Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Nice Break in the Weather!

It's the last day of January, and that means the last day of Janathon, the challenge to workout every day of the month and blog about it. I wasn't quite as successful meeting the challenge this year. Over the course of the month, I missed working out one day, and missed the daily blog post twice. Still, it's been pretty good for me and I'm glad I signed up.

One of my missed blog posts was yesterday. I didn't miss my run, but never managed to get time to write before I got home, ate, and fell asleep on the couch. Therefore, I'll tell about yesterday's and today's workouts in this final post of January 2014.

Both days, yesterday and today, I was blessed to get in 6 miles. This morning I actually ran in shorts and a long sleeve race shirt. It was 340 outside when I stepped off, but that actually felt warm. Yesterday's temperature was 250 when I started, but the wind made it feel like 160. Even that was pretty mild compared to the conditions for some of my recent runs.

Tomorrow, I'll head to North Little Rock to run the River Trail 15K. Next weekend is the Mississippi River Marathon and I'd planned to get in 10 miles with that in mind. So this 9.3 mile race fits right nicely with my marathon prep. Plus, it's a race in the Arkansas RRCA's Grand Prix Series. I'm not fast enough to score well in the series, but running those races helps support the Cabot Country Cruisers, our local running club, and I'll get to see lots of friends out there too.

Weather conditions are looking pretty nice for tomorrow's race. The event begins at 9 AM and it's forecast to be 540 with a 50% chance of rain at that time. Even if it does rain, those are fantastic conditions for a 15K race!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~ Galatians 6:9

The bitter cold that's been plaguing us of late can easily make a runner weary, especially runners like me who just can't stand the thought of running on a treadmill. I mean, I cannot force myself to run on one of these machines. The cold drives a lot of people off the roads and into the gyms, running miles and miles and miles without ever going anywhere. But some people let the unfavorable conditions stop them from running at all.

I used to be in that latter group, someone who just quit running every winter. The problem with that is it makes it really hard to get going again once the weather turns good. Continuing to run, even though it's not as pleasant an experience as it is when the weather's nice, during the brutal winter months keeps you in shape and avoids the loss of fitness that invariably follows a prolonged layoff. Basically, if we don't give up when things get tough, we'll be stronger and in better shape to maximize the benefits of our training when conditions again become optimal.

Here's another one of those cases where running parallels life, specifically what Paul was telling the Galatians about life in today's verse.

Life is full of brutal circumstances, even prolonged seasons of trouble and strife and struggles. When we get caught in one of these cycles, it's easy to wonder if it's even worth it to keep trying to do what's right, or to do what's good. that's because our human nature seeks and expects immediate rewards. If we do something good, we want something good in return right now. But looking at it through a Biblical lens reveals these immediate rewards are temporary and literally worthless in comparison to the long-term rewards we're promised as Christians.

It's hard and we can easily become weary, but we should never forget what's waiting when we get to Heaven. An eternity with no strife, no struggles, no pain, and no tears, the harvest Paul described to the Galatians above. So when life is throwing everything it has at you, trying to take you down, look to the future and remember that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we can have that promise of a harvest, a reward that will make whatever we endure down here seem insignificant.

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, January 29, 2014

Stay the course! (Even when it gets tough.)

And that's a really good thing! Almost a novelty. It seems like it's been forever that we've battled freezing cold and never ending wind, but I know it hasn't been that long. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was warm temperatures that hit me hard toward the end of the Louisiana Marathon.

And these low temps in Arkansas haven't been all bad either. Just last weekend, I missed my marathon PR by less than 3 minutes and had a really enjoyable race. It was plenty cold then too, and the wind didn't pick up until halfway through the race. By then I didn't even notice it.

Today's 6 mile run was just cold. There was no wind, but it was still only 130.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2

Yes, it's been really cold this winter. Yes, I've put off my runs a few times until the afternoon. But these past couple weeks, I've just been convicted to press on, even when the bitter cold has seized our area. I've heard comments that I'm tough, that I'm crazy, and even that I'm stupid, and I've tried to figure out exactly what it is in me that won't let me back off.

Searching this afternoon for help from the Bible to explain it, I was drawn to Psalm 91, where this passage jumped out at me. What I realized reading this is that if Jesus truly is who I'm running for, then I've got to run. I can't let a little weather, not enough to make running dangerous, just uncomfortable, stop me from answering God's call, to run for His glory.

It's easy to dwell in His shelter and claim Jesus as our refuge and fortress when we're comfortable. But too often it's easy to blame God, to curse God, to question God, and even to flee from God when things get tough. But those uncomfortable times are when we need to stay the course, continue to seek and follow His will, and trust that He will deliver us from whatever it is that tempts us to stray.

I am so grateful Jesus has given me this gift of running, and grateful that He keeps me focused and motivated, even when the weather tempts me to quit.

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, January 28, 2014

It's cold, but not too cold!

Today was another really cold run. Six miles in a 13 mph wind with the temperature hovering at 200. That made it feel like 80 outside with the windchill. Most people I run with wouldn't have recognized me probably, bundled up as I was. Sweatpants, a cap, and a jacket aren't my normal running attire, but seemed appropriate for the conditions.

It was a slow run, but I've resigned myself to running slowly as long as we're enduring this invasion of arctic air. I learned a long time ago not to complain about the weather, because somebody somewhere definitely has it worse, and because it could always be worse than it is here. Still, the longer this crazy cold weather continues to take over our normally moderate climate, I think the odds of encountering a migrating polar bear on my runs get greater every day.

Regardless of conditions though, I'm glad and I'm grateful God gives me the strength, will, and motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

One of the hardest things to do, as Christian, or even as a person, is to be grateful sometimes. Sometimes it seems like everything's against us, piling up and making us want to do anything but go on. It's times like these when it's really hard to be thankful.

But Paul tells us here to be thankful in ALL circumstances, and he was certainly one who had a lot he could have used as an excuse to be anything but! He was beaten, imprisoned, and threatened with harm and death at nearly every turn. Elsewhere, he wrote that he had learned to be content in any situation, no matter how dire things seemed.

I won't lie and tell you that running in these harsh winter conditions is always pleasant, but I'm sure they aren't nearly as bad as the conditions Paul faced while traveling the world to spread the Gospel. I'm also sure they aren't as bad as the suffering Jesus endured on the cross.

Thinking about those two examples, it's a lot easier to be thankful for the opportunity to run, even when the conditions are miserable. So tomorrow, when it's even colder than it was today, I'll be out there again, bundled up, but out there pounding the pavement.

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, January 27, 2014

Too cold to run...I think not..

Today was another post-marathon recovery run. Six anything but easy miles satisfied my Janathon requirement for today. Only a few days left in the challenge to workout and blog about it every day. It's definitely kept my feet to the fire, but I'm kind of looking forward to February without that commitment hanging over my head.

As I started my run this morning, my thighs screamed for me to stop. They were still sore from Saturday's marathon. That was kind of crazy in itself, because my thighs seldom hurt, even after a marathon. I don't know if it was because I pushed harder than normal this weekend, or because it was the second marathon in a week's time. Whatever it was though, I knew I had to get out on the road to loosen the muscles back up.

Aching legs weren't the only challenge this morning either. The biggest challenge was a brutal wind on today's run. I chose one of the easiest routes from my house, but that put me into a strong headwind for a lot of the run. Luckily, the temperature only dropped to 320 last night. That put the wind chill down around 200, but that's starting to feel somewhat warm as this crazy winter drags on. Usually when I turn my back to a strong headwind, the then tailwind is hardly noticeable. But today was different. When I changed directions, I could actually feel the wind gusts pushing me forward.

The best word I can think of to describe the windy run is tough. Just tough. But thanks be to God, because He kept me going and got me through it! Tomorrow promises to be rough too. Weatherbug is forecasting 140 at run time tomorrow, with 9 mph winds. It won't be as windy as today, but temps that low make me think I might just cross paths with a migrating polar bear if it keeps up.
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:5

After a tough run this morning and a tough run promised for tomorrow morning, a lot of people just can't understand why I get out in such crazy weather. Some think it's stupid, others just plain insanity. But the simple fact is that what little suffering a bad weather run involves is nothing compared to the suffering our Lord, Jesus Christ, went through on the cross so that we have an opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven.

I'm not a fast runner. I won't be breaking the tape at any of these races I run. Most of the time, I'm just running to finish. As long as I don't drop out, I consider it a successful race. And even though I don't win any races, I can't count the number of people who said what I do inspired them.

Before I go any further, let me say this. It's not my strength. It's not my ability. It's not me at all. But it's Jesus Christ who gives me the strength, the will, and the ability to run these races. You see, I believe He uses me to inspire people. And though several people have told me they've been inspired to run because of what they read here, it's far more important to inspire them to get spiritually fit.

In 1 Timothy, Paul wrote that physical training is beneficial, but spiritual training is far more important. That's where true comfort comes from, even when the world seems to be crashing down around us. Regardless how tough life gets, how much trouble this world throws at us, when we're in shape spiritually, we have all we need to be comfortable. In the heat, in the cold, in the rain, in the snow, in the blazing sun, or even in the midst of a hurricane, we can find comfort when our spiritual fitness gives us peace.

So though it may seem crazy to get out on the road when the temperature is nearly low enough to give polar bears frostbite, there are reasons I've got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Jesus Christ has given me the ability, the will, and the strength to get out there and run, not for trophies or medals or ribbons, but so that He can be glorified when I run.

That's why I'm going to be out on the road tomorrow morning.

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, January 26, 2014

Wonderful Day Today!

Well, today was another no run day. Instead, my Janathon workout consisted of a meager 20 pushups. But, hey, they didn't say it had to be an intense workout, just some sort of physical activity. Hopefully, the fact that I ran marathon #2 of 2014 yesterday buys me a little leeway for the meager workout today. Now we're two weeks away from marathon #3 of the year, the Mississippi River Marathon in Greenville, MS.

Today was awesome though, in spite of the less-than-awesome workout. It started out awesome because we have had our sweet little granddaughter since Wednesday. Seeing her smiling face in the morning would make the darkest day bright. After church we came home and got everything ready for a family get together here at the house. It was a small reunion of cousins on my mother's side of the family. And though several couldn't make it, we really enjoyed seeing all who did.

It's crazy that so many of us live within a 20 mile radius of each other, but it can be years between times we get together. As folks were leaving, we promised to make the next one soon. I sure hope we follow through on that.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8

There always seems to be plenty of reasons we don't get to see each other for such long periods. From family squabbles to just busy everyday lives, we could never run out of excuses for not getting together. And for way too long, and far too often, we allowed those excuses to rule the day.

One thing Amanda's death taught me though is that none of us are promised tomorrow. I always thought I understood that, but it was never such a stark reality until my 17-year-old daughter never made it home that night. Still, this is only the second time in the three years since her death that we've tried to get everyone together.

In the verse above, we're told to love each other, everyone, deeply. So how is it we can go so long without even seeing or speaking to each other? Honestly, there are some of my cousins who live right here in central Arkansas whom I'm not even certain I would recognize if I saw them. With that said, it's hard to believe I'm doing what the Bible tells me here.

If I'm to love EVERYBODY, but I haven't even made time to see my own cousins, my own family, how can I say I'm doing what I'm supposed to do? So I'm going to make it a point to try to put another one of these reunions set up for a couple of months from now. I had a really good time visiting with family I hadn't seen in a long time. And I know I need to make more time for them.

I hope and pray that God will keep this front and center in my heart, because I look forward to seeing everyone again, and seeing all those who couldn't make it 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.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Team Loco Marathon Recap

Today was marathon #10 for me, #2 for 2014. It was the inaugural running of the Team Loco Marathon in Conway, AR, apparently the first marathon ever in that town. I missed a PR by less than 3 minutes, but it was an awesome race for several reasons. It was close to home, lots of volunteers and organizers are great friends, lots of the participants are great friends, and the 10 loop course guaranteed that you saw everybody several times along the course.

One of the hardest things about running marathons is having the money to run them. Entry fees, hotels, gas or plane tickets to get there, and lots of other related costs make it a pretty expensive habit. So any time you get a chance to run one close to home, it's a big bonus. I left home an hour and a half before the race start and had plenty of time to get there, get ready, and make it to the line. It's always nice when one's close to home.

In December last year, I was sitting at Olive Garden with a bunch of friends the night before the St. Jude Marathon was supposed to go off. While we were eating, our phones began to blow up with messages the race had been canceled. Later that night, some of these same friends came up with the idea for this race. They wanted to do something for all the folks who had trained so hard, specifically for St. Jude, only to have the race called off due to inclement weather. They set it up for this date to get everything just right so it would count as an official race for Marathon Maniac and 50 States statistics. And these same awesome friends were all over the course today -- working the race, running the race, and cheering for participants. It's always great to see so many friends, but it makes a marathon even better!

The volunteers were fantastic too! And again, lots of them are friends. Manning the start line, lap counters, water stations, on bicycles, and at the finish lines. Friends were everywhere, taking care of us as we ran, seeing to our every need. They were cheering, taking pictures, and just being great friends. Again, you've gotta love a race with so many friends working it.

The 10 loop course gave us lots of opportunities to see the many friends running the race too. It was a 2.6 mile out-and-back, repeated 10 times with a little 0.2 mile add on at the very start. To many this might sound boring, but it's really pretty nice to get to see everyone over and over again. You see the fast ones, the slow ones, and those who run your own pace time and again on the course. And, with so many friends running this race, it was just perfect! I absolutely loved it!

The Race

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:14

My plan was to just take it easy since I just ran the Louisiana Marathon last week. And take it easy I did for the first six miles. The slowest of those miles came in at 11:20 and the fastest at 10:19. I was probably averaging somewhere north of a 10:30 pace. Then the sun came up and it started to feel a little warmer.

It was then I started to pick up the pace, not so much intentionally, but reverting to more of my normal pace as I became more comfortable. Miles 7 through 10 were logged ranging from 10:05 to 10:11. Even after a short bathroom break in mile 11, I realized this could turn out to be a really good race (time wise) for me. I was feeling fantastic and the weather was right, so I decided to push a little harder for a while and see what happened.

All of miles 12 through 15 came in in the 9:50s. Then I slowed down for some reason on mile 16, running it in 10:33. But that was followed by miles 17 through 21 all in 9:50 or under. I finished my 8th lap just after my Garmin beeped to tell me I'd gone 21 miles. That meant there were only 5.2 miles left, but I was starting to feel the miles now.

I was still able to run though. I took my last Gu before trotting back out for the final two laps. Now my pace had slowed though, and on this lap I did take a couple of walk breaks for 100 yards or so. For the last 12 or so miles I had been feeling a 4:30 finish, or at the very least a PR was possible. But in this 9th lap, I realized that wasn't going to happen. And I wasn't even upset about it.

All those miles had been great for all the reasons listed earlier in this post. God had smiled on me for this race. Twice I'd had the opportunity to tell Amanda's story when asked about the sign I wear on my shirt. I was blessed to get to run this race, and just pleased to be feeling good. So even when the PR and the 4:30 possibilities evaporated, I was still happy to be running and happy to be out there.

The rest of the race was a run/walk, but not really much walking. The run part was at a much slower pace than I'd done most of the race, but at least I was still able to run. I eventually ended up crossing the finish line in 4:37:21, less than three minutes from my PR.

Now I have two weeks before the Mississippi River Marathon! I am just so grateful that God has given me this gift of running and I pray that He will keep me focused so that He is glorified whenever I run. Thanks to all who made today possible, but especially thanks to Jesus Christ, for all He's done for me, for all He's doing for me, and for all He will do for me.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

Short little workout and a short little blog post...

No run this morning and this is going to be a short blog post tonight. Pretty much rest assured that if it weren't for Janathon, I wouldn't be posting tonight. But I made a commitment to do some sort of workout and blog about it everyday. So that's what I'm doing.

Tomorrow I'm running the Team Loco Marathon in Conway, AR, about 45 miles from home. It starts at 5 AM, and I just got home at 9:30 tonight. After teaching all day, I worked the gate at our basketball games tonight. It's really lots of fun, but it makes for a long day, especially on the eve of a marathon. So that's why this post promises to be brief.

This morning I did my little calisthenic workout -- 20 push ups, some curls with dumbbells, and a few ab exercises -- since I wasn't going to run. I know it's not much of a workout, but I had to do something for Janathon and I had no plans to get too crazy with it. It's a pretty boring workout to post about, so I hope to make it up to you with an exciting and fantastic recap on tomorrow's race.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. ~ Luke 2:14

Like I said, I have to get to bed so I can't spend a lot of time on tonight's post. The verse above is what stood out to me this morning while I was studying Luke, chapter 2. So it's going to be the backdrop for today's devotional.

This evening I was talking to a man whose kid had been through a lot, been in a lot of trouble, but is now working really hard to straighten up and is doing well. When I asked how things were going, he replied, "Good. It's amazing what happens when you put God first."

Earlier this week, a former student posted that he was having doubts about the existence of God. I responded to that post, and copied my response on this blog. But talking to that father tonight, made me think of that student again. This man's family had no peace until recently, until they put God first. And now that things are going well, he's giving the glory for that peace to God.

Then I thought of a church sign I once saw that read, "Know God, know peace. No God, no peace." A lot of people suffer so much and struggle so much trying to do everything without God. And though relying on God doesn't promise a worry free life, it does offer a peace, even in times of trouble, that I don't believe can be derived from anything else.

If you don't know that peace I'm speaking of, turn your life over to Jesus Christ. Accept that peace He offers and give the glory to Him. Just like that man I spoke with tonight, your life can be so much better than you ever imagined.

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, January 23, 2014

Not everything changes...

After a few days with temperatures in the 60s and even the 70s, we're back to polar bear habitat here in central Arkansas. Yesterday morning when I hit the road, it was 190. This morning the temps weren't quite that low, 280, but the wind made it feel like 200. I'm not complaining though, because I know it won't be long until we're running in warmer weather that will really kick my tail.

This morning I only ran 3 miles. I had 6 planned, but woke up a little late and the wind was blowing and it was cold and I'm running another marathon this weekend and ... and ... and ...

Pretty much if anything could be used as an excuse to cut my run short this morning, it was. I took it really easy too, figuring there's no need to push this last run before Saturday's marathon. Nothing spectacular, nothing fast, nothing impressive. Just a nice little 3 mile run to start the day.

Thoughts of Arkansas' ever changing weather brought this verse to mind today.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

A kid asked me today if I'd ever seen a year like this, referring to the constantly shifting temperatures. Of course I have. As long as I can remember, I've heard it said that if you don't like the weather in Arkansas to wait, because it will change. Here, it's not like some places where a dog could serve as weatherman and get it right 90% of the time. Here we get 700 and sunshine on Christmas and snow on Thanksgiving, or even 700 one day, then snow and ice the next. From one day to the next, we often go from one extreme to the other.

Sometimes that frustrates people. People like to have at least some idea how things are going to roll out. People like to plan, and they don't want the weather to interfere with their planning or what they have planned. People want dependability, from everything around them, including the weatherman.

But the truth is there's very little we can really depend on. Friends let us down or stand us up when something better comes along. Even family can drop us for something better, or even forget us altogether. So many people, and so many things, we want to depend on. So many things that break our hearts and break our spirits, over and over again.

This promise in the Bible, though, that Jesus Christ never changes, is one on which we can hang our hats. Jesus is the same always and forever. He doesn't change His standards for us. He doesn't change His expectations of us. And He doesn't change the rules in the middle of the game.

In this life, you can't depend on much, but you can depend on Jesus. He's always there when we need Him. All we have to do is call for Him. He's waiting to reach out and lift us when things get too tough for us to handle. His promise to save us from sin, his promise of eternal life, is what we need and is always available.

If you're tired of the world changing its rules, changing its standards, and changing its expectations, then cry out to Jesus. He's the author of Salvation and He never changes! He's with you always, until the end of the age.

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, January 22, 2014

Running Deep in Thought and Prayer

Today was a crazy cold run, 6 miles at 190. I know that's not so cold for some of you who live up north, but down here it's crazy cold.

I took it slow and easy today, partly because of the weather, partly because of this coming weekend's marathon, and partly for another more important reason.

Before I left to run this morning, I sat down at the computer and looked at Facebook. That's when a post from a friend revealed his doubt that God exists. From the time I read it, until I returned, it weighed heavy on my mind. And it wasn't just this one friend, but several others commenting on the thread on their varied levels of disbelief in Jesus Christ. I knew I needed to respond, but I had to think and pray for the right words.

So I ran a familiar route at a slower than normal pace, easing through the cold night, trying to think of how to respond. But the words didn't come. So I went to work and worked all day thinking about the same thing. How do I respond? When I left work, I still had no idea what I would say. We went to church and still I thought and prayed about how to respond. Back home from church and still nothing to write, no ideas at all. My mind was a total blank.

So finally I sat down and just prayed for God to guide me as I typed. And I began. The following is what I wrote, what God led my fingers to tap out in response. Please pray that this friend and others will read it and be swayed.
Be merciful to those who doubt ~ Jude 1:22

I've thought all day and prayed all day about what to say here. Not just to you, but to so many who don't believe in God. Still, as I sit down to respond, I have no prepared response. So I've decided to just let fly with whatever comes to mind as I type. So I'm praying that God will supply the words that you and others need, because I just don't have them.

First, we all have free will to believe or not to believe. It's my opinion that God gave us that free will. There's an old song that says something about if you love someone, you have to be willing to let it go. Kind of on the flip side, if you want to really know if someone loves you, you've got to be willing to let them go.

Those with power often force others to worship them, to bow and pay homage or any of dozens of other acts the powerful deem necessary to show submission by his subjects. God has that much power too. If He wanted, it is completely within His power to force us to bow to Him, to worship Him. But those who lead in this manner don't love their subjects, only themselves. God, though, not only loves us enough to give us free will, a free will that He knows will be turned against Him by some, but also to send His Son to die for our sins.

So you can choose not to believe, and you won't make me angry by doing so. I don't even believe you make God angry by making that choice. Instead, it makes me sad, and I believe it breaks God's heart.

You mentioned proof, that you just need proof. To me it sounds like, and please correct me if I'm wrong, you just don't believe faith is enough to accept that God exists, especially that He created the entire universe and did it as described in the Bible. It's my opinion that refusal to believe in God takes just as much, if not more, faith than it does to believe.

If we don't believe in God, it seems to me that we have to believe one of the scientific THEORIES on the origin of the universe or that something not yet dreamed up created all we see and all we know exists out there. Regardless which of those pegs you hang your hat on, a really hard objective investigation will take you to the same place: that everything came to be out of nothing.

Not one of those theories are proven anymore than God is proven. Because they all end up concluding that everything came from nothing, it's just as impossible to prove any one of them as it is to prove the existence of God. So even belief in any theory put forth by the scientific community on the origins of the universe eventually must be based on faith and not on proof.

So pretty much regardless what you believe, it's based on faith. Even belief in nothing, the belief that this life is all there is with no thought to the origins of anything is based on faith, because that certainly can't be proven either.

I saw mention of all the senseless deaths attributed to religion, but I saw nothing about all the good accomplished in God's name. I believe what's written in the book of James, chapter 1, that God is incapable of evil. But I know all too well that man is quite capable of evil, and even capable of committing evil while using God's name to justify the unjustifiable.

But the same way I can't hold a son accountable for the actions of his father, or a father for the actions of his son, I can't blame God for man's corruption of His plan. The Bible tells me to love God and love my neighbor and even to love my enemy. If I do less, it's not because God told me to. It's because I corrupted God's plan.

I'll close with this. All of my life I've believed in the existence of God and that Jesus Christ was His Son, sent here to die for us so that we can make it to Heaven. All my life I've believed that. But most of my life, I haven't lived in a way that pleased God. Most of my life, I lived like an unbeliever. I took from the Bible what I wanted and tried to use it to justify my beliefs. If something countered what I wanted or believed, I just ignored that part. That's how I lived the vast majority of my life.

It really wasn't until Amanda was killed that I had a change of heart. I didn't stop believing. In fact, Christ is the first place I turned. You see, I had spent all of my life to that point doing everything on my own. I never asked for anything. I never wanted to take anything from anyone. I never wanted to be indebted to anyone. Not even God. But when Amanda was killed, that night I knew I could no longer make it on my own.

I had fallen into a pit that I wish nobody else will ever have to become trapped in again. I've felt real physical pain more times than I can count. I've felt emotional and psychological pain too. But there is no pain that compares to losing a child. I would have gladly suffered anything else to bring her back. No death, no torture, no pain would be so bad that I'd refuse if it would bring my daughter back. But of course that's impossible.

The only way I made it this far, the only reason I could keep going, the only reason I'm not dead or in prison right now, is because of Jesus Christ. Without the hope offered through His promise of eternal life, there was no reason for me to keep living. There was no reason for me to let Amanda's killer live. There was no reason for me not to crawl inside a bottle and drink myself into a stupor. Without Jesus Christ, I would not be here today.

It's your choice to believe or not. It's your choice by God's own design. I hope you choose to believe. I'll be praying for you Hayden, and all the others here who doubt or don't believe.

God bless you my friends.

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, January 21, 2014

Getting Back on the Road

Sunday was tough and I missed my daily Janathon post that day. But hopefully I can use the fact that I ran a marathon, then drove 7 hours home to justify skipping a day of writing a blog post.

Of course, that meant the race recap describing Sunday's workout was written on Monday, so I'm still a day behind on these blasted posts this challenge requires me to write. So this post is going to take in yesterday's workout and today's, and I hope that doesn't disappoint anyone too awful much.

Yesterday, the day after a marathon that gave me a pretty good challenge, my workout was really, really light. It consisted of a simple 20 pushups. In all honesty, I more than likely wouldn't have even done that except for the month long Janathon, my commitment to work out and blog every day. But something's better than nothing, so this challenge is doing a great job of keeping me doing some physical exercise every single day.

Today was more demanding. I was back on the road for 6 miles with our regular Tuesday/Thursday group. We were a little smaller than usual today, only 4 of us. A couple are out nursing injuries, and I think old man winter keeps others at bay some days. But we got in a nice run, averaging just less than 10 minutes per mile. That was inspite of a vicious wind that blasted us in the face for the first mile and change. Though we got some reprieve after that, it kicked up several more times along the route before we finally made it back. Luckily, the temperatures were really mild for this time of year, otherwise unbearable would have been a good word to describe the conditions.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

Today's run was about getting back on track after Sunday's marathon. 26.2 miles is tough, just plain tough. It beats you up and beats you down and makes you stiff and sore. Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world is to get back on the road after a tough race. But that's exactly what we have to do. It's the best thing to do. Get back out there and start running again.

It's the same when we fall to sin after we're saved. Jesus came to save us from our sins. God knew we couldn't make it to Heaven on our own, so He sent His Son to intercede for us, to pay the price for our sins, so that we can have eternal life with Him in paradise. All we have to do is reach for His outstretched hand and take the gift of salvation He offers.

But even when do accept His gift, even when we're saved, we're still an imperfect sinner. A Christian sinner, but a sinner nonetheless. And once in a while, all too often, we fall into sin even after we're saved. And once we fall, the longer we wallow in that sin, the harder it seems for us to turn away from it and turn back to Jesus.

After the marathon, when your muscles are stiff and sore, when the last thing you feel like doing is stepping out on the road for a run, the best thing to do is to get out and pound the pavement a little. It's surprising how quickly it loosens up those tight muscles, and how quickly the post marathon soreness fades once you're out on the road.

Getting back on the right path with God is very similar after we've strayed from the fold. The farther we fall and the longer we're gone down that path of the prodigal son, the harder it is to humble ourselves, admit our mistakes, and beg forgiveness to get back where we need to be with Jesus. But He promises that if we do confess our sin, He will forgive us and "purify us from all unrighteousness."

How awesome is that? He doesn't fine us. He doesn't give us a lists of actions we can take to earn forgiveness and find favor with Him again. Instead, we're promised that we must confess, then we'll be forgiven.. Still, that confession, admitting we were wrong, is often the most difficult thing to do.

But just like that first post-marathon run, once you get out there and do it, it's never as hard or as tough or as bad as you imagined. Once you make that confession and ask forgiveness, you're back where you need to be, back exactly where Jesus wants you. Back and ready to run the Christian race, living life in a way that will bring honor and glory to God, leading others to Jesus.

So if you've drifted away from a Christian lifestyle, turn around now. Get back on the right road.

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, January 20, 2014

Louisiana Marathon Recap

By the grace of God I finished the Louisiana Marathon yesterday. And I mean, by the grace of God.

Less than a week ago, the weather forecast was for a starting temperature in the high 30s with temps increasing to the low 50s by my expected finish time. As race day approached, those projected temperatures were creeping up. The night before the race, it was looking like we'd start in the mid 40s and end in the high 50s. That didn't sound too bad.

But when I woke yesterday morning, it was already 540. When I finished the race, it was 640. Now most folks love a race in those temperatures. I do too, if the race is early in the fall. That's because in the fall, I'm acclimated to running in warm temps. But this race pretty much kicked my tail because I've been training in 20 and 30 degree weather, with even a few single digit runs and runs in the teens thrown in.

Weather, though, is something that can't be controlled by race directors and it's just something we have to deal with if we continue in this sport of running marathons. As for the race itself, it was pretty awesome!

It started at 7 AM, instead of the typical 8 o'clock start for most marathons. That was a really good thing, otherwise it would have been even warmer at the start and finish. So I consider that great planning by race organizers, knowing that many folks will come from cooler climates to Baton Rouge. The course was beautiful, the first half especially. A couple of miles of it was run through the Louisiana State University campus with lots of beautiful architecture and around a lake that was fantastic. Traffic control was outstanding. A couple of times late in the race we dealt with cars on the road in neighborhoods, but nowhere on the course were we running in traffic. They had the streets we ran on closed down tight. The volunteers were awesome too. A bunch of LSU students worked aid stations, and a bunch of other groups too. Aid stations were plentiful and well stocked. I was offered water and powerade at every station, and Gu at numerous aid stations. Some offered candy and fruit. And there were plenty of port-a-potties along the route. There was good crowd support too. In some parts the crowd was a little sparse, but I've yet to run a race where that's not the case. But most who were out there were energetic and enthusiastic and lots of fun. I was really looking forward to the after party, but was feeling sick at my stomach and didn't partake of the plentiful food and beverages at the end. But you could tell it was an awesome finish festival.

Taking all that into account, I'm glad I chose this race for our Louisiana marathon. I want to thank the organizers, the volunteers, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and all the spectators who made it a really enjoyable 26.2 miles!

So let's get on with the recap.


The expo was pretty great. Part of that was because we went through the VIP packet pickup, not because we paid extra, but because I'm a Marathon Maniac and Janice is a Half Fanatic. This race is really MM and HF friendly. Plus, the clubs chose this race as the 2014 reunion race. So there were lots of us and we were treated kind of like royalty. In the VIP room, they had some pretty awesome sandwiches, some chips, and granola bar type snacks. The food came in handy since we stopped there right as we finished the seven hour drive to get to Baton Rouge.

But the VIP treatment wasn't the only thing that made it nice. There were lots of vendors there, and a bunch of them were giving out samples or other free stuff. The stuff they give away is rarely ever worth much, but it's pretty nice to get something after you pay all the costs associated with running a marathon. The race shirts are nice short sleeve tech shirts too. Another nice touch was the local newspaper took and gave out a free picture of us.

The River Center was aptly named because just steps away was the Mississippi River. There was a nice pier to walk out on and a veterans' museum too. We didn't pay to go into the museum, but there was a cool memorial, two airplanes, and a destroyer, the USS Kidd, all right there. So we took a stroll along the river and got to see some cool stuff when we left the expo.

Marathon Maniac Reunion

At 4 PM, the Marathon Maniacs met in a room just outside the expo. I'm not sure exactly how many there were, but I'd guess a couple hundred or more. The founders of the club got up and talked about the origins and the history of the club, and told a few funny stories about each other. I enjoyed it, because I like to hear folks tell of their running and racing exploits, but that wasn't my favorite part of the meeting.

When they finished their presentation, they passed the microphone around, to everyone attending, and asked us to give our name, where we are from, and our MM/HF number. Several things made this my favorite part. First, there were quite a few who added to the requested information, adding tales of their own exploits on the way to running so many marathons. Second, it made it really easy to spot the Arkansas contingent of MMs and HFs. And finally, I recognized a lot of the people who were there, a lot more than I thought I knew who were running the race.

We sat with our friend Roger from Florida. Roger's also a member of the Red Felt Running Club, an online running club with members from all over the country that I mention here from time-to-time. I first met Roger face-to-face when he came to town for the Little Rock Marathon last year, and that was the last time I'd seen him. He joined us for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, enjoying some great conversation and (you might have guessed it) more running and racing stories.

After dinner, it was time to get back to our hotel and get ready for the big day.

The Race

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. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4

The plan was to leave the hotel at 5:45, so I set my alarm for 4:30. At least I thought I did. I was surprised when I woke and read 5:08 on the clock. It was later than I planned to get up, but no harm done. (I'd learn that afternoon at 4:30 that I had set it to go off in the PM instead of the AM.) After a quick shower, I headed downstairs for a cup of coffee. Then, we were headed for downtown and the race start.

We had no trouble finding a spot on the street to park, probably 8 or 10 blocks from the race start. That was awesome because the Baton Rouge Police Department don't require you to feed the parking meter on weekends. Walking from there to the race start, we passed a parking deck that was charging $10 to park. Saving a little money is a pretty good way to start the day.

At the state capitol building, there were already a bunch of Maniacs and Fanatics gathered. Here was where the MM/HF photo was taken at 6:30. Again, I saw several of my Maniac friends. Janice and I hung out with Roger until the race started. We were pretty far toward the back and couldn't hear the announcer. So it was the migration of the herd that told us the race was underway. As we neared the starting mats, I wished them well and we all began our individual races.

At the race start it was a quite comfortable 520. That's quite a comfortable temperature for a September. But it was 20 to 25 degrees warmer than I'd started most of my runs in the past few weeks. In the back of my mind, there was a little worry about the temperature, but I decided to start according to my plan, attempting that so-far elusive 4:30 finish time.

This time, I didn't start out too fast. I stayed disciplined and focused, checking my Garmin quite often, following the plan to keep every mile between a 10:00 - 10:15 pace. At 5 miles, I was still feeling great as we ran by Tiger Stadium on the LSU campus. This was a beautiful part of the race, through the campus and around a lake. It was just a really pretty place to run.

At mile 10, I was still feeling great. I was on pace and just out in front of the 4:30 pace group. A couple of people had commented on the bible verse on the back of my shirt and we had some great fellowship right around this point of the race. This was right before the split, where the half marathoners would split off and we'd head right to start the long out and back of the course.

I was just a tad ahead of my goal pace when I crossed the timing mat at the halfway point. I still felt okay, but it was warming up by now, and I had serious doubts that the second half of the race would go as well as the first had. I decided to keep up the pace and see how long it would last, so I pressed on.

At the 15 mile mark, I was still keeping my pace steady, between 10:00 and 10:15 each mile. In fact, only one mile had come in slower and that was because of a pit stop I made. But now we were in the sun more and more, and it was getting warmer. The higher temps were taking their toll, but I kept going.

It was mile 18 when I began to feel overwhelmed. I remember telling myself, "I'm going to walk a quarter mile, then run three quarters. I'll do that until I feel rested." So at the 18 mile mark, I slowed to a walk until my Garmin showed I was a quarter of a mile farther along. Then I picked it up to a run, but nowhere near my previous pace. It was at this point I realized the 4:30 goal wasn't going to happen.

This walk a quarter and run three quarters worked pretty well for three more miles. Somewhere during my run in mile 21 though, my hamstring locked up. At this point, I decided to stretch my walk to a half mile, just this once. I walked the half mile, then picked up the pace again. Only it wasn't too far in, maybe a half mile, maybe not, before I was walking again. From here on in, it was a walk/run with no set plan or consistency on one or the other.

I texted Janice and told her I thought I could still finish in 4:45, but it didn't take long for that goal to evaporate. Around four and a half hours in, I told her it was going to be more like 5 hours. I can't even remember exactly where that was on the course, but I was walking a lot at that point. Pretty much I was walking anything that was even a slight incline and when I was running, it wasn't much of a run at all.

With around three quarters of a mile to go, a guy who I had passed and who had passed me several times late in the race, suggested we try to run it the rest of the way in. So we started that all-too-familiar-end-of-a-marathon shuffle, intent on keeping it up to the finish. It didn't take long until he slowed to a walk again, and I was pretty pleased to drop down and walk with him. I picked a spot up ahead and suggested we run again when we reached it. We did, then again we walked. Finally, at the 26 mile marker, we picked up the pace and didn't walk again.

This was marathon number 9 for me, and it was a lot tougher than I expected it to be. But, the weather is something that's never guaranteed and something we just have to deal with if we're going to run marathons. So I'm going to count it all joy that it challenged me, that Jesus Christ carried me through it, and that I didn't need to visit the medical tent when I finished.

I planned to post a bunch of pictures I took on the course, but I'm too tired and still have stuff to do to get ready for school tomorrow. So I'll put the pics up in a post tomorrow night.

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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Break through the wall...

Same workout as yesterday. Still deep in the taper for the Louisiana Marathon. In fact, we're leaving in about 30 minutes to head to Baton Rouge. Driving 8 hours one way to run for four and a half hours the next day, then drive 8 hours back may not make much sense to most people. But it's what we do.

We do it to honor Amanda's memory. We do it to raise awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse. And we do it to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ came to this earth to die, so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Part of what I love about it is meeting new people and seeing others I've met at races before. At this race, there will be quite a few members of the Red Felt Running Club (RFRC for short), some of whom I've met and some I haven't. I love getting together with these ladies and gentlemen. They're from all over the country. RFRC is an online running club that was originally started as the Marine Corps First Timers group on Facebook. That was in 2011, when I ran MCM, my first marathon. It's a great group full of motivated people who love to run, and it's always fun to get to see and meet members.

This race is also the Marathon Maniacs reunion race for 2014, so there will be lots Maniacs there. It's always fun to run races with lots of these folks too. Even though I don't know most of them, you can easily recognize most because they wear gear that identifies them as a member of the club. Whether we know each other or not, Maniacs greet each other when they meet on the course and encourage those who find themselves struggling. And they have lots of race stories to share, always good for passing the time on a 26.2 mile jaunt down the streets of a strange town.

My race bib number for this race is 8740. If you've read here long, you know I always try to match my bib number with a bible verse to meditate on during the race. But last night, I went to bed with the mistaken belief my number was 8940. So went to the only book in the Bible with at least 89 books and found the following verse.
You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. ~ Psalm 89:40

It's amazing how God works. Only the Psalms have so many books that I could match a number like this. But if I'd have looked up Psalm 87:40, I'd have been out of luck. That psalm only has 7 verses. So God used my fallible memory to guide me to an appropriate verse.

Of course, the first thing that jumped out at me was the reference to "walls." The marathon wall is a well-known phenomenon that we all want to break through, or have someone help us break through, or have someone breakthrough it for us. Just pretty much any way to get that wall knocked down so we can make it to the finish line. So when I read it I thought, what a perfect verse to find on the eve of a marathon!

But when I started reading more, examining the context of the passage containing this verse, I saw that its meaning was even more appropriate than I first believed.

This passage in the 89th Psalm is all about God's discipline. The walls it refers to are the walls we build up to protect ourselves. I spent most of my life building those walls, walls to keep people out, even walls to keep God out. As a child I learned to build those walls because I didn't trust people. I didn't trust anyone, so I wouldn't let anyone get close to me. I withdrew into myself and made myself my stronghold.

I didn't want anything from anyone. I didn't take help from anyone because I didn't want to feel indebted to anyone. I didn't even want anything from God for the same reason. I wanted to do everything on my own, for myself, and do it my own way. I felt that if I relied on God for help, I'd have to give up my independence, and parts of my life to repay Him for that help.

For more than three decades, I fought against the tide, forging my way through life without leaning on Christ for help. Then, for the next several years, the walls I'd built, the strongholds I'd put together, began to crumble. Slowly at first, just chipped away at. But when Amanda was killed, those walls came down like the wall at Jericho, and my strongholds were reduced to rubble.

It was then I realized that everything I'd counted as gain, everything I'd identified as important, was temporary and could be taken in an instant. And that's when I knew that without Christ nothing really matters. He broke down my walls so that I could move forward and keep living after we lost Amanda. That was only possible by reaching out to take His hand that He had been offering me all my life.

Now, I'm so much happier, so less troubled, and so much more at peace. Those walls I'd constructed to protect myself were more like a prison and I didn't even realize it. Without them, I'm so much more at peace depending on Jesus Christ and His promise of Salvation.

So cry out to Jesus, let Him be your rock and tear down your walls. That's real freedom, and that's the key to peace in this life.

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Wait...

I got in my Janathon workout this morning, but it wasn't a run. This Sunday is the Louisiana Marathon and yesterday's 6 mile run was my last until the race. Once again, though, my commitment to Janathon to work out and blog about it every day must be upheld.

So I did a few pushups this morning, some ab exercises, and a few curls with the dumbbells. I know it's not a lot, but I do have an 8 hour drive tomorrow, then a 26.2 mile run on Sunday. So hopefully folks understand that a light workout just might have been in order today. Anyway, I'm thinking I'll likely do the exact same workout in the morning before we leave to satisfy tomorrow's requirements.

You might have noticed that I try to tie every day's message in these posts to the workout I did that day. But today's going to be a little different. Everyday I read a chapter in the Bible. For the most part, I start a book of the Bible and read one chapter of it each day until I finish it. I choose one verse or a short passage from that day's study, a verse or passage that stands out or especially speaks to me, and post in on Facebook and Twitter. But rarely do these verses from my daily Bible study relate to my posts here.

Today's verse didn't really relate to my morning workout either, but it stood out so starkly that I decided to write today's message around it. You see, I've read this verse many times, even heard it read in sermons or Sunday school lessons. I didn't know exactly where it was in the Bible, but I knew of this verse, this part of the story Jesus' death. Today, though, it struck me differently. Today, for the first time, I really felt that I was hearing what this verse was telling me.
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” ~ Mark 15:39

All the times I read this verse before, I just read it as a part of the story. Just a line added to the narrative describing the very end of the life of Jesus on this earth. That all changed today and I was so struck at how many times I've glossed over something so important.

This Roman soldier never believed Jesus was the Son of God until the very end. It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon when Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed His last. The sky had been dark for three hours. In Matthew's account of Christ's death, he describes a great earthquake, tombs opening, and holy people being raised from the dead when Jesus died. Can you imagine the fear that everyone who saw these sights felt?

When all these events occurred as the centurion watched Jesus die, this hard core Roman soldier was forced to recognize Jesus Christ for who He was, the Son of God, the Messiah, Emmanuel.

Only hours before, this soldier was likely one of those who stripped Jesus and clothed Him in purple to mock Him. The centurion was likely one of those present when the crown of thorns was set upon His head. This warrior was most likely one of those who marched Jesus up the hill to be crucified. And this battle-hardened man had likely taken part in the casting of lots for Jesus' clothes when they hung Him on the cross.

Until that frightful moment when Jesus died, the centurion refused to believe that Christ was the Son of God. But in that instant, he was forced to admit the truth, that that was exactly who Jesus was, the Son of God.

It wasn't really the change in the Roman soldier's heart that struck me today, but the fact that each and every person who refuses to believe will one day be forced to admit the very same. Every knee will one day bow before Jesus Christ at the seat of judgment. Every. Single. Person.

The believer will bow before the Lord. The nonbeliever will bow at the very same throne before the very same judge, Jesus Christ. And whether you believed on earth or didn't, at that moment, at His feet, in the presence of all His glory, you will be forced to admit that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. You will be forced to admit that He is the One True Path to Heaven. Not one person will spend eternity wondering if Jesus is real, if He is who He said He is.

It dawned on me when I read this verse today how horrible that realization will be for those who didn't believe on earth. For them, it will be too late. He promised us that all who believe in Him will be saved. But so many refuse to believe. So many choose to pursue the temporary pleasures of this life instead of the eternal peace He offers.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to live, to teach, to suffer, and die so that our sins might be forgiven and to open the door for us to enter into Heaven for eternity. If we only believe.

I hope and pray for everyone reading this. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, share your faith, tell everyone you know what Christ did for you, encourage them to join you as a believer, a follower, a partaker of the gift of eternal life. If you're reading this and you don't believe, I pray that your eyes will be opened so that you see, your ears opened so that you hear, and your heart softened so that you will accept the truth that Roman soldier was forced to face on that day 2000 years ago.

Romans 10:9 says that if you declare with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, and was raised from the dead, that you will be saved. Please don't be one of those who is forced to face this fact when it's too late, when you are kneeling before Christ.

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, January 16, 2014

Last Pre-Marathon Training Run

Only 3 days left until the Louisiana Marathon, and today was my last training run before the race. Tomorrow and Saturday I'll have to do some sort of workout, because I've signed on to Janathon, a challenge to work out and blog about it each and every day for the entire month of January. But those workouts won't be runs. Now it's time to rest the legs in preparation for marathon #9.

Today's run was with our normal Tuesday-Thursday group, on our normal Thursday route. Well...pretty much our normal group. A couple of folks were missing, home nursing injuries, and we added a new runner this morning as well. So I guess I should have said our normal group, but expanded, minus a couple of regulars. Anyway, it's always a great run with these folks.

The new guy is also a teacher, so we had quite a good conversation about education over the course of our 6 mile run. We covered the distance in 58 minutes. I was quite pleased with the effort and feel great heading into Sunday's race.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. ~ Proverbs 21:31

Now that the training is over, I feel ready for Sunday's race. Thinking on the verse above, it occurred to me that I am the horse and the Louisiana Marathon will be the battle. God willing, I'll complete the race and cross that finish line. That's something that is often easy to forget.

I am so grateful that Jesus Christ has brought me this far. Through more miles than I can remember, early morning runs, runs in every kind of weather, good runs, bad runs, mediocre runs, God has seen fit to keep me going physically and mentally through them all.

Sometimes, after a successful training program, or even a single successful session, we can get caught up in our human pride and forget that it's only by the grace and mercy of the Almighty God that we made it through. Even when we start out focused on Christ, the more success we have, the easier it is to begin thinking our accomplishments are all of our own making. Too often, the farther we get in our training, the farther we get from remembering that all we have accomplished, how far we've come, is only possible because God allowed it and gave us the strength and the motivation and the discipline to get through it.

Even the preparation of the horse for battle is subject to God's will, but sometimes He will allow us to drift along in that state of cockiness, believing our own hype, beating our chest, and bragging on what we've accomplished. Even so, regardless how well we've prepared, how much we've depended on God along the way, or how much we've drifted and given ourselves all the credit for coming so far, victory is never certain.

This Sunday, victory means crossing the finish line at the Louisians Marathon. Though I feel prepared, as prepared as I can be, that victory, crossing that line, rests with the Lord. I hope and pray that, through my effort this coming Sunday, Jesus Christ will be glorified. I pray that He will use me as He sees fit to draw others to Him.

If I don't make it to the end, I'll be disappointed for a time, but I have to have faith that somehow, someway, even that could be the best way to serve His purpose for this particular race. If I do make it, I have to remember that it isn't me, but He, who brought me from the beginning to the finish line. He brought me to the training. He brought me through the training. And He's brought me to this week.

However this race ends on Sunday, I hope and pray that He will have used me to accomplish His will. And I hope and pray that I'll remember, if and when I cross that line, that it's only through His grace and mercy that I made it to the race, and through the race.

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, January 15, 2014

3 Years Gone

Three years ago today, around five in the morning, I was sitting at my computer, reading through emails and Facebook and whatever else seemed interesting. It was a Saturday morning and I was up early, getting read for a race that was about a two hour drive from home. For some reason that I'll never know, my oldest daughter woke up and came in to the dining room where we carried on a short conversation about our plans for the day. She went back to bed and we headed out to our race. That was the last time I saw our beautiful Amanda alive.

This morning, I ran 6 miles, slower than I've run that distance in quite a while. But today wasn't about speed. It wasn't about time. Today was a run to reflect and to remember what it is that keeps me on the road. For pretty much the entire time I was out there, a little over an hour, with every step I took, I prayed and thought and remembered. I remembered little things we did together -- good times, bad times, and in between times. I remembered that day, that day that is frozen in my memory, as cold as a block of ice. And I remembered the days that followed, the days when I searched and prayed and begged God to show me how to go on.

He answered my prayers and gave me the motivation and the desire and a path to move forward. My friend Jesse Hardy challenged me to run the Marine Corps Marathon with him that year. I never had any intention of running a marathon. In fact, I had often sworn I would NEVER run a marathon. But that challenge was God's way of putting me on a path that would take all the negative energy, the anger and the rage that consumed me, and channel it into a productive pursuit.

For 9 months I trained, and then, on October 30th, 2011, Jesse and I ran that first marathon together. It was harder than I expected, but we made it to the finish line. I'll never forget that first 26.2 mile race, but God wasn't finished with me there.

Since then, by His grace and mercy, I've finished 8 marathons. My 9th is this coming Sunday in Baton Rouge, LA. This race is special too, because it will be the first marathon I'll get to run on Amanda's birthday. This Sunday, she would have turned 21. She never made it to 18. God gave me this gift of running to honor the memory of my beautiful daughter, to draw attention to the dangers of teen substance abuse, and to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." ~ Matthew 19:26

I can promise you this, i don't believe I could have gone on without placing my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I don't know how anyone could lose a child and keep going without His promise of eternal life, and the promise that those who die in Christ will spend that eternity together and with Him in Heaven. I couldn't. If I hadn't turned to Jesus, I don't know exactly where I'd be now...dead, prison, or some other Hellish place. I just don't know.

But I do know that I wouldn't be where I am. I do know that I would not be able to face each day believing this world is all there is, the best there is, and that our lives here can be taken so quickly and without warning. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no hope to hang onto, no peace and no comfort. Regardless what job I held or where I had to lay my head, life here would be Hell.

But that's not how it is. I won't lie and tell you everyday is roses and rainbows and unicorns. I won't lie and tell you every day is easy. I won't lie and tell you that I don't long to see my daughter, to speak to her, to hold her, to hug her, to kiss her, even one more time.

What I can tell you is that I can now face each and every day knowing that, when my time on earth is finished, I will see her. I will speak to her. I will hold her. I will hug her. And I will kiss her. One day we will be reunited and that's only because Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to earth and died so that our sins -- mine, Amanda's, yours, anyone's who accepts Him as their Savior -- can be forgiven and we can go to Heaven, a place of peace, for eternity.

So I thank God each and every day for sending His Son, for offering us that path to salvation, and for giving me a mission that keeps me going. I have missed Amanda for 3 years, but one thing is certain, when we are reunited, the time we spend apart on this earth will have been like a second compared to the time we will spend together in Heaven.

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, January 14, 2014

Self Discipline, Don't Run Without It

Only 5 days now until the Louisiana Marathon, and the weather is sooooooo much better than last week. It was 340 this morning when we started our 6 mile run, and it actually felt warm!

Last week it felt like we had moved above the Arctic Circle. I was expecting a polar bear to jump out at me any moment on my early morning run last Monday. But today, we were back to an Arkansas winter. Even so, it's only days now to my next marathon, so I didn't push too hard. We finished the distance in just under 59 minutes, averaging a little better than a 10 minute per mile pace.

This weekend, I'm going to start with a 4:30 goal marathon time and try to stick with that pace from beginning to end. You might remember my last attempt fell almost 5 minutes short of that goal because I started out way too fast. Hopefully that won't be the case this time. All I have to do is stay disciplined from the first step to the last step. But that is always harder than it sounds.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)

In a marathon, discipline is important so you don't wear yourself out. Lack of discipline, starting out too fast or getting ahead of pace a little way into the race, can result in that dreaded "hitting the wall." In my last marathon, at mile 23, my hamstring just locked up on me. I couldn't run. I couldn't walk. All I could do was stand there, rubbing the back of my leg and trying to stretch it out.

After a couple minutes stretching, I was able to manage a very slow walk. That lasted about a half mile. Then I could finally manage a little shuffling "run." Usually, that's what "hitting the wall" feels like. It's not enough to stop you, to shut you down, just to make you feel bad, slow you down, and destroy your hopes of making your time goal. But there are cases where it does stop you, where you feel so bad you just have to drop out, or DNF in racing speak.

That's what happened to me at last year's Full mOOn 50K. At ~23 miles (are you sensing a pattern here?), I came to the last aid station with 8 more miles to go to the finish line. 8 more miles. I had just walked up a hill that felt like I was climbing Everest, but when I reached the top, there just wasn't anything left. The wall had stopped me that time, again because I'd started out too fast, running hills I should have been walking. Again, my lack of self discipline, wrecked my race.

While that may sound bad, it's nowhere near as bad as failing to discipline ourselves in our Christian life. As Christians, we're constantly watched, under the eye of many just hoping we'll fall and fail. Though our falls don't change the fact we're saved, don't keep us from getting to Heaven, they can have far-reaching, even eternal consequences.

Once we're saved, we have a duty to lead others to Christ, or at least allow God to work through us to draw others to Him. We have a duty to become a lamp through which His light shines. If we lack self discipline and fall, our Christian witness, our lamp, is dimmed. Through our lack of discipline, we turn people away from Christ rather than lead them to Him.

So we must discipline ourselves, physically in the marathon, and spiritually in the most important race, life. Grab your Bible and seek God's word. Read it. Follow it. And live it. It's God's instruction manual for us. We must be disciplined and discipline ourselves if we're to seek, find, and submit to God's will.

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, January 13, 2014

Train Hard, but Train Smart

No run today. It's marathon week so the miles must be cut back. I still have this Janathon challenge going on though, so a rest day from running can't be a rest day from working out.

This morning I did another 18 minutes of Insanity, just the warmup and stretching part, with Shaun T. I actually thought about pushing on through the next set, but decided against it. While I don't remember exactly what came next in the workout, I do remember how hard the Insanity workouts were when I went through the program last spring.

I'm pretty hardheaded, and sometimes it takes me a while to learn. For example, no matter how many times it's come to bite me in past marathons, I still struggle with starting out too fast at a race. It's hard not to run hard when you feel so good and fresh, even knowing there are 26 miles left to run. Another lesson I'm trying to learn is to not try something new during or right before a marathon.

We train and train and train to prepare for these races. Part of all that training is more than just putting one foot after another for a long time on the road. Part of it is finding the best foods to eat, before and during the race. Part of it is establishing a routine that results in successful long runs. Part of it's having the right equipment and clothing. There's just an awful lot that goes into getting ready to run 26.2 miles. I'd say that learning is as big a part of training as working hard.

So today, when I thought about pushing through another 10 minutes or so of the workout video, I thought about what it might do to me on Sunday. Like I said, Insanity's a tough program. The workouts put a lot of stress and strain on your body. So as I finished the stretching portion of the workout, I thought about the pounding my legs and knees and core would take if I continued on.

It didn't take but a second to conclude that continuing was probably not a great idea. So I hit STOP on the DVD player and finished my day 13 Janathon workout feeling good.
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For as long as I can remember, I understood the need for physical training to become a better, stronger athlete. It made perfect sense that lifting weights makes you stronger, running more makes you faster, stretching makes you more limber, etc. I never questioned my coaches about the need to practice, to lift, to run, or anything else they said I needed to do to become better. But for some reason, I didn't see the parallel between physical training and spiritual training.

I can't remember a time when I didn't believe in Jesus Christ. I remember Catholic mass and religion classes at school when I was little. I remember attending Levy Baptist Church when I got older and went to live with my dad. I remember walking down the aisle to "get saved." I remember doing all these things that I was told to do (all important things that have their place), but it seems like all I learned, in all that time was that all there is to being a Christian is to believe in Jesus so I'll to Heaven.

I thought that was all I needed. I had my ticket to Heaven, so I went out and lived anyway I wanted, doing anything I wanted, with no thought of eternal consequences or what my actions communicated to others. I thought I had everything I needed and no Bible, no preacher, no church had anything else to offer. In fact, the only time I ever picked up a Bible in those days was when things weren't going my way.

I can remember thinking, several times, maybe if I read the Bible God will fix this or give me this or do this for me. Then I'd get frustrated when things didn't turn out like I'd hoped. Sometimes I'd blame God. Sometimes I'd just be angry that He wasn't doing for me. Now I realize that I was an untrained Christian. Weak because I never worked to become a better, stronger follower of Christ.

So if you want to become a better runner, hit the road and learn. If you want to become a better ambassador for Christ, pick up the Bible and learn.

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, January 12, 2014

Louisiana Marathon: 1 Week Away!

Sunday's my normal day off from running, but this Sunday it's even more important to take a rest from running. A rest from running usually means a day off from working out altogether, but not today. You see, I have this Janathon challenge thing going on all month, the challenge to work out every day and blog about it.

The rest from running is called "the taper" in marathon speak. It's meant to rest your muscles so they're fresh and ready for the big race. Different people have different strategies for tapering, some lasting three weeks, some two, and maybe some only one. The taper usually involves a significant decrease in mileage, progressively fewer as the big day approaches.

Like in so many other things I do, my taper is pretty unique. I don't follow a plan someone else came up with. It's all based on running 40 -- 45 miles per week. The way I figure it, and there's no scientific study I know of to back this up, if my body's accustomed to running 40 -- 45 miles each week, I'm going to keep running that, every week up to and including race week, with the marathon finishing out those weekly miles. This mileage limit isn't something I came up with entirely on my own though. Instead, it's what God has revealed to me is right for me to do His will. In the past, when I've tried to push my weekly mileage beyond this range, I've fallen to injury. When I tried to get by with less, my race performance suffered. So I see this taper system more of something God led me to than something I just came up with on my own.

I still do a two-week taper, cutting back the first week, not on miles, but on effort. All my runs two weeks out are easy runs, no speed work, no hill repeats, or anything else that adds lots of stress to the miles. Marathon week is when I cut back on miles (and effort). This week I plan to run three times -- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday -- 6 miles each day for a total of 18 pre-race miles. By the end of the race, my weekly mileage will fall nicely into my weekly range, just under 45 total miles for the week.

Usually, my off days are off days, even during the taper, but like I said...Janathon. So I have to do some sort of workout when I'm not running to uphold my commitment to the challenge. So this morning, I did about 18 minutes with Shaun T, the warmup and stretching portion of one of his Insanity videos. Worked up a good sweat, and I really think the stretching will be good for me come race day.

We'll see anyway. But don't expect to read about too many runs this week, since it's taper time.
4 Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~ Psalm 25:4-4

I spent most of my life, really only until the last few years, always trying to do everything on my own. I never sought help from anyone, not even God. I'm still guilty of that from time to time, but I'm so grateful that I finally learned I can really do nothing with Him. If it's not His will, and not in His plan, it doesn't matter what I attempt, I won't be successful.

He made it clear that He will only let me run if I do so for His glory. Before I listened to His call, before I believed that little voice inside my head that Jesus used to explain that to me, I bumped along in my running, never really accomplished much, never found much success, and never really improved. Even after I recognized and started trying seek His will in my running, trying to run for His glory, I slipped back several times and began to run for my own pride and pound my chest so that I might glory in my accomplishments.

Those times, Christ warned me, then made Himself clear when I wouldn't return to what He had called me to do. Injuries, unexplained injuries, struck to humble me and remind me that my running is to serve Him.

So I am indebted to Jesus Christ for dying on the cross so that I can have eternal life. I'm indebted to Him because He gives me the motivation, the desire, and the strength to run. For I know, without a doubt, that I can't make it one step, not one mile, not one race except for the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

So show me the way Lord, and soften my heart so that I follow your will and guidance and not my own foolish mind and heart.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A glorious run on a glorious day!

It's the 11th day of January, 11 days into the Janathon challenge, a week and a day until the Louisiana Marathon, and finally, finally, the weather broke. So today I got to run under a blue sky and a bright sun, a sun I haven't seen in so long, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be back.

I only needed 10 miles to make my goal of 40 for the week, but most of my friends were looking for more, training for marathons further out than next weekend. Fortunately, my friend Isabel, ran 5 miles before we met several others at 7 this morning. We started out with everyone else, but split after 6 miles and finished the last 4 on our own. According to my Garmin, it was 410 at the start. That's about 300 warmer than the coldest run I had this week, and the first time in a long time that I've run under a clear sky.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable run! Good weather and good company and a great God carried us through the 10 miles at an average 10:12 pace. That's on track for a 4:30 marathon, my goal time for at least one of the marathons I run this year. I felt good at the start and good at the finish. It's the first time I could say that all week.

So today was a great day and I'm looking forward to a great marathon week coming up!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17

This week was tough. Really tough. The cold, the rain, the cold rain, the wind. You name it, old man winter threw it at us this week here in central Arkansas. There were lots of times I thought about not running. Lots of times this week, I thought it wouldn't hurt to just skip a run. But I didn't. I ran every day the mileage I had planned for that day.

There were times it felt like my hands would fall off. They were so cold. There were times I honestly thought my ears were getting frostbitten. They were so cold. There were times the wind seemed to cut right through me. It was so cold. There were times I looked more like I'd just crawled out of a lake. I was so wet (and cold.) But each day, I got in my scheduled 6 mile run.

Some might be wondering, why didn't you just run inside or not at all? Well...I can't stand to run on a treadmill. It bores me to tears. And even when I don't want to run, I'm always reminded of why I run, why I can run, why I get to run. More than 3 years ago, before Amanda was killed, God let me know that He would only allow me to run if I run to glorify Him.

Jesus Christ gives me an opportunity to run for His glory. So to me, not running to avoid a little discomfort is not an option. Because when I think about it, I'm reminded of what He suffered for all of us. What pain and suffering was inflicted on Him, that He took voluntarily so that we might have eternal life. How can I even compare the comparatively insignificant suffering I feel on a run to what He went through for my sake?

I can't. So I run.

A little cold, a little rain, a little wind, or any combination of one or more of these makes for "light and momentary" discomfort compared to what He went through on the cross. Not even close to what He must have felt as He was battered and tortured, as He dragged and carried that cross up the hill, as He was nailed to the cross, and as He hung there for hours and hours, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, your sins and mine, so that we would not have to spend eternity in the fires of Hell.

So while this week was tough, it was nothing in comparison. And today, oh today, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the temperatures warmed. We made it through those light and momentary troubles, and were rewarded with gorgeous weather and a great run.

Just like Paul promised in his letter to the Corinthians, if we bear the troubles of life here on earth, if we persevere and push through so that God is glorified, if others see Jesus Christ in us as we continue when others would quit, we'll receive that promised eternal glory that we can't even imagine now.

So persevere my friends, and know that it will be worth it in the end.

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.