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Archive for September, 2009

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“Measure thy life by loss and not by gain, not by the wine drunk but by the wine pourth forth. For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice and he that suffereth most hast most to give.” – Ugo Bassi

As I was perusing some of the quotes, comments and status updates on the popular social-networking sites of the day, I ran across this quote posted by a former student who is now a missionary in Thailand.

Immediately I was struck by its profound message of sacrifice and service, the essence of the missionary life. It is a concept and lifestyle that might come easier to one on mission, but should be applied by all that call themselves Christian.

We are called to serve and sacrifice. Sometimes following Christ means making painful sacrifices – possessions, friendships, relationships. But God will not forget those who have been forced to make such sacrifices for his sake.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” – Matthew 19:29

Even though we are promised a reward for sacrificing in this life we should have other motives for wanting to serve and sacrifice for others. The early Christian church is an inspiring model for us to follow today: devoted to the teachings of the Gospel, committed to worship and fellowship together, and faithfully celebrating communion in memory of Christ’s sacrifice.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts 2:42-45

The writer of Hebrews extols us to the same virtue of sacrifice. He invites us to offer sacrificial praise to God continually.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16

When we sacrifice our own comfort, our own needs, our own pride for others, we are remembering who we are. It’s easy to forget that when our lives are so full, so busy that one becomes self-focused just to get things done or to get our needs and wants met. A sacrificial life is one that reflects that God will provide.

A bloody, physical sacrifice of a paschal lamb, goat, or calf is not what God demands. Rather he wants us to sacrifice our own selves to Him by committing to do His will in our lives. The worship God wants from us is to serve others in His name.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the patter of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:1-2

Our need to sacrifice is based on the Christian requirement to love others as we love ourselves, as Christ loved us. To love, unconditionally, requires willful sacrifice. We can learn how to love from the example of Christ, and get a refresher from 1 Corinthians 13, but to truly love so deeply that we begin to “cover a multitude of sins” requires a life lived in daily submission to the will and lives of others.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God maybe praised though Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 4:7-11

To what limit should we serve, to what limit sacrifice? God plainly supplies that answer as well. What greater act of love is there than sacrificing yourself for others? Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice not for one of us, but for all of us. To gain the gift of that sacrifice, all we have to do is accept it, by accepting Him. He laid down his life for us. We, as Christians – Christ followers – should be ready and willing to lay down our lives for others if it becomes necessary.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no on than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:13crown-of-thorns

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JohnUeltzhoeffer

I was in a great mood until about 10 minutes ago… now I am filled with sorrow, and anger. I am filled with empathy and compassion, and with a burning desire for vengeance…

I am part of an international blog movement to remember each and every innocent life lost during the attack on September 11, 2001. Each of us volunteered to be paired with one of the names of the victims and write a tribute for them. The intent of this tribute is so that their name will live on – not only in the memories and scrapbooks of their family members, but also in the minds, and hearts of those of us that choose to Never Forget.

The individual that I was given to research was John G. Ueltzhoeffer. One of his colleagues and friends wrote this last year as he remembered John:

It has been seven years since I last saw John on September 10, 2001 at the Marsh office at WTC1 95th floor. Myself and John were hired by Craig Hayashi in June 1998 and we were part of an unique team called the Enterprise Architecture Group.

Our job was to be thought leaders in our respective technology domain of expertise and to help Marsh’s (and MMC companies) senior level executives, business leaders and technology group understand how new technology solutions could be leveraged to support the business tactical and strategy goals.

As a software architect, John led the team’s initiative to exploit JAVA and was instrumental in establishing J2EE as the software architecure framework standard at Marsh.

I can remember when John worked on the initiative to select an application server standard for Marsh. He was proactive in his efforts and had recommended the IONA application server (www.iona.com). Although his recommendation was turn down by senior management due to IBM’s Websphere application server having greater marketshare, John led the efforts to establishing development standards leverage IBM’s Websphere at Marsh.

John had a strong commitment to his religion faith and family – his office was full of family photos and artwork drawn by his kids. In terms a colleague, John was always supportive of my initatives as Marsh’s Data Warehouse Architect.

John’s family and friends should be proud to know that he made an impact on his colleagues at Marsh and always had a positive attitude and humble demeanor.

John is always in my thoughts and he his missed.

Regards,

James L. Smith

Another aspect that I learned about John is that his little sister, Helen, thought the world of him. She still misses him and often expresses the depth of this void in comments to other tribute entries that mention her brother. He was also a devoted member of the Christian group called Promise Keepers. The mission of a Promise Keeper is to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises.  Promise Keepers’ vision is simply put in three words: “Men Transformed Worldwide.”

When people met and got to know John, I learned from my research, three important aspects to his life quickly came across – the pride he took in doing his job, his deep religious convictions, and his love for his family. John was a technical architect in the Marsh technology department so therefore had to have in-depth knowledge about the latest computer technologies. John was very knowledgeable in this subject area so quickly built up a high level of respect with his peers. During meetings and discussions with John on various technology issues he was often described as always speaking with such enthusiasm and be so up to date with the latest technology developments that it made others make sure they were up to date with their readings just so they could keep up.

Another aspect of John’s life was his strong religious beliefs. It did not take long in talking with him for his faith in God to come across. Whenever he went out to lunch together with friends, he would always take time to say a prayer before having lunch. In the time following John’s passing, it has become more evident about this side of him and how involved he was with his church group and friends. This has gone further to impress friends that knew John in that he lived his life which such conviction.

Most importantly, was John’s love for his family. Two instances that typify this in John. The first was when he was on a business trip overseas in Europe. He had been gone for about a week and a friend remembers him talking on the Friday when he was set to come home. He mentioned how he had switched his flight to an earlier flight so he could get home earlier. He then said something to the effect of how hard it was for him to be away from his family. It was not the words that he said that his friend remembers, but the way he said it just underlined how much he missed them. The second was when a few of them were at lunch. Somehow the conversation turned to their families and John took a picture out of his wallet of him and his wife on their wedding day. One of the guys at lunch remarked how beautiful his wife was and how he thought she looked like a movie star. Upon hearing this John’s face just lit up and you could see the happiness and love he felt. This is the way that friend remembers John G. Ueltzhoeffer – and I think the way that we all should as well. A devoted Christian, father, brother, husband, and son…

A few paragraphs of words obviously cannot do justice to capture all that John meant to his family and friends. In my own memories I’ll remember John for the unassuming way in which he lived his life and how much of an impact he had on people around him. Even though I never met John in person, I feel like I know him and know that this world is less without him in it…

Tears are flowing easily now, and I’m remembering re-experiencing the rage and indignation that I felt “That Day”. I would imagine that That Day will remain with me all the days of my life – seared into my memory, much like scarification sears a design into skin.

John, to you – and to all the victims of That Day:

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orchard

The Garden of Gethsemane is not really a garden but an orchard. Olive trees still grow there today. During Jesus’ day it was a place of business, an olive press producing the local areas supply of oil. This is where the word Gethsemane comes in. A gat (Hebrew) is a press, a large five-foot high square stone pillar, and a semane, or seman, is oil. So on the evening before his crucifixion he went to the orchard of the Olive Press with Peter, James, and John, to pray.

If you lived in the first century and worked with a gethsemane your day would be spent gathering olives, placing them in a woven fishnet like bag, and putting them on top of a stone table. This specially designed table is round with beveled edges that curve down to a trough. The trough is angled and funnels into a pot which holds the oil. The top is designed to receive the gethsemane. The tall square stone is lifted up and set on top of the basket and for several hours its tremendous weight is left there to crush the liquid from the olive.

olivepress

It is no mistake that Jesus spent his last evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. From there he would leave to go to the cross and receive the weight of the world, the gethsemane of our sins, blood crushed from his body running down the cross to the world below. Luke describes the pressure Jesus suffered that evening: “Being in anguish his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” It is an image of the gathsemane crushing the oil from the olive fruit.

olive press ooze
Gethsemane ever since has come to symbolize suffering. And my friends the world is crowded with gethsemanes, Herods slaughtering the innocent. Look around the United States: Oklahoma City, Heath High School, Columbine, New York City. And around the world: Dunblane in Scotland, Halabja in Iraq (i.e., the gassing of the Kurds), Srebrenica in Bosnia, and the town of Beslan, Russia.  The world is full of gethsemanes, times when and towns where the innocent have suffered.

In the face of such unspeakable horror we ask ourselves these questions:

I

First who do we turn to? It is safe to say that all of us here mourned with those mothers and fathers in Russia who lost over 300 of their children, just as the world suffered with us on September 11, 2001. In a small town the loss of 300 children turned that village into a mausoleum. A thousand years from now people will say, “Beslan, the place where all those children died.” So who do we turn too? Can anybody help in the face of such a dreadful thing? It doesn’t seem like it does it? The sorrow is so deep God seems absent.

Psalm 77, written in the Iron Age more than 2,500 years ago, stares straight in the face of some unspeakable horror that occurred to Israel. “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” the Psalmist asks. “And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

Who do we turn to when things are unexplainably painful? God? How can we when even he seems to be absent? My friends. I am not asking this question the Bible is. The Psalmist in essence is saying that there is no consolation, not even in God, when your soul has been torn from you. But even in great despair something faithful is happening. Even when we cry out “God is not there” we reveal our deep desire for God.

John Donne experienced his own Gethsemane. Donne was a 17th century poet, who experienced great pain. Because he married the daughter of a disapproving lord, he was fired from his job as assistant to the Lord Chancellor, yanked from his wife, and locked in a dungeon. (This is when he wrote that succinct line of despair, “John Donne/ Anne Donne/ Undone.”) Later, he endured a long illness, which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of this illness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant meditations on the subject. In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness, which keeps him in bed, forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets our attention; it forces us to look to God, when otherwise we would just as well ignore Him.

That’s it. Suffering gets our attention. Suffering forces us to look toward one another; forces us to ask the deeper questions about life; forces us to turn toward God. Even if it is to express our displeasure and despair, we turn to Him and in those pleas we display our faith in Him.

II

The first question is: Who do we turn to? The second is: What are we to do? The answer here is obvious. We are to pray. When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane he went there for one reason, to pray. Why are you sleeping, Jesus asked his disciples. Get up and pray! Prayer prepares the soul for suffering. Jesus understood what lie ahead and he knew that prayer was the only way to prepare them.

Prayer does two things for us. It helps us cope with hardship. There is a story about a missionary family in Pakistan who lost their 6-month-old baby. A wise man in the area heard of their grief and came to comfort them. He said, “A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water. If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.” It may sound funny to God, but there have been times when I have prayed, “O Lord, let me be a potato.”

Prayer helps us cope with hardship and then, here’s the second thing, it guides away from temptation. Notice that Jesus told his disciples to pray so “you will not fall into temptation.” Now that’s odd. You would expect Jesus to say, pray that you are able to endure the hardship to come. But hardship brings temptation: Temptation to compromise our principles, temptation to pursue pleasure over adversity, temptation to renounce our faith in God. Peter, James and John quickly learned this lesson as they denied that they knew Jesus. They left the scene of his betrayal afraid for their own lives. They did not pray so they did not stay.

Prayer helps us cope with life’s hardships and it keeps us from temptation. But here is one more thing you can do. Pray for the families of all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorist these past few years. Today, September 11, 2009, we remember the horrible events of 911. We shall never forget that day. And, I don’t think there is a parent today who doesn’t grieve for those Russian parents either. Both tragedies are horribly linked in our psyche. Terrorism continues to tear at our world. I would like to see the church in every country rise up an army of prayer soldiers to pray for the defeat of this evil. Those who suffer need our prayer but Christians must also go on the offensive and pray God’s kingdom come His will be done. The world is dealing with a cult of death the church must offer a culture of life.

III

First question: Who do we turn to? Answer: God, even in our despair. Second question: What do we do? Answer: Pray to cope. Pray against temptation. Pray for one another. And pray for the Kingdom to come. Third question: Where do we go from here? Answer? Well this one is a little more complicated. The answer isn’t easy because life isn’t. When Jesus left Gethsemane he went to Golgotha. At times we all seem to be running from the garden of despair to the hill of suffering.

Look at the stories of the bible. At some time or another there has been a Gethsemane for all God’s people. For Abraham it was when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. For Joseph it was those unjust years in jail. Paul had any number of Gethsemanes in his experience; he once listed the number of times he had been stoned, whipped, robbed and shipwrecked. The following is from the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, entitled “Gethsemane”:

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams
Bridged over by our broken dreams;
Behind the misty caps of years,
Beyond the great salt fount of tears,
The garden lies. Strive as you may,
You cannot miss it in your way.
All paths that have been, or shall be,
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.
All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden’s gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there,
And battle with some fierce despair.
God pity those who cannot say,
‘Not mine but thine,’ who only pray,
‘Let this cup pass,’ and cannot see
The purpose in Gethsemane.

It would be dishonest to say that God makes everything all right in this world. The death of 3000 innocent souls who were simply going to work on September 11, eight years ago, tells me the world is crowded with Gethsemanes. The death of 4500+ soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan tells me that peace has an enormous price. The burial of 350 children in Beslan tells me that evil still wins in this world. Don’t get me wrong. I as much as any man find hope in the resurrection. I am simply cannot deny the picture painted by the Psalmist when he asks, “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

So the answer to the third question? Where do we go from here? Perhaps Wilcox’s poem has it right: All paths that have been, or shall be, pass somewhere through Gethsemane. Amen.

sunset

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Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy.

SI Cover Ed Thomas

For many Christians, the concepts of grace, mercy, and forgiveness are just that – concepts. They are ideals to be striven towards. Many do not live these ideals. That, in and of itself, is a shame.

Many of us think we have forgiven. In truth, we hold the tiniest of grudges. We don’t extend the Grace of God that He gives to us. We don’t prove the mercy in the complete forgiveness for a person’s actions. Sometimes we extend the blame of sin to a person’s family, relatives, or friends. To do so, regardless of even the best of our intentions to the contrary is part of the human condition, our sinful nature, a remnant of the original sin. We don’t consciously think of denying that grace and mercy, we just do.

So when a story comes along that illustrates true forgiveness, grace, and mercy – on the level that GOD gives – I am stunned at the true capacity of the healing nature of God.

This is the story of a small town Iowa football team, the town, and a murdered coach. It is the story that of what a coach, leader in his community and church, teacher of tomorrow’s generation taught, lived, and passed on to not only an entire town, but multiple generations in that town.

Ed Thomas was a man of deep Christian faith, and in 34 years at the same school lived as an example his credo, “Faith, Family, and Football.”

In Parkersburg, Iowa, dusk and rain fell on the small farming town, and the hum of cicadas ceased. On that soupy evening, the parents of football players at Aplington-Parkersburg High School went about their task much like the football team prepared for its game Friday night – the team’s first since its legendary coach was gunned down by a former player.

The game against longtime rival Dike-New Hartford was televised nationally by ESPN. Aplington-Parkersburg won 30-14. But there were no cameras around Wednesday after practice, when, despite the rain and darkening sky, five parents squeezed red plastic cups into a chain-link fence outside the practice field.

After working on wet grass for 30 minutes, they backed up and admired their handiwork, which read:

FAITH … FAMILY … FOOTBALL

They invoke those words to capture the essence of Ed Thomas, the slain coach known as much for his deep faith in Christianity as his love for football. In 37 seasons – all but three at A-P, as they call the high school – he won two state championships, amassed a record of 292-84 and repeated one refrain as ritualistically as they plant and harvest corn in Parkersburg, which has no stoplights and sits about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines.

Thomas’ credo is engraved alongside a picture of the coach on a plaque made after his death June 24 and mounted on front of the new ticket booth this week.

“If all I have taught you is how to block and tackle, then I have failed as a coach.”

The week leading up to the game Friday revealed more about Thomas, who was 58 when he was shot in the school’s weight room. And more about a town of 1,800, ripped apart by a tornado just a year earlier, coping with yet another tragedy.

On Monday, they gathered at “The Sacred Acre.”

It is the field Thomas groomed meticulously for more than three decades, and, on the day it was ravaged by the tornado, the coach declared it would be ready in time for the 2008 season opener. He made good on his promise. He drove the town back from the edge of the abyss through his deep faith in God and in his town, and his players. That night they went on to win 53-20, marking the beginning of a near storybook 11-1 season.

This time the disaster was worse. This time, they would not have the “old coach” leading them back from the brink. Parkersburg was grieving for their slain icon, and it was hard to know how people felt about the approaching game – until the students headed back into the building Monday morning and Jim Clark arrived.

He headed for the middle section of the home-side bleachers, climbed up eight rows, one row below the press box, and got to work. Using duct tape and bungee cords, he tied the blankets to the metal benches and, as is customary among A-P fans, reserved seats for the game, this time five days before kickoff.

A section of seats Clark reserved were for the Beckers, the family of the former player who killed the coach. He wasn’t just any former player either. He was the son of one of Ed Thomas’ first team captains and the older brother of a starting offensive lineman.

Jim Clark was a friend of the family to both the Thomas’ and the Beckers, who’s son Mark was being held, charged with the shooting of Coach Thomas, and two days after the shooting they visited the shattered parents, Joan and Dave.

While they were there, Joan Becker took a phone call.

It was Jan Thomas, wife of the murdered coach.

“What a wonderful person,” Clark recalled Joan Becker saying.

The Beckers also had received a call from the Wiegmann family that includes Jon, a longtime assistant football coach at A-P; Coy, a senior and the team’s starting quarterback; and Dawn, president of a group that includes all parents of the senior players. They arranged for Scott Becker, the younger brother of Mark Becker and a senior lineman, to come to their house.

More than a dozen teammates were waiting.

They’d sent him text messages of encouragement almost immediately after Mark Becker was arrested the morning of June 24. When Scott Becker arrived at the Wiegmanns’ house, his teammates embraced him. Then they played ping pong, horsed around and watched movies.

“We had him smiling the whole time,” his teammates recalled.

The next day, the players went swimming in the pond behind the Beckers’ house. People still worried that Scott Becker, well-liked but quiet, might grow even more withdrawn. When the coaches called a team meeting at the elementary school library that week, Ed Thomas’ grown sons, Aaron and Todd, took Scott Becker into the hallway.

Teammates recall him returning to the library with tears in his eyes and a look of relief, as if unburdened by the feelings of guilt or shame. On Aug. 10, the first day of preseason drills, Scott Becker was there, as were all his teammates, putting the team back together – having not let it fall apart in the first place.

Joan Becker had taken over as secretary of the senior parents’ group. She also sat next to Jan Thomas during Sunday services at First Congregational Church.

It was the church they had both attended for decades and where Ed Thomas had served as an elder and counseled Mark Becker. The Beckers sought Ed Thomas’ help as their son’s behavior grew increasingly erratic.

Tuesday brought the crash of football pads, grunts, and the sounds of coaches rippling across the fields. On the field across the street from the building where their coach was murdered, the A-P Falcons went through practice drills in front of a small audience.

One father watched from inside his truck. Two fathers watched from a slope on the grass. And then there was a younger, burly, bearded man watching alone from atop a small hill.

The man had driven past the field a handful of times in recent weeks. But, still haunted by the shooting, he would not let himself get any closer until this day. He was greeted by the familiar sight of red helmets and red uniforms worn by the Falcons as they slammed into tackling dummies and into each other.

This past spring, Ed Thomas told people he expected to field one of his largest rosters ever, indeed a fitting comeback from the devastation wrought by the tornado . This time, after the shooting, however, distraught younger players talked of quitting. If they couldn’t play for Thomas, some told their parents, they didn’t want to play at all.

From the observation posts held by the fathers, brothers, cousins of the players, one could hear the sounds as they echoed across the field.

“How bad do you want it?” an assistant coach hollered.

No one yet quite knew.

Nor did the players know what was happening the next day on their way to the locker room.

The following day, Wednesday, as the players arrived to change into their practice gear, the superintendent directed them to a grief counseling session that had been set up to help the town through it.

During a brief intermission, someone approached the seminar leader and identified one of the people in attendance. The short-haired woman in the back of the room. It was Jan Thomas.

Jan Thomas is an EMT who was on call the morning of her husband’s death, she was among the first to arrive at the scene. She very easily could have looked on the scene and let it ravage her faith in God, and everything Holy. Imagine the shock, pain, utter collapse of reason at reporting to a violent scene such as this, expecting in some ways to see someone you knew from this small town… and laying eyes on your husband as he lay mortally wounded.

The leader took note of Jan and someone else in the room – Aaron Thomas, 30, the slain coach’s oldest son. Todd Thomas, the coach’s younger son, had left his job as a financial adviser after the shooting and taken over as the team’s offensive line coach. Aaron Thomas had taken on even greater responsibility.

It was Aaron Thomas who spoke at his father’s funeral and told more than 2,000 gathered for the service that it was OK to mourn that Monday, but on Tuesday they must get back to work, and get there early. That if people truly wanted to honor his father, they would move forward, with a sense of purpose, the same way his father lived. He counseled that his father had always known the three things that held this town together – Faith… Family… Football.

Aaron told the gathered that this is his father’s legacy, to teach the simple truth of Christ, demonstrate how to the life of faith while raising a family, both in a nuclear sense, and in the extended family that athletic teams become.

A group of recent A-P graduates decided to order red wristbands embedded with those words – faith, family and football – and sell them for $3 apiece, with the money going to the Ed Thomas Memorial Fund.

They ordered 1,500. Sold out in two days.

They ordered another 1,000. Those lasted a week.

They ordered another 1,000. Gone in 10 days.

They ordered another 300, which arrived this week and were on sale on game day. These also sold out.

Thursday saw the day begin with gray clouds. Misty air. Soggy grass. All waited for the A-P Falcons when they returned to the practice field, and the practice was as crisp as the coaches’ exhortations.

Final practice before the season opener. After what the new coach describes as “one of the finest Thursday practices he had ever seen”, the team huddled around Kerns, who spent more than two decades coaching under Ed Thomas before forced into the position of co-head coach.

“Fellas, this should be a special moment,” he said.

They’d been waiting for this moment almost as much as the game itself.

The coaches passed out decal stickers that read “FFF 09.” By now, the three Fs and what they stood for were embedded in their brains, if not their hearts.

Faith, family and football.

Players wiped their helmets dry and carefully placed the decals on the backs.

On Friday, the bleachers were full, and the Thomas’ sat next to the Beckers as they took to the field for the first time in 34 years without Coach Ed Thomas leading them out. Time will tell if the town will recover from losing such a beloved figure and stalwart of their community and bounce back as they did when Coach Thomas led them back from the tornado in May of 2008. One thing is certain, the families of the Thomas’ still grieve and the family of the Beckers still have an ordeal yet to come, but they will face it together. An expression of Faith and Forgiveness, extended Family typical of small town America, and Football, a game around which Ed Thomas influenced hundreds at A-P High School, and thousands beyond those boundries.

The lessons of Faith Family Football are not lost. They live on. They are remembered. They are his legacy because he lived it. His family lives it.

And none of it would be remotely possible without the King of Heaven reaching into the hearts and minds of these afflicted and placing his Holy Peace upon them.

How much of an impact did Ed Thomas have on his community? It is immeasurable. His impact of influence reached far beyond his town.

At his funeral every player on every team in the conference that A-P plays in showed up, lining the streets in their football jerseys to say goodbye to a rival’s coach. One player from such a team was asked “why would you come to pay respects to a rival coach?” The teenager answered, “because of who Coach T. was and how he lived. He earned respect from everyone he crossed paths with. How could we not show up?”

Those stickers? They are worn by all of the teams in that conference this season. FFF 09.

Faith… Family… Football

Tempered with Grace… Mercy… and Forgiveness.

May we all be open to receive God’s love and be able to truly forgive those that trespass against us.
desert-cross-798497

Forgiveness

“What greater gift can I give to you? and what greater gift can you give to me?
Nothing is greater than your love and your forgiveness,
and that is greater than anything.”

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