Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 12th Man

Five years ago today my Dad passed away after a brief battle with a rare blood cancer.  Not a day goes by that I don't miss him, and I know that my son Will misses him just as much.  As I have said before (check out See You Tuesday), he was wonderful father, but he was a GREAT grandfather!  But today is Tuesday, and on Tuesdays in 2011 we talk about the Jesus Revolution.  What does my Dad have to do with that?  Let me tell you.

Dad was a huge part of my childhood, and not just in the usual ways.  He played ball with me in the yard most every day.  He instilled in me my love of music and taught me my first ukulele chords.  He coached me in football, basketball (which he knew nothing about) and baseball.  The picture at the top is of the 1972 Guilford College Little League All-Stars.  Dad is at the far left; I'm the gawky 12-year-old in the green hat, middle of the back row- the only Yankee in a sea of Red Sox!  In high school, my parents were always the ones our youth group wanted to chaperon trips.  Dad was always there for me, and I loved him.

Later on, after I aged had out of youth sports, he became a legendary youth football coach in Greensboro, NC, for 8-10 year olds.  His teams were always among the best, and they were always the best prepared.  I helped him with a number of those teams, and there was something unusual about his coaching style that I want to focus on today.

My parents left their church over a nasty pastoral move (my history with the UMC and pastoral moves will be documented in detail soon) in the early 1970's and never really came back.  They would come to the churches I served from time to time, and always came to hear me preach.  But on the whole, they were not a part of a worshipping body.  I wish they had been, and still wish my Mom would find her way back to church.  But not being in church in no way diminished my Dad's faith.  And it was on the football field where this was most obvious.  At the end of every practice, and before and after every game, Dad would gather the team around him and pray. He would pray for the safety of the players and for the joy of the game. And he would always introduce the prayer time by telling the team to take a knee, because "the 12th Man is joining the huddle."  Praying in such a manner, and so often, raised more than a few eyebrows even in those days.  Technically it was forbidden by league policy.  Dad didn't care.  It was that important to him.  And to make matters worse (or better!), these weren't generic prayers.  He always closed with, "In Jesus name...Amen."  More than once parents questioned him about the praying, and more than once he simply refused to give in to any pressure.  He was going to pray, and the only way to stop him was to ask him not to coach anymore.  And that never happened.

So what's my point?  Simply this- the Jesus Revolution will not be led by people sitting in church pews or standing in pulpits.  It will be led by people who are willing to take on the culture and confront it with Jesus.  It will be led by people willing to live out their faith outside the walls of the church.  The world can be changed by people standing firm in their faith and acting out of love.  I know for a fact (some of his players were eventually in my youth group at New Garden Friends Meeting) that my Dad's prayers had a huge impact on the lives of some of those young men.  They began to see prayer as an important part of life.  They saw God (the 12th Man) as a friend and a comforter, not as some sort of cosmic killjoy.  And they learned the name of Jesus.  Every revolution begins with a spark...

So Dad, today more than most, I miss you terribly.  Thank you for all of the things you taught me, both by word and by example.  I didn't always understand it at the time, but I was living with an agent of the Jesus Revolution.  I pray now that the "12th Man" will give me the courage to carry on with your legacy...

Because of Jesus,

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