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Thursday, April 7, 2016

REJOICING & WEEPING WITH OTHERS

Romans 12.15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”

Which would you rather do, rejoice or weep? Or maybe I should say, “which is easier, to rejoice or weep? Actually, it kinda depends. It’s easy to rejoice when your favorite sports team does good, but it can be a lot tougher to rejoice alongside a teammate that rocks it, but your performance was personally disappointing. So yes, weeping isn’t all that much fun, but in many circumstances it’s a lot easier to do (weeping with someone going through a tough time).

There’s a certain precept, I’ll call it the “jealousy factor”, that the closer you are to someone (especially when involved in the same endeavour) the easier it is to be jealous, and hence-tougher to rejoice with them. For example, maybe you’re  never tempted to be jealous when Canada super xc skier Alex Harvey does well in a world cup race. He’s so far out of your league,  but when the local provincial skier with whom you go back & forth in races over achieves in a race and really nails it, the jealousy factor can score pretty high on the envy meter.


The athlete pictured here totally breaks the jealousy factor mould. Gen Morrison is embracing her teammate that had just defeated her for the Olympic spot in their weight category for team Canada. Gen was sharing in her teammates joy, and her teammate was sharing in Gen’s sorrow. What a moment!

Going into the match Gen was the favourite coming off last summer’s PanAm gold medal and recent bronze medal at the world championships. The latter result was the one that gave Canada the Olympic berth in the first place, but Gen had to win that place back at these trials. Going into the match, she pretty much knew it would be close as these two trained daily together and totally knew the strengths, weaknesses, moods and ebbs and flows of each other on a day-to-day basis. This match was epic. It could have gone either way as both athletes entirely wrestled to their absolute potential, and they both were certainly aware of this.

How did the world view this? Did they think she was weak, especially in a sport where you have to be tough in so many ways? Realizing that for so many athletes reaching the Olympics is a life long dream that is the driving force in many a sport career. No, the moment, captured in this picture, was named the international 2015 wrestling highlight moment of the year (Gen was named the Female Canadian wrestler of the year also).

In the Romans 12 verse, the command is given in the context of a body of believers...a close body of believers. I’m sure potential jealousies existed everywhere among this tightknit group of Christians. But what a joy to have a community that could actually live this rejoicing and weeping out together.

It’s an old saying, but it really is true: “shared sorrow is ½ sorrow, but shared joy is double joy”

How cool could it be to genuinely rejoice with your teammates and competitors at the end of a contest no matter your personal result. You’ll be guaranteed a celebration. Proverbs 15.15 says: “...a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”   Now that’s the way to live!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A TRIBUTE TO AN UNSUNG HERO

The world lost a great man just before Christmas. You’ve never heard of him. He was a  family friend. Although you may have benefited from his work at Billy Graham ministry. He ran the computers there. If you’ve ever received mail from BG or contacted them, you’ve benefited from his work.  Funny though, as personal computers came into our society, he never got one. His computer world consisted of antiquated memory tape and other historical technology.

He retired years ago and in retirement volunteered with his wife each winter at the Wycliffe ministry headquarters in Texas. In summers and fall they’d come to my parents apple orchard and just be busy helping out. They actually moved to the area because my parents were out there. That’s loyalty.

Every Christmas this couple would come to our family tree trimming party. Their presence was an important ritual even more important than the many other rigid festival rites that we performed at Christmas time. There were many other family gatherings that they often would be a part of. Since they never had children of their own I often felt like we were kind of their adopted kids.

One Christmas in the ‘70's that stands out to me was when they brought us gifts for each child consisting of Bibles, the Living Version. I still have mine.

One constant was that no matter what was going on, at a certain time very early in the evening, he would pull the plug and start getting ready to go home. The reason was that for him, his 4:30 A.M. personal Bible study and prayer time was the most important thing and he didn’t want to compromise that in any way.

That never changed either. For so many people their walks with God  have ups and downs, but for him year after year he never stopped that 4:30 A.M. wake up call. There must have a been a lot of mornings when he was tempted to keep on sleeping... but that’s my world not his.

I remember the Sunday I got ordained. Of course this couple was at the service and later at the  reception at my home. In the card he gave me there was an inspirational sentence he wrote in Greek, knowing that I’d just completed a lot study in this original New Testament language. You see he studied both Greek and Hebrew. Certainly not needed for any computer language, but if you’re a serious student of the Bible... well that’s just what you do.

Two summers ago we vacationed in Mn and I really wanted to make a point to visit this couple. I knew that the world wouldn’t blessed with his presence too much longer. He  was in his 90's and scheduled for a heart operation. In retirement that early morning wake up call came a bit later. I think he said somewhere around 6:30. Still earlier than a lot of people get up.

Sometime before Christmas that old heart with the implanted cow valve gave up. I guess you can’t be too sad, except maybe for his widow. How lonely it must be for her.  But, the reception in Heaven would have been glorious. All those mornings communing with the Saviour, now it’s face to face. The words, “well done, good and faithful servant” were most surely stated.

I’m sure his life wasn’t perfect. Every human has weaknesses and fallen nature battles, even our heros. Maybe that’s what makes them our heros. In their imperfection they keep fighting and don’t quit. For Duane Wriedt there is just one main thing that stands out to me, his unrelenting quest to go hard in knowing God. I don’t know anyone else personally that I can look to as an example of this. I guess they’re pretty rare. You can read biographies of people like William Carey and George Mueller, men known for their devotional lives. But these are just people I read about in books from a long time ago. To actually have a flesh and blood friendship with someone that has something you’d like to be like...that’s a gift.

Torches get passed, and our Saviour said that to whom much is given, much is required. I’ve been given a gift to have a real life example of what it’s like to go hard after God. Time to pick up the torch, keep it burning bright and pass it on to others.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on Tragedy

With the news of the weekend's tragedy at the COP Bobsled track so many thoughts jumps into my head. In working with RCMP victim services I've come to view tragedies in light of being right in the midst of many of them.

My first thought is that victims come in many forms. Those that are directly impacted by the choices of others and those that are indirectly affected. The latter often don't see themselves as victims, but if you're emotionally distressed as a result of a tragic situation, then you're certainly a victim. There are many friends and colleagues of mine that train, compete, coach and service that track. Many of them are far away in Europe competing in world cups and world championships, yet from the tweets, etc. I can see that many are really hurting from the loss of life and terrible injuries that occurred yesterday on the ice track. Your emotions are real. Allow yourself as a victim to grieve. We all grieve in unique ways to our personalities. Whether it’s taking some time to pray, talk with someone or make some new life path choices, do what you need to do.

My second thought is more towards the families of the teens involved in the heinous crash. From what I’ve been seeing in the media, it seems like they came from real good families, most likely even God fearing Christian families. The hope they’ve expressed so far has been truly amazing. As good a family background as you have though, sometimes regretful choices are made. But the important thing to realize is that how your life ends often (and usually) doesn’t define the life and how it was lived. This is an important point to dwell on over the next several days and weeks as the lives of  2 twins that perished are celebrated.

We’ve also got to keep in mind the 6 that are struggling both physically and emotionally in the hospital. They must be in perilous physical condition and certainly in emotional anguish at the passing of their friends.

Let’s all be there for each other and keep our heads up to recognize needs around us!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living How You Were Meant to Live

As I rode my bike back from church last Sunday I saw these beautiful Atomic babies just sitting by a dumpster. I thought how sad that someone had just abandoned them to live out their days as "trash". I immediately seized upon them to add to my growing ski museum collection.

Having been sponsored by Atomic years ago for XC racing, the design & graphics brought back nice memories. In those days Atomic would use the same graphic for all their models.... from xc, downhill racing to yes, even  telemark skis. I easily identified the year of these skis as 1992, my first pair of free Atomic classic skis that looked identical to these.

These particular Tele boards had been obviously well used, even crusty old kick wax from the final outing remained on the base. I've often wondered if skis could talk what would they say? Maybe some of mine would say, "you have too many of us! We don't get out enough!" or perhaps, "feed me! I need more wax!"

I'm sure these particular Atomic Tele boards would say, "Thanks for rescuing me from the dumpster, but please.... I want to ski again, not just sit on a wall!"

Truly indeed, a ski would only be happy shushing down the slopes gliding over pristine powder. They'd only be frustrated sitting on a wall or even worse buried in a trash pile.

Maybe it was because I was coming home from church, but I began to think how we as created humans are similar. We're only truly happy and content when we're doing what we were made to do.

And what exactly is that? Of course it's to worship our Creator and live our lives for Him. Even as cool as it is to live in a mountain town and race & train for ski mountaineering, xc and sky running (or whatever it is that you do), it all gets boring and pointless after awhile... if we're doing it apart from our Creator's overriding purpose- to worship Him and live our lives for Him.

I made a nice discovery in Romans 12.11 this A.M..... 3 commands, the middle one being "be fervent in spirit". The word "fervent" is a greek word zeo-used 2x in the N.T. and means to boil (literally & metaphorically- in this case the latter).  In other words let your human spirit be boiling red hot for God (& in the context, good deeds).

I'll admit that lately my thermometer has been on a lower setting lately. Time to turn up the heat!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

GLORY

With Olympic fever still on people’s minds maybe I can share a poignant Olympic moment in my life. The very first Olympic athlete I met (on the very first day I moved to Canada in ‘94) was Catriona Lemay (later...Lemay-Doan). Cat soon became a Christian and less importantly, an Olympic gold medalist. In the days leading up to the 2002 Olympics in Utah, I met with Catriona with the direct purpose of trying to give her a vision of how it could be for her if she became the first Canadian to defend an Olympic gold medal. As we now all know she accomplished this and was the only Canadian to do so until last week when Kallie and Heather repeated their gold medal performance in the 2-gal bobsled.

I wanted to encourage Catriona, as a growing Christian, to use her potential medal platform to worship. Indeed, when you’re on the top step of the podium in the world’s largest sporting contest you have the world’s adulation and adoration. Yet, as a Christian, how cool can it be when you simply direct all that just one (major) step above you, to the One who truly is the only One worthy of such attention. In essence, having a worship time on an Olympic podium.

Recently, I had some stickers made up and freely gave them away to many Christian athletes. They were simply a Bible verse reference... “Is.43.7".  It reads,

 “Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

What a great passage! In this simple statement is our reason for living...the reason why God made us in the first place. How often do we think about this? Why we’re here on this planet?  Do we orient our lives around this passionate purpose? Or like so many, is our sight only as far as what concerns us personally in the mundane day to day living?

Maybe we should all put some stickers or other gentle reminders around us, or better yet, spend some quality time each day with the God who is surpassingly worthy of living solely and soulfully for!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YOU STINK

That’s true. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthins 2.14f, “but thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we re a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”

You stink... either sweet or gross.


In the Roman world at the time of Christ whenever a conquering general
returned in triumph they had a triumph parade. To the eyes of the world
in that day it was the most glorious spectacle which the imagination
could conceive. First came state officials and the senate. Then came the
trumpeters. They were followed by the spoils taken from the conquered
land. There would be pictures of the conquered land and models of
conquered citadels and ships. There would be a white bull for sacrifice,
then the captive princes, leaders and generals in chains. They would
shortly either be flung into prison or executed. Then came the musicians
and priests swinging censers with a sweet smelling incense that was
burning. Finally came the general himself and his army wearing
decorations and shouting in triumph. It was a tremendous day that might
only be witnessed once in a lifetime.

Imagine how the smell of the incense would be to the captives. It would
be the smell of death. They marched through the street only to be
derided by the conquering Romans and would signal that soon you’d either
be executed or sold into slavery. However, to the victorious throngs
that same smell would signal victory and triumph. Same way with the
gospel according to this passage. It’s either a smell of sweet victory
and life saving to some, but to other’s it’s a means of destruction and
condemnation because of their rejection of the gospel.

I had this point well taken today as we looked at this passage with some
of our Christian bobsledders in town for the first world cup of the
season. A visiting coach, peeked at the paper we were
looking at. He saw “You Stink” and made some silly comments. When Lyndon
Rush, Canada’s #1 bobsled pilot told him we were doing a Bible study the
visiting coach made some snide remarks about his mother and this “sh*t”.
We realized we were seeing a graphic playing out of Paul’s very
principle right before our eyes. To the God seeking athletes, the word
of God is precious, but to this godless coach.... well, it was clear how
it smelled to him.

How about you? How do you smell? We each give off an aroma. Either life
or death to those around us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Success and Failure in Sport & Life

Our weekly SportFaith Discussion group at the Canmore Nordic Centre came immediately on the heals of Canada’s first National team biathlon trials race. Of the 5 biathletes in attendance, not a one of them was happy with their result. One of them even exclaimed that he shot, "dirty", meaning that he did the opposite of "shooting clean" -hitting all the targets. In fact on one of the 2 trips into the range failed to hit a single target.

In God’s economy then it was no surprise that He engineered the topic of the day to be "Success/Failure". Does God have a different view of success compared to that of the world? Of course. Jesus Himself told the story of the talents recorded in Mt. 25.14f, where a rich man went off, but before leaving entrusted 5,2 and 1 talents to 3 different servants (according to their abilities). If you’re familiar with the story you know that the first 2 doubled the talents upon their master’s arrival. The last one buried his and only returned what was given. The message is that God has given (not equally) talents, resources, etc. that He expects us to use, invest and maximize. He was very displeased with the non-investing servant, even calling him wicked and lazy. Wow... pretty stern words.

So then, what would success be in God’s eyes? I think this parable tells us that it’s fully using what gifts He’s entrusted to us. To fail to do so brings God’s serious displeasure. Now, God doesn’t expect the 2 talent guy to produce as much as the 5 talent guy. But certainly He is equally happy with each when they do to the best of their abilities.



 
Shane Stewart, Canadian 3x Nat'l champion, World champion and bronze medalist.

As we were sharing these thoughts during our SportFaith session, outside the window in the XC ski stadium was a young Special Olympian named Shane skiing back and forth amidst the loud, cold, blasting snow making guns. Shane was meticulously practising the scooter drill. It didn’t look like much fun in those circumstances, but Shane was persistently working it. It may help to understand who Shane is. When he was around 10 he was hit by a car and sustained life changing brain damage. As a young adult Shane now doesn’t have the capabilities that most his age enjoy. Yet he is one of the most loving, gentle, responsible and committed individuals I’ve ever met. He holds down a job at our local Safeway, but his passion is Special Olympics competition in XC skiing.

As we watched Shane live out those words of Jesus we realized that though he was only a "1 talent" guy, he has, and continues to absolutely fully develop what abilities he does have. A true inspiration. And a true success.

For the rest of the guys in the study that day, they each went home and prepared for day #2 of the trials, except now with a new version of success....fully releasing every bit of talent God has gifted us with. With a mind set like that you can focus on the task at hand and how to bring out all you’re capable of. The distractions of worrying about the other competitors and how you’ll fare on the result sheet fade to irrelevancy.

The guy that shot "dirty"? He’s a 19 year old Jr that the next day went on to finish 2nd overall beating several Olympians, most years older with tonnes of experience. The other guys moved up the results sheet as well. But that wasn’t the focus any longer. Funny though, when you learn God’s version of success, the other often does seem to eventually follow.


Jeremiah 9.23 "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things," declares the LORD.