Running the race on the first saturday of May

Reflections from Saturday May 4th

I’m pondering the significance of this day–the first Saturday of May in 2013. Traditionally in my place of residence, Columbia, S.C., it marks the beginning of the transition from spring to summer. Temperatures typically start hitting the 90’s about one day out of five. Not so this year. It is unseasonably cold. I had to turn on the heat for a few minutes in my office this morning. So much for global warming today. Maybe next year.

For many years it was the day when we celebrated my in-laws’ wedding anniversary. They married on the first Saturday of May in 1947. That year the first Saturday was May 3. My wife is with her mother today celebrating an early Mother’s Day and remembering her parents would have been married for 66 years yesterday.

For more than 40 years the event of greatest significance in my household on the first Saturday of May has been the running of the Kentucky Derby horse race; the first race in the Triple Crown. It is hard not to notice that over-the-top experience when the first five years of our marriage was spent in Louisville just a few miles from Churchill Downs where the race is run.

It is exceedingly hard to forget this day when before our first anniversary in 1973 the horse that won the race was Secretariat who still holds the record for running the race the fastest. He then went on to win the Triple Crown by conquering the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes over the next month.

Watching Secretariat run was to see a thing of great beauty. When the movie, Secretariat, came out in 2010 we quickly found a date to see the movie, anticipated a great time of remembrance, and we were not disappointed. A thoroughbred in the “zone” has no match for its beauty and elegance.

Today is filled with anticipation as the running of the Kentucky Derby approaches at 6:24 p.m. EDT. I have already been thinking about the running of that race. I have no favorite horse, just an anticipation of experiencing the race and seeing the beauty and elegance expressed during the fastest two minutes in sports.

Thinking about the race the following verse of scripture came to mind: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” [Hebrew 12:1 NASB]

It also happens that today I am preparing a Bible study on the first chapter of Hebrews. It is the first of five lessons. Looking ahead I realized the fifth lesson includes this Hebrews verse. I will be at a Baptist World Alliance meeting in Jamaica on that Sunday and will not have the joy of teaching that lesson.

It is hard to concentrate on the first chapter of Hebrews knowing the race is coming today, and the race of our lives is continually going on. I continue to ponder this day and wonder if I am running the race of life with any measure of beauty and elegance. It is not by my judgment I can evidence this, but in the response of those who see me running the race. The same is true for you.

The horses who run the Kentucky Derby have 150,000 witnesses surrounding them at Churchill Downs and countless millions of people around the world. I wonder if the horses have focus. Are they able to lay aside encumbrances and entanglements and run with endurance the race that is set before them?

I wonder about each of us. In your public and private life, with so many people watching, are you able to lay aside encumbrances and entanglements and run with endurance the race that is set before you? What do a great cloud of witnesses say about the race you are running?

George Bullard

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About the Author
George is President of The Columbia Partnership at, This is a Christian ministry organization that seeks to transform the North American Church for vital and vibrant ministry. It primarily does this through the FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community. See George is the author of three books: Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, and FaithSoaring Churches. George is also General Secretary [executive coordinator] of the North American Baptist Fellowship at This is one of the six regions of the Baptist World Alliance. George holds is Senior Editor of TCP Books at More than 30 books have been published on congregational leadership issues.

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