Whatever Gerry Finney Has, I Want Lots of It

About two weeks ago while playing tennis on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I met Gerry Finney. What happened as a chance meeting left me walking away from our encounter a few hours later wanting what this guy has – and lots of it.

Over the past few months I’ve heard Gerry’s name brought up many times.

“Gerry is a great guy,” said one mutual friend. “Have you heard Gerry and his band play around town? He’s a great musician,” remarked another. “Hey, did you hear the news? Gerry has cancer – again,” I heard yet another person say.

Cancer, that’s a bad word. Especially when the phrase “again” is used which means there has been a “before” and as cancer goes, that’s not good. Cancer is that scary word that stops most of us in our tracks. Cancer, yeah, that’s bad stuff; really bad when you hear the term “stage four” as a preface. Really freaking bad when you hear the word lymphoma attached to it.

You may be wondering why I want what Gerry Finney has. Do I long to have stage 4 lymphoma? No I don’t. I hope I never hear a doctor utter that phrase to me.

What I want is Gerry’s smile, attitude and outlook on life. I want it as bad as he wants his cancer gone.

Many of you reading this may have known him Gerry for many years. You could have grown up with him, went to school with him, played sports with him or heard him play music somewhere over the past twenty something years. Yes, you may know him quite well. Yet the contagious nature of his warm and engaging personality made me feel as if I’ve known him for years too. Some people are just like that but not enough people are like Gerry.

Our introduction came during a break in our match when a mutual friend went over to speak to him. Before I knew it we had talked our way into a doubles match on a neighboring court and Gerry came over to watch. There were quick introductions and within a few minutes Gerry was substituting when someone needed a quick break. That’s right. The guy with stage 4 cancer was subbing when someone else got a little winded. He was just happy to be there.

Gerry and Nick after a hard Monday night match. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Brennan.

Gerry and Nick after a hard Monday night match. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Brennan.

I enjoyed playing with and against Gerry that day. He’s a good level and a half above me as tennis skill is measured but he taught me a great deal simply by being on the court with him. Forehand, backhand, serve or volley, this guy has the complete tennis game. I suspect the same is true for other areas of his life too.

Yet it wasn’t his tennis game that impressed me the most. It was his smile and demeanor. “I heard his guy was going through chemotherapy. What in the heck is he doing out here?” I asked myself. “Isn’t he supposed to be in bed and in tons of pain?”

Maybe for some, but not Gerry. He was laughing and having a great time. Even when his ball sailed out of bounds or was prematurely captured by the net, Gerry never lost his stride and composure. Well, there were those two comments that “accidently” slipped from his lips when he doubled faulted, but hey, it’s tennis and we have to give him a break. With or without stage four lymphoma.

You never know what to say to someone who has a serious illness regardless of how well you know them so I did what any stranger might do as we interacted; I treated him like I would treat any other person I just met. It was even better that he made me feel like we had played together for years.

As our marathon match ended late that afternoon, some of us, including Gerry, had been playing hard for almost three hours. I casually walked toward Gerry and said it had been a pleasure to meet him and offered what remarks I felt were appropriate.

“Gerry I just wanted you to know we have several mutual friends who think highly of you and that I’m praying for you. I hope you get better soon.”

His smile never left his face. “Thanks man, I appreciate it,” he said. Never mind that he had just finished plummeting us with those amazing groundstrokes of his.

It was as if he was thanking me for saying how sorry I was he strained a calf muscle or tore his Achilles – something that would devastate most tennis players but could be easily repaired with surgery or rest. If only it were that simple of an injury. But this guy has stage four lymphoma – again.

Gerry and I exchanged numbers and I asked if he would be willing to hit with me sometime. I want to take my game to the next level and playing with someone like him would help me improve my groundstrokes and volley’s.

But’s there’s lots of guys who can do that. What I really wanted was to be around someone who displayed such an addicting smile and attitude in the midst of a treatment regimen I cannot even begin to comprehend.

Since then I’ve been on the court with Gerry a handful of times. After one match last week we headed over to Houston’s for dinner and a beer and ran into several guys who knew him well. Everyone offered encouragement but none I saw offered pity. Even if they did I don’t believe Gerry would have accepted it. In fact, I know he wouldn’t.

I played tennis with Gerry just yesterday, talking him into playing a set with my group after he had been playing with another friend for at least an hour. It wasn’t like I had to bribe or beg him. He was more than willing to play even knowing he would begin another round of chemo the following day.

“I’ve got time for one quick set Paul but then I’ve got to go,” he said. An hour and a half later I’m the one that left mid-set for my son’s baseball game and guess who was still playing? Yep, it was Gerry – in the middle of a third set.

As I finish this column Gerry is receiving the first of several treatments that will take him away from the tennis courts and his business for a while. I have no concept of what he is going through but find myself wanting to do something – anything to take away some of the pain he must endure. I bet many of you feel the same way.

So while I don’t long for cancer, I do long for what my friend Gerry has.

I want his smile, his attitude and his “can do” spirit. I want lots of it and I want it forever.

Am I as happy as Gerry Finney today? It’s a question I will now ask myself daily. And if the answer isn’t “yes” then I may need to reexamine my attitude and the many blessings God has extended to me.

I believe it would benefit us all who know Gerry if we asked ourselves that very question each day for the rest of our lives.

Get well Gerry and stay strong brother. There is lots of tennis and music to play. There are lots more memories to make with your long-time friends and there are lots more people like me that need to meet you and your attitude.

Forgiveness: A Lenten Reflection

Many of you know my son attends Christian Brother High School, an all-boys Catholic School in Memphis. As a protestant, it’s been an interesting experience for him and a blessing for our family too.

Each day during Lent the school sends out a daily reflection with commentary from teachers, staff, alumni and friends. All have been excellent but yesterday’s caught my attention given the topic was forgiveness. Ah, forgiveness. It’s what we encourage others to do and ask for from others when we’ve messed up or offended someone. It’s also that incredibly difficult process we struggle with when someone has done something to us of such major proportion that we justify our decision not to forgive as righteous.

It sounds and feels good but as I read scripture, that’s not what Jesus commands of us. In discussing this very issue over lunch with a friend yesterday they asked if we were expected to forgive even when the offending party has never asked for it or for that matter, believes they’ve done nothing wrong.

I encourage you to read the message below but in my interpretation of scripture, my response was “yes.” We are commanded to forgive even when forgiveness is not sought. It’s something we should all pray about and seek God’s guidance on. Thanks to Buddy Adams for this wonderful commentary.

Let Us Remember We Are In the Holy Presence of God

Tuesday, March 10

Matthew 18: 21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, 
”Lord, if my brother sins against me, 
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
 who decided to settle accounts with his servants.

When he began the accounting, 
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 
Since he had no way of paying it back,
 his master ordered him to be sold, 
along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
 ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
 Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan. 
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
 who owed him a much smaller amount. 
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 
’Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
 ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back. ‘
But he refused.

Instead, he had him put in prison
 until he paid back the debt. 
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, 
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair. 
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! 
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’

Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Reflection

Whenever I listened to this gospel passage I always wondered about the Lord’s instruction to Peter to not forgive seven times but to forgive seventy-seven times. That seemed to be excessive but I believe it was the Lord’s way of getting his point across that we forgive and forget.   Forgiveness…you frequently read accounts in the newspaper or hear a story on radio or TV of someone forgiving another for an unspeakable act or crime. Do you wonder how they are truly able to forgive? Do you believe they have drawn upon the lesson in this gospel passage of the master forgiving the servant his debt?

Preparing to write this reflection on these verses from Matthew’s Gospel caused me to read and re-read them several times and to think about times in my life when I needed to forgive someone. Was I reluctant to do so?   Was their action that serious that forgiveness was difficult? When I look back now the instructions to Peter to forgive not seven times but seventy-seven times should be all the guidance we need.

Buddy Adams, CBHS Class of 1957

Alumni Board Member

St. John Baptist De Lasalle, pray for us. Live Jesus in our hearts forever.

3 Reasons Why I’m Glad My Protestant Son Attends a Catholic Boys School

CBHS logo

In this season of Lent I am reminded of the tremendous blessings we receive daily from God in an email sent from Christian Brothers High School, where my son is a student. It has also served as a reminder why as a Protestant I made the wise decision to send my son to an all-boys school steeped in Catholic tradition.

Prior to him entering high school, my son and his younger sister attended private and public schools and received a great education at both. My point here is not to debate the differences between the two. Both can prepare our kids for college and beyond and depending on a variety of factors, can be the right or wrong place for your child. I’m a product of public schools and I am thankful each child has the opportunity to go regardless of their status in life.

Here are three reasons I am thankful my son attends CBHS, a single sex Catholic School:

1) They help develop boys into young men.

When a 13 or 14-year old male walks into a high school for the first day they are still a boy regardless of the type of school they attended. All boys will eventually make the transition to young man and then manhood, but at CBHS they further encourage this development by pressing them academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I’m not opposed to co-ed schools in the least, but I can honestly say an all-boys school has been a blessing for my son. He has lots of good friends that are female and often has the chance to attend a dance or formal with a young lady friend. I truly believe an all male school has made him appreciate and respect young ladies more so than if he was in a co-ed environment. This will go a long way in how he relates to females and I believe make him a better man.

Yet from 8-3 each school day an all male environment has allowed him to focus on his studies and individual growth absent much drama or the need to compete for female attention. There’s ample time for that in the few social hours he has each weekend.

2) Regardless of their religion, the boys receive a religious education at CBHS.

In the fall of his eighth grade year we attended a “shadow day” where my son visited CBHS and spent time in mornings classes so he could get a feel for the day-to-day schedule.

After lunch the parents and boys gathered in the auditorium for a Q&A session. The first question Brother Chris asked was how many in the room were Catholic and how many were “other.” It just so happened the majority in the room that day were Protestant.

“Don’t worry,” he said calmly. “We’re not here to convert your boys to Catholicism. For our Catholic families we do owe their children a quality Catholic education and that’s what they will get. For the rest of you, you’re boys will attend an ethics class that is grounded in Scripture and religious teachings.”

My son loves his ethics class, especially his instructor who not only is teaching God’s word, but how to deal with life when tragic events occur in the lives of others or the school. For this I am truly grateful.

3) CBHS creates a “brotherhood” like no environment I have ever witnessed.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many organizations where I developed a bond with others who were in the same place. Whether it is an athletic team, fraternity, band, legislature or any number of other groups, there is a kinship you build with those around you that will never evaporate.

But the CBHS “brotherhood” is unique. You hear a lot about it from alumni and parents and even read about it in the school brochures, but until you’ve experienced or seen it first-hand it’s challenging to describe.

When my son and I attended the father-son banquet the weekend before his first freshman day, the principal gave a rousing speech about the importance of “brotherhood” that would be instilled at CBHS. But I still didn’t get it.

He asked families who were fourth generation to stand. Several in the room did. Third generation and then second generation were also asked to stand. Then he informed the young men about to begin their new journey that regardless of their family history, from this moment on they are CBHS “Brothers” and that no one – not another person or distance can ever take that away from them.

Joey Forcherio, a soon-to-be 2015 graduate said it best in a recent letter he wrote.

“That is what CBHS does to its students. It takes young naïve boys and unexplainably intertwines them into brothers. When your brothers hurt, you hurt; when your brothers rejoice, you rejoice.”

Now I’m beginning to understand what these boys are experiencing.

Any “brotherhood” is built and nurtured over time, but as each day passes and the mundane is interrupted by the occasional tragedy of losing someone or the exuberance of winning a state championship, it only strengthens the bond between their young men and will endure forever.

Some may question why I failed to mention academics in my three reasons. For me, that’s been a given. In the five months my son has been at CBHS he as learned better study habits and been pressed beyond his comfort zone by his instructors. He’s been fortunate to achieve second honors and I know the level of academic instruction, combined with the reasons above will mold him into the young man I long to see and experience. I trust you will find the right environment for your child. I know I have.

Thank you CBHS and Go Brothers!

Marty Duren: Three Reasons I am Not a Muslim

Note: This post if from my friend Marty Duren who writes a regular blog, Kingdom In the Midst. Marty is a prolific writer who often touches on issues important to our lives and culture. His review of “American Sniper” was excellent.

Contrary to the assertions of some all religions are not the same. All religions may be wrong, one right and the others wrong, but all cannot be right. Even if one holds the belief that all religions lead to God such a person must still answer “To which God do all religions lead? The God of Judaism, the of Christianity, of Islam, or the many gods of polytheistic religions?”

“All roads lead to God” is vacuousness.

Since 9/11 through this present time as ISIS/ISIL/IS fills the headlines much has been written about Islam. Islam is a dominant world religion one-third (with Christianity and Judaism) of the large Monotheistic religions of the world.

Although there are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and Islam dominates entire regions and peoples, here are 3 reasons I am not a Muslim.

1. The Koran contradicts the Bible.

Even a cursory review reveals contradictions of the major doctrines of Christianity. The Trinity, the deity of Christ, His atoning death, salvation through Jesus alone, the Holy Spirit, and grace are but a few. The Bible was complete hundreds of years before Muhammad lived and the Quran compiled. If the Bible is true, the Quran is not.

2. Jesus is the prophet, not Muhammad.

The most well known Islamic saying to non-Muslims is, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet.” One English translation of Quran 33 (Al-Ahzab):40 is, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Every All-Aware of everything.” At least some Muslims believe Muhammad was the prophet spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18, 19.  However, Muhammad was neither the prophet spoken of by Moses, nor was he the last of the Prophets.

According to Jesus the last of the prophets was John the Baptist, as he was the prophet who heralded the Messiah’s arrival:

The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it. (Luke 16:16, HCSB, emphasis mine)

The prophet spoken of by Moses was not Muhammad, but was Jesus Himself. This was the conclusion reached by many of Jesus’ own day (John 6:14).  I cannot be a Muslim since the offices claimed for Muhammad are already filled by others.

3. Jesus, not Muhammad, died for my sins.

Read the remainder of Marty’s post here.

Student Pens Moving Letter to Deceased Classmate He Never Met

Editors Note: Joey Forcherio, a senior at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, TN, wrote this letter to a classmate he had never met who was one of two students recently killed in a tragic automobile accident. I wrote a column about the two young men who lost their lives and how their parents and classmates must deal with their passing and others have written powerful testimonies to their lives. I believe Joey’s letter speaks volumes from classmates who were touched by their deaths. His writing is beautiful and the manner in which he exposes his emotions is powerful. 

Dear Colin,

I don’t remember ever talking to you before. We never played on a team together. We never had a class together. I am not even sure if you knew my name. That is what is so confounding to me about my mourning; we never met, but yet I am deeply, penetratingly hurt by your death.

That is what CBHS does to its students. It takes young naïve boys and unexplainably intertwines them into brothers. When your brothers hurt, you hurt; when your brothers rejoice, you rejoice.

At no point in my life have I or will I ever have the same type of brotherhood as what I have been blessed enough to have cherished for four years. From the outside, people would call us strangers. From the inside, you are my brother.

“He who dies with me on this battlefield today shall be my brother.” Shakespeare

You brother beyond life,

Joey Forcherio

Class of 2015, CK2

The Size of Your ‘Family’ Can Be Larger Than You Imagine

If I asked the size of your family how would you respond? Would you say large, small or nonexistent? A friend recently told me she had 40 first cousins. Someone I knew a few years ago has no one; not a single living relative.

I have one living brother and three siblings I hope to meet in Heaven some day. There are a few first cousins who I can count on both hands. Some of my closet relatives are second and third cousins but those are relatively few in number too. I find it interesting a handful of my Catholic friends have trouble with the first names of relatives once they surpass the triple-digit mark.

While the number will vary for each of us, I realized yesterday I was standing in the midst of a few hundred people I could call family for seventy short minutes.

The dictionary app I have on my phone provides eight definitions for the word “family.” Number four may be the most common, defining family as “people descended from a common ancestor.” But the one that I felt best defined my family on Thursday was “a collection of people sharing a common attribute.”

It was a gathering where I didn’t know many people. I may have known 30 or 40 and recognized another couple of dozen. Some probably knew most everyone there and saw only 20 or 30 strangers.

When leaving it dawned on me those same people will never congregate under the same roof again; at least not for the same purpose. The few that are closest will stay in contact for the rest of their lives because the event that brought us together has welded itself in their soul. The rest of us will recall the tragic circumstances, and hopefully reflect on the emotion and gravity of the situation. My prayer is we find encouragement and hope as well.

If you ask me the size of my family next week my response will probably fall back to some small number. During this season of Lent let’s remember if we allow ourselves to be in God’s presence the size of our family is infinite and growing stronger each day.

Welcome to the family. I’m honored on be in yours too.

When Tragedy Strikes Let’s Remember, It’s Not About Us; It’s About the Families & Friends Who Remain

The recent and tragic deaths of Christian Brothers High School seniors Colin Kilgore and Christophe Kesterson has hit close to home for their friends, teammates, and teachers. Now that the impact of their deaths has started to bring our emotions to the surface, I believe it’s time we realize it’s not about how or what we feel, but rather the feelings of the relatives and close friends of these two young men.

On Monday I wrote a piece about my own experience of losing one of my best friends our senior year – almost to the day God called Colin and Christophe home. I can relate to the close friends and teammates of the boys, especially those who have spent so much time with them over their 17 years. That means I can sympathize with them.

On the other hand, I have no idea what Robert and Anna Kilgore and John Kesterson and Georgina Kesterson are going through at this moment. Honestly, I pray I never know that feeling and I’m confident any parent reading this would agree. The difference is unless we have shared the same or a similar experience, we can only empathize with them or try to understand their emotions. Therein lies the difference.

For those close to the families, it’s easy to show your support in words, with a hug or with another personal display of sympathy. Showing up at the family’s home, dropping by the visitation and going to the funeral are no-brainers.

But what about those of us who didn’t know the boys or their family’s well or at all? What should we do? How should we act?

I’ve never sat at the ballpark in 98-degree heat or during a gusty windstorm with the parents when Colin and Christophe were trying to hit a new pitcher or make a goal. I never had the privilege of throwing Colin in my backyard pool or fist bumping Christophe when he walked in my garage to visit my son and grab a Coke from my frig. Maybe I can do both when we meet in Heaven one day.

So what about the rest of us?

It’s no longer about Colin or Christophe. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to honor their memories. We always will. I believe the focus now is showing our love and support for those closest to them.

I bring this up because I’ve heard some of the parents and boys say they feel uncomfortable going to a visitation or service because they didn’t know either well or at all. I both sympathize and empathize with them.

I’ve thought about this a lot and rehearsed what I might say if the opportunity presents itself. I may never meet the parents of Colin and Christophe and they would not know me from Adam. I’m simply going to show my support because my heart bleeds for them. If the line is not too long I’ll walk by, shake their hand and tell them I’m praying for them. Nothing else matters, especially a name.

If I were a classmate or teammate, I would consider going to show my fellow “brothers” or other friends that I feel for them. Even if I had never met an upperclassman on the lacrosse or baseball team or someone they knew from childhood, I would shake their hand, pat them on the back or shoulder when I walked by or maybe simply nob their way. They’ll know what you mean and they’ll appreciate the gesture more than you will ever know.

Lot’s of people are going to be hurting for a long time. I know I did and it took me years to reconcile my emotions. That’s okay. In the meantime, let’s wrap Colin and Christophe’s family and friends around our hearts and let them know we are there for them today and tomorrow. We may need the favor returned one day.

Untimely Deaths of High School Seniors Present Challenges and Opportunities for Classmates, Family and Friends

It happens decades before it should. Sometime before a May graduation one or more members of a senior class could wake up one morning and never live to see another day. It makes no sense; these boys had their entire lives in front of them. None of us will ever understand such tragedy and we’re not supposed to.

This past Sunday I awoke to the news that two young men from Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, TN lost their lives in a single car accident the prior evening. Colin Kilgore, a baseball player and teammate of my freshman son and Christophe Kesterson, a lacrosse player collided with a tree in the car they were in and died instantly. Both were accomplished student-athletes who had secured a spot at two great colleges and I’m sure felt as if they had the world in the palm of their hands. Yet it’s times like this we realize it’s not us but God who is in control.

Almost thirty-five years to the day I lost one of my best friends our senior year of high school. The news of the CBHS boys dug up a cadre of emotions for me. I would have never imagined the events of February 17, 1980 would come rushing back with such intensity yet all I could think about were the emotions that families, friends and loved ones of these boys would experience that dreadful morning and for years to come.

Early Sunday morning I received a text from a friend informing me of the CBHS accident. Details were few but it didn’t matter. These boys were gone and nothing was going to bring them back. My first thought was how the families received the news. As a parent it’s hard to imagine a phone call or visit from law enforcement officers in the wee hours of the morning telling you your child is not coming home. The very thought makes me sick to my stomach.

In my case I received a phone call from a buddy telling me the friend we left less than five hours earlier was gone. At first I thought it was a bad dream and hung up the phone. When it rang again seconds later I knew it was no dream but a visit from the angel of death. It was the first time a contemporary; someone that I knew so well had died. We were too young to die. Only grandparents and old neighbors were allowed to die. We were still in high school and graduation was in May. We just ordered invitations.

My son was spending the night with a friend but I was able to obtain some details from other parents and through social media. When I called one baseball mom asking if they knew anything she began to cry. “These could have been our boys Paul,” she said sobbing over the phone. She was right. My son had rode home from visiting friends with a sophomore classmate just hours before yet they were probably still sleeping. It wasn’t fair to these other parents that their sons we’re sleeping either.

I called my son, waking him up to inform him of the news. To my knowledge no one he had ever known around his age had passed away. He didn’t know either of the boys very well because they were seniors and as everyone knows, seniors aren’t going to have much to do with a lowly freshman, but nonetheless, they were teammates and students. They were CBHS “brothers.” They didn’t have to know each other well.

“Daddy, I just saw him in the locker room on Friday,” commented my son.

An email from the coach said there would be a team meeting for both baseball and lacrosse players. It was for primarily for juniors and seniors – the boys who had spent the most time with their friends and knew them best – but everyone on the team was invited. I went and picked up my son and suggested he attend the meeting. At first he was hesitant. After all, he didn’t know the boys that well. But they were his teammates and his “brothers” from school and I encouraged him to support those who were hurting most. I believe he realized it was the right decision to make. After the meeting I could tell the gathering made an impact on his soul.

Within an hour after finding out my friend was gone another friend picked me up about 6:00 a.m. that Sunday morning. My parents didn’t want me to go but I insisted. We knew some of the sheriff’s deputies and they told us the location where the damaged truck had been towed. I had sat in that very truck the day before and now it was barely recognizable. The area when the cab once stood was no more. No one could have survived that wreck.

There were no cell phones then so there would be no advance notice of our next stop. My friend had dated a junior girl and I had dated her younger sister. We spent lots of time at their house and fortunately for us their parents liked us, welcoming us into their home on many weekend nights. I’ll never forget knocking on that door, waking everyone up and delivering such horrible news. It was awful. Nothing prepares you for the task and nothing should. I pray my children are never on either end of that knock.

When my son and I arrived at the school the parking lot was almost full. CBHS is an all boys’ school but lots of teen girls from St. Agnes and other neighboring schools were there too. The baseball team met in a large conference room in the administrative building and it was already packed when we arrived. Baseball players and coaches occupied the chairs and lined the walls and parents and other classmates spilled out into the corridors.

There was a heavy weight of sadness in the room but the coaches and boys had already begun sharing stories of their friend and teammate. Almost all were funny; things he did and said in the locker rooms and on the field.

“Did you know Colin didn’t like to take batting practice before games Coach?” one player confessed. “Said he always hit better when he didn’t warm up but never wanted you to know.”

“No, I never knew that,” said the coach. “But I always had a feeling he was up to something whenever I turned my back.” Everyone laughed.

Some may not have known why they should be laughing but their teammate produced a lot of fun moments that never needed to fade away. Certainly not today and hopefully they will grow fonder as Father time marches on. From what I heard from other parents, a similar situation occurred in the lacrosse team meeting.

My son was standing near the entrance of the room and didn’t know it at the time, but his teammates Mom entered the room and stood near him. At the conclusion of the meeting it was announced that both teams would gather in the gym but before anyone moved the Colin’s mom expressed her appreciation to everyone. I don’t recall her words because all I could think about was how composed she was and how much gratitude and love she expressed for those in attendance. She was amazing. She would have to be for the next few days.

When both of the teams gathered in the gym the feeling was surreal. Girls were crying and hugging each other and many of the boys who may have never shown signs of emotion on the field were crying too. There was an interesting mixture of laughter and crying, of tears and smiles in the gym that knows only the sounds of athletic competition. Even the parents of both boys were mingling with other parents and friends. Prayers were said – both to the group and in small gatherings all over the room and the presence of God filled that gymnasium. God always finds a way to comfort us in our greatest time of need.

There are many great schools in our area but the main emphasis of Christian Brothers is the “brotherhood” created by their 150-year tradition. “Brothers for Life” is their motto. From your first day of class until your dying moment you are a CBHS “brother” and no one can ever take that away. This gathering was the perfect example of that motto and I know the boys who were gone would have done the same for any other “brother.”

It still doesn’t make sense and it’s still not supposed to. In the thirty-five years since my friend was taken I still think back on why it happened to him and not me. Why I am blessed on a daily basis with two great kids and friends and family members who love and support me and why did my friend never live to see the same? Experiencing his death changed my life forever and I know it will change the lives of the families and friends of these two CBHS boys.

Everyone will say their final goodbyes in the next couple of days. Emotions will come and go and the next time a class meets, a practice starts or the first time they take the field for competition, their “brothers” will think of their friend and teammate who isn’t standing beside them.

Let us remember in the chaos of this life that our time is precious and although we hear it on a routine basis, let’s live life to it’s fullest and take advantage of every breath God gives us.

I don’t have to know Colin Kilgore and Christophe Kesterson or their parents to know they would want us to move forward with the same determination they espoused in the classroom and on the athletic field. It’s the least we can do for them and for my friend so let’s do it well.

Congressional Leaders Support Obama’s Airstrike in Iraq; Shouldn’t Christian Leaders Do the Same?

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have issued statements in support of President Obama’s decision on Thursday to provide “limited” airstrikes on Iraq. However politically popular the decision may prove to be with the Capitol Hill crowd and conservatives in particular, does it follow that Christians should also support the bombing?

Some Christians, particularly on the left, are struggling with the strategy.

Pentagon and Army officials have indicated the “limited” approach announced by the White House is meant to serve as a deterrent and if the military advances by ISIS stop, then the bombing would also be discontinued. Early Friday U.S. fighter jets targeted and hit artillery supplies belonging to ISIS, an extremist Muslim group that has been responsible for thousands of deaths, most notably Christians.

Religious and political differences aside, it’s important to note that the last four presidents – beginning with President George H.W. Bush – have either attacked or invaded Iraq.

For me, this confirms the fact that regardless of religious convictions or pressure from religious groups, conservatives and liberal administrations alike have decided that military action in Iraq has been in the best interest of the United States. Yet some Christians on the left dispel that notion, saying such action should be avoided at all cost.

In a column that appeared in The Huffington Post in June of this year and quoting from his book The Uncommon Good, Jim Wallis of Sojourners advocated that the U.S. adopt a strategy of giving the enemy food and other necessities as opposed to dropping bombs.

“Rather than making our enemies hungrier or angrier, we should feed them. Instead of embracing policies that cause our enemies’ loved ones to die of thirst, we should give them something to drink. This is not naïve pacifism, but a shrewd way to turn the tables and change the situation.”

Most Christians may agree that Wallis’ recommendations are commendable. But they are hardly effective in dealing with terrorists who are considered “extreme” by extremist standards. ISIS has reacted to the U.S. airstrike by using women as human shields in hopes it will deter the attacks or serve as a propaganda tool if civilians are killed or wounded. But I hear little of those in oppostion to military action asking ISIS leaders to curtail their barbaric actions.

What ISIS is doing should be reason enough for Christians to support such an attack for the cause of protecting religious liberty.

Wallis, like others on the “progressive” side of Christianity, have long encouraged administrations to avoid military action at all cost. I reached out to Wallis on Friday for his reaction but was told he was traveling in South Africa and has yet to release a statement on today’s bombings.

During his weekly radio address on Sunday, Pope Francis mentioned that recent actions in Iraq have left him “in dismay and disbelief.” Although he did not specifcially express his support for the U.S. airstrikes, he seemed to demostrate his support for the action saying, “I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish [the rule of] law.”

Foreign policy concerns already seem to be trumping religion on the left side of the aisle. For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to go against the leader of his party would be political suicide given one of his top priorities is to try and keep a Democratic controlled Senate after the November elections. In short, Reid is not going to move too far away from President Obama on military action in Iraq.

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Thad Cochran Gets a Taste of Unsweet Tea

Anyone who has spent time south of the Mason Dixon line, especially in the Deep South, knows that an order of iced tea at Three Sisters in Jackson, Mississippi, means one laced with a heavy dose of sugar. However, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, is most likely going to get a gallon of tart, unsweet tea poured on him if Tea Party favorite and State Senator Chris McDaniel defeats him on Tuesday, as most pundits predict.

Similar to Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat at the hands of an unknown tea party college professor, few saw Cochran’s defeat coming six months ago. Heck, most people didn’t see it coming six weeks ago. And while the mainstream D.C.–based media heavyweights were caught flat-footed by Cantor’s undoing, they are already predicting Cochran’s swan song speech.

Here’s why Cochran’s Tuesday won’t go his way:

Thad Cochran is out of touch with most Mississippians.

I spend the majority of my time in Tennessee about 10 miles from the Mississippi state line, so I see a lot of political ads aimed at the conservative political base of Northern Mississippi. More importantly, I hear from friends who are engaged with both campaigns. One friend who is connected with the Cochran campaign offered the following observation.

“I’ve known Thad all of my political life. He’s done more for Mississippi than most can conceive, but the grassroots don’t care because they are so tired of the gridlock in Washington,” my friend said on the condition of anonymity. “Two days before the primary Thad was at an elementary school during a campaign stop. Instead of talking to the parents in the carpool line about what concerns them, all he wanted to do was gather the kids around the flagpole for a photo. He doesn’t get and it’s sad.”

Thad Cochran is out of touch with Congress.

That doesn’t mean Cochran is not connected with the Beltway crowd in Washington. In fact it’s his life. It also doesn’t mean Cochran’s staff isn’t connected to Congress. If the truth were known they could most likely run his office without his presence, especially if they could cast votes for him in committee and on the Senate floor.

Why do I say Cochran is out of touch with Congress? He had no clue that Eric Cantor had been defeated. As a former legislator, I was intimately involved in our caucus elections and how my colleagues in both chambers were fairing at the polls. Cochran is clueless. The reason he’s not paying attention is, in part, due to his mental incompetence and the fact that he’s been in Washington so long it doesn’t matter to him who wins or loses. Besides, Cantor was in the House and most senators believe the lower chamber is just that – beneath them.

There are not enough Haley Barbour’s and Brett Favre’s to make a difference at this point.

Like a hearty glass of southern sweet tea on a hot summer day, former Gov. Haley Barbour and former professional football player Favre are extremely popular in Mississippi. But name ID and popularity aside, they are not enough to pull out a victory for Cochran. Now if Archie and Eli Manning were involved, that might be different.

Since departing the governor’s mansion, Barbour spends most of his time counting votes and his growing brokerage account at his D.C.–based lobbying firm.

Yes, he organized the state’s top GOP elected officials to rally around Cochran months ago, but that’s not what the average voter cares about. They can still appreciate the fact that Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are doing well in their respective roles, but a Cochran candidacy gives them little to no hope that Washington will change and Chris McDaniel does.

It’s not that McDaniel is not a good guy or a popular candidate; he just wasn’t someone who would have been picked to take Cochran’s place.

“I served alongside Chris in the legislature,” an unnamed former legislator said. “He’s a nice guy – a little squirrely – but a nice guy. If the top dogs were to make a list of the people they want to replace Thad, Chris would not have been in the top 50. Heck, he wouldn’t have even been thought of but here he is, most likely the next U.S. Senator from Mississippi.”

Cochran has his supporters, but they won’t come out in the numbers needed in a special election.

No doubt about it, Cochran has lots of old guard, old-south blue blood friends who are loyal to him, but they won’t come out in the numbers needed to win this election. They’re OK with Cochran and have no problems with his state and Washington staff carrying the water for Mississippi, but they’ve got appointments, business lunches at the club and tee-times to worry about instead of a guy they’ve had their picture taken with a hundred times.

McDaniel’s supporters are so close to victory they can taste it and they’re making phone calls and knocking on thousands of doors today to make sure people who think like they do are going to vote tomorrow.

And if I were McDaniel, I wouldn’t take too much time off the campaign trail because the Democrats know what sweet tea taste like, too, and they’ll want their chance to celebrate in November.

 

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