Finishing Well


PROOF:  Good runners finish well!  My wonderful sister in law Bren crosses the finish line at Boston in 2012!

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    Here we are again.  America is in mourning yet again after another terrorist attack.  We all watched in horror yesterday as the runners from the 2013 Boston Marathon were crossing or about to cross the finish line, only to suddenly realize a bomb, and then another, had detonated very closely to one another.

    Evil planned it this way.  Evil always plans it this way.  Destroy the innocent.  Destroy the maximum for maximum impact. 

But here’s the thing.  LOVE WINS!  I’ll say it again.  Love wins.

Just like the runners who trained by racing for months and months, the choice to love trains over the course of a life time.  See love is not easily entangled.  It does not falter.   It does not bail because it gets angry or doesn’t get its way.  It doesn’t boast.  It doesn’t quit.  And above all, it never fails.

The runner trains for months and years increasing their strength by going the distance each day.  Two miles today.  Two point four tomorrow.  Twenty six point two a year from now.  A runner increases his or her efficiency by perservering.  A four minute mile when starting out.  Then four point two.  And so on.  Until one is almost running with cheetahs and raking in times like a seven minute mile and beyond!  Runners are a special breed.  They run through pain.  They run through rain.  They run past the point where most people quit.  They run past the point they dropped of exhaustion only yesterday.

For a runner has one goal:  To finish well.  Though trophies and recognition is bestowed upon the one that crosses first, all know the real glory is to run with endurance and to finish well.  One must cross the finish line, and receive the real prize:  The honor and glory of a family who is so proud of you, a photo op of crossing the finish line, and the prize of satisfaction knowing you gave it your all, and you finished.   All your hard training has paid off.

My heart hurts so bad for all those who trained yesterday and never got to cross the finish line because someone or a group decided to ruin something beautiful with a moment of terror.  Here’s how it ends though.  The same way it always ends:

Good rushes in.  Good rushes in to assist the injured and comfort the dying.  Good tries to maintain order in sheer pandemonium.  Good has no fear.  Good seeks the security and comfort of others before one’s self.  Good always outnumbers evil.   Good happens because it first knows how to accept and give love.  And when someone knows that they are loved, it is easier to help or even sacrifice one’s own life to help another—even a perfect stranger.

So many runners trained so hard for yesterday.  They did not get to cross the finish line.  Instead they were learned through shock and surprise to exit the race and to run to shelter. The chance to cross the finish line was stolen.

But the chance to finish well is something no act of terror or thought of evil can claim.  In that respect, all the runners triumphed.  As did the families and friends who awaited with cheer and anticipation and joy to congratulate their loved one.

And the ones who perished?  God is in control.  I can’t claim to make sense of it.  I only know this.  God is just and God is in control.  Always.

I pray for each of these runners the opportunity to renew their strength and nourish their hurting hearts.  I pray each of us can learn to pass by the circumstances and destructive emotions that entangle us and seek a higher power that allow each of us the opportunity to finish well.   For then we gain the good life here and the perfect life for eternity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 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.  Isaiah 40:30-31



Waves of Heat, Waves of Water

If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?  Stephen Wright

It’s been a really hot week!  For three straight days, we local Raleigh folks have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with wicked heat, with temperatures ranging from 105° to 107° F.    It’s strange how life can exist uncomfortably, but is still bearable in the 90° range, even high 90°s, but cross the 100° thresh hold and it feels like the flames of hell itself are lapping at your heels!

The pavement starts melting your flip flops.  When you stand outside, you feel the heaviness of your heart as it works extra hard to pump the blood that suddenly pools inside of it.  The journey north to the brain is a steep climb indeed.   Upon stepping outside from any indoor facility, you are immediately aware of the intense hot air.  It truly feels like you are standing behind the backdraft of a fire.

The sweat process starts immediately.  After more than a few moments, your clothes are wet and sticking uncomfortably to you.  Loading up a car with supplies, or working seems intense.  The words, “I feel like I might pass out” lie in wait, just under the surface of your parched tongue.    In less than 48 hours, whatever green was in your yard has quickly faded to a dull dessert sand color.   You don’t go anywhere without a water bottle.

Heat waves start as high pressure forms in the middle layers of the atmosphere.  The air grows heavy as the high pressure has a sinking effect and it stays and hovers above you.  You can literally feel the denseness of the air, as if you were a bug trapped in a jar, and someone just put the lid on it.

The extreme heat also can make a person feel disoriented, dizzy, nauseous, fatigued, and like their heart is racing.    They are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke if the body is not cooled quickly, rehydrated, and electrolyte balances restored.  Gatorade is essential for anyone who has been physically active in these temperatures.

I find in this heat, I lose all ambition; I suddenly feel like a lazy person.  I truly don’t want to do anything.  I find it disturbing that I seem to fester in this state of suspended motivation as this totally contradicts the normal routine of being busy from sunup to sundown.

I alternate pacing upstairs with pacing downstairs, as both our air conditioner units struggle to adequately cool our home, and frying the brains of we who live here.  Multiple times during the day, they seize up and have to be turned off, as the condensers that are frozen up have to slowly unfreeze in order to slowly come back online.  Do not ask me how an electrical part freezes over 100 degrees, I don’t know.  All I can say is it must be an evil form of magic.

Our lives mirror the weather too.  The heat gets turned up; multiple crises always happen at once and demand attention now.  Up go the degrees, and down comes the pressure.   The atmospheric pressure weighs heavy above us.  Down, down, down it comes, threatening to suck up the last of our oxygen.  I can’t breathe you think when it all becomes too much.  Is it anxiety or am I dying?  Am I clear enough to know the difference?

Our mental and spiritual electrolytes are depleted.  We’re confused, disoriented, and it’s hard to know what the right decision at this moment in time is.  Crisis by crisis, the choices are too vast to contemplate, much less choose correctly.    It can feel as if one is drowning in a sea of conflict:  relationships, financial concerns, health issues, aging parents, aging bodies, children who worry us.

Yes, the proverbial storms of life.  We are the ships called to navigate these stormy seas without being given a say so as to whether we wish to embark upon this dangerous journey.  Ready or not, you’ve already set sail.   In the pit of your soul, you already know, it’s just not enough to survive.  For you hear that quiet voice, the weight above, that says, you must be more; you are to be a beacon for others in distress.

I can’t you think.  I’m not prepared.  Shouldn’t I save myself first, in order to save others?  This wave of heat is too much for me; it’s either going to drown me or consume me.

Ah, but it won’t, my child.  Though you left the home port of comfortable long ago, and were forced to set sail without benefit of a life jacket, or even access to a compass, you have strength within you.  It is not of your making; but it is there.   You are almost temporarily paralyzed when you see all the waves converge until finally the Big Kahuna towers over you.  Then you remember:

I am not alone.

     Your captain is and always was with you.  You remember now.  You quit flinching and look through the storm, straight into the eye itself.  Your hands grip the wheel tighter.   You’ve journeyed this far.  You know what to do.  Decision by decision, the answer is already within you.  Your destination may seem a little hazy, and the boat may not arrive totally intact, but you will.

I was born in a storm.  I’ve experienced firsthand the fury and damage of both a hurricane and a tornado.  I’ve been forced to seek shelter when tubing on a river and the lightening sizzled so close; you could see and feel the hairs on your arms rise.  I’ve witnessed beauty and miracles in storms that others may not believe, but I do—I was there.

Our lives are indeed the Perfect Storm:  There are the fires of our passions that either propel or destroy us, as well as the air we breathe—these thoughts we carry and words we speak.  Oh and the water—all the water we spill in tears of gentle rain or epic floods that are always lurking just below the surface of our days of sunshine and tranquility.   Most of all, is the wind called change, our only constant; it carries us forward in our limited universe, until we finally go home.

Travel safely; God speed.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:2