With school starting and Fox returning to High School life I went back in my mind to the youth group I used to lead in San Jose. I was there for about ten years and had countless numbers of youth come through the doors. To be honest, I don't remember all of the kids as so many were here and gone all too fast for me to get to know them. Some I have been blessed with keeping their friendships through the years. These amazing young men have showed me that the investment was worth it. It reminds me that God does in fact work in the lives of our youth and they are now out in the world making a difference.
Of course there are ones that stand out more than others. For me one stands out loud and clear. He was part of a family of four brothers. All had long unkempt hair and clothes. They were loud. They also made life uncomfortable for others in the church. The came on Wednesday nights riding in on skateboards. They like their music loud. They always wanted to find the next big jump, the next thing to break and the next thing that would go uncontrollably fast. Oh, if I haven't said it yet, they were loud. They had electric guitars and a drum kit in their garage - you can do the math on what it was like. The boys' last name was Powers. I think it was fitting. When they brought friends to church, it was some of the roughest characters you could ever imagine. I sometimes think I was more of a correctional officer at those times.
The center of this motley crew was the youngest and loudest of them all. His name was Jeremy. If I go through my pictures from that time, he seemed to inject himself into each shot. He once found his way to the top of the camp chapel to see if he could snowboard jump off of it (it has a nice lip for a ramp). He's the only kid who got seriously hurt on a ski trip. We had to cart him down the mountain after he sprained his knee attempting yet another big jump. It was never a surprise when he came to youth group with a black eye, a cast or a splint. Even though he was the smallest kid on his peewee football team, he played nose tackle. Picture the Tasmanian Devil throwing bodies around and you'll get the picture of what he was like on the football field.
Here's the interesting thing about Jeremy and his brothers: they deeply, passionately and even recklessly loved God. They had this deep respect for the leaders. When we were speaking and others were talking over us, you'd here Jeremy yell "Shut up!!!" at them. If someone said that church was stupid, he'd be sure to let them know how stupid they were being. He also would threaten to beat up those who didn't show us respect. I know that even though it wasn't the "right" response, I could see he had passion.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height... The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Jeremy and his family moved to the Northwest when he entered high school. A few years passed and I received a call from his mother. She said that Jeremy had died in a car accident. I spoke with his brother and he said that Jeremy had bought a junk car and tried to fix it up to go fast. Sadly, it was too fast and he crashed it. It was said that at his memorial service, just about every hooligan from the town attended. In life and in death, Jeremy was true to himself. I think that in some ways I have a smile knowing that Jeremy had a very distinct impact on this world. He shook it up, lived it with passion and had a lasting impression on me and probably many others. The candle that shine twice as bright does burn half as long. But what a bright light!
A few things Jeremy definitely taught me was to live life to it's limits; that life unihibited is living; that being passionate has its plusses; that one should NEVER judge a book by its cover; and if I have a say in how I go, I want it in a way that shows that I really lived. In the list in my mind of personal heroes, Jeremy Power is near the top of that list. I regret that I won't have the time on this earth to share that with him.
The last time I talked to the Powers boys, they were being covert missionaries. I remember one of them with a wry smile on his face as he said how he was going to infiltrate the group so that they could change things from within.
My hope is that we all go through life and see people as God sees them. I hope I can show the love and compassion that each one needs and perhaps we can all live with the reckless fighting spirit of Jeremy Powers. I look forward to seeing him again in my Father's house.
"I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today.
Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch play by play till we're finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the *** kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.
We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time.
Now I can't do it for you. I'm too old.
I look around and I see these young faces and I think I mean I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh.... I p***d away all my money believe it or not.
I chased off anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean
one half step too late or to early you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the **** difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.
I'll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.
Now I can't make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.
That's a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.That's football guys. That's all it is. Now, whattaya gonna do?"
Excerpt from Al Pacino's "Inch By Inch" speech from Any Given Sunday