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Train Like a Pro

I spent the last 10 days on vacation with my sister Kari who is visiting from California. I drove to our mom’s place on Saturday, July 30 and came back Sunday with my sister and my mom. We drove mom home on Wednesday (Quick 10-hour trip) and spent the rest of the week at my place. It was good.

We always sing when we are together. There is nothing quite like it, singing with a family member. We sang “Name that Hymn”. We sang old novelty tunes from our childhood such as The Little Red School House. One Suit. Watermelon On the Vine.

For Father’s Day this year I had given my son a gift certificate for a jetboat dinner trip with his mama. He said, “let’s do it when Aunt Kari is here”. So, on Thursday evening, my youngest son, his two girls, my sister and I enjoyed the beauty of the river.

We ate too much. Stayed up too late. Watched too many movies and enjoyed each other’s company. I love it when my sister visits! But it’s also good to be back to work.

My sister is the most motivated person I know. She has always been like this. She sees a challenge and she will tackle it, head-on. You tell her she can’t; she will prove she can. She is a hard worker! (Remember the beautiful block retaining wall in my yard?) She loves to cook and build and keep busy with her hands. Oh, and on top of all that she is a math professor at SCU San Bernardino. I am proud of her. I wish I had more of her drive.

I remember as a child, she would take things apart just to see how they worked. She took apart a bike and reassembled it. She took apart a radio and reassembled it. She built her first computer. She had a large paper route that she successfully managed at the age of 11. When her children were young, she built a two-story play structure in her back yard for them, hauling all supplies, including bark, in her minivan. When mom’s recliner was too low after her surgery, Kari built a platform. When mom’s bed was not the right height, Kari fixed it. Mom needs a handrail? New Flooring? Yep. This gal has drive.

I want to talk about someone else with drive. His name was Jim Thorpe. Perhaps you have heard his story, but it’s good to revisit from time to time.

Jim was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. He was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics.

Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Summer Olympics (one in classic pentathlon and the other in decathlon.) He also played American Football (collegiate and professional), professional baseball, and basketball.

Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Indian Territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma. As a youth, he was a two-time All-American for the school’s football team under coach Pop Warner.

After his Olympic success in 1912, which included a record score in the decathlon, he added a victory in the All-Around Championship of the Amateur Athletic Union.

In 1913, he played for the Pine Village Pros in Indiana. Later in 1913, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants, and he played six seasons in Major Leauge Baseball between 1913 and 1919.

Thorpe joined the Canton Bulldogs American football team in 1915, helping them win three professional championships. He later played for six teams in the NFL.

From 1920 to 1921, Thorpe was nominally the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL in 1922.

He played professional sports until age 41, the end of his sports career coinciding with the start of the Great Depression. – Wikipedia

Jim Thorpe grew up with adversity. As a Native American in the early 1900’s, he faced racial prejudice and a difficult upbringing. One of 11 children, his twin brother died at age 9. His mother and then father died just a few years later. He became an orphan.

So, when somebody stole his shoes right before he was set to compete in the Olympics, it was probably no big deal to Jim. He simply put on two other shoes that someone had tossed in a trash can. They were different sizes, though, so he had to wear extra socks on one foot to even them out.

He went on to win two gold medals, but that only touches the surface of what he did in those games.

He won gold in the (now defunct) pentathlon, winning four of the five events (long jump, discus throw, sprint, and wrestling). The one event he didn’t win was the javelin. He had never competed in that event for the Olympics but managed to finish third in the world.

He also took part in the grueling decathlon. To give you an idea of how great of an athlete he was, Thorpe finished first in four events (shot put, high jump, 110-meter hurdles, and 1,500 meters.) He finished third in four other events and 4th in two more. – (Source: Paul Dughi for Sports Raid)

Did I mention he did all of that wearing someone else’s mis-matched shoes?! Wearing those mis-matched shoes, one too big, found in a garbage can, Jim won two gold medals that day! Simply amazing!

We do not have to give up when life hands us a hard deal. Is something holding you back? Is there an obstacle? Many? Life is not fair, of this much we know. But what are we going to do about it?

Whatever you woke up with this morning; cancer or other serious illness, strained marriage or failed relationships, don’t let it stop you from running your race.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to, “…run with endurance the race that is set before us,” ESV

Endurance: The fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

What does your race look like? Are you ready to run? Have you been training? I don’t know of a runner anywhere who enters a race without training. We must train. We must build muscle and stamina. If we want the prize, we need to run as such.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control...” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV

He later became a professional coach and motivational speaker for young people but struggled to stay employed after leaving professional sports. He moved from state to state, working as a painter, security guard, and ditch digger. He even tried out for some movie roles but was given only a few cameos, mainly playing Indian chiefs.

When the 1932 Olympics came to Los Angeles, Thorpe was living in the city, but he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket. Vice President Charles Curtis, also of Native American descent, invited Thorpe to join him. When the crowd became aware of Thorpe's presence, he was honored with a standing ovation. In 1951, Thorpe was memorialized in the Warner Bros. movie about his life Jim Thorpe – All-American, which is now on DVD. (source:

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:4 NIV

Jim Thorpe struggled to earn a living after that, working several odd jobs. He suffered from alcoholism and lived his last years in failing health and poverty. He was married three times and had eight children, before suffering from heart failure and dying in 1953.

Such a bittersweet ending for a man that had so much drive. He had much to prove, and he did not let anything, or anyone, get in his way, including stolen shoes. He made such an impact on history.

Thorpe received numerous accolades for his athletic accomplishments. The AP ranked him as the "greatest athlete" from the first 50 years of the 20th century, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted him as part of its inaugural class in 1963. The town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania was named in his honor and he appeared in several films and was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the 1951 film, "Jim Thorpe – All-American".

2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Whatever "it" is, don't give up. Keep your eye on the prize, and run!

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No lazy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 The Message

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