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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Praying for Boston

As I ran 3 miles after school this afternoon, thoughts of those in Boston were constantly on my mind. Terrorism was once a thing we only saw on television, far from home, a thing we never thought we'd see on our own shores. But today reminds us that we are never "safe" as the world defines the word. Thank God we are promised an eternal safety, free from tears, pain, and grief, made possible by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"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

We hope and pray that all those affected have already, or will soon turn to the great Comforter, Healer, and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Our prayers are with all the victims and their families. May God grant them peace and comfort in 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, April 14, 2013

Race Recap: TEAM 413 "Get There and Share" Half Marathon

Today was a good day, a long one but a really good one. In a grand total of 24 and a half hours, we drove to Birmingham, stayed the night, ran the race, and drove back home. So here's the race recap.

Before the Race

Yesterday after work, we dashed home, let the dogs out for a bit, loaded up the vehicle, and headed east. Because we didn't want to take the time to stop and eat, we swung by Little Caesar's and picked up two Hot 'n Ready pizzas to consume on the trip. We stopped once for gas in West Memphis, AR and that was it. The trip went without incident, no delays.

We had booked a room at one of the host hotels for the race, the Residence Inn in Homewood, AL. They gave runners a special rate of $89 a night for a 1 bedroom suite. I have no idea what the regular rate was for this room, but we've paid as much or more many times for a lot less in a hotel room. It was around 11 by the time we settled in and got to sleep.

Race day packet pickup was scheduled for 5:30-6:30, so I rose at 5, dressed and slipped down to the hotel's dining area to grab a cup of coffee. The price of the room came with a complimentary hot breakfast, but we'd be gone before they began serving at 7. So I took an apple with my coffee back to the room and let that serve as breakfast. We were ready and out the door at 6.

We arrived and found a place to park within 100 meters of the start line. At packet pickup we stood in a short and quickly moving line. Included with the half marathon entry was a really nice short sleeve tech shirt, with the 4.13K run/walk was a just as nice short sleeve cotton shirt. As we walked back to the car to pin on our bibs, we heard the early start get underway for walkers in the half marathon.

It wasn't until I got back to the car that it dawned on me I'd left my Garmin in my bag at the hotel. The race was starting at 7:00 AM and it was already past 6:30. There was no way I'd chance missing the start to go back and get it. I hadn't run a race without it since a February 15K in 2012, but now I was facing a half marathon with no GPS. I didn't panic though, as the thought popped into my head that God wanted to remind me that He is in control and always there to lean on.

Turns out, my bib number was 110. I didn't have time to search for a verse that matched before the race, but it was on of the first things I did when I got home. I found Galatians 1:10, a reminder that we're not here to please people, or even ourselves, but to please God! The reasons I like a watch are because I get instant feedback on my performance. I can track how I'm doing and control how I'm doing.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." -- Galatians 1:10

We often set time goals as matters of pride, faster times impress people and bring praise. But then other times, we set time goals so we don't disappoint ourselves. Instead of pushing and doing our best, we slow ourselves down to avoid disappointment. On the way to the race Janice asked me how long I thought it would take to finish. I told her I planned to run it in around 2 hours and 10 minutes.

I'd just PR'd last month at Little Rock with a 1:55, but I've cut way back on my weekly mileage. I've replaced a lot of my miles with 40 minutes of the Insanity workout six days a week. I honestly didn't know how that would affect my time and I just planned to be safe and not expect a lot. If I'd have worn my watch, that would have helped me stay right around a 10 minute pace, an easy pace to maintain, a safe pace to maintain, one that I was certain I could attain without difficulty, without struggle.

But would that have pleased God? God just showed me last month that I could run a 1:55. Granted, that was on a flatter course in cooler weather, but still...would taking 15 minutes longer have been fully utilizing the ability God gave me?

I think that's why I forgot the watch. God wanted to show me what He could do if I just turned loose and trusted Him.

The Race

There were less than 700 runners at the start so it was easy to position myself between the 2 hour and 2:15 pace groups. The small crowd thinned quickly and settling into a comfortable pace wasn't a problem. Without my watch, I had to just go on feel. That caught me up to the 2 hour pace group in short order.

I ran behind them for the first mile and a little more. As my legs warmed up, the running by feel thing started wanting to pull away. On a pretty good downhill stretch, I did just that. I was feeling good even through the hills in the early miles of the race were a lot tougher than what I'm used to.

I spotted the mile marker signs at 1, 2, 3, and 4, but I had no idea of my times as I passed each. I knew I had a good pace going because I'd long ago stopped hearing the 2-hour pace group leaders. But then I somehow missed the mile markers for 5 and 6. That makes things tougher when you don't spot those mile markers because there's no way to gauge your progress. Had I reached 5 miles? Had I reached 6? Those questions start working on your mind and the miles seem to get longer and longer.

Somewhere in that stretch where I didn't know what mile I was on we started a long, straight stretch down Hwy 149. Several times I thought about slowing down, but every time the Good Lord kept saying, "I've got you. Just keep going." So I did. I kept pushing and eventually came to the water stop at mile 7. They were also handing out Gu, so I took one and a cup of water. I did walk long enough here to swallow the Gu and kill the water, then it was off and running again.

As we approached the 149/31 intersection, the police directed us across the highway and onto a jogging path that meandered along parallel to the highway and through the Samford University campus. It was another long, straight stretch, but unlike the highway portion of the course we'd just left, it did afford us shade for most of the trek back to mile 10. We crossed back over the highway at mile 10 and immediately started up a killer hill.

Near the top of that hill is where the two hour pace group caught up with me. What had been a group of 15-20 at the start was now two runners and the two pacers. I was struggling by this point to maintain pace and decided to try and hang with them to the end. I tagged along for the next mile and a half, listening to them conversing about upcoming races, past races, and just about everything else. The hills and starting off too fast had taken their toll on me and I didn't contribute to the conversation. Just plugged along, trying to keep up, praying constantly for God to just keep me going.

Somewhere between mile 11 and 12 one of the pacers said they were on track to finish in 1:58. By now I realized that a sub-2 hour finish was possible and I was trying to figure out if that's what God wanted out of me. We started up another tough hill and I decided with the two minute cushion, I could take advantage and walk to the top. The pacers were a couple hundred yards ahead of me by the time I hit the crest and began to run again.

Fortunately, the subsequent downhill gave me enough of a boost to catch up within a half mile. We were strolling along and then hit another hill. Again I decided to walk, thinking time wasn't what I was here for. Just crossing the finish line was fast becoming my goal as I began to think a little over a two-hour finish would be just as good. The pacers were quite a ways ahead of me and I saw them disappear around the last turn on the course.

A volunteer shouted out this was the last turn. A left turn, another hill, and then downhill to the finish. As I rounded the turn, the hill looked like a mountain. The two hour pacers were nearing the top and cheering on the couple of runners who had hung with them, and those they'd caught in this last stretch. The pacers stopped at the crest of the hill as I began walking again.

When I got to them, one said, "1:58:50, you can do this." The finish line was about 300 yards away, but all downhill. I let gravity work it's magic and picked up speed as I cruised down the hill. I still haven't found a link to online results, but the last I saw the clock as I stepped across the timing mat, it read 1:59:41, a sub-2 finish on a hilly course, without a watch!
"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

So much of the time we lean on our own strength and on devices and other man-made contraptions to meet challenges in our lives. In doing so, we tend to become dependent on these things, believing we can't meet the challenges without them. But this weekend, at an event planned and carried out to glorify Jesus Christ, God reminded me that if we lean on Him, He can carry us through any challenge.

He carried me today, to a finish more than 10 minutes faster than what I set as my goal, without the man-made satellite contraption I'd grown dependent on. This was my second-best half marathon finish, ever, and only the third time I broke two hours. It wasn't because of my strength, or my ability. It was all God. Jesus Christ came through today and He will come through every time you trust Him, lean on Him, and seek to fulfill His will in your life!

After the Race

The post-race celebration was nice. Pizza, snacks, and soft drinks were available to runners. Half marathon finishers received a nice medal and 4.13K finishers received a smaller, rubber "medal" for finishing their race. That was pretty cool since most short races don't offer finishers' awards unless you place in the top three of your age group at least.

We hung around for a little while, eating and enjoying the beautiful day. We had a 12 noon checkout at the hotel, so we left around 9:45 to head back and clean up. We cleaned up, packed up, then loaded up and checked out by the noon deadline, then we hit the road for the 6 hour trip back home.

By 5:00 PM, we were back at the house, 24.5 hours after we'd left the day before. It was a great race on a great day, all to glorify a great and mighty God! I can't wait to run with TEAM 413 again!

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, April 10, 2013

Ready to Race!

This weekend we'll be racing in Homewood, AL, for the first-ever TEAM 413 sponsored race. I'll be running the half marathon and Janice a 4.13K course on Saturday morning. If you're in the Birmingham area and would like to run to support a fantastic cause, come on over to Homewood and join us!

TEAM 413 is the largest ministry tailored to the endurance athlete community, and probably the easiest to become a part of. All it takes is to visit their website and purchase a shirt. Then, VOILA!, you're in! Wear your shirt when you race and you're running for Jesus, spreading the gospel, inviting others to ask about your faith. It's amazing how many inquiries these shirts have drawn from athletes in races around the country, and only God knows the number who've come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior because of the scripture they first saw on the back of a TEAM 413 shirt.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13

The first time I ever recall seeing that verse is on the back of a TEAM 413 shirt. It was my first half marathon, Little Rock 2010, and we were between mile 2 and 3 when I read the verse on the back of a shirt I was passing. At the time, I had no idea what TEAM 413 was, but I knew I had to run with those words on my back someday.

After Amanda was killed and the idea for this ministry came to mind, I designed our first shirts and had it put on the back. I still had no idea what TEAM 413 was. But it was only a few weeks after my daugther's death that Chris Gillespie discovered our fledgling ministry and sent me a TEAM 413 shirt free of charge.

Since then, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Chris a little, following him and his ministry on Facebook and hearing others' "shirt stories." He's got a great story that led to the birth of his ministry and it's a great cause to support.

So it was almost reflexive to pull the trigger and register when I learned TEAM 413 would put on it's first race on 4-13-13 to celebrate its 10-year anniversary! That was months ago, but now it's upon us, only two days and a wake up to race day!

It's a race I can't wait to run and to write about in a recap. It's going to be great, so if you're in the area Saturday, stop by and run with us and 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.

Stop Teen Substance Abuse...NOW!

The Workouts


I started this post early in the week. It was supposed to be a recap of the previous week, a week so busy I never had time to post. Well, now this week has been another. So I'm going to just briefly describe my workouts the past couple of weeks and get on to the bigger and better things God has for me to write on.

We came back from Spring Break and hit the ground running...well, sort of. First, I'd purchased a set of Insanity workout videos on Ebay back in January. I'd told myself as soon as I got through marathon season, I was going to start. Since Wrightsville Beach last month was the last marathon I plan to run this spring, I put in the first video the Sunday we got back.

Today is day 18 of the 60 day program and I can tell you it's least it's tough for a 45 year old fat man. But I'm sticking with it. If God carried me through all the miles I've run the past couple of years, I figure He can carry me through a couple of months of Insanity too!

Since the workouts average about 40 minutes each day, I don't have time to get in the same number of miles each day. Truth be told, I don't really have the energy to do the same amount of miles either. So I've cut way back on the daily miles. Luckily, every 7th day of the program is a rest day and I've timed that to coincide with my Saturday long runs.

Today was supposed to be a long run, and I actually got up and out with plans to do 15 miles. After the first 5 mile loop I stopped at the car, still planning to head out for the other 10. But by the time I'd sucked down a bottle of water, just about to hit the road again, I realized this was the first beautiful day we've had on a weekend. My grass was getting out of control, and who knows what's living at the bottom of my pool right now. So I decided to cut it short, head home, and get to work on some things around the house.

Turned out that was the right decision. Janice and I ate breakfast together, then worked all day in the back yard too. It was a great way to spend the first beautiful Saturday of Spring! We didn't get everything finished but we made a lot of progress.

Next weekend we'll be headed to Alabama for the TEAM 413 Get There and Share Half Marathon, so I guess I can count this as an unplanned taper week for that race. ;)

The Message

These past couple of weeks God has sent some pretty clear reminders of what he wants of me, what my mission is here with this ministry. It started with a friend at church telling me of stories about parties and drinking going on among junior high kids, and of parents who allow kids to party at their house. Then, on the way into the youth service at church the other day, I heard a junior high kid talking to a group of other junior high students say, "...I was drunk and walked into the bedroom." On Thursday, I overheard students at school freely discussing their drinking and partying exploits. And finally, this weekend, talking with a couple of middle school teachers, they told me they hear the same conversations, IN MIDDLE SCHOOL!

I know this is God's timing, me hearing all these things, because it was three weeks ago when our youth pastor asked me to address the boys in the youth group last Wednesday. I immediately knew I'd be discussing teen alcohol and drug abuse, because that's the focus of my ministry. But I didn't get to speak last week.

We had a missionary come and address our Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast. She was looking for other places in town to speak, so she could maximize the impact of her trip. Our FCA president also happens to be in the youth group at our church. Long story short, my preaching got put off a week so she could address our kids.

I didn't mind, because she had a message the kids needed to hear, but I had no idea that all this was working in God's timing. I had my message prepared, but had no idea I'd hear so many things that illuminated the absolute necessity of delivering this message. Now, with more stories and more illustrations, I have no doubt the message will be even more effective.
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." -- 1 Corinthians 10:13

Our culture today seems to accept this behavior as unavoidable, as a rite of passage, as something kids will grow out of. But I know all too well that not all of them will get the chance. I talk to too many who only later realize the absolutely devastating effects drugs and alcohol have on their lives. I wear the pictures of too many who never got the opportunity to grow out of their substance abuse, or who were victims of other teens abusing drugs and alcohol.

Paul tells us that NO temptation, not even drugs and alcohol to a teenager, is more than we can bear. God gives us an out! Every single one of us, teens included has to make the choice to abuse or not to abuse drugs or alcohol. Yes, we'll all be tempted, but if we lean on Jesus Christ, we can bear that temptation. Even teens can take the right road, if we don't give up on them.
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons." -- 1 Corinthians 10:21

Our society today seems to communicate to kids that anything goes, everything's okay, if it feels good it is good. Even many churches today refuse to preach the part of the gospel that demands we change when we become Christians. It's almost as if they are preaching the gospel as a pass to behave any way we want. But this verse makes it clear, a Christian cannot run with the devil!

That's not saying Christians are sinful. It's not saying Christians won't fall. Every single one of us sins. We can't help it and that's why God sent His Son to suffer and die for our sins. What it is saying is that Christians cannot LIVE in sin! It's impossible to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, to have Jesus Christ living in your heart, and honestly believe that makes it okay to get drunk or high every Friday and Saturday night. It's impossible to "drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too."
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" -- 2 Corinthians 5:17

Once we truly accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are no longer bound by sin. It doesn't mean we never sin. It means sin loses it's grip on us. The old us that took pleasure in sin is no more, and the new us takes no pleasure in sin. We can be tempted. We can fall. We will sin. But to live a life, CHOOSING to sin every chance we get, taking pleasure in sin without remorse, leading others to sin with no feeling of guilt, these things are not in us. They can't be!

The old is gone. The old us is dead. The new is here. The new us seeks to please God, to honor Christ, and feels guilty, horrible, ashamed when we fail Him. As Christians, we cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. We cannot dine with Jesus and Satan. We cannot honor and glorify God while we willingly live a life of sin!
" 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God" -- 1 Corinthians 10:31

We are ordered to do everything we do for God's glory, to not lead anyone else astray. So the oft-used argument that you can't stop kids from drinking and using drugs just doesn't fly to excuse adults who permit such behavior, enable such behavior, or promote such behavior. If you are an adult who uses this excuse to explain why you allow your kid and others to drink or use drugs, then you are just plain wrong!

As adults, we are responsible for guiding our children, molding them, teaching them, correcting them. There is no excuse for adults providing alcohol and drugs, or a place to abuse alcohol or drugs, to kids! We are told to do everything we do for the glory of God. How can He be glorified while we allow our kids and others to get falling down drunk so they pass out or puke all over themselves?

I know all too well just how badly things can turn out when kids are drinking and using drugs. My daughter, Amanda, was killed at a party where that's exactly what was going on. If you think you can control a bunch of underage kids who are drunk and stoned, you are wrong. Only a few minutes before she was shot to death, Amanda texted her friend and told her she was "having fun." It only took a brief moment to go from that to dead.

She didn't recognize the danger, and she couldn't control the drunken, stoned fool who became angry when she turned down his sexual advances. You don't know what a drunk or stoned person is going to do at any given moment. It's time for ALL adults to stand up and actively discourage teen substance abuse.

If you've been condoning it, promoting it, or enabling it, just stop now! We have to let these kids know it's not okay and it will not be tolerated. We have to let them know we, as adults, will not provide them with alcohol and drugs. We will not provide them a place to abuse alcohol and drugs. And we will punish them when they're caught indulging.

I lost my daughter to drunken, stoned, 19-year-old. I don't want another kid to die because of teen substance abuse. So take a stand with me and fight this epidemic that takes the lives of thousands of kids each year.

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.