Your Voice: Lessons from my first ultramarathon

As I close in on a big milestone birthday, I figured I’d celebrate by doing what I’m sure most people do — run my first 50K ultramarathon ...
(Photo by Shawn Hendricks)

Your Voice: Lessons from my first ultramarathon

As I close in on a big milestone birthday, I figured I’d celebrate by doing what I’m sure most people do — run my first 50K ultramarathon (31 miles — the age I would like to be turning). Actually, for most, this may sound like a miserable way to celebrate a birthday, but morning runs have been a way of life for me for at least a couple decades. Why stop now?

What I learned

I’ve definitely learned a few lessons along the road.

Savor the moments. When training or preparing for anything, it’s easy to get caught up in the planning and all that goes into making something a success.

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I’ve learned from running, work, life and ministry how important preparation is with doing something right. At the same time, it’s important to be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings — the sunrise, the fences, the empty fields and the fellow runners along the way.

There were plenty of opportunities to take some photos on the course. With so much tragedy and craziness in our world today, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the years the Lord has given me and didn’t want to lose the joy of the moment — especially early on with so many miles to cover. Challenges are always ahead.

Hills, wrong turns and a snake. No matter what you do and how much you plan, you’re going to hit unexpected pains, aches and obstacles along the way. There were definitely more hills than expected. And with ultramarathons, I learned, there also could be a wrong turn or two.

Unplanned moments

Shawn Hendricks celebrates completing his first ultramarathon with his family.

On these longer routes, the course isn’t always marked as well, which can occasionally lead to stopping to figure out where you need to go next. And during the last few miles, there was even a slithering friend crossing right in front of me — at a pretty slow pace. Unplanned moments can easily distract us, but we should keep the focus on the finish line.

Find your pack. Another unexpected moment of the run —  a definite bright spot — was meeting some nice people along the way. I ran with a group of runners who were friendly and easy to talk to. As we shared stories and encouraged each other, the time seemed to pass much more quickly. I’ve learned how important it is to have a good group of friends in life. My church men’s group that meets on Wednesday nights is key to encouragement and accountability. We all need a pack to help keep us on the trail and headed in the right direction. Ultimately, if we’re going to finish well, we need others.

Don’t give up

Finish strong. I admit the wheels were falling off near the end. The last few miles were slow going, but I wanted to finish well.

In the last mile, I did my best to pick up the pace as I neared the finish line. I could see it about a mile out, and I could see my family. That gave me a boost in my step. Whether in life or running, finishing strong is the most important part — but the pizza was pretty good too.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith …” (Heb. 12:1–2).

Shawn Hendricks
The Baptist Paper

3 ways to deal with evil

Evil is defined as “that which is not in harmony with the divine order” or “that which is morally wrong, sinful or wicked.” Since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, everyone must deal with evil.

Isaiah 5:20a warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” There are at least three ways to deal with evil.

  1. When evil is prohibited, society flourishes. Adrian Rogers said, “We cannot legislate morality. That’s why we have to legislate against immorality. … Government is here not to make us good — only God can make us good — government is here to restrain evil.” (See Prov. 3:7–8, 14:34; Gen. 9:5b–6; and Rom. 13:3–4.)
  2. When evil is protected, society falters. When laws protecting our God-given rights are not consistently enforced, it encourages the proliferation of evil activity. One Bible commentator explains, “Where the wicked get the upper hand in a community, their evil example is copied, and a lowering of moral tone and a general laxity in conduct prevail.” (See 1 Cor. 15:33, Eccles. 8:11 and Prov. 29:16.)
  3. When evil is promoted, society falls. When behaviors once considered abominable are being championed by those in positions to serve and protect a nation, we should not be surprised when society falls. Remember the days of Noah. (See Gen. 6:5, Prov. 28:5 and Isa. 9:16.)

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If we are to survive as a nation, we must remember how to deal with evil.

Franklin L. Kirksey
Robertsdale, Ala.

When you leave a church, particularly a difficult one … don’t carpet bomb it on the way out to settle scores — leave gracefully.

When you take the helm of a new church, particularly one that you find to be difficult … don’t throw shade on the past, move forward — lead graciously.

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“I was so desperate in those early days and months (following John Luke’s accident) for the Lord to use me,” said Johnna Carver, sharing how her 6-year-old son’s death inspires Honduras housing ministry for needy families. “I am honored that He is using something that was so precious to me to grow His Kingdom.”

“[After-school Bible] clubs play a crucial role in reaching children in our local schools, providing parents the opportunity to provide a biblical worldview for their children and enabling kids to hear about Jesus Christ and learn the gospel.

“Moreover, they instill essential values, helping children become model students who live out Christian principles,” said Chris Crain, executive director of Birmingham Metro Baptist Association, discussing the association’s Discovery Clubs ministry.

If you’re a pastor (or any leader!) who thinks that climbing the ladder to a larger church or senior leadership or a book deal will take that buzzing anxiety away, know this:

The ladder only gets more wobbly the higher you climb.

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The dynamite-force of Jesus’ resurrection blew a huge hole in death’s wall, and drew through the opening others from the world of the dead (Matt. 27:52–53).

What Jesus did that day for a few physically, He wants to do now for many spiritually. Say it loud and clear, “Jesus saves!”

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There exists an incredible irony in the ministries of many pastors.

Pastors who work themselves to the brink of burnout largely on tasks that have nothing to do with their primary calling.

That is, the call to “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Pet. 5:2).

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Circumstances don’t alter the call. I’d rather die in the will of God than live outside His will even for one minute. For me, Christianity is lived in practice, not in theory. #ArthurBlessitt

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