Beat Fear By Admitting Fear

They say the FlatRock 101K is mile for mile the toughest course in mid-America. I suppose the only way to dispute that is register for the 2016 event and make your own judgement. I am certain what you read from here won’t quicken your pace to the registration page. You will need to check your ego at the door on this event.

My name is Tom Rogers. I am a 43 year from Joplin, MO. To encapsulate my biography, I have a beautiful wife, 2 amazing teenage children, operate my own race management and sales consulting business, lead a rather large Christ centered fitness ministry called The Red Sea Fitness Team, and have been sober from drugs and alcohol for 5.5 years after hearing the voice of God.

I have run several events at FlatRock, including 2-50K’s and 2-25’s. I attempted the 101K in 2014 and took a hard fall about 20 miles into the event. I pulled the plug soon after with a swollen knee, bruised shin, and honestly too much fear to attempt to finish. There, I said it.

The 2014 race has haunted me as my only DNF. I ran the 2014 Flint Hills 40 miler soon after in attempt to clean my emotional wounds, but I was left with even more doubt. Maybe the FlatRock 101K is out of my league. There isn't anything wrong with that. I can live with that. Wait, I can’t live with that.

So here I was again and having spent a good part of 2015 nursing a hip injury, I was certainly in no condition to defeat the beast today. The weather forecast called for highs of 82, which is 90 inside the belly of The Rock. I went out with a strategy to make it from one aid station to the next. I had already discussed with Nathan Sicher privately that 50K was likely all I had in the tank.

I actually felt pretty good for the tough 4 miles to Max’s Place, as I rolled in to top off my bottles and grab a light bite to eat. The temps were still cool, but I would not allow myself to get beat with bad nutrition or hydration. There are some things you can control and some things you can’t. Getting enough to eat and drink is up to you. Getting the body and course to cooperate; not so much.

The course was soft, but not soupy and had drained well from the week of rain. I continued stopping for a good drink and a bite of something every 30 minutes. I was moving slower than I needed to, but doing the best I could. I arrived at the 10 mile mark and was feeling fresh. My wife, son, and all the volunteers were so encouraging and it gave me a great boost. I was off to the first turn and only 6 miles to get there. The day is going really well.

I made it to Sean’s Sanctum (mile 15.6) realizing I was a few minutes behind the cutoff. My crew sprang into action and all the volunteer team catered to all my nutrition and hydration needs. What an amazing group of people at the Epic Ultra events. Worth the price of admission. I pulled out renewed, refreshed, and about 15 minutes behind schedule.

The 6 miles back was uneventful, as I continued to be diligent with my food and water. The last runner in the race passed me somewhere along the way, so I was unofficially the course sweeper now and not bothered in the least. I made it back to Oak Ridge (approx. mile 21) and sat for a bit. They say in an ultra that if you are feeling good, don’t worry it won’t last. I saw Eric Steele at this aid station and told him I believed today was the day. I’m not so sure he believed that. Not too long after, I would start eating those words.

I couldn't have been any further than 22 miles when the wheels completely came off. I kept asking myself how this could have gone so wrong, so fast. I began reciting my speech for the arriving at the 50K turn. That would be the end of my day. I wished to fall down and make it look like I was so brave, but just too hurt to continue. Beyond an aching knee, I had nothing to show up with but bad excuses.

The campground was piling up with DNF’s. I was now getting close to 30 minutes behind the cutoff schedule. I told my wife I only had 50K in me today. I heard voices around me complaining of injury and bad luck. I heard Eric tell me I had to go right now if I was going to continue. I was in an internal war and I couldn't live with it anymore. I put my pack back on and went back out for another round, knowing I wouldn't likely make it far.

There is a scene in Rocky 3 when Adrian asks Rocky what is wrong with him. He dances around the subject with a bunch of answers, but the truth finally comes out. He is afraid. None of us want to say that or admit that, but deep down fear gets in our way and paralyzes us. This might sound pretty sick but I couldn't take that anymore. I would rather die than be afraid. As selfish as that sounds, I was prepared for that. God was showing me a part of Him and I that I had never encountered.

The next 10 miles are a blur. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. There is no magic in that. I finally arrived at Oak Ridge and it was dark. I plopped down in the lawn chair and didn't want to move. I mean, 43 miles is a pretty good effort. Fortunately, my wife had other plans. She had Jenna Mutz bibbed up and ready to take me another 10 miles. I thought what the heck, I can probably make it to the 75K mark.

Jenna was a lifesaver for me and will go down as a critical piece to finishing. Her theatrics and animations on a dark, rocky, and ridiculous course are forever etched in my memory. It was probably the hardest I laughed all day. She talked and talked, not requiring me to answer and kept us moving at a quick pace. She was helping me make up the deficit in time I had created. The weather was cooling off and I began to feel like this might, just might happen today. We got to the 75K turn a couple of minutes under the cutoff. I was getting hopeful.

As we made our way back to Oak Ridge, we saw rats, snakes, slugs, and weird eyes in the brush. Jenna was hollering in the brush for them to keep away and kept repeating that it was only little bunny rabbits. Cory Chockley is also with us and the extra light and company is lifting my spirits. Let me be clear about one thing if you skip through the rest of this: DO NOT come here without a good pacer!

With “only” 10 miles to go, this is simply a survival march to the finish. You crawl on your hands and knees if you have to. Jenna was done with her pacing duties and now Cory and I were off to finish it up.

My stomach is wrecked, my legs are useless, and the bottoms of my feet are blistered. So, who wants to sign up for an ultra? Cory is wise beyond his 24 years and keeps asking me a lot of questions, sensing that I am fading. I literally either bend completely over in exhaustion or sit on a copperhead infested rock every ½ mile to get my heart rate down. God is carrying me. There is no other explanation for even taking another step at this point.

We are watching the time very closely and breaking down the splits every time we stop. We only have so much time to rest and then we must keep moving. Imagine getting to end of a 101K race and not being recognized as an official finisher by missing the time cutoff.

The last 4 miles are a miracle. Cory steadies me on several hills so I don’t plunge off a cliff and several times my knees would just fold up. We finally get off the trail and onto the road section with 40 minutes before cutoff. I am holding vomit down the best I can, shaking like a leaf, and crying like a newborn. I actually start running again and continue all the way through the finish, never so glad to see Eric Steele. All of my family and friends are there and cheering. It’s one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever been involved in.

There are way too many people to thank by name and missing one would be an injustice. From the aid station volunteers, race director, the Mayo’s, the competitors, my family, my friends, my best friend Valerie Rogers.

Most of all, I thank God. I thank Him and praise Him for creating this beautiful landscape and challenge. He taught me we are capable of more, to see people the way He sees them, to never quit fighting a good fight, and to strip the power out of fear. I hope you will put yourself in a position soon to find you that God purposed you to be. Don’t be afraid of fear. See you next year!

God Wants Your Mess

 

 

David- A man after God's own heart, yet guilty of some of the most serious crimes in the Bible. (The mess) David was an amazing conquerer militarily, but not a conquerer of himself. David was an absentee father, and was trapped in sin so deep that he needed a prophet to tell him a story to awaken him to any understanding of it. (The message) Hebrews 11:32 

 

Rahab- (The mess) She essentially ran a brothel on the outside walls of the city of Jericho. She was resourceful in an emergency, and aided the Israelites in toppling the walls in this impossible war. She is the centerpiece of the one of the greatest victories recorded in the Bible. Because of her availability and loyalty, she and her family found favor with God. (The message) Hebrews 11:31

 

Ruth- a message of not how we start, but how we finish. She ends up being the great grandmother of David, though the beginning of her life suggested that she is born out of incest; (the mess) hardly the likely scenario to be in the royal bloodlines of Jesus. She was faithful in little, picking up crumbs in the fields to eat, yet eventually becoming one of the great women of faith that we applaud today. (the message)

 

 

Paul- What can you say about the author of literally half of the New Testament? As an unsaved man, he is bent on nothing less than destroying every last Christian (the mess). Though most of us don't have the passion to destroy what Jesus is trying to achieve, there is something to be said for going the opposite direction of what God has purposed us for. Maybe that in itself is like "kicking against the goads". No matter how hard we may be fighting the right direction, God will always be in hot pursuit. (the message)

 

Solomon- now this is a guy we can identify with (with exception of the being the wealthiest and wisest man that ever lived.) Imagine having tried drink, food, relationships, and possessions to heal the pains of life (the mess). Little did he know that all the experiences that he lived through would draw him to two sentences that explain all the wisdom that we might ever need. "Fear God and obey his commands." (the message)

 

Jacob- the Father of the 12 tribes of Israel. He is a cheater from the word go and his mom is in on it, he struggles with God, he lies, he manipulates (the mess). His name having the very meaning of Israel "he struggles with God." With a noticeable limp from an all night wrestling match for control, he learns to give control to God. (the message)

 

What's your story? (mess or mess to message) God wants your mess.  

My Best Day Judging Others

Yesterday on planet earth was quite hectic. I decided to completely understand the plight of my fellow man, carry the heavy case of stereotyping equipment, and slip into the role of judge.

 

Fortunately, I had enough time, space, and privacy to slip into my traditional black robe and make decisions without any evidence, cross examination, or rebuttal. The defendants remained seated in the 25 degree grass tiled courtroom, face and ears mostly covered by industrial fleece, and eyes that glared into another place; perhaps somewhere with a warm stove, a comfortable chair, and a healthy spouse.

 

Nevertheless, charges and sentences were rendered and the punishment swift. Quick acceleration, 45 seconds of ignoring, and over 90 seconds of lecturing delivered to a 14 year old female courtroom spectator. Much justice was delivered this day.

 

The judicial system of other humans stayed busy for the remainder of the day. Some were deemed unfit to be operating a motor vehicle and a lifetime driver license revocation handed down. Not to be trapped in only doing one job this day, I adorned myself in medical attire here and pronounced them brain dead.

 

My financial advisory suit got quite a workout in the stores, making certain I knew exactly whom should be shopping at Coach. The manager's shirt for the waitress that didn't fill the tea quickly enough, the apron for the worker that couldn't find the candle as fast as I would if I had the job, or the shoes that store employees should be wearing in the "athletic" stores if they were really concerned about the wellness of others.

 

With all of that, I felt a combination of disappointed, tired, and empty by the end of the day. I felt thankful that God didn't treat me so harshly and strip Himself away from me, though I had done the same to many of His children, my brothers and sisters that day. I even tried to imagine a large explosion as the beginning of time, in hopes these were random feelings. Like a box filled with watch parts blew up and accidentally came randomly together, making a perfectly functioning time piece with a conscience. Absurd to feel this way if there is no designer, engineer, or Creator.

 

Today is a new day and The Holy Spirit remains in the space that God paid dearly for. We both took a good look at the wardrobe closet and decided some things didn't belong in there. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That's the uniform I'm intended to wear and share. A John 3:16 and 3:43 A.M. wake up call. My court is no longer in session.

Look Ahead To Go Forward

There are some critical things we must do to start over, but hitting the easy button isn't one of them. As we all know, starting over isn't easy. Starting over is hard. We remain stuck in the "if only I had done that, what if I had made a better decision, why won't everyone around me just change, or I'm just waiting for a brighter day." 

I uncovered an interesting dynamic while driving one day. I noticed the enormous difference in the dimensions of the rear view mirror and the front windshield. The little mirror showing me what was behind me and the large glass showing me what is ahead. The requirement in driving is stay mostly focused on what's ahead or die. Pretty simple.   

The same must be said for life. Stay entirely focused on what is behind you and die, or begin focusing on what is ahead and live. God says in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Wellness is straight ahead. 

With over 5 years of sobriety from drugs and alcohol, I fully understand the weight and the strength of the cables that bind us to yesterday. Our eating and weight might be out of control, relationships always in chaos, self worth tied up in Facebook approvals, constant poor thoughts or defeated attitude. Too much time staring in a rear view mirror and wondering what might have been. But wait, God has a starting over button.

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:18-19. Sure we have things to learn from the rear view and that isn't to be discounted, but we have new life to live today, right now. Look Ahead To Go Forward!

 

The Real Epidemic

One of our greatest concerns as a church has always been serving those that don’t have enough to eat. While this remains a desperately needed cause for action, an even greater one has arisen that might shock you. Those that have too much to eat.

65% of the world’s population live in a country where obesity and being overweight kills more people than being underweight. While the commercials focus on feeding the children, 42 million preschool children were overweight in 2013. There is little negotiating with numbers: Overweight children will likely become obese adults. Unfortunately, we are to blame.

The most disturbing statistics surveys the damage that has been done: This generation of adults will have a longer life span than their children for the first time in history. With all the advances in medicine, vaccines, awareness, and knowledge; we cannot beat eating.

Overeating has become an epidemic addiction because it gets our brain out of pain, and it is socially acceptable. Imagine visiting with someone regarding an alcohol, drug, or pornography problem. They would likely steer you to a local gathering of addicts. Tell them about an overeating problem, and you will likely end up discussing it over lunch.

Obesity, overeating, and crowding out our feelings with food must be addressed for what it is. A grave spiritual condition in need of God’s rescue. We don’t feel good in an obese condition, and the cover-up of our problems through overeating only magnifies our pain and shame. God didn’t design us to feel this way. Here are 10 Thoughts On The Epidemic:

 

1.       I disqualify myself as a relevant witness of Christ when I refuse to discipline my body and keep it under control. Personal wellness is an ongoing mission trip.

2.       “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” (or running, or biking, or handcycling)

3.       Good health goes well with the soul. Many spiritual battles are rooted in how carelessly we treat our bodies.

4.       You might have noticed that God is unpredictable, yet has a pattern of making us uncomfortable to get us to a place that we can truly feel contentment, joy, and purpose. As they say, pain is weakness leaving the body. Change is necessary. 

5.       Glorify God in your body. Not caring for the body places an orange discount sticker over the original price paid.

6.       The body is a temple. It’s where God lives. Keep it picked up and cleaned up. He deserves it and so do we.

7.       I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We have taken Christ out and inserted many brand names and foods looking for strength. Put Christ back in.

8.       I live by a personal creed. There are two directions in life and both of them involve a level of discomfort, yet only one has a great ending.

9.       James Clapp wrote, “The traditional approach to an unknown risk is avoidance.” We know how the story ends with obesity and overeating.

10.   If we are truly living our lives out as a living sacrifice, what better way to sacrifice ourselves than to show our children how to live longer. 

7 Reasons To Keep Moving Forward

Exodus 14:15 is pretty straightforward. When the people are faced with danger from all directions, God says "Get Moving!' It is ordinary for us to run away from problems, medicate the pain in our brain, or simply draw the proverbial covers over our head and hope it goes away. It is extraordinary to trust the God we cannot see to face down our pursuing armies of discouragement, cause us to throw down our addictions, or leave ourselves wide open to face giants. Moving Forward is extraordinary and so is He.

Here are 7 reasons to Keep Moving Forward, as inspired by the Word of God.

1. Fear Not. God commands this about 365 times in The Bible. One writer penned, "When I fear, I cease to be." God designed us for bravery and courage. Fear Not.

2. Keep Moving Forward. There is a reason the windshield is large and the rear view mirror is small.

3. Lift Empty Hands. When our hands are full of trash from the past, God is unable to hand us the treasures of today. 

4. We Have Blessed Hands. When we ask God to move obstacles, we should expect to get our hands dirty to help move them. 

5. We Are Loved. If there is a swollen river in our path today, we can be sure that God is going to see us across it. He hasn't brought us this far to drop us.

6. Don't Sweat The Enemy. Sure, it looks like unbeatable odds, but when has God lost? His greatest victories rise from the graves of apparent defeat.

7. Don't Hesitate. Today is the day to take action. That is what today is for. It paves a better path into tomorrow.

 

Quit Quitting

By 7 p.m. on October 20, 1968, at the Mexico City Olympics Stadium, it was beginning to get dark. The last of the Olympic marathon runners were being assisted away to first-aid stations. Over an hour earlier, Mamo Waldi of Ethiopia had charged across the finish line, winning the 26 plus mile race looking as strong as when he'd started. As the last few thousand spectators began preparing to leave, they heard police sirens and whistles through the gate entering the stadium. 

The attention turned to that gate. A solitary figure, wearing the colors of Tanzania, came limping into the stadium. His name was John Aquari. He was the last man to finish the marathon in 1968. His leg was bandaged and bloody. He had taken a bad fall earlier in the race. Now, it was all he could do to limp his way around the track. The crowd stood and applauded as he completed that last lap. When he finally crossed the finish line, one reporter asked the question everyone had been wondering. "You are badly injured. Why didn't you quit? Why didn't you give up?" Aquari, with quiet dignity said, "My country did not send me seven thousand miles to start this race. My country sent me to finish." 

God sent you and I to finish. No matter how things have been in the race; the hardships, the mistakes, the stumbles, even the behavior of other participants, we are designed for finishing and receiving a great prize. Quit Quitting and get what God has got for you. 

 

8 Ways To Beat A Bad Mood

1. Think Truth. People might leave us or lie to us, but God never will. Think Truth.


2. Think Noble. Stay focused on finding the answers to your tough questions in God's Word. No more advice shopping. Think Noble.


3. Think Right. As culture shifts, we begin to bend our values and twist truths. Stand for what is right and righteous, even in adversity. Think Right.


4. Think Pure. Our words spring from whatever condition our heart may be in. As our heart accepts encouragement, grace, and love from God, our words to others will be well received. Think Pure.


5. Think Lovely. Even on days we are in trial, we can recall the days that God brought answers, healing, new job, restoration. Instead of staying focused on the ugly of what is, we can know it isn't what will be. Think Lovely.


6. Think Admirable. Quite simply, walk through the life of Christ and know that His sacrifice was for you. Think Admirable.


7. Think Excellent. There is nothing more excellent than the grace and mercy of God. No matter what has been done or said, there is an opportunity to repent and be forgiven. That is excellent. Think Excellent.


8. Think Praiseworthy. Praise will overpower problems. We tell ourselves and others around us, no matter how bad the situation might be, I will praise Him in this storm. He is with me. Think Praiseworthy.
 

Inspired by Philippians 4:8 

In The Beginning

In August of 2013, we began hearing from God and people in our circle that a Christ centered running program was needed in the Joplin community. Through prayer and counsel, we made a decision to offer 5K training to beginners at our local church. With a goal to coach 20 students, we developed a Facebook page, set a September date, made a signup sheet, sent some invites, reserved the chapel, and had no idea what God might do next. We would begin the ride (run) of our lives.

That evening in September of 2013, over 145 people showed up to learn to run a 5K. We were officially in panic mode. Not enough seats, not enough leaders, not enough registration forms, not enough pens. We had experienced our first growth spurt and we held on for the ride. Week after week, we brought in experts from the area on nutrition, stretching, and running mechanics. We would also invite local motivators, business owners, and encouragers to help us along the way.

We ran laps on the church parking lot in the wind, snow, rain, and cold. We began to see deep friendships forming in tough conditions. With graduation day approaching, we had red t-shirts printed and made a deal with the local YMCA to run in their annual New Year’s Day 5K.

While many people were pondering their 2014 resolutions at home, the team began to swell in numbers at the start line. The other runners began to look curiously at this team of red. One person shouted to another, “Wow, looks like the red sea is here!” The Red Sea Fitness Team was born.

Today, The Red Sea Fitness Team is much more than teaching physical wellness. Our approach consists of multiple Biblical components that emphasize total well-being; financial, mental, emotional, physical, and mostly spiritual. Since our small and slightly shortsighted beginning in 2013, nearly 500 family team members have completed their first 5K run, some even competing in 10K, half marathon, and marathon events. No one left behind and nearly all stay connected in weekly meetings and communication.

The Red Sea Fitness Team is continuing wellness growth through our 10 structured, yet flexible training plans with personalized coaching. Each class session brings a Bible devotion time, focus on relationship, team building, and exercising the gifts of each of the family team members. Many would testify they learned how to do relationship right at The Red Sea. It’s family first and friendly.

We are constantly in development of new service opportunities in our community, such as Wounded Warriors, running 24 hours continuously as a team on treadmills to raise nearly $7,000. We partner with local, regional, and national companies to develop events, donate time and monies, and consult on projects to help kids in need, feed the homeless, mentor troubled teens, or dig wells in India.

Our race event, The Amazing GRace, became the 2nd largest running and walking event in the city of Joplin, MO in it’s first year of existence, testimony that our communities crave hope, renewal, and the power of worship through wellness experiences. He is the God of all cities and people.

The future at The Red Sea Fitness Team is bright. Many are trapped in the slavery of illness; physical, financial, mental, emotional, and spiritual conditions in grave condition. In Exodus 14:15, when the downtrodden people are faced with the pursuing army in one direction and a sea of water in the other, He tells them to “Get Moving! God will make a way". We invite you to become a family team member of The Red Sea Fitness Team. We are going His way.