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Profit From Misfortune

 

Meghan Vogel was about to finish dead last in a race that she had hoped to win.

Vogel isn’t regularly a loser, in fact she’s one of the best runners in the state of Ohio.

Earlier that day she had won the state title in the 1600 meters.

But now the 3200 meters was proving to be a different story.

There was no doubt that she would be the final finisher.

Only a few dozen yards ahead of her was Sophomore Arden McMath.

This race hadn’t gone well for her either.

With no way of winning,

McMath had to be taking solace in the fact that she wouldn’t finish last.

Finishing last is an embarrassment.

To be the worst competitor on the field is an idea that every athlete abhors.

Because of this they train and discipline their bodies to withstand the rigors of competition,

working for an excellence in practice that produces greatness of achievement over sustained periods of time.

But this training isn’t always enough.

When the human body has had enough, it’s had enough.

Arden McMath’s body had had enough,

and it was about to betray her.

While the human body is much stronger than we believe it to be,

it also isn’t as strong as the mind or the spirit is.

Runners with more determination than strength know this.

It isn’t rare to see footage of a spent athlete attempting to force themselves across a finish line.

In these scenarios the desire to continue competing causes the mind to send signals to the body parts,

even when those body parts have lost the ability to respond properly.

The spastic movements are a sharp contrast to the graceful, disciplined movements displayed only moments before.

If finishing last is an embarrassment, failing to finish from exhaustion is a humiliation.

McMath’s limbs stopped cooperating.

Her lungs grew shallow.

Her vision began to give way.

In less than a second she would be an unconscious heap on the track.

McMath’s misfortune had provided a miraculous opportunity for Meghan Vogel.

All she had to do was keep striding to finish ahead of her doomed rival.

She only needed to make sure she didn’t bump into her as she passed,

Because interfering with another runner disqualifies you from a race.

Even though she had fallen, Arden McMath didn’t stay on the ground.

Instead of passing her Meghan Vogel interrupted the public meltdown.

You’ve no doubt already seen the video.

You’ve probably also already heard Vogel talk about the bond between distance runners,

and how her mother is her coach.

But have you considered that Meghan Vogel chose to finish the race in last place?

If it’s difficult to ignore the lump in your throat as Vogel carries McMath towards the finish line,

it’s nearly impossible to hold back the tears as she stops before the marker to force McMath across first.

In that moment Meghan Vogel didn’t merely offer assistance to a needy person,

she did so when her assistance guaranteed her own failure.

Whether by disqualification or official timing, Vogel refused to profit from the misfortune of another.

But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t an opportunist.

Meghan Vogel saw misfortune as an opportunity for grace and mercy to triumph over ambition and self-preservation.

In those final 100 meters of selflessness, we all profited from her rare approach to opportunism.

By protecting McMath from humilitation, she guaranteed that a last place finish would hold a first place in our memories.

She took the opportunity to push us all towards a goal that is achievable,

But only when we take our mind off of fear and place it onto the welfare of others.

One young woman was about to finish dead last in a race that she had hoped to win.

Another was about to collapse in a race that she was trying to survive.

Because one of them was willing to finish last,

Nobody had to lose.


If only we’d all take such opportunities.

Get Off The Beach…

Today is June 6th, 2012.

68 years ago today 156,115 men from the British Commonwealth and the United States of America stormed the beaches of France.

Their goal was to liberate that nation from the terror of Nazi Germany.

The overwhelming majority of them survived the day.

Roughly 12,000 did not.

Of those 12,000 men, more than 5,000 of them died on one stretch of land.

We call it “Omaha Beach.”

For much of June 6th Omaha Beach looked and felt like a disaster.

And it didn’t look much better on June 7th.

The entire operation involved the assault of 6 beaches.

We called it “Operation Overlord”.

Despite what happened at Omaha, Overlord was an overwhelming success.

Less than three months later the city of Paris was liberated from the Germans.

Victorious soldiers poured through the streets in parade formation.

That overwhelming majority enjoyed the fruits of that overwhelming victory.

But it wouldn’t have happened without the sacrifice of the 12,000 on June 6th,

12,000 who would never know about Paris.

That exuberant city must have been a sharp contrast to the slaughter at Omaha.

It must have also been a tremendous relief:

A relief to the war-weary soldiers.

A relief to the beleaguered Parisians.

What kind of relief was it to the strategists who planned the Operation?

What about the corpsmen and litter bearers who cleaned up the mess at Omaha?

The typists who dispatched the wretched telegrams to the middle-American mothers?

What about the parents of the 12,000?

The freedom of France didn’t return one lost son,

But it gave purpose to their deaths.

It gave an honorable reason for the loss.

A purpose three painful months in the coming.

What were those three months like?

A June of anguish.

A July of doubt.

An August of second-guessing.

The unfathomable grief of purposeless pain.

If you are alive, you have an Omaha Beach.

You have a day of pain and suffering.

You have a June 6th.

and you also have a July,

and an early August coming don’t you?

Today may be fraught with havoc,

and many of your tomorrows a mid-summer of misery,

But IN CHRIST there is a true Liberation that brings purpose to our suffering.

What would have happened if the Allied Forces had quit at Omaha?

They could have fled from the pain of June,

Self-medicated through July,

And ignored the pangs of August.

Running from that pain would have enslaved the heroes,

and left the French captive in their own nation.

In the same way that their pressing on brought purpose,

Pressing in to Christ brings both relief and freedom;

Not just for us,

But for those that we are fighting for.

Don’t lay on the beach.

Don’t waste your summer on bitterness.

Don’t spend your pain in blaming.

Don’t second-guess where to turn.

There is no Liberation with battle,

There is no battle without pain,

There is no pain that Christ can’t put under his purpose,

And there is no purpose more

freeing,

fulfilling,

healing,

or

victorious

than His.

Don’t lay on the beach.

Christ’s overwhelming success is still in front of you.

“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.  But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:1-7

An Open Letter To The Person Who Just Used The Word “Retarded.”

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Photo: Brigada Creativa

To The Person Who Just Used The Word “Retarded”,

I know you aren’t a jerk, but you just used the word “retarded” regarding the line at Starbucks.

I know you didn’t think twice about it, it probably just rolled out as you described something that you find worthy of ridicule.

If we’re being honest it probably wasn’t the first time you’ve used it that way right?

You’ve probably used it to describe a movie you didn’t like, or a product you found defective. You’ve probably also said it about a person that you were angry with, or a rule that you think is too restrictive.

I’m not guessing when I say that you aren’t alone in using the word this way, because I hear it all the time. Sometimes it gets said by adults, often by kids. It gets used by “regular Joes” as well as the rich and famous.

I know that a lot of people think that it’s really funny. To get laughs they’ll shorten it to “tard” or over pronounce the “Re”.

(more…)

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