Last Thursday was just one of those days for me. Usually when someone uses that phrase they follow up by unloading a series of difficult experiences that made their life miserable. But Thursday was one of those days when everything went right for me and it couldn’t have been a better day. One week after Thanksgiving I was very grateful for God’s continuing goodness to me.
At 10:30 a.m. I left Country Lake Camp in Southern Indiana, having completed a three-day mentoring retreat. As I drove away I thought, “Of the 57 retreats I’ve conducted since retiring, this was one of the most gratifying.”
All eight guys were pastors of small churches (under 100 in attendance) and were eager, humble, transparent, teachable and so grateful for anything we did for them. It was just one of those special retreats.
At noon I met two young fathers for lunch. They wanted to discuss a spiritual challenge one of them faced. He was honest about his struggles and I felt gratified that maybe I helped a little. When I got to my car I couldn’t believe it was already 1:35 p.m. It was just one of those encounters when the conversation flowed and the topic was so interesting that time flew by.
At 2:00 p.m. I got home and took a nap. That’s one of the rewards of the retirement years that I enjoy almost every day. No apologies. No guilt. I look forward to it and feel great after it. Besides I had a long night in front of me and I wanted to be rested for it.
Two months ago my wife had given me a wonderful 70th birthday present. She had purchased three tickets for the December 5th University of Louisville vs. University of Cincinnati football game…at Cincinnati. She had also arranged for my son Phil, a Louisville policeman, and my son Rusty, a Port Charlotte, Florida preacher, to join me. Judy’s gift included Rusty’s two day, round-trip flight from Tampa. It was just one of those special (and expensive!) gifts. But hey, you only turn 70 one time!
A strange, “coincidence” happened Thursday. An influential woman in Rusty’s south Florida church died early in the week and her funeral was on Thursday. But guess what? She was from Indianapolis and the family wondered if there was any possibility Rusty would be willing to fly to Indy for her funeral on Thursday morning. They were delighted when Rusty informed them, “it just so happened” he was flying to Louisville on Wednesday and he could easily drive up to Indianapolis on Thursday morning, do the funeral and make it back on time for the trip to Cincinnati with me. It was just one of those days!
Around 4:00 p.m. Rusty arrived back in Louisville, ready to go. But the weather had turned nasty and I debated about calling off the Cincinnati trip and just watching the game on television. The forecast called for heavy rain and 35 degrees. While I love college football, I hate to be cold. After some discussion we decided to honor Judy’s birthday gift and gut it out. If it got too miserable we could head home early and listen to the game on radio.
We bundled up in long johns, sweat shirts with hoodies, hunting boots and rain jackets and took off for Cincinnati through the downpour. I wondered if we were being really foolish or just plain stupid.
My brother John, who lives in Northern Kentucky and is much more familiar with Cincinnati traffic, had offered to chauffeur us to and from the game. That would save us the hassle of parking and walking a long distance to the stadium. We met on time at Skyline Chili and my brother actually paid for the meal. Did I tell you this was just one of those days!
John drove us within two blocks of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium and we sat down in our seats just fifteen minutes before kickoff. Our seats were excellent, on the 25 yard line about twenty rows up from the field. Our seats were actually padded (with backs) instead of the metal bleachers which are common in that stadium. I no sooner sat down than Chelsea Allen, Greg Allen’s daughter and one of my all-time favorite young people, found me and came up to say, “hello,” It was just one of those days.
I was mentally prepared to tolerate an obnoxious Bearcat fan sitting beside me but instead a young man sat down next to me wearing a Cardinal jacket. And he didn’t try to talk my arm off. This was just one of those days!
When the game started the rain stopped! We were so bundled up we didn’t get cold. However, there was one heavy-drinking, rather outspoken UC fan in front of my son Phil who bloviated, “Teddy Bridgewater is the most overrated quarterback I’ve ever seen.” But early in the first quarter Teddy threw a touchdown pass and I heard Phil shout, “How’s that for an overrated quarterback?” We laughed. This was too much fun!
The game was close and exciting. Bridgewater made two plays in the final quarter that were the most dramatic I’ve ever seen. Once again Phil shouted, “overrated my rear!” (Yes, he did say “rear!” Remember his dad is a preacher.) U of L won in overtime and my sons and I exchanged high fives, watched the post-game celebration and then joyfully headed out to meet my brother who was waiting to chauffeur us back to our car in Northern Kentucky. John texted us about his location, we met without complications and were soon back to our car and heading home. It was just one of those days when everything seemed to click.
As we traveled south on I 75, rehashing the game, it was announced on radio that UL had accepted an invitation to play in the RUSSELL Athletic bowl on Dec. 28. One of my sons insisted, “We need a celebratory milkshake!” I pointed out it was almost midnight and no ice cream store was open that late. Instantly he was on his cell phone and within seconds exclaimed, “There’s a Steak and Shake next exit! They stay open 24 hours!” Sure enough, five minutes later we ordered specialty shakes and they seemed to taste better than ever. It was just one of those days.
During the 90 minute trip home we bantered back and forth about football, family, the church and politics. I couldn’t help thinking all the way home that it’s a wonderful stage of life when your kids are your friends. That’s especially true if they are mature followers of Jesus Christ. (Trash talking with an obnoxious UC fan in front of you doesn’t disqualify you from being a mature Christian. Remember Jesus, in righteous anger, cleansed the temple.)
At 1:45 a.m. I crawled into bed and realized, “This is one of the few times that Judy is in bed ahead of me.” The bed was warm and cozy. She roused from sleep, I thanked her for a wonderful birthday present and we joined hands to pray. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” As I prayed I could hardly hold back the tears for realizing that this day has been an especially good gift. This has just been one of those days I’ll remember forever.