September 2016


From time to time I like to watch certain types of racing. It may stem from my days on the Jr. High track team when I was a kid. I was always fascinated with the relay races (although I never was part of that race—the coach assigned me to hurdles). They practiced more than just the average runner who did the road work and wind sprints. To these daily exercises they practiced diligently at passing the baton at full speed. This was important because a dropped baton meant a lost race, a late or early pass meant disqualification. And so they practiced the hand-off with intensity.

I’ve also enjoyed some of the bicycle relays when they’ve been telecast in my viewing area. These cyclists ride with precision keeping in sync with one another almost to the position of the pedal. As the lead grows weary, he drops back to bring up the rear and be carried along in the wake of his team-mates. Everybody is doing their part to keep the machine of the team in motion.

We can take a lesson from the relay athletes in understanding the work of the church. Occasionally we spell one another, working in sync as a team. At other times we pass the baton smoothly and safely to the next one. Are we preparing to pass/receive the baton of service as time marches on?

 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

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In the 1980s Guy Dowd, a public school teacher and part-time pastor, was chosen to be “Teacher of the Year.” He earned a trip to the Whitehouse to meet then president Ronald Reagan, and he enjoyed many speaking engagements as a result of the honor. In his public addresses he talked about how encouraging it was to meet the president and be honored with an award.

For Dowd, though, life wasn’t always encouraging. He was awkward and overweight growing up. Because of this he was the recipient of many jokes and derisions. One phys ed coach made a point to belittle him in front of his entire class. How does a child like this find his way through the education system and into the oval office for a meet and greet with the president? The answer is in the form of another phys ed teacher. This coach would build up and encourage his students. Dowd recalls another failed effort to do any chin-ups as required by the curriculum. But instead of berating the young student, coach said, “Good effort, Guy. Good effort.”

It’s nice to be encouraged along the way, and some of the best encouragement comes from God Himself as he looks down on his children and says, “Good effort.”

 “Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15a)

I like a good, sturdy umbrella, don’t you? Umbrellas have a specific job to do, and if they are built well they do that job nicely. They keep the rain from crashing down on me, and I don’t have to stay inside all the time.

I have discovered, though, that if you are going to purchase an umbrella, it is worth your while to fork over a little bit extra and purchase a well-made one rather than try to save a buck on the cheap ones. You know the ones: they “conveniently” fold up into a tiny size that fits neatly in the pocket or purse. What I found out about these collapsible models is that they are easily left behind and lost, whereas we never leave behind an expensive model that is big enough to use as a club if necessary. Most of the cheap umbrellas I have owned didn’t provide very good protection from the elements anyway—one big gust of wind and they flip inside-out  and let all the rain in. I prefer the Mary Poppins variety of umbrella that could carry me off in a strong windstorm.

God is a sturdy umbrella. He is portable enough to stay with us everywhere we go, and strong enough to protect us from all the elements of any storm.

 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)