Monday, March 22, 2010

O' Say Can You See

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Who has not read those old lines? They have appeared so often everywhere that I have them memorized. We almost consider them trite.

"Don’t quit!"

My Grandfather Cavanaugh (who called me "Peach") would have had a tattoo that said it if he was an ink man. He wasn’t. He was the kind of guy who sold burial plots on Christmas Eve and would not head for home until he closed a deal. A self made man who finished the 4th grade, he began his day by marching his way to the bathroom with maracas in his hands to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner.

I kid you not at all. It was quite a sight. I was only a child but the lesson stuck. A few years back when John hit a slump I bought him a pair of maracas and pushed him out of bed.

Here in Alaska we have been following the 2010 Iditarod. The winner broke a record by coming in first for the 4th year in a row. No small accomplishment considering the hardships of the race. He crossed the finish line almost a week ago.

Just this morning I learned on the radio that the very last racer made it to Nome and also crossed the finish line. He was dead last. The tail end. The caboose. I wondered who was left at the finish to cheer him across? Didn’t everyone go home last week? Probably. He crossed anyway. Good for him!

Just as I was considering his last place finish, the announcer said that he had set a new Iditarod record. He had made the fastest last place finish in Iditarod history! Now I am really laughing! The Fastest Last Place Finish. What an accomplishment. Really, what an accomplishment! How many people in the world can say they finished such a race?


Funny how our minds work. We look at Peter who sank like a stone and had to be pulled out of the sea and we only see him going under. We fail to focus on the fact that he defied gravity in his haste to get to Christ.

We do the same thing with ourselves. We fail to see that the race itself is an accomplishment. Getting back up off the mat before the ten count (or after it) and getting back in the game is obedience, love and grit. I am convinced that Angels love us for it and give us unseen encouragement to keep going.

I have seen injured people sweat through twelve more inches of putting one foot in front of the other in physical therapy. I have heard mothers pray one more prayer for the salvation of a disobedient child. I have seen alcoholics struggle with one more day of sobriety. I have seen pastors get up one more Sunday in the face of declining numbers and preach through their doubt and pain. I have watched children with learning disorders struggle to sound out a single word. We can’t worry about the pace. Just finish the race. Who cares how many people who never tried it themselves laugh at our efforts?

Saint Paul, who often attracted catastrophe, said it so well in 2 Timothy 4: “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

“I have finished the race.” I can feel Paul’s satisfaction when I read that. “It is finished.” I feel in my soul Jesus great sigh that carried salvation into the world.

I am going to keep running even when I look like I am standing still. I am going to keep running even if I get rundown. I am going to keep running even if I fall down. I am going to keep running even if I am the fastest last place finish in the Kingdom. He has promised to renew my strength. He has promised me a crown if I love the finish line. He has promised the last will be first.

You will know when Pop Cavanaugh's "Peach" is rounding the last turn and heading for the lights of that City. The sound of my maracas and the Star Spangled Banner will be carried over its walls right into the Throne Room!

“…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

Dedicated to a wonderful birthday girl who brings grace and perseverance to her life each day, Haley Canfield, age 11 on 3/23/10. You Go Girl! You have friends in high places.

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