Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Special School Year Begins

 David - Kindergarten         Ryen - Preschool
August 2016

School has officially started for many in our area.  It’s the season for football games, extracurricular activities, busy schedules, homework, and much learning to take place.  This will be an extra special school year for the Bertrand family as our first grandchild begins his school adventure in kindergarten.

In preparation for the new school year, David and his parents attended “Meet the Teacher” night.  School supplies have been purchased, taken out of the bag, and looked at numerous times; books about kindergarten have been read; and new shoes and clothes are ready. 

 What a blessing to have a friend in class.

There will be so many things to learn this year.  David will be given the opportunity to increase his skills in math, reading, music, social development.  He’ll be stronger and know more about the sports he plays.  New friendships will be made.

In his poem, Robert Fulghum reminds us of important life lessons that are taught and hopefully learned and applied in this important year of schooling. 

“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” 
By Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. 

What wonderful reminders of important lessons for all of us, no matter what age, to take to heart to help make a positive difference in our world.  And in agreement with Fulghum, "... it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together." 

David, as you embark on this next step in your education, Granddad and I pray that you will be kind, brave, and grateful with your words, thoughts, and actions.  May your excitement and love of learning continue as you apply what you are taught and help make a positive difference in your home, school, neighborhood and church.  We love you, David, and are so excited about your new adventure!

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 
Joshua 1:9

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:4-6

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Rio Olympics

These two weeks have been a little piece of what Heaven will look like, where there will be people from every tribe and nation present.  As the 31st Olympiad comes to a close, there are several memorable events, people, and situations to ponder from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

* Being an athlete takes commitment, exercise, time, and sacrifices.

* Athletes were quick to give praise, honor, and thanks to their parents, family, and coaches for the investments they have made in their lives.

* Any athlete can win on any given day.

* Even the best can have bobbles, falls, or missed balls.  It’s what you choose to do afterwards that determines your ability to compete successfully.

* What you may not be able to accomplish individually, you can contribute to and win as a team.

* Keep your eye on the goal/finish line and not on your competitor.

* Run with all your might over the Finish Line.  Finish strong.  Slowing down, when approaching the line, can cost you a medal.

* You have to be willing to give it your all, even if it means diving head-first over the Finish Line as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas did to win the women’s 400 meters.

* It’s important how you treat, invest in, and speak to people.  Two Olympic swimmers were inspired by and had pictures made with Michael Phelps when they were children.  Katie Ledecky won 4 gold medals and 1 silver medal for swimming events in the 2016 Rio Olympics.  In turn, Katie is now taking the time to pose for pictures and sign autographs to encourage other swimmers.  Joseph Schooling, a 21-year-old swimmer from Singapore, also had his picture made with Phelps.  Schooling took the inspiration to heart.  He beat Phelps this week in the 100-meter butterfly, earning Singapore’s first gold medal in Olympic history.

* Sportsmanship is on display at all times.  New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin tripped and fell on the track in the 5,000 meter race.  American Abbey D’Agostino was running so close behind Nikki that she tripped and fell also.  Abbey told Nikki, “Get up, get up!  We have to finish!”  Abbey helped Nikki get up before she continued to run.  After the race, Hamblin said, “I am so grateful to Abbey for helping me.  That girl was the Olympic spirit right there.  I am so impressed and inspired by that.”

* You can win the most medals in history and still not be happy or fulfilled.  In 2014, Michel Phelps considered taking his own life after receiving a 2nd DUI.  Ray Lewis, an NFL linebacker, reached out to encourage him to get professional help then gave him Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”  Phelps told ESPN, “The book turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”  Phelps said he “turned to Jesus Christ and was able to turn his life around.”  Michael credited 2 Corinthians 5:18 with helping him restore his relationship with his father.   “He has restored our relationship with him through Christ, and has given us the ministry of restoring relationships.” 

* There is a time to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

* Comparison is best left to the judges.

* Live up to your own standards.  “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.  I’m the first Simone Biles.”

* Never give up.  Countries continue to train and send athletes even when they have never won.  This year was the first time for athletes from some countries to win gold or medal for their country.

* Several athletes took the opportunity to declare their faith in Jesus Christ.  David Boudia and Steele Johnson won silver medals in men’s synchronized 10-meter platform diving.  When interviewed, Boudia stated. “I just think in the past there’s just been an enormous amount of pressure and I’ve felt it.  It’s just an identity crisis.  When my mind is on this (the stadium) and thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy.  But we both know that our identity is in Christ and we’re thankful for this opportunity to dive in front of Brazil and in front of the United States.  It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us.”  In his book “Greater than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption,” Boudia chronicles how he came to the point where he no longer sought glory for himself but rather lived to give glory to God.

* Allyson Felix took silver in the 400 meter.  She makes no secret that she is a Christian.  Before her race she posted, “I praise God for it all.  I came to know Jesus Christ at a very young age…Faith leads my life.  That’s definitely the reason I run.”

* When interviewed Friday morning, U. S. wrestling gold medalist Helen Maroulis said that she was scared about competing.  Her pastor reminded her that she had God inside her and she didn’t need to worry.  She claimed that promise during the competition.

* For the first time in Olympic history, the U. S. women swept the 110-meter hurdles.  After the race, Brianna Rollins, the gold medalist told an interviewer, “I just kept God first and just continued to let Him guide me throughout the rounds.  We formed a prayer circle this morning and we just let His presence come upon us….  I want to break world records and win gold medals, but I also want to be known as the athlete who glorified God by reaching my full potential.”

* Your actions and words matter. 

* Athletes must be willing to overcome injuries and handicaps to develop to their potential.  Usain Bolt, considered to be the fastest man in the world, was born with scoliosis.  He has learned to compensate and run so as not to cause further injury to his back. 

* Sometimes you get second chances.  On the exchange of the baton on the women’s 4x100 relay, the baton was dropped.  The 2nd runner picked it up and continued to race.  When the heat was completed, an appeal was made since the 2nd runner was bumped on the track by another country’s athlete, thus causing the baton to drop.  When the film was reviewed, the U. S. women were given a second chance to qualify.  If they had quit and not finished the race, they would have been disqualified, and not able to formally protest the outcome.

* Worship occurs naturally when it is already a part of your lives.  The seven man rugby team from Fiji won their country’s first ever gold medal.  After their win, they stood together in a circle, with their arms on each others’ shoulders, and harmonized in song in both Fijian and English:
“We have overcome
We have overcome
By the blood of the Lamb
And the Word of the Lord
We have overcome.”
When it came time for the winner’s ceremony, in humility, each man knelt on both knees to receive their medal.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 22:1

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.
Corinthians 9:24

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Welcoming Arms

For the first time in history, athletes without a country will be competing as a part of the Olympics.  They will be welcomed as team “Refugee Olympic Athletes” (ROA).  Plans were announced at the United Nations General Assembly in October.  After identifying 43 athletes, 10 were chosen for the team by the International Olympic Committee. The team consists of men and women refugees:  5 runners from South Sudan, 2 swimmers from Syria, 2 judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 1 runner from Ethiopia.  IOC President Thomas Bach stated, “By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.”  The refugees are staying with the other athletes in the Olympic Village. 

Yusra Mardini, a refugee from Syria, found sanctuary in Germany, after swimming through the icy waters of the Mediterranean and landing on the Greek island of Lesbos.  She and 20 other migrants were in a small boat that began sinking, after the motor stopped and the boat began to deflate.  She and her sister were two of the only ones who could swim.  They jumped in the icy waters and pushed the boat for three and a half hours until they reached land so the others would not drown.  Mardini stated, “I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days.  I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.” 

During the Opening Ceremony, the Refugee Olympic Athletes walked into the stadium behind the Olympic flag.  They were welcomed with a standing ovation and cheers only exceeded by the ones for the host country of Brazil.  

 Photo credit: Andrea Creath

As the cameras pan the skies of Rio de Janeiro, one of my favorite sights is the art deco statue of Jesus, “Christ the Redeemer.”  Jesus’ outstretched arms seem to welcome all to the great city of Rio.  What a wonderful reminder that Jesus’ outstretched arms are available anywhere, anytime, to anyone as He offers welcome, salvation, solace, protection, and love to all.  As His followers, may we too be quick to have welcoming arms and hearts to those around us.

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!
Psalm 90:1 (TLB)

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Matthew 10:40

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 3:20

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
I Peter 2:11, 12