I often watch “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” (episodes taped 1973-1992) on AntennaTV. It’s fascinating to hear people talk about their experiences and their plans from my vantage point 40 years in their future.
Last night (taped in 1978), twelve-year-old Tracee Talavera talked about her life-long preparation to compete as a gymnast in the 1980 Olympics. My perspective was very different from that of the live audience. I knew her big opportunity would be preempted by the US boycott. They cheered; I felt sad. She beamed; I winced.
Tracee would later go on to win team silver in the 1984 games. She became very active in US Olympic gymnastics as a coach, mentor, and selection committee. She also was inducted into the US gymnastics hall of fame.
Later, Tracee would be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
So, what would I have told her if I had this 40-year foreknowledge and lived within her sphere? How would I encourage her to train hard, pursue excellence, persevere, and respond to the setbacks I foresee? This must be a glimpse into God’s daily experience with me (and you) as we live and make plans.
This makes me want to cherish each day and live fully in the present as much as possible. Today is a gift; tomorrow holds no guarantees.
Live well and love well, my friends!
Sometimes, I identify with John the Baptizer. Not in his fiery prime, when he stood against the religious hypocrites of Jerusalem. Not when he prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Not when he called multitudes to repent of their sins and to submit to the rite of baptism. No, I empathize with the man whose faith stood on trembling legs in the squalor of Herod’s dungeon. Undoubtedly bewildered by his suffering, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).
What a curious question for the Forerunner of the Messiah to ask. What could have caused this man of almost superhuman faith to question Jesus’ identity? After all, from the moment of his conception, John’s destiny compelled him to prepare the way for the Christ. Even before he took a single breath outside his mother’s womb, the prophet sensed the divine presence of the Expected One (Luke 1:41, 44). Nevertheless, John’s confidence waivered for the same reasons many vocational servants of God struggle today.
First, John suffered outrageous injustice.
I used to attend a church known for its legalism. One Sunday after our adult class had enjoyed a Saturday evening cookout, I greeted a long-time member, Jim. He epitomized the kind of attitude this church unintentionally encouraged.
“Jim,” I said, “we missed you last night.”
He replied, “Oh, I only attend spiritual activities.”
I glanced around to see several other men blinking in stunned silence, studying Jim’s face, perhaps wondering if he meant that as a joke. The sincerity of his expression answered our question and brought the conversation to an abrupt end. I thought to respond, but I found his remark absurd on so many levels I didn’t know to begin. Now, after several years of reflection and growth in grace, I feel confident enough to try. Continue reading “Having Fun at the Expense of Legalism”