Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Eulogy For My Dear Friend, Sonny Hambrick

George F. Hambrick Jr.
(May 4, 1961 – September 7, 2015)

I can think of a thousand places I would rather be today than speaking at a funeral service, especially one for my cherished friend, Sonny Hambrick. At the same time, there is no place that I would rather be than right here, right now. You see, we cannot truly appreciate the joy and ecstasy of life until we experience the agony and separation of death.

Yes, there is a time for everything under heaven, even grief. Despite our culture of immediate gratification and the avoidance of anything difficult or painful, we all find ourselves compelled to be here to honor the memory of Sonny Hambrick because of one reason: we loved him or someone in his immediate family.

I am honored to be here today to speak on behalf of Sonny and his family. When Rhonda asked me if I would be willing to share some stories about Sonny with you, I began to think about which words I would use to describe him:

Sonny was Bold and Fearless – When we were young and full of vim and vigor, if you found yourself in an unpleasant situation where you needed someone to have your back, there was no one better than Sonny. He was not afraid of anyone or anything, and he was always ready to “throw down” if he had the opportunity. Sonny would have made a great NFL football player or a terrific soldier… except for the fact that Sonny didn’t particularly care for people telling him what to do.

Sonny was Loving and Kind – If you talk to others about Sonny or read what has been written about him by friends, family and coworkers since his untimely death, a common theme begins to emerge of his humility and kindness. I knew this side of Sonny even when he was young and full of bravado, but life has a way of softening even the toughest among us if we will allow it to. Sonny loved people and he loved animals, especially dogs.

Sonny was Spontaneous and Fun Loving – Sonny enjoyed life to its fullest, and I think that is what attracted us to each other when I first came to Savannah Christian for my junior year of high school. It didn’t take us long to become running mates. He was always ready for an adventure, whether it be a road trip, or a midnight sailing excursion.

Sonny loved the University of Georgia and his Bulldogs. We attended UGA together as room mates in the Fall of 1980 during the glory years of UGA football, when Hershel Walker ran over anyone in his path, when Erk Russell stalked the sidelines with blood all over his face from head butting his defenders, when James Brown thrilled Sanford Stadium with his song, “Dooley’s Junkyard Dawgs”. We soaked up every moment of that incredible year when UGA won the National Championship. We were together when Larry Munson screamed “Run Lindsay! Run Lindsay!” and “Look at the sugar falling from the sky!”.

We had no idea how blessed we were and how special those times were. It was fun to win and fun to learn. Fun to work and fun to play. The legal drinking age was 18 when Sonny and I arrived in Athens, and lets just say we took maximum advantage of that fact. I’m not going to get too far into what we did in those days, other than to say two things:

1. Thank you Lord for looking after us in our stupidity.
2. I’m so glad we didn’t have cell phones and YouTube!

I remember one frigid night in February, Sonny and I got into a silly disagreement and got separated at a fraternity party. I ended up catching a ride back to our dorm, which for those of you who know Athens, was on the first floor of Milledge Hall. I didn’t have my room key so I knocked on the door. No answer. “So this is how its gonna be.” “I said I’m sorry, you blankety blank! Let me in!” Still no answer. After banging on the door for a few more minutes, it was obvious that he was determined to ignore me, so I did what any responsible, level headed young man would do in that situation. I went outside and kicked one of the window panes in – only to find that Sonny was not in there. When he showed up a short time later, I told him the story and we nearly died that night of laughter and the sub freezing temperature in our room.

Sonny and I both married our high school sweethearts. Unfortunately, my dear wife Jahn could not be here with us today because of unavoidable conflicts, but trust me, she is here in spirit. She and Rhonda used to burn up the highways together between here and Athens every weekend. When I asked Jahn what her favorite memory of Sonny was, she said “Walking into your dorm room to the sound of Sonny singing Kenny Rogers love songs to Rhonda”.

I hate to admit it, but Sonny and I were both kind of free flowing in our love of the ladies when we were young. You might have even called us “Lady’s men”. However, when Sonny fell for Rhonda, he fell hard. Rhonda put a spell on Sonny that no one saw coming. He didn’t care that people said he was robbing the cradle. He was madly in love, and the fact that she was barely a teenager was irrelevant. Rhonda has stayed by his side through thick and thin ever since, and I can’t imagine how lost she must feel at this moment. Rhonda, I pray that God will comfort you in your temporary separation from Sonny, and He will fill your mind with all the many sweet memories you have together.

Sonny cherished his family – all of them. From his sweet mom Miss Ann who I affectionately called Mom too, to his lovable Dad George who tried his best to keep us out of trouble, to sweet Pam who he adored, Deborah and all the extended family. But most of all, he loved Rhonda and his precious children Trey and Macy. He loved to call and tell me all about how they were doing. He called me and asked for prayer when Rhonda lost her job, and called to let me know when she got a better one. He was incredibly proud of you Trey and Macy, and he will remain your greatest fan as you embrace an uncertain future without him. I pledge to each of you today – as do many people in this room – to be there for you should you need me.

I will miss getting those phone calls out of the blue when I answer my phone and all he says is “Hey”, and instantly I am transported back in time to our magical days of college and of starting our families together. With Sonny and me, time was irrelevant. We always picked up where we left off without missing a beat. Frankly, he did a better job than I did of staying in touch, but what a sweet friendship we had. He knew me as well as anyone on this earth – and loved me anyway.

Today we celebrate Sonny’s life and his legacy of love. His light burned brightly, and his departure from this earth leaves us feeling the stinging pain of grief. Grief as they say, is the price of love. However, even as we grieve, there is a celebration of homecoming for Sonny in heaven.

Its funny; You would never have voted either of us “Most likely to become Sunday School Teachers”, but God’s amazing grace and loving protection covered us in our youthful exuberance, and He used every experience, every choice – good and bad – and every precious relationship to grow and mold us.

Don’t get me wrong… neither of us are saints, and neither of us are evangelists, but if Sonny were able to stand before you today after meeting His savior face to face, he would remind you all of your mortality, and he would implore you to settle in your mind and in your heart the most critically important question you will ever be confronted with: That is “Who is Jesus Christ, and how does the answer to that question affect me?”
For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness. The wages of our sin is death, or separation from God. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Sonny has left the prison of his flesh and entered into eternity in the presence of and in direct fellowship with God. He no longer suffers from compromised liver or kidney function, and the weaknesses that kept him keenly aware of his dependence on God no longer hinder him. Sonny has been rewarded for his faith, and now he is at perfect peace.

I take great comfort in that, and I sincerely hope that you do too.

God Bless you all.

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James D. McCusker – A Great American

Jim McCusker was my friend from the first moment we met back in 1988 as young men trying to forge a career in (at that time) life insurance sales at Mass Mutual. We spent a lot of time together; at the office studying or preparing proposals, on the road making sales calls, or after work unwinding from the day. Through it all, if you were with Jim, there was never a dull moment. Truth be told, we played as hard or harder than we worked, but I will always cherish the laughs and meals we shared, the late nights drinking scotch and playing putt putt in the office, and the many long conversations (OK yes I mostly listened) in which we pondered all manner of problems and opportunities under creation.

Several things immediately struck me when I befriended Jim:

Jim was at all times and in all circumstances, absolutely unflappable. Never at a loss for words, Jim could talk to anyone about anything, and he often would. He never met a stranger. He was inquisitive by nature and genuinely interested in others.

Jim was smart. Really smart. He was without a doubt the greatest thinker I have ever known. Jim never shared with me what his IQ was, but his vast vocabulary was ever expanding, and he literally knew a little something about everything. And if he didn’t know about something, he was such a skilled pontificator that you would never realize it!

Jim and I shared a healthy general disdain for the powers that be and a certain detachment from the standards that supposedly govern our little region of the universe. We soon picked up on that commonality, and I think it was Jim who coined the term “Burgstiner Time” to describe my more European approach to time management.

Finally, and most importantly, Jim had an immense capacity to love. He was a gentle and kind soul, bold yet humble, and always a servant – especially to young people. Jim was a devoted husband, brother and son, but by far his greatest joy was being a Dad.

As his close friend, I was a grateful recipient of the love that overflowed from Jim’s heart, and it was he more so than I who made the consistent effort to stay in touch once our career paths diverged, even when we moved away to Atlanta. Whenever we got together, whether in person or by phone, it was like no time had passed. We delighted in each other’s company and encouraged one another in our struggles.

Like all of us, Jim was not perfect, but he left behind a legacy of love and a willingness to dream that impacted all who were fortunate enough to be loved by him. Jim’s soaring mind and sweet soul were released from the limited confines of his mortal body on March 26, 2014. We all miss him now, but I look forward with great anticipation to being reunited with him in paradise one day, where the answers to the many questions we pondered together will finally be understood.

"Before they call, I will answer." (Isaiah 65:24)

African baby This is  a story written by a doctor who worked in Africa:  

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter.  We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).  We  also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.  One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes so easily in tropical  climates).

"And it is our last hot water bottle!’ she exclaimed.  As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central  Africa  it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.   They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right,” I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely  can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free  from drafts.  Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me.  I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle,  and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills.  I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During  prayer time, one ten year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. ‘Please, God’ she prayed, ‘Send us a hot water bottle today. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.’

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while you are about it, would you please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know you really love her?"

As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I  honestly say "Amen!"?  I just did not believe that God could do this.

Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so.  But there are limits, aren’t there?  The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland.  I had been in Africa for al-most four years at that time, and I had never-ever received a parcel from home.

Anyway,  if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle?  I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.  By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel.  I felt tears pricking my eyes.  I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children…

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot.  We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly.  Excitement was mounting.   Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out.  Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored.  Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas — that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the…..could it really  be?

I grasped it and pulled it out.  Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle.  I cried.

I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth  was in the front row of the children.  She rushed forward, crying  out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly.  Her eyes shone!  She had never doubted!

Looking  up at me, she asked, ‘Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?’

"Of course," I replied!

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the  equator.

And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five  months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a  ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

"Before they call, I will answer." (Isaiah 65:24)

When you receive this, say the prayer.  That’s all I ask.  No strings attached.  Just send it on to whomever you want —  but do send it on.

Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive.  There is no cost, but a lot of rewards.  Let’s continue praying for one another.

This  awesome prayer takes less than a minute.

"Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this. I ask you to minister to their spirit.  Where there is pain, give them your peace and mercy.  Where there is self-doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them.  Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask you to give them understanding, guidance, and  strength.  Where there is fear, reveal your love and release to them your courage.  Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them.  I ask you to do these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen!"

A Life Lesson From a Mallard Couple

Mallards I was having a particularly stressful day recently, and a dear friend suggested that I get away for an hour or so and take a walk in the park. He knew that I walk nearly every day several times around my neighborhood, but on that day, he insisted that the Lord had something to say to me there. Being aware that trail walking burns up to 80% more calories than walking on a flat surface, I had already been thinking about checking out what the park had to offer, so I put on my running shoes and made my way over to the park to explore some of the many winding, heavily wooded trails that surround a large lake.

Much to my delight, the trails were both challenging and beautiful, meandering through stately water oaks and thick stands of Georgia pines. Occasionally the path would lead right along the edge of the water. I stopped for a moment at one such small clearing to take in the beauty of the lake, and I noticed a beautiful pair of Mallard ducks milling around in the shallows among the lily pads.  They were a busy couple, but I noticed the light brown hen always stayed close behind her colorful mate.

I pressed on down the path and was greeted by the familiar couple again each time I came to another clearing. As I made my way around the lake, I was amazed at how much water the ducks covered despite never taking to the air. I studied them intently for a few minutes, and noted how much they seemed to enjoy their journey, feeding on algae and small fish while effortlessly gliding through the water.

I wondered why the ducks, having the ability to quickly fly the length of the lake, chose instead to swim. Suddenly it occurred to me that while for ducks there is a time to fly, one must but stay in the water and put forth a consistent effort in order to harvest the abundance around you.  We humans can sometimes become discouraged when our plans don’t take flight on our schedule, when we should be content to glean the harvest at hand.  Perhaps the ducks, having no pressure to perform, are content just being who they are and doing what they do.

Thank you Lord for giving us the gift of an eternal perspective.  Help us to not keep score by earthly standards, and keep us ever mindful of You in the midst of all you have called us to.

T Bones and Roses

yellow roses

  I walked into the grocery store not particularly interested in buying groceries. I wasn’t hungry. The pain of losing my husband of 57 years was still too raw. And this grocery store held so many sweet memories.

He often came with me and almost every time he’d pretend to go off and look for something special. I knew what he was up to. I’d always spot him walking down the aisle with the three yellow roses in his hands.

He knew I loved yellow roses. With a heart filled with grief, I only wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was different since he had passed on. Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two.

Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and remembered how he had loved his steak.

Suddenly a woman came up beside me. She was blonde, slim and lovely in a soft green pantsuit. I watched as she picked up a large package of T-bones, dropped them in her basket, hesitated, and then put them back. She turned to go and once again reached for the pack of steaks.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. “My husband loves T-bones, but honestly, at these prices, I don’t know.”

I swallowed the emotion down my throat and met her pale blue eyes.

“My husband passed away eight days ago,” I told her. Glancing at the package in her hands, I fought to control the tremble in my voice. “Buy him the steaks. And cherish every moment you have together.”

She shook her head and I saw the emotion in her eyes as she placed the package in her basket and wheeled away.

I turned and pushed my cart across the length of the store to the dairy products. There I stood, trying to decide which size milk I should buy. A quart, I finally decided and moved on to the ice cream. If nothing else, I could always fix myself an ice cream cone.

I placed the ice cream in my cart and looked down the aisle toward the front. I saw first the green suit, then recognized the pretty lady coming towards me. In her arms she carried a package. On her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen! I would swear a soft halo encircled her blonde hair as she kept walking toward me, her eyes holding mine.

As she came closer, I saw what she held and tears began misting in my eyes. “These are for you,” she said and placed three beautiful long stemmed yellow roses in my arms. “When you go through the line, they will know these are paid for.” She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, then smiled again. I wanted to tell her what she’d done, what the roses meant, but still unable to speak, I watched as she walked away as tears clouded my vision.

I looked down at the beautiful roses nestled in the green tissue wrapping and found it almost unreal. How did she know? Suddenly the answer seemed so clear. I wasn’t alone.

Oh, you haven’t forgotten me, have you? I whispered, with tears in my eyes. He was still with me, and she was his angel.

Every day, be thankful for what you have and who you are: 

“Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings. Thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible. Thank you, Lord , that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising. Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short, and my children are so loud.

Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the picture in magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced.

Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job often is monotonous. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest.

Thank you, Lord, for life. “

A Vanished Friend

fishing

I don’t know who wrote this, but I received it today in an email.  It hit me between the eyes like a ton of bricks.  There are more than a few people who come to mind when I read this.  To all of you I send my love and well wishes.  Let’s get together and catch some fishes!

 

Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end.
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friend’s face;
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine – but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game;
Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say, "I will call on Jim"
Just to show that I’m thinking of him.
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away;
"Here’s a telegram sir": "Jim died today."
And that’s what we get and deserve in the end;
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

Remember to always say what you mean. If you love someone, tell them. Because when you decide that it is the right time, it might be too late…

Seize the day. Never have regrets. And most importantly, stay close to your friends and family, for they have helped make you the person that you are today.

“My Feet Are Off The Ground”

homeless feet I don’t know if this is true but a friend sent me this today and it really moved me:

From Tyler Perry: Writer and Actor

This morning I awoke and was so frustrated about all of the stuff that I’m dealing with in trying to get this studio open. I was about to open my mouth & start complaining when I remembered something that happened to me a year ago.

I was walking to my car when this woman who appeared to be homeless started walking towards me. I’m ashamed to say this but I thought, “I don’t feel like being hustled today.” Then I got quickly convicted. I felt guilty so I started digging in my pocket for some money. As she got closer I noticed that she had the kindest eyes that I had ever seen.

As I was reaching into my pocket she started to speak. I thought, “Here goes the sales pitch”. She said “Excuse me sir, I need some shoes. Can you help me?” My eyes filled with water because I remember being out on the streets and having only one pair of run over shoes. I was taken aback for a second.

I took her inside the studio and had my wardrobe people find shoes in her size. As she put the shoes on she started crying, praising God and thanking Jesus, and saying, “My feet are off the ground! My feet are off the  ground!”    

Several of the wardrobe people started crying. I was crying. But I never forgot those words. “My feet are off the ground!” I thought, “Wow! All she wanted was some shoes.”

She quickly disappeared and never asked me for a dime. I realized that I still had the money in my hand so I went out looking for her. She was gone just that quick so I looked all around the neighborhood for her. I found her standing on a corner looking down at her shoes, still crying. I was so touched.

I asked her how she had gotten homeless. She told me that she had AIDS and that she was waiting to get into a shelter.. She said that her family had turned their backs on her and that she had no place to go, but she knew that God would make a way for her. I said to myself, “He just did.”

Her faith and her praise moved me. I took her to a nearby hotel and put her up until she was able to get on her feet I had someone that worked for me to check on her from time to time and to make sure that she had food and clothes. After about a month or so we lost touch, but I never forgot her.

This past summer I was shooting ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ and this woman walks up to me smiling. I didn’t recognize her face, but her eyes were familiar. She had on a really nice dress and her hair was done. It was her!

She told me that the little help that I had given her had changed her life. She was in a house now and doing very well.

I said all of that to say this. After I met this woman, every time I think about complaining and mumbling I remember, “My feet are off the ground!”
I wanted to share this with you just to let you know that when I say that I am thankful for you, I mean it. And when I say that you are a blessing to me, I mean it.

We take so much for granted sometimes that I just wanted all of you to know that I am grateful to God for you every day. Thank you for being in my life.
~Tyler Perry

When God takes something from your grasp. He’s not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better… "When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others"

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