Olympic Fortnight of Faith

The Modern Olympics (the Olympics that have taken place every four years in the Summer and Winter since 1896 (the Winter have taken place since 1924)) traditionally last for a fortnight - 14 days.  

As the 2022 Olympics take place this February, we will embark on an Olympic Fortnight of Faith - now through February 20th.
 

As you watch and enjoy the triumphs, challenges, as the Games strive to use sport to promote world peace and cultivate humanity, we hope you will also see the opportunity to connect and enrich your faith.   
 

Day 18 - Sunday, February 20th

Keep Dreaming, Hold on to Hope & Faith

As the 2022 Winter Olympic Games come to a close, there are also a host of new beginnings taking place.  Thousands, possibly millions of young children have watched moments of the games - getting glimpses of things they could do, sports to try, ways to challenge themselves to attempt skills they never thought they could take on before.  Simply watching the Games have filled them with hope and belief that they can do something incredible. 

And for athletes who competed and may not have reached the result they wanted and are looking toward Olympic competition again in four years, they will return home to dig in, train more and see what they can achieve in the future.  Like Joseph in the book of Genesis who did not allow setbacks to keep him from dreaming dreams of making a big difference in the world while being faithful to God.  

Even when athletes don't know the outcome or how well they will perform on a huge world stage, they hope for the best and dream of winning a gold medal.  Likewise, as people of faith, we hold fast to our belief in God. We trust that though we cannot see God, we feel God's love and see God's providence lived out in our lives.  So we keep hoping, dreaming, trusting and having faith, today, tomorrow, for the next for years, and for always.  

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

~ Hebrews 11:1 ~

      

Day 17 - Saturday, February 19

Old Made New

World records are shattered, new strength and endurance skills are showcased, and the best of the best show off their talents and abilities at the Olympics.  We have kind of come to expect it.  The legacies leave us in awe and ready for more - to hear more stories, to take in more records, to watch in amazement. 

Beyond the athletic records, the Olympic Games is not just about legacies and records, they also have a storied history of impact.  Changing the face of particular sports, bringing recognition to issues that have often been hush-hush, and creating moments of true definition - a visible before and after.  

In 1968, Dick Fosbury was ready to take on the high jump in the track and field competition.  Fosbury approached the jump not with the typical scissor jump, but with a technique coined the "Fosbury Flop."  Instead of jumping over the bar stomach down, Fosbury jumped with his back toward the bar.  This approach revolutionized the sport. 

 

The 1936 Summer Olympics took place in Berlin, Germany during a very politically charged time just before WWII.  The United States had a long jump star they were excited to showcase.  Jesse Owens entered the Games under immense pressure and scrutiny.  After some struggles and after Owens had fouled on his first two jumps, Luz Long, an athlete from the host nation approached Owens to give him some advice.  This iconic picture shows the moment Long spoke with Owens - a memorable moment from the Games demonstrating not only peace between nations, but also peace between races.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the 2020 Summer Games got moved to 2021 due to COVID-19, American gymnast, Simone Biles was poised to continue her GOAT status in the team and individual competitions.  As the Games unfolded though, it became evident that Biles would be known not for the routines that she performed, but for what she didn't do.  

Biles, under intense pressure, started to experience the "twisties," a condition gymnasts often experience when they are not able to feel where they are in the air, often resulting in dangerous situations where the athlete cannot safely land skills.  

Instead of pushing through or putting herself at risk, Biles withdrew from the team competition, putting herself and her health, both mental and physical ahead of any medal she could have won.  This conversation about mental health and well-being had never before been had so openly.  

New techniques, offering advice, open conversations.  These new things casting off the old for something previously unexperienced.  

Jesus' entrance into the world and then his death and resurrection changed the world and changes us.  All things are new!  The relationship between God & God's people is bridged through Jesus who gave his life to conquer sin forever and welcome us to eternal life.  There's a line - the before Jesus and the after.  Everything is different in the after and it is certainly glorious!  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

~ 2 Corinthians 5:17 ~

Day 16 - Friday, February 18th

Peace Beyond Understanding

 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

~ Philippians 4:7-9 ~

As the author of Philippians details, the peace of God is something that doesn't always make sense.  God's peace breaks barriers, enters in to calm tense situations, comes from people we don't expect to bring peace, and gives our hearts, souls, and minds a sense of rest we never think can be achieved.

Despite what is going on in the world, the Olympics often give us little glimpses of this kind of peace even when political tensions are high between nations and two nations may even be on the brink of invasion, we see God's peace enter in.  

This week, it was through two aerial skiers from Ukraine and Russia.  As Yahoo! Sports reported:

 

Amid rising political and diplomatic tension between Russia and Ukraine, a gesture between two athletes from the at-odds nations at the Winter Olympics has been widely praised by fans and observers.

Ukranian aerial skiing star Oleksandr Abramenko won the nation's first medal of the Beijing Winter Olympics when he claimed silver in the event, behind Qi Guangpu of China.

Russia's Ilia Burov claimed bronze, but his ecstatic response when Abramenko landed to win silver has been hailed as a much needed gesture in a time of rising uncertainty.

Burov rushed to embrace Abramenko once he was back in the staging area, the pair clearly thrilled to share an Olympic podium once more.

With everything going on in the world, God's peace was witnessed by the world in two athletes from opposing nations sharing an embrace...peace that passes all understanding.  Amen. 

Day 15 - Thursday, February 17th

One for the Aged

An NPR article from last week about the Winter Olympics speaks to the aging population of this year's Winter Olympic athletes, stating that at least 140 athletes in the 2022 Beijing Games are age 35 or older.  Under normal circumstances, these people would be seen as not yet middle age, still in the prime of their lives, with lots of life left to live.  But in the world of athletics, even the ripe age of 30 can be seen as ancient.  

So, when the final of the Women's Hockey competition concluded, earning Team Canada the gold medal, it also gave Marie-Philip Poulin the stand alone record of being the only hockey player - male or female - to score in four Olympic gold medal games.  Marie is 30.  She holds the record at age 30.  Wow!  

Poulin's record is a BIG one.  And one with lots of history, games, and hard work behind it.  The wear and tear athletes go through to have a career like that, to score in 4 Olympic gold meal games...that's at least 12 years of playing professionally.  

Though the athletic world might look on the age of 30 or even 35 as old, in the world of faith, might just be considered in mere infancy.  According to Genesis 7:6, Noah was 600 years old when the flood occurred, scholars thinking  that he was 950 years old when he died.  Isaac died at the age of 180 after returning to Esau to be reunited and forgiven.  Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born and then didn't die until he was 175.  Jacob moved to Egypt after a severe drought forced him to leave his homeland to the land of Canaan.  Jacob died when he was 147.  

These are just a few of the examples of pillars of faith who kept believing, firmly faithful, doing their best to live for God and to follow God for each and every step of their lives, even if life is hundreds of years!  These examples show us that God has something special and unique for each of us to share with others, even as we get older!      

Day 14 - Wednesday, February 16th

Keep Your Eyes Fixed

One of the most well known Olympic stories of the 1980s & 1990s wasn't the awesome Olympic victories of one of America's most decorated speed skaters, it was actually his failures.  

Over the course of a decade, Dan Jansen was plagued with crashes, falls, and failures when it came it came to his races at the Olympics. 

Jansen picked up speed skating as a young child in Wisconsin, following the lead of his older sister, Jane.  Dan was the sibling who had the skills to make a career out of the sport that they loved and he went after it, all the way to the Olympics.  Dan's love and awe of his sister never waivered.  

It started with the 1984 Olympics.  Jansen finished 4th in the 500m, making him a favorite when the 1988 Games rolled around.  But there was a hitch, a personal tradegy going on for Jansen - his sister, Jane, had been diagnosed with leukemia.  And on the morning of the 500m race in '88, Jane died from her illness.  Dan was crushed, but attempted to race anyway.  He slipped and fell, losing the race.  

In 1992, Dan Jansen returned to the Olympics to race again, keeping his eyes on his dream of winning an Olympic medal, never wavering, hoping to earn victory.  But it wasn't to be.  He finished out of the medal standings in all his races.  

Then in 1994, Jansen returned to race the 500m & 1000m.  In his favorite, the 500m, he slipped and finished 8th.  Then it was left to the 1000m.  While not his favorite, he put it all out there - skating with his sister as an inspiration to drive and encourage him.  Despite a bobble in the next to the last turn, Jansen kept going at a breakneck pace to win the race, setting a world record no less!  

 

During the tear-jerking victory lap, Jansen skated smoothly carrying his infant daughter, Jane.  

 

In all the slips, falls, and crashes, Jansen never took his eyes off his goals: to win an Olympic gold medal.    

 

We are urged to look toward Jesus the same way - never taking our eyes off of him, following Jesus as the greatest example of our faith; never giving up.  

 

As it says in Hebrews 12: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

 

Let us never give up - holding onto faith with perseverance, not getting distracted by other things - keeping our eyes on Jesus.    

Day 12 - Monday, February 14th 

For the Love

Life can get complicated.  Plans change.  Diagnoses snatch away what might seem predictable.  

But as all these things happen, we also get the front seat to some of the greatest miracles.  

Behind most miracles or somewhere backstage or peeking out sneakily from the wings there is often love.  Not just a little bit of it, but big love, impossibly HUGE love.  The kind of love that makes sacrifices, does everything it can for the other, and just keeps going, no matter the hurdles.  

This is the kind of love Jesus lived.  It's also the kind of love Jesus calls us to live out in our own lives.  In fact, it's a direct quote from Jesus to all his followers in John 15:12:  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

We know this is a big ask.  An enormous challenge to live up to and try to live a life filled with love; to love like Jesus.  It may be why when we see this kind of love, it still takes our breath away, puts tears in our eyes and makes our hearts swell.  

Last night, there was a Super Bowl commercial about a pair of brothers, the McKeevers, who have won 17 Paralympic medals together.  

This is a story of love.  A story of miracles.  A story of loving one another as Jesus has loved us.  

Happy Valentine's Day!  Watch and enjoy!

Day 13 - Tuesday, February 15th 

Build Each Other Up

 

At the heart of the Olympics there is intense athletic competition.  Competition that draws distinct lines between a winner and the other competitors - a delineation of the victor and those who come second and third.  While there are rewards, medals for the top three finishers, there are hundreds of athletes who never see the medal stand, nonetheless the gold medal top podium.  

 

There's a sense that athletes in competition against one another might be enemies, or at the least, the thought may be that they don't get along.  

But, there seems to be in the Games an appreciation, a held respect for the athletes who compete against one another.  Often, there is even a support and a hope for the best.  

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team posted the following quote from United States skier, Mikaela Shiffrin, about fellow Italian competitor, Sofia Goggia, who took a nasty spill at the Alpine World Cup just a few weeks before the Games with injuries that could have sidelined her from the 2022 Beijing Games.  

 

"It feels a little bit impossible that she’s here, after that crash...it’s a significant injury, and it feels a little bit impossible that she got here, and that she got everything together to be able to race in this downhill. And...she has a silver medal. I mean, it’s UNBELIEVABLE. I hope that everybody shows her all of the support that she deserves because it’s...a medal that was very, very, very hard-fought. She WON the silver, and it’s really impressive. I know she’s been dealing with a lot of pressure as well, and this whole season she’s just been shining through with it. It’s just incredible that she was able to come today and perform with it.”

What would it look like if we all encouraged and built one another up like Shiffrin encourages and builds up Goggia in this quote?  

What could we accomplish?  

How much more would we feel like we could overcome?  

Who can you build up and encourage today?  

Day 11 - Sunday, February 13th 

Tears and Teamwork

Crying is something you often witness as you watch Olympic coverage.  Tears of pain of the injured athlete.  Tears of joy of the athlete who just won a heat or received a good score.  Tears of despair or disappointment of the athlete who has fallen or missed a goal.  Tears of frustration and heartbreak from the athlete who has tried so many times to medal and feels like he/she is running out of chances. 

 

Tears were a big thing this week for 40 year old snowboard cross racer Nick Baumgartner.   

As slate.com details:

Baumgartner’s emotional post-race interview thrust him into the spotlight briefly, if only as a chance for NBC to say goodbye to someone they’d never given us the chance to know.

“It’s been really fun to watch you throughout the years, Nick,” said Hailey Hunter. “Do you think we’ll see you in the future?”

“I ain’t stoppin’ on this,” he said, blinking back tears. “I gotta do something better to end with.”

Sometimes getting to a better ending, drying the tears and moving on takes the help of someone else.  

As 1 Corinthians 12:14 says: The body of Christ, or the people that are the whole of humanity, are a team. The body is not supported by one person, but by all of us. We are one, we are strongest working together in unity. 

In working together, we can lift one another up, help to write new stories, bring unity, and change the reason for tears.  

For Baumgartner, it was giving his best on one last run while leaning onto his teammate, Lindsey Jacobellis in the Mixed Snowboardcross that not only gave him support, but forced him to work together, and in their unity and teamwork, his tears of heartbreak became tears of joy.  

Day 10 - Saturday, February 12th

Never Give Up, Keep the Faith 

In the book of Job, we meet a man who seems to have it all.  Wealth, livestock, property, and a family - Job had it going on.  Job also believed in God and was incredibly trusting of and faithful toward God.  

Then, Satan challenges God.  Satan fells that Job is only faithful because Job has a good life.  So God allows Satan to put Job's faith to the test.  God allows that Satan can bring great suffering to Job, but that Satan cannot kill Job.  

So, Satan tests Job's faithfulness.  First, Job loses his livestock.  Then he loses his slaves.  Then he loses his children.  Through it all, Job remains faithful to God and even continues to praise God.  Next, Job's body is covered with sores and his wife tells him to give up on God and see that he is dying, but Job refuses.  

Through every suffering and trial, Job never gives up.  Job keeps the faith.  Job keeps trusting, believing in, and praising God.  It's an ultimate story of trust and faith.  

Earlier this week, the Men's Big Air competition took place at the Beijing Games.  When it all ended, there was a story of faith in oneself, never giving up on a dream and a passion, and deep gratitude for the difficult journey of recovery from a terrifying car accident wearing the silver medal.  The story of Colby Stevenson getting to the games themselves is harrowing.  His perspective on how he has made it back from a crash that almost ended his life: awe-inspiring.  Like Job, Colby Stevenson has never given up hope or faith in his love of skiing and the chance to live a grateful life.    

 

Here's Colby's story: (This story comes from https://olympics.com/en/news/usa-hope-colby-stevenson-interview)

 

It was deep into the night. The lullaby hours. Colby Stevenson was driving on a quiet road in rural Idaho when “all of a sudden, boom,” he remembered the moment, back in 2016, where it nearly all went away. “I woke up in a hospital bed with my loved ones around me.  “I didn’t know what happened.”

 

What had happened was catastrophic. After driving nearly 500 miles from a freeski event at Mount Hood in Oregon, where he’d won best trick and was named the week’s best skier, and was doing what he calls “the best skiing of his life,” Stevenson’s eyelids grew heavy. John Michael Fabrizi, in the passenger seat, had broken his leg at the event and the still-teenage Stevenson – a thoughtful kid, heading the same way – offered to drive his friend and his truck back home to Utah...The crash, which Fabrizi somehow came through unharmed, left Stevenson clinging to life. The truck flipped over several times. The roof collapsed. There were more than 30 fractures in Stevenson’s skull, the largest right between his eyebrows. The swelling of his brain left doctors pessimistic of a full recovery and they put him in three days of a medically-induced coma. 

 

It was a matter of how much brain damage Stevenson would have on the other side. The big questions weren’t if he’d soar and spin gracefully over a slopestyle course again, or glide across the rail sections, but, rather, how much of him would be left?  The crash was on Mother's Day and when Stevenson woke and saw his mother, Carol, by his bedside, he apologized for the inconvenience. “She’d been in Hawaii,” on holiday, he told Olympics.com. "I was sorry she had to come back.  

 

“And so that’s when they knew it was still me,” added Stevenson, who’d suffered eight millimeters of brain swell, which is the loose dividing line between full recovery and a future of irreversible brain damage. “They knew, then, that I was still right in my head. You know, that it was still me.”

That moment of brief optimism, relief that there was at least some of the energetic and compassionate Stevenson, still in there somewhere, gave way to pain. Months of it...He went from a top-tier action sports hero, flying over the world’s slopestyle playgrounds, to a patient restricted to his bed – only cleared to rise for arduous trips to the bathroom. “If you’ve ever had a broken bone it was like that, but all over my head. Everything hurt. All the time.”...Skiing always remained in the back of his mind. “I didn’t have a back-up plan,” admitted Stevenson, now 24 and among the most veteran riders in a USA freeski team expected to medal in Beijing. “I’d be a ski bum if I had to,” he thought when he was a kid. “But after the crash, I was just thinking: I need to get back to it in whatever capacity I can.”... 

 

Stevenson’s eyes light up when he talks about skiing and how it runs like a connecting thread through his whole life...“I always loved jumping off stuff and I just didn’t like following the rules,” chuckled Stevenson of those days, packed into a race suit and suffocated by the strictures of cross-country and old-fashioned ski jump that comprised the Nordic combined discipline. “I just thought the race team stuff was kind of repetitive and, like, not enough creativity [he loved the Big Air]...

 

But [after the crash] every tiny step forward was a victory for Stevenson in his recovery.

“I learned to love the small things. A hot shower was the highlight of my day,” said Stevenson, who talks ruefully of the temptations of his early days on the tour, the“ too much partying” and the wide-open freedoms of a young man on the road for the first time. “And playing cards with my grandma. I was just so grateful to do that and it was so fun, and I wouldn’t be thinking about anything else.”...

 

Five months after the crash he was back on skis. The doctors, who’d made such frightful early diagnoses, were stunned. But even though he was cleared to return, Stevenson was plagued by pain in his neck (his vertebrae were compressed in the accident). There was also near-constant vertigo, which, for a professional slopestyle freeskier, could spell the end – or, short of that, competitive irrelevance...“I’ve never been in such a grateful state and just so full of love, I guess, for the sport," said Stevenson, who won the Dew Tour slopestyle event in December with an elegant nose-butter double cork thrown in the mix at the last minute. “I think that was the secret in the end for me, just doing it out of love rather than trying to win or to make money to pay for my travels and all the other stressors that weighed on me before the crash.”...

 

“I guess that’s why the crash is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he said, an easy half-smile on his face and the scars of his great turning-point fresh and shining between his eyes. “I have a great perspective on life and, yeah sure, I got a huge scar on my forehead and a bashed-in skull, but it’s working. So I’m good.”

Day 9 - Friday, February 11th 

Leaving an Inheritance

The man some call "The Flying Tomato" might be one of, if not THE most recognizable face in the sport of snowboarding.  At 35, he's considered to be almost ancient in the sport, though he has continued to innovate, compete with athletes almost half his age, and promote the sport he has loved since he first competed in it at the age of five.  

His retirement after his final halfpipe run at the Olympics last night seems to mark the end of an era.  Likely, it points to the legacy and the stamp he has left on the sport, and the inheritance he is leaving behind for all the five year olds who are just starting out and trying to throw some tricks on a snowboard for the first time.  

 

Shaun White is a legend in snowboarding.  Known for his red hair and his 20+ foot in the air flying tricks, he has leveled up the sport each step along his career.  

Kids who follow in his footsteps will try tricks named after him.  They will watch YouTube videos of his runs and try to mimic the skills and the poise he has shown.  His legacy will live on.  

 

As Proverbs 13:22a says, "A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children."

 

While Shaun himself may not be seen on the halfpipe in competition any longer, it's pretty safe to say that he has left an amazing snowboarding inheritance for generations to come...for his children's children and definitely for the children's children of the kids who have sat captivated watching him at these Olympic Games.  

 

What is an inheritance someone has left which has made an impact on you?  

What inheritance are you working to leave for your children's children?  

Day 8 - Thursday, February 10th 

Wisdom Gained = Victories Won

We have all been there.

You know.  

That place where you look back on something you have done in the past and wish you could have handled the situation differently, said something or not said something, and the result might have been totally different.  

That place where one different decision or move could have changed everything that came after.  

Often, we may label it a "mistake of our youth" or a "lack of knowledge or experience."

 

For Lindsey Jacobellis, one moment of "youthful whimsey" cost her the lead and the gold medal in the 2006 Turin Olympics in the Snowboardcross.  She knew she was in the lead, she had just looked over her shoulder to confirm the distance between herself and the next competitor when she caught a jump, grabbed the edge of her board and fell, spinning around on the ground three times as she was passed just before the finish line.  While she still won the silver medal, this moment has long been thought of as one of the greatest Olympic blunders of all time.   

As the most decorated women's snowboardcross athlete of all time, Jacobellis has continued to compete since 2006, and this week, at 36 years old, finally crossed the Olympic finish line first to grasp her first Olympic gold medal in the sport.  

While some may rush to call this a redemption story, Jacobellis might quickly silence those who try.  A New York Times article by John Branch tells us: 

But the 2006 spill may have altered her life, she acknowledged, maybe more than a gold medal then or now.

“It really shaped me into the individual that I am and kept me hungry, and really helped me keep fighting in the sport,” Jacobellis said. Had she won gold then, she said, “I probably would have quit the sport at that point, because I wasn’t really having fun with it.”

Between 2006 and 2022, Jacobellis has honed her skill, advocated for her sport, and has started mentoring young athletes, giving back to the sport that has inspired her life's passion.  It's not just about the medals, which as a 4 times Olympian, 31 times World Cup Gold Medalist, 10 times X Games Gold Medalist, and 6 times World Champion, she has the hardware to show for all her work.  It has been about the journey and the chance to inspire.  

 

As people of faith, the book of Proverbs sets us up for this sort of progression.  The chance to learn and move and grow - to better ourselves and the world around us from what we have learned along the way.  

 

Lean in with the first few verses of the first chapter, and you will see it: 

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
   for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
   doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,[a]
   knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
   and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
   the sayings and riddles of the wise.[b]

What advice would you give to a younger you?  

What is one of your "youthful blunders" you wish you could have a redo on?  

No matter the blunders or the mistakes, we are all loved by God.  We can take the wisdom gained over time and turn it into wonderful victories to help ourselves and others.  

Day 7 - Wednesday, February 9th 

If the World Had a Melody...

Can you name that tune in a matter of notes? 

While the video title may give it away, after just a few notes, if you have ever heard a lead in, or background music on an Olympic broadcast, you probably recognize this tune, Olympic Fanfare & Theme with a little Bugler's Dream to top it all off.  

This song goes with the Olympics like the Star Wars Theme goes with that movie franchise.  

Just a few notes and you picture a shark coming toward you and know it's all about the movie Jaws.  

Jaws, Star Wars, The Olympic Fanfare & Theme, it should come as no surprise that these three iconic theme songs are all written by the same iconic composer: John Williams. 

John Williams has written some of the most recognizable and popular movie and, one might daresay, cultural soundtrack themes.  Melodies and notes that magically tell a story and take you to a world different than what you experience are a well-known signature of Williams' compositions - songs which paint pictures and tell stories even if you aren't seeing the drama or action unfolding before you.  

"As Williams told Jon Burlingame in 1992 that he intended the work to represent musically “the spirit of cooperation, of heroic achievement, all the striving and preparation that go before the events and all the applause that comes after them.”" (Info from johnwilliams.org.)  

Music gives us a canvas to express and experience the world in ways that other mediums just don't.  Music allows us to covey sorrow, happiness, excitement, and deep true praise.  

As Psalm 150 puts it: 

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
   praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
   praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
   praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
   praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

As each instrument praises and connects us to praising God, John Williams has connected generations to the Olympics with a fanfare and theme with the clear timpani drums leading in a resounding bass line to the high singing trumpets.  Music connects and brings a togetherness - people with the Olympics, people praising to an ever-loving God.  

What is a song that helps you to tell a story of your own life experience?  

What is a song that helps you express your praise to God? 

**John Williams celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday on February 8th!  Happy Birthday, John!!**

Day 6 - Tuesday, February 8th 

It's All in the Family Line

At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, before we even get to see a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, there's a LONG, LONG 

L

O

N

G

list of geneaology that begins with Abraham (like the Abraham from Genesis) and goes all the way to Joseph and Mary, Jesus' parents, and then Jesus himself.  Take a look at Matthew 1: 1-17:

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

4 Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Maybe NOT the most riveting passage of scripture ever, but it connects.  It connects Jesus to all these other significant people in the story of God and God's people.  As one reads it, there are other names recognized - Solomon and David and probably Jacob and Jesse are ones that might stick out.  Then there are lots of others.  We may not know as much about those others, but they are the link, the continuing of the believig and following of God from generation to generation that gets us from the beginning with Abraham to Jesus.  

If the genealogy were to continue from Jesus to present day, most likely there would be other names and people whose stories would stick out.  

Sometimes, as the phrase goes, "It's all in the family business."  

For the people in this genealogy, following God was a BIG part of the family business.  

Last night, in the Men's Super G, Ryan Cochran-Siegle won a silver medal, almost 50 years to the day that his mom, Barbara Ann Cochran won the slalom gold medal at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics.  

 

For Barbara to Ryan, skiing is in the family business - and now, so is winning Olympic medals.  

 

What about your family? 

What is part of the family "business"? 

What values, practices, or activities are just ones that are part of who your family is and what they do?  

How do you celebrate and recognize these things?  

Day 5 - Monday, February 7th, 2022

One of a Kind - Celebrating Uniqueness

The athletic prowess we see in the Olympics often looks so effortless it seems like the skills we see could be performed by anyone.
Until we are reminded of just how incredible those skills are, we can lose sight of their difficulty, uniqueness, and just how historic it can be for them to be performed.  
Last night, in the Team Figure Skating competition, a quad jump was thrown AND landed by a woman for the first time EVER!  

That's 4 of a skill in a row, without stopping, without a break, without any other skills in between.  And to top it off - the athlete performed and landed two quad jumps, with full grace, power, and her arms above her head.  

15 year old Kamila Valiyeva of the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) performed the two quad jumps: a quad salchow and a quad toe (with a triple toe combination). Absolutely nothing to sneeze at.  

Two jumps, individually complex and beautiful, woven together in a longer skating program performed by a person uniquely and wonderfully created by God.  It is just incredible.  Take a look: 

The Bible says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:13-14 NLT)

This verse gives us three HUGE insights to God: 

- God created us (each and every one of us)

- You're wonderfully complex

- You were created for a purpose

While you may not be throwing quad jumps or skiing the half-pipe, you are still doing awesome things,  but you are the unique and wonderfully awesome you that God created for the worldand God wants to offer that YOU to the whole world.  

Day 4 - Sunday, February 6th, 2022

Celebrate Your Bestie's (or Competitors') Victories 

The announcers during the Women's Snowboarding competition last night kept speaking about the incredible community which exists in the sport.  Simply watching the competition you see women flying down the side of an icy mountain, hitting different variables like the Twisted Sisters and the Great Wall, then launching off into flips and spins with crazy rotations like 1080 degrees and 900 degrees after a back flip or two.  No biggie!  

The competition was tight.  Well known and past gold medal winners were being challenged by the hill and falling multiple times.  Just getting cleanly to the bottom of the hill could potentially put you in medal contention.  

When United States boarder, Julia Marino, landed each jump and looked poised to win the gold, there was one final boarder, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott from New Zealand left.  

Zoi flew down the hill, landing jump after successful jump, each with greater difficulty than any other athlete.  As she reached the bottom of the hill, she was met with hugs and cheers and taken down with excitement from the other snowboarders.  While they were all competing against one another, a run that awesome could not be celebrated by everyone present.  Marino, who had just been beaten out for a gold medal, was cheering the loudest giving the BIGGEST victory hug to Zoi.  

Celebrating the community and each individual member for their individual victories, and the sport and all it can do and that can be done in it as a whole.  It echoes Proverbs 3:27: "Don't withhold good from someone who deserves it, when it is in your power to do so."

 

Last night, the Women's Snowboarders showed the world that you don't need to withhold celebrating the awesome victory of someone else when you don't win, you can absolutely cheer and celebrate that victory, because you have the power to celebrate with them.  

 

  

 

 

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Day 3 - Saturday, February 5th, 2022

To Lay Down One's Life

John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

 

Wow.  Think about that.

 

What are you willing to give up for a friend? 

 

The last chocolate chip cookie?

 

The last empty seat in a standing room only space?

 

A ticket to the big game?

 

Would you be willing to lay down your spot on the Olympic team for one of your friends?  A spot, your chance to compete and possibly win Olympic gold for yourself and your country - could you give that up knowing that the person you give your spot to could potentially win the gold instead of you?  

 

Some stories help illustrate the Gospel so beautifully on their own, they simply need to be told - the connection to the love of Jesus expressed in the story, so evident that the connection can been seen just in the telling of the story.  

 

Lean into the story of Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson, two speed skating friends.  Bowe has given up her spot to compete in the 500m speed skating event to Jackson.  "No greater love..."

 

 

 

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Day 2 - Friday, February 4th, 2022

Nations & Spirit

Today was the Opening Ceremonies for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.  The Opening Ceremonies are always a performance and a showcase.  It is the chance for the host country to show off their best and most awesome talent – often musical and dancing talents are highlighted – while also telling part of their story as a nation.  It’s also a HUGE welcoming party to all the other party guests.  Talk about a party of truly EPIC proportions!! 

 

In the case of these Olympic Games, China is welcoming 91 other nations from around the globe who have athletes competing in the Games.  As these party guests arrived to the Opening Ceremonies, they do so in grand fashion – in a parade.  This Parade of Nations allowed each nation to walk in, sharing the flag of their country (each flag bearer carefully chosen to represent that particular nation for a good reason…more on this another day), followed by the country’s athletes dressed in regalia that represents their nation or their nation’s culture & past.  It’s a beautiful parade of nations, people, cultures, and the chance to see the world all together on one stage.     

While the Winter Games make most think about snow and ice, not all the athletes come from nations which boast frigid weather or snowy climates for part of the year.  Some nations dress for the winter weather, while others dress to represent them.  Take a look at some of the outfits from the Opening Ceremonies today. 

Once all the athletes arrived and the parade concluded, there was an amazing show of music, dancing, a showcasing of China’s youth, and then the moment that signals the official start to the Games: The Olympic Cauldron was lit.  The 2022 Cauldron is made up of snowflakes representing each of the 2022 Olympic participating nations, and is a single flame. 

The Opening Ceremonies are an incredible show of nations and unity around one event.  Many different languages are spoken, not everyone shares the same ideas or understandings on the same subjects, and we see on display the diversity with which God has created people.  In all the visible differences, there is also a true feeling of togetherness – common goals and purposes – a shared spirit. 

 

Just like the day of Pentecost in Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

 

The Opening Ceremonies simultaneously display diversity and unity – the ability to celebrate the individual traits each athlete and nation possesses as well as seeing that despite differences, we, as humans can work toward common goals and be filled with common desires.  On the day of Pentecost, the house of believers are there because of their common belief in Christ, but yet they spoke in different languages.  The believers all felt the rush of wind of the Spirit, but they couldn’t understand one another when they began to speak in their own languages. 

 

Where do you see unity around you? 

Where do you see diversity & differences?

How can diversity & differences help us to see unity in new ways?    

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Day 1 - Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

Be Ready

What is something you get ready for?

Planning a birthday party?

Meal planning for the week?

Prepping for a snowstorm?

Practicing for the big game or an upcoming concert?

What do you do to be "ready"?

What let's you feel like you are ready?

While the Opening Ceremonies of the 2022 Olympics don't happen until tomorrow night, there are athletic competitions already happening.  Events for which athletes have prepped for months, years, maybe even their entire lives.  For a lot of Olympic athletes, they get one shot at being ready to show and share their best skills and abilities at a sport they love dearly on an international stage.  

What about our faith?

When do we get the chance to show and share what we believe about the hope and promise of Jesus with others?  

While it may not be an international stage we are sharing our faith on, or even with more than one person, we get the amazing opportunity to share our hope in Jesus with others.  

1 Peter 3:15 says, "When anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready."

How are you ready?  How will you speak of your hope to others?  

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Day 5 - Monday, February 7th, 2022

One of a Kind - Celebrating Uniqueness

The athletic prowess we see in the Olympics often looks so effortless it seems like the skills we see could be performed by anyone.
Until we are reminded of just how incredible those skills are, we can lose sight of their difficulty, uniqueness, and just how historic it can be for them to be performed.  
Last night, in the Team Figure Skating competition, a quad jump was thrown AND landed by a woman for the first time EVER!  

That's 4 of a skill in a row, without stopping, without a break, without any other skills in between.  And to top it off - the athlete performed and landed two quad jumps, with full grace, power, and her arms above her head.  

15 year old Kamila Valiyeva of the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) performed the two quad jumps: a quad salchow and a quad toe (with a triple toe combination). Absolutely nothing to sneeze at.  

Two jumps, individually complex and beautiful, woven together in a longer skating program performed by a person uniquely and wonderfully created by God.  It is just incredible.  Take a look: 

The Bible says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:13-14 NLT)

This verse gives us three HUGE insights to God: 

- God created us (each and every one of us)

- You're wonderfully complex

- You were created for a purpose

While you may not be throwing quad jumps or skiing the half-pipe, you are still doing awesome things,  but you are the unique and wonderfully awesome you that God created for the worldand God wants to offer that YOU to the whole world.  

Day 4 - Sunday, February 6th, 2022

Celebrate Your Bestie's (or Competitors') Victories 

The announcers during the Women's Snowboarding competition last night kept speaking about the incredible community which exists in the sport.  Simply watching the competition you see women flying down the side of an icy mountain, hitting different variables like the Twisted Sisters and the Great Wall, then launching off into flips and spins with crazy rotations like 1080 degrees and 900 degrees after a back flip or two.  No biggie!  

The competition was tight.  Well known and past gold medal winners were being challenged by the hill and falling multiple times.  Just getting cleanly to the bottom of the hill could potentially put you in medal contention.  

When United States boarder, Julia Marino, landed each jump and looked poised to win the gold, there was one final boarder, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott from New Zealand left.  

Zoi flew down the hill, landing jump after successful jump, each with greater difficulty than any other athlete.  As she reached the bottom of the hill, she was met with hugs and cheers and taken down with excitement from the other snowboarders.  While they were all competing against one another, a run that awesome could not be celebrated by everyone present.  Marino, who had just been beaten out for a gold medal, was cheering the loudest giving the BIGGEST victory hug to Zoi.  

Celebrating the community and each individual member for their individual victories, and the sport and all it can do and that can be done in it as a whole.  It echoes Proverbs 3:27: "Don't withhold good from someone who deserves it, when it is in your power to do so."

 

Last night, the Women's Snowboarders showed the world that you don't need to withhold celebrating the awesome victory of someone else when you don't win, you can absolutely cheer and celebrate that victory, because you have the power to celebrate with them.  

 

  

 

 

weblogo_1color.png

Day 3 - Saturday, February 5th, 2022

To Lay Down One's Life

John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

 

Wow.  Think about that.

 

What are you willing to give up for a friend? 

 

The last chocolate chip cookie?

 

The last empty seat in a standing room only space?

 

A ticket to the big game?

 

Would you be willing to lay down your spot on the Olympic team for one of your friends?  A spot, your chance to compete and possibly win Olympic gold for yourself and your country - could you give that up knowing that the person you give your spot to could potentially win the gold instead of you?  

 

Some stories help illustrate the Gospel so beautifully on their own, they simply need to be told - the connection to the love of Jesus expressed in the story, so evident that the connection can been seen just in the telling of the story.  

 

Lean into the story of Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson, two speed skating friends.  Bowe has given up her spot to compete in the 500m speed skating event to Jackson.  "No greater love..."

 

 

 

weblogo_1color.png

Day 2 - Friday, February 4th, 2022

Nations & Spirit

Today was the Opening Ceremonies for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.  The Opening Ceremonies are always a performance and a showcase.  It is the chance for the host country to show off their best and most awesome talent – often musical and dancing talents are highlighted – while also telling part of their story as a nation.  It’s also a HUGE welcoming party to all the other party guests.  Talk about a party of truly EPIC proportions!! 

 

In the case of these Olympic Games, China is welcoming 91 other nations from around the globe who have athletes competing in the Games.  As these party guests arrived to the Opening Ceremonies, they do so in grand fashion – in a parade.  This Parade of Nations allowed each nation to walk in, sharing the flag of their country (each flag bearer carefully chosen to represent that particular nation for a good reason…more on this another day), followed by the country’s athletes dressed in regalia that represents their nation or their nation’s culture & past.  It’s a beautiful parade of nations, people, cultures, and the chance to see the world all together on one stage.     

While the Winter Games make most think about snow and ice, not all the athletes come from nations which boast frigid weather or snowy climates for part of the year.  Some nations dress for the winter weather, while others dress to represent them.  Take a look at some of the outfits from the Opening Ceremonies today. 

Once all the athletes arrived and the parade concluded, there was an amazing show of music, dancing, a showcasing of China’s youth, and then the moment that signals the official start to the Games: The Olympic Cauldron was lit.  The 2022 Cauldron is made up of snowflakes representing each of the 2022 Olympic participating nations, and is a single flame. 

The Opening Ceremonies are an incredible show of nations and unity around one event.  Many different languages are spoken, not everyone shares the same ideas or understandings on the same subjects, and we see on display the diversity with which God has created people.  In all the visible differences, there is also a true feeling of togetherness – common goals and purposes – a shared spirit. 

 

Just like the day of Pentecost in Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

 

The Opening Ceremonies simultaneously display diversity and unity – the ability to celebrate the individual traits each athlete and nation possesses as well as seeing that despite differences, we, as humans can work toward common goals and be filled with common desires.  On the day of Pentecost, the house of believers are there because of their common belief in Christ, but yet they spoke in different languages.  The believers all felt the rush of wind of the Spirit, but they couldn’t understand one another when they began to speak in their own languages. 

 

Where do you see unity around you? 

Where do you see diversity & differences?

How can diversity & differences help us to see unity in new ways?    

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Day 1 - Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

Be Ready

What is something you get ready for?

Planning a birthday party?

Meal planning for the week?

Prepping for a snowstorm?

Practicing for the big game or an upcoming concert?

What do you do to be "ready"?

What let's you feel like you are ready?

While the Opening Ceremonies of the 2022 Olympics don't happen until tomorrow night, there are athletic competitions already happening.  Events for which athletes have prepped for months, years, maybe even their entire lives.  For a lot of Olympic athletes, they get one shot at being ready to show and share their best skills and abilities at a sport they love dearly on an international stage.  

What about our faith?

When do we get the chance to show and share what we believe about the hope and promise of Jesus with others?  

While it may not be an international stage we are sharing our faith on, or even with more than one person, we get the amazing opportunity to share our hope in Jesus with others.  

1 Peter 3:15 says, "When anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready."

How are you ready?  How will you speak of your hope to others?  

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Stories of Teamwork

Athletes are individuals, but many of their Olympic triumphs come with the collaboration and combined effort of a team.  Their stories inspire us to share the love of God and work together to make a difference.  

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Stories of Great Perseverance

Victory doesn't always come in the time or way we hope.  Learning the stories of athletes and their lives connect us to them in bigger ways, just like listening to the stories of one another help us to see God active and working in the world.  

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Stories of Big Dreams

Big dreams.  Underdogs rising to the top.  These are stories we can relate to and find ourselves in.  As we find ourselves in these stories, we can connect them to God's story and see how we are a part of God's big story woven throughout all of history.  Even the history happening today.