Need inspiration? It sometimes stutters.
April 10, 2015
I HAVE REACHED THAT PLACE IN LIFE that virtually all that I see, hear or do reminds me of something that’s already happened, often decades ago.
As an example, when whisked to the top of a skyscraper recently by state-of-the-art elevator, I thought of its association with music we liked to joke about in another century. Elevator music was scoffed at—often disparaged, rarely praised. It has gone the way of the wild goose, what with most elevators now devoid of music, friendly small-talk of riders and the gentle patter of usually-older men or women at the controls.
Gone, too, are elevator jokes, such as the one shared a zillion times about the Baylor graduate who dreamed he’d died, then faced St. Peter—of all places—in an elevator. The grad assumed, of course, that it would zoom skyward. Instead, it began a rapid descent into colder and colder climes. It was a frozen encasement, and when the door opened, he beheld a wintry wonderland. “Oh, my,” he exclaimed, “Baylor must have beaten Texas.”
That’s pretty much the way it was when heralded Coach Grant Teaff came on the Baylor University scene forty plus years ago. He preached and lived the “yes-we-can” approach, and both the Bears and their fans believed him. Sure enough, the 1974 team, piloted by All-American quarterback Neal Jeffrey, won the Southwest Conference.
Most memorable was the Bear’s 34-24 comeback win over UT, despite being on the short end of a 24-7 half-time score. (First win over UT in seventeen years; first SWC championship in fifty years.)
Coach Teaff invited me to address the Bears and their faithful at the euphoric post-season banquet. Happiness ruled and was contagious. It mattered little what I said. That night, I was privileged to meet Jeffrey.
A longtime staff member at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Neal is widely-known for his amazing pilgrimage of service, inspiration and encouragement. His career is amplification of the credo engrained by Teaff and by the late James Jeffrey, his dad. (In the early going of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, James was executive director for almost a decade.)
Neal has addressed audiences of all sizes and types since his BU years, often beginning with remarks like “It’s good to see you again.”
He always claims that he stutters extremely well. Prayerfully dealing with the condition across the years, Jeffrey has long since cleared the hurdle of embarrassment that once loomed. Audiences readily believe he’s comfortable with stuttering that caused football signals to be “sung” during his BU years. Hearers, in fact, pull for him during silent moments that sometimes occur in presentations today. During pauses, he explains that whatever he intended to say will happen soon.
Neal’s endorsements are many. Masterful motivator Zig Ziglar said, “Brace yourself! You’re about to be charged and challenged.” Similar accolades are from Andy Pettitte, all-star pitcher for the New York Yankees; Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Clinic and Aerobics Center, Dallas; legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall, and Lovie Smith, coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In both pulpits and at lecterns, Jeffrey speaks unashamedly of his Christian walk, and when he’s putting words together—verbally or in print—he’s an energetic encourager for both the here and the hereafter.
He has no greater fans today than Sheila, his wife of thirty-nine years, as well as three children and their families. The Jeffreys’ have eight grandchildren and counting, with a ninth on the way.
A while back, we “tag-teamed” at a regional senior adult conference in Amarillo. I was humbled; what could I say that Neal couldn’t say better? Nothing.
I did mention, however, that if we were ever on the same program again, I’d stay at a different hotel, kidding that I was wakened several times by a stuttering snorer—or vice versa.
And we were on different wings of the hotel, four floors apart.
Whatever, no one is happier than Neal that the Bears’ current football resurgence has put those “put down” stories to rest.
He’s a walking testimonial to Teaff’s claims.
‘Course, dear old dad got in the first formative shots. And if heaven has a glass bottom, there’s a smiling father, mighty proud of his son.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational stories in When The Porch Light’s On.