Excellent Strategy

We caved and got cable coverage just for this month. Hey, it’s for the Olympics. So far we’ve seen figure skating and ice dancing. Last night, we sampled snowboarding in the men’s half pipe qualifying rounds.

They proved to be more interesting than originally thought. Each participant would have 2 chances to show their stuff on the extra-long pipe, the judges only keeping each man’s high score. Thirty men from various countries would whittle down to 12 for the finals.  Shaun White, four-time Olympic veteran and two-time gold medalist, showed up to play. At 31 years old, bless him, he’s easily the dad of the group. The median age seemed to hover in the low 20s.

The boarders took their turn, each with a different feel. Style counts in snowboarding, in case you didn’t know. You get points on attitude and technique. It’s not only about the tricks.

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The team USA members resembled astronauts in their khaki jackets and pants, an American flag on their left shoulders. Their white helmets helped. The reflective face shields rendered them completely unrecognizable. Otherworldly, they hovered in the air, spun, flipped and dipped.

Some were casual. They were out for a stroll on a snow-encrusted cement pipe. Some had more intensity. They wanted to be remembered.

I considered strategy. What would I do? Then I knew. Shaun White was in the house. I would want to qualify. That means I would bring it. Every. Time. Just a few hundred -yards over, the men’s alpine skiing shut down for awhile due to 50-mile-an-hour winds. What if you only got one run in? What if you fell? I couldn’t afford to miss any opportunity to nab a spot in the last group.

Others  had the same idea. Ben Ferguson of Bend, Oregon, came out and did a 91-point run. The Tomato himself did a first run scoring 93.25 points.

“People forget you still gotta qualify to get to finals. I was stoked to put that run down. That took the pressure and the edge off, and then I started seeing everybody putting these great runs and I figured I would kin of just step it up. They motivated me to send it on that last run.” – Shaun White, on why he did a 98-point second run

And isn’t that the point? Bravo, Mr. White, and all the competitors. Stay inspired, and you will inspire the world. Makes me think of this scripture (below). Our pastor preached on it this past Sunday. It’s made me think about how I impact others. How can I inspire excellence and encourage, too? I’ll never be an Olympian, but I can strive to win in my life’s arenas every day.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is calledToday,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

 

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Fog

It’s cold outside. Down in the 20s every morning for more than a week. No snow, however, but fog and a waning moon peering down. As I threw the ball around for Dakota this morning, I looked out over the city. I couldn’t see a thing. It was completely socked in. No Christmas lights on Railroad Avenue. No streetlight at 7th. No greenly glowing town Christmas tree down by the post office. Nothing.

I tossed the ball up and down the yard. The office light, powerful beacon outside Jonathon’s man cave, penetrated only a small halo of air. The street light high above our mail box shone but dimly. The bulbs wound around the bannisters of the front steps seemed powered by 5-watt bulbs. Nothing cut through the thick clouds.

And that’s the season I feel like I’m in. I’m getting up, going to work and church, doing what needs to be done. But I can see no farther. Christmas looms in 2 weeks. We’re almost ready for it. Two Christmas programs this week, Ruby’s band concert and the drama plus music one at church. Zac comes home for 3 weeks starting this Friday. After that, I don’t know. A new year lurks right around the corner. What’s next?

I drive to work and the fog hugs the highway in a clammy embrace. It follows the cars, obscuring distance and brake lights. I can’t see the tidal flats or seagulls soaring overhead. Then, all of a sudden, at the top of the next rise, the fog dissipates as if by magic. The sky, scrubbed free of clouds, prepares for the sun’s grand entrance.

I know if I hold on long enough, the Son will re-enter the scene. He will scatter the gloom and restore clarity.. The Holy Spirit will melt the speculation and wondering. I must keep on the path.

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:14

 

Stress Test

Zac grad

Zac graduated from high school 3 days ago. I am still processing it. He’s going headlong into adulthood. Where did the time go?! We’re so proud of his achievement and drive to finish.

I went for a short run today. I’d planned to swing some bells, but the sunrise with Mt. Rainier backlit and peeking above a cloud ring lured me outside. With the gibbous moon somewhere behind my left shoulder, I took off. The pale blue sky held a few clouds to both east and west. We’re supposed to get rain tomorrow. But that’s a day away. Today, the sun shines in the treetops and the birds sing.

As I plodded along, I considered the last 4 months. We sold our house. We moved. I quit working. Zac graduated. Other changes not listed in this blog have impacted us as well.  Curious, I looked up the Homes-Rahe Stress Inventory List. For those not in the know, it ranks major life events and gives them a point value, i.e., a stress level. I perused the list and added up the changes in the last year, with some yet to come. I’m smack dab in the second tier at 254 points.

As I read the list, I noticed that good things cause stress, too. Everyone experiences major holidays, right? Those merited 12 points altogether. The creators had listed “vacation” and “pregnancy” and “marriage”. Even “outstanding personal achievement” can cause strain on us. Thank God pregnancy isn’t on my list.

With my coveted position in the second tier, they forecast a 50% chance of a health breakdown in the next 2 years. Isn’t it great to have something to look forward to? Geez. I have no intention of letting it all get to me. That’s what time in prayer, worship and the word, plus running and good fun with friends and family will help to mitigate. Oh, and chocolate. God is fully aware of all these changes and knew about them long before they ever appeared on the horizon. Soon enough, all these variations will simply be the reality. I can’t wait to see the good coming out of them all. Jesus remains our constant in a sea of change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  – Hebrews 13:8

 

Good Friday Sully

I’ve done a lot of running this week. When things get crazy, run. It helps.

Sully running

We watched the movie “Sully” with Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart the other night. He was stuck in New York as the FAA investigated him. He couldn’t sleep. So he ran. A lot. Sometimes with his co-pilot and sometimes alone. During the day. At night, by the bright lights of the city. I had to laugh, despite the heavy content of the movie. Runners know. Burn off some of that anxiety and stress instead of eating a whole pie, or drinking yourself into a stupor. Get your head in a good place.

Running, it seems, can be a type of prayer. You pour out your concerns and frustrations to God as your feet hit the pavement. I know it’s been like that for me. I can hear the Lord once I come to the end of my homemade solutions.

I’m thinking about pouring out frustrations today as it’s Good Friday. How it must have hurt Jesus to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. Of course, He knew it all would happen. But I doubt that made it any easier.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” –  Matthew 26:36-39

He felt fear. He understood the weight of what came next, the suffering and pain awaiting him. Judas led the group of men with clubs and swords who came and arrested him, a citizens’ arrest. Then, the betrayal, mock trial before Pilate, beating and crucifixion.

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – Matthew 27:46

We all have seasons where we feel abandoned or lost or completely alone. Jesus knows. He went through it all. We remember what He did for us today, and what it cost.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:15-16

Amby Running

amby

I’m finding a new balance after not running the half marathon. I don’t need to push so hard, but I don’t want to stop running. How to find a balance? How to stay encouraged as the weather turns perpetually drippy? Our weather hasn’t turned cold. Only rainy. Temperatures range around mid 50s each day. Not too bad for running. Except for the coming down an inch an hour scenario. On those days, the treadmill comes in handy.

Amby Burfoot is one of my running heroes. He’s been running his whole life, even won the Boston Marathon one time. He’s 70 now. He’s won races and come back from injuries. He’s been there and done that. So I know his statements aren’t empty platitudes.

Image result for amby burfoot quote

Sounds a lot like…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

amby-brain

Doesn’t that parallel…

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Seasons of our lives change. Obligations ebb and flow. I’m getting back up again. I’m not giving up. I ran 2 miles on the machine today. I threw in some speed for fun. I remind myself that this body is part of God’s amazing creation. And I run because I can.

Knee Discipline

woman-kneeling

(source)

I ran today. Confession: I haven’t been running as much as before I went on vacation. I had an ache in one knee, then the other. I decided to slow down a bit and rest. So I did.

As I headed uptown into the early morning, I thought of this scripture:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. – Hebrews 12:12-13

The first half of Hebrews 12 is all about God’s discipline and how it means He loves us. Frankly, I’d rather get flowers and dark chocolate, plus backrubs. That’s my kind of love. But you don’t grow to maturity when life comes easy. It’s when you’re down on your knees, seeking God for help, that you start to get somewhere.

Life’s afflictions can wear us down. We find ourselves in a sort of fog. We encounter the same people with those ridiculous beams in their eyes that we want to pluck out. With extreme prejudice. Yet we have beams, logs really, of our own. The discipline comes when we keep on living where we are, loving and serving, and trying to keep our 2 x 4s from ramming into others.

Maybe our circumstances don’t seem to change, no matter how hard we pray. Houses won’t sell. Money won’t magically jump into our bank accounts. Kids do whatever they want, despite our kind admonitions. But we don’t give up.

So, I’m holding on with my tired hands. I’m doing some lunges to strengthen my knees, as well as continuing to petition.  I will strengthen the spiritual and the physical parts. I don’t want to become one of the weak or lame. I need to press on and keep a good attitude as I do, every day, the things I know to do. I don’t want to be the reason others stumble. I can wait for God to move. He has all things in His hands.

Smooth Sailing?

sailboat on rough seas

(source)

I’ve been navigating choppy waters lately. Sometimes, when you try to help someone, you botch it. Sometimes people end up thinking badly of you. Your integrity comes under scrutiny. Sometimes you make mistakes. You fail. You lose at whatever you went after. You did your best and it didn’t work out.

It’s a little painful. It makes me want to run, to lash out, to defend myself and maybe retaliate. It also makes me want to tell God, “I’ll take it from here. You didn’t do so hot back there. I’m the captain now.”

Don’t worry: this matter, in the larger scheme of things, results in small potatoes. It just blindsided me, like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. You know that saying “no good deed goes unpunished”? It fits here.

But God never leaves us. He never forsakes us. Hebrews 13:5 says so. The great thing about it all is that even when (not if) I deliberately rebel, God remains with me. I can repent and come back. He forgives and forgets. I can let Him have control, especially when the outcome looks uncertain. This safety net of love and care keeps me buoyed up on the rough seas of this life. I can stay the course, guided by the star of His eternal faithfulness.

What are you facing today that makes you want to go rogue?