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, March 31, 2011

VHS Blood Drive Nets 78 Pints

Today the Vilonia High School chapter of Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) hosted a blood drive for the American Red Cross in the high school gym. This event was held "In loving memory of Amanda Marie Allison." Seventy-eight pints of blood were donated, blood that could potentially save 234 lives according to Red Cross representatives.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."--Romans 12:1

Amanda, who would have graduated in May had she not been murdered, was a member of FCCLA and always worked at the chapter's blood drives. "Amanda would be proud," noted club sponsor Stephanie Ramsey in a Facebook status update describing the success of the event.

May God bless all those who donated blood today, all those who worked to make the event successful, and all those who will receive the donated blood.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Loving Memory of Amanda Marie Allison

It's taken me more than two months to finish this video. The pictures here are the same ones shown in the slide show at Amanda's Funeral. This is the beautiful daughter and sister we lost on January 15, 2011 when she was murdered just four days before her 18th birthday.

I'll be making more of these as time goes on, but I wanted everyone to be able to see the wonderful young lady whose memory we're so intent on honoring. She is the inspiration for our Reach, Raise, and Remember campaign.

Every day after losing a child...

It's going on three months now,
Since you went away.
Still each and every sunrise
Brings the next hard day.

Though I'm very grateful
For those God left with me,
Life will never be the same
Without you here to see.

I try to go on living,
Appearing fine each day,
But sadness overwhelms me,
Grief never goes away.

The pain and sorrow never stop,
Though hidden well at times.
Any smiles and laughter vanish,
When you read between the lines.

Before when you were here,
It was easy to go on.
Now it's so very different,
So many things seem wrong.

Any day that I woke up
To see the dawn anew,
I considered that a good day
Until the day that we lost you.

No longer can I think that way.
Each and every day I'm sad.
Now even the best of days,
Are just a little bit less bad.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Praise God! We've met our goal for St. Jude!

"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

We set up our St. Jude fund raising page less than a month and a half ago. The default goal was $1000, so we went with that. We were hoping to raise the money and meet that goal by October 30, the day of the Marine Corps Marathon. But today, before the first day of April, generous donors have put us over the top. In less than two months, you have given over $1000 to save the lives of St. Jude kids! God surely makes all things work for good.

Your response to our Reach, Raise, and Remember campaign has been overwhelming, far more generous than I ever imagined. When this project began to take shape, we really had no idea how effective it would be. We'd never done anything like it before. But your generosity quickly encouraged us to expand our fund raising efforts, and we set further goals of $1000 for Arkansas Children's Hospital and Soaring Wings Ranch.

We still want to reach these goals by October, so we'd appreciate it if you can continue to recommend and share our links to our Facebook page, "Like" and comment on our blog and Facebook posts, and email our posts to your friends, and encourage them to donate to these charities through our pages.

Fund raising is only part of our mission here. We're also looking to Reach people for Jesus. Telling our story, giving our testimony as we travel to the races we participate in is how we accomplish this. The more people who hear of our campaign before we arrive at these events, the better the response is likely to be.

Of course the third part of our mission is to Remember my beautiful daughter, to honor her memory by using her story and our efforts to do so by Reaching people for Jesus and Raising money for these three charities. I can only imagine the smile on her face in Heaven when she saw the mercury in that fund raising thermometer bust out the top! Money raised in her name...that's her continuing to help others, innocent children, even from her cloud in Heaven. Praise Jesus! That's awesome.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."--Hebrews 6:10

So thank you all so very much. Even those who couldn't contribute financially yet, but did everything they could to help publicize our efforts. It took all of us to get this far. But remember, our race isn't run. We haven't reached the finish line.

So please keep doing what you've been doing. Share and "Like" our pages, comment on our Facebook and blog posts, email our posts to your friends, and encourage them to donate and join the effort to promote our mission here.

God bless you all, and thank you for helping us Reach, Raise, and Remember!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why We Support Arkansas Children's Hospital

Some might wonder how we chose the three charities to support with our running. If you're one of those, let me start by telling you why and how we support Arkansas Children's Hospital.

When my grandmother died in 2007, she had already written a complete script of what she wanted done. Her funeral arrangements were described down the smallest detail. What songs she wanted played, poems she wanted read, even her obituary was complete before she died. One of the things she specified in her obituary was she wanted donations made to ACH and St. Jude rather than flowers sent to her funeral. Since then, I've supported both of these organizations with a monthly donation.

Amanda cared deeply for people and always tried to help anyone in need. Once when a fellow student's house burned down, she went door-to-door in our neighborhood collecting money for his family. I didn't expect much because we live in a different town outside our school district. But my beautiful, big-hearted daughter came back shortly with over $70 she collected.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is a non-profit institution that treats children without regard to their families' ability to pay. Saving lives of children who might be denied treatment at other institutions just sounds like something Amanda would love about a hospital.

So that's why we chose ACH to support in our campaign to Reach, Raise, and Remember. If you have 10 minutes or so to spare, the following video gives you the perspective of the mother of Lindsey Crowder, a child who survived cancer because of the Care, Love, & Hope provided by this wonderful institution. Please watch and DONATE to Arkansas Children's Hospital to help us Reach, Raise, and Remember!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Will this be a milestone, or a stumbling block?

An endurance race can often serve as a metaphor for our life here on Earth, which explains why running and races are referenced numerous times in the Bible. Most courses in the races we run, 5K's and up, are marked at each mile along the way. Depending on a runner's attitude in a particular race, or on a particular day, each of these mile markers can serve to either encourage or discourage the athlete.

I remember thinking to myself in my first half marathon, when I reached the 10 mile marker, "Only 3 more miles to go. That's nothing, I run that all the time with ease." Looking at it optimistically helped me finish the race. If I'd have thought instead, "Oh no! 3 more miles to go. I can't make it another 3 miles," that same mile marker would have made it more difficult to reach the finish line.

Life is full of milestones--major events one reaches, obstacles one crosses, or achievement of goals that one has set. Some of the biggest in my life have been my decision to join the Marine Corps, meeting and marrying my wonderful wife Janice, adopting my beautiful daughters, and honestly inviting Jesus to save me from my sins.

On the other hand, everyone encounters stumbling blocks as they make their way through this world. The loss of a job, a failed relationship, a debilitating injury, or the death of a loved one are just a few things that can serve as a fork in the road that takes one's life in a downward spiral.

We usually associate the term milestone with an event that leads to a positive change in life, and a stumbling block describes an event that has negative consequences. Like the mile markers in an endurance race, sometimes our attitude and our reaction to the event determines which it will become.

For me, the death of Amanda is one of these events. My reaction to this tragic loss will determine if I look back years from now and consider it a milestone or a stumbling block, or perhaps more importantly, which way others see it.

"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

That "great cloud of witnesses" is made up of everyone who is now, or will in the future, look to me as an example. How did I handle this crisis? That's the question some will ask. If I allow hate and anger to take control, becoming unable to function and lashing out at everything around me, I will have made it a stumbling block. Not only for myself, but for those who may use my response as a model for their reaction to troubled times in their own lives.

Immediately following Amanda's death, I was lost. Like a ship adrift on a stormy sea, my life seemed to lack direction. As the shock wore off and the reality set in, I began to seek that direction. I prayed like I never prayed before, for wisdom, guidance, and direction. Like so many others in similar circumstances, I sought to find some way to honor her memory.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."--Romans 12:1

When I came across this verse, this project began to take shape in my mind. I'd been running for a couple of years, and for quite some time I'd felt called to find a way to glorify God through my running. Lots of ideas came to mind, but I made excuses for each of them until I decided to try to only enter races that benefited some charity or another. Still, the voice inside my head was telling me that God expected more. Now I run to Reach, Raise, and Remember in an effort to please God and honor Amanda's memory, sweating and straining through the training and race miles as a "living sacrifice" to try and bring some good from such bad.

"God will repay each person according to what they have done"--Romans 2:6

"9"There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."--Romans 2:9-10

My first instinct after learning of Amanda's murder was to lash out. I honestly felt like I wanted to go out and find any "bad" person and take out all of my anger and aggression on him. It wasn't scripture that kept me from it, but the thought of my wife and surviving daughter trying to struggle through this with me sitting in jail. I was like a caged cat--pacing, wanting to destroy something that I could not reach. Only later, studying the book of Romans, did I find these verses that helped ease that urge. God will not only repay the murderer for taking my daughter's life, but he will reward any good deeds that I may do in response.

My ultimate goal is now to get to Heaven and see my beautiful daughter again. What if I were to act on those animal instincts to strike out at someone in response for the suffering my family is enduring now? It's not worth it. What if I did respond with evil for evil and God decided my punishment was to not see Amanda again, even when I get to Heaven?

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

It's not worth it. It's not worth the cost to my wife and daughter, my incarceration and their loss of Amanda and me. And it's not worth the cost to me in eternity. The thought that I could arrive in Heaven and be forbidden to see her forever more would be its own kind of Hell. The years I shared with Amanda on this Earth were way too few, but I'm so thankful for each and every one of them. However, I realize now they won't even compare to spending eternity with her when my days in the flesh are finished.

So now I'm trying to help make as much good come in the wake of her death as I can. That's why I run to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch. Together we'll save lives, physically by supporting the two hospitals and spiritually be supporting the Christian youth home. Good deeds may not get me to Heaven, but the Bible tells us to do good works. I intend to obey that order.

"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."--Romans 10:9

The most important part of our mission is to spread the Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This verse makes it clear how one becomes saved, but so many have yet to take these two steps. Maybe it's because it's not as easy as many preachers make it sound. The "believe in your heart" part trips up anyone who simply mouths the words, or halfheartedly goes through the motions without truly believing. Hopefully, if you've never accepted Christ as your Savior, our continued faith in the face of such adversity will help you "believe in your heart" and be saved.

So, will Amanda's death become a milestone or a stumbling block in my life?

The verdict is still out, and it's still up in the air as to which of the two it will be. I've only just crossed this mile marker a short two months ago, but this website and the project I've taken on is the embodiment of an attitude I hope will make it the former and not the latter.

"The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."--Romans 13:12

One thing is certain. Eternity is going to be a lot longer than the time any of us will spend in this world. Regardless how old we are, or how old we'll be when we die, our life is nearly over when compared to the time we'll spend in eternity. So I pray that I can endure this current suffering wearing the "armor of light" and encourage others to do the same.

May God bless you and keep you and walk with you all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Next Race: Doc Rock & Run Half Marathon/5K

We're registered for our next race, another half marathon/5K combination. I'll be running the half marathon and Janice will do the 5K. This time though, we'll have another participating with us. Our 16 year old daughter, Courtney, announced she will also participate in the 5K! Thank you Jesus for getting her interested in helping us with this!

The event will be in Jonesboro, Arkansas on April 16 as part of the HMG Health & Fitness Expo. The Doc Rock & Run, sponsored by Associated Radiologists, will start at 7:00 AM. The half marathon is new to the event this year. Both races will start and end at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.

We'll be wearing Running with Amanda shirts that we've ordered in Jonesboro, and after the race we'll be circulating through the crowd to Reach, Raise, and Remember. You can help us get a head start by donating to one of the three charities we support through our running. Click the "Donate" tab at the top of this page, or use the links on the right side of the page. Choose one of the charities you'd like to support and donate safely and securely. You're donations go to the charities, not to us!

For as little as $3.10, you can help save and change lives by donating to St. Jude Children's Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, or Soaring Wings Ranch. Please consider giving one of the following amounts, or more if you feel led, to help us Reach, Raise, and Remember!
  • $3.10 to give $1/mile that either Janice or Courtney will run.
  • $6.20 to give $1/mile that Janice and Courtney will run.
  • $13.10 to give $1/mile that I will run.
  • $19.30 to give $1/mile that all three of us will run.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our Mission: Reveal, Reach, Raise, and Remember

Our mission is to educate parents and teenagers about the danger of teen substance abuse, spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ and to raise as much money as possible for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch in order to glorify God and honor the memory of my beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison, who was murdered on January 15, 2011 only four days before what would have been her 18th birthday.

Reveal the Dangers of Teen Substance Abuse

Amanda was murdered at a party where teenagers were drinking and smoking pot. The 19-year-old who shot and killed her was both drunk and stoned. Before Amanda's murder, I underestimated the dangers of teen substance abuse. I know so many people who went through that "stage" and grew out of it, including myself. I saw a quote the other day that said, "Once you know, you are responsible." It was attributed to Ghandi when I saw it, but I cannot verify its source. Anyway, now I know the dangers, dangers too many parents and most teenagers don't recognize, and I am responsible for educating everyone I can.

Reach People for Jesus

"14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."--2 Corinthians 5:14-15
The first and most important part of our mission is to spread the word that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, walked the Earth as a man without sin, was crucified and died to pay the price for our sins, and was resurrected so that we may have eternal life in Heaven after our time here is over.
"3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."--Romans 5:3-5
I can testify to the fact that, without faith I could not have gone on after my daughter's murder. The realization that I will one day see her again, the knowledge that she is in a far better place, the understanding that she is free from all suffering and pain; these are the only reasons I can cope with the tragedy of her death.

Knowing Jesus and knowing she is in Heaven with Him makes clear that the pain I feel is for me, not her. She is now without pain. Her death left a hole in the hearts of those of us who continue living. We are the ones suffering in the wake of her murder. She is now pain-free and enjoying all the glory of Heaven.

I can't imagine going through this with no faith that these things are so. The alternative, lacking faith in Jesus Christ and all the promise that comes with it, offers no hope to anyone facing difficult circumstances. What we do today, tomorrow, and the next day matters not without faith in Jesus. If this life is all we have, what does anything matter? We all know our time on Earth is finite.
"18 Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:18-20
These verses are known as The Great Commission, Jesus telling His disciples to "go and make disciples of all nations." These are our marching orders as Christians, to spread the Gospel message. Therefore, our primary mission is to be a living witness for Jesus Christ.

Raise Money for Charity

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."--Romans 12:1
We run so you don't have to!

The second part of our mission is to raise money for charity, specifically children's charities. I can't tell you how many people tell me they could never run a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon, or a marathon. So we'll do it for you. All we ask is that you donate through our fundraising pages to your favorite of the charities we support. We'll offer our bodies as a "living sacrifice," doing the grueling work of running up and down the road if it brings glory to God.

"7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: 'They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.'"--2 Corinthians 9:7-9
We donate too, all we can (and that's not a lot).You needn't give a large sum to make a difference! These verses show that Jesus appreciates any gift, large or small. Your gift to St. Jude, ACH, and Soaring Wings, regardless how small, may put them over the top to treat a child with a terminal illness or give a troubled teen a home. As individuals, not many of us have the financial resources to accomplish these goals. But together, our combined contributions can save and change lives!

Remember Amanda

"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
Before Amanda died, I felt like God was calling me to find a way to glorify Him with my running. I tossed around ideas and always found reasons (excuses?) why I couldn't or shouldn't follow up on them. After her death, I became consumed with finding a way to honor her memory. This mission, this project, this website and what we're trying to do here are the results of God making good things come from the tragedy of my daughter's senseless murder.

We are Running with Amanda, explaining the dangers of teen substance abuse, telling others about Jesus, and raising money for charity to glorify God and to honor the memory of my beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison. Please help us by donating to one of the charities listed above and/or praying that God will continue to guide us and use us to accomplish His will.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thanks to all our donors so far!

When we started this little project, we planned to try and raise $1000 for St. Jude by October 30. The response was overwhelming! We quickly reached the halfway mark and it became obvious that we could do much more. So we teamed with to raise money for Arkansas Children's Hospital and Soaring Wings Ranch too, setting an initial goal of $1000 for each of these great organizations too.

Altogether, our donors have given over $1000 to these three charities and we're not yet even through March! That's awesome and we just wanted to say thank you! We still have a ways to go. So, please, tell others about our project and ask them to help.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

So far, for St. Jude you've given a total of $736.10. Thanks to "Ernie" Ernst, Amber (Cornwell) Pinter, Bruce Benafield, Celinda Stanton, Chip & Andrea Glenn, Cindy Barker, Cindy Stage, Gregory DeMichiel, James Widmer, Jim Grote, Kim Fulmer, Laura Frost, Martha Davis, Monica Rodriguez, Phyllis New, Sandy Ragland, and Travis Lavergne for your generous gifts to the kids of St. Jude.

Arkansas Children's Hospital

So far, you've given a total of $159.92 to ACH. Thanks to Gregory A DeMichiel and Jennifer Cleveland for being so generous and supporting what I consider to be one of the finest institutions in Arkansas. Your gifts will save lives at ACH

Soaring Wings Ranch

You've given a total of $128.44 to this wonderful Christian children's home. Thanks to Gregory A DeMichiel, Scarlett Acklin, Randi, and Cindy Barker for helping this great organization provide loving, Christian homes to troubled teens.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"--Matthew 25:40

Thanks so much for your generous support of these great organizations, and for donating through our project. We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful people help us honor Amanda's memory in a way that brings glory to God and supports great causes for children. Please share this post on Facebook and Twitter, email it to your friends. Tell others about what we're doing, and ask them to help too.

God bless you all! And thanks again!

Thank You God for Another Beautiful Day!

It's Spring Break and the second day of Spring! Yesterday afternoon I worked in the yard for the first time this year, cutting grass and raking leaves. Tomorrow morning I'll hit the road and start running again. But today, I'm going to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather God has given us this day.

"O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions"--Psalm 104:24

Such a beautiful day reminds me of one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. From time to time, when I'm having a not-so-great day, I find this song on the internet, or just sing it to myself. It always helps me remember to turn to God when the road gets tough.

It also reminds me of Amanda because the first time I heard Alison Krauss sing this song, I went around singing it for days. One of those days we got to school and she climbed out of the car and said, "Thanks Dad! Now that song is stuck in my head." So dear here it is for you. Know it will be stuck in my head all day today, reminding me of you as I work in the yard.

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do.

"Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."--John 14:6

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God's Plan Isn't Always Our Plan's race didn't go exactly as expected. But, just like His word promises, God used everything to work His plan.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."--Jeremiah 29:11

My plan was to hit this course and try to beat a 2:10 time in the half marathon. My best time yet was 2:18 in October. But God had other plans. I crossed the finish line well under that time, but there's no way to know exactly how far I ran. It's certain though that I didn't run the full 13.1 miles.

I knew things weren't right when we took the first turn after the starting line. I had studied the map of the course, online and posted at the race site, and knew the course was supposed to turn right. But the cyclist running ahead of the leaders turned left instead. And, something like cattle, the herd of runners followed the others going the wrong way. After that, runners were going in all directions. Volunteers at intersections pointed us one way, and we'd then meet runners coming toward us from a different route. Several times I stopped and discussed where we were and where we'd been and how, if it was even possible, to get back on track.

But God's perfect plan played out. After one of those stops, I joined several others who had run various routes and we headed back toward the start. One of those noticed my St. Jude shirt and asked if I was John. When I told him I was, he said he'd hoped to run into me after reading my posts online. He then began to tell me his story and how he lost his 17-year-old son in July.

As we ran, we talked of our losses. The similarities and the differences. Our feelings and how we struggled and dealt with it. I explained how I was using this site and my running to glorify God, raise money for charity, and honor her memory. He told me how he was dealing with the loss of his son. It was good for both of us.

If you've never lost a child, you may not understand the difference between talking to others who've had the same experience and talking to those who haven't. It's something so terrible that it can't be fully understood unless you've walked in those shoes.

God worked to make sure the two of us met and had the chance to run together for a little while. My new friend, Randy, is a much faster runner than I am. If everything had gone according to plan, he'd have been ahead of me the entire time and may have even been gone by the time I finished. We'd never have had the opportunity to share our stories. God put him and me together today, and it was good for both of us.

"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

After we made it back. He, my wife, and I talked for quite some time. Again, this would never have happened if things hadn't become so crazy. As much of a mess as it may have seemed to some, the near chaotic scene was all a part of God's plan to put three hurting souls together to comfort each other.

Thank you Jesus for placing us on each others' path so that we could share our pain, our struggles, and our faith. And to my new friend Randy, I'll be praying for you often. Praying that you can find peace, and that God's will becomes clear, and makes the pain more bearable. God bless you my friend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

God Knows...

...what we need and when we need it.

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,"--Nahum 1:7

As you can imagine, only two months after the death of Amanda things are still pretty tough. My wife, my surviving daughter, and I all have bad days and some that are not so bad. It's hard to say any day has really been good over these past couple of months. In every conversation, in everything we do, we're reminded of our loss.

But as bad as things are, we have also been blessed--blessed to live and work in a community that has been more caring, comforting, and concerned than we could ever have expected. From family, church, and school, we've been blessed to have the support of kin, friends, parents, colleagues, and students offer every means of support. From food to money to a shoulder to cry on, we've been blessed by God to see and know that we are loved by many.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."--Philippians 4:19

The other day, at another of my low points, God lifted me up again when one of my students popped up in the chat window on Facebook and gave me the name of a song she had heard in church that day. She told me it made her think of me, so I found it on YouTube. In God's miraculous way, it was just what I needed at just the right time to remind me that He is the only way I'm going to get through this.

Here's the song, "I Need You More." (Thanks Joanna!)

This song reminds me that in the darkest of hours, my only hope lies in turning to the Lord. The truth is, the only reason I've been able to get through thus far is my faith and belief in Christ--that Amanda is now in Heaven with Jesus and one day, one glorious day, I will see her again. I'll run to her, wrap my arms around her, and cry tears of joy when my number is up and I'm called home.

" 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."--Romans 5:3-5

The hope mentioned in this verse is what motivates me to move forward and work to memorialize my daughter by running and raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch. Hope that keeps me going even when the world robbed me of one of the biggest joys of my life, my beautiful daughter Amanda. That hope is what makes me try to let God use me to bring some good from this tragedy.

"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

So remember, when times seem darkest, God is with us. He knows what we're going through, what we need, when we need it. And He will provide it. It's up to us to recognize it and utilize it. God used one of my wonderful students to step in and lift my spirits the other day with this song.

I know dark days remain ahead. Every day is a struggle. But without Him, there would be no hope and no motivation to persevere. I promise you, my faith in Jesus is the ONLY reason I can keep going.

Thank you Lord, for knowing what I need and providing it when I needed it. I pray that those who don't know you will find you, and gain the same hope and grace that knowing you provides me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break is Here! Don't Be Stupid!

It's finally arrived. What every student and teacher is ready for at this time of year--Spring Break! For me though, this one's not all fun and good times. This would have been Amanda's last Spring Break in high school, but she was murdered two months and two days too early to be here. For that reason, I'm going to start this week-long vacation with a warning to parents and students.

Students: Stay away from alcohol during this break!

There are legitimate reasons why it's illegal for you to drink and Amanda's untimely death should make that clear to even the blind! If you think you're tough enough, smart enough, or lucky enough to elude the dangers associated with teenage alcohol did Amanda! She never expected anyone to get angry, pull out a gun, and shoot her down. Only 15 minutes or so before she died, a text message to a friend said, "I'm having fun." 15 MINUTES before she died, she was "having fun!"

The love everyone had for her is obvious. It's obvious from the posts on her Facebook after her death even to this day. It's obvious from the memorial service held at the school on her birthday. It's obvious from the banner still hanging in the gym and the posters hanging on my classroom wall. It's obvious from the countless visitors who came to our home bearing gifts and consoling us after she died. It was obvious from the 800+ who attended her funeral.

But don't just remember her now that she's gone! LEARN FROM HER DEATH!

The danger is real! Alcohol makes the smartest of people do stupid things. Staying sober, not drinking, and refusing to be around people who are drinking is the ONLY way to avoid that danger!

Parents: Talk to your kids about the dangers of teen alcohol abuse.

Don't assume they know, and don't hide under the cloak of "trusting them" to make the right decisions. My 17-year-old daughter died two months ago because a drunken fool in a drunken rage pulled out a gun and shot her down! Remind your kids of that before they go out, before they go camping, and before they go on their senior trips.

"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 always assumed I could provide a good example as a parent that would provide a solid foundation for Amanda. I knew she wasn't a perfect kid, neither was I. I survived my stupid decisions and I assumed she would too. I was convinced the old proverb was sufficient, that she would sow her wild oats as a youth, then settle down and live a good life. The problem is, she never got the chance to settle down. She never got the chance to "get old." She never got the chance to learn from her mistakes.

I took it for granted that she would have the opportunity to do all these things. But she didn't. She never made it to the future I was trying to prepare her for.

Don't assume your kids will either. Talk to them. Remind them of Amanda's tragic death and the role alcohol and drunkenness played in it. Don't provide them alcohol and don't condone anyone else doing so.

I pray and hope that all of you will have a great Spring Break...but one that doesn't involve teenage drinking. May God bless and protect each and every one of you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Can You Give $1/Mile for Saturday's Half Marathon and/or 5K?

This Saturday, 3-19-2011, I'll be running my third half marathon (my first to raise money for St Jude, ACH, and Soaring Wings) in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The River Valley Marine Corps League event includes a 5K in which my wife will also be participating.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"--Matthew 25:40

You can help us reach our fund raising goal by clicking the Donate tab above, choosing one of the charities we support, and donating. Your donation will save children's lives if you choose to support St Jude Children's Hospital or Arkansas Children's Hospital, or you can help provide a Christian home for troubled kids by donating to Soaring Wings.

If you're interested in running one of the Hardcorps/Heartcorps races, attending the event, or just learning more about the River Valley Marine Corps League, click here to read more about this event.

Though any donation will be greatly appreciated, you might consider the following:

  • Donate $3.10 to give one dollar for each mile my wife will do in the 5K.
  • Donate $13.10 to give one dollar for each mile I'll run in the half marathon.
  • Donate $16.20 to give one dollar for each mile we'll both run in the 5K and the half marathon.

Thanks so much and God bless you for helping these wonderful children's charities!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Running the biggest race of all

It's taken me a long time to get where I am today as a runner. And I don't mean a runner in the usual sense. You see, I don't run anywhere near as well as I used to in those kinds of races. Years ago I could physically run farther and faster with much less effort than it takes my old, fat, and slow body now. Now, I realize there's a far more important kind of race to finish, and how I run that race is much more important than how fast I finish any 5K, 10K, half marathon, or even marathon.

"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

My good friend Jesse sent me three books recently to help me cope with the loss of my beautiful daughter. One of those books played a large part in guiding me to create this site and use my running to honor her memory and to serve Jesus Christ.

That book was Heading Toward the Final Finish Line by Rrrick Karampatsos (You'll have to read the book or Rrrick's blog to understand the spelling). Rrrick is a Christian marathoner who ministers to other runners while training and racing. He has completed marathons in all 50 states and DC in spite of being twice told he may never walk (or walk right) again after accidents earlier in life.

When I started running again 2 years ago, my goal was to get back in shape. I soon began running 5K races and trying to reduce my finish times. Though God began to tug at my heart around this time, I wasn't a very good listener. A voice in my ear began to whisper as I raced and as I trained that I needed to glorify Him with my running. I had no real idea how to do that, so I pressed ahead with my own goals in mind.

A wake up call came in the form of an injury to my right foot a few weeks before my first half marathon. Jesus let me finish the race, but in pain and still injured. The voice in my head was getting louder. It was then the idea came to me to only run in races that benefited charity. I thought this was the way He wanted me to serve Him with my running.

My wife got involved and she and I began participating in a 5K each month that helped one charitable organization or another. It wasn't long before I was signed up to run my next half marathon, this one to benefit Soaring Wings Ranch, one of the charities I now support with this page. But still, as I ran the races and the training miles, the voice was telling me I wasn't yet fulfilling God's plan with my running. Again, a few weeks before that big race, I was injured. This time my left knee blew out as I planted to sprint the last few yards of our monthly 5K.

Again, He allowed me to finish that race, but now it was clear that I needed to find a way--a way that would please God--to glorify Him with my running. The idea of a foundation to raise money for children's charities came to mind, but I really didn't know how to make that happen.

When Amanda was killed, I told myself over and over again that I wasn't going to blame God and I wasn't going to ask why. I blamed the fool who got drunk and shot her and I knew no explanation for why she was killed would satisfy me. Though the pain that followed her death is greater than any--physical or emotional--I've experienced before, I knew that God could make good come from this terrible tragedy. I felt an ever-growing need to find that good, and help make it happen to honor her memory.

"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

I don't believe God took my daughter so that I would create this page, raise money for charity, or use my running to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. But I do believe that He has used this tragedy to guide me to do all these things. I finally have the direction I was lacking, and feel confident I can use this site and my running to answer the call that I've been hearing for so long now.

After reading Rrrick's book about his ministry, I realized the way we live our lives is the most important race of all. More important than any 5K, 10K, half marathon, or even marathon. The way we live our lives, what we do with the time we have on earth, is our biggest opportunity to guide the "cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us toward salvation through Jesus Christ.

"because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son."--Hebrews 12:7

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."--Hebrews 12:11

I realize now the injuries I endured were God's way of disciplining me for not answering His call. He was prodding me to do His will. The tragic death of my daughter He used to clarify how I am to serve Him. Through His discipline and His use of a most evil and vile act of Satan, God has shown me a path on which I can serve Him.

13 "'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. "
--Hebrews 12:13-15

God has shown me a level path to help others be healed--physically through the work of St. Jude's and Arkansas Children's Hospitals, and spiritually through the work of organizations like Soaring Wings Ranch and hopefully through the witness of my faith as I travel, run and write.

The road races I run are only side shows to the main event. The most important race, the one referenced in Hebrews 12:1 at the beginning of this post, is the life we live and how we use it to lead others to salvation through Jesus Christ. That's the race that I'm now focusing on, and it's the most important race I'm Running with Amanda.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chase Race & Paws

Today was a fun day! I, my wife, my daughter, and four of our five dogs drove to Conway, Arkansas today to participate in the 6th annual Chase Race & Paws.

This race was established to honor the memory of Chase Potter, who died at 13 years of age after suffering a traumatic brain injury. Proceeds from the race benefit the Friends of Conway Animal Shelter and Arkansas Children's Hospital, in honor of Chase's love for animals and to fund research for treating injuries such as that suffered by Chase.

My wife and I try to do at least one race each month that benefits some worthwhile charity that we feel comfortable supporting. The Chase Race is composed of three separate events that offer something for everyone who has pets and likes running and/or animals. There's a two mile road race that's just for runners and walkers. That race is followed by a one mile run/walk for owners of leashed pets. While most of the pets accompanying their owners were dogs, we did see a couple of goats and even a handicapped raccoon in the mix. Finally, there is a free pet costume contest.

We, as a family, were represented in all three events. My wife and I did the two mile race. All three of us and the four dogs made the one mile walk. Then my daughter helped her puppy, Sissy, participate in the costume contest. Sissy dressed as a leprechaun, with a little green suit and matching hat. And though none of us won any awards or prizes, we were blessed to spend the morning together having fun.

Two years ago we participated in this race for the first time. Then there were four of us, and Amanda was there with us. Our oldest dog was still getting around well at the time, so we also had four dogs that day. Amanda's dog, Sandy, was just a tiny puppy then and we had a blast. All four of us. I know Amanda would have been there today if she were still alive, and it hurts to know she'll never walk a dog in the race with us again.

But I also know she was there, looking down on us from a cloud above, smiling and laughing as we struggled to maintain control of what I began to call our "undisciplined herd" of dogs. Just like she was with me when I ran nine miles Tuesday morning, and again on Thursday before dawn.

I'm over 50% of my goal to raise $1000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a St. Jude Hero by the time I run the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Next week I'll run the Hardcorps/Heartcorps Half-Marathon in Fort Smith, Arkansas as I continue to build up the miles for the big event next fall.

Follow my training and racing here, and donate if you can, as I run with Amanda to glorify God, raise money for charity, and keep her memory alive!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Running with Amanda

I am a runner. Not a fast runner. Not out winning road races. But I've been running off and on for years. When I entered middle age, I decided to get back in shape. For the past two years (after turning 40), I've regularly been running endurance races. But on the night of January 15, shortly after midnight, we received a phone call that changed our lives forever.

Shortly after 11:00 pm on the 15th of January, my oldest daughter was shot and killed by a drunken, stoned idiot at a "party." The party consisted of 6 or so kids sitting around drinking and getting stoned at this 19 year old's house. I can't go into details of what happened until after the coming trial, but I'll summarize. He pulled a gun, shot and killed my daughter, and stole from us a beautiful young lady who was only 4 days away from celebrating her 18th birthday.

Long before that, God had been telling me that I needed to glorify Him through my running. A couple of injuries shortly before half marathons I had scheduled made the message clear that He would only let me continue to run if I used my abilities to bring glory to Him. I had begun to dedicate my efforts to serve Him, but hadn't completely surrendered myself and my running.

Now that Amanda has died, I've decided to honor her memory and God in every race and in every training mile that I run. I've teamed up with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to become a St. Jude Hero, and with to raise money for Arkansas Children's Hospital and Soaring Wings Ranch. Now I run to raise money for these wonderful organizations and to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

I now feel her presence with every step I take, and every breath I draw. A few weeks before she died she asked if I would "teach her" to run a mile. Since she was four, she'd wanted to be a police officer and knew she'd have to run in the academy. So I planned to "teach her," but never had the opportunity.

Now, she runs with me to glorify God and to support various children's charities.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blog Photo

I created this picture to serve as a logo for the blog. This is one of Amanda's favorite senior pictures and a picture of me running in the 2010 Soaring Wings Half Marathon in Conway, AR.

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