Making and remaking

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” Psalms 40:4

On February 5, 1976, Franz Klammer created an international sensation skiing the men’s downhill in 1:45.73 seconds. He skied like no one before him. He averaged about 64 miles per hour over snowy powder in the Austrian Alps, earning a gold medal and a top spot in Olympic history.

Whenever I think of the Winter Olympics, I think of Alpine skiing and the men’s downhill. I think of people like Franz Klammer and a unique behavior that sharpens champion skiers. Simply, it is this:

Continue reading “Making and remaking”

Against them.

“And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them . . .” Mark 6: 47-48a

I have a deep respect for storms.

Living in the Midwest, I have nurtured a wariness for weather’s fury: the power of sudden, golf-ball sized hail in a summer thunderstorm, the screaming wind that announces the arrival of an F-4 tornado overhead, the smothering white-out of a winter blizzard rolling over the the frozen prairie land of Illinois . . . mountains of powdery, dry snow . . . and the deafening silence after.

Storms have a way of commanding our attention. Sometimes, too much.

Read the story of Jesus walking on water in the middle of a huge storm, and see this picture: the night’s blackness, the pitching waves in the Sea of Galilee, the growing unease with what may be coming, the small group of men in an open fishing boat terrified of it all.

But focus too much on the storm, and we can miss one of those, ” wait a minute. . . ” moments that signal something . . . astonishing.

Continue reading “Against them.”

True ways

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, . . .  put off your old self. . . . and be renewed in the spirit of your minds . . . “Ephesians 4:17-24

When I was a young student, every class day would begin with our reciting the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance. We said it every day, and then we’d sing a patriotic hymn of our teacher’s choosing.

The words we spoke or sung fell easily from our lips, because we had said or sung them over and over again . . . for years.

We were learning what it meant to be an American.

But it wasn’t always that way. Continue reading “True ways”

Next

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:4-8 (emphasis mine.)

As a dad with three man-sons, my wife and I have to insist on certain kinds of behavior from them: “Stop jumping on the bed; slow down; wash behind your ears; tell the truth; leave the frog in the pond; say you’re sorry; go to sleep; drink your milk; say your prayers; stop and think . . . ,” all with varying degrees of compliance.

Why do we do that? Continue reading “Next”

Too small

“And Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?'” Numbers 16:8-10

Too small a thing . . . a group of people among the now-freed slaves of Egypt, the Israelites, had become discontented with their lot in life: it was no longer enough to be singled out among the hundreds of thousands to serve God in the daily work of worship in the tabernacle: they wanted more, and they were going after it.

What do you do when you are discontent and want more from life than you have? Continue reading “Too small”

School’s out

“. . . always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7

Remember the last day of school when you were growing up?

Etched in my mind are wonderful memories of textbooks stacked on tables, empty spaces on classroom walls where posters and signs from the year had been removed and stored for the next group of young minds, and taking a paper sack to school in which to carry home the broken pencils and wrinkled contents of my desk. The spirit in the school was light and forward-looking. (The teachers seemed especially happy, for some reason.)

My elementary school was in the middle of rolling farms bounded by thick stands of woods, so the months of May and June were rich with bright sunshine and the sounds of surrounding meadows returning to life. Through open windows everywhere came the humid scent of blooming trees, honeysuckle and newly mown grass. Our three-room school was steeped in it.

These were the signs that said the time of learning was ending: the time of trying was beginning. Ready or not, we were free.

But free for what? Continue reading “School’s out”

In between

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” John 16:16

These are the words of Jesus to His closest friends, hours before His betrayal, arrest, trial, beating and crucifixion. They were having supper together. The mood of the room was serious. Passover was underway. As if with a riddle, He prepares them for what is to come.

Soon, He would be gone, but then He would be back.

Their eyes locked on His, the disciples fill with silent questions.  Continue reading “In between”

The great sequence

At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses. Numbers 9:18-23

In our culture today, the epitome of success is the driven person who is the “go-getter” who dreams big dreams and sets out to climb every mountain to make them real. We are taught from a young age that we can do anything we put our minds to.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“We need a plan for work and we need to work the plan.”

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

Whole industries of motivation and coaching are built around telling us that we are the powerful, self-motivated centers of the universe. It is aspirational, captivating and sells lots of books and self-help programs, but there is (at least) one problem with this teaching:

It. Isn’t. True. Continue reading “The great sequence”