“Big L”

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…

Last night I was lying in bed thinking about this devotional, and the Lord quietly whispered into my mind “Big L”. Somewhat startled, because I was thinking about something completely different, I began to meditate and think about the life of Lonnie Kruse. My wife and I attended his funeral about a month ago. His death was sudden, unexpected, and the funeral was awful…only because it was done so well. Coach Kruse was the women’s basketball coach at Sterling College for a long time. He will be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame next spring, posted 700+ wins, was well known and well regarded in basketball circles through out the state, but these are all things I have been told. Lonnie stood for something a little different for me.

(Okay…this is going to get a little weird, so follow me here.)

In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, they employ a process to raise exemplary Christians to a place of ‘sainthood’. Without getting into all of the specifics, the Church wants to make sure that the name of the potential Saint really did live a life that honored God and lived a life that can be copied by others, so they too can live a life that honors God. There also needs to be two verified miracles that took place within the life of the potential Saint. The process takes a long time and stories need to be checked out, verified, and then checked out again…it really is quite the ordeal. Lonnie raised four daughters, and every one of them stood at the microphone, in front of a packed gymnasium, and spoke about their love for their dad. You see, I have two daughters. Daughters cause a man to learn how to pray. Daughters scare dads to death. Daughters bring home boys that haven’t been molded or shaped by the dad…this is a scary thing. The daughters of Lonnie Kruse live lives that speak to the patience, the kindness, the love of a father who learned how to pray. That is miracle #1.

My wife played for Lonnie many years ago. She went to Sterling College as a basketball player who grew up in church, but didn’t know Jesus. The church of her youth employed a catechist that resulted in baptism taking place at the conclusion of the program (around 16-17 years old). My wife refused the baptism, because she had questions that nobody would answer. She was ostracized by the elders, her family looked down upon, typical small town church politics nonsense. After arriving at Sterling College, and falling into the family of women’s basketball that Lonnie (and his wife Carol) had built. She felt comfortable enough to let down some of the protective walls she had to put up to survive her hometown. “Big L” led her to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is miracle #2.

I met Lonnie in 1987 and have known him ever since, from a distance. When we would bump into each other at the lumber yard or farm store, it was always friendly, like the guy at the family reunion that you only see once in awhile but always brings a smile to your face. He always seemed to have Carol by his side, and as I reflect on his life, that is the image that is the most precious for me. He understood what it meant to be married, yoked together, in front of the alter, by God it is her and I and we are ONE. The two of them lived a life together in which they radiated joy, perseverance, thanksgiving, love…it just radiated (can’t think of a better word) from them. You could feel it…you left their presence feeling better. That is God. That is evidence of Holy Spirit pulsing within.

Now listen, I’m not Pope anybody…but Lonnie is a ‘Saint’ in my book. This is how I think of, and remember him. He has been a constant point, a rock of refuge for so many, for so long, that we must recognize that only those filled with the Almighty can weather life’s storms as well as he and Carol have. My prayers for Carol are simple, “May God Almighty continue to work in, through, and because of you.” “Big L” lived a life worth copying. “Big L” lived a life that honored God. As far as I am concerned, he is a ‘Saint’.

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