Oxford Dictionary defines coincidence as “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.”
Grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners, through Christ, and the bestowal of blessings.”
We were in between churches and had visited a few different ones, but so far, we hadn’t found one that called to us. We were looking for that “Holy Spirit prompting” to beckon to us. Then, my wife Suzi’s good friend, Patti, invited us out to her church.
At the time, Patti and her husband, Rick, were attending Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church. It was a relatively new and rapidly growing church in our area. It met on the grounds that had once been part of The Great Southwest Equestrian Center, a multi-acre, multi-building campus.
I will never forget the morning we stepped foot into the church. The Worship team, led by Leader A.J. Bass, was playing a lively music that flowed through the church grounds, energizing the service. It was very different from the traditional hymns that Suzi and I had grown up with. We shortly learned that this music was referred to as “contemporary.” A.J., whom my daughter later referred to as “Hootie” because of his close resemblance to Darren Rucker (known as “Hootie” and “the Blowfish,”) had the congregation on their feet with hands in the air, worshipping with vigor and joy.
It was at that moment that I heard the voice of God saying, “Welcome Home!”
But the best part occurred after the praise and worship was over. This aspect took shape in the form of a young pastor who had “planted” and founded the church a couple of years earlier. His name is Jim Leggett. Jim is a Texas A&M Aggie, through and through. An engineering major, he refers to himself as an “engineering nerd.” But what is most fundamental about Jim is that he has been and continues to be a devoted and profound teacher of the Bible, the Holy Word of God. I have been a church-going Christian all my life, but Jim Leggett has taught me more about the Bible than any other man.
And in later years, Jim was an inspirational force in the creation of The Bible Seminary, an in-depth eight semester study of the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I received my Certificate from TBS at the age of 75.
I could say so much more about Jim Leggett, but for the purpose of this story, this will give you a strong sense of what Jim has meant to me and my Faith Walk.
Jim’s father, Waldo, was also highly involved in the church and held many leadership roles. I never really knew Waldo, and to this day, I only remember a couple of very brief conversations of him.
I knew of him in a different way. Waldo and I shared a riveting common ground: we were both serious runners and endurance athletes who regularly participated in many running events around the area. Waldo was a couple of years older than me, so the majority of the time, we competed in separate age groups, running distances which ranged from 10K to full 26.1-mile marathons.
In my mid-fifties, I took up cycling. I loved the sport. I was enthralled by the camaraderie of training and riding in events like the MS 150, from Houston to Austin, and the “Hotter N Hell Hundred” in Wichita Falls, Texas. This event was held in the heat of summer and drew 15,000 cyclists every year. In many of these events, I was joined by many of my family members.
Some of my fondest memories from this period of my life were riding a two-seater tandem with my son Steve, from Houston to Austin, over the hills around Bastrop; my wife and my daughter-in-law, Jackie, riding that same tandem in Wichita Falls; and my youngest son, Dave, missing a turn and riding fifty miles, instead of his planned twenty-five!
Obviously, I was very fit in those days. I set a goal to participate in the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii by the age of 55. This event kicks off with a two-mile swim in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike ride around the island of Oahu, and finishing with a 26.2 mile marathon run. The event is an incredible test of fitness, discipline and a fierce will to win over pain.
Sadly, I never arrived close to this goal. Although I had natural gifts as a runner and cyclist, my swimming was abysmal! Try as I might, I never overcame my lifetime of fear of the water. After a few months of floundering attempts at swimming training, I abandoned my triathlon aspirations. Also, around the same time, I was suffering from difficult injuries earned from running and cycling. I traded my running shoes for golfing shoes, and my focus shifted toward golf, a game I enjoy very much.
But Waldo Leggett carried on. He was a great competitor on the Seniors’ Circuit in all three triathlon sports. Remarkably, as far as I know, Waldo continued to swim right up to the very end of his life.
A few years back, we were going through some boxes of memorabilia and stumbled across a small, yellowed clipping. The aging paper was an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle, listing the times of Houston runners who had competed in the 1984 Boston Marathon, an elite event which requires runners to run a qualifying time in a preliminary marathon. I had qualified, with a Boston Marathon completion time of three hours and fourteen minutes (3:14)! It wasn’t my best; my personal best was 2:46:46, which had won me the U. S. Championship for my age group.
As I scanned the list, I noticed something amazing. Right behind my name was Waldo Leggett, who had run a 3:24, an excellent time for his age group! I hadn’t realized that Waldo and I had both run Boston that year. I shared this with his son, Pastor Jim, and we had a chuckle over it. I never did speak with Waldo, who I believe was experiencing some health issues at that time.
L. Waldo Leggett
A few years ago, we were once again rummaging through boxes of memorabilia, and I came across my birth certificate. It was a weathered piece of paper that recorded the details of my entrance into this life. I was born on September 18, 1938, in Midland, Texas. I don’t remember other specifics, such as weight and length, but I’m sure I was a bouncing baby boy!
But as my eyes were pulled further down the page, I was startled to see the signature of the attending physician; the doctor who brought me into this world. His name was L. Waldo Leggett! I was stunned… could there possibly be two Waldo Leggett’s in this world?
I immediately reached out to Pastor Jim with this information. He revealed to me that L. Waldo was his grandfather, the father of Waldo. In the late 1930s, Dr. Leggett was the only doctor in the very small Texas town of Midland, which hosted a population of 4,000 or so. He attended to most of the medical needs of the community, including delivering babies.
Jim and I were both astonished at this remarkable coincidence. I told him that it was so wonderful to know that his grandfather had brought me into this world, and Jim was helping me get out of it!
Waldo Leggett passed away on September 1, 2019. His son, Jim delivered a beautiful tribute to the Godly man his father was. Waldo was also born in Midland, Texas. He was a man of many, many achievements, but for the purpose of this story;
12 marathons, including New York and Boston (1984)
World Triathlon Champion and U.S. representative for his age group (76) in Beijing in 2011
I remember how Jim painted the vivid image of Waldo’s transition – battling through pain, venturing through a dark tunnel and emerging into an unimaginable stadium full of light, Angelic celebration, joy, peace and glory forever. This is heaven; he was and is in the company of Jesus, almighty God, Angels and all those loved ones who had arrived there before him. Astonishing and beautiful!
In Hebrews 12:1-2, we are exhorted;
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurances the race that is set out before us, looking to Jesus, the founder of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
So, why am I writing these stories? I first recorded this story when I was 81. I am now 84. I have remained fascinated by the possibilities that come with this.
There is an African proverb that says, “When an old man (or woman) dies, a library burns to the ground.”
I want to be remembered by the future generations who come as a Godly man who lived a pretty interesting Grace-filled life. I have so many stories to tell about my blessing of a time here. And, by the way, so do you!
One of my favorite books is How to Finish the Christian Life; Following Jesus in the Second Half, by Donald W. Sweeting and George Sweeting. The last chapter is titled, “Give ‘em Heaven!”
They describe the Christian Life as a long-distance journey that requires a marathon mindset.
They say, “there are two final things to say.”
First, you are not dead yet! There is still time to write the story of your life and build a legacy. Who knows how long you have? Is it one year? Is it five? Is it twenty; forty? You do not know how many days God has numbered for you. Let this notion energize you. As long as you have today, make it count.
Second, as you encounter the people and culture around you, “give ‘em heaven!” As we bless others in the name of Christ, may they catch a glimpse of a better land and a more lasting Kingdom. By the Grace of God and the Spirit’s power, may they be wooed through our lives and our corporate witness into joining us on the journey. Yes, yes, yes…give ‘em heaven!
I have come to see that the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace is Heaven itself.
HE created us, gave us life, gave us dominion, gave us free will, and when we failed, He gave us Himself as Jesus. He welcomes us Home with open arms, after our crooked and unique journeys through a strange and interesting land.
The spirit of Jesus in me greets the spirit of Jesus in you and brings us together toward the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
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