Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Miami 2011 -- Three Stories of God's Grace
There are several stories that stood out to me about the 2011 ING Miami Marathon. Below are three stories of God's grace that grabbed my attention and held my heart!
Running Forward to Share it Forward!
I was in amazement at her words as she told me the story of a change in her heart. I saw the tears well up in her eyes because of the impact that that moment in time had on her soul.
She stopped by the TEAM 413 booth at the 2011 ING Miami Marathon and quietly looked at the shirts. I approached her to see if I could help – she began to tell me her story. Her husband stood by silently but with a smile and twinkle in his eyes. Last December she was running the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Alabama. Her goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. As she ran she happened upon a man running under the name TEAM 413 – wearing our shirt emblazoned with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” on the back. She ran behind him for a while and then as she came up beside him, she told him that the message had been so significant to her on that day that if she qualified for Boston, she would be wearing a TEAM 413 shirt in her next events. She qualified for Boston on that day with 35 seconds to spare!
Now, on January 29, 2011 she was standing in our booth making plans to live up to her promise to the man who helped her get through that race. Even more importantly, it was a promise to herself to be a witness to someone else – to be hope for someone’s hurting heart – to be a billboard of grace out on her journey. She selected the shirt that she wanted and we talked for quite some time. Her husband told of how God had changed their lives through working with children in camps near their home.
These folks were amazing people who had made plans to pay if forward and share forward so that others could see Christ in them! I believe that she got her opportunity at the marathon on Sunday. I can’t wait to hear!
Just a shirt story? I think not – it was one more step in changing another person’s life through the simple message of the verse that God breathed into reality and placed on a simple running shirt.
Awake and Asleep!
On race morning I walked from my hotel on Miami Beach to the Convention Center to catch a ride to the start line in downtown Miami. It was a little over a mile to the shuttle area, but it was easier than trying to find a parking place!
My route took me along Highway A1A or the main drag of Miami Beach. At 3:45 AM that place was still hoppin! Clubs were open. Restaurants were open. I even heard a couple tell the hostess that they needed a table for two for dinner at one of the outdoor patio restaurants! Everyone was dressed to the max and there I was in my running attire walking to catch a shuttle for a race! I had been asleep and woke up to an alarm at 3:00 AM and these folks hadn’t been to bed yet!
I thought that it was an oddity that all these people were still up and showed no sign of going home soon. But, I’m certain they looked at me in the same way. What’s that guy doing? Where is he going? Why’s he dressed like that? Uncertainty had to cross their mind because I am CERTAIN that they didn’t know that a marathon was taking place in a couple of hours! After all, they would be in bed when we started and when we finished.
I wasn’t sure what lesson I had learned from my journey of the early morning. I usually have some analogy to make that can pull it all together but I’ve been having a hard time with this one until just now while I’m 35,000 feet over somewhere in the southeast flying home to Birmingham.
It finally came to me – their clocks must have been wrong! My mom once told me that not too many good things happened if you were out after midnight. Maybe their mama didn’t tell them. They could have been sleep walking like many of us were at the start of our race. Or, maybe they were just like a lot of the marathoners who got up early on a Sunday morning, put on their running shoes and gear, pinned their number on, and went for a run with several thousand people. Maybe they were running to or from something just like many of us who are runners. Maybe they were searching for something that seems unattainable or running from something that they can’t outrun. Maybe we are alike after all.
At many of my speaking engagements and in much of my writing I tell people that they don’t have to run to or from anything because Jesus Christ is the answer to all their needs. If we are running a real or “mythical 3:00 AM” marathon of life, He is all we need. We don’t have to search any longer – we simply have to ask Him to come into our hearts. Then, we carry Him everywhere we go because He is within us and He runs in front of us, behind us, to our right and to our left, above and below us. He is there to protect us from the enemy and give us hope for a future that we cannot imagine. Seek Him and you will find Him. Call on Him and He will come. Believe in Him – accept Him and He will change your life for all eternity. He is the answer to all your needs!
Mark Pratt is a man of God! Originally from Jamaica, now living in the Miami area, Mark is my Facebook friend and brother in Christ. I met him last year at the Miami Marathon where he bought my book and has now shared it with many of his friends. He can even recite many of the stories that I write about so, I know he read it! Mark came to our booth at the expo to visit and to seek words of “wisdom” from me (if you can call it that) as he was about to run his first full marathon. We talked about a lot of things including nutrition, hydration, walk breaks, and so much more. He left with a little more confidence that he could get the job done. Later that evening, he posted a thank you on my Facebook site and I had a feeling that he was going to do great.
As is my custom, I got to the start line of the race on Sunday morning very early. I like to have time to sort through all of the weekend – to take in the words of people all around me – and to talk to our TEAM 413 folks who I bump into along their way to run the race.
This race started in the darkness of the early morning at about 6:15 AM. In Miami you run over the Causeway across Biscayne Bay on a trek to Miami Beach. In the darkness of this early morning, the cruise ships were lit up and then the glimmer of the sunrise hit the sky! It was a glorious site of God’s creation. Absolutely spectacular!
As I ran over the causeway taking in all of the sites, Mark ran up beside me and tapped me on the shoulder. The odds of this happening were huge – but, to God, it was planned. We ran along together for several miles and I encouraged him to increase his pace and keep moving forward. We parted ways as I wished him God speed as he continued his step by step journey to complete his goal.
Then, at about mile 12 of the race we ran into each other again – and at the split of the half and full marathon I had a chance to pray that God would bless this wonderful man of God. I made my turn toward the finish and saw Mark move his way to a distance that would be new to him with the knowledge that he would glorify God in every step that he took.
Late on Sunday I checked the results of the race and he had finished the drill – he had run the race set before him! He accomplished the dream that God had planted in his heart! I am proud of you, Mark! Keep rockin’ your runs for Christ! God speed, my friend!
Under HIS Grace...