Today you will triumph!

I have been glued to my television over the past two weeks watching the coverage of the Olympic Games held in London and admit that this situation, a result of having to rest while my back heals (or else) is probably the most positive thing to emerge out of my sick leave.  I cheered as my favourite athletes won, and cried with those who experienced defeat.  I especially wanted to jump right through my television and hug Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic – he was so emotional – and Gabby Douglas as well as Kayla Harrison of the USA who all had amazing stories.  Yes, I loved the stories the most; stories of overcoming health issues/injuries, abuse from coaches (Kayla was sexually abused by her coach when she was 13 years old yet won gold in judo), financial hardship, unbelievable training schedules which sometimes led to having to move away from your family (Gabby had to relocate to another state and her mother by the way filed for bankruptcy in January of this year) and constant focus on the goal.   Olympic athletes go through so much! I wondered how someone could train and sacrifice for 24 years towards an Olympic Gold.  Well maybe, if you finally win one (as happened in a men’s sailing event) but what happens if you don’t?  When do you decide to call it quits?  How do you justify all of the effort when your moment of glory is permanently defined within minutes or seconds?  And should we in our little Caribbean islands dare hope for Olympic Bronze medals far less Gold?  After all aren’t we but miniature David’s competing against international super power Goliath’s?
Well as the games progressed we saw that it was not only about perceived might and extra-thick armor but also about great faith and smooth strategically aimed pebbles.  For example, how else could we explain Grenadian Kirani James winning the 400m so convincingly?  How else could Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago dare be the best in the world at throwing the javelin?  And did we really see Ramon Miller of the Bahamas overtake the USA on the last leg of the Men’s 4x400m final?  As for Bolt and the magnificent team of Jamaicans … well, that’s another story in itself!  So many of our athletes made it through to the finals and made us so very proud (just watch this short clip as everything came to a standstill in the middle of Broad Street in Barbados while people witnessed Ryan Brathwaite’s performance in the Men’s 110m hurdles).  Yes, these results were indeed what some commentators termed ‘unexpected upsets’ but in reality, the upsets were just what God meant them to be: already proclaimed resounding triumphant victories for the Caribbean!
But now it’s your turn. As we look ahead to another week, I encourage you to reflect on the story of David and Goliath (found in chapter 17 of I Samuel). Is there currently an overpowering “Goliath” threatening you? Have you asked God to help you take off the heavy unnecessary armor you may be wearing (made up of blame, betrayal, depression, defeat and worry) in preparation for battle? Do you have your smooth pebbles ready in your sling? Will you dare to be triumphant? Well I am ready; what about you?
Verse for Reflection
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
I Samuel 17:50 (NIV)

A Different Perspective on Pain

I do not know of anyone who likes to experience pain; not the pain which results from exercising but the pain when one is ill. Think of bad migraines, broken limbs, child birth or organ failure and we can probably begin to empathize with sufferers of such pain. Yet, if you were asked to, would you willingly volunteer to accept someone else’s pain? No? Maybe if it was your child, parent or spouse perhaps? Certainly not a stranger for sure, correct?

Well as I’ve lain in bed for most of these past two weeks willing the very painful muscles in my back to behave themselves I thought about Jesus’ crucifixion and how He consciously agreed not only to become a helpless human being but to die a painful death for us. Why would He want to be human when He was already so much more? And it wasn’t as if he could overdose on sleeping pills, ingest some poison or even have someone shoot him in the head at close range when it was time for Him to die (way too easy I suppose). Instead he shouldered the weight of a heavy cross, endured whipping and taunts while a crown of sharp thorns was pressed down on to his head, and bore the brutal pounding of nails into his hands and feet. Make it personal and get a big nail and look at it closely; imagine it being hammered into your palm or foot – can you feel it?

My muscles really hurt. The pain is spreading from my lower back up to my shoulders. At present it seems as though this condition is going to get worse before it gets better. But do I really have the right to complain about my pain or be miserable because my very independent self must now depend on others to get things done? I really don’t know, because some days the answer is no and on others it’s a resounding yes – because I am indeed one of the helpless (and weak) human beings Jesus came to this earth to save. I dislike pain and I dislike being sick but when I truly think about it, I am so very glad that Jesus willingly gave His precious life for me – what about you? Something to think about.

Ñ Verses for Reflection Ò

John 19:1-3 (NIV)
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What are your plans?

Thursday before last was a good day.  Actually, I had experienced a productive week and was looking forward to the weekend.  My Saturday was going to be full and during the day on Thursday I confirmed my participation at a breakfast meeting, writers’ workshop and family get-together.  Friday morning was a different story.  I had serious intense pain all across my lower back.  I made it into work (barely) and found it difficult to sit, stand or walk for even short periods of time.  I made an urgent appointment with my physiotherapist who confirmed: muscular spasms!  The pain was worse than labour pains.  I couldn’t lie down, sit up straight, slouch, walk without holding my back or move without crying out.  It was not pretty.  Worse of all, my entire weekend was erased in the blink of any eye, just like that.  I couldn’t believe it.  As the days wore on, Monday found me at my GP getting a shot for the pain (in another very big muscle below my waist which will remain unmentioned here) and time off from work with more physiotherapy. But isn’t life interesting?  I had been trying to slow down for the longest time but always felt there was way too much to be done.  I am sure many of you can relate to the projects that keep finding their way on to your desk before you have even had a chance to finish the ones from before, the house work, the spouse/significant work, the ‘children’ work … it never seems to end.  Yet God ended it for me.  He had His own plans for my weekend and the week after; He just included a major set of pain to get my attention once and for all.
We cannot see into the future but God can.  He knows the number of the hairs on our heads and He knows the plans He has not only for me but for you, your family and friends, and your careers.  As Jeremiah shows us, the plans include prosperity and safety for today and for the future but if we continue to dash frantically hither, thither and yon without slowing down even enough to spend quality time with our Abba Father, He is going to send a red flag or two to get our attention. So I rest and rest and rest.  I still think resting is over-rated and I am disheartened to see the world (and everyone else in it) spinning along without me but I can confirm for sure that God has the full attention of this tired little sparrow!  So what are your plans?  Is God involved in the planning?  I encourage you to let Him be a wonderful part of the process and to remember that rest is just as, if not more important than, work.

Verses for reflection

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:7 (NIV)