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“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days — you would not believe if you were told!” (Habakkuk 1:5, New American Standard)
“I want you to be chaplain for the University of Colorado Football Team,” Coach Bill McCartney said to me one day, in a way that let me know it really wasn’t open for discussion.
Football coaches are like that. I once heard Tom Landry say, “A coach is a man who makes men do what they don’t want to do, so that they can become everything they always wanted to be.” That’s the way it was with Coach McCartney. He wanted me to be the team chaplain – and that was that.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked, “Motivate them?”
“Of course not,” he answered, “that’s my job.”
“Well, then what exactly do you want me to do?” I replied, not really sure what he was thinking.
“I want you to do what you do,” he said, “only quicker!”
So I was a long-winded preacher. One church member even told me, “Pastor, your sermons are like the grace of God – beyond understanding, and without end!”
And even my own son, David, when he was serving as Youth Pastor, went into the men’s bathroom and stuck a post-it note on the air-powered hand dryer. The note read, “Push here for a message from Pastor James.” Bless you, my son.
So Mac wanted me to do what I was good at doing, only quicker. And he had good reasons. When you are speaking to football players on Game Day, you really don’t have a lot of time to preach three-point sermons that end with poems. And, as I discovered my first day, jokes usually do not go over very well, for these guys are not in a laughing mood. They’ve been working up all week long to unleash the full force of their physical fury against their opponents – and you’re standing in front of them clowning around? I don’t think so.
In just a few short weeks I learned that being a stand-up guy and speaking truth straight to their hearts was the only thing these brutes would respect. So that was the approach I took. Evidently it was the right approach; I was a part of the CU football program for ten years.
But the Lord was up to something that neither I, nor Bill McCartney, would have ever imagined. The very fact that He even brought the two of us together was out of the ordinary.
Never were there two more unlikely friends than Bill and me. He was a hard-nosed football coach; a no nonsense disciplinarian; a dyed-in-the-wool, blue-collared Michigan Catholic. And me, I was an ex-con, ex-hippie, non-jock, Bible-toting charismatic, who wrote poetry and looked for animal formations in the clouds.
He a Spartan; me a Thespian. He a warrior; me an orator. He a man of action; me a dreamer. He a leader of men; me a self-conscious, insecure guy still sorting out what it was like growing up without a dad…or a mom.
And the Lord looked down upon the sons of men, and said, “Yes, I think I will use those two guys to do something unbelievable.”
(Excerpt from pg. 41, Released From the Prison My Father Built, by James Ryle. Get Your Copy Today!)
Note: The attached picture is an arial photo of the first Promise Keepers full stadium event at Folsom Field in Boulder Colorado; there were 54,000 men in attendance! It was only the beginning of the Lord doing extraordinary things.