Winners and losers

Winners embrace hard work.
They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win.
Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment.
And that’s the difference.

Lou Holtz


(Hammer throw: DeAnna Price (263-6), Brooke Andersen (255-0),
Gwendolyn Berry (241-2) )

Quick…
Who won the gold medal in this week’s US Track and Field trials
for the women’s hammer throw???

Yeah…
I thought so…you didn’t know.
And I confess, I didn’t either.

But chances are both you and I knew who came in 3rd.

And that is the real shame here.

We knew who came in 3rd because she created a stink.
A national televised stink.
All because she had to put her rear on her shoulder when hearing the
National Anthem being played.

Why is that you ask?
Well, it seems she’s an ‘activist athlete.’

Yeah, I didn’t know it was a thing either.

She’s not a fan of our patriotism.
She’s not a fan of our flag nor of our Nation’s anthem nor of our
Nation in general.

And yet she wants to represent said Nation…
the same Nation she’s not so much a fan
of in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
Go figure.

Once upon a time I ran high school track, I was a captain of our team
and later, once I was teaching, I was a high school girl’s track coach.

I understand sports and I understand training and I understand
being on and being part of a team.

Team is bigger than self.
What one represents is greater than self and sometimes,
it’s even greater than team.

Self is all about just that, self.
It’s a ‘look at me’ mentality.
It’s a ‘I’m going to use this platform to express my personal agenda.”
Personal agendas on a team tend to make things really crowded.

But you know what…folks don’t care so much about an athlete’s personal agenda
as much as they care about that athlete’s individual ability and skills.

Recently, I was watching a show about college sports.

A sportscaster was waxing poetic over the allure that college sports
seems to hold over those who follow it.
That of both students and fans.

The sportscaster was focusing on college football since that was what
the program was about, college football.

He spoke in terms of a religious sort of draw that college sports holds
over folks.

Be that good or bad, I got it.
I understood what he was talking about.

He explained that we all need and want something greater than ourselves
in order to bring us together…we yearn for something to unify us.
That’s an underlying human desire.

In an increasingly secular society, this sportscaster noted that
college sports often fills that bill.

As society moves further away from its religious roots, it seeks
something else to fill that void…something tangible to cling to.

And so again, for good or bad, our sport teams draw us in.

They unite us in ways that other things can’t.
We find ourselves having a common focus with a common goal.

It matters not our color, gender or creed, nor of our bank account
degree, GPA or political affiliation…
our team is our unifying focus.

We get behind said team in solidarity as we cheer it on.
We pine when it loses and we may even cuss it, but when it wins,
we win.

We don our school colors, we carry our flags, we sing our school’s song.
We lock arms with complete strangers as we chant our team to victory.
And we cry upon one another’s shoulders when we lose.

We feel the same way about our Olympians.
They are the best of our best.
They are the pride of our Nation
And in turn they unify our Nation.
They help us to forget the bad in the country and in the world.
They give us all something greater than our worries and misery
they give us a new focus and something we can cheer for.

It’s as if we can forget the reality around us for two weeks every four years.
(two years if when we count both Summer and Winter Olympics)
We band together while we huddle around a television at home, school, at work,
or in a bar.

It is that famous thrill of victory and that painful agony of defeat
all of which we viscerally and collectively feel…together.

So when an athlete opts to veer away from the focus of the game,
we have a hard time getting on board.
Our focus is of the timing, the height, the length, the speed, the execution,
the millisecond of time that separates gold from silver, or bronze from
loss.

We try desperately to will our athletes on to victory.
In part because they represent each one of us.
Theirs are our own vicarious goals and hopes.

So I have very little patience with an athlete who opts to use an athletic
platform as a political platform—in the the most recent case, it
was a literal matter of a podium.

There is a time and a place.
Standing on a podium is not the place for one’s personal agenda..
it is not the time for a raised fist or a turned back.

It is a time of respect.
Respect for something much greater than self.

It is a time for a nation to celebrate and not a time for one to snub
that very nation nor the very people who have cheered said athlete on to
that platform.

Winners or losers—I suppose we all choose.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—-our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that
Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:4-5

to be saved, we must first lose

But there must be a real giv­ing up of the self.
You must throw it away ​“blind­ly” so to speak.
Christ will indeed give you a real per­son­al­i­ty:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own per­son­al­i­ty is what you are both­er­ing about you are not going to Him at all.

C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity


(scene from The Chosen when Jesus heals Mary)

To be saved, we must first lose.

The concept of losing doesn’t make much sense to the mind of a 21st-century individual.
Especially to a 21st century American…losing is not something Americans are accustomed to.
Nor is it a concept on the minds of many Americans who are busy with protesting
rioting and looting…losing is not on their radar.

Burdened by so much that is taking place around this pain-racked Nation of ours,
I turned to a new devotional written by the writers of The Chosen.

The following was the entry for Day 3:

To save our lives, we must lose them.

That’s a mind-bender, for sure, but clearly vital to understand.
Jesus said it to the disciples after they’d already dropped everything to
follow Him from town to town.
They sacrificed their careers, homes, and relationships for the man
they believed was the Messiah.
Life as they knew it had turned upside down,
but more would be required of them, and Jesus was doubling down.
He knew what lay ahead. He knew He was leaving.
And He knew they would become pillars of the early church,
in charge of spreading the truth about salvation to the world,
disciplining the masses, and claiming Christ in the face of imprisonment, torture, and death.
They would lose their lives on earth—figuratively and literally–
for the sake of all they would gain in heaven.

And they did it well because their testimonies,
their personal stories of what Jesus had said and done,
were potent demonstrations of His transformative love and power in their lives.
They shared the gospel with an unstoppable, contagious, relentless passion that—
to be honest–seems kind of rare these days.

How come?
Well for starters, they weren’t in love with themselves or their own stories.
They weren’t branding their Christian narratives for maximum personal benefit,
approval, or sump[athy…or for clicks or likes.
They weren’t assigning themselves the hero role or belaboring their “before Christ”
dysfunction with all its juicy, sensationalistic tidbits.
When you look at biblical examples it’s amazing how few words are given to their broken pasts–
the almost exclusive focus is on Jesus.

Take Mary Magdalene.
The fact that she was delivered from seven demons is a crucial aspect of her
testimony because it showcases Jesus’authority and why she responded to Him
the way sed did.
And then that’s it.
That’s all the detail we need to know.
In other words, her autobiography wouldn’t have been titled
The Dark Years with three hundred pages dedicated to describing the monsters within.
Fascinating?
Sure.
But powerful and effective and glorifying to the one who rescued her?
Not so much.
There’s a reason we meet Mary subsequent to her healing—because that’s where the real story is.

There are a few other things we know about her:
(1) she followed Jesus and financially supported His ministry until His crucifixion,
which means she gave everything she had to follow Him;
(2)she endured the crucifixion and stayed close to Jesus while He suffered and died;
and
(3) as mentioned in “Delivered”, she was the first person He appeared to after
He rose from the dead, and she was the one He sent to tell the disciples
the universe-altering news.
All because the old was gone and dead.
Jesus had given her new life.

Which means that even if you’ve been a believer for all of ten minutes,
those minutes are entirely more relevant than the twenty, forty,
or eighty years of darkness prior to your conversion.
Reason being, we’re called to represent Jesus and to die to the lives
He saved us from. When we do that, and when He stays the hero of the story,
our words and lives become real-time, potent demonstrations of
His transformative love and power.

The Chosen
40 Days With Jesus

altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

dscn0509
(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

Win, Place, Show

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mahatma Gandhi

DSC01149
(bottle stopper / Julie Cook / 2015)

Are you a betting man or woman?
Have you studied the odds?
What are the bookies and odd makers saying?
Who’s the trainer?
Who’s the owner?
Have there been other races, any wins?
What’s the story?

50 / 50 chance really.
Be there two in the field or 100
Either it does or it doesn’t.
Either it is or it isn’t.
On any given day, it’s anyones game
It’s a. . .
Yes
or
No

Take the chance?
Or
Play it safe?
Go with the favorite, the sure thing
Or
Take your chances on the long-shot?

Risk taker?
Gambler?
Safe?
or
Risky?

Does it ever really matter who comes in 2nd or 3rd?
Any one other than the winner might as well have been last.
As the only one anyone ever remembers is the winner. . .
And once another race rolls around, most often than not,
All previous winners go out the window as the new winner is crowned.

We all like a winner, that’s for certain.
We cheer for winners.
We pay money for winners.
We follow winners.
We celebrate winners.
We want to surround ourselves by winners
We even seem to buy into the notion that winning should come at any and all costs. . .
And we are devastated when a winner loses. . .

That is until we find a new winner to cheer. . .

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8