It’s been three days and I still hobble and limp around when I walk. The soreness doesn’t seem to want to go away. I guess the older you get, the longer it takes for your body to heal after such a grueling event.

On the 4th of July weekend I was challenged to take part in a compound wide competition called the “Ironman” at the rec yard. No, it was not the 2.1 mile swim, the 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run called the Ironman Triathlon. This Ironman challenge was a cross-fit type event that needed both endurance and body strength to complete.

When I was challenged I was very leery because the only training I had done was play softball and volleyball, which I did not consider training for this event. I had also participated in an abdominal class a few days a week and I do pull-ups every other day. I hardly do any running these days, unless you count my homerun trot around the bases while playing softball. HA! So overall, I would not consider myself to be in tip-top shape to participate in this type of challenge compared to the other participants. But I am not one to refuse an athletic competition, so I signed up for it. My goals were to finish the course and not come in last place.

The competition had 22 total entrants, ranging in age from mid-20’s to mid-50’s, all of whom were in great workout shape…..except me! The course consisted of fifteen different obstacles and challenges: running, calf raises, hanging leg raises, army crawls in the sand, walking lunges, jumping rope, sit-ups, jumping jacks, medicine ball throws, and burpees (which are squats, kick-outs, push-ups and jumping jacks all together in one), just to name a few. Each consisted of a large number of reps. I know I had my hands full, but was up for the challenge.

I was assigned to be in Group 3 of 3, with 7-8 participants in each group. My group actually had the overall winner in it, so the pace he set was incredibly fast. If you dared to keep up with him, you were destined to suffer the consequences. So I kept to myself and set a nice consistent pace throughout the race. It was not too fast, but wasn’t too slow either. Yes, the course was very difficult.

I used muscles that I didn’t even know I had. But, I finished the course in one hour and eleven minutes, 5th in my group of 8 and 13th overall. I, along with some of the participants and spectators, were shocked that little skinny me actually beat almost half the participants. To be honest, it was excruciating, but fun also!

I truly believe that God helped me every step of the way to get me through the challenge. When I was tired and exhausted and wanted to stop, something inside of me kept pushing me forward. It was exhausting and the roughest challenge I have ever participated in. Even though God has blessed me with athletic ability, and I am thankful to Him for that, I still rely on Him to help me succeed. I needed His strength to get me through to the end.

I had a basketball poster in my room growing up that said, “Do your best, and God will do the rest.” In prison, each and every day, I strive to do my best, and know God has my back to accomplish the rest. I’m looking forward to the rest of my life to see what He has in store for me!

can do



Fireworks of various colors bursting against a black background

Ooooo…….ahhhhhhh!  That’s what you hear from the mass of spectators in unison as one explosive firework after another brightens up the sky. For thirty minutes the head of the spectators are tilted back with their eyes glued to the sky as the annual 4th of July fireworks display is being shot off. It’s that time of year when millions across the country will go to their local parks or fair grounds to watch the fireworks show.

As a kid growing up my family, friends and I would make the one mile walk to Bluebird Park with our flashlights and blankets to sit on as we participated in the 4th of July festivities and to watch the big show in the sky. Before it got dark there would be bands playing in the amphitheater, food trucks, and a number of carnival games. As a kid, I absolutely loved it. Actually, I was more obsessed with the fireworks than anything. The week leading up to the 4th of July neighbors in our subdivision and others nearby were shooting fireworks off at night. My favorite time was the next morning after hearing these neighborhood fireworks go off.  My brothers and I would hop on our bikes, scour the streets for the exploded fireworks, and collect them. Every once in a while we would find a firework that had not ignited, and we would take it home with us to shoot off at a later time. Why we would collect used fireworks, I still have yet to figure out today. But we did that for several years and actually hid them underneath the steps going into our house so my mom wouldn’t find them because we weren’t allowed to touch fireworks. Of course, she knew they were there the entire time and a week or so after the 4th, they all ended up in the trash.

Maybe I got my enjoyment of fireworks from my Grandpa. Whenever I was at the Lake of the Ozarks over the 4th of July with Grandma and Grandpa, he would buy all sorts of fireworks to shoot off the boat dock. In fact, he always bought so many that the neighbors would all come over to watch our own private display.

When I think back, though, my favorite 4th of July was in 2001 when I was camping in the San Juan Forest near Durango, Colorado on top of a 12,000 foot mountain. From up there I could see fireworks in four different states. As high as we were, it was hard to see them, but the location away from all mankind was all that mattered. We didn’t actually need to see the fireworks because we could look up and see the beauty of the stars from where we were. And that was unbelievable!

During these past four years of being in prison, I have only seen two fireworks displays. One year the compound was kept open until the park across the street was finished shooting their fireworks off, so we were able to stand outside and watch them. Last year, we were locked inside the unit but I was able to watch them from a window. This year, unless the officers let us go outside, I will be unable to watch the fireworks, as the building I’m in now has no windows that face the park. But that’s OK. I’ll be out soon enough, enjoying the beauty of the colorful lights in the sky on a 4th of July in the future.

So why do we do it? We celebrate the 4th of July because it’s the birthday of our nation and our independence day. But why do we shoot off fireworks? Simply because John Adams wanted us to. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, he envisioned fireworks as a part of the festivities. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

And so we do. The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that in Philadelphia, “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” The paper noted that “Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.” That same year, fireworks also lit up the sky in Boston. By 1783 a large variety of fireworks were available to the public. The tradition continues today as our way of celebrating, not just our independence, but fireworks are used at weddings, birthdays, community events, Cardinal homeruns, New Year’s Eve, and other celebrations in a large or small scale.

I’m wondering if there will be firework celebrations in heaven. I can only imagine that as each Christian passes through the pearly gates of heaven, a huge display of fireworks will be shot off, as Christ and the multitude of angels and others are celebrating the entrance of yet another Christ follower. Maybe even our names will be in the sky with a huge display of lights. What a sight that could be!!! Can’t wait to see if that happens!

Enjoy your 4th of July, your Independence Day, and give thanks to God for all your blessings in life……especially the freedom you have!