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, April 29, 2015

Dave's Deep Thoughts - When Our Name Is Called

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.

Some might be willing to walk a mile in another’s shoes,
but for me, may I just stay on the bus, please?

I joined the track team in high school for three reasons.
None of them involved running.

I wanted to accomplish something other than in the field of music.
I wanted to earn a varsity letter and jacket, and
I wanted to pole vault.

Most people with normal brain function
have no desire in finding themselves inverted over a slab of concrete.
As a fifteen year old male, I found the idea quite stimulating.

While the rest of the team would be sent off to run  warmup marathons,
the pole vaulters were left to hone their skills.
This usually meant working on suntans while laying in the vaulting pit.

Midway through the season,
our team was on a bus headed for a track meet with two other schools.

From the front of the bus,
I heard the coach shout,
“McDowell, you are running the mile today.

I hoped that what he really said was,
McDowell, you are gunning with style today.”
But he bellowed out the death sentence once again.

The flu had been running through the school that week 
and it seemed that two of our milers were sick.

Now, I had no idea how many times one had to run around the track
in order to run a mile,
but I did know that it was more than I cared to run.

When we stepped off the bus,
I pleaded with the coach to reconsider.
I fired the best line of defense that I could muster,
“I don’t want the mile to interfere with my vaulting”

Oh, there will be plenty of time for you to rest between the mile and the vault competition.” 
he responded.

In my four short weeks on the high school athletic scene,
I, a very intuitive fifteen year old adolescent,
had ascertained that this coach did not know much about track and field.
I was about to be proven correct.

Just before the final call for the mile,
Coach came up to me and offered these wise words.
Just try and stay with the pack and when they ring the bell,
run as fast as you can.”

Sheer genius.

I was just hoping he would have told me in what lane I was supposed to start,
or how many times I needed to run around the track.

A compassionate track judge nudged me to lane five.
Let me say that anxiety rushes are usually not a good thing,
but when running a gazillion times around the track,
it helps.

I yelled to my teammate, “How many laps is this?”
The starter pistol went off.
“Four” he yelled as we began the run
to what I feared was certain disaster.

During the first lap,
I realized that there might not be enough oxygen in the atmosphere
to adequately fill my lungs.

During lap two,
I debated whether or not it was appropriate to cry.

It was during lap three
where I am fairly certain that I saw Jesus.

Lap four. The bell rang.
By this point, I had left my lungs somewhere in the last turn,
and my legs felt like play dough.

My coach’s haunting voice rang in my ears…..
Run as fast as you can.”

By the grace of God, I passed two other runners,
one of them, my teammate
who looked like he was meeting Jesus for the first time.

As an adult, I now know that one lap is 440 yards.
That was close to the number of times that I wanted to wring my coach’s neck.

Just before I crossed the finish line, I passed a poor soul from one of the other schools.
This awarded my team one point because I finished 4th.

I don’t remember much after that except for three things…..

1) I can tell you exactly what I had for lunch that day because it was there 
on the grass for all to see.

2) While I was heaving,  Coach patted me on the back and said
“Great job McDowell. You have a lot of potential!
We’re gonna make you a miler!”

3)And as I was stumbling around, as if in a drunken stupor,
I heard, “First call, pole vault.”

Sometimes, life puts us into roles that we never expected or wanted.

A crisis turns us into a responder,
An absence, turns us into replacement.
A change in the health of a relative or friend turns us into a care provider.
A death changes us from coupled to single, or parented to orphan.

And sometimes, we have a choice  about taking on a role that is not necessarily desired.
I am always struck by the humanness of Jesus when he says,
if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”  (Matt 26:39a)

It’s the next word, that He utters that reveals His heart,


Nevertheless, not as I will but as you will. (Matt 26:39b)

It’s okay to not want to do what we are asked to do.
The Lord isn’t seeking our approval, just our obedience.

I think one of the toughest lessons for a Christian to fully grasp,
is that our lives are not intended to be about serving ourselves, but about serving God and others.
And it is when we figure that out, that we find the joy 
that a self-serving attitude never achieves.

May our lives be filled with “neverthelesses”
so that the one we are pleasing is the One who is worthy of our obedience.

I vaulted once that day before removing myself from the competition.
It was a spectacular attempt…..
In my stupor, I landed 10 feet to the right of the pit,
never making it up to the bar.

If I had been able to jump my normal height, I would have finished 2nd that day,
and would have scored 3 points for the team.

By my math, that cost us two points.
Our team finished in 3rd place, one point behind the 2nd place team.

thank you for giving me the strength to get off the bus,
and do what I am called to do……..

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