As with most things, they started almost inadvertently. With Margaret, it was a comment as I walked into chapel on October 13, 2008. With Jean, it was the blue tennis shoes covered with white birds she had on her feet one morning early this September. And now, the two young ladies seated together above have a profound effect on my life. They had never met before Michael Fonville posed them together recently in a combined chapel. Margaret, a fifth grader now, has rated my teaching wardrobe on a daily basis since that fateful moment as a kindergartener when she bluntly informed me that, "You don't match!" Jean, a freshman, began choosing the tie and then the shirt and now the pants and shoes/belt I wear after I told her I had a tie resembling those tennis shoes. What seemed like isolated incidents are tied together, at least in the realm of my existence.
I don't know if Chris Perkins and Russell Carr met yesterday at worship but if they didn't, I wish they would have. Chris brought his college basketball team, the Crowley's Ridge College Pioneers, to town to play Houston Baptist University in a game tonight and he had them seated on two pews with our congregation. In high school, Chris was one of my students in Tennessee as well as being a member of the same congregation and part of the FCS Commander baseball team I assisted with. When I stepped down as the varsity girls' basketball coach at WCS in the spring of 2001, I recommended Chris, who was coaching in Kentucky, as my replacement. He and his wife, Dalea, who was an elementary teacher, flew to Houston for interviews and were both offered the positions. They were on the verge of accepting but at the last minute, declined due to a program they had just become involved with in Nashville. The afore mentioned Russell, who sat several pews in front of us on Sunday, was my assistant at the time and had not applied for the job. But later that spring, he had a change of heart, and took my spot. In the ensuing years, Russell won numerous state championships as both our girls' and boys' coach and took over the reins of Athletic Director as well. But all of that likely would be a moot point if Chris, who has gone on to a successful career on a number of different levels, had signed the contract. The histories of two families would be altered as well as the histories of a number of schools and churches. It all turned on signatures on a piece of paper.
That brings me back to Margaret and Jean. Without Margaret's sage four year old critique of my clothes five years ago, I doubt Jean would have an impact on me. Because of Margaret, I began thinking more seriously about how I present myself. Because of Jean, I now iron all my shirts for the week on Sunday and bring them to school and hang them in my class room. I have roughly 25o ties of which I would guess fifty or so are draped over a podium. Jean picks a shirt, matches it with a tie, and referring to a chart with my trouser colors, tells me what pants/belt/shoes to wear the next day with that shirt and tie....and I do. But it's more than clothes. My week is now much more organized which is a huge plus for a sloppy, careless guy like me. Margaret is happier, too, with Jean on board! (Somehow, I need to factor my sister-in-law Sally into this equation but I'm not quite sure how!)
Although I doubt everyone will see a connection, especially a spiritual one, it's easy for me to connect the dots between the stories. But more importantly, I think that is how the Lord works, weaving intricately designed webs of people and places and events to put us where He wants us for when He wants us. I've quoted Ephesians 2:10 before in this blog and I hope you'll bear with me for the repetition of a verse but here goes:
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."
In Paul's words, we are created for the tasks the Lord has made ready just for us. I need some fine tuning and a nudge here and there and maybe even a couple of fashion gurus to smooth out the rough edges to make me an effective worker in the Kingdom. And Russell and Chris, God put you where He wanted you. when he wanted you to do what He wanted you to do. It just took me about twelve years to figure it all out.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Advice is like snow - the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper in sinks into the mind."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org