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Just A Thought or Two: Life in the Pool

LIFE IN THE POOL

What is behind championship swimming (or living)?

MarkFenstermacher_Color_2015_wA great part of my college experience was watching the IU swimming and diving teams compete. Doc Counsilman’s squads were the swimming equivalent of John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams: they racked up one championship after the other.

My expertise as a swimmer has been pretty much limited to doing cannonballs off the end of the pier at the lake with the girls, or paddling into shore after I am done water skiing. Other than being really slow and not having much in the way of endurance, I’m a great swimmer! 🙂

Not so with those IU swimmers. And not so with Brittany Purvis who was a part of several state championship swimming teams at Carmel H.S.

You see, I always assumed that championship swimmers were naturally fast. I thought it was just about how quickly they could get from one end of the pool to the other, but the coach at Carmel identifies four specific keys to championship swimming. I suspect these keys have something to say to us in our lives individually and in our life together as a church.

1) Hard work

The coach says it all begins with the willingness to work hard. It’s not just about being naturally quick, but rather about being willing to invest time and energy in the effort. We can’t just show up when we want, without an investment of time and effort, and expect great results. This is true in the swimming pool, in a relationship, in a faith community, and in the rest of life.

Championship rings

Swimmer Brittany Purvis displays her championship rings

Jesus talks about how the abundant life comes to us when we are ready to carry our cross and follow. In Matthew 7:13-14, the Teacher talks about how the way that leads to destruction is wide but the gate that leads to life is “narrow and the road difficult.”

How are you doing in the hard work department in your relationships, your journey with, and your participation in Christ’s Church?

2) Together

Everything is for the team. Individual agendas never matter as much as the common/corporate mission.

There has been some conversation this season about a professional basketball team where key players paid little attention to the head coach during timeouts. The team had broken down into smaller groups (cliques?), each with its own agenda. There is talk in politics this season about how we are in danger of becoming a nation that is ungovernable because each smaller group thinks the only thing that matters is its own agenda.

A profound commitment to the team, to the group, which transcends our own preferences and personal agenda is key in a healthy marriage, friendship, community, nation, swimming team and church.

Paul, in Romans 12, counsels the early Christians not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think. He observes that in the Church there may be many parts but there is one Body. We are one! Families, communities, teams and churches that lose sight of this are going to struggle to reach the other end of the pool in good shape!

3) Change

Change is a fact of life. The coach at Carmel H.S. says that things (and people) never stay the same. A key for life is not only looking at change as an opportunity to grow, but it is to be willing to change. Change is hard for me. I still miss “top 40” radio station formats and single-class high school basketball, and I wish Chi-Chi’s hadn’t gone out of business.

swimming

Attribution: Australian Paralympic Committee

Life is an ever moving stream. Change is a reality. And God calls us to keep growing, evolving, and being open to new truth.

History, business, sports and the faith are littered with examples of organizations or people who refused to change. They reached a comfortable place and stopped. Philippians 3:12-13 reminds us that the Christian life is about not thinking we have reached our goal or that we’re perfect, but “pressing on” and reaching out for “the things that are ahead” of us.

4) Belief

The high school swimming coach says that belief is important: belief that hard work, commitment to the team, and the willingness to grow and improve and stretch is going to lead to results that will (often) surprise us.

For us, as followers of Jesus, faith is the conviction that God is at work in ways we see and in ways we don’t see, in ways we may expect and ways we could never imagine, and that our common journey together is going to result in something good—something transforming. The writer of Hebrews says, in 11:1, that “faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” John and Charles Wesley brought people together in small groups, in communities energized by faith and grace and a concern for others, and changed the world. A teenager a few years ago heard about kids in 3rd world nations needing shoes and God used her to put shoes on thousands of pairs of feet.

We’re not in this alone. We are challenged to bring our best to life, to our relationships, to the task of building a better nation and world, to our life in the Church, and we have the belief that God will do something good. God will often surprise us! Ephesians 3:20 offers this benediction: “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.” Are we leaning forward, are we all in, are we committed to the larger good, and do we trust that God loves us and that God is at work?

Life in the pool (or the Church) can be pretty amazing when these four factors come together!

Join us in worship this Sunday as we talk about “Real Courage.” Invite a friend to join you as we explore the steps God calls us to take towards being real. (We’re seeing many new faces and new guests. It’s exciting! Be sure to keep your eyes open and welcome them!)

Hollywood Jesus StudyIf you are new to First United Methodist and The Open Door, join us for 1st @ First this Sunday at 4 p.m. in rooms 218-219. It’s a very informal, fun time of orientation and getting to know the church (and one another). Finally, our 4-week Bible class “Hollywood Jesus” starts this Sunday at 6 p.m.

Grace,

Mark

First Methodist