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There is some debate over the origin of this quote. Many believe it is derived from the Talmud even though it seems many contemporary figures have taken credit for it. At any rate, the question is ever before us when it comes to the expedient. You may admire achievers who have a resume of impressive accomplishments, but that does not mean they have more aptitude than you. They just had the attitude, “Lets get it done!” We all know people who have massive potential that do nothing with it out of indifference.
Chances are if you can clearly see what should be done or could be done, then you are the one for the task. Whatever “it” is, it has been developing along the same time line as you. Convergence is taking place. Don’t assume that someone more qualified should do it. Don’t play the “someday” card. Pardon the tired old pun but “someday is not a day of the week.” It has been said that “procrastination is hands down our favorite form of self-sabotage and opportunity’s natural assassin.”
One of the most quoted and equally controversial leaders of this past century was Martin Luther King Jr. His initials, MLK are as recognizable as FDR and JFK. The title of the blog is taken from his quote, “If we require an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth we will be a blind and toothless nation.” There are scores of his quotes I could have chosen. I chose this one just to get your attention. There is no question that many have attempted since his untimely death to piggyback on his message and influence who have not been cut from the same cloth. Rivers that flow from pristine headwaters are often polluted by tributaries that flow into downstream.
I’ve read many of his quotes over the years as I have with so many others and found that you can distill his message down to one thing…..a positive and peaceful attitude. You may not agree with his activism, but you would be hard pressed to fault his attitude toward life and the brotherhood of all men. Speaking of attitude, I read a story about him during his college days that embodies the importance of attitude. Dr. King had a job shoveling out stables during the day and went to college in the evening. If you have ever been around a stable you know that the stench of the animals gets in your clothing. Martin always had time to shower before going to class but on one occasion he had to go to class straight from his work. When he entered the class and took his seat a lady sitting next to him said “Martin you smell like a mule.” Without hesitation he responded, “I may smell like a mule but I don’t think like one.” The politics of today has the pungent smell of powermongers. The religious systems reek of relativism and manipulation. The media is constantly belching on us that the whole world stinks. Like Dr. King, the smell may get on us but their attitude doesn’t have to.
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Runners are a unique breed and I applaud their tenacity and endurance to lace up everyday to go the distance. I am told that once you start and get beyond your body’s resistance that the euphoria experienced while running and the subsequent rewards are addicting. Maybe you have heard it said that all runners are either running “from”, “for”, or “to” something. I was inspired to write on this topic by a friend of my wife and I. Her name is Connie and we have had the joy of knowing her for over 30 years now. I have asked her permission to share her journey that has involved intense pathos that was turned into surpassing passion.
Connie and her first husband Bennett were my wife and I’s best friends for many years. Thirteen years into her marriage to Bennett on a humid summer night, we received a call from her that devastated us. Bennett was an avid recreational sailor and had gone out on the lake they lived on with their thirteen year old son to ride the wind. To say that sailing was his passion is an understatement. When the winds were strong enough their catamaran would tilt up on one pontoon which added to the exhilaration of the riding the wind. On this particular evening, the conditions were perfect for this type of sailing and the unthinkable happened. Bennett, an experienced sailor and swimmer, was swept off the boat into the churning waters as the catamaran driven by the wind carried his young son toward shore. For hours we waited with Connie to hear that her husband and our friend had swam to shore only to hear the tragic news that he had drowned. The weeks and months that ensued were unlike anything we have ever experienced. Her grief and our feeble attempts to console her and her son are beyond the limits of this short blog to describe.
A few years passed and she found love again in another mutual friend of ours who we affectionately called “Bear”; because he was the epitome of a bear, robust in stature yet tender in demeanor. His name was Duane; we also called him Big D. Duane was a “never met a stranger kind of guy” and the best Italian chef we have ever known. His love for people and to prepare feast was a great joy to us all. Truly a man with a heart as big as his physique. Connie and Duane had another son and thirteen years later almost to the month we received the news that he had had a heart attack. After spending several weeks in ICU unable to respond to his friends and family, Duane passed away. We were all stunned that this man who had so much life left to live had left us.
I am sure you are wondering what these unimaginable losses have to do with running toward life. Connie has always been a very strong woman, but after being widowed twice and left with sons by both men was understandably hopeless. The irony of being married to both men for thirteen years and having sons with both of them left us all with more questions than answers. Not long after Duane’s death, Connie begin to experience heart palpations and went to a cardiologist. After interviewing her and conducting a series of tests, the doctor told her that her tests indicated there was no biological reason for her palpations. Knowing that she had been widowed twice, he told her his diagnosis was “broken heart syndrome.” He went on to explain that this syndrome is real and experienced by many that suffer such devastating loss and that if not treated was as life threatening as a heart attack.
Unwilling to use medication, Connie begin to search for alternate means to deal with her pain. Through divine connections she received regular doses of hope, but then she found running to be her new refuge. At first it was very difficult not having ever been involved in this kind of regimen. Over the last few months she has come to realize that she is not just running from the deaths of her two husbands, or running for her health. She is running toward life. Isaiah said that we would “run and not be weary” and Paul said to “run your race with patience.” She is doing just that. Her first marathon was the annual Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston S.C. The last time Connie had crossed this well known landmark of the south was in the wake of Duane’s death. Her mother-in-law was riding with her and she told her that she would never cross that bridge again due to painful weeks that had proceeded with her spending endless hours in the ICU. However, on April 2, 2011 she joined over 40,000 runners in the annual Cooper River Bridge 10K. My wife, her best friend of 35 years, joined her. On a cool and crisp Spring morning they rose well before dawn. Connie and my wife dressed in running attire and armed with their Mp3 players set out to experience a defining moment. When they crossed the finish line they discovered they were both listening to the same song. The bridge she had vowed to never cross again had become the bridge to a rhythm and reality. To date, she has run in several marathons and what lies before her is no longer overshadowed by her painful memories. Now it’s not about what she has lost, but what she has to gain. Jesus said He came to heal the broken hearted; not just those whose hearts have experienced arterial damage that is measured by an EKG, but by the immeasurable effects of loss. Run toward life
Chances are everyone reading this has had the exhilarating and petrifying experience of riding a roller coaster. You stand in a long zigzag line then take your seat in a cramped car followed by the click of the safety bar snuggly pinning you in. You hear the instructions to secure loose items and keep your hands inside the car. Then there is the rhythmic clacking sound of the coaster wheels as you slowly accelerate down the track and you realize that the ride is not over till its over. What follows are speeds that go from creeping to turbocharged in seconds, hairpin turns, inverted positions, g forces contorting the skin on your face, shrill screaming and gagging up your cotton candy and hotdog. Somewhere in the world right now there is some fiendish amusement park engineer who is pushing the envelope of design to erect another tubular of terror. By the way, the worlds’ tallest is 456 ft. high and the fastest is 149 miles an hour.
Why do we subject ourselves to these steel behemoths of speed? Maybe it’s because they replicate life in so many ways. I’m not seeking to sensationalize the year before us by using the roller coaster metaphor, but we’ve already taken our seats for the 2012 roller coaster and soon things will ramp up. Be assured this one has the potential of being faster and more tumultuous than previous years. The twist and turns of the past years will pale in comparison to the ones that await us. Expecting the unexpected is the order of the day. The extreme changes in ideology, technology, climatology and sociology will test our theology like never before.
Without question we are in a season of extremes. You can try and “do the math” in a climate where the rules have become arbitrary or you can expect miracles. Adversity elicits trust in God, which in prosperous times would have remained dormant. Ironically it is the combination of faith and doubt that takes us around the unknown curves in life. What you know about Him must become greater than any unknown. It is when I am reeling from life, taking a sudden plummet, that I realize that like the safety bar He is holding me rather than me holding on to Him. Truth is held in the tension of knowing that God is never surprised by what surprises us. The politically obsessed are waiting on elections, the escapist are waiting on an evacuation via the rapture and both have forgotten the Controller of this roller coaster. A friend of mine puts it this way, “God held an election in eternity past and HE voted.” My mantra in the malaise of our times is that of the psalmist, “My expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and salvation: He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” Where have you placed your expectation? You can live in the forebode of the times or make Him your abode and enjoy the ride.
Ever wondered why the debut of the Christ child was to borrow a line from a carol to “certain poor shepherds?” Of all the demographics to chose from why shepherds? Why not the religious scholars who were supposedly up to speed on this epoch moment in history? Or possibly the governmental aristocracy? Why poor, uneducated, disdained sleepy shepherds in a field? Shepherding is probably the oldest occupation in the world dating back 6,000 years. The first shepherd in scripture was Abel the son of Adam. This primeval vocation, though prevalent throughout scripture, was considered to be menial work. In the time of Jesus they were culturally ostracized to the point they were not even allowed to testify in court. The narrative of this seminal moment in history is too involved to be adequately addressed in this short blog. I want to consider a few threads of relevancy in this story that have been worn smooth with familiarity in the wake of 2011 Christmases.
Bear with me as I connect the history with the contemporaneous. It is safe to say that the flocks they were tending were not common livestock kept for fleece or mutton. There is good evidence they were sheep earmarked for sacrifice. They wouldn’t be consumed, but were consecrated to be offered in the temple which is quite telling in and of itself. These blue collar laborers were “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Their vigilance was for at least two reasons. One, predators typically are on the prowl in the darkness giving them an edge on their prey. Secondly, the ewes often birthed their lambs during the night hours. Newborn lambs still covered in afterbirth with spindly legs struggling to stand up in the minutes after delivery were an easy meal for carnivores crouching in the darkness. The scent of life and death was in the air. Mary’s water has broken, she is in the last stage of labor and at the same time bleating little lambs are being birthed. The parallels are stunning.
The shepherds were not prepared for what happened on that faithful night. The momentous was about to collide with the monotonous. Angels appearing in brilliant light ambushed them. A silent night was disrupted with their thunderous proclamation of His birth. The KJV translation says they were “sore afraid”, meaning they were in shock. Surprised, speechless, dumfounded doesn’t even begin to describe their condition. We, too, like the shepherds of old are struggling to stay awake in the spiritual sleepiness of our times. However, as it was then, an awakening is coming. The irony of this encounter is that it happens in the shadow of the temple where organized religion is oblivious to the meteor of glory that had just made sudden impact. The common man could hear and see, but the clergymen were both deaf and blind to the shock and awe emanating from heaven. There are a number of sudden happenings in scripture and each of them brought a revelation of God’s nature and purposes that resulted in dramatic change. I think we are due for a repeat performance. This suddenly happened in a field which is a scriptural synonym for the world. In the days ahead the world may get it before we do. The shepherds made haste abandoning their flocks to find the place where He laid. These common men possessed an uncommon discernment that enabled them to behold both the Lamb and the Shepherd in a mere infant. Maybe we have been looking in all the likely places without realizing He is often found in unsterile and unholy venues rather than in the hallowed halls of religion. Priests will awake the next morning to practice their tired religious rituals in the dim light of a fading temple. Herod the corrupt governmental tyrant will shuffle to his plush throne as he had every morning before to oppress the people. However, during the night the Priest and King had taken His place in a crude feeding trough. Be assured, we are 2011 years removed from these events we are about to get the shock of our life. We will be ambushed from heaven with an announcement in these days when religious and political corruption abounds. The truth that permeated the atmosphere that night, “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN” will once again lighten the night sky.