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.

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.

How Do You Measure-Up?

Measuring-tape-010Success is determined through a process of standards and measurements.  In the world of sports, speed and strength are two important measurements.  At the NFL combine, athletes go through a rigorous examination of their physical skills and abilities based on the criteria below:

  • 40 SPEED: 40-yard dash time.
  • 3-CONE: 3-cone drill time.
  • SHUTTLE: 20-yard shuttle time.
  • VERTICAL: Vertical jump – measured by the differential between a player’s reach and the marked flag.
  • BROAD: Broad jump distance.
  • BENCH: Bench press – measured by the number of times a player bench presses 225pds.

A sports analogy was on Paul’s mind when he wrote of athletes who disciplined their bodies in preparation for the Isthmian Games.  Paul said, “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 (I Corinthians 9:25).”

Like the athletes of today, the aspiring athletes of Corinth lived a disciplined life in preparation for the sporting events.  They realized that the exemplary life of an athlete is the result of an examined life.

Standards and measurements should be as important to the Christian as they are to the athlete.  Paul said:

Examine yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Corinthians 13:35).”

The unexamined life is a nefarious life, and it can make for precarious habits.  Benjamin Franklin eschewed sloppy living, so he measured his life by asking himself two questions each day:

  • The Morning Question: What Good shall I do this Day?
  • The Evening Question: What Good have I done today?

Franklin believed these two questions are the key to an examined life that is as efficient as it is beneficent.  I encourage you to use these questions to measure your life through the remainder of this year.

From Tragedy to Triumph

Little Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940 in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee.   She came into this world weighing a mere 4 1/2 pounds. She spent the early years of her childhood in bed battling double pneumonia and scarlet fever.  When she was 6 she was afflicted with polio.  This disease caused her to lose the use of her left leg, so she was fitted with metal leg braces.

One day Wilma asked her parents:  Will I ever be able to run and play like the other children?  Her mother responded:  Honey, you only have to believe.  You have to trust in God because with God all things are possible.

If her story ended when her being a cripple, it would be understandable, but  Wilma was determined to turn her tragedy into  triumph.  She believed God could make it happen; and, by the time she was 9 years old, she was out of the braces and quickly becoming a star on the basketball court.

Wilma’s hard worked transformed her into a 5′ 11″ lightening fast runner, and she went on to win 3 gold medals in 1960 at the Rome Olympics.  She retired from running when she was 22 years old.  She turned her focus to coaching women’s track teams and encouraging young people.  Wilma used her talent and fame to establish the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to assist young athletes in reaching their academic and professional goals.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking.  Talent is God-given, so be humble.  Fame is man-given, so be thankful.  Conceit is self-given, so be careful.

Chump or Champ

He stands 6′-11″, weighs 211 pounds and wears number 7, but Billy Cundiff’s luck ran out on Sunday.  During the season he scored 84 points and was accurate 76% of the time, but his missed field goal attempt led, in part, to the Raven’s loss.

Even though Cundiff is the 4th best kicker in the NFL, he will be remembered more for the kick he missed than for the 28 he made.  Like an elephant, Cundiff will never forget, and this will weigh on him just as heavily.

Fans were outraged because Cundiff missed the kick.  At the time, few people were aware of a scorekeeper’s mishap that altered his preparation.

Cundiff, like most kickers has a well-ordered sideline sequence that prepares him for his on-field performance.  He  uses the down and distance information on the scoreboard to walk him through his routine.  On Sunday, Cundiff worked through his first-down prep and checked the scoreboard.  Then he went through his second down prep and looked at the scoreboard.

Suddenly there was confusion on the sidelines.   Coaches were shouting “field goal,” but Cundiff still thought it was 3rd down.  The scorekeeper had failed to advance the scoreboard stats,  and it indicated 3rd down when it was 4th down.  Cundiff was forced to break his routine, rush on the field, and he missed the uprights.

Cundiff illlustrates the need for a healthy routine and what happens when we break it.  A mentor of mine, Raymond Barber, told me that, You don’t lose your religion in a blowout.  You lose it in a small leak.

Small changes go unnoticed until the cumulative effect is felt.  A person can benefit from a disciplined life or suffer the consequences of neglect.

A disciplined routine prepared Samuel Grady for the 1984 Olympics where he won a gold medal in track and field.  Grady has said, All through my professional and amateur career, I worked a little harder and trained a little extra.  I was the first one at practice and the last to leave. 

Let me share a definition of discipline:  Doing the things that need to be done even when you don’t feel like doing them.  Whenever you’re doing the things that need to get done, keep the words of  Solomon in mind, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might (Eccl. 9:10).

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.