Back in October 2011, I called one of my childhood heroes and dear friend, MEADOWLARK LEMON. He answered the cell in his rich, deep voice and said: “Brother Frank!” It’s a fact: “The Clown Prince of Basketball” always makes me laugh!! The Lord had laid him on my heart and I told him that the next time he was in St Louis, Missouri to let me know because I had a church or two who would be thrilled to host his ministry.
In life, we need more DOOR-KEEPERS not gate keepers. Doorkeepers “open doors” but gate-keepers attempt to keep them closed. What the iconic Basketball Hall of Famer said next floored me but shouldn’t have surprised me. He said: “Frank, ironically I will be in Saint Louis, MO on December 3, 2011 attending my good friend, ALBERT PUJOLS annual gala for his foundation that evening.” Without missing a beat the Harlem Globetrotter legend said music to my ears and as I type this I can still hear the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown” playing in the background of my mind. He said “Brother Frank, I appreciate you trying to open a couple church doors for me and I want you to meet me in St Louis, MO on Saturday, December 3, 2011 as my personal guest and I will introduce you to my friend, Albert!”
HOLY SMOKES! Meadowlark knows EVERYONE and if Fat Albert showed up I wouldn’t have been surprised or dissapointed but I knew who he meant. In ministry, it can be lonely at times and it is a JOY to try to open doors for friends. Honestly, it was my honor just to call him to say “hi” and my only intention was to assist with a referral that the next time Meadowlark was coming through town he had an open invite. The irony is it could have been any one of hundreds of cities across the Country but I felt God leading me to call him specifically and share St Louis. It was definitely a “God thing.”
As a kid, I loved basketball and lived for it too! We played basketball indoors on fancy courts and outdoors on busted backboards with missing nets. We played in rain, sleet and even snow! We played in the dark and as soon as the sun came up! At one time, I couldn’t get enough of playing hoops and after playing three years of high school ball I coached Parks & Recreation a couple seasons while in college. Those were good times! No joke, I knew what it was like to “ride the bench” and also the thrill of leading the league in scoring. One game I never played and another night dropped 31 in a single game!
My mother shared with me one night after a game as I was drenched in sweat walking to our car (before I had my license) and hit me with this truth that has stayed with me since. She said: “Frankie, almost everyone dreams to hit the game winning shot and get their picture plastered in the paper but just as (if not) more important is the guy (or gal) who will un-selfishly give the assist. The crowd may remember the one who scored but the coach will remember the one who found the open man to win the game.”
Those words have danced in my head and have been embroidered on my heart for the last quarter of a century. Sports teach us so much in life and “teamwork” goes a long way. Before hanging up, Meadowlark said: “Frank, I really appreciate you doing this. I also want you to introduce me at both services at the churches you line up on Sunday, December 4, 2011.” PRAISE THE LORD! The irony is I was trying to open a door for him and wasn’t planning or needing to be present. However, by thinking of others – others think of us. In the morning, thanks to my buddy, Ronnie Dean “The Preaching Machine” and Rev. Dan Hartley we got in a Baptist church in Farmington, Missouri and my dear friend, Pastor Myles & Valerie Holmes of the beautiful First Assembly of God Church in Collinsville, Illinois hosted us that evening. We had a time and you can see that video introduction below.
Meadowlark then said: “Frank you can sit at the table with me the night before at the gala in St Louis with Albert Pujols and by the way, I am going to buy your airplane ticket.” CHRISTMAS CAME EARLY and it is true, you cannot outgive God. At the V.I.P. reception Meadowlark introduced me to countless people and it was an honor to shake hands with 91 year old baseball Hall of Famer Stan “THE MAN” Musial. Plus, met Hall of Famers “Mr Baseball” Don Mattingly, Lou Brock among others. Meadowlark graciously introduced me to Mr & Mrs Albert Pujols and their witness for Christ is AMAZING! Together, they are doing an awesome work of providing for the poor in the Dominican Republic and providing love and joy to children with Down Syndrome. You can read more about the Pujols Family Foundation.
That was an evening I will not soon forget and it was the very weekend before Albert announced that he was leaving the World Series Winners St. Louis Cardinals and would be playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Albert is considered one of the greatest baseball players to ever swing a bat. Meadowlark’s iconic jump shot is second to none. Meadowlark was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and 2003, and Albert is already guaranteed in the future. Even better than being named into man’s Hall of Fame both are in God’s Hall of Faith.
In life, sports, business and even ministry we may never hit the game winning jumper or crush a homerun ball nearly 600 feet in a World Series to win but we can all seek to serve and open doors for others with the power of the assist. Jesus said “The greatest among you would be the servant” and in the words of Pastor Ed Young, Jr “if you are not serving than you are SWERVING.” Not everyone can score or swing nor speak or sing but all of us can shine by serving.
You cannot go wrong when you are on the LOOK OUT to bless others. Zig Ziglar said: “The doors you open for others God may open for you.” God is great and Meadowlark and Albert are gracious. Right now, ponder how can you bless someone today. Mother Teresa was right – “God didn’t call me to be famous but faithful.” However, by being faithful you may be able to minister with the famous. The greatest blessing is to be a blessing. We are never more like Christ than when we give and forGIVE. Mature people promote and think of others. Insecure folk belittle others and think only of self. Be a winner NOT a whinner.
We all win when we promote the Lord and help others. The Lord taught me years ago that if you love on the folks that no one knows God will allow you to meet the one’s everyone knows. Regardless, if anonymity or celebrity may we all seek to credibly represent Christ and promote others before ourselves. One of my favorite Bible verses since childhood notes “Your gift will make room for you and bring you before kings and great men (Proverbs 18:16).” Ironically, in another translation it says “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” Buckle up, this one will bless you “A gift OPENS DOORS for the one who gives it and brings him into the presence of great people.”
Your gift doesn’t have to be charisma, credentials or contacts but should be Christ-like compassion, class, courtesy and consideration of others. Without question, I also believe grace and generosity opens doors as well. Praise the Lord and thank you Meadowlark! If it were not enough to re-unite with Meadowlark for the weekend, sit next to him as his guest, grab a couple meals together on the road, tag-team preach at two churches in two states over that one October phone call I got one more gift for the road. A beautiful autograph of Albert (below) and one more from my dear friend and fellow evangelist, Meadowlark. My desire was to GIVE and ended up getting. Its the gift that keeps on GIVING! It is a privilege to promote others.
Today, I’m so thankful that I called that day back in October 2011, desiring only to open a door for a true friend. Ironically, I can still hear my mother saying “the crowd may remember the one who scored but The Coach (JESUS) will remember THE ASSIST.” We all win when we promote God and each other. The Bible notes: “One plants and another waters but THE LORD brings the increase.”
BONUS: Frank was a guest on SARAH PALIN RADIO – Feb 6, 2012. The producer of Gov Palin’s radio show invited him to share for 14 minutes LIVE “on air” honoring President Ronald Reagan on his 101 birthday. Enjoy!