Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It’s almost the end of the school year. Almost. But in the elementary student segment of our family, this simple English language word seems to be interpreted and understood as already. Consequently, the afore-mentioned segments have for all practical purposes checked out of school responsibilities for at least past two weeks. That’s almost a full month before the end of the school year! There is an inordinate amount of whining and procrastinating related to regular homework and special projects. The toys keep sneaking into the backpack and finding their way to school despite the teachers’ and even the Principal’s clear objections. And, of course, with nothing else left to do, life becomes a never-ending party – or at least, that’s what it should be. Threats, pleading and reasoning seemed to have no effect. Finally, I had an idea.

Hey, guys, I have a story to tell you.

A story?!!! Yea, we LOVE stories!

Remember how few weeks ago I participated in a race.


They beamed proudly, as they nodded their heads, thinking about the weekend when their dinner-burning, dirt-digging, memory-deficient mother grew at least five inches in their eyes as she swam 800 meters in the friend relay of Danskin Mothers Day triathlon.

You know… I was so scared when I first stepped into the water. I didn’t know whether I would be able to finish the race. But, I kept swimming and kept swimming and kept swimming…just like Marlin and Dory… and when I made the last turn and realized that the finish line was in sight… oh, I knew I could do it…I was sooo happy! I started splashing around, and playing with noodles and giving the guys in the rescue boats high-fives, and chatting to other participants and inviting them to join me in a big celebration lake party right then and there…

Their eyes grew really big with disbelief.

No, you didn’t…
they muttered hesitantly. How could you…? Did you? Did you really do that?!!!

What do YOU think?

A sudden beam of recognition and new awareness spread over their confused faces.

I think… I think that you are not talking about your race…I think … I KNOW you are talking about US!

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
… Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, May 13, 2010

To Tri or Not to Tri

She asked you to do what?!!! exclaimed MaryJo, just before she burst into uncontrollable laughter.

You need to hear her answer first, said Julie, shaking her head.

Clearly my two friends were thoroughly entertained by what they had just heard. They were also mildly concerned about the state of my mind as they stared at me in disbelief. I looked quite doubtful as I responded,

I think I am going to go for it...

Earlier that morning (Friday just before Mothers Day) I got a call from my dear friend Jelena. After we chatted for a few moments, she said she needed to ask me for a favor.

Go ahead. I said, glancing at the clock impatiently. I don’t have much time. I have a meeting at the school in a few minutes.

Can you swim? 

Before I had the presence of mind to wonder why she is asking me such an unusual question, I blurted out,

Sure! I can swim…I haven’t swam in at least 9 years but…

Great! Let me explain our situation… I have been training for the Danskin Mothers Day Triathlon with two other friends. However, our swimmer got called into work and she can’t do it. Would you be willing to take her place? She has already paid the admission, I already have a room reserved at the Dolphin for tomorrow night, you just need to show up and swim Sunday morning. I can pick you up tomorrow at noon…

Er… was my eloquent response to such an outrageous proposal and then, when I sufficiently composed myself, I added:

That’s absolutely crazy! I haven’t done ANYTHING athletic in decades, unless you consider chasing after two small kids ‘triathlon training’. I can’t believe that you would even think of asking me such a preposterous thing!... But, then… I always had a dream of participating in a triathlon… the dream I KNEW I didn’t have the discipline, self-sacrifice and commitment to fulfill… And the very fact that it is crazy makes it attractive to me… What are your options?

Well, either we don’t do it at all… or one of us tries to do it, but neither is a good swimmer…

If you can find somebody else, that would be my preference… but, I can pray about this and let you know.

So I did. I prayed, which is never a good idea if you are not willing to accept an answer you may get. Actually, it was more like I whined and complained in God’s ear…

This is crazy. I am not an athlete. I hate getting up so early in the morning. What if the water is cold? I know I can’t do it if I am freezing… I don’t care if it sounds lazy, but I don’t like making myself uncomfortable needlessly… I am going to be so sore the next day… I am 44 for heavens’ sake! I’d rather relax, read a book and eat my cake on Mothers Day… Why did she even ask me?

But, alongside the barrage of nay-nay-nays there was a quiet stream of steady assurance, loving invitation and generous dose of mirth.

You can do it. It’s going to be fun. You like swimming. You’ll be glad you did it. You will learn so much… And you get to help your friend. I will be with you. You don’t have to, but if you do…

I think it was the free, non-manipulative, non-pressuring invitation and the promise contained in each hopeful if Jesus extends to us that finally won me over. Today I was offered an opportunity – an invitation to a crazy adventure – and it’s completely up to me what I am going to do with it.

If I say no, it won’t be the end of the world. I won’t lose a friend. I won’t be crippled with guilt for the rest of my life. I may have a vague sense of regret which will eventually get drowned by the daily pressures and demands of life. I may shrink a little under the weight of cowardice and unbelief and unknowable what-ifs. But if I say yes!, I will enter a different world, so unlike mine and hopefully my heart will expand a little to embrace the experience, the people in it, and the crazy God who likes to serve us surprises.

I often say I want to live every day of my life by faith, for His glory. I say I want to model the ‘reckless abandon to God’ for my children. But there is a huge abyss between saying and doing. I was standing on its edge. Despite all my well-wishing I suddenly discovered that forces of inertia, resistance and discouragement have imperceptibly transformed me into a middle-aged garden slug.

I don’t want to be a slug for Jesus!
I said to myself, just as the phone rang the next morning.