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Hold that finish!

“Behind every good _____, there’s a good ________,” they say. But I say, after every good stroke, there is a good follow through. After every good kick, after every good serve, after every good swing, after every good putt, after every good throw, there is a good follow through. It’s not an accident that a successful effort is followed by a smooth finish.

Of course, the reverse is also generally true: after a poor stroke, there is a poor follow through. Same with kick. Same with serve, swing, putt, and throw. An unsuccessful effort generally shows itself in its wayward finishing flourish, or lack of one.

How we finish says a great deal about our performance. Finish with ease and balance and we’ve likely been accurate and effective. Finish abruptly and off kilter and we’ve likely missed the mark. Stopping short usually spells failure.

On the surface, this seems odd. Shouldn’t our success depend on what happens when we impart the force, impact the projectile or strike the implement? I mean, how much effect can a follow through really have after I’ve already achieved launch?

The key to the great finish is the freedom to “swing for the fences.” The deep breath of release that allows you to unleash full force, to let ‘er rip and see where she lands. This freedom to swing out of your shoes is the object of every amateur’s dreams and the signature of every champion’s finish. For sure, it has been honed over thousands of hours of painstaking attention to alignment, preparation, timing and execution.

Show me a good finish and I’ll tell you who made the putt, threw the strike, split the fairway or cleared the fence nearly every time. We’re meant to complete what we’ve started. To follow a strong start with a strong finish.

Just like our Designer who assures us we can be confident of this, “that the One who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Phil 1:6

Because the One who put us into motion has planned for our completion, we can swing for the fences without fear of striking out, we can pull full force without fear of falling, we can strike our shot without fear of missing.

Because the finish line ain’t moving. Neither is the fence, the hole, the base or the baseline. We’re meant to keep swinging, free and clear, trusting the outcome, come what may.

We’re not designed to come to a sudden stop. We’re meant to swing and follow through, kick and follow through, throw and follow through, serve and follow through. That’s how we learn to trust ourselves and our practice.

We should have planned this from the beginning. Fortunately, Someone did.

When the storm brings rain

We had a much-needed rain last night. Though the arrogant lightning flashed boldly in my window making it hard to fall asleep, when I heard the droplets pelting against my window pane I knew that thirsty Mother Earth would be glad for a drink. In the morning, the soaking had left a smile on the face of my struggling, newly sodded lawn and renewed my hope that the hydrangea I had transplanted into the front mulch bed — a gift to me from my new next-door neighbor — might still gather the strength to stand up tall. Nice as he is, I felt sure he would be noticing.

As I strode along the drive and then through the neighborhood with my two energetic pups, my shoes became altogether sodden thanks to the puddling on the path which didn’t drink the rain up. Neither did signs and vehicles we passed, nor the metal-covered electrical box, nor the roadway, nor the roofs of nearby homes or their driveways nor the …. But so much did. The browning hillside. The drooping trees and bent shrubs. The colorful annuals planted hopefully along the foundations. These surely did.

Suddenly I felt an odd gratitude for the indiscriminate nature of the rains, falling on all things equally, like the grace of God. Paying no mind to where they land — whether needed or well-received, whether shirked, shed or run off down the hill into the pond — they distributed themselves equally. Yes, the Father sends rain on the just and unjust.

At once I felt a bit of a twinge, recalling times when I had prickled at the apparent unfairness of good things that had come to the poorly mannered, undeserving, entitled or even to the apparently wicked while the same good seemed to be withheld from those who needed or deserved it the most. I needed this simple reminder that the grass, my grass, didn’t receive its rain because it needed it but because of the even-tempered and merciful nature of the One who delivers it.

So that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) 

When we put our hope and trust in humans and human ways, we are sure to be disappointed, but if we trust in God first, perhaps we can trust in what God’s grace can do. Even in them. Even in us. Especially in the storms of life.

The Trust Game

trust gameHave you ever played the trust game? Where someone demonstrates trust in his or her fellows by falling backward into the waiting arms of a team of people set to catch her or him?

Blind fall.
Big risk.
No guarantee.
Complete confidence.

TRUST.

Whom do you trust like that?

I just played a new trust game. One partner keeps eyes closed, while the other partner leads him or her (only with words, no touching) through a crowded room, out a narrow doorway, down a crowded hall – with other people, both sighted and not-sighted, playing this game – around a bend, down another hall and into a crowded public space. On arrival, turn around and return.

Guiding, without sight. Only by faith. Faith in me. That no harm would come to her.

I am cautious, waiting for the way to clear, while talking her through the steps we will take to reach our destination. Introducing myself – did I mention that we had never met each other before? – I assure her that her safety is my utmost goal. But we will achieve our objective.

We begin. I go before her, my back to the traffic, my face to her. At first, I give instructions: turn this way, 2 steps that way, stop. But when I watch her face I see her comfort. She has placed her confidence in me, her complete trust in me. I will talk her through this.

Come toward my voice.
I will stay in front of you.
No harm will come to you.
I will clear your way.

We enter the lighted hallway through the open door of the classroom and her face beams. She pauses without moving. “That’s amazing,” she says, “I know I am in the light, even though my eyes are closed.”

I smile, but she doesn’t see it. She is waiting and listening, blind to the traffic, the congestion of people, and to the chaos of others navigating the hallway. She trusts. Fully.

So simple. Listen to My voice.

sheep-in-pasture-by-jane-jordan
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ~ John 10:14-16

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