"Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services." Nehemiah 12:9
"Bak-buh-WHO?!," I thought to myself this morning as I was reading through a long list of names I couldn't pronounce. Every time I get to one of those tallies of titles, I recall hearing the authoritative and assured voices of Southern Baptist pastors speaking from the pulpit. Face it, NEB-AH-Kood-ne-ZZZER sounds impressive to a child.
Last summer in Tanzania, as I was sharing with the African leader, she asked how I managed to read straight through the Bible year after year (this is around year 22). "What about Kings, Chronicles, Leviticus... all those names!" I laughed thinking about the familiar and impressive names all good Sunday School children learn: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (precisely pronounced Shaaad-RACK, Meeeeee-SHACK, and Ahhh-BED-nay-GO). I said, "If you think of God's Word like food you can always make it through. There are juicy parts like a steak dinner, there are delightfully delicious parts like an enjoyable dessert, and then there are the brussels sprouts; weird and bitter but you know they're good for you."
But this morning's census brought me a reason to smile and perhaps change my mind on them from being brussel sprouts to at least broccoli.
A few days after I returned from the Ironman competition in Idaho, I headed down to San Antonio to visit a soldier and their family. I was still processing the whole experience, and it served me well in "cheerleading" and encouraging my friend. During the Ironman event, the other family members present commented, my youngest son and I could be hired out as professional spectators. For 17 hours we were unrelenting about shouting (for everyone) from the sidelines. I thought about it, and realized that IS already a big part of my assignment; to be an encouragement to others.
"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, EVERY TIME we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Galatians 6:9-10 The Message
I finished working on the video recap (of the Ironman race) for my son over the weekend. We held the premier last night after our weekly dinner. As I was looking at the footage, the photos and the faces in the crowd, I praised the faithfulness of the Father. My son had shared the importance of the spectators (the half-naked guy with the sign mentioned in the last post) and how he knew without a doubt he could not have carried on if not for the consistent encouragement he heard coming from the crowd. The signs held up along the way made him smile and take one more step, and jog just a little faster. But one person in particular made a significant contribution in him finishing, Fireman Rob.
The night before the race a mandatory meeting for all the athletes was held. The race officials go over the rules, what could disqualify you, as well as discussions on "how" to finish (good sportsman like conduct). There were pros as well as non-professional competitors sharing stories of inspiration. Robert Verhelst, a fireman in Madison, Wisconsin, took the stage in the firefighter turnout gear he would be wearing during the Marathon portion of the race. He talked to the gathered group of extraordinarily driven individuals about to take on the Ironman. As he finished he added, " If you see me out there, be nice to me I'll be walking it (meaning the final grueling 26.2 miles coming AFTER the 2.4 mile swim AND 112 miles on the bike.)" How's THAT for inspiration!
My son encountered him, just before the halfway mark in the Marathon (mile 12). He was already going slow as he came up to the "walking" firefighter. Rob asked how he was doing. "I'm worried," my son replied. "I can't eat, my core is cramping (due to dehydration). I don't know if I can make it."
The power of the internet put a name to the firefighter. He wasn't just a guy out there on the road to becoming an Ironman. I know what he did for my son, I am sure he did the same for hundreds of other sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. He did not grow weary of doing good.
"You'll make it," he assured my son. "Just walk with me, don't worry, I'll get you to the finish line. We WILL make it."
I'm thanking God Rob Verhelst and Sean Harwin were added to the "list" of encouragers and they have a NAME. Like Bakbukiah, you might speed read past that part of the "story." The list of names reminds me God works with individuals, personally. He knows our names, and our jobs. The races we are winning and the ones we are struggling to walk through. He is the Author and perfecter of our faith and our cheerleading!
After walking alongside the passion and purpose of a civil servant, my son said, "I think I'm going to start running again."
"Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam. Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law." Nehemiah 12:25-26
It might serve us all well, to recount the names of those who have made a difference. It will serve us better to be sure we make someone else's list!
The last words my son and the firefighter exchanged were, "I'll see you at the finish line." Due to geography, time and money, many of you I might not see again this side of heaven. But I WILL see you at the final Finish Line! Thank you for faithfully cheering, praying and supporting all along the way.
In His service
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(See the 2012 IRONMAN video tribute on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA5vDE0cGe8&feature=youtu.be )