Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I was dropping off my favorite four-legged friend at my parents' house Saturday morning.  He's technically my mom's dog, but we're best buds so I love the times I get to spend with him.

My dad was doing his normal channel-surfing thing, and he happened to stumble upon the Alpine Skiing World Championships.  He must love me because he ceased with his surfing for a bit to let me enjoy the competition.  (I love things like this!)

I was even more stoked than usual because we caught the final runs for women's slalom, and I just love watching slalom.  There's a rhythm and grace to it that I find completely captivating.

But it's also exciting because in the blink of an eye, a perfect run can fall completely apart.  And not necessarily in dramatic fashion like a head-over-heels tumble.  I have this distinct memory from the Sochi Olympics last winter.  A skier was having a great run, leaning into every turn, gaining time on the leader, and just looking fantastic.  Then seemingly out of nowhere, she just stopped and took herself off the course.  It was very controlled, and left the commentators stunned for a brief moment.

"She must have missed a gate," one said.  And indeed, a review of her run showed that the tip of her ski just missed the second pole of a double gate.  She hugged the edge too much by millimeters and the pole went through her legs.

Just like that, her run was over.

She wasn't the only one who had trouble. That Sochi course was particularly difficult. Part of it was the course, and part of it was the weather. Watching skier after skier try to conquer that particularly tight section of the Sochi course brought to mind these verses:
Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14 (One translation says: "The gateway is very narrow and the road is difficult...")  
So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Deuteronomy 5:32
I've been mulling on them ever since.

Doing the right thing can be hard!  It's a narrow and challenging course.  And like a slalom skier, things can be going so well, but it only takes a moment to lose it and get off course.

How do you do it?

Core strength. Being balanced on your skis, and being able to lean into those turns takes a strong core. Staying centered through life's twists and turns takes the same.

Look ahead.  I remember an interview with Ted Ligety during the Sochi Olympics last winter.  He talked about the whole process of an Olympic slalom run.  They go down those mountains at 50 miles and hour or more, so those gates come at them fast.  He said he's always looking 2-3 gates ahead and constantly planning how one turn will flow into the next.

Lean in. Saturday's story was a triumphant one. Mikaela Shiffrin kept her rhythm, made every gate, and found an extra dose of speed on the bottom half of the course to defend her title.  Doing so in her hometown made the victory extra sweet. But finding that speed is about establishing rhythm and then leaning in -- committing to each turn to get as close to each gate as possible, while at the same time maintaining control and finding the best curve.  (Which circles back around to core strength.  Flirting with that edge takes real strength that has to come from the center.  Both mentally and physically.)

Narrow is the way.  Difficult is the road.  And it takes both adventure and control to navigate it well.  Just like slalom, those gates can come at you fast, and any number of things can knock you off track -- whether by a millimeter or by a mile.

Thank goodness ours is a race that isn't one where missing one gate counts you out.  We get to brush the snow off our butts and continue.

For this I am very grateful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Home.  It's a powerful word.  It's where the heart is.  Whether it's with "your people" or in "your spot"....there's no place like it. And while I know I'm guilty of yearning for adventure, I can also attest to the truth that there's nothing quite like coming home again.

Imagine this scene from The Hobbit, just after the company of Dwarves have survived their escapades in Goblin town.  Bilbo had gotten separated from everyone else, and they're wondering where he might have gone.  Thorin, who doesn't have a lot of trust or confidence in Bilbo, thinks he has given up and abandoned them to head back to the Shire.  But after this less-than-supportive declaration, Bilbo emerges from behind a tree and says he's back.  Most of the company accepts this with a mixture of disbelief and joy.  But Thorin is still suspicious and demands a further explanation:

Gandalf: What does it matter? He's back.

Thorin: It matters.  I want to know.  Why did you come back?

Bilbo: I know you doubt me. I know you always have. You're right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, my armchair, my garden. See, that's where I belong. That's home. That's why I came back. You don't have one. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.

It was this scene that flashed in my mind when I read this passage from the first chapter of Joshua:

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” 
But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.” (Joshua 1:10-15)

I don't think I fully realized that not all the tribes needed to cross the Jordan river to claim their inheritance.  For two and a half tribes, their long journey was over.  They were already home.  But they still had to send their fighting men to help the other tribes claim their land.  This was their Bilbo moment.  But was also more than that. It struck me as a very clear picture of how the family of God really is one big family, who is expected to band together and help out, even at personal cost and sacrifice.

What impresses me most about Bilbo's story is that despite Thorin's consistent doubt, Bilbo sticks with the quest until the very end.  That's no small thing.  Could I do that?  Stick with someone who doubts me? Cross a river to help someone fight for their promise when there's no guarantee of coming home again?

But isn't that kind of the whole point of the Gospel?  To be love in action and live a life that points to the hope I've found?

You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you. ...That's home. That's why I came back. You don't have one. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Catch

Nearly two weeks ago, I witnessed what was probably the most amazing catch I've ever seen in football.  It was the epitome of playing to the whistle.  Of never giving up.  Of basically willing the catch to be complete. In the age of DVR, it was the kind of catch that demands to be instantly rewound and watched again.

It was just incredible.

And thanks to YouTube, you don't just have to take my word for it.  Take a look for yourself.

This is the kind of catch that wins games and is forever etched in the annals of history.


Less than a minute later, there would be an interception that would again change the course of the game and become the talking point of Monday Morning Quarterbacks for ages to come.

In less than a minute, this play went from being "one for the ages" to that "awesome play that happened a minute ago that doesn't matter all that much anymore".

But it *did* happen.  Jermaine Kearse made the play of his career, and we were all beside ourselves with a mixture of disbelief and joy (or despair if you were rooting for the other team).

I couldn't help but think of the Paradoxical Commandments: "The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway."

What if your awesome catch is only the headline for 30 seconds?  Would you make it anyway?

Because you should.

No one knows what the future holds.  So make that catch. Do good anyway. 

You never know. While history might take an extra second to remember it, playing to the whistle is worth it.

Every time.

Good, bad, or ugly.  Remembered or instantly overshadowed. Whether it's good for 30 seconds or 30 years.  Do good anyway.  

It's a beautiful play.  And it might just make all the difference in the world.