Today will be a hard day

A very close and personal revelation of where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going.  

Romans 9 – starting in verse 6

God’s Sovereign Choice

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[b] In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”[c]

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e]

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
[i]

26 and,

In the very place where it was said to them,
    ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘children of the living God.
’”[j]

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:

Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
    only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out
    his sentence on earth with speed and finality.
[k]

May 26, 2020 – 3:15 AM

Today will be a hard day for me.

I’ll clean out another office.

I’ve closed another chapter. 

If you’ve ever ‘closed a chapter’ in your life – selling and moving away from a home or city you’ve lived in for 5 years or 50 years or retiring from a job ..  or simply changing a job – you know what kind of emotional and physical toll is attached. I don’t need to explain that feeling to you. 

In less than two years, I’ve found myself in this situation three times. What Christie and I have been through has made it feel like we’ve already lived many lifetimes together. I remember gazing into her eyes romantically in wonder sitting on the porch of our suite in the Ellery House, a bed and breakfast along the shores of Lake Superior, on the eve of our wedding in 2014.

Then again in 2019. The latter visit, our looks shared in their efforts of trying to make sense of and comprehend the road we’d already lived together in between.

In my head, I think many of us who are married sort of idealize a fictional couple who might, like Christie and I, enjoy the innocent romance of their wedding night, and then, 50 years later, return to the same location, and gaze upon each other’s eyes with a maturity only able to be realized by living a lifetime together. I feel like in the last six years, we’ve lived through what many couples would consider to be a lifetime of ups, downs, ins and outs. Perhaps that is my own naivety speaking, and I will look back and laugh at that statement. The point, however, is what has transpired for the two of us has indeed had the effect of feeling as though we’ve lived through many ‘lifetimes’ in the last 22 months. I know some people, close to me, who have lived on the same property with the same person, working the same job, since they were 21…and they are now approaching 60. I’m 29; since 21, I’ve lived in 8 different homes, worked 4 different jobs….I’ve stayed pretty much in one place, at least if you consider a 5000 mile radius stretching from Minnesota to Maine to Colorado as being close…it’s been in one country at least. 

 I’ll briefly….no….it probably won’t be brief….fair warning. I will attempt to leave out superflous details, like how we cried crying 30 miles into a raging blizzard on our way to euthanize our beloved two dogs, hours after crashing a brand new (to us) and at present uninsured car. I can probably avoid talking specifics about how we spent thousands of dollars renting a moving truck to go across the country twice, but saved hundreds more by driving without stopping and eating oatmeal from a pyrex for three days in a row. Or how I went 12 months without running .. a mysterious, frustrating injury that was truly the least of my worries, despite the pastime consuming my every waking moment for the previous 10 years. Or how we also spent thousand more dollars trying to fix another car…only to have it literally implode upon our return to Leadville…to the junkyard…and onto another vehicle. Or how that vehicle was sold to us in a truly snakelike fashion, and yet, two wheel drive and all, has only left Christie and I trudging the last 1.5 miles of our gravel road to our mountain home a few times this winter. And, since I’ve journaled extensively about it, and someday my grandkids can read about my feelings, I won’t dive into my efforts of pouring my heart and soul into learning how to teach and coach wildly different subjects over the course of the last three years (namely, elementary education to collegiate nordic ski racing to high school instrumental music) and despite applying a student of the game mentality that would make Steve Kerr feel inadequate, sweating and laboring to teach myself those crafts for kids, believing I was investing for the long haul, was forced out of all three pursuits in three consecutive years. 

Gosh, it stings just thinking about it. 

Quick rant, I guess: I’m truly the type of person who wants to invest and build something, and I’ve exciting chances to do just that in venues which are … quite frankly, right up the Ryan Sederquist alley – a collegiate ski program with potential, a high school music program with potential. I couldn’t really ask for more. Yet, at one point, I was going on walks in the meadow with Christie, dreaming about owning a farm in the country and being the 60 year old ski coach who had stayed put and built something he was proud of and raised a family of Mainers, and the next minute I was hiking through a mountain (thankfully with the same girl!!!!) thinking I could be satisfied being a band director who, after 40 years of holding a baton, could cry great memories of wonderful students and great musical moments as they conducted, for one more spring concert, some slow and tearful Percy Grainger tune. And then, today…I’ll be packing up that office, too, and maybe putting away those dreams and at worst, packing up that investment..

So, speaking of packing up offices, let me take you back to August of 2018, when with great emotion I walked around my first classroom and looked at posters I had hung up with less precision than my perfectionist picture hanging father would have approved of. Posters with messages he was largely responsible for – Excellence can be obtained if you … 

Care more than others think is wise…

Risk more than others think is safe….

Dream more than others think is practical….

Expect more than others think is possible…

I get emotional thinking about those words. 

Notes from students, books, lessons, plans … I packed up a box of important things and memories from my classroom in Alamosa, trying to reconcile my decision to leave a city I loved, jobs my wife and I both loved, and a community of people who were great, in a city and state that was in the mountains and was completely satisfying. I left with excitement, however, knowing what I was headed to in Maine. Something I perceived as an opportunity of a lifetime and the chance to start my dream job and true calling: to be a head coach of an NCAA ski program. 

In May of 2019, after a year of intense and severe – truly severe –  and literal physical, financial, and emotional loss, I was in a similar place, packing up my office, putting away pictures, posters (another, different poster with the same message of excellence, hanging above the threshold of our locker room), and reconciling my perception of being a failure at another stop, and leaving another place and job.

 From Colorado to Maine … all the way back to Colorado. Another $5,000+ in costs of renting a moving truck and towing our shrinking stash of belongings (we now could live and in fact had lived in a college dorm suite with almost everything to our name), and another chance at a dream job in a dream location. That was what this chapter, in Leadville, was to be, as I accepted a position in June of 2019 as the high school and middle school band director at Lake County High School. 

In November, I was crushed in being told that my position would no longer exist come the 2020-2021 school year. The choir and band positions would be absorbed into one role, and given that there was a very successful, effective, and perhaps most importantly, established presence in the current choral director, that individual was the obvious, and in my opinion as well, correct, choice in taking on the position. I harbor no ill will towards my administration or co-workers, and I wish Scott the absolute best. I’m very confident he will do incredible work with the band and choir and theatre. He’s a great teacher and he gets things done. 

I finished out the year living true to the cornerstones of my teaching and coaching philosophy – namely giving 100% effort to be the best I can possibly be as a teacher. A teacher whose primary goal is to leave kids with a similar vein of instruction: true success is giving 100% effort to realize their potential in whatever passion they have. 

Yet, the end of the year was hard, and it had little to do with coronavirus, believe me. To be frank, the hardest thing for me was feeling, again, like a failure. In Maine, that manifested itself in student-athletes quitting just one or two weeks into our season, clearly unsatisfied with who I was as a person or coach or both. It ended with a season where we didn’t even attend the final two races, and not because I didn’t want to, but for other reasons out of my control. In Leadville, a similar thing happened. Students, clearly frustrated with a consistent trend of turnover in leadership (I was the 5th teacher some of my juniors had worked with since starting in 5th grade!), and either having superhuman fortune telling abilities in knowing I would evidently be awful at teaching them or simply possessing an unwillingness to give me a chance, abandoned our program before we really even started. Even in August, before many of the best musicians in the school had decided to not register for band. Our group of what should have been 30+ was 23, and by the fall concert it was down to 15. In preparation for what would have been our spring concert, I was working with a concert band consisting of 5 percussionists, 3 saxophones, 1 flute, 1 trumpet, 1 bass clarinet, and 2 clarinets. Even a graduate of Shovel Lake State University would know that is awful balance for a band…if you even can call it that. And my students tried to convince me of the same, but I refused to give in or lower my standards, something I am proud of, even if it did prevent me from forming a ‘tight’ relationship with them. I can’t blame myself for NOT lowering my standards or sacrificing my vision for students in order to temporarily please them or earn their favor. 

Despite facing the same daily sentiment: “Do we need our instruments today? … we aren’t even a band, mister,” I held them to the same standards of the Concordia Band. I believed and I lived out the idea that in band, we play instruments, we work hard, we make music, and we do our best to do all those things so we can learn and grow and ultimately become more equipped to positively and effectively influence the affairs of the world. Dr. Dovre would be proud. Maybe that message was lost on them. Evidently, I was an ineffective teacher, as my RANDA scores so loudly proclaim. 

And, admittedly, I can’t really defend myself to the contrary. I was an ineffective teacher. I was unable to elevate my students to higher levels of musicianship. I failed to connect with them and earn their trust and affection. And I can handle receiving criticism in the sense that I can rationally understand where it originates. But, I’ve realized I really struggle to cope with criticism in what it does to me personally. It legitimately hurt my feelings – like a first grader who is told they suck at kickball by someone they thought was their best friend. That type of hurt.

I can rest in some peace knowing that it wasn’t for a lack of effort or desire, and it also wasn’t for a lack of a valuable vision. Hopefully, if you’re still reading this, you can see that what I hoped to give kids was not only honorable, but arguably the most valuable part of education we hope to give them through any subject, artistic, or athletic endeavor, namely, the definition of success and the route to it. 

And yet, here I am. 

This quarantine has proven to me that I’m hardwired to throw myself into things with my whole heart. I’m built to work hard and to work on something with an incredible purpose. I desire that so intensely, that if those opportunities are taken from me, I literally will invent work for myself….look at the SederSkier podcast for crying out loud! While still teaching remotely full-time, I somehow banded together 10 1.5-2 hour episodes. I’ve reached out and had conversations with CEO’s of major sport brands, pro athletes, researchers, team USA members, NCAA coaches …

I’ve even had prolonged conversations with myself (I can honestly and joyously giggle as I write that) about sports (yes, Ralph is just my fake co-host, built in to make Matt Watnemo happy). 

In my ‘spare time,’ I’ve reviewed products, written reviews … I’ve read 13-14 books … only two were “easy” fiction reads, and one of those was a 600 page mystery thriller, a genre I’ve never read. Four of my texts were life changing but incredibly rich theology texts…and I’ve even started writing a few different sermons which I hope I can preach. Somewhere in there, I squeezed in roughly 21-24 weekly training hours, skiing every day up until the final week of school. I’ve kept those dreams alive while riding what even for me has truly been a shocking rollercoaster of incredible highs – moments where I feel motivated and like I can grab the world by the horns and like Letsrun.com, ‘make my dreams a reality,; and devastating…and I mean devasting, depressing lows. In those moments I’ve struggled to even get up from a chair or convince myself that any activity in the entire world, accept for maybe eating, would be enjoyable. 

And so, standing at the cross roads of what is unknown to me, I stand firmly in what I do know, and this is what I really want to share at 3:30 AM as I write this: 

God is the creator. 

I am the creature. 

God is the Potter

I am the pot

God is sovereign in carrying out his perfect decree, on the basis of his good will, in order that he might be glorified, as it says in Ephesians 2 and here again in Romans 9. Man is a vessel on object purposed for His glory ..as Romans 9 says.

The truth of Romans 9 is both incredibly glorious and effectually comforting to the believer …as well as devastatingly offensive to the natural man. By far the greatest thing that has come from this quarantine, for me, is the realization of the doctrines which are so clearly spelled out in this passage of God breathed, THEOPNEUSTOS, the self authenticating and infallible source of ultimate authority …the only of which exists in this universe. The doctrines of man, of grace, of justification, and of salvation.  

If I want to throw out Romans 9, as sadly, many evangelicals do today, then I might as well throw out Romans 8 right with it. How often do self proclaimed “Christians” hold on to the comfort of Romans 8:28 and simultaneously and inconsistently deny the authority given to the Potter in chapter 9? Yet, it comes as no surprise. As I just stated, the natural man is highly, highly offended by the God of the Bible. They are highly, highly offended by a truly sovereign God. Acknowledging God’s sovereignty at the inevitable expense of their own is utterly inconceivable to the desires and nature of the fallen, natural man.

Ever notice, by the way, how Jesus had an incredible way of reducing his crowd of followers from 4,000-5,000 people down to twelve in an instant? All he needed to do was bring up a the most offensive topic in existence: theology

Himself. Any discussion about the nature of who He is and who God is.

Turns out, when a large group of people, whom by their very nature are in a state of death, total depravity, and are consequently enslaved to all out utter rebellion against You, a simple and highly effective recipe in turning them away from you is to talk about …Yourself! And Jesus did that, all the time. John 6 – he literally takes a group of 5,000 people and winnows it down to the disciples in a matter of a few sentences. And that’s after he feeds them …for FREE! His topic – who he is, who God is, and the nature of his sovereignty – even in salvation – exactly what Romans 9 is about. 

I remember very vividly, ironically, given what I’m writing this very moment, a message I heard preached when I was 8 or 9 years old. The pastor basically said that God has a perfect plan for our lives, and he’s working everything out for our good, but sometimes, even he is baffled by our choices. As if God is up in heaven, looking down, going, “Ryan/Bill/Chris/Mary/etc., I can’t believe you did that. Well, how am I going to bring good out of this? Don’t worry I will.

 But I didn’t intend for you to do that.”

What?

First of all, where is that in the Bible?…

Secondly…

That is not the God of the Bible!

God didn’t intend for me to do that?

God not only is not surprised by my choices, he perfectly decrees every single event, choice, and movement in my life. He literally is working the intentions of his perfect will and Holy and just decree in every square moment of every individuals’ life. That is exactly why Romans 8:28 is  so true and so comforting to the believer: it gives absolute and totally perfect purpose to everything in our lives. 

Purpose in: 

The new life of a baby

The death of a miscarriage

The hiring and

The firing

Through the injury and 

In  great health

In Victories and 

In

Losses

Imagine someday I am shopping with my beautiful, curly haired (from Christie of course) two-year old daughter. We go grocery shopping. After buying everything, even some chocolate and peanut butter for my daughter (from Christie, again, of course), and some apple cider vinegar (from her dad of course) I realize I forgot just one item. I get her in her car seat, kiss her on the forehead, and quickly dash back into the store. I’m gone for 2 minutes. In my haste, I forget to lock the door and my daughter is kidnapped in that time.

I never see her again. 

Is God upstairs going, “Ryan, I didn’t want you to do that. I didn’t intend for that to happen. You sure are making things hard on yourself. Don’t worry, though, I can figure out how to bring about a silver lining in all of this.”

I sure hope not.

Where is the peace in that?

Thankfully, I do not serve … I do not bow the knee to a God who is deprived of free will and full and total sovereignty over this world.

I can stand, even in my present situation (which by the way, has inarguably been filled with so much more blessing than hardship, despite the overall sentiment of self loathing in this entry) with peace knowing that God is working everything for my good, for his glory, in accordance with his perfect will and intent. 

Folks, I’m can say honestly that I am not, (and you should) be concerned about what we are going to do with God and His gracious and unmerited offer of salvation.

Rather, I bow in fear to the God of the Bible, reverently pondering what 

HE 

Will. 

Do.

With. 

me. 

“It does not , therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on Gods mercy. God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

“One of you will say to me, ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, O man to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

I said I get chills from reading the “excellence” quote from my dad. I do. No question. But this. This is chills on a whole ‘nother level. this is the dividing line – in soteriology and in …well, in a human centered belief of who God is and a God-centered belief in who God is.

And so, having lived through so many ups and downs in life. Having made quite a few different bold career moves, taken huge risks, lost a lot physically, financially, and emotionally, I can stand in assurance that my past isn’t filled with any ‘regrets.” And neither will my future. 

Everything I’ve been through has a divine purpose, and how comforting is that, truly. When I do pray for my future, I can pray for wisdom, and as James says, trust that I have received it. Then, instead of questioning and doubting, venture back out into the world, focused on proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and glorifying God and knowing that He will direct my paths in the way which accomplishes those things. 

I can’t say, in an external, earthly sense, what that next path or chapter will look like.

I’m sure the boy in me who labored over memorization of scales, arduously struggled for hours toying with his embouchure in an attempt to freely and easily slur from a third space C up to E without going sharp in pitch, and listened to the Haydn concerto on repeat on an Mp3 player on long, cold, early morning bus rides from Crestwood to Horizon Middle School (to the extent of memorizing and being able to sing all three movements in their entirety) feels empty wondering if his band director career truly was only meant to last for one school year. An abbreviated one at that. One which actually was terminated only two and half months in. 

Then again, the boy who announced pretend beanie baby basketball, football, baseball, and track and field contests from the time he was three until the Play Station 3 came out probably is still wondering why I haven’t gone all in on a career in sports journalism. 

And what about being a doctor? My mom, and the student in me, probably would like to study and become a doctor …. Either a medical (mom) or a professor (me). My stomach can’t handle it mom, sorry. 

And then there is the staggering hours of training…pretty much all in solitude … close to 10,000 by my records – in the last 10 years. What of that? Will the Lord ever redeem that with what I clearly deserve, namely, Olympic Gold, a Sports Illustrated “Man of the Year” cover, and a 10 year, 100-million dollar fully guaranteed contract…. obviously?

Or maybe, I will live out my entire life never being employed in my dream job. Never able to financially exhale. Never able to own my own home, hang up my own pictures and my stupid coffee cup collection and Swix race cups. Maybe I’ll always drive beat up junkers and Previa’s  (sorry Tucker; you were actually, and I realize it now more than ever…maybe the best car that has ever driven itself into my life). Maybe I’ll never be able to live out the ‘dream’ and raise a family under those conditions, close to their cousins and grandparents. 

Maybe I’ll strive for musical greatness, career greatness, and athletic greatness, going to the well in each and for all of the risk, loss, gain, highs, and lows …. never actually gain a worldly cent from it. …or even a race win…or even another PR!

Maybe that will all happen….but at some point in my life, everything I’ve learned and experienced will enable me to effectively share the gospel of the Bible and the sovereignty of the true God of the Bible to someone who, by the grace of God has received new life and a regenerate heart and the ability to see their need for a savior, and they will turn their life to Christ. If I, in this life, ‘suffer’ and am deprived of all of the things I just described above, and I offend all of those near me, but I do so to defend the gospel and effectively share it with someone else …. In light of eternity, that would be pretty awesome. 

That would be something I could live with. That would make the hard day today, and any other hard day I still haven’t faced, totally worth it.

A life worth living. – The SederSkier

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