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Keep your eyes on the prize

Winning. Competition. Trophies. Prizes. Those things all held real sway for me as a young athlete. I wanted them. And, many times, I got what I wanted. I was successful, often a winner. Much celebrated and complemented. When I became a Christian I came to see myself on the winner’s podium, and I didn’t necessarily like what I saw. I didn’t like:

  • the elevation
  • the view
  • the way people were looking at me.

But most of all I didn’t like the pride I took in myself  or the temptation to hold myself in high regard. So I “graciously” stepped down to “help others less fortunate.” Now here was something that wouldn’t be a temptation, right? No podium. No trophy. No prizes. No striving.

Problem was…there was still this matter of running the race. The race for the prize, that being the heavenly call.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Philippians 3:13-15

God has designs on my life. He has designed me for this race. Not to meander along the way. My husband, ironically not a professing Christian or a student of the Bible, told me last night, “Your goal is to keep your eyes on the prize.” He meant, don’t let distractions stop you. Don’t interrupt your race to correct the folks who are misbehaving, the people who trip you up. Don’t stumble over the stuff that isn’t worth stopping for. Keep your eyes on your objective. Eyes forward.

Funny, because this put competing in a whole new light. It was okay to push ahead as hard as I could, as long as I kept my eye clearly on my goal, the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus would not justify “all means” to get to Himself, but my stopping to tidy up around every turn, to make sure that everyone who interrupts my progress is set straight, is not my calling. They are running their own races. I have been dallying in mine and this is not of God.

Along the course of every road race there are many, many intersections. I am pledged to look both ways before crossing, perhaps lend a hand at one or grab a cup of water at another, but the main thing is the race.

Let my eyes not stray and my will not waver from His course and His will which, for me, is the race set before me. This kind of freedom is the only way I can run the race of my life.

Keep, Toss or Give Away?

How things work is way more important to me than how things look. My house testifies to this; I’m pretty utilitarian. I don’t go in much for decorating, display items and knick-knacks. Even my kids’ prized artwork never got framed or hung up. It’s just leaning against the window or the wall. Photos on the refrigerator or the mantle have been there for years. We can admire them there. That works.

The rest of their stuff is in boxes and bins or has been tossed. All except for the trophies. Those command three quarters of the shelves in the basement, stacked three deep, covered in many layers of dust. (Did I say I wasn’t much for appearances?)

What is it about our trophies?

What do your trophies say about you?

I was already considering this before this uncomfortable sermon series, primarily because I have designs on those shelves. I want them for the books I have, ahem, collected. My kids are past the peewee, trophy-every-season stage, so can’t we get rid of the “Mighty Red Cardinals” statuette that we have in three colors?

I wanted to make it easy for them. I told them I would pull off the precious name plates, craft them into a memory shadow box and then find a good home for the trophies. I have always found it easier to part with things when I can find someone else who will use them. So I asked my girls, “Hey, how about we give those trophies away to some kids who would really enjoy them.” The response, “Mom, no way.”

Of course I never tossed any of mine either, but I am grateful to my Dad who had no problem with this. Not long after I moved away from home I received a thick, business sized envelope. In it were the name plates off of all my trophies – my sports biography in an envelope. At least the memories were preserved. I’m not sure what became of the wood and marble and  the metal figurines. I hope someone made good use of them. That would add to their value.

That’s what the clean out challenge has me thinking about this week. Of what value is my “wealth” of stuff? How do I decide what stays and what goes? I ask myself “Do I use this?” How much use do I make of the stuff boxed in the basement?  Are there things there that are precious but hidden? How about the t-shirts in the back of the drawer? Do I even remember where they came from? Generally, I close my eyes to it all because that’s just easier. Out of sight, out of mind. But now I’m looking.

Thank you, Floris UMC, for doing the hard part for us – inviting organizations to come collect our pass-alongs. All we have to do is sort through stuff we aren’t using and donate what someone else might. And you know what I found out? The Closet takes trophies! I wonder if my kids would even notice if I spirited a few off. Funny, I have no problem giving away their stuff.

For some reason this has me thinking of Thurston Howell III. Ye of a certain age will remember the “millionaire” (laughable now that a single million used to be remarkable, but anyway)  stranded with his wife “Lovey” and 5 other castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The Howell’s brought loads of stuff for their 3 hour tour, all of it worthless on a deserted island. The show allowed us to laugh at their predicament while considering for ourselves: are luxury and leisure making me a laughingstock? (my daughter would add #first world problems)

I wonder how my lifestyle has been impeding me. It’s so easy to see what everyone else can let go of. Why is it so hard for me? Perhaps it runs in the family. My Dad still has a plaque on his desk that reads, “The man who dies with the most toys wins.” Next to this sits a very small silver cup from Green Lake Wisconsin. I awarded him that as a consolation prize when he finished dead last in a sailing regatta there one summer. Picked it up from a knick-knack store on the lake. I was probably 8 or 9 years old at the time.

I guess some knick-knacks you keep.

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