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Thought

Remarkable People

Dan Walker is a well-known BBC presenter who has presented Football Focus and Match of the Day and now the “Breakfast” morning show. Dan recently published a book entitled “Remarkable People” in which he tells the stories of people who have inspired him during his 20-year career. Dan says they are remarkable “either in the way they’ve dealt with adversity or inspired those around them by the way they’ve acted or the difference they have made.”

Dan is a Christian and says, “My Christian faith is what makes me tick.” He became a Christian in his early teens when he started thinking deeply about his place in the universe: “I wanted to understand who I am; who God is; what my relationship with Jesus Christ is and what I wanted it to look like.” Eric Liddell, the Olympic athlete who became a missionary in China, and then a prisoner of war, has had a big influence on Dan. Eric was a Christian and in 1924 didn’t run in the Olympic 100 yards final because it was on a Sunday. Instead, he ran in the 400 and won the gold medal.

Eric Liddell’s story is one of self-sacrifice. As a famous athlete, he was offered a prisoner exchange, to return to the UK in exchange for a Chinese prisoner, and he turned it down. He gave his place to a pregnant woman who went back and had her child. Three months later Eric died in that prisoner of war camp. Dan says, “I just find that sacrifice incredible and inspiring. Eric did that when nobody was watching. Eric was a real hero who thought of others not himself.”

In his book Dan writes about his friend Gary Speed, the international footballer and Wales’ coach, who tragically took his own life. The day before he died Gary had been on Football Focus with Dan and had seemed fine. The next morning Alan Shearer called Dan to tell him, “Gary’s gone!” Dan has asked himself: “Did I do enough? As a Christian, could I have done more? Could I have said something or done something that could have led to him still being here today?” Gary’s death changed the way Dan relates to the people he interviews because underneath they may be struggling with big problems, and it may even be the last time he speaks to them. There are mysteries in life that we can never fully understand but Dan says, “I think my faith gives me real perspective, and also something and someone to cling on to.”

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Thought

A Nation Mourns

The tragic death of Gary Speed has touched the nation. All over the country football fans have stood in silence and spontaneously broken out into applause to express their great respect for Gary and their heartfelt sympathy for his wife and family. He had an exemplary playing career and had been enjoying great success as the manager of the Welsh national team. The news of his death stunned us all. Our daughter was in the same class in school as Gary and his wife. Many of his friends had no idea of the dark struggle he was experiencing. On the surface everything seemed fine but, tragically, it was not.

We are living in sad times when many people are depressed and some are in despair. Many feel alone and vulnerable. Our secular, materialistic culture has no soul, no deep spiritual values and certainties. There is an emptiness in the hearts of many people. Success and wealth cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Living in the public eye is not easy and the pressures are very great. Popular opinion is fickle. Celebrities may be lavishly praised or savagely destroyed.

The response of fans at many football grounds affirm that Gary was widely loved and respected, yet he still felt alone and overwhelmed. In the darkness of the night and the darkness in his heart he felt unable to go on and to face the future. The most important thing in life is our relationships. Yet sometimes we do not realise the love with which we are surrounded by our family and friends. It is so important now for Gary’s wife and family to experience the love of those around them as they struggle with the devastating consequences of his death.

We can also know a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He came into the world to reveal God to us and to give us a living hope. One Christmas carol, says, “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace, hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King.” Beyond the glittering Christmas lights we all need to experience God’s amazing love in Jesus, who came that we might have a rich and satisfying life.