“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. ... Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36, 44)
When the Hendrick Motorsports plane with down in 2004 just outside of Martinsville Speedway, killing ten HMS employees—including owner Rick Hendrick’s brother, John, and son, Ricky—Donnie Floyd, who worked in the paint and body shop, recalled what John Hendrick always said at the end of the Bible studies he led at HMS.
“One thing he always spoke about at the end of every message he had was, ‘Make sure you’re ready. Always be ready,’” Floyd said on the Sports Spectrum podcast in May 2018. “What he meant by that is be ready when your time comes—that you’ll leave this life and go into eternity.”
The year before the accident, Floyd had been considering going back to police work, but his wife reminded him that he might not be at HMS for himself. He might be there for someone else. So he stayed.
“When that plane crashed, it really changed the dynamic of the way I looked at people,” Floyd continued. “It kinda took me back to my policing days and I was reminded when I was in law enforcement that life is fragile. Life is not promised to any of us. We’re not promised tomorrow. We’re given today, and we’re to make the best of it.”
Floyd said the accident was a catalyst—a reminder that God wanted to use him there at HMS, but he wasn’t sure how. Some feared that maybe the Bible study would be discontinued after the plane crash. But HMS brought in a chaplain from Motor Racing Outreach for a while and kept it going. One week in 2015 when the chaplain wasn’t able to make it, someone needed to step up. Floyd did so, reluctantly. Eventually, he left the shop to become the full-time chaplain at HMS.
He now leads the John Hendrick Fellowship Lunch every Wednesday at HMS where over a hundred employees attend the Bible study that the team offers to employees who want to attend.
John Hendrick was ready—not in the sense that he knew when he would perish, but in the sense that he made the best of the time he was given. Floyd was ready, too—ready to step into the gap when his name was called.
How about you? Are you living in such a fashion that you could say you are ready if Christ were to return today? Or if he were to call you home to heaven? How might your life change if you lived with that perspective always at the forefront of your mind?
In the spirit of John Hendrick, make sure you’re ready.
This was an excerpt from Racing for Christ: 50 Devotions for NASCAR Fans. If you enjoyed it, click the link to order or download a copy of the book.
I saw a quote this week that said, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”
Leaves look so much better when they are transitioning. Their colors change into brilliant hues of oranges, reds and yellows and instantly, they make us pause to admire them.
Harvard’s website goes into great detail about the process: “Leaves change color during the autumn because the amounts of pigments change as the leaves prepare to fall from the trees. All leaves gradually lose chlorophyll during the growing season, and this loss accelerates before leaf fall. Under optimal conditions this process of chlorophyll loss is very orderly and allows the plants to resorb much of the nitrogen in the structure of the pigment molecule.”
I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds a bit too clinical for my reflective nature. I prefer this simpler explanation, even if I don’t agree that their reason for transformation isn’t beautiful: “While the leaves in their autumn hues are beautiful, the reason behind their transformation is anything but. We are, in essence, watching the leaves starve themselves and die.”
Transformation is frightening. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the process, and the fear of loss keep us from desiring it. But without the transformation process, we’d remain unchanged. And as much as humans tend to hate change, it’s necessary — at least for the Christian.
In Romans 6:6-8 (ESV), the apostle Paul says this: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
As you drive down old country roads or sit around the fire pit this fall and you find yourself admiring the beauty that springs forth from the death of leaves, consider your own spiritual transformation. It may be frightening and painful, but it’s beautiful in God’s sight.
My eyes scanned the Scripture card that is set neatly into a miniature lighthouse figurine located on a ledge under the medicine cabinet in my bathroom between a small bottle of Tide and a generic version of VapoRub.
I read the card again.
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).
A relative was expected to receive a diagnosis that day. The kind of news that can change everything.
I nodded, knowing Jesus was indeed with us, no matter what.
The diagnosis didn’t turn out to be great news, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.
That was months ago. I haven’t flipped the Scripture card since. Instead, I’ve chosen to keep Matthew 28:20 prominent so I can see it every morning as I’m getting ready.
I believe Jesus. He is with his church. He is with me.
A year ago, I experienced several losses. I can’t write about them yet, but the time is coming.
Last week, my family lost another relative.
I’m reminded of what John Eldredge says in his book All Things New. He says life is one long series of goodbyes. I can’t remember all the examples he cited, but the sentiment is self-explanatory. Everything is temporary — except Christ.
Yesterday morning, I was reading from 3-Minute Devotions with Charles Spurgeon. He made this comment: “Fellowship with Christ is so honorable a thing that is worthwhile to suffer, that we may thereby enjoy it [the fellowship].”
There’s the reminder again. Jesus is present. And fellowship with him is so honorable that it is worthwhile to suffer. It’s not that we can’t fellowship with Jesus without suffering but suffering takes us deeper — transforms us somehow.
Over the last year, I’ve been contemplating loss and suffering, especially in light of my relationship with Christ. I have no expectation that he’ll rescue me from heartache or hardship. In fact, if he rescued me, I might very well miss a closeness to him that can only come from being sustained while in the fire.
Spurgeon says it better: “I should never have know the Savior’s love half as much if I had not been in the storms of affliction.”
I don’t know what sort of storms you are enduring right now, but if you are a Christian, take heart. Jesus is with you. If you are not a Christian but would like to know how to become one, send me an email. I’d love to talk to you.
He ran the fan duster along every nook and cranny of the treadmill, then reattached the emergency pull cord clip to its rightful place in front of the machine. Once he was satisfied, he moved on to the next machine and started all over again.
After cleaning five machines, he caught up with someone else who was cleaning, so he skipped that machine and continued with his routine. You could look down the row of treadmills and see a line of red clips attached to the front of the machines he’d cleaned. Then you’d see a machine without the clip, followed by several more with the clip.
He’s part of a handful of adults with various physical challenges who are dropped off at the gym I belong to every morning. They come in at 9:00 a.m., smiling ear to ear, and chat with the staff behind the desk for a couple of minutes. Then they get to work.
One of the men never stops smiling. I’m not exaggerating. He smiles when he’s working. He smiles when he’s talking to people. And he smiles when he’s alone.
I love the energy they bring to a place where everyone else is trudging through workout routines, lost in their music and trying to avoid eye contact.
The morning I’m writing this, my family received a call, letting us know that my aunt, who lives 700 miles away, had passed away overnight. As I got to the gym, my mind was reminiscing about the last trip we took to see her in 2016. I was also thinking about everyone I’d need to contact to let them know about her passing. And I was concerned about my mom losing her last remaining sibling.
Then the bus pulled up and these magical people spilled out. Their happiness was good medicine. By the time I’d finished my 40 minutes on the treadmill, I was thankful on several levels—thankful for the gym who hired them, thankful for the power of a smile and thankful for the life that continues, even when you’ve lost someone you love.
I had a non-milestone birthday a couple of weeks ago. I tend to not be reflective on birthdays unless the number ends in five or zero. But my dentist’s office didn’t get the memo.
They sent me one of those form emails that said, in part: “Birthdays are special occasions. As children, we look forward to a birthday with anticipation and excitement. As adults, a birthday often is a time for reflection and renewal. We would like you to know that we are thinking of you on your special day. We hope that the coming year will be filled with health, happiness and success for you and your family.”
Part of me thinks my dentist is trying a little too hard. But I get it. Business is relational these days. I guess it’s always been, but it feels more so now, doesn’t it? And I think I like it that way, even if I'm skeptical sometimes.
My doctor and I sometimes talk minor league baseball during my visits. Back when I covered minor league baseball, I’d bump into her and her husband at the ballpark every once in a while. They have partial season tickets. So it makes sense for us to talk about baseball, in addition to my various ailments, during my appointments.
The woman who cuts my hair has been doing so for thirty years or so, and she’s become a friend. But we didn’t start that way. As we got to know one another, a friendship formed — mostly centered around Husker football and our common faith.
I used to talk to the pharmacist (I had to change pharmacies for insurance purposes) about my sports writing and the road trip he and his wife used to take periodically to see her family in Canada. He knew my name and always greeted me warmly when I walked in — a rarity in this day and age.
I bumped into a waiter named Brandon the other day in a restaurant that I’m not accustomed to seeing him in. He changed jobs recently but we picked up where we left off. Last I’d heard, his grandmother was in the hospital and was about to pass away. I promised to pray for her at the time. To my surprise, Brandon said she’d made a full recovery. He seemed surprised that I remembered her, which I thought was kind of sad.
Yes, businesses that send cheesy emails on our birthdays can feel a bit forced. And the overattentive store clerk, real estate agent or waitress makes me roll my eyes internally sometimes. But it shouldn’t because sometimes, I make genuine connections with people, even though it starts as a friendly business transaction.
How about you? Have you made any such connections that have made an impression on you? Maybe one that has turned into a genuine friendship? I’d love to hear your story.