Sunday, February 22, 2009

Secretariat: Triple Crown Legend

If I was raised and lived far removed from churches, Holy Scripture, or anyone proclaiming Christ, ...I would know God, my Creator, through horses.

I’ve had a love of horses for as long as I can remember and have shared my life with them since age 6. Reading about horses, watching them on t.v., drawing them, spending hours at the barn riding, grooming and listening to them munch hay is a tightly woven part of my life’s tapestry.

I can recall a little motorized toy that my parents bought for me on Christmas one year that allowed me to place each differently colored horse on a little track, press ‘go’ and watch them race over and over again with varying outcomes, much to my delight.

I spent days outside in the summer reveling in Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series
and actually fell over backward in my lawn chair after throwing my hands in the air, celebratory style, as I read about the conclusion of a long and arduous desert horse race.

It isn’t the sport of racing that appeals to me as much as the opportunity to witness perfection in God’s most noble creature. In fact, there’s much to lament about the
sport ...the misuse of drugs, some calloused owners and insurance policies, the questionable breeding and other ethical matters.

What I wish to share with you is the essence of the animal, a heart and spirit that kindles praise to my Creator.

There are times in our life when we can witness perfection or experience it ourselves as God’s grace is given. When we see an athlete such as Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope or Lyman Bostock who sought to return a salary he felt he didn’t earn, or Troy Polamalu who speaks openly about his love for God, we can gain a sense of something outside of themselves, something greater...something far greater and wonderful. In animals, perhaps even more so since they haven’t the propensity toward sin. Every perfect thing in us is from God above; how glorious when we gain glimpses of the eternal on earth!

I was only a toddler when Secretariat wowed the world with his stamina and heart. But through the recordings of his races and the words of those closest to him, I can share in his amazing life. In watching him run as God created him to do, it is not just thrilling to behold, but deeply humbling in the sense that here, before us, is a glimpse of perfection, of God’s handiwork.

In 1973, Secretariat won each leg comprising the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, setting new track records in each and a new world record in the Belmont. Since 1919, we’ve only seen 11 Triple Crown winners...and after the Belmont Stakes, the last and longest of the races at a mile and a half, Pat Lynch remarked:

“It was like the Lord was holding the reins, ..Secretariat was one of His creatures and maybe whispered to him a “Go” and that horse really went. It was really an almost supernatural really was.” 
--Pat Lynch NY Racing Association 1957-1981 on Secretariat’s performance in the Belmont Stakes

*To the best of my knowledge the above image is in public domain; for more information on Secretariat, please visit 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Never Quit

My daughter is home from school today with a tummy virus.  We've spent some time working on her skills telling time and reading and then she needed to lay down to rest.  When I asked her if she wanted to watch a movie, mentioning some of our favorites, Cinderella, Little Bear and Bug's Life, she said, "How 'bout the Giant movie?"  

She meant "Facing the Giants" , a film that we discovered several months ago and have watched as a family on several occasions.  It's a Christian film, from an evangelical mindset of a high school football coach's struggle to win, in life and on the field.  It's a great story with themes to warm and encourage the heart no matter your denomination.

I'm posting my favorite scene below:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Victory through Christ; thoughts on St. Terese of Lisieux

I had intended to write about St. Valentine last week, but fierce storms and a power outage that lasted for days altered my plans. We live in a rural area that experiences frequent outages and although it’s fun to live like pioneers for a few hours, I find that it’s more a lesson in patience and self-control. Which brings me round to thinking on St. Terese of Lisieux and her “little way”.  

A Catholic friend recently loaned to me a film about St. Terese’s life. She was known for small acts of kindness and demonstrating what it means to crucify our will in favor of allowing the light of Christ to shine through us. If you’d like to learn more about St. Terese, you might enjoy reading at the
Society of the Little Flower website. I didn’t know much about St. Terese before watching the film and now find myself greatly inspired by her life.  

Her life encourages my walk with Christ by helping me to take the high road in everyday circumstances. She reminds me that it is not necessary that I do grand things for God, such as building a cathedral or living among the poor in order to minister to them, but it is necessary that I become aware of my own sins so that I may repent and do small things in a grand way, or more accurately, God’s way.

Small things such as placing my needs behind another’s, listening to someone’s heartaches when you feel pressed for time or even giving a smile or warm words to someone who has been unkind. I experienced a victory through Christ a few days ago that is worth sharing for anyone who may battle a common demon, ...

Anger thrives on haste, self-righteousness and pride. I know my enemy very well and yet struggle to find peace when I know his approach is near. It is only by the grace of God that I am able to turn away and see a different path when all my buttons are pressed and the fuse is at the end. But it so happened a few days back that God quieted my mouth when I experienced hot words and gave me such a taste of sweetness... victory through Christ. I learned that if I can just hang on, over the crest of the wave, there is stillness, peace and mercy on the other side; it’s only in our nearness to our Creator that we are able to forget self, thus foiling our enemy.  

I’m grateful to St. Terese for radiating the love of Christ, for bearing witness to heaven through her selfless acts of love toward others. May God have mercy on me and enable me to call to mind His wondrous saints in times of temptation.  

"I applied myself above all to practice quite hidden little acts of virtue; thus I liked to fold the mantles forgotten by the Sisters, and sought a thousand opportunities of rendering them service."  St. Terese of Lisieux

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

St. Brigid's Cross

In a popular icon of St. Brigid she is depicted with her handmade cross of rushes.  I have one of these crosses on my living room wall and have found it is usually a conversation piece, with one guest believing it was some sort of ninja tool!   Legend says that the saint formed this cross in order to minister to a dying man; one version goes like this:
"A pagan chieftain from the neighborhood of Kildare was dying. Christians in his household sent for Brigid to talk to him about Christ. When she arrived the chieftain was raving. As it was impossible to instruct this delirious man, hopes for his conversion seemed doubtful. Brigid sat down at his bedside and began consoling him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness. Brigid stooped down and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. She began to explain the cross, and as she talked his delirium quieted and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he converted and was baptized at the point of death. Since then the cross of rushes has been venerated in Ireland."
I think it's interesting to note that both St. Patrick and St. Brigid utilized elements of nature, shamrocks and rushes, respectively, in order to minister to those seeking the Divine. It calls to mind Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse..."  All the firmament shouts His glory, how much more in the hands of His precious saints!
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