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The Heart's Homecoming
By Merrillee Whren
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Merrillee Whren
All right reserved.
"Hey, guys, what's up?" Sam Lawson jogged across the school parking lot toward the bleachers overlooking the football field.A half-dozen teenage boys, dressed in blue-and-gold track uniforms, stood in the shadow of the stands while they laughed and talked. One of the boys glanced up and poked the boy next to him in the ribs. He also looked in Sam's direction. In seconds, the rest of the group stopped talking and gazed at Sam. "Is something going on here I should know about?"
The boys exchanged glances before turning their attention to Dylan Edwards. "Tell him, Dylan," several of them chorused.
Staring down at his shoes, Dylan shrugged, then finally looked at Sam. "My aunt Jillian's moved back to town, and she's coming to watch me compete."
Jillian's recent letter had told Sam she was moving back to town. But learning she would be at the track meet today made his stomach churn. Trying to remain unruffled, he took a deep breath. The smell of newly mowed grass wafted his way from across the football field on the other side of the bleachers. "That's great. Glad she can be here to see you win your event."
"You don't mind?"
"No, should I?"
"We-ell, I just thought after what happened with you and her..." Dylan's voice faded away.
Looking Dylan in the eye, Sam placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "It's okay. That was eight years ago. No point in dwelling on the past."
"I'm glad you're cool with her being here." While Sam pulled a folded paper from his back pocket, he wondered whether he was actually cool with the idea of Jillian sitting in the bleachers, running into him at the grocery store or sitting in a nearby pew at church. Was he ready for her presence day in and day out where their paths would undoubtedly cross more often than he would like? Why would she move back to their little town in eastern Washington State? She had left eight years ago for a career in the big city. Nothing here could possibly draw her back permanently. Her letter never mentioned the reason for her return.
He believed that over the years he had forgiven her, but now he wasn't so sure. Pushing the negative thoughts aside, he unfolded the piece of paper. "Hey, guys, let's get started."
"Okay, Coach," Dylan replied as the others settled on the grass underneath the bleachers with him.
Before Sam spoke, he surveyed the group who voluntarily met before each track meet for a short devotion and prayer. Their rapt attention reminded him that not only what he said made a difference in their lives, but what he did, as well. Leading by example would go further than any words he said today. That meant living in harmony with Jillian Rodgers no matter what she had done. He glanced at the notes he had scribbled on the paper in his hand. "I want to talk about goals. What is our goal today?" Several hands shot up. "Kyle?"
"Win the meet."
Sam nodded. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, be good sports," Kyle blurted.
"Both worthy goals, but how do you intend to reach those goals?" Sam's question elicited no responses. He waited a few moments, but still no one reacted. Finally he asked another question. "If we don't have a plan, how can we reach our goals?"
Dylan slowly raised his hand, and Sam nodded for him to answer. "We can win by doing our best, and we can rely on God to help us be good sports."
"Now that's a plan." Sam smiled. "Would the rest of you agree?" A chorus of yeses greeted his question.
"That's one of the reasons we get together, so we can put God in our plans."
Eric Grayson, the team's best pole-vaulter, stood up. "But, Coach, just because we do our best and put God in our plans doesn't mean we'll win."
Smiling wryly, Sam nodded. "That's true, but when we do our best, we win personally. Winning today is our goal, but I want you guys to think about spiritual goals. Goals that go beyond today. Goals that reach far into your future. Listen to Philippians 3:14. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. "That's our real goal. Let's remember that today as we pray for God's guidance." Sam motioned for them to stand and gather in their usual circle as they placed their hands one on top of another in the center. They bowed their heads while Sam prayed. "Lord, thank You for Your grace and the opportunity to give You the glory today as we compete for an earthly prize. Help us to remember the greater heavenly prize that awaits us. We pray for the safety of all those competing today. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen."
"Thanks, Coach," Eric said as they broke the circle.
"You're welcome. We'd better join the rest of the team." Sam followed behind the young men while they made their way to the locker room in the gymnasium.
As they walked along the edge of the parking lot, Kyle elbowed Dylan. "Wow, look at that car."
Sam followed their gaze toward a candy-apple-red Porsche with a California license plate. The sun glinting off the windshield made it impossible to see the driver, but that license plate was a sure clue. While the top rose on the convertible, a white Ford sedan pulled up beside the Porsche and Jillian's parents, Eileen and Frank Rodgers, Dylan's mother, Liz Edwards, and her two daughters emerged from the sedan. At that moment, Sam knew without a doubt who owned the fancy sports car.
Excerpted from The Heart's Homecoming by Merrillee Whren Copyright © 2005 by Merrillee Whren.
Excerpted by permission.
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