August 25, 2016

A Dedicated Fan By Vickie Stam

"I won't be here for the Olympics...." A look of sadness swept across my mother's face. An eerie silence filled the room. All eyes were on her. No one knew quite what to say. The reality that God was calling her home had settled in.

My mother was well aware that in less than two months she would no longer be with us. The doctor's had confirmed the cancer would take her in six to eight weeks. Such a short time. She had run the race that God had set before her. She was prepared to receive her great reward in heaven.

But who knew that on that warm sunny day in August of 2009 my mother would be grieving over something such as sports. Between needles that helped mask her pain she was thinking about the Olympics. They seemed to muddy the atmosphere. I watched as she shifted her frail body in a bed that swallowed her up each time she got in. Getting comfortable wasn't easy. Even the bed creaked and moaned as if it felt the weight of her agony.

In the meantime I tried to push her comment to the back of my mind. I was grieving the days ahead of me...the ones that would leave me without her. I'd grown up in house where sports didn't make the family go round. It seemed a bit odd to me that she felt the way she did. 

She had already reflected on her life. She'd put things into perspective really. "I've lived a good life. I've watched my children grow up and have children of their own. I know where I'm going," she declared a few days before. I guess it only made sense that she would be thinking about other things. And now the Olympics seemed very important to her; important enough that she felt compelled to share her sorrow.

Skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding and skating had crept into her mind leaving little room that day for the joy of a different prize; one we all knew she believed was waiting for her. It's true, none of us truly knows what we might be thinking about when we're facing the end of our journey on earth, leaving behind all that we know and love.

But winter was so far away. Nowhere on the horizon. Invisible to me. And in the days leading up to our good-bye's I never once considered -- her love for watching the Olympic games.

I was absorbed in my own thoughts. A continuous display of pictures click-clacked in my mind capturing many wonderful moments of her life. I could see her wearing a fifties style dress on the day of her wedding. A nearby lamp photo bombed her. It appeared as if she were wearing the lampshade on her head as a part of her outfit. I laughed inside. Another click and she was holding my children in her arms reaping the rewards of a grandmother. The array of memories stopped with a simple candy dish. A dish that rested on her coffee table. Nestled inside were her favourite candies in an assortment of colours. Red, green, yellow, orange and of course her favourite -- black . Those jube jubes always beckoned me. I just wasn't ready to let her go. Not at all. 

When the winter games made their way to television. I knew my mother would have been thrilled to witness two hundred and six Canadian athletes compete in 2010 taking home fourteen gold, seven silver, and five bronze medals. 

As I write this, Canadian athletes are participating in the Summer Olympics being hosted in Rio. Once again, I can hear my mother's voice, "I won't be here for the Olympics." 

It's true, she isn't one of the billions of people glued to their television these days.  Even so, I feel her presence with me in a special way. A way that makes me smile.

Next month marks the 7th anniversary of her death and I think about her everyday.

"Grief never ends....But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith....It is the price for love."
                                Author unknown

A dedicated fan of the Olympics to the very end. 

August 24, 2016

Winning and Losing by Tandy Balson

“I never thought watching a bicycle road race would be interesting,” I said to my husband.  The 136.9 km race was well underway when I sat down to watch this Olympic event.

After a steep climb two riders were clearly in the lead. When they started the descent, one pulled away.  As her lead increased the commentators said she would be hard to beat. With 10.7 km to go, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands crashed.  She went down hard and didn’t move for quite some time.  I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her competitors to ride past as medics tended to her.

Maria Abbott of the USA moved into first place.  We watched her maintain her lead until the final few kilometers.  A group of three behind slowly decreased the distance between them and passed her in the final meters before the finish line.  She gave it all she had but finished out of the medals by mere seconds.

It wasn’t the front runners who won the medals, but the ones who paced themselves. They held back slightly during the race so they’d have the energy to finish strong. They were also the ones who stayed together and shared emotional support during this grueling exercise.

I realized there was a lesson here for me.  Many times I’ve had a strong start and then faltered before I reached the finish line.  Sometimes I’ve plodded slowly up a steep learning curve. Once I have the required knowledge and am on the descent I try to make up for lost time.  As I speed to the finish line I encounter an unexpected bump and down I go. It may be a stumble that I recover from easily.  Or, it may be a spectacular crash. 

The more time I spend on the ground assessing my disappointment and injured pride, the greater the chance I will admit defeat.  Instead of getting back into the race I question why I ever entered it in the first place.  In effect, I beat myself.

My objective should not be to set goals that I reach in my own strength.  I want to run with endurance the race God has set before me.  Instead of trying to speed ahead, I need to follow the pace he dictates. Sometimes that includes slowing down. Part of my preparation must be quiet time spent with God. That’s where the true training comes from.  I’ve learned he will guide me and place me with others for mutual support. Together we will advance into the writers he wants us to be. This is how I can hope to achieve the prize of bringing glory to him.

I heard a sports commentator say that in order to be winners, athletes have to believe they belong with the best.  That goes for me as well. As a child of God I am already a member of the winning team.


August 23, 2016

I believe in the power of you and I by Lynn J Simpson

I must admit when it comes to the Olympics, I am so, well, Canadian. I love everything winter. And I take no offense when our friends to the south use the main descriptive of 'cold' when asked to describe our country, as without the cold climate we would have missed out on so many warm Olympic stories, some of them happening on our native land.  

But it isn't when the athlete waves his/her ski pole in victory, or gives a hug to a team mate after a winning goal, or drops to his/her knees after an almost flawless figure skating performance that heats my heart during the winter Olympics. Instead, it is the story behind the victory, or even the loss.

Who can ever forget the story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team of the Calgary 1988 winter Olympics? Or how about Eddie the Eagle, the first ski jump competitor since 1929 from Great Britain who also competed in those memorable 1988 Olympic Games? Yes, they did not win in their sport, but were the absolute crowd favorite!

A crowd favorite were these athletes because they had stories with the elements needed in all good stories to make it a story. There were dreams, there were obstacles to achieving those dreams, conflicts and adversity, rising action, and unexpected outcomes that left the observers satisfied and cheering! Even Hollywood thought so, with the makings of the movies Cool Runnings (1993) and Eddie The Eagle (2016).

But my favorite Olympic story has not been made into a movie (not yet anyways), however has all of the elements of a good story, and maybe even more. It is the tale of two brothers. A brother who dropped his love of playing hockey for skiing so he could play in a sport that his brother who has cerebral palsy, could play as well, together as a family. A brother whose brother was told he would only walk until 10 years old, but at 28 was still walking. A brother whose big brother with obstacles much larger than his own was his biggest determination to keep him on track with all the training required to be an Olympic athlete.

A brother who believed in him, always, and was the power behind his winning the Olympic Gold for Canada in Men's Freestyle Skiing, in Vancouver, 2010.

 And, I'd say, a brother, who after his winning Olympic performance, gave a hug to his brother that warmed up all of cold Canada and beyond.

May you take a moment and watch, letting the warmth of a Canadian story heat your heart.

Alex Bilodeau Wins Gold- I believe in the power of you and I

The Difference Makers

August 22, 2016

For the Love of Writing! By Alan Anderson

James 1:17 (NIV) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

"I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  This is a line from the film “Chariots of Fire”.  James Liddell is talking to his sister about his purpose.  He knows that God wants him to be a missionary.  He is also convinced God made him a runner.

I have always loved running.  When I was a younger guy in high school I loved track.  I’m not saying I was a great runner.  I never had coaches courting me because they thought I was a top athlete.  I never came close to breaking a record or won a medal.  I just loved to run.  No one gives you a medal for your love of a sport.

In my younger years I would envy those who were recognized for their outstanding skills.  I knew other young people who were really talented runners.  I loved to run and knew I couldn’t keep up with the great ones.  They always outdistanced me.  I ran anyway.

What was it about running I loved?  I believed running was something that gave me pleasure.  During those years I wasn’t aware I could give God pleasure.  Especially when it came to long distance or cross-country running there was a sense of freedom.  There was always someone to compete against as well.  If I was running a three-mile cross-country race my main goal was to finish.  The runs could be grueling and painful.  I never quit however.

I approach my writing like I did my running.  I can’t keep up with the great writers but I still love it.  For all the pain it can be to write I love it.  I love words and what writers do with them.  I love the words that come to me.  In my stories I feel God’s pleasure!

I love the letters that make up the words that help me write my stories.  Every letter has its place and is so unique.  I love how some letters are straight and some have curls.  Don’t you just love the little curls of the letter “e” and “s”?  Those tricky guys we know as “m” and “w” can almost imitate each other when they are upside down.  That’s so funny!

As writers we get to play with words.  That is such fun!  As writers we also get to nurture words so they know exactly how they can live with others.  This nurturing results in our stories, our plays, poems, etc.  The pain or struggle involved in writing is worth it.

When I was a young guy who loved to run I was wise enough to know I needed a coach.  I’ve always thought that the men I had as coaches realized I would never be an Olympic star.  They encouraged me anyway.  I thank them for that.

As a writer I am aware I need coaching.  I have the honour to be writing with some accomplished writers.  They are some of my favourite teachers (coaches).  I receive critiques from them and take to heart what they suggest.  It’s awesome!  I’m over sixty and still learning a wonderful craft.  Just like when I would train as a runner I am in training as a writer.  It is all for the love of writing!


August 21, 2016

Athletic wear doesn't make one an Athlete! by Jocelyn Faire

Most of the Olympics have passed me by, the summer has been busy, this August long weekend I hosted three sisters, a niece and her three children. My niece used my smart TV to play DVDs for her children … and somehow the settings were not returned to my normal.  And I feel not so smart. Aaaagh … I would come in last for the Olympic technology challenge. 

But what an epic adventure of laughter, and bubbles, and parachute men dropped over the balcony, more laughter and great food for our motley crew between my house and the Canmore, Alberta folk festival. And in it all I was reminded of the Olympic sized challenges that my niece and her ten year old daughter face each day of life.
(In the winner's circle!)
Multitudes of prayers had been spoken for Maya prior to her birth, when her parents were informed that their daughter had a rare syndrome, and would be born with numerous life challenging difficulties. She has had at least 40 surgeries, the first one before she was a week old. She has spent months of her life in hospital, and even now the doctors are waiting for her to grow stronger in order for her scoliosis to be corrected. Many of us have wondered if the Psalm 139 verses about being fearfully and wonderfully knit in her mother's womb have missed the mark. And yet according to her Grandmother, Maya is a girl with a special connection to Jesus. When I had the privilege to tuck the three little ones into bed, Maya asked if she could read from her bible. My heart breaks for this girl who is becoming increasingly aware of how different she is than the others. She will never run any competitive races. She has never had a normal bowel movement, as the colostomy bag takes care of that business for her. In the playground while her 4 year old brother ran up and down the boards three times, Maya carefully placed one hand and then a foot down in order to ascend. I cheered heartily as she reached the top. 
We speak of all the hard work and determination that goes into producing an Olympic athlete. We stand in awe giving credit to those who have laboured intensely. I stood in awe of this little girl and her family carving out some sense of normal in a precarious health balance.

What was heart warming was to hear Maya speak to herself in the mirror, while wearing her Epic T-shirt. She would say "I feel epic" over and over, making all of us smile. It's a great thing to see that when we repeat these words, we do become more epic.  Epic is defined as "heroic or grand in scale or character."  As we speak Olympic sized dreams into place, we become more of what we speak.  May we all feel epic, and help those around us to achieve a sense of epic in their own lives.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour Romans 12:10(ESV)