Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, December 29, 2011

If I had known...

Amanda wasn't killed on New Year's Eve, but she was murdered at a party, a party where teenagers were drinking and getting high. Sitting here on Christmas break, the circumstances surrounding Amanda's death weigh heavy on my mind.

I dread the thought that another young person anywhere will fall to the sword of underage substance abuse. That dread, those thoughts, the possibility, the likelihood that someone, somewhere will die because another teenager gets stoned or drunk is pushing me to try to inform everyone of the dangers.

The following poem came to me just now. Please share it with your teenagers before they go out again. Don't think teens partying, drinking, and using drugs are harmless. We know all too well just how harmful they really are.

There was a party that night
That sounded like fun.
Nothing better to do
So I said I'll come.

I know if I'd asked
My folks would say no.
So I didn't tell them
Where I would go.

They would say to be careful
And I thought that I was.
I didn't get trashed
Just wanted a little buzz.

There were people there
Who I didn't know.
It seemed harmless enough,
Some drink and some smoke.

I took the drink they offered,
Watched them act like fools.
Everybody was laughing.
Everything seemed cool.

But when I went to the bathroom,
One guy at me made a pass.
I thought he was disgusting.
I said no and I laughed.

That's when things started changing.
He said bad things that hurt.
I told the guy who brought me
He was mean and a jerk.

He went into his bedroom,
Came out with a gun.
All of a sudden
Things were no longer fun.

His wild eyes were glaring
As he drew down on me.
The fire from the barrel
Was the last thing I'd see.

I couldn't help but think,
As I fell to the floor,
I wish I hadn't come.
It wasn't fun anymore.

What had seemed so harmless
Killed me that night.
The drink and the drugs
Helped him take my life.

Please do whatever you can, do your part to stop teens from drinking and using drugs. It's not harmless, and it's not something they'll all have a chance to grow out of.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parents: Talk to your teens before New Year's Eve!

Saturday night is New Year's Eve, a night when even many who never party any other time indulge. It's almost expected that everyone gets trashed to usher in the New Year, even high school kids.

Parents, start now talking to your kids about the dangers of drinking and drugs. Talk to them every day, as often as you have the chance, before they leave the house on December 31. Tell them about the dangers of teen drinking and drug abuse.

It wasn't New Year's Eve, but less than a year ago, on January 15, 2011, our 17-year-old daughter was murdered by a drunken, stoned, underage fool. The booze and the weed he had taken in that night combined to impair his judgment and fuel his anger that night. In his stupor, he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and fired, ending the life of Amanda Marie Allison only four days before she would have turned 18, only four months before she would have graduated from high school.

She was gone. Only a few minutes earlier she had texted a friend to tell her she was "having fun," then she was dead.

Most everyone knows the dangers of drinking and driving, for teens and adults. But far fewer ever consider the lesser known dangers like those that took my daughter's life last January. Honestly, we didn't take those dangers seriously either, before Amanda was murdered.

Drinking and drug abuse among teens can have drastic, permanent consequences. We learned this the hard way. It's not harmless fun, not a rite of passage, not excusable behavior to be laughed off and grown out of. Even if your kid never gets behind the wheel under the influence, even if he doesn't get in the car with another who does, EVEN IF YOUR KID NEVER TAKES A DRINK OR SMOKES A JOINT, the danger is real!

Too many think they can control themselves under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Maybe they can and maybe they can't. Too many, even those who don't take a drink or take any other drug, think parties crowded with drunks and druggies are fun and cool places to be. Too many think drinking and drugs only hurt the person indulging.

All wrong! So very wrong!

We learned the hard way. Please don't believe and fall victim to those lies. Talk to your kids before it's too late.

Amanda was somewhere she shouldn't have been. She thought she could handle herself, and she thought there was no danger that night. Remember, only minutes before her death she was "having fun." She never saw the danger posed by a drunken, stoned, underage 19-year-old. She never considered his impaired state of mind would lead him to do something so irrational, so violent, so deadly. She thought she could handle herself and control the situation.

Now she's dead.

It wasn't her drinking that killed her and the young man who took her to the party says she wasn't doing drugs. She thought she was okay, that she was in control. But she couldn't control the fool who killed her.

Don't let your teenagers leave this New Year's Eve without warning them. Do everything in your power to keep them from falling prey to the dangers of underage drinking and drug abuse. Don't think these parties are just part of growing up. Don't think they're harmless.

Underage drinking and teen substance abuse is not harmless and not just a stage to be grown out of. Some kids don't survive to grow out of it.

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."--Proverbs 22:6

I used to think of this scripture every time we caught one of our kids doing something wrong. I thought about all of my bad decisions and all the lessons I learned the hard way, and how I'd grown up and learned from them. Amanda wasn't a bad kid. She drank some and so did I when I was her age. I always thought the day would come, looked forward to it actually, when she would grow up and grow out of thinking it was fun and cool. She didn't.

She never had the chance because that fool killed her. There's no guarantee that any kid will get old, but their chances are reduced by drinking, drugs, or even attending parties where these activities take place when they don't participate. Amanda never had the chance to grow old.

Talk to your kids. Tell them. Warn them. Convince them.

I promise you don't want to walk a mile in our shoes.

Talk to your teens before New Year's Eve. Please!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Training Week: 12/19--12/25

Hope everyone had a merry Christmas. We've known since Amanda died, 11 months ago, this would be one of the hardest times for us and it was a pretty tough week. Our Christmas break at school didn't start until 3:30 pm Thursday the 23rd. A lot of people complained about that, but I was really kind of glad. It kept me busy almost until Christmas Eve. That pushed back the worst of things until the last minute.

[NOTE: The picture at the right is not my tree, but a friend's who posted it on Facebook.]

I managed to get all my runs in this week too! Three six-mile runs during the week, then a planned 15 miler turned into 16 on Saturday. That may well have been my first ever Christmas Eve run and I know without a doubt it's the first time I've ever started that day out with such a long run. I'm really loving these long runs now. (I'm sure that will change this summer when the heat comes back.)

Last April I posted about the first 16 miler I completed in training for the Marine Corps Marathon. Now it's almost like it's no big deal to cover that much ground. Don't get me wrong, it's still tough. My legs still get stiff and sore and ache when I'm done, but it's just not the major accomplishment it was.

Maybe that's why I catch myself constantly looking for races on the internet these days. This distance running is kind of like a drug, the more you get of it, the more you want. What used to feel like such an accomplishment feels routine after awhile. But I've got to be disciplined and remember what I'm running for.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

It's not my fix, not my accomplishments, not my glory. Every mile I run has to be for the glory of Jesus Christ. If not, I've lost focus and will surely fall. He's called me to run two marathons a year and another shorter race in the intervening months, so that's what I'll do. May He be glorified in all that I do, every training mile and every race mile.

Training Week: Dec 19 - Dec 25

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday0 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday16 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total34 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

On Saturday I planned to only run 15 miles, but ended up with 16 before calling it quits. Our local running group, the Cabot Country Cruisers, had a group run planned at 8:00 am. I assumed they would be looking to run 5 miles. So I started at 6:00 am and finished two 5 mile loops before the 8 o'clock link up. That's when I learned they were doing 6 miles that morning.

No big deal. What's an extra mile when you've already done 15, right? It really was awesome. Got to run with a great bunch of people, some I didn't know before that morning. It was a really awesome way to start the day on Christmas Eve!

This week things will be a little different. I don't see any obstacles to getting in the miles, but it will still be different. My mother is coming to stay with our dogs while we travel to visit Janice's family. They live on the east coast of North Carolina where a speed bump rivals the biggest elevation change in the area. I mean, it's flat!

So I'll be getting in the miles, but there won't be any hills. Haven't decided yet if I'll bump up the miles a little to compensate or maybe take a day and run some bleachers at a football stadium. We'll see where the good Lord leads us and take it one day at a time.

Anyway, we'll be posting from the coast of North Carolina next week. We'll ring in the New Year, then be back before school starts.

Happy training. May God's blessings shower you on every mile.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Christmas

If Amanda were still with us, I wouldn't be sitting here at the computer this morning. I wouldn't have slept until 8:00 and I'd have no reason to write this poem. But almost one year ago, a drunken, stoned 19-year-old man gunned my beautiful daughter down.

Amanda was the one who woke up early every Christmas and made sure everyone else was awake. Now she's gone. Things are different, very different.

The family came and ate last night,
Gathered to eat and open gifts.
Christmas Eve we get together,
But this time you were missed.

One might not have noticed
From the outside looking in.
While around the others
Our hearts sealed the pain within.

We want Christmas to be as normal
For Courtney as before.
So when they left we started
The usual Christmas Eve chores.

That's when the tears flowed freely
No more to be held back.
Though so blessed, in many ways,
We still want what we now lack.

Now it's Christmas morning.
Here alone sit I.
Mom and Courtney sleeping,
You heavy on my mind.

Every Christmas morning
That smile with us you'd wake.
Before the sun so early,
The trip to the tree we'd make.

Mom and I would watch
As you and Courtney opened gifts.
With wrapping paper flying,
Your smiles our spirits would lift.

This year is now so different
As I sit here alone.
Mom and Courtney are still sleeping
As Christmas morn drags on.

I want Christmas to be merry
For your Mom and Sis today.
But I sit here missing you
Knowing I can't make it that way.

The thing that keeps me going
Fighting through the pain.
Is knowing we'll be together,
Again, all of us one day.

I don't know when that time will come,
Don't know the hour or the day.
But come it will because our Savior,
Jesus Christ, was born this day.

The hope that comes with knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior is the only thing that keeps me going. That's where the hope and knowledge that one day we'll be reunited with Amanda, for eternity, in Heaven comes from. I could not make it through a day without that.

I hope and pray that all who read this know or come to know Jesus Christ so that they too may have that same hope when they face tragedy in their lives.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Facing that First Christmas Without Her

It's only a few minutes before the clock strikes midnight and Christmas Day 2011 officially begins. Today we spent with family, two Christmas meals and opening presents at both places. We do it every year, Christmas with Dad and later Christmas with Mom. But this year someone was missing, someone who should have been there.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

More than 11 months have passed since Amanda was murdered. My beautiful 17-year-old daughter gone suddenly, without warning, stolen from us in the blink of an eye. We always knew the holidays would be hard, and all have been up until now. But Christmas promised to be especially difficult and now it's here.

Amanda loved Christmas. She loved getting together with family and she loved the presents. Always the first to rise on Christmas morning, she'd wake Courtney long before the sun came up. Then she'd wait as long as she could stand (which usually wasn't very long) and come to wake us.

It never seemed to matter what the presents were she opened, she loved it! She loved the whole spirit of Christmas morning, the excitement, the love, just all of it.

Today she wasn't here, and tomorrow she won't be either. How will it go? I don't know. I don't know what time we'll get up, how Courtney will feel as we sit in the living room and open presents without Amanda, or what it will be like after.

Her stocking hangs from the mantle with the others, but I dread the annual ritual of filling them. There's no reason to fill hers. There are no presents for Amanda under the tree and the void where they should be is a constant reminder that she's gone.

Every year, her excitement and enthusiasm was a pure joy to witness. Somehow, some way we have to try to make Christmas fun for Courtney, but she's feeling all the same things.

I'm tired and want to go to bed, but then again I don't. The uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring makes me afraid, going to bed is the first step in bringing it all to the fore. But just like every other frightening step we've taken on this journey, it's one we have to take. We must move forward into the unknown.

" 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them [those who have died in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words."-- 2 Thessalonians 4:17-18

As sad, difficult, and frightening as all of this is, facing our first Christmas Day without Amanda, we're fortunate to have the peace that comes from knowing we'll see her again one day. Without that knowledge, there could be no peace, no courage, no moving on.

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, born 2011 years ago. He came to Earth, lived, taught, died, and rose again so that we might have eternal life. Jesus is the only reason we can know that we will see our beautiful daughter again in Heaven.

Christmas Day will certainly be difficult. How difficult? I don't know. Only tomorrow will tell. But most certainly it would be more difficult, maybe even impossible to face without the understanding that we will be reunited with Amanda one day.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How will you run your race?

What an awesome night! I was so very blessed to have been invited to give the message at Friendship Baptist Church's youth group Christmas dinner. And I consider it more than a coincidence that God began to lay the message on my heart two full days before the youth pastor asked me to speak.

On the three and a half hour drive back from the Fayetteville Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about the race when the idea came to me for this devotional. Over and over again the similarities between long distance running and life kept popping into my thoughts. I had an overwhelming urge to write.

Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to deliver it to a bunch of great kids gathered to worship God. Here's the message, "How will you run your race?"

About three years ago, I started running again to get into shape. I'd been teaching about three years, had gained considerable weight, and was really starting to feel like a slob. So I started running.

Off and on all through my life I had run. In the Marine Corps I ran more than any other time, but even as a civilian I would take up the habit every so often. Most of those times it didn't take long to get back into decent shape. But this time, I found it more difficult.

Age was the culprit. I had crossed the dreaded threshold of forty years on Earth. I've heard it said your metabolism dies at forty, and now I believe it. Not only was the running harder, but the weight wasn't coming off either!

I stuck with it though, determined to win the battle. It wasn't long before I entered my first 5K. My finish time wasn't impressive, but I crossed the line after completing the 3.1 miles. A few months later I ran the first 10K, then registered for my first half marathon. Just a couple of months ago, I finished my first full marathon!

Someone asked me what it was like to run the 26.2 miles. My answer was something to the effect of, "It's a sense of accomplishment that's impossible to describe accompanied by extreme pain." What was really amazing is that less than a year earlier I considered it an impossible dream to go the distance.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are
--Matthew 19:26

But God knew it was possible. In fact, He decided it was just the challenge I needed after Amanda was killed, and He gave me the idea for Running with Amanda to make it all mean something. I started running with a purpose, running for a reason, running for His glory and not mine.

After the Marine Corps Marathon and four half marathons, I've come to understand that long distance running is practically a metaphor for the time we spend here. After all, this life we're living is just one big, long race. And just like the way we run an endurance race determines how we finish, so does the way we live our life determine our end.

Before the Start

Running a marathon is more than just the 26.2 miles one covers on the course. In fact, the race starts long before the runner even approaches the starting line. You can't just decide to run a marathon, pay your entry fee, and take off on a 26.2 mile jaunt. At least most humans can't.

It takes months of training, well-planned training. Hours and hours and hundreds of miles, buckets of sweat, callouses, blisters, and several pairs of shoes go into the training for a marathon. That training can prepare you to run a good race, can injure you and knock you out of the race, or leave you unprepared and make for a less than pleasant race.

Just like the training period of an endurance race, early life experiences prepare you for the race ahead. What your parents teach you, what you learn in school, what you learn in church, and what you learn from other sources all work together to shape who you become as you step up to the starting line. Good parents, a good childhood, good role models, and good choices can prepare you and make your life easier. Going too far the other direction can lead to tragedy and end your life before you ever really get started. Then there's the middle ground. It doesn't really give you a good foundation, doesn't really prepare you well and leaves you struggling as you go through life.

Before the training, everyone starts out at the same point in life. Nobody is special, nobody is favored. Every single person is unprepared for what lies ahead. Not one deserves to run well, neither does he deserve to struggle.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"--Romans 3:23

We all begin as untrained, ill-prepared runners and we all begin as undeserving sinners in the eyes of God. So what makes the difference in how we train, how we run, and how we finish?

When I started running again, it was all for me. I wanted to get back into shape. I wanted to improve my times. I wanted people to ooh and aah and tell me how impressed they were that I was running 3 miles, 6 miles, or even 13 miles. (I still didn't believe I'd ever run a full marathon.) I was doing it for me and for my own vanity.

That didn't work out too well.

Oh it went okay for awhile, but then things went south. Suddenly, I began to hear a little voice inside my head telling me that I needed to find a way to glorify God with my running. I ignored it for a while, telling myself I didn't know how. Then, only five weeks before my first half marathon, I injured my foot. For the next five weeks, every time I tried to run, the pain shot through my foot and up my leg and stopped me in my tracks.

I decided there was no way I was going to let all the training I had done go to waste, so I ran the race. It was tough and I walked a lot of it. My foot hurt bad, but I was determined. I pushed through the pain and made it to the finish line. Not a great time, but I did manage to cross it.

A little discouraged but not willing to be defeated, I signed up for the next one. I had six months to train. It began to occur to me that maybe my previous injury was a hint from God that I needed to stop ignoring that previously mentioned voice and seek His glory instead of my own. I decided that maybe I could start signing up only for races that benefited some charity or another.

Maybe that would satisfy the Lord.

Things seemed to be going along fine once I started signing us up for charity races until two months before my second 13.1 mile race. Approaching the finish line of a 5K race, I decided to sprint to beat the clock out of a few seconds. Bad mistake! Just as soon as I tried to launch into my sprint, my left knee felt like it just blew up. The pain was unbelievable. I'd never felt anything like it!

I limped the 50 or so yards left and crossed the finish line (without beating the clock out of those cherished seconds) in crazy pain. It hurt so bad, I didn't know if I would be able to run the upcoming half marathon. But it also immediately came to mind that I hadn't yet found a satisfactory way to honor God's call. This was my second big hint and I knew I had to get thing right or there wouldn't be too many long races in my future.

I bought a brace for my knee and managed to keep running those two months before the race by cutting back on the weekly miles. But it was then I really started thinking about how to honor Jesus with my running. The ideas for Running with Amanda began to take shape, but without the honoring her memory because she was still with us then. I even started a blog similar to this one and began writing posts.

That blog didn't get much traction, but my knee began to heal and my training seemed to start going a lot better. I felt like I was finally on the right track. When Amanda was killed, those ideas merged with a pressing desire to honor her memory and Running with Amanda was born.

Since then my training has gone without hardly a hitch. I've been getting stronger and faster and even ran two half marathons and the Marine Corps Marathon without another injury. Once I started training for the right reasons, to honor God instead of myself, things just fell into place.

Training for life is a close parallel to training for a race.

I teach a lot of kids from a variety of backgrounds. I've had students whose parents are in prison, are alcoholics or drug addicts, are abusers, or are completely missing from their lives. One father even had his sons dealing drugs for him. Then there are the opposite extremes, kids with both birth parents in the home, respectable with good jobs, loving and kind, and involved in everything the kid does. You can guess which ones have the best chance, the ones whose training helps prepare them for the race ahead.

Then there's the kids' church life. Of those kids living out one of the above extremes or another, it's usually not the former who attend church and learn the lessons from the Bible. There are exceptions of course. Kids from the addicts, abusers, and cons somehow get involved in church, and others from the two responsible, loving, involved parents who seldom or never step foot inside a house of God.

And of course there are those in between the extremes. Their parents may share a few traits from the bad and a few from the good, in some combination or other. But one thing I see, without a doubt, those heavily involved in church tend to get in less trouble while they're in school and after they get out. They're more likely to study and be successful in college. As I watch them grow after they leave high school, it seems obvious their "training" has prepared them to be more successful than their counterparts without a solid upbringing in the church.

In life, proper training matters just like it does in preparing for a long distance race. Training for the race you build strength, endurance, and avoid injuries if you do it right. Training for life you build character, work ethic, and perseverance when you do it right. And all I've seen tells me there's a strong correlation between Jesus and the ones who get it right.

Any long distance race starts with the training, and so does life. Trust in Jesus. Bring your kids up with the Bible. Teach them morals and right and wrong according to Godly principles and you'll be doing them a huge favor. You'll get them to the starting line of the race in great shape and well-trained.

Running the Race

The runner well-trained for his race has a plan. He starts with a goal in mind and an idea of exactly how he will accomplish that goal. The race may not always go according to his plan, but his training and discipline will allow him to adapt on the go. Above all else, when the well-trained runner steps up to the starting line, he knows he can finish the race, knows he'll go the distance.

Just like good, disciplined training will get you to the starting line of the race aptly prepared, there are ways to give you an edge in life when you step up to run your race. Good grades in school, a good work ethic developed along the way, among others are things we can learn to help us be successful when we start our race. But the most important thing to have when you step up to the starting line of life is the confidence that you can get through it, that you can live it well. Having the confidence to know that you can overcome the obstacles life will throw your way is invaluable when you take that first step.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved"--Acts 16:31

And the beauty is that confidence is available to all! You don't have to buy it. You don't have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get it. You don't have to know the right people to find it. The verse above tells exactly how to get it, how to have it. Believe and be saved!

That's it. Believe that Jesus, the One and Only Son of God, came to Earth, born of a virgin, lived a life without sin, died, and was resurrected so that He could pay the price for our sin. He died so we don't have to!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

That's what Jesus said! Don't fear. Don't fret. Don't worry. You'll have bad times in life. Bad things will happen. Life won't always be a bed of roses for anybody, neither for the Christian nor the non-Christian. But as a Christian you have hope because Jesus has overcome all the bad in the world. He promises us that we can make it through life, we can make it to the finish, regardless what we encounter along the way.

We can know at the start that we will finish the race if we just believe in Him and are saved!

A long race covers a lot of distance and usually a variety of terrain. I ran a half marathon in Fayetteville, Arkansas the other day, 13.1 miles. Fayetteville is the home of the University of Arkansas and a place where it's hard to find a spot level enough to sit a full glass without it falling over. It's hilly!

The uphills and downhills in a race are like the ups and downs in life, the good times and the bad times.


Going up a big, steep hill in a long distance race is tough. It hurts your legs, your lungs, and kills your pace. I've read and heard of different approaches for tackling the hills in a race. Some say keep running with a shorter stride and pumping your arms more, trying to maintain your pace. Others say slow down your pace, but keep running. Some think it helps to not look at the top of the hill, to only look a few feet in front of you all the way up.

On those hills that are slight enough I can still maintain my pace, I just keep running. I may have to dig a little deeper and push a little harder but I can get through it. Then there are hills that are so steep, I've found I can walk them almost as fast as I can run them. But I can walk them using far less energy, so I've learned not to fight the hills. They're going to come and they're just something you have to get through. So why fight, and fight, and fight, expending all your energy for very insignificant results. For me, it's better to slow down a little, walk the hills, and conserve my energy.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

In life, the hard times are like the uphills in a race. We all have them. Jesus told us they're going to come in John 16:33 above. The Christian and the non-Christian alike are going to have struggles. But if you know Jesus, you can walk up those hills, you can persevere through those tough times knowing that He will bring you through them and better things await you at the top!

It took me a long time to figure that out. Whenever I'd come on to one of those tough times, I'd try to bull my way through it, attack it, try to conquer it! I was trying to get through it my way, using my strength, to get through without leaning on Jesus, without trusting Him. I stressed and I cussed and I was generally not a very pleasant person to be around during those times. Then I learned to trust Him.

I always believed in Jesus, but it took me a long time to trust Him. It was probably about the time I started teaching, or a little before, that I began to really trust Him to get me through the tough times. One of the first things I said to Courtney the night Amanda died was, "Don't hate God! God didn't do this!" Now, I've learned to call on Jesus when I find myself facing any struggle, and the difference is amazing. I rarely ever get angry these days. I seldom make irrational decisions that end in disastrous consequences. Most importantly, I feel calm and without stress, even as I face difficult things.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you"--Isaiah 41:10

It's all because I trust Jesus, because I know that I can get through anything with Him! I just slow down now, and walk up the steep hills life throws at me, saving my energy for the better times that I know are coming. I know that these hills aren't to be feared, that God will strengthen me and get me to the top!


The better times in life are like the downhill portions of a race. In Fayetteville, there was a long, straight, steep, downhill stretch that we had to run twice. Before, I would have thought it best to try to maintain a steady pace, even down such a steep grade. But it takes work to hold yourself back on really steep slopes. Gravity is working to pull you down, so you have to use valuable strength to slow yourself down. I've learned that, for me, it's best on these steep declines to just let gravity do its thing.

Both times when I came down that hill, I was passing people right and left. It looked like I was sprinting! I was flying, but it wasn't costing me anything energywise. I approach those hills now with a plan to let gravity take control. I want to run down them at a pace that minimizes the energy I'm expending. So even though I literally flew down that 3/4 mile stretch, I reached the bottom feeling almost rested! Rejuvenated, re-energized, and ready to start working hard again!

In our race called life it makes a big difference how we tackle those long, steep, downhill stretches too. These are the good times, the times when everything seems to go right for us. And it wasn't so long ago that I changed the way I approached these times too.

Instead of letting gravity take control, I let God take control. I realize now that these times aren't placed in my life for me to exploit, to attack and make the most of. They are placed there by God so that I can have an opportunity to rest up for the next big hill. So now, when things are going well, I still let go and let God have control.

Others, and I used to be one of them, will try to exploit the downhill stretches of life. They'll throw themselves fully into the hill trying to take every advantage and get as much out of it as they can. Others will try to hold themselves back, thinking that going slower will save energy and resources for the bad times that are sure to follow. In either case though, these runners through life reach the bottom far less rested than if they had just let God get them through, without trying to exploit it or reserve it.

Running as an Example

I've found, through the ups and downs in life, that it's better to just let go and let God have control. Since I began to really trust Him to get me through each day, I've been far less stressed and a much more pleasant person to be around. And that's important because how we run our race, how we live our life, influences how others do too.

"19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."--Matthew 28:19-20

As a Christian, it's my duty to live my life as a witness for Jesus. A large part of that is proselytizing, going out and actively sharing the Gospel with others. But living in such a way that you become an example others want to follow is also a big part of bringing people to Jesus. Especially when they see you making it up those hills of life, they want to know how you do it. As a Christian, how you run your race can either encourage or discourage people to follow Jesus.

"who [God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."--2 Corinthians 1:4

When I'm running a race, I always wear a shirt with the bible verse Philippians 4:13 printed on the back. I can't tell you how many times people comment on that verse, telling me how it encouraged them just when they needed it. It's really amazing how such a simple thing as a bible verse printed on your shirt can comfort others. Who knows how many others are encouraged by it, believers and nonbelievers, and never say a word?

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."--Romans 8:18

The most important thing others need to see in you is that there is more waiting for us than what we have or what we do here on Earth, and why that is, how it is. They need to see us struggle and they need to see the joy in our hearts so they will want to know how we get through, what keeps us going. Our task is to run our race so that others will want to have what we have so they too can make it over the steep inclines in life with the knowledge that so much better awaits them at the finish. We should run our race not for our own glory, but to glorify Him, so that His glory is revealed through us!

Finish Line

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."--1 Corinthians 9:25

At the end of every half marathon or marathon, finishers get a medal. It's a shiny piece of metal hooked to a ribbon that says you went the distance. It's what many runners compete for, the medal, the prize. So many people go through life the same way, trying to amass wealth, possessions, fame, and glory here on Earth. But once our days are over here, none of those things can we take with us to our final destination.

So when you run your race, when you go through life, don't do it for the prize that you can't take with you. Do it for the prize that will last forever. When you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, that prize is eternal life. It's a promise that Heaven awaits, a place with no pain and suffering, no misery and agony, an eternity of singing and dancing and praising God. That's the prize I run for in my races and my life.

How will you run your race?

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Training Week: 12/12 --12/18

What a week! It was the last week of school for my students who didn't miss more than 2 days this semester. Excellent attendance earns the reward of not having to take semester tests, so that meant I had to get everything wrapped up before the last kid went home until 2012.

Lots of making tests, grading tests, and trying to get kids ready for tests means many late nights. Since most of my training is done in the early morning, getting up becomes a chore in weeks like that. But our God is all-powerful and kept me motivated and strong enough to crawl out of bed to get in my training. In fact, He is so great that I did way better than my 30 miles per week goal and finished Saturday with 35 for this week!

Besides the crazy week at school, our good friends' little 6-year-old girl was injured by a horse and spent several days in the hospital. We spent a couple of evenings with them. God answered the many prayers sent up for little Caroline and it appears all will be fine. She'll wear a couple of black eyes for a while and her cracked cheekbone has to heal, but she will recover. Praise the Lord!

I ran Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week. All the runs felt great except Wednesday. Though I have no idea why, it was just one of those days where every step is a struggle and you can't wait for the run to end. It's those days when it crosses my mind to cut the run short, or stop running and just walk. but Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer, kept me focused and kept me running. We made it through and came out stronger for it.

Training Week: Dec 12 - Dec 18

Monday0 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday20 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total35 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Saturday's 20 mile run went well. The Good Lord helped me through the first 15 miles alone, then I met up with the Cabot Country Cruisers to do the last 5. Jesus gave me the strength to finish that last 5 miles with some really great people.

The Little Rock Marathon training group had a scheduled 16 mile run Saturday, but the Cruisers held a potluck breakfast following their group run. So I ditched the LRM group this weekend and enjoyed a great run, great company, and great food. What a combination!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

By the grace of God I finished 35 miles and felt great at the end! There is no way I could do it without the help of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I can't tell you how many cold mornings I wake up and my mind tells me to turn the alarm off and crawl back in bed. It's the mission, the one laid on my heart by Christ, that overrules the lazy in me that's trying to get out. It's Jesus himself that coaxes or cajoles me to get out of the bed and hit the road--in the cold, in the rain, and sometimes even in the snow.

I hope and pray that He will continue to use me to bring honor and glory to His name! Tomorrow is another start to another training week. We're down to only 11 weeks before the Little Rock Marathon. Until then, I'll run and train for His glory!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Let's start fundraising for 2012!

After the death of our beautiful daughter, God led us to start Running with Amanda to Reveal the dangers of teen substance abuse, to Reach people for Jesus, to Raise money for charity, and to Remember Amanda Marie Allison.

In our first 9 months of operation, we've had great success in all four parts of our mission. God has blessed this ministry and you, our supporters, make up a huge portion of those blessings. Without you, our footprint would be smaller and we could not make the impact we've seen in 2011. We are so thankful for all you've done to help us walk this difficult path, and thankful to Jesus Christ for leading you to Running with Amanda.

Now it's time to look ahead to 2012. We raised over $4,700 this year, more than $1,700 over our $3,000 goal. We want to have an even greater impact this year, so we're going to set the bar significantly higher. This year, we're raising our goals for all three charities. We're going to start with a goal of $3,500 for St. Jude, $2,500 for Arkansas Children's Hospital, and $1,500 for Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch.

That's right! Our fundraising goal for this year comes to $7,500! More than double our goal for 2011, but we believe with God's grace and so many great supporters like you that we can achieve it. We're setting up new fundraising pages for 2012. Your donations still go directly to St. Jude, but we're trying a different host of our fundraising pages for ACH and Soaring Wings. We've decided to go with to handle donations this year. We will still never touch any of the money donated to St. Jude, ACH, or Soaring Wings. Crowdrise will take a small fee for handling the transaction and hosting the websites, but not one dime comes to Running with Amanda! So please don't hesitate to donate to these great organizations through our fundraising pages.

Donate Now!

Jesus Christ has given us a mission, one that keeps us moving forward in the wake of the most horrible tragedy imaginable. We lost our daughter, but God has given us a way to honor her memory and help others at the same time.

Many thanks to all who gave during our 2011 racing season. Won't you please join us by helping to kick off our 2012 fundraising season?

Thanks so much in advance! Please keep us in your prayers as we continue on this difficult journey.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Training Week: 12/5 --12/11

I'm still training for the Little Rock Marathon, and feeling better all the time. But if you've ever participated in any kind of sport, you know that practice can get to be a real drag if you never get to compete. You can meet goals and accomplish great things during training, but it still doesn't have the same feel, the same effect, as the actual competition.

That's why I love to try and work actual races into my training schedule as often as possible. Until the end of the year, I'm running four days a week and trying to average 30 miles per week. So when I saw the Fayetteville Half Marathon listed on the calendar for last week, I knew I wanted to work it in.

Two six-mile runs and a 5-mile run during the week, along with the 13.1 mile race on Sunday would be enough to put me over my 30 mile per week goal. Even better, they had a 5K companion race that Janice and Courtney could participate in! So we packed up the car and headed to Fayetteville on Saturday.

Training Week: Dec 5 - Dec 11

Monday0 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday0 miles
Sunday13.1 miles
Total30.1 miles

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Finishing a half marathon always feels like an accomplishment. I still remember the first time I crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles. I'm not usually an emotional person, but I got choked up when I heard them call my name and when I crossed the mat that recorded my time. It's one of those feelings that's just hard to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it. But this time was even better.

I knew throughout the race that things were going well. I could tell I had a good pace going because I never saw any of the pace groups pass me. My previous best time in a half was 2:15:41 and I came to Fayetteville hoping to break 2:10. The Lord gave me strength to keep pushing, even though the hills were wearing on me.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

I don't know how many times I said the words, "Thank You Jesus!" throughout this race, but it was a lot. At the top of every hill, at the end of every long, straight stretch that seemed as if it would never end, at every mile marker, and water stop, and even some points in between, I thanked Him for getting me to that point and for giving me the strength to keep pushing beyond.

When I finally came into view of the clock at the finish line, it read 1:59:24. I tried to step it up, hoping to cross before it read 2:00:00. I didn't have quite that much left in me and stepped over the mats as the clock ticked 2:00:11. But that was the gun time, not the time recorded by the chip tied to my shoe.

Once we arrived back at home, I logged in to search the race results and was pleased to see my chip time was 1:59:59, one second less than 2 hours! Not only did I finish with a PR (personal record) but also broke through a major milestone for the half marathon. God gave me the strength. Without Him, I could never have crossed the finish line, let alone beat my previous best time by almost 16 minutes!

I hope and pray that everyone who saw me cross that finish line also saw me kneel and give thanks to the One who really achieved something on Sunday. It wasn't me, but my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who strengthened me and pushed me and carried me through the training and through the race.

It was an awesome week, and it's always a great time to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Fayetteville Half Marathon -- Race Recap

Saturday was an awesome day! It was our last race of the year and by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ we were able to close out the year with style. Janice, Courtney, and I all ran in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the second annual Fayetteville Half Marathon. I ran the half, while Janice and Courtney ran the 5K.

I hit a new PR (personal record) on the half marathon. Last April I ran a half in Jonesboro and finished with my best ever time, 2:15:41. But today, even in the up and down of the hills of Fayetteville, I finished in 1:59:59 to beat that time by almost 16 minutes! I was hoping to beat 2:10, and dreaming about beating 2:00. I was almost certain I could accomplish the former, but had serious doubts that I could break the 2 hour mark. But all things are possible with God and He deserves all the credit and all the glory!

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"--Matthew 19:26

So why the doubt?

The hills.

Where I'm from, a 100 foot change in elevation is huge! So three 200+ foot inclines over 13.1 miles were more than a little intimidating. I kind of thought this run might be a little more like mountain climbing than what I've been accustomed to. But I knew I needed some good hill workouts on long runs to help me get ready for Little Rock in March. That run promises to be a challenge with its hills also.

Another great thing about today was that part of the course was on the University of Arkansas Campus, where I spent the '86-'87 school year as a student. Though the campus has drastically changed in the last 25 years, running through it and around the town brought back some good memories. We didn't run in front of my old dorm, but we came within a block of it and we raced through a part of the campus that I traversed often going back and forth to class. We raced past Razorback Stadium, Barnhill Arena, and finished the race on the amazing U of A outdoor track. It was a pretty awesome course.

So let's recap the race.

As we lined up for the start, it was COLD! When I left the hotel at 7:00 AM, The Weather Channel said it was 240. It didn't feel like it had warmed up any by the 8:00 AM start.

We started on the road in front of the track complex, running over a downhill stretch for about a half mile to Martin Luther King Drive. We turned left for a long block, then the first big climb began. This uphill wasn't too terribly bad because when we reached the top, we'd only gone a total of 2 miles. I ran without stopping and was rewarded with looking upon a really long, straight downhill stretch at the peak!

Since before the Marine Corps Marathon, I've been approaching these long, steep downgrades a little differently. Kind of a "Let go and let God" approach. I let gravity take control and run down the hill at whatever pace requires the least amount of energy. You see, I learned that it actually takes energy to slow myself down on such stretches during a race. So I literally flew down the hill. To those I was passing and others looking on, it probably appeared I was sprinting. But, in reality, I was mostly coasting. It leveled off some before the bottom where I reached the 3 mile mark feeling pretty rested.

5K Split--27:07
Pace--8:45 min/mile

I crossed the mats at the 5K mark feeling good after the long downhill stretch. Just a little farther down the road, we met the lead runner on his way back. He had already finished 5 miles and was moving at a blistering pace. Before we turned left through the parking lot of the U of A Animal Sciences facility, the second place runner also ran past.

The next water stop was just past the 4 mile mark. I knew the next would come 2 miles later. On my long runs I've been stopping after 5 miles to eat a few M & M's for fuel. (M & M's are cheaper than Gu or the other quick energy fuels made for runners.) Knowing I wouldn't have access to water at 5 miles, I decided to refuel here at the 4 mile water station.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

As I walked about 50 yards or so to eat and drink, a young lady passed and told me, "I needed to see your shirt just now." She was the only one who commented on the shirt this race, but I'm glad I slowed down and she found encouragement by the bible verse printed on the back. In every race I have runners make similar comments when they pass me or I pass them. A lot of runners find hope in that tiny verse.

Once I finished my water and snack, it wasn't long and I was past her again. We were now on a largely flat part of the course. I met the oncoming slower folks where the lead runners met me earlier, just after 5 miles. Then the course turned left and we twisted through a neighborhood for a ways before popping back out on Sycamore, a wider road with stoplights and turn lanes.

After a short stretch on Sycamore, we turned right onto Skull Creek Trail, a paved trail for runners and bikers. I have to say here that traffic control was outstanding throughout the race. Police officers were stationed at every major thoroughfare and side streets were barricaded to keep traffic off the course. Even this trail was free from cyclists. We did meet a couple of people out walking on the trail, but they didn't impede racers at all.

Our entrance onto the trail began the second long climb. Looking at the course map before the race, I wondered why there were two water stops just a little more than a mile apart, one just past 6 miles and another just past 7. Perhaps the long, steep grade was the reason.

10K Split--54:59
Pace--8:52 min/mile

The mats at the 10K mark were laid between these water stations. My pace had fallen off a bit by then, but this doesn't surprise me because I didn't have that long downhill to fly down in the second 3.1 miles. I really expected it to drop on the second 10K because of the two big climbs coming up. By the time we stepped back out on Dickson Street just past mile 7, my legs were definitely feeling the hills. And they knew we weren't even close to finished with them either! I was glad to see that next water stop and even took Gu there to refuel.

It was only a short climb on Dickson before we turned onto Arkansas Avenue and ran past the fraternity houses there. I don't know if the boys were up late on Saturday night studying, but they weren't out and about when we ran past. Still climbing, although not too steep a climb, we made our way to Maple and turned left. A short, steep downhill there was quickly compensated for by a symmetric short, steep uphill before we took a hard left through the middle of the U of A campus. Past historic Old Main and running on cobblestone walks and sidewalks engraved with the names of graduates, we ran on.

Once we had crossed the campus, another short stint on Dickson carried us to Garland just after we crossed the 8 mile mark. The hills were definitely wearing on me by this time, but I knew it was only a short distance now to the beginning of the big loop that would send me back down that long, steep hill where I could catch my breath. And it wasn't long in coming. I had to top one more hill just past Maple and then we started down.

15K Split--1:23:46
Pace--9:00 min/mile

That much needed downhill carried me past mile 9 and again, I was feeling good at the bottom when I stepped across the 15K mats. I kept up a good pace until we reentered the Skull Creek Trail and started uphill again. The only disappointment with the race happened just before the 10 mile mark. The water stop on the trail had run out of cups by the time I reached it the second time. It wasn't anything major because the other was waiting just a little more than a mile up ahead, but I was looking forward to that water.

I think they might have underestimated the number of cups needed because this stop was on the loop to be hit by every runner twice. Again, it didn't turn out to be a big deal because they had another stop at the 11 mile mark. Just before I reached that stop, I was passing an older man who said to me, "Just 2 more 5Ks to go!" Remember, this was my second pass on this part of the course and I was between mile 10 and 11. I didn't have the heart to tell him I only had a little over 2 miles to go when I realized he was only on his first loop and thought I was too. But I was glad I didn't have "2 more 10Ks to go" at this point.

I made it to the water stop at mile 11, ate a few more M & M's and drank some water, then stepped into the climb back up to the U of A campus. This time, I walked the short, steep climb on Maple and took off running again at the turn into the campus. My pace was a little slower now, but I was convinced I'd still make it in a decent time.

Hitting Dickson again after crossing the campus, at the 12 mile mark and within sight of my old college dorm, a former student of mine was standing at the corner and started yelling my name! Nathan Pruitt gave me a much needed boost of pure inspiration with 1.1 miles to go when, screaming like a madman, he ran out on the road to give me a high five and cheer me on! It was like a shot of adrenaline.

Rejuvenated, the last little climb back up to Maple seemed easier than before. The left turn there put me looking down the long, steep grade that would carry me down to Razorback Road. Again, I let gravity take over and flew down the hill. Once on Razorback, running behind the football stadium and the basketball arena was downhill all the way to the entrance to the track.

The downgrade made it easy to make great time on the last mile. Then, onto the track for the lap to the finish. As I rounded the far turn on the track, the clock at the finish line came into view. With less than 200 meters to go, it was reading 1:59:24. I tried to step into it, hoping to finish before it reached 2 hours. The closer I came to the finish, the more I realized I wasn't going to beat it. But I still had hope my chip time would beat it.

I crossed the line with the clock reading 2:00:11. I wanted to hang around to find out what my chip time was, but Courtney had to work at 4. So we headed back to the hotel so I could get a quick shower, we could get checked out, and get back home in time to get her to work.

Once we got home, I checked and found out I did beat the 2 hour mark...barely. My chip time for the race was 1:59:59, one second under 2 hours!

It was an amazing day and an amazing race to close out the year. God has been so good to me and I feel so completely blessed. Looking forward to even more great things to come with this ministry next year!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fayetteville Half Tomorrow

We'll be heading to Fayetteville, Arkansas in a little while. Tomorrow, I'll be running the half-marathon while Janice and Courtney do the 5K. This will be our final race of 2011 and I'm glad we get to close out the year with a big race.

Less than two years ago I ran my first 13.1 mile race in Little Rock. After I crossed the finish line, I thought I would never run any farther than that. I didn't doubt that I'd run more, but I never thought I'd get to this point, the point where I consider tomorrows race, 13.1 miles, more of a training run than an actual race.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."--Romans 8:28

But God has done amazing things in my life. He's blessed me with this ministry and with the strength and motivation to push myself harder and farther than I previously thought possible. In less than 3 months, I'll be standing at the same start line where it all began in 2010. Only this time, I'll be wearing a bib to run the full 26.2 miles of the Little Rock Marathon. Then, next December, I plan to run the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, Tennessee.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."--Romans 12:2

I'm not sure yet where God will lead me in the intervening months, but we're still going to be running at least one race each month. There will be 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons spread out over the course of next year too.

Thank you to all who have helped make this ministry a success this year! Your donations and prayers have helped us keep going, helped us remember that God can make all things work for good. You have helped us always remember that Jesus hold us in His loving arms, even in the wake of the most tragic of tragedies.

"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."--James 1:25

Please pray for us as we run through these next couple of months. Amanda was always so excited at Christmas. I know it's going to get tougher and tougher as December 25 approaches. Then the month of January will mark the dates of her birth and her murder, both within four days of each other. I know, that with your prayers and God's grace, we'll make it through.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oh, How You Loved the Snow

How excited you would be
To watch the falling snow.
If you were here to see,
Your face would be aglow.

Of the season the first flakes,
Are lightly floating down.
To you my thoughts they take
As I watch them touch the ground.

The smile I remember well,
That would spread across your face,
Whenever snowflakes fell
A frown never stayed in place.

It will not be the same this year.
Your smile we will not see.
Your laughter we won’t hear.
Among us you won’t be.

But remember you we will,
As fall the flakes each one.
Each time the world is stilled
And the white blots out the sun.

Though a snowman build we can’t,
You and I, together, never again,
And throw snowballs we shan’t,
Memories I have, that we did and when.

Each falling flake reminds me so
Of all the fun we had,
Together in the snow,
You and me, your Dad.

Though together we won’t be
This season of the snow,
Someday in Heaven you we’ll see.
From the Bible this I know.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winding Down 2011, Last Race of the Year

On Saturday, we'll run our last race of 2011 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I'll finish the year off with the Fayetteville Half Marathon, while Janice and Courtney run the 5K. I've never run it before, but it looks to be a fun race. Runners start just outside the University of Arkansas Outdoor Track Facility and finish with a lap around the track. Part of the course meanders through the U of A campus where I attended classes for one school year in the fall of 1986 and spring of 1987. This should be a great way to cap our first calendar year.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."--Romans 8:28

Amanda was murdered in January, but we really didn't get up and running (no pun intended) until March. After just 9 months, it seems safe to say we're off to a good start. There's plenty of evidence to show that we're accomplishing our mission. We've received emails from readers and followers that tell us we are making a difference, informing others about the dangers of teen substance abuse and spreading the Gospel. We surged past our initial fundraising goals for the year, raising more than 150% of our original objectives. This evidence makes it clear that we are honoring Amanda's memory and making sure she didn't die in vain.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

We started from scratch soon after Amanda's death. Our grief was still raw and our entire existence seemed to be one huge, open sore. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people were praying for us day in and day out. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and even people we had never met were interceding, calling out to God on our behalf. There is no doubt in my mind that survival would have been impossible except for all these prayers. We felt them, each and every one. We were wrapped in the loving arms of a loving God, a God who sent His one and only Son to die so that we might have eternal life. Though every day is still a struggle for us, we continue to live one day at a time only by the grace of God. I do not see how anyone could survive a similar tragedy without the love of Jesus and the hope found therein. That's why we run and we work to spread the gospel, hoping that others facing tragedy will see or find that hope.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"--2 Timothy 4:7

Never before had we done anything like this. Running with Amanda was our first foray into founding a cause or organization of any kind. We really had no idea how to proceed with fundraising. Having stumbled on the fundraising page for St. Jude when I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon, I remembered seeing something similar when I signed up for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon the year before. After checking out, we set up all three of our fundraising pages. With no prior experience, we didn't how much money we could expect to raise. So I picked nice, round numbers and set our goals at $1000 each for St. Jude, Arkansas Chilren's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch.

"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."--James 1:25

A few short months later we began to surpass our goals. In all, we raised more than $4700 through our fundraising pages, far above our original $3000 goal. But we were blessed when our organization had the opportunity to participate in events that raised even more money for charity. We were asked to speak at a local concert where a teen worship band, The Gathering, played to raise more than $1000 for Vilonia, Arkansas tornado victims in the spring. Then, we were blessed again to help organize and participate in the Walk for Payne walk-a-thon in honor of Angela Payne, a 16-year-old VHS student battling cancer. Almost $3900 was raised through the event and divided between Arkansas Children's Hospital and Angels for Angela Pillowcase Ministry, a cause created by Angela to supply brightly colored pillowcases to children undergoing chemotherapy. We hope to raise even more money in 2012, but for our first 9 months, we feel really blessed that God used us to help so many children.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."--Romans 8:18

The last part of our mission is to honor Amanda's memory, and I really feel like God has done that through these first few months. We continue to feel the pain of our loss every day. Our beautiful daughter was stolen from us one Saturday night, four days before her 18th birthday, and four months before her high school graduation, two events she so looked forward to, but two events she will never, ever celebrate. We had to find a way to make sure she didn't die in vain, that her death would make a difference somehow, some way.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."--Romans 12:2

It was a cold night only a couple of weeks after Amanda was murdered, early to mid-February, when I went for a run and Jesus planted the idea in my mind for Running with Amanda. It took a couple of months to fully develop, but this organization is a gift from God, a gift that gives us a focus as we continue to navigate this trail of tears that carries us through the grief of losing our beautiful daughter.

Saturday we'll run our last race of 2011, but it certainly won't be our last race. This was our first year. We'll keep running as long as Jesus continues to call us to do so.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Persevere, and nothing's impossible

A lot of people tell me they're amazed by how often and how far I run. Many of those people tell me how or why they can't run. In the beginning, I was amazed by distance runners too. Three years ago, I decided to get back in shape and started running again. There's a stop sign at the end of our road, about a half mile from our house. When I started, I couldn't even run to there without having to stop and walk. If you would have suggested to me then that I should run a marathon, I would have thought it impossible.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

By the grace of God, I didn't quit because it was tough, because it hurt, or because I couldn't do it. He gave me the motivation to keep pushing and He gave me the ability to build my strength and stretch that distance out over time. In those three years, I went from being unable to run to the end of our road to running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and now marathons.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."--Romans 5:3-4

I spent 8 months training for my first full marathon. Some days, especially after long runs, made me wonder if I could ever go the distance. Early mornings and long runs often made me tired and sore. Once summer weather turned to fall, as October 30 approached, the long runs became easier and I became ever more confident in my ability to finish the race. I wasn't sure however, how I would feel afterwards.

Thoughts of how I felt after my first half-marathon played a major role in my worries. When I crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles, with the crowd shouting and cheering, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, but the distance took its toll on my body. For an hour or so afterwards, I laid on the grass in the finishers' area, writhing in pain as muscles from my feet all the way to my jaw were seized with cramps. I was in no shape to walk to my car, or especially to drive home.

Even before the finish, the distance was working on my body and my mind. Between miles 11 and 12 of that race I remember thinking, "I'm so glad I don't have 15 more miles to go," when we went straight and runners doing the full 26.2 turned left. The half-marathon course rejoined the full about a half mile before the finish line. As I started down the hill to the intersection, I watched the marathon winner race past. He ran 26.2 miles faster than I was going to run 13.1! I managed to finish, but by the time I'd recovered enough to walk back to the car, I had decided to never attempt the 26.2 distance.

You already know I didn't keep that promise to myself. But I still wondered, what would I do after the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM)?

When I crossed that finish line after 26.2 miles, I can't say I felt good. I felt happy to have finished, but physically, I was a wreck. After we (my friend and Marine Corps brother Jesse) had our pictures taken with our medals and were walking toward the finish festival, I was completely drained and exhausted. Volunteers handed us food and drinks as we slogged along with the rest of the herd making their way to the streets of Rosslyn, VA. When Jesse asked me if I wanted some of the bagel he was eating I told him, "I honestly don't think I can eat and walk at the same time." Like I said, I was a physical wreck.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."--2 Timothy 4:7

But I wasn't as much of a wreck as I had been after that first half marathon. It took me a while to figure that out. After a 3 hour nap back at the hotel, I awoke mostly recovered and I knew the MCM wouldn't be my last marathon. In fact, that night I signed up for my next 26.2 mile race, the Little Rock Marathon on March 4, 2012.

Now I'm training for that race and I'm finding the going much easier this second time around. But I think the biggest difference is that my body is finally accustomed to the long distances. That doesn't make the really long runs easy, but they're nowhere near as formidable as they were before.

Since the MCM, I've done long runs of 10, 15, 20, and today, 14 miles. I finished today's training run at about the same pace as my PR (personal record) for the half marathon. Next weekend I'm running the Fayetteville Half and hoping for a PR there. It's great that these runs are coming easier, but the best part is that I'm not useless when I finish them!

After most of my long runs prior to MCM, I was worthless the rest of the day. I'd lay around with cramps or just physically exhausted. But now my body seems to not protest so much and things are very different. Rarely do I suffer from cramps afterwards and I'm able to get around and do things after long runs now. Following the 14 mile run today, my family and I went to Arkansas Children's Hospital for a Breakfast with Santa fundraiser they were holding, then I came home and changed the oil in Janice's car, then we went to a former student's wedding some 50 miles away.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"--2 Timothy 4:7

Any one of those would have seemed impossible after running 14 miles a few months ago, but now I'm able to do them all. By the grace of God, I was able to keep running, through the tough times, through the pain, and now I've come out the other side.

What seemed impossible at first didn't just become possible, it has become practically routine. Nothing is impossible with God, if we'll just persevere.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Training Log: 11/28--12/4

Training is on for the Little Rock Marathon on March 4th! For now, I'm still running only 4 days and averaging 30 miles each week. My plan is to increase that to 5 days and 35 miles after the first of the year, then go to 6 days and 40 miles per week through the month of February.

Most of you know by now that I don't hold to any specific training schedule. I know there are a lot of good ones out there that work well for lots of people, but I kind of like doing things my own way. My schedules aren't based on science or studies, but on my schedule and what my body tells me it can handle. Therefore, these posts aren't meant as schedules for others to follow, just more of a journal that helps me keep track of what I'm doing and how well it's working.

This week I ran on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 5, 6, 5, and 14 miles, respectively. Now that the weather has drastically cooled, I've picked up the pace on my training runs and am pushing myself harder on the short runs than I did before. Wednesday and Thursday marked the first sub-freezing runs for me of the season with temperatures in the low 30s and high 20s those mornings.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Training Week: Nov 28 - Dec 4

Monday5 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday14 miles
Total30 miles

I joined the Little Rock Marathon training group for this week's long run, 14 miles along the River Trail, part on both sides and over the Big Dam Bridge. A friend from the Cabot Country Cruisers had told me I needed to run the River Trail part of the course on some long runs before March. It's a long, flat, out-and-back section of the marathon course that covers miles 18 to 2, and now I understand why he told me I needed to know what to expect.

The long stretches seem to take forever. It seems like you see something up ahead, set it as your goal, and run and run and run and it takes forever to reach it. Long, straight, flat stretches play tricks on your mind, especially toward the end of a long run. Now I've seen it, I've run it, and have an idea what to expect when I reach it on race day. I hope to run that stretch one or two more times before then too.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

I know it's only the grace and mercy of Jesus that keep me running and injury-free. Therefore, I hope and pray that every time I run, everywhere I go, I can do everything I do for His glory and His honor.

Thank you Jesus, once again, for another great training week!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surviving Life's Storms

On January 15, 2011, our family was struck with the worst kind of tragedy when we received a phone call that something had happened to Amanda. About an hour later, we entered the closest thing to Hell on Earth when a policeman knocked on our door, entered our home, and stood in our living room to tell us that Amanda had "passed away."

The following scriptures are found in the book of Acts, chapter 27, which describes the first part of the apostle Paul's journey to Rome as a prisoner. As soon as I read this chapter this morning, I knew I had to write this study.

"13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island."--Acts 27:13-14

That night, that cold January night, caught us unawares. Life was drifting along as normal as could be, the winds seemed gentle. We had long established a routine where my mother comes to our home on Saturday nights and we have dinner. Sometimes she cooks, sometimes we do, but this is pretty much what we do every Saturday night. January 15th was a Saturday night, and my mother was here for her weekly visit. Mom usually stays late, she and Janice stay up talking while I fall asleep on the couch. January 15th was no different. They were sitting up talking and I was sound asleep on the couch when the call came in, when that very long, hurricane force wind swept down upon us. All of a sudden, we found ourselves enveloped in this storm.

"15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along."--Acts 27:15

Fully caught up in this new storm of life, we desperately hoped it was all a bad dream. I didn't eat or sleep for the first three days as I tried to figure out how to deal with life in the wake of our tragedy. Now I can hardly remember anything about those first three days. Looking back, it seems I was staggering in a thick fog. Unable to fix what was broken, unable straighten things out, unable to bring Amanda back, I gave way to the storm and began to drift with it, to let it carry me along.

"16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure,"--Acts 27:16

Few, if any, would have ever identified me as a religious man before Amanda's murder. I believed in Jesus Christ and considered myself a Christian. I went to church and Sunday school pretty regularly too. But I didn't really work to build a relationship with God. I didn't regularly read the Bible. I did nothing to fulfill my obligation as a Christian to share the Gospel with others. But I did believe.

Now I see that I treated Jesus like a lifeboat. I always knew He was there if I needed Him, but I hardly considered Him as long as the sailing was smooth. Suddenly, I needed that lifeboat desperately. However, for so long I had ignored Him, had failed to nurture my relationship with Jesus, that immediately following Amanda's death I found it difficult to take comfort in His presence.

"17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along."--Acts 27:17

Though His presence didn't seem enough to comfort me in the early days of this terrible storm, nothing else provided any sense of security either. I recognized that, just like a lifeboat, He was the only means available to survive the storm. So I hauled Him aboard. I began reading the Bible, and developed a plan to read it regularly and systematically. And for the first time in my life, God's word began to make sense to me. I began to understand the parables and see parallels between the verses I read and life here on Earth.

Reading the Bible, studying the Word of God, became a part of my daily routine. Specific verses like Romans 8:28, John 16:33, and Philippians 4:13 quickly became the ropes that I wrapped myself in to hold myself together. The storm didn't slacken, the downpour didn't stop and the winds didn't cease, but I began binding myself in the word of God and building my relationship with Jesus. For the first time in my life, I began to turn my life over to Him, to recognize that I wasn't really in control, and that my only hope to survive was to trust Him. I had finally lowered my sea anchor, the anchor that would not keep me from being buffeted by tempests, but that would keep the storms from smashing me against the rocks.

"18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands."--Acts 27:18-19

The storm continued to rage, in fact it still continues to pound away at us, even nearly 11 months later. Amanda is still gone. Every day I am haunted by visions of what her last moments must have been like. Every day I'm reminded of her in ways I didn't expect. Just this morning I saw a South Dakota license plate on the way to work. It brought back memories of our trip out west, through the Black Hills and to Mount Rushmore. Every day I see the closed door to her room and I'm reminded that room is empty when it should be occupied. The winds are still battering, the rain continues to fall. For us, it's a storm that will never end.

But even amidst the torrent, as I dove into the Word of God, as I worked harder than ever before to build my relationship with Jesus Christ, my faith grew to a level I'd never previously known. Things that I had previously placed great value on--money, possessions, the approval of men--became unimportant. I found myself throwing my cargo, my baggage, overboard. I even began to understand, after 40 years of living, that I didn't have the ability to successfully navigate life's journey. It finally dawned on me that only God's grace and mercy keep us afloat and keep us from running aground. Always before, I depended on my abilities to fix problems that arose, but Amanda's death was a catastrophe I couldn't fix. I finally realized my abilities weren't enough. I had cast off the ship's tackle and finally clung only to my faith in Jesus Christ to save me from this storm.

"When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. "--Acts 27:20

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the "storm continued raging." Life will never be the same for us since Amanda was killed. Every day is a continuation of the nightmare of knowing we'll never hold her, never kiss her, never even talk with her again as long as we walk this Earth. I had to come to the realization that it's a storm I'll never escape. I have no hope of being rescued from long as I'm sailing this ship. This earthly life will be one, long continuous journey through this storm.

"But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed."--Acts 27:22

But just because life will be one big storm, I need not give up hope. A better life awaits, a life where I'll be reunited with Amanda in a place that knows no suffering, no pain, and no death. My faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in His promise that when this earthly life is over, when my physical body is destroyed, I will not be lost. "Only the ship will be destroyed." I'll leave this body and be transformed to a spiritual being that cannot be destroyed, one that will spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, and with Amanda.

That's what gives me the courage to keep going through this storm. Once you have that faith in the promise of eternal life, it brings the hope that one day suffering in this life will be replaced with an eternal existence that knows no pain. Jesus Christ--the Way, the Truth, the Light--died on the cross so that we can have all of that. He is the light that will guide me through this lifelong storm. Without Him, the wind and the waves would toss me against the rocks and all would be lost. There would be no hope.

So even though the tempest continues to rage, I will have courage. I will draw strength in the knowledge that "not one will be lost." Not Amanda, not me, not one who believes in Jesus, who trusts in Him will be lost. No, not one.

I will survive this storm, and you can survive whatever tempest blows into your life. Not because of our own abilities, but because of our faith in Jesus Christ. If you have that faith, work to grow your relationship with Him. If you don't have that faith, get it. You won't regret it, and you'll be able to weather any storm.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.