Leave nothing to chance
My eyes must have been big as saucers. The air somehow wasn’t reaching all the way down to my lungs. Sweat was coming in such waves the wooden stick was sliding to and fro in my hands. And my little heart was banging against my chest cavity.
Ray Cunningham was a twelve year old giant! And he wasn’t smiling. And you can not imagine how big he looked standing on top of that pitcher’s mound! It was my first at bat EVER in a real, organized, “hey, we’ve got uniforms” Little League baseball game.
I didn’t actually see the first pitch. I did distinctly HEAR it buzz alarmingly close to my chin. I had dreamed about this very moment. But in my dreams I always SAW the ball! And I hit the first pitch EVERY TIME over the J. A. Abernathy Hardware sign in left center field.
Dreams are dreams. Reality is reality.
And this was way before I found out that Ray Cunningham was one of the truly all time nice guys. The second pitch must have been somewhere over the plate, the umpire called it a strike.
Folks, I did the only thing an overmatched eight year old rookie could do. I stepped back, pretending to knock some dirt off my tennis shoes, and prayed to an almighty and, hopefully in this case, a benevolent God!
And let me tell you something, I didn’t pray that perfunctory “God make everything all right” prayer, I didn’t recite “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and I didn’t sing about those multi colored children being precious in His sight. I BEGGED God to help Ray’s aim!
I didn’t want my first at bat to be my last at bat!
It was pretty much the same rolling off that high cliff down by George Sexton’s house. I’d ball up inside a worn out tire we’d borrowed from behind Bill Argo’s Gulf Station and Yogi would shove me down the hill.
As the tire picked up speed all I saw was ground and sky, ground and sky…. The only possible way to stop was a crash landing into a tree if I was lucky or into the big ditch at the bottom if I was not. Between bouts of nausea, I prayed as hard and sincerely as I possibly could for a miracle landing!
The year before Leon was legally old enough to drive, he slipped the car out of the driveway and we made a beeline to the clay pits. He barreled down that narrow, crooked country road like Richard Petty sliding through the fourth turn at the Daytona 500.
I’m telling you, dust was flying, limbs were bouncing off the windshield, we were in one ditch and out another….. I closed my eyes and prayed again like my life depended on it, “Lord, you delivered Daniel from the lions’ den, Shadrach and the boys from the fiery furnace and Jonah from the belly of a fish……getting Leon’s foot off that gas pedal ought’a be a snap for you!”
On October 20, 1964, I stood on Belinda Carpenter’s front porch. My heart was once again leaping against my ribs. It was our seventh date. I figured it was time to kiss her…...but then, what if it wasn’t!
Seventeen is a tough age. You play like you know everything but, deep down, doubts abound on every side! I started praying before we got out of the car. I prayed up the steps. I prayed under that small light above her front door. I prayed as she smiled up at me…..
Let me tell you about going off to college. I felt like I had moved in with the Philistines….somewhere “East of Eden.” I was lost, overwhelmed, scared, lonely, bewildered and forgotten.
I missed my Mother. My roommate was from New Jersey. I got hit so hard at football practice I died three times in one afternoon.
I was so far down I couldn’t hardly get a prayer out. I did manage to groan my way through, “But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry…..” a few thousand times.
On October 1, 1978, our second son was born two and a half months premature. People, I learned what true prayer was all about—
“Kes, did you hear me?” The quizzical look on our group leader’s face snapped me back to the present.
I had. The original question a minute earlier was, “Did we think prayer was still relevant and necessary today.”
“Yes, certainly it is” was my short answer. I left out a couple of things. One was I had written this article in my head between the two questions. And as to the realness of effectual, fervent prayer……I’m living proof!