Popcorn, Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Proverbs 25:11-12 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
The great American pastime is the backdrop for Mark and Jonathan’s next assignment. The Toros, a triple-A baseball club, is the losing-est team in the league. The new team owner puts the almighty dollar above every other consideration, including the livelihoods of Doc Brisby, the Toros’ long-time manager, and Ted Tilley, the old man who has run the souvenir stand for the past seventeen years..
Forty years ago Ted was a star pitcher in the Negro League. Now he spends his time encouraging the team, the fans, and the neighborhood children to live up to their potential. Jonathan orchestrates a public relations event that lands Ted back on the team, providing just the spark the team needs to overcome its negative self-image. Inspired by Ted’s confidence, the team turns a losing season into a winning season, and saved Doc Brisby’sjob..
Ted has the heart of an exhorter, but that doesnn’t mean he pulls any punches. He is a man who has learned the secret of speaking the truth in love ?even if the truth sometimes hurts..
“You are a selfish, lazy, complaining kid who could be a good ballplayer if he didnn’t overrate himself and just played the game,” he tells the team’s prima donna. “And the rest of you could win too, if you stopped underrating yourselves and go out on that field and have fun. Stop worrying about losing. It’s too late for that now. You’ve done that all season. Worried and lost; worried and lost. Now go out there and have some fun, and the winning will take care of itself.”
There is an old saying, that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Ted Tilley knew how to catch flies and grounders for that matter. But what Ted did best was support the kids in his neighborhood. Ted had a love for baseball and a love for kids – and he used baseball tickets as a reward for neighborhood kids who did their best in school. His philosophy was, ‘No work, no play You had to keep your grades up if you wanted a free ticket to the ballgame..
Ted had discovered the secret of human motivation. He could have been a graduate of a Dale Carnegie seminar, for he certainly knew how to win friends and influence people. Ted had the gift of exhortation. He knew how to encourage people to get the best out of them..
Perhaps Ted had read Eleanor H. Porter’sfamous novel, Pollyanna. “What men and women need is encouragement,”Porter wrote. “Instead of always harping on a man’s faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits.” Or maybe he was a fan of American author Katharine Butler Hathaway, who said, “There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.”
More likely he had heard the words of the Preacher, who said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”(Proverbs 25:11-12) Ted knew that the truth wasn’t always sweet and tender. Sometimes in order to encourage, you must first reprove..
“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you,” said the famed educator, William A. Ward. “But speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance. Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear you witness,?” the poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.
It is never too early to start encouraging good habits and right living. Because Ted was willing to be a motivator the school kids in his neighborhood learned to be good students. He could have taken a course from Family Therapist, Stephanie Martson who wrote, “Just as Michelangelo saw the David in the raw, unformed block of marble before he struck it with his chisel, we as parents can imagine the fine adult human beings who will emerge from our children’s growing, evolving selves. By holding this image in our minds, we can, through our encouragement, nurture our children to blossom into their fullest potential.”
Unfortunately, the same lips that encourage, may also be used to tear down. Solomon the Wise warned that “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.?(Proverbs 10:11) And the Apostle James laments that “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?”(James 3:10).
Life and death is in the power of the tongue. Ted Tilley understood that. He chose to use that power wisely, to bring life and a blessing to those he came in contact with. May we all do likewise.

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