Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Growing up in the delta region of the great state of Arkansas, I witnessed many racial differences and separations. I don't feel that those specific issues were a part of our family personally, but simply were due to the region and perhaps the time. It was just as it was, and could still be that way I'm not sure, I've been gone for 20+ years. While I feel that our country as come a long way in overcoming those separations in electing a black president, I think we still have a long way to go. When Americans start calling themselves simply Americans without any other racial qualifiers, then perhaps we will have really gotten somewhere in this journey of change. Still yet, I have hope and I can be glad because my hope is in the Lord.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
by Rick Reilly
Gainesville State players douse head coach Mark Williams in celebration.
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
"I WOULDN'T EXPECT ANOTHER PARENT TO TELL SOMEBODY TO HIT THEIR KIDS. BUT THEY WANTED US TO!"
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.
"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"
And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.
But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.
This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.
So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."
Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"
And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."
Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!
"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"
It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"
Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.
As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.
The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."
And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.
Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
In January Tom & I went to Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, & St. Martin. It was a present to me from Tom & a great cruise that was loads of fun. Tom is so great at making trips happen. In July, we traveled with the boys & one of their friends to Pensacola and spent a fun week on the beach. We took several trips to Branson as well.
This is our 2nd year of being debt free...minus the house, 1 car payment, & cabin, which to me are bills that are just givens like utilities. That, my friends, is truly a blessing. To not be laden with debt is absolutely wonderful. We've accomplished a lot this year too. We're almost 90% finished with the cabin which started off as an empty shell. We've redesigned and cedar-lined my closet. It's awesome, & I love it. Thanks Tom! We redesigned Chandler & Clay's closets too & only have Tom's left to go. We had a complete X-treme Garage Make-over & now have lots of organized space in there. We're still trying to figure out how to park the Yukon & the Jeep in there w/5 bicycles hanging from the ceiling, but I think we'll eventually get there. At least the Yukon fits.
Tom started a job with a new company, & he's been extremely successful bringing in new clients and accomplishing his work goals. I'm in my second year of business with a dear friend with Enrichment Academy. We've doubled our enrollment & God has truly blessed & protected us in that endeavor. The boys are still home schooled & are successful in their studies. I'm proud of their accomplishments and of them.
We celebrated Tom's Grandfather's 100th birthday. That can't be said by everyone for sure! In fact, I don't know a single soul (outside this family) who's attended a 100th birthday party! Tom purchased a new tractor & bush hog to use at the cabin. Tom ran his first 1/2 and full marathon.
We have done so much more & been involved in so many more things that I can't begin to list them all. I don't want to give the impression that we haven't had trying, depressing, painful, & stressful times or that everything in our life is perfect; however I choose to think and focus on the good things. God is Good! He has truly blessed our family. He keeps us, sustains us, protects us, & loves us.
As we start our new year, we've talked about our goals and what we want to accomplish for 2009 individually & corporately. I have a list already, and none of them include the top 10 I saw on the news the other day. I know that we can accomplish anything, and that God will guide us and direct us as we follow Him. I will leave you with this blessing to remind you of what has already been happening in your life...even if you may have temporarily forgotten....The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26).
Blessings from our family to yours in 2009!