Friday, August 12, 2011

Playing For The 4th Quarter

I am not a "Tweet-a-holic." Yes, I have a Twitter account. (Feel free to "follow me." I have little of substance to add to the Twitosphere but my Twitter name is "Rotola.") Today I came across a tweet written by a friend attending a conference for leadership training in Chicago. While listening to a speaker she wrote, "Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?"

Tough calling.

Beat up.

Tough assignments.

Is that really what I signed on for? Back when I was 13 years old and I accepted the invitation of Jesus to join His band of ragamuffin followers I knew nothing of what lay in store for me. I was just amazed that God would take the time out to speak to me, much less to die a horrible death in my place. I was stunned to realize that He had a plan for my simple life. I figured that if God is good (and He is) then I had best get on board with this offer. So I signed-up to be a full fledged Christ-follower.

Since then there have been truly great days and experiences. There have been truly horrific days and experiences. I had no clue about the highs and the lows waiting for me. I just knew I wanted to know Jesus because He wanted to know me. And I most certainly wanted to get in on this whole heaven deal.

I had no idea that this deal would cost me anything. I fully expected to live a life of my choosing. God had other ideas. It took Him a few years to get His point across but once He did I signed on for the whole adventure. I have made enemies. I have lost friends. Sometimes those I have trusted the most turned out to be the least trustworthy. I have presided over many deaths. I have physically intervened to stop at least one sure-fire suicide. I have taken a dead baby out of his mother's arms. I have seen a teenager hanging from bare rafters. I have stood next to more caskets than I can remember. I have performed weddings for marriages that didn't last a month. I have been on a first name basis with judges, child abuse counselors, DCFS case workers, and police chiefs. Seldom because anything good had transpired to bring us together. I have been threatened with physical violence both in slums and suburbs. I have chased down run-aways. I have sat on the side of an expressway in the Appalachian's at midnight with teenagers on one side of me and a broken down touring bus on the other. I have spoken to 6,000 people at once and I have spoken to 6. I have prepared just as diligently for both.

I could go on talking about my "tough assignments." But I could never ever top Jeremiah. Two huge scriptures come to mind when I think of this guy. The first one is "Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations…See, I appoint you this day Over nations and kingdoms: to uproot and pull down, To destroy and overthrow, To build and to plant." Wow. "Appointed" by God to be "over" to "uproot" to "pull down" to "destroy" to "overthrow" to "build up" and "to plant." That's quite a job description, eh? And then God told him, "They will fight against you but will not overcome you." I'm sure that must have been good to know. Nobody knows for sure how Jeremiah died but many have speculated that he was the one referred to in Hebrews 11 who was "torn asunder."

Nice. Nice.

I figure that it won't be long before I enter "the 4th quarter" of my life. I'm shooting for 80 and then I'll be ready to be done. So at 56 I've got 4 more years left in the 3rd quarter. I rather wonder what the last quarter will be like? I've watched enough football to know that you get your tiredest in the 4th quarter. I've also learned that it is in the final quarter that the game is won or lost. I want to play full throttle to the very last play. Nothing else will do. I want to win. I want the ring.

"Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?" There isn't even a hint of a doubt in my mind ...


Tara said...

Fantastic, meaty, inspiring post, Ron!

I also accepted Christ around the age of 13.
Though I am in the beginning of the 2nd quarter (I think ;) I can resonate with some of the highs and lows you describe. Thanks for your vulnerability here. That took courage.

It's inspiring for me to hear stories like yours of those who have walked further along in the faith- to see the big picture of the realistic seasons of ministry that happen (it's not all "up and to the right!") We do experience beat-downs, but character is found in how you handle the hard stuff. I admire how positive, humorous, and faithful to God/ ministry you've stayed despite the beat-downs :)

I applaud your desire to finish strong. I see many seasoned people fade out and not focus on leaving a bright shining legacy. Younger leaders miss out on so much when older leaders check out, tire out, or retire from their calling. I deeply believe "4th quarter" leaders should have the most wisdom to share, from their successes and failures.

I hope to learn more from you. I will be praying that your 4th quarter will be your best. Truly!

Thanks for sharing your story & wisdom!


Tara said...
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