A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Swim Meets & Other Complicated Mysteries

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA. 
The Bible says, blessed are those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.....
but what if they forgot to turn on the lights?
Or provide adequate acoustics?
I was invited to a high school swim meet
a couple of weeks ago.
I am a great fan of many sports
but I had never been to a swim meet.
I was anxious to support some young people whom I know
participate in this sport of repetition and endurance.
I was also anxious to learn more about competitive swimming.
I think I did okay in the support department,
but not so sure about what I learned.......
Okay, I did learn one thing.
Despite the weather outside,
(10 degrees as I write this)
do NOT wear wool sweaters and winter socks to swim meets.
Upon entrance to the natatorium,
I was immediately blasted
with enough hot, steamy air to restore the rain forest.
Some say its not the heat, it's the humidity.
I have news for them.......it's both.
I have a strong aversion to heat
so I immediately began taking off layers of clothing,
trying to stay withing legal limits for public attire for most of the continental states.
If I learned anything that day, it is this.....
if you are going to remove excessive layers of clothing
do not do it while seated next to a young teenage girl.
Security officers and parents don't seem to think this is a good idea.
I knew the girl through church.
Because she regularly attends meets,
I thought she could help explain the proceedings to me.
Second mistake.
Young teenage girls who attend swim meets
are there to talk to their girlfriends, eat candy,
and look at all the boys who are dressed in speedos.
When it comes to knowing the procedures of swim meets.......not so much....
I did learn from her that the swimmers dive into the water
and swim as fast as they can to get to the end of the pool first.
And there are about 20,000 events and I should expect
to break curfew before the meet is over.
Lesson learned.
The meet had already started.
Unlike other civilized sports,
athletes not participating do not sit on the sidelines during the competition.
Instead, they line the edges of the pool.
This allows them to cheer on their teammates
despite the fact that I doubt that one can hear underwater.
It also allows them to fraternize with swimmers of the opposite gender
(did I mention they were wearing speedo suits?)
It also allows them to block the view of any pastors in the crowd
who are now showing the early effects of heat stroke.
This particular natatorium has some issues.
In addition to the poor ventilation system,
(I think there was algae growing on the bleacher next to me)
the sound system was a cross between Charlie Brown's teacher's voice
and a traffic jam in Times Square.
I have no idea who was ever swimming in lane 3........
I have no idea who won any of the events..........
I can't even tell you which team won the meet.
That would be because of the scoreboard,
or should I say, lack thereof.
I know my tax dollars should go first to buy algebra books,
but couldn't the school splurge and at least
get poster board and a sharpie?
Somebody set a school record?
Never knew it.
Next event up?
Not a clue.
Preliminary swim or the finals?
I might as well be guessing heads or tails.
There was one effective method of communication at the meet.
That would be the bull horn.
Just when the sauna like atmosphere was causing me to lose consciousness,
the meet director (or maybe a 7th grader with nothing better to do)
would blast the horn thus announcing
that the swimmers who you could not see
were entering the last leg of the event you did not know.
This bull horn had the decibel level
of a police siren being sounded inside a small tiled bathroom.
When it sounded, the cheering crescendoed as the swimmers who I could not see
neared the wall of the pool.
One might think that the reaction of one team would reveal the winner.
That would be wrong.
Both teams cheer widely at the end of each event.
Perhaps it is because the sport is so mentally and physically grueling,
or perhaps it is because they are no one event closer to being done and going to McDonalds.
Somewhere between event #165 and 166,
and several blasts from the bullhorn,
I realized I needed to leave.
Although I really can't say I saw very much,
nor say that I heard much except for Charlie Brown teacher voice,
the crowd noise, and the incessant bullhorn,
I had the satisfaction of witnessing young people give their best for a very challenging sport.
Even though I did not have ears to hear, and eyes to see very much that day,
I can say that I was there for young people of whom I am very proud.
Plus, my young friend sitting next to me,
shared her candy with me.
That's a good day.
Sometimes my life is like going to a swim meet.
There are things that I see or that I hear,
that I do not understand......
violent attacks on innocent peoples,
forces of nature that destroy people's lives,
attitudes that don't reflect love, compassion, nor mercy.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says we are to "Walk by faith, and not by sight."
It is a profound thing to have the Word of God revealed in one's life.
Knowing the truth of God is a rock upon which one can build one's life.
But the revelation is not yet complete.
It will only be made fully known at His 2nd coming.
Till then, He has also given us His Spirit to guide and comfort us in the confusing times.
We will see and hear things that we do not understand.
And that is okay.
If you are having one of those days, weeks, or years where you lack understanding,
remember that if your eyes and ears are set on Jesus,
you know who wins.
As for me,
I opened the sports page the next day to see which team had won.
"Results not reported by press time"

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