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Cliff Jumpers – Live

I tried to play football at South Miami High School. I was a quarterback who couldn’t run fast or throw well. But man, could I hold a clipboard.

I was pale, skinny, and completely lost on the football field. I had never played before my 9th grade year and was far more afraid of our head coach than any opposing linebacker. It was on our high school football practice field I met Jonathan Scott. He looked like he could bench press 500 pounds. His robust laugh flew right in the face of danger.

We became close friends. His walk with Christ impressed me. It was real. He truly loved Jesus and it was hard to miss. Before practices and games he would even pray for his new friend, the pale and skinny QB who desperately needed courage…and much faster feet. Together, we survived on and off the field.

Today, Jonathan is the South Park Campus Pastor of Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, NC. He is a fabulous musician, teacher, preacher, motivator, father and husband. And now, on his own accord, he’s taken to putting to life to some of my blogs. And that’s just really cool. But more than anything else, John is my friend. That is a wonderful privilege and joy and one that will only last…FOREVER!

Award Winning Book

Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)

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Making Better People

I have a vivid memory of my oldest son, Matt, walking off his high school football field after his final game. I wrote about it in “Surviving the End of High School Athletics” describing the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs. And Matt wasn’t doing much better, either.iF7D45B52-C766-470B-9882-B5CF871AB46D-1

Another powerful memory was after my dad died. The time had come to clean out his belongings from dressers and closets. I was standing in Dad’s closet overcome with emotion when Matt quietly put his strong arms around me, buried his head in my shoulder, and cried with me.

There was the time he chased a young man down the street who showed up to visit his little sister. Matt was just goofing around, but it was evident the young man didn’t know that by the cloud of dust his legs and feet were leaving as he took off down the street never to return. Guarding, protecting, and loving his little sister has, and always will be, a top priority.

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Dropping Matt off his first year in college in Pennsylvania revealed the inseparable bond he has with David, his six-year-the younger little brother. Saying goodbye was like they were both having an arm pulled off. I first became aware how close they were when one of David’s school assignments was to write about his hero. I was accustomed to being the “hero” and didn’t quite know what to think when David’s assignment revealed it was actually Matt. The two of them still have an awful time saying goodbye to each other.

054 too hard to say goodbye

Of course, I also remember Matt’s failed attempt at “neighborhood pool hopping.” He and two high school buddies decided it would be a lot of fun to video each other hopping fences and jumping into unsuspecting neighbor’s pools. It was a lot of fun until police cars and even a police helicopter showed up with sirens blaring. Apparently it never crossed their minds that some terrified homeowner may have misconstrued three screaming teenagers’ fun for an Al-Qaeda training exercise. Hiding out at a friend’s house until the heat cooled off was just part of their unforgettable summer afternoon.

August 2nd is Matt’s birthday. It’s hard to believe someone as young as I am has a 27-year-old-son, but it’s true. He married one of Miami’s most wonderful and beautiful girls and a career move has taken them to California. We text and phone and Skype quite a bit, but I still miss them terribly.

One of the things I told Matt when he got to the age — when a girlfriend could turn into fiancé — was to make certain she brought out the best in him and he brought out the best in her. “Do you make each other better?” I often asked. When he met Laura, I didn’t need to ask. It was obvious for all to see and their wedding was one of the great days in my life, too.

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God has blessed me with a wonderful family. We’re so far from perfect that even the hint of such a thing is laughable. But at the end of the day, the one thing that has bound us together is right from God’s Word. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Thinking back over Matt’s 27 years swells my heart with pride and joy. It is a very rewarding and beautiful thing to realize your child makes you a better person. Thanks, Matty.  I love you, son!

Happy birthday.

Pops

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

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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

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.

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