UP THE KREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE

I had just boarded the plane and was heading west for my Saskatchewan speaking tour.  I squeezed myself into what seems like are becoming increasingly narrower plane seats.  I began to pray, “Oh Lord please don’t let me have some jumbo sized person as a seat mate today.”  I am not being mean, just selfish.  I had work to do and did not have the energy to fight with a Japanese Suma wrestler for the armrest.  As a man the size of a VW Beetle waddled right by I said beneath my breath, “Thank you Jesus.”  A tiny Chinese young lady came on the plane and I said, “Yes Lord!”  But it was not to be.  Then an almost inhumanly gigantic creature of mythical proportions stopped at my row and said, “I think I am with you.”  He folded his massive sinewy athletic frame into the aisle seat and his 5′ broad shoulders displaced my entire torso pressing my bewildered face up against the window as I gasped just to breathe.  I could not help but notice the size of his callused hands which would make Arsenio Hall look like he has baby hands.

So from my tiny corner of the universe I began reading a boat magazine.  My new seat mate asked me if I had a boat.  I said, ‘Yes, a speed boat,’ and asked him the same question.  He told me he preferred human powered boats.  ”You mean kayaks or canoes?” I responded.  ”Something like that,” he said.  Something like that indeed!  To make a long story short, I was sitting beside Adam Kreek the gold medalist for 8 man rowing from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.   Adam is now a motivational speaker and he crosses the country sharing the story about their victory for Canada in Beijing.

It was not an easy journey.  After winning the world championship in 2003 they went into the 2004 Athens Olympics favoured to win the gold.  They came in 5th.  They continued to train 6 days a week and in 2007 won the world championships again.  Favoured to win the Olympics in 2008, this time they made no mistake and won the gold by half a boat length.

It was a great story and I loved hearing it first hand from the very one who lived it out. Adam had his Powerpoint presentation open on his laptop and I noticed a page titled Gold Medal Syndrome.  I asked him about it.  He told me that GMS was the belief that you will be a different person after you win the medal than you were before.  When Olympians discover that a gold medal hasn’t made them into a different person they often go into a depression.  He said winning the gold medal was the greatest 4 hours of his life.  ”Then what happened?”  I asked.  “After that,” he said, “nobody knew who I was.”  I then mentioned that it would probably come as a huge surprise, but that I had never actually won an Olympic gold medal myself and I wanted to know how GMS would relate to me.  He explained how it doesn’t matter what we do in life we are not different people after our accomplishments and we had better find our identity somewhere else.  It is a great message for all of us to keep in mind.  The true measure of a person is who they are inside, not what they do or achieve on the outside.  I really enjoyed my visit with Adam Kreek.  Here was a young guy with his head really screwed on right.  He knew a lot about victory, and defeat (not to mention a great deal about team work) and consequently knows a lot about life.

At the conclusion of our flight he asked me if I had ever held the Olympic torch.  I told him I had left mine at home.  Then to my surprise he pulled the Olympic torch out of the luggage rack overhead.  His Beijing team was given the honour of carrying the torch on the first leg of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.  Because he is the one sharing the story, they gave the torch to him as a keepsake.  I am quite certain that holding the Olympic torch is as close as I will ever get to being an Olympian, but for a few moments I got to touch the glory, and as it turns out that’s all anyone gets… just a few moments.

Post Script

I apologise for being so tardy getting a blog posting up this last couple of weeks. My wife’s brother had been in the hospital for 9 weeks with alcohol related liver disease.  We just buried him yesterday and and its been a very hard journey.  Anyone who thinks that the drinking/clubbing lifestyle is a glamorous one needs to experience the indignity of watching someone die from the consequences.  It is a slow, painful, inglorious death that I would not wish on my worst enemy.  Check out these posts if you are not sure what I think about social drinking;

http://blog.churchoftherock.ca/sipping-saints

This one I wrote while this battle was going on in our lives.  The context makes it even more meaningful;

http://blog.churchoftherock.ca/mydrunkensummer

While I am at it.  If you have children and are still deliberating the virtues of Halloween and whether your kids should be on the streets ‘trick or treating,’ you had better read this one;

http://blog.churchoftherock.ca/halloween-trick-or-treat

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8 Responses to UP THE KREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE

  1. Betty says:

    Jesus I Praise You,for letting Pastor Mark & Kathy and family,experience your powerful love for them and how much you care for them, now in their days of grief and in the future.

    It was a great message you had, Pastor Mark, including the story of Adam Kreek, a few Sundays ago.

  2. Sally Y says:

    My sincere condolences go out to you and Kathy and all your family on the loss of your brother-in-law. It is a very hard thing to see your loved one succumb to the consequences of their actions and wrong choices; especially when we know there was a better way. May the Lord comfort you and your family with His Peace, the Peace that passes all understanding!
    Thank you Pastor Mark for continuing to take a stand in warning others of the dangers of alcohol and other destructive “social” habits.
    With regards to your current blog on the gold medal syndrome, I see this happen time and time again with a lot of my sons friends who have been in hockey and then all of a sudden, they are no longer in pro or semi-pro hockey and they are no longer the center of attention. It is a real big let down and many of them did begin to drink excessively and were depressed. Thankfully most of them have recovered and now have real lives with real jobs!
    My son was blessed and didn’t have the withdrawals that most do, thanks be to God! He is still doing what he loves to do and has been trained to do in hockey, only in a different capacity, he now has a job as a coach! God is good!

  3. Phoebe says:

    Mark
    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My prayers are with you at this most difficult time. I understand well the pain of watching someone self destruct like that. All you can do is talk to them about God’s love and pray they respond but ultimately the choice is up to them.

  4. Victoria says:

    I have not posted anything for a long time…I got married at 40 in June and then the kids went to Christian camp,then eyes checked and teeth done before school,and then school……it’s been a big distraction.
    I was researching diamonds made from hair today,as I hope to someday have one created from me and my husbands hair.
    I wonder if it would be sacreligious to do this…I certainly love sparkley things,we had a very budget wedding (Under 1500 catered by the Anglican Womens Association)we couldn’t afford even the cheapest rings…we have these copper cigar band things,and I made my wedding dress out of a fine linen table coth from India.It is beautiful.
    So,my current copper rings are blessed and when we order new ones we will have them blessed as well.Again is this bad to do?
    I am sorry for your wifes loss of her brother…I will pray for yours and her comfort.God Bless,and let us think and pray for the 3 million people without power for a week,dealing with the snow blizzard in New England,usa.

  5. Evelyn Bennett says:

    I am sorry to hear about your wife’s brother. I am thankful my dad and mother stopped drinking years ago. I heard that the liver can repair the damage only if you stop drinking.

    God’s gift lives in us all year round. We are always somebodys in his eyes. Sometimes we lose sight of our accomplishments and think a celebration needs to be loud.

    The main thing is you acknowledge your existence through God’s love.

  6. Claire says:

    Thank you Mark for sharing the story of Adam Kreek. I once read ‘Love and Marriage’ by Bill Cosby who was asked by a reporter: What is the recipe for success? to which Mr. Cosby replied: I don’t know what the recipe for success is. I do know the one for unsuccess; it’s the one where you try to please everyone, losing who you are in the process and then realizing that you don’t know who you are any longer.
    The GMS is one that I’ve seen many times and it is the reason I don’t go to many sport games because the attitude of the spectators looking for heroes that are just regular guys and gals makes me sad.
    yes, we do need someone to look up to. God needs to be that someone. He’s the one that can clear our mind, grab our heart and guide us towards a better future, spurring us on to the finish line.
    My condolances on your loss. My sister passed away suddenly at the age of 26, more than 30 years ago and I can’t say that why she died was a result of self-abuse. What I can say to you is: take your time grieving. Don’t hurry. Just be open to His comforting hand when the nights are long and to his arms when the tears come.
    Let the good memories surface and let God heal the difficult ones. He is the only one who can bring about change.
    I hope your next seatmate on the next plane will be thinner. ;-)

  7. Victoria says:

    life changes but Gods love nd his word never does.

  8. Donna Maslyk Vicklund says:

    My condolences for your loss. I lost 5 brothers to alcohol related illnesses. How many times my family heard “I’ll quit right after the weekend”, it never happened. I married a man who was an alcoholic(some people never learn) he hit me several times and 40 yrs. later I’m still with him. He did quit drinking…

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