Working with Jonathan Byrd’s the past year has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. To be able to speak into the success of a family business that is a central Indiana institution if very fulfilling and while the work can be overwhelming at times, sometimes the job comes with some unusual perks. Tonight was one of those times.
Because, among other things, Byrd’s is the official caterers of the Indianapolis Colts football team. As one of the sponsors of the team, we prepare meals for the players and staff; and have developed quite a close relationship throughout the years since we started our formal association with the Colts. Well, in grateful appreciation to the major sponsors for supporting the team, Jim Irsay, Owner of the Colts, invited us to his home for dinner this evening. Not only did Jonathan Byrd’s prepare the meal, but we were also invited as guests.
I’ve never met Mr. Irsay in person before, although I pass his home several times each year as I travel west on 116th Street toward Zionsville. It’s quite a place, but tough to see what’s behind the stone and brick wall that fronts the property. Upon arrival, I was directed to the front drive and a valet took my car. I was ushered up the front steps of this magnificent home and stepped into a foyer occupied by the several of the Colts cheerleaders. Next thing I know I am having my picture taken, while holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy from the Colts Super Bowl win. Now I don’t mean some replica – it was the real thing. I couldn’t believe it – here I was, some regular Joe, transported from my everyday life into the world of professional sports I know nothing about – holding the most coveted prize in the sports world.
I visited the Super Bowl Village downtown earlier this year when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in February; one of the attractions was a chance to look at the Lombardi Trophy – behind glass. The line was at least 100 yards long and it took people more than an hour to even get close enough to catch a glimpse of the trophy. Of course, knowing how I am about crowds, there was no way I was going to stand in line to wait for my turn – so we moved on. Who would have thought that 8 months later, I would be holding the Holy Grail of professional football in my bare hands, in the foyer of Mr. Irsay’s own home. Talk about surreal…
From there, I was escorted through the kitchen and family room to the outdoor patio and terrace where drinks and hors d’oeuvres were being served. The pool, fire pit, heated terrace and manicured yard made it all look picture perfect. A truly beautiful home with equally impressive grounds. Dinner was served in the home’s gymnasium, complete with a full size basketball court and too many amenities to mention. And, of course, Mr. Irsay personally greeted us and thanked us for our participation as partners of the Colts organization. He was incredibly gracious and humble in his remarks about the team, Head Coach Church Pagano who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, the challenges and rewards of having the team and several personal comments he made along the way.
I was very impressed with how he welcomed us and made us feel right at home. As the evening wound down, I spent fifteen minutes or so with Mr. Irsay engaged in conversation around the kitchen table. Then, I headed out the front door to retrieve my car and head back to my own home. Several things about this evening really stood out to me. For example, the home, while in every sense a mansion, was livable and very inviting. Not like some museum where you couldn’t touch anything – it was real and warm and cozy. And then the owner of the house himself – warm, gracious, inviting and humble. Talking about the importance of family and grandchildren – the things that keep one balanced when the emotion of professional sports tries to influence one’s thinking in the heat of the moment.
While I was experiencing the hospitality of my host, I couldn’t help but think about how different my real life was from this momentary experience. But then I was also reminded that a mansion even greater than this one awaits me – in heaven. And the master of that home – God Himself – is waiting to greet me and welcome me into His heavenly home. And when I arrive at that place, it won’t be for just an evening. It will be for all eternity.
Now don’t get me wrong – tonight was a real glimpse into a life I will never have here on earth. But I was very appreciative of the experience – in part because it really caused me to think about how things in heaven will be even grander than I can possibly imagine – even in my wildest dreams. The verse tonight is the one that popped into my head as soon as I walked in the front door – from John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” What a promise from Jesus to us…
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God has an eternal place for you that is beyond your imagine. That’s because God loves you and can’t wait to spend eternity with you. My prayer is that you will dedicate yourself to leading a God centered life so you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Because you know what? The trophy that awaits you, eternal life, is far more impressive than the Lombardi trophy – and that’s really quite something – I know that for sure because I held it tonight… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…