Sunday, November 27, 2016

Retirement: Pass It On


Retirement: Pass It On

A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson

November 27, 2016

at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia

Deuteronomy 31: 1-8

Acts 1: 1-11



Let us pray,

Help us to see despite our eyes

Help us to think outside of our minds

Help us to be more than our lives   

For your eyes show the way

    Your mind knows the truth

    Your being is the life.

Amen.



My what a trip it has been. I think it has been a good one. I’ve really enjoyed examining each aspect of this series. It all started 8 weeks ago when I pose the question, Is this right? Is there something to this? Am I on to something? I had been feeling and studying these aspects for years now, and slowly they were taking shape inside my mind and through my study, and I felt that I was close enough to share, to study further, and to go into more detail, to see. And I think we did, I think, from my perspective at least this journey has been one that has been filled with fulfillment, and it should have because in many ways it mirrored the pattern. It began with a question, not an answer, in Humility asking, is this right. . . and then this journey has all been about Discernment, and learning our place, trying to listen as best we can, to then the Resolve, at each step to go forward, and though these past two months have been the busiest, most pulled in many directions I have been, we pressed on, we Persevered, and as I said we have found Fulfillment, and I hope that the Legacy we have left in this series, is to study life, to look at where we are, to think about the aspects that we see, to look back on our lives and see these patterns taking shape, to feel comfort in our place in these patterns where we stand today, and have faith in them as we head into the future. Today we leave all of this behind, and that mirrors, again, todays message. . . for today we talk about Retirement, Passing it On, Letting Go, Stepping Away, Moving on to the next thing.

I chose the Old Testament lesson because it represents one of the most famous examples of what I am talking about, the Moses, saying that he will not get to the promised land that he will be passing on his leadership before that final threshold. The New Testament Lesson is similar in that it is where Jesus ascends, leaving his disiples, now the apostles to take over their role in the ministry of what will become the church, the body of Christ left here on Earth, awaiting his return. Here is the opening of the book of Acts, the first 11 verses.



In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying[a] with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”





I think it was close to ten years ago that my mentor asked me to write a song for him. He had been asked to speak at a Presbytery Meeting about Interim Ministry, as the worship portion of the meeting, and he wanted to share his spotlight with me, some. He thought it would be great if I could write a song for him. At that point I had only written a few songs, and most of them were not all that appropriate for church, but had been popular in the old bars I would play in for extra money while I was a fresh young teacher and only a teacher, not a pastor, not a husband, not a father. (You see we are called often to things for a time and then it changes) I was no longer writing bar songs I was now writing church music, and not only that I was writing commissioned church music. He wanted me to capture something about the idea of passing on. As an interim minister me was called to serve a specific role in the life of the church, it was one he took very seriously, and it was one he thought was crucial for churches in those in between times, because in those in between times he found that his job was to help the church learn to function on their own, so that they could have a healthy balance when they called their pastor. . . and he also thought it was important to walk away from the church right at that moment when they were most ready. . . so you’ve done the hard work, and you leave the honeymoon and the smooth sailing to someone else. . . hopefully. . . at least in theory. . . I thought, ok, I get it, I think I know what you want me to write about. . . and then he said, yeah, think of Moses. . . you can see the promised land, but you don’t get to cross over into it, that is the job of someone else, often a nameless faceless stranger known to you in title only as your successor.

I thought ok, I think I’ve got it. That song he asked me to write was my anthem this morning, the song “Passing On.”

Here I stand atop the mountain.

The future lies in the Promised Land,

But I, myself, won’t reach that fountain.

I have to place control into another’s hand.



That’s it right that is the test, you stand atop the mountains, you have climbed it, and the future lies in the Promised land, you’ve done the climbing all the hard work of the mountain, but you don’t get to reach the fountain, where the water is cold and crisp and refreshing, the Promised land where there is nothing but Milk and Honey, it flows there, and everyone may forget the miracles you performed during your time, during your walk with God, there is a fountain now, but once the only way to get water was to miracle it out of a rock. . . now God is going to perform those miracles through another’s hand. It is such an amazing image. . . Moses there old, having led his people out of Egypt, through the desert, given them laws, a way of life, an identity and a history, will not be there to give them the land. The image is so amazing. . . I cannot help but think of this image another time in history. . . in the speech given just before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. used this same imagery. I’ve always loved it because of how truly impressive and prophetic and prescient it is, but also because he gave it on my birthday. . . Let me read the ending of that speech now:

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?" And I was looking down writing, and I said, "Yes." And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, your drowned in your own blood -- that's the end of you.
It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply,

"Dear Dr. King,

I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School."

And she said,

"While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."

And I want to say tonight -- I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed -- If I had sneezed I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.

And they were telling me --. Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!



Yes, of course he didn’t pass on because of his own choice, but you can see the humility in his willingness to die if he must. . . you see that is the picture of it all not being about you, but about God, about your call, about your mission. . .

Back to the song, I’ll get to the chorus, that refrain last. . .

I have led from the changing moment,

Not as myself but by the father’s will.

I pass along just before fulfillment,

T’ those next ordained to walk the path I’s blessed to fill.



There it is, I have led from the changing moment. . . I have been the leader, I have been the one doing it, the hard work, the struggle, taking the risk of leadership, but often with that risk and commitment comes a great pitfall. . . that it is about you. This is the great issue that is shown in the classic Greek Tragedy Oedipus Rex. You see Oedipus is the king, but he loses his way, it becomes all about him, he earns himself a Messiah complex, he must be the one to save the city. . . along the way he because so very foolish, at one point saying:

When the dark singer, the sphinx, was in your country, did you speak word of deliverance to its citizens? And yet the riddle’s answer was not the province of a chance comer. It was a prophet’s task and plainly you had no such gift of prophecy from birds nor otherwise from any God to glean a word of knowledge. But I came, Oedipus, who knew nothing, and I stopped her. I solved the riddle by my own wit alone. Where were you, where were the gods?



And that is one of many. . . he is the one who solved the riddle of the sphinx to save the city once, therefore he is sure that he is the one called to save the city again, little does he know he is the problem, he can’t face it, can’t see it, like Fezzini in The Princess Bride, it is all Inconceivable to him. . . but the words of the song echo the words of the Lords Prayer, Thy will be done, it says “Not as myself but as my father’s will.” Our leadership is not about us ever, but instead about the one who sends us, the one who calls us, the one who made us in the first place. . . an important thing to keep in perspective, especially if you are being called to pass it on. You now pass it on to the next person chosen and called, and you see it as a blessing, “bless to walk the path I’s blessed to fill.”

The third verse, what we leave behind.



Though I leave many friends behind me,

My own path takes another road.

I mustn’t let my fear to bind me

Because with God beside me I can’t be alone.



One of the great story types with Genies or Leprecauns, any magical creature that offeres wishes. . . one of the great types is the holding on to the 3rd wish. Often there is a promise made to the creature that the third wish will be made to set them free from their eternal task of service. You may remember it in Aladdin, the Disney version, where the genie wants to be set free, and Aladdin promises to use the third wish to free him, but circumstances change when he has only one left. . . and the promise falls by the wayside, as it had with every other master the genie had ever had. . . You promise to pass on, but then when it comes time to do it, it’s hard. Another great version is Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Ariel is his magical spirit he has been using on the island, but he promises to set Ariel free after just one more usage. . . it almost seems as if there is always, or at least has been before, this one more usage. . .

Be free, and fare thou well! Please you, draw near.


Prospero. Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.



Often with the understanding of passing on, there is great loss, not just of control, but of purpose of doing. This is where it may be important to say again that retirement here does not mean an end to all work, but only of this one calling. . . there is always more and more to do. . . but with the sense of change, you do leave behind friends sometimes, and you leave behind the friends of your accomplishments, because often they are living things, hard to leave behind. . . but again, like so many parts of this, there is faith, faith that just because there is change, just because there is loss, doesn’t mean that God has left you, never, never, don’t let the fear bind, but the faith to offer the reassurance.

Here is my favorite of the verses, the final one:



I must leave, let others steer now.

Not my will but thine be done.

I must let go with faith not fear now.

I know their steps’ll be led as mine were led now on.



Here is the great test. . . to let go with faith instead of fear, knowing that another person’s steps will be led as yours were led. . . It is hard enough to have faith in God to work in your own life, but to believe that God is working in someone else that is a true test, and it goes completely against the way of the world. The world  says grab control and don’t ever let it go. Let them pry the reins of power from your cold dead hands. . .  but it takes great faith to turn it over to someone else. And that is the mark of the refrain. Listen to the words of that chorus:



Passing on is never easy.

Passing on is hard to do

‘Cuz passing on takes so much more faith,

Allowing God to work in those who come after you.



It isn’t easy, it is one of the hardest things to do in life. . . to allow God to work in other people, those who come after you, those who are different from you, those who will do it differently than you did, and yet they are called and are serving in their own way. . . . so hard, but yet so important. It is also so rare, and since it is so rare, when we see it we marvel. There is no greater example than our very own George Washington, stepping aside when he had control, stepping aside at the height of his popularity and fame. Stepping aside at the perfect time to leave behind a legacy and a tradition of doing just that, stepping aside. . . something we take for granted in our history. . . that our presidents, and all our elected officials follow in his footsteps and step aside, in the play Hamilton there is a song, “One Last Time” that captures his farewell address, leaving behind that legacy, the repeated refrain is, “Gonna teach them how to say goodbye, say goodby” so important, ours is a system built on faith, even when that faith is difficult. . . we read last week from Ecclesiastes about how hard it is to give all that you have worked for to another, especially when that other person is a fool. It is hard. He won’t do it like me, he’ll ruin all I’ve ever worked for, He is different from me. . . but we are called to let go when the time is right. . . to let go. . . to pass it on.

We have had to give up many things here at this church over the past 5 years. . . the choir, Presbyterian women. . . friends called to other places, other churches, those who have passed on mortally. . . all of them are difficult, but here we are, humbly waiting for the next thing. What is the next thing going to be? Where are we being called as a church together? In the short term we are being called to Advent and to Christmas. . .  with all of the joy and new birth of a new year. What will that year have in store? What direction will this church head? These are the questions we look to, and we do so humbly. . . because though this year, 2016 passes on, 2017 comes rolling in. . . today marks the end of this series of sermons, but it also is the New Years day in the church Calendar. . . Today is Advent. . . and Advent means coming. . . in humility let us go and await the king. Amen.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Trip to the Ship 2016

The Trip to the Ship 2016
By Rev. Coach Peter T. Atkinson

video


Just four years ago we took a trip,
An historic trip to the championship,
And now we’re poised to take another
To join that honored band of brothers,
And put our names alongside theirs
To bear the load that most wouldn’t dare
To do what few break through and do,
To pursue that elusive, chance to dance
To rise beyond your size and advance
Today all the way to the last game,
To be the last team standing, the same
Team that stood together way back when
For then the sun was hot, way back then,
When camp came round the bend again,
You’d sweat, and work, and grow together
With no chance to rest, no rain in the weather
With Coach Jolin when the dawn was breaking
To late at night with the darkness making
It so dark we couldn’t even see our face,
But you don’t need light to run one more race,
Against yourself, your drive your will to win,
So when it comes you can take it on the chin,
And rise up, yes rise high, standing tall,
For though you fall, though you drop the ball
Though you feel you’ve given more than your all,
You still rise up and take the call,
For the Marines were coming, who could forget,
Ammunition cans, grenades, your face dripping with sweat
Your brother on your back, your legs failing,
Your arms flailing, who said football was smooth sailing,
Alongside the Falcons from up there in Queens,
You learned what perseverance truly means,
A lesson we’d need, for if we are to succeed
Indeed, and exceed expectations, I think we’re agreed
It’s going to take more than we’ve ever given,
More than any one us has ever alone striven,
That only in the full combination of all of us
Can we ever achieve the aspiration ahead of us
To say we made it through the duration now in back of us
And join in the celebration that’s now to be grasped by us.
Who knew then we’d be still standing here today,
With only the championship game left to play.
Who knew then when we came out so slow
Beating Hargrave, sure, but what did we show,
That we could pile on yard after yard,
But the win was scarred, our game was marred
By penalties and mistakes, Jamison ejected,
Guilty of a phantom punch somehow detected
By an official on the other side of the field,
The league deaf to our desire to make an appeal,
But what difference would it make unless we could learn
Our season was taking an unfortunate turn.
For the next two games would be more of the same
Gaining fame to our name, but my what a shame,
To lay claim to two losses and owning the blame
Ourselves, not because the other team beat us,
For no one in another color jersey could ever defeat us
No our demons resided uniquely inside us,
Verified by the two game slide that tried to divide us.
And so we tried to run it out of you up the hill,
And we yelled, then repeated it drill after drill,
And the sun shining down, making it hotter still,
We kept beating our heads against the wall until,
We heard Jamison say, “Man coach, just chill.”
And we felt that ever cooling breeze on our face
Looked at the schedule, thought, this is our place,
Let’s win a few games, as the temperature cools
A little confidence can cure the doubts of fools
We’ll be much better in more temperate weather,
And along the way we can play even better together
And maybe our problems will all disappear
And winning itself may clear our fear
And bring in a whole new atmosphere, and it did
We ended our skid, got rid of those Covenant kids.
With tough defense, tackling and sacking
Next we sent Nansemond Suffolk home again packing,
And then on to STAB, who could ever forget,
I know I haven’t forgotten it yet,
We wanted to show Charlottesville that we were legit
A display of redemption we wanted to submit
Submit, oops, No pun intended, of course, well maybe a bit,
I can hear Tyler saying, man it was so lit,
Cause, half way through third they decid. . . .
No we can’t talk, shouldn’t talk about that,
For there was no doubt we’d stomped them flat,
And so onward, ever onward, at home for VES,
After one quarter we knew already who was best,
And we looked it, oh yes, in our fresh new look grays,
It was a shame we’d never get to wear them any more days
For our last two games we’d have to play on the road,
And our missteps early clearly showed,
That if we were going to win this thing,
To sing of victory and earn the ring, we’d have to bring
Our game to every corner of the state
An underdog with a lot of meat left on his plate
Resigned to his fate, happy to wait and contemplate
No matter the date or the distance we’d travel
No matter the opponent who’s game we’d unravel,
No matter the challenge the opportunity was now
Keep winning and the chance would be ours somehow,
We started fast at Randolph - Macon
But though ahead, we just couldn’t shake ‘em,
Until they went and kicked Jahlil in the head,
Naaa, not the choice I would’ve gone with, instead,
You woke the sleeping giants and wound up dead.
We poured on points, we shut them down,
And when the final bell was sound,
We’d all but clinched a playoff spot,
One more win, and we’d surely be in, a shot,
A chance to roll the dice, for only losing twice,
Can suffice to purchase a ticket to paradise,
But that win would need come from the champs defending,
Whose move up a division left their season ending,
Earlier than ours with not much to lose
But so much to gain, and they’d surely refuse
To go away light and not put up a fight
We knew they’d be tough, and man we were right.
They fought and we talked, we talked and they fought
We came from behind, stole the victory they sought,
And when the game had come to nought,
It was more than their character bought they thought,
For they fled their field, left us there hanging,
With no handshake, no fist pumps banging,
But from there we could already hear that victory bell clanging.
And so again we were playoff bound,
Two years in a row we’ve made this round,
But last year it was all we could get,
Those dirty sheets we’d love to forget
This year though off to Virginia Beach
A lesson to Atlantic Shores we’d get to teach,
All our goals just happen to be well within reach
And dialed in we were, all, one, and each.
We started fast, faster than they did,
We kept our focus, we had finally got rid
Of mistakes, penalties, and trash talk,
Learning to let our play be the only talk we’d walk.
Jet sweep, we’d run it and run it again,
They still haven’t stopped it, and it’s been a week since then,
But at the end we prayed together and left as friends
We may have started as boys but we did become men.
And it’s men I look out on today,
Tested by fire, and so I can now say,
There were times this year when I wasn’t sure
You knew what you could do, what your
Potential could be, what you looked in the mirror to see
What as a collective this team could actually be.
There were times I thought you’d settle for less
To accept a version of yourself less than your best
To win the battles that mean nothing and so lose the wars
To be victorious in selfish measurements instead of the scores.
There were times I thought we’d let this chance slip away,
And not get the chance to be standing here today
But now we are here, and it’s all for the taking
To get our redemption, our statement start making,
There is no question we are the better team,
We have the better athletes, we have the better scheme,
We’ve been tested by much harder times than these
Times that force weaker men to their knees,
Situations that would make other men freeze,
Have become opportunities for us now to seize.
It’s all there for us, it’s ours to win or lose
No time for excuses, it’s simply time to choose.
Are you willing to risk and be great
To consummate the hard work and for once create
A legacy that will live beyond your self
To bring home a trophy that will never leave the shelf
What you get to do tomorrow is so precious so rare,
And all of your ring fingers to me look a little bare,
But now our talking is done, but you see talking is cheap,
It’s time now for your play to put you on top of the heap,
And bring home that gold, whooo, it’s yours go take of it,
Opportunities are grasped by just what you make of it.
Are you ready, shhhhhh, I guess now we’ll see
Just what kind of team you will choose now to be.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tests of Resolve


Tests of Resolve
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
November 10, 2016
at Gibson Memorial Chapel, Blue Ridge School
St. George, Virginia
Hebrews 12: 1-4

Fight On


When the road gets rough,
And the path grows weary,
We must find a way to fight on.
Though the world is filled with grief and wrong,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!

When life grows hard,
And struggle and pain abound,
Find the will to fight on.
Face the pain, attack the throng,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!

Though evil blocks your way,
Drop to your knees and pray.

The presence will
Come to you at last.
Take the strength and fight on,
Though it’s hard and the road is long,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!


Let us pray,

Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives   
For your eyes show the way
    Your mind knows the truth
    Your being is the life.
Amen.





Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.   4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.



I don’t want to talk long this morning because there are some bet debts to be paid with a bit of a plunge, but I did want to take a moment to address some things that have to do with character. I have been speaking at my church over the last 4 weeks and will for the next 4 about what I have been calling 7 aspects of life, and it all came out something I put together for our football team, so many Mondays ago, and it is that life is all about 7 things, and though they are given in order and can seem like steps, they overlap and run parallel and are constantly happening throughout our lives, rather than working like one set pattern. The seven aspects are Humility, Discernment, Resolution, Perseverance, Fulfillment, Legacy, and Retirement.

It all starts with Humility. . . that momentary realization that you don’t know everything, and therefore must be seeking. . . Then Discernment. . . the seeking, the knocking, the asking, asking the two important questions of life, who am I and what am I being called to do. . . then Resolution. . . having enough discernment, enough information, that you can make a decision, and take a step, resolving to do and to be. . . which then leads to Perseverance. . . being committed, staying at it, facing the adversity head on, without looking back, without quitting, come what may. . . and then Fulfillment. . . feeling like you were in the right place at the right time, that self acclimation that lets you know that what you are doing is right and real and true. . . . then Legacy. . . that people can see your Humility, Resolve, Perseverance, and Fulfillment, and it touches them, it helps them, it makes a difference in the world. . . . and then finally Retirement. . . that it is time to pass the baton, or close up shop, hang up your spikes, lay down your stick, and move on to the next thing. . .  These are the 7 aspects of life, and they are constantly repeating, going on all the time all around us.

This past Sunday I reached the middle point, the hump of the week, and it really made sense in many ways for this week with all of the challenges we are facing. Because the middle piece, the central aspect is about Perseverance. . . the tests to your resolve. . . you have decided upon what is true, etched it in stone, and now it is coming to the test. . . and if it should crumble, none of it was true in the first place, but if you can persevere and therefore be able to weather the storms of life, holding firm and fast to who you are though the world is changing, or crashing down all around you, or that adversity is rearing its ugly head, and you face it rather than quitting. . . this is what Perseverance is all about. . . but it isn’t just about doing. . . because these aspects aren’t just about doing, but also about being. . . for these aspects are about our identity, who we are. . . and perseverance is about being that same cat when the chips are down, being that same guy when everything is going wrong, being the same version of you in all situations, in every situations, regardless of the circumstances, whether they are easy or hard, whether you are winning or losing, or whether things are fair or completely unfair. . . the you, the who you are shouldn’t change, should never change. . . this is the test of resolve.

So why is this important this week? Why did I think it is important to talk about? Two things: The first was last Saturday at the football game, and what a lesson it was, a character lesson. . . we were in the middle of a hard fought, physical football game, a game that was highly competitive, and to be honest got a little chippy and approached the edge. . . but when it was over it was time to forget the differences and come together. We had, both teams, shared an experience, shared the field, both taking part in the good and the bad. . . but one team couldn’t come across the field to shake hands. . . to me I thought, this was an example of allowing the circumstances, the difficulty, the adversity to define us, rather than our inner identity. They didn’t seek out that morning to not shake hands, but they allowed the circumstances to control them. . . and it was just such a picture of low character. . . I was up in the booth, I made the other coach up there shake my hand. . . and would have in defeat. . . because win or lose, fair or unfair, tough game or not. . . none of those things define me. . . do you let them define you. . . If you know who you are it is not about what others do, not about what others say, not about circumstances at all that define you, or have any effect whatsoever on how you handle yourself. . . to stand firm. . .  its quite a challenge.

Our nation went through an election the other day. . . and it couldn’t really have been more close. . . and it was contentious, and ugly, and there are many people who are really happy, and a lot of people who are sad, or scared, or disgusted, or afraid. . . but none of it changes who we are as Americans. . . none of it changes who we are as human beings. . . none of it changes who we are, nor what we are called to do because come what may, our resolve should not be shaken. . .if we began in humility, did the work, asked the questions of discernment, and made the decision, resolving to be who we are, then nothing should be able to shake that. . . and if anything does, it should simply send us back to humility. . . not bitterness. . . not fear. . . not rage and anger. . . we are each building our identity. . . life is constantly testing our resolve. . . hold firm and pass the test. . . I saw all the negativity of the day after yesterday and was called to write this. . . I think it speaks to both sides, and how nothing has really changed.

No Less Nor More

We are no less nor more human today
With no less nor more potential
To hate or be kind.

We have no less nor more duty today
Bound by no less nor more responsibility
To love and set free.

Nothing real has changed,
So do not allow yourself to be changed
No more nor less.

Nothing real has changed
So do not allow yourself to be defined
No more nor less.

Nothing real has changed
Do not forget who you are and have always been
A child of God
A human being
An American Citizen
Beloved
No more nor less.

We have no less nor more duty today
Bound by no less nor more responsibility
To love and set free.
We are no less nor more human today,
With no less nor more potential
To hate or be kind.

Now we leave this place. Nothing has changed. We leave as brothers. We leave as friends. We leave as human beings. . . it is truly an amazing distinction. . . to be human. . . to be children of God. . . so let us run with perseverance the race, not letting anything change us, make us doubt or question our potential . . let us go through life knowing and seeking to know who we are. . . let us leave behind us a legacy. . . people will see that we know who we are, and that nothing can shake us from it. And then when it is time to lay down and rest we will have truly lived. . . and now let’s go see our brother’s from Cleveland pay their debt by getting a little wet! Gentlemen. . . to the lake!