An open letter to Gabby Douglas, and all those whose dreams have gone astray, or turned a corner you never expected, or have simply passed their time.

An open letter to Gabby Douglas, and all those whose dreams have gone astray, or turned a corner you never expected, or have simply passed their time:
Being at the top, receiving the attention and praise that comes with fame or adulation can become very addicting. Without your realization, it goes from simply a goal to work for to being a must-have, your only source of joy.

It hurts when you feel the rug pulled out from under you, when someone else sits on the throne, worshiped by the media and social chat groups, or even your own friends and community.

You see the problem when I say it that way, don’t you?

Those of us who are still working towards our dreams, who most likely will never be famous or followed by many, may have a shorter path to wisdom:
being on top here on earth never brings the satisfaction it promises, brings nothing that lasts.

Gabby, Olympic gold isn’t really the pinnacle of your life. Not really what you were created for, after all. But it can be a means to an end.

When I wonder what to do or I flounder, I go back to the book of wisdom. My vision gets realigned. Eternal vision puts everything into focus. I realize it isn’t about me and what I achieve, how hard I work or how I am received by others. And when I need approval, all I need to do is look up for a smile.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Gal 5: 22-23, 25-26 MSG

Go for eternal gold. It’s the only one that thieves can’t steal, doesn’t get lost and you won’t leave behind when you leave this world.

gymnast

Gabby, the girl in this photo was inspired by you in the London Olympics. The number of young girls you have motivated in gymnastics is probably amazing.

But what will be more amazing will be the fruit of how you live your life from now on, the number of people you inspire to seek Jesus, to run with all their might into the arms of the only one who can really catch them.

The Step Up

The Step Up

With so much to grieve or be anxious about in our world, I want to offer a very real, encouraging story from my dear friend Fred Sieger. It looked for a while like he would lose the battle and many of us prayed like crazy for him. When the tide turned, or as he says, when the steps went up, his voice weak, Fred went to the front of the church to share his story. He was still so gaunt we could hardly recognize him and we all leaned in to hear.

Fred's Harley license plate

(All of the photos on this post are from Fred Sieger.)

The Step Down to the Step Up
The Step Down:
In October of 2014, I noticed a swollen gland on the left side of my neck, very small and no big deal. In November I woke up one night with what I thought was a toothache. I thought, oh yea, that’s what has been hurting a little. I went to the dentist and she said it wasn’t a tooth.
I went to a throat specialist. He took a biopsy and said, “Throat cancer. We can operate or do radiation and chemo, which is what I recommend.”

December 1st, I started radiation five times a week and chemo one time a week, for two months. The day after it began, the plumbing started to back up; one of the side effects of the treatment. They gave me a catheter bag to wear for the two months, at the end of which they would operate.

Two weeks into the treatments I could not eat any solid food. All that would go down was Ensure, only strawberry, vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, every day for two months. Towards the end, I was not getting anything down for days. By the time I finished the treatments I could not eat at all and had lost 50 lbs.

That’s when they put me in the hospital to operate on the plumbing. The doc called it the Roto-Reuter, up the front to clean out things. That was on Tuesday. Wednesday they brought me a pill and cut it up in small pieces, but I gagged on it. Nothing was going down.

sunrise w driftwood

The Step Up
That was Ash Wednesday. Father Rick, my favorite priest, stopped by after church that evening. He anointed my head with oil and prayed for healing, and also put ashes on my forehead, saying, “Oh man you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That gets your attention in a place like this. Then we prayed and had communion. Fr Rick took a small piece of the host (wafer) about the size of a baby aspirin and I put it under my tongue so it would dissolve.

The next day they woke me at 7 A.M. and I had breakfast, later lunch, then dinner and an evening snack. Just like that, it turned around and I could eat!

That night, after everyone left and the nurses were done poking around and taking blood, I was lying in bed, around 11 pm. I was wondering what in the world had happened. I was overcome by emotions and started to cry uncontrollably, for maybe fifteen minutes, knowing that I could eat and was slowly getting better.

A true miracle and healing.

The three things I learned from this are:
1. Enjoy your job. You spend many hours at it. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re in the wrong field.
2. Take time with friends. Don’t say, “Someday let’s do this or that.” Do it now. Take time with special people.
3. Help others. Make a difference in other people’s lives. Volunteer your time. Help neighbors.

Leave this place a better place.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

When you have a set back in life, look for what God is setting up for you to bless others. — Fred Sieger

We knew Fred was truly “back” when his sunrise and sunset pictures from bicycle rides started appearing again on Facebook

back on the bike again
The bike is back!

sunset w red puffy clouds

sunset over Sarasota

sunset w orange clouds

sunrise

sea oat sunset

Fred's Harley, ready to celebrate the Fourth of July
Fred’s Harley, ready to celebrate the Fourth of July

Though Fred still struggles to swallow and makes regular use of his blender, he has regained weight and looks like himself again, and never complains. Happy to be alive, Fred isn’t asking for perfection. His license plate really is the way he lives, giving thanks. Fred quietly goes about his days doing all he can to make a difference.

And he does.

Do you have a story to share?

Do we know true freedom?

With all that is happening here and abroad, I’ve struggled for days, wondering what to say. My words can never come up to what was written over 2000 years ago to folks in Galatia.

It still rings true.

I cannot change the world — only what I choose. I believe our choices can be the pebble in the pond, with ever widening ripples of healing love and restoration.
 

Gulf of Mexico dolphin crossing
 
 

lighthouse in Bahamas
 
 

Bahamas shoreline on Atlantic Ocean
 
 

What is your response?