Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Old Friend

Well, I’m finally getting around to writing about my trip to Chicago last week. I guess I’m always reluctant to put the minutia on paper because a lot of it just sounds so very uninteresting. It’s the same reason I have trouble making frequent posts on Twitter.

This would be a sample of Tweets that would repeat over and over almost every day when I’m not on the road.

“Just got up.”

“Having breakfast.”

“Watching Sportscenter while I eat breakfast.”

“Closing the door to my office and reading from Devotional Classics, The Word, going down the prayer list.”

“Answering Emails from several different sites because I tell people I will respond and I do.”


(Isn’t this riveting!!)

“Going to get mail”

“Going to the gym….”

Wow, even I’m bored reading this stuff and I’m the one doing it!

For most people, I think life carries on with a steady stream of necessary yet ordinary events interspersed with an occasional burst of unbelievable, awesome, outrageous and exciting. Not everything is newsworthy.

I landed in Chicago last Saturday night - leaving Houston on what was a brilliant spring day to arrive at O’Hare Airport in a cold, misty rain. I love Chicago and I have to tip my hat to the those that tough it out through the long, grey cold days of winter in the land where the leaves come late to the trees. Ah, but then you’ve got the Cubs and the Sox, Wrigley, Da Bears!

Sunday night, I played a concert at Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church or as I call it PPPCC. It just rolls off the tongue. These sweet people opened their doors to host this event that was sponsored by my friends at Bible League International. Sue Olsen, from Bible League, and her husband took good care of me while I was there.

I went to the Philippines last fall with the folks from BLI and have come to love their work. I encourage you to look further into the things they’re doing all over the world.

Before the concert, I was just waiting and going through the routine of preparing for the concert. Sue knocks on the door and says, “I think there is someone here you’re gonna want to see.” Following her was my long-time friend, Tim Burke and a friend of his – from the Chicago Wolves hockey team - Noah Welch. I couldn’t believe it! I haven’t seen Tim in almost five years.

I guess I should give a little background but believe me, I could go way beyond just a little. I could write volumes about my friendship with Tim and the adventures we’ve shared – some very high highs and some very low lows … on both sides.

I first met Tim when he was a star relief pitcher for the Montreal Expos. He and his teammates were in Houston to play the Astros. Tim was talking about Christian music with some of the Astros players and mentioned my name. When he found out I lived in Houston, we arranged to go out to dinner with a few other players after their next game in Houston.

We just hit it off. It’s really hard to explain how some people cross your path and have such an immediate impact. But that was the way it was between Tim and me.

I really don’t have the time or space to recount the stories. But even now, they’re racing through my head – every one screaming “tell me, tell me!!!”

I was in Montreal when Tim and Christine’s youngest daughter, Nicole, had open-heart surgery at nine months old. The Burkes had adopted Nicole from Korea. Nicole was born without a right hand and with a very serious heart problem. Several of the 5 children they adopted had life-threatening medical issues. Due to his baseball insurance coverage, Tim and Christine felt moved to seek out these children to change their lives.

I arrived at the airport in Montreal and Tim was there waiting for me. When I first saw him, my blood kind of ran cold. I was sure, by the look on his face, something terrible had happened. Of course, I assumed that Nicole had taken a bad turn or worse.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. I certainly didn’t expect the answer I got.

“I got traded to the Mets today . . . the Mets!” he said.

Well, here’s a curve (pardon the pun) we didn’t see coming. He was supposed to report to New York the next day, the day of Nicole’s surgery. After some negotiations and I’m sure some candid discussions between Tim, his agent and the powers at the New York Mets, they gave him a few extra days.

I’ll have to leave out a lot of this story – it could go on and on. But I will tell you that Nicole survived the surgery but not without severe consequences. Because of her age (nine months) and the seriousness of the heart problem, as I understand it, she had to be put into a medically induced coma for some time. It resulted in brain damage that has left her in a seriously handicapped state to this day. She’s nineteen now.

I’ve seen first hand how Tim and Christine have dealt with this twist. Sometimes unbelievably great and other times, near the end of their wits, just barely hanging on. They have some of the biggest and most loving hearts of anyone I’ve ever known and they have endured much, much more than most of us could ever stand. And not just endured, in many ways, they’ve triumphed.

We’ve gone on motorcycle trips, had motorcycle accidents, gone fishing in Alaska, seen a Super Bowl, played golf, goofed off and enjoyed a friendship that rivals blood relations.

And I’ve missed his fellowship. When I last saw Tim, I was at the lowest low of my life.

Today Tim is a chaplain with HMI – Hockey Ministries International – and travels all over the USA to befriend young Christian men in professional hockey. It’s a mission field and one that Tim loves. I know he’d love to hear from you and share more about his mission and his calling. I hope you’ll look him up.

So life has thrown curves, sliders, wild pitches . . . OK, enough with the baseball references. Life, for neither Tim nor me, has turned out as we once thought. Things that we once held dear and valued, things that we once took for granted are far from the reality of our day-to-day lives. But through it all, God has redefined Grace – redefined Mercy.

Maybe “redefined” isn’t the right word. The depths of real meanings of these beautiful words have been constant, as constant and unchanging as the Father Himself. For some of us, it just takes a little longer to get it.

And I’m not sure I get it just yet.

But I heard a great line from my Pastor during the message today. He was telling a story of a colleague who’d gone through great personal tragedy and loss, only to come out the other side with proof of God’s faithfulness and blessing. When the man was asked, “How did you make it through?” he responded saying ….

“God never promised we’d be leading at halftime.”

Wherever you are, whatever you’re going through . . . the games not over yet.


Wayne Watson
March 21, 2010

1 comment:

Karen said...

Thanks Wayne. Going through another huge "life upset" can put one beyond what one thought they could endure. Your words are encouraging and, I believe, appointed by God for me even this evening. Thank you for all the years of music. It's the folks like you that I listened to as a young Christian over 20 yrs ago and continue to listen. Integrity is refreshing in your industry. Blessings on you & your family.