Posts tagged heroic men

If you had an hour to live



It seems like yesterday, but it was 12 long years ago that my Pappa, James Melvin “Bucky” Waters, passed away.

JoelWatersPappa

“Bucky” Waters and son Joel with their World Series tickets

Pappa was from a very large and athletic family, raised on a working farm in rural Yazoo County, Mississippi. Growing up, my two other brothers, Jim and Wyatt, and I watched Momma and Pappa model for us how a loving couple should act. In the early 1960s we lived in the small town of Florence, where Pappa was the coach and principal of the school and my Momma, Lucy, worked also.

It was a beautiful spring day. Pappa was outside raking up the leaves from the recent winter into the ditch to burn. He was also trying to get rid of the fire ant beds that had popped up from a hard rain overnight. The way we did it in those days was to pour gasoline on the fire ant bed, toss a match on it and run out of the way of the flames.

On this particular day, I was supposed to be inside with my Momma. But being the rambunctious two-year-old that I was, I had slipped out and was standing mesmerized, watching my Pappa burn those fire ants without him knowing I was there.  I got too close and caught fire myself. Without thinking of himself, Pappa instantly went into the fire and rescued me, but in the process of  getting me out of the fire he was badly burned. It’s one thing to say you love someone.  It’s a powerful lesson to have someone show their love in such a way!

Our house was on a short, dead-end road, so not many people drove down there unless they were visiting someone. I honestly believe that Harold Lusk was an “angel” sent directly from God as he drove down and saw the commotion. He immediately went into action, taking my Pappa and me to O.E. Perry’s Rexall Drug Store for some immediate help, then on to the Baptist hospital in Jackson another 20 minutes away. It would be the beginning of several painful months of multiple surgeries for the both of us. My Pappa’s hands were badly burned. In addition to my internal burns, I had third degree burns mostly from my waist up, requiring many surgeries and skin grafts over the next 14 years.

As a boy I remember it as a very hard and trying time of adversity for me and my family. As a father now, I can only imagine the pain and grief my Pappa felt. It was also a lonely time for my brothers who went to live with my grandmother way down in Hattiesburg while my Momma stayed to care for us in the hospital. But through the pain came an awesome blessing as I was raised to believe that God had saved me, and that He had saved me for a reason – something I believed with all my heart!

Fast forward to a single moment in 1999. I was at home reading a message in the church bulletin by John Case, my pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson. The message was short, simple, to the point. It said:

IF YOU HAD AN HOUR TO LIVE …
Who would you call?
What would you say? and,
WHY HAVEN’T YOU SAID IT?

That simple message touched me as I thought back to that life-altering moment decades earlier. So I sat down and wrote my Pappa a two-page letter telling him how much I loved him, how much I respected him and how I appreciated the way he and my Momma had raised us. I told him that I hoped to be as good a husband and father to my family as he had been to us. Pappa was a man of few words – putting that love into words was not something that was required in those days. But I knew he loved me by the way he treated me. His actions spoke.

For some reason I felt the urgency to get the letter in the mail that day. The carrier had already come, so I drove to the main post office downtown and put the letter in the drop box. My father got that letter in the mail the next day and read it. I know this because my Momma called me and said that was a nice letter that I had written, subtly pointing out that it was addressed just to Pappa. I told her I felt the need to write Pappa and share with him these things, and that seemed to satisfy her curiosity as to why I hadn’t included her.

The next morning Pappa had a massive stroke that left him unable to talk for the rest of his life.  But I felt that I had been blessed by God by acting on His message and writing that letter to Pappa. It gave me the strength to go on during those final two long and trying years of his life. Often I wish I could talk with Pappa just one more time, but I feel so blessed to know that I shared with him how much he meant to me, how much he has molded me and how much I loved him. I can’t imagine what I would have been feeling if I hadn’t.

I have a favorite saying that guides my life and actions: “What’s it all about? LOVE!” Share and show your love for others! Please, take the time right now to let those special people in your life know how you feel. You never, ever know if  you will have that opportunity to do it again. ForgottenCommandment

Carpe diem … seize the day!

 

If you’d like to know how to do a tribute to a parent like Joel did, check out The Forgotten Commandment by Dennis Rainey. This FamilyLife resource will walk you through the process of honoring dad or mom in a special way.

Joel Waters has carried on the athletic and parenting legacy of his father. He played baseball at the University of Southern Mississippi and lives in Jackson where he attends Christ United Methodist Church. He has been married to Susan Steel Waters for 32 years and their children are Sam, Swayze (kicker-punter for the Toronto Argonauts) and his wife Kendal, and Shelby Waters.

Heroes are just regular men



Heroes aren’t special men. Heroes are just regular men who respond to the needs of others in special times.

Nick Naylor became a hero on April 27, 2014. He and his family were pummeled by the high-end EF4 tornado that struck his Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood that Sunday night. But rather than see himself as a victim, Nick went to work.

It wasn’t manly toughness but human compassion that compelled him to run from home to home, looking for survivors and rendering aid however he could.

When the father of five saw a young neighbor child who had been thrown into a yard 50 yards from her home, he thought of his own four girls and one boy. In all, he carried half a dozen people to be transported to receive medical care. Some of the victims were friends, but many were strangers. To him they were just people who needed to be helped, and he was available.

It doesn’t take a special kind of man to be a hero. Mostly, it just takes a man of compassion and integrity. A man who embraces a life committed to Christ already has all the qualities of a hero. He only needs opportunity, like the tornadoes that hit Mayflower, Arkansas and Louisville, Mississippi. He already considers the lives of others as important as his own. He recognizes in the midst of a crisis that he may very well have been put where he is “for such a time as this.” He is willing to reflect that greatest love of all, reflecting the greatest expression of love any man can show for another — to lay down his life.

I need to share two more stories of sacrifice from the tornado outbreaks of the past week. One is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where scholar-athlete John Servati held up a falling wall long enough for his girlfriend to escape. The wall collapsed before he could get away, though, and the gifted swimmer later that night died from his injuries. Before Monday night, he was just known as a guy who was always ready to help others in whatever way he could.

The other story of sacrifice is from Louisville, Mississippi — the home town of several of my extended family members. In this video, the story is told from the perspective of the one who benefited from that sacrifice. Sixteen years ago, Coysheena Mitchell lost her mother to a tornado. On April 28, she thought she had lost her own daughter. She went to pick up four-year-old Ashtyn from daycare, but the building was gone. Searching through the rubble, rescuers found the little girl still alive, sheltered safely from debris by the lifeless body of Ruth Bennett, the daycare owner.

Both Ruth Bennett and John Servati were just regular people who put themselves in places where they felt they needed to be. And today we remember them as heroes.

Real men die



“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

TombUnknown

Photo by Stacy Fischer

The inscription on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery remains a fitting tribute to true manhood: Giving up your life, not for personal recognition, but in the service of others. Even when no one knows what you have done but you and the One who weighs the motives of your heart.

I grew up hearing the stories of heroism on the field of battle. To me, these soldiers were paragons of manhood. As a young boy, I especially loved the movie Sergeant York. I don’t know how many times I replayed in my mind the scene where Alvin York went alone up the hill toward enemy machine gun nests that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. He did it not for the thrill of battle, or dreams of glory and fame, but on behalf of the men who fought alongside him. If you’re not familiar with the story, York eventually captured 132 German soldiers — single handedly.

The humble and godly York initially turned down the Warner Brothers biopic offer, but later agreed so he could use the money to benefit others. With the movie royalties and speaking engagements, he built a Bible school and a high school on his old homeplace in Pall Mall, Tennessee.

Alvin York believed God’s favor on the battlefield paved the way for him to have the platform to help people and change lives. His considered his greatest lifetime achievement not his achievements as the most-decorated soldier of World War I, but building the schools and giving himself to improve the lives of others.

Real men die

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

In contrast to his fellow soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield, York lived a full 76 years. But if you know the back story, his life was one of daily dying to self. After giving his life to Christ in 1915, York did a 180, turning from his past of violent drunken outbursts to a deep conviction not to harm others. Although he signed up for the service, he did so as a conscientious objector. When his appeal was denied, the expert marksman reluctantly accepted the role of training soldiers how to shoot.

Soon afterward he had to find a way to serve his country on the battlefield without violating his conscience. And when his commanding officer was killed, he assumed the leadership of his platoon, storming the hill alone, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 32 machine guns that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. All the time York was shooting, he was yelling for the Germans to surrender, hoping to save as many lives as possible, even of those who were trying to kill him.

In a way, Alvin York didn’t have to worry about dying as he charged that hill because he had already committed his life to dying to self in the service of others.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Alvin York’s life belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had provided the ultimate example of manhood on another hill. His very purpose in coming from heaven to earth was “to seek and to save.” Denying Himself to the very end, He offed himself a willing sacrifice on the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull).

If anyone occupying human flesh ever had a right to glory and fame, Jesus Christ did. Yet he willingly gave it all up for us, offering to exchange his life for the death that all of us eventually face as men. In doing so, He gives us the maxim for masculinity: Real men die to self. Real men serve others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   – Philippians 2:5-8

In the 45 years since I first saw Sergeant York, the heroic visions of my childhood have never materialized in my own life. I haven’t had the opportunity to storm an enemy hill, capture countless prisoners, or save a platoon. I haven’t even been able to build a school or missionary training center.

But I’ve learned that the real heroism as a man isn’t in the big feats. It comes in putting away my selfish desires on behalf of my wife and children, serving others by sharing the word of life and seeking to better the lives of those around me. I’ve also found that these little decision to die daily to self are so much harder than the ready-for-the-moment courage of my childhood fantasies. Amazing how it can be so easy to storm a machine gun nest in my mind, yet so hard in real life to give my undivided attention to Ellie and the kids.

Real men die. Our decisions to deny self may be unknown to anyone but ourselves, but they are known to God, who looks at the heart. He is the same God who accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us, conquering death for all and leaving an empty tomb.

He is risen.

Men should be investors not consumers



Men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.

man smashing piggybank

Do you know any men who pout or whine when their wife’s idea of frequent sex is different than theirs?

Do you know any men who only go on dates when their wife sets one up?

What makes more than a few young men devote massive amounts of time to video games and social media?

How many husbands need stimulation from more and more porn while their physical intimacy with their wife dwindles away?

Why can many young guys hook up with girls, but not have the courage to ask them on a date or navigate a constructive relationship?

What’s causing so much perpetual adolescence among guys in their late 20s and late 50s?

God has answers to these questions which drive us to passionately reach and disciple men.

We’re facing a crisis in our culture. It’s urgent! When a boy stays a boy for life … when a man doesn’t know what it is to be a man … when he uses girls and women like property … when he fathers kids outside of marriage … when his marriage breaks up … the price paid is compounded for women, children, and society.

Men don’t need to be attacked, however. They need to be welcomed into a Christian fellowship of other men, where manhood can be bestowed. They need to see and learn the manhood model of Jesus, while in the company of friends and mentors.

Men have been tricked, and we need to help them break free from the lies and false vision of manhood. One key cause for the counterfeit versions of manhood and sorry state of marriages today is one we can beat only if we identify it. We need to understand our identity as consumers and rebuild a new identity as investors.

Think about it. Most of us Americans see over 500 advertisements a day. We are trained by Madison Avenue and Hollywood to be consumers and pleasure seekers. It makes us petty, selfish, and little.

Investors not consumers

But men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.  Doing that in marriage for your wife, whom you are to cherish, makes you and your children much happier over time.

In defining manhood and leading men, we need to square up and tackle the passive, selfish, small vision of manhood that shapes boys and men into the mold of “consumer.”  Men want a vision to create something significant, battle for something good, and love a woman and family heroically.

That won’t be possible with a small consumer identity.  We need to wake men up to the devil’s and society’s trick.  God made us to be investors.

Consider pro football.  In the quarterback meeting room and in drills they teach Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and Drew Brees to throw the ball to receivers in a target diameter of one foot, perfectly serving the receiver so he need not stretch, bend, jump or dive. And they teach wide receivers, “If you can touch it, you must catch it.” Make the quarterback and the team look good. Lay out. Sacrifice. Those are investor mentalities.

Let’s break the consumer mold, call men up to being relationship investors — guys who protect the weak, bring out the best in others, and love unconditionally. Galatians 5 tells us we were called to freedom, not so we could feed our fleshly desires but so we could serve one another — to love our neighbor. It warns that if we are selfish in our flesh and relationships, we’ll be consumed ourselves.  Philippians 2 tells us to be like Jesus and look out for the interests of others, not just self.

Men investing in other men will help us all rediscover the model of manhood: Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.

 

Jeff Kemp quarterbacked for 11 years in the NFL.  He is a vice-president and “HomeBulder Catalyst” for FamilyLife, speaking to men and equipping men’s group discipleship with FamilyLife’s DVD men’s experience, Stepping Up™.   You can reach Jeff at jkemp@familylife.com.

 

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