Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Just be held…"

"You're not alone,
stop holding on,
and just be held..."

The past two weeks have been humbling. Loved ones are facing wilderness experiences that leave me standing in awe of their courage and grace. More than once, I've turned to Casting Crown's beautiful song, "Just Be Held" for fellowship in the middle of the night.

In the last twenty four hours I've found myself praying till dawn as one dear friend crosses the frozen Bering Sea with a team of sled dogs, and another precious friend -- his loved wife -- waits to welcome him through the burled arches of the finish line for the 43rd Iditarod in Nome, Alaska.

One promise, from Mary Baker Eddy, has echoed through my heart -- over and over again -- as Lach and the dogs traversed an arctic trail of almost one thousand miles, with gale force winds, drifting snow, and temperatures dipping to fifty degrees below zero at times:

"You are not alone.
Love is with you
watching tenderly over you
by day and night.

And this Love will not leave you,
but will sustain you,
and remember all thy tears,
and will answer your prayers."
-Isaiah 26:3.

Time and again, I let Love resurrect in me what I know of Lach and Linda's love, courage, and trust in God's presence and power. I turned to what I have already seen of their tireless devotion to God's care, their willingness to lean on Him for strength and encouragement in times of trial.

You see, I've had a front row seat to their day-by-day consistent practice of blue-collar spirituality.  Lach and Linda are our daughters' mentors, Polocrosse coaches, and contemporary heroes -- ours too for that matter. And there are not enough tears in my body, or words in my heart, to say what their example has meant to our children's sense of who they are, what they are capable of, and where their strength, selflessness, and courage come from.

I believe that we are taught by example -- not by rote or rhetoric. Team Clarke will not "win" the Iditarod this year with the fastest time across the finish line, but they will have won their place - forever - in our hearts. When faced with almost insurmountable challenges, they have soldiered on with quiet grace and humility.

They have taught us that winning happens each time you put the good of the team, over self-interest and ambition. They have taught us that kindness trumps triumph, that humility scales the heights of holiness, and that to "run the race that is set before you," is not about miles, but self-mastery and a profound trust in something greater than yourself.

Yesterday someone asked me why I'd become such an avid Iditarod fan. I smiled and said, "Well, I don't know that I would actually call myself an Iditarod fan, but a fan of mushers, dogs, and the sled dog community."

What I've witnessed -- by following the Iditarod this year -- are countless stories of unselfish affection, fellowship, devotion, camaraderie, humility, courage, endurance, persistence, and patience. But mostly, I've witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of love.

It reminds me of something a friend once said to me when I was looking for a mentor -- someone who would inspire me, expand my sense of the world, and challenge me to be a better person every day:

"Whenever you witness
an act of simple kindness -- patience, compassion
courage, meekness, charity, grace --
stop whatever you are doing, be still,
hold your breath, watch, and drink it in.
Then, thank God for having shown Himself to you."

Following the Team Clarke's Iditarod journey -- having a front row seat to months of profound human kindness and unselfish devotion -- has been extraordinary for me. I will never be the same.

When Lach and the dogs cross the finish line -- and Linda, Rachael and Chris greet them just beyond the burled arch -- I will be here in my office, weeping with gratitude for all that they have taught me. I will have allowed something wonderfully strange and achingly beautiful transform my sense of the world. I will have been deeply blessed.

offered with Love,


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