pole chancing

Pole Vaulting - Lars BörgelingWhen I was in my first year at secondary school we were all encouraged to participate in the school sports day at the end of the summer term. I had recently watched some athletics on the TV and had been inspired by the pole vault is so decided that I would do the pole vault. I was not daunted by the fact that I could hardly lift the pole nor by the even more daunting fact that I had never done pole vaulting before the competition. I took a chance.

“I’ve seen it on television,” I thought, “how hard can it be?”

In my naive imagination I decided that all I had to do was run as fast as I could down the runway, plant the pole in the ‘pocket’, keep running whilst allowing the pole to flex and then be catapulted high over the bar into the glory of first place.

On the appointed day I arrived at the pole vault venue to discover four other boys who had similar delusions about their inherent ability  to do the pole vault. Talking with them I discovered that none of us had ever done it before but all of us assumed that it would be easy.

When it was my turn I picked up the pole and lifted it up in the manner I had seen on television. I staggered as fast as I could down the runway and managed to plant the end of the pole into the pocket. I carried on running, expecting the pole to flex, but instead came to a juddering halt as the pole steadfastly refused to bend. I was simply too small and scrawny to make any impact on the pole’s rigidity. Neither of my next 2 attempts was any more successful. I ended my pole vaulting career with a total height cleared of zero cm and 3 no jumps. My only consolation was that none of the other boys managed to pole vault properly either. The winner was the boy who planted the pole in the pocket and then instantly let go of the pole and hopped over the bar unaided as it was only about 1m high.

Reflecting now on my childish naivete it reminds me that often we are guilty in churches of expecting people simply to pick up ideas, new tasks, skills and so on without training them properly first. thankfully most of the time people are far more competent than I was at pole vaulting but why is it that we neglect to train volunteers?

I think part of the reason is that we do not want them to feel overloaded. Perhaps another reason is that we don’t want them to understand the full scope of the job too soon and be put off by it. Maybe we don’t want them to feel that we think they are not sufficiently competent. Sometimes it’s simply that we don’t get around to it because we’re too busy. Perhaps we try to justify it by believing that the Holy Spirit will give them all the gifts and talent that they need. The fallacy of the last justification is that we neglect that Jesus put the Apostles through a three-year training programme!

Perhaps people don’t ask training because of pride or they believe it is and spiritual to do so. If you are in a voluntary role in a church and realise that you are not as well prepared or equipped as you feel you could be there is nothing unspiritual about asking to be trained. There is nothing super spiritual about struggling on relying solely on intuition. If we are seeking to offer our best to God we need to accept that we will probably need help to be the best we can.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

running commentary

Eric Liddell

I have been reflecting on Eric Liddell. His story is best known from the film Chariots of Fire which I am sure we will see a lot of in the lead up to London 2012.

He was a strong believer in Jesus and believed that competing in the Olympics on a Sunday was dishonouring to God. So instead of running in his favoured 100m he ran in the 400m. In the film we are led to believe that this decision was made at the Paris Olympics but in reality it was made several months beforehand when the schedules were announced. Eric Liddell spent the remaining months training for the 400m but only managed modest times.

As the race was about to start he was handed a piece of paper from one of the American team with the words: “He who honours me I will honour” and that inspired Liddell to run the race of his life. He won the race by running it flat out (it was normally run more like a middle-distance race with a sprint finish), knocked two seconds off his personal best and broke the World Record.

If you want to be inspired, watch this clip on Youtube.

The following year Eric Liddell left to become a missionary in China where he worked in Education and Medical missions before being captured by the Japanese in WW2 and interned in a camp. He died in the camp a few months before the war ended. One of the survivors of the camp, Norman Cliff described Liddell in his book as “the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody.”

In the film (and why haven’t you watched the clip) Eric explains to his sister about why he runs. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

What words would you substitute for ‘fast’ in your life? And when you use that gift, are you offering it as an act of worship? Do you sense God’s pleasure?

Be blessed, be a blessing

The Sports Coach stormed into the University Vice Chancellor’s office and demanded a raise right then and there. “Please,” protested the Vice Chancellor, “you already make more than the entire History department.”

“Yeah, maybe so, but you don’t know what I have to put up with,” the coach blustered. “Look.”

He went out into the hall and grabbed an athlete who was jogging down the hallway. “Run over to my office and see if I’m there,” he ordered.

Twenty minutes later the athlete returned, sweaty and out of breath.

“You’re not there, sir,” he reported.

“Oh, I see what you mean,” conceded the Vice Chancellor, scratching his head. “I would have phoned.”