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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Help Comes from the Lord

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." -- Psalm 121:2
Yesterday I spoke with the victims' advocate at the prosecutor's office. She told me the trial for Amanda's murderer is currently set for August 14-17 with a pretrial hearing scheduled for August 7th.

I'm not counting on the trial actually happening though, until it actually starts. We've been down this road numerous times on the journey of more than 18 months--told the trial will be this or that date, only to have it rescheduled again. The prosecutor told us right after Amanda was killed the process could take one to two years to play out. Now it's been more than 18 months since we've seen, spoken to, or touched our dear Amanda. And maybe, just maybe, the wheels of justice will begin to turn in the next few weeks.

Many have asked over these many months how we keep going. The verse above answers that question as precisely and concisely as I think any words could.

The news of Amanda's death fell upon us like snow from an avalanche. When we first learned we'd never see her again, the pain, the shock, the fear, the disbelief, it's all indescribable. No words can adequately explain the storm that rages within you when you learn your child has been murdered.

More than anything I felt lost, as if the risk of losing everything had just risen exponentially. If my daughter was dead, taken so suddenly, so violently, and so unexpectedly, how could I could I count on anything else lasting?

In the blink of an eye, no longer than it took to learn that terrible news, the hope that all I treasured on this Earth could be gone in an instant.

Talk about no hope, no comfort. I knew I needed help if I was going to survive this.

Luckily, I didn't reach for a bottle, not for drugs, or any of the common vices that men seek to find escape from their sufferings on Earth. I reached for the closest thing I had...the Bible.

And that's what saved me. Saved me from my murderous instincts to strike out for revenge. Saved me from a desire to throw in the towel, waste away, and let death take me too. Saved me from countless possible means of destroying the rest of my family and myself.

My help came from the Lord, and still does.

"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

So if the trial happens this month, or if we have to endure yet another delay, we will survive. We will continue. And we will continue to place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Nothing can change that, and when we see Amanda again, it will be in the presence of our Savior.

Yes. My help comes from the Lord.

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, July 26, 2012

Weekly Journal 7/16 to 7/22

Well, I've waited late enough in the week that I can't remember details on several of last week's runs. So this journal entry will be lacking on descriptions for the first few runs. I'll be able to jog (pun intended) my memory a little by looking at each day's Facebook posts though.

On Monday, the cross country team at the school where I teach had 8 miles on its schedule. Starting at 7 am in 100% humidity, I only managed to get through 6.

For Tuesday's run I finally managed to get back out with my regular Tuesday-Thursday group. This was the first time I ran with them since before last month's vacation. It was good to get back out with them, but the hilly route took its toll. After the first 4 miles I fell well behind the group. I managed to make it through the 6 miles, but finished dead last by a long way.

Wednesday was speed work day with the cross country team. I can't recall exactly what the workout routine was, but it should have been a total of about 6 miles. We did a two mile warm up, then I did a one mile tempo run and was finished. I don't remember what the others did after that, but it was all I had. So only 3 miles on Wednesday.

Thursday's run was back with the group for our golf course run. We did 6 miles (only about 2.5 of it on the golf course, but that's still what I call it) and, once again, it was tough. Heat and humidity are still wearing me down.

On Friday the cross country team rode the bus to the Greystone neighborhood in Cabot, the town where we live. It's about a 15 mile bus ride from the school where I teach, but Greystone is a nice, large neighborhood with two golf courses and lots of hills. I didn't know the route the coach planned to run so I waited until they arrived to put out water for the kids (and me!). We did an out and back route, so I drove the 2.5 miles and left water at the turnaround. By the time I got back, the fastest kids were probably a mile into the run and it was already nearing 8 o'clock. I parked the Blazer and stepped off. I finished the 5 mile run, once again well behind all the others.

We started at 5 am on Saturday and I did two 5 mile loops. We had a pretty large group for such an early run. The 10 miles took longer than usual, but turned out quite enjoyable. On the second loop, a friend was struggling and I dropped back to stay with her. We ended up finishing the final 5 miles with a walk/run routine that gave us the opportunity for quite a conversation. I think God knew I needed to slow down and gave me the opportunity to assist a running friend and get to know her a little better at the same time. It was a great way to finish off the week.

The Good Lord also blessed me with opportunities to get in 34 miles of riding this week. I'm not a big biker and I don't have any fancy equipment to get serious about it, but my $100 Wal Mart mountain bike does offer the opportunity to get out late in the afternoon for some pretty good workouts. I have no plans of taking up serious biking, so I'm only logging the running miles in the table below.

Training Week: July 16 - July 22

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday3 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday10 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total36 miles

Like I've said many times through the summer, the heat and humidity make running tough. There are lots of days when I step out the door to be greeted by the wall of sultry air and just want to step back inside, crawl back in the bed, and go back to sleep. But I can't.
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." -- James 1:12
God has tasked me with a mission and I must push on, regardless how difficult or unpleasant it seems at times. This oppressive heat and humidity will come every year. It's part of living in the South. Every year the running will get tough, and the same desire to just quit will return. But these annual trials serve to keep me focused, to remind me why it is I'm here and what I'm supposed to be doing.
"...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." -- 2 Corinthians 12:7
Even the apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist of all time, was stricken with an affliction to remind him that all accomplished by his hand was not accomplished by him. We're not told what Paul's thorn actually was, but it's easy to see that it served its purpose.

That's the way I look at the wretched summer running conditions, they're here to remind me that I'm not strong, I'm not fast, and whatever accomplishments I make with my running are gifts from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The heat and humidity remind me that if left to my own strength, my own devices, and my own power, I can't run marathons or even halves.

My good friend said it best before his first ultra, a 100K race that took him 16 hours to complete. Hours before the race he posted on Facebook, "For the record, I can't run 62 miles, and if God doesn't show up, it's going to be a short night."

Even though I'm not running ultras, it's the same. I can't run like this without the blessing and grace from God. I can't cover the miles and I can't endure the heat. It's only the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that keeps me going. And these tough runs make that much easier to recognize.
"But he [Jesus] 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
If it weren't for these tough runs, it would be easy to fall in the trap of patting myself on the back, telling myself what a great job "I'm" doing. It's these times when it's not easy, when the runs hurt, that remind me I can't do it on my own. These runs make me cry out to Jesus for help. Help to get to that next intersection, to that next light pole, to the end of each run.

That's when others see Jesus' light shine through us. In our weakness, they see us cry out to Him, call on Him, and they see Him carry us through the storm.

And that's why I'm glad for the heat and humidity, for the challenges of running in the summer.
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;" -- Romans 5:3
When things are tough out there on the road, the summer's heat and humidity beating down and suffocating you during your run, know that God has your back. Jesus will use our training and racing struggles for His glory and we will be stronger when conditions improve.

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, July 19, 2012

Too hot to run?

I see that question posed a lot on Facebook pages and websites where runners gather. My answer is, "No, it's not too hot to run, but it may be too hot to run like it's cool."

This morning when I met with my Tuesday/Thursday group to run at 5 AM the temperature was already over 80 degrees and the humidity near 90%. Our 6 mile run seemed nothing like it did just a few weeks ago. Same course, same time of day, but very, very different, much tougher than it was before the mercury and the moisture in the air shot up.

But still, we run.
"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
No matter who you are, or how long you've been running, there are people watching you. People who know you, who know you're running, and maybe even think you're crazy for running are watching to see if this is just a passing phase or if you're really going to keep it up. There are people out there you will inspire to get off the couch and on the road IF you keep going. But if you quit, they'll never start. If they see you give up, their inspiration dries up. You run not only for yourself, but also to tear down excuses others use to sit on the couch eating Twinkies and watching TV. If you haven't experienced it yet, you will. Someday you will hear the words, "You inspired me to start running (or biking or hitting the gym or etc.)." People are watching.

So here's my advice to keep running, even when heat and humidity offer seemingly great excuses to stay home and watch TV. (NOTE: I'm no trainer and this is nothing learned in books or seminars. This advice is based on my experience and my experience only.)
1) Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! In the Marine Corps, we were constantly told to drink water. When training and working outside, there was someone over our should all the time telling us to drink. We were told that if your urine wasn't clear, you weren't drinking enough water. I drink at least two gallons of water a day, and usually drink closer to four gallons on tough run days.

Before I run on hot days, I drink a full quart of water before stepping off. If I'm running 6 miles or less, I have another quart standing by when the run is over. For the rest of the day, I'll constantly have a jug of water with me.

2) Supplements. In hot weather, you sweat out more than just water. Electrolytes, sodium, and lots of other stuff are washed out of the body with excessive sweating. These things need to be replaced. I know people who use electrolytes and other supplements, but everyone's needs are unique in this department. I take salt tablets and potassium supplements and sports drink as needed. You'll have to figure this one out by trial and error, or maybe a doctor or nutritionist can come up with a plan to help.

3) Cool yourself. I'm a heavy sweater. After today's run, a puddle was forming under my feet as I stood beside the vehicle guzzling water, and it wasn't because I was spilling any. It was all from sweat! Your body sweats to produce moisture on the skin that's supposed to evaporate. The process serves to cool your body when everything works properly. But when the humidity nears 100%, the moisture saturated air shuts down the evaporation process and God's cooling system isn't very efficient.

Newton's Law of Cooling says the rate at which a body cools is proportionate to the difference in the body's temperature and the air (or other substance) surrounding it. Basically this means that when the evaporative cooling process isn't working and the temperature is high, you're pretty much not going to cool down without making some adaptations.

It's warm enough now that on my long run days, I don't go any farther than 5 miles without stopping to cool down. Instead of a 10 or 15 mile loop, I'll park my car at a central location and do 5 mile loops, stopping at the car between each one until I get in the needed miles. At the car I'll take 5 or 10 minutes to take advantage of the cold water and sports drink stashed in an ice chest before starting the next loop. If conditions don't allow the body to cool from the outside, drinking ice cold liquids does a good job cooling it from the inside.

If the idea of 5 mile loops drives you crazy, you can do this another way too. If you carry a camelback, stick it in the freezer the night before. I tried this last year on a friend's advice and found it doesn't freeze solid, but does supply cold water through a 10 mile run, even on the hottest of days.

4) Slow down. It's okay to not push yourself so hard in hot and humid conditions. Sometimes it seems like you're going backwards in your training when you drop 30 seconds or a minute off your pace, but don't beat yourself up over it. This time of year I may even drop two minutes per mile off my pace on training runs. Often I revert to a walk/run routine before the end of a run and fall even farther off pace. But I keep going to get in the needed miles, even if I have to finish with a walk.

This strategy got me through many a long run last year in the heat and humidity, sometimes nearly overdoing it still. But I remember the first cold front that pushed through and left us with lows in the 60's in September. Early the next morning I decided to take advantage of the cooler, drier air and try my first 20 mile run. I didn't run it fast, but I didn't run it slow either. More importantly though, it seemed pretty easy as 20 milers go.

Even though I'd been running shorter and slower through the heat, I was ready to pick up the pace and cover more ground when favorable conditions returned.

5) Run Early. This last one seems so elementary that I almost didn't list it. Here in central Arkansas, the temperatures are still hovering near 900 after sunset. The coolest temps of the day are usually around 5 or 6 AM. So most of my runs start at 5. Because it's still dark, I carry a small flashlight so drivers can see me and I can see obstacles or critters along the route. If you're not a morning person, this may be a difficult strategy to incorporate. For me though, it's well worth turning the TV off a little earlier and going to be so I'm not out running under the blazing sun.
I'm sure others have their own tips for running in hot weather, but these are my top four. Here's a two-minute video from giving recommendations for running in hot weather.
"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." -- Jeremiah 17:8
How do you combat the heat and humidity to get in your miles? Feel free to leave your answers as comments to this post.

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, July 17, 2012

Join Us at the Ranch Run on August 4th

"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
The Ranch Run at Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch that is!

This race, run entirely on the Soaring Wings campus, kicks off official training for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon on October 27th. Last year, the inaugural event drew just under 100 participants. It may be a small event, but it benefits a great cause. And the entry fee is only $20. Your entry fee gets you into the race, post race refreshments, and a technical training shirt.
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" -- Matthew 19:14
Even better, your entry fee helps Soaring Wings provide a Christ-centered home to kids who otherwise wouldn't have much of a chance. Well worth the sacrifice.

Oh, and if you don't like early morning races, this is the event for you. The race starts at 7 PM. So you don't even have to get up early on a Saturday to participate!

So register today for the 2012 Ranch Run. Make sure when you register you choose the "Ranch Run" option, or you might just register for the half marathon in October by mistake. Of course, if you want to step up to that challenge, you can join us there too. :)

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, July 15, 2012

Weekly Journal 7/2 to 7/8 and 7/9 to 7/15

That's right, this "weekly" journal entry will cover two weeks. That's because I spent this past week at a conference in Hot Springs with very limited internet access. Hence, I was unable to find time to write a post for the previous week.

Since I can run longer than my memory lasts these days, I'll be skipping details of last week's runs. I just can't remember exactly how things went. But details from my runs in Hot Springs this week are still kind of fresh on my mind so here they come:

On Monday I rose and left the dormitory at the Arkansas School for Math and Sciences, stepping out onto the route of the Spa 10K, a race that happens mid-November every year. We've run the race twice before, so I was familiar with the route. This trek also offered a pretty good Monday morning challenge, climbing West Mountain. My pace was a little slower than recent training runs and my previous two runs over the course, but I managed to finish feeling pretty good.

On Tuesday, I decided not to climb the mountain and chose a different route. Leaving the school, I turned up a street that looked to be a decent climb. It turned out much more than decent. It was a 3/4 mile ascent that proved quite tough. Of course, that meant an easy trip down, then I stuck to more familiar streets through the town to get in the rest of the 6 miles. My route took me out and back past the convention center and right through the Bathhouse Row that made the city famous.

Wednesday's run carried me over Hot Springs Mountain, a 500+ foot climb through the National Park. The unfamiliar hills were beginning to wear on me by midweek and this run was at a much slower pace. Still, it felt great to make the climb and get my 6 miles in.

My last run in Hot Springs was on Thursday morning, the last day of our conference. Again I chose not to make any huge climbs after the previous day on Hot Springs Mountain. This route consisted of a loop through downtown with three out and back fingers to get my miles in. This time though, I only went 5 miles and was looking forward to returning to Cabot and leaving the hills behind me for a while.

Friday was my first day back in Vilonia for cross country practice where I ran 4 easy miles with the kids. It was nice to make the two loops around the school campus without any significant climbs. Only 30 feet of separated the minimum and maximum elevation on Friday's run.

Our first race since early last month was on Saturday, the River City 5K. We ran this race last year and really enjoyed it. Nothing fancy or spectacular about it, but it does support a great cause. River City Ministry in North Little Rock, Arkansas serves some of the poorest in the city and this race is a big fundraiser for them. A light rain helped hold back the expected summer heat and made the run quite enjoyable. I actually had a decent run (not to be expected in mid-July), finishing the 3.1 miles in 26:29.43, averaging an 8:33 minute mile. Not a PR, but pretty good for me this time of year.

Training Week: July 9 - July 15

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday4 miles
Saturday3.1 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total30.1 miles

The week in Hot Springs offered me an opportunity for some pretty good cross training too. Knowing I was going to have plenty of time to spare, I took my bike and managed to get in three 10-mile rides in the hills of Hot Springs. Ten miles may not seem like much of a ride to those who are serious bikers, but it's plenty for me on my little Wal Mart mountain bike.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds," -- James 1:2

Training Week: July 2 - July 8

Monday4 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday10 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total36 miles

The miles may not seem like much compared to what you've seen from me in the past, but in this weather, we're taking what we can get. The heat and the humidity are making things really tough. But we'll keep plugging ahead, putting one foot in front of the other, and maintaining a base from which to launch when things cool off.
"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
I'm extremely grateful for God's grace that allows me to keep running. People are watching. People are saying it can't be done in this heat, in these conditions. It's my job to persevere and show them that all things are possible when you depend on the One who gave everything for us.

I wish you all the best as you endure the summer's sultry conditions. Keep pushing, not too hard though. Just remember, September's coming! And with it, cooler temperatures and easier training. :)

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, July 13, 2012

River City 5K Tomorrow!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -- Colossians 3:17
That's right! We're back to racing tomorrow. Well, sort of racing.

Since the weather has turned hot and humid my pace has dropped off drastically. These days I run in survival mode, just trying to get through the miles. It will stay that way until September most likely, when Fall begins to creep back into the picture and brings cooler temps.

For now though, I'll be running...slowly.

Tomorrow morning we'll be at the River City 5K in North Little Rock, Arkansas. We ran this race last year and loved it. I've already talked to several friends who will also be there and the race is for a great cause.

So it's going to be a great morning! Proceeds from the race go to support River City Ministry, a charity set up in a very poor part of North Little Rock devoted to caring for some of the community's most needy residents. According to the organization's website, those it serves are provided with:

  • Food to the hungry
  • Clothing to those in need
  • Medical care to those who do not have access to medical insurance including dental, pharmacy and eye services
  • Showers, fax and phone services
  • Spiritual guidance

I'll be running slow, won't be setting any PRs tomorrow, but we'll be running for a worthy cause.

Looking forward to a great day!

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Strength to Go On...

"16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? 17 Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." -- Psalm 94:16-19
How do you find peace when all of life seems a raging torrent, constantly trying to drag you under it's waves, to its murky depths? How do you find strength when the waters of life surround you and it seems as if you're about to suffocate, unable to get even the tiniest breath of air to ease the burning fire in your lungs?

In less than a week it will be exactly 18 months since we lost our dear Amanda. The pain remains all these months later, a gaping hole in our heart that aches all the time. It's no longer as visible as it was when the wound was fresh, but still quite often something pricks the scab and opens the wound and the pain seems just as sharp as it did a year and a half ago.

Amanda's murderer is set to go to trial next month and it seems like it may really go through this time. We still don't have firm dates, but it appears his lawyers may have delayed as often as is possible. The prospect of sitting and listening to the details of all that transpired that night conjures up visions that tie our stomachs in knots, but there's an even more painful worry that's always nagging too.

As unlikely as it is given what we know about what happened that night, the prospect of the killer going free, or getting a light sentence hangs over us like a fog over a warm lake on a cool morning. The thought that such a crime could occur, that ended the all-too-short life of our young daughter, and her murderer walk the street again in the very near future haunts us constantly.

On top of that, new troubles seem to assail us more often than ever before. From the air conditioning going out in the middle of a stifling heat wave, to troubles in the family that caught us unprepared, it seems Satan is doing his level best to drive us to our knees.

Every day thoughts of these difficulties make their way to the forefront of my mind, but every day I am blessed with the strength to keep moving forward and a peace that allows me to run right through them.
"Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?" -- Psalm 94:16
That strength and that peace come from knowing we don't have to fight these battles alone. Beside us stands One who is all powerful, capable of defeating any foe, of driving back any offensive, regardless the size of the army that charges. Who will rise up against Satan for us? With us?

Jesus will.
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord." -- Romans 12:19
The Lord will repay evil. He will stand for us against the one who murdered our beautiful daughter, and He will stand for us against Satan who sometimes seems relentless in his attacks.
"Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. -- Psalm 94:17
The simple fact is without Jesus, we would have folded long ago. Without Him there would be no hope of meeting Amanda again when our time comes. There would be no peace of knowing we will be spared the burning lake of fire Satan seeks to doom us to. In short, there would be nothing to be strong for if it weren't for Jesus and His grace and mercy. He suffered, died, and rose from the grave so that we might have eternal life.

Without Jesus, we would have given up long ago. We would have stopped and let grief and pain and death overtake us.
"When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me." -- Psalm 94:18
That peace and hope He gives us is always there. When the waves crash over us, we call on the Lord. And every time it seems the pain is becoming too much to bear, every time we are being crushed by the throng of evil on every side, Jesus reminds us of His promise and what lies ahead.

He props us up when we are about to fall. He lends His shoulder for us to lean on when we stumble. He even catches us whenever we find ourselves crashing toward the ground. When the forces of evil become too powerful and threaten to trample us into dust, Jesus supports us, sometimes carries us through the storm.
"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." -- Psalm 94:19
The times when our weakness allows the pressures of this life to get to us, the times we become so overwhelmed we forget to call on Jesus, the times we try to tough it out on our own, the times we try to repel the assault using only our strength and wits, even then Jesus comes through.

In those times when we finally realize we're outmatched, that Satan is more powerful than our mortal strength can overcome, Jesus again steps in and saves the day. At the instant we feel we're about to be overrun by the forces of the Evil One, when the panic sets in, Jesus steps in and reminds us He is here.

And then, after He reminds us and we call on him, all the forces of Hell cannot steal the peace and joy that settles over us. The knowledge of what awaits when our time on Earth here is done gives us a calm, quiets any storm.

That's how we keep going, through anything. The peace that comes from knowing Jesus, from knowing what awaits when our time here is done, gives us the strength to keep going until He calls us home.

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, July 3, 2012

Weekly Journal 6/25 to 7/1

Well the second week of our vacation in Jacksonville, NC didn't go as planned, where training's concerned. The heat and humidity finally took their toll, sending me crashing on my first planned long run of the week, crashing hard enough it convinced me to abandon the double long runs until temperatures and humidity are back down to reasonable levels.

We're back home now, after a 1000 mile drive that consumed 15.5 hours on Sunday. That's why this post is coming so late and why details on the individual runs may be a little sketchy. Passing of time and getting old translate to disappearing details in the memory bank.

On Monday, the week started with a decent 5 mile run. Not too fast, averaging a 9:50 pace. The heat had started getting to me at the end of the previous week and my plan was to take it easy this week, leaving something in the tank for the end of week long runs.

I did another 5 miler on Tuesday instead of my usual 6. Still trying to take it easy and cut back on the miles early in the week. This run went just a little faster averaging a 9:45.

I've written before about the flat terrain in Jacksonville. When I run, I park at the foot of a pedestrian bridge over NC Hwy 24 that's just about the midpoint of the city's paved bike/running trail. Usually I run an out and back, one direction or the other, to get in the miles I'm looking for. But on Wednesday, I decided to take advantage of the bridge to get as close to a hill workout as possible. Starting on the south side, I ran over the bridge and turned around .3 miles into the run. Then back and forth, back and forth, over that same .3 mile stretch and over that same bridge ~17 times until my Garmin read that I had completed 5 miles. Tough way to get a hill workout in, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Thursday was my best run of the week, 5 miles at a 9:22 pace. A temporary respite from the heat and humidity made running easy and I was able to take advantage. This time of year, any reprieve is welcome, even if it's only a day.

Then came Friday. I finished 13 miles, the last mile walking, the mile and a half before that in a run/walk combo, but I finished. The problem was that by the time I got back to the car, the heat had overwhelmed me. My head was spinning. I was struggling to breathe, and leg cramps were throwing me into all sorts of convulsions. Once I got in the car, with the air conditioning blowing in my face, it wasn't so bad and I was able to drive safely back to my in-laws' house. But once I stepped outside again, all those symptoms swept over me again. It pretty much took all day to recover.

After Friday's fiasco, I chose not to even try and run on Saturday. It was a good thing too since my calves started cramping about the time I usually get up to run. So Saturday ended up a day of rest.

Training Week: June 25 - July 1

Monday5 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday13 miles
Saturday0 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total33 miles

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28
Honestly, I think my heat exhaustion on Friday was God's way of telling me I was overdoing it, that He didn't expect me to push so hard in such treacherous conditions.

Jesus had given me several warning signs earlier in the week and even that day. Earlier that week I had a few issues with cramps in my legs during the shorter runs, a sure sign that I was pushing too hard. Rather than cut back though, I drank more Gatorade, ate a few bananas, and took some salt tablets, determined to push on.

Instead of listening to the gentle warnings of Christ, my bull-headed self charged ahead without listening. That's usually when I cross the line from working to glorify God into the working for my own glory territory. And that's usually when God's warnings become a little more stern.

Hence, my Friday crash.

Now I'm convinced. Now I'm listening again. Now I'm cutting back to a reasonable training routine for the duration of the summer heat.
"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
Thank you Jesus for keeping me in line, refocusing me on what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm back to running the race You marked out for me, not the one I mark out for myself.

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, July 2, 2012

Why do bad things happen to good people?

How many times have you heard the question, "Why does bad stuff always happen to me?" Maybe you've even asked it? You've probably also seen others suffering and stated, "He doesn't deserve that."

The implication in the question and the statement is the sufferer doesn't deserve his fate, whatever it might be. He doesn't deserve to lose his job. She doesn't deserve cancer. He doesn't to be treated like that. Usually the one making the statement believes the sufferer to be a "good" person, or at least not "that bad."

Then of course you have the flip side, the quintessential Hell-raiser who seems to be permanently encamped around the fount of every blessing. He has plenty of money, a nice home, nice cars, and all sorts of expensive toys. He treats people like cur dogs and hasn't a philanthropic bone in his body.

The statement again, "He doesn't deserve that!"

So why?

"Why?" is a question I never asked myself when Amanda was killed. Almost as soon as I heard the news, maybe even before the confirmation when I just "knew," I told myself I would never ask that question.

My reason wasn't that I believed it was all part of God's plan, or that I though God knew what He was doing. Those thoughts never crossed my mind, neither of them.

Instead, the idea bouncing around in my head was that no answer from God or anyone else would seem satisfactory to me. I mean, it wasn't like if God came down in a burning bush and said Amanda had to be killed for this or that reason that I was going to say, "Oh, okay God. Now I understand and I have no problem with you letting that murderous bastard kill my daughter."

I knew the why didn't matter because no answer could be good enough that I would understand, that I would think it's okay. Another thing I knew was that I had always tried to be a good person. For the better part of my adult life, I tried to set a good example and live right, doing what was right every day. A lot of people told me I didn't deserve this, that I was a good person, etc.

But my question was always, "Does anyone deserve this? Could anyone be so bad they deserve to lose their daughter in this way?"

One thing that I knew I had to do was to get in God's Word, to answer these and other questions I had. Questions like, "How can I keep going? Will I see Amanda again? What am I supposed to do now?"

When I began to study the Bible (I mean REALLY study it!) for the first time in my life, it not only answered my questions, but prepared me to deal with the comments, questions, and remarks so often thrown at a grieving parent.

I've written previously about seeing Amanda again. God's word provided the answer and I am confident that, when my time comes, I'll be wrapping my arms around her in the biggest hug I ever gave her. Our mission here at RWA describes what I'm supposed to do now and gives me a way to keep going.

So what about the other questions...Does anyone deserve the suffering of this life? And, why do bad things happen to good people?

As I'm currently climbing another of life's steep hills, these questions returned to the fore of my mind.

First let me make clear that I do not believe it was God's will that Amanda be murdered. God can do whatever He wants. He is omniscient without a doubt, but I don't believe He wants to hurt us. He can and will punish us at times. He's punished me for disobedience plenty in the past, but not by harming others. The disciplinary actions were sort of like spankings to a child, they stung for a little while--some physically, financially, emotionally--but didn't hurt others and didn't cause permanent damage from which I couldn't recover.
"When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;" -- James 1:13
Amanda's death was the work of Satan, plain and simple, as are the current struggles in which I find myself. James tells us plainly that God doesn't tempt us and there is no doubt when faced with a mountain to climb in life, it's a temptation to stop what good you're turn around and find the easy way around...the way those Hell-raising others who seem to reap all the rewards without putting in any of the elbow grease of good deeds.

It's not God, but Satan. Remember Job, a man after God's own heart? It wasn't God who killed his family, destroyed his posessions, or took his health. It was Satan, hoping to prove that Job would not love God when oppressed by such misery. At the height of his suffering, Job's own wife told him to, "Curse God and die," so he would suffer not more.
"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." -- James 1:2-3
James tells us to count it JOY when we face trials, when we're suffering. That's hard, maybe impossible to say, "Awesome! My life's falling apart here on Earth," and really mean it. But the reason comes from WHY we're suffering and WHAT we have to look forward to if we stay true to God through the storm.

Job was targeted and tormented by the Devil because he was a good guy, a good guy doing all the right things -- a man after God's own heart. Think about it. Why would Satan go after the guy who's already doing his bidding?

If a person is out doing all the things the Bible tells us not to do, doing all the things that revile God, why would Satan want to interrupt him? Especially if the world looks on him with envy, saying, "I want what he has. I want to be just like him!" Is the Devil going to give this guy a hard time, the guy that's making his job easy?

Of course not! He's going to let him continue unabated, drawing more and more people into Satan's snares.

But the person who's working hard, trying to live right, he's an affront to the Devil. He's in the way. If he is constantly blessed and never faces a mountain to climb or a river to cross, people will be drawn to him. They'll want what he has and they'll want to know what he's doing to get it, how he's living.

The Devil doesn't want anyone looking on a person trying to live right and saying to himself, "I want to get me some of that!" And that's why he attacks!

That's why "only the good die young" or "bad things happen to good people," not because of God, but through direct attacks by Satan.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." -- Romans 8:18
Paul was beaten and left for dead, imprisoned, starved, and tortured for doing what he knew was right, working to build the church and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. And in spite of they physical and emotional pain he endured, in spite of the pain that most certainly racked his body, he made this statement that this earthly pain we won't even remember when we find ourselves surrounded by glory at the feet of Jesus!

That's why the Devil fights so hard to keep the "good guys" from prospering here on earth. He wants that crowd at Jesus' feet to be as small as possible. Satan doesn't want ANYONE following in the footsteps of one on his way to Heaven.
"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
I can't promise you easy living if you work to do what's right. Jesus promised us just the opposite -- place your faith in Him and you WILL have trouble. But He also promises that trouble will not follow us into Heaven.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." -- Revelation 21:4
No more tears. No more death. No more pain.

Not here, in this life, on this earth, but in Heaven. We will suffer down here. Bad things will happen. It's promised. But it's not God who batters "good" people with wind and rain and hail. It's Satan and he attacks and torments because He doesn't want others to follow. He wants to make the option to follow Jesus to look as unattractive as possible.
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:7
Our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, is to lead by example. Others have to see that peace that surpasses understanding in our reactions to life's storms. As we struggle to climb life's mountains, others should see us struggle with a smile -- smiling at the prospect of what's to come when this life is through.

It won't be earthly rewards, an easy life or riches or treasure, that people see in us that makes them want to follow Jesus. It will be that smile as we suffer, that smirk on our face no matter how hard Satan makes things on us.

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, July 1, 2012

It's a Good Morning!

Welcome to a beautiful day, a beautiful day that's a gift from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." -- Psalm 118:24

We'll be missing church today on our 1000 mile road trip back home. So I'll be scanning the radio for K-Love stations as we cross NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, and AR. That also means we'll be away from the internet the rest of today, meaning no Facebook posts or Twitter tweets until tomorrow. You should see things back to normal by tomorrow afternoon though.

Hope everyone has a fantastic day today!

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.