Leave No Doubt

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NKJV)

It seems that as we get older, we attend more funerals and memorial services for loved ones, friends and acquaintances in our town, some departing too soon.  The pastors leading the services always do a beautiful job of sharing memories of the departed and comfort for those left behind. We are especially comforted if we know the person is in heaven with Jesus.

I remember when my college cross country team died in a plane crash, I knew my coach was in heaven because of his life.  Whenever we came home from meets I was always the last one to be dropped off, giving Coach plenty of time to share his faith.  Coach Ron would talk long and serious about things I did not understand, yet I knew they were important.   When he wasn’t planning our next big workout, he served at his church.  Coach Ron had a dream to start a Christian running camp in northern Wisconsin. Because of his faith and example, I know my coach is with Jesus and will be there when I get there, too.

Every once in awhile, though, there is someone who we aren’t sure where she stood in her faith journey. We wonder if he is with Jesus.  We pray she is in heaven.  We ask God to comfort us and assure us he is with Jesus. But we just aren’t sure.

So, I want to encourage you today to LEAVE NO DOUBT when it is your turn to go.  Make sure that while you are living, people know you love Jesus.  Tell them how you study your Bible and meet with Him each day for prayer. Let them see the fruit of your faith in good works. Share how you are looking forward to the day when He comes to take you home.  Then, when it is your turn to leave this world, your friends and family will have NO DOUBT that you are now in heaven having TEA with the King of kings!!!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Confirm your eternal destination today by praying with Jesus.  Invite Jesus into your heart to forgive you and guide your remaining earthly days.  Then tell a friend about this heavenly TEA party so she can join you there, too!

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 (NKJV)

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NKJV)

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27 (NKJV)

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

Pebble Pocks in My Palms

When you walk, your steps will not be hindered,
And when you run, you will not stumble. Proverbs 4:12

Why was my nose in the dirt?  Lying face down on the gravel road with pebble marks in my hands and knees, I wondered, “What happened?” Just a split second before I was running and praying for my neighbors.  How had my feet slipped?  My shocked body just wanted to lie in the dust, but my brain told me to get up. So, I pulled my bruised flesh off the rocky ground and hobbled home.

Having a good cry on the sofa was a welcome idea, but then I remembered my busy schedule and this was my only chance to go running.  So, with band-aid help from my dear husband and youngest son, I was soon out the door and running again, this time on the smooth highway, managing to squeeze in five miles before breakfast.

Still, a week after my running fall, I could feel the pebble pocks in my palms and see the bruises on my legs, a reminder of God picking me up. I know it could have been so much worse, as friends have been through broken arms, fingers, legs, ankles, and concussions this year.  But God let me feel it in my hands to remind me of his Son Who also has marks in His hands.  His marks proclaim how He died for the sins of all the world.

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” John 20:27 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Jesus died for you, my friend.  He has nail holes in His hands to remind us of His sacrificial death on the cross.  All who believe in Jesus are saved and will live forever with Him in heaven.  Today, let Jesus pick you up from wherever you have fallen. Believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living. Psalm 116:8-9 (NKJV)

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

God Loves You!

smile-god-loves-you-car-magnetFor the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. John 16:27 (NKJV)

Long before there were Emoji with every face and feeling, there were simple yellow smiley faces with four words, “Smile, God loves you!”

Do you remember seeing these on bumper stickers and binders?  They always brought a smile to my face and the thought, “That’s nice.”

But one day when I was reading the book of John, it hit me.  John 16:27 proclaims that the Father Himself (God) loves me, because I believe in Jesus.  All because I love Jesus and believe He came from God, God loves me!  Even if I mess up today and all my friends send me frowny emojis, God loves me.  He will never stop loving me.  He loves me forever into eternal life in heaven, because I love Jesus and believe He came from God.  What a wonderful promise.

The beauty of His promise is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  Jesus died for all our sins before we were even born, or knew Him, or believed in Him. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13).  That is an amazing love I hold dear in my heart forever.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  My friend, God’s promises are for you. Believe in His Son Jesus and love Him with all your heart.  Tell Him you love Him today! Smile, God loves you!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

 

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

A Runner’s Tea Cupp

runners2O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

What do runners drink? Usually we think of ice cold water, Gatorade and sports drinks.  Those all refresh me after a long run down the highway.  But what do I like to drink even before a morning run?  I enjoy a TEA CUPP with the Champion of champions, Jesus.

Tea is certainly coming into vogue as the new sports beverage, but the brand I want to share with you is brewed with Living Water, straight from God’s Word. Here’s how it works: Before you do your stretches and head out the door, sit down with your Bible and a cup of tea.  Read a selection, letting the Lord speak first. Then start praying, using Bible verses as conversation starters.

For example, to give God Thanks for your health or recent victory or other blessings in your life, recite 1 Corinthians 15:57 and tell Him for what you are thankful.  Even if you’ve never had a victory, Jesus gives us all the victory over sin and death, because He conquered those when He died and rose again.  Then continue your prayers with Psalm 20:5 to Exalt the Lord and tell Him how great He is. Follow this with Hebrews 12:1-2, asking Jesus to help you Admit and lay aside every sin.

Now you’ve finished your TEA and are ready for the CUPP.  I’ve listed more suggested verses below for talking to Jesus about your Call, Understanding your story, claiming God’s Promises, and pouring out your heart with Petitions for others. As you finish your prayers and tie your shoes, you’ll find the conversation continues as you and Jesus head out for a run together.

 T for Thanks: 

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

E for Exalt:

 We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
Psalm 20:5 (NKJV)

A for Admit:

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...Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

C for Call:

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

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Matthew 5:41 (NKJV)

U is for Understanding our story:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 (NIV)

P is for Promises:

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)

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

P is for Petitions:

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Psalm 25:4 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Sip this Runner’s TEA CUPP today, before heading out on your path.  Use it as a conversation starter as you talk to the Lord. When you read your Bible, underline more verses you’d like to pray tomorrow.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14 (NKJV)

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

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

30 Years Ago Today My Life Changed Forever

aISUThis Saturday I will run in the Cowpoke Stampede in Melville, Montana in honor of my Savior Jesus and the lives He took 30 years ago, so that I could live.  I share again my testimony in tribute to these dear souls: Coach Ron Renko, Coach Pat Moynihan, Runners Sheryl Maahs, Julie Rose, Sue Baker, Trainer Stephanie Streit, and their Pilot Burt Watkins. I can’t wait to see you all in heaven!

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

My life changed forever 30 years ago today.

November 25, 1985 was a day of victory, ice and death.

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 at Iowa State University.  Twice a day I met with my coaches and team 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 they were leaving for their 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 a 38 minute 10K!   I kept on running for my coaches and my team, they were like a family to me, they were my church, until that November day of my sophomore year…

The sidewalks in Ames, Iowa were glazed with ice as my teammates and I ran our afternoon workout. We were on our own this day because our coaches and faster teammates were at the National meet in Wisconsin. We thought of them 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 our teammates at the National meet, even though we weren’t there.  As we dutifully completed our workout in the fading light of this November afternoon, we hoped to hear news of their victory at Nationals.

Instead, what interrupted the TV shows that evening was news of a tragedy.  I lived at home with my family still, and was watching TV in our basement with my brother, before diving into another evening of homework.  Part way through our favorite show, newscasters broke in with a special 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 who had just heard the news also.  We decided to meet at the Student Union chapel for prayer, 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.  There we embraced our teammates who remained, and there we heard the news of who was lost. That single accident took the lives of seven dear people, and changed the lives of all those who knew them:  My two coaches, three teammates, athletic trainer, and pilot were taken from this world.

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 cancelled 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.  One girl on our team named Dawn gave the memorial 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.  Why wouldn’t Sheryl want to come back?

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 coach 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.

By the fall two years after the accident, I had wrecked both my parent’s 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.

Soon after this prayerful episode, my roommate was invited to attend the Baptist Student Union and she 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. 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

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.

I traded…

My stop watch 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,

My workouts for daily devotions in God’s Word,

And so God’s Word has become my life…

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

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 3:13-14

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)

 

Today’s TEA CUPP: Everyone has a story to tell.  Your story is just as interesting and important as my story.  The “U” part of My TEA CUPP Prayers helps us understand our stories, so we can better share them with others.  In the sharing of our stories, we are a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness.  I encourage you to share your story with a friend today.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
 I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!

Psalm 66:16-20

New King James Version (NKJV)

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

The Best Water

easter_cross_light_2012_c1Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10 (NKJV)

I still remember the watering trough in our high school football practice field.  Our cross country team ran practices around the field in the blazing sun and gladly stopped for breaks at the water fountain.  It was a metal trough about 3 feet long, standing on posts about waist-high.  Several spigots squirted water out for more than one athlete to be refreshed.  The water, though I’m not certain of its origin, tasted like the coldest, freshest well water on earth.  Perhaps it was those half-mile repeats on a sultry August afternoon that made the water especially quenching.  We would gulp and guzzle the icy liquid, putting our heads under the stream, wishing we could just climb into the trough.

I was reminded of this water when praying and fasting an Esther fast (Esther 4:16).  Though during many fasts I drink water, an Esther fast is no food or water for three days.  Men can do a Paul fast, who also had no food or water when God called him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:9).  My fast came at the hottest part of summer.  The kind of days where you would like to just sit in the shade and sip lemonade.  Though a cool drink was what my body craved, I was determined to honor God by fulfilling my fast.  As my thirst grew, my thoughts flew back over 30 years to that high school watering trough.  It was the most refreshing place I could imagine.

And so I prayed to Jesus, the Living Water, to be that water for me, to quench my thirsty body and soul.  And He did, and He continues each day.

Today’s TEA CUPP:  My friend, our souls all thirst for something that only Jesus can quench.  Let Jesus fill that thirst within you! Drink up His Word each day. John 4 is a great place to begin!

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  John 4:13-14 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)

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

The Runner’s Stance

Runner's Stance2let 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)

Way back in junior high, my P.E. coaches were Ms. Newby and Mrs. Knutson. They led us in many exercises and drills to prepare us for track season. Most memorable to me, out of all their wisdom, is the runner’s stance.

The runner needs to look relaxed while running around the track, even at full speed or while exhausted. Arms are to be at greater than 90 degree angles, shoulders down, and hands open loosely. Ms. Newby described it as holding a tea cup! She told us to lightly pinch our thumbs and first fingers together and poke out our pinky fingers, just as if we were having tea with the queen. By holding our hands just so, we didn’t clench our fists and were, therefore, more relaxed.

As I went running one day recently, the Lord reminded me of that junior high tea cup. I wondered how the runner’s stance compares with the Christian’s stance. As the runner leans forward, pressing on to the finish line, the Christian looks up to Jesus, pressing on to eternal life (Philippians 3:13-14).  While the runner wears out her shoes in the race, the Christian wears out his knees in prayer.  Yet both raise their arms in victory to the Lord.

There are all kinds of stances for prayer, but my favorite is curled up in the corner of our sofa. There, wrapped in a blanket and hugging a mug of hot water, I share my TEA CUPP time with Jesus.  First I read His Word, the Bible, letting Him speak to me.  I underline special verses as I read.  Then I choose a favorite verse to pray back to Jesus, beginning my conversation with the Lord.  From thanks to petitions, I pour out my heart to Him. Instead of having tea with the queen, I’m sharing TEA with the King of kings.Runner's Stance

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Dear friend and athlete, I invite you to hold the TEA CUPP.  Along with “holding a tea cup” while running, meet each day with Jesus for a CUPP of TEA.  Let His Word encourage you, giving you all you need for today.

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)

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)

 

New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

The Final Whistle

soccerIn a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52 (NKJV)

Tweet. Tweet. Tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. The referee’s whistle signals the end of the soccer game. For the losing team who was hoping to score one more goal, it is the gong of defeat. Their time is up. The game is over.  The players trudge dejectedly from the field, kicking clods of dirt from the sod.

For the winning team, the “short-short-long” blast is victory music. They jubilantly dance off the field, cheering and high-fiving as they go, making plans for celebrating with blizzards at Dairy Queen.

You can hear these whoops and hollers, over and over at today’s soccer complexes. Most have multiple playing fields with a central restroom and concession area.  Stretching my legs between my son’s games, I circumnavigated the fields. As I walked, I heard the “tweet, tweet, tweeeeeeeeeeet” repeated again and again, determining the fate of yet more soccer teams and players.

With whistles in my ears and the blue sky above, my thoughts turned to Jesus, His final trumpet call, and whose team will win. In the twinkling of an eye, Jesus is coming.  His trumpet will signal the end of this life. Those who have chosen Jesus will be the victors, those who have rejected Jesus will go down in defeat.

God’s Word tells us that we who believe in Jesus will have everlasting life, but those who don’t believe will receive God’s wrath.  This is one game where we will not get a second chance, no penalty kicks, no yellow cards, no re-matches, no Dairy Queen.  But for those who love Jesus, victory is assured. Thanks be to God!

Today’s TEA CUPP: My friend, today, at this very moment, is the time to chose Jesus.  Be on His winning team!  We want you on our side when that final whistle sounds. Please pray with me…Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner.  Even when I try to do the right thing, I mess up, and many times I just choose to do wrong. I know that You died for my sins and the sins of all the world.  I ask You to please be my Savior.  Wash away my sins.  Make me a new person.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me walk with You each day. Bring people into my life to teach me more about You.  I want to be on Your winning team.  I put my life in Your hands. Thank You, dearest Jesus. Amen.

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36 (NKJV)

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

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

 

New King James Version (NKJV)Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

My Running Story

airplaneI don’t like plane crashes.  When I hear of a plane crash taking the lives of dear people, I wrestle with God.  I tell Him, “This isn’t right!  We still need this father and husband here on earth!”  But I can’t argue with God, because He knows the big story I don’t.  And I remember, it was a plane crash that brought me to Jesus.

In honor of my friends Wendy and Ode and their dear friends Darin and Sarah and their children, I share my testimony again today.  May many people come to Jesus because of their tragedy.

My Running Story
Everyone has a story to tell. Your story is just as interesting and important as my story. The “U” part of My TEA CUPP Prayers helps us understand our stories, so we can better share them with others. In the sharing of our stories, we are a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness. So, as you live out your story, please let me use God’s Word to tell you mine…

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!
Psalm 66:16-20 (NKJV)

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

My running story begins over 25 years ago on a dreary November day.
The day was gloomy, icy, and full of death.
On that day my life changed forever.

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 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 at Iowa State University. Twice a day I met with my coaches and team 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 they were leaving for their 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 a 38 minute 10K! I kept on running for my coaches and my team, they were like a family to me, they were my church, until that November day of my sophomore year…

The sidewalks in Ames, Iowa were glazed with ice as my teammates and I ran our afternoon workout. We were on our own this day because our coaches and faster teammates were at the National meet in Wisconsin. We thought of them 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 our teammates at the National meet, even though we weren’t there. As we dutifully completed our workout in the fading light of this November afternoon, we hoped to hear news of their victory at Nationals.

Instead, what interrupted the TV shows that evening was news of a tragedy. I lived at home with my family still, and was watching TV in our basement with my brother, before diving into another evening of homework. Part way through our favorite show, newscasters broke in with a special news announcement:
A plane had 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 who had just heard the news also. We decided to meet at the Student Union chapel for prayer, an amazing thing for a public university team to do. We met and cried and prayed, not knowing who was on the plane that 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. There we embraced our teammates who remained, and there we heard the news of who we’d lost: That single accident took the lives of seven dear people, and changed the lives of all those who knew them: My two coaches, three teammates, athletic trainer, and pilot were taken from this world.

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 cancelled 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. One girl on our team named Dawn gave the memorial for her friend Cheryl. Before the thousands gathered there, Dawn spoke of how Cheryl was a Christian and is in heaven now, and that if Cheryl 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. Why wouldn’t Cheryl want to come back?

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 coach 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 fall two years after the accident, I had wrecked both my parent’s 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.

Soon after that, my roommate was invited to attend the Baptist Student Union and she 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. 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.

I traded…
My stop watch 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,
My workouts for daily devotions in God’s Word,
And so God’s Word has become my life…

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)

…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 3:13-14 (NKJV)

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)

Today’s TEA CUPP: It was a plane crash that brought me to Jesus.  Out of the wreckage God brings new life.  This is my prayer for all who go through tragedy.  That Jesus will bring joy in the morning. God bless you, my friends.

New King James Version (NKJV)The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Author of my Faith

Basic RGBTherefore 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 is one of my favorite Bible verses.  When you go to church camp, they always ask, “What is your favorite Bible verse?”  I like so many verses, that it is hard to pick just one. So, I share Hebrews 12:1-2, because it sums up my faith, my running story, and my love for Jesus who did so much for me.

Recently my son Kevin was memorizing these same verses for Awana.  As I listened to him practice, the word “author” jumped out at me.  Jesus is the author of my faith. Wow!  Here I want to be an author and see My Tea Cupp Prayers published to encourage other moms and ladies.  And Jesus is an author!

Jesus wrote my story.  He knew my story before I was even born!

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them Psalm 139:15-16 (NKJV)

All my wanderings and tears are recorded in His book:

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?  Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

I imagine Jesus did not have to crumple papers and start over and over again, as I often do as a writer…Web He had the story right on His very first try. And I can be confident that even if I don’t like parts of my story, or the trials in the story hurt too much, the story turns out well in the end.  For Jesus is also the finisher of my faith who promises me eternal life.

And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.  1 John 2:25 ( NKJV)

I’m so thankful Jesus wrote my story.  O Lord, help me be a good author, too!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Jesus has written your story and mine.  Take time today to share your story with a friend.  Be encouraged that Jesus loves you and has a great ending to your story…eternal life!

author

New King James Version (NKJV)The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.