A crumb in a bottle

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Celebrity Pop Quiz! Fill in the blanks to tell for what role or action each person is best remembered.

Christopher Columbus _______  _________.
Anne Frank is famous for the ______ she kept.
George Washington was our ______  __________.
Mary was the mother of _______.
The musical group most associated with the “British invasion” is The _______.
William Shakespeare wrote sonnets and _____.
Bo Jackson won the ________  ________.
John Glenn _______ the earth.
Jesse James was an ______.
Victoria and Elizabeth I were queens of _________.
J.K. Rowling wrote the ______  _______ book series.
Knute Rockne was a _______  ______ at Notre Dame.

My answers are at the end of this post.

The list of celebrities and the accomplishments for which they are known could go on and on. Here are some words associated with celebrity:

  • Fame
  • Well-known
  • Prominent
  • Historical figure
  • Star
  • Superstar
  • Notoriety
  • Household name
  • Stature
  • Popularity
  • Leader

Information access and social media make it easier and more fun than ever before to follow favorite actors, athletes, writers, foodies, politicians and world changers. And to see who they are following. And to feel left behind if our passionate, polished posts never get more than 50 or 60 “likes.”

Importance is important. Recognition, not so much.

During a recent Sunday School lesson based on a Chip Ingram book about spiritual warfare, my gaze became riveted on one of the PowerPoint slides. If the moment had been a movie scene with special effects, the rest of the slide, and the wall and the room, would have gone blurry while a glow like the one in Instagram’s “Mayfair” filter illuminated the words in question. Words about our getting sidetracked – even obsessed – with accomplishing something that’s hailed as important by the rest of the world.

I emailed my sister about the quote, connecting it to my waning goal of authoring a legitimate novel or two. I told her, “It’s easy to buy into believing that importance depends on recognition.”

The most important things most of us do and say likely won’t “go viral.” They won’t turn the heads of thousands or even of hundreds. At least, not for much longer than it takes for a well-put Facebook post to be displaced by newer stuff.

Mary, mother of Jesus, is one whose most significant life choice wasn’t made with the hope of being recognized and applauded. Read the first chapter of Luke. The angel did not tell Mary that if she had a good attitude about becoming with child by the power of the Holy Spirit her name would be known to all the world until the end of time as the mother of the Son of God. Nevertheless, Mary’s response from overflowing joy, “all generations will call me blessed,” has held true. And Elizabeth told Mary, “blessed are you among women” and “blessed is she who believed [God’s message spoken by the angel].” True statements. But Mary didn’t obey in order to be blessed. She obeyed because her chosen path was to be God’s servant. Come to think of it, that’s not only why she obeyed, but also why she was approached to begin with!

Will the good, proper, diligent, God-serving, society-building things you and I do every day result in everlasting accolades by other people? Mostly, the answer is no. Shall we despair over that? Only if our understanding is amiss. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Our persistent obedience, up against all manner of emotional challenges in a chaotic world, produces monumental recognition and reward from the One whose approval is the only approval that really counts.

Are you crawling for crumbs?

Sure. It does feel exciting and “legit” when an actor replies to one of our comments on Instagram. But, to go crawling over to cradle a crumb of bread that fell from the table where a championship college football coach was eating at a barbecue restaurant  – or, worse, to buy that crumb in a glass bottle off eBay – is sick. (Not so much as in “disgusting,” but as in “not healthy” – in more ways than one.)

Don’t worship celebrities. Neither think of them as commodities to be bashed and belittled if their career performance or personal integrity falls off the mark. Encourage if so led and if given the opportunity, but do that not because the person is famous. Encourage another human being because all human beings need encouragement. Most of all, pray for the celebrities whose careers you enjoy following, whose talents you admire, whose social platforms may or may not be in agreement with yours. Fame and wealth can be difficult roads for them to navigate.

After all, recognition is a two-sided coin. Reports that “go viral” aren’t always about good deeds. Wouldn’t you agree that our peers often flock in the greatest numbers to discuss the missteps we take? Yeas and boos often are shouted very close together from the same mouths. As the saying goes, “fame is a fickle friend.” With what harshness we judge others, we should expect to be judged ourselves.

Who deserves hero worship…and why

Only one celebrity has ever rated the degree of hero worship others somehow are receiving, and we are celebrating His birth right now as we do every December. Still on the topic of being judged harshly for missteps: Jesus was born to free us from the condemnation our sins rightly earn for us. Praise God for this blessed gift of forgiveness!

Which words from the first stanza of Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus seem connected to what we mistakenly invest in the worship of human celebrities and movers/shakers? I’ve put my answers in bold type.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Similar lines on longing and expecting, from Love Divine, All Loves Excelling:
visit us with Thy salvation;
enter ev’ry trembling heart.

Notice me!

“Notice me!” we seem to beg after we’ve crafted our post, designed our meme, or launched a new Instagram account. Are we serving the best causes by spending so much time that way? Or, are we really just wanting and waiting for some big-name person (or a large number of little-name persons) to validate our existence and our efforts? If celebrities and crowds take notice of us, the way others take notice of them, then maybe we really are making a “big” difference. All of us need to look at whether we could be making a deeper difference within a smaller circle of people. Face to face instead of online.

I enjoy posting remarks I think are cute and clever as much as the next person does, but I do not need a celebrity’s or a trending company’s fleeting commendation to make me feel validated and valued. And neither do you. What you need is to realize how much your Creator loves you. Why scramble for crumbs dropped once in a blue moon by someone who doesn’t even know who you are? Instead, feast daily at the table of the One who knows your name, numbers the hairs on your head, and loves you in spite of all your faults.

Believe these true words. Then, as Mary and the shepherds each did in their turn, set forth in faith. Not to stand in line for tickets to the next amazing concert. Not to gather with thousands wearing team colors to watch the big game. Not to make a pilgrimage to the locale where is filmed the latest Netflix miniseries with which you are enthralled. Yes, do pack up your portable armchair, trail mix, bottled water, kilt, hiking boots, journal, and camera. But undertake a journey that has real meaning and eternal impact for yourself and for future generations. Spend less time going public with your thoughts if you aren’t also taking them privately to your gracious King. Forge onward with the same drive as you scroll through internet pages, and don’t stop until you’ve arrived at the manger of Bethlehem. There, the Celebrity that you adore deep in your heart – whether you realize it or not – is waiting to tell you how much He loves you and desires you.

“The Lord your God…will take great delight in you;…he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Merry Christmas!

 

Note: the “crumb in a bottle” story is pure fiction (I mean, as far as I know!!), but you know as well as I do that real people have done things about as senseless as that out of misplaced hero worship.

Answers to celebrity pop quiz: discovered America. diary. first President. Jesus. Beatles. plays. Heisman Trophy. orbited. outlaw. England. Harry Potter. football coach.

Rewriting Ecclesiastes just a bit

…a time to buy, and a time to sell
…a time to say hello, and a time to say goodbye

For 30 years we have loved living on one of the most beautiful streets in Dearing Downs, our “race horse name” Secretariat Drive, which is a picturesque pocket on Helena’s east side. The streets are wide, the lots large, the trees tall, and the neighbors top-notch.

Behind our back yard patch of woods once stood a cow pasture. A stray wandered a bit close to the property line one day! But, with the development of Heather Ridge in Pelham, we eventually gained needed access to US 31 (not to mention houses, including some to whose Christmas lights we look forward every year and at least one owned by dear, newer friends – PLUS, a means of bypassing one of two railroad crossings, a flatter terrain whereupon to ride bicycles occasionally, and – last, but definitely not least – an amazing vantage point on the daily sunrise:

Some folks who relocated to our street from their garden home in Pelham asked us very seriously, before they moved, about the train tracks—in terms of traffic delay and noise. So we gave them a wooden train whistle as a gag gift when they moved in. Yes, we have had our moments waiting out slow or stopped trains (often behind Food World with newly-purchased ice cream in our grocery bags 😑), but I have never minded the late-night train whistles. There is something so essentially and comfortingly “Americana” about that sound.

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I’m pretty sure my parents got this whistle for me at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer when they lived nearby in Salisbury.

We met neighbors early on, diagonally across the street from us, when we young mothers were out strolling our same-aged children. Next door to them, another neighbor a few years older gave me one of the best blonde brownie recipes in the world (I’ll share it if you comment and ask!) and provided a teenaged babysitter. Next to them, another older couple became known to us primarily for two things: having a very beautiful house and yard, and giving some of the better-quality chocolate candy bars every Halloween. Snickers. Milky Way. Nestlé Crunch. Butterfinger. And so forth. #yum

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How the years have flown! (And what’s that fellow doing out there in the street without any shoes on? Stereotyping our state?!)

A little farther down, back on our side of the street, were and continue to be some of the most beautiful yards on our street – not the least of which is owned and maintained by the guy in the dark blue Auburn sweats, shown above. Bless you and your green thumbs. You make our area beautiful and you inspire those of us who possess a little less talent in that department.

When the house next door changed hands more than 20 years ago, we discovered we were living beside a high school classmate of Jeff’s. Rock-solid friends for life who help in a crisis, ask the same of you if they need to, and never let football fanship disparity mean anything but good-natured rivalry. On the other side of us for 29 of these 30 years, friends in a different life stage who have been such encouragers and quiet prayer supporters of us and our girls.

This is getting to be like an award acceptance speech where you are bound to leave somebody important out. Down the street and around the corner are more neighbors who have become virtually like extended family in everything from running out to eat together at The Depot or at El Patron, to carpooling, to tailgating, to helping move furniture, and on and on. The kind of folks who will come over and install a different kind of shower nozzle in anticipation of your husband’s convalescence after he’s fallen and fractured his pelvis. Hypothetically speaking, of course. 😉

Another “claim to fame” for us on Secretariat was the number of families with middle school and high school, and even Auburn University, dance team members. That helped with carpooling to practices and made team parent stuff a lot of fun.

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Secretariat Drive sort of cornered the market there for a few years with our talented daughters.

Some other neighbors, now living elsewhere, kidded us for a long time after observing the infamous Saturday morning “squirrel and BB gun” incident from their vantage point up on the corner of Man-o-War and Keeneland. About that, I will say two things: 1)We no longer have the wood board siding…so take THAT, you squirrels; 2)I would love to get in more target practice with my air rifle if that weren’t illegal around here.

Other, newer friends have lived a hop, skip and a jump from us. We passed their house day in and day out on our way to and from work. But we never met them until we started attending church at Dawson in Homewood and discovered in our very friendly life group class that we lived virtually in the same neighborhood, 26 miles south of there! More folks who enrich our lives in fun and practical and spiritual ways. Thank you for being here for us; we’re glad we will stay connected at church! Also that we now have the added connection of being “Auburn parents.”

All that said, where are we going now?

 

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Let us regale you sometime with the story of how and when we found this real estate listing (on my birthday) and managed to get our offer in and accepted within 24 hours (while out of town and unable to take a tour).

We are returning to some deep roots in Hoover, to the neighborhood and almost the very street where Jeff spent most of his formative years. Many of these homes are still occupied by the families who settled there in the mid-1960s, and we are excited about the opportunity to get to know them all over again. We are also tremendously thankful and ECSTATIC at the prospect of a much-reduced daily commute.

I didn’t appear on this scene until 1985, but with Jeff and our girls I’ve spent many Sundays and other days at his parents’ home, near the spot where Jeff and I first met and later married, Green Valley Baptist Church.

A more recent memory

That home was still in the family just a few years ago during the notable “Snowmageddon” or “snowpocalypse” of January 28, 2014, described by others as “the winter storm that brought Birmingham to its knees.” Jeff picked me up from work in Vestavia Hills that day and we made our way precariously south on 31 for several hours covering no more than 7 or 8 miles. We inched and skidded finally down Deo Dara Drive and to the house. Jeff carried the door keys with him all the time at that point, and though we had begun to empty the house of contents including most of the food, we found enough unexpired items to keep us from going hungry, sheets on the beds and even some T-shirts, socks and flannel pajama pants to keep us comfortable. We had lights, heat, and water. We were very, very fortunate to make it to such a refuge during a crisis that found others faring much worse. We didn’t have television, but we had radio and we listened to those who were talking stranded motorists through the overnight ordeal.

Wrapping it up

We are so thankful for God‘s discernible hand in the timing of our arduous climb toward being ready to list our home for sale, and for finding one to buy—on which we agreed—after several months of looking and of exiting one early contract we’d placed. Now, after envisioning scenarios of buying without being able to sell, and of selling without having found what we wanted to buy, we have closed on both homes within the space of a few days.

This process has taught us things about patience and trust. It has taught us that a lot of intangible factors figure into what attracts a particular buyer to a particular house at a particular time. And posting about it already on Facebook has reminded us how blessed we are with so many precious friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. A final shout-out to our diligent, responsive, and thorough realtor, Frances Knox.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1
KJV

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Original siding and shutters on our 1987 purchase, before the naturally-occuring dogwood “appeared” (!!) and before we planted the sugar maple we expected to turn fiery red-orange in autumn but got yellow instead. See…we DO have much to learn about landscaping, and we DO plan to attend to that in the years upcoming.
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We won’t be able to entertain trick-or-treaters this year, as Halloween falls on our “moving eve”, but kudos to a great Dad who’s always enjoyed being the chief pumpkin carver.
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You see, Alabama snows just don’t often provide the wherewithal for building those really LARGE, IMPRESSIVE snowmen. (Unless it was just our willingness to stay out in the cold long enough that was lacking.) And we won’t even talk about the improvised snow boots.

More recently at Secretariat, but still before the 2016 blessing of new vinyl siding. Somebody grew up since the days of her Little Mermaid dress from KMart. And she made the autumn wreath on the front door.

The genre, the start, the whole blooming book

Friday morning early (3)On day three of our recent Gulf Shores trip, while other beachcombers were out hunting crab or shells or buried coins, I hit on my own bonanza. A metadata bonanza. That is, some valuable thoughts about my novel.

Genre

A Stranger’s Promise isn’t formula. And it isn’t mystery, “cozy” or otherwise. I thought for a long time it was a mystery, but now I know for sure that it isn’t. Because Joan doesn’t stumble over a dead body by page 6. In fact, she doesn’t get wind of the mystery part of the plot until chapter 4 – though her “I sense something odd” needle has been jumping since chapter 2. She’s an astute gal, this Joan.

My novel is about more than the small-town missing-person case Joan decides to involve herself in. It’s about a strong, smart, independent woman, who has plenty of free time, becoming friends with another strong, smart, independent woman whose time is running out. Within a sometimes comical adventure, it’s a story of honor, sacrifice, and self-discovery. The genre is Women’s Fiction. (But men can read it, too!)

(How) does my book grab you?

Some who’ve critiqued my synopsis and early chapters are concerned I may not be getting to the “real” plot quickly enough; I may not hold readers’ interest if I don’t tell them in the first couple of pages what the obstacle is that my main character must hurdle. I’ve studied on that feedback and have used it to motivate a complete overhaul of the first scene. Besides, now that I’m not misclassifying my manuscript as a mystery, these writing professionals might give a different opinion through new “genre” eyes. (One can hope, anyway!) Therefore, I’m holding on to the two scenes before Joan rolls into Crook Mountain. And, in the additional pages before she hears about a stranger’s promise, I’m foreshadowing, introducing key characters, and – yes – unfolding the “real” plot.

My inspiration

A Stranger’s Promise is a work of Christian fiction written with one of my favorite authors, Grace Livingston Hill, in mind. Like her, I will include in my novel(s) the story of God’s sending His Son, Jesus, to redeem sinners. My sequel in progress, All Owing to Love, develops this theme after A Stranger’s Promise gets it off the ground. Read more.

There’s a reason I chose “blooming” as the clean expletive in the title of this post. That word suggests new life. Growing. Becoming. And beauty. There couldn’t be a more appropriate image! My characters are growing and developing. As a writer, I am doing the same. And, like Grace Livingston Hill, I am using a novel to tell about Jesus and to encourage all who know Him, and all who need to know Him, to find new life with Him as their Savior and Lord.

Staying true

If there is one message I heard loud and clear at BRMCWC in 2015 and at ACFW in 2016, it is this: stay true to what it is you’re being impressed to write. Then, start worrying about editors, agents, publishers, contracts, distribution, and all that other stuff. That’s where I am right now.

Please “Like” and read my Facebook page Books by Betsy Lowery where I’m chronicling my blooming start as a novelist. Comment on my posts. Ask me questions. (You can see I love to talk about what I’m doing!) Cheer me on. Pray for me. Ask God to use my efforts. Ask Him to open doors and to guide me on the road to publication. Thank you!

P.S. I’m scheduled to be at Birmingham Public Library on Saturday, August 19, from 9:00 to 3:00 for Local Author Expo. I’ll have a number of things on display including a copy of my first book – published in 2004; a little “dice game” for a giveaway every hour; a brand-new sampler booklet with 6 or 7 of the scenes from my novel that make me smile; business cards (of course); and … free candy. Look for me there.

Paul and Jane: two of my fave authors

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My dear family! When I ask for the sermon note-taking page from their copy of the worship guide (I never get my own copy; I always share.), they know what’s up. My daughter offers me a pen. My husband thoughtfully pulls a big, heavy hymnal from the rack in case I need something to bear down on. And, I’m off. Because something I’ve just experienced has triggered a response important enough to capture.

Sunday’s page-long scribble took a bit of effort to decipher and voice record three days later over my last two Fresh Market mini cinnamon rolls and Starbucks half-caf Americano. But, with the sun streaming in on the cafe-like high table where I can stand and work, in my current favorite deserted area of my workplace during that blessed pre-8:00 hour, was it in any way unpleasant to furrow my brow until I understood it was the word security I’d written on Sunday? Of course it wasn’t. #neverunderestimatethevalueofsetting

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At the name of Jesus

The sanctuary choir’s anthem at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church on May 7 was “At the Name of Jesus” (Cindy Berry) – here is one rendition on Youtube, based on Philippians 2:5-11 about Jesus humbling himself and taking on the form of a servant and being obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Please go and read those verses aloud, all the way to verse 11. Oh, my goodness – the majesty of these truths so expressed!

Process. Not product. (But Christ above it all)

As the choir, musicians and worship leader (and composer Cindy Berry, wherever in the world she was) gave of themselves for my edification, I closed my eyes and expressed to my Christian brother in heaven, the apostle Paul, “Be joyful, Paul, over what glorious music this is, using the words you penned.” As a writer of thoughts, devotions, poetry, and fiction, I understand how gratifying it is to be told that someone has found “my” words moving. Yet, it actually is not the product – a hymn stanza, even a passage of the Bible – in which we revel as producer or as partaker. Even with a timeless novel like Pride and Prejudice, it isn’t the text itself that’s most remarkable. It is the process – first, in the life of the author (in a Christian context, God’s work in a believer’s mind and in his or her response, as a vessel, in capturing and attempting to express spiritual processes or insights); and second, when someone reads or hears and is moved, entertained, encouraged, inspired to emulate a book character (or a real person described in the Bible), bolstered to survive another day or another hour, led to do something courageous.

This process in the highest spiritual sense is what happens when a person engages words of scripture. That is why the Word is “living and active”* as the Holy Spirit acts.

The process is the thing. And yet we don’t worship the process, just as we don’t worship the product. We rejoice in it, yes. We celebrate its value by perpetuating it on social media through fan accounts like “looking for Mr. Darcy” and “all things Austen.” We facilitate the process of God’s voice and presence in our corporate worship and our small-group studies and our private prayer havens because we worship Christ and want others to have the security in Christ that we have.

So, let’s keep praying for the opportunity and the willingness to listen, not just to hear; to understand, not just to read; and to act, not just to feel inspired.

*Hebrews 4:12

P.S. Here’s a fun (and weird) coincidence: My daughter showed me the script heading on the note-taking page you see pictured and whispered, “Do you know what font this is?” “Not sure. ‘Founding Fathers’?” (I thought it looked like Thomas Jefferson’s signature, a la the Declaration of Independence.) “I think it’s Jane Austen.” It is. #thetwilightzonethememusic

What the crucifiers didn’t understand

There’s a very important concept the crucifiers of Jesus didn’t understand. It never occurred to me until today while we were singing The Power of the Cross (Getty/Townend) near the end of Easter morning worship at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church.

“Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, then nailed to a cross of wood” we sang in stanza one. The associated visual for me – while acutely sad, as it always is – suddenly presented an entirely new and powerful insight.

What the crucifers didn’t understand was that they were striking, hating, whipping, punishing… sinTheir long-pent-up, senseless, uncontrolled mob and individual violence wasn’t against that man Jesus for himself, in spite of his perplexing claims about having a kingdom not of this world. Their violence spewed forth upon a scapegoat – the holy, blemishless Scapegoat that God conceived and that God required.

In this vein we can see Jesus representing greed, theft, abuse, cruelty, manipulation, wastefulness, selfishness, cowardice, bullying, abduction, murder, gossip, slander, lying, adultery – and people are so rightly incensed against those. We are perfectly justified in hating that these human actions happen, that one person wrongs another in every corner of the earth, daily, hourly, in secret and in public, causing unthinkable pain, sorrow, fear, and despair. And that others sin by not caring until some of it hits home.

The crucifiers did beat, hate, despise and kill Jesus with the same vengeance, the same quest and thirst for justice that God feels toward sin because sin has so devastatingly hurt the people God made and loves.

If this view of the hours leading up to Golgotha is not unsound, then the period of time when Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) did not begin when he was hanging on the cross and the sky went dark as God turned away. It began earlier. Is it possible our Lord’s unbearable agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was in part because God’s plan for Jesus to personify your sins and mine was already in motion, and therefore God was inaccessible to Jesus’ plea, “Let this cup pass from me?”

For God’s ear, God’s heart to be inaccessible is not bearable for us, and that is why He made a plan to change the way things were. Do we love Him, thank Him, worship Him for this accordingly?

Unthinkable sin deserves commensurate punishment. Jesus bore that unthinkable punishment. Oh, what a “debt of love”* we owe our Lamb!

*Isaac Watts, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, 1907

Not giving up my chocolate, coffee, or knitting for Lent

I told my husband this morning while we were getting ready for work that I have decided what to give up for Lent this year. Last year I tried abstaining from chocolate (which became easier when I read in the fine print of the liturgical calendar that the Sundays of Lent don’t count in the 40 days and therefore you can sneak in your chosen item of abstinence on those days).

Let me pause and say that observing Lent and giving up something I enjoy in order to focus more on God during Lent is something I did not grow up doing in small Southern Baptist churches. It is all pretty new, but something worth investing in. And, if I have misrepresented or sounded irreverent about that “loophole” in the previous paragraph, I sincerely apologize. Trade secret: a little apparent irreverence is sometimes a device to get readers’ interest.

Back to this morning: I told Jeff, “It isn’t a food or drink, which I’m happy about.” I have to give him credit for his good guess. He named something as difficult for me to abstain from as chocolate or coffee. “Knitting?”

“Wow, that would be difficult,” I answered. “No, it’s my music, and in the car is the setting that will be most affected.” I went on to explain that 40 days without TV themes to Airwolf and The Virginian and The Brady Bunch may be long enough for those songs not to run in my head anyway, even though they aren’t playing through the speakers.

Revival: isn’t that sort of what Lent is about?*

Revival has a lot to do with clearing one’s mind. It is coming to a place of such openness (to God’s voice) and obedience that – while not losing one speck of memory or of wisdom gained from life experience – one purposes to know nothing and to expect nothing (expect nothing specific other than to grow in love and in faith, and to see God work). It’s like what happened to me on the way to work this morning: I just felt new and very uninterested in starting the day steeping myself in (or worrying about) whatever I was thinking about yesterday and last night.

Aside: I almost lumped “identity” in with memory and experience as things we can retain while determining to know nothing and to expect nothing specific. But, I reconsidered. Losing or revising our identity is something we must look at if we’re talking about seriously realigning our life and purpose with God’s total plan. There are many references in Scripture** to transforming one’s identity. Something to consider.

What do I hope to gain by losing my music fun for 40 days? Valuable silence. The ability to recognize a “burning bush” if God sets one in front of me. Losing our interest in silence as a virtue and losing our determination to achieve silence as a catalyst for thinking, meditating, praying, and opening our minds to God’s leading is a societal development that has had dire consequences. We need to get silence back.

Later today I will mark my calendar with a reminder about abstaining from my playlists. Is there something special you’re thinking of doing to honor and to proclaim the crucified, risen Christ during Lent this year? Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 1.

*”Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock.” Source
**For example: Romans 12:1-2, Luke 17:33, Ephesians 4:22-24, Galatians 2:20-21

That guy has a name. Let’s learn it.

vinko-bogataj

ABC’s Wide World of Sports theme song is second in my alphabetical iTunes songs (between The A-Team and The Adventures of Robin Hood). “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport,” announcer Jim McKay says over the fanfare music. “The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”

Imagine being immortalized in modern history as the one whose name pops up when somebody searches the internet for “the agony of defeat skier”. On the surface of it, I just cringe and feel for this fellow who lost his balance and “crashed and burned” before ever leaving the ramp on March 7, 1970 at a ski flying event in Oberstdorf, West Germany. Read more about the fall, the resulting injuries, and the contributing weather conditions here.

Even pun jokes have been made from the famous phrase in Jim McKay’s voiceover: “What happens after a long day of standing on the job?” “The agony of de feet.” yuk yuk

But, that’s just the opening chapter as the world views that now-famous failed ski jump. Don’t forget that other setback chapters have been followed by huge accomplishments! Peter’s denial that he knew and followed Jesus; Joseph’s abduction by his brothers; Naaman’s bad attitude about following the instructions of the man of God; Sarai laughing at the holy proclamation that she would give birth to the child of promise – all of these failures and misfortunes could have stayed “the agony of defeat,” but they didn’t.

The Karate Kid is the first movie example that jumped into my head on this topic – one of many. Movie after movie, book after book, has championed the underdog, the weakling, the unlikely, for not giving up but pushing through to success. Not everyone wins trophies as a testimony of success. No big deal. Trophies take up shelf space and collect dust. And, after all, as John Maxwell and others have said, success happens one day at a time, along the journey, not at the end of it. Success is in our habits, not in our recognitions.

Let’s learn the name of Mr. Vinko Bogataj of Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) instead of forever calling him “the agony of defeat guy.” Let’s respect him not out of sympathy over his famous fall which, because of the ABC TV show, made him “an American icon of bad luck and misfortune” for a long time before he was even aware of it. Let’s respect him not just because he has a place in athletic history, but mostly because he is a fellow human being who overcame a devastating moment during the pursuit of his goals and went on to become a ski instructor, respected artist, wood carver, forklift operator, husband, and father.

We mustn’t let the agony of our failures, sins, or persecution by evil people define us to others – nor, much more important, to ourselves. Don’t give up. Persevere. Press on toward the mark. Know that even if it takes until heaven, all of the pain is going to go away.

Today is a new day, and not just because we say so as positive thinking. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”—Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”—2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Please share this post today with someone who is hurting or discouraged.