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, October 30, 2012

Vote Against Medical Marijuana in Arkansas!

I try to keep politics off this blog, but this is one issue that I must address. Arkansas' Issue #5 on the ballot this year, to authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

At Running with Amanda, we are steadfastly against the constitutional amendment that would approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and we urge all to vote NO on Issue 5 at the polls.

Our opposition to this issue is based on both anecdotal and research-based evidence.

First and foremost is that a major part of our mission here is to prevent teen substance abuse. It is our opinion that legalizing marijuana for medical use will increase the use of the drug among teens. In Colorado, 12 years after the state approved the drug's use for medical purposes, a University of Colorado study has found many teens receiving treatment for drug abuse have used medical marijuana prescribed to someone else. The drug is being prescribed to others and finding its way into the hands of teens.

Second, we have long held the opinion that marijuana acts as a "gateway drug," meaning users of the drug are at a higher risk of taking chances with harder drugs. A recent study by Yale University researchers supports our theory by finding that marijuana users are 2.5 times more likely to become abusers of prescription drugs.

Published in September, 2012, a Michigan State researcher found a strong correlation between legalizing medical marijuana and the perceived risk and the use of the drug. Simply stated, in those states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, the population views the drug as a lower risk and a higher percentage use it than in states where pot has not been approved for medical use. This study also found that medical marijuana laws increase the rate of illegal marijuana use, noting that marijuana arrests of males age 18-29 increased by 20% in said states. To the surprise of the author of the study, referrals by medical providers of young adults to treatment centers for substance abuse increased after medical marijuana laws were passed.

The evidence makes clear that passage of medical marijuana laws INCREASES not only the use of the drug, but the illegal use AND abuse of the drug. Potheads, stoners, and drug abusers, along with those they've snared into believing marijuana has no negative effects on users or society, will say, "So what!" to this evidence. They claim the use of the drug is harmless or, as I so often hear, "Alcohol is more destructive than pot!"

Let's address the "no-negative-effects" argument first.

Web MD, pretty much a go-to source for medical advice on the web, tells a different tale of the effects of cannabis.

Physiological Effects

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite, or "the munchies"
  • Slowed reaction time
The increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate should cause some concern. I mean, something's going on in the body to create these changes. Your heart, blood pressure, and breathing are pretty important functions in your body. To have any noticeable impact on these vital functions should cause at least a little concern. I'll grant you the red eyes and dry mouth may not be cause for great anxiety. But the increase in appetite should concern everyone out there with the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation. But the physiological effect that concerns me the most is the last one, slowed reaction time.

You see, our body senses danger when our neurological system is firing on all cylinders. Reflexes save us from injury and even save our lives countless times throughout our years on this earth. Slowed reaction times mean interference with the body's natural defense system that recognizes danger and implements those reflex actions in dangerous situations. That's the real danger!

When your reflexes don't work right, when your mind doesn't perceive danger, that's when bad things tend to happen. We usually call them accidents. But are they really accidents?

If they could have been prevented had we been sober and of sound mind, are they really accidents? We don't treat them as such with regard to alcohol. Drunk drivers are sentenced to prison these days when their irresponsibility leads to the death of another. That brings up another point.

What about the argument that marijuana isn't as dangerous as alcohol?

I can't say it isn't, and I can't say it is. What I can say is that we have tests available to prove, instantaneously, if a person is under the influence of alcohol at the time of an accident. If someone gets killed or injured by another's negligence, a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test will tell us if the person responsible was impaired by alcohol.

NO SUCH TEST EXISTS FOR MARIJUANA!

At the trial of my daughter's killer, a witness was prepared to testify that her murderer was smoking pot that night. Cody Gorecke, Amanda's killer, never admitted he was high on marijuana when he fired the shot that took my 17-year-old daughter's life. The prosecutor told us she couldn't prove he had smoked before murdering Amanda.

We asked why a drug test wasn't administered that night, and she replied that it was. The problem is, the test couldn't determine WHEN he smoked the cannabis that showed up in his system. He could have gotten high that night, or it could have been in his system from two weeks prior. There was no available test to determine if he was impaired by marijuana when he murdered my daughter!

So even if the argument that pot is no more dangerous than alcohol, even if it's less dangerous, the fact that it impairs reaction time will undoubtedly result in accidents, much like alcohol. But we CANNOT prove a pothead is high when he wrecks and kills an innocent person, or when he picks up a gun and blows a hole in a young lady at a party!

Without the ability to prove someone is impaired by pot, it is idiotic to equate the two--marijuana and alcohol--or even compare them. We cannot enforce DUI laws against motorists who are high. We cannot prove they were high when they cause an accident in the workplace or anywhere else. They cannot be held accountable the way someone who is drunk can be held to account for his actions.

Therefore, in my mind, there is no way I'd ever vote to make the drug more available, even if I bought the potheads' argument.

Another point, it is my belief that legalizing the drug for medical purposes is just an attempt to open the door to completely legalizing it, for recreational or any other use. One of the largest backers of legalizing pot for medical purposes is NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). The group proudly boasts on the home page of its website, "NORML's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty."

Those who say this is ONLY about compassion for those suffering are either liars or are convinced by liars! The goal is to make this destructive, gateway drug legal. Period!

So what about the compassion argument?

I asked a friend who has worked in a pharmacy for years about this a while back. That's when I was surprised to learn there are already synthetic versions of the drug available by prescription for treatment. There is NO NEED to smoke marijuana, only a political agenda using the compassion argument in an effort to evoke sympathy to sway voters.

My position is clear, and I've already cast my vote against this ill-advised measure. I ask that you consider the arguments I've put forth here before you vote on Issue #5 on the ballot in Arkansas this year, then vote NO!


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, October 29, 2012

Soaring Wings Half Marathon Race Recap

I seriously thought about dropping out. Saturday was the Soaring Wings Half Marathon. Close to home and raising money for a great cause, the race is pretty much a must do for enthusiastic endurance runners here in central Arkansas. But I was injured.

Still, I went to pick up my race packet on Wednesday from Braswell & Sons Fine Jewelers, the main sponsor of the race. I pulled out my bib and saw the number 111 stenciled on the front. As usual, I went to the Bible, looking for a verse to correspond with my bib. When I found it, all thoughts of dropping out vanished.
"being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience," -- Colossians 1:11

The knee that stopped me last month was still not right. Better but not right. But after reading this verse, I knew I had to lace up my running shoes and give it a shot. If it was God's will, I'd get through it, strengthened by His power and glorious might. If it wasn't, the pain would keep me from completing the 13.1 miles.

On Friday night, I stopped by Wal Mart and picked up braces and tape to try and brace my knee and ankle that had been hurting for weeks. I arrived at home, taped up, and braced up, then tried a little jog up the street. The pain was still there.

Still, my mind kept returning to the verse above.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2

The world's way, my way, would have been to quit before I started, to just stay in bed or go to the race and serve as a volunteer or spectator. That would have meant ignoring the bib number I'd been assigned and the bible verse that went with it. I felt God was speaking to me through the bib and the verse and it was time to test that feeling to confirm it or disprove it. If this was God's will, that I run this race, He would get me through it.

I arrived at the race a couple of hours early. We'd been warned via email the day before of limited parking at the race site. Since I wasn't convinced I'd be in any shape to walk after the race, I wanted one of those coveted few spots close to the finish.

There were very few already there, but several friends I see at events regularly were present when I arrived. I walked around, wandering and wondering how the day would go. As the time passed, more and more friends arrived. Some were concerned with injuries like I was, others in perfect condition and confident. The conversation made the time pass quickly and we were soon headed for the start.

It was a corral start and I made my way to the last corral for runners, labeled "All other runners," immediately behind the corral for those with expected finish times of at most 2:25. Healthy, I would have anticipated a finish between 2:00 and 2:10, but on this day I wasn't sure I could finish in 3 hours.
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;" -- Romans 5:3

We began to shuffle toward the starting mat, about 100 meters away. Just before the mat, I began a slow jog and the pain was still there. This time, though, it wasn't quite as sharp as the night before.

I was somewhat surprised that it was tolerable through the first mile. I actually passed some friends who I fully expected to finish before me. After short conversations, I moved on and left them saying, "I'll see y'all when you pass me." The pain was still there, but nowhere near intolerable.

My plan was to walk the hills. I ran this race two years ago, my second half marathon ever, and still remembered parts of the course, especially the tough parts. The hill around mile three was a killer for me then, and I planned to walk it this time. As I started up, I eyed a spot where I figured I'd start to walk. When I got there, my slow but steady pace seemed doable to get me the rest of the way to the top. So I kept chugging along.

At the top I was rewarded with the long downhill taking us right past the start, and right past the turn into the finish line. It would have been the perfect place to turn in, to stop, to quit. The pain was still there as I passed the best stopping place on the course, but I continued on past the 4 mile marker.

Still 9 miles to go.

The next two and a half miles were pretty uneventful, the pain getting neither better nor worse. I pulled out my pack of M & Ms at the water stop at the 4.5 mile mark to refuel. I walked 50 or so meters, taking in the water and fuel. The water stop at the halfway point included GU, so I indulged. Better safe and overdo the fuel, than pass it by and take a chance without it.

I'd made it halfway and was still going. Surprisingly, the knee pain wasn't getting worse. Oh, from time to time it would seem slightly more aggravating, but never steadily increasing, and still pretty close to the same level as it began.

A long downhill offered a little respite, before the next couple of miles of slightly rolling hills. Now, each mile marker I passed bolstered my confidence. I knew that Jesus Christ had carried me this far, and had no reason to believe He was planning to abandon me between now and the finish.

7 miles. 8 miles. 9 miles. 10. Only a 5K left to finish. Without a doubt the distance would seem tougher after 10 miles, but this is still a huge shot of adrenaline in any half marathon, the 10 mile marker. There was little doubt now.

I was passing a lady when we came to the 11 mile marker. "Oh how I wish that was a three," she said. "Only two miles left," I said, "When you see that three, you'll see the finish line." And on I went.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13

I fully expected to walk the big hill just after the 12 mile marker, but once again, a strength and will inexplicable except for the grace and mercy of Jesus found its way into my legs and my lungs. Slowly but surely, I continued my steady pace up the hill. Volunteers at the top told me, "Good job on that hill," as I passed.

Another long downhill before the slight incline leading to the last turn. On the way down I passed a man walking. I told him, "Good job. Only a little farther now." He glanced at my knee brace and my abnormal gait and began to run alongside. "I'll stick with you," he said, "for motivation."

He and I made the final turn, 100 meters from the finish line. We could hear the announcer calling the names and hometowns of those coming across. The crowd was cheering as even the exhausted picked up the pace to traverse the timing mat. I fell back a little as my finishing partner continued ahead.

As was the case the last time I ran this race, tears welled up as one of the kids from Soaring Wings handed me my medal. I was blessed to see my colleague, Stephanie, passing pizza to the finishing runners. Moving past the chute, out of the traffic lane for those coming in behind me, I knelt and thanked the Good Lord for the miracle He'd performed.

Still suffering an injury that kept me from even running a mile for the past two weeks, one that even caused me severe pain the night before on a little test jog, I had finished 13.1 miles in 2:24:57, slower than all but my very first half marathon, but a finish nonetheless.

I knew going in and I remained even more convinced at the finish that I COULD NOT RUN 13.1 MILES ON SATURDAY. Not on my own. Not by my own power. If not for the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I would not have crossed that finish line.

It was a strength that came from His power and "glorious might" that carried me the distance, from start to finish. 13.1 miles of His grace and mercy to His credit. Not mine.


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, October 22, 2012

Remember why we're here...

That's what I've learned to tell myself for the past three weeks. It seems I was beginning to forget the reason we're blessed to be here, blessed with this ministry, and blessed to be able to run.

To glorify God!
"...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." -- 1 Corinthians 10:31

Yes. It's hard to admit, but I was forgetting that. However, as He always does, He reminded me and brought me back down to earth.

After the Marine Corps Marathon last year, I felt led to keep running. God laid it on my heart to run two marathons per year along with the shorter races that I run each month. For a 44 year old man, too heavy and not looking anything like most of the trim and slim runners I encounter at these races, to have the ability to run two marathons a year is quite a blessing.

I ran along for about 9 months feeling like my running was just getting stronger and stronger. But as God made me stronger, a sort of fever began to creep up, the kind of fever that creates an almost unquenchable thirst. My training runs and races built my confidence and I began to register for more races, more marathons, quite a few more than the two God had called me to run this year.

I felt a need to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs. I felt a desire to run 3 marathons in 30 days. Then I saw two in two days and signed up. Before I could get finished with one, I'd signed up for three full marathons in the month of December. Even that wasn't enough to quench my thirst. No. I signed up for two more in February and March too. Right now I'm registered for 5 marathons in 4 months.

I kept telling myself it was to glorify God. After all, if God wanted me to race, wouldn't more races, especially marathons, bring Him all the more glory? Or would they bring me more glory?

Yeah. That's what I realize now. I lost sight of what God's plan was, the plan He revealed to me early in this journey. Two marathons a year. That's what He said.
"5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." -- Proverbs 3:5-6

He gave me a little slack and things kept rocking along until I pulled the trigger on that last one. Just about the time I saw it, I started to develop a pain in my lower left leg. Nothing too bad then, just a nagging pain that pretty much worked itself out on my daily runs. But it kept getting worse.

Then, as the marathon bug began to bite again and I seriously considered registering for another full in early November, that pain got progressively worse. Still it wasn't so bad I thought, and was just about ready to click the link and sign up when a routine three-mile run brought me back to reality.

I can't pinpoint anything on the run that would have caused an injury, but I returned to our field house that morning with an out-of-this-world pain in my knee. I was gimping around, dragging my leg almost like Frankenstein. That ended any thought of a November marathon.

I told myself I'd give it a week and see how things went. After 10 days, I laced up the running shoes and tried again. It didn't take three miles this time. Somewhere between 2 and 3 I started to walk, turned around and headed for the barn. And that's when it hit me.
"because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." -- Hebrews 12:6

Long ago I realized the last two injuries I'd suffered, one knee and one foot, were God's way of convincing me that if I was going to run, it was going to be for Him. This latest knee injury is just a newer version of the same thing.

Somewhere along the way, I began enjoying the comments, compliments, and attention that came with being a marathon runner. Even though I always credited God with giving me the ability, the desire, and the discipline to keep hitting the road, inside I was swelling with pride whenever someone said, "I don't see how you do it," or "That's crazy to run that far," or any variation thereof.

Pride.

It had suddenly become more about me than about God and I needed to be reminded why I'm here. I forgot to ask God what He wanted me to do and just began registering for as many races as I could, assuming He would bless me for following my own will.

Now I've been sidelined for three weeks, and may well miss out on one of my favorite races to do each year. This Saturday is the Soaring Wings Half Marathon in Conway, AR. I'm hoping my leg will be in shape to get out and do it...praying it will.
"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." -- Mark 16:15

But it can't be for me. It can't be for pride. It can't be for anything but to glorify God and spread the Good News that Jesus Christ came down from Heaven, was crucified, and rose from the dead to save us from our sins.

It's not about me and I'm not here to puff up and swell with pride. We're here...I'm here...to spread that Good News and to become a vessel, a lantern through which God's light shines. That's why I have to run, and that's why I'm here...why we're all here.


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.