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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Many Thanks to New Balance!

If you're not a runner, you may not realize the expense that goes with the sport. To many it may seem that all it takes is to walk out of your house and hit the road. But there are a lot more costs that mount to make it quite an expensive sport. Entry fees for races we've entered range from $15 to $90 per participant. Then of course it takes gas to get to the events (and that's a huge expense these days)! Some of the distant races require us to stay in hotels and eat out. And then there is the equipment, the most basic of which are the shoes we run in.

Running shoes are a major expense for runners who train extensively and compete in a lot of races. A typical pair will last for only 200-300 miles of training and racing combined. We usually go through about six pairs each per year. So we easily spend over $1000 per year in shoes alone.

That's why we're so grateful that New Balance has agreed to sponsor Running with Amanda by supplying us with running shoes. Our first two pair came in last week, and today we ran our first race in them.

We've been running in New Balance shoes before for several reasons. First, the quality. They are durable and comfortable, making them an excellent choice for endurance runners. Second, where they are made. New Balance is the only brand of running shoe that I've been able to find that is still made in the US. That's important to us in an age where more and more companies are shipping their manufacturing overseas and leaving Americans fewer and fewer places to work.

New Balance's willingness to sponsor our tiny project makes us even more proud to say we've been running in their shoes for a long time. Most companies wouldn't even have time for a small organization like ours, but New Balance's heart is where it should be. The company obviously cares about its customers and its community.

We're proud to be running in New Balance shoes and are proud to recommend their products to runners and non-runners alike. Thank God there are still great companies out there that care about more than dollars and cents. New Balance proves a company can care about its community, continue to manufacture products here in the US, and stay in business!

Many thanks from Running with Amanda to New Balance for all the great things they do!

About New Balance

New Balance began as a Boston-based arch support company in the early 1900's, developed into a specialized shoe manufacturer in the 1970's, and has grown to become a leading global athletic products company. Today New Balance is a family of brands including New Balance, Dunham, PF Flyers, Aravon, Warrior and Brine.

Since the days of selling arch supports to police officers and waiters, New Balance has been a brand concerned with meeting the needs of the everyday athlete. Part of producing superior footwear and athletic apparel is manufacturing it to fit all widths and sizes, because a better fit produces better performance.

To ensure the best fitting, best performing shoes and apparel, we focus on improving our technology and production methods. We have maintained five manufacturing facilities in New England where we continue to rely on the skills and teamwork of our American workforce to produce a percentage of our athletic footwear. We have also remained strongly committed to a core set of company values that include integrity, teamwork and total customer satisfaction.


Toad Suck Daze 10K/5K for Soaring Wings Ranch

Today we're taking a break from the cleanup effort in Vilonia and going to run the Toad Suck Daze 10K/5K in Conway, Arkansas. There's supposedly an army of college kids from around the state coming in today to help with the cleanup, so they'll have plenty of hands. We've worked the last 4 days helping cut trees, tarp roofs, and clear debris, but today we're running again!

Our primary target for funds we raise today is Soaring Wings Ranch, a Christian group home for troubled youth. The ranch takes in kids who've been abused or neglected and offers them a chance to be raised in a Christian environment. The kids attend public school, but Christian house parents insist they do their homework and devote time each day to Bible study. It's a wonderful place that's making a real difference in the lives of troubled kids. Please consider making a donation to Soaring Wings Ranch today. Even a small donation can be a big help.

Next weekend, we'll be taking a different track in our fundraising efforts. I've been asked to MC a benefit concert for the ranch. The local worship band, The Gathering, set up the concert and has asked me to speak during the several intermissions. I'm looking forward to this event as a way to further spread our ministry.

"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

God bless you all. Please do what you can to help us Reach, Raise, and Remember!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Faith, Hope, and Love at Work in Vilonia, Arkansas!

I've been trying to write a devotional every few days, working my way through Paul's letters. I started in Romans and planned to move into 1 Corinthians next, but a natural disaster in the town where I teach and the response of citizens has me thinking it's time to veer off into the book of James tonight. We'll get back to our regular schedule in a few days.

The last couple of days we've been out of school because our community was devastated by tornadoes. Several of us from the faculty have been working together to help with the clean up. But the response from the entire community has been nothing short of spectacular. These are not people who are going to sit back and wait on someone else to take care of them, they're going to dig in and get it done themselves.

How can they do that? With so much damage, how is it that this small community can organize itself and take on the huge task of cleaning up and rebuilding? How is it that such devastation didn't paralyze this tiny town?

The answer is simple. Faith, hope, and love.

" 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."--James 2:14-17

Faith, real faith, is accompanied by action. Though works can't get us into Heaven, the faith that does is "dead" without works according to James. All that means is if we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to earth and died for our sins, and that belief in Him gives us eternal life in Heaven, we'll be moved to do good deeds by our faith.

That's what I've seen in our little community these past couple of days. In our town we just might have more Christian churches than all other businesses combined. (Not sure about that, but it's probably close.) And some residents go to churches in nearby Conway. If I was a betting man, I'd bet that the ratio of citizens who call themselves Christians here is really close to 100%.

The mobilization of volunteers yesterday and today, the work done by ordinary citizens, is a true testament to their faith! I saw people whose homes weren't damaged out immediately after the storm looking for ways to help. Residents who had damage were out roaming the streets looking for someone else to help just as soon as they had taken care of their property. Others brought tons of supplies for those who'd lost everything. Young and old have done everything they could to help their neighbors through this tragedy. It was enthralling to see so many people out lending a hand to those in need.

This has certainly been an example of good works resulting from faith in Jesus Christ.

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

Not many people "glory" in their sufferings, and I can't say that too many are particularly thrilled with the damage to their property. But we were cleaning up at a coworker's house today who said, "I'm just glad we're all okay." He had a tree on his house, his yard was a complete disaster, his vehicle had been damaged and was not drivable, yet he still had a positive attitude. All day we worked at his house and he had a great attitude, never once sour or sullen or down.

I've seen posts on the internet from countless others with the same positive attitude, in spite of the damage to their property. Some with damage have encouraged volunteers to find others who were harder hit than they were. This attitude doesn't happen by accident, and it's certainly not what one has seen in some other disasters around the country in the past.

This attitude comes from the hope these residents have as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ. The hope that this life isn't all there is, the hope that our real worth isn't wrapped up in our material possessions here on earth, offers them the attitude of an optimist in an atmosphere that normally breeds pessimism.

But the faith that breeds good works and the hope that we will one day find ourselves in Heaven where there are no natural disasters, and where there is no suffering, result in a love for neighbors that one doesn't find everywhere.

" 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."--1 Corinthians 13:13

"The greatest of these is love." What better example of that love, the love of your neighbor, is there than what we've seen in the aftermath of these storms. Neighbor helping neighbor. Everyone offering to do what they can. Not for a monetary profit, nor compensation of any kind. For love, the love of their fellow man.

It's not often in this age that we have the opportunity to see such love displayed, especially in this magnitude. We live in a time where selfishness is common and selflessness rarely observed. The latter is what most people expect to see exhibited in almost every situation, but the former is what has characterized the response to the disaster in Vilonia, Arkansas.

That selflessness is evidence of the faith our community has in Christ, the hope we have for eternal life, and the love we share for one another. Jesus Christ is alive and well in Vilonia, Arkansas!

I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful, caring, Christian community!

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.

God bless you all!

Our Cleanup Crew


Monday, April 25, 2011

Toad Suck Daze 10K/5K Next Saturday

Well I hadn't planned on running another race this month, but things just worked out that we're going to. Next weekend is the famed Toad Suck Daze celebration in Conway, Arkansas. One of the events is a 10K/5K road race that will be held April 30 and we'll be there.

Janice and Courtney will be participating in the 5K and I'll be running the 10K. Remember, this month we're focusing our fundraising efforts to help out Soaring Wings Ranch. SWR is a Christian group home for troubled youth located in Faulkner County (the same county that's home to the school where I teach.)

So far, we've raised $232 of our $1000 goal for the ranch. We could sure use your help to get us closer to that goal. Even if you can only give a little, every little bit helps. Through our Running with Amanda for Soaring Wings Ranch fundraising page you can give small or large amounts. We've had donations as little as $3.10, less than a meal at McDonald's these days.

"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. " --2 Corinthians 9:7

If you can help at all, your gift--large or small--will be greatly appreciated and will be a tremendous help to the kids at SWR. Won't you consider donating one of the amounts listed below?

  • $24.80 to give $2/mile for each mile the three of us will run in next weekend's race.
  • $12.40 to give $2/mile for each of the 6.2 miles I'll run next Saturday, or for each of the miles Courtney & Janice will run.
  • $6.20 to give $2/mile for each mile Janice or Courtney will make.
  • $3.10 to give $1/mile for each mile Janice or Courtney will run.


Please give as generously as you can and know that your gift will help us Reach, Raise, and Remember. We're running to Reach people for Jesus, Raise money for charity, and Remember our beautiful Amanda Marie Allison.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter Amanda

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " --Luke 24:1-7

Happy Easter Amanda

Oh my dear sweet daughter,
I just woke on Easter morn
To the second holiday we'll
Face now that you're gone.

These days are the hardest,
The most difficult of all.
The days you were so happy,
You were bouncing off the wall.

I looked forward to each Easter,
That bright twinkle in your eyes.
The one you had whenever
You were about to be surprised.

But today your room is empty,
And you're no longer here.
I'll miss your bouncing, smiling self
That I treasured so very dear.

The counter looks so different,
Where the Easter baskets are.
The space that now lies vacant
Like the hole that's in my heart.

I know you're in a better place
And that I'm thankful for.
One day again we'll be together
Beside our risen Lord.

Here, the holidays will never have
The same happiness and cheer.
Gatherings won't be as complete
As they were when you were here.

I must keep moving forward
For the ones you left behind.
To most I seldom show it,
But you're always on my mind.

It's time to wear my happy face
And go out into the world.
But first a Happy Easter wish
To my sweet, sweet baby girl.

The fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to Earth to suffer and die so that we might live is the only reason I can keep going on. Because I know one day I'll see my dear Amanda in Heaven, I can suffer the pain and agony of losing her. It's still not easy. The pain is still here. It hurts every day. But I know she's with Jesus now, in a much better place. I'll keep going on, but I can only do so because I have the peace and security of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. If you want that same peace, even in the face of the worst of tragedies, visit our Got Jesus? page for instructions on how to invite Him into your heart.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If tomorrow never comes...


I'm a person who tries to be prepared for everything. While driving, I try to anticipate the actions of every other driver on the road. In stores and restaurants, I size up everyone I see to evaluate their potential as a threat. Maybe it's a survival instinct instilled through my military training, or maybe it's a result of some gene that makes me a naturally suspicious person. I don't know.

But regardless how suspicious we are, regardless how much we try to prepare for every possible catastrophe, there are certain things that we just never expect to happen. Perhaps the most universal example of such a thing is the loss of a child.

Though being a nervous parent of a teenager often led me to sometimes wonder what I would do if something happened to one of my daughters, I was totally unprepared for Amanda's death. When she first started driving, every time she pulled out of the driveway I worried that would be the last time I ever saw her. I called myself preparing for that eventuality, but I wasn't even close.

Now that I'm going through it, I'm convinced that it's really impossible to prepare yourself for the death of child, at least a sudden, unexpected death. Though the possibility may cross all our minds at some point, your child preceding you in death is just so far outside the natural order of things that our minds can't fully comprehend it. Until we go through it that is.

"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 such a tragic loss teaches you is that tomorrow is NEVER guaranteed! I always counted on having time to do more with Amanda--to tell her more, to show her more, to teach her more, to love her more. But that time didn't come. I always thought she would grow up and learn from her mistakes the way I did, the way we all do. But that time didn't come. I always thought there would be so much more time to do and say so many more things, but that time didn't come. Her time on Earth was almost over and we never realized it, until it was gone.

The reality is, tomorrow isn't guaranteed for any of us. Not for you, and not for me. We know our clock is ticking, our timer is running out. The hour is coming when our life here on Earth--our night--will end, and we'll stand in front of God, bathed in the light of all His glory. That's the coming day, the time when we'll stand before God and be judged.

"The night is nearly over." Our life on Earth is nearly done. We don't know the exact hour, but we do know that one day we'll draw our last breath, our heart will beat for the last time. Our night will end.

But sometimes it seems easier at night. What's done in the dark isn't easily seen. In fact, a lot of what we do remains hidden unless we step out from the shadows and into the light. When our night is over, when we've breathed our last, all shadows will be removed.

"The day is almost here." The day begins when our life on Earth ends and our eternal life begins. There will be no corners to hide in, no shade to seek shelter from the bright light of the glory of God the Father. In the daylight, we'll be laid bare, completely exposed in every way. All our virtues, and all our faults will be made visible. We won't be able to hide anything from anyone.

So what will be seen when we stand before Him? Everything.

"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy."--Romans 13:13

God sees all, everything we do. Every sin I ever committed, He saw it. Every sin you ever committed, He saw it too. But sometimes we forget that He can see our sins, because we're able to hide them from others. Walking through the night, here on Earth, we get away with sin at times because the darkness conceals it from our friends and family.

But it won't be that way when we close our eyes for the last time here on Earth. Standing before the Throne, the glory of God will shine so bright that we'll be able to hide nothing. Nothing at all.

That might start some thinking, "Okay, well I'm done for. If I'm going to be judged for everything I've done, I'm finished. There's no hope for me."

WRONG!

Because our God is an awesome God, a forgiving God, and a loving God. So awesome, so loving, and so forgiving that He sent His Son to die for our sins. He gave us a way out. He gave us a way to take away all those sins. He promised us if we believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins, and was resurrected, our sins will be forgiven. We'll be saved and granted eternal life!

"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

So we can wipe the slate clean! We can start from scratch. All those old sins are gone. All we have to do is repent, truly believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is and did what the Bible said He did, and proclaim Him the Lord of our lives. Do these things and your sins will be forgotten by God.

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." --Hebrews 8:12

Now that's a deal! Eternal life! Forgotten sins! Clean slate!

But then...

It's time to walk as if you're in the light. Once you're saved, if you truly believe, and you sincerely did what the Bible tells is required for salvation, you won't want to sin anymore. Oh, you'll be tempted. Satan will always try to tempt you. But you will not want to continue with the "deeds of darkness" even though you continue to walk in the night.

Once saved, it's time to walk as if you're already in the light. Walk as if everyone's watching and everyone sees everything you're doing. It's time to "put on the armor of Light." Remember, the night's almost over. The day's almost here.

Every one of us can start walking as if we're already in the light. Jesus made it possible for each and every one. His death on the cross and His resurrection was the sacrifice that God made to give us all an opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

If you've already taken advantage of that opportunity, make sure you're walking as if you're in the light. If you've never invited Jesus into your heart, if you've never confessed and believed, you have that chance. You have it right now. Ask yourself, what will happen to you if tomorrow never comes?

If you're ready to "cast off the deeds of darkness," visit our Got Jesus? page. There, you'll find everything you need to know about how to invite Jesus into your heart and be saved right now.

Now's the time. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. God bless you all.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Soaring Wings Fundraiser with The Gathering

So many times I hear people say kids are bad these days, but I beg to differ. Working as a teacher, I get to interact with lots of students from different backgrounds. Since Amanda died, I've been humbled by the love and compassion shown to me and my family by students at our high school and others in the area. This fundraiser is just one more example of that love and compassion.

Several students at our school, including one whom I've had the pleasure to teach, have started a worship band called The Gathering. The four teenagers came together from different churches to "play our hearts out to God for His praise and glory," they proclaim on their Facebook page.

These young men approached me after seeing what we're doing here at Running with Amanda and asked if they could do a benefit concert to raise money for our cause. We gladly agreed and now the event is set!

"Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs." --Psalm 100:2

We'd be honored to have you join us at First Baptist Church in Vilonia on May 7, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The Gathering will be playing, I'll serve as the MC, and we'll play, sing, and fellowship to honor our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There will be a table set up to accept donations to Soaring Wings Ranch, the Christian youth home we raise funds for, and tables with refreshments and t-shirts for sale.

All are welcome and we'd love to see you there!

Soaring Wings Fundraiser

When:Saturday,May 7, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Where:Vilonia First Baptist Church
Hosts:The Gathering & Running with Amanda

If you can't make it to the concert, you can still help out. You can donate to Soaring Wings Ranch online, and you can become a fan of the The Gathering and Running for Amanda on Facebook.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Just a few reasons why I believe in God

It has always amazed me how difficult some find it to believe in God. So many use arguments like, "There's no proof," "It's not logical," etc.

But these same people line up to believe that some gigantic rock, that came from nowhere, created from nothing by nobody, exploded in the middle of nowhere to create everything, everywhere. Then, on one tiny fragment of the gigantic rock that ended up being called Earth, the inorganic matter for some unknown reason spawned a single-cell organic life form that somehow, over time, transformed itself into every known and unknown life form on the planet.

Somehow, this makes more sense to them than an omnipotent God. Sorry, but their idea that the inorganic rock that came from nothing blowing up to create everything is a lot harder pill to swallow for me than the idea of a loving God who created the universe.

Here's a little poem I wrote that notes just a few of the reasons I find it so easy to believe in a loving God.

I'll never cease to be amazed
That so many can't believe.
That these same find it so easy
To let themselves the world deceive.

They can't believe there is a God
Because He they cannot see.
But if their eyes and hearts were open,
They'd see the proof the same as me.

Every morning with the sunrise,
I see God's wondrous hand
Transforming death to life again,
As light spreads across the land.

Each year when the snows melt,
And winter turns to spring,
God's presence is evident,
As the grays all turn to green.

And each year new life springs forth
When born are babes of every kind,
From every living creature
On Earth that one will find.

Amazing things we see each day,
With explanations science can't provide,
Are evidence enough for me
Of God's handiwork and pride.

You can choose to go on doubting,
Choose in nothing to believe.
But to say all came from nothing,
How can it put one's mind at ease?

It's the miracles I see each day,
Regardless where I look,
That all work to convince me
Of the truth written in His book.

God is real, I know it.
I see Him in so many things.
That's all the proof I'll ever need,
And why my heart will always sing.

If you've spent your life miserable, following the lies of the world, you can turn it all around. Right now, today, tonight, this hour, you can change direction. All it takes is to recognize the idea that everything came from nothing created by nobody and originated nowhere makes no sense at all! Recognize that and embrace the omnipotent, omnipresent God who loves you.

God desires you even if you've spent your entire life denying Him. And all he requires is for you to give your heart to Him, accept His son as your Lord and Savior, repent of your sins, and turn to Him. If you're ready, visit our Got Jesus? page for more specific instructions on how to receive the gift of God's grace through Jesus Christ.

I don't know why so many find it so difficult to believe, but I pray that all who read this are, or will be, convinced and turn their lives over to Jesus.

God bless you all.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Couldn't Make It Without Jesus. Could you?

It was a litle after 12:00 AM, the earliest morning hours of January 16 of this year, when my wife said, "John, wake up! Something's happened to Amanda!"

I had fallen asleep on the couch, but woke quickly to take the call. A friend of Amanda's was on the phone saying the police had just called her and left a number for us to call if she got in touch with us. She gave me a detective's number and said, "I just want you to be prepared because it sounds like there's been a shooting."

I immediately called the detective and spoke with him. He told me there had been a shooting and they were trying to sort it all out, then asked for my address and told me he'd get back to me as soon as he could. When he hung up, I began calling all the hospitals close to their location asking if they'd admitted any shooting victims. None had. I then told my wife I was going to take a quick shower and drive up there to find out what was going on.

Before I got out of the shower, every word I'd heard in my conversations with Amanda's friend and with the detective played over and over in my mind. I got dressed and told my wife, "I think she's dead." Soon after I was dressed a police cruiser pulled into our driveway and my worst fears were confirmed.

My 17-year-old daughter was dead. The worst suffering of my entire life began that night. Several days of shock and feeling an empty, numbness. Then, the onset of the worst pain anyone could imagine, a pain that will never go away. It's an agonizing pain that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

I've come to realize my friends, there is no way I could have endured this long without my faith in Jesus. I cannot imagine anyone facing this type of adversity and finding a way through it without Him. He is guiding me, and carrying me, in this walk through a world left much darker than it was on January 15.

Through all of this, I've come to realize that He has been there all along. Jesus was working for years knowing this day would come. He maneuvered all the pieces of my life into the place where I would be best situated to deal with this horrific pain. He is the only reason I've made it this far, and He's the only reason I'll be able to keep going.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"--Romans 12:33

Until 2006, my wife and I raised chickens about 70 miles north of where we live now. We had a few friends, but were pretty isolated overall. We lived and worked in a tiny community. Our kids went to a tiny school. We had few acquaintances and even fewer friends. On top of that, our nearest family lived 50 miles away. Our social circle had a pretty small diameter.

We made decent money raising chickens, but it was work that required our physical presence on the farm 365 days a year. There were no family vacations. It was even difficult to spend a few hours with family on holidays because we always had to hurry back to care for the chickens.

In 2003, I had an urge to go back to school to be a teacher, sell the farm, and move closer to family. I didn't attribute this to God at the time, but I know now it was. I wasn't sure how my wife would take the idea of me going back to school, because that would put more of the day-to-day work of the farm on her shoulders. But she jumped at the idea when I approached her with it. I didn't know what kind of a student I'd make when I went back to college. It had been 15 years since I'd been in the classroom. But I went back and made straight A's.

As things started falling into place, I began to feel more and more that I had finally started working toward God's plan for my life. We listed the farm for sale on the internet a few months before I graduated and the sale went through only a month or so before I received my degree. We found and bought a house that suited our needs perfectly. I interviewed at Vilonia and received a call the next day offering me the job. It was amazing how the pieces were all fitting together.

I realize now it was all God's will, His plan was coming together. But I still didn't realize how wise and knowledgeable God was as all this played out. That came after Amanda died.

News of her death spread quickly. We told the family, but everyone else soon knew. We began receiving phone calls and visitors within hours. My wife's family flew in from North Carolina, and old Marine friends of mine came in from North Carolina and Utah. Family, friends, coworkers, students and their parents poured into our home over the next week.

Our freezers and refrigerator were filled with food, and collections were taken up by students and teachers at school. Friends and family ran errands and took up slack for Janice and I as we wandered around, still reeling in shock. The response was something I could never have imagined. I had no idea so many people cared so much for us.

One of the biggest comforts to us through all of this was the outpouring of love shown to us via Facebook. Messages and wall posts flooded our pages and Amanda's page. We were inundated with condolences, evidence of the love and compassion so many felt for us. I had no idea how many lives Amanda had touched before this happened.

Before the shock wore off, sitting down reading the messages and posts one day, thinking about all those who'd traveled such distances to comfort us, it dawned on me that God had known all along this day would come. He knew and he saw to it that we were in the best possible place, perhaps the only possible place, where we would be surrounded by so much love and compassion.

I can't imagine having gone through this anywhere else. I can't imagine another community where so many would care so much. The love and prayers our friends, family, coworkers, students, and parents smothered us with didn't take away the pain, didn't even ease it, but they most certainly made us realize we were important to them. God knew we were going to suffer, but He moved everything into position to give us the tools we needed to persevere.

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

One of the messages I received in that first week came from one of my students. She told me she had prayed for peace regarding Amanda's death and that night she dreamed. In her dream, Amanda was was laughing and having fun when an angel appeared and told her it was time to go home. She took his hand and walked to Heaven with him. "She was smiling and seemed fine, happy even," this young lady said.

I really needed that. I had told myself 1000 times that I knew Amanda was in Heaven, but it really helped for someone else to tell me they had seen it. Amanda is no longer suffering, she no longer has troubles or worries, and she no longer fears anything. She is in the most glorious of glorious places, and she'll never hurt anymore.

Knowing that is what keeps me going. Knowing that Amanda is in Heaven and one day, one glorious day, I'll join her there. When my time on Earth is done, I'll pass through those gates and I'll see her again. I'll see here standing there, not as she looked in that coffin at her funeral, but in all her glory, more glorious than she ever appeared while she was here even.

As bad as this suffering is, as painful as it is, as agonizing as it is, the Bible tells us it can't even compare to the glory that will be revealed when we get to Heaven! We're going to hurt, and we're going to suffer...in this life. But, for those of us who will make the trip upstairs, all the hurt and all the tears and all the pain will be gone when we step into that new, glorious, and eternal life.

"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

But some won't get there. Some won't make the trip, at least not to the same destination. Because there's something we've all got to do before our spot is reserved. It's not a difficult thing to do, but many will still refuse to accept the gift of eternal life and the glory that "will be revealed in us."

Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to earth to die on the cross for our sins, yours and mine, died and was buried and rose again so that we all might have eternal life. Say "Jesus is Lord," Lord of your life, and you will be saved.

You, too, will have eternal life. You, too, can have the peace of knowing that our present sufferings won't even compare to the glory we'll see when we get to Heaven. You, too, can have the peace that will carry you through the toughest of times. You, too, can have the peace that offers hope to the hopeless and rest to the weary.

All you have to do is ask and believe. Ask him to come into your life and be your Lord, and believe that He is the risen Son of God. He's right there, waiting on you, wanting you to come to Him. If you've never invited Jesus into your heart, now is a great time to do so.

You'll find more detailed instructions on our Got Jesus?, along with instructions on how to proceed after you've accepted Him. I pray, that if you're reading this and have never been saved, that you do so now.

Without Jesus, I couldn't make it through this. I hope and pray that you won't face your next trial without Him!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Doc Rock & Run

We finished the Doc Rock & Run this morning in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I ran the half marathon, while my wife, daughter, and daughter's friend ran the 5K. This was a much better experience than our race last month, and we'll probably go back and do it again.

I could definitely feel God and Amanda running with me this morning. For the past 10 days, I haven't been running because both knees had really started bothering me. After the 16 mile run I made a couple of weeks ago, I ran 5 miles that Monday, 5 miles that Tuesday, and started to do another 5 that Wednesday. But that time it just wasn't going to happen.

My knees had been hurting on both the Monday and Tuesday runs, and before 100 yards on Wednesday, the pain was excruciating. So I decided to give them an extended rest. I was planning on only a couple of days, but the pain persisted. So the rest ended up being the entire 10 day period immediately preceding today's race. But it was worth it!

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

I finished today's race without any pain in my knees. Praise God! A little soreness in my muscles, especially my calves, is the only discomfort I'm feeling at the moment. The rest and the prayers I said over the past 10 days really made a difference. God does meet our needs and sustains us without a doubt!

I didn't meet my time goal, but I did finish with my fastest time ever for a half marathon, faster than my previous best by 3 minutes. You can see from the picture, my time was 2:15:41. I was hoping to run it in under 2:10, but I'm satisfied with that time.

" 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope."--Philippians 4:19

Throughout the race the wind blew steady around 20 mph, and probably gusted to 30 mph. For miles and miles, the wind was in my face and for a good bit of the rest, it was a hard crosswind. At times, going up some of the hills especially, it seemed I was running in place. The wind was blowing so hard in my face that, when combined with the climb, it seemed to impede almost all forward progress. For only 3 or 4 miles of the 13, we enjoyed a tailwind.

The half marathon course and 5K course split just before the 3 mile mark. The wind was so bad, I honestly thought about hanging the left that would take me up the hill and cross the finish line after only 3.1 miles. That wind was whipping me. But I didn't turn, I knew that wasn't what I came for and I relied on God to keep me going the rest of the way. I suffered the strong winds. I persevered, and now I have increased hope of making it through the big show, the Marine Corps Marathon, in October. God is great!

I have no doubt the wind slowed me down some. Whether or not I would have achieved my 2:10 goal had conditions been more favorable, I can't be sure. But considering the adverse conditions, I'm satisfied with my time.

I was also impressed with the race organizers. Sponsored by Associated Radiologists, the event was a part of the HMG Health and Fitness Expo. Unlike our race last month, the course was well marked and manned with plenty of volunteers who knew what they were supposed to do. There were plenty of water stations, and after the 6 mile marker each water station also had bananas available for runners.

The race ended at the Arkansas State University convocation center where runners were offered Gatorade or water, chips, and frozen yogurt in addition to an ample assortment of fresh fruit. The Expo was also going on, so there was plenty to do and see inside (out of the driving wind.) There was a live band playing on a stage outside, but the weather kept any crowd from gathering to hear them play.

Overall, a great race with great family and friends. We raised a little money for our charities. We'll raise more as time goes on, and continue to grow this ministry as long as God keeps leading us to do so. We'll be looking for another race to run next month and will keep you informed when we decide.

Thanks to all who've donated to the charities we support, and thanks to all who have helped us spread our message over the past month. So far, you've given $1,541.17 combined for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch. Our goal for this year, our first year, is $3,000. Hopefully we'll blow the top off that long before October!

Don't forget, if you can't help financially at this time, you can still help by getting the word out. You can become a fan of our Facebook page and suggest it to your friends, you can follow us on Twitter, and you can comment on our blog posts and Facebook posts. All of these things help us spread the word, get our name out to more people, and ultimately help us accomplish our mission to Reach, Raise, and Remember.

Thanks for everything you've all done to help us. God bless you all!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Suffering and Salvation

This Saturday, we're running in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the Doc Rock & Run. I'm doing the half marathon while my wife, daughter, and a friend run the 5K. At some point during my 13.1 mile run, I'll get down and wonder if it's worth it to keep going. Something will start hurting, or I'll encounter a long incline at a point in the race when I feel completely exhausted, and the thought will cross my mind to quit, to let the course or the distance beat me.

But I'll keep going, and I'll finish. I've trained for it. I've disciplined myself to put in the miles, even when I didn't feel like it. I've got what it takes to push through those tough parts of the race, those parts where doubt starts to take hold. And I'll call on everything, the training and the discipline, to get through those difficult parts of the race.

Once again, the endurance race mimics life. Everyone travels over rough patches in their journey, and everyone thinks about giving up. Giving up on a particular task, giving up on a dream, or giving up living altogether. Everyone thinks about doing one or more of these at some point.

Some people follow through. They quit their task, they abandon their dream, or even commit suicide. Others persevere. They make it through the tough times, often stronger than before. You can be one of those who perseveres. You can be one of those who makes it through.

My friends there's a source of strength that will lift you out of the lowest low, raise you from the deepest depth, and light your way on the darkest of days.

Jesus.

Now you might say, "Wait a minute. I've already tried that and I had just as much trouble then." That's a common misconception. A lot of people go to church, walk down the aisle, profess faith in Jesus, and get baptized thinking, "I won't have any trouble now."

Wrong. The Bible doesn't promise us an easy life once we become a Christian. Accepting Jesus as your personal savior doesn't save anyone from trouble or grief in this life. In fact, God's Word promises us we will have trouble as long as we walk the earth, as long as we draw breath.

"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

You see friends, Jesus doesn't promise to protect us from suffering here. He offers us an eternal life, free from suffering, after this life is over. Many who live for the present, for instant gratification, who want to be satiated now, may not think that's such a great deal. They want to feel good now, all the time.

But think about it, who do you know that's always satisfied. Regardless of how much money we make, or how many toys we have, or whether we're Christians or not, none of escape this life without hitting obstacles. None of us make it through life without getting down from time to time.

Just look at how Michael Jackson died, a miserable wretch overdosing on prescription medicine. He had everything most people dream of, and more. He had more money than he could spend, he had fancy cars, probably unrivaled fame, everything! But he died a miserable man.

I don't know and have no intention to speculate on whether or not he knew Jesus as his personal savior. That's between him and God. But I do know he had every material thing most people consider desirable on this earth, in this life. And he wasn't even happy with all that.

All the money in the world couldn't buy him happiness. Shoot! It couldn't even buy him contentedness.

We're all going to face trouble in this life. Christians and non-Christians alike. But Jesus gives you the peace of knowing there's something better when our time here is done.

Jesus gives you the peace that allows you to face down your demons. Jesus gives you the peace that makes you NOT reach for those pills, that bottle, or that gun. Jesus gives you the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the best of times AND in the worst of times.

In fact, He gives us the ability to tackle our trials and keep going with a positive attitude. Jesus gives you the temperament of an optimist when those who don't know Him would most certainly play the pessimist. People expect you to wallow in a pit of despair when you're facing tough times, but Jesus gives you the strength and will to be productive instead of destructive, even when faced with the worst possible tribulation.

I've heard it said that you can't always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Well, if you've got Jesus, you'll find it a lot easier to not only control how you react to your troubles, but to react in a way that can often make good things happen in the wake of bad.

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

Glory in our sufferings? Some might find that hard to swallow. You might find the hill so steep, the river so wide, the valley so deep, that you can't even see a way to overcome it, and Jesus says you should "glory" in it? How can that be?

First, let's talk about what it means to glory in our sufferings. I don't believe it means we're supposed to dance up and down the street singing "Yea! I'm suffering again!" I don't even believe it means God expects us to be happy that we're suffering.

The FreeDictionary.com includes an obsolete definition for the verb "to glory." It meant to brag. I think that's the definition we're looking for when we interpret this verse. We're to let the world in on our suffering, tell them why we continue to struggle through it, and tell them who is helping us get through it. That's how we brag about our suffering. That's how we glory in our suffering!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again here. Tomorrow marks 3 months of the most horrific suffering I've ever endured. Three months ago tomorrow, our phone rang to bring us news that our beautiful daughter, Amanda, had been killed. I told someone today, "I've been cut, hit, kicked, crushed, bit, stomped, mashed, and mangled...physically." I've suffered with all kinds and levels of physical pain. But the pain of losing my daughter is worse than any of it. I'd gladly take the highest level of physical pain to bring my daughter back and shed this emotional pain. For me, this is the worst form of suffering there is.

But still I go on. Not only do I go on, but I continue to trust in Jesus and work to glorify Him. As hard as it is, I'm learning to persevere through the worst pain I've ever felt. And that perseverance is building my character. It's building my character by bringing me closer to Jesus. I'm becoming a stronger person, a better person in the wake of this tragedy...this suffering. And that closer relationship to Jesus is what gives me hope, hope that sustains me and rejuvenates me and strengthens me when I'm at my lowest. When I want to quit, when I want to give up, here comes the hope that originated in suffering.

A lot of people, when faced with terrible tragedy, turn away from God. I've heard it said they lose their faith. That's exactly the wrong thing to do. That's like turning off the oxygen when you're having trouble breathing. It's the worst choice you can make. They throw away exactly what they need to keep them going.

We all have a choice to make when tragedy befalls us. Whatever your trial, whatever your situation, whatever you're suffering, you can choose to let it bring you closer to Jesus, or you can choose to let it carry you in the other direction.

You choose. It doesn't matter what the trial is, how bad it hurts, how awful it is, you choose.

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."--Romans 8:38-39

This verse tells us nothing has the power to separate us from the love of God. Nothing has the power to sever our relationship with Jesus. Nothing. Not if we don't allow it to. We can choose to let it sever that relationship, but our trial doesn't have that power on its own. It can't do it, it can't break that bond--between us and Jesus--unless we allow it to.

If you choose to move closer to Jesus when you're suffering, if you lean on Him, seek His help and His guidance, if you call on Him for mercy and strength, you will find yourself able to glory in your suffering. You'll find it will build your character and give you hope. Your bond--the love of God--with Jesus will become stronger. You will become stronger.

You already know the trial I'm enduring. I can't imagine going through this without Jesus. Without the hope that knowing Him brings, there would be no hope to see Amanda again when I pass from this life, there would be no hope of an eternal life free from suffering, there would be no hope of a better tomorrow. There would be no hope.

I pray that any who read this who are suffering choose to move closer to Jesus as you navigate your troubled waters. If you've never had a relationship with Jesus, this is a great time to change that. If you need to do that, you'll find an explanation on how to do it on our Got Jesus? page. Please, if you haven't accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, visit that page and let today be the beginning of your new life as a born again Christian.

You're going to meet obstacles. You're going to have trouble. Christian or non-Christian, bad things are going to happen to you. If you've got Jesus, you'll be ready and able to persevere.

Call on Him and you'll not only persevere, you'll glory in your suffering. He will lift you out of the lowest low, raise you from the deepest depth, and light your way on the darkest of days.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mother's Day is Coming!

Mother's Day is coming and we'd like to offer you a quick, easy, and convenient way to buy gifts for that special Mother in your life and support our charities at the same time!

Giving Bean coffee fundraiser for roast-to-order coffee and artisan tea

If the ladies in your life love coffee (or tea), you'll find just the gift at Running with Amanda's Online GivingBean.com Store. Order online and your gifts are shipped directly to your door! And, GivingBean.com will send $3.00 to Running with Amanda for every item you purchase at the site.

You can still donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch directly through our fundraising pages of course. But we're happy to offer this new, exciting, and convenient way for you to combine your giving to charity with your giving for Mother's Day.

"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

All money we receive through the sale of these products will be split evenly between the three charities we support--St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch.

So check out our online coffee (and tea) store and order your Mother's Day gifts today!


Monday, April 11, 2011

3 Months Without You

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:"--Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday will mark three months since Amanda died. They say time heals all wounds, but I don't think so in this case. The pain remains.

Three months now have passed,
Since the day that we lost you.
The pain still hasn't left us
Though it's no longer quite so new.

Every day you're on our minds,
In our thoughts, and prayers, and hearts.
Your memory never leaves us
Though our time's now spent apart.

Many cannot see the pain
That dwells in us each day.
The outward signs we're hiding now
But it hasn't gone away.

Some days things aren't quite so tough
and some they're really bad.
But even on the best of days,
We're still the same, we're sad.

But time keeps passing by us,
Not stopping or slowing down.
We have to keep on living,
The world keeps spinning round.

We ride in constant pain and grief
On this carousel called life.
Tears seldom fall in daylight hours,
But flow quite freely every night.

Round and round we'll go,
Until God calls us home.
In sadness and in grief,
Through this world we'll roam.

Someday our time will come,
And then we'll get to go.
We'll be free from grief and sadness,
Pain we'll no longer know.

Until that time we'll suffer,
And cry for you each day.
This is now the life we live,
Because you are gone away.

How long will this go on?
Only time will tell.
Right now three months have passed,
Someday we'll all be well.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jesus--The Will and the Way to Go On

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

I probably heard it before, but the first time I really remember reading that verse was last year when I ran my first half marathon. Quite a few runners had it on the back of their shirts. I didn't ask any of them that day, but immediately I thought I'd like to have one.

I said a lot of prayers during that first 13.1 mile race, and without a doubt it was God who got me through it. At the finish, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck...twice...and left on the side of the road, but I finished it. He gave me the strength, will, and determination to keep going even after it started hurting.

Little did I know then that 10 months later I'd be calling on the message of this verse to find the strength, will, and determination to push through a far more difficult challenge. The night Amanda died was the hardest time I'd ever had, the fact that she was gone the hardest thing I'd ever had to face. Until then, anything that had gone wrong in our lives had been reversible, fixable. But that night, her death became something we couldn't just undo.

At first, I didn't know what to do. My instinct said go and kill the man who'd killed her. But I have a wife and daughter who still need me. Though I had no doubt I could have taken the guy out that night, I couldn't do something so stupid that would send me to prison. I couldn't put Janice and Courtney in that position, of losing Amanda and me in the same night. I had to put justice in Jesus' hands that night.

If I'd have trusted my own instincts, Amanda's murderer would be dead and I'd be rotting away in a jail cell right now. Janice and Courtney would be struggling financially in addition to the obvious emotional struggles that come with a loss such as ours. But trusting Jesus gave me the ability to avoid placing additional burdens on my wife and daughter who need me more now than ever before.

Jesus gave me the strength to overcome my instincts that night, and has since given me the strength to keep moving. Sometimes, all you want to do after such a loss is curl up and hide from the world. Some people in this situation withdraw from the world--family, friends, everyone. Some lay in bed all day, some stop eating or eat too much, some take drugs--legal or illegal, and some find other ways to hide from the world while they suffer in pain. It was Jesus who pushed me, prodded me, and strengthened me to channel my energy in a productive direction.

Everything we're doing to honor Amanda's memory has resulted in answer to a lot of prayer and study, seeking His will for our lives. Any strength you think you see in me is Jesus' strength that He has provided.

"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

Every Christian is constantly being watched and judged by non-Christians and other believers. You've probably looked at someone doing something wrong and said, "And he calls himself a Christian!" I know I have, as both a believer and before I accepted Jesus into my heart. Once you're washed in the blood, you're judged like never before, from all sides. People are watching everything you do. How we react to any given situation is going to be judged by others here on earth.

I've been guilty plenty of times of not acting like a Christian while proclaiming I believe in Jesus. I've said some mighty ugly words when I've hit my finger with a hammer. I've lost myself in anger while disciplining my kids. And those are just minor examples. I'm sure it's been said lots of times of me, "And he calls himself a Christian!" But Hebrews 12:1 tells us more is expected of us.

More is expected of me, even in the most difficult of situations. A lot of people wouldn't blame me if I did withdraw from the world. Many don't understand why or how I went back to work a week after Amanda died. I've heard that some have whispered to others that I'm not grieving and they're worried about me, afraid I'm burying the death of Amanda deep inside me, refusing to face it.

But that's not the case at all. I'm running the race "with perseverance." Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as "continued effort to do or achieve something in spite of difficulties, failure, or opposition."

Let me tell you, when your child dies, to go on living in any state is a challenge. Looking into her coffin at the funeral, my tears falling on her, I cried and told her if she'd just get up, I'd take her place. I wanted so bad to replace her, for her to stand over me and cry. I knew it wouldn't happen, but I begged for it anyway. The next step after that came wanting to join her, wanting to hurry up and finish this life so we could be reunited. Thoughts have crossed my mind on bad days to quit my job and go drive a truck in Afghanistan, or take any of numerous other dangerous jobs. All these thoughts go through your mind after the death of a child.

That's because it's so far outside the natural order of things, it has to be one of the most difficult things anyone ever faces in our lives here on earth. You never expect to outlive your child. Even if the thought crosses your mind, "What if s/he dies before me?" there's no way you can be prepared for it. I know because those thoughts had entered my head, and I'm one who tries to be prepared for any eventuality. But I wasn't prepared for this. It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to face without a doubt.

But faith in Jesus gives me the strength to keep going. Knowing that we'll be reunited one day, when it's my time to leave this earth, gives me the strength to keep going. Not only to keep going though, it gives me the strength to seek His will and work to glorify His name, because he is the only reason I have hope. Jesus is the only reason I can persevere and keep moving!

"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

A lot of people can't understand how anyone can keep their faith after losing a child. Some have made remarks to me that they're amazed at my faith after such a tragedy. It's as if people think Christians shouldn't suffer if Jesus is real. The idea that He should put some sort of force field around us all, and protect us from every act of evil, isn't the least bit Biblical.

A lot of people do lose their faith in these situations because of the mistaken idea that being saved will protect us (some even think reward us) while we walk the earth. But John 16:33 makes clear that we "will have trouble." Nothing in the Bible tells us when we walk down the aisle, get ourselves baptized, and become believers that all our worries are over.

One couple in a Sunday School class we used to attend told us of a preacher in a church they were once members of. The pastor had lost his 18-year-old son in a car accident. Over several months, he left the ministry and he and his wife split up. His faith wasn't strong enough to weather his storm. I can't swear to it, but it sure sounds like maybe he thought his salvation was supposed to protect him from tragedy in this world.

But John 16:33 specifically says "In this world you will have trouble." Not you'll have less trouble than non-believers, not that you'll be protected from all trouble, not that your troubles will be less painful than others'. None of that. Just "you will have trouble." To me that sounds like we, as Christians, can expect to suffer just as much as anyone else...in this world.

Our reward doesn't come in this life. Our protection doesn't come on this earth. That last part is the great part, what we as Christians should hear and take heart! "I have overcome the world." I'm protected from suffering AFTER this life, when I get to Heaven. That's how I know I'll see Amanda again! What a glorious day that will be, when I run to her and wrap my arms around her and squeeze her so tight and maybe never let go!

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."--Romans 8:38-39

And here's the greatest part, the part that really keeps me going, and really gives me peace to know that I'm truly saved, that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This verse says it right here. If you're truly saved, washed in the blood, infused with the Holy Spirit, you can persevere through anything. ANYTHING! Even the death of a child.

It doesn't mean you won't feel pain. I hurt every day. Every day! All day long today, memories have been coming back. Wonderful times that I shared with Amanda, and tears filled my eyes and spilled from my eyes at each one. I miss her so, so much. There's a non-stop aching in my heart that won't cease until God calls me home and I see her again. I hurt, like I've never hurt before. I've been broken and mangled and felt severe physical pain, and this is thousands of times worse than the worst of that I've ever felt.

But I'm saved. I have Jesus in my heart. I know that because even that most painful of pains, the death of my child, hasn't separated me "from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord." In fact, this tragedy has drawn me closer to Him. Since Amanda's death, I've prayed more, studied more, read more, and tried harder to find God's will for my life. And that's what gives me peace. Because I know I'll see her again, and I know I'll be in Heaven one day.

Jesus gave the me the will and the way to keep going. He is the only reason I can.

I want you to have that peace. I can't imagine suffering this tragedy, losing my daughter, surviving it, and continuing to live if I didn't have Jesus in my heart. I can't imagine it. I don't think I could keep moving. Not forward, not backward, not even in a circle. Without Him, I think I'd just stop, stand still, and let the world leave me there to die.

The beauty is, you don't have to wait. You can have that peace, that same peace that keeps me going, that same peace that reveals God's will for my life, that same peace that so many don't have. All you have to do is ask Jesus to give it to you. He's standing with outstretched arms, offering it to you. It's yours for the taking. But it's got to be for real.

You've got to really believe, not just say the words, not just go through the motions. You can do that, and nobody will know if your faking or not. Nobody here on earth that is. Only God will know. He'll know if you're for real, and he'll know if you're not. He'll know if you're really saved, or if it's all a charade.

So will you. If you open your heart and really ask Jesus to come into your life, to save you from your sins, he'll do it right now. And like the thief on the cross at Calvary, you'll be guaranteed your place in Heaven. You and God forevermore.

Jesus died to save me, and to save you, and to save everyone else who is willing to accept His gift of eternal life. You can have that right now. Just pray the following prayer, earnestly, without equivocation. Pray and earnestly give Jesus your heart and you'll have that peace that will help you through any trial, any obstacle. You'll still suffer on this earth, but you'll have the peace that will help you persevere until you're in Heaven with Him.

If you want that peace, pray this now:

Dear Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner.

I also know that you came to earth, the Son of God, perfect in every way and without sin. You came and you died on the Cross for me and every other sinner. You died without sin, and after 3 days you rose from the grave. You conquered death so that we, too, can have eternal life.

Jesus, I'm sorry for my sins. I repent and I want you to forgive me, to save me. I know that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and that there is no way to the Father except through you. I want that now.

Please come into my heart. Let the Holy Spirit live in me and give me the peace that you died for.

Amen.

If you prayed that prayer and honestly meant every word, you are now a born again Christian and will join all other Christians in Heaven after this life. May God bless you my friend.



When I started our Facebook page, I felt called to post a "Verse of the Day" for our fans. At first, I thought these verses were just one way God would use us to Reach people for Jesus. But lately, He's laid a little more on my heart and this post is the first of many I'll make using these verses to witness to others, hopefully encouraging some to take the most important step of their lives and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If you know anyone who could benefit from reading this post, please email the article or send them the link.

Thanks, and may God bless you all.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

One week until Doc Rock & Run

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

We're seven days from our next event. Look for us at the Doc Rock & Run Half Marathon and 5K in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Both races will start at 7:00 AM on the Arkansas State University campus. We'll be Running with Amanda. I'll be running the half marathon, while Janice, Courtney, and a friend will be doing the 5K. All four of us working to Reach, Raise, and Remember. Janice and I will be wearing shirts that say "Running with Amanda" on the front and have Philippians 4:13 on the back. I plan to lead a short prayer a few minutes before the race near the start line. We also have magnetic signs for our vehicle now so we're easy to recognize. After the races, we'll be circulating through the crowd for a while with a donation box and handing out business cards to spread the word of our mission.

Our fund raising efforts are going well, but we still hope these new tools will help pick things up. Though we've already met our $1000 goal for St. Jude, the hospital could certainly use more and we want to encourage donors to follow their hearts and give what they can afford. But remember, we're also raising money for Arkansas Children's Hospital, a nationally acclaimed non-profit hospital that treats children without regard to the families' ability to pay. And, we're hoping to raise $1000 for Soaring Wings Ranch before October 30 as well. Soaring Wings is a Christian group home for troubled teens. Please use our fundraising pages to give as generously as you can to these wonderful organizations. Your donations go to the organizations we support; not one dollar of your donation stays with us!

"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."--2 Corinthians 9:7

But even if you can't help out financially at this time, there are ways you can help us Reach, Raise, and Remember. Visit our Facebook page, "Like" us there, post on our page, share our page, and suggest it to your friends. You can also follow us on Twitter. Finally, please visit our blog often and comment on our posts. These things cost nothing, but help us get seen by a lot more people.

So please do what you can to help us Reach, Raise, and Remember! And if you're in the Jonesboro area next Saturday, stop by the race and visit with us. We'd love to see you there!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Give to Arkansas Children's Hospital for Kids Like Chevy

We give monthly to Arkansas Children's Hospital so we regularly receive a newsletter with patient profiles. It's just one of the ways ACH lets donors know how their money is spent, and how important their work is. Here's the story of Chevy from last month's newsletter. If your heart is touched by the story of this life saved, please give to ACH and help them save more kids.

The following is quoted from an ACH newsletter we received, but Chevy's last name and the names of his parents have been redacted.

Chevy went from a 2-year-old rambunctious boy with high-energy to being on the brink of death in a matter of days.

First, Chevy came down with a high fever. Chevy's parents did what they could to combat their son's fever, but his condition worsened. He began suffering from chills and convulsions, and they rushed their son to to the local hospital. After assessing his condition, local physicians transferred him to Arkansas Children's Hospital via ambulance.

"We were scared to death when we took Chevy to Children's," says his mom. "We had no idea what was wrong with him, and we had seen him get sick so quickly."

Once at ACH, doctors found that Chevy's blood pressure was incredibly low and his heart was racing. He was immediately started on antibiotics, as ACH staff members struggled to diagnose him. His fever spiking up and down made it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis.

A few days after he was admitted to the hospital, doctors realized Chevy had a blood clot in his jugular vein. The blood clot was caused by an intense infection, located in his right ear.

"Once the doctors found the blood clot, the rest of the pieces clicked in place," says his mother. "They told us our son had Lemierre's syndrome, which is so rare, our doctors had only seen one or two cases in their entire careers."

Lemierre's syndrome, which has only been diagnosed in 160 cases in the world in the last 100 years, begins with a simple ear or throat infection that leads to blood clot formation, generally in the jugular vein area. Chevy's doctor started him on a strict antibiotic regimen, which began to lower his fever almost immediately.

"We just couldn't believe the transformation Chevy made over the next few weeks," says his mom. "As quickly as he got sick, we were surprised at how quickly he got better. Within three weeks, his vital signs were looking good and within four weeks, he was back to normal."

Chevy has completely rebounded from his illness and is feeling great. His mother attributes his wellness to ACH.

"Without Arkansas Children's Hospital, Chevy would have died," she says. "The hospital staff worked on this child day and night to find out what was wrong. It was their hard work and persistence that saved his life."

Chevy's grandmother is grateful for the care her grandson received at ACH.

"How do you properly thank a hospital that saved your grandson's life?" she says. "It is beyond words for me. Arkansas Children's Hospital was wonderful to us."

"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."--2 Corinthians 9:7

So please, if you feel moved by the story of this beautiful child, give to Arkansas Children's Hospital so they can help save his life and the lives of others like him.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Give to St. Jude for Kids Like Zowie

Because we give to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital monthly, we get a regular newsletter that usually contains patient stories. Since part of our mission is to Raise money for St. Jude, we will relay some of those stories here from time to time. If this story moves your heart, please give to St. Jude for kids like Zowie.

The following is quoted from a St. Jude newsletter we received.

Seven-year-old Zowie is no stranger to cancer--she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when she was just 3 years old.

"We hit rock bottom," her mom remembers. "We were numb. But when wwe gotto our local hospital to start her treatment, we were like, 'OK, what do we have to do to get her fine for a while. Until the sweet girl started complaining of leg pain and lost her appetite. Zowie's mom had that lurking fear that the cancer might be back, and Zowie confirmed it one morning when she climbed into bed with her parents and said, "I'm sick again." "I knew what she meant immediately," her mom says. "I was scared all over again. Poor Zowie, didn't know if she could handle this again...or if any of us could." Thankfully the family was referred to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where Zowie underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. She was excited to return home and start first grade, but at a recent checkup her family got the terrible news that her cancer has returned for a third time. But we never give up on a child so Zowie's parents brought their little girl back to St. Jude where she underwent another bone marrow transplant. With the help of friends like you, we will continue to do everythhing in our power to save little Zowie and all the children. Your support means everything to Zowie's family and to all of us at St. Jude. God bless your good heart.

"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."--2 Corinthians 9:7

So please, if you feel moved by the story of this beautiful child, give to St. Jude so they can help save her life and the lives of others like her.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Things we'll never do...

So many dreams were shattered
The night that we lost you.
Together now so many things
We'll never get to do.

Just shy of your birthday
Was when we learned the news.
Now celebrating eighteen years,
We'll never do with you.

We'd already bought your cap and gown,
For when you'd graduate.
Just one more thing we'll never see
Is you walk across that stage.

You planned to go to college
And later be a cop.
But now we'll never hear you tell
About your first traffic stop.

One day you would have met
Your perfect mister right.
But now we'll never see you
On your wedding night.

You spoke so very often
Of the time when you'd have kids.
Now we'll never see the time
Your unborn will live.

You'd never even gone to work
Or earned a living wage.
We'll never see you beam with pride
Because you paid your way.

You wanted so very badly
To live out on your own.
We'll never get to help you
Move in your first new home.

So many dreams were shattered
When we heard the awful news.
Now these are just a few things,
Together we'll never do.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Somedays I'd Rather Stay in Bed...

...but I can't.

Yesterday was my day off from running, and I needed it after the 16 miles I traveled on Saturday. But today I had a 5 mile run planned. When the alarm went off, I rolled out of bed and had to override my instinct to reset it for later and crawl back under the covers. No rest for the weary if I'm going to be ready for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

"11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."--Romans 12:11-12

Some days it would be easy to be lazy--lacking in zeal--and talk myself into staying in bed. Especially when I'm tired and sore from a long run like Saturday's. But I believe God has called me to serve Him with my running. I've been called to keep running to Reach, Raise, and Remember. I can't do that if I lay in bed!

Today would have been easier than normal. Just as I set out, a shooting pain in my left knee began. I thought about quitting right there, then decided to see if it went away once I got warmed up. Before I'd gone a mile, my right knee began to bother me. I was really wanting to quit then. Instead I decided to keep going and "be patient in affliction."

I began to pray in earnest then, even while I was considering cutting my planned 5 miles to 4, or even 3. I was praying for strength and determination as well as relief from the pain. It was about then when a leaf began to blow in the wind in front of me for a few feet.

Whenever that happens, especially when I'm struggling on a run, I'm convinced it's Amanda letting me know she's there and encouraging me to stay the course. After that, other thoughts came to mind even as I prayed. Amanda was running with me to keep me pushing through the pain. The voice in my head told me the pain was a reminder of the suffering Jesus endured, and that His pain was far worse than the discomfort I was feeling. These thoughts were the answers to my prayers.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."--1 Peter 5:10

Relief didn't come, but the strength and determination to finish did. We don't go through life without pain, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, and I shouldn't expect to go through these races or the training for them without some earthly discomfort. But in the end, I'm promised that I will be restored and made "strong, firm, and steadfast."

In less than two weeks, we have the Doc Rock & Run in Jonesboro. I'll be running the half marathon while my wife, daughter, and daughter's friend will be participating in the 5K. No more long runs until then for me, but I've got to keep hitting the road to stay in shape for it.

Praise Jesus! He keeps me running even when Satan tempts me to quit. Thanks be to God for keeping me Running with Amanda to Reach, Raise, and Remember!

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