Next week at the Dynamic Communicators Workshop I will be presenting a 5 minute version of this story. After writing it all up today I wanted to share it here in the long version. There is an even longer version but I’m saving that for a book.
I know there is a verse in the Bible used to reassure believers that God knows them so intimately that He has numbered the hairs on their head. However, it is not my head that has trouble as much as it is my heart. I would like to share with you a statistical improbability that permanently settle the question of my heart…Does God really see me?
In 1932, a log cabin was built for my husband’s great grandmother Nellie in Santa Cruz Mountains on a piece of property that was part of a Spanish Land Grant. Her granddaughter Susie grew up riding motocycles in the mountains around that cabin and instilled that love of riding in my husband who passed it on to me.
Unaware of the biking heritage I would later marry into I moved into a small apartment 1 ¼ miles from Churchill Downs in 1981, developing an attachment to the deep traditions of the Kentucky Derby ran there the first Saturday in May.
Our shared interest in riding and our faith prompted my husband and me to join the Christian Motorcyclists Association in 2003. I had just started riding my own Harley Sportster. At one of meetings, a man named Paul recommended a book for my husband for a Christmas gift. After reading just the introduction, I bought it and given his limited recreational reading time, a Christmas miracle happened. He read it. Not only did he read it, he asked me to order a dozen more copies so he could give them to other men. While ordering the books I found a VHS teaching series that went with it and when it arrived, I watched all of the sessions. The website had a promo for a book for women to be published in 2005.Little did I know what an adventure 2005 was going to be.
For my Christmas gift in 2005, my husband decided to take me on the Precepts Ministry’s Tour of the Second Missionary Journey of Paul. The tour was in October. In July, the book Captivating by John and Stacy Eldredge was published and I inhaled it. I went online to enter the lottery for the Captivating retreat and got in on the first try. Captivating was in September. That summer I was teaching Beth Moore’s Breaking free. We were also looking at our plans to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. He wanted to ride to Dayton Bike Week since it was the same week as his birthday. Since riding a sporter cross-country is not a very good ride even for the most road-toughened riders my husband bought me a new Lava Red 2006 Fuel Injected Custom Dyna Harley Davidson in preparation for his birthday. I know, just the odds of a guy buying his wife a new Harley for his birthday make this whole story improbable, but stay with me.
I had the fall of 2005 all lined up. Finish teaching Breaking Free, go to Captivating in September and then to Greece with Precepts in October. Explaining my lineup of expected joy at the end of my last session of Breaking Free one of the women asked me about riding my motorcycle to Daytona and was I afraid of falling. I quipped, “There are only two kinds of riders…those who have fallen and those who are going to. I was in the latter group for three more days. Leaving the gravel cabin road onto the paved county road I over shot a corner and came out on the losing end of a confrontation with a mountain. As my husband ran over to where I was laying in a ditch with my bike on my leg my first words were “Get my bike out of the mud!” I was so afraid I had toasted my beautiful paint job.
Turned out my paint job was perfect but my left leg was broken. Since I have very little upper body strength I spent the next 6 weeks in a wheel chair. One of the first adjustments I needed to make was to verify that Captivating was wheel chair accessible. It was but the shuttle bus was not. After several back and forth emails a conference ticket that was non-refundable, non-transferable was transferred to Captivating 2006. Next stop Greece! I got out of the wheel chair on a Monday, on a plane for New York on Wednesday and on the plane to Greece on Friday!
Captivating February 2005 was tricky. Since my husband was away on a business trip when I got home, he left me roses for Valentine’s Day. On Feb 14, 2005, I logged on to the RH website and as alum of Captivating joined The Well, a group of women who have been one of the greatest blessings God has ever given me.
My oldest stepson called that day and asked me if I was interested in getting my husband the ultimate 50th birthday present. I was. San Jose Harley dealership was selling their drag bike and I picked it up for a good price. That began our year of racing.
It was through the Ransomed Heart forum that I met a lot of great people including a woman known as Ladybug. Turns out she lives about an hour away from me.
In the spring of 2009, she invited me to a retreat at the Mt. Hermon Conference grounds in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Gary Barkalow who had been part of the core team with Ransomed Heart was putting on a retreat about finding your calling. She had an extra room in her cabin and offered it to me.
Here is where it starts getting fun. The Saturday morning of The Calling Retreat was May 2nd. It was a cold rainy day. Gary started the morning showing a clip from the movie Sea Biscuit. I do not know if you are familiar with the movie but there is a scene where the jockey is sitting in a wheelchair with a broken leg. Gary went on to tell a story about being so lost in thought out bird hunting with John Eldredge that he didn’t see the bush full of birds in front of him until they all took to flight as John was pointing and yelling “Bird! Bird! Bird!”
The next session Gary taught was on feeling disqualified for our calling. He asked what lies have you believed. A man I had never seen or seen since, called out from the other side of the room “Too much of a long shot”. Who says that? Too much of a long shot. At the break, I stepped outside to check the iPhone I had just gotten that week.
The write up in Wikipedia says:
“Following overnight rain, the Churchill Downs natural dirt track was rated as sloppy for the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird had trouble out of the starting gate and was left about eight lengths behind the rest of the field. By the time the pack of horses was running down the backstretch, Mine That Bird was so far back that NBC‘s announcer Tom Durkin at first missed seeing him.
Calvin Borel, using the ground-saving, rail-skimming riding technique that won him the 2007 Derby with Street Sense, charged past horses along the backstretch and at the turn for home had moved into contention. Borel kept Mine That Bird on the rail, leaving it just once to go around a tiring horse before ducking back in, where he exploded past Pioneer of the Nile so fast on the inside that NBC’s Tom Durkin, who was focused on other horses vying for the lead, did not see him come through until he was three lengths in the lead. Mine That Bird pulled away to win by six lengths.
A two-dollar win wager returned $103.20, making Mine That Bird the second biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history, behind 91-1 longshot Donerail in 1913.“
Fast forward to last week. I have told this story many times but never put it together like this. On Thursday, Gary will be leading The Calling Retreat again. This time with the Bootcamp Northwest team that my husband and I grew to love, while drag racing in the Pacific Northwest.
Pulling together the numbers and dates for this speech I was once again shown just how great the lengths God goes to to show me He sees my heart. In February this year, production began on the movie based on the true story of Mine That Bird.
Producer, Price Hall said, “His story reminds us to do what we love if we want to succeed.” The Bird has clearly inspired people wherever he has run, and time and again, he has been called ‘everyman’s horse’, setting a great example for the small guy who can win against all odds if he just sets his mind to it.
What are the odds of Gary showing the scene from Sea Biscuit with the jockey with a broken leg in the Santa Cruz mountains on Derby day before he told a story about not seeing the bird until it was right in front of him to a man who feels disqualified because he’s too much of a long shot just before I go out in the rain to check the results of the Kentucky Derby only to find Mine That Bird had won by 6 lengths?
I’m not saying God fixed the Kentucky Derby just to show me He sees me but it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure those odds are so off the charts and the odds of them applying to anyone but me are even greater.