Passing the Baton

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

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)

Perhaps the most crucial point in a relay race is the passing of the baton.  Athletes practice for weeks, carefully timing the perfect hand-off.  Coaches hold their eyes on the baton, willing it to stay in the hands of the runners.  Parents watch from the bleachers, holding their collective breaths until the baton is securely in the hand of the next runner.  Then the crowd erupts in cheers for the runner until the next passing of the baton.  A relay race can be both nerve-wracking and beautiful, depending upon the success of the baton passers.

Dear running friend, you’ve been given a baton to pass, too.  You have this faith in Jesus which has been growing every day as you’ve read your Bible.  The Holy Spirit has taught you so many truths about God.  And now He is calling You to share your faith with others.  We are called to pass the baton of faith in Christ Jesus to our friends, and strangers, and the next generation.  

We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.  Psalm 78:4 (NKJV)

Just as Ananias passed the baton to Paul (Acts 9) who passed it to Timothy (1 Timothy) and all the churches of the New Testament, just as Peter passed the baton to 3000 people at Pentecost (Acts 2), just as my friends Dawn, Paulette, and others pointed me to Jesus so I could pass Him on to my children and to you…Jesus is calling you to do the same.  He says, “teach them to your children and your grandchildren,” (Deut. 4:9) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 29:19) and “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I imagine the angels are watching from their heavenly bleachers, cheering us on as we carry our batons.  We practice for weeks at Bible study, praying for the right words to say.  The angels keep their eyes on the baton as we pass it to our friends and family.  Sometimes we fumble it and the angels sigh. But we are given another chance and they let out a cheer when we succeed, for there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7).  

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Ask the Lord to lay someone upon your heart, someone with whom you can share Jesus, passing your baton of faith.  Go, dear runner, you can do it!  The Lord is with you!

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.  2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Psalm 34:11 (NKJV)

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

More than a Running Buddy

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

…but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 (NKJV)

It’s great to have a Running Buddy. As I plod along the highway at the break of dawn, one foot after another, sometimes on pavement, sometimes on the gravel or grassy shoulder, I am not alone. If you drive by me, I may smile and wave a hand if I’m paying attention, yet often I’m lost in thought, lost in prayer with my Best Friend.

We were up together long before the sunrise, as we shared a CUPP of TEA and several Bible verses together. He spoke through His Word and I tried really hard to listen. I shared what I heard back to Him and poured out my heart for loved ones. Then we both looked at the clock and realized it was time to strap on the running shoes and continue our talk outside.

My run began much like my prayer time with singing a song in my head of THANKSGIVING to my Best Friend. Then I sang another song of praising and EXALTING, because HE is such an awesome Friend. But now as my feet hit the road, I think about how wonderful my Friend is, I realize how far I fall short, how I mess up and sin. So, I sing a song for ADMITTING my sins to Him and He forgives me and washes me clean.

Continuing down the highway, I sing songs about my CALLING, and UNDERSTANDING my story, and claiming His PROMISES. Finally, I finish my PETITIONS with The Lord’s Prayer, the best prayer of all. I’m so thankful for our Lord Jesus. He is way more than a Running Buddy, He is the Savior of my soul, my Redeemer, the One who paid my debt on the cross, my Comforter, my Guide, my Life.

Long ago two camp friends went for a walk together. They told us how an onlooker saw three people walking along the road, yet it was just the two of them. They knew the third person was Jesus, because they were praying at the time. Perhaps when I am running, you will see my Running Buddy with me, but that’s okay if you don’t, for I know He is always there.

…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age… Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Won’t you bring a Friend with you on your run today? Invite Jesus to be your Running Buddy for life. Let your morning Bible time flow right into your morning exercises as you continue your prayers on the run.

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:4-5 (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)

P.S. Here are some of my favorite running songs…

T: Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever… (Tomlin)

E: O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You… (Strasser)

A: Amazing Grace/My chains are gone, I’ve been set free… (Newton & Tomlin)

C: Make me a servant, humble and meek… (Willard)

U: I believe in God the Father… (Travis Ryan)

P: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it… (Steve Green)

P: I will cast all my cares upon you… (Willard)

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

Disqualified!

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

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NKJV)


I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first big indoor track meet of my junior year of high school.  It was the first time I had qualified to run the Drake Indoor meet in Des Moines, Iowa.  I was so excited to run the race, though running distance runs on an indoor track can be tedious as you go around and around multiple times.  

It must have been a two mile race, because that was the longest distance for girls at the time.  The track was half the size of the outdoor track, making it 220 yards, or 200 meters.  Instead or running 8 times around the outdoor track, we would be running 16 times around the indoor track to make two miles (doesn’t sound so far if you’ve run the 5K or 10K on a track!).  

To make things easier on the judges, the race officials decided that if anyone was lapped, they would be knocked out of the race, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to monitor how many laps people had left to go.  With only a 200 meter track, that meant many girls could be lapped before the winner finished her two miles.  

The lead runner was so fast, it didn’t take her long to be 200 meters ahead of the pack. I was one of those girls who was lapped and disqualified from the race.  In tears I left the track, so sad to be out of the race I truly wanted to finish.  I was heartbroken, watching the other girls finish the race. The girl who lapped me was a star senior runner from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who only a few years later would become my friend and college teammate, pointing me to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Besides being lapped, there are many other ways an athlete may become disqualified… too many false starts, taking drugs, yelling at the line judges, etc.  But while in athletics we can try again the next year to follow all the rules of competition, in our spiritual lives we never want to be disqualified.  

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. Psalm 94:18 (NKVJ)

What could disqualify us from receiving our crowns in heaven?  Not believing in Jesus (John 3:18).  Not allowing the Holy Spirit to do its perfect work in us (Mark 3:9, Luke 12:10).  Falling into temptation and lust and pride without repenting, when God has called us to serve Him (1 Peter 1:16).  Oh dear athlete, let us live our Christian lives even more carefully than we do as runners, that we may never be disqualified.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10 (NKJV)

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been knocked out of the race?  Dear athlete, let Jesus pick you up!  He is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) Turn to Him for help while there is still time.  Confess your sins, let Him wash you clean and put you back on your feet.  Memorize 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Start running for Him again.

 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. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.  Job 5:17 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11-12 (NKJV)

Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)

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

Side-lined

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

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7 (NKJV)

It happens to every athlete at one time or another, an injury side-lines us. But at the time, it seems like it will last forever.

I remember my first major injury was spring of my senior year of high school. I had developed a stress fracture in my shin from running indoor track and could not compete for the outdoor season. Instead of working out with my teammates every afternoon, I was in the swimming pool “running” in the deep end. I thought it was the end of the world, thinking it was my last season, not knowing I would compete in college. But God healed me and allowed me to walk on as a college cross country runner, and there I met Jesus.

Over the years there have many other times of being side-lined, from mononucleosis, to miscarriages, to gallbladder surgery…and currently back and leg pain. But Jesus carries us through it all. And as Job said so aptly to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) Shall we not accept the victory of completing a marathon, as well as the injuries?

What can we do during this time of injury? Pray! Rest! Seek the Lord! Heal! Trust in Him! Encourage others! Look upward to Jesus and outward to others, rather than inward to our own troubles.

And what about our spiritual lives? Do we ever get side-lined in our faith? Satan the side-liner is always trying to discourage us and get us to take our eyes off Jesus. The enemy tells us we’re no good. The enemy tells us to give up. The enemy tells us he has something better. But he doesn’t. God has made us good and loves us (John 16:27, Romans 8:1). God calls us to run with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2). God has the very best, a mansion for us in heaven (John 14). Oh friend, keep trusting Jesus, keep pressing on, keep holding all God’s promises.

In life we may become side-lined temporarily, as God rebukes and chastens us for falling short of His glory.  But He only does this because He loves us and wants to help us be more like Him and better able to serve Him.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)

So dear friends, do not be discouraged if you are side-lined.  We serve a merciful God.  Allow Jesus to use this time to bring you closer to Him and His throne of grace.  I wrote a verse based on Romans 8:37-39 for you..

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither losing nor winning, nor shinsplints nor stress fractures nor pulled hamstrings, nor false starts nor dropped batons, nor sickness nor health, nor fans nor foes, nor 100m nor 10K, nor high jump bar nor long jump pit, nor any other athletic event or distress, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been side-lined, either in your running or in your Christian walk? Dear friend, don’t be discouraged. Get your rest, do your physical therapy, pray, repent, seek the Lord and He will get you back on track!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)

Let not the foot of pride come against me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Psalm 36:11

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:10-11 (NKJV)

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

Training for the Competition

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

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)

Training. Strict Training. Those are tough words. Tough athletes know what this means: Getting up early each morning to do a workout, even before the sun comes up. Eating healthy meals and avoiding sweets. Skipping late night events so we have a good night’s sleep and are ready to do it all again the next day. Over and over again. Persevering. Never giving up. It’s not the race that’s the hard part, it’s the training.

That’s how an athlete trains, but what about a Christian? How do we train to be Christians? The verse above from 1 Corinthians 9:25 tells us we do the same thing. We go into strict training to receive a crown that will last forever in heaven.

What does this Christian training look like? Much the same as an athlete…Strict training.

Getting up early each morning to seek the Lord, spending time in God’s Word, reading our Bibles and praying even before the sun comes up. Then when it’s light we can go out to exercise.

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
Psalm 119:47 (NKJV)

Living a healthy lifestyle, giving thanks to God for the food He provides.

be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience. Titus 2:2 (NKJV)

Skipping activities that don’t glorify the Lord in favor of ones that do…time with family, worshiping our Lord, serving others.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Getting a good night’s sleep so we can do it all again the next day…

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NKJV)

And asking others to pray for us...

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: How are you doing in your athletic training? How are you doing in your Christian training? Pick one area to work on this week and keep pressing on each day to glorify Jesus, the Son of God. You can do it, dear friend! He is helping you!

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10 (NKJV)

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

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

The Starting Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sports in the Bible

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

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

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

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

Running

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

Swimming

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

Wrestling

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

Play Ball!

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

Boxing

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

Fighting

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

Archery

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

Walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buckets & Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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