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Life Is Short. God Is Good.

High School picture of Kelly

Today, I should be texting my sister, “Happy Birthday”. Today, I should be eating cake and ice cream. Today, should be the day my sister, Kelly, turns 46.

My sister, Kelly, left this “home” on January 9, 2001. Her life was taken short from a rare disease called, “Wegener’s”. Kelly was only 25.

My children would’ve adored Kelly’s laughs, jokes, and her unconditional love. Sadly, they never got to know Kelly, as she passed away when my kids were too young . Kelly was my only sibling.

One day, while she was in the hospital, I asked her if she had made the decision to follow Jesus. “Yes”, she said. That simple “yes” gives me the confidence that I will see her again in Heaven. It is the most important decision you will ever make in your life, too.

24 “I speak to you an eternal truth: if you embrace my message and believe in the One who sent me, you will never face condemnation. In me, you have already passed from the realm of death into eternal life!”

Jesus as recorded in John 5:24 (The Passion Translation)

I’m asking you for a favor today. Would you take a moment and simply text/call your sibling (s), and say, “I Love You”? My sister is gone. I don’t have the opportunity to do this anymore. If you have a sibling, I encourage you to reach out today. Push differences aside. Life is too stinkin’ short!

Use an emoji. Share a funny memory. Or, whatever else is coming to your mind as you read this. It would mean a lot to me for you to simply connect.

Here is a picture of Kelly. I miss her, and look forward to seeing her again. And yes, I know that I will!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fb_img_1578618968537310633097780240729.jpg

What is something YOU do to connect regularly with your sibling(s)? I’d love for you to drop a comment, and also subscribe for more encouragement.

Love your siblings. Go make a difference. Always Run By Faith!

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Running By Faith

Running the miles. Sharing the encouragement!

Hi. I’m Tommy, and I love to run. I love encouraging people! And, I choose to Run by Faith!

What does “Run by Faith” mean? Pretty simple, really. My favorite book, the Bible, has a great quote that says to, “walk by faith, not by sight“. Well, as a runner, I ‘run by faith, not by sight’. Get it now?

Here, I plan to share my passion for running, along with my passion of encouragement. I want to help you run some trails, and help you navigate through life. Bottom line, this is my new blog where fitness, friends and faith come together to help you, “Run by Faith”!

7 Simple Words That Changed The World

Why do we make things more difficult than they need to be? Sometimes, I think it’s to make us look, or feel, smarter. There’s a lot to be said with keeping things simple.

A runner, let’s call him Dave, said to another runner, we’ll call her Aubry, “You’re so fast! How do I run faster?” Aubry said, “Run faster. Try it”. Dave picked up his pace, and what do you know? He was running faster! Simple solution.

When you see a good movie, you don’t need to share the entire plot with a friend to convince them to go see it. If you say, “I just saw the coolest movie…” chance are, your friend will be interested. Your word carries weight.

I love the Bible story in John 4. A woman has an encounter with Jesus at a well. Jesus told her that He is the “living water”, and He offers something that will never run out. Then, tells her some personal things which makes her realize that He is the Savior!

Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I have ever done! He could be the One we’ve been waiting for”.

John 4:29

That was it. Nothing more. Simple. It wasn’t eloquent. It wasn’t a 3 point message. It was her heart.

Your words carry more weight than you know. When you see a good movie, you tell someone. If you discover a new restaurant, you tell a friend. If there’s something life changing happening in your life, just share it from your heart.

Many from the Samaritan village became believers in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony: “He told me everything I ever did!”
John 4:39

Her simple words changed many lives. Your words can have that same impact, too. Your story is YOUR story. Nobody can argue about your story. And, nobody can take that away.

“He told me everything I ever did”. Those 7 words changed many lives from the Samaritan village. 7 simple words.

Share your story. Go make a difference. Always Run by faith.

Why Is It Called A “Honeymoon”? You’ll Be Surpised!

Patty and I have now been married for 29 years. WOW! On our honeymoon, we traveled to Orlando, and enjoyed time with each other, and hung out at the theme parks.

Patty has learned, I’ve always enjoyed learning the origins of words and phrases. There’s just something about knowing the backstory that has always fascinated me. That said, I was shocked to learn the origin of the word “Honeymoon”.

According to the label on Honeywood Oregon Mead,

The daring warriors of the 10th century drank a honey-based drink called MEAD, which was originally discovered by the monks who used exces Honey to produce a drink of superior excellence. The warriors of these bygone days drank Mead to instill in themselves fearlessness and strength. Mead was believed to have powers of fertility and vitality. The bride and groom at Medival weddings drank Mead for one full moon after their wedding — hence the term Honeymoon, still used to this day.

Honeywood Oregon Mead

You’re welcome! And remember, knowledge is power!

Keep learning. Go make a difference. Always Run by Faith!

An Inspiring Swim Around Mackinac Island

Sometimes, the craziest ideas lead to the best of times! I’ve gotta say, the Mackinac Island Swim seemed crazy, and to over 230 swimmers, it was the best!

Eric Hansen, along with Jon Vos, had an idea to swim around the island. This was to be a fun swim, not a timed event, and to give back. Money raised went to help raise funds for the Mackinac Women’s Club.

While I had the incredible privilege to emcee the race, (as the announcer at the “finish line”), my wife, Patty, volunteered to help each and every swimmer out of the water. She stood in that water for nearly 5 hours. And, she loved every minute of each inspiring swimmer.

The craziness begin near 7:00, Sunday morning, on Mackinac Island. It took special dedication from the swimmers to get there,  as there are no cars allowed on the island.  This meant some swimmers stayed at hotels on the island, while others did an overnight in Mackinac City, and took a ferry express as early as 6:30 in the morning.

After swimmers checked in, they received their last minute announcements, and then took to the water.  Slowly, swimmers waded in, took one last selfie, and begin the 7.2 mile swim around the island, with an optional 8.2 mile route.

Conditions were beautiful to begin. But, at about miles 3 and 4, it got quite choppy as they swam into the wind. Swimmers had to really gut that section out. But, once they rounded the island, and hit the halfway point, they had the wind at their back to finish the swim.

After about 2:50:00 into the swim we heard someone shout, “Swimmer!” It was Olympian Chris Thompson. He was in the homestretch to finish his 8.2 miles. When Chris got out the water, his final time was 3:07. Unbelievable!

That’s Chris!

While the feat of swimming around the island was incredible in itself, so were the stories from many of the swimmers.

A few that truly inspired me was a man who was missing an arm. How did he do it? On his back, with the help of his spotter. Wow!

There were many stories of swimmers who battled cancer. In fact, for one swimmer, Kevin, it was his first summer in 2 years that he wasn’t in the hospital receiving cancer/lymphoma treatments. 

Here’s Amy Butler, another cancer survivor, who recently finished her treatments after having a double mastectomy. She origianlly planned to swim 2 miles of the relay, but decided to swim thr entire island! What an inspiration.

Eric helping Amy out of the water.

As Amy came out of the water, she was greeted by hundreds of people cheering and clapping for her. There weren’t too many dry eyes to be found.

Or Pam, who finished her swim and said, “That’s the farthest I’ve ever swam.” That is grit!

And, the finisher who got out of the water and, with a smile said, “let’s do it again!” You inspired me, brother!

Final tally: 232 swimmers exited the water. The youngest was 19, while the oldest was 76, with an average age of 48.

But, besides the swim, the real cause was to raise money for the Mackinac Women’s Club. And did they ever, to the tune of over $10,000!

$10,000 Check Presentation

Sometimes, you need to do something crazy. And honestly, sometimes it takes some crazy people to make that happen! These swimmers weren’t crazy, to me and the other 47 volunteers, they were crazy inspiring!

Find your crazy. Go make a difference. And always Run, or swim, by faith.

Goodbye To A West Michigan Pastor, and Friend

Sometimes, I plan to write a blog. Today wasn’t one of those days. But, circumstances have brought me to writing.

Today, I woke up to the news that a friend, Worship leader, and neighbor, Pastor Ken Reynolds, was in need of prayer. I wasn’t sure what the need was, but knowing that he needed prayer was all I needed to know.

Pastor Ken battled cancer a few years ago, and God brought him through the battle. I invited him into my radio studio to share his miraculous story of faith, hope, and healing. A man of great faith, he never gave up hope in the midst of his battle. Knowing that God would see him through, he inspired me, and many others, through his journey.

I remember years ago, my wife and I would would attend the Good Friday services at Madison Square Church. Ken lead Worship with such passion, and conviction. You just couldn’t help but feel pulled, like a magnet, into the presence of God. He lead with humility, and joy.

Our families got to know each other. I remember one evening, we had Ken and his wife, Andrea, and children over for dinner. Just a simple dinner with a main focus on what he all had in common. A love for Jesus.

As years went by, as many times often happens, we lost touch. No reason. Just life. Until, a trip to Meijer. (our local grocery chain)

I was in the dairy section. I looked up, and saw this tall, humble man walking toward me with a smile. We recognized each other right away. We chatted. Shared stories. And learned that we lived just blocks away from each other. How crazy!! To think, I ran past their house, everyday, and never knew that my friend lived there.

One evening, I saw Ken out walking. It had been several months since I had seen him. I went out to say hello, and he shared that he was battling cancer. (which was why he wasn’t out in the neighborhood more often). He shared with me that his faith, through this battle, was strong! He knew that God had his back through the valley.

Together, we prayed on the sidewalk. We prayed for healing. We prayed for increased faith. We prayed for many to hear about God’s goodness through the battle.

The next time I saw Ken, he was on the other side of his treatments. He had more strength. And no, not just physically. Spiritually! He shared with me that he was getting set to once again lead worship. I remember asking him, “So, when you’re back leading worship, what going to that first song that you sing?” He looked at me with a smile, and said, “That is a great question. I’m sure it’ll be something about God’s goodness in bringing me through the valley”.

April 20, 2020, Pastor Ken took to the stage for the first time back at his church.

I’m standing here today, because God is good. And in that mental challenge (of my battles) I wasn’t going to yield to the voice of the enemy. There are many times when I could’ve given up. But I was determined to stand on the faith that I sing about every week. And in the midst of that journey, God gave me these words (to this song) from the book of Psalms. And it was a comfort to me. In the chorus it says, “You are God. You are good. You’re right beside me. Through the valley. You’re always there. You promised, and I believe.”

Pastor Ken Reynolds at Resurrection Life Church

August 8, 2021, God called Ken home.

Ken never gave up hope. He kept leading people in worship, because he knew, “in the midst of all that, God is still good. And He is still God. That’s the hope that we trust in.”

I write this with a lot of tears. (you should see my keyboard). I’m saddened that a leader is gone. I’m sad for his family. Yet, I’m rejoicing with Ken as he has crossed the finish line. Man, that Heavenly choir just got one incredible leader!

Today, whatever you’re facing, whether it is job loss, marital struggle, anxiety, depression, disease, I ask you to repeat the words that Pastor Ken shared on April 20, “You are God. And you are good. You’re right beside me. Through the valley. Through the valley. That means you’re not staying IN the valley. Through the valley, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Because you are with me. Through the valley. Right beside me. You’re always there. You promised. And I believe.”

Goodbye my friend. You made a difference. Pastor Ken, you ran by faith!

Olympic Heartbreak In Tokyo

I love the Olympics. As a runner, I can appreciate the training, and discipline, that it takes for the spirit of competition. (On a much smaller scale of course) So when I hear of a heartbreaking story, like the Netherlands Womens Cycling Team, it breaks my heart.

Annemiek van Vleuten crossed the finish line with her arms in the air. You could see the joy on her face. Gold was hers. Or, so she thought. You see, it was actually Anna Kiesenhofer, from Austria, who won Gold as she pulled away from the field. Annemiek ended up with Silver.

How could this happen? Well, the Silver Medal winner, Annamiek, never saw Anna pull away from the field. Basically, because Annamiek thought she was in 1st place, she never felt a need to put the pressure on thr cyclist in 1st place. That’s because she thought she was in first place. How heartbreaking!

After the race, the NBC commentator told the rest of the story. In a normal cycling race, the cyclist is in constant communication with their crew/team. They radio each other and know how far in front, or behind, they are from the other cyclists. But, at the Olympics, communication is not allowed. You are on your own. Nobody was able to tell Annamiek she was actually in second place. (Told you it was a heartbreaking story). She thought she had the Gold in the bag.

Aren’t you glad your ability to communicate with God is ALWAYS there? You are never alone. During the biggest battle of your life, you have a crew/team who says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. ” Deuteronomy 31:6 –

Today, if you are facing a challenge, do not try and do it on your own. I encourage you to dig deep, and know that God is with you in the training, and in the battle. “Never will I leave you, or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Are you willing to stay in communication?

Communicate with God. Go make a difference. Always Run, or Cycle, By Faith.

God Sees You As An All Star!

When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. I would save my money, go to the store, and grab a pack for 25 cents, in hopes of getting the card of an All Star baseball player worth some big money. Very rarely did that happen. It seemed like my baseball card pack was filled with common everyday players and very few superstars. That basically means that those baseball players weren’t worth much more than that awful stick of gum.

I would open each package of baseball cards very carefully. At the time I separated them into piles of common players, and All stars. I did my best to keep them in mint condition. As a collector, you always wanted to make sure each card was in pristine condition. The better the condition, the more money the card was worth. This was the norm for baseball card collecting in 1983.

Fast forward to today, 2021. Most of those 1983 baseball cards aren’t worth a thing. In fact, they have depreciated in value. Yes, even those beloved all stars.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed something about all of those baseball cards, they’re all pretty much worth the same thing: Next to nothing! Don’t get me wrong, some cards still show some value more than others. But, for the most part, they’re all pretty much worth the same thing. The guy that was, “the common” is pretty much worth the same as the mint condition “All Star player” from 1983.

As a Jesus follower, this is amazing news! (Follow me here) We all have a tendency to separate people. We put some in, “All Star categories”, and some in, “common categories”. But, when God sees you and me, He sees you as an All Star in mint condition, without separated piles!

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son. Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life”. That means everlasting life for Commons, (you and me) just as much as all stars. In fact, God actually sees YOU as an All Star!

Better yet, thanks to Jesus, you’re an All Star In Mint Condition.

Eternity is Priceless. Go make a difference. Always Run By Faith!

Do Something Ultra

What you’re about to read will sound ultra crazy. It kind of is, and kind of isn’t. To me, it’s ultra amazing. It’s called, an Ultra Marathon.

By definition, an ultra marathon, also called ultra distance or ultra running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers. Becca Joyner, from West Michigan, is an ultra marathoner. She has run several in her life. Yes, that’s ultra crazy! But ultra amazing!

At the time of this writing, Becca is currently running, “The Last Annual Vol State Road Race”. This is a 314 mile race from Dorena Landing, MO to Castle Rock, GA. You read that right, 314 miles!

To show the magnitude of this amount of miles, I’m currently in a, “Keeping Up With Becca” challenge. Several of my running friends, and myself, are trying to see how many miles we can amass while Becca is doing her Ultra. She is destroying us!

It’s 5 against 1, and we’re getting killed!

This is a race with no aid stations, and no cheer stations. Just miles and miles of road. Empty road. This takes sheer grit and determination. And some serious ultra crazy!

Becca and I have a mutual friend, Amy, who decided to be part of her crew. To help encourage her, and support her along the race. The idea of supporting someone is full of life lessons. How to comfort, support, and do whatever it takes to be there for the journey. It means going, “the extra mile” like this.

How awesome is this?!

I asked Amy to try and describe what she has witnessed with Becca tackling this ultra.

To all the Vol Staters, I am in awe. They come in every shape, size, color, and age. They come to the start line with all the determination and belief that they will be climbing the final sandy accent in Georgia. To watch them is to see hopeful pursuit of something that not many are even willing to try. From the “elites” to the everyday mom or dad, you get it all at Vol State and no one is treated better then the other. There is something to be said of kindness and resolve these days.
Becca specifically has had to overcome some lingering demons from last years vol state. Her feet and ankles were wrecked. Trench foot, blisters on her heels and balls of her feet, ankle issues that made her wonder if she would ever have a normal cadence again. The fears of all of that happening again made her very cautious every time it has rained, and it has rained. A lot.
I am truly in awe of the women I have seen this week (and of course it is not finished yet!). She had been through every emotion possible and I know will come out a better human on the other side of this, as she does every time. Being part of this journey with her, I will treasure. There is nothing like an ultra that will bond people quicker. I am thankful to know her and that she has allowed me to be her friend.
Ps, the winner, Bob Hearn, came back through the course this afternoon, speaking and encouraging everyone who is left on it. That is ultra running❤️

In the midst of the race, I shot a text to Becca. What do you say to someone doing something like this? I simply said, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 You that you are NOT doing this alone. You have a swarm of people praying for you, and cheering you on! When I need to dig deep, I am reminded of the Lord fighting for me. In this case, it’s a bit tough to be still, but you get the idea, He will see you through!

She wrote, Thank you so much, you made me tear up. There have definitely been some low points over the last few days, and I’m sure more will come up. I’ll do my best to remember your advice. Thank you for taking the time today.

I tell you this to say that just a little encouragement goes a long way. It came at a God-appointed time, as Becca was climbing 3,000 feet in 2.5 miles. Gulp! She sent me this picture.

As I looked at that picture, a thought came to my mind. “Oh my…WOW! There is a rich lesson in this, the fight to climb. The struggle in reaching the next mountain, after pulling yourself out of the valley. Take a moment to soak it in. Breathe. Cry. Laugh. Emote!!!!

I believe when you take on something ultra tough, you will find something ultra amazing. Whether getting in shape, taking a class, or running an ultra. Becca has, and continues, to find it.

Do something ultra. Go make a difference. ALWAYS run by faith!

What is something “ultra” you have done? How did you feel when you tried and or, finished? Drop a comment below!

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are About To Experience Turbulence

Recently, I had to catch an early flight. Early as in, be at the airport by 3:45am. 3:45am was the easiest part of my flight.

I got my seat, buckled in, and was ready for take off. The dark sky was beautiful as I overlooked the city. It reminded me of fireflies flickering in a field in late June.

With the cabin dark, most people were trying to catch up on sleep. The poor lady next to me couldn’t keep her head up. She looked like a bobblehead. Somehow she, and most everyone else, managed to sleep until the Captain spoke.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask that you stay seated as we are about to experience moderate turbulence”. Moderate turbulence was more like driving on Michigan roads. Jarred to left. Jarred to the right. We were driving straight into a storm!!

This “moderate turbulence” lasted for 15 solid minutes. Just when it seemed like it was letting up, another wave of discomfort kicked in. (Yet, somehow the lady next to me kept sleeping. Bobbleheading, but sleeping)

Finally, the storm ended. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are all clear now. I’m going to turn off the seatbelt sign, and you may get up and move around.” Just like that, the turbulence was over. The seatbelt sign went off, and order was restored. Whew!

Sometimes life rolls along just fine. Peaceful. Serene. Restful. When all of a sudden, turbulence! Everything that was once peaceful pushes you to the left and right. The storm batters you, and that seatbelt sign doesn’t seem like it is ever going to be turned off. But, just like a calming voice from the Captain, God speaks “Be Still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10)

In the middle of the storm of your life, listen for the voice of God. Keep your seatbelt fastened, and trust that your turbulence will eventually lead to the seatbelt sign being turned off!

Fasten your seatbelts. Go make a difference. Always, run by faith.

Sometimes You Just Need To Move The Tomato Plants

My wife, Patty, loves to plant her flowers. She waters them, cares for them, prunes them, and they grow. Except last summer.

Something was wrong. Her tomato plants just didn’t grow as they had in years past. She was doing the same things, but something just wasn’t right. Yes, we did get a small cop of tomatoes, but not the big harvest that we were expecting.

Patty did many of the same things that she always does. She watered them faithfully. She tilled the soil. She gave them great sunlight. And, she pruned them as needed. So what happened?

Apparently, they were planted too close to our house, and the air wasn’t circulating properly. (I never knew that was even a thing!) Yes, that small thing made a huge difference and hindered their growth.

So, this year, she has planted a new crop of tomato plants in a completely different area of our yard. Lots of sun, lots of water, and lots of air movement. And, yep, we are now seeing signs of growth! I guess sometimes, you just need to move the tomato plants!

The same goes with our faith. Faith isn’t stagnant. We have to water it, weed it, prune it, and give it a growing environment. When your faith isn’t growing, something’s wrong.

As a runner, I see many things in my neighborhood that I would miss by simply driving. One neighbor in particular is always sprinkling, mowing, weeding and feeding his lawn. Guess what? He has the best lawn on the block. The time he takes to make that lawn look amazing is paying off! You really do reap what you sow. (Gal 6:9)

Here are a few ways to help you grow.

  • Plant the truth of God’s word in your life.
  • Connect with people for support and accountability.
  • Serve (be the hands and feet of Jesus and show love to others).
  • Experience God through Worship.

I believe that these simple things will help your faith-life grown with the help of the master gardener, Jesus.

Move the Tomato Plants. Go make a difference. Always run by faith.

(special thanks to Betsy Marvin for this blog inspiration)