Carpe Diem

"But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

I sat at the edge of my seat. The runners were called to take their mark. Commentators bantered with each other in subdued tones as camera angles were adjusted and focused onto one runner. All the world watched as the runner expected to win prepared for the race. The crowd hushed, followed by a moment of stillness and then it happened. The runner expected to win the 400 meter hurdles did the most unthinkable but very human thing. He lifted his head a split second before the starter gun was fired.  False start. He was disqualified. Inconsolable, the runner everyone expected to win dropped to his knees, covered his face with his hands and cried. Devastated. 

Restart. It’s hard for me to comprehend how those elite athletes managed their emotions let alone the adrenaline rush that had already hit their system. But, the remaining runners were called back for the restart. The commentators identified the obvious opportunity that opened for the other runners.  The restart was successful. The race progressed perfectly and the winner of the 400 meter hurdles was an American named Kerron Clement. Sometimes the best or chosen athlete doesn’t always make it to the podium.

Circumstance can become the revolutionary catalyst for a champion

Things happen. People act like human beings. Situations develop. All of the sudden, it’s your turn to accept or decline the opportunity given to you.  In quiet moments, you may have day dreamed about what it would be like to get the opportunity or perhaps secretly you hoped for it. But, deep down, you never really imagined it could happen. Then, unexpectedly, as all the world is watching, the very thing you dreamed and hoped for is offered to you. (okay, maybe not the whole world is watching…but it can feel like that!)

Champions seize the opportunity.

Champions know what it takes to triumph through the gauntlet of relevant emotions as they erupt. They know how to regulate body chemicals like adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol even as they explode and compete internally challenging our clarity of mind. Champions guard against guilt or shame sabotaging their performance. They operate with a clear conscience and accept the truth that someone else’s failure can become their opportunity to rise. All of this and more can happen in seconds! Friends, it is for this moment we train and when this moment arises, we need to seize it!

The Apostle Paul seized his opportunity and seriously trained to become a witness for Jesus Christ. Paul's rise to the podium was an ascent of submission and surrender. His words of truth written to the early Christian communities were a direct result of his personal descent toward holiness and humility.  Paul had firsthand knowledge of what it meant to be a devoted, connected and generous Christ follower.  Words like grace, salvation and faith took on new dimension when combined with the significance of Paul's personal journey.  He experienced devastating loss and ultimate triumph because of his relationship with Jesus. Paul’s most influential letters were written from prison or captivity. It is when Paul is in the darkest of chambers that the light of Jesus Christ burned brightest. Carpe diem, Christ followers, carpe diem!

‘You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.’ Ephesians 3:8-10 CEB

Active Rest

Active rest was infused into the fitness industry years ago. Active rest means that during your exercise or workout, instead of sitting on a bench to rest, you are doing one of three things: (1) stretching, (2) hydrating, (3) fine tuning your form. Active rest is sometimes referred to as active recovery which means you are improving your body while you're working not just after.

What we do during our rest time matters whether we are exercising or taking a break from our labors. I don't believe for one minute God intended people to just sit back and do nothing for Sabbath. I learned from a great teacher in Israel that Sabbath was meant to 'soak in God's Word and presence with your family.' WOW! Now that's a lot different than 'refrain from work.' As I listened to the teacher share his insights, I imagined my family gathered together at a meal. We shared personal stories of triumph and challenge anticipating input from the people gathered around us. We also read God's Word and learned to apply God's thoughts and standards to our situations. It is easy to envision but magnificently unrealistic in my situation. I have some training to do if I truly want to honor God with my rest.

One way to interpret the Creation story is to think of the Sabbath Day as the ultimate pinnacle. Sabbath can be the summit where we connect with God and a sense of accomplishment for all our labor. Genesis 2 records it this way: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-2 NIV)

The WOW Factor

The summit is a place of active rest and where we can experience 'the WOW factor.' We can take it all in. Physically, our body is stretched. We become acquainted with an intense need for oxygen and we are very much aware of the vigorous labor required to reach the summit. Mentally, our heart and mind may engage with the breath-taking view from the summit. The expansive beauty of the surroundings can fine-tune our emotional, psychological and intellectual status. Spiritually, some people discover they experience an awakening or much needed sacred reset. The summit can help us accept reality. Our triumphs or challenges are small things in comparison to the great things of God.

To journey beyond the summit would be impossible without hydration. Water replenishes the complex system of the human body. Elite athletes and weekend explorers alike empty water containers or guzzle Gatorade restoring balance to the body's depletion. Water has enormous significance in God's Word. Water wipes out the sin of the earth in Noah's story found in Genesis. Water is divided for Israel's crossing from slavery and separates them from the Promised Land in Exodus. Water cleanses mundane things like cups and makes them holy in Leviticus. Later in God's epic narrative, water becomes significant to followers of Jesus as an initiation into the New Covenant. Remember your baptism and keep it holy. 

Survival Practice #2 is the practice of saying no.

Redeem your Sabbath time this summer. Determine now to say no to mindless scattered wandering through the weekend or long-anticipated vacation. The summer months are prime time for us to rest, relax, and refresh. Be intentional. Find meaning and purpose in accomplishments before moving onto the next. Take a second look at things that may have turned out differently than you expected. Treat your vacation as holy time to draw closer to God and perhaps find a way to include Sabbath practice more frequently into your life. God knew from the beginning we would be tempted to define our worth in our accomplishments. God's desire is for you and me to draw closer to him and experience his love for us as sons and daughters. From the summit of his loving presence, everything pales in comparison and we can bask in his 'WOW factor.'

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20:8 NIV