JIMMY, YOU SHOT THAT LIKE GREENLEAF!


            I happened to open my address book and there were two phone numbers that had been given to me a few years ago by my late friend, Vinnie. They were supposed to be phone numbers for C. H. Roberts, an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen or talked to in years, in fact it had been decades. When I had first gotten the numbers I tried them but got a voice mail that left me with no hope of reaching C.H. So I hadn’t tried again.

            But now, there were the numbers, and I thought, “Why not?” I dialed the number and Carolyn answered. I asked for C. H. and was told he was playing golf. I found that Carolyn was his wife, told her I was an old friend from Ft. Myers and asked her to ask him to call me back. He did and after some phone tag we were finally on the phone talking. He told me that when I came to Florida to stop by and spend a few days with him. Later I decided to send him a copy of my latest book, This I Have Learned. I did, and after reading it he called me back. One thing led to another and I told him that when I got down there my golf game was not going to measure up to his, so maybe I had better not play with him. He then made some crack about me not being able to play golf or shoot pool. I thought of arguing with him and telling him I could shoot pool better than him but then I thought better of it and let it pass. But it brought to mind Rene’s words: “Jimmy, you shot that like Greenleaf!”

            The occasion was way back in the early 1960s at the PicWic pool hall on Bay Street in Ft. Myers. I was playing dollar nine ball with C. H. and he had left me straight in. The trouble was that the balls were laying tough and would be very difficult to run off. The next ball in rotation was laying close to the end rail where other balls prohibited it from going in the opposite corner pocket. I decided to cut the ball just slightly which would allow it to still go in the corner pocket. Problem was I needed to go to the side rail with the cue ball and bounce back to where I could shoot the next ball into the same pocket. How do you do that? I wasn’t sure but I decided to hit the cue ball dead center and shoot hard. The object ball flew into the corner pocket and the cue ball drifted to the side rail just hard enough to bounce back and leave me with a good shot on the next ball. I recall looking up at C. H. watching the cue ball roll to just where I needed it to be. It is rather amazing how one can remember the expression on another’s face nearly fifty years later. While the rest of the balls were laying tough I concentrated and ran them off even though it required playing some difficult position. When I made the nine ball, winning the game and a dollar, Rene St Laurent said, “Jimmy, you shot that like Greenleaf!” I said, “What?” He said it again and I have never forgotten it. We played more and even though I don’t remember just how things went, I am quite sure I didn’t continue to shoot like Ralph Greenleaf.

            Uncle Jehu used to speak of being “mentally lazy.” I don’t recall ever hearing anybody else use that term. I have played some chess and at times I have played reasonably well. But usually I didn’t and I got beat. Why? Because I am “mentally lazy.” I am not saying I could play pool as well as Greenleaf, Mosconi, or Lassiter, but I could have played better and more consistently than I did if it were not for mental laziness. Over the years I have thought a lot about that. Why have I struggled financially, why have I not been more successful in this world? Why was I not a better pastor? A better evangelist? Why? Why, why, why? If the problem was mental laziness why didn’t I just overcome it and accomplish something? IQ test I have taken indicate I am not suffering from a lack of intelligence. People who know me have often commented on how smart I am. What is the problem?

            How about motivation? Looking back I am convinced that I didn’t play better pool or chess because it just didn’t seem to be worth the effort. But could a lack of motivation be the reason I wasn’t a better pastor or evangelist. After playing like Jonah and running from God for fifteen years I finally found I had nowhere else to run and I became a Christian at 32 years of age and answered the call to preach. At that time the church world offered three possibilities; I could pastor, be an itinerant evangelist, or be a missionary in a foreign field. I had no calling to any foreign field, so that left evangelize or pastor. I became a pastor. A few years of that and I left for evangelism. I finally came to the realization that what I wanted was to form an army for Christ that would storm the strongholds of Satan but the people in the pews wanted something else. They wanted a pastor that would preach to them, baptize their babies, bury their dead, marry their sons and daughters, and be their when they needed him.

            But after some months as an evangelist I came to realize that I wasn’t a revivalist. Where to now? From there I have bounced from one post to another and never with any great success. While all this was going on I had to make a living. I sold Highlights for Children, worked in coins and precious metals, started a janitorial business and finally became a painting contractor.

I even became a licensed private detective. I met with some success in all of these but never became a great businessman. Why? Well first off making a lot of money didn’t seem to be in line with, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” There were other hindrances but basically I just didn’t have the motivation, I was mentally lazy.

            I recall that back about late ‘75 or early ‘76 the preaching bookings having dried up, we were trying to make a living selling “Christian” books. It looked to me like my whole world was falling apart. I at one time was getting along alright financially and had a promising ministry but now there was no ministry and the finances were a disaster. I was setting at the kitchen table speed reading books so I would know what I was selling and I just broke down and started crying and praying. The message that came was: you will have a ministry and your debts will be paid. I have lived on that promise for some thirty-five years now. I still believe it.

            Where to from here? In order for me to have a ministry something must change and I am going to tell you right now, I am not going to change. I believe God has been preparing me all these years for what is coming. Jephthah was the bastard son of Gilead and the legitimate children of Gilead ran him off, saying, “Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.”

            But things changed, “Ammon made war against Israel.” The Israelites were used to the good life, they were not prepared to deal with hard times, especially with fighting a war. What to do? They needed leadership; they had to go get the bastard. He led them to victory!

            America, indeed all the world is on the verge of financial collapse. You blow on a bubble long enough and it will burst. I remember as a small child, if I had been fortunate enough to have two pennies, I could buy a delicious glazed doughnut at the grocery store. I recall that the price eventually rose to two for a nickel. Check to see what they cost now. Our “leaders” have been creating money out of thin air. What was it that Obama did? He had them run off $750,000,000,000 (that’s 750 billion dollars) to bail us out. I know you are intelligent enough to know that that can’t keep up. The bubble is going to burst. Then perhaps you will be glad that God has a “bastard” or two around to help you when you don’t know which way to turn. I wonder, will you go with God or will you get tattooed. You know, “666.”

            I am glad that just once I “shot that like Greenleaf.” I think you may be glad too.