Run the Race
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
Most of you know, that I serve Jesus, determined to grow in spiritual maturity, academic excellence, and physical fitness.
Each day, it seems Holy Spirit places His finger on one of these areas, and challenges me to step up.
Monday, we knuckled down and disciplined ourselves (my 13 year old princess Keila and I), and disciplined ourselves to complete the publication of our book we have been pecking away upon for several months. Got the cover designed, and everything submitted to the publisher…Mission accomplished. Yet, while that went well, my work-out at the gym was lack luster, and not really focused and intense.
For those of you who do not know, I have a yearly fitness goal of being able to run under 25 mins in a 5 Km run, while maintaining a bench press of 315lbs. I have never been able to do this yet. While my bench is now at 315, to get there, I had to do much strength training and bulked up, and I let my running schedule go. I had my running time down to 25:22, but still have not broken that 25 min barrier again. No small challenge for a 54 year old husband, father, missionary, and author…I call it ‘The Great Balancing Act’
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
So last week, we decided to walk two ½ mile laps, of a local pond, before breakfast, to burn fat. Instead of lifting weights on leg day, I jogged, painfully, a couple miles up Turkey mountain here in Tulsa. Tight, brutal miles, in 100F heat through the woods.
Yesterday was legs day again, so I prayed, and felt impressed to again run the mountain. Yet, the way the schedule worked out, I had to run at 1PM, in the hot midday heat here. As I asked Jesus how far to run, clearly, Holy Spirit said: ‘I want you to run yellow trail, all the way around, without stopping.’
In years gone by, we loved that 4.3 mile loop around the mountain, but that was when we ran 3-4 times/week. I have not run over a mile since January, last week’s 2 mile run was painful…
Furthermore, my rational mind kicked in. When we run the mountain, we do it early in the morning, before the searing Oklahoma heat kicks in, in the cool of the day. Even when I was in running shape, running at midday was not wise…
Yet, I felt Holy Spirit tell me I could do it, so humbly, and intelligently, I asked him: ‘How?’
I was reminded of one hot 105F summer day in years gone by, I was scheduled to run, and decided it was definitely too hot! Yet, while picking up some supplies for work at Home Depot, I saw a guy out running! He finished right at Home Depot, so I commented to him: ‘A little hot for running?’ With fire in his eyes, he said, ‘Nope, just got back from my tour of duty in Iraq, and we ran every day in 140F, this is just warm, not hot yet.”
So, that day, I kept my training schedule, and ran a couple miles. (Thank a serviceman or vet today for freedom!)
Gently, I felt Holy Spirit instruct me to drink a full water bottle before I drove the ½ hour over to the mountain, and that I should listen to Him throughout the run.
So, I drank my water, and arrived at the start of the trail.
It was hot, and I was intimidated!
So, again I asked Him for instruction. Gently, He told me to set an easy pace, and not to blast the steep inclines, but to simply ‘keep on moving without stopping.’
This was to become my battle cry.
As I started into the woods, I thought through the upcoming run, the descents, the ascents, and the long winding sections, and planned my attack.
From my study of native worship, I immediately sensed the presence of God, when a butterfly circled me several times as I entered the woods, a black ‘morning glory’ that spoke to me of the immediate presence of God with me, creation speaking of our Creator, the beauty of the butterfly reminding me of the abiding presence of Holy Spirit with me.
As I approached the first steep hill, about ½ mile in, Holy Spirit gently instructed me to take the long way around, with a steady effort, avoiding the steep hill, and to ‘keep moving after you hit the top’.
Never was I so aware of Him as my personal trainer, my coach, leading me to fitness, excellence, and to push hard in training, without overextending.
In a full sweat now, I crested the top, and when my mind and lungs screamed for me to stop and run, my head pounding from the heat, I remembered His instruction, to ‘keep moving forward after hitting the top’. Amazingly to me, I was able to do this, and as the trail leveled out again, I was able to regain control of my breathing again, and settle into a steady pace.
The open sections between the trees were searingly hot in the direct sunlight, and I noticed this, and immediately, my coach said: ‘Stay to the shady sides of the trail, and avoid direct heat where you can.’
And so it went, with Him gently encouraging me over the rougher spots in the trail, and then, as I smelled the stench of the sewage treatment plant near the turn-around, I knew I had to climb the mountain again. My doubts reminded me that this was the very place several years ago where our beautiful golden retriever Rusty had collapsed and died, and that I needed to stop, walk, and cool down on the steep incline, it was too hot to run it. So, I asked Holy Spirit what to do.
Immediately He reminded me of His original instruction, to simply ‘keep on moving without stopping’ so I asked Him for strength to keep jogging up the hill. As I came to the looming Hill, that exploded into a section of direct scorching sunlight at the top, I was intimidated, yet decided to try anyway. As I began my ascent, His voice came to me clearly again, “No heroics here. Just a steady effort throughout the hill, and keep moving at the top’
So, I did what He said, rounded the turn-around, and with lungs bursting, head pounding, exploded out of the trees into the 100 yards or so of heat at the top.
Yet, I managed to keep moving, and eventually regain my rhythm and pace as I reentered shade of the trees, to begin the jog back. As I did, again, a beautiful morning glory butterfly circled me, and I immediately breathed out a ‘Thank-you’ to my intimate never failing God. I felt His pleasure as He replied: ‘Not many notice, when I send my creation to encourage them, I’m glad you noticed…’ I found myself asking His forgiveness for the hardness of my own heart, in the times I know He had done this for me…and that I did not recognize Him until much later.
My body was feeling it now. Over two miles had gone by, and I was hot. He sent a breeze!
Ahead of me was a long open section of path, with no shade!
Yet, the footing was good, and the trail pretty level overall. My legs were hurting, but I had found my stride, and got into my rhythm of grace.
Before I knew it, I was at ‘Heartbreak Hill’. I’m not sure if this is the actual name of this incline, or simply one we have given it over the years. Here is why we call it that. On yellow trail, you circle the mountain, and have descended, and ascended it, so that the final half (If you run it counterclockwise like we usually do) is along mostly the ridge of the mountain. Yet, after 3 miles, when you think you should begin to descend, there is this rough ascent, with loose rocks, that climbs about 100 yards with some tricky footing as you go up. I find this stretch the most mentally tough part of this run, because you have just completed a mile or so of smooth, easy trail, and by that point, you simply want to descend, and head back to the parking lot.
Again, I felt His presence remind me: ‘Keep moving forward, do not stop, just a solid steady effort’, solidifying my resolve to actually complete this training assignment, and finish this run, without stopping.
Made it to the top! Head pounding, a throbbing headache my reward, lungs screaming: “Stop and walk for awhile!”
Yet, suddenly, I was surrounded by a swirl of tiny orange butterflies!
Like a victory celebration, I felt His joy, that I had made the top of the hill without stopping, and had actually sent these beautiful little creatures to remind me of His pleasure in my accomplishment.
My quads were hurting now, but I knew I could not stop now. It was only flat and downhill from here, with a little over a mile left to go.
I rounded the corner to the right, for the last stretch before the cut-off to the left that descended all the way down to the parking lot trail.
I was tired now, and knew it; my shirt was a dripping ball in my hand from wiping the burning sweat out of my eyes, my body running rivers of perspiration, but was beginning to believe I might actually make it!
As I saw the trail cut off to the left, Holy Spirit cautioned me: ‘Be careful descending!’ Suddenly, I saw the danger: I was slightly dizzy from the heat, and there is some treacherous footing headed downhill there. I had to nimbly choose my footing, with legs that felt like tree trunks, that were not wanting to be nimble at all.
Furthermore, descending was excruciating! Why does it hurt muscles so much to descend, rather than to ascend? Each step down, felt bone-jarring, as I felt the impact throughout my entire body.
Yet, I made it to the concrete block trail divider, and picked my way down the steep trail, to the final ½ mile jaunt back to the parking lot.
Again, my guardian butterflies were with me, signaling my victory over the mountain!
I did it! By the grace of God, I did it!
Another training milestone laid, in my yearly fitness goal, another mental barrier crushed.
In every area, I am convinced that Jesus would give us victory, if we would trust Him, lean upon Him, and learned to fully submit to the leadership, comfort and coaching of the Holy Spirit along the way.
He doesn’t call the qualified, but He does qualify the called….
Just for fun, here is the picture my precious daughter took of me actually managing to get 315 on bench!
‘Father, show me your plan, purpose, and destiny. Reveal to me the academic, fitness, and spiritual goals I need to set, and give me Your plan to work on all of these simultaneously. I ask this, knowing You love me, You hear, You care, and answer, for I ask in Your mighty name Lord Jesus, Amen’