It has been a little while since I've written a tall tale. I awoke about an hour skyscrapers ago to the sound of my wife suctioning my handicapped son's trach. I now find sleep eluding me. I keep the radio on Music Thru The Night so that there is something worthwhile to listen to should I awake between midnight and 5am. Mike Kellogg told the brief tale of Jackie Robinson the first black Major League Baseball player. Mike said Jackie was not given a warm reception by the white fans, and during one of the games he committed an error that drew the ire of the fans. Jackie stood near second base listening to the booing of the fans and contemplated quitting the major leagues when the shortstop approached him and placed his arm around Jackie's shoulders and faced the booing fans with him. The booing quit, but most notable was that Mike said Jackie considered quitting the major leagues until his fellow player offered his support against the booing fans. That story caused me to think of my "Promise Keepers" experience as well as some pretty top notch black men I have known in my life most notably a man I know only as Hatchet who is as honorable and good as any man I have known regardless of race. Hatchet is now deceased, but it has been my great privilege to have known him in this life and to have been introduced to horse back riding by him. He is one that you would want on your side and on your team. It is my great hope that I will see him again.
As I thought about the story Mike Kellogg told about Jackie on second base and the shortstop it stirred the memory of my Promise Keepers experience. I probably would have preferred to simply return to sleep, but sleep did not want to seem to easily return and when the creative juices for writing a Tall Tale strike they often do not return with the same fervor if at all when they are set aside for later, so I take the time to spin this Tall Tale now.
Promise Keepers first appeared on my radar through a Christian radio station in the very early 1990's. My wife and I both had an interest in my attending one of their events. I was working an EMS job on the old "Kelly Shift" cycle back then. The Kelly Shift consisted of a 9 day cycle consisting of 3 twenty four hour shifts during the first 5 days followed by 4 days off. The closest event was scheduled for Dallas Texas, but did not coincide with a date that matched my four days off. My wife and I were disappointed and hoped another one in a suitable location that matched my off days would eventually be scheduled.
Then an act of God occurred that caused the current Dallas event to be rescheduled to a time that perfectly matched my four days off. A hugh thunderstorm with strong winds blew down the stage for the first scheduled Dallas event causing it to be rescheduled inside a sports arena. To my knowledge no one was hurt and they simply suffered the inconvenience of having to reschedule to a time and date that was very convenient for me. I quickly bought two tickets. One for me and another for a black preacher I knew from South Louisiana.
My preacher friend was not able to attend, so I headed to Dallas alone with both tickets. I would spend two nights with a Christian couple that my wife made a missionary trip to China with before I knew her. I invited the man to attend with me offering him my spare ticket, which he declined. So, with excitement and anticipation I headed to the event unaccompanied the following morning.
While en route and listening to a local Dallas station they talked about the event and brought up the subject of parking along with a required parking fee. Uh oh! I heard warning bells go off in my head. Back in those days I never traveled with any cash carrying only a checkbook and a credit card. The radio didn't clearly alert listeners that only cash would be taken to pay the parking fee, but that eventuality felt strongly implied. I was optimistic though. I reasoned at best I could get them to take one of my checks and at worst I could quickly panhandle my second now unused and unneeded ticket.
When I arrived I patently waited my turn in the parking line for what was a huge mass of traffic. When my turn to pay came I explained my situation to the attendant accepting parking fees. He wasn't understanding or helpful at all with my cashless dilemma. He simply said, "You can probably go down town and find a place to cash your check and then come back." I simply said, "Okay" as I pulled out of my place in line.
I was somewhat offended yet still optimistic as I headed into downtown Dallas to attempt to cash an out of town check. After several failed attempts at different establishments my optimism faded and my sense of being offended greatly increased. I came within a hair's breadth of simply heading home and telling myself that all those people care about is money anyhow. Then I spied some tall skyscrapers about a mile's walking distance to the event. I set my face like flint and told myself that I would find an available empty and free parking spot near the skyscrapers since it was the weekend, and then I would make the mile long hike back to the Promise Keepers event and they would have to put up with my now disgruntled spirit.
I found my parking spot and my mood was quite sour as I began my long walk from my parking spot. As I got very close to the event I entered some kind of college campus just across the road from where I initially attempted to pay and park. On the college campus there were all kinds of open and shaded free parking spots within an easy walking distance if only a person could have known about them. I saw several college students sitting around watching the goings on. Then there was what appeared to be a lone student tossing a Frisbee for his dog in an open field I was crossing.
As I entered the Frisbee field with my face still set like flint and my spirit covered with the sour mood of my parking experience offense, the man looked up at me and asked, "Are you going over to that promise keepers event?"
I said in what I am sure was not a too pleasant tone, "yeah!"
He said kindly, "Well, I'll walk over there with you. If that's alright?"
His choosing to walk over there with me knocked all the crud that was covering me, from being offended by the promise keepers parking debacle to garner a little extra money, right off of me. I can only imagine what I experienced at that moment was similar to what Jackie Robinson felt years ago when the shortstop put his arm around him in solidarity thus changing Jackie's mind from quitting the major leagues. My sour spirit instantly changed to a more pleasant one now that I had someone to hang with who showed himself friendly.
I thoroughly enjoyed my two days at the Dallas Promise Keepers event. I rendezvoused with my new found friend the next day. I got to meet several of his other friends and we all got to share and witness to other men attending. Tony Evans even made an unscheduled brief appearance and almost took the roof off of the place. I wouldn't learn the significance of my being offended by their parking situation until I arrived home after my Promise Keepers trip was completed.
When I arrived home I gathered all my children together for a small bible reading in my bedroom. I opened my bible to Matthew chapter 24 and began reading. I was reading from the New King James version. The Bible the man gave me in this previous Tall Tale was a NASB. Historically I have favored the NASB translation, although I occasionally like to read a different translation. The very first time I ever opened my original NASB as a new bible reader it was to Matthew Chapter 24, so this chapter carries great meaning to me since I felt Jesus was personally talking to me about the things that would come upon the world. Every time I read verse 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another." I have always told myself, "That's not me. I'm not interested in falling away and betraying anyone. I want to be one who endures to the end."
This day while reading from the NKJ version to my children I reached verse 10 in the different translation which said, "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." God hit me right between the eyes! "then shall many be offended" "shall hate one another". Wow! The memory of how the Promise Keepers parking fee offended me and the hatred I had felt came full circle. I heard God's still quiet voice say to me, "And look how easy it happened to you David!"
It was a great lesson for me. Little things that should be insignificant can often easily end up offending us stirring up strong emotions. I had personally experienced it at Promise Keepers. It can happen between spouses, friends, work acquaintances, and strangers. I am much more wary of this trick of the devil since my Promise Keepers experience and the NKJ translation. I hope this Tall Tale can also make you wary of this clever tactic of the enemy and help you also be one who endures to the end able to look with compassion on those who may unknowingly give offense.
The man that befriended me on the Frisbee field wasn't aware of what had just happened to me regarding parking, but God was and I have no doubt that He placed the man with the frisbee and dog there for me for such a time as this. Likewise I believe God had the shortstop there for Jackie Robinson when he needed him most. Thank you Mr. Kellogg for that story. Music thru the Night is almost over now, and I've added another Tall Tale to my collection that will hopefully be of benefit to some of you. I have company arriving later today, so hopefully now I can catch a little more sleep and this visit will also be in God's hand.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:27,28