Influence

A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams

I have coached hundreds of kids throughout the years, but one little girl still stands out in my memory. She was a third grader whom I will call "Mary". Mary did not have a Dad around and did not have a great deal of self-esteem. I never knew how important everyday kindness affected people until Mary had to move at the end of the season.

She had mentioned that she had a birthday coming up so we got her something small (I think it was maybe a card and a candy bar) but you would have thought we had given her a pony by the way she reacted. She was just so sweet and kept expressing her thanks, over and over.

A few weeks later she and her Mom stopped by the house. They were moving and Mary would not leave town until she got to say goodbye to her "coach". Needless to say that I was somewhat flabbergasted that this was so important to her. We saw Mary and her Mom some time later and she brought up again the time that we had remembered her birthday - it was clearly a really big deal to this precious little girl.

Though this took place over ten years ago, I still think about Mary. I have tried to put my finger on just what made such an impression on this eight year old. While I'm still not sure what it was - I guess I will never know exactly - I think maybe that a part of it was this: She had no father in her life, so any attention given was attention that she was literally starving for.

To you and me, encouraging others is just part of everyday courtesy but to Mary, it was a highlight. Further, for someone to remember her birthday was so out of the ordinary that a card and a candy bar were something remarkable to her. It took me a long time to understand this, but it gave me a renewed determination to never coach a child without some daily word of encouragement.

So how about you? Do you have a "Mary" in your life that is starving for a word of praise or small act of kindness? I'll bet that you do and you have the power to transform their life - even if for only a moment - if you will but take the time. We all touch someone's life, in some small way. How will you touch the lives of those you know today?

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

Matthew 10:42, NIV

 

Everyone Loves Spring Break!

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”King David

Carolyn and I were walking past the school at 3:30 last Friday afternoon. It was the typical spring break scene, with a jubilant crowd gathered around just laughing and smiling. You could see the joy written all over their sweet, young faces, and I called out to them, “It must be Spring Break”. The happy group immediately let me know that I had that right.

And these were just the teachers…

you can only imagine how excited the kids were!

High on the list of the things I truly enjoy about this life of blessingare the occasional breaks God gives to renew our lives. From that “dream vacation” to the simple pleasures of the first day of the week that He set aside for remembering He and His Son, God has blessed our lives with many opportunities to regenerate both body and soul.

If you are enjoying Spring Break this week, might I make a suggestion that is sure to enhance your vacation even more? When you rise tomorrow morning (or afternoon), why not take a moment to thank God for the day? There is something very energizing about prayer, and thankfulness is an importantpart of that privileged conversation that God has gifted us with.

And then, before you even have a bite to eat, why not read a bit from God’s word? Whether you just open up your Bible at random, or go back to familiar and comforting passages, the word of God will renew your thoughts in such a way as to give you momentum for the entire day.

If you will do these small things – not just in your time off, but as a practice in your busy times as well, you will find a bit of “spring break” waiting for you at the beginning of each day.

And, you know how much you love Spring Break!

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10, KJV

The Remarkable Kenneth Wood

Do everything in a quiet and calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.

Francis de Sales

I watched my neighbor Kenneth from my kitchen window with great interest. He lived across the alley from us and he was walking out to his pickup using his walker. He came down the steps, crossed the lawn, went out the gate and got into the truck. I wondered what Kenneth could possibly be up to, and then it happened: He started up his pickup truck!

"Big deal!" you might be thinking, and you would be right - it was a very big deal. You see, Kenneth Wood, my 80+ year old, neighbor was blind!

I have to admit that Kenneth, in addition to being a very good friend, was very good for me. He always seemed to be an island of calm in a tempestuous sea. I would go over for coffee every Monday and Thursday at 10:00 A.M. No matter how busy or stressed I was, it was always good to just go over and just visit. I would read the paper to him, or pay his bills, or just sit and talk. And the cares of the world would just seem to go away for a while.

There is something very calming about a blind man. Maybe it's because their lives are slow by necessity, maybe it's because they have learned to accept the things they cannot change. I don't know for sure, having never been blind or calm, but I do know this. Kenneth Wood, confined to a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, and living in a dark world, was probably the calmest man I have ever known. In fact, Kenneth Wood was simply a remarkable man. 

Kenneth has been gone for nearly a dozen years now. Yet to this day, whenever things get too hectic or out of control, I can think of Kenneth and enjoy an indescribable peace at the memory of his calming influence. Do you have any friends like that? 

Say to him, "Be careful, keep calm and do not be afraid. Isaiah 7:4, NIV

 

Happy Days

Happy days are here again. Jack Yellen, 1929

“Happy are the people whose God is Lord.” King David, c. 1000 BC

Happy Days are upon us once again, in Happy, Texas. This weekend we will have rodeos, a parade, and a picnic in the park. Old friends and new will gather together to celebrate the existence of our Happy little town that came into being just over 100 years ago.

Its first slogan was, “The biggest little town in Texas” but now we are known as the “Town without a frown”. Like most towns in this part of the world, Happy was an agricultural hub for the many hardworking pioneers who settled in this area. The new town’s very existence was endangered when the railroad bypassed it, but that was no problem for the enterprising folks of that generation – they just picked the town up, buildings and all, and moved it to where the railroad was.

Happy has been through a lot in its short time, but it has always lived up to its name. And the reason, I am convinced, is not because of its convenient location between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, nor because of its close proximity to skiing, fishing, hunting and surfing.

No, Happy is happy for the same reason that Israel was happy over 3,000 years ago: It is because the Lord is our God!

What’s not to be happy about?

He who gives heed to the word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts inthe Lord. Proverbs 16:20

Dignity in Defeat

It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Old Proverb

Our family has had the privilege of several enjoyable trips to the Texas High School State basketball tournament. Over the years, we have seen great athletes, great coaches and great games, but we have also witnessed something that is not so great - a few very poor losers.

Apparently the modern way of showing your grief after a big loss is to pull your jersey over your head and fall to the ground. We saw this a number of times in a distressingly high percentage of the games played. Now, to be fair to these players, one can understand the disappointment of losing a state championship game. Winning a state championship is probably the main goal and ultimate dream of every high school athlete, so coming so close and losing when the goal is so close at hand can be devastating. However, since there are over 1,200 public high schools in Texas, but only 6 divisions that can have a state champion, it seems prudent for coaches and parents to teach these young adults how to conduct themselves with dignity in defeat.

I witnessed such a lesson at one tournament in particular. It happened in one of the small school divisions when, oddly enough, one team won and the other team lost. The winners had no problem what-so-ever - it's easy to hold your head up when you win. But one young man on the losing team just could not contain his emotions. At the final buzzer, he immediately pulled his jersey over his head and went into full "loser" mode.

The entire crowd had witnessed this behavior from a number of "losers" already, so we were all used to this conduct. The young man's coach, however, was not. He went over when he saw what his player was doing, bent down, and said something. I suppose only the two of them will know exactly what was said, but the coach's comments had an instant effect. The player put his jersey back where it belonged and promptly walked to the other team and began shaking each one of their hands.

And, having learned the most valuable lesson of how to possess dignity in defeat, this young man walked off the court a winner.

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright. Proverbs 2:6-7, NIV