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.

 

Claiming Christmas Promises

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)

Merry Christmas, dear TEA friends!  Today I have the gift of promises from God’s Word for you.  These promises all come from the Christmas story in our Bibles.  Consider each promise a present for you to unwrap today and always. No matter what your circumstances, you can claim these as your very own…

For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 1:37 (NKJV)

…your prayer is heard Luke 1:13 (NKJV)

He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  Luke 1:15-16 (NKJV)

He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17 (NKJV)

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30 (NKJV)

And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:33 (NKJV)

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45 (NKJV)

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Luke 1:14 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Pour a pot of these precious Christmas promises today.  Pick your favorite and write it in your prayer journal, on a note card on your bathroom mirror, or in a Christmas card to a friend.  Claim this promise to carry you into the new year.  Tell Jesus all about it in your quiet time with Him today. Merry Christmas, dear TEA friend!

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

Christmas Must Be Pro-Life

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

If anyone doubts that life begins at conception, she must read the Christmas story. For in Luke 1, two incredible ladies learn they are miraculously pregnant. First Elizabeth in her old age conceives the baby John the Baptist.  Half a year later, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary conceives the baby Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of the world.

Soon after Mary hears of her calling, she goes with haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is already six months pregnant. As Mary enters Elizabeth’s house, the baby John inside of Elizabeth leaps for joy!  He is so excited that His Savior, the baby Jesus inside of Mary, has entered the room.  Both babies are very much alive, yet still inside their mothers, growing and waiting to be born.  Life does not begin at birth, it begins at conception when God starts knitting this precious person.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

Even the great Bible prophets and teachers knew this.  Jeremiah from the Old Testament proclaimed…

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)

And the Apostle Paul from the New Testament related…

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace. Galatians 1:15 (NKJV)

So why is there all this confusion about when life begins? Because the enemy aims to confuse us and to make us doubt and even to kill.  Like the Herods of Jesus’ day, there are still Herods today who want to destroy babies while Rachel still weeps for her children (Matthew 2:16-18). But we have a Savior who makes it clear in His word.  He tells us to choose LIFE (Deut. 30:19).  And for those who have made wrong choices, and for all of us sinners, Jesus offers His forgiveness and promise of eternal life.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Read the Christmas story in Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 1-2.  See how God blessed the whole world through these babies.  None of us knows the amazing plans God has for our little ones.  Choose life! 

Please join me in praying for babies in America and around the world to be saved.  Also, pray for special blessings on foster parents and adoptive parents.  Do something special for one of these families this Christmas.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

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

 

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

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

 

 

A Christmas TEA CUPP

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 (NKJV)

December is upon us with holiday open houses, lighted parades, Santa gift exchanges and even a few Christmas teas. But what our hearts truly long for in this often chaotic, overwhelming, lonely, expensive, yet festive time of year, is the peace and calm of a simple CUPP of TEA with the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ.

So today I give you a Christmas TEA CUPP….Bible verses from the Christmas Story in God’s Word which you can use as conversation starters as you pray to Jesus this month. 

T is for Thanksgiving

For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. Luke 1:49 (NKJV)

E is for Exalting

And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:33 (NKJV)

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV)

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David. Luke 1:68-69 (NKJV)

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

A is for Admitting

the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:35 (NKJV)

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

C is for Calling

Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word….Luke 1:38 (NKJV)

To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. Luke 1:74-75 (NKJV)

U is for Understanding our stories

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (NKJV)

For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32 (NKJV)

P is for Promises

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Luke 1:14 (NKJV)

For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 1:37 (NKJV)

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45 (NKJV)

P is for Petitions

for your prayer is heard...Luke 1:13

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Plan to spend a quiet moment with Jesus every morning, even on Christmas morning before the unwrapping of gifts.  Read the Christmas story in your Bible in Luke 1-2, underline your favorite verses. Borrow theses verses as you begin your prayers with Jesus.  Merry Christmas, dear TEA friends!

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

Jesus is Coming!

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Thanksgiving gobbled by, Black Friday stormed over, Cyber Monday flooded past, Giving Tuesday blessed all around…unless you’ve been hiding from the world, you know that Christmas looms just around the corner, it is coming whether we are ready or not.  Traditionally, for children, Christmas is always slow to arrive.  But for grown-ups, it often comes too soon. And just as Christmas finally comes to the waiting child, Jesus is coming again to the entire world.

These weeks leading up to Christmas have long been called “Advent,” a time or preparation and waiting for the celebration of our Savior’s birth.  But even more so, it’s a time of preparation and expectation of the return of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of kings.  The whole story is foretold in our Bibles, mostly in the book of Revelation, when Jesus will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NKJV)

Just as Christmas will be upon us before we know it, even more certain is our Lord’s return.  He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7)Every knee will bow on heaven and earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-10).  And when He comes with all His angels with Him, Jesus, the Great Shepherd, will separate the sheep from the goats, His sheep to everlasting life and the goats to eternity in hell (Matthew 25:32-33).  Oh, my dear friends, I want for you and your loved ones all to be among the sheep.  I plead with you to give your hearts to Jesus. 

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the Lord is coming,
For it is at hand. Joel 2:1 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Jesus is coming again. I exhort you to give Him your life and all the desires of your heart. Don’t wait another day, He is coming soon.  Let this Christmas be the year you truly celebrate your Savior’s birth, making Him first in your heart.

to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 (NKJV)

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10-:9-10 (NKJV)

In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. Titus 1:2 (NKJV)

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

Our Thanksgiving Chain

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3 (NKJV)

One of my favorite Thanksgiving devotions from my new book, Mom’s TEA CUPP Prayers, is an activity I’ve shared over the years with you, a Thanksgiving chain.

The first part of the TEA CUPP is “T” is for Thanksgiving. It’s eternally important for moms to model thankfulness to our children, so here is a project to help you do just that.  This thankfulness activity will carry your family from Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas.

First, count the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas on your calendar (this year it’s only 27 days). Next, cut out that many strips of colored paper, approximately one-inch by six inches. Grab your Bible, the paper strips, some markers, and a stapler, and gather the family around your kitchen table.

Read a Psalm of Thanksgiving, such as Psalm 136.
● Talk about things for which you are thankful.
● Divide the strips of paper between all family members.
● Everyone can use markers to write blessings on their paper strips. Older family members may assist younger family members.
● When everyone is finished, mix up the paper strips. Curl one strip into a circle and staple it. Run another strip through the first circle and staple it to itself. Continue stapling strips until you have a long chain of circles.
● Hold the chain around the table and let family members read the items together as you thank Jesus.
● Hang the chain on a nail in the kitchen so you can see how many days until Christmas.
● Each morning at breakfast, let one person tear off the bottom link of the chain. Say a prayer of thanks again for whatever is listed on that slip of paper.
● Each day the chain will get shorter until it’s Christmas.

Today’s TEA CUPP: Plan to do this activity with your family at Thanksgiving. Talk with your kids about God’s blessings. Some families keep a thankful jar. Every time they find something for which they are thankful, a blessing, answered prayer, etc., they write it on a slip of paper and put it in the thankful jar. He’s blessed us so much we can’t even name them all.

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
Psalm 40:5

Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

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)

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

Tea in the Storm

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2 (NKJV)

God has always been in the storms.  Ever since He created the earth, His Spirit has hovered over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).  Today with hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, cancer, rushing children to hospitals, family difficulties, government corruption…we may wonder where God is.  Yet He is right there, ready to carry us through the storm. 

One Sunday our pastor gave a sermon on the passage from Mark 4:35-41 about Jesus calming the sea.  He pointed out for us in Mark 4:36 where it says, “And other little boats were also with Him.”  There are other little boats on the sea, too.  We aren’t the only ones in this storm.  Others need Jesus’ help and our example of faith.  Let’s ask Jesus to calm the storm for everyone.

Today I give you a special TEA CUPP with verses from this story.  You can claim God’s promise to still the waves.  You can wake Jesus up and ask Him, “Don’t You care?”  You can stand amazed at His miracles and proclaim, “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey Him?”

T for Thanksgiving:

He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:29,31 (NKJV)

E for Exalting:

 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:41 (NKJV)

A for Admitting:

 

But He said to them, Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Mark 4:40 (NKJV)

 C for Calling:

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, Let us cross over to the other side.” Mark 4:35 (NKJV)

 U is for Understanding our story:

Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with HimAnd a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. Mark 4:36-37 (NKJV)

P is for Promises:

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  Mark 4:39 (NKJV)

P is for Petitioning:

But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? Mark 4:38 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Read the amazing story in Mark 5:35-41, The Sea is Stilled.  Use these verses as conversation starters in your prayer time with Jesus today, all week, or any time you or loved ones are going through a storm.

The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled. Psalm 77:16 (NKJV)

You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.  Psalm 89:9 (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

The Lost Hymnals

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

When I read this scripture passage from 1 Timothy, immediately my heart begins to sing and my mouth hums the great hymn by Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908). The old Welsch melody fills my thoughts as I sing…

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise. (Whalmers)

A wonderful way to exalt Jesus is to sing old hymns to Him each morning.  You can do this!  Ask your pastor if there is a closet full of old hymnals at your church and if you may please have one.  The answer is most likely, “Yes,” as many churches display the songs on screens now.  Take your “new” borrowed hymnal home and use it as part of your morning Bible TEA time.  Thumb through the pages until you find a familiar hymn to praise Jesus.

Some favorite old hymns for exalting Jesus include How Great Thou Art; To God be the Glory; Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty; O Worship the King, All Glorious Above; Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; and All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name and many more!

You may also find a new-to-you hymn with powerful words. Even if you don’t know the tune, you can pray it to Jesus. I found one like this in our old hymnal entitled, Teach Me to Pray, Lord by Albert Simpson Reitz.  The first stanza cries…

Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray;
This is my heart-cry day unto day;
I long to know Thy will and Thy way;
Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray. (Reitz)

Today’s TEA CUPP: The old hymns praise Jesus with His Word.  Ask to borrow an old hymnal from church for your quiet time. Put it in your Jesus spot.  Hum, sing, and exalt Jesus with glorious old hymns filled with His Word! You will be so blessed!

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25 (NKJV)

The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
Psalm 18:46 (NKJV)

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!
Revelation 5:12 (NKJV)

To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Jude 1:25 (NKJV)

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11(NKJV)

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