Eighty-six-year-old Joy Johnson, a veteran of 25 New York City marathons, died with her running shoes on. Johnson, the oldest runner in the 2013 marathon, fell at the 20-mile marker but went on to cross the finish line at about eight hours. After the race, she returned to her hotel room, lay down with her shoes on, and never woke up.

Amazingly, Johnson didn’t run her first marathon until she was sixty-one years old. The only hint of the sport was the verse from Isaiah 40:31 which hung on the kitchen wall in her family farm home in rural Minnesota: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

29johnson-square640Ironically, the career gym teacher, Johnson was a stranger to personal exercise until she took a three-mile walk in 1986. Then she started jogging and competing in 10K races. By 1988 she had competed in her first New York City Marathon. Three years later, she recorded her best time at age sixty-four with a time of 3 hours and 55 minutes.

A few years ago, she told a reporter about her exercise regimen. She would wake up at 4 A.M., drink her coffee while reading her Bible, and then set out on an eight-mile pre-dawn run. “When you wake up it can either be a good day or a bad day,” Ms. Johnson said. “I always say, it’s going to be a good day!”

Regardless of her situation or condition, Mrs. Johnson woke up each day choosing to make it a good day! I like to think she learned this attitude from studying the letter that the Apostle Paul wrote while in prison. He wanted the church in Philippi to adopt the same type of attitude Mrs. Johnson had. He said it a different way, but I think the idea is the same: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Good day or bad day? Content or discontent? The choice is yours. I hope I learn to live like Mrs. Johnson and Paul….

Breathe Peace,

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