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I saw Jesus in the gym the other day. An old man—somewhere around 90—walked in with his cane, laid it on a treadmill and walked a good ten minutes before sitting down to rest. He braced himself, hands on knees and pulled in several minutes of oxygen. Then, one by one, he challenged most of the weight machines, setting them to 70 pounds. Biceps, lats, etc., sitting down to catch his breath after each set. Lastly, he cradled a free weight and did sit-ups, then grabbed his cane and left. I believe my jaw was resting on the top of my treadmill by this time. This was two days before Christmas.
A man with Down syndrome pedaled away on one of the exercise bikes while watching a repetitive news station left on from a previous gym-attendee. He said not a word, but just slowly spun his feet around and around. While leaving, he glanced over at me on the noisy treadmill, grabbed his medical helmet and left.
The entire 45 minutes I was there, a man laid on the floor, yoga mat under back, and feet up on an exercise ball. “My back hurts”, he said—”one of those tough days,” while doing random sit-ups and stretches. Sometimes, he stayed still for several minutes at a time, then started again.
I was just trying to get in one more good workout before winter break kept me hair-pulling busy. It’s been a year. Good stuff, busy stuff, stressful stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten so little done with my creative projects. Sometimes I daydream about finishing my book, or dipping my brushes into a tub of paint. I’m not all the way me without it. But my kids needed me more this year, and it’s been a good thing. Family comes before the art, Always, and raising kids is a full time ministry. I saw the fruit of my efforts, however small. But when you’re called to more than one ministry, the activities get a little muddy and as many of you know–exhausting. By the time holiday season rolls around old man fatigue knocks on the door.
But as I observed those champions in the gym that day, I could almost hear Jesus saying, “The amount of reps don’t matter, and the way people see you doesn’t matter, but the perseverance does. Faith does. Success is in the not giving up.”
Were those men my three Christmas ghosts? I don’t know. But I heard the message, and I’m pretty sure Jesus said the message wasn’t just for me.
Maybe this one’s for you today.
Blessings and strength for 2018.

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