Let Them Talk

I’m all about ‘teachable moments,’ those special moments in time when we are given the opportunity to alter life.  I miss probably 95% of them so when I realize I have walked away from one of the 5% that I am aware of, I lament.

I was late in making the water bill payment and drove to the facility on Saturday morning to put the check in the night deposit box.   As I was looking around the front door for anything that might resemble a deposit box, a white SUV drove past the side of the building to a covered drive-through.  As I walked around the side of the building, I noticed that the driver of the SUV had his window down.

“Is that the night deposit box?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” he replied.  He opened his door a bit and said, “I can’t reach it.”

I hurried into the space between us and offered, “Here, let me help.  You told me where to find it so I’ll put both of our checks in.”

“Thank you,” he said, handing me his envelope.  As I slipped both beneath the protective cover, he added,  “I’ve had a stroke and I’ve lost a lot of strength in my left arm.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…”

“…but I’m getting better,” he quickly added.

Seeing an opportunity, I prayed, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“You bet.  I’ll tell you, this stroke really saved my life.”

“Bless you, dear.”  I touched his arm; “You have a good Thanksgiving.”

“You, too.”

But I knew as soon as I turned to go that I had blown it.  That man had a story to tell and I cut him off.

 

Everyone has a story to tell.

Some stories are outrageous tales of abuse, neglect, and unbelievable mistreatment…or they start out that way.  Some stories don’t sound like stories at all, but rather as general complaints about politics, family members, illness, or the weather.  However, if given the opportunity, the complaints can morph into a sharing of the story teller’s  circumstances and experiences…often as an explanation of why the story teller thinks the way he does.

If handled properly (and if trust is built) the story teller may then be empowered to shift his position just a bit, less toward rancor and rage, and more toward patience and forgiveness…even toward a willingness to admit his own failings.  In, “What do people do, who don’t have Jesus?” I describe a day of meeting people, listening to their stories, and..in time…getting to the crux of life.

The gentleman at the water department wanted to share his story of how suffering a  stroke had saved his life.  It is probably a wonderful story; his stroke probably forced a change of life priorities or a re-connection to God.  By gifting him with the opportunity to tell his story, I could have strengthened the power of the transforming event in his life; I could have encouraged his willingness to share his story and life with more people; I could even have been blessing, myself, with wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

There are enumerable, but only positive, reasons for listening to another person’s story.  Truth be told, I would also be obeying Christ in doing so because several times a day He whispers to me, “Let her talk.”

“We still control our destiny”

After Clemson’s heartbreaking loss last Saturday night, I looked forward to hearing some wisdom from a most beloved inspirational speaker, Dabo Swinney.  But when I heard Dabo remind his audience that “We still control our destiny,” I thought, what about God?

I have seen Dabo and the team members acknowledge God when entering the stadium and after making a touch down. I knew Dabo was known for his faith, so I did some research.

I will direct you to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 24, 2013, in which the author describes the spiritual climate at Clemson, particularly as it is fed by the faith of Dabo Swinney and other members of the staff. I quote from the article, With God on Our Side,

At Clemson, God is everywhere. The team’s chaplain leads a Bible study for coaches every Monday and Thursday. Another three times a week, the staff gathers for devotionals. Nearly every player shows up at a voluntary chapel service the night before each game.

The players all know the coach’s favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Run your race to win, don’t just run the race.”

“I’m a Christian,” Coach Swinney tells Clemson recruits. “If you have a problem with that, you don’t have to be here.”

The article goes on to describe how players have been baptized on the field, dedicating their lives to Christ, with team mates as witnesses.  Coaches and staff members address all aspects of a player’s character, not just the player’s catching or running skills. Dabo and the rest of the staff and team turn to Christ not just to thank Him for a win, but also for wisdom when they lose. After a painful loss, Dabo prayed, “Lord, help us learn from this. We take glory in everything You do, win or lose.”

In my introduction to this blog, I describe what I mean by a teachable moment and I point out that athletic coaches have a unique opportunity to make an impact on a young person’s life; athletic events are teachable moments by their very crisis nature. By setting the focus of each athletic competition and the focus of life, as a whole, as being a spiritual race run with Christ, Dabo demonstrates how one controls one’s destiny. Setting one’s life to be Christ-centered, Christ-focused, and Christ-worthy is the best possible strategy for one’s life and one’s destiny…temporal and eternal.

Ebenezer (Ebo) Ogundeko, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., picked the Tigers over Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and other programs. One of his reasons: “I felt like coming to Clemson would bring me closer to Jesus,” he told The Chronicle. “Most dudes on the team, they take their religion very seriously, and their relationship with Jesus Christ. They’ve encouraged me to move closer and closer to God.”

I believe that what our Creator wants is our reconciliation with Him. To encourage a young person to move closer and closer to God…through dedication, through prayer, through sharing, through outward demonstration…affects one’s destiny, in the best possible way.

Dabo was right. We all control our destiny.