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Tim Tebow, Cocoa Krispies and faith

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By Nancy Kennedy

Pam Tebow, mother of University of Florida Gator quarterback Tim Tebow, told the story of her son buying Cocoa Krispies.

She recently spoke to a packed crowd at a local church about being a person of influence.

She said her son “Timmy” normally doesn’t eat sweets, but this one time they were at the store together and he put a box of Cocoa Krispies in the shopping cart.

A little boy, a Tebow fan, saw the box of cereal and told his mom, “Tim Tebow eats Cocoa Krispies!” and he wanted some, too.

Chances are, Mrs. Tebow said, that boy went home and told all his friends that Tim Tebow eats Cocoa Krispies! Who knows how many little boys are now eating Cocoa Krispies just because of Tim Tebow?

Her point? People watch what we do and are influenced by it.

She talked about her son’s game day eye black, the black grease football players wear to reduce sunlight glare. I’m not sure how he does it — maybe with white paint — but Tebow puts a Bible verse reference on his eye black.

Throughout the 2008 season he wore Philippians 4:13 (“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”) During the National Title game on Jan. 8 he wore John 3:16.

Google Trends reported that by 7 p.m. that same day “John 3:16” was the No. 1 searched word. It was labeled “volcanic,” which is highest on the search engine’s popularity scale.

On the Web site Tebowseyeblack.com, someone wrote: “Tebow’s eye black represents how something small can make a big impact in a world full of noise. It is amazing that a college football player’s eye black can generate 94 million searches on Google.”

Where did this young man learn to do this? Who influenced him?

After his mother had borne four children, his father prayed for another son. The family was on the mission field in the Philippines and Mrs. Tebow had an extremely difficult pregnancy. The doctor advised her to abort the baby, but she refused, even though it meant risking her own life.

The baby was Tim, future Heisman trophy-winning, scripture-sporting-eye black-wearing college football superstar who is currently influencing little boys and bigger boys to Google search Bible verses.

But in between his birth and his football playing for the University of Florida, he grew up in a home where the Bible was taught and lived, where prayer was as natural as breathing and where serving others was a high priority.

Mrs. Tebow said all five of her children and their spouses love the Lord and are actively serving him. Her faith influenced her children who are now influencing others.

Her message was both encouraging and sobering. I often wonder about the influence I have had on people around me. I don’t wear eye black with Bible verses, but does my behavior convey Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”)?

Or Mark 8:36 (“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul”)? What about Ephesians 4:32 (“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”)?

In my everyday life, do the people I work with and meet out in public, my friends and family — does my conversation and character convey trust in God and thankfulness in all things? Am I kind and compassionate, forgiving, content?

John Oswald Sanders, who worked with overseas missionaries in the 1950s, said, “Spirituality is not easy to define, but its presence or absence can easily be discerned …  It is the power to change the atmosphere by one’s presence, the unconscious influence that makes Christ and spiritual things real to others.”

Pam Tebow said people watch us and we will be an influence. Her challenge to us, her listeners, was to become a positive influence, drawing people to the Lord and not pushing them away.

She said it’s never too late, that God can take a “shallow, selfish girl and transform her.” She was speaking about herself, but I took it to mean me, too.

So there’s hope, for me and for you.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.