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

Rivers of Living Water

 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (NKJV)

My feet pounded the paved highway as the gentle May rain misted down upon my face.  Determined to get my run in for the day regardless of the weather, I plodded along, thankful for little traffic.  But every once in awhile a vehicle would zoom past, forcing me into the drenched tall grass at the shoulder.  Instantly my new running shoes were soaked; with each step I could feel the squeeze of extreme moisture in my socks.  My feet were overflowing with water.

This entire rainy day metaphor made me smile for I had just read John 7 where Jesus promises us that out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water if we believe in Him.  Every time I sit down to write My TEA CUPP Prayers, I pray that God’s Spirit will overflow from my pen and computer to my community and world.  And here is a promise right from Jesus that He will make it happen!  Instead of water squishing out the soles of my shoes, Living Water will be bursting forth from my soul because of God’s Holy Spirit.

Today’s TEA CUPP: This promise is for YOU, my TEA CUPP friend!  If you believe in Jesus, out of your heart will flow rivers of living water.  Wherever you go, you will spread the love of Jesus and be a blessing, on the road running, at the races, in the gym, while worshiping at church…out of your heart will flow rivers of living water!

Jesus 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)

Scripture 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.

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 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.

Keep in Step with the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

Another plug for my favorite church camp in the mountains — Camp on the Boulder, south of Big Timber, Montana.  During the summer months, you can come to a FREE cookout every Sunday at 5:30 p.m., followed by a praise service with the camp ministry team.

This past Sunday we welcomed Tom Brandon from Big Timber to share what God had put on his heart.  Tom spoke about temptation and following Jesus’ example.  One  point Tom made was an “alleluia” moment for me.  He asked us if we knew what the most important example was that Jesus set for us?  Do you know?

Was it healing the sick?  Walking on water?  Turning water into wine?  Raising the dead?  NO!  The most important example Jesus left for us was His relationship with His Father.  Time and again in His ministry, Jesus would head off into the wilderness to a quiet place with God…

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 (NIV)

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 (NKJV)

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” Matthew 26:36 (NKJV)

What an example Jesus has set for us, spending time each day with God. That’s what My TEA CUPP Prayers are all about – sitting down with the Lord each day for a chat. When we talk to God, we are following in Jesus’ steps.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NKJV)

And when we follow Jesus’ steps, we keep in step with the Spirit, along God’s straight and narrow path.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

Put on your I-Am Ipod and keep in step with Jesus today!

New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Continuing the Race

“However, 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 to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 (NIV)

Bump. Bump. Bump.  Our old Suburban found every rock and pothole in the road as we made our way to church yesterday.  The jostling vehicle reminded me of the ride I took exactly one year ago.  At least this year I could look out the windows and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery.  Last year, if I had been conscious enough to look around, I would have seen the sterile insides of an ambulance.

I remember the EMTs bravely combating the bumpy road, taping IV bottles, securing cupboards, keeping their balance as they moved around the ambulance.  Then they gave me something for the pain and I was able to sleep through all the bumps after that.  Finally, a relief from the intense sadness and aches that had engulfed me for the nine days since the doctor told me our baby had no heart beat.

I had awaken that morning at 4:15 a.m. with profuse bleeding.  I grabbed my Bible and prayer journal and headed to the restroom as the doctor said I would bleed for an hour. There I was in our tiny purple bathroom, having My TEA CUPP time with Jesus, trusting Him for a good outcome.

At almost 7 a.m. Kent knocked on the door to see how I was doing.  I decided to take a shower because I was so tired from sitting.  After the shower I was very dizzy, then sick to my stomach, and then the painful contractions began.  I no longer could sit in the bathroom, but had to lie on the bedroom floor.  I had been bleeding for almost 4 hours at this point and was very light-headed.  Soon I couldn’t feel my contractions as I was slipping from this world. Kent called 911 and invited our older three kids to say good-bye to me.

The ambulance arrived at 10 a.m.  It took them awhile to get me loaded and out to the ambulance.  Our 9-year old son Kevin had to watch his Mommy be carted away on a stretcher, he even helped carry the oxygen tank.   My brother George who was visiting took care of Kevin, while Kent rode the ambulance with me.  Our daughter Kallie was cooking for the campers and our son Jacob was mowing lawns.

When the EMTs brought me out of our dark bedroom into the glorious sunlight of our front yard, I thought “This is it. Jesus is coming, this is the bright light!”  The sky was so blue with the mountains and pine trees shaped so clearly against it, an upside down view of the world I don’t often see.  I was thinking, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV).

That glorious moment soon ended as God said, “I’m not finished with you yet.” I was whisked into the ambulance and poked with an IV, and endured the very long ride to the hospital in Big Timber.  A nurse met us part-way down the road, and she put some pain killer in the IV, which let me rest the remainder of the trip.  In the emergency room, the doctor made certain I had delivered everything and sent me with an IV and medicine to rest in one of the hospital rooms.

I remember how the stretcher felt as they carried me to the ambulance.  It hugged me closely, swaddling me like a blanket around a new born baby. Perhaps because our prayer friends were already praying, perhaps because the the Sweet Grass County Ambulance, doctors, and nurses all took good care of me, or perhaps because our camp ministry team kept the camp running while we were gone…I sure felt like those were God’s arms wrapped tightly around me, a sensation that continued for weeks after our miscarriage.

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuternonomy 33:27 (NIV)

In my partially-conscious state in the ambulance, still wondering if I would make it, I prayed for everyone I could think of…my family, our ministry team, our campers, our prayer friends, the EMTs, and everyone on my salvation list that they would come to know Jesus.  Because if I leave this world to be in heaven with Jesus, I want others to be there, too!  Yes, I had My TEA with Jesus, even in the ambulance, and I didn’t spill a drop on that bumpy road!

Still, a year later, we do not understand God’s plan in all this.  We don’t know why God would give us this hope of 9 years, begin knitting this baby together inside of me, only to stop knitting.   We thought He had given us the desire of our hearts, yet now she is no more. In all our grief, we still pray for God’s name to be glorified, so we named our sweet baby, Gloria Anne.

This very morning, one year and day after she left me, two friends came to our door and asked if they could paint a mural in Gloria Anne’s place, a new childcare building we hope to open at our church camp.  Already I can see, God’s name being glorified.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for Gloria Anne.

Please bless this new childcare building called Gloria Anne’s Place.  May all the children who come here, come to know You.

And please help me keep running the this race.

Amen.

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

The Finish Line is in Sight!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

“Gooooooooooo, Jennnnnnnnnnnnnnniiiifffffffffeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr!” I can still hear my mom calling from the bleachers as I ran the 1600 m around my high school track.  Some of the high schools had cinder tracks back then, but ours was a new black rubber track.  I pounded my spikes into the rubber, determined to take my mom’s encouragement and keep gooooooooiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnggggggg!

Encouragement.  We all need it in this race called life.  I find my inspiration in God’s Word every day.  My TEA CUPP Prayers with Jesus are like a cup of cold water to my thirsty soul.  However, at times it sure helps to be heartened by another Christian.  As Christian athletes we are called not only to train for ourselves, but also to encourage others in their training.

My favorite daily devotion (Our Daily Bread)  gave a beautiful example of this on April 13th , 2008.  The devotion is entitled, “Cheering Each Other On.”

A mile from the finish line of the London Marathon, thousands of onlookers holding signs lined the route. When spectators spotted a family member or friend coming into view, they shouted the person’s name, waved, and yelled encouragement: “Just a little farther! Keep going! You’re almost there.” After running 25 miles, many competitors were barely walking and ready to quit. It was amazing to watch exhausted runners brighten and pick up the pace when they saw someone they knew or heard their name called out.

Encouragement! We all need it, especially in our walk of faith. The book of Hebrews tells us to keep urging each other on. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, . . . but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25).

The New Testament is filled with the certainty that Christ will return soon. “The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5). “The coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). “Behold, I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:12).

As we “see the Day approaching,” let’s keep cheering each other on in the faith. “Keep going! You’re almost there! The finish line is in sight.”

And so, my TEA CUPP friend and athlete, I encourage you.  Keep running!  Keep exercising!  Keep reading your Bible and praying!  Your labors are not in vain. God will surely bless you.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today. Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

The LORD remembers us and will bless us. Psalm 115:12 (NIV)

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)

KEEP GOING! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE! THE FINISH LINE IS IN SIGHT!

http://odb.org/2008/04/13/cheering-each-other-on/

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

My I-AM Ipod

“Give thanks, with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks, because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son…”

This tune pounds through my head as I run the dusty mountain road, taking a step with each beat of the song.  I have no earphones, no cord, no electronic gizmo in my pocket…just my running clothes and God in the great outdoors.

Many of you are familiar with the Ipod, a pocket-size electronic device made by the Apple company to store and play hundreds of songs.  My daughter has an Ipod.  Now, instead of lugging around a huge binder of CDs, she carries all her favorite tunes on her Ipod.  With a small set of pink earphones, she immerses herself into her world of music.  Or, she can attach it to a speaker and play the songs for all to enjoy.  But I don’t have an Ipod yet.

I have an I-AM.  It is a God-size music collection that fits right inside my heart.  My I-AM connects directly to my mind, playing all the best tunes and Bible verses.  I take my I-AM with me every time I go running. God reminded me when I was exercising this morning that others might like to have an I-AM Ipod, too.  And so I share this with you today :-).

Sometimes my I-AM plays Bible verses.  My favorites are ones I shared yesterday.  I make up a tune to go with one of the verses and play it over and over again in my mind as the miles pass by.  I especially like to play…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Proverbs 4:11-12 (NIV)

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)

Other days my I-AM plays music, a metronome to my soul, providing me a beat for each step.  These songs follow My TEA CUPP Prayers, helping me to pray as I run.

I give THANKS to God while singing in my head, “I will enter His gates with Thanksgiving in my heart, I enter His courts with praise…”

I EXALT the Lord with “Thou are worthy, Thou art worthy, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, glory and honor and power…”

I ADMIT my sins to God while mentally singing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

I talk to Jesus about my CALL with, “Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord, I have heard You calling in the night.”

I UNDERSTAND my story when I sing, “I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken. I’m accepted, You were condemned, I’m alive and well, Your Spirit lives within me, because You died and rose again.”

I claim God’s promises by humming, “Standing on the Promises of Christ my King…”

And I end my run with my favorite petition song ever, “The Lord’s Prayer,” as it is often sung at  weddings: “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven…”

When I get to the very last part of the prayer, I am running faster and God’s Spirit carries me to the finish line with “for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.”

There are hundreds of songs, hymns and Bible verses stored in my I-AM, just waiting for me to play.  It’s always exciting to strap on the running shoes and head out the door with the Great I-AM.  Go running with Jesus today!

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14 (NIV)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

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