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September 28, 2012 / Pastor George Fike

Oh, yeah? MAKE ME!


This is still not the post I wanted to follow The Power of a Legacy…  But I am still awaiting some archived content.  Hopefully that will come to me soon.  So, in the meantime (part 2), chew on this:

One day I had lunch with my friend, Anthony.  (He’s the better-looking one in the picture below.)  He shared with me that he had been playing basketball every week at a gym with some very talented players, some even played pro ball overseas.  He could handle the trash-talking to some extent, but he was concerned that the conversations were taking him to places he had long since left behind, and it was wearing on his soul.  He was thinking of giving that game up, even though he loved that the competitive nature there really improved his game.

After hearing his story, I was reminded of my earlier days playing basketball at the Joliet YMCA.  We had really grown into a diverse group during the 15 years I played there – a few doctors, a few preachers, a few shift laborers.  We were from all walks of life, including some unsavory ones.  New Year’s Day in 2001 I made a commitment that I would show up early (5:30 a.m. – I KNOW!), and start praying for whoever would play that day.  I invited a fellow pastor (who never did show up), and began the next Tuesday.  I would go to a corner of the gym and pray as people began to arrive.  I continued to do so for several weeks, usually alone.

One day, in the midst of a game, two of our players got into an altercation – no blood, but very tense.  It was as though the match was about an inch away from the fuse of a very powerful bomb.  I was standing on the second step of the court-side risers as the shouting died down when all of a sudden I heard my voice suggesting to everyone on the court: “You know, even though some of you aren’t believers, I really think it would be a great idea if we could pray before we play each time.  I’ve been coming early for the last few weeks to pray for everyone who shows up that God would bless you and keep us all from injury.  I want to invite anyone who wants to to join me next time.  Just get here a little early.”  I thought to myself: “Whoa! Where did that come from?”  But no one threw a ball or a basketball shoe at me.  In fact, several guys said, “You know what?  That’s not a bad idea.”

The next Thursday when I came into the gym door, Randy – one of my friends from the streets of Joliet – dropped his ball and headed to my usual corner.  We were joined by three or four others who had arrived early.  It became our custom to gather together, sometimes up to a dozen of us, and pray for each other.  It was mostly me, praying out loud, but you could tell how it greatly affected not only these guys, but everyone who showed up to play.  I remember one day, as we were about done playing, a young man opened the door and limped his way over to the risers and sat down.  When we finished my friend Randy said to me, “That guy is Joe.  He got shot last week and almost died.  I wanted you to come pray over him.”  I was amazed and humbled.  Many similar God-moments came like this over the next several months.

I shared this story with Anthony, and he said, “I’m glad you told me this story.  That’s what I needed to hear.”

I played ball with Anthony just this morning.  For some reason today, I noticed that his form on his jump shot looked a lot like my friend Randy’s.  He said, “Hey!  I just remembered.  I decided to go back to that gym and do what you said.  And it’s amazing how things have changed!  One guy even talked to me about starting a relationship with Christ!”

Isn’t it amazing what happens when we invite God into our way of living?  When we stop to pray about our surroundings and our relationships?  “Pray without ceasing,” it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  St. Francis prayed:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

What if we started each day breathing the prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace…?  Every ballgame, every board meeting, every shopping trip, every worship service?  God, get me out of Your way and let me watch You work!

Coming soon (hopefully) – the legacy my dad gave me…

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One Comment

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  1. Melanie Palumbo / Sep 28 2012 3:52 PM

    Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear….all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer…
    Thank you, George, for sharing such a shining example of the power of prayer. This hits so close to home for me as I find my nest empty….with much time for contemplation….uninterrupted time for prayer…I find He will accomplish so much more if I only ask….it has always been me that gets in the way.

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