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Archive for March 5th, 2020

As I read the words they stuck, momentarily, in my throat …

for I knew that I was not leading devotions, but being led into devotion.

I had chosen to share this story just the day before, no real conviction in my choosing … more like desperation for something that I thought would just do … without seeming like it would just do.

The day I read this hastily chosen story, I was in a funk.

I had no ‘treats’ (ok, sugary motivation) for the students to ‘sweeten’ my sharing of devotions with them. My tummy was terribly upset and I longed for a steeped tea. Then my drive to work took too long for me to stop for the tea I so desperately wanted. I reached work, only to find that conversations were already in process, so I couldn’t even have a moment to air my frustrations with the day.

Death by a thousand cuts.

So I began to read, feeling confident that the story would at least keep their attention … hoping that they would hear the hope that was written between the lines.

“Sometimes the best training for the really big things is just the everyday things.”

gulp.

Those words for me.

I knew it and I knew who placed them on the paper, who led me to them the day before, who led the classroom teacher to ask me to cover devos. this week. It was the same one who I have been groaning to for months … the same one who I had recently started to moan, “I give up.”

Don’t go sighing … don’t mentally, condescendingly pat me on the back … you’ve done it too … we have all done it.

We get frustrated waiting for the answer and we throw our hands (and our hopes) up in the air and declare it (whatever it might be) to be too hard, too frustrating, too much.

Then we have a choice …

walk away from the hard things, the unanswered things …

or …

do we dare listen, for that still small voice?

Here is what that still, small voice said to me, just the other day …

maybe, when you read it, there will be something that you read that gets stuck in your throat … and you will know, that this was here for you to read.

The story of Cliff Young,
as told by Ann Voskamp

The old cahoot ran in his boots.

Weren’t too many of anybody who believed he could.

How the old guy ran for 544 miles. His name was Cliff Young and he wasn’t
so much. He was 61 years old. He was a farmer.

Mr. Young showed up for the race in his Osh Kosh overalls and with his
workboots on, with galoshes over top. In case it rained.

He had no Nike sponsorship.

He had no wife – hadn’t had one ever. Lived with his mother.

Never ran in any kind of race before. Never ran a 5 mile race, or a half-marathon, not even a marathon.But here he was standing in his workboots at the starting line of an ultramarathon, the most gruelling marathon in the world, a 544 mile marathon.

Try wrapping your head around pounding the concrete with one foot after
another for 544 endless, stretching miles. They don’t measure races like
that in yards – -but in zip codes.

First thing Cliff did was take out his teeth. Said his false teeth rattled when he ran.

Said he grew up on a farm with sheep and no four wheelers, no horses, so
the only way to round up sheep was on the run. Sometimes the best
training for the really big things is just the everyday things.


That’s what Cliff said: “Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go run and round up the sheep.” 2,000 head of sheep. 2,000 acres of land.
“Sometimes I’d have to run those sheep for two or three days. I can run this
race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

“Got any backers?” Reporters shoved their microphones around old Cliff
like a spike belt.

“No….” Cliff slipped his hands into his overall pockets.

“Then you can’t run.

Cliff looked down at his boots. Does man need backers or does a man
need to believe? What you believe is the biggest backer you’ll ever have.


The other runners, all under a buffed 30 years of age, they take off like
pumped shots from that starting line. And scruffy old Cliff staggers forward.
He doesn’t run. Shuffles, more like it. Straight back. Arms dangling. Feet
awkwardly shuffling along.

Cliff eats dust.

For 18 hours, the racers blow down the road, far down the road, and old
Cliff shuffles on behind.

Come the pitch black of night, the runners in their $400 ergonomic Nikes
and Adidas, lay down by the roadside, because that’s the plan to win an
ultra-marathon, to run 544 straight miles: 18 hours of running, 6 hours of
sleeping, rinse and repeat for 5 days, 6 days, 7 days.

The dark falls in. Runners sleep. Cameras get turned off. Reporters go to
bed.

And through the black night, one 61-year-old man far behind keeps
shuffling on.

Cliff Young runs on through the dark — because he didn’t know you were
supposed to stop.

The accepted way professional runners approached the race was to run 18
hours, sleep 6, for 7 days straight.

But Cliff Young didn’t know that. He didn’t know the accepted way. He only knew what he did regularly back home, the way he had always done it:

You run through the dark.

Turns out when Cliff Young said he gathered sheep around his farm for
three days, he meant he’d run across 2,000 acres of farmland for three
days straight without stopping or sleeping, without the dark ever stopping
him.

You gathered sheep by running through the dark.

So along the endless stretches of highway, a tiny shadow of an old man
shuffled along, one foot after another, right through the heat, right through
the night.

Cliff gained ground.

Cliff gained ground because he didn’t lose ground to the dark. Cliff gained
ground because he ran through the dark.

And somewhere at the outset of the night, Cliff Young in his overalls, he
shuffled passed the toned runners half his age. And by the morning light,
teethless Cliff Young who wasn’t young at all, he was a tiny shadow — far,
far ahead of the professional athletes.

For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight, Cliff Young ran, never once stopping for the dark –

never stopping until the old sheep farmer crossed the finish line – First.

He crossed the finish line first. Beating aworld record. By two. whole. days.

The second place runner crossed the finish line 9 hours after old Cliff.

And when they handed old Cliff Young his $10,000 prize, he said he hadn’t
known there was a prize. Said he’d run for the wonder of it. Said that all the
other runners had worked hard too. So Cliff Young waited at the finish line
and handed each of the runners an equal share of the 10K.

While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance. While others impress, you can simply press on. While others stop for the dark, you can run through the dark.

The race is won by those who keep running through the dark.

(I could not find the link, but you won’t regret checking out Ann Voskamp)

” … we know that … perseverance (produces) character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

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