I Love Hero Stories!

I love hero stories! I grew up with a lot of guys who inspired and entertained me as a kid living in a small town. Jim Carter lived next door to me and was my dad’s age. He taught me how to use a rifle and 410 shot gun to hunt (and yes, clean!) small game. Jim also played catch with me after school when Dad was busy servicing cars in our backyard auto repair shop. It was perfect for a kid to have so much attention!

One of my favorite summer past times was to walk the half mile down the “old shoe factory hill” where we lived to the park next to the town branch. The park had two ball diamonds which drew some large crowds of sport’s enthusiasts during the evenings. I’d hustle down there to watch Jim and a couple of my uncles play softball for their respective teams. 

Many evenings, Jim would be pitching in one of the games and my uncles in another. Uncle Charlie and Kenny (Junior) Keppler, drew some considerable attention as they formed a family battery of pitcher and catcher. Both Charlie and Jim had similar styles of pitching, even though there was about a ten-year difference in their ages. Jim was obviously on the “senior circuit” among softball players, but, to me he still looked like he was in his prime!

I loved the movement on Jim and Charlie’s knuckle balls as they darted up, down and all around in the evening’s cool air. The snap when the ball hit the catcher’s mitt was evidence that these pitches had some considerable velocity to them as well! While standing right behind the home plate backstop each night, I’d peer through the fencing and always felt like I had the best vantage spot following the action on the field! I never tired of watching those softball games!

After the game, we would all “hitch a ride” to the nearby DQ and get a milkshake! I will never forget how many shakes my uncles could put down after a hot and humid summer ballgame. It is always telling for a retired pastor to punctuate his stories with this emphasis, “And this is the truth!”  Well, this is the truth! Junior would regularly show off his love of shakes by putting down not just one, not just two, or not just an unbelievable three milkshakes! I can’t tell you how many times I watched, while cheering and egging him on by shouting, “go, go, go!” as this trim, fit and athletically built catcher would tip the cup almost perpendicularly up to his mouth and slurp down the final remains of a fourth chocolate shake! No kidding!  J

Now, when I was a kid growing up (and that’s what old people say too much!), I didn’t use my own money to pay for very many shakes! Thanks to Dad, he funded these after-game exploits! And he still does! After my recent birthday bash earlier this month ("A Three-Score-and-Ten Celebration!”) and a day of eating whatever we wanted and some extensive travel to memorable places, Dad asked the question that late afternoon as we came back into town, “You still want that shake?” and of course, I replied, “I do!” A little later, as I pulled the car up to the DQ ordering station, Dad handed me six dollars! “What?!” I asked and exclaimed! “Small shakes are $3 bucks now?!” Dad also reached forward to his change cup and said, “Here, you’ll need this penny! She said $6.01!”

Wow! Inflation! I then reminisced, “I remember when your brother, Kenny (Uncle Jr.!), could put down four of these after a softball game!” If memory serves me, those same-sized shakes were only 25 cents!! It has become too easy in my advancing years to regularly compare what things cost today with what it used to cost when I was a kid! School lunches were 30 cents, hamburgers were four and five for a dollar, tickets to the show 25 cents., etc. I’m sure that anyone of similar age can do the same! It's a fact that prices have increased exponentially over the years for most everything! 

The story of Israel’s King David is a hero story! In his day and time, David was greatly admired by his people. He had slain Goliath the Philistine giant as a youth and showed great bravery as God used him to defeat many of Israel’s enemies. He faced numerous adversities in his ascension to the throne as king. David attracted a group of spirited and faithful warriors he named his “mighty men.” Their heroic acts of service to David are greatly storied in Scripture. One act of bravery in particular involved a curious response on the part of David.

During a time when David’s hometown of Bethlehem was besieged by the Philistine garrison, he retreated to a cave and stronghold for protection. In that waiting time, he longed for a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem. He may have said something like this. “Oh what I wouldn’t give to have a drink from Bethlehem’s springs once again and to see the city of my birth liberated from the Philistines!”

It was an expressed yearning and longing that some of David’s elite fighting forces likely overheard. In their loyalty and devotion, they immediately sprang into action to make David’s request a reality. Three of the bravest of his soldiers “broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well…and carried it back to David.” But in response to their bravery and sacrifice, David’s response was surprising and even seemed grossly insensitive. “He refused to drink it; and instead poured it out before the Lord, saying, ‘Far be it from me, O Lord, to do this! Is it not the blood of men who went at risk of their own lives?’ And David would not drink it.” (2 Samuel 23:16-17).

Interpreters speculate that David reacted this way out of an appropriate desire to resist the temptation of presumption and to pour out this precious water as an act of worship. It became a sacrifice on an altar of thanks and praise to God. David was affirming God’s ownership of everything and thanking God for all His protection and care during this turbulent time in his life.

I do not wish to seem trite in making this application, but while parents (who are our greatest heroes!) quite literally fund every need of our childhood, we do come to understand in our maturity in Christ that it is the Heavenly Father who ultimately provides every good and perfect gift! In the book of Lamentations, there is instruction that is similar to these “last words” of David, “Arise, cry out in the night… pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” (Lamentations 2:19).

Thank God for your heroes, your "mighty men!" They have made sacrifices that model Christian devotion and giving that continue to inspire and motivate you! Today, take some time to express your gratitude that God used them to influence and shape your life!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 


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