Tickling 70 years old, my father-in-law
I remember his call back in March—no one was
around when I answered the phone in the kitchen and it was cold and dark
outside and I was leaning on the counter to the right of our gas stove.
The particulars don't matter but I still can envision the scene; I sensed we
were poised to embark on adventure.
That's what made an otherwise forgettable
"Do you know who Tim Tebow is?" he
asks, expecting the answer in the affirmative, his voice belying excitement and
the-child-in-him smile. I'm embarrassed to admit I was hesitant to answer
in case I got it wrong–that's how much I care about football these days.
Don't judge me.
But I knew. It's hard to forget someone
with Tim's reputation–his pores drip "good" in every sense of the
word…fierce competitor, remarkable student, devoted servant-leader, unashamed
My father-in-law continued. “I’m gonna ask Tim to speak at the
He was on a first-name basis with a young man he had never met. He had never even had a conversation or
exchange with him or anyone remotely related to him, by blood or mission.
But as soon as my father-in-law declared his
intent, I knew it was a done deal; that’s just his way. When people meet Tommy, they instantly
like him. He’s genuine. He cares about others. He’s given away his last dime to
someone in need, probably on a few occasions. He loves Jesus so much it’s natural for Tommy to mention Him
in any conversation and you know it’s not pre-meditated or contrived. Maybe he loves Jesus so much because he
knows Him so well—the man wears out Bibles by highlighting passages and note
taking in the margins and sometimes I sneak and read to get inside his head.
Think Andy Taylor meets Billy Graham and you’ve
got a close approximation.
Tommy has served in prison ministry at the
same prison for sneaking up on 20 years.
Some of the men he’s ministered to were there at the beginning. He’s watched boys grow into men. He’s witnessed middle-aged men grow
wrinkled and gray. He knows
innocent men who are serving time and he’s befriended guilty men who’ll be released. He knows some will die behind bars. On the most joyous occasions, men are
released due to sentence served or early parole and they find jobs, continue
their journey of faith, and minister to others…rehabilitated and changed.
Several times, my family has had the
privilege of serving an early Christmas meal to the inmates (it took three
posts to share my thoughts, and even then, I only scratched the surface). Potentially I’ve served murderers,
rapists, thieves and drug dealers. I didn't expect the "leveling effect" of prison …with close-cropped hair and uniformed
attire, these men look just like my neighbors, my friends, my family. I just can’t see their “sins”.
It reminds me of the work of the cross….
A n y w a y s . . . within hours of Tommy's call to me, Reality began siphoning Tommy's dream out of his heart and mind, and began shaping the Real Life Version of all he hoped when he dared to imagine the Unlikely and Impossible.
To be continued….