BlogEd

Observations from a joyful Dad

A Father’s Restraint: An Easter Message

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital room in Miami looking over my son. He’s trying to sleep but the pain keeps waking him up. Parents absolutely hate seeing our children suffer. We would willingly take their place in an instant if possible. Of course, we are often helpless to do anything but pray.

Some TLC from Grandma

Some TLC from Grandma

A blood clot was discovered in his upper right arm after it swelled twice its size. The skilled doctors moved quickly to remove the clot but with obvious concern. Most healthy 20-year-olds do not develop blood clots. “Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” was found to be the culprit and surgery to remove his first rib was the solution. It was a shock to all of us and the reality hit hard. Dave was playing well for the University of Miami baseball team. He was leading his team with an amazing .579 batting average in ACC conference play (.328 overall) and was just starting to hit his stride. The last place he wanted to be was in the hospital…again.

Now, before I go any further, let me quickly say that David is expected to have a full recovery and return to baseball in due time. While scary and disheartening, there are countless others facing far more devastating issues. We thank the Lord this did not result in a far greater tragedy.

A few days before David’s six-hour surgery, I had finished reading Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Jesus: A History.” It is not a religious book, but was helpful in better understanding the political and religious climate amidst the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. As I sat watching David struggle through pain, my thoughts wandered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Biblical accounts explain Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden to pray. As O’Reilly explains, Jesus knew full well the terrifying suffering he would endure at the hands of a professional Roman crucifixion death squad. The account in Matthew 26:36-46 (NLT) says Jesus was anguished and distressed. Verse 38 reads, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Three times he prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

As a father, I would do anything to protect my son. If I had the power, I would have cured his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome before a scalpel ever pierced his skin. If I had the power and my son was in anguish and asked me to take away the cup of suffering he was facing, I would not have hesitated.

The Bible says God the Father had that power — but did not use it. That blows me away.

Several days have now passed since I started this article. David was in the hospital for eleven long days and is now on the road to recovery. He can hardly wait to once again pick up a baseball bat and start swinging for the fences. We pray he has many days ahead to enjoy the game he loves and I will gratefully resume my place in the stands to cheer him on.

It’s Easter, and I’ve thought a lot about God the Father’s restraint as He watched His one and only Son being crucified. Of course, He knew that death could not hold his Son. And He knew His Son, the perfect lamb, had come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

As I discussed these things with Al Valdes, LOGOI’s professor of biblical studies, he simply smiled and quoted John 3:16:

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Thank God for Easter!

Life of an Athlete’s Parent

DT on 2nd

The late George Carlin had a wonderful routine about the differences between football and baseball. “The objectives of the two games are totally different,” he explained. “In football,” Carlin said in a tough military voice, “the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz even if he has to use the shotgun.” Carlin then switched to a much softer, kinder voice and said, “In baseball, the object is to go home and to be safe. I hope I’ll be safe at home.”

At a recent University of Miami game, I was talking to a few other parents of athletes about what it’s like to watch our kids perform “on the public collegiate stage.” We sit in the stands amongst emotional fans and can’t help but overhear both praise and disparagement spewing from strangers’ lips. At any particular moment, your child is either great or terrible. “There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground” was an agreed upon statement. Sometimes, we wish we could just grab up our kids and like Carlin said, “go home and be safe.”

Of course, our young athletes would have nothing to do with that. They are competitors and something deep inside them drives them. They are always their own biggest critic; demanding more of themselves than any unreasonable fan. No one is more disappointed with a poor performance than the competitor his or her self. And while we parents sometimes wish we could whisk our children home to safety, the truth is, we’ll stand in the fire with them. We fully understand that all too often, the only encouragement they hear, is from mom and dad.

As I watched the Olympics this year, I felt a new kinship with the parents of those amazing athletes. I could appreciate the tremendous sacrifice both in time and money that was invested to help their child get to this incredible pinnacle. I could better understand their sleepless nights as they worried, consoled, and encouraged. And when one of the olympians would falter after all those years of training and sacrifice and their dreams slipped away in an instant, I could imagine the tearful meeting with a mom and dad whose hearts were equally broken. I wondered how many said the same words I have repeated more than once knowing full well their answer, “You only have two choices: quit or persevere.”

The other side of that coin is equally emotional. I truly understand the expression of being so proud “your buttons might pop off.” Few things are more exhilarating or fill us with more pride than the achievements of our kids. In those moments we know it’s been worth every sacrifice and every struggle and we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Lou Holtz added some excellent insight when he said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say you are when you lose.”

So we parents sit in the stands running the gamut of emotions right along with our children. We disregard critics who callously offer opinions with little understanding of what is really taking place, how hard they are working, and how badly they want to succeed. Rather, we welcome the caring eyes and embraces from those who truly understand the struggle. We watch the body language of our kids, read their faces, and pray for wisdom as to how best to respond whether they succeed or fail. Then we pray some more.

It’s not easy being the parent of an athlete. But we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thompson Family Christmas Letter 2013

Jenn and I will be spending this Christmas somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I’ll admit that as a hobby, I like to study quantum physics because like you, I think discrete, indivisible units of energy are just fun. But I still can’t figure out how we leave from Los Angeles on December 24th and arrive in Fiji on the 26th…since the flight is only 12 hours long. While I try to figure it out, here’s a quick family update:

ABBY: The reason we’re missing Christmas this year is because of Abby. She graduated from FSU, moved back home, looked around…and quickly signed up as an au pair and moved to Australia. She is the nanny for two cute little Aussies and appears to be having the time of her life. Unfortunately, she has completely disregarded my orders: “Do not speak to or even look at any Australian men.” Which reminds me, if you have any good mafia connections Down Under, please let me know. I may need to make a phone call.

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Fortunately, her work visa mandates she return to her daddy before a full year has passed. I have already heard rumors, however, that she may want to return to the land of cricket and rugby matches, which reminds me; if you have any good mafia connections here in the U.S., let me know. I may need to make a phone call.

Abby has always wanted to see the world and she is certainly doing just that. We will be expanding her world a bit more with a quick trip to the Great Barrier Reef while there. I have always hoped, you see, to come face-to-face with a hungry Great White Shark while snorkeling.

We can’t help but wonder what the Lord has in store for Abby. And while the A&E Network may not like it, we really do want God’s clear guidance and to Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5,6).

DAVID: If I had to do college over again, I’d be a Division 1 athlete like David. The nice people at the University of Miami sign him up for classes, get him his books, and even pay for his education. It’s really nice. All he has to do is get good grades and hit a few home runs. How easy is that?

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Of course, Dave has complicated a few things. His first day of college as a freshman was spent in the hospital getting labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder. He enjoyed that experience so much that as soon as baseball season ended, he had a second surgery to “clean things up.” So, for the second straight year, he was not able to play football. The jury is still out regarding his future as a Hurricane quarterback.

On the baseball field, however, he managed to lead his team in RBI, home runs, and a few other categories. His hard work resulted in being named a 2013 Freshman All-American, Louisville Regional All-Tournament Team, and UM’s Rookie of the Year. The new baseball season starts in mid-February and our third baseman tells us his shoulder (finally) feels, “fantastico.” We’re praying for a healthy season.

A 2013 highlight for David was traveling to Cuba on a LOGOI mission trip in December. He loves sharing his testimony, providing much needed gifts of baseball equipment, and seeing the hope and joy only Jesus can bring. He’s been invited to travel back in July and possibly play in a baseball tournament with a Cuban team. Now that would be fun!

MATT & LAURA: Life in Silicon Valley is amazingly scenic, active, and much better looking since Matt and Laura are making their home in San Jose. The only issue is, they are not living next door to me in Miami which I thought was part of the dowry. While I know they miss family and friends in their hometown, they have made close friends, are part of a great church, and seem to have a constant flow of out-of-town visitors.

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They also get offered new job opportunities every other week. As I write this letter, Matt is a very creative marketing executive with a well respected marketing firm working with some big name-brands and clients. Laura is with a large corporate travel agency. By the time you receive this, however, all that may have changed. It must be nice to be young, talented, and good looking. And despite living on the left-coast, they are somehow surviving both global-warming and Obamacare. They have good Republican roots.

We were able to spend a wonderful Thanksgiving week with them, meet some of their good friends, and check out their new rental house. We also were able to experience life with their large German Short-Hair Pointer who likes to eat rocks and thinks he’s a lap dog.

Business meetings, weddings, holidays, and hopefully a few UM baseball games will keep bringing us together for short visits. They always remind us of how much we love being together. We’re very proud of how they are making their own way in this big world and how much they want their lives to honor Christ. Big things are always just around the corner for them making life exciting and keeping them (and us) on our knees.

ED & JENN: To help us avoid the quiet empty-nester feeling most couples experience when their children move out, Abby left her dog Bentley with us as she galavants around Australia. So, Bentley, who happens to be the world’s largest miniature Dachshund, barks at anything that moves, breathes, or stands still. We have to attend a Miami Marlin’s baseball game to get some peace and quiet.

ImageJenn completed an unheard of re-building project at Westminster Christian: demolishing and then erecting a brand new, state-of-the-art elementary school in one-year. The new facility is beautiful and we all marvel at Jenn’s talent and ability. A few UM football and baseball players have also been able to experience some of her culinary skills. And while we wonder if cookies and cakes violate some NCAA rule, we love getting to know these Hurricanes. It gives us great encouragement about the next generation.

With the exception of game days, you’ll find me busy at LOGOI. In 2014 we’ll be talking a lot about our Five Dollar National Missionaries scattered all over the Spanish world. We have some 7,500 of them at this point but, Lord willing, have room for many thousands more. And yes, it really does cost just $5 per month to support one of our national missionaries. I just may ask you to help spread the word, so…cuidado. And by the way, a fun way to stay connected is right here on BlogEd, so come on, just click that little “follow” button.

There is a short video on the homepage of our LOGOI website called, “The Christmas Scale.” I’ve heard it’s been around for a while, but it was new to me. The caption reads, “It’s hard to believe that the greatest message the world will ever hear is contained in one simple scale.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth taking a couple minutes and checking it out. It beautifully says exactly what all us Thompson’s want to say: Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Merry Christmas,

The Thompsons

Christmas, Cuba, Baseball & LOGOI…a great combination

Another LOGOI Side Road Adventure during our teams Cuba visit in December 2013. Thanks to a generous gift from Emil Castellanos in Miami, David Thompson (who plays third base for the University of Miami) brought in three large bags filled with baseball equipment. Much of the equipment was brand new thanks to Dicks Sporting Goods. This special visit included players from Cuba’s Sancti Spíritus national baseball team. The pastor of this church is a LOGOI/FLET Bible school graduate and one of LOGOI’s Five Dollar National Missionaries. What a wonderful Christmas present for us all. God is good!

Trouble with Math

mathWithout fully realizing our children would one day ask me to help them with their math homework, my wife and I started a family. For about eight years, everything was going great. We had three beautiful, healthy kids who showed signs of intelligence and not one of them asked me anything about fractions or if they could have their navels pierced.

I have never been good at math and I’m not at all pleased that someone decided to invent fractions and grow polynomials. Then, just to be mean, the Babylonians invented word problems. No wonder their society didn’t survive.

Shortly after our oldest son, Matt, entered the third grade, my wife rudely left to visit her parents in Vermont for a week and left me alone to help with our son’s third grade homework. I checked our wedding vows and saw nothing in there about math, but that didn’t seem to matter to Matt.

He read me his assignment in his cute little voice, “A circus performs four more shows during the week than it does on the weekend. Each week day, the circus performs two shows.  How many shows do they perform on the weekend?”  He then looked up at me with big, hopeful eyes. What he saw, however, was a grown man’s face contorting into strange spasms of confused panic.

I finally mustered, “The circus is in town?”

Matt just stood there looking at me with those big, wide eyes. I wondered if he could tell I was silently cursing the Babylonians. Then, in a moment of brilliance, I remembered Walt Disney’s Snow White on Ice was in town. I picked up the phone and called the ticket office.

“How many shows do you perform each week?” I asked. “We have two shows Monday through Friday and three shows every Saturday and Sunday,” the nice lady said.  “So, how many shows would that be on the weekend?” I asked excitedly. There was a long pause and then the nice lady finally said, “That would be six.”

Matt and I slapped high-fives.  Sometimes math is easy.

The Good Samaritan Strikes Again

missed bus

So here’s the story.  I was driving to work and noticed a big city bus pulling away from a bus stop while a middle-aged lady with a large bag in her hand ran frantically behind trying to get the bus to stop.  The lady was obviously upset and I couldn’t help but feel mildly irritated that the bus driver so callously drove away.

I pulled off to the side of the road and as non-creepily as possible, told her I’d help her catch her bus by driving her to the next stop.  She was a bit wary of course, but then seemed relieved as she got into my pickup truck. “Let’s go catch your bus,” I said with a macho flair, quite pleased with myself and my Good Samaritan intentions.

Stomping on the accelerator, we took off with a jolt for the next bus stop.  Ignoring most traffic laws we darted between cars and other obstacles and arrived at the bus stop just as the big bus was slowing to a stop.  My passenger gave me a grateful smile.  Then suddenly, the bus picked up speed and took off down the road.  All I could assume was that the bus driver hit the gas after determining there was no one to drop off and no one waiting to be picked up.

My attitude changed from mild irritation to slightly miffed.  “What’s with this bus driver?” I said to my anxious passenger as I once again stomped on the gas.  Her eyes widened as we lurched forward.

In moments, we had closed the gap until I was directly behind the bus. To get the bus drivers attention, I began honking my horn and flashing my lights like an emergency EMT ambulance.  Inexplicably, this caused the bus to actually pick up speed.  I upgrade my “slightly miffed” to a full “miff” and angrily stomped on the gas.

A tiny break in traffic enabled me to cut off a little wimpy “Mr. Bean” French car and I pulled up beside the bus so that my passenger and I could yell at the bus driver through closed windows.  As we yelled and flailed our arms, I couldn’t help but notice that for some reason, the lady bus driver appeared frightened out of her mind.

Rather than slow down, however, the lady bus driver hit the gas and barreled ahead. I quickly upgraded my full miff to “extremely miffed” and said, “There’s no way that bus is going to arrive at the next stop before us.” I abandoned all traffic laws and tore down the road in search of the next bus stop.  My wide eyed passenger let out a small gasp and clutched the dashboard.

We arrived a full 15 seconds before the bus and screeched to a halt in front of a handful of startled passengers in waiting.  With surprising agility, my passenger bailed out of my pickup truck almost before I came to a complete stop.  Her eyes were about the same size as my steering wheel as she stood there glaring at me, softly hyperventilating.

As I slowly drove off while my passenger continued to glare at me, I realized that in all her relief and excitement to reach the bus stop,  words had simply failed her regarding saying, “thank you.”   But of course, we Good Samaritans aren’t looking for such adulations.  We’re just glad to help.

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Home Field Advantage

I have watched with a great deal of curiosity as the latest group of high school area athletes contemplate their college futures. Most say the only thing they have decided on so far is that they are undecided.

Miami_Hurricanes_logo.svgBarely 16 months ago, my son was tossing his high school graduation cap high in the air while eagerly looking forward to fulfilling a life-long dream to become a Miami Hurricane.  His recruiting trail was less than 15 miles and the Coral Gables campus was his only official visit.  “Why would I go on any other visits?” he questioned, when out of state invitations were offered. “I’d just be wasting their time and mine.”

I understand that just because you grow up in a certain area doesn’t mean that the local college is the right fit.  For some, going away for school is absolutely the best decision for a myriad of reasons.  Academic standards, financial requirements, and other expectations are always factors affecting decisions.  And of course, there are many who would love to play for their home team but for one reason or another, are simply not given the opportunity.

But now, with a full year of being a family with a student-athlete under our belts, I have discovered that it’s the “other things” that make playing at home so special.

When my son committed early to the University of Miami, I’m not sure who was more excited: my son, or me.  Half my wardrobe has a “U” on it and the stickers on my truck would be difficult to remove. I am very comfortable flashing “the U” sign and my email salutation to friends who egregiously attended other universities often states, “It’s all about the U.”  I’m even friends with a former Ibis.

But things, as we all know, rarely go exactly as planned.  And so it was that before my son even stepped foot on the field his freshman year, he found himself as a medical redshirt recovering from an unexpected and certainly unplanned surgery.  One of the “other things” quickly kicked in as a mother’s care and concern meant sleeping in the uncomfortable chair in the hospital room just to make sure her boy was okay.

The list of “other things” started adding up quickly, like the fun of meeting his new friends and having them over for dinner. “Other things” include catching a last minute movie knowing Dad will gladly pay–even for Milkduds, or periodically delivering a fresh batch of mom-made-cookies for the team to enjoy. “Other things” even included sneaking into a practice and hiding behind trash cans and bleachers so your son (or a coach) won’t see you but being very worried that a security guard will–and taser you from behind.

The “other things” are also late night talks to encourage and advise when things aren’t working out quite right or when the struggle is greater than expected. “Other things” is simply being there to comfort when he finds finds out he needs yet another surgery.   Of course, “other things” is the absolute thrill of seeing your son on the field proudly wearing the uniform and living his dream.

While going away for college has its list of “other things,” too, there is a definite reason for the phrase, “home field advantage.”  It’s more than being familiar and comfortable with your surroundings.  It’s about an entire network of family and friends who support you, come to watch you play, and cheer you on in athletics as well as life.  Home field advantage is all about the “other things” that mean so much, but can’t be found in brochures, locker rooms, or play-books.

So I wonder, as I listen to the banter from some of these local high school athletes, if they have taken the time to consider the “other things.” I suspect not.  But as we have discovered, there is a powerful home field advantage.  Sometimes, it’s even hiding behind a trash can.

Jesus Fixed My Lawnmower

Jesus fixed my lawnmower.  I realize that sounds sacrilegious, but it’s true.  He did fix my lawnmower.  In fact, I see and talk to Jesus just about every day and believe me, it’s quite comforting.  He’s always warm and friendly, eager to listen and help, and is very good at fixing things.

He lives in the house next door.

IMG_0399A YouTube video suggested my lawnmower problem may be the carburetor, so while I was standing over my lawnmower wondering what a carburetor actually looked like, Jesus walked over to offer help.  He quickly found it, took it apart, cleaned it up, put it back together, and started it up.  My job was simply to stand there and offer words of wonder, appreciation, and amazement.

It’s great living next door to Jesus.

Just like within the Hispanic community today, Jesus was a relatively common name back in the first century.  Historians and Bible scholars explain that Jesus is the transliteration of the name Yeshua (or Jeshua) from Greek.  From Yeshua we get Joshua or Jesus.  Yeshua means “Savior” or more specifically, the “salvation of the Lord.”  Pretty cool.

Much has been written about how our name influences our character.  Psychologist Richard Wiseman says, “We have strong perceptions about first names and associate them with success, luck and attractiveness.”  Perhaps that’s why Amazon.com lists 32,727 different books about “baby names.” One is titled, The Baby Name Bible: The Ultimate Guide by America’s Baby-Naming Experts.

There are baby naming experts?

I decided I needed a detailed analysis of my name, “Edward.”  The Kabalarian Society offers a very interesting and instant analysis which you can find here.  While much seemed like those generic horoscope comments that can be applied to just about anyone, anytime, there was much that rang true.  So I typed in my wife’s name and then the names of my kids and found similar results.  They really blew it, however, on my dog’s name, Buster.  The only thing they got right is how he tends to treat “new and unfamiliar ideas with skepticism.”

Then, I typed in the name, Jesus.  While there were some things that could perhaps describe my neighbor, there was nothing there that described Jesus of Nazareth.  Of course, how does one go about describing whom the Bible calls, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

But, back to my lawnmower. My wife was out running errands and knew I was home trying to fix that lousy machine.  She called just after the repair work was done.  I must say I rather enjoyed telling her, “Jesus fixed my lawnmower!”

There was a short pause and then she simply answered, “Amen!”

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Monkeys in My Coconut Tree

There are monkeys in my coconut tree.

No, really.  Little Capuchin monkeys–the “organ-grinder” kind.   We live a few miles from the Miami Metro Zoo and assume they escaped after one of our hurricanes.  If so, they hiked several miles before finding the county-protected wooded area behind our house.  We’re just glad it’s monkeys and not rhinos.  Everyone knows what to feed monkeys.  I have no idea what to feed a rhino.

There are three of them.  We’ve watched as they climb through the trees in the protected wooded area, climb over our back yard fence, and make the quick scamper into one of our coconut trees.  They like to sit on a palm branch and eat the little coconut eggs (or whatever you call them) and chirp with delight.  They actually sound a lot like I do when eating a Heath Blizzard at Dairy Queen.

They showed up quite often before (we assume) the county monkey squad caught them and returned them to the zoo. But for almost a year, we enjoyed sitting on our back porch, sipping coffee while enjoying the traveling zoo.  In fact, I highly recommend that when you have the opportunity, you should sit on your back porch and watch monkeys eat berries in your coconut trees, too.

I have a rather long history with little two-and-a-half pound Capuchin monkeys.  In fact, I grew up with them…and I’m not talking about my three brothers.  As I was sipping coffee and watching the monkeys in my coconut tree, I thought back about the time my monkey broke my arm…

Ed & ReepicheepHis name was Reepicheep and he was named after the pugnacious talking mouse in the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series.  He came to live with us when I was ten years old.  We got Reepicheep from the Amazon — not the online place that sells everything except monkeys — the actual place in South America with jungles, wild animals, and piranha.  Just to make sure, however, I went to Amazon.com and typed in “monkey.”  I was relieved to see they do not sell Capuchins.  At least not yet.

Reepicheep arrived via missionaries traveling on furlough to Miami. But as so often happens when  foreigners get a taste of America, he didn’t want to go back.  So when the missionaries went back to South America, Reepicheep stayed with us and become an illegal alien.

Reepicheep lived outside in a treehouse my Dad built specially for him.  It was a lovely but sparse two story condo with a front porch.  To keep Reepicheep from wandering off and joining a gang, he wore a leather belt around his waist which was attached to a light chain about five feet long.  The  chain was attached to a pulley wheel which was attached to a strong cable with one end anchored to the tree and the other end to the corner of our house about 30 feet away.  Got it?

This set up is important because Reepicheep taught himself the most amazing Tarzan-like trick which he performed all day long.  He would casually stroll to one end of the wire cable and dive off in a headfirst bungee jump.  Knowing exactly how far he could free fall before the five-foot chain would jolt him by the waist, he would deftly grab his chain and swing like Tarzan to the other end.  Honest!  The only thing missing was Tarzan’s jungle yell.  I used to charge the neighborhood kids fifty cents to come over and see our monkey swing.  I made $18.50 the first weekend we had him!

One of my jobs was to feed the monkey. This meant I would have to climb about seven feet up the tree, find his metal food dish, climb back down the tree, walk back inside the house, fill his tray with left-overs from dinner (no Purina Monkey Chow for our chimp), then climb back up the tree and hand over the dish.  At first it was sort of fun, but after six or seven months of this, it lost all its excitement.

So one day, in a moment of adolescent genius, my brothers and I decided to hang a rope swing.  We figured we would not only save gobs of climbing time, but our “speed feeding” system would  actually make feeding the monkey fun again. We attached one end to a thick branch and the other end to a deflated inner-tube tire. The trick was to run as fast as you could and dive into the inner-tube.  If done right, your momentum would carry you all the way up to Reepicheep’s tree-house. Once there, you had to then reach out and grab onto the tree house and hold yourself in the precarious prone position long enough to locate the metal dish.

It was a thrill seekers delight.

It became even more dangerous, however, when Reepicheep turned mean.  I don’t recall exactly when he turned mean, but I think it was right around the time I started throwing mangos at him.  Reepicheep was amazingly agile and hard to hit.  At first I thought he enjoyed our little game of dodge-mango, but as it turns out, it just made him cranky.

Even so, feeding the monkey had now become fun once again.  If Reepicheep was in a good mood, you could swing up and chat and play with him for a while during your search for his food dish.  If, on the other hand, Reepicheep was feeling a bit irritable based upon the amount of mango juice dripping from his fur, it became a rather daunting and terror filled experience.  It’s amazing how scary a two-and-a-half pound ball of fur with fangs can appear at dusk.

So it was, on a particular summer night in Miami, I was trying to coax the little ape away from his treehouse to the other side of his cable by our house.  A couple of near miss mango tosses were doing the trick and Reepicheep was as far from his tree house as he could possibly get.  My plan was to take off for the tire swing, dive into the inner-tube, swoop up to the treehouse, grab the food dish, and swing away to safety before the savage beast reached his house. It looked good on paper.

I lobbed one last mango to distract Reepicheep. My ploy worked as the gullible long-tailed organ grinder wasn’t even looking when I took off for the inner-tube.  My dive was close to perfect as I launched myself into the tube and felt the momentum propel me upwards.  I smiled at how smoothly my plan was working and how easy it was to trick a primate whose brain was much smaller than the mangos he was dodging.  At the same time, I could hear loud snorting coming from the enraged orangutan running as quickly over the cable as his hairy arms and legs would take him.

I grabbed onto the treehouse and began a mad scramble for the metal food dish.  That’s when I swore I heard the little ape let out an evil laugh.  He had purposefully moved his food dish to a little crook in the tree and was closing in fast.  He was almost close enough for me to see some mango dripping of the left side of his face.

Panicking, I tried to reposition myself in order to grab the dish.  To do so, I had to slide my waist out of my perfectly aligned center of gravity position inside the deflated rubber tire and wiggle out to where my thighs were holding me in place. My outstretched fingers were just beginning to close around the metal food dish when the evil monkey leapt off the cable and disappeared in a nose dive.  I temporarily lost sight of him, but I could hear his Tarzan like yell as the pulley wheel whizzed and he thumped his little chest.

Then, to my horror, the gorilla suddenly came swinging up holding onto his Tarzan-like chain and then let go in a perfectly timed move the Flying Wallenda’s would have applauded.  The flying furry fanged beast was hurling straight at my face which caused me to not only let out a bloodcurdling scream, but also let go of my grip on the treehouse.

I remember thinking how much faster I was going down than going up. That’s also when I remembered I had wiggled out of my perfectly aligned center of balance position in the inner-tube.  As the rope swing pulled me away from the crazed gorilla, it also released me to fight gravity all by myself.  Fortunately, I landed on a rather large and rotten mango which sufficiently softened my fall so I only broke the two bones in my left forearm.

Later, as the emergency room doctor was putting a cast on my broken arm and pulling mango out of my hair, he asked if I could once again tell the story of how my monkey broke my arm. But this time, he asked if he could invite a few of his fellow staff members to listen.   Apparently, I was his first patient to have his arm broken by a little two-and-a-half pound monkey.

My arm healed and I stopped throwing mangos at Reepicheep and over time, we made up.  He bit me a few times after that, but never again broke any of my other bones. Thankfully our rope swing remained, but we were no longer allowed to use it to “speed feed” the monkey. Even so, Reepicheep and I never fully trusted each other again.  He, for one, lost his appetite for mangoes, and I lost my desire to be an Acapulco cliff diver.  Perhaps it was all for the better.

###

World’s Greatest Dad

Perhaps you have heard of a man named, Dick Hoyt.  Many have described him as, “The World’s Greatest Dad,” and for good reason.  His son, Rick, suffered severe brain damage at birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  Understanding the tremendous difficulties that lay ahead, doctors encouraged Dick and his wife to put their son in an institution. “He will be a vegetable all his life” they explained.

If you know their story, you know that Dick and his wife paid no attention to that advice.  In fact, they did the opposite.  Although their son could not speak nor use his arms or legs, they raised him just like any other child. Rick not only graduated from a public high school, he also graduated from Boston University.  Today, he lives in his own apartment aided by personal care givers.

Team Hoyt

Team Hoyt

What makes their story even more remarkable, however, are the almost impossible to believe feats they have achieved together. They are known as “Team Hoyt” and I encourage you to watch Mary Carillo’s “Real Sports” special called, “Labor of Love” regarding this father and son. You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roZrT_tciKA

Their running together began some 32 years ago in a 5 mile charity race to help a paralyzed boy in their community.  Rick wanted to be an encouragement to others like him and got his dad to push him in a modified clunky stroller. Most assumed “Team Hoyt” would simply get to the corner, turn around, and come back. But when they got to the corner, they kept going.  They didn’t stop until they finished the entire 5 mile race coming in second from last. (They have never finished in last place.)

When they got home that night, Rick wrote on his computer, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like my disability disappears.”  Dick was so moved by the joy his son experienced during the race that from that point forward he told his son, “I’ll be your arms and legs.”

The lengths to which Dick Hoyt has gone to fill his son with joy are truly remarkable.  To be more precise, Over the last 30 plus years, Dick has pushed, pulled, and carried his  son in close to 1,100 races — most of them being marathons, triathlons and ironman events.  If you are able to watch the video, you will see how their story has touched and inspired thousands of others — especially those whose children suffer from disabilities.

As a father, I couldn’t help saying “thank you” to the Lord for healthy children as I watched the video.  I also couldn’t help but wonder to what extent I would go to for my children.  And then, I couldn’t help but consider the unimaginable extent to which my Heavenly Father went for me…and you

“Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32)

I remember a conversation I had with my dad about Lazarus.  We wondered if he was upset when Jesus called him back from the dead (see John 11).  Lazarus’ loved ones were, of course, overjoyed.  But Lazarus?  And then Dad said something I’ve never forgotten, that “…Lazarus had to die again.”  Now that would stink!

Dad then went on to discuss with me how Jesus came to save us, the real us, our souls — not our weak and broken bodies.  Lazarus didn’t need or want that broken down body anymore.  In my minds eye, I think of him going privately to Jesus and saying, “Hey man, thanks, but did you really have to bring me back?”

So I rejoice with “Team Hoyt” and the inspiration they bring.  But just like us, the only ending to their story that will make it all worthwhile is knowing the one who brought Lazarus back to life just by calling his name.

The truth is, as strong as we Dads would like you to think we are, we are very weak, imperfect people with all sorts of issues.  There is only one Father we can truly rely upon.  And this Father loves us so much, He didn’t spare His own Son so that we could live with Him…forever!  There is no other competition.  He is the World’s Greatest Father!

Happy Father’s Day!

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