In the Blink of an Eye

USP OLYMPICS: SWIMMING-EVENING SESSION S OLY BRAI used to wonder why I wondered about certain things, but I’ve decided that somewhere in my DNA I must have an inquisitive gene that is alive and well.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I noticed my curious nature thinking about the speed of a blinking eye. After a quick Google search, I learned:

  • If you are an average blinker, you will blink about every 4 seconds.
  • Each minute of the day you will blink about 15 times or roughly 20,000 times a day.
  • The surface of your eye is cleaned and lubricated,  in the 10th of a second it takes you to blink.

A 10th of a second is fast, and this fact jogged my memory: I remembered the 2016 Olympics and Anthony Ervin. At the age of 35, Ervin set a record for being the oldest individual competitor to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Ervin swam the 50M Men’s Freestyle, and he won the gold medal; France’s Florent Manaudou finished second and won the silver.

The difference that separated these two men wasn’t the 10th of a second it takes you to blink, but the hairbreadth of just 100th of a second. Ervin finished the race in 21.40 seconds and Manaudou finished it in 21.41.

Even though the critical factor that separates the winner from the runner-up can be as minuscule as 100th of a second, the minuscule can be mighty powerful.

Had Anthony Ervin succumbed to the power of a negative thought for just 100th of a second, he may have returned home with the silver medal and not the gold.

Ervin achieved his dream because he trained hard in preparation for the Olympics.  To have success in life we should do the same. This is why the Scriptures encourage us to discipline the body and to focus the mind.

Another Olympian who attained great success is Jesse Owens. At the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals, turning his dreams into reality. Later in life, Owens said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

I encourage to keep your eyes on the prize and run life’s race with determination, dedication, and self-discipline.

The Silhoutte of Truth

basketballLike many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).

As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.  My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.

Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”  The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament.  Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.

Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.

The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up.  He knew he needed to live-it-out.

The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?

Counting Down

Calendar with strikethrough crosses fields. Vector ImageAn annual rite of the holiday season is the Christmas countdown. Each year, children count the days to Christmas with an eager expectation, that is only matched by their mothers’ stressful preparation.

Now that Christmas has passed, other countdowns have begun. Some people are counting down the days until the start of the new year, and others have already circled the number 14 on February’s calendar in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.

The number 14 is significant to another group of people.  They are counting down the 91 sunrises that stand between them and the start of the baseball season.

When they hear the number 14, they think in terms of a Rose and and a Banks. Pete Rose was a gritty presence on the diamond during his professional career; however, he was given a lifetime ban for committing baseball’s unpardonable sin.

Like Rose, Ernie Banks also wore the number 14, but his legacy remains untarnished. Even though he had not played for over 40 years when he died in 2015, Banks remains a cherished favorite of the Cub’s fans to this day.

Professional athletes know their fans can be rather fickle and their celebrity status is the result of their performance.  If they do not measure up to the expectations of their fan-base, they are quickly booed.

Fortunate for us, this is not the case with God—His love is not performance-based. He will not bench you because you strike-out, but He will toss you another bat, and say, “Ok slugger, give it another try. Focus and remember, you’re the eye of My, and I’ll be in the batter’s box with you; so, swing away (Psalm 17:8).

Symphony or One-Man Band?

oscar-mayer-weinermobile-04After watching all of the hot-dogging during professional football this past weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that the NFL needs to sign a licensing agreement with Oscar Mayer.  These ego-stroking narcissistic acts and taunting tantrums are ridiculous displays of self-aggrandizement.

Like the mythological Narcissus, some people are so in love with themselves and their self-reflection, they miss the beauty that surrounds them. Narcissus had placed himself at the center of the universe; his prideful attitude marred the true image of love, and his saccharin sentimentalism had the appeal of a rancorous brass bell and clanging cymbal.

Even if he were the most talented player alive, Narcissus would see very little playing time if he was on a team coached by Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.  While Coach Snyder is well-known for his winning record on the field, it’s what he does off the field that is even most important; he mentors young people and helps them build lives of character.

Over his years of coaching, Snyder has developed his 16 Goals for Success, and I find the first three on this list absent from much of our egocentric society:16g

  1. Commitment: To common goals and to being successful.
  2. Unselfishness: There is no “I” in TEAM.
  3. Unity: Come together as never before.

After Kansas State defeated Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl, Snyder commented: Good things happen when we play as a family.  This is more than a sound bite, it’s a theme that’s at the core of Snyder’s legacy.

When the University and Alumni wanted to name the Stadium in the coach’s honor, Snyder agreed, but with one stipulation; it had to include the word family, so it was christened, Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.

As a Coach, Snyder strives for the harmonious sound of the symphony, and he has little room for the narcissist’s one-man band. Snyder’s philosophy is a practical application of a New Testament principle that I encourage you to embrace: Each of you as a good manager must use the gift that God has given you to serve others. ~I Peter 4:10

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

 

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.