Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Olympic 2014 - My Favorite Moments

During the 2014 Olympics there have been some amazing stories.  Here are some of my favorites:

Evgeny Plushenko, Russian men's figure skater, won gold in the team event.  He backed out of the individual event due to injury, he has had two spinal surgeries over the last two years.  There is no point to go on if you might be permanently injured as a result of competing.  With the Olympics in his home country and such an intense focus put on winning medals in the figure skating events, he was brave to walk away, despite what others thought of him.

Heidi Kloser, American mogul skier, who was hurt in a practice run before the Olympics started and went to the opening ceremony on crutches.  Yes, Heidi you are an Olympian.

Alex Bilodeau, Canadian Mogul Skier, won his second gold medal.  What is even more special is that he got to share it with his brother, Frederic, who has Cerebral Palsy.  This one hits close to home and reminds me of my brother Bryan.  One of the most memorable moments for me.

Gus Kenworthy, American slopestyle skier, shined a spotlight on the stray dog problem in Sochi.  He is bringing a mom and her pups home to the US, along with a few other US athletes trying to adopt dogs.  I love when someone can use their celebrity status to raise awareness for a good cause.  I know in the US there are millions of cats and dogs in shelters.  This might seem strange to bring dogs from other countries to the US, but this may lead to more people adopting pets here and all over the world.  Many countries in the world do not fix their pets so the population continues to grow until there are strays everywhere.  Hopefully people will start to get their pets sprayed or neutered.

Anton Gafarov, Russian cross-country skier, who continued to ski on one ski after two falls and the Canadian coach, Justin Wadsworth, who came to Anton's rescue and helped him with a new ski.  See the post Victory Beyond the Podium, for more details.

Adelina Sotnikova, Russian figure skater, who was over shadowed by fellow Russian skater, Yulia Lipnitskaya, when she helped Russia win the gold medal for the team event.  Adelina went on to win the gold medal for figure skating in the individual event.  Having the spotlight off of you and being the underdog can really motivate you.

The Jamaican bobsled team, so great to see them again at the Olympics.  They had to wait on their gear and luggage since it arrived late.  Even though they came in last, they did not give up.  Such an inspiring story to see that despite the odds, they pursued their dream.

Donations came in from around the world to help out some of the athletes.  The Jamaican bobsled team got donations and American speedskater, Emily Scott, who was on food stamps due to her monthly paycheck from US Speedskating that was cut by more than half got help as well.  Emily and her dad were able to be at the Olympics due to complete strangers.  It takes courage to reach out and ask for help to make your dream come true.

Viktor Ahn, Russian speedskater, moved to Russia to skate due to problems back home in South Korea.  Viktor won four medals for Russia.  I think South Korea regretted letting him go.

Dario Cologna, Swiss cross-country skier, won a gold metal.  In true sportsmanship fashion, he waited around to congratulate last place finisher, Roberto Carcelen of Peru.  Roberto was competing with a broken rib and came in eleven minutes after everyone else.

Vanessa Vanakorn (Mae), Slalom skier from Thailand, she was happy to have finished the course, despite being in last place.  For some competing and finishing the race is more than enough.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quote - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“We have a choice. We can seek for the bad in others. Or we can make peace and work to extend to others the understanding, fairness, and forgiveness we so desperately desire for ourselves. It is our choice; for whatever we seek, that we will certainly find.”

~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Monday, February 17, 2014

Victory Beyond the Podium

As I was fast forwarding through the cross-country skiing at the Olympics I had to rewind and I saw what is probably normally an uneventful cross-country skiing race turn into something more.  Many racers fell that day near the same spot so when I saw someone fall I kept racing through the show.  Then I saw another fall a little later in a different spot and decided to go back and see what happened.  A Russian cross-country skier, Anton Gafarov had crashed again due to a broken ski.  No matter what athlete falls or gets hurt, I hate to see that.  What country they are from does not matter to me, I don't like to see anyone get hurt or have their dreams crushed.  After his second fall he got up and started skiing on one ski.  Then a coach ran over and gave Anton a new ski so that he could finish his race, which he made it to the finish line with applause from everyone.  This man was not a Russian coach, he was actually a rival Canadian coach, Justin Wadsworth.  Justin said of this Russian skier, "I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line."

Anton was not going to get to the podium, but he did not give up and I believe he would have continued with one ski if he was not given a new one.  We all look at the medal counts and those that do not make the podium are soon forgotten.  This man did not quit, he was determined to finish this race no matter the physical pain.

Maybe the Canadian coach was just looking to pay forward a good deed that was given to his country back in the 2006 Olympics in Italy.  One of the Canadian women skier's had broken a pole and a Norwegian coach, Bjornar Hakensmoen, ran out to give a new pole to her.  This gesture ensured that Canada would win a medal while Norway did not medal in this event.  The teammate of this woman was Beckie Scott, Justin Wadsworth's wife.

There are many memorable moments so far in this Olympics, but this I will remember.  When the top athletes in the world fight for a medal, this athlete fought just to cross the finish line.  This is beyond a simple race, it is a grand display of God's handiwork.  How kindness and thinking of another can move the hearts of many around the world.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quote - Winston Churchill

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
~Winston Churchill

Olympics 2014 - At The Start

The Olympics are going strong in Sochi, Russia.  Everyone wants their own country to win, of course they root for athletes from home.  There is such a sense of pride to follow them along this journey.  We do not know the pressure the athletes go through, but know it must be mind boggling to be on this international stage.  The decades of practice from a young age, the countless hours of training for a competition for mere seconds to strive for gold.  Many have had to leave their families to go train in a strange new city.  We do not see the intense training, we see the finished product, when they step foot onto frozen ground they are ready to compete.

One of the American women skier's, Heidi Kloser, crashed in a training run before the opening ceremony and had to be taken off the course in a sled.  She asked her parents if she was still going to be considered an Olympian.  Once you have made it on the team for your country, you will always be known as an Olympian.  Even if you don't get to complete due to injury before the competition starts, that can never be taken away from you.  It must be devastating to them to not get a medal, to us at home the fact that they worked hard and made the team is a feat we will never reach so we can't help but root for them.  They are hero's on the frozen ground and should hold their heads high.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's day and I hope that you all feel loved.  You may think to yourself, I don't have anyone special, but you do.  You have a wonderful Father who loves you more than you will be able to comprehend.  There are millions of people in this world who feel completely alone.  With all of our technology many feel even more cut off from people than ever before.  We are to fellowship and thrive while here in this world.

Today is a romantic field day for flower, candy and card companies, yet many will not receive a single thing.  The best Valentine card is to open the Bible and look for Scriptures that talk about love.  This entire book is a love letter from a caring God who wants you to know you are loved.  If today is a difficult day, please remember that throughout your entire day and the rest of your life there is someone waiting for YOU, wanting to show you love, grace, acceptance and mercy.

One of the most famous lines for this day is "How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways."  ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here is a part of the love story between Elizabeth and Robert Browning.  Such a beautiful story of love and how the love of another person can bring about a happy life.  So think how much more God loves us as He waits for us to turn to Him so we can have a blessed life.

On January 10, 1845, Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth Barrett for the first time, after reading her volume of poetry.  He was a little-known thirty-two-year-old poet and playwright, she was an internationally renowned poet, an invalid, and a thirty-nine-year-old spinster. “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett — I do, as I say, love these verses with all my heart,” the letter said. Over the course of the next twenty months, they would write each other close to six hundred letters — one of the greatest literary correspondences of all time.
The pair’s last letter was exchanged on September 18, 1846, the night before the two left for a trip to Italy, and two weeks after their secret marriage. Their romance, which she would eventually credit with saving her life, lasted for fifteen years and spawned some of the world’s most beautiful poetry. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the daughter of Mary Moulton Barrett and Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, an extremely wealthy landowner who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica. Her mother died when Elizabeth was just twenty-one, after having given birth to twelve children. Although Elizabeth, the eldest, was probably her father’s favorite child, she struggled along with her siblings under his tyrannical parenting. Incredibly controlling, Mr. Barrett insisted that none of his children marry, baffling even the family’s closest friends.
To add to her difficulties, from the time she was a teenager, Elizabeth suffered from a mysterious illness that caused her uncontrollable spasms of pain, breathing difficulties, and a general malaise that made her unable to leave her house. In fact, she rarely left her room, and believed that she was destined to forever remain a sickly shut-in and spinster. When Robert Browning first began to court Barrett — through their correspondence — she seemed to enjoy the relationship, but dismissed any romantic aspect of his attention, unwilling to believe that he could really be interested in her. Browning, the son of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning, a bank clerk and pianist, was a direct and ardent suitor. But despite his obvious affection and the mutual admiration that is prominently displayed in their letters, Elizabeth refused to see him until the spring — months after their first contact — as the cold weather of the winter made her health poor. The couple’s first meeting occurred in May 1845, after five months of regular correspondence. It is believed that Browning wrote to Barrett immediately afterward to declare his affection — flouting Victorian convention — but this letter has not survived. Elizabeth, sickly and so long in isolation, found it difficult to trust his intentions and was already skeptical of the institution of marriage and its treatment of women. Despite the obstacles, Browning’s visits continued, though always when Elizabeth’s father was not at home.
In the summer of 1845, Barrett’s physician recommended that she travel to Pisa, in Italy, for the winter because he felt sure she would not survive another harsh season in London. Her father, for seemingly unknown reasons, refused to allow the trip. After writing to Browning about her predicament, he wrote back, saying, “I would marry you now.” Instead of dismissing him as she had done before, she embraced his sentiments. They continued to see each other regularly, and, thanks in part to an unseasonably warm winter, Barrett’s health began to improve. In January 1846, Elizabeth, inspired by Browning, took a major step toward recovery by leaving the room where she had spent the last six years of her life.
By May 1846, Barrett began to walk outside and, in her letters, credited Browning for having a large part in her recovery. Also, she had begun to decrease her use of the morphine and opium prescribed for her condition. By summer, she was living a much more active life. On September 12, Barrett and Browning were married, before another London winter could again weaken her health. Sadly, the wedding was held in secret, with only her maid and Browning’s cousin attending as witnesses. Although she was then forty years old, Barrett lived in fear of her controlling father’s wrath if he found out that she was disobeying his direct order not to marry. When her deception was revealed, she was disinherited by her father, as were the two other Barrett children who dared to defy him.
Just a week after their marriage, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning left London for Italy, where they would spend the next fifteen years of their lives. Barrett Browning’s Sonnets From the Portuguese (1850), of which the line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” has since become one of poetry’s best-known, was written during their courtship and early marriage and is about her dramatic romance with Browning, and how he helped her save herself from a life of sickness and isolation. In Italy, both poets would enjoy many productive years of writing, as well as the birth of their son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, in 1849. She completed a second edition of Poems, as well as Casa Guidi Windows (1851), Poems before Congress (1860), and her well known verse-novel, Aurora Leigh (1857). She also became active in the fight for Italian nationalism, the abolition of American slavery, and the advancement of the condition of women. He published Men and Women, which was dedicated to his wife and is considered to contain his best poetry. They remained in Italy for fifteen years, until Elizabeth died in her husband’s arms on June 29, 1861. Casa Guidi, the Brownings’ home in Florence, Italy, has been preserved and is open to visitors.  ~ from The History Channel

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jonah 3:1-2

v. 1-2 "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.'"  

Some scholars believe God commanded the fish to spit out Jonah at Joppa, the piece of land that Jonah had left to run away from God.  Looking at the map of the area the fish could have spit Jonah out up near Turkey so his journey wouldn't have to be as long, but why would God give us a boost if we are in defiance?  Back to square one,  this seems to be a good position for us to reevaluate our decisions so that our path will start to seem clear.  Obedience has to trump our feelings.

"You were created with specific intention and recreated at the moment of your salvation with specific attention to detail so that you would be equipped to walk in the plans God mapped out for you long ago.  You can not reach complete satisfaction in life apart from your decision to engage in His predetermined plans.  For Jonah and for us, this means giving Him the position of prominence in our lives and restructuring our plans so that we can partner with Him."  Priscilla Shirer

God repeated His commission to Jonah, although He said it in two different ways.

First - "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me"

preach against (to make known, to deliver, give earnest advice, in opposition, hostile to, resistance, defense)

Second - "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."

proclaim (to announce, to declare, to praise publicly)

Both times God said that Nineveh was great.  I think that Jonah hearing that a second time might have stung his pride a bit more than the first time.  Nineveh was a large city that was very powerful and influential in the area.  Then the wording changed.  First, Jonah was told to preach against them because they were brought before God.  Second, God told Jonah to proclaim the message He would give him.  The second one seems to me to be a message to someone who has been humbled and is ready to follow God's plan.  God's power shows up clearly in this passage.

"We run mentally when we detach our thought life from our tasks and go through the motions.  We run emotionally by building up a callousness displayed by the attitude we show to others.  We can even run spiritually, going through the motions while having no fellowship with Him.  We can be on the run from God's directives even while we are engrossed in them."  Priscilla Shirer

When things are repeated in the Bible that should be a wake up call to all of us.  We should study the reasons why things need repeating in the first place, then we can hopefully let the message sink in so that God does not need to repeat Himself to us.  Even after running away, God still used Jonah.  Sometimes we get hung up on the notion that we are too far gone to be of any use to God.  His love covers all insecurity, if only we would let Him.  If you give God all your mistakes and ask for forgiveness, He completely wipes it ALL away, never to be see again.  That is unless you continue to dig it up because in some strange sense it is like a security blanket that we feel we can never part with.  "Serving God is not an earned position-no one qualifies for God's service.  But God still asks us to carry out his work."  NIV notes

Looking back, Jonah could have gone to another city or just stayed where he was to avoid going to Nineveh.  At God's calling many of us stay put, we do not want to make any changes, especially when we are comfortable where we are.  It will cost us far more than we would ever want to pay to keep in our comfort zone and not follow God.

"When we flee from God's presence, we do a most unusual thing.  We put ourselves in the very spot of punishment.  We find the people who are most subject to bad consequences, and we join them in their negative results."  Priscilla Shirer

Is God calling you to something that you keep ignoring, thinking it will go away?  Don't waste another moment, heed the call from a loving Father who wants to use you to do great things in this world.

"Jonah was involved in ministry as a prophet to Israel and yet, when divinely interrupted, chose to run from God's manifest presence.  He claimed loyalty to God and yet desired no intimate relationship with Him."  Priscilla Shirer

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why God shut down my TV when I wouldn't listen to Him

A couple of years ago God put it on my heart to stop watching Grey's Anatomy.  I really liked this show and had no intention of taking it off my list of shows to watch.  So what do you think I did?  I said, OK God I will stop watching at the end of the season.  At the time this happened it was not close to the end of the season.  I was trying to reason with God, trying to get my way just a little bit longer.  Our minds justify things we do and we think them to be OK since we are going to listen to God, eventually.  Well guess what happened.  The next week on Thursday morning my DIRECTV went out, the show was going to be on that night.  I still had everything on the DVR, but I could not watch any new shows.  This was a loud hint that I should have not tried to make a compromise with God, if I would have obeyed and said yes, I am confident that my TV viewing would not have been relegated to just what was on the DVR.  This was when my husband was out of town working in another state, so I just hung out and watched things that were already recorded (this show was not on the DVR).  Several weeks later we ended up switching companies to a new satellite carrier.  The installer mentioned that the old satellite dish cable had been loose.  You may think things like that just happen, but when we refuse to listen to God, He is more than capable of using anything that He sees fit to teach us a valuable lesson in His perfect timing.  I'm not a fan of thinking that things just happen in a chaotic randomness.

At first it didn't seem like such a big deal what I did in response to God, but it started to sink in that I was outright disobedient to something God called me to do.  Several times He has asked me to do something and I have listened, but not in this instance.  Sometimes in the small things we do not see the larger danger of disobedience.  This show did not have biblical values and I believe God wanted to weed out some of my entertainment choices.  You may think there is nothing wrong with this show, but for me it was time to quit watching.  We can't look around at other Christians and wonder why they get to do things that God has asked us not to do.  There are many Christians who watch shows and movies that are not considered Bible approved.  I still have work to do in this area and God is working on me.  I know He may not call you to cut out certain TV shows, movies or music, but I believe He is calling to many of us to make changes in what we see and hear.  God tends to work on us slowly over time starting with the big things and then moving on to the little things that we think to be insignificant that can come between us from getting to know Him better.  I cut out horror movies a long time ago, ideas of evil can influence your mind and if you tend to be paranoid like me it's not a good thing.  I am not a person who only watches and listens to Christian movies and music.  I like many things that are not considered "Christian", but are not bad influences either.  God can use most things in the entertainment industry to hint at His kingdom, but not all will see the message.  Many would never watch a "Christian" movie, but would gladly see an entertaining movie starring their favorite actor or actress.

Now when I see a commercial for this show I used to like so much, I don't feel even the tiniest bit interested to tune in.  I know that if I satisfied my flesh, my soul would suffer.  I am not trying to guilt anyone about their entertainment choices, I hope you all, along with myself, will make smarter choices.  Hollywood listens to money, so if we all would put our hard earned cash into good entertainment then they would start making more of it.  Unfortunately they get a lot of money from horror and R rated movies so they continue down that road until persuaded to a bigger cash cow.  There is a trend for romantic comedies to be R rated now, I guess that is to make the men want to go see them with their girlfriend or wife.  All it does is ruin a really good movie for a lot of us girls.  When we get desensitized, the movies continue to decline.  When will it be enough?  How low is the industry going to sink?

Our voice my be small against the world, but it is still a voice.