Soft! Soft! Soft! I want the fields soft! The head coach, Frank, of the recently transplanted Indianapolis Colts was gently tutoring me to his standard of turf care with the intensity of a man fueled by adrenalin, caffeine and stress. When I have a player land on this field it needs to be soft! Just to check up on the quality of my nightly field flooding he sent interns around each morning to peruse the fields. Have you ever had steroid induced self-important NFL football interns who were probably majoring in general studies needing tutoring to boot as your quality control checks? I would see them coming at dawn strutting to the field gingerly stepping on the turf trying not to get their official team Nike’s soiled. Poking a finger in the grass they would invariably point at me and pontificate in their best Frank wannabe voice we need this soft! You hear us soft!

I heard him say are you alive? Actually I technically was alive but I sure didn’t feel like it. Having finished working all night dragging fire hoses around the training camp fields I sat against the end zone fence promptly falling asleep.  With my shabby work clothes mud caked and soaking wet Mike, an assistant coach, seemed to wonder how this homeless tramp slipped by security. I looked up and said, Hi I’m John and I take care of the fields. I had seen Mike around always hustling back and forth with energy and purpose. Wanting to be professional it was embarrassing that my brief rest before going home esulted in being awakened by Mike. Not knowing what to say I blurted the fields are soft!

Expecting an explosive reaction I was surprised when in a quiet whimsical manner Mike said, Yes they are and I really appreciate the work you do. I was somewhat stunned.  Other than pointing out numbers to be painted or turf to be repaired no one interacted with me – I was just a tool at their disposal much like a tackling dummy or scuffed up football. He went on to ask me about myself listening intently before saying go home and change real quickly and catch me at the dining hall for breakfast. Meeting Mike a bit later He introduced me to the dining hall supervisor and told him that John can eat every meal here if he wants so show him the ropes. Believe me – I wanted! Mike looked at me again and said thanks again and left me in line at the team training table to dine like a million dollar NFL star. I was still tired every morning after a hard night’s work but I never left those fields without them being the epitome of turf softness.

It is a simple concept – encouragement boosts the soul. Too often we are focused on our agendas barreling through the day trying to finish our to do lists. As Christians we like to do good things being solid stewards of our finances and time. But do we really have that right? We get focused on what God wants us to do, and I contend, get ourselves out of what God really requires of us. We can never fully or effectively complete what God wants us to do until we first become what God wants us to be. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). The ambassadors of a Jesus who set aside his agenda healing lepers and comforting outcast sinners while feeding the hungry encouraging everyone through kind touches and words showing they were valued.  Was He really setting aside His agenda? Or was He pursuing His agenda in way that we may have missed engaging people above things (even good ones), culture and worldly success.

I cannot tell you what the record of the Colts that year. I can’t name but three or four players who were the focus and adulation of that intense time. What I do remember is what it felt like for a coach pressed in from all sides by demands for his attention taking a few minutes to tell an insignificant minimum wage water specialist that he was appreciated and valued. Mike’s agenda was to have a great team healthy and competent. Mike’s kind act of encouragement motivated me to want Mike to succeed – I begin to value what Mike valued working as hard as I could to help him reach his goals. I became his ambassador. Do we as Christians really study Jesus to know and value what he values?  Or have we somehow reduced our interaction with the lowly to a periodic check were we gingerly walk on their turf pointing a finger and saying Get it right! How about if our agenda becomes Keep on loving each other as brothers, do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:1-3) Value what Jesus values, stop to encourage and boost a soul this week.


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This weekly devotion is written by John Key

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