“For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26
Happy Friday to all at the Digital Cornbread Table this lovely Friday! I hope and trust your week has gone well. Mine has been full for certain, culminating yesterday with a funeral for a dear loved one whom I knew well from my WW meetings and from a very special group of folks at the Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Support Group. This funeral with the upcoming Holy Week and a couple of other cool things bring me to the topic today: Finishing strong. More succinctly, finishing life strong.
What does it mean to “finish strong”? First some Bible verses come to mind:
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:1-7)
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Phil 3: 12-16
There are many others…feel free to comment them below. I left out some great verses on this topic.
First let me break down this phrase into its component forms: Finish+Strong
Everything comes to a finish. Everything that is bound by time, that is, because without something, or better someone, timeless, there could be no time as a true reference point. Baseball hitting streaks end. Dates end. Drives to work end. This article will (eventually) end. Political careers end. Nations end. Ultimately, the Son of God’s life even came to an end…until He was raised that wondrous Easter Sunday. (This concept will pop your mind like squeezing a grape if you think about the fact that the Son is also eternal) Ultimatelier even yet (apologies to my many English teachers for that doozy), the world itself will come to an end again and He will present a perfect, paradise restored some sweet day at His reappearing on which the faithful will live with Him forever. Ends happen. My beautiful friend’s life ended a little over a week ago after 75 amazing years, and we celebrated her and, more so, Her Savior yesterday.
Strong- Strong, in the context here, means “with strength” and/or a firm foundation. It means not leaving things undone and unsaid. It means learning, and teaching, to the very last breath, like a river flowing with God’s Grace instead of a social media puddle of knowledge. It also means “well” and “with honor”.
Do you want to finish strong? I do too. I want good things to be said about me to my kids like the kids of my dear friend heard. I mostly want to hear my Lord say “Well done“.
Any time I think of this topic, I also think of another dear friend of mine: a former pastor whose odometer may read 92000.0 but whose mind and body operate at a much younger mileage than mine do. I would cite his name here, but he is a very humble man who didn’t share this information to do anything but bring His Savior Glory, not himself. For a class project a couple of years ago I asked this spiritual pillar in my life something to the effect of “What is on your bucket list“/”What do you want to accomplish in your 90s and beyond that is in the category of finishing strong?” His list was fresh and amazing:
Good morning, Mark…and here is that list, which I will probably refine and add to (or delete) in the next several days.
1. Bring my unfinished autobiography up-to-date.
2. Arrive at a satisfactory understanding of the book of “Revelation”.
3. Use our newly acquired Senior Park Pass to visit at least two national parks and/or national monuments each year.
4. Write at least one personal note of encouragement to someone each week.
5. Write each grandchild a personal letter on his/her on his/her birthday.
6. Write at least one poem in the first month of each calendar quarter.
7. By April 1, 2018, go through every box of my stored “stuff” and pitch, donate, or sell every thing that otherwise my survivors would need to do.
8. Make every November (day) very special for my wife’s birthday.
9. Plan a special get-away for each wedding anniversary.
10. Visit at least two long-time friends each year…people whom I have known 25 or more years.
11. Read at least one new book every two months.
12. Visit the 5 states of our nation that I have not yet entered.
13. Assemble the porch glider that (his wife’s) Dad made, and has not been put together yet. This is a sentimental project.
14. Continue walking at least 1 mile per day (or 1 1/2 miles on stationary bike) 6 days per week.
15. Continue my daily exercise regime 5 or more days per week.
16. Live up to my life verses: Proverbs 3:5-6.
Thanks again for requesting this of me, Mark. It is one of those things that I would do “some day”, but that time was always just ahead! As I mentioned at first, I will probably add to, perhaps delete, maybe refine some of these. Buy the way, I have already tended to #3 this year, finished #5 for a Nov. birthday, and written #4. Number 6 is a project for today, number 9 has been salted away already, and I am up-to-date on number 11.
Blessings to you and yours.
My mom finishing strong looked different because her situation was completely different. For one, mom was born again within the last decade before she became symptomatic. Her testimony: She grew up in church. Her most special relatives, her dear grandparents, were horseback Methodist evangelists/preachers/revivalists. They served in local churches and they travelled the Ozarks and told groups small and large about their Savior. Mom knew the Gospel and knew it well. However, as she told me later in life, her “decision” to follow Jesus was more of a decision to be afraid of hell. She walked an aisle and signed a card and was sprinkled…then went on. Her story wasn’t all that different than my own in that area. However, when she was truly born again several years ago, all she wanted to do was talk about the Grace and the Savior that saved her. She must have shown me her outdoor baptism picture 20 times, even after she started showing signs of dementia. She knew her kids were believers and that her husband was as well…and she rested in that, and still does, awaiting when we can all meet again but with renewed bodies and no sin. What a day that’ll be! Was she perfect her whole life? Nope…and that is the point. He loved her and saved her as she was and she had to tell everyone. 🙂
Another thing mom did in finishing strong was writing things down.. as best she could. By the time she had thought that through, she was struggling, but she wrote many things down for later viewing. (Note here…excessive dependence on lists, when combined with other risk factors, can be a sign of dementia) Some things were from her mind, others were from magazines or books that she liked, and some were from cookbooks and yearbooks. It was kind of a message in a bottle from the old self to the future new…and to us. She had lists, pictures with correct and incorrect (especially later) info on them, and the like. I think of some of these notebooks and boxes of “keepsakes” like this: The house is on fire (a slow, but sure burn) and you know you can only save certain things due to time, so you start reaching and grabbing all you can as the smoke starts filling the room. While you may have rather grabbed that favorite old doll from your youth, it was upstairs and there were plenty of things close to grab and rescue…so that she did. Here are five pages of one book of notes. (Mom had such beautiful handwriting) I will spare you by stopping at 5 because I need to…it is hard for me to allow myself into her mind at that time. She was and is such a sweet person, and stuff like this was important that I/we know before the fire burned it up….
I know, to you regardless how much you care and know me, this may seem like randomness from someone struggling. To me it is mom in a fire…and it crushes me to read…so I will move on.
Another thing mom did in finishing strong is making her last wishes/directives known. A couple of things: First, she has stressed for 20 years that should she need to live in a nursing home to not feel bad and that she would love the time there…and, for the most part, she has done fine. She had played piano in nursing homes for church services for a long, long time. She knew they were imperfect but she also knew families struggle with this situation and she desperately didn’t want us feeling bad. She also made it known many times that she didn’t want heroic medical procedures done to keep her alive once that time came and made it very clear that we didn’t need to feel bad, but that she would go to heaven. These two things (along, obviously with her salvation) have made these days bearable and have made us look ahead toward heaven even more.
So, finishing strong is beautiful. It is emotional. It is the goal. It is diverse/comes in many forms. (Don’t believe me, look up and read this book). But we have to make it our goal. Finish strong, brothers and sisters. And keep fighting to #EndALZ
Update: My stepdad and I had a nice, if short, visit yesterday. We are allowed to make up, sanitize our hands, and go behind the plexiglass to give hugs briefly, then we have to go back in front of the plexiglass and we can unmask. We get 15 minutes, two times a week. It is better than nothing… 🙁 Mom was very tired as you can probably tell. She did laugh at a few things we said, but she also slept 6-8 of our precious minutes. Stinking disease, and the meds to help with symptoms, take their toll. She is also wheezing again although the nurse said it happens after every meal. Aspirating food is the Big, Bad Wolf to the straw house of dementia.
Runnin’ Til I’m Purple Update: Got in about 30 miles this week so far, but I have a 20+ miler planned for this beautiful weekend. The fundraiser is at $1650 on a goal of $5280…we’ll make it yet. 🙂 I hope I can finish strong on this project too. (At least finish…37.6 miles, it turns out, is a long stinkin’ way)
Bonus note at the bottom, lest I forget: Another aspect of finishing strong is related to legacy. My neighbor (office room wise) lost her wonderful dad this month. He leaves behind everything in great shape with a family full of believers counting on and leaning on Christ. Is there any possible way of finishing stronger than that??? If you knew their family, you would agree! 🙂 Top to bottom, an amazing, wonderful lot. He finished not only strong, but a hero! I have three great kiddos and a wonderful wife, so if this is indeed a critical part of finishing strong, and I feel confident it is, things are looking up. 🙂