Strength Training for Runners

First of all, let's establish one thing. 

If you want to become a better runner, what do you have to do? You have to run. 

However, there are a lot of auxiliary components that make great runners. Nutrition, rest and strength training are a few that come to mind. These components create the complete, dynamic runner and allow you to achieve great performances.

On the topic of strength training, we are big believers in runners lifting heavier weights and lower reps versus the converse of lighter weights and high reps. Running builds endurance, lifting builds strength.

Here is a great article on that from on How Should Runners Lift Weights?

From the article:

The real key is knowing how to lift weights effectively. Runners are not bodybuilders and they are not lifting just for general health. Instead, they’re lifting for three main reasons:

  1. To get stronger
  2. To prevent injuries
  3. To race faster

When accomplishing these goals, runners need a different approach in the weight room than your typical boot camp class.

So shake up your paradigm this winter. Stop lifting light. Get in the weight room and challenge yourself! And as you do, remember the golden rule to improvement: Gradual adaptation. 

The Daniels' Running Formula

We LOVE the Daniels' Running Formula. It isn't theory. It's lab tested science. You want to become a better runner? Just apply even part of the Running Formula and you will see dramatic improvements in your performances. 

To make things a little easier for folks to understand, we worked with Dr. Jack Daniels to distill his 300 page book into an easy to understand infographic. To download your copy, just click on the link below. Get ready to run fast!

The Daniels' Running Formula Infographic

Advent: The Season of God's Love

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:10-12

By Emily Hanenburg

How are you at receiving love?

Have you ever stopped to think about how you receive the love that is being offered to you? I think the hard thing about love from people is that it is imperfect and is variable. We all are different; our needs, wants, circumstances and backgrounds are different, and our expression of everything, including love, is different. But, despite those differences we all, or at least most people, have a desire to be known and loved.

That desire meets us square and plainly at Christmas time. Just as is the case for hope, peace, and joy, this time of year, in supposedly being the most wonderful, often brings about a rise in expectation for feeling loved and seems to profoundly highlight any lack. But, is it truly that there is a lack of love, or rather, is it that we cannot see and receive the love being offered to us because it does not come in the form that we would prefer?

It is something that I have been thinking a lot about as I have been preparing my heart for Christmas. For the last several years, my mom has suffered a chronic illness that has consumed much of her ability, not to mention her time and attention. That being the case, my mom, put simply, cannot love me in the way she used to, in the way that my friend’s moms love them, in the way that I would really want to be loved sometimes. I know for certain my mom loves me. It is not out of intentional withholding, but more out of inability. In the midst of that, I have to be willing to seek out and accept the little bits of love she can give rather than being disappointed. If I am only looking for love in the way I expect, I can miss the most important and real expressions of love being given to me.

 For you it might not be in quite the same form. Maybe there has been a loss in your family, maybe it feels like people don’t understand you, maybe there is someone in your life where it feels like no matter what you do you just cannot make them happy, maybe you are experiencing the disloyalty of a friend. Or, hopefully, you may feel very loved this Christmas. If that is the case, receive it and give it, but know there will probably be a point when someone lets you down. Now if just being able to scrape up and piece together little bits of people’s imperfect love and willing to see and accept the love of the people around us is not the answer to everything. The love of people, however earnestly given, just cannot meet the greatest need that we have. Unlike the humans in our lives who try their best but can never perfectly meet all our needs, the One who made us and knows us completely can absolutely meet the depths of our need to be loved. 

So then, the question really is not if we can receive the love and care of the people around us, but can we receive the love of God that He is pouring out into our hearts and lives?

“In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.” 

At Christmas we celebrate love, not because there are more interactions and gatherings of people we care about or that there is an emphasis on acts of love done for others… even those are a beautiful glimpse of love. We celebrate love because the world received the greatest gift of love possible. It was love that was promised, not because as humans we earned it or even understood that we needed it, but because God knew our greatest need and met it. Sometimes what we need and what we want are two different things.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.

When Jesus came to earth, the greatest gift of love sent from God, He came to a people who had lots of expectations for how God was going to show up in their lives. For hundreds of years, the people of Israel had looked forward to a Messiah, a Chosen One who would rise up and rescue them. As a people group, they had either been in captivity by Babylonians, Assyrians or oppressed by Romans for hundreds of years. The prevailing thought was that the Messiah would bring Israel out of the oppression they had suffered for so long and into its former glory. The people would be free once again. What they did not realize was that the captivity of their hearts was so tremendously greater than the physical bondage they had suffered.

Most people had expectations how the savior of the world would come. When Jesus came as a baby and lived His ministry on Earth culminating in His death on the cross, it was in opposition to that. Because of His love for us, He came to save people from their sins rather than from the circumstance of the Roman occupation. It was pretty hard, and for most, impossible for them to receive the love God had for them. We can see throughout the Bible, the rejection of God by His people. When Jesus walked the earth, He was completely rejected by the people he came to save.

That can be the same for us. We have to be careful that we do not fall into believing that God loves us when He gives us what we want or changes the circumstances we are in. When He died, He gave us exactly what we need. The freedom to live in His love because we are saved grace not by performance.

“But all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to be children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”

That means that God’s love for you is not on the basis of who your family is, how good -or not- that you try to live, nor because of the opinion or judgment of any person, or the fulfillment of your own expectations. If you have received the Love of God in believing that Jesus Christ came, died, and rose again for you so that you could have relationship with God, you are a perfectly and completely loved child of God. When God sees you, He does not see failures, He does not see shortcomings, He sees Jesus perfection on you. He sees you with great love because He sees that His Son died for you. I write that not just to those who are looking into what Christianity is, but just as much for those who know and love Jesus. Even among people who have followed Christ for a long time, the deep struggle of believing that God’s grace and love is not earned by following God well enough, but truly is a gift given through faith is a continual pursuit.  

We have to have the humility of heart to accept that the love of God is a gift that we cannot earn; we also have to have the humility of heart to receive the gift of God’s love in the form of Jesus because we trust that it is the best way… even if not necessarily the way we expected it or want it.

“We love because He first loved us.”

No matter what is going on in your life, no matter how wonderful or not Christmas is for you, I pray that you will know and receive God’s love for you because it is a love that never goes away and never changes because it does not depend on us. As you wake up Christmas morning, and every other morning, know that you are loved and receive that… and then, in knowing that, go out seeking to love God and love others.

Further Reading: 1 John 4


Peace: Where Does It Come From?

By Matt Williams

John 16:33: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.

Where does true peace come from?

I am reminded of the story of Horatio Spafford, who penned the famous hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”.  As the story is told, Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800s.  In 1871 he lost his son (age 2), and in the same year the “Great Chicago Fire” claimed many of his financial investments.  Two years later in 1873, as the rebuilding of Chicago continued, he and his family had planned to take a vacation to Europe. Detained by business, he sent his family ahead of him.  The ocean liner upon which they traveled was rammed by another British ship and sank, taking the lives of his remaining four daughters. His wife managed to survive.  Horatio took a ship to meet his grieving wife, and as he took this voyage, passing the very spot where his daughters had died, he was inspired to write these words…

“When peace like a river attendenth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul

Thou Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

True Peace, like true Love, is something far deeper and more profound than what Hollywood often portrays.  We think we can find it in our emotions, or manufacture it by our circumstances, but when the loss of a loved one comes, when the diagnosis arrives at our doorstep, when the dream fails, when a friend betrays our trust, or when the many other avenues of darkness encroach on our broken world, we are left feeling hollow. 

True peace can only come from something deeper and stronger than both our emotions and circumstances.  It must come from something external to our system, something that lasts beyond this world, something that is eternally good, eternally loving, and of ultimate worth.  I have searched for peace in my life from all aspects of the American dream… running accolades, academic success, material gain, relationships, and career, and all have failed time and time again.

Peace comes when we trust in the promise of God.  His promise is simple: He loves us to the point of His own death, and He is able to redeem all things…our sin…our broken circumstances…our pain…all of it, into His ultimate story of resurrection and Life.  This promise was made clear through the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. As when learn to trust Him, there is a peace that “transcends all understanding”.   

I am sure there will be many times this Holiday season when we do not “feel” like singing Christmas carols, or saying “Peace on Earth” with a warm smile.  And yet, if we cling to His promise, if we cling to a relationship with Christ, then even when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, we shall fear no evil, for He is walking with us, and ultimately leading us to green pastures.  We will be able to stand with Horatio Spafford and truly say, “It is Well with my Soul”. 

I pray deeply in my heart this Christmas season that you experience this peace and love no matter what your circumstances are.  I pray that we all continue to cling to the hope and peace that come from Christ---With Much Love----Matt     

Further Reading: Romans 5: 1-11

The Season of Joy

As we enter the Christmas season and Advent, we are bombarded by advertisements from retailers about the newest and greatest gifts and toys. Intrinsic to the marketing is the subliminal message, "If you buy these, you will be happy."

But do we find real happiness in buying more stuff? It's fun, trust me, to get new toys and gifts at Christmas. I have a nice wishlist going on Amazon right now. I know, however, that my happiness and joy is not tied to these gifts. It is tied to something more eternal. It is tied to the ultimate Gift that was given to us thousands of years ago in the birth of Christ, who, as the ancient creeds say, "was fully man and fully God."

It was a world changer, literally. Born into a Hellenistic society filled with syncretism and a pantheon of gods, Christ's "advent" was a seminal event. Suddenly the world was presented with the concept of just one God and that it could have relationship with this one God through His Son.

Christ didn't just turn the Hellenistic world upside down, however, He was the ultimate market disrupter in the Jewish world as well, a society dominated by the Law given to Moses on Sinai. The Jewish law was a list of rules, "Do this, don't do that. Do this this way" and on and on the Law went. Can you imagine the frustration caused by this daily practice? 

Suddenly, a light shone into the darkness of this world. The world's concept of capricious gods was challenged as was the Jewish community's worldview that by keeping the Law, man could attain right standing with God. Imagine the uncertainty the ancient world must have felt worshiping gods who could change their mind if they were not offered the right sacrifices or libations. Homer's Illiad is an incredible look into the mind of ancient man and how he viewed the gods (and how the man-made gods related to man). Or in the Jewish community, the list of daily rules and regulations that each member of society had to keep and if they weren't kept, the consequences of it. It was a vicious cycle of capricious gods and rules that couldn't be kept.

Suddenly Christ stands astride this world and says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6) and "I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance" (John 10:10). He spoke truth, both in knowing right and wrong, but also truth as it pertained to how man can have right relationship with God. He was Truth. He was Life.

This is a reason for Joy in this season of Advent. We no longer face uncertainty. We do not have to fear what our future brings. We have a source of Joy. We have a reason for celebration this Christmas season. It is in celebrating Christ's birth and the gifts that He brings. Salvation, clarity, truth and joy.

I have to admit that 9 years ago I was not finding joy in my circumstances. Becca and I were sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit with our second daughter, Lily, as she awaited and then recovered from open heart surgery, the first of three open heart surgeries. She was four days old.

"Consider it a joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials," writes James in his epistle. I was not considering it joy at that moment. There was a lot of self-introspection going on during that time in my life. The focus was on me. I remember distinctly having to take it off me and focus on Christ. Verses 3 and 4 of James, Chapter 1 continue with ". . . because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full affect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." 

So as we begin this Advent season, I want to challenge you with this simple question: where do you find your joy?

If it is only in and on the world around you-friends, family, achievements, toys and technology-you will be disappointed.

It takes a shifting of our gaze and a re-setting of our priorities. Make Christ your focus. Make Him your source of joy this advent season. It's a game changer. 


Romans 12:12: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

By Coach Aaron Yoder

Today is another great day to be thankful for! I believe that one of the great gifts that God gives is life. It is a gift we often take for granted, but one we should appreciate.  We should really be excited about another gift to live out today.  In the scripture selection today we read about hope which should be expressed in joyful anticipation of what is to come.  Each day is a new gift and a new adventure. Are you taking time to commit each day joyfully to Christ?

The title of this brief devotional is "Gratitude." In this season, especially as we prepare to celebrate the birth of God's only son, Jesus Christ, I know I am grateful for Him. He is our eternal hope and joy.  We also read in Romans 12:12 about the patience we should have in our hardships and hurts and afflictions.  When we commit our way to Him, God gives us all the grace we need to survive our suffering but also to thrive in our success. 

Lastly we read about prayer in the 12th verse of Romans 12, "Be faithful in prayer."  As we experience affliction (we all experience it) we must remain faithful in prayer.  In this world that pulls us in every direction daily, we also need to pray that God will direct our steps.  He hears us, but are you taking the time to have a conversation with Him, to ask Him for direction, to commit your way to Him joyfully?

We have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas season. We have the gift of life. We have the promise of eternal hope and joy. We have a God who waits for us to seek Him and when we do, we have a guide and a shepherd who will never leave us.

Reflection Questions

1.) What can you be thankful for in this season?

2.) What hardships or afflictions are you going through?

3.) Have you prayed in thankfulness for the things hoped for and in patient supplication for grace in the struggles?

Jim Ryun Wins the Emsley Carr Mile in 1967

In what had already been an epic summer, having broken World Records in the one mile (3:51.1) and the 1500m (3:33.1), Jim Ryun went to London to face Kip Keino and the rest of the Commonwealth team. A few weeks prior to this, Keino had forced the pace in Ryun's 3:33.1 1500m World Record but had been unable to match Ryun's blistering 37 point last 300m. In the Emsley Carr Mile, he decided he was going to be the one to sit and kick.

Watch as this race unfolds.

Jim Ryun Wins the Emsley Carr Mile in 1967

Jeff Kuzma Podcast

I had a chance to chat with Jeff Kuzma recently about his running career and training. Jeff has been an integral part of the Jim Ryun Running Camp for over 10 years. Back in the late 1990s and up to and during the 2000 Olympic Trials, Jeff was one of the best 800m guys the United States had, backing this up by just missing the Olympic team in 2000 where he finished 5th in the 800m final in a mass finish (race here). 

Jeff is an Air Force Academy graduate and ran for the Air Force's World Class Athlete Program for years. Currently he works as a government contractor and coaches a team of local home school runners while staffing the Jim Ryun Running Camps during the summer. 

We had a little technical difficulty tied to internet speeds on my end, but there is a lot of great content in this podcast about natural progression, training, good coaches and chasing dreams.

The Daniels' Running Formula

For years we have had the privilege of having Dr. Jack Daniels speak at the running camps. What I love about Jack's formula is that it's lab tested fact, not theory. If you are interested in becoming a better runner, then the Formula is for you. I tell the campers, "If you apply just parts of the Daniels' Running Formula, you will become better. It's that simple." 

From threshold to interval to repetition work and the critically important easy running, the Daniel's Formula gives you a step by step guide to running faster. Now, in a downloadable format, we are posting the distilled version of the Daniels' Running Formula. As a note, the VDOT app from Run Smart is the perfect compliment to this PDF. 

The Daniels' Running Formula


Sara Hall Podcast

It's a lot of fun for me as a camp director to meet kids when they are young and then get to know them better as adults. In the case of Ryan and Sara Hall, I had the chance to introduce them years ago at a cross country meet in 2001. Ryan and I were chatting post-race and we saw Sara. He mentioned he might like to meet her and I said, "Then let's go meet her!" Ryan wasn't as certain as I was, "Maybe later." 

Me: "It'll be fine, just follow my lead" (little did I know that "lead" would end up in marriage for Ryan and Sara the fall after they graduated from college in 2005).

Later that year, Ryan finished third at Footlocker Nationals and Sara won, establishing themselves as two of America's rising distance stars. That spring Ryan ran a solo 4:02 1600m to win the California state meet and Sara won the 3200m, ending her season as the #1 ranked female high schooler at that distance. Both went to Stanford on full rides and became integral parts of a powerhouse program, Ryan helping lead the men's team with his 2nd overall placing to the 2003 NCAA Division I men's team title while Sara finished 3rd in the women's race to lead the Stanford women to the 2003 NCAA Division I women's title.

In the years after college, both Ryan and Sara moved to the marathon, with Ryan ending his career with a sterling 2:04:58 PR set in Boston and Sara, currently still running, setting her personal best of 2:28 earlier this year in Tokyo.

I had a few minutes to chat with Sara last week for this podcast. Enjoy!


Dr. Wayne Westcott Podcast

Over the years we have had the privilege of having strength coach Dr. Wayne Wescott speak at the running camps. Author or co-author of 20 books on strength training as well as numerous articles, Wayne brings a wealth of knowledge to the subject of resistance training for runners. In this podcast we chat about the need for runners to hit the weight room and what benefits they can expect from it. 

College Coaches: Strength Training Is Good for Distance Runners

This is something we talk a lot about at camp: strength training for runners. It's a topic of conversation among a lot of coaches and runners, but clearly the right kind of strength training is very beneficial for runners. It makes them stronger, more dynamic and healthier. It is one of the best injury prevention steps young runners can take. 

Yesterday, MileSplit ran this article on strength training. 

From the article: 

"Strength training helps with maintaining form which will allow the athlete to run more efficiently," he says. 

Better form, better running, better times. 

"The biggest changes I see once an athlete starts my weight training program is body composition, stride length, and frequency and ability to maintain a faster pace for longer periods of time."

Another side benefit to weight lifting, according to Coach Richter at St. Vincent, is the reduced risk of injuries. A stronger neuromuscular system means you are less likely to get hurt.


David Adams Podcast

It's always fun when campers become counselors become best friends. Such is the case with David Adams. When he first came to the Jim Ryun Running Camps after his sophomore year in high school, David was a talented runner, but more of a multi-sport athlete. His senior year he posted PRs of 1:58 for 800m, 4:23 for the mile and 9:25 for 3200m. In other words, solid, but not one of the top ranked high school runners in the nation.

But when it was all said and done, David was a sub-4 miler (watch his sub-4 mile at the 2012 Kansas Relays), a top ranked steeplechaser, making the 2012 Olympic Trials final and finishing his career at Nebraska as a Big 12 champion and an NCAA All-American at 5,000 meters. 

Today, David and his wife Bethany and their two boys live in Austin, TX where David works for Dell. We had a few minutes to meet up at a local Starbucks recently to record this podcast. Pardon the background noise!

Carrie Lane Podcast: Strength Training for Runners

I am a big believer in creating dynamic runners. Dynamic in the sense of motor skills and the ability to move explosively in every direction and in every plane of motion. Strong runners are durable runners who don't get injured and explosive runners can carry their speed out as far as the rest of their training will let them. This doesn't come from running endless miles. It comes from strength training, drills, plyometrics and other auxiliary components that create the complete runner.

This year at camp we had the opportunity to have strength coach Carrie Lane join us at camp. Carrie has a unique background in that she started as a distance runner, running collegiately at Marquette, before becoming a hammer thrower post-collegiately and then ultimate a strength and throws coach. From 2006-2009, she was the personal coach for Adam Nelson, 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the shot put and silver medallist in 2008. 

Carrie joined me earlier this week to help kick off Season 2 of the Art of Running and during this podcast we discuss the need for kids to be multi-sport athletes growing up as well as strength training and drills for runners. During the podcast, I mention the session we had with Carrie at camp. The video of the drills relay is here

Recently Carrie and Jeff Boele at the Roots Running Project recorded a series of videos for purchase, Strength Training for Runners. You can purchase those videos here.

Carrie is also launching her own website in the next few days. Bookmark and make sure to check in there next week!

As a quick note on the intro to this podcast, I had to re-record it, thus the change in quality from it to the rest of the podcast when I used Zoom to record over the phone! Enjoy. 


Every year, various counselors give devotionals at camp. Two years ago, Coach Aaron Yoder gave this one on the life of Samson and we loved it so much we wanted to post it here!

The Life of Samson

Who here considers themselves fast? Why?  Who here considers themselves strong?  Why?Who here would consider themselves smart? Why?  It’s the idea of superiority through talent, but let me tell you all you are all talented but there is a good chance there will always be someone faster, stronger and smarter than you.

As Ryan Hall said in the video we watched: Only one man can be the greatest in the world and they can only brag of that crown for a short time. But does mean the other 99.99 % of the world is failures?

Just because someone is faster than that doesn’t mean you are slow. Just because someone is stronger that you doesn’t mean you are weak.  Just because someone is smarter than you doesn’t mean you are fool. 

How are we measuring speed, strength and smarts?  Take running for example if you have someone who runs 4:00 minutes for a mile and another who runs 5:00 minutes for a mile, who is faster? Most would say the one running 4:00 minutes. But what if I told you that the 4:00 min. miler was a 27 year old professor runner with 20 years of running experience under his belt and the one running 5:00 was 6 year old girl who had only been running for 6 months?

What would you say then?  Absolutely 4:00 is faster but relatively the girl's time is more impressive.  Lifting is no different. Take Drew and myself-he benches 340 and I can bench about 250 on a good day.  But if you factor in our body weight who has a higher percentage compared to body weight? Well, probably still Drew but if I weighed 100 lbs and could bench nearly 2.5 times more than my body weight that would undeniably be better.

Do you see what I’m saying?  Even Olympic champions have someone who is faster and stronger and can jump higher and guess what? The smartest of man is no match……for God!  God gives these gifts!  He is a great and powerful God. See 1 Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

We are going to talk this morning about an Old Testament character that was most notably remembered for his strength but in the course of his life abused his talents that the Lord gave but lets take a look for ourselves and as we do, I want to focus on two points.

The first is that God has given each of us extraordinary gifts!  It's our job to discover and develop them. 

The second is that God desires that your gifts be used to edify and honor Him. If not, consequences occur.

Our devotion begins in the Book of Judges, chapters 13-16. This chapter contains the story of an extremely strong individual. He is like a superhero, commissioned by God to do great things.    

His name was Samson and he was a judge.  Not like someone who sits in a courtroom but a different kind of judge.  In Hebrew the word "judge" translates to “a deliverer.”  In the Old Testament the Book of Judges is filled with stories of different individuals who served as deliverers of Israel.  There were 14 judges of Israel that came to deliver and protect the nation.  There were no kings so these judges were the ones that people looked to for protection and direction.  Samson was the 12th judge.  His "reign" lasted for approximately 20 years. 

Samson's story begins as the Israelites are once again under the power of the Philistines.  This is a form of judgment upon the people of Israel for their rebellious behavior. The angel of the Lord comes back though to deliver His people because they are crying out. So the angel of the Lord shows up at a home of a particular husband and wife.  The husband is a follower of God and his name is Manoah and his wife is barren-they have no children.  The angel tells this couple that they will have a son.  He gives certain instructions on the pregnancy- she is not to drink any wine or eat anything unclean.  After he is born he is supposed to be treated and raised a certain way since he is special. He can 1)never cut his hair 2)never drink alcohol 3) never touch a dead body. 

Samson is referred to as a “Nazarite” which means in Hebrew “to separate.” This is symbolize his life of separation and total commitment to holiness.  A Nazarite could make a vow for a period of time or a whole lifetime. For Samson it was for his entire lifetime.

However during Samson's life he violated all 3 of the vows which ultimately led to his own demise.  He was a man driven by fleshly desires-illicit unrestrained passion,a fiery temper and a blatent disregard for God's commandments.  But he was still used by God in great ways.  It's unfortunate that he abused his gifts and turned his back on God in certain situations. 

One certain story of his abandonment of God's will was his desire for pagan women, particularly a Philistine female.  He was expressly forbidden to marry a Philistine.  He was attracted to the way she looked, a very superficial way to base a serious decision like this on.  His parents tried to dissuade him, but he got his way. He insisted on marrying her, but when he's on his way to the town she lived something really crazy happens……He is ambushed by a lion! Judges 14:6 says that the Lord's strength came upon him and he tore the lion apart like it was a young goat!  Several months later he passed the body of the lion's carcass and found a colony of bees taking residence inside the body.  He reached into the body and pulled the honey out- disobeying the vow to not touch dead bodies.  He even fed the honey to his parents!

Then during the wedding celebration he proposes a riddle to everyone and told the guests, "If you solve this within 7 days of the celebration I will give 30 new sets of clothes to the one who answers it correctly."  The riddle stumped everyone and if infuriated the wedding party.  So they corned the bride and threatened her life unless she spilled the beans.  She spilled the beans. They answered Samson’s riddle which enraged him! So he walks 23 miles to a village and kills 30 men and strips them of their clothes and walks 23 miles back (46 mile round trip).  to deliver the goods on his promise.  He is livid so he heads home and leaves his new bride.

After months of sulking he returns for his wife but discovers that she has been remarried, to one of his groomsmen of all people! Samson also had a mischievious side too so in retribution he captures 300 foxes and ties their tails together in pairs of two with a torch on each pair then let them loose on the Philistines grain fields….destroying everything!

The Philistines are fed up so they go after men of Israel and they ask what is all about and they say they want Samson.  So the men of Israel (3,000 men) go to arrest him.  Samson agrees and is handed over to Philistines.  As he is brought up to the Philistines, tied up, the spirit of the Lord filled him and he broke the ropes and found the nearest object, which was the jawbone of a donkey and he used it to kill 1,000 Philistines.  With a nine inch bone!  After this intense scene, Samson acknowledges God in this great effort and says, “God you did this.”

After this incident there was 20 years of reprieve from the Philistines as Samson being the judge. 

But that’s not the end of Samson's story. 

Unfortunately, Samson's promiscuity continues. In one situation his capture is attempted when the men of Gaza devise a plan to take him after Samson has been with a prostitute in their city. 

But not to worry. Samson takes the gates of Gaza and carries them on his shoulders for 38 miles!  The gates of a city! For 38 miles. You see in this story his super human strength and his super sinful weakness. Fatal attraction was his life story.

Samson's  final fixation was on another Philistine women by the name of Delilah.  The Philistines put her in his path to discover his weakness and she did just that.  The deal was that Delilah was given 5,500 shekels of silver, which amounts to 550 years of wages equaling millions of dollars to bring Samson to his knees and discover the source of his power.

She then proceeds to manipulate and seduce Samson.  It came to pass that she pestered him to no end until his soul was vexed and he had to disclose his secret to his strength.  Initially he tells her lies so she wouldn’t know his weakness. The first was, "Tie me up with 7 new bow strings." She did and it didn't work/ The next was, "Tie me up with new ropes securely!" Well, that didn't work either. The next was, "Braid my hair into 7 braids and tie it to a loom!" All were lies and Delilah cranks up her manipulation so that Samson spills his secret and says the source is his hair. "Cut it and I will be normal."  She knew this was the truth and as he sleeps she cuts his hair and Philistines capture Samson. He is helpless, shorn of hair and the text says this, “He didn’t know that the Lord had departed from him.”

How sad that the sin of his life reached the turning point with God, blinded by his stubborn will and lust.  His capturors then gouge his eyes out and Samson was now blind.

During a pagan celebration shortly after this the Philistines bring out the blinded and broken Samson to mock and make fun of him in chains.  He asks as a favor-to be put between the two primary pillars of the structure.  As he felt the two pillars he cries out to the Lord for strength one last time. 

In one final heroic act according to Judges 16: 27-28 he takes the two pillars down killing 3,000 Philistines and himself.  He did far more in death than he did while alive.  

Samson died broken and humble, he died for the cause his nation and for God! He was an instrument to God to eliminate the enemy force and theres a lot to be learned from Samson as to how it relates to our lives.  Let's look over some positive and negatives traits of Samson and then we see how some his qualities are present in our lives.

Quality Traits of Samson

3 negatives character Qualities:

                  1) Stubborn Will- Wanted to pursue his own agenda against his own knowlegde to honor God. i.e. marrying a Philistine woman- it was forbidden but he did anyways.

                  2) Driven by fleshly desires- Lust, Anger and Envy. Desiring women who were forbidden, unleashing irrational anger and jealousy towards anyone standing against or above him.

                  3) Disregarded God's Commandments- Samson was not supposed to drink, touch the body of the dead or cut his hair because he was regarded as a “Nazarite” Hebrew meaning “a separation” which represented a commitment to holiness. Samson willfully turned his back on his Nazarite vows.

3 Positive Character Qualities:

1) (Responsible) Protective of the talents from God- Initially keeps the secret of his strength from Delilah.

2) (Boldness) Acknowledges the Lord strength in great victory- After slaying 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of donkey he acknowledges God's supernatural strength had been given to him.

3) (Weakness) Had faith in God during his weakest moment- The final moments of his life he acknowledges God and admits to his selfishness and sin. He then gives his life to protect his country and kills more Philistines in his death then he ever did alive.

My experiences:

1)     For Negative qualities: I relate to with Samson: stubborn will.

1)     For Positive qualities: I relate to Samson with: Responsibility and wanting to protect what God has given.  Developing talent- i.e. Nutrition to enhance coaching, teaching and training.

I believe the story of Samson is here to show us that we are part of God's plan and purpose. You aren’t so different from Samson as you see with this activity on how you identify with him.  He was just a man, with exceptional strength compared to other men. You have an exceptional talent of equal or greater value than Samson's strength but you must discover and develop it.  He was a person just like you.  But he made mistakes ( and you might make mistakes too) and abused his power but God, who is faithful and just, forgave him and.  And God still used him!

But the reality is even after the forgiveness there were still consequences to his behavior. God will always love you the same but the consequences are the discipline that God uses to keep us from our own demise. You are children of God that have been given exceptional talents too, so decide what you will do with them.  Honor yourself or honor God are the options.

The truth is in these stories…the Bible relates to you!

May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Jesus! AMEN.

15 Minutes with Christ

Each year at the Jim Ryun Running Camp, we ask various counselors to give a morning devotional on a topic that is applicable to the every days lives of our campers in the 21st Century. We live in a day and age of relativism, where, as Judges 21:25 says, ". . .every man [does] what is right in his own eyes."

There are no absolutes, no real right or wrong. The Bible is no longer relevant to many in our culture because many view it as either a period piece or a book of allegories, not realities. I happen believe to the contrary. It is living history. There is a God who still speaks and the Bible is a plumb line for living and inside of this paradigm is a road map for life.

I always hit clean up at camp and give the Friday morning devotional. This year's is below, edited and added to for this blog post.

15 Minutes with Christ (Becoming Spiritually Fit)

I want to talk to you this morning about being spiritually fit. We have talked a lot this week about how we can become physically fit, from threshold running to anaerobic work to reps and mileage and how each one of these parts of the Daniel's Running Formula fit into your training regimes. Around this core component of running are the auxiliary things like nutrition, biomechanics and strength training. We even got to hear from Dr. Dave Templin on how we can train the mind for our best performances.

But I want to talk to you this morning about how you can become spiritually fit even as you train the body for its best performances. Before I do that, I want to go back to the devotion I shared at camp two years ago. For those of you who are returning campers, you might remember some of it, but it is a great launching point for this morning's devotion.

The text is found in I Kings 18:29-39. It is the famous showdown between Elijah and the Prophets of Ba'al, but I want to give you some context for this event. It took place on Mount Carmel in Israel.

I have been there and stood atop the mount. It's an amazing place, a rocky mount that over looks the Valley of Jezreel, one of the most bountiful valleys in the Middle East. It was also one of the main thoroughfares in ancient times, which is why the fortress, Megiddo, sits there. It was a Canaanite royal city before Israel entered the Promised Land and in Solomon's time, became one of his chariot strongholds. The greatest king Israel ever had, King Josiah, died there fighting the Egyptian army. Oftentimes "har" is used in front of Megiddo as it is built on an elevated place. It is the Hebrew word for "hill" and from there we get "Har Megiddo," or as most know, Armageddon, the final battle of time between good and evil.

Across this now quiet valley sits a small town that many of you have heard of. It's called Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up. One has to wonder if he ever stood at the edge of Nazareth and looked over the valley. I tend to think he did. The home of the Prince of Peace, Mount Carmel, Armageddon. It seems almost too good to be true.

But it is on Mount Carmel that we witness one of the great showdowns in history between good and evil. Let me lay the groundwork for this epic event. In a day and age where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil are blurred, the events on Mount Carmel seem foreign to us. During that time in history, there was a distinct line between good and evil, in part I think because the good was so good and the evil so evil. The people of Israel were torn between two belief systems. One was the belief in one God, the God who had led them out of Egypt and shown them His signs and wonders time and time again. On the other hand was the worship of Ba'al, the fertility god of the Canaanites and more importantly the god of Queen Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab of Israel. It was a brutal religion, calling for human sacrifice because of the belief that if Ba'al was offered up humans, the crops the following year would be more plentiful. 

I love how even the names of our protagonist and antagonist reflect the times. Elijah was the prophet of God, Yaweh. Eli-JAH. The "jah" at the end of his name meant, "I am with Yaweh." And then there is Jezebel's name, with the same type of delineator at the end, "bel," and you all can guess that that means. She wasn't with Yaweh.

In the midst of this time of good and evil, Elijah had told King Ahab there would be no rain in Israel, a direct insult to Ba'al, who was also the god of storms. After three years of this, it was time to settle things and Elijah threw the gauntlet down. "Call the people of Israel to Mount Carmel, Ahab. Bring your 450 prophets of Ba'al and let's settle this once and for all."

And there they stood on Mount Carmel, the solitary figure of Elijah on one side, the 450 prophets of Ba'al on the other. The rules of engagement were simple. Each side was to offer a bull as a sacrifice to their chosen diety with one caveat-no fire could be used.

"You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers with fire, he is God."

The prophets of Ba'al laid their bull out on their altar and began to call on Ba'al. Midway through the day, there was no answer and they began to cut themselves, going into a frenzy while Elijah and the people of Israel watched. In fact, Elijah began to taunt them. Still, there was no answer.

Nearing the end of the day, the prophets of Ba'al collapsed and now it was Elijah's turn. He rebuilt the altar of God and dug a trench around it and cut his bull into pieces. Then he did something incredible. At a time when it hadn't rained for three years, he asked that water be brought to dump over the bull, the wood and the altar. One time, then another then a third (where did they get the water, I wonder). When the water overflowed the trench, Elijah prayed and I love this prayer.

"Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let is be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant and that at your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God."

It is recorded that fire burst from heaven, consuming not only the bull and the wood, but the rocks as well. The rocks! That is intense heat. Can you imagine the reaction from the people of Israel and the prophets of Ba'al? Holy smokes seems to fall a little short, but kind of hits the nail on the head. 

And here is where I want to challenge you. Elijah didn't suddenly show up on history's stage. Yes, he was a man chosen of God and there is some historical evidence that he was also a Nazarite, someone totally committed to God, a step above others.

But consider his prayer. It was really just five words: "Answer me, Lord! Answer me!" There is power in its simplicity, but I happen believe it sprung from a place of spiritual fitness.

We may never stand atop a mountain and prayer for fire. We may never be called to as great a stage as that one on Mount Carmel, but I do believe we are called to be spiritually fit just as we attempt to be physically fit.

With that in mind, I want to challenge you today to take 15 minutes a day with Christ. Your time with Him may grow from there, but it is good to lay down an attainable marker at the beginning and I want to present to you three easy steps.

We talk about mileage as runners, right? It's the foundation of becoming a good runner. To become a good runner, you have to actually run and to achieve your goals, there is a certain amount of running that needs to take place. Remember what Jack told us? The simple function of running, even at 60% of your maximum heart rate, does what? It recruits more mitochondria through the process of running forcing more oxygen into the system (you run, you breathe). The more mitochondria, the more energy is produced in your muscle cells. This is all from the function of just going out and running at conversational pace. 

Reading God's Word daily is like running mileage. It provides the foundation for the rest of our spiritual lives. It provides life, just like Moses told the people of Israel so long ago.

"Take to heart all these words I am giving you as a warning to you today so that you may command your children to follow all the words of this law carefully. For they are not meaningless words to you, but they are your life and by them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

God's Word is life to us. It provides a guide book for living, a measure by which we can decided what is right and what is wrong in a day when we are told neither exist. Start by taking 5 minutes a day and dig into God's Word. I always start my day with reading various Psalms and the "Proverb of the day" and go from there.

Next in this goal of spiritual fitness is what I like to think of as the Anaerobic work, the intervals. You know, the 1 to 1 type work of a 60 seconds of hard running with 60 seconds rest or 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds rest. The kind of work that makes your head feel like its going to explode after a while. I think a spiritual correlation is scripture memory. It's not easy, right, taking the time to commit chunks of written words to memory, but it is great training to internalize God's Word. King David wrote all those years ago:

"Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You."


"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

When we take the time to internalize God's Word, we become that much more spiritually fit. It literally becomes part of us, how we think and how we act. So take 5 minutes a day and work on memorizing various verses from the Bible.

The third component to spiritual fitness is the one we all struggle with the most: sitting still and meditating on God's Word. When I say meditating, I am not referring to Eastern mysticism. I am referring to sitting still and listening for the voice of One who still speaks today.

After his great showdown with the prophets of Ba'al, Elijah did something very strange. He ran and not in victory. He ran away to hide and he hid in a cave on Mount Horeb. Some Biblical scholars think Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are one and the same, the latter being where God handed the Ten Commandments to Moses, but to some extent it doesn't matter. Horeb was a holy place and Elijah fled there for a reason. As he hid there, the Lord spoke to him.

"Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord."

There followed what must have been one of the most amazing displays of God's power over His creation. There was  a wind that "shattered cliffs" and following that an earthquake and then fire.

"But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"

I love that phrase, "a soft whisper." God could have spoken to Elijah through His mighty power, but He didn't. He spoke to Elijah in a soft whisper.

Our modern day and age is loud. We are assaulted on every side with this and with that. It's noisy. It's busy. We are encouraged to constantly be on the go. Being alone and quiet are the antithesis of our "modern" age.

But after your reading of God's Word and memorizing of Scripture, I want to encourage you to take 5 minutes to sit still and listen for God's voice. As Jack says and I firmly believe, you have to allow your body the time to absorb the training and the same is true spiritually. 

I am not saying that if you take 15 minutes a day with God that you will suddenly find yourself atop Mount Carmel, calling down fire from heaven.

But I do believe that when we are spiritually fit we will be like King David in Psalm 18.

"God-He clothes me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights. He trains my hands for war, my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me your shield of salvation, your right hand upholds me and your humility exalts me."

That, my friends, is the essence of being spiritually fit and when we are spiritually fit, God can and will use us to do great things in His name and for His glory.