NASCAR: Pit Stop Essentials

NASCAR-at-DaytonaA word that elicits a wide range of emotions is NASCAR . Some people shake their head in bewilderment thinking it is a waste of time to watch grown men drive a car in circles.  Then, there are those who froth at the mouth when they hear the rumble of a finely tuned engine that propels a driver down the straightaways in excess of 200 MPH.

Every second the driver spends on pit road is a second that will determine how he finishes the race. In a matter of about 12 seconds, a good pit crew can change tires, top off the fuel tank, and necessary adjustments to race car.

Pit stops are a vital component of every race—even the race of life.  Paul said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 1:7).  To finish the race, it helps to keep a few principles in mind:

  • Realize your skill-set is limited and you will always need God:
    • I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. ~I Corinthians 15:10
    • Serve with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. ~I Peter 4:11
  • Remember those who have helped you and show your appreciation: I thank God for you Christians at Philippi whenever I think of you. My constant prayers for you are a real joy, for they bring back to my mind how we have worked together for the Gospel from the earliest days until now. ~Philippians 1:3
  • Plan for the bumps in the road: Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. ~Hebrews 11:25
  • Set a steady pace, so you can win the race: Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. ~I Corinthians 9:24-27

I’ll close with this thought: To run fast, you need to know when its time to slow down.

Ryan Lochte: A Second Chance

Ryan Lochte

Most Americans were familiar with Ryan Lochte long before the Olympics began in Rio. Now that the Olympics have ended, it will be a long time before the people in Brazil will forget him.

As a member of Team USA, Lochte has been known as one of swimming’s fiercest competitors.   Today, however, he is known more for his lapse of judgment and his questionable antics.

Although his behavior has led to a loss of his four major sponsors including  Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren, Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops, has just signed the 12-time Olympic medalist as a spokesman to advertise their company.

Rider McDowell, CEO of Pine Bros said, “We all make mistakes, but they’re rarely given front page scrutiny . . . I’m confident that Pine Bros fans will support our decision to give Ryan a second chance.”

As someone who has needed a second chance on more than one occasion, I applaud the decision of Pine Bros, and I’m reminded that God also gives people a second chance. Think about an incident in Jonah’s life and this principle from the Proverbs:

  • After Jonah’s gut-wrenching experience, The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. ~Jonah 3:1-2
  • A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance. ~Proverbs 28:13

Examine the lives of Jacob, Samson, Peter and Paul, and you’ll discover that God is the God of second chances. He is the God of grace, of mercy,  of forgiveness, and the God of beginning again.

As Paul said,  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~2 Corinthians 5:17


BiTTER or BeTTER:  A Titanic Difference

elite-daily-titanicEven though it sank on April 15, 1912, the Titanic is one of the most famous ships that ever sailed the sea, and of her 711 survivors, the unsinkable Molly Brown may be the most famous.

The difference between Molly and the other survivors is that she never embraced a “victim” mindset.  She refused to yield to the emotional negatives of what she had been dealt; instead, she focused on how she could deal; and, she transformed the negative into a positive.

Molly stepped-up at a critical moment and took charge of her lifeboat.  After being rescued, she refused to be defined by her personal loss and her near death experience. She chose, instead, to lead volunteer efforts on behalf of her fellow survivors.

Molly Brown never played Wheel of Fortune, but she knew the importance of letter placement and the power of vowels.  Molly chose an E instead of an I and became  BeTTER instead of BiTTER. This is the difference between a rose and a thorn.  Some people complain that the rose bush is full of thorns, while others are happy that the thorn bush has roses.

Molly could have wasted the rest of her life bitterly trash-talking the crew of the Titanic, and she could have denigrated the engineers who designed the ship, but she chose the better path in life.

I’ll close with this BeTTER or BiTTER instruction from the Apostle Paul: Put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:31-32

*You might enjoy this brief “Molly Brown” clip.

Integrity: The Olympic Brand or Branded?

Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman, have been favorites of any child who loves Westerns. There are times when I’m channel surfing that I still stop to watch a rerun of Gunsmoke or The Rifleman.

Before Chuck Conners played the role of McCain, he had served in the Army, and played for the Dodgers, Cubs and Celtics.  When The Rifleman series was cancelled, Conners landed the starring role of Captain Jason McCord in Branded.

In the show, McCord is a graduate of West Point and the sole survivor of the Bitter Creek massacre. He is unjustly deemed to have been a coward and is dismissed in disgrace.

A question in the theme song summarizes the show: What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man?

Conners, as Lucas McCain and Jason McCord, was a man of integrity, and in both roles, he reflects the principle of Proverbs 28:6: Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

Like McCord, a person can be falsely accused of misdeeds he’s never done.  This can occur because the facts aren’t known or because a person is angry and is trying to harm the innocent.

Solomon said, The loose tongue of the godless spreads destruction; the common sense of the godly preserves them. ~Proverbs 11:9

Thanks to Ryan Lochte and his swim buddies, I’ve been thinking about integrity and wondering: Is their behavior indicative of a lack of integrity, or is it a commentary on the moral fiber of our nation?  Should we be surprised when these young men spin the truth and lie when this has become the norm in Washington?

I’ll close with this video clip from Branded….

Olympics: Gold or Goldless

goldWhen many of the Olympic athletes leave Rio, they will begin a new life.  Some will leave having achieved their dreams and winning either a gold, silver, or bronze medal; others will leave disappointed with themselves and their poor performance; and, there will be some who leave with a sense of contentment even though they did not win.

Contentment is a unique commodity: Money can’t buy it; poverty doesn’t provide it; and neither winning or losing can guarantee it.

For some people, contentment is hard to find.  This is because they’ve never matured beyond the infantile attitude of thinking they’re the center of the universe.  They were born wanting more attention, drier diapers, and a bottle that provided a never-ending supply of milk.  As they grew older they wanted the fastest car, the shiniest wheels, and the finest leather interior.

The more is better attitude never understands that having the “best” and being “blest” are not one and the same; one may provide fame and fortune, but it’s the content of the other leads to a life of contentment.

The Apostle Paul discovered the secret of contentment: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. ~Philippians 4:11-12

If you want to live a life of contentment, I suggest that you start by:

  • Seeking God’s will. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8
  • Leaning on God: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13
  • Trusting God’s promise: The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7
  • Living with an attitude of gratitude: in everything a give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~I Thessalonians 5:18
  • Learning to take an eternal perspective on life: Joseph said, You meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people. ~Genesis 50:20

If, as Paul said, “godliness with contentment is a great gain,” what is a life without godliness and void of contentment?

The King, the Princess, and the Apostle

Michael-Phelps-won-a-staggering-eight-gold-medals-in-Beijing-in-2008-Getty-ImagesOlympian Michael Phelps, the reigning King, supported the comments of Princess Lilly King who has expressed her displeasure with Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, saying: “You’re shaking your finger ‘number one’ and you’ve been caught for drug cheating. I’m not a fan.”

Our young Princess backed-up her words by beating the twice-banned Russian in the 100 meters breaststroke final on Monday, and King Michael endorsed her comments: “I think people should be speaking out more. You know I think (Lily) is right. I think something needs to be done.”lilly

The issue that has Phelps, King, and many of their fellow athletes upset is the issue of doping. Efimova was suspended for 16-months for doping, and she had also failed a test for meldonium earlier this year.

Doping and any form of cheating to win, tarnishes the value of any medal that is won; and, I think the Apostle Paul would agree with the words of the King and the Princess.  Paul said: “Examine all things; hold fast to what is good.  Stay away from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5: 21-22).”

The context of this verse comes from the New Testament era marketplace when people were encouraged to become approved money-changers, so they could recognize the genuine from the counterfeit.  By developing this skill, they could examine everything; keep what was genuine and good; and, toss out all counterfeits and fakes.

If doping is allowed, you might as well change the gold to brass, so kudos to Phelps and King for speaking out for the integrity of the Olympics.

Olympian Effort: The Race or the Finish?

abbottTeam USA hasn’t won a gold medal in women’s Olympic cycling since 1984, but fans thought Mara Abbott was going to end that drought.   With a 40 second lead on Sunday, Abbott was positioned to win the gold.

With 200 meters left in the race, Abbott thought her dreams were about to become reality, but the last 150 meters along scenic Copacabana Beach became a nightmare. Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands, Sweden’s Emma Johansson and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini had been chasing Abbott for most of the race, and the three of them passed the race-weary Abbott.

When bicyclists think of this race, will they remember Abbott for her effort or for her 4th place finish?

Fortunately, finishing in 1st place is not a prerequisite to pleasing God. In his letter to Timothy, Paul said: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (I Timothy 4:7-8).

I applaud the effort, discipline, and dedication of Mara Abbott and Team USA; and, I cheer for you as you fight the good fight.

The Passing of Time

90DC0B4CC6A44E2CA0F4CAE457EE06A3It will usually happen at least once a year, and if you’re fortunate to have several friends, it most likely will appear in the form of a two-word greeting that you hear several times on a single day: “Happy Birthday!”

Frank W. Boreham, an Aussie who died in 1959, had an interesting view on the significance of birthdays. He said, “Birthdays are mere records of time, not registers of distance. They tell me how long I have been on the road, not how far I have traveled.”

Boreham’s words are a challenge to live a life of dedication and discipline like the one Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 9:23-27:

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.  Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

How much time has passed since you first met Jesus, and how far have you traveled in your Christian walk?  If you’re still at the starting blocks, it’s time to start running.  If you’ve stumbled along the way, it’s time to get up and go again.

I encourage you to make the most of your time as you “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).”