Falling off of a cliff. There are not many people in this world that can say that, right? But I did. Just a few weeks after graduating from high school. Amazing how quickly things can change. Now, you know how they say your life can flash before your eyes right before you are about to die? Yep, its true. But the fall happened so fast that I didn’t see much of it. When if slid off of the path the last thing I did was to try to grab a thorn bush on the way down. That didn’t help the situation at all. To say the least. I didn’t even have time to scream. The fall happened so fast and when I hit I just crumpled to the ground. 3 hours later I was in the hospital for X-Rays and a cast on my leg.
I was in the cast all summer. Actually, I was in 5 casts. I kept breaking them. Everything from playing back yard football (yes, in a cast… I was all time quarterback!) to being in a car wreck (I wasn’t driving), I went through 5 casts. The 5th one was my last one because the doctor said he wasn’t going to put another one on me! So I behaved and allowed my leg to heal. Getting out of the cast was actually the hardest part since I had been in a walking cast. Rehab was painful as I got all the ligaments and muscles working again. Bone spurs in my foot and ankle are constant reminders of that fateful day so long ago.
But, now to the applications. My whole life revolved around sports. I played them all, basketball, football, baseball. I even played tennis, golf, and volleyball growing up. Basketball was my love but baseball was my best sport and my ticket to college. I made good grades and did well on the ACT to get some academic scholarship, but I was intent on playing college baseball and to see what it would bring. Breaking my leg robbed my of my speed and agility, and now I had bigger decisions to make. This is tough on a jock who’s ego was pretty big.
College was always a given, even though my parents never attended. Everyone I knew at Madison Academy was going to college and I followed the crowd as well as anyone. All of a sudden going to a Christian college started making a lot of sense. Things were beginning to take shape and new ideas were forming. But, Christian colleges were expensive and my parents were not prepared to send me off and pay those kinds of bills. I was going to have to prove myself at a local school if I wanted any hopes of going off to a Christian school.
So I went to the University of Alabama, Huntsville campus, and took some classes there and also at a junior college near town. I guess the one thing I learned from both schools was that I was not meant to be at a state school. I hated just about every minute of it. Except for a few close friends I was as miserable as could be. Spending 4 years at a Christian high school had opened my eyes to what the world was offering and I didn’t fall for it one bit. I laid low, went to class (when I had to) and put in my time with undergrad requirements.
My sophomore year I finally got to transfer to Freed-Hardeman, the place I had dreamed of attending. I had a lot of friends there and had my sights on being a Bible major. I had gone from ball jock to Bible banger in just a year. How about that? What a change around. To get there I had to sell my car and work all summer just to get enough money to pay for the first semester. My parents helped out the same as when I was going to state school and I picked up the rest of the bill. School loans, work study, you name it. HOWEVER, the Bible major thing was short lived. Bible turned out to be a LOT harder than I thought it was going to be (man, they take that stuff really seriously at schools like this). After dropping Greek after one week, I had decided to go different ways.
I played around with several majors, weeding them out one by one with my grades! Finally I settled into education my junior year. Becoming a teacher was not even on the radar screen when I was graduating from high school, I don’t think that would have even ranked in the top 20 things I wanted to do with my life. But, there I was. A 5 year senior, about to graduate with a degree in education. What a crazy ride it was, to say the very least.
I met some of the greatest people in the world while I was at Freed-Hardeman. MANY of my closest friends all attended there and we stay in close touch, even today. And it was a combination of all of the experiences that I had there that molded me to who I am today. It was an interesting journey, and there were so many that played a part. But, through God’s plans, He placed the right people in my life at just the right time. I went though many heart breaks and trials along the way, but it made me tougher, and stronger. I also had other experiences that made me softer and a little bit more caring. But it all worked together to be… me.
Because going to a Christian high school meant so much to me I knew I had to go and work in Christian education, to try to pay back, in some way, all that it had done for me. 5 years in Miami at Tropical Christian School, 3 years in Huntsville at Madison Academy (sitting in faculty meetings with teachers that TAUGHT me! Was that weird or what! You really have no idea…) and 10 years at Ezell-Harding Christian School, Nashville. And I coached. I had a passion for coaching. I coached everything I could during those years. 3 years of soccer, 5 years of baseball, 7 years of basketball, 10 years of football, 3 years of track. Loved it all, loved working with teens. And it was during this time I began working part time in youth ministry.
Now, in the early days of teaching, bills stretched way farther that pay checks. Coaching was a way to make extra money, and summer jobs was a given. Working camps and life guarding brought in just about as much as I made while teaching, not to mention selling mangos on the street corners in Miami with Tim Hines. But later, when I had climbed the ladder a little, working youth ministry and going on mission trips became a huge part of my life. I started mission trips in high school with the youth group from the Lincoln and Maysville churches of Christ. Loved it. Went to Freed-Hardeman and went on summer campaigns. Loved it. Then, when I was teaching and doing youth work, continued going on mission trips. Loved it.
I did stateside and foreign missions. Anything from 1 week to 8 weeks. It was awesome. I learned so much about what church work was all about. Everything from Indian reservations to former eastern block communist countries, I stretched my vision of what the church was all about. But it wasn’t until we had moved to Nashville that my life truly changed in a very dramatic way. This is where the “putting your passion into action” began to develop.
My brother-in-law, Scott McDowell, was, at the time, the pulpit preacher at the Vultee Church of Christ. We moved to Nashville on Friday, attended church with he and his wife on Sunday, where he announced that we were placing membership! I guess that decision was a shocker! But it turned out great, for many reasons, but in particular, I met Steve Davidson, who was the full time youth minister and Vice-President at Lipscomb University. He quickly got me involved with the youth program there and invited me to go to Honduras for a summer mission trip. Even with all of my passion for mission work I hesitated and rejected the offer, time after time. Thank goodness Steve would not take no for an answer.
I agreed, 15 years, ago, and the rest is history. I will be going to Honduras for my 16th summer this year by the grace of God. What started as a mission trip filled with fear and dread has turned out to be my greatest passion of all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to teach, I love to coach, and I certainly love doing youth work. Can’t imagine not working with teens! But as far as passion, as far as putting your life on the line for what you do and what you believe in, Honduras has become my passion. And anyone who know me knows that about me. When I find something truly worth while I am going to share it with everyone I know. How can you keep something that great a secret, right?
Moral of this incredibly long story? Allow God to lead you through your life. Allow him to guide you though the ups and downs (even 40 foot downs), your highs and lows. Through good and bad, thick and thin. Keep him first and foremost in your life. Keep your focus on him no matter what. And listen to what He has to say and be willing to go through the doors He opens. I’m here to tell you, it can be quite the adventure. But, no matter what, seek out your passion in life. Find it and put your heart into it. And dedicate it to God and His glory, and watch what happens. Just think of the story (s) you will be able to tell some day. “PUT YOUR PASSION INTO ACTION!!!”