Where Do You Start?

A Tale of Two Foot Races

Race Number One:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height and weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men enter the race knowing that there will only be one winner.  It was for this outcome that they had prepared themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years.

Months prior to the track meet the eight men are told of the rules:  A runner must run in qualifying heats. If the runner is successful in those heats the runner will then be allowed to compete in the final race with the other qualifying runners;  a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will be disqualified as having a “false start”;  the commands “Ready”, “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly;  each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified;  runners will be timed and the first runner to cross the finish line will be the winner of the race.

The runners all agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race, after running in the heats, the eight qualifying runners come to the starting line.  They know that they must run straight ahead in their own lane to reach the one-hundred meter line. They know that if they jump the gun twice they will be disqualified from running. They know that they must sprint as hard as they can to cross the finish line first. They are knowingly competing for first place. The race before them has now become the culmination of years of exhausting training and dedication to finishing the race and receiving first prize.

When the race is announced the runners shed their sweats and come to the starting line. They will then position their legs into the starting blocks and place their hands stretched just hugging the starting line.  Seeing the runners in place behind the line the track official then says, “Ready”.  Then after a moment he says “Set”.  The runners then come up to a set position waiting for the starting pistol to go off.  When it does the eight men jolt from their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their feet will carry them.

At the finish line the winner is the one who breaks the tape. There is also a second, a third and fourth place finisher. The runners-up congratulate the winner for his speed and, implicitly, for his fidelity to the rules and his commitment to the sport of racing.

The first three finishers receive medals, adulation and wreaths of honor from the thousands who have come to watch a fair race between those who have so vigorously prepared themselves. The experience of the race has bolstered each runner’s self-esteem. The cheering crowd is also moved by each runner’s self-sacrifice, dedication and self-discipline. This spectacle has confirmed the crowd’s understanding of playing by the rules and aspiring to excel within those rules. Everyone who witnessed the race that day is stirred to motion – a motion to go home and try harder.

All eight men later return home.  They are now more dedicated than ever to prepare for another day of racing and to receiving the crown of victory.

Race Number Two:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height, weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men entered the race knowing that everyone will be a winner.  It was for this outcome that they saw no need to prepare themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years. They just had to show up.

Months prior to the race the eight men are told the rules.  They are told the rules are subject to change at the time of the race based on the current ad hoc articulated reasoning of one superior intellectual with unquestionable virtue.  A runner must run in qualifying heats but this will not be a constraint. Whether or not a runner is successful in those heats he will also be allowed to compete in the final race with other qualifying runners; a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will not be disqualified from running. Instead he will be given another chance; the commands “Ready” and “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly, though any sincere attempt to cooperate with the official will be accepted; each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified unless, of course, their background is such that they have never stayed within the lines; runners will not be timed because such keeping of minutes would be discrimination against slower runners.  The first runner to cross the finish line will wait at the finish line so that everyone will be considered a winner of the race. This must be done at any personal cost to the first one crossing the finish line.

The runners agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race all of the runners come to the starting line.  They know that they should sincerely try running down to the finish line. There will be prizes and the appreciation of well-wishers to look forward to. They are knowingly going to try for this reason. This race is now the culmination of years of knowing that the battle is just showing up.

When all the runners are in their starting blocks and their hands are behind the starting line the track official then says, “Ready”.  After a long moment of reasoned judgment the official says “Set”.  The runners come up to set position.  When the race official shoots the starting gun the eight men come out of their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their preparation has trained them.

At the finish line everyone becomes a finisher, even those who left the race due to being out of breath. There are congratulations all around for having showed up to such an event.

At the awards ceremony all the runners receive medals and kudos from the thousands who have come to watch a race between people who have showed up for a race where the outcome was predetermined to be fair – fair as defined by a few judges of superior intellect and of unquestioned virtue.

Later, all the runners returned home and rested from another day of showing up.

*****

A Tale of Two Foot Races:  Equal Opportunities vs. Equal Outcomes by Sally Paradise © Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

The Catch of The Day

I have often returned to the eyewitness account of Jesus walking on the water and of Peter’s eager attempt to do the same. I do so especially when I am not sure about my next step.

 It is an unusual account not only because the rules of physics were usurped but also because Jesus is meeting the men in the midst of their daily work. 

 Peter and the others made their living as fisherman.  Everything they needed depended on the day’s catch. The families of these men and the markets were waiting at home.  So come hell or high water they would go out on the Sea of Galilee trawling for fish.

 One night hell and high water came –a fierce storm suddenly arose.  Their small fishing boat was buffeted by the wind and the waves. The sail was useless and rowing had become impossible.  Their whole effort was used to keep an even keel so as not to capsize and lose their nets in the process.

 In the rain-swept darkness there suddenly walked a figure – a man walking on the water towards them.  Perhaps, they thought, it is a ghost.  No one in their right mind would be out in this weather and certainly not for a stroll on the sea. This did not bode well for superstitious fishermen.

 During a streak of lightning, perhaps, Peter thinks he recognizes the profile of Jesus. At this point Peter might have said to himself, “Jesus!  Jesus is not safe. He’s way out on the deep end. Walking on water just might be another one of those “Jesus things’ that keep you guessing. But, my gut tells me to go with it for now.”

 Out of the gale comes a voice, “Take courage! It is I.Don’t be afraid.”

 So Peter yells, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  And Jesus said “Come!”

 Peter stood up in the small boat almost tipping it over. Unsteady, heart racing, he grabbed the hull with one hand and lifted his right leg out of the boat. He put his right foot down on the water.  His foot made no hole in the water. He slowly shifted his balance and brought his left leg out of the boat. Peter stood on the substance of things not seen. He straightened up and looked over at Jesus. The storm was still raging behind the apparition-turned-Apotheosis.

 Yet, in an instant the full weight of Peter’s reason, creating a confluence of fear, opened the sea below him like a watery trap door. He sank down into water over his head.

Treading in the choppy waters as best he could, Peter cried for help, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus caught hold of Peter’s hand and pulled him up.  While holding Peter’s hand and looking Peter square in the eye (I can only imagine.) Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Hoisting the sail, Peter and the crew got back to the business at hand – making a living from being gut sure of what they hoped for and being more certain of what they did not see – fishing.

The eyewitness account that relates Peter’s story is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (14:22-33)

Life Lessons I Will Pass On to My Kids

Don’t hold grudges. I’ve known several people, mostly women, who’ve held a grudge against someone for years. They never relinquish their anger, they never forgive, they never reconcile. They just hold on to their anger because it feels safe and powerful to be angry. But, if you have ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer then you are asking to be forgiven in the same way that you have forgiven (or not forgiven) others. Don’t hold grudges because grudges hold you hostage and they keep others out of your ever shrinking world.

Learn to say, “I’m sorry.” Admit you were wrong. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I was wrong.” Don’t ever apologize with a blaming apology: “I’m sorry but I did it because you…” I don’t know how many times someone has done this to me. I realize that it is not a true apology but the person’s pride which is speaking. A true apology requires humility. Don’t blame others in your apology. Make your apology by stating what you did wrong. Ask for forgiveness and then shut up.

Face your fears. What’s bugging you? What’s gnawing at your insides causing you to bite your fingernails, drink excessively, spend compulsively and complain incessantly? What are you afraid of? Spell it out on paper. Tell yourself the worst that could happen and prepare for that. Then, get on with your life knowing that the worst that can happen will be dealt with at that time. Keeping your fears alive might make you feel alive but your body, your wife and your friends will bear the brunt of your worry. Face your fears and decide what you will do proactively to address them.

Learn to adapt. Life is hard. Life will throw curve balls at you. Find ways to adapt to change. Expect change and see it as a challenge given to you by God to grow thereby. Sometimes you need new soil to make growth happen. Don’t be afraid. Get on with your life, welcome the opportunity and grow. Change makes goals and desires all the more defined and dearer. I’ve learned, duh, that God knows the beginning from the end. He is already where I am going. He knows my desires. He knows what I want without saying a word. He’s making things happen for my benefit.

Be open-minded. The fact that you are only human should be enough notice to you that you don’t have all the facts. You are not omniscient. Be ready to receive new information, ask questions and listen to others. This will help you discern whether you believe in only half-truths. You want the whole truth. You should be seeking the whole truth in every situation and not something which only fits your politic. Be teachable.  Jesus said The meek shall inherit the earth.

Don’t complain. I know someone who has worked for a company for over twenty years. This guy complains about his boss and how his boss handles things. This guy believes that he knows better than his boss how to run things. Every night he comes home to his wife angry and spiteful. He complains to her and to every one he’s in a relationship with. He’s miserable and he wants every one to feel his misery. My guess is that everyone around him is sick and tired of his whining. They wish that he would quit that job and do something with his life other than complain. But, he likes to recycle his misery. It gives him some measure of pleasure. So, his complaining continues. Don’t complain – just shut up.

Be thankful. You don’t deserve anything except to be physically and emotionally safe from harm. Be grateful and not full of grating discontent.

Be courteous.  These days more and more people are becoming uncaring, thoughtless and just plain rude.  The “rights” revolution is the effect of people becoming  more self-absorbed.  It has given people a sense that they can do whatever they want whenever they want.  Don’t be like them.  Be responsible and kind. Be aware of people around you.  Turn off the cell phone and the loud music.  Be polite and gracious.  Be a light in the darkened wasteland of self.

Choose good friends. I don’t have to tell you that bad friends will bring you down. Good friends will be there when things change for the worse or for the better. You don’t need Job’s friends so it might be better to be alone than to have bad friends. I am a lone and waiting for good friends. Mark Twain said, “Be good and you will be lonesome.” Sad, but often true!

Get married when you are young.  Marriage is good.  For a woman, having children and being a wife and a homemaker is much more fulfilling than having a career. Don’t waste your time trying to become something in the business world.  This kind of nonsense is just rotten leftovers from the feminist movement.  Many people including parents have bought into this notion. This movement thought that if you were equal with men in the workplace and careers you would be complete as a woman and be a success  Well, your body, your heart and your soul know differently. If you have a high school sweetheart and you are both in love and committed to having sex only after marriage I say then,  marry right after high school.  If you wait and marry someone at, say, 28 or 30 by then habits, mainly bad ones from living a single lifestyle, are already ingrained and are very, very difficult to work with. Marry early and grow together. Each of you will change over time and become different people.  This is a fact of life. But this won’t matter if you choose love and commitment over self-interest, if you choose adaption and not abortion of your love.

Love is learned.  Love doesn’t just happen. Love takes a lot of trial and error and lot’s of hard work.  Love is kind, gentle and patient. The hottest fires of passion happen when you have acted in love toward your wife or husband.  Love offers itself without asking for anything in return. Love does what is best for the other person.  It is not selfish. It doesn’t seek its own way. This is the opposite of what the world tells you.  Be aware of this.

Sex is good. Sexual relations between a man and a woman in a committed relationship is wonderful. Outside of this boundary sex becomes an animal reflex and diminishes your sense of self, your humanity. It becomes a cheap thrill.

Give.  Give freely.  Don’t hold back.  This pleases your Father in heaven.

God is not going to do what you can do already. You can ask God for wisdom but if God has given you wisdom already then don’t ask again hoping to get a different answer. You can ask for courage to do what you know. God will bring you through circumstances that will either produce courage/character in our lives or it will produce a stubborn rebellion. It’s your choice. Just know that God has given you liberty to decide what response you will have. Be ready to accept the consequences of your bad response.

Life is short, choose wisdom. Your body, your bank account and your buddies will be thankful you did.

We are family, blood, and we take care of each other. ‘nuf said.

Ask dad. In any situation, when you don’t know which way to go, ask your father. He’s come a long way and he knows the territory.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” (often attributed to Mark Twain)

“It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him.” Mark Twain

Trust God with all your heart. He knew you before you were born.

Pray. Let your every breath and every heartbeat become a prayer.