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Strength in the present tense

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

This scripture is on my mind because my daughter is “doing the talk” for the Fellowship of Christian athletes at her school today and this is ‘her’ verse. Not sure whether she chose it or it was chosen for her.

Anyway, this morning it’s mine. And I embark on my day with a mighty, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” and a voice a bit louder than a whisper says, “just not all at once.” And this gets right to the heart of the matter. There is so much to be done. So many things needed. So many in need.  And in the morning I think, “Yes! A new day.” and I look at my to-do list, neatly categorized and boldly written in black pen. And I think, “Yes! I can do that and that and, oh, I really need to do that, too. And then this has been on the list a long time. I really should either do it or take it off the list.” You can see my problem.

I am trying to do all things through me who strengthens me. And I can beat myself up about this. Re-dedicate to be more organized. Cross off a few things to shorten the list. Pray more and see if a Mighty list appears, complete with a numbering system in the left hand column. Or…I can just get started.

Because that’s what occurred to me when I typed this verse. “Strengthens” is a present tense verb. Meaning, I need not wait to be strengthened before doing. It wouldn’t be wise for me to wait for the starting gun to sound. Because God’s strength will be there in the doing. During. Done deal. I just need to look for it there. I can count on this. Anticipate it, even. He won’t hide it; He’s not like that.

Though I must remember, after, to give thanks for the strength that was mine in the moment I was made able. Not to presume on it next time, but perhaps to feel a bit less anxious awaiting it’s arrival.

Which reminds me of this quote from Seth Godin’s blog yesterday:

“If we define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance, we can also understand its antonym, anticipation.”

Anticipating God. He’ll be here, presently. He says so. So, what am I waiting for???

Prizes are for Kids, Right?

This from Seth Godin this morning. (He’s a marketing guru and motivational speaker and champion of the “common man,” so to speak)…

Ways to improve your performance:

  • Compete for a prize
  • Earn points
  • Please a demanding boss
  • Make someone else’s imminent deadline
  • Face sudden death elimination in the playoffs
  • Wear a heart monitor and track performance publicly
  • Go head-to-head against a determined foe

The thing is, all of these external stimuli are there to raise your game and push you ever harder. They are fences to be leaped, opponents to be defeated.

The alternative is to compete against nothing but yourself. To excel merely because the act of excelling without boundaries or incentives thrills you.

And the good news is that once you find that, you’ll always have it.

For me, sports and academic competition taught me that first set of principles for improving my performance. Seeking the accolade, the victory, the edge. When do we transition to the second way? Seeking excellence for its own sake? And once we do, do we stay there?

Thank you, Seth, for reminding me that the thrill I get from wax on – wax off, shine(!) is just as real and way more enduring over the long haul.

Now, what do I do about all that competition that is rabid for the victory in head to head competition? Remind myself, that’s how one learns. But that’s not where I want to end up. I guess the occasional slippage may be human  but my goal is to spend way more time in the intrinsic arena.

They say “you can’t go back,” but I think I can and do. Even when I do, as Seth says, “you’ll always have it.” It’s mine for a moment. Then I give it to the One to whom it really belongs. Then it’s ours forever. “Here God, will you hold my trophy (paycheck, certificate, diploma, recognition dinner, promotion) so I can get back to work?”

Perhaps the proof of its staying power is when I can celebrate, truly celebrate, the excellence in another’s product or effort without an ounce of envy or regret.

Of course, the best things can always be better, right?

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