Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Learn from Your Journey as God Turns Mistakes into Good

Learn from Your Journey

as God Turns Mistakes into Good


Bottom of the final inning, bases loaded, two out, down by

three runs. I stepped to the plate a nervous 12-year-old,

clearly about to be the hero or the goat. Anxious, I swung

at the first pitch, then watched in horror as the ball bounded

toward the shortstop.


My fate was inevitable, so I’m not sure why I even ran. Perhaps

because I’d been taught to run out ground balls, or perhaps

I ran to first base just because it was in the opposite direction

of my dugout and thus would delay the inevitable hangdog

reaction I would get from my teammates. With every step,

I expected to see the ball arrive at first base, signaling the

third out and my failure.


Halfway there I glanced to my left, expecting to find the ball

in flight from the shortstop. Instead, to my shock, I saw that

the ball roll between his legs.


Hope restored, I rounded first, never taking my eyes off the ball.

The stunned left fielder and center fielder reacted too slowly and

allowed the ball to roll between them as I rounded second.

Approaching third, I broke the base running rules by looking

over my shoulder. I saw that the outfielders had overreacted

in their haste, overrun the ball and allowed it to bounce back

toward the infield. I strutted home to a hero’s welcome.


As Christmas approaches I thought I would share a story of

rebirth, a fresh start, of hope discovered. Several crossed my mind

before the Lord told me to tell the one I know best: mine.


I learned about starting over with Jesus Christ at age 14

at a YMCA leadership conference in Black Mountain, N.C.

Until that point, life had been pleasant but fairly nondescript.


At a time when a person starts looking for a niche, goals, purpose,

I had no particular identifiable gifts or passion. A youth minister

from New Orleans sat on the stage in Black Mountain and told us

about “my friend, Jesus” and how he walked with him, guided him

and saved him from eternity separated from God. I wanted that

friend and invited him into my life immediately.


From that very day, I can trace God’s hand in the people I’ve met,

the places I’ve traveled, even the mistakes I’ve made. Talents

began to be revealed and take shape. Personality developed.

Searching led to deeper understanding. It was a slow but steady

process of growth, amply messed up by my regular mistakes,

sure-handedly put back in place by the Master Designer.


The journey was from Cleveland, Tenn., with parents who

provided all the resources and plenty of “can do” encouragement;

to Knoxville, Tenn., where sports editor Marvin West provided

the breaks and All-America Tennessee kicker Alan Duncan

much spiritual leadership; to Jackson, Miss., where I met a young,

beautiful and loving single-again mom and a vibrant 4-year-old

who agreed to merge their journey with mine; to West Palm Beach,

Fla., where the journalism career and spiritual growth kicked into

high gear, oddly conflicting with each other at crucial junctures,

and where the youth minister who introduced me to Jesus Christ

came back into my life as pastor and mentor; to Antigua, West Indies,

where ministry failure and a hurricane blew us to seminary

in Wake Forest, N.C., where Alvin Reid, Paige Patterson and dozens

of others chiseled and sharpened; to Charlotte, N.C., where growth

continues but pouring out what God has poured in through others

is the main plan.


The journey is one of God’s forgiveness and grace. God is a Father

who desires to give good gifts to His children. He has a plan for

each of us, a plan to give us a hope and a future. His Son came

to give us abundant life -- if only we will receive.


This Christmas, celebrate new birth. All of you who know Christ

have a story of re-birth. Tell it freely and with passion. People

are searching for hope, and second, third and 53rd chances.

God’s next blessing to you may be that you lead them to Him.


Those of you who don’t know my friend Jesus, He is still waiting

to lead you on a wonderful journey, an adventure for a lifetime,

a Divine Design so incredible that it will turn groundouts into

grand slams.

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