Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just a few hours from being complete.  Once again, we have been able to watch and see some of the best athletes in the world as they have competed and experienced the “thrill of victory and/or the agony of defeat”.  We have also caught glimpses of the best in the human spirit.

Cross-country skier Anton Gafarov had the privilege of skiing in and for his homeland, Russia.  During the Men’s Sprint Free Semifinals, Gafarov crashed early and broke his ski and pole, but not his spirit.  He got up and resumed the race.  Even after two more falls Gafarov would not quit.  Seeing the fall, rival coach Justin Wadsorth of Canada realized that the base had come off of the badly damaged left ski.  "I went over and gave him one of Alex's [Harvey, a member of the Canadian team who didn't qualify for the sprint final] spare skis. It was about giving Gafarov some dignity so he didn't have to walk to the finish area."  Not only did the Canadian coach give him a ski, he also fastened it on Gafarov’s foot.

The 2014 Olympics also saw the debut of the ski halfpipe.  David Wise is a freestyle skier from Reno, Nevada.  In an interview after winning the gold medal he stated, “I think it’s more important to be a good husband and father than it is to be a great skier.”

Other lessons observed:
* Any person/team can win on any given day.
* The best don’t always win.
* Being a good sport matters.
* When you fall, get up and keep going.
* It’s important to keep your eyes focused on the course and finish line.
* No one makes it to the Olympics on their own.
* Athletes were quick to celebrate with and thank family, team members, coaches and fans…the people who invested love, time, energy, and encouragement in them.
* Even if it has been 62 years since your country has medaled in the two-man bobsled, you compete to win and celebrate when you succeed.
* Even if your country has never won a Winter Olympic Medal, you continue to strive to be the first.
* Sometimes it takes 17 years of work with your partner to accomplish your goal.
* Age is not a factor.  The US had the oldest athlete in an event win as well as the youngest athlete to ever medal in a particular event.
* Sacrifices of time, energy, patience, perseverance, money, and effort are part of achieving your dream and goal.
* There is camaraderie, amidst the competition, with athletes who compete in the same sporting event.
* Just as the athletes are representatives of their country during the Olympics and other competitions, we have the opportunity of being representatives of Jesus every day.

For a few short weeks in Sochi, Russia, people from many tribes and nations gathered in peace to participate in the 2014 Olympics.   Some came as athletes, others as coaches and family members, and many as spectators.  And one day there will be an even greater gathering of people from every nation, tribe, people and language that will live in peace forever because they know, follow, and have a relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Hebrews 10:36

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 
Revelation 7:9

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.
Revelation 14:6

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Winners Before the Games Even Began

Before the Winter Olympics even began, there were two athletes who were gold medal winners in my book.  For 15 years now, twins Lanny and Tracy Barnes, from Durango, Colorado, have been competing in biathlons.  Both sisters competed in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, but only Lanny made the team for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  Tracy and Lanny both tried out for the 2014 team to be held in Sochi, but this time only Tracy qualified.  Because of illness, Lanny missed 3 out of the 4 qualifying races in Italy and did not make the team.  In interviews, both men and women stated that an athlete has to be 100% to perform at the level that is needed for a successful biathlon race or trial.  As soon as Tracy realized that Lanny was sick, she knew it would be tough for her to qualify for one of the five spots on the Olympic team with so many great athletes competing.  That’s when Tracy’s Olympic Gold Medal idea began to take root.   As was their tradition after every biathlon, Lanny and Tracy took a hike to reflect on the event.  Tracy knew that Lanny was having a great year training and competing and would fare better in the competition.  She didn’t want her dream and goal to end there.  On their walk, Tracy told Lanny that she was declining her selection for the Olympic Biathlon Team.  Since Lanny had qualified as the first alternate, that meant that Lanny would now be part of Team USA Women’s Biathlon Team for the Sochi Olympics.  Against all protests, Tracy refused to change her mind so now Lanny will be competing in her third Olympics.  And Tracy has earned a gold medal for love, selflessness, and sacrifice.

Shaun White, the Flying Tomato, is also competing in his third Olympics in the men’s halfpipe.  He received the gold medal in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and is preparing and training for his third medal in Sochi.  Originally, Shaun had also qualified to compete in a first time event in the Olympics, slopestyle.  He was a heavy favorite to medal, but Shaun withdrew from the competition in order to exert all his time, attention, and focus on the halfpipe.  No matter the outcome of his race, that made him a winner in my book.  Shaun was willing to give up something great and prestigious in order to give his time and attention to what was best.  No matter the outcome, he wouldn’t have to second guess whether he had given his all to prepare and compete in the halfpipes.  And I think his mother deserves a gold medal for ever letting him try snowboarding the halfpipe in the first place much less compete in that event for years, especially since as a child Shaun survived two open-heart surgeries.  Shaun now gives 8% of his income to St. Jude’s Children’s Fund to help other children have a chance at life, too. 

Although Shaun had the highest score out of all the halfpipe preliminaries, he came in fourth place in the finals and did not medal.  Even with a loss, he was still a winner.  Shaun was interviewed multiple times after his loss. Upon hearing about a 10 year old boy who had been given tickets to come and watch him compete through Make-A-Wish Foundation, he jumped the fence around the interview area so he could speak with him and wish him well in hopes that his cancer will stay in remission.  Shaun White realizes that life is about much more than competing in and winning a gold medal.  Sometimes the most important Olympic moments come without a medal being awarded.

Gold Medal Lessons to ponder and apply:  in humility, value others above yourself and be willing to give up great things in order to pursue what’s best.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
I Corinthians 9:24

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cheering Them On

The Winter Olympics have begun!  During the coming days, the events will be aired for television viewing.  As we watch, during the day and evening, many of us will be cheering and encouraging the athletes as they compete for the Gold, as if they could hear us.  In Sochi, there will be spectators, family, and friends in the stands and around the fences cheering for the athletes, especially the representatives from their own country.

Usually before an Olympic event occurs, the news reporters will try to secure an interview so that we can be informed with “Up Close and Personal” information about the athlete, their training, the risks, and their feelings about competing.  Encouraging words are offered as they prepare to do their best for their event.  Afterwards, especially if they medal, interviews are once again granted to congratulate them.  Not everyone will be able to attend the Olympics in Sochi to encourage their athlete in person.  But because of technology, the athletes can constantly receive encouraging messages from family, coaches, teammates, friends, and even competitors by way of phone, texts, and emails.

During these days, we too have the opportunity to cheer people on along their life’s journey.  Our words of encouragement can be just as important and beneficial to the people we speak to or write as they are to our athletes in the Olympics.  Thankfully, we aren’t limited to building people up for only 2 to 3 weeks every two years.  That’s a gift we can give every day.

In his video, 10 year old Kid President reminds us that we need to tell people:
“We’re glad you’re here.”
“You’re awake.”
“Life is tough, but so are you.”
“You can do it.”
“You matter.”
“You’re awesome.”
“Live like it.”

God also knew that we would need encouragement.  He gave us His Holy Spirit to guide, convict, teach, and cheer us on.  In Hebrews, we are reminded that there is a great cloud of witnesses encouraging us to trust and obey God and do our best.  And all of us need to know that God loves us dearly and has a wonderful plan for our lives.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Acts 9:31

When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
Acts 11:23

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Steps of Faith

Over the past months, we have enjoyed watching Mary take her first steps and master walking.  Now Ryen, our youngest granddaughter, is in the process of learning to walk.   For a while now, she has been standing and holding on with both hands or with one hand to whatever is closest to her.    When she is standing next to her little play kitchen, the couch, or chair, she is very confident about standing on her own, as long as she is within a hands reach of being able to grab on to something if she needs to.  Ryen loves to “practice” walking by having someone hold both of her hands so she can move to her desired location.  She is now branching out and taking four or five steps before sitting down or reaching to hold on.  It won’t be long until walking is her primary choice of transportation and those crawling and holding on times will be few and far between.

 Holding On

Turning Loose

Helping Hands

 On Her Own

With MS, I can appreciate the steps Ryen is going through in order to be able to walk.  Whereas she is moving towards being more independent, I more often than not recognize the need to have something or someone to hold on to when I need to regain my balance or walk. 

Mary and Ryen’s new adventures have reminded me of my steps of faith.  There are times when I hold on with both hands and stay in place because I am unsure of what comes next.  Sometimes I progress to the place where I am willing to turn loose every now and then, but stay pretty close to what I already trust and know.  Other times I am willingly to walk with someone I trust to accomplish what God needs and wants me to do.  But I feel God’s pleasure most at the times I love and trust Him enough to “let go”, take that first step, and live in obedience to Him whether anyone is walking with me or not.

I’m grateful that even though my physical steps may have challenges my steps of faith can still walk, leap, and run to accomplish what God desires of and for me.  May the marathon and journey continue…one step of faith at a time.   

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
I Samuel 12:24

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 3:3

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:17

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Romans 10:17

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
I Corinthians 16:13

For we live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Ephesians 3:12

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 1:3

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
James 2:22