Thursday, August 23, 2007
When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for nearly sixteen hours.
Already she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Now, at age 34, her goal was to become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast.
On that Fourth of July morning in 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to be driven away by rifle shots. Against the frigid grip of the sea, she struggled on - hour after hour - while millions watched on national television.
Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and her trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn't much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had . . . until then. With only a half mile to go, she asked to be pulled out.
Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it." It was not fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal.
At the beginning of a race the gun goes off and tells you when to start, the crowd is cheering from the sidelines with banners held high, photographers document the fanfare with strobes of flash and reporters talk the event up to be an experience of a lifetime. Why is there so much attention in the beginning of a race, when the middle and end deliver the real results of the journey?
In all challenges, it helps to know what our goals are in order to reach them. Just like Florence who was defeated by the fog obscuring her goal, we can also become lost in the fog of life that can become barriers to our growth and goals in spiritual matters.
As we look at the need for changed hearts to impact the way we live out and think about our faith journey, our need to "see" where we are going is an important one.
Hebrews chapter 12: 1-3 The Message
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
1Therefore, 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. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The preparations for a marathon take a great deal of training. Many athletes look to others who have "lived out" the life of a runner in order to gather the necessary inspiration to begin on the training process. As a Christian, it can be helpful to know and learn from a few "marathon runners" of the faith in order to stay encouraged and inspired. Look into church history, personal experience and Biblical examples for inspiration on your own journey.
Ready = Be inspired by others who already have traveled the road.
For a long time, my Grandpap has been my hero. He had a way of making everything fun: working in the garden, singing on the front porch, and picking grapes. A few years ago my Grandfather was very ill with pneumonia and I was called to come and see him as soon as I could. When I arrived at the hospital with my Mother, we spent a few hours visiting and singing together. Before long our conversation became more serious and he asked me directly, "Do you love Jesus?" Through tears I told him "Yes." He smiled and asked, " Are you still working for Jesus?" (As he knew I worked as a youth worker) And I told him, "Yes, I am."
He smiled wider and spoke the last words he ever would to me, " Keep working till Jesus comes. " My Grandpap's love for Jesus is something that has stayed with me even after he passed away. At that moment, Grandpap passed the torch of witness to me. By the questions he asked me that afternoon, I know that the most important assets I can carry with me on the Christian journey are my own openness and love for Jesus. I see Grandpap's face whenever I read this section of scripture in Hebrews. He is a part of the "great cloud of witnesses" that I look to for inspiration.
"Do you have a face in the "cloud of witnesses to look to for inspiration?"
"Who? Why? How does it help?"
When racers are lined up at the beginning line the official says, "Ready" and they all line up obediently. When the official says, " Set!" Everyone crouches closer to the ground and looks intently forward as if the race begins in the mind before it starts in the feet. Often what holds us back spiritually is what is or isn't going on inside our hearts and minds'.
The scripture reference " having put off every weight and the sin that so easily clings" comes from an unusual word that occurs nowhere else in the Bible.
Euperistatos. The images associated with this word are not specific to physical hindrances, like excess weight or bulky clothing. So in this metaphor for the Christian life being like a race, the things that can hinder are not limited to the external things in life. In fact, the word Agon (race) (that we use for agonize in our language), refers to the internal moral and ethical struggle of the daily race of life. While discipline and training are important in the section of scripture, it is endurance that is the writer's main idea and theme.
So in order to become "Set", it is necessary for us to throw off, let go, release, send away – whatever externally and internally holds us back from what God's calls us to.
Set: Put off what holds you back physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
" Can you identify what hindrances you have?" "How do you think the process of putting off really happens?" " Do you think it is possible to put off something in your life alone or do you need God's help?"
The first two actions of (Ready) looking for inspiration and (Set) putting off (or asking for God's help in putting off sin) are ones that do give specific things to "do". Focus is the third aspect of this scripture that prepares us for carrying out the race.
As the racers are crouched low to the ground and peering steadily forward they are looking towards their goal. They want to get to the finish line and they want to get there first. How interesting that the writer of Hebrews 12: 2-3 does not say RUN at this point of the metaphor.
2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Go: Focus on Jesus- The perfect example of orthoproxy and orthodoxy (walking the walk and talking the talk.)
Developing the ability of focus on one thing is often a challenge for me. I often blame this multitasking ability on waiting tables and caring for children. Honestly, it is the way I am. Jumping from one thing to the next and mixing two or three things in between, so the idea of focus is a challenging one for me.
Although I love the fact that this metaphor of the race of Christian life is not all centered on my ability to run a marathon – it is good for me to be reminded that even though my life may require multitasking, God does not. God is asking for my heart and mind to be focused fully on Christ.
My focus needs to be centered on who God is, what Go is teaching, and how Jesus lived and died. My heart can't be a place for multi-tasking or divided affections. My heart needs to be devoted to Jesus more that anything else in this world or what is going on inside of me.
This scripture from Hebrews is more than a pep talk or a formula for success in life. It is a call to look and the contents of our hearts, evaluate what needs to stay or go, take encouragement from the Saints that have gone before us and refocus our energy into looking to Jesus.
Without Jesus as a focal point – the looking for heroes and letting go would simply be a pep talk or another method of how to succeed in life. Success is not what we are called to. We are called to have enduring and devoted hearts and lives focused on Christ. In all of this talk of Ready, set and Go it is imperative for us to understand that without God we could do nothing at all. Surrender to Jesus Christ is the primary element in the beginning, middle and ends of our spiritual journeys.
So as my Grandpap would ask all of you and me included: " Do you love Jesus?" and "Are you still working for Jesus?"
If you think back to Florence Chadwick, she possessed the quality of endurance. Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere behind that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men's record by two hours!
So no matter the fog that you face inside or outside of your heart keep on in the race, in the grace and in the focus of Christ, until we all are joined together in that "great cloud of witnesses."
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
1. Mary is at http://ltuande.blogspot.com/ - Life the Universe and Everything.
Mary is my first real contact/friend from blog world and I love how we share in writing and life even thought we are thousands of miles apart. Cheers to you Mary!
2. Pink sneakers is at http://manypinksneakers.blogspot.com/ - and I met first and became blogging friends later after sharing in our love of all things Pittsburgh!
Creative commentary on life and honestly the best laugh ever. Nice Girl - yien's shure is!
3.Visit Claire at http://countrymouseclaire.blogspot.com/ - She and I have not yet met in person, as that giant ocean seems to get in the way here and there. But I love her most recent project called: " Stupid Girls Project". Not that it's stupid or that she is, but it is a call to live life to the fullest! Nice Girl Award bestowed!
4. Meet Banu at http://zoelife-with-jesus.blogspot.com/ - she and I work together in a presbemerging - creative - challenging- and growing church reformation. I love how she shares BIG ideas in such understandable ways! You go Nice girl!
5. Look at Marlena's blog at www.marlaenacochran.blogspot.com/ - She understands living and loving a career in ministry and life from a real perspective!She is a real friend and a blogging friend as well as many others on my awards carpet! Lots of info, ideas and more at her place. Nice girl - great work!
Feel free to share the awards and make someones day!
Peace and Grace,
From my first "Nice Girl Blogger Award" winner's blog:
"So I have noticed a lot of blog awards out there lately, and it has gotten me thinking about nominations. Who would I nominate for say the rocker girl blog award. And then I started thinking that the Gals I am reading do rock, but there is more to them, there is caring, friendship and inspiration too. So I am starting my own blog award! This award will be awarded to those that are just nice people, good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world! I am naming this award the Nice Matters Blog Award I will begin my naming a few of those that I feel deserve this award and I would like for those awarded to name 7 others. That is it! Feel free to use the above button to tell everyone that someone thinks you are nice! "
Here is a repost from the Presbymergent website. If you have any suggestions in writing such a grant let me know as this is new to me. Here's to trying!
Sherry Britton in the NCD department in Louisville has asked us to share the following exciting news with all our presbymergent friends:
The director of Evangelism has just found $20,000 in his budget designated for emergent churches. He would like to receive proposals for the use of the funds.
Following are some additional details:
* Funding is open to both churches and organizations as long as they are “PCUSA based.”
* Deadline for submission of proposals is October 15th, and the award would be made in November.
* They’re looking for a narrative about the program to be funded, the precise amount requested, and the expected outcome.
Proposals should be mailed to Sherry Britton, 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, KY 40202 or emailed to sbritton[at]ctr.pcusa.org or faxed to 502-569-8002.