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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Sunday Meditation

Football coach Vince Lombardi is often credited with the statement, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." He used it at a Packers training camp in 1959, but probably picked it up from UCLA Bruins coach Red Sanders who almost ten years earlier made the statement at a physical education workcamp at California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo. Whoever said it first, the idea conflicts with another popular quote, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

In the world's view "winning" means being on top: claiming the superbowl ring, being selected CEO of the company, defeating the other candidate in an election, getting the scoop, beating out your competitor. Often the "win" comes at the price of using (and abusing) others: lying, taking credit for the accomplishments of colleagues, throwing your partners under the bus if necessary for advancement, stepping on others as you climb the ladder to "success."

But there's one place where winning IS the only thing for real along with how you play the game. It's the race St. Paul talks about - with salvation as its goal. Salvation is both everything and the only thing. As Scripture says, "What good is it if a man gains the world, but loses his soul in the process?"

For the last few years I've regularly made a five-day summer retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. One of the main points is that all creatures (everything created: persons, possessions, etc.) are to be used and enjoyed to the degree that they lead us to God (salvation) or put aside if they lead us away from God. Think about how different the world would be if each person looked at his daily life from that perspective.

Is this adulterous relationship leading me closer to God? (Ask Mark Sanders.)

Is my line of work pleasing to God or alienating me from Him? (Ask an abortionist at the end of his bloody workday.)

Are my possessions enslaving me and building a brick wall against God's will? (How would Michael Jackson have answered that question?)

Am I putting my golf game, friends, internet pornography, sports car, workouts at the gym, (fill in the blank) ahead of my family and other duties of my state in life? (That questions's for each of us.)

What is getting in the way of my having a closer walk with the Lord?

We all have daily challenges, perhaps the most difficult being our own personalities and personal vices and bad habits. But as Anne of Green Gables learned from her teacher, Miss Stacey, "Every day is new with no mistakes in it." When I make my morning offering to the Lord I want to remember that today will bring me a step closer to salvation or will take me a step in the opposite direction. The choice is mine.

Salvation is everything and the only thing.

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