What Do You Want Me to Do Now Coach?

More from ‘the boys’ in the city by the sky. We didn’t have a lot of rules about who could and could not be on the team, the one standing rule was: Be in church Sunday morning and you can play on Monday night.  When I said you could play I meant that everyone all ten would get to play. Now that is a great rule when you are having fun, but when you are in a league where the other teams are very serious about their win and loss record, not a great rule.  But we lived with it and the guys had a great time even with a loosening season. I was a really bad coach, not just bad, really bad. I remember one night with less than a minute left and we were losing by more than thirty points James got the ball.  Now I wish you could have known James, no scholarship ball player but filled with energy and enthusiasm. He had been in the game several times that night but this was his first time to get his hands on the ball. With great seriousness he dribbled over to me, now remember we are down more than 30 and we have less than a minute to play, and he said, “Coach what you want me to do now!” I said, shoot the ball James, shoot the ball, he did and with the help of those white winged things around heaven’s throne it went in, wow, we scored. That was a season. I found three other teams in other leagues that were about as bad as we were so I had an invitational tournament.  We didn’t win the tournament but we did win one game, it wasn’t a zero season, we won one game. Not a bad season for a bunch of guys who met on a parking lot and played in T shirts with iron on numbers. I learned more than the boys, but they were blessed and long after that loosing season and my leaving the City by the Sky, ‘Ivan’s’ boys were still in church.  Now as I dribble down the court with only a few minutes left I look at the coach and say like James in the City by the Sky, “What do you want me to do now Coach, What now?

Ivan

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Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 12:03 am  Comments (1)  

Looking Back

He knew that it had been a real mistake, now that he was looking back, but isn’t that always how it is with looking back?  Things are so clear, even magnified when you are looking back. It was such a mistake that he wasn’t sure there was any way to overcome it or to even survive it. Sure it had been fun at first. The freedom from his father’s house and business had provided him with so many new adventures that at moments he was not sure he would live long enough to enjoy them all.  His father had been generous with the settlement, given him more cash for his part of the business than he had expected or asked for, but then that was so much like his father, as he was generous with everyone.  The money and independence had been great for a time and anyone who said money could not buy happiness just didn’t have enough money. But in truth it wasn’t happiness that troubled him now, it was survival. The economy had dropped, the job market had collapsed and his plans to go to work and restore his funds before they all ran out had failed. It was gone, all of it as well as all that it had bought, friends, car, big apartment, popularity, all of it was gone.  He thought about William his father’s driver and errand runner. He lived in a nice, small, but nice house. His children all went to college and he had always seemed at peace with himself and his life. He wondered how much his father paid William and how William had become content and at peace with his life. His shift as a burger flipper was almost over but looking forward to another night in the ‘union mission’ did not bring him any peace. He would smell those burgers and all the wine and vomit of the men with whom he had to share the small room crowded with cots and the left behind of society.  Sleep wouldn’t come, but prayer did. He didn’t know how to pray but he remembered his father praying and so he just talked to God. Maybe he could go home and ask his father to forgive him and to give him a job, just any job at his father’s house would be better than this. Maybe, just maybe his father could teach him about peace, he was weary of happiness; he just wanted peace, just peace. What could he loose? His father might say no but he would be no worst off, he needed his father and he wasn’t going to wait until morning he was starting home right now.  Looking back he remember how exciting it had been to leave home but now as he made his journey home it wasn’t excitement that moved through his heart, what was it, was it the beginning of peace?  When he turned into the drive way he saw his father sitting on the porch looking out toward the street. Suddenly the old man jumped up, called to his wife in the house and came running to meet him. As he felt his dad hug him and felt the tears from him falling on his shoulders he was sure that peace was coming, peace was coming.

 Ivan   

From the story in Luke 15

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  

A Spiritual Awakening in America

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Second Chronicles 7:14 

No matter who leads the nation if God is not in control there is no future.  One thing about our system of government we are able to take change in leadership without falling apart. Our system allows us to get mad, to change parties, and to make great pronouncement. However rarely does any real change take place.  I join you and others across our country and pledge my prayers to all of those who have been elected to serve in positions of leadership. I pray not for a political change but a spiritual awakening in America .  We are too divided, too polarized, and too angry to become the Nation we should be in this world of the final time and coming kingdom.  We need God.  We see through the elements that God is still in control, that He is not only the designer of this world He is also the judge of this world.  Let us as individuals bring back the America that put ‘In God We Trust” on our money, that proclaim for all to hear when we give our pledge of allegiance, ‘One Nation under God.’  Our greatest hope and our greatest weapon in doing this is the life that each of us live as Christians, as men and women of real character. Let us not be angry with one another, let us instead bring others to Jesus not by what we say and preach but by what we do and how we live. Let us be salt to our nation and light to our world and let the us in that be ourselves.

 Ivan

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

I Came Home From Atlanta

Thank you for your prayers for Thursday, they were not only heard but were answered and so very helpful. I had suggested on Tuesday night that we each pack a small bag that we could make it through the night at the hotel with; therefore not requiring that we unload the car. Somehow that did not translate so everything but the very large and heavy box and bike box had to go into the hotel. Three hotel luggage carriers and at last we were in our rooms. To their defense they had stopped before we left Nashville and purchased a fifth bag in order to redistribute the weight from the very heavy four bags. We had a nice meal, I hid in my room, and Jim and Jutta made the luggage changes.  Thursday morning the boxes to be shipped were taken to the cargo people, a trip to downtown Atlanta to get some pictures, check out at 12:30 and we still have three hours to kill before going to the airport. We had a light lunch then took Mr. Bentley for a walk in the park, hung around so that he could visit American trees before making his journey to Germany and then it was off to the airport.  When we arrived at the curb it was my job to jump out and get us some carts for what was going to be a very amusing job. Jim was going to make the circle and bring the car back but I found a very strong man who had a large wagon and with a twenty dollar bill asked him if he were up to a challenge. Like a flash of lighting he unloaded the now five large suitcases, one large dog house, a new computer in its shipping box, two large back packs, two carry on bags, food, treats, and water for Mr. Bentley and my now embarrassed look for giving him only $20.00 for the great stack that stood before him. Jim and Jutta followed him to the ticket counter and I parked the car. Upon returning Bentley was calmly tucked into his house and the clerk was explaining that they could not take the computer in the box. After Jutta found someone who could speak German we discovered we could remove it from the box and pack it in the luggage. This caused ten people to come and offer suggestion as to how it could best be done, Jutta was almost in tears and Jim said, “Dad go get the tape from the car.” I think he wanted to use it on some mouths but maybe it was just to get me out of the way. I returned with no remaining strength from the parking lot with the tape and like a miracle for which you were praying and another $400.00 they were ready for security. Security had come to watch us rearrange the packages, even made us move, and then required me to take the empty box out of the terminal. This time when I got back from the parking lot I sit down in a wheel chair only to be told to ‘move it’ which I did. I waited for them to finish the paper work, hugged them both, told Jim to be the great husband that I knew he would be, that I loved him, and gave him a letter to open later. With eyes hidden by tears I got back to my car for the third time and started through Atlanta at 4:30 in the afternoon. With seven lanes of traffic on my side I decided to get in one and stay, I could hear the people passing me saying ‘Go back to Pickett County’ which I was happy to do. I stopped about the time I though I could see their plane fly over North Atlanta , waved goodbye and six hours later pulled into Oak Street at Byrdstown. It is hard on an old man to get old, thanks for your prayers.

Ivan

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Off to Atlanta

The last couple of days have been very interesting. On Tuesday I went to Nashville to have dinner with son Jim and his wife Jutta who are on their way to Germany . Jutta has been on the staff at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and is now returning to her native country to join the staff at the University of Frankfurt .  On Tuesday night it was dinner with them and then watching Carole make suggestion on the packing and getting all ready to move to Germany .  I spent Wednesday in a very small space in the back seat of the car with an eight year old wiener dog in my lap.  But wait I am ahead of myself.  First it was the car to load, John came over and helped and we put one box about 125 lbs, 26’’in all directions, another box with a bicycle in it, four very large 50 lbs each suit cases, two large back packs, two carry on packs, and a large cage for Bentley, the dog, to ride in on his way from Atlanta to Germany in my Explorer. He will be packed with the luggage. This is a BIG problem for Jim and will be for Bentley when he discovers the arrangements. Now I assure you this took all of the directions and instruction from everyone in the family and everyone who came to say goodbye as well as stranger who just walked by and wanted to see what we were doing. By letting two of the three back seats down, it allowed me a very small jump seat, shared with Bentley, a new computer still in its large box and a few other items with which I am not familiar, but now have their imprints on my body. The space made coach seats in the middle of the row on Southwest look large. Jim drove all the way to Atlanta in the four and one-half hours that map quest says you can do it in – WOW! I would still be crossing the Tennessee line if I had been driving. I take my time stop a lot and seldom get in a real hurry. We stopped once, and were in a hurry all the rest of the time. Jim did a great job and was very safe but I left my nerves somewhere before the state line.  Thursday we will take the box and the bike box to a place to ship them to Germany and somehow all the rest along with Bentley and his house we will take to the airport and put on a plane. I wonder if they will be the only riders. Now a good prayer for Thursday is that we are not arrested in the airport for moving the whole city of Nashville through the terminal, Bentley getting loose and chasing the other customers, and have enough money to pay the extra weight for the luggage. I can see us now going through the airport with three carts all filled to the brim and running over looking for the desk for their flight to their new home in Germany. But somewhere in all of this are the tears of saying goodbye, the sadness of Carole not being able to come to Atlanta and at my age wondering if I will ever see them again.  Thanks for listing; it helped me, thanks for praying that too will help.

Ivan

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  

You Help Me and I Will Learn

I told you yesterday about ‘the boys’ as I referred to them in the story of the city by the sky. They really took to me and me to them. They wanted to know if they could get uniforms so I went to the store purchased shorts for all of them and then got some matching shirts and ironed number on the front and back.  I let them choose their numbers, to them it was like getting a new car, man they were happy and I was in heaven.  They really took to coming to church, they even came on Wednesday night and there they would be on the front row looking at me like here we are tell us something. The first time they attended on Prayer Meeting night I was asking for prayer request and then I called on one of my men to lead in prayer. His name was Jack. Well before he could start praying a boy on the front row named Jack looked up at me with fear but also determination in his eyes and said, ‘I don’t know how to do that but if you will help me then I will learn.’ That was one of those heavens on earth moments. I smiled and explained to Jack that there was someone else in the room with his name and it was that man that I was asking to pray but I told him how proud I was of his willingness and told him to listen as the ‘other’ Jack pray and he would begin to learn. After our older Mr. Jack got through with his prayer and we got through wading in the water provided by all of our tears because of the bravery, innocence, and desire of our ‘new’ Jack I explained to him how great a kid he was and how I knew that God had sent him into that room to teach all of us how to pray. That was a moment you let God write in your heart and when you are old it pops to the top and becomes a joy of life that makes a dull day sweeter.

Ivan

Published in: on August 24, 2011 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Turning the Corner

Ever notice how life just sometimes takes a strange turn? You really don’t know why, you are not even sure how it happened you just know that it did. That happened to me one day when I pulled into my drive in a far off city by the sky. Four or five boys were playing basketball on an old goal hung on the side of my garage. Since my house sit in the church yard surrounded by a parking lot it was as if they were playing in my yard. As I got out of the car I noticed the boys starting to leave. I called to them asked a lot of questions about their ages, grade in school and where they lived. They seemed really jumpy so I did my best to set them at easy by tossing their ball at the goal, with a lot of help from God it went through the hoop. I asked them if they played for a team and learned that none of them did. Then I asked if they would like to play on our church team. They looked very excited and said they didn’t know we had one. I admitted that we did not but that it looked to me like we had a good start with the group gathered on the parking lot. They said they had always heard that they couldn’t play on that goal, but though that the house was empty so they gave it a try. I told them it would be great for them to use the goal and with excitement they wanted to know more about the team. I said we are going to play each Monday night and the only, but it is very import, requirement for them to play was to be in church on Sunday morning. Now I didn’t know where we were going to play and if there was a church league but I was going to put those boys on a team if I had to rent a gym myself. They left my yard excitedly talking about what they were going to do and who else they could get to play. I got on the phone and discovered that God had me covered, there was a church league and they needed another team, and would you believe they played on Monday night, WOW! When I walked into the auditorium that Sunday morning there were the boys, from the parking lot, along with others making a total of ten guys sitting on the very front row. I can’t tell you how I felt, it was overwhelming. I wasn’t a good coach and we only won one game that year but it sure did a lot for my heart and with the help of a couple of kids in the church, one now an awarded high school teacher, and some adults, we had a great winning season in so many other ways. I baptized most of those boys and others and some of them are still involved in the work of the Kingdom. What a turn of events that turn into my drive started that day so long ago in the city by the sky. It would take a book to tell the story of those boys and those who hindered and the others, so many others, who helped.

Thanks for the turn God, thanks.

Ivan

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Watch My Back

 I looked around the room at the twelve men counting myself sitting in a circle. Ten of them were on some sort of prison relief program and were required to attend the meeting. The other man was in charge of the house where they all lived. Knowing that they were required to be there I decided to make it easy on them and opened with something like, ‘What would you like to talk about?” Not a smart move on my part but God ‘Watched My Back” through it all. The conversation went something like this: One of the men said that I could not know anything about them and how they lived and what could we have in common enough to talk about. I agreed and we talked of our different backgrounds, education, experiences, and everything I could pull from my memory that demonstrated that we were indeed different. Then I said but we do have three things in common. This brought a laugh from them and they said like what, we are not even the same color, how could we have anything in common. I said, first of all we are all sinners. Then I read from Romans 3:23. One said something about my not knowing anything about sin otherwise I would have been in jail. I explained the difference in sin and in breaking the law of man. Then I assured them that I was a sinner, because the bible said so and I knew so by my own life. I then told them that we were also alike in that we were all “Loved by God”. I read John 3:16 and after a lot of discussion they still had a hard time believing that anyone loved them. I explained that the love I was talking about was not deserved nor earned but freely given by God. Then I said that we were all alike in that we were saved the same way, by the grace of God through our faith in his Son. This brought on more talk and finally in a desire to share faith with them I asked if any of them had someone in prison who watched their back, someone they depended on and trusted?  Several nodded in agreement and I said, “God has your back.” Just like when you went out in the yard and depended on your man to watch your back, you trusted him, believed in him, and had faith in him. When you believe, I told them, that you can trust God to have your back, believe in Him and depend on Him then you are saved. With great tears two of the men were saved that night, “God Had Their Back” of the other eight, four went back to prison at some point and I do not know about the others. God Had My Back that night and I trust He has yours today.

Ivan

 

 

 

 

Published in: on August 22, 2011 at 12:02 am  Comments (1)  

The Old Stone Chapel

I worshiped last night in the Stokely Chapel at the Carson Springs Conference Center in Newport , Tennessee . The first time I attended a service in that chapel I could run all the way from the Boy’s Three Story Dorm, uphill about a half mile then up two long flights of steps to the chapel door and not be the least bit winded, now it is a real task for me to walk from the parking lot in front of the chapel, use the hand rail to get up the steps, and have any air left to say hello to someone at the top. Life like the old stone chapel has really changed.  In those years it had no air-condition, the lighting was poor, and the bathrooms were in the basement. Now it is as modern as any church in any city in Tennessee . But for me time has not been as kind, now it is a struggle to make it into the worship center and I am no longer the young boy of sixty years ago, in looks nor strength.  But as I sat there and listened to the music and the songs I thought of the young R.A. boys that had been saved in that place, the prayers that had been prayed, and the lives that had been forever changed in that holy place of worship. In truth life has been good, real good to me. While my body has lost its zest my mind remembers the stories, sermons, and tears shared in that stone chapel at the end of the road in Newport . Even though I have not been good, life has been good, and God is always good. Like everything else that has touched my life and made it beautiful that old stone building has played its role and added its value to my years. I wept a lot of tears as I listened to the young preachers bring their powerful messages last night, let those tears stain the carpet as I listened to the men sing and felt the power and presence of the Lord. It is likely that I will never return to Stokely Chapel but God has given me a memory to carry it with me and a heart to feel its warmth and understand how it fits as one of the pieces in the puzzle of my life.  Thank You Lord for those moments of long ago and thank you for those made just yesterday.

Ivan

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 12:43 am  Comments (1)  

Everyone Loves a Picnic – Part Two

The afternoon drew on and Isaac remembered the leather pouch and the lunch his mom had prepared.  He got it out and had just started to dig in when this man asked, “You going to eat that by yourself?”  Isaac looked at the five small pieces of bread and the two little fish and said with a studier. “You can join me if you like.”  The man told him that the ‘Teacher’ needed the lunch and Isaac put it back in the pouch and handed it to him saying, “Sure, I bet he is real hungry after all the work I have watched him do.  Give it to him but be sure to bring my dad’s pouch back.”  Isaac’s world then became a wonder, like a dream, yet really, really real. The Teacher with great compassion for the people begins to organize them, he had them to gather in small groups and sit on the ground. Then the moment became unbelievable as he took the leather pouch Isaac had given to the man, prayed over it like it was a great meal and begin to pass out to some of the special guy’s food to take out to all of those gathered on the ground.  Isaac got some of the food himself as did all the other in his small group.  They ate, laughed, listened and had a wonderful picnic.  When the people begin to go away Isaac noticed that the sun was getting low and he must hurry to get home so as not to worry him mom.  The man who had asked for his lunch stopped him and handed him a basket saying, “Take this home to your family for dinner.  By the way your Dad’s pouch is on the top there.”  Isaac eyes filled with tears as he made his way back to the small house where he lived.  His eyes filled with tears as he told himself the story of that afternoon preparing to share it with his family. No one would believe him, it was just too impossible.  Why one of the men had said there were more than 5,000 people at that picnic.  Had he really fed that many people?  In time Isaac came to realize that he had fed no one.  But he had given The Teacher what he had and The Teacher had used his small contribution to do a great work.  Isaac came to see like the rest of us that when we put what we are able to do into the hands of Jesus, our little become enough for not only ourselves but for everyone touched by us.  Everyone loves a picnic and I would love to have been at that one.

From Matthew 14:13 -21

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment