Officiating shoes, drug deals and my improbable life

On occasion, fiction seems more realistic then life. Sometimes, I really believe God just does stuff to us to have a good laugh. He has some business to take care of and He gets creative in unbelievable ways. There are no other explanations for some of the circumstances of life. The story starts as I was heading out to a small private school on the West side of Portland to officiate a basketball game. I had been waiting for my wife to get home before I had left and I was in charge of our 2 sons, ages 2 and 4.  I left home without incident, kissed my wife handed over the kids and off I went.

When I had traveled about half way to the school, I realized I did not have my black whistle around my neck. I did not panic, I reached into my travel bag and began feeling around for a whistle. Perhaps, I had been a little distracted as I was packing my travel bag for the game. I could not find one but surely, …someone would have a whistle at the school that I could use. No big deal.  Hmmm,… my bag felt a little light. Where were my shoes? My black, specially made shoes for officiating. This was a much bigger problem than not having a whistle. Penny loafers, the dress shoes on my feet were definitely frowned upon for running on Gym floors. Borrowing a whistle was one thing. Shoes, that is quite another. Breathe in. Breathe out. Do not get overly excited; I am already borrowing a whistle, maybe I can borrow a pair of shoes, too.

I arrived at the school and the JV officials are just finishing up their game. One is about 5’6 and the other about 5’10, and well, they both had shoes. I laid out my sob story about the forgotten shoes and the taller of the two said, “I were a size 10. If you can fit in them, you can borrow mine.” I said, “Great! I will try them. Thank you”, hiding my anxiety about cramming my size 12 feet into size 10 shoes. I opened the laces as far as I could, crammed in my feet as I curled my toes as hard as I could. I lied, “They fit, thanks!”  The other official told me his house was hard to find so he gave me directions to a Union 76 station. He told me to call him from the phone booth and he would drive down and pick up the shoes. I said “Thanks! I will call you in a couple of hours.” Have you ever run up and down a gymnasium court with your toes curled up in your shoes for two hours? I don’t recommend it. The only awesome thing about that experience was the relief of removing the shoes. Fresh blisters and all. Now, here is where the story gets down right weird.

I pull up to the gas station right under the big orange Union 76 ball.   I can see the phone and a bunch of kids milling around and a big tall skinny kid is talking on the phone. I kick back, delighting in the opportunity to rest my throbbing feet and the skinny kid looks at me. He then point at me and points to the phone. I shake my head to signal, to communicate, you know, yes, I need to use the phone.  Then, he motions for me to roll down my window. I roll down my window and he asks, “Hey, is your name Marty?” I said “Yes, my name is Marty.” Then, I kid you not, he asks, “Are you here to deliver something?” I said, “Yes, I am here to drop off these basketball shoes.” I hold up the shoes. The kid says, “This guy wants to talk to you.” I thought that was weird.  These shoes must be really special to this other official. Well, what the heck. I’ll go see what’s up. Here’s how the conversation went.

“Hello”

“Yeah man, you got the stuff”

“The stuff?”

“Yeah, you know, the stuff, the Coca Cola.”

“The Coca-Cola? Uhhh…. I don’t have any Coca-Cola, I have basketball shoes to drop off”

“You name Marty?”

“Yes, my name’s Marty.”

“You the man, … Gino is not gonna be happy! Gino’s not gonna be happy!”

“Gino?.. I… I …I,… I don’t know any Gino”

“Gino’s not happy, you gonna cost us $50,000”

“Seriously, I don’t know any Gino and I don’t have any Coca-Cola. I gotta go!”

The thought hit me that I was standing in a phone booth in a black and white striped shirt like a big target. I call the other official and ask if he can get down here quick.  I exit the booth and notice the group of kids were still hanging around and they were looking at me, shaking their heads and laughing. At this point, a young man walks out from behind the gas station. Funny camouflaged hat, large dangly earrings, greasy hair and he is walking towards the phone. The big skinny kid looks at me, looks at this guy, gets this ear to ear grin and asks, “Hey buddy, what’s your name?”

“Marty. Why?

The high schooler responds with a slight understatement, “I think we have a big Co-ink-ee-dink here.” That is all I remember because I just wanted out of there fast.

I teach math, I teach probability and statistics and the odds of that sequence of events coming together at just the right time is astronomical. I had to show at the just the right time within a couple of minutes. I had to be named Marty and I had to be delivering something, anything, and it had to be that phone booth. Miss any part of that and my “ broken up drug deal” does not happen. I know God was having fun. He was hanging around heaven talking to angels, holding the universe together and other good stuff, and He said, “Hey, watch this this will be fun. You know that drug deal I need to break up. People have been praying. I am going to use the knucklehead that just left home without his shoes. Love the kid but, he’s a little absent minded. We can use that and he will have no clue.

Men and women are God’s pleasure. The circumstances of life happening anywhere at all in our universe are beyond our ability to comprehend. I was watching a documentary on the Higgs-Boson particle and a scientist was contemplating the existence of life and he noted how unbelievably fine-tuned the universe was for life. Just one value the cosmological constant must be fine-tuned to the order of 1 in 10120.  Not including many other values that must also exist in a very narrow range. This scientist then said, “It is like someone really, really, really wanted us here! I find that discomforting.” Isn’t that interesting? The miracle of life is truly miraculous but many people don’t want it to be so. How miraculous? For those who don’t understand 1 in 10120. Imagine throwing a dart from the Sun at one grain of sand on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and hitting it. Then, you need to repeat that feat a billion, billion, billion times in a row. Hey, my shoe story is nothing compared to the miraculous intervention of a loving, personal God who really, really, really wanted us here. For me, that is “A Reason for Joy.”

 

Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

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