This little blog post will go buried in the searches on ESPN.com, CNN.com, and FoxNews.com, but I'm feeling a need to let my own heart grieve through my keyboard.
A year ago I posted here and here about a small town just a few miles from us that suffered devastating loss of life and possessions from an F-5 tornado. There were so many hurting people, and the Cedar Valley rallied around them in support.
In the midst of the rebuilding, the local football coach showed his exquisite leadership as he led his team in the reconstruction, vowing to have the football field ready for the first home game, despite the fact his own home and the school had been leveled. Football has been the cornerstone of this small Iowa town, and what better way to acknowledge recovery than to have their champion team back on the field, fondly known as the "Sacred Acre," with the entire town in the stands on that September Friday night celebrating their survival of a natural disaster.
Today, Coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed by one of his former players.
This man was a legendary football coach, the 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year, he shepherded 4 players who currently play the NFL, and was above all, a man of God. A deacon in his church and a mentor to thousands over his 34 years of coaching and teaching in Parkersburg, his goal was to make sure his students and athletes were the best young men and women they could be.
It was well known that his priorities were
He never put those in any other order.
I knew Coach Thomas as "the formidable opposition" when my boys played football. When I took the leap to be a high school tennis coach, he was an encouraging and inspiring teacher in my coaching certification class. Coaching and mentoring young people was his passion. But he was an inspiration to this non-traditional student as well.
Tonight my heart aches in so many directions. Like my daughter told me tonight, God knew this was the plan long before it happened. I know I will find more comfort in those words as time passes.
The father of the young man who shot Coach T serves as a deacon in the same church as Coach and is a friend of the family. He played on Coach's first football team in Parkersburg in 1975. The accused's younger brother is a senior on the A-P football team this fall. Coach and the shooter's father often prayed together for the life of turmoil this young man was leading. The collateral damage of this troubled young man's actions is unmeasurable - the ripples go far beyond this small Iowa town of 3,000 and extend across our nation because of the number of lives he has touched over the years.
In a news conference today, Coach Thomas' son Aaron so eloquently asked for prayer for his family, as well as a request to keep the shooter's family in our prayers. And Ron Burgundy put his whole heart into this tribute to Coach Thomas.
I just don't understand. But I have faith that someday I will. Tonight I will wrestle with either Jerry Bridges or Harold Kushner as I try to put some perspective on this.
But for now, I just don't understand. And I think God's OK with that, because it literally brings me to my knees - again.
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