Monthly Archives: April 2012
An ancient Jewish scripture challenges people then and now to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. The scripture only has eight words and twenty-four letters, but it stands as an indictment on how I do my life. (And truth be told how others ‘do life’).
To look at how most people do life, you would think it read, ‘be busy, and know that you are productive’ or ‘work your your heart out at whatever cost to your ‘heart’.
This beautiful but challenging truth reminds me that my Creator made be to be a ‘human being’ and not primarily a ‘human doing’.
A burned out and super stressed out leader once said to me, ‘The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me.’
I’ve decided ‘I want to stop being great at busyness and lousy at stillness.
The person who has ears to hear, let them hear.
Working alongside my son Vince is a real treat. So many of the lessons I taught him as a ‘boy’ I get to now pass along on his weekly total fitness program called LiveLarge TV.
If you are interested in some fresh inspiration for spirit, soul, and body, check out Vince’s Live Large TV channel. He’s invited me to do a weekly inspiration piece. This one features Season 3, Episode 4. I come in around the 2:31 mark speaking about the need to be doing ‘your roadwork’ if you want to be successful in any worthwhile endeavour in life.
As Joe Frazier, former heavyweight boxing champion used to say, “If you don’t do your roadwork, whatever career you’re setting out to do, you get found out ‘under the bright lights’, which means if you fail to do your ‘roadwork’ , your lack of discipline shows up most when you don’t want it to.
Click this link and scroll down to watch the preview:
Great people make people feel great. I love that sentence. Today my CoachU coach made me feel ‘great’. When I did some ‘good old fashioned’ ‘BMW’ ing’–b…,moaning and whining’?coach Ed simply said, Oh don’t you dare quit Luch. Coaching world needs open, transparent people like you who actually enjoys people. You stick with it!’. Thanks Coach Ed for blowing a huge gust of wind in my faltering sails.
Now it’s my turn to blow some encouragement someone’s way.
Reminds me of these beautiful and challenging words of Julia child ‘You find yourself refreshed in the presence of cheerful people. Why not make an honest effort to confer that pleasure on others? Half the battle is gained if you never allow yourself to say anything gloomy.’
My son Adrian teaches high school in a really neat Catholic high school in Toronto. This week he has been asked to do ‘the prayers and devotions’ for students. He took one of my ‘talks’ and created a briefer version of it.
I hope you like Adrian’s rendition. By the way, Adrian has a solid Masters in English literature. I think you will notice that in this short but inspiring piece.
These are my 3 very amazing, healthy and strong sons. Adrian’s got the cool tie on.
This week I want to talk to you about sports.
Bishop Allen is good at sports. We have every team here, and we’re getting good at all of them.
And often it’s easy to miss how connected sports are to our lives at Catholics. Because the parallels between what we do as athletes are almost identical to what we ought to do as Christians. I’d like to discuss sports with you this week and show just how much being a Christian is like being an athlete.
So I’ll start today with boxing.
I take you back to 1974. It’s the heavyweight championship between George Foreman and Mohammed Ali, a fight referred to as the Rumble in the Jungle. Before the fight began, Ali knew that he was going to encounter Foreman’s thunderous body shots. Big, powerful punches that could cave in his ribcage. And realizing that he wouldn’t be able to avoid them, he decided he was just going to have to take them.
So what he did was positioned himself along the ropes. When Foreman threw a bomb, Ali took it, but because he was against the rope, he was able to let the rope absorb the force of the blow. Time and time again Ali took these punches, tiring Foreman out.
According to legend—and confirmed last night by Wikipedia—late in the match, after taking Foreman’s most powerful canons, Ali whispered into Foreman’s ear, “Is that all you’ve got?” to which Foreman is supposed to have replied, “yes, that’s pretty much it.”
Ali soon knocked Foreman down and won the championship.
But here’s what this boxing match teaches us about being a Christian.
Life is not about how hard you can hit others. It’s actually about how much you can take. Like Ali on the ropes. Life—particularly as a Christian—is about how much disappointment and insults and discouragement you can take and keep moving forward to serve other people.
And that’s where Jesus comes in. He becomes our rope.
He allows us to take those shots and not fall down. He allows us to take those shots and bounce back. And, most importantly, he allows us to take those shots and actually become better and stronger, and ironically, more loving, because of them.
So when life is really hard—or even when it’s not—lean on that rope. It won’t break, and soon you’ll find that when life hits hard, you’ll also be able to say, “Is that it?”
What is nobler than to mold the character of the young? I consider that he/she who knows how to form the youthful mind is ttruly greater than all painters, sculptors and all others of that sort” (St. John Chrysostom) circa 307 AD
Religious or not, this is an outstanding idea St. John lays out above. Would we not all do well to identify some young person we can come alongside, and gently journey with, not only ‘to form the youthful mind’ but to also be open to allowing the youth of our day to ‘form our minds’?
A large part of mentoring is simply developing a relationship with the other person you’re in relationship. It is important that in the midst of your “seriousness” you make time for “casual”.
I have been participating with Vince Del Monte (my son) in his weekly Live Large TV program. I have been offering some tips on developing the very best version of one’s self.
You can go to the 2 min mark to see my piece, which is a part of a longer segment. If you are interested in subscribing to Vince’s LiveLargeTV.com program you can sign up on line.
Back in 1974 Muhammand Ali and George Foreman staged the fight of the century. Ali had trained himself to ‘take the blows’ of Foreman. Ali’s ability to not flinch while being pummeled resulted in his victory over Foreman. Below Michael Metzger details that fight and how it parallels Jesus’ fight or rumble at Golgotha. This is powerfully instructive, inspiring and challenges me and us in how comfortable we have become in our world. Read long enough to see the end of the fight.
Foreman was stronger than Ali. But Ali was savvier than Foreman.
In their 1974 boxing match, called the “Rumble in the Jungle,” reigning champion George Foreman rained blows on Muhammad Ali. Still, Foreman lost. Ali had a secret tactic. He had trained his body to not flinch. Jesus did the same over the course of three years. The payoff came during Passion Week, which is commemorated this week.
On October 30, 1974, World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman fought former champ Muhammad Ali, who was past his prime. The Rumble in the Jungle took place in Kinshara, Zaire on a hot, humid night. Ali was older than Foreman but told his trainer Angelo Dundee he was unconcerned. He had a secret plan – “rope-a-dope.”
Human beings have a bodily instinct to flinch in the face of impending pain. For boxers to become champions, they have to learn to not flinch and take a body blow. Ali took it to another level. He had developed a secret tactic. Ali would lean against the ropes when Foreman unleashed his sledgehammer blows. Resilient, the ropes would absorb much of the force of Foreman’s punches so that Ali’s body wouldn’t flinch and fold. In the early rounds of the Zaire fight, Foreman expended critical energy throwing punches that did little damage. Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth round, the rope-a-dope strategy having sapped Foreman’s superior strength.
In the liturgical calendar this is Passion Week, when Christians commemorate Christ’s suffering. This pairing – passion and suffering – sounds odd to some folks. Passion is a positive thing today. The word however comes from paseo, “to suffer.” This is why the week of Christ’s most intense suffering is called Passion Week. It’s the culmination of Christ’s three-year strategy, summarized in Hebrews 5:8: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Jesus learned obedience? Why?
In taking on a human body, Christ was subjected to the natural impulses of the human body, including the bodily instinct to flinch and pull away at the threat of impending pain or suffering. Jesus trained his body to cooperate with his spirit, to not flinch. Christ learned obedience because he had acquired a body, not because he was bad. Training camp ran three years for Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews notes that obedience was learned from “what he suffered.” The Son’s sufferings began with the temptations in the wilderness and closed with his pleadings in Gethsemane during Passion Week.
In the wilderness, Jesus practiced many of the disciplines of abstinence over the course of 40 days. They included silence, solitude, secrecy, prayer, and fasting. When Satan appeared, appealing to the lusts of the flesh, Jesus’ body served as an ally in warding off temptation. For the next three years, Christ further trained his body. Practice, practice, practice. By the last week of his life, Christ’s body was well trained. The final temptation occurred in Gethsemane, when his body made one final plea to flee. Christ subordinated his body to his spirit and stepped into the ring. He was beaten, spat upon, mocked, kicked, and cursed. Jesus had roughhewn, jagged nails driven through his hands and feet. There were no pain medications. He had the most severe societal shame inflicted on him – death on a cross. Yet Christ’s body didn’t flinch.
Since an untrained human body involuntarily recoils at the threat of pain, shame, or suffering, Paul urged Christians to “present your bodies as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). The flesh is weak. Serving others is strenuous. Laying down your life for others will routinely go unrecognized, unreciprocated, and unrewarded. That’s painful. You will suffer if you serve. An untrained body recoils at this prospect. It flinches. It fails.
The solution is “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Fixing your eyes means giving uninterrupted attention to how Christ lived. He practiced the spiritual disciplines to whip his body into shape. A healthy discipline for fixing our eyes might be diverting some attention from social media. It “is in essence an interruption machine,” writes Maggie Jackson in Distracted.1 For instance, when the TV is on, children ages one to three exhibit the characteristics of attention-deficit syndrome. When adults twitter, text, and update their Facebook page throughout the day, studies show they exhibit less ability to pay attention to important truths, most of which are invariably complex. Their bodies become fidgety. They literally cannot linger long enough to learn. As Nicholas Carr points out in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, the ubiquity of the Internet and social media is making it harder for people to stop and dig into difficult literature.2 Christians who joke that they are ADHD are unwittingly admitting they cannot fix their eyes on Jesus. Their bodies are most likely to flinch in the face of impending pain or suffering. They are poor candidates for following the Lord.
Muhammad Ali’s secret tactic paid off in crunch time. It’s no secret how Christians can do well in crunch time. To habitually serve others, practice serving others. Train. Secretly. Selflessly. Daily. Quit posting your good works on Facebook. Take U2’s admonition seriously – Get On Your Boots. An untrained body instinctively flinches in the face of suffering. That’s sobering, since only those who endure suffering for Christ will reign with him (I Tim. 2:12). That’s why Passion Week is a sober but healthy commemoration. It explains how Jesus won the Rumble at the Cross. With a body trained to absorb brutal blows, he didn’t flinch. Neither should we.
______________ 1 Maggie Jackson, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age (New York: Prometheus, 2008), p. 72. 2 Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010)