Be Grateful For Yellow Snow

I’m Tommy, and I run by faith. Recently, I was out for a run after a fresh 5 inch West Michigan snowfall.  With the thick snow hanging from the tress, it was a blanket of Pure Michigan white . Well, except for the little pile of yellow snow. Sorry to ruin your Normal Rockwell moment, but I do have a point.  That yellow snow was some dog’s way of marking his territory.  I don’t know his breed. I don’t know his color, all I know is that it was a reminder that he was there.  The Bible tells of many events in which stones were used to serve as a reminder that something significant happened. Moses built 12 standing stones at the foot of Mt. Sinai after receiving the 10 commandments and other laws. The Israelites placed standing stones as a reminder of the crossing of the Jordan River. Do you have something to remind of where you’ve been? Perhaps it’s a plaque. Or, a picture. Maybe even a scar.  

Leave your mark. Go make a difference. Always Run By Faith.

Craziest Christmas Ever!

Hall and Oates once sang, “You Make My Dreams Come True. Ooh Ooh. Ooh Ooh.” Do dreams really come true? Dreams are weird. Sometimes, dreams feel very real. Sometimes they’re terrifying. Sometimes, they’re are just…odd. Like the time I dreamt that the only way that I could move was by swimming through the air. My wife, Patty, has dreams that DO come true! In 1998, she dreamt that she was pregnant with twins. Guess what? 7 months later, we had twins!

In the Christmas story, God spoke to Joseph, and others, through dreams. Several times, actually. Look at Matthew 1:18-24.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means “God with us”).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

What would you do in that situation? Stay the course? Or, run the other direction?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Three Magi (wise men) traveled to find “the King of the Jews”. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed, and worshipped the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Then another dream, “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Then yet ANOTHER dream, “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” This is getting pretty scary! It’s for sure not your typical, “hey we just had a baby, and now our life is complete” Hallmark Christmas movie.

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:14-15.

Harod then freaks out, and orders all boys in Bethlehem two years old and under to be killed. WHAT? And you thought Freddy Krueger was a nightmare!

Ok, let’s just take a deep breath. This is a lot to comprehend. Each part of this story is quite overwhelming. A baby is born to a virgin. The baby is the Savior of the world. A dude named Harod wants to KILL the baby, and Mary and Joseph are still trying to figure out what this whole parenting this is all about. Whew! Next scene.

The Return to Nazareth

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt  and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,  and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:19-23

Amazing huh? God spoke to some many people through dreams. But I don’t want you to miss the bigger picture. Each of these characters not only had the dreams, they were OBEDIENT! Yes, they were some hefty orders. But, what would’ve happened if they ignored the orders?

Joseph was an amazing, faithful man of God. I don’t think that I appreciated all that Joesph had to endure, until just this year. I have spent the last few weeks really diving deeper into the account of the birth of Jesus, and the great faith of Joseph and Mary. They both were very obedient in some very difficult situations. God promised them that He would be with them, and He was!

Today, I encourage you to listen to the voice of God. Whether it be through a dream, a friend, a nudging, or even through a simple blog post. What is God saying to you? Are you willing to be obedient? Will you listen?

Listening will help you to go make a difference. And, Run By Faith.

You Are Not Alone

‘Tis days before Christmas, and you’re in a shopping zone, yet this year, you feel strangely alone. The stockings may be hung by your chimney with care, but this time around there’s nobody for you to share.  That doesn’t sound very joyous, does it? Well, wait. There’s a character in the Christmas story who might’ve felt alone, too.

Her name is Mary.  She was told that she would give birth to a baby who is the Savior of the world! At that time, due to circumstances, it was not a peaceful time between rulers, people, and nations.  (some things never change, huh) Now, if I had to guess, at times, she might’ve felt alone.  She might’ve dealt with fears of not being accepted, and/or feelings of potential shame.  But God promised her that she would not be alone. And, God wants YOU to know that YOU are not alone!

We are told in Luke 1:26-27, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph…”

At a time, in which Mary is visited by an Angel, and told that she’s pregnant, as a virgin, she finds out that her cousin, Elizabeth, is expecting, too.

“…at that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke 1:39‭-‬41 NIV

This year, God nudged me and showed me something I hadn’t noticed before. At the same time that Mary was embarking on a difficult 9 month task, she was given the gift of a family member walking a similar journey with her. I wonder if they shared stories with each other? Talked about their experiences? Shed tears? Shared joys? See, God always makes a way.

Are you feeling alone? Remember, like Mary, you are NOT alone. Your journey is not meant to be traveled by yourself. Look around. Look through your phone contacts. Look up. Who is the Elizabeth that God has placed in your life? Who is someone who has either, “been there before”, or “is there” now?

Emmaneul. God with us. Go make a difference. And always, Run By Faith.

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Tom Petty wasn’t kidding. He sang the song, “The Waiting Is The Hardest Part.” From waiting rooms, to call backs. Traffic jams, to being a kid on Christmas Eve. Waiting is hard. But, worth it.

As we approach Christmas, I can’t help but think of the story in Luke chapter 2 about somebody who knew quite a bit about waiting. His name was Simeon.

The Bible tells us, “Simeon was a righteous and devout man.” He was told by the Holy Spirit, “He would not die before he had seen the Messiah.” That’s a pretty spectacular promise. But, I have to wonder if he ever thought if it would actually happen.

Think about it. Everyday he probably wondered, “will today be the day?” And then at night he probably wondered, “Well, I wonder if tomorrow is the day?” Day-and-night. Months. Years. All he could do was hold on to a promise. And then it happened.

Moved by the spirit he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying, “Sovereign Lord as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. A light for revelation to the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”

Simeon waited. Then, after all of those days, those months, those years, it happened. In walked the Mother, the Father and the child. Imagine that exchange when he finally took the baby in his arms. He held the Savior of the world. Just as he was promised. Wow. Just wow!

I bet there were days in which Simeon wondered, “Will this really happen? Will this, “waiting” really be worth it?” Oh…it was worth it. And the story of his waiting is part of the greatest story ever told.

What are YOU waiting for? Are YOU in the “waiting room” of life? Waiting for test results? Waiting for a call? Waiting for a promise to be fulfilled? Wait. It will be worth it.

Wait with anticipation. Go make a difference. And always Run By Faith.

Don’t Be A Karen. Be A Mary.

As we move onward to Christmas, I’m beginning a short series of messages to help us all focus more on Christmas in the midst of Chaos and COVID.

I feel bad for anyone named Karen. It’s become “a thing” to call someone who complains, “a Karen “. That’s not saying that anyone named Karen is a complainer, Stephanie’s can be Karen’s. It is simply a title. It is what you’re “known for”.

I just heard a Christmas message on, “Saying yes to God “. It was about how Mary said yes to God when she was told that she would be carrying the Savior of the world. “Saying Yes” is something that Mary was known for. Can you even imagine? An Angel shows up, which is crazy to begin with, and then she is told that she will give birth to a child, though she is a virgin. “He will be great and called the Son of the Most High”. What is Mary’s response? “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled!” Whoa! Now THAT is the most accurate definition of what it means to run by faith!

Mary took a bold step and simply said, “Yes”. She didnt know the future. She just knew that God would be with her. And you know what? He held to His promise.

What about you? What is God asking of you? This Christmas, are you willing to take a step in God’s direction? To do something He has been pulling at your heart to do? To reach out to someone in need? Or, like the song says, “let every heart prepare him room”. Maybe it’s opening your heart to more of God. Whatever it is, today could be the beginning of becoming what you’re known for.

Go be a Mary. Go make a difference. And always Run By Faith.

The Rescue: Be Like Ed

On a cold, wintery day in 1860, a crowded passenger steamer had issues off the shores of Lake Michigan. Lots of people witnessed what was going on, but only one man decided to do something about it. His name was Edward Spencer. Edward swam out through the heavy, icy waves 16 times and rescued 17 people. Afterwards, Edward collapsed in a delirium of exhaustion, and never completely recovered. The rest of his life was lived in broken health. But what’s even more tragic is that in a notice of his death, one paper said that not one of these 17 rescued persons ever thanked him. Not one.

Pretty sad, huh? Yet, how many of us might have honestly done the same? I’m sure all 17 were grateful, but they never took the time to simply say, “thanks”.

There’s a story in the Bible similar to this. Jesus healed 10 men stricken with leprosy. These 10 men had to live in isolation from society to prevent their disease from spreading. How lonely! Yet, after their healing, their introduction back into society, only 1 returned to say, “thanks”.

On this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to stop, reflect, and say thanks. We have many reasons to give thanks. It might not be as dramatic as being rescued from icy waters, or being healed from a disease, but what in your life have you been “rescued” from? Feel free to drop a comment. I’d love to pray for you!

Give thanks. Go make a difference. And always, Run by faith.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs…

Labels. They’re helpful when buying clothes and food. But in the front yard? I don’t know about that.

For the last several months, “labels”, in the form of political signs, have made statements for all of us to see. Candidates you like. And, candidates you don’t. Now, if you think this is a going to be a political blog, I promise, it won’t be. But, I’m hoping this makes you think a bit differently.

I’ve noticed that when someone sees a “label” in someone’s front yard, immediately, a conclusion is drawn about them. “Oh, I can’t believe she’s voting for him!!” “Who in their right mind…” blah blah blah. Perhaps it’s made you look at them differently? Sometimes negatively. Sometimes, positively.

But I’d like to challenge you on something. What about the house with NO label…um, yard sign. Without a sign, you may never know how that person sees the world. Their views. Their thoughts. Their affiliation. Doesn’t that seem more, “pure”? Just think about it, you don’t “cast judgment” near as easily as when you see their sign, flag, or banner.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with telling people about “your candidate” with a yard sign. But, I have been working on getting to know people, whether I agree with “their sign”, or not. In fact, I have a good friend who views the world differently than I do. When we met, I never knew their “yard sign”. We simply got to know each other. And guess what? I found that we had many things in common. However, to be honest, would I have approached them the same way if I knew their “yard sign”, before I got to know their heart?

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them”. Luke 6:32

If we’re really going to love one another, we have to “remove the labels”. Now that’s a sign I can endorse!

Be label-free. Make a difference. And always Run By Faith.

When Life Makes You Want To Say Bad Words

Sometimes, life stinks. Ever feel that way? Yeah, me too. Whoa! Wait. You’re surprised that I’m saying that? C’mon, circumstances happen.

Admittedly, I’ve had a bit of a rough stretch. Nothing life altering, but just some tough stuff. Stuff that is frustrating. Stuff that is time consuming. Stuff that makes you want to say bad words. While I didn’t say bad words, I feel my attitude hasn’t been in top form. In the midst of it, I have had to choose joy.

I took several long walks, and runs, praying for breakthrough and wisdom. And guess what? God answered. It wasnt in the way I was planning, but God knows a whole lot more than this dude!

I got wisdom through troubleshooting computer issues. I read some pretty amazing stories in the Bible about people who had much bigger struggles of their own. And, I received encouragement through texts, sticky notes, and hugs of support and love from my wife. It has been a lot, but to quote Elton John, “I’m Still Standing”.

What I’ve learned through it all is something I blogged about months ago, “I can do hard things”. I can do hard things because I have watched YOU do harder things. Much harder than the circumstances I’ve faced.

I’ve watched a husband walk alongside his wife in her fight against cancer. And, each day, choosing JOY.

I’ve witnessed a mom struggle daily while her child battles cancer. Not knowing if he will make it through the night. In the midst of it, she is choosing JOY.

I’ve watched a friend, who has been out of work for several months due to the pandemic, encourage others to choose JOY!

It’s easy to say bad words. It’s hard to choose JOY. Or is it? Well, when you put JOY into your core being, it makes it easier to navigate through the rough spots. I didn’t say easy, but easier. JOY is one of the things that is called, “a fruit of the spirit”. If you live JOY, it can’t help but come out of you.

What are you facing today? How can you choose JOY? Not bad words?

Go make a difference. Choose Joy. And always Run By Faith.

Marriage Ain’t Easy, But…

My wife, Patty, and I have officially been married 28 years! And while I’d like to say that it’s always been great, it hasn’t. But, without a doubt, GOD has been great!

Through 28 years, we’ve been Senior High youth group leaders, given birth and raised 4 kids, and opened our home to countless others during their trying times.

It hasn’t always been great. We’ve had plenty of bumps. But tonight, as I raised my glass to toast my wife, I told her that I am grateful for the joys, grateful for the rough patches, and grateful that God never gave up on us. Even when at times, we thought about giving up on each other.

As you read this, I want to encourage you that God has a great plan for you in your marriage. Sometimes you just have to shovel the crap. And you know, crap makes things grow.

These glasses sum up my heart. I love you, Patty. And Jesus, thank you for guiding us.

Don’t Be A Fool

You’ve been told from a young age, “Choose your friends carefully”. Of course, in your head you’re like, “blah blah blah…”. But, ya know what? It is the truth.

The other day I was running with a group of friends. These friends are faster runners than I am, but they have never looked at me any differently. In fact, they’ve actually helped me become a better, and faster, runner.

They’ve never said, “I think it’s time for you to pick up your pace”. Nope. They’ve never said a thing. So what’s changed? Actually, it’s pretty simple. If I run with faster people, and want to stay in their group without them leaving me in the dust, I have to keep the same pace as them. So, by choosing to run with faster people, I have gotten faster.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed that makes them faster runners:

  • They pick their knees up higher than I do. This causes faster turnover, and helps their form. Think about when you sprint, your legs lift higher. You don’t have, “lazy foot”. Simple, right?
  • They’ve mentioned to me that I don’t swing my arms enough. I hold them too close to my body. This causes my legs to unnecessarily work harder, which can tire me out faster.
  • I don’t stop as long as I used too at a water break. Their breaks are quick. Waiting around too long can cause your muscles to tighten up, and even break your running rhythm. And, it changes your heart rate.

This all goes back to when you were younger. “Choose your friends carefully”. If you hang out with people with a positive influence, you will become just like them. But, on the other side, if you choose to hang out with people who pull you down with their bad influence, you’ll begin to make stupid choices, too.

Proverbs 13:20 says, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”

So today, I encourage you to look at who you’re hanging around with. Are they people who bring you up? Or people who pull you down? Can you learn beneficial things by simply observing their life?

Go make a difference. Choose wisely. And always, Run By Faith!