Rethinking Greatness

May 14, 2014

“The greatness of a man is seen in the way he treats people he does not need.”


I was walking down the hallway of the church with John Croyle, who has to be one of the greatest men I have had the privilege to meet and be in the presence of. John played defensive end at Alabama under the legendary coach Bear Bryant, was an All-American, but after a summer of working at a camp for youths in Mississippi, discovered what he was convinced was his purpose in life—helping the children that no one else wants.

Over the last 40+ years, John and his wife Tee, and now their children (you may recall their son Brody who has his own pretty good football career at Bama and then in the pros) have become the guardians of thousands of children. First at Big Oak Ranch for boys, and now with a second one for girls, and their own Christian school, they have literally shaped the lives of these children.

John had spoken at our annual IRONMEN Big Breakfast, where he challenged the men there to be men, and to raise their sons and daughters to be responsible and contributing people. It was a challenge that we all (especially the teenagers in attendance) needed to hear in this age of entitlement.

As I listened to John speak that morning, and reflected on the dinner I’d had with him and a couple of other guys the night before, I found myself thinking that if I have one tenth the impact over the course of my life that I believe John has had, I can die thinking that I have lived a very effective life.

The breakfast was over, John had signed books (he has several out, and all are well worth reading), and I was navigating him through the labyrinthine hallways of our church to find his car.

As we were walking along, one of our newer sextons, an immigrant from Haiti was walking towards us, and I simply said, “Morning, Junior.” He responded (that is his name, for the record), and John and I continued. That’s when John looked at me and said, “The greatness of a man is seen in the way he treats people he does not need.”

I was speechless. I felt that I’d just been paid a compliment (I really believe that is what John was doing), but to receive praise from someone as great as this man made me squirm.

I reflected on this some more, and realized that John was simply affirming what my general modus operandi is. I learned a long time ago that simply acknowledging someone else is a gift to that person, and one never knows how far that impact may go. Now, it’s not always easy, especially for a card carrying introvert like me (trust me; I function outside my comfort zone about 80% of the time), but I’ve learned that simply making eye contact and a short “Mornin’” can lift the day of someone who is feeling down and unloved.

So later today, and/or tomorrow, look someone you don’t know in the eye, and greet them. Practice that until it becomes second nature. You’ll learn that the people you don’t need, need you. And you will be a gracious person of greatness. You may get to where you are going thirty seconds later—but ultimately, when you get to where you are going in the eternal sense, you will hear that longed for “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master!”


Slow and steady wins the race

February 15, 2012

Come tomorrow, it will be two weeks since my outpatient shoulder surgery. Dr. Evander Fogle did a great job prepping me for the surgery, and giving post-surgical advice. The nerve block applied by Dr. Mack Sams kept me pain free for a good 24 hours, at which point the prescription pain meds kicked in, keeping me pretty loopy. I took my bride’s advice and decided NOT to slip in on the back row of church the following Sunday (instead, I watched via internet and managed to avoid being hugged and patted on the shoulder.) I cheered as the Giants won the Super Bowl, and stayed home the next day, working from home the better part of the day, and making the decision to get off pain meds. I shifted to extra strength Tylenol, which I am now taking only about twice a day, choosing to manage the pain rather than mask it.

What I am learning through this process is several things.

ONE, I have forgotten how humbling it is not to be able to do the things you want to do in the time you are used to doing them. I had similar surgery on my right shoulder in 1998, and I have simply forgotten thet it takes longer to do everything (try putting your socks on with one hand, or tucking your shirt in with one hand).

TWO, I have learned to use one of my wife’s phrases: “Thank you, I accept.” The people who offered meals saved our bacon for several days. The friends who offered rides when I was unable to drive made a big difference. Help putting on a jacket or sweater, buttoning a shirt, tying a tie (those last two by family members, obviously), all these simple things become complicated when you only have one functioning arm.

THREE, I am trying to learn through this to slow down in general. I recall reading a book years ago by Arch Hart, in which he argues rather convincingly that much of the coronary disease in our nation is rooted less in our diet, and more in our (hurried) lifestyle. I am guilty of that. I need to slow down, and this is a good lesson.

FOUR, the old saying is true: No pain, no gain.: I started seeing my old physical “terrorist,” Amy Ross, last week. the simple, passive exercises she (this diminuitve, sweet, now-triathlete who competes in Tough Mudders) has me doing require that I push to, and if possible, beyond the point of pain. I keep channeling my inner Rocky (from Rocky 4) saying over and over, “No pain!”

Speaking of Rocky, it turns out that the same day I was having shoulder surgery, two others were having shoulder surgery; not at the same hospital as me, but these two were in the same hospital. The one on the right I can tell is in the recovery mode, while the fellow on the right has yet to have his procedure. The race to recovery is on–they have money, but I have motivation!

Two kinds of cyclists

August 31, 2011

There are two kinds of cyclists

Those who have crashed, and those who are going to crash.

For eight years, I have been among the latter. Today, I joined the former.

I left my house around 5:35 this morning, rolled downhill about a quarter mile, then climbed to a half mile. I then rolled down for roughly another three quarters, had an up-and-down for a while, until I’d covered about five miles. I’d climbed Powers Ferry Road, turned on Tuxedo, rolled down then climbed back up, until I completed the dogleg across Blackland. As Tuxedo turned downhill, I popped the gears up a few notches, “punched the gas” to pick up speed, and . . . then it happened. 

  In the dark, on a stretch of road that is REALLY dark (I use a headlight, but keep it on the blinking phase, using it to let cars know that I am there more than to illuminate the road-I use streetlights for that), there was a tree limb about  three to four feet long, and about three inches in diameter across the road. I hit it, and hit the deck. I was rolling at about 20 miles an hour when I hit the stick; I went down on my right side, HARD, hard enough that I cracked my helmet, and slid along the street for 15-20 feet. I distinctly recall thinking at one point, “That sound is my helmet sliding across the pavement.” 

  I came to a stop. 

  I laid there for a moment, stunned, out of breath (from the exertion of climbing the last hill and from punching the pedals to pick up speed), and in pain, I wondered what had happened.  I honestly think that my first thought was about what kind of shape my front wheel was in (The bike is essentially fine, for the record.) I reached back into my jersey pocket to feel for my phone, it was there, I called my wife and told her I’d crashed (“I’m OK, but I need you to come get me.”), then started to assess reality. My computer had come off my bike, as had the mirror on my helmet. I found them both, the latter in two pieces. I found everything except my water bottle (I have lots of those.) 

  At home, I assessed the damage. The bike is, mercifully, OK. I have road rash on my right forearm, right shoulder, and knee and shin. My hip feels like it has been hit with a LARGE sledgehammer, and my ribs-on the right-hurt like dog doo (a term that an orthopedic surgeon once told me is a medical term), but X-rays say there are no breaks (Unless a radiologist says differently after a look), only “deep bone bruises.”

  Tomorrow, I’ll ride on my “old” bike (Cannondale R-400) that is on a trainer in my basement. Friday, Lord willing, I plan to ride 50 miles on the Silver Comet Trail. 

  I am an IRONMAN (; we don’t break, we bend. In another week, I expect to hike 12-13 miles. 

  Pain is temporary. Quitting is eternal. 

  Ain’t no crash can keep me down. 

  I’m an IRONMAN.

Wrestlemania came to Atlanta last weekend. There was a time when I was a fan of professional wrestling, but frankly, it was a long time ago. That said, professional wrestling intersected my life right about a year ago, and has remained there just a bit.

Lex Lugar, the wrestler (retired and VERY different from what he was when competing) started coming to IRONMEN about a year ago, and I believe it is safe to say that he and I are friends. With Wrestlemania coming to town, Lex–who experienced a powerful conversion to Christ several years ago, talked about his desire to have a ministry in and to the wrestling community. He tried to create a “prayer breakfast” affiliated with the events downtown, but was blocked because of “legal conflicts” (which sounds like a smokescreen to me).  At any event, we ate Peachtree Presbyterian offered some space in our new building The Lodge, FCA convinced Chick Fil A to donate food (if you feed them, they will come!), and the next thing you knew, we had ourselves the first World Wrestling Outreach event. About 40 people from within the industry attended, no current athletes, but 7 retired athletes came. In the group picture, Lex is on the far right, about 90 pounds lighter than when he wrestled, thanks to a terrible accident he had several years ago.

One of his good friends, Nikita Koloff, who is now a licensed evangelist, is the guy looking like he is going to break me into little bits in the other picture. Interestingly, Nikitaa nd I had just been whispering, joking, and laughing, right before I was asked to say something, and this picture was taken. As menacing as he looks, he is a really nice guy, and a lot of fun.

AND–both he and Lex are incredibly passionate for Jesus. To think that these guys want more than anything, to honor God with their lives, and to help men and women in the wrestling community to experience the grace and the love of God, is downright staggering. This was just the beginning–as Lex said, “We’ll see you back next year, in Miami–South Beach!”

What I can’t wait for, is to see what has happened ten years from now, and to look back and realize that I had been at the first gathering.

Do me–and my friends–a favor, and ask God to bless their efforts, and to open doors for them to share the good news of Jesus to the industry that (as Lex said) “Satan has a choke hold on.”

  Two incredibly humbling experiences today–at least so far.

  Early this morning I was privileged to sit down with a man who professed “discontent” with his life. It’s a discontent brought on by several things (none that I’ll go into here), but they are sort of things that all of us could find in life, and cause us to feel a sense of discontent. What amazed me was how he talked about the difference that IRONMEN has made in his life.

  For the record, and for those who don’t know and may care to know, IRONMEN is the men’s ministry at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA. we meet Tuesday mornings at 7:00 in the Lodge, where on a regular basis, 100+/- men meet weekly, September through June. It’s an incredible experience, drawing guys from their 20’s to their 80’s together, to meet our stated goal of “equipping men to be a positive influence for Jesus Christ at home, at work, and in the community.” After one of our speakers presents on a topic (come September we’ll start a 7-week series growing out of Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon), we have discussion around tables guided by trained Table Leaders. The magic of IRONMEN is what happens around these tables, where guys become honest, authentic, and sometimes amazingly transparent. I regularly hear men say that IRONMEN makes them a better man, a better husband, a better Dad. All I know is that often, IRONMEN is the highlight of my week.

Then at lunch today, laughing and talking about favorite restaurants with a good friend and fellow IRONMAN, I heard much the same. In a note, he said, “TRONMEN has become a very important part of my week.” Here’s a guy who is so elevated in the hierarchy of a major corporation based in Atlanta–who is close to being transferred into retirement–that he says he will plan his forays into and meetings in Atlanta so he can be with us on Tuesday mornings. I’m darn near speechless.

But I know that I am incredibly privileged to be a part of something that changes lives. God is at work; and I get to be a witness to that.