Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Second Chances

It seems like we're hearing a lot about second chances lately.  Michael Vick was back on the playing field for the Philadelphia Eagles after spending a couple of years in prison.  I don't know how happy the animal rights people are, but I'm glad that he's had a chance to play again.  Let's face it.  The guy is a football phenom, and why shouldn't he be able to use that amazing talent?   Time will tell if Michael is truly a changed man as he says he is.  He's had some quiet time to think and a great mentor in the person of Tony Dungy.  I want him to do well, living productively and wowing those who love to see what he can do with a pigskin.  And if this year was any indication, I think he's going to be around for awhile yet. 

Then there's Ted Williams.  He's the homeless guy from Columbus with the great speaking voice.  It turns out he used to be a professional announcer, but alcohol and drugs took their toll, and he ended up homeless.  A posted video of him went viral and suddenly he was the most popular guy in America, showing up for interviews on several programs including "The Today Show," "The Early Show," and "Entertainment Tonight."   It seemed he was everywhere, and along with the fame he was getting some high profile job offers.  Finally there was the "Dr. Phil" show.  This man whom no one knew a week earlier was suddenly exposed for all his shortcomings.  I saw part of the show and I'll admit I felt a bit uncomfortable.  Granted, he has issues.  If you're living on the street as a panhandler and a petty thief, you've got some things to work out.  But why the good doctor and in front of millions?  The gentleman looked lost, vulnerable, a bit overwhelmed with it all.  Last I knew he was back in rehab after a night of drinking and the whole world knows it.  I hope that Mr. Williams makes it.  I really do.  His mama has been praying for him a long time.  But there's a lesson to be learned here.   Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald wrote a column recently saying that we Americans love to root for the underdog.  But he also says that we tend to think that fame and fortune are enough to change a person.  That's simply not the case.  He concludes:  "It is nice to be famous.  It is better to be whole."

Our friend Jimmy Stanfield knew firsthand what it was to have a second chance.  An avid hunter, six years ago he took a tumble from a tree stand.  As he lurched forward his pants caught a nail, and he found himself hanging upside down about twenty feet or so from the ground.  I'm not sure where he kept his cell phone.  All I know is that even as he lurched downward, the phone stayed with him.  He was able to place a call that saved his life that day.  Life certainly has its ironies, and Jimmy's story is no exception.  A few weeks ago he fell again.  This time there was no grab of a nail.  This time he hit the ground and entered eternity.  Larry flew to Alabama a few days later to preach his funeral. And he talked about second chances.  You see,  after Jimmy took that first fall, he started taking his spiritual life a lot more seriously.  I believe he knew that God had given him a gift, and he didn't squander the opportunity given  him.  The first time he fell, he simply wasn't ready to die.  The second time he was. 

Michael Vick.  Ted Williams.  Jimmy Stanfield.  One broke the law, one turned to drugs and alcohol, and one lived a pretty good life.  And all were without a God who will do what He can to make each of us whole.   You know, we all love a good second chance story with a happy ending.  I'm glad that's what God offers us.  But in His case, there's not a cut off number.  He gives us opportunity again and again to get it right.   
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