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, November 29, 2012

St. Jude Marathon: Pre-Race Prayer with TEAM 413

We would like to invite any and all to join us this Saturday for a pre-race prayer at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. We will be there with TEAM 413 to give thanks to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for blessing us with the ability to run a marathon in His service.

At 7:15 AM, in front of Starbucks (pictured below), only a block or so from the start, we'll gather. All are welcome. If you're fast or slow, a runner or a spectator, it doesn't matter. We consider it a blessing and an honor to gather with other TEAM 413 members before the race to honor the One who died so that we might live.

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

The verse that gave birth to TEAM 413's name says it all for me. I still remember the time, not so long ago, when I thought it impossible to run 26.2 miles. Only two and a half years ago, I had just run my first half marathon. I crossed the finish line, but I didn't have another step in me!

Laying there in Riverfront Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, I swore to myself I'd never attempt a full marathon. I wasn't even sure I'd ever go for 13.1 again! Cramping badly, writhing in agony on the grass in the park, hoping the pain and cramps would subside so I could get in my car and get home, I had gone beyond MY limit!

But it was between miles 3 and 4 of that race when I passed a lady donning a TEAM 413 shirt. As I passed by, I read this verse plastered across her back.

It was the first time I recall reading the actual verse. Oh, I'd heard it or variations of it said from time to time, but I couldn't recall actually reading it before. Philippians 4:13 would stick in my mind afterwards though. When I ran, or just when life dealt me a tough hand, this verse came to mind.
"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." -- Isaiah 58:11

I didn't know it then, but the Lord was guiding me when I read that verse on the young lady's shirt that day. Less than a year later I found myself in that sun-scorched land when my daughter was murdered. My frame needed strengthening, and bad. I had needs that I'd never even entertained thoughts of before. At any given moment, I had no idea how I would get through the next hour.

But that verse kept coming to mind, and it wasn't long before I could hear God speaking to me, planting the idea for Running with Amanda in my mind. As this ministry began to take shape, I never recognized the role TEAM 413 played in it. It wasn't until months later, when Chris Gillespie (TEAM 413 founder) found us and sent us a free t-shirt, that I began to realize the role his organization had played in the development of our own ministry.

Though I never spoke to the lady on whose shirt I first read the words of Philippians 4:13, God spoke to me through her. With only words worn on the back of her shirt, a seed was planted that would later grow into the ministry we now call Running with Amanda.

That's why I'm honored to join with them, to represent this TEAM that is dedicated to "Get There and Share" at races whenever I can. I hope and pray the words worn on the back of our race shirts can have a similar impact on someone else.

If you want to join TEAM 413, it's an easy thing to do. Anyone can do it. Anyone can join. Anyone can help spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just visit the website, go to the online store, order your TEAM 413 race shirt, and wear it when you race. Do that and, VOILA!, you're an official member of TEAM 413!

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2 Days & a Wake Up to St. Jude Marathon 2012

It's almost time!

Today is Wednesday, and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon is Saturday. Two more days and a wake up. Then we run.

God is so great! After three weeks without running a single step, He brought me back online from a tough knee injury two weeks before the race. Though I didn't run today, I've run enough these past couple of weeks to know that Jesus will carry me through the 26.2 mile race this weekend.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13

There is no doubt in my mind the race will be tough. The last long run I made was the Soaring Wings Half on October 27th. My pace is off by more than a minute per mile from where I was before the injury, but I'm running now with virtually no pain!

Training was going great and I was well ahead of schedule before I got hurt, but getting through Saturday's race won't be because of anything I have done. It will only happen...I'll only cross that finish the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ!

My good friend, Jesse Hardy, said it best just before running his first ultra earlier this year, so I'm going to just adapt his quote a little to fit this situation. "I can't run 26.2 miles, and if Jesus doesn't show up on Saturday, it's going to be a short race."
"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" -- Matthew 19:26

So when you read my posts on Saturday to recap the race, just know that it wasn't my strength that got me through. It won't be any power of mine that keeps me going. It will not be courage or character or discipline or willpower that carries me through the race. There will be one and only one reason, one and only one way, one and only One who deserves the credit and the glory.


He brought me to it, and He will bring me through it...all 26.2 miles! This will be marathon number three, but I could never have finished the first two if He hadn't run beside me from the start. Just like those races, He will be there from start to finish, through every good mile, every bad mile, every ache, and every pain. He will walk beside me at times. He will push me from behind at others. There will be parts of the race when He pulls me forward, and times when carries me.

Through it all, every grueling mile, Jesus Christ will be there to get me through and keep me pushing forward for the finish line.

Only two more days and a wake up.

I can't wait!

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

We'll Match Your Gift* to St. Jude and Arkansas Children's Hospital for the Next Month!

Truly, we are blessed. Even though things have been tough for a while, our blessings abound. Satan continues his unyielding attacks on our family, but God continues to walk with us, protect us, and provide for us.

The latest blessing bestowed upon us came last Saturday, when I learned that I had achieved National Board certification as a teacher. A one to three year process, rigorous enough that most teachers will never even attempt it, it's considered a pretty big accomplishment by most in the teaching profession.
"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

God has blessed me with this achievement, for I certainly could not have passed the certification process without His grace and mercy. He deserves whatever glory and praise may come as a result.

Part of this blessing is a substantial bonus check that will come from the state and a raise from my school district. So now we consider it our responsibility to give back some of that bountiful harvest. That's why we'll be matching* your donations to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to Arkansas Children's Hospital until December 23.

There's a little more than a week left before Janice and I run at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. I'll be doing the full marathon and she will be doing her first half. On December 21st and 22nd, we have the End of the World and Day After the End of the World Marathons. Again, I'll be running the full and Janice the half.

Part of our mission here is to raise money for charity. When we began this year, we set goals to raise $3500 for St. Jude and $2500 for Arkansas Children's Hospital. As of today, we've raised $2762.46 through our fundraising page for St. Jude, and $1605 for Arkansas Children's Hospital.
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" -- Acts 20:35

For both of these charities, we're a little less than $1000 short. So, in an effort to raise the money to meet our goals, we will match (up to $500 for St. Jude and $500 for ACH) donations made through our fundraising pages over the next month. The bonus check will come in sometime in December, so it will be then before we can match, but there's no reason not to start now.

Think about it! If we can just get 50 people to give $10 each to St. Jude, that $500 and our matching $500 will put us well over our $3500 goal! Another 50 giving $10 each to Arkansas Children's Hospital will blast through our $2500 goal for them too!
Imagine, you give $10 and a total of $20 is donated to the charity you choose. Your $20 donation becomes $40, $50 becomes $100, and $100 becomes $200! What a great way to double the impact of your gift to these two great causes.

Both St. Jude and Arkansas Children's Hospital treat patients without regard to the families' ability to pay. Kids receive life-saving treatment without the too often unbearable financial burdens that accompany top-notch medical care. Both hospitals are engaged in cutting-edge research, seeking new and innovative treatments for life-threatening diseases and injuries.

None of this is possible without the generosity of people like you. Your gift today can help save kids' lives!

So click the links here to double the impact of your gift to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to Arkansas Children's Hospital. We'll match (up to a total of $500 for St. Jude and $500 for ACH) any gifts that come in over the next month when that bonus check comes in.

* The maximum total amount we will match for all donations made over the next month is $1000, $500 for St. Jude and $500 for ACH. If the total donations given for either charity, or both, is more than $500, we will donate a maximum of $500 to each.

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.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Amanda!

Happy Thanksgiving Amanda. Even though it's hard to say that, knowing you can't be here with us, I am still thankful.

I'm thankful for all the years we were able to spend Thanksgiving together. You loved the holidays when we got together with all the family. We had a a lot of really good Thanksgivings, and for that I am thankful.

But I'm most thankful that we will one day spend this holiday together again. When my time on earth is done, we'll be together for every Thanksgiving, for eternity.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." -- Colossians 3:15

That's the real reason I can be thankful, and even happy, today, because the peace of Christ's promise that this world is not the end, it's not our eternal home. His promise that we will be together again, that knowledge gives me a peace that could never come from anything else in the wake of your death.
"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." -- Colossians 3:16

Satan takes away, but God gives so much more than could ever be taken from us. The fact that He sent His Son to live, teach, suffer, and die, so that our sins can be washed away and we can spend eternity in Heaven, together, that's a gift that makes it possible to be thankful today.

Because of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am promised a tomorrow that you and I will spend together, an infinite number of tomorrows we will spend together, even and infinite number of Thanksgiving days we will spend together!

How could I not smile when I think of that? How could I choose not to be happy when I think of that? How could I choose not to be thankful when I think of that?
And so I will be thankful, today and every day, because of the Thanksgiving days we spend together and all the days we will spend together again. I'm thankful because God made it possible to have the peace of knowing those days will come. By giving the greatest gift of all, to all of mankind, His one and only Son, to die for our sins, so that we can be forgiven, and so that we can spend eternity in Heaven, together, God gave me a reason to be thankful in ALL circumstances.

So today, even though we don't have you with us on Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Jesus for all those Thanksgivings we spent together and for all those to come that we will spend together again. You will be missed today, but never, ever forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving Amanda! We love you dearly, as much as the day you were taken from this earth.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hope in the Lord...and run!

To say I've been worried for a while is an understatement. About 5 weeks ago, I injured my knee. It was two weeks before the Soaring Wings Half Marathon and I took the entire time off, then ran the race. Afterward, I couldn't walk. I bought a pair of crutches it was so bad and hobbled on them for about a week.

I knew it was going to take time to recover. I'd run through previous injuries, but this was worse than any I'd had before. A friend said to take 30 days. The problem was, that was only 5 weeks out from the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, the main race I hoped to get through this year. I was really worried about being able to finish the race
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -- Matthew 6:34

I remembered this verse, and tried to play it off that I wasn't worried. As the days off turned into weeks though, as race day kept getting closer and closer, I felt like I was drifting farther and farther away from a level of fitness that would get me across the finish line.

30 days off would leave me only 5 days to get back what I had lost during the injury and recovery. Several times through the 3 weeks following the race, I tried jogging a few steps, hoping there would be no pain, a sign that I could begin training again. But each time, sometimes after the first step, sometimes after a few, the pain struck to warn me that I wasn't healed yet.

Even last weekend, at the Walk for Payne, I ran across the parking lot at school before the event and knew I wasn't ready. In 2011, I ran 20 miles at the event. This year, I walked a half mile, and there was only two weeks left before the St. Jude Marathon. Things weren't looking good.
"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31

I kept telling everyone I was still planning to run the race, that the Lord would make it possible. I have to admit though, as the days until the race drew short, and I still wasn't running, even I was beginning to wonder. I had stepped up to the starting line at Soaring Wings after a two-week break, and made it to the finish line. But this would be a full 26.2, and more than 4 weeks off if I took the full 30 days!

I shouldn't have doubted, shouldn't have allowed my faith to waver.

After the Walk for Payne, I drove to North Carolina for Thanksgiving. We're in Jacksonville, home to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, right on the coast. It's as flat as any place I've ever run. So I decided I'd head out on a 5 mile walk the day after I arrived and see how the knee felt afterward.

But when I started, I chose to start with a few running steps just to see what how bad it would be. It was only two days since I'd tried it at the school, so I wasn't expecting much.

Surprisingly, the first few steps came without pain. There was a little, nagging feeling there, one that couldn't even really be called an ache, but just a feeling that reminded me I'd been injured.

So I kept running, slowly, but running still. Those few steps turned into three miles! My first run in 3 weeks and 2 days. It was slow, without a doubt, much slower than I was running before my injury, but 3 miles nonetheless. I felt elated and walked another 2 miles back to the car.

It was now only 12 days from St. Jude, so I decided to push things a little. I planned to try and run 4 miles the next day, yesterday. Again, I strapped on my knee brace and stepped off. The first 3 miles felt better than the day before, but the 4th mile was a little tougher, even at my new, slower pace. Still, I ran the entire 4 miles and walked another 2.

The unexpected improvement was encouraging and I decided to try and run 5 miles this morning. Once again, success, this time even more that I hoped for. I managed better than a 10 minute pace for the 5 mile run, much better than the first two days. My 3rd mile was actually at a 9:03 pace!

Now I wouldn't have been excited about finishing a mile around a 9 minute pace a few weeks ago, but I was thrilled to hear the beep of my Garmin and look down to see it staring back at me with 9:03 on its face. Thrilled!

I walked the next two miles, making plans to push a 6 mile run tomorrow. I'm writing this without pain in my knee, not even a little bit, so I feel pretty confident the Lord has brought me back, back where He wants me.

Six miles is a long way from 26.2, but I have complete confidence that Jesus will carry me the distance. I've just got to continue to hope in the Lord...and run!

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank you Jesus for Bringing Me Back!

It's been three weeks and two days since I ran the Soaring Wings Half Marathon. After crossing the finish line, I was in extreme pain, struggling to even walk. Within a few hours, even walking was out of the question. I went to Fred's and bought a pair of crutches. For a week, I hobbled around on those.

For the last two weeks, I've been walking without the crutches, chomping at the bit to get out and run. The pain in my knee had subsided, except when I would try to run a few steps just to test things.

There are less than two weeks until the St. Jude Marathon and today I planned to walk five miles and see how I felt. However, when I started I decided to try and run a few steps to see how it felt. Those few steps ended up lasting three miles. My first run since Soaring Wings!

I walked two miles after the run and now there's no pain!
"See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." -- Isaiah 48:10

This injury was God's way of getting my attention, letting me know that I was drifting away from His will. I've said that many times now, that I was forgetting that I'm supposed to be running for Him, giving Him the glory.

I had been getting a little too prideful, taking too much pleasure in the comments others make when they find out you run marathons. My addiction to running, and to the glory, was getting out of hand.

Five marathons in four months, that's what I had already signed up for. And, I had plans to register for another. Then I was just about ready to pull the trigger on another. That would have made seven in five months if I'd gone through with it.

Problem is, God gave me a clear directive when I began running marathons. Two per year! That's what He said. I knew it. I didn't forget it. But as people became impressed with my accomplishments, I let myself forget that I wasn't the One who deserved the credit.

Oh, I paid lip service, saying I was doing it all for Him, but the truth was that I was basking in the attention and liking it. That's why, without any clear event to cause it, my knee was suddenly injured.

God's way of bringing me back, reminding me why He allows me to do this. Not for me, but for He!
"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." -- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Even though the knee didn't hurt, I could feel it, like a little nagging feeling right where it used to hurt so bad.

I have to believe this is a reminder, a reminder of why I'm supposed to be running in the first place, a reminder that the ability to run comes only from the grace of God, not from anything or any ability of mine.

That's what I was starting to forget before, when I was signing up for so many races, looking for praise and glory directed at me. That nagging little ache is there to keep me focused, focused on God's plan, not my plan. Focused on bringing Him the glory, not bringing me the glory. Focused on bringing others to Him.

This knee is my weakness, and it's only by His grace that I can continue to run. And I'm thankful He saw fit to remind me that I can't run marathons, not even one on my own, so that I can and will once again lean on Christ's power, and let His light shine through me.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Praise Him...even in the storm

Sometimes life seems to just be one rough patch after another. It seems like you're getting kicked when you're down. These long stretches of one great challenge after another are often the hardest times for us to praise God.

In fact, many choose to blame Him for the troubled waters in which they find themselves. Some even go so far as to use their suffering as an excuse to turn away from God. Our human minds just can't seem to comprehend why we suffer when we try to do the best we can, the best we can by God and by our fellow man.

I wrote once to answer the question, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People?, explaining that it's not God who curses us with evil when we're trying to live for Him. It took me hundreds of words to get my point across, but a church sign I pass on the way to work every day sums up my explanation in less than a sentence, proclaiming, "When Christians serve, Satan attacks."

Still, even knowing the Devil is coming after us because we're serving Jesus Christ isn't enough to keep us from giving up under the weight of the seemingly never ending struggle. So where do we turn, and how do we find a way to persevere when we're drowning in nonstop suffering?
"35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." -- Mark 4:35-39

These four short verses tell us a lot on dealing with times of trouble.
First, notice that it was Jesus himself who suggested they "go over to the other side." Those with Him didn't choose the destination, Jesus had a destination for them in mind, told them to come with Him, and they followed.

But even though they were following Jesus, even though they were doing His will, He never promised them a peaceful journey. He didn't say, "If you come with me you'll enjoy a nice, quiet boat ride." He just said, "Let's go," and they went.

Then the storm hit, "a furious squall." This was not light pelting of rain, no drizzle, no sir. This was more of what some call a gully-washer, driving sheets of rain and whipping wind. That boat must have been thrashing to and fro, tossing about furiously as the tempest threatened to drown the whole boatload of men.

The disciples were probably asking themselves the same thing we ask ourselves when we're serving the Lord, doing what we think God wants us to do, and still times are tough. Why would He ask us to do this, to take this journey, and allow this storm to assail us when we're doing exactly what He asked us to do?

But let's think about what would have been going through those disciples' minds if the storm hadn't hit, if Jesus would have interfered and diverted the storm to make the going easy. Let's look at what might have gone on aboard the boat if everything was just the same, except there was no storm.

If Jesus was sleeping soundly in the stern, I can just imagine the disciples standing around the helm, glancing back at the Master and thinking, "Man, we sure are some great sailors. We've got such great control of this ship that Jesus can take it easy." Haven't you ever done that? Haven't we all said something along those lines when life just seemed to be clicking along without incident?

We have a tendency to take the credit for the good times in our life, seldom praising God for his mercy and grace that allows us those periods of rest. But how do we act in those storms?

In my past, I've dealt with the difficult times in two very different ways. Before Amanda was killed, I usually tried to fight through the storm myself, using my own abilities, asking nobody for help. Not even asking God to step in and give me some relief.

Imagine what it would have been like on that boat if that was the disciples' reaction. Fighting to keep the ship turned into the wind, to keep from being capsized by the waves, just fighting with all their might to only stay afloat. The exertion from the fight would have been exhausting, physically and mentally. It's doubtful their strength would have held up for long.

But that's not how they reacted. Instead of relying on their own strength and their own abilities, they ran for the stern where Jesus lay sleeping and woke him. They didn't understand why they had to fight through the storm, but they knew they had to call on Jesus as the whole boat must have threatened to break apart.

And what happened when they turned to Jesus? He calmed the storm.

"Quiet! Be still!"

That's what He said, and the wind and the waves died down.

And therein lies the assurance that we can all take, all who have trusted in Him and are promised eternal life in Heaven. When you turn to Jesus, no storm is strong enough to take you down!
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." -- Romans 10:13

That's what we need to remember! Even in the storms of life, we need to praise Him and thank Him and glorify Him! Jesus Christ will get us through the toughest of times, the direst of straits! And we'll come out the other side in a calm and peaceful sea...

So the next time you find yourself struggling to stay above the surface, call on Jesus. And know, that after the storm will come the calm, the peace and tranquility that comes from knowing the day lies ahead without suffering, without pain, and without tears.

Call on Jesus, and praise Him...even in the storms of life.

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Give your all...ALL the time

For the past several weeks God has been laying this idea for a sermon on my heart. This week, at our school's monthly Fellowship of Christian Athletes Potluck Prayer Breakfast, I had the opportunity to deliver it.

I didn't video it, and it wasn't transcribed. I didn't have it written down, other than the verses I used, so this written version isn't verbatim. However, anytime I have the opportunity to preach, I post a written version here.

Though I seldom bring up politics on this blog, it's obvious to most who know me that I was disappointed in the election results this year. My family, my friends, my students, and my colleagues probably wondered if I'd even be suitable to live with when the votes were all counted and the winner declared. A few even posted on Facebook and Twitter on election night, postulating my mood as the news was announced, some even consoling me as soon as they'd heard. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach by a mule.
"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

This verse has been a great comfort to me these past couple of years. After Amanda was killed, I found myself turning to it over and over and over again, every time life threw an obstacle in my path. I've called on it countless times when counseling kids, friends, and others going through tough times. So it wasn't a surprise when it popped into my head on Tuesday when I was feeling down.

And when it came to the fore of my mind, it also reminded me of this sermon God had been calling me to write, Give Your All...ALL the Time. I realized, though I have no idea what the future holds for my country, God can and will make it all work for good. Knowing that, how could I go to work the next day with anything less than a positive attitude, giving anything less than my all?

When things don't go our way, the way we have planned, the way we think will work best, we too often get discouraged. We feel beat down, let down, just plain down, period! We go to work or to school or anywhere else with a bad attitude, in a foul mood, and pretty much everyone around us is brought down by our negativity.

Our work suffers, ALL our work!

It's bad enough if I let something bring me down and do a less-than-stellar job of teaching kids some days, but that's not the worst part. Teaching math is just a part of my job, and I often tell kids it's not even the most important part.

A lot of people think that's where teaching stops, at the subject matter you were hired to pass on, but they couldn't be more wrong. A good teacher cares too deeply for his or her students to stop there. You have to be part psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, and motivational speaker to be most effective.

Even as a high school teacher who spends 83 minutes per day with my students, I spend more time with many of these kids than their parents do. What they see and hear from me, how I interact with them and others, how I respond to challenges, has a huge influence. That can be a double-edged sword.

When I'm at the top of my game, with a great attitude, and giving it everything I have, my students have a positive role model and that influence is a good thing. BUT, if I let the weight of my troubles, regardless what they are, bring me down, throw me off, and especially reduce me to giving less than 100% effort, my influence is leading them a direction they don't need to go.

I've got to give my best. I've got to give my all...ALL the time. Good days, bad days. In the wake of good news or bad. If the world is in flames around me, or if there's peace in the middle east, rainbows in the sky, and unicorns roaming the street. I have to give my all.
1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." -- Hebrews 12:1-3

How does one give it all, everything he has, when the world seems to be falling down around him?

That's where this verse comes in, and it also targets the biggest reason to keep up the fight, to push on in the face of adversity...Jesus.

The only way I know how to keep moving forward amidst great personal turmoil is to focus on what the apostle Paul referred to as "The Prize," an eternity to spend with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let Him and His promise of eternal life be the source of your strength, the well that quenches your thirst, and the reason you give your all, even when things aren't going your way.

God's Word never promised Christians an easy life. If you were taught otherwise, you were taught wrong.
"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

Yes! Jesus, who suffered more than we can even contemplate, suffered wrongly, suffered for us, suffered to pay the price for our sins, is enough!

Knowing the day will come when all the grief, the pain, the suffering in this life will end is enough. It's enough to get you through, to keep you going, and enough to motivate you to give your all...ALL the time!
"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

This is the hard part, the hardest for me anyway, to "glory" in our sufferings. But our biggest, most important job as Christians isn't to boast about how great life is. Our greatest task isn't to go to church several times a week, to serve on committees, teach a Sunday school class, or lead a Bible study.

As Christians, our number one duty is to lead others to Christ, to bring them to know the One who died to set them free. That's why we must persevere when times are tough. The only way I know to do that is to lean on Jesus.

That's what builds character, because when you depend on Him for strength, He's constantly whispering in your ear, through your conscience, to do what's right. That character is what others see, admire, and respect as you give everything you've got in everything you do, even through the storms of life. That's what makes them want to know how you do it. It's what draws them to you.

And they'll ask you how you keep moving, how you keep going, how you keep from throwing in the towel. And the only answer I've found to those questions is the hope that's found in Jesus Christ.

By giving 100% effort, in everything you do, you let His light shine through you. You become the lighthouse through which His light leads others to safe harbor, from the storms of life and to eternal life. That's the most important reason to do everything you do to the best of your ability, for His glory.

Be a beacon and let God's light shine through you. In good times and bad times, on smooth roads or rough roads, when the sun shines or the darkness closes in, give your all...ALL the time!

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Join us for the 2012 Walk for Payne -- 11/17/2012

On November 17, 2012, from 8:00 to 11:00 am, the Vilonia High School chapter of Mu Alpha Theta will hold the second Walk for Payne at the VHS track. This event is held in honor of VHS senior Angela Payne, who has battled cancer since the 8th grade.

The past two years, Angela began the school year with her classmates, full of hope that each would be the first "normal" year since her battle began. Her junior year, she reported to school with a cancer-free diagnosis, only to learn the disease struck again after a few weeks of classes. The first Walk for Payne was put together by her friends and classmates to raise her spirits and show support just before she began an arduous regimen of chemotherapy and radiation.

This year, she again began school, full of hope and dreams of completing her senior year as a healthy senior. Only a short few weeks into the year, her health began to fade once again. This time it wasn't a recurrence of cancer, but side effects from the chemo and radiation that pulled her out of class. A blockage in her intestines was robbing her body of nutrients necessary to maintain her health. She lost weight and energy and finally had to retreat from daily attendance at school.
"And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. " -- James 5:15

Throughout her battle, Angela and her family have kept their faith in Christ. Though I didn't know Angela when the cancer was first discovered, I had taught her sister the year before. When I learned what the family was going through, I watched in amazement at their strength and faith as the battle unfolded. She and her family were true witnesses of God's love and power, drawing their strength through Christ, never wavering in their faith as they fought for Angela's health.

Though her fight isn't over, she's beaten back the cancer and now faces a lesser threat. Just last night, she joined other students from the Vilonia Fellowship of Christian Athletes on a local outing. Just seeing her there was an inspiration to me and many others, evidence that faith and prayer really can overcome situations that seem hopeless. Now she's facing another surgery.

The good news is the cancer isn't back! She remains cancer-free. The bad news is she has to go back under the knife, this time to remove a blockage from her intestines.

Last year, this event lifted her spirits just before she began another long, difficult battle in her war with cancer. This year, the event will be held right before she goes in for surgery again. Though the upcoming fight is not as serious and much less threatening, we hope this event will once again lift her spirits and build her strength her for the battle ahead.

We invite you to join us as we Walk for Payne on November 17th! You can register online or register the day of the event. The first 100 participants who donate $25 or more will receive a t-shirt to commemorate the event. If you can't join us, you can still register as a virtual walker and add your name to the roll of those who support this inspiring young lady.

All proceeds from the event will go to Angels for Angela, a project founded by Angela to provide brightly colored pillowcases to young cancer patients at Arkansas Children's Hospital. Angela says these bring color and hope to young children who face an uncertain future, trapped in the drab environs of a hospital room.

So join us, at the track or virtually, to show your support for Angela in her ongoing battle. Thanks in advance!

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.