Zechariah 10: 7…"Their children, too, will see it and be glad; their hearts will rejoice in the Lord. 8When I whistle to them, they will come running, for I have redeemed them.
I stopped reading many people's blog's and posts because they only tell of successes and victories. Those kinds of stories are only helpful when you also are being successful and victorious. To read some blogs it is as if a person if in God's will will experience continual church growth, greater health, lose more weight, become more and more physically fit, experience perfect relationships, and have all the energy to do whatever whenever.
Since August and the completion of a 50 mile trail run, my right big toe has hurt. I self diagnosed myself, and stopped running, but after almost 3 months decided to go to a podiatrist. He diagnosed it as capsulitis and placed me on anti inflammatory drugs, put me in a protective boot and told me to treat it alternatively with hot and cold water. After numerous x-rays said, "you have a skewed foot, and should not have been able to run 50 miles". I told my fitness instructor about it and she said, "Yeah, the doctor told me that with my bunions I shouldn't be able to walk".
The reality of this life is that it is skewed, and we will never experience a time in which everything and everyone goes our way. Fortunately, God has provided ample sufficient grace and love to overcome a 'skewed' life, and though we shouldn't be able to do what we are called to do, we can do it because "God is love".
1 John 4: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
I run, but my identity is not a 'runner'. I preach, but my identity is not 'a preacher'. I have many facets of my life, and at any moment in time they can be 'skewed' by life. Above and beyond this 'skewed' life is the love of God, in which we can live in, and the blessed reality is that God lives in our 'skewed' life, and gives us love to overcome whatever and whoever is opposing us.
In relationship with God a person is strong, a song writer, a singer and a saved soul.
Ps. 118:14 "The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation."
So, let's be and do who we are. Give song writing a shot today, and then sing it unto the Lord.
Hebrews 2: 11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters(NLT)
I have two big brothers. One is Jesus and the other is Walter. By their very nature, they both enjoy looking out for and over me.
I am thankful for big brothers, (most of the time). Today, being Halloween is just another day the Lord has made, so let us rejoice in another day our big brother has made for us to enjoy.
Proverbs 25: 18Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.19 Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.
Prayerfully notice the thoughtlessness in the American Political Campaign ads. Think about the families and the people who love the political candidate that is being attacked with a less than honest assessment of their record. Not telling the whole truth is a less than thoughtful act.
May the Lord help us regain the spiritual discipline of being thoughtful in all we are and do, in Jesus name, amen
A God thing begins somewhere, and most followers of God believe it begins with a humbled heart in prayer. Our country has problems bigger than any politician can solve. Our country needs leaders whom humble themselves to God.
Thanks to our General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, James Bradford, for providing this guide for prayer called the 7:14 Prayer initiative. I customized it for an hour of prayer beginning at 7:14. Feel free to customize it even further.
"The 7:14 Prayer Initiative
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV
"If my people…will humble themselves"
"If my people…will pray"
"If my people…will seek my face"
"If my people…will turn from their wicked ways"
"I will forgive their sin and will heal their land"
Thanksgiving and Listening
As a student I always perk up at the idea of receiving extra credit. I always need it, but God doesn't have needs as we know needs. Experiment with giving God extra credit. It works as a synonym for glory. If giving God glory has lost its meaning for its overuse, then try giving God credit, extra credit.
Philippians 4 : 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Try this, and insert credit where glory is mentioned. And… give God, extra credit,
Two and a half weeks before making the attempt at a 50 miler I chose to simply do intensive walking and set the incline to a moderate level on the treadmill. About 20 minutes in, I feel a little pressure on the forefront of my left foot, but don't think too much about it. Upon inspection I see that I have developed a blister. A blister?! A blister on a walk, on a treadmill? The same day I am feeling pretty low energy and have all the symptoms of the viral syndrome I was diagnosed with earlier in the year. The next day, I wanted to get in at least one more hill training, and after two trips up the hill, my right calf began to tweak. Great! A trinity has formed. A blister, a calf tweak, and viral syndrome and it is mere days from attempting a 50 miler. No pressure, as Chip and Melissa Johnson confirm their arrival after purchasing the tickets to fly in to the D.C. area. They were coming to video document the God story of helping me get through cancer, cancer treatments, bone density issues, compression fractures, and other issues and return to running ultra's. I gently massage my right calf and find that there is extensive pain all up and down the calf. I meet with two trainers who determine that I was doing the squat's improperly and had placed too much stress on my calf. My taper period would begin early. No running, with daily calf massages with aromatic muscle rubs created a large scent circle everywhere I went. The compression socks I had purchased to help with my calf were red, so I got some strange looks. I took Epsom salt baths, and read scriptural affirmations that I am already the saved, forgiven and healed through a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. On Tuesday two and a half days before the run, I had to see if I could run, so I went out on a six mile run, and I felt fine, until the last 100 yards. The calf began to tweak so I walked home, in a heightened state of prayerful concern. Too many things were in motion to quit now. Rooms had been purchased, guests were coming, and by God's grace it will be alright.
Chip and Melissa have the unique blend of being very personable and very professional. They put me at ease and within a few moments of their arrival it was as if we had hung out together for years and we quickly discovered we had similar rhythms to life. We had lunch at my favorite hamburger place, (Foster's), because I knew my stomach was accustomed to their food. Then, we headed west shortly after lunch on Thursday. I know I am prejudiced but the scenery of Western Virginia and Eastern West Virginia is absolutely gorgeous any time of year. We made it into Elkins, W.V. and were very blessed to see the accommodations so nice. Our first choice of hotels had already filled up, so we took a risk at a lodge. Turns out this out of the way location and accommodation were absolutely perfect (Cheat River Lodge). It overlooked the Shaver's branch of the Cheat River, and the rooms were spacious and quiet. I like to find the start of a race prior to the stress of the last minute, so after a nice meal (C.J. Maggie's) we headed off to the 4-H Pavilion in Beverly, WV. Wow, more gorgeous scenery. After finding the pavilion we made an educated guess on the route the race would take and took a drive. Three or four miles in, it was getting dark and the road had less and less places to turn around, so I recommended we headed back before it got too late. After a good night's rest, we began the day of videotaping the story. Moments into my morning bible reading, my vision began to blur and the tell tale signs of an impending migraine were upon me. I couldn't read any more so I just sat there and whispered a prayer of health and healing. What also began was an epic number of poops. It would eventually set a PR. It would be a double trinity poop day to go along with the migraine headache.
Chip had scouted out a nice place just within the Monongahela National Forest and we set up the equipment right next to the road. The national park service personnel had the place immaculate and there wasn't a speck of trash anywhere. Chip coached me on what his role was, and just asked me to tell the story. Even though it had happened and was happening to me, I remain amazed that here I was, about to attempt a 50 miler after having chemotherapy that resulted in multiple compression fractures just three years prior. Chip then wanted Brenda's side of the story, and Melissa and I hung out at the picnic tables out of ear shot. We chatted as if we were old friends, and the time passed quickly. It was after my normal lunch time, and after loading the gear headed into town for another meal. We followed a few recommendations and had another nice meal and fellowship at a nice sandwich and coffee shop (Kissels). The plan was to go back to the room and rest and then meet at 3:00 p.m. for a shot of my running in practice gear. (I hoped my calf wouldn't tweak, and it didn't.) I laid out all my clothes and Chip thought it would be a good shot, so he began taping the preparation process. I put on everything but the socks and shoes and though none of us were hungry from our late lunch, I knew I would need some food to have been digested by the 9p.m. start time. We went back to the restaurant from the night before and I ordered something mild, but Chip and Melissa ordered a plate filled with all kinds of stuff. It was just an appetizer but it was too much for two people to eat. It was named something crazy, like, "Forty Miles of Bad Road" and it was adequately named. They said it was delicious, but for our foursome, way too much food. I just nibbled on the shared plate of chopped beef and rice.
We pulled into the 4-H pavilion area and took a bunch of books to the packet pick up personnel. The first of the very friendly bunch that had volunteered to make this race happen. The packet consisted of only one thing. A number. Who needs more junk anyway? I still have stuff from the packets of the Boston Marathon, and others, that I don't use anyway. Now begins the lounging time, my favorite time. So, we just hung out, waiting. The weather was perfect. Clear, crisp, sun setting over the mountains, fields aglow with the last rays of the sun, interspersed with occasional bird calls. The runners and crews slowly converged on Beverly, WV, and ready or not, it was going to happen. We had parked by a young couple who had with them my favorite breed of dog. Their female pit bull looked daunting, and as I approached, I asked permission to pet her. I get along well with pit bulls and made two new friends in the process. I still miss my dog, Ace, and the moment of playing with their dog helped distract me from the impending start.
Adam Caseday is the race director and he called us to order at the chosen time for the pre-race briefing. He admitted to being a little sleep deprived as he was a new father, and apologized if he missed any important details. He went through each section of the race, and showed us the all important trail markers. They were two sided reflective strips, and I would come to enjoy them very much in the hours ahead. I asked him if there were any special awards for finishing last, and he made a point of saying I wouldn't finish last. The meeting ended, and then the final dressing began. Soon it was time, and we meandered over to the start. (At a 5k, 10k, or marathon, you will most likely see everyone doing lots of running around, even sprinting, to loosen up. There is also a lot of jostling to get in the best position. Not here.) We just wandered over and waited. Chip was getting video but it was also getting dark so he positioned himself about 50 yards from the start. Adam led us in a heartfelt, faith filled, mature Christian prayer. His maturity in the Lord showed in his prayer and it settled all of us down. I found a place to kneel and humbled myself to God and gave thanks for raising Jesus from the dead, and giving me the Holy Spirit as a down payment for the resurrection to come. I quickly affirmed my belief in the power of the resurrection and stood. Adam asked if anyone could sing the National Anthem, so I pointed to Brenda and he came and put the microphone to her mouth. Brenda has an anointed voice and without any preparation, she just knocked it out of the park. There is nothing more authentic than the singing of the National Anthem, by a bunch of ultra runners, before a race of this magnitude. I told Brenda that I was positively overwhelmed at what was about to happen, and, then we were off. The first section started on a paved road and soon turned off into gravel and up the mountain we went. The first 5.7 miles till the first aid station I didn't want to stress my calf, so I took it easy to get into some kind of rhythm. I quickly fell into last place and fought hard to maintain my position. I passed one couple who had on some serious yellow reflective jackets on a long uphill climb but they would pass me sooner than later. The test for the new phone application (Runkeeper) had worked and at least it would work for the first and last leg of the trip. I turned off Runkeeper after aid station one after 5.91 miles at 1:18:26. I was comfortable with my pace but my right calf soon began hurting. For the next few minutes I seriously contemplated turning around and heading back down the mountain. I wanted to continue, but my calf was hurting. I wanted to be able to run another day, and I didn't want to injure myself any more. I was literally, steps away from turning around when I began to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my left foot. Great! A blister and a calf issue. I began to remember the prayer time at church and everyone had a positive sense of my run, and most had a spiritual comment to make. No one had sensed anything but my finishing, and so I mustered up my spiritual energy and began to apply all I knew about health and healing, and determined that if I was to finish it would take a divine enabling. I tried to remember if the Lord has whispered something into my heart about the run, and I began to reflect on my recent prayer times. I began to quote Ps. 103:1-3especially the part about being forgiven of all my iniquities and healed of all my diseases. I began confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and asking that God's will be done in earth (my calf) as it is in heaven. I also tried to remember if there was some prayer direction the Lord wanted me to take and though it was just a faint idea I would fan it into a small flame. I pulled into aid station two, attempting to not limp. I was now in 12.9 miles. Adam was present and assured me I was in good shape time wise, but I wasn't so sure. He also said that I would really enjoy the next section as it was all trails. (I think he has a sick sense of enjoyment after a just a few miles on the trail.) After loading up on everything possible I headed on down the mountain I had just climbed. Now, instead of the steady rhythm of the forest service road it was the very uneven terrain of various trails, Yokum, Turkey and Crouch.
As I headed off into the woods I tried to remember that Adam said how much I would enjoy it. He would be wrong. He had also mentioned at the pre-race briefing almost nonchalantly that there would be some places where it would be a muddy bog. I had totally misread the maps and elevation chart. I had thought that once I had ascended the mountain that it would be just running along ridges for the duration. In fact, I remember Adam saying that very thing, or at least I thought that is what he said. As I gingerly made my way through the woods it was all downhill for a very long time. During the daylight, I am sure it would be very pretty woods, but at night, all I saw was the trail and the edge of the woods which seemed to be lined with some species of evergreen. Dark stuff ahead. Ooops, muddy bogs, and off went one shoe. What seemed like forever going downhill I finally saw some odd sign, I think it was some kind of a spoof on survivor show. The depressing thought that now that I had run all this time downhill could only mean one thing. I would eventually have to do the same thing uphill. Bummer. There were some torches, and eventually some light and the aid station. Thankfully, one of the friendliest persons on the planet and RD of the Highlands Sky 40 (Dan Lehman) was heading up this team. They were definitely a pick me upper. I went from very low energy to medium energy just because of their high dose of encouragement. I was now 17.7 miles in. Very soon after leaving, I was approached from behind and a very fast walking young man passed me. By this time I had pretty well immersed myself in prayer and it was fairly easy to pray God's blessings upon him as he passed. He was also a brother in Christ, and asked if I could pray for his friend who was really struggling with her stomach. She had to stop multiple times and didn't know if she could continue. (The good news about running at night is the reality that it is much easier and much more discreet to relieve one's self, unless of course you are wearing a glow stick or reflective gear.) He went on ahead and slowly from behind a light got within ten yards and stayed there for a good while. The next time I looked it was dark, and determined she must have had to stop. I almost stopped to help her through the woods, but I knew the time was cutting it too close to wait. I also thought she may have wanted a little privacy if in fact she had stomach issues. I acted on the sense the Lord had impressed upon me as I walked solo up the ascent. The sense was to bless the forests, and to pray for it to awaken to praise of the soon to return Creator. From the moment of the onset of the blister and cramp, I quickly obeyed this sense from the Lord and was continually praying for the Monongahela National Forest to be protected from terrorists, plagues, infestations, and that no weapon formed against the forests would prosper. I probably prayed some form of that prayer, hundreds of times as I would enter different sections of the woods. I had a sense that some form of evil was intended against the forest, and my role was to pray in resistance to the evil plan. Whether or not it was, this prayer activity kept me in the spirit of prayer for the majority of the race. Combined with the darkness, I found myself saying loud outbursts of prayer of blessing. It may have been just a nervous reaction to the animal sounds just out of the reach of the headlamps or the impulse of the Spirit. One way or another, I had been given a mission, and I knew if I was to continue, I needed to be fully obedient to the mission of God on the run. I was in a place of having to rely on God's strength as I was weak in foot and calf. As I ran and walked solo I looked up ahead to what looked like a dawn to dusk light illuminating the woods. Sweet! I was nearing an aid station. However it kept moving ahead of me, so I began to doubt what I was seeing. Sure enough way in the distance the middle and tops of the trees were illuminated. I couldn't figure it out. I kept moving and eventually caught up to a young man whose head lamp was facing straight up into the canopy. I quickly caught up, put my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. I asked him if he was okay, and he seemed a bit disoriented. I told him his head lamp was aimed straight up, and asked again if he was okay. He commented that the ascent was greater than what he had expected. I agreed and we walked together for quite awhile. He was a gentle, kind soul and we helped each other get through the woods. His name was Bo and no longer seemed disoriented as he was asking and saying all the right things. We emerged from the woods and followed the arrows up the mountain, only to be greeted by a head lamp coming from the other direction. I quizzed the runner, and asked if I was going the right way and if he was going the right way. He replied, "Yes, you are going in the right direction, and so am I". Bo, now out of the woods seemed to come alive and was making up time on the road and quickly pulled ahead. After what seemed like a very long time I pulled into aid station 4. Aid Station 4 was all serious business. I was dutifully informed that I had made it by ten minutes but it would be doubtful if I could make it back around in time. It was 3:20 a.m., and I had made it 23.2 miles so far. I didn't take the hint and quickly loaded up, and headed up the hill before I could be talked out of continuing. Bo had put some distance between me and him on the road but was now stopped up ahead and was off the trail. As we met, he said this was the section that he thought he missed the turn last year and went all the way back down trying to find the place we were to turn off. I had just been looking at my phone and wasn't paying attention so I doubted myself for a moment or two. He was off the road shining his light through the edge of the woods at a turn out on the road. We agreed to just keep walking, and we walked, and walked and walked and for the first time all night we weren't seeing the reflective strips that had been so well placed throughout the race. There is nothing worse than to think you have missed the turn off, and you are walking uphill in the wrong direction. We had run and walked a marathon distance at this point, and both our minds were playing with us. I just kept walking by faith, for what seemed like miles and miles. Way up in the distance I saw what would bring such relief. The reflective trail marker. We headed into the woods and I knew I had to try running on the calf and blister or be pulled for sure. At this time my headlamp seemed to dim, so I pulled out my hand held light, and began slowly running down through the forest. I really didn't want to fall, and it was an ever present issue. Miles seemed to pass and I eventually caught up with some runners, but Bo was no longer behind me. I passed them and made my way through more muddy bogs, and tight places edged by the evergreens. There were multiple places where I needed to use my calf muscles and each time was not certain if they would totally pull or cramp, but by Grace they kept working. I then saw what I thought was some glow sticks and a sense of relief that I was nearing an aid station came upon me. I think aid station five had a Christmas theme. It was well staffed and I think most everyone had Santa Clause hats, but at this time of the race my mind was playing tricks on me. The fellow guiding me in and out was overly kind and gave me excellent advice on how the next section would be. He strongly encouraged me to use the portion of this section that was a gravel road to keep running as I was very close to not making the cutoff. There was Christmas music in the aid station, which replaced the Jesus Culture, "Rooftops" theme that had filled my head. Instead of, "I am yours, Lord", now I was singing, "what a jolly holly Christmas, this year." I was now in 27.8 miles and felt a little burst of energy. I ran past campers and wondered what they were thinking of having runners go by them all night long. I imagined them thinking they were going to be having some peace and quiet in this remote section of the National Forrest, but all night long would have head lamped runners crunch, crunch, crunching down the gravel road. I made it to the duration of the road without walking and into the woods I went. It seemed like twenty miles of woods, but it couldn't have. About this time the runners I had passed caught back up and we all worked together to weave our way through the woods on what seemed a difficult to follow trail. We had to stop often to ensure we were on the right path. Because I had misread and misunderstood the trail maps and elevation map, I was unprepared for what was soon to come. I kept thinking we were going to break out of the woods and onto the aid station six at any moment. I was wrong. We pulled out of the woods, finally, and hit a gravel road. An ascending gravel road that was non ending. I hate ascending non ending gravel roads. I checked the time and didn't think it would be remotely possible to get to where I needed to be on time. In addition, I just couldn't run up the ascents with a blister on my left foot and a calf tweak on the right calf. Now, after the last section through the forest I felt my little toe next to my big toe really hurt. I have never lost a toenail on a run, but it felt like this was happening. My feet were swelling and what little extra toe space I had at the beginning was shrinking. I have a size and half larger shoe for these extra long runs, but even that wasn't enough. I met a fellow named John and we both were done. WE both agreed we wouldn't make it in time, and so we just trudged up the mountain feeling pretty defeated. I had already began rehearsing my speech to Brenda, Chip and Melissa who had pre arranged to meet me at aid station six to capture some more video. I already began to prepare myself for the discouragement to come by envisioning myself in the car driving to eat a nice warm, full breakfast. I felt the relief of stopping, and putting on clean clothes, especially clean dry socks. I could taste the coffee, and was basking in the feeling of eating a huge breakfast, and so I again rehearsed my concession speech. The mountain kept growing, but John and I silently kept trudging. I could see head lamps way up ahead and could see the mountain climb would not end for awhile. I checked the time and it was time, so it was official, that I wouldn't make it. Oh well. I kept walking and up in the distance I saw a head lamp, and what I thought was my wife. It is like she has this aura, and even in the dark, I can tell it is her. I ask, "Brenda?" I then, hear, in a firm voice, "yes, now come on, you don't have much further. It is time to start running. Chip and Melissa are waiting and the race personnel are going to let you keep running if you will start running. I tried, and was pleasantly surprised that I could, so I kept going. I decided not to tell anyone about my foot and calf. The lady at aid station six was nice, friendly and encouraging, and gave me permission to keep running if I wanted to. I was ten minutes late. It was 6:10 a.m. and I still had 17 more miles to go. The problem was that I had already mentally stopped, so it took me awhile to get going again. Meanwhile Chip was taping, and the time kept going. My shoes were full of debris so I asked permission to use the chair to clean them out, and after refilling my food and fluids decided to keep going. In addition, Brenda said, "it's all downhill from here anyway, you can do this". So, I kept moving. I felt like I needed some music so I tried to make my phone work (I had misplaced my music device), but somehow it chose to not work. I fiddled with it for a good while, and it only left me lagging further behind. I finally turned it off, packed it away, packed up my headlamp, and kept looking for the all downhill from here section. It would not come. It had to be at least a four mile ascent that followed aid station six. I also saw very huge downed limb on the road that I didn't remember seeing on my way in. John was way ahead, and I attempted to re-engage in the prayer of blessings, and to re-engage the Jesus Culture songs. Soon I was back in the groove and was overjoyed to see aid station seven after 37.1 miles. I apologized profusely for keeping them waiting, but they were all about taking care of me and were some of the kindest aid station personnel. Very helpful, gentle and kind is what I remember. I shuffled off and reminded myself that the final aid station was the next one, so I just kept moving. Unfortunately, there were more ascents than descents, and I wasn't making very good time. I started running a little more and caught up to John, and another runner. Later it seemed there were descents and so John and I started making an attempt at finishing. I remember trying to encourage both us, by asking God for a miracle. I think it was when John said, that there was no way we would make it, and that they were very strict on the finishing times. One second over and you aren't an official finisher. When I asked God for a miracle I was selfishly hoping it would come on me and John, or at least me. Soon afterwards I see that Brenda, Chip and Melissa have come all the way around to get some video footage, and it was nice fellowship. Eventually we passed the final aid station which marked 44.3 miles. I only had almost a 10K to be done. It was 9:00 a.m. and I didn't have a ten minute pace for a 10k when I started. I had resolved I wouldn't/couldn't make it under the time limit, but it was worth a try. It was also beginning to be a descent so John and I both picked up the pace. We both got into a pretty good rhythm, and maybe we could make it. After a very long descent, the crew had set up on a curve for a good shot. A fatal thought went through my head. "Oh, I will leave my belt and jacket with them. I will drop it off as I pass by." The problem was that they were downhill to the left on a curve, and I didn't see that the path went to the right around the curve, so I ran the wrong way, at full speed down by the girls. Big mistake. I never recaptured the energy and all I could muster was a slog from that moment on. John kept going and I never saw him again. The routine was now Chip would take a few shots and then drive ahead. One section, Melissa asked to run with me, but now it was just walking. To make matters more humiliating, the sweeper came up behind me, but he was kind. The runners I had passed had been picked up, and I was now the last one. He was kind, and gentle, but I couldn't move much faster. I mainly walked and kind of ran the last section. He informed me that a runner was lost. I asked who it was and it was Bo, the runner that had his head lamp facing up into the sky. He never came out of the woods into aid station five. I felt awful. Maybe I should have stayed with him. The sweeper said we were close to the end, but after a night of disappointments of hearing that kind of news, I just told him, "I don't believe you." I was right. It was heating up, and the thirteen hour limit had passed, and I knew I wouldn't be an official finisher, but I would finish. Eventually the last section indeed had come, and I veered off the road to cross the field, and I ever so slowly, crossed the field and onto the gravel parking lot, and under the finish sign to the hug of Adam. He handed me a finisher pair of shorts which I tried to refuse, but he insisted. I apologized for being so late, but he was all encouragement. I wasn't overly emotional, but I was overly glad to just be done. I think the six poops during the day on Friday, the viral syndrome the two weeks before the run, combined with the calf issue, blister issue and loss of toe nail issue slowed me down a bit. I told a happy Brenda, that this was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I meant it. To me it was much harder than the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run, but it may be just me. Adam did a great job a RD and the volunteers are to be congratulated on a very well done job at all the aid stations.
The award ceremony and breakfast was awesome. However, I was nauseous and couldn't eat. I just sat and soaked it all in. I was awed and thrilled to know the winner ran almost twice as fast I did. I was thrilled to see the humility among all the finishers, who were just glad to done. I was kind of afraid to take my shoes and socks off as I really didn't want to see the condition of my feet but it was time. Chip thought it would be a good shot, and it was if you like that kind of thing. Indeed my toenail was dark blue and would eventually come off. The blister was kind of different looking, almost like an oblong bruise. It was dark purple on one section and the typical blister was higher on the forefront, and deeper. I had given some books to Adam and he gave them out and I was privileged to sign them and to encourage the much faster runners in the room. As I went to the restroom, John showed up, and looked me in the eye and said. "I received the miracle. I finished five minutes before the cutoff." He was genuinely moved to praise and so was I.
We made the trip back to the hotel just in time for a quick shower and then it was time to head home and find some food. The Cheat River Lodge staff was kind and generous to give us a late checkout. However I was so nauseous I couldn't eat. It felt just like the latter doses of chemotherapy. I began to wonder if all the sweating had not stirred up and out into my system any residual drugs. I thought to myself to ask my oncologist about this possibility. The nauseas would stay with me for days. We stopped at Seneca Rocks and had a delightful meal with an even more delightful view. Melissa commented on how nice all the runners were. She made a point of saying as each runner made it into the aid station they would say something like, "please, may I have some water", or "may I sit in the chair to take my shoes off?", or "is it okay if I have some of this food?", and "do you mind if you could fill this for me?", and lots of "thank-you's". We made back to Virginia in time for dinner and rendezvous with my daughter's family. The nauseas didn't leave and I went outside to play with the grandkids after they were done eating. I was a bad grand dad, as I fell sound asleep on the bench instead of watching the girls. Eventually the check came (I won't mention the restaurant, since I can't say anything nice about it), and we headed home.
Sunday morning's at Vienna Assembly of God whose pastor runs ultra's the day before can be interesting at many levels. Our congregation has a calling. To do large things, with a small group. We are a mustard seed size congregation with a mountain size vision for our local and global community. Some Sunday's in the summer we have less people in the pews than the number of missionaries we support. It still amazes me how much our mustard seed size congregation accomplishes for God's glory. However, we don't have another staff member, and it was late August, and though I pleaded, on my knees kind of pleading for everyone to show up because we would be videotaped, there was still all the set up stuff that normally has to happen. I was glad to be able to walk, and do what needed to be done. I really do think it is better for me to be moving and have something very important to be doing the day after an ultra. I think it helps me keep moving forward in life, without too much sitting around looking back at what has happened either good or not so good. Chip had asked me to just ignore him, as he wanted to be invisible, and so I tried, unsuccessfully. I had already learned this lesson while in chemotherapy. Life goes on, with or without us, and whether you are diagnosed with cancer, are being treated for cancer, have multiple compression fractures or it is the day after running 50 miles, life doesn't stop so you might as well keep moving forward and embrace the life you have with a theme of "What Next?!" The passage of scripture that I preached from was very appropriate for the day. It was Ephesians 6:10. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might." All the pre planned object lessons, combined with the experiences from the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 mile trail run made for a day in which the passage could be understood and applied. Chip and Melissa had pre-planned to leave right after church so there were only a few short good byes to some friends that we had grown very close to in just a few short days.
Be generous in the belief that God has a wonderful plan for you, and just relax, by being generous in the way you think positively about God.
Yesterday, I was in a situation that I was stressed about. My wife gave me an idea to ponder. "Craig, for this, try a new way of thinking. Instead of worrying/stressing over it, just keep saying, it'll be alright. Then, tomorrow you can go back to worrying/stressing, but for today, just choose and keep thinking, it'll be alright."
I confess that was a new way of thinking, and I can see the positive benefits of being generous in my thoughts by knowing, it'll be alright, because God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life.
Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Mile Trail Run.
Seriously, what images come to mind immediately after reading: Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Mile Trail Run?
If I were still a gambler, I would have bet that your first thought was NOT of making disciples of all nations through the building and staffing of bible schools. But that is exactly what and why I am making another attempt at a near-impossible race. Because someone discipled me many years ago, I no longer play games of chance with the money God has entrusted me with; instead, I make and keep a faith financial promise for the mission of God. It may sound unusual, but my first Sunday in church after I was born again, I felt the Lord say to me, "Just take your drug, alcohol, and gambling money and give it as unto the Lord." I did a quick calculation and found that it was in the 10% range, so tithing and making missions faith promises was money I had already been spending. Giving to God has not cost me anything; rather it has given back to me in more ways than I can count.
Friday night at 9:00 p.m., as I begin the attempt to run through the night under the light of the moon (and my headlamp), it will be an offering to the Lord in thanks that I no longer do the stay up all night and howl at the moon thing; instead, I will be running for a cause much greater than myself. You and others like you have been so generous in the past, and though I feel awkward asking, would you again pray for the mission of God to be accomplished, and give as you are able.
A friend of mine is coming to this race to film a video documentary of my journey from cancer through cancer treatments, compression fractures, and the inability to run, back into fuller health and running ultra marathons. You are a huge part of the miracle, and I appreciate your friendship and support. Giving is easy at ViennaAG.com through paypal, and by mail is still a great way.
Here we go again,
To get from point A to Z we need wisdom, as each decision leads us somewhere. Wisdom helps us get to where we need/want to be.
Ps. 111: 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom
Lord, grant us wisdom as we lovingly respect and honor you, others and the life you have given us.
"Lord, Thank you that there is nothing that I can do, or fail to do that can make you love me any more or any less, amen".
To be loving with the God kind of love, we can also say this to others,
"There is nothing you can do, or fail to do that can make me love you any more or any less, because I love you with the God kind of love".
Give it a try. Start by saying it out loud. This is an Ephesians 5:1,2 scent check moment.
Romans 8: 18-23 describes one of life's greatest mysteries. Drought's, floods, storms, and all extremes of nature, are described as the "groans of creation". I think creation is sensing the return of the Creator. How about you? Is there an unexplainable hunger and thirst for more of something or someone that is not quenched by anything or anyone? It could be explained as an inward groan for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory. As Bob Dylan, put a question to us two decades ago, "Are you Ready?"
We are to live in "praise of his glorious grace" (Eph. 1:14). His grace has made us gracious. His glory is making us glorious. The opposite helps me understand it. We are not to live in praise of our diligence, education, strong will, work ethic, intelligence, etc. The end result of thanking yourself if the greatest act of self centeredness which is ungratefulness.
It is fairly easy to be active in social justice issues. I am thankful to be able to drink coffee and address human trafficking in India, "one cup at at a time". If interested in easy, go to www.EurasiaCafe.org look for the Freedom Blend to get all the details. I have a case of coffee in my living room that is a sweet smell of making a difference in the world of human trafficking (Freedom Blend) and overcoming drug addiction (Hope Blend).
What is harder, running six miles in 60 minutes or doing yoga for 60 minutes? It all depends on the person. When I said thank you to my yoga instructor after a 60 minute class she seemed surprised. As I left, I again looked her in the eye and thanked her. I told her I could run all day, but her class completely exhausted me. She had a hard time believing it.
Being thankful is a spiritual discipline and what seems so easy for one person, may be extremely difficult for another. Being thankful may be hard for you, and even intimidating to do. I was blessed to have a mother, who made it one of our families core values and after years of saying thank you, it is fairly easy to be thankful. If you are new to the discipline of being thankful, don't compare yourself to someone who has spent a lifetime of being thankful. Just start somewhere, and practice on someone every day. Being new to yoga and the only male in the yoga class is fairly intimidating, and if I just keep practicing, one day, I will be fairly decent at it. For now, I just do what I can do, and be encouraged to start somewhere in the journey of being a thankful person.
What event hasn't even happened yet, that you really want to happen? Try giving thanks for it, as if it really has happened, and see how it affects you. (It also affects the event itself.)
Being thankful by faith before an event takes places is a spiritual discipline. It doesn't take any faith or spiritual life to be thankful after an event. To live by faith, not by sight means there will be many events that are to be thankful for before they take place.
The NT book of James 3 describes words as a way to steer the direction of one's life. The daily discipline of words that come out of your mouth to be thankful will prove very rewarding. It could be argued that wherever you are in your stage of life and life's circumstances whether positive or negative can be traced to words. Our words have steered us to this position in life. So, let us steer ourselves out of the current negative issues of life, by using words of thankfulness to God, others and the life God has given us.
Practice session. Mentally then verbally form phrases of thankfulness to God. Then, move to thankful phrases to another person. Finally, use phrases of thanks for the life God has given you.
A diverse portfolio of friends provides a humorous and often divergent view of life. One of my friends is going to start running across Virginia along the AT this afternoon. She plans on averaging 40 plus miles a day till she is done. This is her idea of a fabulous two week vacation. Another friend just old me of the joy of blowing up rocks with armor piercing 30/06 shells. He is letting me borrow his rifle so I can blow up rocks. Another friend told me as a kid he was diagnosed bi-polar with a 60 IQ, and told he was mentally retarded, yet he has every bit of product in his store memorized and categorized without the use of a computer. He can find stuff, and quote their prices because it is all stored and retrieved in his highly developed brain. Another friend helped me fix my broken AC condensation pipe. Another friend, felt compelled to address an area of improvement in my life. Another friend just became a great uncle who grinned mischievously when I told him not to spoil her too much. Another friend is dropping off some financial papers on her way home from work. Another friend let me borrow a weed trimmer. Another friend has guided me in developing a list of easily accomplished projects on a work day. Another friend coached me on life, and I was able to coach him as well.
A diverse set of friends ensures a totally unique perspective on aspects of life. I cannot imagine a life without the community of friends. I married my best friend, and we are about to spend a week with our kids and grandkids who are our best friends.
It sounds trite, but it's true. Jesus is the best friend, and he allows us to join in community with all of his friends. Love on Jesus, for loving Jesus opens you up to life of friendship and community with a very, very divergent group.
Thank you for your prayers. By God's grace I was able to complete the Capon Valley 50K. I placed 162nd out of 198 finishers in 7:19:04. (The first male winner's time was 3:52:04 and the first female was 4:30:11)(See http://phdispatch.com/ for complete results). I was able to give away a few of books to the race director, and share with a few runners how the Lord had helped me get through cancer and chemotherapy and return to running. The day was clear and cool and mostly shady until the last hour or so. It was a perfect day for running and communing with God. I made new friends, and reconnected with old ones and fortunately had a great worship song stuck in my head most of the day. I am able to walk fairly well this morning, and Brenda has noticed I am not shuffling around the house, in her comedic dramatization of what I normally walk like.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support for making disciples of all nations through the building of bible schools in some of the most difficult countries of the world.
My friend's offer to match your donations will continue a day or so, and if you feel like giving or have already given, this is my prayer from 2 Cor. 9:6 "whoever sows generously will also reap generously.7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
I stumbled across this promise of God and have fallen headlong into God's blessings in "every good work".
I pray you will discover it and experience it as well. It is an all inclusive promise for "every good work" in one's life.
By God's grace, the next race is the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Miler in late August. It starts at 9p.m. and runs through the night along the high mountain ridges of West Virginia.
May God's blessings abound "so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work",
Saturday May 19th, I will make another faith attempt at a 50 K (yes, five times longer than a 10K) to raise awareness of the need and finances to make disciples of all nations.
Together… is the theme of the missions team I am privileged to be a participant in.
Together, jointly, as one, collectively so much more can be accomplished than alone. Priority One Missions-(Sam Johnson) trains men and women for the ministry, by building Bible Schools and Training Centers.
In February you helped me run the Holliday Lake 50K by praying and giving to the bible college in Cambodia. Last year you helped me by praying and giving to the bible college for Cuba. Tomorrow, I won't be running alone, for we are together in ministry and the Lord has promised he would never leave or forsake us. As I run, it will be as if you were running with me because we are "together".
Help me as I run the Capon Valley 50K this Saturday by praying for me and visiting ViennaAG.com and make a donation for building bible schools and training centers. If you prefer hard copy and a check, you could write the check to Vienna Assembly of God, and put Priority One Missions in the memo line. The church address is 100 Ayrhill Ave. N.E., Vienna, VA.
Three years ago I was two months into R-CHOP chemotherapy. If I come to mind on Saturday, I would appreciate a whispered prayer. I would hope to finish under the 9 hour time limit.
Together we continue to accomplish great things, and move through lots of stuff, as we prioritize the mission of God.
Your almost holy, and not quite right reverend,
The long runs of life are foundational for a wonderful life in relationship with God, through Christ Jesus. Thursday afternoon of this week, I began my long run of 20 miles in preparation for a 50K later this month. I normally do an out and back, so the turnaround point is like a 'mid life crisis'. "What was I thinking?", "It will be 10:00 p.m. before I am home?", "Why didn't I bring a back up headlamp?", "Do I have enough water?" "Why didn't I bring more food?", etc., etc., etc. I both like and dislike the out and back long runs, because it makes it less easy to quit. Long runs are accompanied by games the mind plays, which can be influenced by the Holy Spirit, fear, self and/or Satan. As the night grew darker and darker, I was glad that my head lamp had kept working, I had enough water, I had adequate food, by cell phone was able to ease my wife's concerns that I was out too late, and running solo in the moonlight without the distractions of a busy life put something intangible back into my tank.
What games does one's mind play at the middle of something? Quitting is always an option, and what steps can one take to make quitting more difficult than continuing the "race set before you"(Heb. 12:1).
Lord help us not quit the long run of a marriage, ministry, career, parenting, service, health, diet,.. In Jesus name, amen.
Why is there so much suffering 2000 plus years after Jesus rose from the dead? Why is there more slavery today than there has ever been? Why is there so much social injustice throughout the globe? Why do good people still suffer from cancer or other life altering diseases? Why is the abundant life of God not being experienced by more people? If, like me you wonder about these things, the scripture has an insightful answer. The scriptures point to the devil as the problem lurking behind all of earth's sufferings.
Jesus gave the answers to these questions. Jesus said in John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." 1 John 3:8 gives further illumination on this topic. "The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."
It breaks my heart and soul to think that a young woman, someone's daughter has been deceived and trapped into sexual slavery. How can this be? "the one who does what is sinful is of the devil!"
It is so discouraging to have yet another politician who fails in their moral choices. How can this be? "the one who does what is sinful is of the devil!"
Last night I attempted to watch the local and national news, but the news was inundated with carefully planned and synchronized advertisements so when you switch channels, you only get other commercials. How can journalism sell out their souls and broadcast only carefully selected items that further their agendas that are in collusion with others. "the one who does what is sinful is of the devil!"
The list of injustices by the powerful are endless, and Jesus came to destroy the devils agenda of injustice. The community of God's people has job security. Until the final culmination of all things, and the complete total rule and reign of Jesus arrives at his Second Coming, there will be powerful people doing what is sinful. The answer now as it has always been is fellowship with God. Only in fellowship with God, does anyone have the power and grace to overcome the tendency to do what is sinful. This is the main reason Vienna Assembly of God's three fold mission is to Love God, others and life. It is only when a person loves God, others and life that the abundant life of God is experienced.
What can a person do to overcome all the social injustices? Love God, Love others and love the life God has given to you enough to make the right choices that are not sinful, but righteous. Let us address the root cause of social injustice by inviting the most sinful among us into a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus. It is the powerful that are more likely to commit these sins of injustice, so someone needs to be called to the kings of this world and bring them into a relationship with God. Will we answer the call to overcome the strongholds of the devil by inviting others into a loving relationship with God? It is only in a relationship with God through Christ Jesus does anyone have a chance at stopping doing "what is sinful".
Let us say yes to a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus and then go invite others into fellowship with God. Confess publically and privately the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all the injustices of this world. One day, at the Day of the Lord, social injustice will end. "Come quickly, Lord Jesus".
Immediately after hearing that Jesus expected all of his followers to forgive offenders multiple times every day, this statement was made. It was like," okay? But we are not spiritually able to do this right now", so "show us how to increase our faith". This is a great prayer for any who have been faced with something or someone or some situation that exceeds one's current spiritual state of being. Obedience requires a consistent growing in one's faith. It would be the equivalent of a person who is only able to walk a half a mile, being told by a physician, "you need to run an ultra marathon". The walker would say, "Okay? But show me how to increase my conditioning". Then, over a process of time, as the walker 'obeys' the physician, they will slowly and surely increase their conditioning and be able to run an ultra marathon. Those who are exercise minded automatically understand the concepts that faith can be increased by acts of obedience that are based on scripture. Doing what scripture requires, has the cumulative affect of increasing one's faith, which is the whole range of spiritual experiences.
So… anyone challenged (and who isn't), with something, someone, or some situation that exceeds your current spiritual state of being? Begin by praying the same prayer the earliest followers of Jesus did. Lord, okay? But…"show us how to increase our faith" so we may fully follow follow you, and obey all your commands.
Psalms 73: I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
We discriminate against people when we fail in our telling of the abundant, wonderful life that God has given us. All over the globe the next two Sunday's will be incredible opportunities to invite people to your faith community.
If no one has told you about the wonderful things God does for His children, please accept my apologies. God really does love you and offers a wonderful plan for your lives.
Lord, help us not fail in the telling about the wonderful things you do.
This week at a graduate level class we were privileged to have the professor's wife at the table. She is a fully called, anointed, ordained missionary as well as preparing for her Doctoral dissertation. Just having a woman at the table has taken the class certain directions and kept it from others.
I came into the Church later in my life and I am glad I came in without the baggage of sexism that still permeates much of Christianity. My mom was a leader inside and outside the home, my wife is a leader inside and outside the home and my two daughters and daughter in law are also leaders inside and outside the home. All the women in my life are leaders and having them at the table for all decisions with full rights and privileges is not only a good thing, but a God thing. My granddaughter's see this modeled in our family and are growing up knowing they are equal in every aspects of life, and in some aspects of life, will be given preference on decisions. (They refer to most all our property and possessions as their grandmother's, and I am actually good with it. Our lake house is, "grand B's house".)
Sunday is Vienna Assembly of God's annual business meeting. For the first time in its 68 years of existence, the church board will consist of all women. (That is, if the nominating committee's recommendations are voted in.) Next year, we may need to pray for a man at the table.
Lord, in Jesus name, we bring sexism before your rule and reign and ask, humbly to break down every barrier to the will of your kingdom rule. May we soon see women at every table of decision making.
Luke 6: 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and this was a new and different expression. The good people who had studied and researched what to do and not to do on the Sabbath in order to be pleasing to God became so angry they were "wild with rage". Before we pass judgment on the good folks who were so angry, just remember that though we already understand many things about Jesus, we have not yet learned all there is to know. Whatever we know, we don't know everything, and so being open to new understanding simultaneously with an 'ah hah' moment will remain a challenge.
Lord, help us not get "wild with rage", over anything,
In Jesus name, amen.
My core temperature had been a few degrees lower than usual for a week and I was feeling poorly. Sunday morning I asked Brenda (my wife) to speak the Word of God to me and proclaim to my body, "You are HOT!!!"
Being close to Valentine's Day, it was a joke, but a joke spoken in faith still produced the resulting rising in my temperature to rise to normal by the evening. This morning it was close to normal as well.
Romans 4:17 "calls into being things that were not"
To be a blessing be encouraged to use your words to do less moaning and groaning about the way things are, and "call into being things that were not". Ask your loved ones to speak words of faith to you as well. Our bodies are responsive to the Word of God and can conform to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ.
(Two other good reports of bodies conforming to God's Word was received at Vienna Assembly of God yesterday)
Ps. 37:26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
The promise of being a blessing is that your natural and spiritual children will also be a blessing. This counter's the viscous cycles the dysfunctionality of sin in families brings.
Lord, help us be a blessing, so that the viscous cycles of dysfunctions are replaced with the cycle of blessing.
Let's try something today in our pursuit of spiritual formation.
Little or no thought of what would be a blessing to you, personally and much more thought on what would be a blessing to our spouse, and if unmarried, then what would be a blessing to others.
An example is that one Valentine's Day, Brenda was on an emergency trip to Florida, and I volunteered to watch the children of a family in the church. This gave them a night out, that they hadn't had in years. They really didn't know what to do, because it had been so long since it was just them together on a date. They were so romance deprived they actually wandered around Costco after their dinner. The event gave me the opportunity to speak into their marriage to recapture romance, and to romance one another much more often.
One idea for the unmarried or the married who are separated from their spouse for a variety of good reasons is to be a blessing to a romance deprived young family and volunteer to watch their kids for a few hours.
Today, for my own spiritual formation I had to turn my natural tendency of thinking what would be a blessing to me for Valentine's Day, to what would be a blessing to Brenda.
The best example of being a blessing to others is our Lord who is described in Philippians 2 this way.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
Let us all be a blessing to others today, and all days
Every one of the 400 plus runners came to toe the line with lots of reasons to not be there and even more reasons to quit once it began. This is mine, and only one of the many incredible stories of the complicated lives of ultra marathoners. (It's long so scroll down to an earlier post if you want the short version)
Nine years ago (to the week) a biopsy revealed I had stage four Indolent Lymphoma, (at the time an incurable class of cancer, but thanks be to God that has changed). Three years earlier I had 18 weeks of R-CHOP chemotherapy that wiped out all my fast growing cells. At last years race I was still in a maintenance regimen of chemotherapy. The immediate concern to running this race was the flu like symptoms I came home from a Caribbean cruise with that had left me dehydrated that cleansed my colon all week and left me lethargic. But I was there and after the rough rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, a heartfelt prayer, Dr. Horton did the countdown and away we went into the dark and up the hill into the woods.
I had been pulled from the Mountain Masochist a few months earlier after 22 miles because I was too slow, and so my race strategy had moved from merely finishing to finishing faster so I started mid-pack instead of back of the pack. About 100 yards into the woods a voice from behind asked, "Pastor Craig is that you?" I responded affirmatively and for the next 30 minutes I had fabulous fellowship with another Christ follower ( James @ morethanpaceandstride) as we ran through the forest trails. I fumbled in my pack for something and he moved on ahead with four or five runners between us and I couldn't catch back up. I was feeling good enough to continue and made it to the first aid station where my crew chief Brenda (my wife) was there with fluids and encouragement. I wouldn't see her until aid station 3. I settled into a nice pace behind four very, very talkative, laughing girls. They carried me along in their laughing vortex for a very long time. Another secret goal was to run fast enough to get my picture taken. Seriously, the 2011 HL 50K, Terrapin Mountain 50K, Promise Land 50 and Mountain Masochist 50 miler, the photographer had picked up all his stuff and left before I made it to where they were positioned. At a familiar creek crossing the pack of talkative, laughing girls had slowed to try to cross without getting their feet wet. From experience, I knew it was impossible, so I just sloshed through, and wowsa, the photographer was still there. Flash, flash, flash. Nice. I am seeing people I never see while running, and there is actually food left at the aid stations. I am thinking that I like this pace and the rewards of running faster. There was actually some look of concern on the young woman's face who was the leader at aid station #2 because there was more than just one person coming into the station. (I had met her at The Aid Station on Thursday night. Thank you again). I am still thinking, wow, so this is what it is like. The laughing talking vortex of the pack of girls catches up and I get caught up in their vortex again and go with their flow. They carry me through some gorgeous country and soon aid station 3 comes into view as we descend a fairly steep hill. I reload at the very full table and get fluid from Brenda and away we go. Shortly afterwards a woman about my own age is running near me and asks, "I wonder when the frontrunners will be showing up?", and almost immediately there they were. They were running up the hills faster than I run down them. Now it becomes a bit of a hassle to give way to them, but it was worth it and I eventually see my good friend Adam Bennett who is looking very strong and is making his way back. I also see lots of people I want to be like, and secretly wish and pray for the day to run at their pace. Somewhere along this stretch a very fast female runner passed and said, "Hey is that Burns?" I turned, and though I didn't recognize her I said yes. She was soon gone in the distance and I am wondering if someone had asked her to keep her eye out for me because of my past health issues. This gives me something to ponder for awhile. I also see James, who had given me the God moment and fellowship at the beginning and he is running strong. Eventually I see the lake and a few turns around the lake a young Asian man passes me and then quickly veers off the trail to relieve himself. Immediately as I pass him I stumble on a root and my entire right side cramps up. I literally could not move from the ginked up position. Any movement brought another hidden muscle into the community of cramps. So, there I was frozen in a cramp from head to toe afraid to move. I straight leggedly rocked back and forth to the edge of the trail as runners approach from ahead and behind. Everyone knew what was going on and offered their condolences and graciously offered electrolytes. I thanked them, but I had been meticulously taking replacements and was thoroughly monitoring my fluid and calorie intake. I conclude that the flu had dehydrated me and my electrolytes were lowered with the sickness of the week prior. I also remember the article of myth's by a running magazine that said it was a myth that low electrolytes caused cramps, rather an unbalanced gait. (I am not convinced at this point.) I am standing there afraid to move while standing as straight as possible as runners pass from behind and from in front. (In a Sunday school class of young children this Sunday morning the day after, when I told this story, my granddaughter asked if I could wink). (Only a child would ask such a question.) (I could talk and wink, but that is about it). I was about a mile from the turn around, and wondered how I could get there. Eventually the cramp let go, and I could shuffle sideways, and eventually could walk, and eventually could slow jog. I really loaded up on more of everything possible to feed my muscles and was very careful not to stumble. Problem is that on this section, it is filled with roots and rocks, and a particular stumble was catastrophic for it created the paralyzing effect on my entire right side again. It subsided quicker and was moved from shuffling sideways to walking to jogging a little sooner this time. (More condolences, more offers of stuff, etc.) At the turn around, I asked Brenda to walk with me a bit as I tried to decide what to do. She talks and prays with me, and I decide to continue. 16 plus in at 3:15 and now I have 16 plus to complete. (In fifteen minutes the winner will finish, and I have to go all the way back around.) I still have to get through the upraised roots and rocks without stumbling, and I am serving as a great encouragement to runner after runner who reels me in and passes me by. (I begrudgingly appreciate the opportunity to be an encouragement.) I still had to mount the long, high series of steps that were approaching, and I had to press down my fears. The steps came and passed without incident, and so I settled into the routine of jogging the flats and descents and walking the hills. This worked to aid station 3 where my wife loaded me up with double the electrolyte replacement drinks, but soon afterwards I could only walk without cramping. Now, the wind was picking up, and my body heat was dissipating. I wasn't moving fast enough to compensate so hypothermia would soon have to be dealt with if I couldn't start moving faster. I moved from a walk to a shuffle and this worked until right before aid station 2 when I seized up again. I had made it five minutes before being pulled and so I loaded up on stuff. I walked, shuffled, cramped up, stopped, walked and walked. I eventually got into a walk 50 ft., shuffle 50 ft., walk 50 ft., etc. routine. Meanwhile the wind is really picking up and though I was afraid to look up from the ground as I didn't want to stumble, I glanced up into dark, very dark clouds. Howling winds, plummeting temperatures, snow, ice, dark clouds, cramps, hypothermia, and aid station 1 with my wife and her warm car was soon to be met. Later, than sooner it came into view and at first sight and sound, Brenda reminded me of a vision a prayer partner had of me running this race. Her first words were a reminder of the Wednesday prior in our prayer group, Gladys Melgar after praying said, with closed eyes, "Pastor, I see you running, and I see you running with wings." I had forgotten about it, but Brenda looked at me and said, "Remember, you are running with wings".
HMMM. I guess I can't quit and ride to the finish in a warm car with my beautiful wife after all. I again load up double and now I am peeing way too much because I am drinking more than I need. I settle into a walk 50 ft., run 50 ft., pee, walk 50 ft., run 50 ft. pee, routine. Before leaving Brenda she asked if I wanted to know how much further I needed to go? Yes. "A little over four more miles, you are close, you have come this far, you can make it".
I shuffled off. Another prayer I had was, "Lord, I really don't want to finish last". A feat I have come close to accomplishing often. As more back of the packers shuffled past me, I was seriously re-praying that prayer, and really trying to get the vision of running with wings. Someone in the race had been running topless with a sash holding two very large white wings. I thought I was hallucinating when I saw him running through the woods, but two other ladies were near me and confirmed that they saw it too. I am serious; there really was a young male running topless except for a sash holding two very large white wings. At least I think we weren't hallucinating.
I checked my watch and I was still faster than last year's race when the Lord called me back to ultra marathons after two and half years of chemotherapy, two back surgeries, compressed vertebrae, depleted bone densities, etc. This little thought encouraged me, and at the same time an encouraging song came on my playlist, and I was reduced to crying and worshipping, while walking, shuffling, and you know what. I was a mess. With my long hair, that is close to being long enough to donate (eight inches), I was a sight. The sun came out, so I pulled my pony tail out, let the hair flow after shaking it out, and emotionally worshipped the Lord for where I had come from and where I was going. One of the better sights to a back of the packer is the one mile to go marker. As I paralleled the road, I was emotional and remembered how far the Lord had carried me (with his wings) throughout the cancer and cancer treatment season. Somehow I had passed the two other back of the packers but as we hit the pavement they reeled me in and I had nothing left to compete with. All I wanted to do was finish. I managed to wave to the many runners who were driving home. Many of whom had stopped to console me and encourage me, and a few rolled down their windows to give me a shout out or give me a thumbs up. As I walked and shuffled to the finish line my main crew chief Brenda was there and as I crossed at 7:36 I was blessed to give and receive a Horton hug and thank him for a race well done, and to give God glory for his grace. I was afraid to kneel and offer thanks since I really thought I would cramp up in that position. I got a picture with Dr. Horton, and the woman (Sheryl Mawn 6:10:21) who had asked if I was Burns during the race approached me with a huge smile and began to encourage me. Sheryl related to Brenda and I that she had been encouraged from reading my blogs and just wanted to encourage me. I was very moved, and asked if she could hold that thought, as I introduced her to my wife who was video recording the event. We then posed for the camera and she related (to the camera and me) how overcoming my struggles had very much encouraged her and others. This was such a blessing to me. (I was positively overwhelmed, and I really had a thought that if I hugged her any more, I might cramp up in that position, and it would really get awkward with my wife video recording the cramped hug). At least for me, the near overwhelming flood of emotions as an ultra is completed is difficult to describe. It is a combination simultaneous cry uncontrollably/laugh out loud moment. It's not quite as good as being a grandparent, but like being a grandparent it is difficult to explain unless you experience it.
The wind has increased but the clouds have dissipated, and I painfully and carefully change into dry and warm clothes and commiserate with the others in the bathroom. One of the gentlemen was telling the story of how someone in his crew really encouraged him to stop and quit. I quietly thanked the Lord for my wife who pressed through her own concerns and was able to encourage me to not quit. We shuffle to the car and as we are heading out, we see a few more finishers. With no cell phone coverage we pause and check the hard copy map and change our minds on which route to take home. (This would prove to be divinely inspired). We head back to Lynchburg and then on to 29 n., and call my friend Adam to see how he did. When he answered, he said he was on 95 north of Richmond driving 35 miles an hour in a snow storm. Later I call my brother, who is on 64 East outside of Williamsburg driving even slower in the same snow storm. Though the wind is very strong, we have nothing but clear skies all the way home. As we pull into Vienna, half the town's lights go out simultaneously as the wind has knocked out the power. We pull off Rt. 123 into side streets as it gets chaotic. Fortunately, the church and parsonage has power, but the police have blocked off our street as a power pole has fallen, and many of the town residences are without power on a very cold night. It was good to be home, warm, completed, and to have said no to quit for 7:36. I opened up my computer checked email, and began reviewing the sermon I would give the next day.
Felt good enough to start after a week of flu like symptoms and congestion. Ran with a good Christian brother for the first half hour or so. Ran great until mile 16 and my left hamstring cramped so bad I was stiff legged for five minutes and couldn't move. I eventually could limp, and it loosened up. Every 50 yards it would seize up. The last 16++ was run 50 ft., walk 50 ft., all the while seriously praying. Thanks be to God I finished in 7:36, and have a fabulous finisher shirt. My one woman crew was my wife Brenda who endured some long moments in some very chilly weather. Most positive memory is the compassion showed by the hundreds of runners who passed me, the majority of whom stopped to check on me and offer me some of their electrolyte pills, etc. More stories to come.
Having flu like symptoms days before running a 50K provides a unique opportunity. Since I just completed a cruise last week, I am not sure if it is the Norovirus that other cruise ships suffered with, but in addition to some great memories of the Caribbean, I came home with two of the three symptoms.
One purpose of the cruise was to connect with others with a heart for missions. Waiting to board the cruise ship I sat by a young Asian man who told me his story. He was a boy in Cambodia during the atrocities of the 'killing fields' during the Khmer Rouge regime. He was one of only fifty young boys out of the thousand that started in his particular labor camp to survive. He told an incredible story of traveling to the border after Vietnam attacked Cambodia, causing his guards to flee and opening a chance to escape. He was eventually adopted by a single mom attending an Assemblies of God church in Minnesota. The love of God drew him into a relationship with God, and he attended a bible school where he met and married another Cambodian, and they together felt called to return to their country to plant churches and start a bible school. The love and grace of God shone forth from him in power.
Maybe, like me, you wanted to do something positive for Southeast Asia but really didn't know how. The purpose of this blog is a trinity. One is to give you an update on my health, which is quite good in spite of this current flu like affliction. Second is to make you aware of this very positive thing that is happening in Southeast Asia. And third, I will be running the Holliday Lake 50K on Saturday, February 11, for them. I invite you to take this opportunity to come along side a young family who are planting churches, raising up hundreds of young people and providing a quality education. The bible school is already built and the faculty is in place; he just needs a little help with the expenses. This experience has been like discovering new brothers and sisters I didn't know I had. They are also little brothers and sisters of Jesus, who encouraged us: Matthew 25:40 "…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Thank you for what you have done in the past. You can donate online at www.viennaag.com through PayPal.
We are made in God's image with the capability of representing God in God's mission of bringing every human being into a fulfilling family relationship with God. Every human being is capable of receiving God's wonderful and abundant family life. The problem of missing God's abundant family life is never on God's side of the equation but on ours.
Proverbs 5: 23 For lack of discipline they will die,
If that is true, and it is, then the abundance of spiritual disciplines will bring God's abundant family life into reality for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. To follow Jesus a person will discipline themselves to stop following anti-Christ personalities and ways.
My mind keeps drifting to being in the Caribbean next week on a cruise with hundreds of like minded ministers of the gospel. Meanwhile … I still need to pay attention now.
Proverbs 4:20 …, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Lord, help me pay attention, and listen now so I can enjoy next week and beyond.
It is hard to listen to another person's perspective if a habit of quarreling with one another has developed.
Ge. 45:24 "Don't quarrel on the way!"
Lord, help us change the way we think about the way we interact with one another, so we can listen to one another. Help us acknowledge in a positive way when the one we have argued with is right. For a season remind me that I could be the one that is in need of correction, so I can break this bad habit of arguing.
Just read an article on Patricia Cohen who wrote that middle age is, ""a time of extravagant possibilities". Let us renew our minds so that every day, including middle age and beyond is "a time of extravagant possibilities.
Proverbs 3: 1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Lord, help us renew our minds to the fact that getting older is a time of peace, prosperity and extravagant possibilities.
If you have trouble going to sleep listen to what is going on inside your head as you lie down to sleep. What you are hearing can be adjusted and transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Proverbs 3: 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Lord, help us sleep, so when we awake, we will exclaim, SWEET!
Ge. 22: 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
Let us set aside a few moments all during every day of January, to listen for the Lord's call. When reading the bible, I am struck with how clear Abraham heard the voice of God. It must be possible for a human being to tune in to the Lord's voice.
Lord, help us tune in to you. Show us how to listen.
This has been a season of endings. My need for a medi port has ended, so it is now in some bio hazard medical waste dump. I asked if I could take it home as a trophy, to mount next to my other trophies but there are rules against that kind of thing. My hair has now grown back to a donateable length and it will be offered up to the Lord in its entirety. I will look like a sheared sheep next week. I can tell you, that in every season of life, God's blessings abound. The cancer, cancer treatments, bald head, and long haired season, have all been blessed by the abundant grace of a loving heavenly Father.
Lord, whatever season we enter and leave, we pause and thank you that your grace is and has been sufficient.
Matthew 5:19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,
If tradition is true, then the Maji's journey to Bethlehem is almost complete. This is the eve of their arrival. The day before something huge happens is always a day of preparation (at least for me). Whether it is Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, or the day before a race, or getting stitches removed, it is moment to reflect and to ensure one is ready for the big event.
Times of reflection and asking one's self, "are you ready?" is a good thing.
What commandment have you set aside for whatever reason? The Law of Moses was set into context by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Early in this year, it would be good review them and the ones that have been "set aside", may need to be taken back up.
Lord, forgive us for our justifying our behaviors that are contradictory to your commands. Forgive us for setting them aside. In Jesus name, we take them up again, and by your grace choose to live by them. Amen.
Tradition has it that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem on January 6. The exact date is not as important as the fact that they completed their journey. They worshipped, honored, and bestowed gifts to the baby Jesus. We don't know much about them, except that they did complete their journey.
Some are faster than others, and when a person gets to their destination is not as important as getting to the destination. At least ten minutes a day of integrated, holistic exercise that incorporates spiritual formation with bodily exercise will eventually bring a person to the presence of the Lord. It is consistency with one's spiritual disciplines that we are constantly moving forward. During this month it is my hope and prayer that you have discovered a few routines that worked for you, and will be able to move into this new year with a means to accomplish the God given dreams and hopes in your life. As you wrap up an exercise routine pause for a few seconds and listen to the voice of the Lord calling to you, encouraging you, and blessing you.
Lord, help us enter into your presence and listen to your voice calling out for us to follow you.
Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.
Bethlehem is a short distance from Jerusalem, so it would have been easy to think that the star was leading them to Jerusalem, the capitol city. They were so close, but so far away, and their mistake was costly to the children in Bethlehem.
Some mistakes we make are more costly than others. Today, let us listen to the Lord before engaging in any tasks or activities. Fifteen or twenty seconds to pause and listen before proceeding, may save you and others in your life time and treasure.
Lord, teach us how to listen. Open our ears and the eyes of our understanding so we may follow you into your blessing and away from human mistakes. In Jesus name, amen.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The three kings would have sensed that they were close to their destination. They also would be very far from home, and would have fond memories of what was behind to keep them stable while they journeyed further and further away from home. They would have brought something from home to remember what was behind. I doubt if they brought some black eyed peas and ham hocks to have a traditional New Year's dinner with the other kings and new found friends. I am certain they would have had some tradition to help them remember with fondness their families back home, their parents, their community, their spirituality, and any number of things that had established the hearts of the three kings.
Some kind of simultaneous celebrating of tradition and a new beginning would have been set aside all along their journey to realign them to their goals and God given dreams as well as all the people and things that God had already blessed them with.
Who are the people and what are the things that God has already blessed you with that you can celebrate and remember on this day in which we also by faith imagine a preferred future?
Lord, thank you for the people and things in which you have blessed us with in our past and in our present. Help us establish traditions that will establish our hearts. Help us also keep moving forward as you lead us into a future that you are already present in. Forgive us all our sins, and give us joy for the journey ahead.