Many millions of television viewers across the globe will watch the Winter Olympics over the next two weeks. Will you be one of them? And if so, how will you be watching?
Will you be following the news cameras as they check every link in the security fences? Counting the medals won by each nation? Despairing over every hint of a failed drug test? Noisily protesting at every judge's decision you don't agree with? Weeping with fond parents over the triumph or failure of their offspring - captured in agonizing close-ups by preset cameras?
Or will you approach it differently? Lending your support as ice skaters hurl themselves through a triple Lutz or as an intrepid ski jumper takes off like an eagle from a mountaintop platform that's dizzying just to look at.
Whatever our viewing habits and favorite events, we all have a choice. We can endure another bout of Olympic overload, caused by dozens of hours of "must see" coverage selected by television executives, or we can enjoy a more discriminating search of our own for helpful evidence of courage, skill, gracefulness, dedication, honesty, selflessness - and make these our own. Disciplined viewing can provide an inspiring climate in which to set new goals for ourselves in every aspect of life - athletic and otherwise.
I like to go back regularly to the Olympic motto: Swifter, higher, stronger. Instead of seeing this simply as a call for bolder, fiercer physical effort - beads of sweat, gasping breath, aching muscles - I have tried to understand its spiritual application.
A few years ago while reporting on the Olympics in Europe, I was asked by my editors to increase my output from 9 to 13 stories a day. This involved racing from venue to venue during 16-hour work days - and then sitting down to write and file my reports, usually in the early hours of the morning.
As I prayed for guidance, that Olympic motto came to thought. I reasoned: God's help is constantly available - swifter, higher, stronger than any other source of inspiration. And it thrives at the highest elevations - spiritual elevations.
However challenging the task, I shouldn't put off seeking spiritual solutions. Instead of making prayer my last resort, I should make it my first resort - an instinctive response.
And the best part of this commitment is that it doesn't end when the Olympic flame is extinguished. It becomes a way of life - part of our daily spiritual exercise.
I discovered that we can all climb higher - raise the level of our thinking - by becoming more aware of God's infinite resources, which include power, order, grace, and endurance.
As I lifted my thought in this way, it became clear to me that any of us in the Olympic Village - and beyond - could take comfort in the knowledge that God never grows weary, as the prophet Isaiah explains. And His strength becomes our strength as we embrace Him as "the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth" (40:28).
God increases the power of the weak, says the prophet - including even young people, like Olympians, who may seem to have greater endurance than most of us, but who sometimes also stumble and fall. "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (40:31).
During the rest of those Games, I never again felt daunted by my work assignments. I stopped counting the hours, measuring my sleep. But I did spend plenty of time on the Press bus counting my blessings. And those late-night reports found a grateful audience back in the United States.
So, as you grope for the chips and the salsa, let your thoughts rise higher even than that ski jump platform to a spiritual elevation, where you can soar like an eagle and feel your inspiration and your strength constantly renewed.
What about some gold medals for TV viewers - for those whose lives are most enriched by the Olympic viewing experience? It's not too late for any of us to start training. We still have a few hours left.
Grace and Truth are potent beyond all other means and methods.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)