Two Runners United

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)

This week I pause from my summer running devotions to celebrate two athletes being united in Holy Matrimony.  Our oldest son, Jacob, – runner, soccer player, snowboarder – is marrying his beautiful bride, Kelly, – runner, soccer player, swimmer. These two are both hard-workers, goal-setters, and champions of perseverance. But most of all, they share hearts for the Lord.  

Their love for Jesus is what makes Jacob and Kelly a great team. Already in their engagement they’ve prayerfully given all their plans to the Lord as COVID-19 shut down our nation. They consulted God’s play-book, the Bible, and set aside their plans for His plans (Proverbs 16:9).   Their dream of a wedding of 200 by the beach in June became a July party of 25 in the churchyard.  Yet as God pared down Gideon’s army to do His miracles (Judges 7), He has orchestrated this union to be the humble wedding of a former CRU missionary and his lovely lady.  And Jesus will be there just as He was for the wedding in Cana so long ago (John 2). 

Thank you for joining us in prayer for dear Jacob and Kelly, their wedding on July 11, 2020, and their lifetime together serving Jesus wherever He calls and leads them.  

We love you, Jacob and Kelly!!!! Jesus loves you!!!! God bless and keep you always!!!

Love, Mom.  x0x0x0x

Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him… “May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples.”  Genesis 28:1-3 (NKJV)

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (NKJV)

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

4:7 AGAIN

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON!

Has God put a dream and passion in your heart? Is there something you really feel called to do or achieve that can bring Him glory? I had a dream like that. When I was 18, God gave me the dream to run a marathon, but then life happened and I forgot that dream for a time. But God didn’t forget, He let me live out the dream over 34 years later!

I ran my first marathon with God’s help in Bozeman, Montana last fall. My goal was to run it in 4 hours.  After 8 miles my legs were hurting, at 18 miles I was ready to stop, but I pressed on. At 22 miles some fellow hollered that I could break 4 hours if I kept going, so I kept going, but crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes. 

I was so thankful to Jesus to be done, thankful to be close to 4 hours, yet a bit disappointed to not have made my goal.  But later, when sharing a meal with my family, I asked my college son Kevin to look up the reference for “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”  He found it in his smartphone BIBLE.  The verse comes from 2 Timothy 4:7, 4:7 just like my time, 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was then I knew that God had His hand in the entire race, I was in His will.  

My times are in Your hand… Psalm 31:15 (NKJV)

A week after my marathon, I visited my daughter in Wisconsin and heard the joyful news that she was expecting again. After two miscarriages, this was a miracle from God. We prayed for my daughter and her baby all winter and made plans to visit as her due date of March 31st approached. We arrived on March 22, ready to help in any way we could. March 31 came and went with no baby. A week later, we were still waiting for Baby Robin to arrive.

In the wee hours of April 7th, my daughter went into labor. Around breakfast time, she and her husband headed to the hospital. I thought this baby would surely be here by lunchtime. With big sister Kennedy off to her appointment with her Nana, I headed out for a run. As I was running, this verse from Second Timothy came into my head. I realized that the date was April 7, 4/7. I also realized what the verse said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And as I was running I screamed out to God, “No! My daughter’s race is not over! Help her deliver this baby! Bring them both home healthy and strong!”

Dinnertime arrived and there was still no baby. Baby Robin was just too big at 10 pounds, 15 ounces. The doctors decided to do a C-section and finally Baby Robin was born. My daughter finished the race of delivering her baby. Praise God!

I’ve often thought that running is much easier than delivering a baby. If I wanted to, I could stop running at any time (though I rarely do that, but it’s nice to know I have that option). But when you go into labor to deliver a baby, there is no stopping or turning back. This baby is on the way!

Today’s TEA CUPP: Praise Jesus for babies! Praise Jesus for being our strength for running races and delivering babies! Praise Jesus for His Word, as in 2 Timothy 4:7, that encourages us to finish the race, keeping our faith in Him. Keep fighting the good fight, dear runners. Read your Bible, say your prayers, and run your workouts. Keep the faith!

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NKJV)

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:16 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

The Starting Line

Today marks the beginning of a series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. As our country continues to pull out of the coronavirus quarantines, walking and running are some of the sports we can always enjoy. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON!

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Where does every race begin? At the starting line! Where are you right now in your race? Are you still standing at the starting line?

Our pastor had a great sermon about this last spring. He challenged us not to just stand on the line, but to run to Jesus.

How many of us have said, “Yes” to Jesus, but then stayed on the line? We haven’t changed, we still live as the rest of the world lives. What happened? That “yes” was the starting gun! We need to run forward into Jesus’ waiting arms and follow the call He has for our lives!

Our pastor gave the example of Peter who was out sailing in his boat with the other disciples. One morning after Jesus’ death and resurrection and after fishing all night, they neared shore and saw a Man standing there. When John said “It is the Lord!” Peter immediately jumped in the sea and swam to Jesus. He did not hesitate. He did not stand on the line. Peter flew as fast as he could to Jesus (John 21).

That is what we are to do, too. And like Peter, who denied Jesus three times, we come in our guilt and shame, but that is okay. For Jesus loves us and forgives us and welcomes us with open arms.

I love the verse from John 21:4, “Jesus stood on the shore.” Jesus is standing there waiting for all of us. When we cross from this world into eternity, Jesus will be waiting on the shore to greet us. And each day until that day, Jesus is standing on the shore with open arms, ready to help us through whatever trial we are facing.

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Read John 21 for the story of Peter today. Don’t just stand on the starting line, run to Jesus with all your might! Discipline yourself in Bible reading and prayer, the same way you discipline yourself to do your workouts each day.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14-15 (NKJV)

Thank you to Pastor Kyle Zigweid for his inspiring sermon at Big Timber Evangelical Church on April 19, 2020.

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.

Sports in the Bible

And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV)

This summer was to be the summer of the 2020 Olympics. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Olympics were rescheduled for 2021. I imagine some athletes were grateful for another year to practice or to heal from an injury, while others had prepared for a peak performance this August.

Sports give us an outlet to funnel our energy, a way to keep our bodies healthy for serving Jesus, and a venue to live out our faith. Our sad country has been without sports this spring because of the pandemic. Yet now it is plagued again by riots and racism, perhaps in part from being quarantined for months. Let’s bring back sports as a positive place for competition and good health, allowing people to root for their teams, rather than people groups. Let us cheer on all Races as they run the races!

In honor of the Olympics that might have been, and in preparation for next year’s competitions, I offer a round of athletic devotions this summer. This kicks off My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal, coming next year to a bookstore near you! It is amazing to see how many sports are mentioned in the Bible…

Running

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Swimming

And He will spread out His hands in their midst
As a swimmer reaches out to swim,
And He will bring down their pride
Together with the trickery of their hands.
Isaiah 25:11 (NKJV)

Wrestling

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

Play Ball!

He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball
Into a large country…
Isaiah 22:18 (NKJV)

Boxing

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  1 Corinthians 9:26 (NKJV)

Fighting

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

Archery

Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target. 1 Samuel 20:20 (NKJV)

Walking

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear Ladies, we don’t have to be Olympic athletes. But even the Proverbs 31 woman was called to strengthen her arms. After your quiet time each morning, why not make a point to get outside and exercise, taking a Bible verse with you to memorize as you go. It will cheer you up to be out under the big blue sky talking to our Lord.

She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
Proverbs 31:17 (NKJV)

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (NKJV)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV)

Extra Note: To you dear ones who have been praying for my granddaughter…we have another miracle! This past weekend, Kennedy started walking again, after not walking since her chemo began in February! This grandma can’t stop crying tears of joy and thanksgiving. We are walking and leaping and praising God! (Acts 3:8)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Beach Prayer

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light,
The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. Isaiah 24:15 (NKJV)

I’m hooked on beach running.  Sadly, I live in the land-locked (yet beautiful) state of Montana where the nearest ocean is a two-day drive.  If I had grown up near the beach, there might have been no moving me to higher ground. 

There is just something about the rhythmical crash of waves on the shore, the dodging of the tide as it ascends the beach, the warm sun shining down upon my face, and the joy of miles of sand upon which to run.

A few months ago, I experienced all this as we visited our son in California.  Each morning I slipped out of our tent before sunrise to have my quiet time on a bench overlooking the Pacific, praying Isaiah 24:15 (above).

Then donning my running shoes, I jogged down to the beach where I ran in the newly-washed sand on the shore, making fresh footprints with each step.  When I reached the turn-around point and came back, I witnessed a marvel,  most of my footprints had already been washed away!  This reminded me of Jesus washing away our sins.  Each footprint of doubts and worries and anger and wrong words is washed into the depths of the sea, gone forever!

…You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NKJV)

And if you are concerned about those sins just floating around, waiting to be washed up onto another beach, find hope in Revelations 21:1 where we learn the entire sea disappears! First, our sins are drowned in the ocean and then the ocean is no more! That’s how complete is our forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Revelation 21:1 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  As you head into a new year, cast your sins of the old year at the feet of Jesus.  Confess your failings to Him in prayer, asking Jesus to wash you clean. Claim Jesus’ promise to throw your sins into the depths of the sea.  Ask Him to help you every step of the way this new year.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! Isaiah 42:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

Shining in the Darkness

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:1-5 (NKJV)

As the days grew shorter in the latter part of summer, I had a more difficult time squeezing in my running workouts before breakfast on the long-run days.  One Sunday my workout said to run 24 miles, as I was training for my first marathon.  In order to get in such a long run and still make it to the second church service, I needed to leave at 5 a.m. Setting my alarm for 3 a.m. I got up to have my TEA time with Jesus.  But by 5 a.m. it was still dark out, so I took a flashlight and put bear bells on my ponytail.  The big flashlight was a little cumbersome as I made my way down the highway in the last hour before dawn, but I was thankful for the light, pushing aside the darkness, pointing out any stumbling blocks, and shining into the distance to alert possible travelers. 

And I started to think, “Hmm…this would make a good devotion,” as I often do when I’m running and praying.  My flashlight was lighting the highway just as God’s Word lights the path we should take.  We have to get into His Word and read our Bibles every day so we can have this light.  Jesus is the light who came into the world and now His Spirit lives inside us. 

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

Now as the autumn days grow even shorter, I have the same trouble I had in August, trying to squeeze in just a short run before breakfast.  It is still dark at 7:30 a.m. So once again, I pull out my flashlight and shine it into the darkness.  But soon I will have to give up the outside runs to darkness and snow, visiting the gym where I hope I can shine for Jesus, too. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

Another day I was having my quiet time and God showed me this verse…

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

The funny thing was that when I was reading this verse, our power was out and I had only a little flashlight to illuminate my Bible.  I think of how one single candle and many mirrors could light up a room.  Help me be that candle or mirror and reflect your light to a world in darkness.  Thank you for shining Your light into my darkness.  Keep shining Jesus!  Keep me shining!

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Colossians 1:13 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear TEA friend, use your quiet time this morning to recharge your batteries.  Read your Bible. Let God’s Word kindle that spark in your heart, shining out through your eyes and smile and hands and actions to a world that so desperately needs the light of Jesus.

The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed today’s devotion, you might also like A Runner’s TEA CUPP and My Light TEA, Or today’s devotion from Our Daily Bread which I just noticed is on the same theme with another powerful story.

 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Where I Met Jesus

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

This past weekend I had the joy of sharing my testimony at a reunion with my Iowa State University Track and Cross Country team.  Oh the happiness and tears of seeing these dear sisters again.  Thank you, old teammates, for letting me share my story with you…

For 34 years I’ve had a dream to run a marathon. Two weeks ago God helped me fulfill this dream when I ran my first marathon in Bozeman, Montana. The good news is I finished the race.  The bad news is it took me 34 years, but that’s okay. My goal was to run it in 4 hours.  After 8 miles my legs were hurting, at 18 miles I was ready to stop, but I pressed on. At 22 miles some fellow hollered that I could break 4 hours if I kept going, so I kept going, but crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes.  I was so thankful to Jesus to be done, thankful to be close to 4 hours, but a bit disappointed to not have made my goal.  But later, when sharing a meal with my family, I asked my college son Kevin to look up the reference for “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”  He found it in his smartphone BIBLE.  The verse comes from 2 Timothy 4:7, 4-7 just like my time, 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was then I knew that God had His hand in the entire race, I was in His will.  I believe God has had HIS HAND on all our lives, ever since He brought us together and through the tragedy that seared our hearts in 1985.

God’s hand has been upon us all since He brought us to Iowa State University in the 1980s.  I see this in those He called into ministry, in those He blessed as wives and mothers, in those who are leading lives of integrity in your chosen professions, and in those who are still seeking, trying to put the pieces back together like me.

I’ve wanted to run a marathon ever since I was 18.  Like most of us, I was in the best shape of my life in the spring of 1985, my freshman year of college, but it didn’t fit in with our track schedule to run a marathon.  I carried the dream with me into the fall cross country season that year, and then came the accident that changed all our lives forever.  In that one day, you and I lost everything dear to us and our dreams crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa. 

But there is Someone who can pull dreams back up and make them happen.

There is Someone who can give us beauty for ashes, joy for tears, and dancing for mourning. 

There is Someone who is with us here right now, still reaching out to hold us in His hands.

I want to thank you for letting me share my story with you today. I’ve had the blessing of sharing this story with ladies groups over the years as I invite them to have TEA with Jesus, but this is my first time to tell you, the dear people who were all so much a part of it.  In my ministry, I encourage ladies to sit down with their Bibles, a cup of tea, and spend time with Jesus each morning.  We all have this cup called life, and we need to refill it with His Word each day.  But sometimes, our cups spill and everything goes pouring out on the ground, all in a moment.  November 25, 1985, was a day like that.

We all have a story to tell.  Yours is just important as mine.  I think of in the BIBLE how there are so many people gathered around Jesus at the cross and some are mentioned like Mary, but there are those on the sidelines who are hurting just as much, but who aren’t mentioned.  Their lives were also forever changed by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, just as all of us on the cross country and track and men’s team and students and roommates at ISU were changed by the loss of our beloved coaches and teammates.  Thank you for letting me share my part of the story…

I share this in honor of my Savior Jesus and the lives He took 34 years ago so that we could live.  My testimony is a tribute to these dear souls: Coach Ron Renko, Coach Pat Moynihan, Runners Sheryl Maahs, Julie Rose, Sue Baxter, Trainer Stephanie Streit, and their Pilot Burt Watkins. I can’t wait to see them all in heaven!

I run in the path of Your commands,
for You have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:32 (NIV)

This is my running story.

I was not always a runner.  I was the one with the side ache walking at the tail end of the grade school PE class.  I was the one who could never hope to qualify for the presidential fitness award.  I was so slow!  But something happened in late junior high.  I discovered I had something that was needed to be a long-distance runner…perseverance.  And so I left the sprinters to their fast legs and joined the distance runners.  Slowly, slowly the side aches went away and I learned how to run.  In high school, my coach, my team and my workout became the centerpiece of my life.  I was dedicated to a fault, always running my complete workout, never cutting corners, such perfection was my religion.

When I headed to college, I wanted to continue running, so I walked-on as a cross country runner here at Iowa State. I remember the summer day when I walked up the stairs in the old State Gym to Coach Ron’s office to ask if I could join the team.  I was so scared, but he must have already talked to my high school coach and decided to take a risk on me.  A month later I was in the van headed to the grueling pre-season training in Wisconsin with many of you.

Let’s talk about those van rides.  Somehow, everyone knew that the passenger seat in front was a hot seat, whoever sat there got to talk to Coach Ron.  And for some reason, since I didn’t know anyone else on the team, that seat was left for me. When we would return from training or meets, since my parents’ home in north Ames was close to where Coach Ron lived, I was the last one to get dropped off.  I remember him talking and talking to me and I wish I could repeat one sentence for you today of what he said, but I was so young and nervous and just wanted to get home, I don’t think I heard it.  But now I know he was pouring himself out for me, as he did for many of us when we went to his office, sharing his wisdom and love for Jesus. And it was not in vain. Neither were the encouraging words from Coach Pat when I ran my spring track workouts, nor the inspiration from Julie and Sheryl and the smiles from Sue, nor the healing from Stephanie, nor the service from Pilot Burt. None of it was in vain, God had His hand on us all.

Do you recall how twice a day we met together for workouts, running dozens of miles a week?  I was the slowest one.  When the team did 1000 meter repeats, I would finish my 1000 meters just when you were leaving for the next 1000 meters.  I would run up and down the hills crying at the end of the line, but I kept running.  And the miles paid off by spring of my freshman year when I ran my best 10K ever. I kept on running for our coaches and team, you were like a family to me, you were my church, until that November day of my sophomore year…

The sidewalks in Ames, Iowa were glazed with ice as we ran our afternoon workout. We, the junior varsity runners, were on our own this day because our coaches and faster teammates were at the National meet in Wisconsin. We thought of you as we jogged along, mostly in the grass because the walks were so slick.  After running together as a team twice a day for months, we felt a strong connection to those of you at the National meet, even though we weren’t there.  As we dutifully completed our workout in the fading light of that November afternoon, we hoped to hear news of victory at Nationals.

As you all know, the year was 1985, long before the days of cell phones.  We didn’t get news in our pockets, nor text messages from friends, nor emails on a computer.  All we had was television news and corded telephones plugged into a wall. And so we awaited good news.

But what interrupted the TV shows that evening was news of a tragedy.  I lived at home with my family still and was watching Wheel of Fortune in our basement with my brother, before diving into another evening of homework.  Partway through the show, newscasters broke in with a startling news announcement:

“A plane has plummeted from the icy skies and crashed in a yard in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was one of three planes returning with the ISU athletes after a second-place finish at the National Cross Country meet.”

I ran screaming up the stairs, unable to believe such awful news.  I called my teammates at the dormitory (on the corded phone) who had just heard the news also.  We decided to meet at the Student Union chapel for prayer (I think Paula set this up), an amazing act for a public university team.  We met and cried and prayed, not knowing who was on the plane that had crashed, and me not truly understanding the ONE to whom we prayed.

The next day we were called together for a meeting with the athletic department in Beyer Hall.  There we embraced you, our teammates who remained, and there we heard the news of who we lost. That single accident took the lives of seven dear people, and changed the lives of all those who knew them:  Our two coaches, three teammates, athletic trainer, and pilot were taken from this world. Now they are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us.

The grief was heart-wrenching for their families, and for those of us who lived like a family on the cross country team.

Classes were canceled at the university for a day when a memorial service was held for the athletes.  Our team marched in our gold uniforms and sat together in misery in the ISU Coliseum.  Memorials were given for each beloved person.  The one I remember most was the one Dawn gave for her friend Sheryl.  Before the thousands gathered there, Dawn spoke of how Sheryl was a Christian and is in heaven now, and that if Sheryl had the choice she wouldn’t come back to earth, even if she could.  As I listened with tears spilling from my eyes, I just didn’t understand such faith. Sheryl’s mom was so sad. Why wouldn’t Sheryl want to come back? Why?

In the days that followed, I tried to continue my running workouts along the streets of Ames, Iowa, but could barely lift my legs.  How could I go on without my coaches and teammates?  I questioned, “Why, God? Why?”

Since God allowed my coaches and teammates to be taken away from me, I ran from Him, in search of peace elsewhere, in food, in poor relationships.  Yet those gave no comfort. The plane of my life was on its way to crash, too.

I remember the following spring I made an Easter basket for a boy I liked, filled with M&Ms and other yummy things I never ate because Coach Ron told us not to eat sugar.  But then I found out the boy liked someone else so I was stuck with this basket.  One day I decided I would just eat it, and I ate it all.  That led to another and another and another bag of M&Ms until I had a big problem, eating too much and then running 15 miles to burn it off.  Somehow I found out about a group for people with eating disorders on campus. The day I went there were four of us there from the track and cross country team.  The tragedy had affected us all! But there was no group session or counseling that could take away our eating disorders or sins. We needed a Savior.

By the fall two years after the accident, I had wrecked both my parents’ cars, my bike was stolen, my life was a mess.  One morning on my way to class, I stopped by the chapel of the church where I grew up.  I got down on my knees and poured out my heart to God, asking Him to help me through the mess I had made of my life.  For half an hour I prayed and prayed in that empty church.   When I left the chapel, my heart was lighter, even though I did not know what God was going to do.

Some of you must have been praying for me, because a short time later, my roommates (Becky and Sarah) were invited to attend the Baptist Student Union and brought me along.  It was in the weekly testimonies and singing, that I got to know the Savior of my soul, and my forever friend, Jesus Christ. I learned how God sent His only Son to die for our sins and someday we will be in heaven with Him and all our loved ones. My quest was over – I learned…

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (NKJV)

This was truly a miracle from God.  Jesus gave me the peace and comfort for which I’d been searching.  He washed away all my sins and mistakes.  He took my broken soul and healed me. He filled my teacup.

I traded…

My stopwatch for the cross of Christ,

My will for God’s will,

My earthly coaches for a heavenly Father who will never leave me nor forsake me,

And instead of beginning my day with a workout, I begin it with daily devotions in God’s Word,

And so God’s Word has become my life…

And, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…the task of testifying the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 (NIV)

My friends, PLEASE DON’T WAIT FOR ANOTHER PLANE CRASH to turn your heart to Jesus! Look unto Jesus TODAY! 

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)

The Lord is calling us to know Jesus, to meet with Him each day!

Whatever you are facing, wherever your tea has spilled, reach out to Jesus and let Him heal your circumstances, let Him refill your cup with His Word and promises. Let Jesus give you back your dreams. Let Him hold you in the palm of His Hands.  And someday, we will all be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.” And Jesus will say, “Well done.” And we will be reunited with these loved ones who went before us into glory, and they will welcome us with open arms like it was just yesterday, and we will have that celebration that never happened the day after the race.  It will be a day of victory!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV) 

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) 

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds.
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms… Deuteronomy 33:26-27 (NKJV)

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Philippians 2:16 (NKJV)

My times are in Your hand Psalm 31:15 (NKJV)

 Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson and Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984

Buckets & Babies

…so that I may finish my race with joy… Acts 20:24

In early 2018, I came across a bucket list I had written in 2010 after losing our babies. It was just a short list, but the things on it I could only do with God’s help. As I read over the list, I was delighted that Jesus had already blessed me with two items…our precious baby Joel and publishing My TEA CUPP Prayers. So, I just had to finish the list.

Last year, with God’s strength, I ran half of the marathon on my bucket list. It went well, so I thought I’d train for the whole marathon this year. And now it is just a month away on September 8th! My whole body hurts, but I’m still training!  One thing that made last year’s run special was dedicating it to moms and babies everywhere.  I’d like to do that again this year.

A 2015 report of abortions in the United States, says there were 638,169 babies killed that year.  That’s 638,169 lives lost and mamas with hurting hearts. If I divide that number by 365 days and again by 24 hours and multiply by the 4 hours I estimate my race to be, that means almost 300 babies will die while I am running the marathon on September 8th.  That is very sad.

So, what can we do?  We can pray!  Pray for moms to keep their babies, reaching out for help from organizations such as the Morning Center in Memphis, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia.  The Morning Center exists to partner with the local Church to provide prenatal through postpartum care to moms in need, in the name of Jesus.

We can also give.  If you’d like to give a gift per mile to the Morning Center for my marathon, you can give online or mail a check to The Morning Center, 3638 Macon Rd, Memphis, TN 38122.  $1/mile would be $26, $2/mile would be $52, etc.  You can put a note in the memo, “Morning Marathon” or “All 4 Jesus,” that’s what will be on my t-shirt this year.

Thank you so much for helping me help moms and babies, in the name of Jesus! Please pray for Jesus to keep me healthy so I can finish my race with joy.  Thank you!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Psalm 127:3 (NKJV)

let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus... Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

My Sauna Prayers

But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings…
Malachi 4:2 (NKJV)

In January I joined a gym for the first time in my life.  It was not my idea.  I don’t like exercising indoors.  I like looking up at the big blue sky and smiling at Jesus as I run.  Treadmills are not my friends.  They don’t shine on me like God does with His sunshine.  And the numbers creep forward so slowly, except when I’m doing intervals, then the walking minutes seem much faster than the running minutes! I found the elliptical machine to be more kind than the treadmill.

But I am thankful our little town has a gym, what a blessing to so many people who need to get exercise in winter and year-round for various reasons.  There is something inspiring about the gym. Seeing others energetically exercising encourages me to press on, just as when we meet with believers at church every Sunday we are encouraged to press on in our faith. At the fitness center, people are there as part of a diabetes program, walking for their health, lifting weights to ward off osteoporosis, or training for their next Ironman.  I joined the gym for the sauna.

My doctor told me in December that I would need surgery because of benign tumors.  My oldest son did some research and convinced me to give Jesus and natural remedies a try first.  I asked many counselors (Proverbs 15:22): Friends with similar ailments, a naturopathic doctor, essential oil references, and so on, and decided to do it all with much prayer! One of the treatments is to sweat out the toxins that our bodies hold onto in a sauna.

One morning while perspiring on the top bench of this wooden room, I was praying for Jesus to heal me, to sweat out the icky stuff from me, and to shrink the tumors.  I thought how much God’s Word is like a sauna.  When we climb into it and read of His holiness and our sinfulness, we sweat out our sins.  He purifies us in the crucible of His Word!

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

And so I prayed, Dear Jesus, please sweat out these toxins from my body, and heal me.  And please forgive me, too, sweat out the toxins from my heart, all my sins and pride and selfishness and wrong words and…wash me clean with Your precious blood and fill me with Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
Save me, and I shall be saved,
For You are my praise.
Jeremiah 17:14 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Just as regular exercise is necessary to keep our bodies in shape, regular time in God’s Word is essential to keep our hearts pure.  Dear friend, please schedule time daily with Jesus, sharing a CUPP of TEA and reading His Word, using Bible verses to pour your heart out to Jesus in prayer.  You might have to set your alarm extra early, but even more than the gym, it is worth it!

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
1 Timothy 4:8 (NKJV)

…To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:5-6 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

 

Running with Jesus

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

This one is for you, the lady in whose heart God has put a dream…

On September 9, 2018, with God’s gracious help, I completed half of a goal I’ve had since I was 18 years old, to run a marathon. Over the summer, I signed up, trained, and ran the Bozeman Half Marathon in Bozeman, Montana.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of Jesus, my family cheering, and friends praying.  It was a long road!

When I was 18, it was no trouble for me to go out for a training run of 12 miles.  Our college cross country coach often gave us workouts that included a long run on Sunday afternoons.  And that was the easy day!  My friend Laura wanted me to run a marathon with her, but I hesitated because I was training for 10Ks.  But my 10K training came to a screeching halt in the fall of my sophomore year when my coaches and teammates died in a plane crash while traveling home from a victorious national meet.

I could barely run three miles after that disaster.  The grief made my heart and legs so heavy.  Slowly I started running again, but I also developed an eating disorder until Jesus saved me, so I was never in the such good shape again. Then came the blessing of marriage and children, and praying for more children, and not running so I could get pregnant, and before I knew it I was 52 and still hadn’t run that marathon I’d always wanted to do. So, this year, with God’s help, I set out to accomplish half the task, hoping to do the full marathon next year.  I looked up a free workout at coolrunning.com.

Each training morning, I’d get up super early to have my quiet time with Jesus before heading out on a run.  Then I’d take Jesus with me as I kept praying and singing songs in my head to Him.  When I had tight muscles in July I told friends at church and they must have prayed, because I got better and kept running.  When smoke filled the August skies, I kept running, even though it was probably bad for my health. I’m so thankful that I can still run in my second half-century of life!  As the day of the race drew nearer my stomach started acting up.  I tried to be careful about what I was eating, but it was still a mess the day before the race.

But when the day of the race came, my muscles didn’t hurt and my tummy behaved itself and God gave me the strength to run it!  I planned it so that each mile I sang a different song or Bible verse in my head that followed My TEA CUPP Prayers. I’ve also done this as I’ve driven to doctor appointments and other events. It helps the miles go by and encourages me as I run. Here are the songs I “played” in my head:

Mile 1: T – Psalm 100:4 I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart
Mile 2: T – Give thanks with a grateful heart
Mile 3: E – Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord
Mile 4: E – Psalm 63:3 Thy lovingkindness is better than life
Mile 5: A – Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God
Mile 6: A – I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken
Mile 7: C – Psalm 107:2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so
Mile 8: C – Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Mile 9: U – Hebrews 12:1-2  If then we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..
Mile 10: U – Amazing Grace, my chains are gone
Mile 11: P – I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God
Mile 12: P – I believe in God the Father, I believe in Jesus Christ
Mile 13: Pet – The Lord’s Prayer and The Joy of the Lord is my strength

The day of the race came.  I didn’t sleep very well the night before.  I got up at 4 a.m. and had a banana and peanut butter and Gatorade for my quiet time with Jesus.  Then I stretched and packed up to leave home at 5:45 a.m., taking another banana and Gatorade for the road.  My husband and our three sons came to cheer me on.  We arrived in Bozeman at 6:45 a.m. and found a parking spot near Main Street. We walked to the designated shuttle area and found several school buses already full of runners.  I was hoping for a restroom, but there were none in sight.  I hugged my family good-bye and hopped on a bus, sitting in the front seat next to a lady in purple, my favorite color.

It turned out the lady was from North Carolina, 65 years old, and had just run a half marathon the week before in Jackson, Wyoming. God bless sweet Sarah Anne from North Carolina!  When we arrived at the starting-line, there were two dozen porta-potties awaiting us.  Whew, that was a blessing! There I met other runners older than me who were running a half marathon in every state. They call themselves 50-staters. And I just wanted to finish one race! Woah, talk about keeping me humble!

News came that the full marathon that was to begin at 7 a.m. had been delayed 10 minutes, so they were delaying our 8 a.m. start as well.  The runners tried to calm their jitters by stretching and chatting in the starting-line crowd.  Finally, the gun went off and people began running.  I took off, too, joining the throng.

For some mysterious reason, in all my planning and packing, I had forgotten my wrist watch to time myself.  My goal was to run 10-minute miles.  But now I had no watch to keep track of my pace.  So I just ran.  Occasionally, God would tell me to pass some runners.  In the past, I’ve always let the runners ahead of me stay ahead of me.  But this race I had dedicated to The Morning Center, a ministry that helps women and babies in Memphis, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. Very dear friends had sponsored me by the mile in support of The Morning Center. On the back of my t-shirt I had written, “Running for Moms and Babies and JESUS.”  I thought perhaps God wanted others to read my shirt. He gave me the strength to pass them, so I did.  At one point, a gal in light pink passed me and thanked me for my shirt.  That was pretty cool.

The course was so fantastic, that I don’t think I ever want to run anywhere else. The 13.1 mile route began in the foothills south of Bozeman, passing ranches and beautiful neighborhoods, until we reached Willson Ave. and then Main Street.  Though there were some uphill climbs, it was mostly downhill in elevation, making for a delightful run.  When I grew weary, I remembered what my friend Beth said about God pushing me and I asked Him to keep pushing. When we turned onto the final few blocks on Main Street, my legs were so heavy, but I pressed on.  When I saw my time as I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  For I ran it in under two hours, 1 hour and 57 minutes, faster than I ever dreamed, because I didn’t have my watch and I listened when the Lord told me to pass people. Tears filled my eyes as I thanked Jesus and hugged my family. 34 years after God first put the dream in my heart, I finished half a marathon.  I’m still thanking and praising Jesus for helping me run!

Stay tuned until next year to see if I can do the full marathon!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Did God put a dream in your heart years ago that you would still like to see completed?  My friend, it is never too late.  Pray to Jesus and ask for His help.  Take the first step. Then the second step.  And before you know it, you will have run a marathon!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson