November Is Not Just About Turkey

The month of November is known for leaves falling, colder temps and Thanksgiving. That’s all great, but why do we limit giving thanks to one day?

Have you really taken inventory of your life? We are always looking at the lives of “their”. Their life. Their job. Their car. Their house. Their vacation. Their…fill in the blank.

As we head into Thanksgiving week, I encourage you to do something I recently did. I took 5 minutes to write down the things I was grateful for. 5 minutes. That’s all I ask.

Here are the just a few of the things I wrote down.

My Jesus. My wife. My kids. My job. My health. My friends. My house. My family. My church. My finances.

Yes, those are pretty simple. But, then I went deeper. Running. West Michigan. Michigan State. Meijer. Electricity. Transportation. Heat. Carpet. Pizza. Ice cream. Laughter. Heated seats in my car. Healing from injuries. New socks. Music. Christmas lights. Coffee….

I could keep going, and that’s kind of the point. When you really take inventory of all you have, you really do have MUCH to be thankful for.

Set a timer. Take some inventory. Write down YOUR own thankful list. You will turn Thanksgiving into ThanksLIVING.

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Be thankful. Go make a difference. Always Run By Faith.

A Holy Disturbance

WARNING! This post is NOT meant to be a brag. If you read it that way, you’ve missed the spirit of the blog. This is about a Holy Disturbance.

Today, as I was doing a few errands, I drove past a man holding a sign asking for money. I’ve seen that man on the corner quite a few times and have thought, “Dude, do you know how many places are hiring right now?” I’m ashamed to to say that. But, I’ve thought it. Well, today, God stirred up inside of me, as my Pastor says, “A Holy Disturbance “.

My final stop was to the local Jimmy John’s to purchase a loaf of day old bread for dinner. As I walked in, there were several loaves of bread sitting on the counter. I ordered one loaf. They said, “you can have it, they’re all about to get thrown away anyway.” I repeatedly told them I came prepared to pay for it. They just smiled and said, “it’s alright”. I thanked them, and walked back out to my car.

I put the key in the ignition, about to drive off, when God hit me with, “a Holy Disturbance.”

There I sat, in my car, debating if I should go back in. “Boy, I’m going to look foolish.” “Will they think I’m trying to scam them?” I had to push all that aside, and just let God handle the details.

So I walked back in and plead my case to the workers, “There is a man asking for food on the corner. Would you be willing to share a few loaves of bread with me so I can share them with that man?” They huddled up for a few moments, and agreed to give me the loaves. I offered money, but they generously just gave them to me. “God Bless all of you!” I said as I walked back to my car.

I drove up to the man. He barely looked me in the eye. “Sir?” I said. “I’d like to share these loaves with you.” He took the bread, a bit reluctantly, and said, “thank you”.

As I drove away, I wondered, “Was this his first meal all day?” “How many meals will this last him?” When will he eat again?” I have no clue to those questions. But, if today he prayed, “Give me today what I need, Lord. (Or, “my daily bread”) God put that Holy Disturbance inside of me to perhaps be an answer to his prayer. Regardless, I trust that the”Holy Disturbance ” will not go in vain.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Listen for a Holy Disturbance. Go make a difference. Always run by faith.

A Difference Maker: My Tribute to Dan Brainard

West Michigan lost the most encouraging runner in the running community: Dan Brainard. God called Dan home on Sept 30, 2021. Dan was truly one of a kind. He was also one of my closet friends.

I was asked to share a few words about Dan at his funeral. Or, as we believed, his celebration of life! What you’re about to read, is what I shared at the funeral.

Good morning. I’m Tommy, and I am very humbled to speak and share some thoughts of our friend, Dan. Melissa, Lauren, Gabby, and Dan’s family. My heart is broken for your pain and loss, and I, as well as many others, have been praying for you.

We all knew Dan for being encouraging, loud, full of life, loud, a rock and roll fan, louder, very caring, always willing to help, and being loud! And of course, Dan was a man who loved loudly! 

Dan had a heart filled with compassion and kindness toward his family and friends.  We all saw and heard his zeal for life. From movie quotes and rock music, to lending a hand whenever needed.  Dan loved big!  And it was during thousands of miles that I was able to spend with him running, that I got to know a side of Dan that helped me understand where his desire to love came from, and that was his faith in God.

Through many runs, we had lots of laughs, and lots of deep chats. We always asked about each other’s family, how we could pray for them, and encouraged each other to be better husbands and fathers.  We also talked a lot about music. And this might surprise you, but one of Dan’s favorite songs is an appropriate one for today. It’s by Casting Crowns, called “Praise you in the storm”.  I’d like to share the lyrics,

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

After those long 10 plus mile runs, we’d all head for breakfast and copious cups of coffee. Dan would always joke and pick on the waitress, but before any of us took a bite to eat Dan always piped up to say, “Tommy, I think you were just about to pray…” and right there, in the middle of the restaurant, we would pray.

Dan might not have looked like a buttoned up, polished church goer, but that’s what I loved about him. You got Dan. A real true, genuine guy. There was never an act with Dan. It was real. And honestly, those are the people Jesus chose to change the world.

Jesus didn’t choose the “we’ve got it all together” people of the world. He chose “unschooled ordinary people”. People that might’ve been written off by society. And guess who people flocked too? Them!!  And Jesus never gave up on them because they were genuine. Just like Dan.  Those 12 disciples changed the world through the love of Jesus.  And I know for a fact, that Dan’s love for Jesus is what shaped who he was.

Jesus didn’t look the part. He just loved. Dan didn’t look the part, he just loved. And Dan’s love was an overflow from his love for Jesus.  Dan always took time to put their goals ahead of his. He always wanted to make us better runners, which made us better people.

Jesus said, “So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you.[i] 13 For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life[j] for his friends.”

Dan loved Jesus. And because of that, I know that I will see him again. That’s a promise that we have, when we put our faith in Jesus, we have the promise of eternal life. That’s Heaven. The streets of Gold. Which is a lot smoother than running down the streets of Garfield and Butterworth.

If Dan were here, I know he would hate all this attention, but deep down, he would love the fact of being around his family and friends. Because it would be just another opportunity to love one another, as Jesus loved us.”

And in the words of the prophet Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while – you could miss it.”

Choose Jesus. Run hard. Always 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.

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!

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!