Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poppy meets Charis

We haven't had a chance to post these fabulous pictures, but on Saturday night, September 11, Poppy met his sweet granddaughter, Charis.  Here are some of her thoughts . . . 

"Hi Poppy, I'm Charis."

"Want to hold me for a while so I can take a nap?"

"Or we could just go enjoy the beautiful Oregon scenery together?"

"And I'll let you steal a little kiss or two!"

"Mimi needs a little Charis time, too."

"I LOVE my Mimi and Poppy!"

"I love Mommy and Daddy, too."

"Night, night."

Needless to say, we enjoyed every minute of our time getting to know Charis.  She is a beautiful blessing God has given not only to Kelsey and Zach, but to Mimi and Poppy, too!
Can't wait till the next time we can see her, hold her, kiss on her, play with her, cuddle her . . . you get the picture! 

The simplest toy, one even the youngest child can operate, 
is called a grandparent.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dreams come true


For all of my life I’ve been a close follower (yes a rabid fan) of Ohio State University football.  One of my fondest childhood memories is watching or listening to (it was often a radio broadcast in those days . . . ) games on crisp Saturday afternoons in the fall.  The players and coaches were bigger than life . . . Woody Hayes, Rex Kern, Archie Griffin (the only player to win 2 Heisman Trophies), John Brockington, John Hicks, Jack Tatum, Randy Gradishar, etc.  The home games are played in Ohio Stadium which is also known as The Horseshoe because of its shape.  In recent years the stadium has been renovated and expanded as to where The Shoe has kept its history and legacy in tact and now seats over 105,000.  The former open end of The Shoe now houses a grandstand that seats around 17,000 folks.

This past January Mel and I were leading worship at the President’s Conference for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  These good folks, led by president Les Steckel, are on a passionate mission to affect the lives of young people on behalf of the Gospel through camps, coaches and clinics.  In our preparation for this conference we found out that one of the speakers was to be Jim Tressel, head football coach at Ohio State.  I was eager to meet this man who has risen to the top of his profession by winning a national championship at Ohio State, taking the team to bowl games in each of his 9 years as head coach, and previously winning 4 Division II national championships while the head coach at Youngstown State University.  The morning came and as Mel and I were in the vacant ballroom of the hotel finishing up a sound check, Coach Tressel walked in.  I immediately walked over to him, introduced myself, struck up some small talk and basically had a nice 10-15 minutes just to chat.  Of course I expressed my devotion on that day to Buckeye football by wearing a scarlet shirt with gray slacks, the school colors.  As the morning ended Coach Tressel handed me his business card.  Later that week we exchanged e-mails and he told me to look at the OSU home schedule and find a time when Mel and I could come to a game as his guest.  Oh, my goodness.  OH, MY GOODNESS!!  Within minutes I was on the Internet searching for just the right game to attend. As it turned out, the only game that worked was opening night, Thursday, September 2.  The opponent was Marshall University (you probably saw the movie, “We Are Marshall” that chronicled the 1970’s plane crash that claimed the lives of most of the football team.) Ohio State was ranked #2 in all of the college football polls in the preseason, so the game didn’t look to offer much of a test for the Buckeyes.

Mel and I decided to take a couple of days, visit my parents in Dayton (who strategically live just an hour from the stadium) and go to the game from their house.  Mrs. Tressel was gracious to exchange a couple of e-mails giving us directions of how and where to get our tickets and how to handle the protocol of being guests of the football staff.  Seems that the NCAA has a lot of rules about coach’s guests at college sporting events.  I bought a new shirt for the occasion and Mel also purchased a hoodie, both of which were emblazoned with the Ohio State logo.  Game day came and we arrived in Columbus 3 hours before game time only to be part of a 2 mile-long traffic jam heading to the stadium.  We parked about a mile away and walked through the campus towards The Shoe, my beloved bride snapping pictures all along the way.  Our tickets were available 2 hours before game time and we had about 15 minutes to wait so we pulled up a nice plot of a grassy area at the “bottom” of the Horseshoe where the main tunnel enters the stadium.  Just a few minutes into our wait an usher with a blowhorn came out and started clearing folks out of the way because the band was coming through.  THE BAND?!?!?!?!?  The Pride of Ohio?!?  The Best D*** Band in the Land?!?!?!? (Their moniker, not mine!).  They had completed their pre-game rehearsal and were marching with military precision in full dress uniform back to the band hall for final instructions.  Yep, I teared up.  It wouldn’t be the last time.


Back to Will Call, grab the tickets, headed for our seats, and stopped to ask the usher near our section where the seats were specifically.  He looked down his nose and said, “Wow, you have to know somebody to get THESE seats.”  Yep, we do.  Coach himself.  Then he said, “You probably should wait about 45 minutes and go get something to eat.  The sun will be down below the opposite side of the stadium then and it will be much cooler.”  Good advice.  We did the obligatory pizza/hot dog/nachos stadium food and browsed around beneath the seats looking at concession stands and merchandise.



As we wandered back into the stadium we found ourselves near where the player entrances were located and saw that 25-30 of the Buckeye players were on the field in t-shirts and shorts warming up, stretching and going through some preliminary drills.  These guys were huge.  The usher in that particular area was even kind enough to snap a few pictures of us.  Soon it was back to our own seats, which, by the way, were adorned with padded stadium seats that had a back.  Seems that this is an “upgrade” for some season ticket holders at a nominal fee.  You couldn’t have picked out two better seats.  Row 16, 50-yardline, seats 1 and 2 on the aisle.  Perfect.




About 30 minutes before game time the players cleared the field and it came time for the band to make its’ entrance.  This band is widely known for its precision and musicianship.  There are 225 in the band, about 35 or so are drummers and percussionists and the rest are all brass players.  It’s a massive sound.  After their dramatic and high-energy entrance, the stadium announcer informed us (and our 105,000 friends) that the tradition of the Alumni Band was a part of the evening’s festivities and, low and behold, here came the Alumni Band entering the stadium through the exact same tunnel with the exact same energy and precision.  There were a little over 800 of them, including about a dozen alumni drum majors.  One of these gentlemen was around 90 and marched right down the field with the rest of them.  The next 15 minutes were musically electric.  Imagine nearly 1,100 brass and percussion players playing the National Anthem!




The game started by OSU kicking off to Marshall.  The Marshall player fumbled the kickoff, the Buckeyes recovered and 3 plays later we were ahead 7-0.  Two minutes later we were ahead 14-0.  Six minutes later we were ahead 21-0.  At halftime we were up 35-7, and as announcers sometimes will say, it wasn’t even that close.  As the younger and inexperienced players finished up the game, the scoreboard said: Ohio State 45, Marshall 7.  Every part of this day for me, the lifelong fan, was charmed.  Even the weather . . . half way through the first quarter a light, misty rain began to fall.  It lasted about 10 minutes and was just enough to cool things down.  Mel gave me great perspective when she said, “The Lord has given you a real gift today.”  It was amazing.


As I’ve searched for some spiritual aspect or imagery to take from this experience, a couple of things struck me.  When we approached the Will Call office we came to a man with a large clipboard.  We gave him our names and he said, “Yes, right here Mr. & Mrs. Tunney.  Come right in and head over to that window.“  There will come a day, somewhere in eternity, when we stand at a gate and the “person” with the clipboard will find our names and invite us right in.

And go back to our usher friend who pointed us to our phenomenal seats.  Yes, we KNOW somebody.  Somebody REALLY important!  The head guy!  He took great care of us and rewarded us with a place better than we could have ever asked for or imagined.  Now I’m not at all comparing a visit to a college football game to the eternity that we’ll spend worshiping around God’s Throne, because eternity in the very presence of Jesus can’t compare to anything that we even perceive as being a tiny slice of heaven on this earth.  But isn’t it great to know that no matter how wonderful some experiences are in this life, they will pale in comparison to spending forever at the feet of Jesus, worshiping with heavenly musicians and the saints of the ages?  Hmmm, do you think that any of them will be wearing Scarlet and Gray?