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

Friday, December 28, 2012

I am officially a maniac...Marathon Maniac that is!

At every marathon you see them, usually before the race taking a group photo. Then many of them are easy to recognize along the course, wearing the Maniac logos emblazoned on their apparel. It's a coveted title by many addicted to running marathons...Marathon Maniac.

After last week's double, I qualified! Two marathons or ultras in two days gets you into the club at the Iridium level, that's 4 stars on a one to ten star scale. Each level has specific criteria to qualify. I doubt I'll ever go higher, but the cool thing is, you can't go lower. Once you reach a level, you're there for life.

As a Maniac, you get a registration discount on certain races, access to Members Only pages of the Maniac webpage, which includes a forum, race calendar, Maniac gear, and other cool stuff for folks addicted to marathoning. You're also assigned a membership number.
"8 He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”; and so he became their Savior. 9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." -- Isaiah 63:8-9

I was accepted and assigned Maniac #6389 after last weekend's races. Like I do with bib numbers at races, I decided to see if I could find a verse or passage in the Bible that would correspond. When I look back over the struggles that brought me here, Isaiah 63:8-9 seems to fit perfectly.

It wasn't long ago, that I could never have pictured myself running marathons, especially not 2 in 2 days. A lot of my life passed with no thought of running marathons in my mind. I have to hang my head in shame when I admit that a lot of my life also passed with no thought of Jesus Christ. I didn't seek His will. I didn't pray for guidance. I just went through life day-to-day seeking little more than self gratification.

Even so, Jesus Christ never gave up on me. He must have been shaking His head in disgust often over the years, as I fought to serve myself and refuse to submit to His will. But still he waited...waited on me to come around and turn to Him.

When at last I realized the folly of trying to live a life without Christ, He was there. I remember well the day I was driving down the dirt road in front of our farm, discouraged and disheartened because I was working as hard as I possibly could and losing money through a hard winter. That's when I cried out to Jesus, asking for His guidance for the first time.

He was there, instantly planting the idea of becoming a teacher in my head. I worried that I couldn't make it work, but everything worked out and everything fell right in line.

Jesus was there...waiting...waiting right there for me to reach the point where I'd cry out to Him.

I didn't realize it, but He was distressed when I was distressed. Jesus always wanted to reach down and lift me to my feet. Maybe He wasn't shaking His head all the time I kept trying to do things my own way. Maybe He was standing there the whole time, His hand outstretched with tears pouring down His cheeks, disappointed that I was being so stubborn.

Still...He waited. He waited to become my Savior. He waited while I lived out my rebellious years. He waited with His hand outstretched for me to reach up and take it. He waited and became my Savior!

Since then, through all the ups and downs, His love and mercy redeemed me, lifted me up, and carried me. Through tough times on the job, through tough times with the kids, through Amanda's death and through our current struggles, His love and mercy redeems me, lifts me, and carries me.
"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" -- Matthew 19:26

I wouldn't be here today, doing what I'm doing, if He hadn't waited. Without His love and mercy, I'd have fallen into a pit I couldn't get out of long ago. Especially after Amanda was killed, but even under the far less tragic struggles before and since, I couldn't have gone on if Jesus hadn't redeemed me, lifted me, and carried me.

Once again, running parallels life. I could never have reached this level of running without that same outstretched hand, His hand.

Almost two years ago we lost Amanda. At that time, I thought running a marathon was impossible. I had no intention of ever trying. I had run two halves at the time, and felt I couldn't have gone another step after both of those.

But just like in life, Jesus redeemed me, lifted me, and carried me to a level I could not have accomplished on my own, without Him. Now, thanks to Jesus, I am a Marathon Maniac.

I hope and pray that I'll never forget, that I'll always remember, that it wasn't my strength or my ability that got me here. It was His love and mercy, the same love and mercy that are responsible for all the good things in my life.

If your life seems filled with struggle, if you find yourself down all the time, seemingly unable to succeed at anything, look up and take His outstretched hand. Jesus is patiently waiting to redeem you, to lift you, and to carry you. If you trust Him, He will take you to heights you never imagined were reachable before.

If you never trusted Him before, and your life is less than what you wish it was, give it a try. Reach out. Take His outstretched hand. He's waiting, patiently waiting.

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.

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