Strong To The Finish

Doug Amos is a recognized sports leader in the River Region.  He works with the athletic program at Troy and formerly worked with Faulkner.  He hosts a two-hour sports talk show every day.

He recently created a new hour-long radio program entitled “Strong to the Finish” that airs at 7:00 pm on Wednesday nights at 97.5 FM and 101.5 FM and re-airs at 8:00 am on Sunday mornings at 97.5 FM and 101.5 FM and on ESPN The Ticket.  The byline is “Balancing passion for God with love for Sports.”  My friend Jere Beasley sponsors the program.  I was recently Doug’s guest on his program on November 30.  You can listen to this program on https://soundcloud.com/strongtothefinish (or just Google “Doug Amos Strong to the Finish”).

Strong to the finish – I like that title.  We are now winding down 2016.  All of us set some goals and made some resolutions at the first of this year.  Are we completing them?  We don’t have much time left – will we be strong to the finish, or will we be distracted or settle for something less than what we ought to accomplish?

The Guinness World Records recently designated Israel Kristal as the world’s oldest man at age 113.  He was born in Poland and missed his bar mitzvah – his Jewish coming-of-age ceremony – because World War I was raging when he turned 13.  At age 113, his family, who were Auschwitz survivors, decided it was time to hold this long-overdue bar mitzvah.  His children, grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren attended

Israel had a goal, it was interrupted by the circumstances of life, but he never gave up.  I am sure he is the oldest Jewish “boy” to celebrate his bar mitzvah.  He was strong to the finish.

Turia Pitt is an avid physical fitness person.  About 5 years ago, this Australian mining engineer was caught in a brush fire during an outback ultra marathon.  She suffered burns to 65 percent of her body, and she spent 864 days in the hospital.  She had over 200 operations.  She lost the use of 7 of her fingers.

But being a physical fitness fanatic, she set a goal to compete in an Iron Man contest.  Doctors didn’t think she would ever walk again, much less be able to compete, but she had a goal.  She wanted to be strong to the finish.

She recently completed the prestigious Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.  She swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles.  She finished in 14 hours 37 minutes and 30 seconds.  She said she was “really bloody proud!”  She had a goal, and she was determined to finish it.  She did.  She was strong to the finish.

A little girl went with her father through the slums of Chicago.  She saw poor children.  She said, “One day I am going to build a house among the poor people so the little children can play in my yard.”  The little girl suffered from spinal curvature which caused tremendous pain.  She went to medical school but had to drop out because of poor health.  She took courses in social service, and finally was able to secure a house in the slums of Chicago.  She had a dream.  She opened her door to the poor and needy of every race and creed.  She later received the Nobel Prize for Peace. 

Her name was Jane Addams, and the Hull House in Chicago put her name in immortality.  She was always faithful to that dream.  She was determined to finish strong.

The Bible says that “finishing is better than starting . . .” (Eccl. 7:8).  At the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I fought a good fight, I have finished my course.  I have kept the faith.”  He was strong to the finish. 

What do you need to finish in 2016?  It’s easy to make excuses or be distracted.  Will that keep you from finishing strong?  Is what you settle for worth it?  My dad used to say “If you don’t finish it now, when will you have time to finish it later?”

Be strong to the finish!

Coaches Who Know How To Coach!

I love and appreciate coaches.  An exciting part of my ministry has been the opportunity to speak to and hang around a lot of high school and college coaches.  In 2017, I am already scheduled to speak at three different coaches conferences.  Coaches have a huge influence and can often reach some young people that nobody else can reach.  I have heard it said, “If someone can get a foot in the door with young people, it probably will have ‘cleats’ on it.”

I can’t resist offering a lot of advice to coaches.  I’ve had the opportunity to be on the sidelines with high school and college coaches, and they tell me they don’t need so much of my advice.  I have some great defensive schemes and some innovative plays that could make any coach successful!

Recently I officiated at the funeral of Jules Davis.  He and his wife Jane were married for 68 years and were active members at Frazer.  I immediately related to him when they moved to Montgomery because he had been a coach.  In 1947 he was a high school senior at Luverne High School.  He was a great athlete in basketball, baseball and football.  He played with a traveling semi-pro baseball team while he was in high school.  One night he scored 78 points in a high school basketball game.  He was a football star who led his senior team to the championship.

He graduated and wanted to enter the Army, but he had knee surgery and that made him ineligible for military service.  So Luverne High School hired him as the football coach at age 19.  The Associated Press dubbed him as the youngest coach in the U.S.  He had the distinct privilege of playing on a championship team as a senior in high school, then coaching the same high school the next year and leading them to another championship!

Jules had no assistant coaches to help him.  He taught football lessons such as promptness, discipline, running on the field at all times, no profanity and no slack.  He also taught his team to be successful in life.  Most of them had distinguished careers later in life such as doctors, lawyers, one rocket scientist, educators, fighter pilots, senior officers in the military, etc.  Most attribute their success to the early lessons they learned from Coach Davis.

One member of his team was Dr. Lester Stewart.   Dr. Stewart’s daughter had never met Jules, but she made a special trip to the hospital to visit him just before he died.  Jules was having a tough day.  She brightened up the room when she said Jules had made a difference in her dad’s life, encouraging him to get back into high school and graduate.  She pointed out that she probably would not be around today if it were not for Coach Davis and the personal attention he gave to her dad and to all of his players.

One of the distinctive things about his coaching career was that no one ever heard him say a word of profanity!  He also did not tolerate it with any of his players.  I have been around more coaches who are now instituting that in their coaching philosophy.  A lot of other coaches would like to if they could abide by that principle personally!  As has been jokingly said, most coaches can speak two languages – English and profanity!  I admire the many high school and college coaches who have zero tolerance for profanity.  May God increase their tribe!

Coaches played a big role in my life.  Many of the lessons learned in my life came from coaches in high school and college. Take the time to call or write a note to a coach who has had an influence in your life or in the life of your kids or grandkids.  Coaches need encouragement.  Coaches usually hear about the things they are doing wrong – they seldom get to hear about the positive influences they have had.  Take the time to say thank you today.

I recently attended a luncheon promoting the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery.  The speaker was Wright Waters, Executive Director of Football Bowl Association, which oversees the 41 bowl games.  He actually went to school here in Montgomery.  He credited coaches with much of the success that he has enjoyed.  He especially pointed out his junior high coach, Coach Charles Lee, who later went on to coach at Jeff Davis High School, and others who had such an influence in his life. 

 “A good coach can change a game this season – a Godly coach can change a life for eternity.”  (Tweet this)

Thank you, Coach!

#Giving Tuesday

Thanksgiving is a day that has been celebrated for a long time.  We have added Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday.  That’s tomorrow.  Giving Tuesday is a day to focus on giving and celebrate generosity.

I’m sending this message to people who receive my weekly email blog.  You might be looking for a place to give on #Giving Tuesday, or you might be contemplating a year-end gift.  If the weekly emails mean something to you and you want to support this ministry, you could send a contribution to:

John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

4131 Carmichael Road, Suite 4

Montgomery, AL 36106

I remind you that we are members of ECFA – Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability – which is the most stringent organization for financial accountability for non-profit organizations.  John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries also has a strong board of directors who direct this ministry.  If you go to our website, www.johnedmathison.org., you can see the names and brief resumes of our directors.

If you have suggestions how our blog ministry might be improved, or if you have comments about what it means to you, please share those.

Please pray every day for this ministry and for God’s work around the world!!

P.S.  If you send a contribution, I’ll send you a copy of a small book that I just completed entitled Where Is America Headed? 

book-cover-1

Unexpected Thank You’s!

Saying thank you to people is very important.   It’s easy to say thank you when people obviously have done something for you, but can we say thank you unexpectedly in less obvious situations? 

A Georgia police officer got something that he didn’t expect when he gave a young woman a speeding ticket – she gave him a thank you note.  This Alpharetta officer had issued the woman a ticket.  As he was walking back to his car, she handed him a hand-written note and drove off without saying anything.  He read the note, then shared it with his department and they posted the note on-line.  The young lady wrote, “Mr. Officer, shame on me for speeding.  Your job is very dangerous.  I want you to know that my family and I feel very blessed to be protected by wonderful people like you.  So thank you!”  It’s one thing to thank police officers when we see them in a social setting.  It’s another thing when they are giving us a ticket.

When Mother Teresa was speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, she said – “One evening we went out and picked up four people from the street.  One of them was in a most terrible condition.  I told the sisters, ‘You take care of the other people; I will take care of the one who looks worst.’  So I did for her all that my love could do.  I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face.  She took hold of my hand as she said only two words:  ‘Thank you.’  Then she died.”  Mother Teresa said she could not help but examine her own conscience.  She asked, “What would I say if I were in her place?”  Then she said her answer was very simple.  “I would probably have drawn a little attention to myself saying, “I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain.’  But that poor woman gave more.  She died with a grateful love and a smile on her face.”

C.S. Lewis tells about a graduate student who asked him to delay an examination until winter.  This student explained that his bronchial condition was worse, his fiancée had decided not to marry him, and he had even wondered if there was much reason to go on living.

Lewis said to the student, “Am I right in remembering that when you were about 12 years old and lived in Birmingham there was an air raid on the town?”  The boy said, “Yes, I told you that story.”  Lewis said, “And didn’t you say that once a plane dropped a land mine by parachute and exploded missing your house by only inches?”  The young man responded, “Yes.”  “Well,” said Lewis, “if the wind had blown the bomb a few inches nearer your house, you’d be dead.  That was seven years ago, and every day since then has been a gift to you – a fantastic gift!  How can you be so ungrateful?” 

I read about a man who had a habit of writing “thank you” in the lower left-hand bottom of his checks when he paid his bills.  He would thank the electric company, telephone company, and gas company.  He was thankful that these utilities companies had regularly and reliably provided him with his services.

When he wrote a check to the bank for his monthly mortgage payment, he would pause and reflect on the comfort of a roof over his head and write “thank you” on his check.  When he wrote his check for the water bill, he would say to himself that the water was not all that great tasting and had some chemicals in it, but how long ago was it that his forefathers had to pump water from the well in the winter and worry about it going dry in the summer.  When he paid his income tax in April, he always wrote “thank you” on the check.  He didn’t expect the IRS computer to notice it and be gratified, but it was his way of reminding himself that he was grateful to be enjoying the benefits that American democracy provides.

Saying thank you to a policeman, a saint, a professor, a utility company, the IRS, will mean a lot to the recipient, but it will mean more to the one who gives it.  “Always give thanks for all things.” (Eph. 5:20). 

Give God more thanks than He is expecting!

Pick Good Friends

One of the most important things we can do is to pick good friends.  Remember, the Bible says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).  We have a lot of choices.  Making good selections for friends must be a priority.

Trying to go through life alone is tough.  Isolation can lead to many unhealthy issues.  Strong, solid Christian relationships become a strength in facing the issues of life.

Every morning, I offer a one-minute audio devotional thought for the day.  Several radio stations carry this.  We also place it on Facebook so anybody can have access to it.  I do the recording at Frazer’s studio, but I have no idea how to get it on Facebook.  I am extremely technology-challenged!  My son Si is good at it, so he has assumed responsibility of taking the recording, going through a process of placing it on YouTube, writing a brief note about it, and making it available on Facebook.  I do the audio devotional, and Si navigates the technology so that anyone can hear it.  In this way, we work together and make a good team.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two can accomplish twice as much as one.  For the results can be much better if one falls, the other pulls him up.  But if a man falls when he is alone, he is in trouble.  How can one be warm alone?  One standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer.  Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

There is great advantage in having good friends.  The writer of Hebrews says we are “surrounded by a huge crowd of spectators” (Hebrews 12:1).  When we live life knowing people are pulling for us, even those in Heaven, we can accomplish more.  The home team always has an advantage.

A few years ago, it was extremely dangerous to go downtown Montgomery after midnight.  You would have never caught me by myself.  At that time Frazer had a couple of church members, Tommy Neville, all pro offensive tackle for the Boston Patriots, and Mike Kolen, all pro middle line backer for the Miami Dolphins.  Hey – I would go with those two guys anywhere and not have any fear!  I would not go alone, but the three of us could go anywhere!

My good friend Jere Beasley, to whom I give one dollar each year to keep him on retainer, tells about an incident in his life when he was in the third grade.  A new Baptist preacher moved to town and had a fifth grade son named John Henry.  John Henry was actually a few grades behind and was much bigger than the rest of the fifth graders.  He used that to his advantage to bully them.  I’ve always said you had to watch those Baptist preachers’ kids!

During recess John Henry would take the lunch money from the other boys.  He would also pick on them and sometimes rough them up a bit.  This went on for several days.

One day Jere organized 11 other boys and told them it was time to stop this bullying.  They agreed to have all 12 confront John Henry on the playground.  They elected Jere as their spokesman. 

The next day during recess, Jere, with the 11 boys behind him, began approaching John Henry.  Jere began explaining to John Henry what was about to happen – the bullying was going to stop and he and his buddies were going to rough him up.  Was he ready for it?  John Henry looked at Jere and smiled, and said “You are the only person I see.  Where are your buddies?”  Jere looked around – the 11 had left him!  Jere soon discovered he was no match for John Henry and took a pretty good whuppin’ – as it’s called.  Jere’s buddies didn’t stick with him.

In life, it’s so important to pick friends who are dependable and encouraging and will “stick with you.”  Good friends are a tremendous asset.  Today, prayerfully pick your friends.  It will make all the difference in the world!

Stepping Out of the Box

When Jesus was questioned about the most important commandment, He answered by saying that the first great commandment is to love God with all your heart, and the second great commandment is like the first in that you  love your fellow man like you want your fellow man to love you (Matt. 22:34-40).  Doing for others is one of the core values of being a Christian.

Sometimes we tend to pick small or easy things to do for other people.  We pick things that won’t be too inconvenient for us or cost us too much.  Living stingily in our relationships with others is really most damaging to us. (Tweet this)  I dare you to “step out of the box” in doing something for somebody else.  Let me share with you some examples that have occurred in the fall of 2016.

Joseph Serna served two combat tours in Afghanistan.  When he returned home he had PTSD, so he tried to self-medicate with alcohol.  He was stopped for drunk driving and was given a DUI ticket, and then later he violated his probation.  The district court judge was Lou Olivera.  He sentenced Serna to one day in jail. 

Since Judge Olivera was a veteran himself, he was afraid the experience of a night in jail might trigger Serna’s PTSD.  So the judge decided to spend the night in the jail with Serna.  That’s right – the judge went behind bars with the prisoner, a fellow veteran.  All night long the two passed the time trading war stories, and the judge communicated how much he cared.  Joseph couldn’t believe somebody cared that much.

Jessika Baldwin got married in October.  Several people made suggestions about how she could celebrate her bachelorette party.  Some suggested they celebrate with tiaras and bottomless booze.  But Jessika was different.  She said she wanted a more memorable event than a night on the town “taking shots” and “stumbling around.” 

She decided she would give women from a local homeless shelter a day of pampering.  Jessika and her bridal party treated these residents to haircuts and manicures, a shopping spree and a nice restaurant dinner.  Now that’s “stepping out of the box” to do something for other people!  And Jessika didn’t really know these people before this event.  She said, “This was a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in my life.”

Dena Carreyn’s four-year old daughter Lyla became ill last October with a rare auto-immune disease that causes kidney failure.  She immediately launched a nation-wide search for a transplant match but could not find a donor. 

At this point, Beth Battista, Lyla’s preschool teacher, said she wanted to donate her kidney to her young student.  She did.  Dena Carreyn said, “Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude.  How do you thank someone for saving your child’s life?”  Now that is “stepping out of the box” to respond to Jesus’ great commandments.

Recently a group of inmates in a Texas jail broke out of a confinement area to save a guard who was suffering a heart attack.  Rather than watch him die, they broke out and saved his life.  One of the inmates, Nick Helton, said, “We were worried they would come down with guns drawn on us, but we were willing to take the risk.”  That guard is extremely happy that they did!

What opportunity is God giving you for a traditional, simple act of kindness, or something more radical that might be “stepping out of the box?”  Are you willing to take that risk?

Stepping out of the box is getting in step with Jesus!

Capital of Dreams

The Bible states that “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).   I think you can easily conclude the verse also means that when people have a vision, they have the potential to be productive, accomplish much and be successful.

I have lived in Montgomery, the “Capital of Dreams,” for 44 years.  I’ve seen the development of our down town area as a result of the vision of many people.  The down town area is being revitalized and is becoming an attractive destination place for people who want to experience the history, hospitality and quality of life enjoyed here in Montgomery.  The new venues for sporting events also are bringing thousands of people here.  People are referring to Montgomery as the “Sports Capital of Alabama.” 

Mayor Todd Strange had a vision a few years ago of developing athletic venues so Montgomery could host more teams, competitions and events.  He created the Central Alabama Sports Commission.  I grew up with Ken Blankenship who was hired as the first Executive Director.  At his retirement, John Williams succeed him.  My good friend Karl Stegall was elected President of this group, and I was invited to serve on the Commission.  How we got two preachers on one commission is a mystery to me!  The Commission is composed of the mayors of the River Region cities and a lot of visionary people in business, education, athletics, etc.  This group began to dream.

One of the first parts of that dream was to renovate Cramton Bowl and build a multiplex building.  This venture cost millions of dollars, but dreams always require a risk and come with a price tag.  People bought into the vision of Mayor Strange and the Sports Commission, and both of these have now been completed. 

A lot of people offered names for the new multiplex building.  I suggested that we plant some garden vegetables in front of it, and since it is a completely square building, and located on Madison Avenue, I thought it should be named “Montgomery’s Madison Square Garden.”  My idea didn’t go very far!

The Multiplex is a huge venue.  In 2015, over 125,000 people utilized it for volleyball, basketball, and many other events.  I attended the World Horse Shoe Tossing Tournament there which brought in over a thousand “pitchers” from around the world.  Along with the Multiplex, there have been upgrades to the tennis, volleyball, golf, soccer, etc., venues which brings in thousands of new people.  Just the soccer complex had over 600,000 participants in 2015!  That’s a “slam dunk of a success!”

Vision became reality.  With the renovation of Cramton Bowl and the Multiplex, people are beginning to see what the dreamers saw a few years ago.  It began with a college all-star game; then came the Camellia Bowl in 2015 which was highly successful.  ESPN carried the Bowl game. 

At our October commission meeting, it was announced that we would partner with ESPN to host the Montgomery Kick-Off Classic for college football on August 26, 2016.  Jacksonville State University will play the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – two great football programs – as the first game of the 2017 season, and it will be carried nationwide on ESPN.  Wow!  That’s a dream that has become a reality.

I believe our city visionaries must have read the Prophet Joel who said, “I want your young men to dream dreams and your old men to see visions” (Joel 2:28).  I’m proud and blessed to be a part of the Capital of Dreams. 

However, I think it’s more important to catch a vision for what God has for His work.  For me it begs the question – what am I doing to enhance God’s vision in my life, my work, and my contribution to the Kingdom of God.  What vision is God putting in your mind?  Are you willing to act upon it?

Tennis Ball Lessons

Recently, Lynn and I were having dinner with our friends Pat and Jackie Mathews in their home.  They have a big Labrador retriever, and they are very proud of him.  Pat took a tennis ball and threw it, and that dog took off after it.  The Lab brought the ball back to him.  He threw the ball again, this time to a spot that was not easily visible.  The dog went right after it, found it and brought it back.  He even threw the ball behind a barrier, and the dog went over the barrier and brought the ball back!

The more I watched the dog and the tennis ball, the more I thought about life.  Every day God gives us a new day that is like a ball He’s going to throw.  That Lab can teach us a lot about life in at least four areas:

FOCUS.  The dog always stays focused on the ball.  He is single-sighted.  He doesn’t look to the left or the right.  He keeps his eye on the ball.  Remember – if you chase two rabbits, you catch none!

I remember watching the Olympic runners.  As soon as the gun sounds, they look to the finish line and run straight towards it.  I didn’t see any of them looking up at the stands or checking out other things that were going on in the stadium.  They were focused on going to the finish line.  Is my life focused every day?

DISTRACTIONS.  When that dog goes after the ball, he doesn’t have any distractions.  I heard a cell phone ring, but it didn’t faze the dog.  A breaking news item came on television, but he wasn’t distracted.  No distractions!  Is my life distraction-free every day?

My dad taught me a great lesson when I started college.  He reminded me that I would be playing basketball, which would take a lot of time, but it shouldn’t interfere with my studies.  He said it’s not how much you study, but how you study.  He suggested I not study in the dorm room because there were too many distractions.  People walk in and want to talk, you hear noises in the hall way, you can hear radios playing.  My dad suggested I go to the library and study without distractions.  I learned a great lesson.  I could spend one hour focused and studying in the library without distractions and get far more done than I could have in four or five hours if I had studied in the dorm room.  That was good advice!  I have employed that concept throughout my ministry.

FINISH.  The dog always finishes the task.  The ball may go behind some object, but he doesn’t stop till he finds the ball.  He never once returns without the ball.  He completes the task.

Every day we have responsibilities.  We have tasks to be completed.  Failing to finish a task today usually means the task will never be completed.  Procrastination is a dangerous thing.  If you don’t finish it now, when will you have time to come back and finish it later? (Tweet this)

Some athletic teams don’t complete the task.  This year a lot of football teams have played great and have been ahead at the end of 59 minutes and 30 seconds.  But in those last 30 seconds they lost the game.  They didn’t finish.  Am I finishing strong every day?

PURPOSE.  Productive living is always the result of knowing and fulfilling our purpose.  God has a purpose for every person.  If we spend our time doing things outside that purpose, we are wasting our time.

A happy life is never a merry-go-round of meaningless activity, but it is a focus on God’s purpose for our lives.  The inner satisfaction of knowing we are fulfilling our purpose for that day in our work, and the commitment to fulfilling God’s will for our lives, are the most valuable paychecks we ever receive.  Read Matthew 10:39.  Is my life focused on fulfilling God’s purpose for me every day?

It’s tennis ball time!

Nip It! Nip It!

A Chinese man discovered that his washing machine was on the blink.  He stuck his head inside the washing machine to check out the drum and see if he could identify the problem.  He encountered a bigger problem when he couldn’t get his head out!

His friends tried to free him, but then had to call the fire department which cut up the machine with an electric saw.  The man was extricated without injury.  Upon being freed from the washing machine, the man said, “It was easy to get my head into the machine, but almost impossible to get it out.”  He learned a valuable lesson about life.

Temptation is much like that experience.  It’s easy to stick your head in – it’s awfully difficult to get your head out. 

Sometimes we think we’ll just flirt with temptation and it will be harmless.  No temptation is harmless!  The best way to deal with temptation is to resist it before you consider it.  I like to watch “The Andy Griffith Show.”  Barney Fife was giving advice on the importance of discipline as Andy was raising Opie.  He said the way to respond to the first sign of a behavior problem is to “nip it in the bud.”  “You got to nip it, Andy – nip it in the bud.  Nip it, nip it, nip it!”  Barney continued saying, “You go ahead and check any child psychology book.  They all believe in bud nipping.”

Bud nipping is important in dealing with temptation.  Once a temptation begins to take root, it becomes awfully hard to resist.  A boxer does not wait until he gets into a fight to work on improving his techniques.  He does that in practice, so when he is in the ring facing his opponent, all he has to do is demonstrate the results of his preparation. 

Good football coaches develop a game plan before the game is played.  They anticipate different situations and decide what they are going to do before the situation occurs.  Coaches who prepare properly keep their jobs –   those who prepare poorly will be looking for another job. 

When you are tempted, turn to God first and ask for His help.  When Jesus was tempted three times by Satan in the wilderness, He went to Scripture to state why He was resisting that temptation.  Read Matthew 4:1-11, when Jesus resisted the temptation, “Satan left and the angels cared for Him (v. 11).”

God is always ready to help.  If we ignore Him and try to handle it ourselves, we are in trouble.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When we are tempted, we do not say ‘I hate God and God hates me.  Rather we just forget about God, and then we are liable to do what we were tempted to do.’”  You win over temptation by what you do before the temptation comes.  (Tweet this)

St. Columba came from a royal family in Ireland.  In 563 AD he sailed and found himself on a desolate bay in the Isle of Iona, off the coast of northwest Scotland.  He had gone there to bring the Gospel to the wild tribes in the Highlands.  He became desperately homesick and anxious to return to Ireland.  He anticipated the temptation of homesickness and getting in his boat and returning to Ireland.  Instead, the first thing he did upon landing at Port-na-Curraich in Iona was to burn his boat so he couldn’t yield to that temptation. 

That’s the way to defeat temptation – Keep your head out of the washing machine, burn the boat, nip it, trust God!! 

Doing the Right Thing!

We often cross paths with people who have stumbled and fallen.  We have a decision to make – go ahead and “walk by on the other side of the road,” or stop and give them a hand.  There have been dramatic instances recently of people who have done the right thing. 

In the Summer Rio Olympics, a moving scene occurred when Nikki Hamblin, a New Zealand runner in the 5,000-meter run, tripped and fell. Running behind her was Abbey D’Agostino from the USA, who tripped over Nikki.  While Nikki was lying on the ground, Abbey stopped and grabbed her by the arm and said, “Get up!  We’ve got to finish this race.”  Abbey helped Nikki continue the race.  They finished last and next to last.  While some people felt the gesture of helping Nikki might have cost Abbey a medal, she strongly indicated it was more important to help someone.   She did the right thing!

One of the most grueling Olympics contests is the triathlon.  That’s a tough race.  You have to swim .93 miles, then bike ride 24.8 miles, then run 6.2 miles.  Two brothers from England, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, won the gold and silver medal, respectively, in Rio. 

Following the Olympics, the brothers competed in a World Series event for triathlon competitors in Mexico.  Alistair and Jonny were leading the race.  When they had only a few meters to finish, Jonny started staggering and fell.  Rather than going ahead and capturing first place, his brother Alistair stopped, picked him up and helped him move along at a slow pace to cross the finish line.  Their biggest competitor passed them and won first place.  When the Brownlee brothers came to the finish line, the Olympics gold medal winner Alistair made sure his brother Jonny crossed the line before he did so his brother could finish in second place.

I love the comment that Alistair made when people asked how he could carry his brother to the finish line.  With his British accent, he quoted the great song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”  He did the right thing!

In August of 2015, 20 Syrian refugees were crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy little boat.  When the motor suddenly stopped, Yusra Mardini, a teenager, dove into the water and pulled the little boat for over three hours to the island of Lesbos.  Everybody was saved. 

Mardini eventually reached Germany.  For the first time in Olympics history, a refugee team was recognized.  Mardini made the team and swam in the recent Rio Olympics.  19 refugees owe their lives to Yusra.  She did the right thing!

During the recent flooding along the East Coast, 36-year old Jason Barnes went to his toy store in Ellicott City, Maryland to try to stop the flood waters from running into his store.  He saw a woman trapped inside a car floating down Main Street.  He tried to go through the thick, high water to her car, but he was knocked off his feet and swept down the street.  When Jason regained his footing, he raced back to his store, got some friends to form a human chain, and holding on to each other, he was able to pull the trapped woman to safety.  He did the right thing!

Read in Luke 10:25-37 the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan.  A Jewish man was robbed, beaten and left on the side of the road.  Two religious figures passed by on the other side of the road, but a man from Samaria, enemies of the Jews, came along and didn’t consider the consequences of helping the Jewish man.  He stopped, helped him, carried him to an inn where he could recover, and offered to pay for everything.  He did the right thing!

Will you do the right thing today?