Friday, December 23, 2016

Twas The Night Before Christmas; December 24, 2016

Catchy title above, huh?

I'm not any more noble than the next person, but I hope I can share something that will be of meaning to you this holiday season.

If you don't regularly read what I write, maybe I got you here by taking a look underneath the proverbial hood.  Therefore, I need to deliver, right?

I'll do my very best.

I read something today which was written before last Christmas, but was shared by a Facebook friend and appeared in my news feed.

It is titled, "Kirsten Powers: Becoming a Christian Ruined My Love of Christmas".  The link is here.

A comment or two on that share in my news feed made it seem that I should know who Kirsten Powers is.

I admit I don't and I haven't even Googled her name, but what she wrote is more important than who she is.

The majority of us are getting ready - as I write - to spend time with family and friends (already perhaps) over the next few days.

If you are, regardless of what is going on - good or bad - with those individuals, covet and cherish that time.

I'll get to why I feel that way - and the motivation for me to write this evening - a little later.

I probably fail to share well enough that I believe in and have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

And maybe the life I lead doesn't always imitate the most fervent and effectual follower of Christ.

If you do not believe in Jesus and something that I've done has been a stumbling block to you doing so, please let me know privately.

There's one situation that's visible that I don't make well known - not because I'm trying to hide anything, but rather that I don't purposely or inadvertently want to draw any more attention to it than is absolutely necessary.

It is why I navigate a large portion of my life as quietly as possible and do my best to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of others as well as to be an encouragement, when possible, to them.

But during this time the next few days, we have a tendency to miss the magnitude of the eternal importance in what we're celebrating - or to be celebrating.

Powers' reference on page 2 of what she wrote on Christianity Today about what Christmas is -- a “divine rescue mission” of humankind.

Those who do believe, we don't ask boldly, as Powers wrote, "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” - or also "Have you accepted?" - enough.

It is my hope every day that I have more of a boldness to do so tomorrow than I did today.

I've even been in a couple of congregations around the country this year in my travels that didn't make that specific invitation as part of their service.

It didn't malign the message, because I believe that God's word never returns void, but it did - to me - represent a missed engagement.

I challenge you to spend a few moments if you've made it this far to think about those you know who is not here with us this Christmas and holiday season.

It might be a family member.  Could be a friend or a business associate.

May even be those that are suffering in places half way around the globe that we wish we could safely go and do something about.

We all know - or are aware - of somebody.

Please pray for peace and comfort for those individual's loved ones in the days and weeks to come.

Some of us have lost loved ones years ago that still feels like their passing was just yesterday.

I was going through pictures here on my lap top earlier and found the last picture that I took of my sister, Holly.

Holly Munsinger, Christmas Eve 2013
As you can see, she didn't look like herself.

Eleven days later, on my birthday, January 5th, she was admitted to the hospital.

And a day after that, she was rushed to the ICU from her room and none of us ever had the opportunity to communicate with her again as she passed away 11 days later.

We didn't realize it until after she was in intensive care that the steroids that she was taking to manage the pain associated with the steel rods in her back separating from her spine caused her to not only put on weight, but also weakened her immune system allowing her to catch the flu and caused pneumonia.

But these situations, even though we know that our life is "even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away", should re-focus our efforts to fervently love those closest to us - with the time remaining - as well as those we come in contact with.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in Belton, Texas - about two and a half hours west of here - for a memorial service for a former business partner of my father's.

The deceased (and his family) was (is) Catholic and one of the things that really touched me - especially now that I learned that it is a ritual of a Catholic Mass - was the greeting to one another at the end of Mass for peace to be with you.

It is one of the things that I've tried to focus on more and more and that is to be in a place of peace as much as possible.

Maybe it is something that is a possible immediate goal for you or for the year ahead.

Prayer certainly helps in this, but removing oneself from people that have a tendency to either sow discord in our world or situations that take our eyes off Jesus and what He has in store for us may also help too.

I know that I've painfully had to remove myself from the noise of some as well as direct my eyes elsewhere because what I was starting to focus on - I know from past experiences - will disrupt the peace that I've been working to achieve in my life.

I've very thankful, especially as I get older, for each day that I'm given.

It is the first thing when I pray that I thank God for.

I just want to make the absolute best of each moment that I have to do what's right and to encourage as many people as I possibly can to lead similarly happy, peaceful and productive lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope that I get to see you sometime soon.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Few Thoughts From Saturday's Brazos Bend Marathon; December 10, 2016

As I've shared before, I write to help me process life.

When Waverly started college at Liberty University, my advice to her - and even before - was that if she had the time to "do something", regardless of what it was, do it.

Live her life with no regrets.

Returning home from getting dinner out, I was listening a little bit to KSBJ on the ride home and there was some discussion about regret.

And it is how Satan wants us to live in the past in our regrets and to fear in the future and not in the present with Christ.

How true.  Even as I sit and write, I can look at things around me - a stack of stuff here, another there - and see failure or rather that there's still a lot of opportunity in front of me.

I prefer the latter.

I stay busy.  And there's some reasons for that.

People laugh and tell me that they have a hard time keeping up where I'm at or going to and from.

I look for opportunities to maintain peace, joy and happiness in my life.  Especially with a lot of the rhetoric from this past election season, I've moved away from people - on both sides of the proverbial political aisle - whose opinions were extreme or strident.

If you're reading this and you fear that you might be one of them, I'm sorry, but my happiness is more important than your noise.

Constructive dialogue and conversation, I can handle.  Beyond that, life is too short.

As I approached the weekend, I had a release planned, but just didn't know which one it was going to be.

I love running in races in multiples and in new locations and I particularly enjoy the half marathon distance.

One plan had me going to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to run a Friday night race in Denton (timed by my friends with RunFAR), perhaps a 5K on Saturday morning in Fort Worth and then maybe swing west for an afternoon 5K in Comanche.

Another included a half marathon in Temple that I've run three times in the past, including last year.

And finally a third option saw me going to Lake Charles, Louisiana for a half marathon that I ran in 2004, the first time that I ever helped another runner cover the distance for the first time.

I had been in Temple earlier in the week for a memorial service of a friend and former business partner of my father's.

It is a solid two-hour, 40-minute drive each way and the half marathon was an 8:45 a.m. start; therefore, I could see a good bit of the day being tied up -- given that I needed to finish preparing to finish line announce today's 29th annual Fort Bend Kia 30K in Sugar Land.

The half marathon in Lake Charles had a 7 a.m. start, which would have worked.

The race in Temple had a $60 race day price while the one in Lake Charles was $80.  These come with the territory of signing up for a race late.

The one option that I hadn't strongly considered was the Brazos Bend 100 mile race in Brazos Bend State Park, just south of downtown Houston.

I knew there was going to be lots of people that I knew that was going to be there.

Sometimes, being an introvert (although at selected times, extroverted), I don't want all of that stimulation that comes from people.  Granted, the majority of it is always good, but still I like to control the engagement.

Yet I wasn't sure that I wanted to go and drive to an out-of-town race and be by myself like I am much of the time.

The price of the half marathon was $90.  Again, it is a function of limiting the number of late sign-ups, which reduces the load on race day staff and the amount of possible things that can go wrong.

No offense to Rob Goyen and his excellent team at Trail Racing Over Texas, but $90 is past my price point for a half marathon.

But $95 for a marathon isn't.   We runners have a strange sense of rationale, don't we?

Marathon, huh?  I've shied away from them for awhile.  I was signed up for the 2016 Chevron Houston Marathon, ready to go for my 10th finish - good enough to earn Veterans Status, but just a lack of "want to" to go walk my way through the back end of a 5:30 finish had limited that pursuit.

The big difference here was that I knew that my best friend Bill Dwyer would be out supporting a couple of his Volte Endurance athletes that were going to be running the half marathon.

When I'm announcing and most other times, I'm a person that does my best to give encouragement to others.

Bill literally lives it and has such an incredible spirit of goodness towards others and the ability to see the positive at all times in everybody.

Start - #1 (40 Acre) - 3.08 miles
#1 (40 Acre) - #2 (Windmill) - 3.6 miles
#2 (Windmill) - #3 (Sawmill) - 2.7 miles
#3 (Sawmill) - #4 (Windmill) - 2.7 miles
#4 (Windmill) - #5 (Finish) - 1.87 miles
Total was advertised as 13.78, even though this adds up to 13.95.

33:46.67 - 46:33.66 (spent four mins at main aid station)
43:22.12 - 50:59.73 (was still running a good bit on the second)
32:39.70 - 44:52.65 (started to power walk)
33:44.10 - 46:52.68
24:37.13 - 29:10.85

(2:48:09.72) Front half
(3:38:29.57) Second half

(6:26:39.29) Overall

One of the easiest things you can do to sabotage your time in a trail race, regardless of your speed, is to spend too much time in the aid stations.

In reality, unless you're running a 50-miler or a 100-miler, you should get in and get out.

I don't know that I gave up too much time on the first loop, but definitely did so on the second loop.

I'm pleased with the effort, especially doing it sort of on a whim.

"I don't think I know anyone who registers for 26.2 the day before," said Volte's Carrie Hyde.

Yes, I'm not that classically trained runner that one should follow.

But one of the things that I realized when I delivered a eulogy at my sister's memorial service almost three years ago and that is:  Nobody is going to really care about the things you accomplished.  What matters is who you were to other people.

Even though I power-walked from the Windmill station out to Sawmill and back and on into the finish, I enjoyed the entire day and all of the people that I saw and interacted with.

First person I saw as I walked in towards the start line from the outer parking lot was Steve Boone.  I didn't know he was going to be there as he had been attending to his family's needs the past two weeks as Paula's father had passed away.  If you can't be friends with Steve and Paula, it is likely that you can't be friends with anybody.

Great to visit with the Bay Area Running Club's Jeremy Hanson at the start.  Funny how things jog our memory.  I remembered him from a picture posted on Facebook at the finish with BARC favorite Veronica Hoge.

Bridge City's Brian Beard came up and said "Hello!" before the start of the race.  Always, always great to converse with a fellow follower of Christ and Steelers fan.

One of the best moments of the day was when I got to run a little bit with West Columbia's Don Womble.  We're all always so busy at races, but it was great to run and chat a little bit with him.  Very compassionate, caring man who always speaks well of and thoughtfully asks about Waverly every time we see each other.

Saw Nils Fowler out on the half marathon course and later as he was done and I was on the second loop of the marathon course.  His wife, Allison, ran the 50-miler.  I really appreciate their friendship.  First class people.

After we had been running for awhile, the half marathoners began to start flying by and leading the pace with Duncanville's Jeff Ball was Lake Jackson's Lauren Smith Stroud.  She hung with him through the Sawmill turnaround, but was still second overall and first female.  The 50-mile American's women record was set on the course on Saturday.  I think one day Lauren could take that down.

Two of Bill's runners, Hope Jimenez and Letty Gonzalez, were running the half marathon too.  I saw Hope first.  She was running well and later on in the morning, I was wondering when she would pass me.  I was ready to offer a shout out, but I later learned - as she was headed to the Sawmill aid station and I was leaving it - she had turned an ankle.  Though I was most delighted that she continued to walk the course and finish.  Solid, steady race from Letty.  I look forward to announcing the finish to her goal race in the spring of 2017.

I've always said that one of the classiest women in sports in our area is Houston's Suzy Seeley, but Nome's Melanie Holland deserves to be included in that company.  Such a sweet-spirited person, she ran up behind me, as she was running the half, and said, "Way to go, Mr. Jon."

It was great to see The Woodlands' Ronnie Delzer out there trying to set the American record at the 100-mile distance.  One of his crew members, Peter Bardenhagen, reported that he went 6:02 through the first 50, which was on pace, but he dropped about six miles later.  After recovering some and reconsidering, given a future goal of running Badwater 135, he went back out on the course and covered the remaining 44 miles.  A lot of humility from somebody who ran 14 hours, 15 minutes at Rocky Raccoon 100 last February.

I announce a lot of races and it is always great to "bring the finish line to the course".  Great to see in the results that Victoria's John Hyak, who is a member of our Seabrook Lucky Trail Leprechaun Hall of Fame, finish his first 100-miler.  I think he was surprised to hear me shout out to him, but I could tell that he appreciated it.

Another runner that I've gotten to know through the Seabrook race as well as Steve and Paula's Texas Marathon is Daniel Bucci.  Positive, upbeat guy that loves trail racing, he was seventh overall in the 50-miler.

Finishing about seven minutes from each other were two of our regulars at Seabrook -- Kingwood's Jacqueline O'Brien Nolen and Houston's Wendy Hammerman.  Jacqueline covered the distance in 8:54:53 while Wendy wasn't far behind in 9:01:08.

Great attempt at the 100-mile distance by April Hamon from over in the Beaumont area.  Incredible mom of three who's as tough as nails.  I surprised her when I first saw her on the course as I don't telegraph where I'm going anymore to race and then the second time I saw her, as she was early in her second of six proposed loops, I encourgaed her to pick her head up.  She completed four laps for 66-plus miles, but realized that it was unlikely to cover the fifth loop in enough time to make the last loop cutoff.

Always good to see Buddy and Becky Howlett from Vidor.  Buddy was running the marathon while Becky was doing well in the half marathon.  Buddy is one of Rob's newest Trail Racing Over Texas race ambassadors - and a wise choice.

I met Missouri City's Theresa Bueno as I came in to one of the aid stations and she commented on my Penn State shirt.  I said, "Yeah, but the guy in the Wisconsin shirt over there didn't like it too much."  She had, like others, recognized me by my voice.  Such a scary thought.  Very, very upbeat individual.  I think sometimes if we leave a race and we haven't made a new connection or two, we're missing out.

Great to see long-time friend and fellow ISS ("Incredible Shrinking Strider") Doug Spence from Houston who was volunteering at the finish line aid station.  Didn't know he was even going to be there as he was signed up for the Fort Bend Kia 30K the following day, but I told him that I thought out on the course that we were just one letter short from being something far worse!

Also great to see Bob Botto.  He was going to be out there later in the night pacing somebody.

The Snowdrop Foundation was best represented out there by Jim Abney.  He later said on Facebook he wasn't his normally bubbly self, but it was still great to see him.

Out there representing Snowdrop too was Traci Duck.  She was working in the Pavilion with Becky Spaulding as I got ready to leave the Park for the day (as I still had a race to prepare for).

A number of folks that support Robby Sabban's races, Texas Beef Team member Alison Brown and Bob Smither were there doing the marathon and 50-miler, respectively.  Both were steady on the course the entire time they were out there.  Bob improved greatly - I think to the tune of four hours, I noticed - on his 50-mile time from a year ago.

Leno Rios found his way out to the trails - and got lost!  Turning what should have been 17 miles into 22.  One of Houston's greatest class acts in racing.  Such a talented, steady runner who is a great encourager to many runners in our community.

At the finish line working with Doug was Paula Boone.  Her Dad had passed away in the last two weeks and she and Steve had just made it back into town the day before.  Steve hadn't run at all during that time and was out there to move off of his 666th marathon finish at the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon, but Paula was giving of herself to other runners.  I had been working on getting a card for her, but it was great to give her a big hug to let her know that we'd been thinking about them.

And I couldn't have left the grounds without getting a hug from a long-time friend Becky Spaulding.  Finish Line Sports race director Andy Stewart recognized Becky this year with his club's Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award and it was so deserving.  I've known Becky since the fall of 2004 when she, Doug Spence and myself were all in the same HARRA Power In Motion clinic together.  I don't know how she gives of herself as much as she does, but everyone - especially the trail racing community - is glad that she does.

See running is more about people to me.

I'm glad that I didn't go race elsewhere and regretted not going to Needville (a new Texas city, by the way) -- and neglected the advice that I gave - and continually give - to my daughter.

Nobody will remember your times, but they will remember you and how you treated them and made them feel.

Two more notes that are especially important.

When I came into one of the aid stations, perhaps it was the Windmill station, I recognized Crystal Huff from the Beaumont area that does many of Rich and Amie James' races.  Being the dutiful aid station worker that you are when you work a trail racing aid station, she approached me and asked me is there anything that I needed.

And the primary gist is to take your water bottle and fill it up with whatever you need so you can focus on getting in some calories for the next 2-3 miles.

In life, I generally take care of everything for myself.  And at that moment, I did the same.

However, as I left that exchange, and the aid station, I worried that I offended and discouraged somebody who was trying to be helpful.  When I ran out to the Sawmill aid station and back, Crystal was gone.

I saw her shortly after I finished the marathon, however, and was able to explain to her and ensure that I didn't offend her nor not appreciate the help that she offered.

Finally, one of the things that I did was to engage race director Rob Goyen and tell him what an incredible job he and his team had done on Saturday.

We, as runners, do that often to event directors that do a great job.  That's not abnormal.

However, there's a back story.

Two years ago, after the 2014 edition of the Brazos Bend 100, a day where Ronnie cut short his inaugural attempt at the 100-mile distance partly because some of the aid stations had run out of water, I had some reports from people I trusted in the community that said it was a rough day for many.

I was later asked in a Facebook group of the Seven Hills Running Club about doing either Hog's Hunt (Paul Stone's race) or Brazos Bend 50 (so this would have been for the spring of 2015).  I strongly recommended doing Hog's Hunt.  I just felt like based on what I knew from people that I trusted as well as a post on his blog that Rob had made that - even though his heart was fully-vested in what he was doing - that he just needed a bit more seasoning from a race directing standpoint.

Well, Rob over the past two years has proven that he has gotten that seasoning down well and has spiced things up.

We saw each other at the Snowdrop 55 Ultra this past December, but didn't engage too much.  I tried a little, but I understood how Rob might have felt after an exchange in that Facebook group that one day in January or February from early last year.

However, I stopped to make sure that I told Rob face-to-face, eye-to-eye that he and his team had done well.  He thanked me for spending my money on the race.

It was something that I set out to do once I set my first foot past the start line Saturday morning and I'm glad that I did.

And I'm glad that Rob was gracious enough to receive my words, even though his success didn't need to.

So, in the end, even in racing, there's something to be said for doing the right things and doing them well and with humility and grace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

News Feed Surprises; November 17, 2016

I'm now 49 days away from turning 50, as it has passed midnight into Thursday, November 17, 2016.

Facebook can, at times, open up some raw emotions when things turn up in your news feed that you least expect to see.

That's why unfollows, unfriends and, when warranted, blocks are sometimes necessary.

There was a picture that a friend who is a big fan of my announcing posted with one of her friends and a comment that said, "Dear friends never say goodbye, they simply say "see you soon"."

I've known that these two individuals have been pretty strong friends for quite some time and I don't hold it against the person that likes my announcing.

It is just that the person that seems to be leaving the area, perhaps, is somebody who was friendly in an odd way (to me) more than three and a half years ago.

When I discreetly attempted to clear it up, I got no response.  Whatsoever.

A situation or two occurred afterward that brought some engagement with that person, but it never opened up an opportunity to resolve that emotional wound.

Another similar situation two years before with somebody completely different eventually saw that person leave the area for another part of the state and now one that borders the Atlantic Ocean.

A race director friend of mine who knew of my struggles then said at the time that God was acutally taking care of me by not having to see them on a regular basis anymore.

Maybe they were right.

And maybe I should take the same advice here.

I handle different rejections completely -- different.

Some bother me.  Others don't.

I wouldn't say that I hold grudges as for both of these individuals I've - at different times - prayed for them and their success very fervently.  How else are we to still care for people?

Another individual in the running community who is a believer said once about the former situation that sometimes you just have to love people from afar.

Or even farther it might seem.

2016 has been a year about reducing the emotional drama in my life -- and this is, I guess, another reduction.  And I should simply move on.

(Note:  This person that is leaving, I'm not friends on Facebook with them - or with the person from the situation before.)

There's a part of me, thought, that wishes that I would have been worthy enough (or possess some qualities that I must be missing) for somebody that I was willing to - or did attempt to - invest time in be willing to have acknowledged and responded to it different than what they did (or didn't).

Friday, November 4, 2016

MBKB: Blinn College 84, Lone Star College-Cy-Fair 76; November 3, 2016

Since race announcing always seems to get in my way of seeing as many Texas college football stadiums as possible, another other goal - to pass time, in many cases - is to do the same with Texas college basketball arenas.

Thursday night, November 3, I made my west to Brenham to see the Lone Star College-Cy Fair Fighting Ducks take on the Blinn College Buccaneers.

It became the 19th Texas college basketball arenas or gymnasium that I've seen a college game in.  One of those is no longer in use, G. Rollie White Coliseum at Texas A&M.

There are a couple of colleges where I've seen a game in, but not a collegiate contest.

They would include Baylor University's Ferrell Center, McLennan Community College's The Highlands and Southwestern University's Robertson Center.

In those facilities, I saw Texas private and parochial high school basketball during the time that I covered those schools from 1994-2001.

Since I always like to try and #eatlocal when possible, I found my way to the downtown square in Brenham and stopped in to a place called Yumm! Sweets & Eats.

There are two sections to the restaraunt - one to eat and the other, literally, for sweets.

I couldn't tell what the sizes of the many different types of pizzas they had or if the calzones that could be made from the same ingredients were cheaper.

Since neither was determinable, I settled on the Jalapeno Ranch Burger (minus the bacon) and it is really, really good.

Campus was no more than about 5-10 minutes away, but it took me awhile to pinpoint where the Physical Education Building was and where I could legally park without my vehicle ticketed and/or towed.

Once I found my way to the entrance, admission was only $5 and the floor appeared nearly brand-new.  Multiple banners adorned the one wall indicating NJCAA dominance from the school's volleyball team with quite a few national championships.

Pretty good turnout from the student body for the second home game early in the season.

I wasn't so much surprised that the mascot and cheerleaders were in attendance, but it also seems that Blinn College has a thriving and nationally ranked Dance Team (and they performed multiple times on the evening).

Even more surprisingly is when LSC-Cy-Fair got out to an early lead, but it didn't take long for Blinn to grab a lead and run up a 48-24 halftime advantage.

The Fighting Ducks were their own worst enemy without any rebounding on the inside - on either end of the floor - and plenty of fouls.  In fact, before they passed the 20-point mark, there might have been a time where they had more fouls than points.

The officiating crew had one of its three members that was not prepared for the action.  On the entire evening, at least half of his foul calls were hard to fathom.

With 11:27 to play in the game, Blinn still had a 63-37 advantage.

More than seven minutes later at the 4:09 mark, LSC-Cy-Fair had taken 10 points off that advantage, down 75-59.  And this is when I left to head back to Spring.

Eventually, the Fighting Ducks lost by only eight, 84-76.  I've got to imagine that head coach and director of athletics Scott Schumacher lost his mind in those last four minutes.

The one player for Blinn that I was most impressed with was 6-2 guard LaKendric Hyson from Mumford HS.  And this was for reasons other than the bright pink shoes.

He led the way with 21 points, including one slam that was definitely ESPN Sports Center material.  Most importantly, though, he was completely unflappable in the face of the sloppiness of play in the second half between the two teams.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Churches Visited in 2016

While I've been out of town running or doing other activities, I've tried to be more diligent in being in church even during this time.

As a result, I've been very fortunate to visit a number of excellent churches so far this year.

They have included:

Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria, Louisiana (February 7 and March 27)
First Baptist Church, Waxahachie, Texas (April 3)
Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas (May 1)
NewPointe Community Church, Dover, Ohio (April 10)
North Roanoke Baptist Church, Roanoke, Virginia (April 17)
Calvary Church - Harvest Fields, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (May 29)
First Baptist Church, Downers Grove, Illinois (June 26)
Grandview Baptist Church, Davenport, Iowa (July 10)*
Greater Waco Baptist Church, Waco, Texas (July 24)
Blue Ridge Community Church, Forest, Virginia (August 14 and September 25)*
Temple Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas (October 2)
NewSpring Church, Wichita, Kansas (October 30)

It has been refreshing to see how other bodies of believers come together and worship God.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What Time Do I Need To Be There?; October 22, 2016

If you live in the greater Houston area or anywhere in Texas, I really hope that you got outside and had an opportunity to take in a little bit of a beautiful day today.

A friend and I were talking at the finish line of today's 38th annual Huntsville Half Marathon, Quarter Marathon and 5K about our culture today - and just how it is changed.

I think we're not the far apart in age, although I'm definitely older.

They related a story from last night's packet pickup about a runner that asked, "What time do I need to be there?"

And, naturally, both of us - from our respective professions and being involved in the leadership of a running club and event production in general - were like "ah, the race starts at 8 a.m." so "sometime before 8 a.m."!

We mutually blamed the devices in our hands - our smartphones.

Yet I think that - with the benefit of some rest and sleep - we really have to think about doing our best to help - those of us with the ability - people focus from their hyper-divided world to put info into a small enough bit to firmly grasp it.

I shared it because for the second time this year I was race announcing where the National Anthem singer arrived as we were either playing -- or trying to sing it as a group a capella.

When I announce, to satisfy that body of runners whose world is hyper-divided, my major task - as I've shared before - is to order pre-race communications and activities in such a way to 1.) get people to and from where they need to be to 2.) get the race started on-time (as long as everything, of course, on the race course is clear to start).

And, when possible, always have a backup or contingency plan in mind - which usually comes from experience of doing it over and over - if the original plan doesn't go as planned.

When I arrived, after making a couple of opening announcements, I began to get my pieces together for the pre-race ceremonies.

I got with Seven Hills Running Club treasurer Ken Johnson to say a few words about charter member True Cousins, who recently passed away.

I then coordinated with Steven Bickford about how I wanted to have a moment of silence and go right into the prayer.  I learned that somebody else would be leading the prayer.

Fantastic.  We all can call upon God for to ask for protection and safety on the course for all participants - runners and volunteers alike.

At about 7:40 a.m., I started to see where the National Anthem singer was.

The young man, Steven's son-in-law, who was playing music had a version of the National Anthem to be played if we needed it.

In the back of my mind, we had a separated start.  Half marathoners and quarter marathoners at the "finish line" and 5K runners were 270 feet up the street.

So I had to have the National Anthem finished in time to allow for runners for the 5K to get to their position to be able to start all three races at one time.

As the prayer finished, I still had no singer.

So the button was pressed for a recorded version, which is not my favorite.  (Note:  The version selected was perfectly fine.  Just that we had to have a recorded version is what I didn't like.)

Many of you have heard me share that I'd rather have somebody singing it and if it is a young person, even better.

And no sooner had the Anthem started to play, the singer came into view.

I felt terribly bad.  I mouthed to her, "I'm sorry."

And she understood, thankfully.  The outcome of a sweet spirit, I'm sure.

Again, it is the second time that it is happened this year.  (The other was at this year's Gusher Marathon in Beaumont.)

So maybe it is better for us to communicate, whenever possible, I really need you here by "a certain time".

That isn't to suggest failure on anybody's part this morning.  Things happen.

I know, for example, that the new traffic direction on Bobby Marks Drive on the Sam Houston State campus (going from a two-way to a one-way street) threw me for a loop at 6 a.m.

I can only imagine what it did for people who have been coming to run the Huntsville Half for many, many years and had to deal with it for the very first time today.

But we have to realize that our strengths may be somebody else's weakness and God tasked us the opportunity to help individuals.

I appreciate the Seven Hills Running Club for having me out to announce their race and to trust me with the presentation of a long-standing event that came together as a result of the hard work of a lot of fine people.

I'm not a member of a running club or training group anymore (more so because I don't have the time to commit to one), but if I were, Seven Hills Running Club, Bay Area Running Club and Volte Endurance Training are the three tribes, if you will, that I highly identify with.

I felt a bit guilty accepting what I did today, but I've been blessed by God with some abilities that are uniquely packaged together to deliver a particular product that people seem to appreciate and enjoy.

And it takes some various worries off the hands and minds of others - and it frees them up to the tasks that they need to successfully execute.

As I struggle with the future volume of how much race announcing  I continue to do into 2017, as I want to run more races as I get older to "stay in the game", as my friend Jim Braden likes to say, what I get - intrinsically - from it - while I'm doing it - is the relationships and friendships that I'm fortunate enough to derive from it.

Where else can an introvert like me have a thousand-plus friends and positive acquaintances?

One of the things that I discussed with my friends at today's finish line is that if you're in the vicinity while I'm working at race, please come by - even if just to give me a fist bump.

Most of you realize that there are times that I can't talk for a length of time because of those things that I spoke of earlier.

However, I value that connection more than you ever know.

I enjoy edifying you in your accomplishments, but your willingness to say "Hi!" by shaking my hand or offering a fist bump - especially during flu season - is your affirmation to me and I'm thankful to have it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Great Trips Include A Tear Or Two; September 26, 2016

It's hard to believe that more than three years have passed since Waverly made a decision to attend and was accepted into Liberty University that made the first of what has now been 16 trips to Lynchburg.

Basically, you can attribute four trips to the start of each school year.

Another four is a minimum of at least one trip each fall semester.

And then I squeezed in additional trips here and there.

A surprise trip to see her run a 5K.

Another I decided to run a marathon in Raleigh and was able to get up for 24 hours and a football game.

And, sadly, one was after my grandfather passed away and I flew to Raleigh-Durham to drive her to Pennsylvania to attend his memorial service.

As a parent, it has been a good ride.

And, yes, I actually said to myself this weekend that I was going to miss making trips here.

Certainly not for the joy of getting to Lynchburg, but rather for being able to go in to love, support, encourage and, as she says, cheer her on as she comes close to the mark of graduating in May.  (She’ll be able to walk in May, but will not get her degree until she completes her student teaching in the fall semester of 2017.  Please keep the decision she needs to make by February 1 as to where she does this student teaching in your prayers.)

As certain things have transpired recently with my job, there was a certain concern that I might not even have been able to make this trip in early August.

However, I'm thankful that God made it possible for me to be able to go.

The premise of the fall trip each of the last three years has been to run the Virginia 10-Miler together, but the time spent this trip - just about 54 hours minus a sleep or two - was much more than that.

Because the Virginia 10-Miler partnered with the Holiday Inn in downtown Lynchburg for a special race rate, I was able to save about $200 compared to the Marriott properties that I normally stay at.

It was a different experience staying in downtown and one that I hope that the town continues to enhance over the years.

Waverly got up early and met me in downtown at 6 a.m. Friday morning as we did a short 30-minute social run, just to catch up.

We talk every week, typically on Sunday evenings.  Otherwise, I try not to interrupt her at any length of time during the week unless something serious comes up.

Additionally, I didn't want to ruin her race on Saturday, but we actually ran in downtown for the first time ever in any of our trips.

We got done right at 6:30 a.m. and she was able to go back to her dorm and get ready for class at 9-something and Convocation at 10:30 a.m.

Last year was the first time that I was able to attend Convocation with her.

It was the second time that I have witnessed what I envision Heaven to look like.  There were 10,000 or more young people worshipping Christ together.  It brought tears to my eyes then last year and for a moment on Friday, it did again.

I just can't tell you how overjoyed I am that Waverly can be as immersed in this two of three times a week (one she usually has to do cleanliness checks in the dorms as part of her resident assistant responsibilities.)

She gets to hear from speakers from all walks of life and not necessarily all of them are born again Christians and Christ followers, but have excelled in a particular walk of life.

After she needed to get a few things taken care of, we drove to the race packet pickup location which is also where the Lynchburg Public Library is nearby.

In it was a small exhibit about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his 1962 visit to Lynchburg, a year and a half before he gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

After that, we spent no more than 10 minutes getting our packets and race numbers.

We drove back to Liberty University where we walked a part of the campus that we ran in August to see the update of some of the building upgrades that continue to be completed.

It is incredibly impressive.

The campus has been and will continue to be completely transformed in the years to come.

We saw Liberty’s Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development, David Nasser, in this central lawn area and was waiting for him to finish a conversation just to be able to say “Hello!” and thank him for what he has done during Waverly’s time there.

However, one of Waverly’s best friend’s husband, Dan, came walking up from another direction and we said “Hello!” and chit-chatted for a few minutes.  Waverly was a member of her best friend’s bridal party this past June.

After walking from the parking lot near the field hockey field to campus, we came back and watched about 10-15 minutes of the women's match against Quinnipiac before heading to the Holiday Inn downtown, where Waverly rested up a little bit.

She took a personal day on Friday – as she has up to 10 per semester to take.  It is good for her to be able to get away and rest and she did some.

We had dinner Friday night - as we have many times - at Vinny's to fuel up for the race the next morning.  It was the first of many great times during the trip that she was able to share some things with me that were on her heart.

Staying in downtown where we did, it was much easier to get to the race site – just outside of E. C. Glass High School – on Saturday morning.

We work so much in planning on what our desired outcome is – during vacation and other things - and work backwards.

We left the hotel, as planned, by 6:45 a.m. and were parked no more than 10-12 minutes later.  No stress at all.

We walked to where a lot of the pre-race festivities and the start/finish line was.  We spent about 30 minutes in the area, just relaxing and getting ready to run.  We saw Dr. David Horton, noted ultrarunner and Liberty University professor, but it was hard to catch him once we noticed where he was as he was continually moving on a bike.  (Presuming he performed some type of escort duties during the race.)

Our only goal was for Waverly to be able to see her roommate and RA partner, Natalie, from last year and we succeeded.  I was able to meet her parents, we all took a few pictures and then we made our way to the starting queue.

My plan was to stay as close to her as I could for as long as I can, but I knew that Saturday was going to be her day.

We ran together all the way to the bottom of Farm Basket Hill before she was able to charge back up the other side faster than me.

On the way there, we ran up behind one of Waverly’s professors in the School of Education, Kristina Dewitt.  I encouraged her to say “Hi!”  She did and it was a great exchange as her professor recognized her and returned the acknowledgement.

I saw Waverly ahead of me periodically throughout the first five miles of the race.  There’s one pretty steep, but short hill right before the mile 5 marker.  She went through it about a minute faster than I did and that is the last that I saw of her.

Her chip time was 53:17 and mine was 54:12.

Then she put a two minute and six second spanking on me by going 53:45 on the return trip to the finish line.

She finished in 1:47:02 – four minutes faster than last year (1:51:01) and the year before (1:51:32).

I posted a time of 1:50:03 after showings of 1:51:00 and 1:51:33 the previous two years.  I’ll take it.

All in all, I ended up running pretty consistently until the last two miles, which both have a lot of uphill.  Here are my splits:

Mile 1 -- 10:13.01
Mile 2 -- 11:15.98
Mile 3 -- 11:03.14
Mile 4 -- 10:43.94
Mile 5 -- 10:56.06
Mile 6 -- 11:06.97
Mile 7 -- 11:03.40
Mile 8 -- 10:40.46
Mile 9 -- 11:30.96
Mile 10 -- 11:29.84

Not a lot of variability, but just wishing I could have shaved six to 12 seconds off per mile!

We got away from the race site fairly quickly, went back to the hotel, cleaned up and then walked down Main Street to our favorite breakfast location, Market at Main.

It was pretty busy, as we’ve come to expect any more, especially later in the morning.

A little bit more rest was in order for Waverly before I dropped her off at her dorm so she could help work with one of their Brother dorms to do a tailgate for the Liberty-Jacksonville State football game.
I went back to the hotel for a little while and then came back, walked over to the main campus, watched the drum corps, Sparky (Liberty’s mascot) and the cheerleaders lead the football players up to Williams Stadium after they got off the buses and then went back.

I got to see another one of Waverly’s best friends, Lindsay, and also met her roommate, Ellie.

The most interesting part of it all was that one of Waverly’s friends’ parents were from Pennsylvania, but I think that they currently live in North Carolina.

The father had a Pirates hat on and they brought a Steelers bean bag toss set for some of the students to play games on.  Waverly asked the Mom where in Pennsylvania they were from.  She replied, “I’m originally from the Philadelphia area and my husband is from central Pennsylvania.”

We hear that a lot and the first question in return was, “Where in central Pennsylvania?”

She said, “Tyrone.”  We were both floored.

It, of course, is where I’m from and both my Mom and Dad graduated from high school.

It was some great and interesting conversation!

We walked some things back to her dorm – a decent bit away – and then back to the area where the tailgate was had and my rental car was parked and then we went on to the Stadium for the football game.

We sat in the student section, straight up from the 50-yard line after some of the students from their Brother dorm saved some seats.  I got to meet one of the student leaders for her Hall, Emily.

Liberty had its hat handed to them by Jacksonville State, were down 27-3 at the half and we left for ice cream from Mr. Goodie’s on Timberlake Drive in Lynchburg.  Definitely much more palatable.

We attended the 8:30 a.m. worship service at Blue Ridge Community Church in New London, Virginia (or Forest).

It was the first in a Series of messages over the next eight weeks about Joshua that relates to their decision as a church to establish another campus in the nearby community of Bedford, which is down Highway 29 towards Roanoke.

We saw a friend of Waverly’s, Grace and her fiancĂ©, Drake.

During our 2015 summer vacation, we were driving towards East Lansing, Michigan as I wanted to see the stadium where the Spartans played.  Waverly had Facebook open and realized that Grace was close, at a place where you gather as a group and paint.

We stopped by, surprising Grace and her Mom that day.  It was just something that you do when you have the opportunity.

As we talked, Grace said that day was when her Mom really realized the quality of people that Liberty University attracted to its school.  I think we’re safe to say that we were both floored with that.

Neither Waverly nor I do things with those thoughts in mind.  We just do what we believe to be right towards other people in light of what we’ve learned from God’s teachings.

It was really good to visit with them both.  I learned that Drake was an aviation major and was looking to get a job after graduation in Michigan doing mechanics in the commercial airline business.

After church was over, we went back to Market At Main for breakfast again before it was time for me to head back to Reagan National to fly home.

It is funny, in a way, as I’ve told parents that leaving your children gets easier after that first year.

I may have to revise and amend my remarks because it was very hard for me to leave yesterday, for a multitude of reasons.

First of all, it is a season of change for Waverly.

She’s finishing up her classwork and she’s got some big decisions to make in the months to come.  I know that she is prayerfully seeking God’s perfect will in her life, which is something that I’m praying for her as well.

Liberty University has provided her a safe environment to broaden herself, which I think she has done incredibly well.  She has made some friends to compliment and support her that I’m inclined to believe that she’ll have for quite some time.

She’s been able to grow in her faith.

She’s got an incredible heart for people, especially children.  I think she’ll make a great teacher and educator and I believe that she’ll connect incredibly well with them in the months and years to come.

She really makes parenting easy and I love being able to be supportive of her.

I like to think that one of the things that I’ve been able to help her with is to think ahead in the things that she does today.

For example, I noticed that there was a Graduate School Fair on campus on Tuesday, September 27.  I recommended that if her schedule allowed for her to attend it to just simply to gather some information about the processes.

Her current plan is to go teach for awhile and then go back to school to get an advanced degree, but I advised her that things can always change and that God may lead her in a different direction.  Just by getting some exposure now to how pursuing Graduate School may be and how to apply and get it may be a benefit to her later on.

She’s truly a fortunate young woman in that she knows a vast number of people as well as many, many of my friends in the running community that I have who are teachers that can answer her questions and help guide her.

So, yes, I cried a bit, but they are tears of pride in seeing – and wanting for – her to continue to do well.

Meanwhile, I had a fun time of travel home.

I get to Reagan National at about 3:45 p.m. – after leaving Lynchburg at noon.  And this was without getting on Interstate 95 going north.  By 4 p.m., I was checked in and ready to go through TSA.

My flight was scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. departure.  Well, two delays pushed it back to close to 9 p.m.

I had called my parents, who were picking me, and notified them of the delays.

So I had dinner and then went to work at a gate away from where my flight departed.  About 8:15 p.m., I went to gate 16 to be ready to board soon and I saw people lined up working with the gate agents.

The flight had been cancelled.  I would learn later that the flight crew incoming had timed out due to weather delays in Houston.

On my phone was a text message that my flight from Newark would depart at 11:48 p.m.  So they had already worked to get me on another flight to make it home.

I looked, realized that there was a flight from DCA to Newark (EWR) and I went to that gate.  I was able to get a boarding pass for that flight, but not for the EWR-IAH connection.

I actually went back to the original gate, but the line was such that I might have missed the DCA-EWR flight.

We boarded and got in the air about 10-15 minutes later than the boarding pass indicated, but made it in plenty of time to make the connection.  Sort of.

As soon as I got off the plane, there was a Customer Service counter to the left that was still open in Terminal A.  I spoke with a representative, explained to him the craziness that was going on and got my boarding pass for the EWR-IAH leg.  Even though it was a middle seat, I was thankful to have it – 11B.

Then we had to take a bus to Terminal C.  Once I got there, and with a clock ticking towards an 11:48 p.m. departure, anxiety started to get a little high as there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency about getting eight of us to the other terminal.

Things finally happened and once to Terminal C, we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be leaving soon.

At some point in time, we boarded and I think we left at around 12:30 a.m. Eastern time.  I say “I think” because I was out after a little bit.

We landed around 1:30 a.m., but the bags didn’t come until a little after 2 a.m.  And then mine didn’t make it, even though others from the DCA-EWR-IAH did.  I was told that it might have been a weight issue, which makes sense, but I wish they just would have told me so that I wouldn’t have wasted about 45 minutes.

I got home and got in bed around 3 a.m. Monday morning, but it was all worth it for the time I got to spend with Waverly.

I’m a very fortunate father.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Calming A Fearful Heart; August 30, 2016

As a requirement for one of Waverly's classes this fall, it was recommended that she join a Christian educator's professional organization.

From that membership, she receives a periodic publication.

It came in the mail this past week here at the house in Spring.

It is the organization's "Back to School" issue and its cover topic is "Fearless."

Thumbing through it, I presume that there might be a regular column called "The Heart Dimension".

The writer's heading is "A Fearful Heart".

I'm no Elijah.  That's for sure.  Whether it be by comparison of Elijah's walk with Christ to mine or what all he suffered.

The writer, Vernard T. Gant, wrote that Elijah "went from talking about God on a mountain top to hiding in a cave."

Gant wrote that God didn't give up on Elijah and that He "gently whispered encouragement in the middle of that cave."

He said that it "allowed Elijah to overcome his fear" and regain "his passion for God's purposes."

The author uses Psalm 46:10 to illustrate that we should "be still, and know that I am God."

And then he follows with Isaiah 30:21, "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."

Mid-day, I had a call from the recruiter that is working with the company that is looking at flying me out the week after next to interview with them.

There was something that he needed for me to do, but I interpret this all as God showing me a potential way to go.

Again, as I shared earlier, we have to be willing to move and take action, ask God to lead us and trust that leading.

Tomorrow is the last day at the client that I've been at since July 2012.

I got a couple of items updated today, had another training session with somebody that would be doing some data analysis that I've done weekly for them since January 2015 and prepared for Wednesday.

There's some sadness there because I've had the opportunity to work in a world-class institution that has its challenges, but also has some very talented people.

And while there's nervousness because I don't know what completely lies ahead from the company that I'm currently employed by, I have things revealed to me that calms my fearful heart.

Like the Ryan Stevenson song, "Eye of The Storm", says, "I did my best ... My only hope is to trust You, I trust you Lord."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Vermont Road Trip Report; August 28, 2016

Delayed flight out of IAH (which is becoming quite common, by the way, for United) and traffic coming through the Ted Williams Tunnel (down to one lane) put me at the Hampton Inn in Greenfield, Massachusetts at about 12:20 a.m. this morning.

I still got a solid night's sleep after getting a little shut-eye on the plane ride into Boston.

Out the door a little behind schedule and on the road by 7:50 a.m. to be able to drive into Vermont and make it to the race site - Whitingham, Vermont (the birthplace of Brigham Young) - by about 8:30 a.m.

As I made the drive off the road to the dam, you would have thought that they might have had to pump sunlight back in there.  :-)

Interestingly, the Harriman Dam, which we ran over and back at the beginning and the end of the race, was the largest earthen dam in the world at the completion of its construction in 1923.  The adjacent Glory Hole, which water runs down inside of to generate electricity, was not part of the course (but I parked right above it along the road and could see right down in it.)

The Best Dam Run and Walk in Vermont was produced by The Deerfield Valley Community Cares fund, which helps people with their heating expenses.  (I can only imagine what the winters are like up here.)

Volunteers with the local Deerfield Valley Rotary Club were very friendly.

I had bib #51 and I'm not sure that there were any more runners than that.

The description of the out-and-back race course was pretty spot on:  "The trail through the woods is well marked and relatively flat, so it is suitable to all types of runners and walkers."

But for Vermonters, it is relatively flat.

For flatlander Houstonians, it had a little character, especially in the middle, and some rocky spots.

And for the most part, it was really shaded, even though it got a little warm at the end (what else is new though after running for more than two hours in a summer month).

I was hoping for two hours, 30 minutes since I hadn't run 13 miles since mid-June in Michigan and not a lick since I left Lynchburg after Waverly and I ran a 10K one day and then 40 minutes the next.

My watch shows 2:46:20.  It is another state, though.

I talked to a couple of people while running the course.  One of them was an emergency medicine doctor who was pregnant.  Ran with her for most of the first four miles and she was right there with me at the turnaround as well as another woman who I found out later was doing her first half.

I have two more half marathons in (Pocatello) Idaho and (Ventura) California the next two weeks to get ready for the Virginia Ten Miler, which will be two weeks after that.

Mile 1 - 11:39.44
Mile 2 - 11:22.40
Mile 3 - 12:23.68
Mile 4 - 15:17.53 (where most of the character of the course was seen)
Mile 5 - 12:14.71
Mile 6 - 12:08.57
Mile 6-6.55 - 5:24.67 (not sure if this was right given how I had been running)
Mile 6.55-9 - 31:46.51 (which would have been 37:11.18 for three miles.)
Mile 10 - 14:34.67 (more of the character and a water stop)
Mile 11 - 14:03.37 (some cramping in the calves)
Mile 12 - 12:59.15
Last 1.1 - 12:25.61

It was a beautiful day.  The people that I spoke to were super friendly.  You couldn't have asked for a better race environment at a small race.

I drove over to Brattleboro and up Interstates 91 and 89 to beyond Montpelier and Barre to go north here to Stowe, Vermont for tomorrow's race up to the highest spot in Vermont.

Should be fun.  :-)

When I travel, I usually stay at either a Marriott or Hilton property.  Hotels in these parts during the summer are a little pricey – as I learned that Stowe has become as popular of a summer location as it is for its skiing in the winter time -- and I wanted to be able to clean up immediately after the race before I started the jaunt back to Logan Airport in Boston.

I stayed at a place called the Stowe Motel & Snowdrift.  It was two different properties that came together awhile back under one owner.  These were almost like small apartments as opposed to hotel rooms.  My unit was clean, comfortable, had air conditioning and hot water.  Pretty much meets my minimum qualifications.

After getting a really good bite to eat at this place called Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, instead of putzing around the small town, I got to bed early – like at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

I needed it.  I got up at 6 a.m., but didn’t get out of the hotel until about 7:30 a.m.

I had scoped out the distance to the race site was about 10 minutes up Mountain Road, but the one thing that I didn’t gauge real well is that like where we live where there’s a convenience store every place you look – the one that there was – a family location – didn’t appear to be open.

I had grabbed a roll at the continental breakfast – and am glad that I had something in me, but I didn’t get a chance to eat it until about 8:30 a.m. before a 9:00 a.m. start.

The parking lot was “roughly ¼ mile” the directions said from the start and where packet pickup was.

Roughly, meaning that it was likely more than that.  I’d gather closer to a half mile and it was a long, steady incline along the road.  So up it twice and down once before the start.

The bib numbers went up to 500, I saw, and there was a mountain bike race that started at 10 a.m.

It was 4.3 miles to the top of Mount Mansfield and you had to get yourself back down – on foot.

I was thinking – and hoping – that it would take me a little more than an hour, but as we got into it – and it started to warm up, I realized that that projection was going to go by the wayside.

I think if I didn’t have to worry about getting back to Logan that evening and back here to Houston that I would have stayed and made it to the top; however, I was really fatigued.

I was never short of breath, but I stopped a number of times to just bend over, put my hands on my knees and breathe.

Mile 1 – 17:46.59
Mile 2 – 18:58.09
Mile 3 – 23:39.42 (this included stopping short, going down a little bit and then coming back to get to the marker and then calling it a day.)

Had I gone on, I would have been rushing everything the rest of the day.  The stress from all of that just wasn’t worth it.  I made my way back down the three miles.

People were very forgiving.  One guy said that it was six more miles of work than a lot of people would do that day.  But, honestly, I could really care less about what other people think.

I like to think I can do anything, whether or not I’m prepared for it.

I think that comes out of doing some of the other crazy stuff that I’ve done, including the Leadville Heavy Half, which was about the same gain in elevation but starting at 10,200 feet above sea level.  The bending over there was from the altitude.

I just thought it would be cool to do.  And it still was a good idea.

The drive back was fairly uneventful.  Although you get a little nervous when traffic backs up 40 miles out from the airport, which is just outside of downtown Boston, despite being in that spot four hours before your flight leaves.

Not sure how people live up there.  It just seems so much denser than even here in Houston with all the growth the past 15 years.

Once at the airport, the best part of anything:  my weekly Sunday call with Waverly.

She shared with me the highlights and the challenges of the week.  I’m so proud of her and excited for her and all she gets to experience.  I do my best to encourage her to do as much as she can handle.  I also know that she’s my very best supporter.  Our relationship is truly unique.  She still seeks my guidance as her earthly father, but we’re very good friends too.

So in closing the recap of the weekend, I’m writing here at home (and I won’t be able to post this until I get to the office in the morning), but the two devotionals that I’m in talk about the following:

“If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.” – Job 22:23.

John Hillman, a longtime friend of mine, wrote, “God assures us, too, that if we do wrong we can return to Him.  If we repent, ask His forgiveness, and concentrate on following His word, we will be restored.”

In some parts of my life, I’m doing that so it was an encouragement to read late Sunday evening as I get ready to go to bed.  We all learn this as young children in Sunday School, but we’re discouraged from the rough times in life where we try to go it on our own that it really isn’t real.

I know when I sin I fear being separated from God forever.

The other devotional is Tony Dungy’s “Uncommon Life” and for August 28, his verse selected was:

“Choose today whom you will serve … As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15.

Two really good paragraphs follow that speak a lot of truth to my situation currently.  Dungy wrote:

“Simply put, when times are good, when we’re flush with cash, or when our careers are going well, it’s easy to realize and embrace the truth that we are called to serve God and not things.  But what about when times are tight?  Who gets top priority then?”

“What about when you’ve just lost your job and you don’t know which way to turn, and when you’re sitting down to update your resume, your younger daughter asks for help with some homework?  What’s more important?  How about when you’ve been offered the opportunity you’ve been waiting for – a job with a big advancement and a larger salary – but it requires moving to another state just as your son begins his senior year in high school?  Not an easy call.  “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord?”  Right?  Easy?”

There’s been a lot of focus lately.  Trying to discern God and what my next steps should be.

I’m sorrowful to an extent that I haven’t done it more fully in my life and I want to strive to do it continually from here on out, not knowing how much longer God will allow me to live.

It wasn’t like I was intense or anything, but there was one time while running back from the turnaround to the finish on Saturday that I literally reached up to make sure my glasses were still on because it was as if I couldn’t feel them on my face.  I’ve never felt anything like that before, but it was a feeling of transcendence.

While I currently don’t want to disappoint God, I also want to be honorable to all of those who are praying for me in this time period of my life.  Why ask for people’s help and be unwilling to do your part as part of the entire process?  That’s being lazy and unthankful.

So I’ll try to do continue to do my best as well as I can each day.

Friday, August 26, 2016

On The Way To Vermont; August 26, 2016

I'm headed to Boston this afternoon.  There's two races that I'll be running this weekend in Vermont.

The first on Saturday will be a half marathon in my 44th state and a race in my 49th state.  Rhode Island is left there.

This is one of four trips that I had planned before I received word of a potential separation from my current employer.

Even though I've paid for these (meaning airfare and race entries went on a credit card and that amount immediately went off of my card), I considered not going to all but the last one - which is a trip to Lynchburg to run and see Waverly - to be fiscally prudent.

However, I countered that I need to go to maintain the proper emotional balance in this season of change.

These two paragraphs were part of Max Lucado's daily e-mail today titled, "Your Sermon":

If Jesus heals you instantly, praise him. If you are still waiting for healing, trust him. Your suffering is your sermon.

God will use your struggle to change others. God can use your suffering as your sermon!

Let's be real.  The things that I'm dealing with isn't suffering by any means, but can be considered a trial.

While I'm nervous (and in some cases, scared), I just have to keep coming back over and over and trust God in all of this.

On Wednesday, I received word that my application to make another attempt to pursue my Bachelor's at a school was denied.

In that e-mail, though, there was an instruction of what may cause that university to reconsider their decision.

I talked to Waverly that night.  We had a great conversation like we usually do.  And she has shared with me that she and her leadership team at school are praying for me through this.  (I know others are too; therefore, I don't want to let anybody out as I'm mindful to give credit.)

We talked that while we trust God to lead and guide us we still have to be willing to move.  Not relocating, mind you, but to take action while we're waiting and to trust him.

That evening I wrote a letter to request readmission to the last school that I was at and since time was an issue with the plan that I was pursuing, I hand-delivered it the next morning to the Dean's office of the college of that university that I was in 23 years ago.

I then sent a letter of appeal to the denying university.

And at that point, it is completely out of my hands.  I can't do anything more, but let processes take their course.

Today was the last full week at the customer site.  I was in early so that I could get my 40 billable hours in for the week and to be able to leave in time to execute my weekend plan.

While looking at patient accounts, I prayed simply for God to continue to help me as I wait for feedback from multiple entities.

Within a half hour, I had an appointment request from somebody at my customer site to talk with them as they promised they would.  That's now set for Monday.

The recruiter that I'm working with on one position e-mailed me and said that the one company wants to fly me in the week of September 12 to interview with the team that I would be potentially joining.

And upon sharing that information with my Dad (and copying Waverly), she relayed me some information from the university that explained the processes that took place relating to the denial.

Now don't just think that God always just answers when we need Him to, but to me I took it as a sign to say, "Keep trusting Me."

Also in this same time frame, I received word that another recruiter that I was talking to said that one hospital that they pitched me to wouldn't budge on their degree requirement.

They felt that I was a perfect fit for the position, but I get it.  It’s that hospital's loss.

I’ll just keep applying until somebody accepts me, right?  :-)

As I was writing this in the airport, a long-time friend – like close to 35 years kind of friend from where many of us went to church together – walked by the gate (C33) that I was working at.

But you know how those things go, you weren’t really sure if it was them or not.

I had Facebook opened up.  She had in the last six months friended me.  Maybe even shorter than that.  I asked her if she was in the airport – she’s a flight attendant – and if she had just come in through C29-C33.  She said, “Yes.”

She came back to the gate that I was at and we enjoyed a good 15-20 minute conversation.

She and her sister have been very good friends with me and my late sister.  I think that her sister and I and she and my sister were the ones that were closer to one another given our age differences.

My sister and I were a little more than five years apart and she and her sister I think were closer in age – maybe only three years apart.

Nonetheless, it was really good to see and talk with her.  I hadn’t seen her since my sister’s memorial service.  We really appreciated her family all being there to support ours.

In closing, as we approach Boston as I think that we’re about 45-60 minutes from landing, we’re being treated to a beautiful sunset back over our left shoulder.

It looks like we’re flying just south of the Great Lakes as I can’t think of another large body of water that we’d be going by to the north of us as we’re going west to east.

Maybe somebody will enlighten me of another possibility.  :-)

Again, to those reading and praying, thank you.  And have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trust and Be Thankful; August 23, 2016

This season of life is a challenge to stay positive, but it takes a lot of reminding myself that I've been in it a few times and have come through it OK.

I have a couple of devotionals that I'm doing my best to invest some time in on a regular basis and even that has been tought to focus on sticking with.

Not that I'm discouraged.  It is just tough to stay patient when you feel as if you have a clock ticking down against you.

From Tony Dungy's "Uncommon Life" devotional today, it says the following:

"Proverbs 23:7 says, "As [a man] thinketh, so is he" (KJV).  That Scripture is true in so many ways and settings.  The glass is half empty or the glass is half full.  In any given set of circumstances we face, our own view of them will determine and direct our response.   Our thinking will illuminate what we feel inside -- worry and despair or confidence and hope."

He finishes the entry up with an UNCOMMON KEY > "Thoughts lead to values of the heart, which lead to character and hope.  Guard your thoughts."

The only thing that I know to do with the project that I'm on, which wraps up next Wednesday, is to finish it out strong.

When I was willfully changing jobs in the late 1990s, I was in the second week of a two-week notice and I think I traveled to six or seven hospitals in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the Beaumont area and Corpus Christi.  The last stop was Corpus and I remember staying in the office late and getting home close to midnight.

It is what my Dad taught me about being professional.

I'm doing my best to put my trust in God through this job situation.  Some moments, it wavers and of course, that is when I worry.

To maintain excellent mental health, I have to stay focused on God.

The bottom line, though, is that I need something to do.

I know that the online university acknowledged today that they now have all of my transcripts and are finally evaluating.  Perhaps I can get some classes started this fall and that will take up a lot of my focus outside of work.

The one individual that I was supposed to talk to on Monday saw me today and apologized for being busy and assured me that we would speak this week.

I told them, "I trust you."  And I do.

And if it didn't happen, without me trying to push my way in, I would realize that they didn't think that I was a fit (as I don't want a courtesy interview).  If you don't think that I have the skills to do the job, tell me and I can live with that.

I've had two organizations reach out at the end of the week before last and for various reasons, I haven't heard back from them.  One I had a phone conversation with and the other was a recruiter that I played phone tag with.

The one seems to have discounted me because I was having some technical issues with my laptop and the other because they called when I wasn't at my phone twice.  (I returned those calls, left messages and haven't heard from him.)

In both cases, maybe they aren't individuals that I need to be doing business with.

As believers, we understand that we're going to go through trials and tribulations.  It doesn't mean that they're going to be easy ones either, but I believe that God wants to see how we handle them - by continuing to trust in Him - to ensure that He can trust us with what He gives us (and ministry to do).

Dungy in the desk calendar from the same material that sits on my desk for today writes, "A Super Bowl win with the Bucs would have been wonderful.  I could have used that platform in a tremendous way.  But I think my getting fired had an even greater impact.  It's easy to be gracious when you're getting carried of the field in celebration.  It's more difficult when you're asked to pack up your desk."

For my current customer, I'll do that on Wednesday - not that I have anything there - but that is simply because my contract with them is up.

For my current employer, I don't know when and if a separation will come.  I know I received a calendar invite for monthly meetings Friday or yesterday, but that could be just my Partner getting organized and prepared.

I'm ready for whatever comes my way and I've had three weeks to make some things happen.

There's good that has taken place and my prayer is for something good to come out of all of this.  If not for me, for anybody who might be watching.

I have so much and at times I'm probably not as thankful as I can be.  But I really, really am.

Millions on this Earth have never had any of even the littlest things that I've had.  It is something that we should all keep in mind.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wrapping It Up For The Week; August 19, 2016

I posted the following on Facebook today:

I'm convinced that the best thing we can do for others is to encourage and love them as a friend publicly and pray for them privately.

This was after arriving back to my house before going to work this morning -- and after I picked up my transcript from another university that I attended.

That transcript wasn't any better than the last one that I picked up.

However, I came away knowing why it had taken me so long to face those "failures", if you will.

Understand that I admit that I didn't finish the things well that I had started, but if I had been deeply loved and encouraged I believe that I might have succeeded instead of feeling condemned.

I think today that I realized that I hadn't wanted to go back and face that pain that I had from not having anyone firmly in my corner.

I experience some of that today, to some extent; however, I better manage how to deal with it than I did then.

I have an expansive number of friends that I can lean on now if I need to and I certainly appreciate those who have shared their confidence in me.

That's where the post came from today.

My daughter shared with me something from her last year at college that I think has some parallels to me.

She was in a regularly scheduled meeting of fellow resident advisers where she goes to college and she shared some things that she was going through.

She shared with me that some of them were shocked with her admission because they thought she was "all put together".

I think people think that of me too.

And this is something that I've shared with my daughter often.  If you see me out and about, I probably come across as very confident and appearing to be on top of things.

If so, it is a result of me just trying to do my best at whatever I'm doing.

I'm not putting anything on or trying to impress anyone, but in reality I might be struggling and hurting.  However, I would never want to burden anyone, even though it is contrary to what we're to believe from the Bible.

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
The big verse in the middle there from Galatians 6 is to bear ye another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

A good commentary on it all is here.

It states, "If a Christian brother or sister is weighed down or menaced by some burden or threat, be alert to that and quickly do something to help. Don't let them be crushed. Don't let them be destroyed."

It goes on and says, "Don't increase burdens. Make them lighter for people. Some of you wonder what you are supposed to do with your life. Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter."

And that's what my post was about:  we should encourage and love people publicly, especially if we can spot that they might be heavy-hearted or sad, and then pray for them privately.

On the job front, I spoke with a recruiter about a healthcare consulting opportunity with one of the local systems of hospitals here.  I'm supposed to have a follow-up with her peer.  The pay is about 75% of what I make now, but I would be able to stay local.

It is a far way from anything happening, but I'm appreciative of the opportunity to share what I know.

I also had an interview with another area at the customer site that I'm at.

It was scheduled for 30 minutes and it ended up going 50 minutes.

There's some things that would be very new for me, but I feel like I can be successful in that role.   And it would give me a very broad exposure to a number of different areas in the facilities as well as a number of different applications of a large, nationally-known healthcare information system.

This is something that my one advocate has sold this other area on me.

Again, I'm eternally grateful that I have people who have these confidences in me.

I think I can too, don't get me wrong, but we seem to always have doubts and have to sell others on ourselves it seems.

I'm reading a few different daily devotionals to be closer to God not just through this rough patch, but where I should have been all along.

Two are sports-minded.  Well, everything is actually.  It is how I relate, right? :-)

They are books written by John and Kathy Hillman from Waco.

The other materials are those from Tony Dungy that I've referenced before here.

Today's note for August 19 says, "Be patient ...  Keep doing the ordinary things better than anyone else.  Be uncommon.  Do what we do."

I 've said it many times:  I don't need to get the glory.  Obviously, God deserves it for what He's provided and given to us.

Rather, I get satisfaction knowing that I've helped somebody else succeed.

That's what drives me.  What drives you?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Holding Steadfast; August 18, 2016

One of the things that I was excited about when my daughter chose to go to Liberty University was that she would attend Convocation three times a week.

Liberty states, "Convocation is North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students, and each year it plays host to more than 80 guest speakers of national significance from every sphere of society. It is held within the Vines Center at Liberty University during each semester at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday unless otherwise noted."

She usually has to miss one session a week as she has to do cleanliness checks in the dorms as a resident advisor, but the lineup of speakers that she has heard and will hear in her last year in Lynchburg (short of student teaching in the fall of 2017) is simply phenomenal.

I'm hoping that all will continue to lineup to allow for me to be in attendance on Friday, September 23.

When I attend Convocation last year, the experience brought me to tears in seeing 10,000 young Christian men and women worship Christ together, even though it is simply an academic component to every student's education at Liberty.

While it looks like Tim Tebow will make a return appearance as well as her favorite author, Karen Kingsbury, I'm so excited for her to be able to hear Dr. James Dobson, the founder of "Focus on the Family".

The entire schedule for the semester was released today and I was simply excited to share.

I don't know how God does what He does, but I know when He is present.

I'm in a meeting today training two employees who will be taking over next month a function that I do weekly for my customer.

We're in a conference room and I see an e-mail notification on the display screen from a contact about a possible position with another organization, but at the same customer site.

And this is something that I pursued on my own, so it isn't a conflict of interest of my customer or any organization as if they were recruiting me,

But basically I'll have an interview with this company for a position to be staffed on a team at the customer site that desires a unique skill set that I possess.

I also had applied for a position through a recruiter that is for a hospital here in the greater Houston area.   The job posting at the hospital site states that you had to have a Bachelor's degree, no exceptions.  However, I'm thinking that they're having so much trouble finding people that they're engaging every recruiter they know.

Now, that could spell trouble or opportunity.

I'll speak with the recruiter on Friday and find out more, but it was a blessing to at least have somebody interested and having confirmation that I met the skill set of the position that they're hiring for.

I received some wise advise from a family CFO friend more than 20 years ago.  He said to bury the degree information down on the resume and that by the time they saw what all you were capable of that some, not all, would forget what piece of paper you had or didn't.

And, finally, a recruiter that brought me to the table of a company that I had a good call with on Tuesday is having me speak to another member of their team with another customer/partner of theirs on Monday of next week.

I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to talk about my experience and how I might be able to help an organization.

I scanned my transcript from the one university and e-mailed that to the university that I'm seeking to do online education with today.

In the morning, I'm driving to another university close by to get that transcript.

One person that I don't think that I know commented on my Facebook post relating to facing that failure at the one university stated, "The fact that you took the time to order the transcript tells you there's a part of you that wants to finish. That's likely the runner in you. Good luck if you decide to go back. You'll never regret it if you do."

They're right and the fact is that I'm more accountable today to others and have a much better support system than what I did 20-plus years ago.

Not sure what I'm going to do this weekend other than get my phone repaired hopefully and announce a race on Saturday evening, if it is held.  It is a trail race and I haven't heard how much the rain in our area has affected the park that is run in.

A good friend is going for the Guinness World Record in the farthest distance run in 12 hours on a treadmill on Saturday morning in The Woodlands.  I'll definitely make it up there to get a few pictures and be an encouragement to him.

So while I felt some stress while going to the office today, I know that God is still working and I just have to continue to put my trust in Him and be patient with the process about where my next employment step and situation is going to be.

Thanks again for all of your interest, love and support of me and my family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

At Least Three Times; August 17, 2016

Do you ever reflect at the end of the day and realize the times that you know as a believer that God was there and actively involved in your activities?

That was definitely me today.  I believe that there were three specific instances where I realized this.

After getting fingerprinted in case I want to pursue some substitute teaching in a time of transition, I went to one of the local universities that I didn't succeed in doing well in getting my Bachelor's degree completed some 26-27 years ago.

I needed to request an official transcript to be sent to another university and their online program so that they could evaluate what might transfer.

I knew that the transcript wasn't pretty and actually I thought I might have had a hold on the account from an on campus parking ticket.

The latter didn't end up existing and I was surprised that I had completed more hours than I thought.

The question now will be how many of them will I be able to bring over and what will I have left to finally get that Bachelor's degree that I need.

But the important thing is that I believe that God gave me the courage to be able to finally face that fear of not being able to do anything about all of that.

At least in the communication with this other university, I have some hope.

(And even though a very involved alum offered their assistance at this local university, I don't think I can get past the academic suspension that I left the university from some 26 years ago.)

Later at work, I was in a monthly meeting to discuss the opportunities and challenges in working the accounts receivable of a health care organization that I've been assigned to for the last four and a quarter years.

I have expressed interest in a few permanent positions there.

One of them is for an executive director who hasn't come to that meeting in quite some time, but she was there today.

I had reached out to her two weeks ago after I got word of what might be coming soon and she responded Friday while I was in Virginia with my daughter.

We had a good dialogue and conversation today and are looking to get together on Monday to discuss the opportunities in her area.  Whether anything comes out of it or not, the fact that she was in that meeting today - for the first time in as long as she's been gone from it - was more than just coincidence.

It was a signal to me that God is saying, "Trust me."  Doesn't mean that He's going to give me that job, but rather that I should trust His process in it all.

The third and final thing was later this evening.

After receiving help from T-Mobile in getting an iPhone back and active after Saturday's crazy telephonic adventures, I came home, changed clothes and went to get a bite to eat.

I was really hungry for a Pollo Mexicano at Jason's Deli in The Woodlands.

I wasn't necessarily impatient, but when I walked in and went to the regular register, not the take out one, the young man there motioned for some help.

With a couple of employees on their phones (yes, they could have been on their break) and not providing the normal level of customer service there, and in being told that I needed to go over to that line, I just decided to leave and go eat something some place else.

Rather than be angry and upset, it was the best option.  (And, oh, it wasn't about waiting in line - as I had already waited, but rather it was just the approach of the employees that didn't strike me well.)

So I went down the road, close to where I live, and went in Freddy's Hamburgers and the College and Career class from where I go to church was there.

So what did God have to do with this?

Well, my long-time friend - and now Associate Pastor of our church - was there and I had a chance to share with him what was going on with my job situation.  (He understanding and empathetic as he works in the IT industry and has had to do what may happen to me in a couple of weeks.)

But the bottom line is that I know that he and his wife will pray for me and that again God was revealing to me that He's there - even though I may feel distant and am anxious of what may or may not happen.

That's my share and takeaway from the day.

The last page of the book that I just finished reading, "Crazy Busy" by Kevin DeYoung said the following:  "We won't say no to more craziness until we can say yes to more Jesus.  We will keep choosing dinner rolls over the bread of life.  We will choose the fanfare of the world over the feet of Jesus.  We will choose busyness over blessing."

So I'm trying to make time to read a couple of devotionals and pray and get and stay close to Jesus better than I ever have.

It doesn't mean that there won't be times that I won't be anxious, nervous or unsure, but there should be more times of peace and comfort - even in the middle of a storm of life - by slowing down and staying close to God.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Buckling In; August 16, 2016

What an emotional roller coaster ride this is.  Wow.

For the most part, all is positive and optimistic as I'm engaging with as many people as I can.  I'm very fortunate that I have somebody at the customer site who is being an advocate for me here.

And, then, there are times where a wave of fear comes crashing over me.

Some of which has been exacerbated by just leaving my daughter in Virginia for her senior year of college, which includes a whole different set of emotions for and from her.

I'm exploring the possibility of going back to school to finish up a Bachelor's degree that I initially didn't succeed at.  I've applied at a very reputable online university.  (Hint:  Some of my money goes there already.)

They're going to be able to get one transcript to evaluate.

I just ordered the electronic transcript from where I got my Associate's degree at and I'm going to have to go to the University to request the transcript since it was before 2000.

And if the absolute worst happens and something doesn't happen right away, I have applied with one of the area school districts (and maybe one or two more) to substitute teach while I was doing course work towards getting that Bachelor's degree.

I guess I'm fortunate enough from my current employer to at least have four weeks' warning as opposed to none once my work at this customer site is complete on August 31.

Still it is a little unnerving.

I have a few trips planned at the end of the month and the start of next month.

I've hesitated taking them, but it may be best to go ahead and enjoy them while trying to keep other expenses at a minimum while doing so.

Thank you again for all of you who have prayed, are praying or will pray for me in the days, weeks and months ahead.

While all of our efforts are to be done as a light to others and in service to Him, I don't want to waste your time, effort and energy either in your support of me.