koufax.  Sandy had an up and down career.  In his case it was more down and up.  His first 5 years in the league he was a troubled left handed pitcher who barely won as many as he lost.  Then miraculously he found himself and for 5 straight years was the best pitcher anyone had ever seen!  Then at the tender baseball age of 30 Sandy retired.  Arthritis in his left pitching arm had led to his elbow swelling up every time he pitched.  It didn’t affect his great pitching, but made life very painful and Sandy had had enough.  Vin-Scully-FTR-Getty

Sandy now 81 talked about Vin and what he meant to him.  He mentioned how the Dodgers had another great announcer before Vin in Red Barber.  Sandy thought Red was pretty good but he rated Vin very good.  They became friends through the years and Vin has a special place in Sandy’s heart.  You see Sandy has lived his life after retirement far away from the public eye on purpose.  Only as a tribute to Vin was Sandy willing to get before the public again.  Sandy told the story about when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.  It was in those early home games that Sandy notices while pitching that the voice of Vin was all around him.  Fans had paid Vin the ultimate tribute by bringing their transistor radio’s to the games.  They were saying “We like to see the game with our own eyes, but we also like to hear the gentle voice of Vin describe it in his own way to us!”  It was Vin describing Sandy behind the microphone as Sandy performed his greatest feats.  In the 1965 World Series he described Sandy’s every movement on the mound as he maneuvered his way through the Twins order without his best curve ball.  In fact he wasn’t able to get it over the plate at all and relied on his fast ball constantly.  Vin led us up to the big moment and when Sandy recorded the final out Vin was silent.  His style was to let the picture and the fan noise take over.  It was telling a story and his silence invited us to drink in the moment.

After the game in the locker room Vin was interviewing Sandy about a statement he had said earlier.  “Sandy, After the last game”, Vin began “you said you felt like you were one hundred years old.  How do you feel now?”  Sandy quickly answered  his old friend “A hundred and one”  That question in retrospect was what Vin was about.  He wasn’t always trying to get the strategy out of the player as much as he was getting the person out of the player.  We always hear announcers describing games, but Vin had a knack of describing people.  Earlier that year Sandy had thrown a perfect game against the Cubs.  Twenty Seven batters came up that day and twenty seven went down.  It is rare for an announcer to be able to describe a perfect game, but ironically I am sure that Vin called many perfect games.  They weren’t perfect in the baseball world.  The pitcher invariably gives up a hit, walk, and run.  Still the job Vin did in his broadcasts describing the action was perfect!

From the beginning Vin had his own style.  Not only did he describe what was going on in the games, but he was a friend and a story teller.  He did his homework and got to know the players personally.  He would tell us the inside information about a players personal life and how it related to the big game. He could tell us what the player was probably thinking because he had asked them beforehand what they thought about in certain situations.  Vin always described in kind of a sing song tone that was comforting and came across as someone we could trust.  They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  There is an announcer broadcasting games in Japan that gives Vin that highest compliment.  Even though his broadcasts are in Japanese if you listen you will notice that same sing song tone that Vin has used the last 67 years.

Through his many years of broadcasting Vin made numerous great calls.  However the call he made in the 1988 World Series has been voted the greatest moment in baseball history.  Kirk Gibson had carried the Dodgers to the Series with his great play in the N.L. Championship series that qualified them.  In two of the games against the Mets he hit decisive home runs and he also made a great catch in the field.  However during that series he sustained two crippling injuries.  The first was to his left hamstring while stealing a base in game 5.  In game 7 still hobbled by the hamstring he injured his right knee sliding into second.  So as the Series began speculation was that the Dodgers best player through the season and championship series wouldn’t be able to play.  Game one was winding down and the Oakland A’s were a run ahead of the Dodgers.  Vin had been periodically talking about Gibson and how his injuries had him missing in action.  At one point Vin was talking about how Gibson couldn’t possibly pinch hit.  Gibson who was sitting in the locker room with the TV on was heard to say “like He_ _ I can’t!”  He showed up on the bench and informed the manager he was available.  The game winded down to it’s last out.  The Dodgers had a man on first and two outs when Gibson limped up to the plate as a pinch hitter.  Vin had stayed on the story and was taking us step by step into the narrative.  Dennis Eckersley, the best relief pitcher in baseball quickly got two strikes on Gibson.  Gibson feebly hit foul balls where he barely hit the ball.  With each swing we could see how much pain he was in.  The count reached three balls and two strikes.  Then the miracle occurred.  Gibson guessed that Eckersley would throw him a slider and he did.  Gibson’s timing was just right as he hit the ball solid.  Vin Scully described the hit in a very short manner.  “High fly ball to right and she is gone!”  Then there was silence as Gibson hobbled around the bases.  As he got near second base he started pumping his arm in a heroic gesture.  Vin spoke again, “In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened.” Then there was silence as Vin let the picture do the talking. Finally as Gibson had crossed the plate to the mob of his ecstatic teammates there was more silence as we drank in the moment and his comment.  Then as the screen played the replay of Gibson hobbling around the bases Vin said “And now the only question was, could he make it around the bases unassisted?”

It seemed appropriate that Kevin Costner who starred in baseball movies Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and For the Love of the Game would conclude the tribute with this moving speech to Vin Scully.

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“We will miss you, my friend. We will miss you in our radio, in our cars, in our backyard. You’ve been a gift to Los Angeles and to baseball itself. It seems forever that you’ve been guiding us through your personal window into the game.

“How lucky we were that day in Brooklyn when the microphone passed into your hands. You were the chosen one, the skinny redhead who stood on the shoulders of the biggest kid, ready to look through the knothole in the fence to describe to us what was going on. You were better than a golden ticket. You invited us all to pull up a chair, spend the afternoon, then proceeded to walk us into the next century.”

“For 67 years you managed to fool us into believing you were just a sports announcer, when in fact you were really a poet, a wordsmith. It was a nice trick, and after almost seven decades, you might’ve thought we would’ve caught on. But now the masquerade is over and the jig is up. We’re all taking deep breaths Vin, and we’re all struggling with our own emotions as we admit we’re down to our last three outs with you.”

“You did it in a style so friendly and unique, so effortless that years from now we will not be able to explain it to those who never heard it for themselves. The game will not lose its way, but it loses a perspective, a singular voice that managed to capture a boy’s game played by man at the highest level. You grounded it in a way no one else ever has, trusting that you never had to make more of any one moment than it really was.”

“We’re all taking deep breaths, Vin,” Costner said. “We’re all struggling with our own emotions as we admit we’re down to our last three outs with you. You’re our George Bailey and it has been a wonderful life. You can’t blame us for trying to hold on to you for as long as we can. And shame on us if you ever have to pay for another meal in public.”

“We know that you have to move up to the press box. Don’t mind us as we turn in our seats to look up one more time. Forgive us our silly wave, our clumsy toast, our personal salute. And should your mind begin to wander as innings start to slip away, we already forgive you. If the memories become too thick, then just stop and look around.  “You leave us and the game, Mr. Scully, but not without leaving a lasting impression, and not without taking a piece of our broken baseball heart.”

Vin was a voice of reason.  When it was hard for Dodger fans to watch because of the tension of the situation, it was Vin with his ever pleasant voice that led them through.  That is how God wants to lead us through trying situations.  The Bible states that “My sheep hear my voice.”  It is very peaceful to hear God’s voice and know that all is well no matter what is happening.

Sandy Koufax mentioned something that Vin prayed for before every World Series.  “Lord, make every player a hero.”  He knew the damage that a single play in an important game could have on a player’s life.  He didn’t want goat horns put on anyone.  That exemplifies the compassionate spirit of Vin Scully.  In his own way he touched lives by his peaceful demeanor, friendship and story telling.  Those are wonderful qualities for all of us to strive for as Christians.  What a wonderful life we can live when we take this non selfish attitude.  What a story we have to tell about Jesus’ undying love for all of us!  We are no more than the vessels he is using for his glory.   Likewise Vin was there to describe, promote, and help us enjoy the game.  As the fans went crazy with their applause Vin in his own way brushed off the gratitude.  As the fans cheered their loudest Vin wasn’t about to let their cheering define the moment. Awe Cmon”, he pleaded,  “It’s only me.”



Hanging a “W”

This last weekend was Homecoming Weekend at our university and my office was helping out the events staff.  Myself and my partner were assigned to putting the Western flags which were W’s in gold and brown on the end of poles, lengthening the poles, and attaching them to the fence posts outside the parking lot where tailgate and activities tents were affixed.  When the events person showed us how the job should be done she mentioned to be careful that the “W” wasn’t going on upside down, or we would be hanging an “M”.  That clearly wouldn’t picture who we were trying to represent and would be a big mistake.

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It would be nice if life’s miscues were so cut and dry.  Sometimes we don’t realize we are making mistakes until they are out there for all to see.  The nice thing about this flag job was that if a mistake was made you could catch it right away and correct it before you hung the “M” instead of the “W”.  This whole experience of participating in attaching and raising up about 20 flags got me thinking about coming up with describing a mistake as hanging an “M” and a correct action as hanging a “W”. Okay,  laugh but to me this is the fun part of our vocabulary.  Saying things that mean something to me or making some statement that only my close friends or family would know what I am talking about is a fun way to communicate!

I don’t want to hang an “M” in my life because it is a mistake.  Mistakes come in many forms but they are based on what the center of my life is.  When there is too much of me at the center my life is unbalanced.  When my life is unbalanced and misdirected I find myself meandering down the road of motion without purpose.  There might be a mean streak in me as I attempt to manipulate my situation and put myself in a better light.  I undoubtedly will put too much emphasis on money and the acquisition of material thingsMy life ends up being a mess  because those things cannot and never will be able to bring me true happiness.

On the other hand I should attempt to hang a W.  That would be living a life where I desire to seek God’s will for me!  That is where wisdom begins!  We all are here for just a little while so why do we waste time on things that don’t matter?  Instead of me being the center of my life it needs to be God and worshiping him.  When I get into that frame of mind he makes me a winner.  He helps me to understand why I am here and who I might be able to help that day through him!  He satisfies the depths of my soul and gives a peace that cannot be comprehended.  With that peace a smile comes on my face because it is a reflection of how I feel inside!

I noticed some things as those flags were raised.  I noticed how high they were with the wind blowing them around.  Those flags stood for something and the message couldn’t have been more clear.  It is a message of love.  I too want to stand for something.  I want people to look up to me for wisdom and understanding.  I want to look at the world like I would a whale and not a minnow.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not parish but have eternal life.” I am a whoever and you are too if you have given your life to God.  Together we will shine the light he has given us throughout this dark world.   Together we raise our flag for all to see of the wonderful God we serve who is worthy of all of our praise!

Run To Get The Prize!

In 1983 an unusual runner showed up at the start of the most grueling race in the world.  It was Australia’s 543.7 mile endurance race from Sydney to Melbourne.  The race had a $10,000 award to the winner and was ran by the world’s best young endurance runners.  Amazingly the surprise entrant was 61 year old Cliff Young.  Most people thought he was a spectator until he surprisingly stepped to the starting line.  Unlike the other runners Cliff wore overalls and work boots.  Surely this must be some kind of joke the spectators thought.  As he lined up to run people all around him laughed. When the race started the other runners shot off leaving Cliff behind jogging at his slow pace.

The other runners had their plans in place.  Run for 18 hours rest for 6.  That was the way the race was always ran.  Cliff Young didn’t know about how everyone else thought.  While the others rested Cliff kept running.  This was a 5 day event and each day went the same.  Cliff just kept running and running while the others got off of their feet.  Although the other runners were much faster Cliff made up ground during their rest time.  Amazingly it was Cliff who crossed the finish line first in the grueling event in a record time!  He is a legend and his name is brought up every time the race is ran to this day!

I Corinthians 9:24 talks about running a race.  Paul puts it this way.  Do you not know that in a race all of the runners run but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  To truly understand this scripture we must put it in context.  What race is he talking about?  We can find the answer from the previous text.  You see Paul was talking about finding common ground with people.  His whole purpose in life as ours should be too was to get people to come to the Lord.  He states that if he were in the presence of people who were under the law he became like them.   He runs through different groups such as Jews and Gentiles and offers the thought that whatever their core belief is he will not do something that will cause them to argue with him.

Why is Paul so confident in his common ground theme?  The answer comes in his theme for the whole text.  You see Paul’s sole purpose in life was to win as many as he could to believing in our lord Jesus Christ.  He realized that to do this he couldn’t get involved in the arguments that would turn people off and forfeit his chance to talk to them about the most important issue.  That is the context of his running the race in such a way as to get the prize.  The race is spreading the gospel and in order to do that he had to have an audience.

With this election season here it is easy for me to find something that I disagree with and put my two cents in.  I have done this but feel it is important to stop.  You see my purpose as a Christian just like Paul’s  is to spread the gospel and see others come to Jesus.  By getting involved in arguments I realize that not only will I not turn others to my beliefs but I will ruffle their feathers causing them to not listen to the important message of the gospel that I might otherwise have a chance to talk to them about.

As Cliff Young ran he had a single purpose.  He did not get weary in his pursuit of his goal.  He did not rest or become distracted by the others around him. When others stopped Cliff kept going! He seemed like the most unlikely man to win the race.  He was old, he was not an elite athlete, he was not properly dressed for the event, and he was slow.  None of those things mattered to Cliff as he single-mindedly ran his race.  Those things shouldn’t matter in our race either.  You and I may not seem like candidates to win the race either.  People might not see us as ever accomplishing anything worthwhile.  They might laugh at us even attempting to reach such a feat.  However, with a single minded purpose, a belief in our heart, the power of God in our lives, and the desire to accomplish his will for us all things are possible!




Jesus Loves You Nicky!

Nicky Cruz had seen enough of a preacher named David Wilkerson.  He had his switchblade knife in his hand and forcefully grunted for Wilkerson to not come any closer or he was a dead man.  Wilkerson spoke the words that would ring in Nicky’s ears forever.  “You could kill me Nicky and cut me into a thousand pieces and throw them out on the street, and every one of them would be saying Jesus loves you.”

Nicky was born into a satanic home in Puerto Rico.  His mother was a witch and his father was a satanic priest.  Nicky was told very early in life that he wasn’t wanted.  “You are a child of Lucifer”, his mother would tell him.  Nicky developed a hate in his heart and had no respect for laws and didn’t love anyone from an early age.  One time his father punished him by putting him in a shed with many birds in it.  It was dark and the birds started attacking Nicky and pecking him.  After a long while his father let him out but the experience left more hate in Nicky.  He was always getting into trouble and at the age of 15 he was sent to live with his brother in New York City.

Things didn’t change for Nicky in New York City.  The hate that developed in Puerto Rico got worse.  His brother couldn’t handle him as Nicky got kicked out of school.  Nicky decided that he would have to live on his own.  He was looking for a place to stay when the superintendent of a run down apartment complex told him the rent was $15.  Of course Nicky had no money.  “Listen kid”, the hardened landlord said, “I don’t care where you get the money, rob some old lady for all I care.  Come up with $15 and we can talk.  Until then get out of my face you are bugging me.”  Nicky had no plan but he had his knife and he needed some money.  He had lied to his brother that he would be staying at friends for a week and was determined not to go back.

A man in his late teens had a bag of groceries and a wino was begging him for money. Nicky listened to the conversation.  Nicky thought the wino would be a good target because he wouldn’t dare make a commotion and he probably had a lot of money he had been given.  The young man gave the wino a coin and he was on his way.  Nicky was disheartened that the wino had gotten away.  Just then the young man dropped his bag of groceries and they were going everywhere.  Nicky grabbed the man and pushed him up against the building holding his knife in his face.  Nicky’s hand was shaking and he was afraid he would drop the knife.  His victim was shaking too but Nicky had the surprise advantage.  “I don’t want to hurt you but I need money now”, he said.  The young man was shaking.  “Take all of it just don’t kill me”, he pleaded.  The victim tried to take the wallet out of his pocket but was shaking so badly that he dropped it.  “Now take off and run as fast as you can for 2 blocks.  If you stop running you are dead.”  The young man took off tripping a couple of times until he got his footing and raced down the road.  When he turned the corner Nicky took the wallet and counted the money.  The amount was nineteen dollars and the next day he rented a room from the superintendent.

Living in New York City was a dangerous proposition at the time.  Nicky was continuously running into gangs which threatened his safety. Nicky came to a point where he was thinking about joining a gang.  He met the Mau Maus which was a Puerto Rican gang and one of the toughest in the city.  He decided to join the gang which involved passing the initiation test.  The test for Nicky was to have 5 of the toughest guys in the gang beat him up in front of the assembly while he had to stand defenseless. Any sign of backing down would label him a chicken and he was likely to get stabbed, dragged out and thrown in the street.  One by one the toughest guys in the gang took their swings at him.  Hitting and kicking him until Nicky was knocked out.  When he came to it was to the voice of one of the members who had administrated the beating.  Hey wake up he was saying as he was patting his face.  Nicky found himself in a pool of blood and suddenly he jumped up with renewed energy and started swinging wildly at his attackers.  Finally they got him pinned down and told him he was one of them.  “You may be a lot of things Nicky”, Israel, the vice president of the gang told him, “but you are not a chicken!”  “You are a Mau Mau Nicky, a Mau Mau!” Nicky finally felt like he had a family.  He figured he wouldn’t have to fight alone anymore.

If it were possible for Nicky to become even more cold and ruthless he did.  He lived for the gang fights and looked forward to the rumbles in the local park, schools, or anywhere else around the city that the gangs decided.  There were many gangs in New York City and they all had their own turf.  The turf was the land that the gang fought for and claimed for their own. Other gang members who got caught on another gangs turf could be beaten up, stabbed, or killed.  It was a world filled with hatred and sin and Nicky enjoyed it.  That is until he went home and was alone.  As much fun as he had with the gang he couldn’t shake the loneliness and emptiness that engulfed him.  When he went home he felt like the loneliest guy in the world.

Nicky became more vicious as he became the president of the gang.  He didn’t stay the president for a long time however.  The president was usually drawing up plans and staying in the background when they fought.  Most of the time Nicky was the vice president because he could take part in the fighting he loved so much. He liked to cut up a garbage can and put it around him as he wildly swung a baseball bat at whoever was near him.  His fellow gang members didn’t like to fight next to Nicky for fear that they might get hurt by his wild swings.

One time Nicky was picked up by the police for a minor offense.  Nicky had so much hate in him that he made the minor offense into something much more.  A judge decided to put Nicky in the care of a Psychiatrist for a day.  The Psychiatrist took Nicky to the zoo and they talked.  Well he talked but Nicky stayed pretty quiet.  Each little test that the Psychiatrist gave Nicky would end the same.  He asked him to draw a tree.  Nicky then drew a bird in the tree.  When the psychiatrist asked Nicky why, he got upset and poked the pencil through the bird.  “There he said, I killed it.”  That was basically Nicky’s solution to whatever didn’t fit.  He would just get rid of the problem.  The psychiatrist didn’t have Nicky go back to jail.  He dropped him off in front of his house.  When Nicky asked him why, the psychiatrist had shocking words for him.  “Nicky, there is no hope for you anymore.  You are so ill because you are made to hate. You are not like other boys Nicky.  You have no love in your heart.  You are on a one way path to the electric chair and hell.”

The year was 1958.  It was over 3 years since Nicky had first arrived in New York City.  A  skinny preacher from Pennsylvania named David Wilkerson had been led by God to New York City to minister to the gangs.  The encounter with Nicky where Wilkerson made the statement about cutting him into a thousand pieces took place 2 weeks before the city wide crusade Wilkerson was staging.  On the last night of the crusade a bunch of Mau Mau’s finally took the bus that was provided to get them to the arena.  Nicky was not afraid of anything except this skinny preacher.  There was something about him and the power behind his life that scared Nicky to death.

As Nicky heard the message something started penetrating his heart. Here was a young man now 18 who was arrested 16 times and was known throughout the city for his stone cold violence.  Here was a young man who lived like an animal in the Bronx jungle.  If Nicky was ever going to change it had to be a new start.  It had to be from a power far greater than anything on earth. All of his past had to be forgotten like he was born again.  That is what happened to Nicky as he raced to the front along with a mass of other gang members and cried out to God to forgive him of his sins.  The change was immediate as Nicky felt the peace of the Holy Spirit inside of him. All of the Mau Maus brought their weapons to the police station the next morning. The surprised police officer at the desk didn’t know what was happening as one of the most feared gangs in the city marched in with many weapons in their arms.  That crusade marked the beginning of the road that would lead Nicky Cruz to preach the Gospel to over 40 million people exalting the saving grace of God!  His message through the years has been if Jesus changed Nicky Cruz he can change you!

“You can argue with someones opinion, but you can’t argue with their story”

Nicky Cruz

Love Lifted Me (chorus) by James Rowe 1912

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!


One Shining Moment!

When the NCAA Basketball Tournament is over the song “One Shining Moment” is played with replays of big plays that perfectly illustrate the songs lyrics.  The gist of the song is that behind the scenes hours of work is done in preparing for that one moment.  It is a moment of total elation as dreams come true and all of the efforts beforehand seem worthwhile.  It is a moment when players feel that somehow it was destiny as they find themselves in the spotlight!  It is just a moment but that moment shines so much it is remembered years later.

One Shining Moment

By David Barrett

The ball is tipped
And there you are
You’re running for your life
You’re a shooting star
And all the years
No one knows
Just how hard you worked
But now it shows…
(in) one shining moment, it’s all on the line
One shining moment, there frozen in time

But time is short
And the road is long
In the blinking of an eye
Ah, that moment’s gone
And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cuz inside you knew…
(that) one shining moment you reached deep inside
One shining moment, you knew you were alive

Feel the beat of your heart
Feel the wind in your face
It’s more than a contest
It’s more than a race…
And when it’s done
Win or lose
You always did your best
Cuz inside you knew…
(that) one shining moment, you reached for the sky
One shining moment, you knew
One shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment

Fred Rogers grew up an only child.  As an only child he didn’t always have other kids to play with.  Fred compensated for that with a big imagination.  He would play with his puppets and make up stories.  As he grew into a young man he admired the leader of his church and how he could make his points so clear.  He also admired the fact that everyone respected him for his guidance and direction he gave.

Fred ended up going to school to become a minister.  After college he was intrigued by the new medium TV that was out.  He went to New York and counseled some of the early stars of the medium.  One man in particular said something to him in answer to a question that stayed with him.  It was a man named Gabby Hayes who he asked one day “What are you thinking about when you start talking into the camera?”  Fred was kinda surprised by Gabby’s answer which was “I just pretend that I am talking to just one buckaroo.”  Fred made note of that answer and when he went before the camera years later he pretended he was talking to one young person too!

The Early Years

Things started small for Fred in the new medium.  He started doing puppet shows for the local TV station.  He had to make up characters and named them after people that were important in his life.  Puppets were easy for Fred because he had practiced many hours as a youth.  Never did he realize that all of that practice would be useful to form entertaining shows that kids loved.  He found his calling was in talking to young people and treating them with respect.  Things kept evolving in Fred’s career.  He was asked to do a TV show where he would be on the camera instead of just his puppets.  Fred always found a place for puppets in his show too, but he always distinguished the real from the make believe.

Fred Rogers

In 1968 Fred was given a show on PBS called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  Fred liked the neighborhood idea because it could be a place kids could go that was different from their neighborhood.  Still it would be an educational place that would teach them good life lessons.  Fred would have little songs that he sang to the camera which were catchy and had good meaning.  He would come on the set singing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood won’t you be my neighbor?”  He also sang “It’s such a good feeling to know your alive It’s such a happy feeling your happy inside.”  He made the kids that watched the show happy and gave them a positive role model much like his church minister had given him.

Mr. Rogers was always teaching his young viewers lessons.  Usually the lessons were pretty simple such as learning to tie a shoe or put on a sweater.  As the show evolved he taught them through his puppets about how people react to things and the right and wrong way to think.  He taught his young viewers to respect and love others and to give a helping hand whenever possible.  Usually his lessons were basic and his situations were common.  He had a toy “Neighborhood Trolley Car”  that took the kids into the world of make believe.  It was a world where his puppets took over with life situations.  He wanted to make a clear distinction between what was real and what was make believe.  Seeing the trolley car travel to that place told the kids that the following wasn’t really real.  Although his puppets brought similar situations as those of real life, he felt it was important to differentiate the two.  In 1980 he had a young guest visit the show and the world of make believe was nowhere in sight.  This was a real situation and Mr. Rogers interviewed the young man in a heartfelt way.  Years later he was asked many times which show in all of his years of doing shows was the most memorable? Fred would always bring up the interview he had with Jeff Erlanger.  Along with the simple lessons that he could teach Fred was not afraid to talk about more complex problems such as divorce and handicaps.  His interview with Jeff  was one of those complex lessons.

Jeff Erlanger wheeled himself into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on a day in 1980.  Jeff was 10 years old and was severely handicapped.  He explained that at 7 months he had a tumor that blocked the nerves that told his hands and legs what to do.  They were unsuccessful in their attempt to remove the tumor and he became handicapped.  Although he was hardly able to move his ability to laugh and to articulate was so remarkable.  Fred asked him questions that led Jeff to expand and tell his story in such a unique way.  The way that Jeff could be so happy even in the midst of his situation was truly a “One Shining Moment” for Fred and he never forgot it!

The years went by and in 1999 Fred Rogers was being honored by being inducted into the TV Hall of Fame.  A clip was played of that moment in 1980 where Jeff came on the show.  You could tell that it was a very moving moment for Rogers as it brought back the wonderful interview that touched so many!  Fred was talking to one buckaroo (Jeff) and yet multitudes of kids he was reaching through TV were getting a great life lesson!  That one clip of a caring Mr. Rogers and a young kid adapting to life was a picture of Fred Roger’s legacy! When the lights came back on the announcer introduced none other than Jeff Erlanger.  Jeff a young man now wheeled himself onto the stage and Fred Rogers had a elated surprised look that is hard to describe.  Only the image on the following video can describe it completely. Quickly Fred made his way to the stage to hug and thank Jeff for being there.  It was a culmination to all of the good that his show had brought and Jeff’s wonderful tribute was a perfect summary!

We should all look for that shining moment that defines what God has put on our hearts to honor him.  It is not a passing thing like a basketball tournament.  It is a real life thing which defines the vision we have been living for.  In Fred’s case he had two!  The time in 1980 when Jeff brought his special personality and smile to Fred’s life and in 1999 when Jeff returned to thank Mr. Rogers for what he meant to him.  Jeff had a very short speech he gave.  To conclude Jeff’s appearance years ago Fred and Jeff sang a song together called “It’s You I Like.”  “When you say it’s you I like, you really mean it.  On behalf of millions of kids and grownups I just want to say “It’s you I like!”, Jeff stated.  I could see on Fred’s face that to Jeff and kids young and old everywhere the feeling was very mutual!

(that) one shining moment, you reached for the sky
One shining moment, you knew
One shining moment, you were willing to try
One shining moment

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me”

Fred Rogers

Biscuits and Toast

When I was really young I learned how to make toast.  We didn’t have a toaster so the job was a little harder.  After buttering the bread I knew that the proper setting of the oven was broil.  Usually I would make three or four pieces that I’d place on a cookie sheet.  One morning I wanted to expand my wings and make biscuits.  I found a package of biscuits and opened it (banging it on the side of the counter) just as I saw mom do.  Carefully I tore off each biscuit and placed them on my cookie sheet.  Then I turned the oven to broil and waited for my biscuits to get done.  When mom got up I showed her my cooking feat.  She wondered what temperature I cooked them at because the biscuits were brown on top but white on the outside.  When I told her that I cooked them on broil like toast she understood.  Patiently she told me biscuits unlike toast needed to be cooked at 350 or whatever the temperature was.  While toast got done quickly biscuits needed extra time for them to cook thoroughly.

Image result for picture of toast

My son uses the word toast in an interesting way.  While my usage of the word always referred to the actual toasted bread, he uses it as a descriptive word.  When watching a sporting event where a team seems hopelessly behind he might say they are toast.  In that instance he compares the done piece of bread to their chances of coming back.  It is a good comparison because toast is normally made in a toaster.  Usually when the toast pops up it is done.  Pushing it back in the toaster will not make it better and in fact will run the risk of burning it.  Many times you can see it in the players demeanor as they know the end is near. Head down, scuffling around, and just going through the motions are signs that the player has given up.  So whenever my sons subject is described as toast it can only mean they are done, finished, through, or whatever other final word you choose to use.

At the age of 40 Colonel Harlen Sanders was running a service station and feeding hungry travelers.  He eventually moved to a restaurant across the street where he made chicken so tasty that it was noted by Kentucky’s  Governor who named him a Kentucky Colonel.  I’m sure when the Colonel at the age of 62 closed his restaurant many thought he was toast.  However he had another big dream in mind.  After closing his restaurant instead of retiring he chose to travel the countryside cooking batches of chicken for restaurants and striking deals that would pay him 5 cents for every chicken the restaurant sold.  He started offering franchise opportunities and sold more than 600 by 1964.  At that time he decided to sell his rights to the company for 2 million dollars!  At the time of sale the Colonel was almost 74 years old.  Though he no longer was an owner his face has remained the face of the franchise and he made trips around the world  representing the company as a spokesman.  Kentucky Fried Chicken as of 2013 had 18,875 outlets in 118 countries and territories around the world and they have one Colonel Sanders to thank.  At an age when many retire the Colonel made his later years his most successful!  He knew that he had something that people liked and in dedicating himself to the mission he made himself and thousands of others successful through the years!  By coincidence it can be noted that along with the chicken and other extras such as potatoes there is usually a biscuit (not toast) in the KFC meal.

The Bible has a lot of encouraging things to say about aging!  Proverbs 16:31 states that “Gray hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life.”  Psalms 92:14 states that “They still bear fruit in their old age; they are ever full of sap and green.”   Proverbs 20:29 mentions that “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”

You may be at a time in your life where you feel your accomplishments are in your past.  Colonel Sanders could have felt the same way.  After all he was very successful in his business and at 62 could have retired to a good life.  Somewhere in his spirit however there was a desire.  It was something that he felt that he wanted to accomplish to be fulfilled.  His story is a great example to all of us that it is never too late.  The message that we as Christians have to give is far more important than a chicken recipe.  Though we may not be able to travel the world to spread the good news we can travel our individual worlds.  A kind smile or a helping hand can show our light as we show our love to others.

Image result for picture of biscuits

If I remember the story correctly mom put those biscuits back in the oven and cooked them at the right temperature.  My mistake was corrected and they came out just the way they were meant to be.  Maybe that is how God looks at our lives.  When we think that our lives are toast God has a different view.  We are not toast to him.  Like the biscuits he is not done with us yet!


Jackie’s Friend

“Carl”, one of his teammates said to him as he was sitting on the bench.  “Someone is here to see you, he asked “Where’s Carl Erskine?”  Carl made his way to the front of the dugout.  Sure enough there was somebody there, it was Jackie Robinson.  Carl went up the dugout steps to meet him.  Carl Erskine was a minor league pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers top farm club in Fort Worth.  The year was 1948 and young Carl was given the opportunity to pitch in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He pitched well for six innings facing the best the Dodgers had to offer.  Now here was Jackie Robinson already a star on the Dodgers paying a visit.  Jackie Robinson was the first black to play in the big leagues and Carl had the utmost respect for him and what he had to go through.  “Let me tell you young man”, Jackie began, “You won’t be long for this league, you’ll be pitching for the Dodgers before you know it!”    They talked a little bit more and Jackie left.  Carl had felt good about the way he had pitched but now he had an extra serge of confidence race through him.  In his mind he played over and over again Jackie’s kind words!  Inspired by those words Carl was determined to make Jackie right!  It turned out that Jackie was right!  Later that year Carl got the call to join the Brooklyn Dodgers and become one of their starting pitchers!


With the Dodgers Carl started seeing first hand what Jackie was going through.  Jackie had came to an agreement with Branch Rickey the Dodgers General Manager that he would not retaliate to any abuse he received.  He was to turn the other cheek and just concentrate on the game at hand.  The abuse went far beyond the playing field too.  Jackie was not allowed to be with his teammates in many of the hotels the club stayed in.  By 1948 the Dodgers had signed two more black players and they were rejected also.  While Jackie was combative to the situation his two teammates seemed passive.  They were just happy to be in the big leagues and were willing to take the abuse to be there.  Although Jackie had to endure his eyes were always on the big picture.  His vision was not about himself but all of the black players that would come after him.  His dream was equality for all in baseball and in our country.  Although Jackie kept his calm on the outside on the inside he felt anger.  Vin Scully, the longtime Dodgers announcer stated that “Jackie Robinson is the only player he had ever seen who played better when he was angry.”

Jackie’s wife Rachel told the story many times about Jackie’s ability to stay the course.  “Jackie would come home many times angry”, Rachel would say “but the next day he was ready to go again.”  It was like he was forgetting the past and concentrating on the new day that was ahead of him.  Rachel was the rock that Jackie leaned on when he felt down.  It was Rachel who consoled him with the words “nobody said it was going to be easy.”  Through their times away from each other Jackie would write Rachel the most beautiful letters.  His daughter Sharon shared that Jackie started every letter to his beloved wife with “Darling.”

Rachel and Jackie

Rachel and Jackie

Until the computer and email took over hand written letters were a way of communicating our love.  I remember when I was young we would get letters often from my grandma in Alabama.  She would tell us all of the news going on around there and dad would write her back with all of the news here.  Of course there was a two or three day delay from when the letter was sent until it was received.  Before I could write or even knew the letters of the alphabet I would “write” my mom letters trying to imitate the squiggly lines I saw in my grandma’s letters.  Mom would invariably ask me what it said and of course I had no idea.  I thought she could interpret and read something into what I created.  There wasn’t a communications problem with grandma’s letters.  It made my parents happy to get her letters and feel the love she was sending!

Besides letters to his beloved wife Rachel, Jackie also wrote letters to people in high places.  When he felt an injustice was done or that someone had the power to rectify a situation you could count on Jackie taking up the cause with pen in hand.  His life revolved around others and he felt like he was just someone trying to make a difference.  It was with this humble attitude that Jackie developed a friendship with a young man that lasted for years!

It was an improbable relationship between a boy and a man.  It started when Ron Rabinovitz’s dad David sent a letter to Jackie Robinson.  The Rabinovitz’s lived in Sheboygan Wisconsin and Jackie agreed that the next time the Dodgers were in Milwaukee he would personally meet young Ronnie age 7!  Jackie also enclosed an autographed picture for young Ronnie.  When the Dodgers did come to Milwaukee Jackie kept his word. He met Ronnie and his dad and introduced Ronnie to other members of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Ronnie was thrilled as Jackie gave him a baseball and had all of the players he met sign it!

Ron sent Jackie a letter back thanking him for all that he did for him!  It wasn’t long afterwards that Ron received a letter in the mail on Brooklyn Dodger stationary and a special friendship developed!  Jackie would tell Ron all of the things he was going through and Ron would tell Jackie things that were happening in his life growing up.  There were barriers in their friendship as Ron was a kid and Jackie a grown man.  Ron was Jewish and Jackie was Christian.  Ron lived in a small midwest town while Jackie was out east in New York. Through it all Ron grew to consider Jackie a mentor and Jackie considered Ronnie a trusted friend!  They could confide in each other and Jackie would let Ronnie know the inside struggles he was going through on and off of the field.  This relationship went on for years and is best exemplified in a letter that Jackie sent Ronnie in November 1958 after his playing days were over.    It was a short letter to Ronnie and it was right to the point.  “Ronnie, one of the things that pleases me most is that our friendship continues even though I am now out of baseball.  It’s friends like you that make me feel that everything that happened was worthwhile.”

Always, Jackie

Carl Erskine was asked to tell how Jackie Robinson affected his life the most.  It didn’t take Carl long to answer.  Carl had four children and the fourth was named Jimmy.  Jimmy was born with down syndrome and because of that he was always a special needs kid.  Carl was able to relate to Jackie Robinson’s plot with the Dodgers and his struggle to be accepted.  He was able to fight the battle of acceptance for his own son much like Jackie had fought for acceptance of his race.  Carl is happy to report that although change was slow it came.  Now kids in this dreaded situation are accepted much more readily in our society.  Carl learned from Jackie that no matter how hard the fight results can come when we stay the course and continue to battle!

Ron Rabinovitz began corresponding with Jackie Robinson in 1954, when he was a 7-year-old Dodgers fan.

As Ronnie pulled out his album with his letters from Jackie he had to choke back tears.  Besides the free flowing hand written notes there were telegrams congratulating him on his bar mitzvah  and high school graduation.  Also there were pictures of him and Jackie together.  Not shown in the album were his memories of Jackie’s telephone  calls and visits when the team was in Milwaukee.  Dinners they shared together at a place named Eugenes in Milwaukee where a main lobster dinner was just $5.00!  As Ronnie pulled out his baseball that is over 60 years old now he went over the signatures of the players he met.  All of the big names on the Dodgers seemed to be there except one.  In his quest to put others first Jackie simply forgot to sign Ronnie’s ball.  That’s OK with Ronnie.  All of the players who signed that baseball were people that Ronnie didn’t know.  The fact that Jackie didn’t sign with that group seems only right.  His friendship with his friend and mentor Jackie couldn’t be expressed with just an autograph.

“A life is not important except for the impact that it has on others”

Jackie Robinson


"We were so different," Ron Rabinovitz says of his friendship with Jackie Robinson. "I was white, he was black. I was a Jew, he was a Christian. ... I was a child, he was an adult. But we developed this bond that I can't even explain."

Hitching A Ride To Heaven

Have you ever felt that God was talking to you and you knew exactly what he wanted you to do? This was the case for a man named Bob Weiner. Just before Bob founded Maranatha Campus Ministries he had become engaged to a wonderful Christian lady named Rose Russell. They met in California but Rose was from Kentucky. When the time came for Bob to meet her parents he was nervous. Rose’s father was a distinguished Methodist preacher with many degrees and Rose was such a deeply committed Christian. Bob on the other hand had found Christ in California and in his own words was truly an honest to goodness Jesus person. Could he measure up to her parents standard of who they wanted for her husband? Many thoughts such as these went through Bob’s head as he was on the flight to Kentucky. As it turned out all of his worrying was in vain. Bob and her parents got along fine as Bob tried to show them that he was a mature Christian man and her parents had nothing to worry about. Bob had planned to take a flight from Kentucky to Chicago and then from Chicago back to California. Just before he booked his flight he heard a voice in his spirit. “Bob, I want you to hitchhike to Chicago.” At first Bob tried to dismiss the notion. It was several hundred miles away and besides what would Rose’s parents think? Bob was not happy about the situation. After all he had tried to convince her parents that his feet were firmly planted on the ground and he was a mature stable Christian man. Still the voice was strong and he could not say no. “I want you to hitchhike to Chicago.” Finally Bob told them of his plans. “You know”, he began “this might sound kind of strange but I really sense that the Lord wants me to hitchhike back to Chicago.” To his surprise her parents didn’t seem overly surprised. It was almost like if that is what he sensed God wanted he should do it!

Bob Weiner

Bob Weiner

Rose and her mother dropped Bob off at the edge of the city. It was run down and Bob cringed, but he knew he had to be obedient to that heavenly voice. The first person to pick him up was a sixty five year old man who had recently retired. The man told Bob that he normally didn’t pick up hitchhikers but there was something about Bob that made him stop. Later he admitted that his life was empty and he didn’t know what was missing. Bob told him what was missing was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He went on to tell him what Christ had done in his life and assured him that he would find the same peace and joy if he surrendered his life to the Lord. Within ten minutes after he picked Bob up they pulled over to the side of the road and the man was sobbing as he gave his life to Jesus! He wasn’t going much further and that was OK with Bob. Bob was beginning to see that he was doing exactly what God wanted!

Once again Bob found himself on the side of the road with his thumb in the air. Within 20 minutes an old Chevrolet pulled over and the young man behind the wheel motioned for Bob to get in. “Where are you headed”, he asked. “Chicago”, Bob said. “Well I’m only going thirty miles”, which was fine with Bob. Bob knew something that the driver didn’t. Their meeting was no accident, it was meant to be. As they headed down the road the man started talking about the war in Vietnam and all the unrest in the country. He had just got back from Vietnam and had seen many of his friends killed. He couldn’t understand how everyone seemed ungrateful and why he couldn’t get a job. He had been searching and let it be known that he would do anything, but had been unsuccessful. That wasn’t the worst of it however. He had been told that his girlfriend was pregnant. He wanted to marry her but he wondered if he could ever support her? Bob started telling him about Jesus Christ and what a difference the Lord made in his life. At first the man was skeptical but when Bob told him he was specifically hitchhiking to Chicago because he felt the Lord wanted him to the driver became convinced! Before he dropped Bob off he too surrendered his life to Christ! Bob prayed with him to open the job door that up until now had been closed.

Another man picked Bob up a short time later. “I’m only going five miles”, he said. “I’m on my way to a softball game.” He was wearing a shirt with a church written on the front. “Are you a Christian?”, Bob inquired. “Well sort of…”, was his reply. As they talked further the man admitted that he wasn’t really living for the Lord. He went to the church and played on its softball team but that was about it. Somewhere along the line he had lost his enthusiasm. As they were driving he recommitted his life to the Lord. Tears were flowing down his face! I’m so glad that I picked you up! “Listen, would you come to the game with me? I’d like you to talk to the rest of the guys on the team.” When they got to the field he introduced Bob telling his team that this man changed his life today! Before Bob knew it he found himself on the infield dirt with all of the members of both teams listening to his testimony! Bob challenged them to recommit their lives to Christ and start living for him. By a show of hands three fourths of the players indicated that they wanted to turn their lives over to Jesus. Players were crying and hugging each other and as Bob described “it was an incredible scene!” The softball game was anticlimactic. Bob was having a wonderful time and had long since asked for forgiveness for his attitude before the trip. At the same time he began wondering when he would ever get to Chicago? He hadn’t gone over one hundred miles and still had a lot of territory to cover.

Church Softball

A late model luxury car wheeled off of the road just beyond him. At least I’ll be riding in luxury this time, Bob thought.

The middle aged man behind the wheel told Bob that he was a professor at Southern Illinois University. He had two PH.D’s and seemed to know everything about everything. He was going to a meeting in Champaign, Illinois which was good news to Bob because that would take him down the road for awhile. “Have you ever accepted Christ?”, Bob inquired. The man shook his head, “No Bob, I’m an Atheist.” “I have some questions that no one has been able to answer.” “I’ll tell you what, if you can answer them to my satisfaction I will pull the car over right now and give my life to Christ.” “OK shoot”, Bob replied. The man’s first question was Where did God come from? The next two questions were also very philosophical. Bob sat silent for awhile as he prayed. “God if ever I needed wisdom I need it right now!” “Well”, the man stated as Bob sat silent. Bob was sure that the man thought he was thinking of an answer when in fact Bob was praying. OK Lord, here it goes. He opened his mouth but the words were not his. God gave him wisdom and Bob was speaking the words as they came. When he had finished talking the professor had a look of astonishment on his face. “I’ve never, ever heard an answer like that!” He paused for a moment then went on. “I’m convinced that you answered my questions and I’m ready to give my life to Christ!” Once again Bob found himself on the side of the road leading someone into the kingdom! The man was so happy that he was beaming! All of his searching was over. Bob noticed that his entire appearance changed and was amazed what a difference God had made in his life already! They were still about thirty miles from Champaign which meant another two hours to Chicago but Bob’s new found friend insisted on driving him the distance. “It is the least I can do for all that you did for me!” Bob felt a peace about the situation so he graciously accepted the gift of driving his new friend offered! (isn’t it ironic that God would let Bob ride most of the trip in style?) The rest of the traveling was a joyous celebration as Bob told the professor of the people he had met and the lives that were changed!

My mom and dad had a situation with a hitchhiker that was completely different. My dad must have had a heart for hitchhikers because I can remember times he picked them up on our trips to and from Alabama. I believe that this particular episode happened before I arrived. My sister was just a toddler. Anyway dad saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road and informed mom that he was going to pick him up. The hitchhiker along with his belongings entered the back door and they were off again. It wasn’t long after picking up the hitchhiker that dad discovered to his alarm that their lives were in immediate danger. As he was motoring along on the highway the gas pedal got stuck and the cars speed hit one hundred miles an hour! The hitchhiker instantly dove to the front of the car and pried the gas pedal off of the floor. Without him they surely would have had a horrible fatal crash.

Jesus is a lot like that hitchhiker my parents picked up years ago. The difference being that our lives are already out of control when Jesus comes in and saves us! Without Jesus we are headed for a fatal crash. With him in our lives instead of an eminent crash, our lives can have meaning! There is hope in the journey and after the journey!

Look closely at the clouds

Showing them the way to heaven!

By trusting in his faith Bob acted as a representative of Jesus. He was willing to walk in faith and be used for God’s glory. Bob’s meetings with all of those people was the will of God for him that day. By Bob’s willingness to obey that small voice that he heard he was able to introduce people that God put in his path to Jesus who changed their lives. As I travel around these days I don’t see many hitchhikers. It definitely isn’t as common as it used to be. We don’t have to hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers to be in God’s will. The key to Bob’s success was listening and obeying the Lords voice. By doing so he put himself on the Godly road that led him to lost souls. When we are willing to listen to God like Bob did, he will put the people in our lives that we can lead to Jesus! Just as Bob did as a hitchhiker, we too can enter peoples lives as the spirit leads and introduce them to the one who can give them peace and joy!

Straight From The Heart!

I kept watching him from behind the fenced in area as he was on the practice tee.  I saw his name was Larry Mize because the tournament officials had put a name sign in front of where he was hitting his shots.  I’m not sure which iron it was but I’m guessing an eight or nine iron.  He didn’t change his club like some do after a few hits.  He kept hitting with that club searching for perfection.

It was only a day or two before that I was offered tickets to this wonderful event.  It was the Senior PGA Championship and it was at the Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor Michigan.  It was close to an hour from my house which was the perfect halfway point for my friend Alan and I to meet up.  Alan lives about two hours away from me and he was thrilled when I offered him a ticket since neither of us had ever seen professionals play.

Harbor Shores, From the dump to a beautiful place!

Harbor Shores, From the dump to a beautiful place!

It’s amazing that just a few years ago this beautiful course was a dumping ground.  Plant closures in Benton Harbor had left behind environmental ruin.  This land was that ruin.  It was 600 vacant acres bridging St. Joseph and Benton Harbor Michigan.  The site was contaminated by a foundry, steel companies, an old city dump, appliance factories, and an aircraft component manufacturing site.   The results were mercury and radium levels that were very unsafe.  The pollution was so severe that the aircraft manufacturing site was stated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site, because it was one of the most polluted areas in the nation. In the late 1980’s a commission was formed to find out how businesses and jobs could be brought to the area.  It was determined that this dumping ground would be the center of the rebuilding project.  It took quite a vision to see this polluted dumped on land filled with dangerous poisons being anything else but what it was.

Several companies and organizations worked together and formed Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment which was a nonprofit organization whose mission would be to be the master developer of the project.  Mark Hessemann the managing director for Harbor Shores, used his real estate company to get the project off of the ground.  Hessemann spent seventeen years working for Jack Nicklaus Design, Jack’s company that designs golf courses.  If Jack could be convinced to build a course out of this barren land, the rest of the dominoes would fall into place!

To make a long story short, Jack came and formed a vision of all of the wonderful holes this land would house.  The project involved the removal of 117,000 tons of trash, solid waste, and concrete from the site.  That is the equivalent of a football field stacked up 65 feet high!  “Once you cleared away the trash there was beautiful land underneath”, Hassemann stated.

 Larry Mizelarry mize

So here I was watching Larry Mize hit shot after shot with his iron.  I saw an official and asked him if we could get autographs?  He said that the best place to do that was at the gate where they would have to pass to get on the driving range or leave for the first tee.  Normally people get autographs with a Sharpie pen but all I had was a Bic.  I had bought a program so I’m standing there waiting along with a crowd of people at the gate.  Alan was with me for awhile.  He was anxious to get out on the course while I was content to watch practice or stand waiting for someone to come by.  At last Alan said he would come back in about half an hour.  He was going to watch the actual tournament.  As I was standing there I started talking to people around me.  A lady took the spot to my right and she was carrying a rolled up poster.  She told me she was there to get one signature and I asked her about the poster.  She said that it was a picture of her husband and Tom Watson.  Her husband caddied for Tom Watson years ago and it was a picture of them both together.

It’s kind of funny when you are waiting for someone to come by that could be a professional golfer.  People that had golfing shoes on that weren’t dressed in blue course official shirts were all on the board!  The first guy I asked had the golfing attire on.  Of course you don’t want to embarrass anyone so you pretend you know them.  His signature was easily readable and he commented on the page I had him sign.  I just turned to a page that was titled “They are off and running.”  He liked that and after he left I looked at his signature “Joe Dailey.”  I had heard of a golfer named John Dailey, but not Joe.  Still it was nice of him to be the first to sign my program and he seemed nice.  Later someone signed my program and when he left I looked at the signature.  It was an awful looking bunch of O’s.  His signature looked like “OOOOOOOOOO.”  Now how could anyone figure that out?  A little while later I saw him coming.  He had a violet looking shirt on and his face  tanned through the years in the sun was unmistakable.  It was Tom Watson and he walked in going toward the practice tee.  As expected people started pushing through in front of him.  The official stated later “that area of the line line should have been roped off.”  Once Tom signed those peoples papers that pushed themselves in I was there with my program along with the lady next to me with her poster.  Tom smiled and waived and was on his way.  He probably figured he had signed enough and needed to work on his game.

Tom Watson...When he left the autograph crowd dwindled!

Tom Watson…When he left the autograph crowd dwindled!

After Tom Watson left the crowd at the gate got smaller.  The lady with the poster waited hoping to catch him after he got done hitting his bucket of balls on the driving range.  When he did he left a different way and everyone at the fence was disappointed and quickly left.  Everyone but me it seemed.  I was watching on the tee in front of me last years champion Kohki Idoki.  I watched him hit his balls and he seemed like a machine.  One right after the other right down the middle with his driver.  Every once in awhile he would hit one straight, but not quite as far as the others.  Or he would hit one straight, but not quite as straight.  I guess that is why he was out there.  It seemed that most of the time it was long and straight but those few that were a little shorter or a little more to the side were why he kept hitting.  It’s amazing to me the fine line these players are trying to find and how they can find fault in perfectly good hits in my mind.  They were all searching for that elusive perfection.  I told Idoki’s caddie that I would like him to sign my book and after awhile Idoki turned around and made a writing motion to me like he had a pen in his hand.  He came back by the fence and signed.  His signature was in Japanese and I kidded him by asking if he ever hit a ball that wasn’t straight?  He just smiled and went back to his tee to hit more consistent shots.

I was amazed watching Kohki Idoki last years champion

I was amazed watching Kohki Idoki last years champion!

Just about everyone had left the fenced area after it was clear that Tom Watson wouldn’t be back.  I stood there thinking that there are still some players that may come by.  Suddenly walking at a brisk pace was Larry Mize.  I called out if he could sign one for me and he put his brakes on and swirled in my direction.  To be honest at first I didn’t recognize him.  Although I watched him hitting he had his back to me.  However I finally realized that it was the guy who kept hitting his iron that I had watched and mentioned to him how I saw him practicing over and over with that iron.  It was a quick meeting as he signed with my Bic pen.  I asked him if it wrote OK and he said it was a little light but fine.  That was all and I saw that his signature was very readable and to my surprise he wrote a Bible verse after it!  “Larry Mize Eph2 8:19.”

I watched Idoki some more as I started talking to a friend of his from his country.  I was so impressed with the way Idoki kept practicing shot after shot even though I couldn’t find much wrong with any of them.  The thing that impressed myself and my friend Alan was how these guys practiced their skills.  Alan mentioned that most of them had to be worth millions, yet often after hitting on the practice tee and playing their round they were right back on the practice tee again!  I caught up with Alan and we decided to go to the 18th tee.  Players were paired together and we watched them hit two by two.  There was a delay from the time one pairing hit until the other arrived.  During that time we talked to other fans.  A couple of them were older and we listened to their golf stories from the past.  One guy especially was telling stories about Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, and other well known golfers he had seen in person.  Again it was amazing watching these guys drive the golf ball.  Most were right down the middle with one I remember driving into the long weeds on the right.  We were wondering in his case if his ball was playable, but later we noticed him from a distance hitting in the middle of those weeds.  His ball must have landed on the green because in a little while he was putting and moving to the next hole!

It was some time later that I was reflecting on my autographs.  I showed the autograph of the all O’s to one of the fans next to me and he came up with a name that it had to be.  I forget his name but it was something like “Wooslin” and obviously he emphasized the O’s.  Thumbing through the book again I remembered I had a caddie sign because I liked him when we talked.  I was recording my experience there and I could tell he was honored to sign my book.  Again I passed Larry Mize’s autograph.  His was my favorite because of the Bible verse he applied.  Hmmm  Larry Mize, he won the Masters one year didn’t he?  It wasn’t until I got home that the memory came back to me.  You see I had forgotten who it was that supplied one of my greatest golfing memories.  You might laugh, but it was the shot more than who it was.

The year was 1987 and I am sitting in my living room watching the final round of the Masters Tournament.  That was the year that I had become a first time father.  The big talk was about if Greg Norman could finally win a major?  He was the number one ranked golfer in the world but he couldn’t seem to win the big one.  He had come close many times and this just could be the day for him!  I like to watch golf especially if it is close and every shot means something.  In this case after regulation there was a three way tie.  The three tied were Greg Norman, Seve Balesteros, and Larry Mize.

When there is a tie after regulation they do a sudden death playoff.  Unfortunately for Seve he missed a putt on the first sudden death hole and Greg Norman and Larry were the only ones remaining.  On the second hole Norman hit his second shot on the fringe of the green.  Larry on the other hand hit his far to the right.  He found himself 140 feet from the hole.  Since Norman was closer it was Larry who was up.  I’m sitting there thinking that it will be very hard for Mize to get his ball close to the hole and get down in two.  If he hits it too hard it will keep rolling right into the water.  Norman was almost assured of at least getting up and down and possibly chipping his shot in!  Larry hit his shot.  It went in the air very low for awhile before hitting short of the green and rolling on.  It kept rolling and the crowd noise got louder.  Amazingly it looked like the speed was good as it rolled and rolled.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as I kept watching.  Not only was it a good shot it was going right for the hole and…it went right in!  Larry started running around in the excitement and the crowd noise was unreal!  Finally the crowd settled down and watched Greg Norman, who must have felt jinxed, miss his chip.  Larry Mize had won the 1987 Masters!

Larry Mize came from a Christian family that was pretty active in their church.  His dad was a deacon in the church but as Larry got older he started to drift away.  Growing up in Augusta, Georgia Larry’s dream was always to play there.  That became his goal and number one in his life.  He still believed in God but as he described it was more of an intellectual (in his head) belief because he didn’t have Christ in his heart. “I had him in my head, but he was second to golf unfortunately.”  Larry felt honored that he was able to play at Georgia Tech University.  After three tries at Tour School he felt fortunate to finally get on the PGA Tour!  He married a wonderful girl from Columbus Georgia and felt very content.  He thought that he would make a lot of money and be famous!  He won the Memphis Classic at the age of 24 and things were looking bright!  He didn’t win any other events for the next couple of years but he was very satisfied with the level of his game.  Somehow through his success though there was something missing.  God got his attention at the event of his first born son.  As Larry was sitting in the delivery room holding David, God spoke to him.  “Hey! Golf’s important, It’s the way you make a living, and you need to work hard at it, but the most important thing is to get your life right with Jesus Christ and giving him charge of your life.”

On that day Larry did just that and explained the difference.  “Prior to that moment I believed in God.  I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t do anything about it.  The best way to explain it was it was an intellectual belief.  That day it became a heartfelt belief.  That day I began trusting God and Jesus Christ with my life.”  All of the sudden Larry was motivated.  He wanted to win, not for his glory, but to be able to give God all of the glory!  He wanted to be able to tell people who were waiting for his words after winning a tournament what really was important!

“One of my greatest thrills in golf was winning the Masters and one of the neat things about that was the fact that it gave me the opportunity to share my faith and say, Hey! Christians aren’t these little complacent, wimpy people. Christians are competitive, and I’m competitive. I’m a winner in this world, and I’m very successful–but I still have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And that relationship is the most important thing to me. Living my life for Him and pleasing Him is the most important thing.”

Larry Mize with his caddie on the 7th fairway at Harbor Shores

Larry Mize with his caddie on the 7th fairway at Harbor Shores

Years ago a plan was made for the dumped on polluted land between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.  This plan was so massive in nature that it took hundreds of people to make it happen.  Specialists were needed in many areas and laborers were needed for the cleanup.  It took everyone doing their part to make this vision happen.  It was obvious from the beginning that something needed to be done with the land.  That was like the head knowledge that Larry talked about.  Unless everyone with their different skills got involved the land would have just sat there as it was.  The heart of the project was the actual labor that it took from all of those people that made the vision a reality!  Likewise when Larry lined up that shot at the Masters God had a plan for him.  When the ball miraculously found the hole the plan was in motion.  Now Larry is carrying out the plan for his life.  For one glorious moment Larry reached perfection.  Yet through the years that followed he was far from perfect.  Larry Mize was not the big winner on the tour he had originally visioned but you won’t hear him complaining.  In fact Larry is happier than he has ever been because he knows that he is doing his part in God’s plan!  As a competitor Larry would like to win every time he plays a tournament, but he knows that in the end it’s not about that at all.

Larry is guided by his faith, and when he signs his autograph, he adds a Scripture verse “I just sign it hoping it’ll encourage somebody and they’ll look it up and it’ll help them in their life,” he said. “Maybe it’ll make them think spiritually and help them in some way.”  Larry found out that winning for the Master is far more important than winning the Master’s.  He knows that although he had a moment of perfection he is far from perfect.  It is only by the grace of God that any of us are saved.  When Larry  shares his faith these days it isn’t cold head knowledge he shares, it comes straight from his heart!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourself-it is the gift of God

II Ephesians 8:19


Trish, A Memory Maker!

I can still see the smile on her face in my mind!  She was at my desk telling me about the upcoming visit of Benson from Africa to her house.  She had been discussing the possibility with family and friends and was sharing their reactions.  It was well meaning comments that seemed to intrigue Trish!  Maybe the thinking was that Trish had not thought of safety first and the possibility of her stepping out in faith turning into a disaster.   “Do you mean that you are going to take in a complete stranger from another country into your house to be around your kids?”  She was telling me her answer as  a smile formed on her face along with a twinkle in her eyes!  “Yes!” was her reply to the questions of doubt!  I could tell that this was a position Trish liked to be in!  This wasn’t the first time she did the unexpected!  If she believed she was doing the right thing she listened to the concerns of others, but eventually did what she thought God wanted!  The smile on her face was a smile of  contentment and puzzlement.  I think she was proud of the fact that she was like she was!  The puzzlement part wasn’t about their reaction as much as her amazement of how once again she was defying logic!

This best captures the smile of amazement that she had!

Of course the safety concerns about Benson ended up a non factor just as Trish’s faith told her it would be.  Benson ended up being a blessing to her and her family and showed them a different way of seeing the world.  He brought to them an education that Trish relished because she was always looking for the behind the scenes view!  I remember her coming in tired one day and explaining to me that she had talked to Benson long into the night.  She gravitated to people who gave her a different perspective that she could embellish too!  For all of the good that Benson did once he was here, it was Trish who orchestrated the whole thing.  It was Trish who did not hesitate when she received the call asking if someone she knew could house Benson for a week.  “He can stay with us!” was her reply almost immediately and completely on her own.  Once Benson was here it was Trish that picked him up at the airport.  It was Trish that made the effort to get to know him and made Benson feel at home!  It was Trish that organized events where Benson could speak to different groups!  We saw Benson and his wonderful ministry up close as again Trish orchestrated a luncheon for our workplace.  Benson had a wonderful testimony but behind the scenes there was Trish making all of it possible!

Trish worked for quite awhile in our area before we got to know each other.  Usually we’d say hi in the hall or she would be bringing a gift in as part of her job.  She was a fund raiser at the University and I processed gifts.  Naturally we formed an acquaintance but that was all it was.  Then one day a little over two years ago all of that changed.  The subject happened to come up about the Christian poem book that I had written when Trish stopped by the office. Upon seeing the book Trish’s spirits picked up!  Although she never outwardly showed it Trish admitted that she was having a rough day.  I think performing the duties of her position could be an up and down roller coaster ride.  There was a lot of travel involved and she was feeling drained.  She talked some about her position before of fund raising for a church!  I could sense that although she liked a lot about her position at the University it really didn’t fulfill the big question in her life of “What am I supposed to be doing?”   She talked about her missionary trip to Africa and how fulfilling that was!  She told me that she would go back in a heartbeat!  I read her a poem from my book and she was all enthused!  Her wheels were spinning as to how she could help market my book!  She told me as she was leaving how our talk had made her day!  After that day we looked at each other differently.  Usually when we see people in their jobs we associate that person to the job that they are doing.  After that day we both saw the deeper person in each other who happened to be performing a job.

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish was a deep thinker and that was something we had in common!  I think that as a writer you tend to see things in a different way.  Instead of hiding your emotions you express them in words.  If you really hit the mark you are describing things about an event or experience that nobody really thought about!  Getting people to think not only about the obvious but the other behind the scenes factors is my dream when I write!  Trish was a writer too!  She wrote down her experiences in the form of poems.  Her poems were not usually the rhyming kind.  Hers were more of the deep reflections that were working behind the scenes.  She wrote about experiences in a heartfelt personal feeling way!  It was like here is what you see, but this is what I am feeling as you see me!

As time went by I shared my website “lightenload” with Trish.  She enjoyed my stories as ten times she left comments!  Her comments almost always included some encouragement or thanks to me along with a message to myself and my other readers!  They were based on her experiences and how she saw the topic from her perspective!  Many times they were very deep and personal comments because Trish was a deep thinker!  One time I  wrote “What Are You Waiting For?” which was a story about anticipating Christmas as kids and how much time we wait for things in life, and how we shouldn’t wait to receive Christ.  Trish responded to this story by showing her true heart!  “I love this Lewis” she stated, “I was thinking about waiting in the grocery store the other day and anyone with fewer items than I had I would let them go in front of me.  I am the same way when it comes to traffic. There are certain things to be patient for and most certainly God opportunities extended to us to act upon.  Keep shining the light!”  Trish showed her sense of humor after a poem I shared called “The Devil Is A Liar”  She said “Amen my friend, He doesn’t come in a red pajama suit with horns and a pitch fork!  He is a bit smarter than that.  I love your posts and thank you.” When I wrote a story called “A candle In The Ice” about my family getting stranded in frigid temperatures for a whole night on a Georgia highway, Trish wrote “I wish I could have been driving then.  I would have picked them up.”  Knowing Trish and her sense for doing the right thing no matter what public opinion was there is no doubt in my mind that she would have!

Trish was a light in the darkness!

As someone who writes Trish realized how important encouragement was!  Her posts were always thoughtful and always had a little encouragement for me.  She knew how hard it is to put something out there.  She knew that when you put yourself on the line you are inviting trouble along with agreement!  Trish was a great supporter and inspired me with great compliments!  She commented after “Benson’s Lemonade” which was the story of her and Benson, “Thank you Lewis, for using your God given talent to share this story.  Beautifully written and true.”   Another time even though our positions are some of the lowest rated she said “I think you guys have the most important jobs of all of them!”  She was talking about my job and co-workers of processing gifts.  I joked the other day about what she said.  “She lied to us but it made us feel so good!”  Seriously though, I believe that Trish meant it!  She had a different way of looking at things and she saw value in the little things that others didn’t.

I played racquetball with Trish once.  I had convinced her that she should take advantage of the Rec Center the University provided and she was interested in learning to play racquetball.  Although Trish was a willing student she found that racquetball was a much more difficult sport than she had anticipated.  I taught her how to serve and she delighted in the fact that she could get her serves in!  We played a game we made up where we both worked as a team to see how many times we could hit the ball into the wall without it bouncing twice on the floor.  It turned out that I stayed in the back and got a good workout running down balls while every now and then Trish hit one.  Still Trish’s spirits were high and I heard her say in delight “I like this serving!”  I realize now the attribute that made her successful!  She had a knack of discovering what she could do and following through with that!  She realized that she was just one person and she couldn’t  do everything.  Yet, she knew she could make a difference in what she could do!  The glass was always half full in her eyes!

When I got to really know Trish I was  seeing more of a finished product.  Her triumphs and defeats that happened earlier and shaped who she was at that point were behind her.  Yet she lived for the moment and the day she was in.  Her outlook was on the future and not on past accomplishments.  When she decided to accept a position at another foundation I was shocked.  Yet when she took the time to explain her decision it made perfect sense that she would accept a new challenge.  After she was on the job for a little while she came back to visit.  “They don’t know anything about fund raising”, she said as that smile came on her face.  Maybe they were shocked at the crazy ideas she had for them and the changes she was instigating!

In the last few months Trish seemed to be in her glory!  She thrilled in her role and how she was making a difference!  She was delighted to play checkers, games, or cards with people that had nobody.  She was not happy when someone died that had become her friend but she relished the fact that she had gotten to know them!  I mentioned to her when I saw her a few months ago that she was doing now what was really her.  In true Trish fashion she said “I have no bad words to say about the University.  They were very good to me!”

A comment that she made about the story I wrote called “A Baseball Game and War” really showed an amazing side of Trish!  The story was a deeply emotional one for me about a morning at my cousins and his 18 year old brother wondering if he would be drafted to fight in Vietnam.  Trish wrote a beautiful piece about her father and his experiences there.  It was so pointed and so deep as she shared his attitudes and how they were developed.  How he had buried his friends after explosions and the psychological effects that it had on him.  At the end Trish said something that was very profound and presented the deep thinker that she was!  “I don’t see the world like he does, but I didn’t experience the things that he did.”  Amazingly Trish knew that we all are affected by our experiences and that hers were of a world of hope and love.  Yet she understood that her father had experiences that shaped his view and neither views were wrong.

Most people will look at Trish’s life and say that forty three years was way too young for her to go.  That is the natural human way of looking at death and I understand it completely.  A friend made a very pointed statement to me one time that is so true.  “Lew, we aren’t going to get out of here alive.”  My pastor years ago stated another truth “the moment we start breathing we are starting to die.”  God gives each of us a time here and whatever time he gives it is up to us to make the most out of it!  When Jesus told the parable of the master that left his wealth to his three servants while he was away for a long time the master gave all three different amounts.  In the end he expected each one to take their talents given and make an increase.  Trish in her time here certainly did all that she could do to make her Lord and Savior happy!

Trish made her friends laugh!

Trish made her friends laugh!

When I wrote a story called “A True Friend”, which described the difference between a true friend and a acquaintance friend Trish made this deep in thought comment: “Very well put, I have been through a season or two where the true friends supported me in ways beyond what I can express.  The blessings of a true friend is that we go through seasons and it is a reciprocal relationship.  Cool thing about Jesus, He’s always there no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, he will take you home and he loves you.   Well it seems that Jesus has taken Trish home just like she said he would.  There are some people that you meet in life that are memorable and some that you forget.  Trish is near the top of that memorable list!  She embraced life with everything that she had!  For her taking a chance was not taking a chance as long as she knew God was leading her!  She was a deep thinker who I will miss greatly for her encouragement and support!  Frozen forever in my mind is the smile on her face that revealed everything that she was feeling behind the scenes!


This was a poem Trish wrote and asked me to review in early January.  For anyone reading my Leaving A Record Behind story where I talked about almost drowning in a swimming pool it seems I would be the last one to know the experience she talked about.  However the depth of her deep thoughts were so unique!  Trish was a beautiful deep person who touched thousands in a wonderful way!

living water


I remember you…
The touch of your
Eyes, body, hands, and soul
I knew the light I saw and felt around you
You knew intuitively my affection for water
The way that I could submerge
And I knew you would never make me surface while I explored
You trusted that I knew the water
You believed I knew when to dive, ride waves, and surface
I trusted my inner world was no threat to you
I often watched you while under water
Looking through the ripples on the surface
What an amazing journey
Somewhere in me, I knew you’d jump in to save me
But I didn’t need saving
It was a magical water dance
I wish all could experience
The dance continues on
Temperatures change
Tides rise and fall
Waves come and there are hidden undertows
But knowing I have you my friend, I will surface
The water dance continues on.

Trish 12/23/2013

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