Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I spend, no, I invest some Sunday afternoons phoning friends who are running marathons. Not literal long-distance road races of the sports kind, but nitty-gritty life and death daily endurance experiences of suffering, weakness, and pain. Nevertheless, they are “marathoners” in God's “race that is set before us” as Saint Paul described our life journey.

These friends are “running” although they may be immobile. Some are bedridden, wheelchair bound, shut in, hospitalized, confined to residential care facilities, or debilitated in a variety of ways in their bodies or minds. Theirs is not a race of competition with other runners, but one of personal endurance. “Completing the race” and “crossing the finish line” is their goal—not the speed at which they are running their course. Marathoners are not sprinters with a short, intense dash and it's over. A marathon is a race for the long haul. My marathoner friends may not feel themselves a part of a crowd of competitors as if they were running the Boston Marathon. More often than not their course is a lonely one.

These are my hale and hardy friends of our younger days, some of whom I grew up with, worked with, served the Lord with, enjoyed life with. Many of us have been blessed by God with longevity but the running course set before us is not a level one. The daily terrain for some is rougher and tougher and steeper than that of others, with many hills and valleys, speed bumps, potholes, and afflictions physically, mentally, emotionally and of course spiritually. They strain with difficulty toward the Finish Line. In God's eyes they are champion marathoners, close to His heart. I pray for each one that He will send His angelic messengers to assist them in running their difficult course. I pray for the Lord to give them strength to endure. I know He waits to welcome them as the completion of their journey.

One reason that I'm interested in Marathons is that my grandson pastor Ed and his wife Laura will be training, he to run the full Richmond, Virginia Marathon of 26 miles this year, and Laura the 10 mile while dreaming of a half-marathon.“Yay! Go Ed and Laura!” They have 4 young children under age 13 who will be cheering them on. Another reason for my interest is that I consider that I too ran (actually wrote sitting down at my computer) a marathon this past year during a 6 month period (which is kind of close to 26 (not miles but weeks!) to my “personal finish line” of wanting to complete 5 of my recent books...so I think I qualified for a marathon! And I did cross that personal finish line. After all, the dictionary defines a marathon as “any long contest with endurance as a primary factor.”

I did a bit of background check: The original Marathon in 490 B.C. was not a sporting event but a specific news release run of 26 miles by a professional military messenger, Pheidippides, a Greek from the area of Marathon, a plain in S.E. Greece. He was dispatched to carry the news to Athens of the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. (Obviously, no phones, radios, TV newscasters, telegraph, email or texting—just running, probably barefoot or in sandals.) The legend goes that upon arrival he shouted “Greetings! We won! Then he fell dead! Not until 2000 years later in 1896 was the Marathon race established in its modern form and the rules and length standardized at 26 miles or 385 yards. Now there are many variants, among them a wheelchair division. Until 1972 women were not allowed to participate, the race was considered too strenuous for the “weaker sex.” The oldest man to finish was 100 and the oldest woman so far was 92. (Well, this is my 92nd year too! I had to commemorate it in some way!)

An application: The Apostle Paul often uses sports terms in his New Testament letters. We are all running a race. We should run as not to run in vain but to win. And to win means to finish our particular course and cross our finish line—but not necessarily with the most speed or to compete with one another, but to persevere in our faith with endurance until the very end. All who cross the finish line are winners!  

There is laid up for us [in store for us] an imperishable crown of righteousness, (2 Timothy 4:8) not a fading, woven flower crown. We have help from on high—we have “a great cloud of witnesses” in Heaven (Hebrews 12:1) cheering us on—angels and saints, our loved ones who have gone on ahead, those who have won their race and kept the Faith and are now rejoicing in the presence of God, praying for and encouraging us who are still running our unique races.

My Sunday afternoon phone call friends are still running their own races and need our prayers. Suffering people are all around us silently bearing their lonely burdens as they take up their crosses daily. Let's be mindful of them and help them bear their burdens and crosses and “so fulfill the law of Christ,” the law of love. Jesus said that inasmuch as we do anything for the least of these we do it unto Him. *Selah! Let us “Push the PAUSE button” and reflect on that—be quiet and meditate on His words. There are depths of understanding in that promise that Jesus would have us put into action.

*That's the title of one of my 5 new books. The cases with those books have arrived and are ready to be ordered by you! Email Leona at leonachoy@gmail.com

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