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Why do we edit God out?

Just wondering.

Simone Manuel - credit NBC News

Simone Manuel – photo credit NBC News

I watched Simone Manuel finish first in the 100 meter freestyle in Olympic record time then turn to look at the score board and put her hand over her mouth in utter surprise and delight. That girl just performed a miracle as far as she’s concerned, and in her after-swim interview, the first words out of her mouth were…

“All I can say is all glory to God.”

She went on, “It’s definitely been a long journey these last four years,” and as her voice began to break, “I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal.”

What a moment for this young woman! The first African-American to win an individual medal in USA Olympic swimming competition. She knows the weight of her position and the responsibility it holds. She has a voice on the highest platform, to address all those children of color who may now aspire to do what they wouldn’t otherwise have considered possible. All Glory to God, indeed.

So I’m surprised when I watch clips of her interview, shared on tv, online and on social media, that they begin with …”This is significant. You are the first African-American woman to medal … what does this mean to you, Simone?”

“This medal is not just for me…”

And the reporters are off with the story of the woman who inspires, the symbol of a movement, the focal point of a message. All to the good, but why do we skip to the “good” part? Why do we edit God out?

I know journalists do this. We edit for time and space and message. We cut out the fluff so we can focus on the nuggets. But in this young woman’s case, I think we may have missed the first point she was making. God made me as I am, and I’m good, thanks to Him.

Can we please start at the beginning, where she began? where we all began? which is why what she says and does matters and why what we say and do matters?

Thank you, Simone, for your heart for God and your courage to say so.

All glory to God.

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Nature leaves no doubt

Why is it that when I look at nature – in its perfect synchrony, perfect rhythm, perfect spacing, incomprehensible power, miraculous gentility – I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears?

Captain Dave Anderson and his wife, obviously at great personal risk, witnessed and photographed these astounding moments. I know you will enjoy this.

I watched the megapod of dolphins – a stampede they called it. Each in his space and his rhythm, undulating and diving, extending, pulling and gliding. None looking to see where the other is, who is ahead, who is behind, just a whisper and a whoosh. And I am back in the water, feeling the two-footed downward thrust called the “dolphin kick” that energizes and propels the body up over the waves. Arms flung wide to grab and pull. How awkward compared to these gorgeous, sleek animals, so powerful and streamlined and perfectly suited for this. Still, I feel it, in my muscles and bones because in the small-ness of me, I have swum just that way. I am in rhythm with them, one of the stampede, tearing out to sea. Free.

And then the whales, like torpedoes, jet across the surface. Great tails flip casual propulsion. Oh, but then this tender moment of three humpback whales: mom, calf and escort. The newborn whale being hefted to the surface to breathe and to play there, perhaps for the first time. Such huge, ungainly creatures, hovering, treading water as it were, Mom lifts and balances the baby at the surface. No hands or arms to hold with, no voice to give instructions, no role modeling to demonstrate. Simply holding him up, trusting him to do what nature designed him to do. To blow out through the spout, to discover his buoyancy and calibrate his ballast.

He is awkward and tentative at first, but his capability emerges and with it his playfulness. How like all children this is. He stays and plays, rolls and swims, trying out his new freedom with his new skills. And mother plays along. Mother and child, no script, no demands.

I wonder briefly about this mother whale. Is she anxious her calf won’t learn to swim, won’t take a breath, won’t coordinate the tail flip, the body roll, the leap and dive? No. She simply waits and supports.

Perhaps human kind is the only kind who is anxious about its young. Who swims out from under to show them. Who comes out of silence to tell them. Who does for them rather than waiting for them to do for themselves.

Nature is patient and kind. Not boastful or arrogant or rude. Not self-serving. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Now I know why I am startled into silence and awe and moved to tears. Perfect love is there. It swam right up to the whale-watching boat. We know it in our muscles and bones and to our very core. Even the small-ness of me recognizes the rhythm of true love. Its nature is to be known and to draw out our response.

Silence. Awe. Tears. Wonder. Trust.

Stormy seas demand investment and balance

My little family, the part of it still here and not traveling all over Europe, went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner Saturday night. Not a regular dining spot for us, but the one selected this evening. My 16 year old daughter and I approached the door, and just to the right was a table ably “manned” by several girl scouts.

“Wanna buy some cookies?” one asked, smiling.

“No. We’ve already gotten some,” I replied and reached for the restaurant door.

But scout girl was ready, “You could donate some for the troops,” she said, voice pleading and head tipping to one side.

I stammered, and hemmed, and my daughter shoved me toward the door. “Uh, not this time,” I may have eeked out.

“Enjoy your steak,” she called after me.

Oooohh. Ouch. What a dig, I thought. And I said so to my daughter. She assured me this “little” girl meant nothing by the remark. I wasn’t so sure. To me it meant, ‘Oh, you’re gonna spend your money on a big steak but you don’t have a few dollars for the troops?’ I found it both unkind and indicting.

Happily the girl scouts had gone home when we exited the restaurant. I looked.

But this raised some uncomfortable questions for me.

  • Should I be donating to the troops? Did they really need cookies?
  • Did I need to give?
  • Did I feel compelled to since I had been asked?
  • Why wasn’t I ready with a response?
  • Was the girl right, was I so tight-fisted? 
  • Did she really mean to accuse me by her question or was I just making this up?
  • The kicker: what is my relationship with my dollars, donations, giving, resources?

Because obviously I had some baggage stowed around this issue. Amazing how a 10 year old with a green vest can call this out in me. Guilt around “not giving” when I “should.” Where does this “should” come from, and why have I given it so much power over me that I can’t even say “yes” or “no” to a 10 year old?

True, I grew up in a household where money was “not discussed.” Children were not to know how much Dad made or how much our house cost. We had what we needed and we got, within reason, what we asked for. I don’t ever remember feeling like I had to “go without.” But I never developed a relationship with money. It was something my parents managed for me.

Now that I’m an adult (by most accounts, pardon the pun) money is something I have to deal with. Asking for payment, paying the bills, negotiating the cost. How much are things worth? How much am I worth?

I am fortunate to be married to someone who negotiates these things beautifully. He handles the bills, investing, savings plans and kids education funds. His income is more than sufficient for our needs. Ironically, he grew up in a family where he was challenged to account for his spending. So much so that he even threatened to cut any ties to parental support at one point. In the matter of finances, he is free of dis-health because he was made to negotiate the boundaries.

I was not and don’t experience that freedom. I don’t think I’m alone in this, judging from the financial woes of so many in today’s America. It seems that many, even those well-resourced, settle at the extremes: either “don’t think about it – spend now and pay later” or “think about it constantly  – and hold tight to every penny.” Oblivious or anxious, neither is healthy. We need to attend in a responsible way.

For me it means navigating mid-stream, making course corrections according to the wind and the waves. To say yes, go right, and when it gets choppy, say no, go left, adjusting the sails in the new course. Funny, I’m quite a good swimmer, but sailing never has been my thing. I think God knew this when he put in my mind to marry a man who had a sound footing in finances.

So it’s taken me until middle age to really become the skipper and launch the Fit2Finish (my fitness business start up in 2001, incorporated in 2005 and now writing my way into 2103) skiff into the world of “high finance.” Well, it seems high finance to me when I look at the wind and the waves. I just keep hearing,”Don’t get out of the boat!” I don’t think my swimming will save me and walking on water is not an option.

“Trust me; I’m making you a better sailor.” That’s what the wind whispers. So I set sail on a sea of resources, for which I give God thanks and praise. He has entrusted them to me – a great ballast of responsibility. Let me not be the one who buries them and returns what only what was given. Let me be the one who doubles them and returns them with interest.

No telling how the One who invested in me might magnify the return on that investment. That’s probably good. Don’t put me in charge of the investing, just the day to day spending. Maybe start me with a canoe and some paddles. Bi-lateral effort is my specialty.

Casting off was the tricky part, and there are sure to be waves. But tied to the shore is no place for a sailor like me.

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