See How He Runs! (Diet for Dreamers)

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Around 1917, the citizens of Elkhart, a small impoverished town in Kansas, often remarked about eight-year-old Glenn Cunningham, “See how he runs?” In the early morning hours, they frequently watched as the energetic youth dashed through vacant lots and empty fields, on his way to the tiny schoolhouse where he was enrolled. Glenn and his older brother Floyd had a special job to perform each morning before class: lighting the stove in the schoolhouse to ensure the rooms were sufficiently warm by the time the other students arrived. It was a simple chore, but one that required the boys to arise early and make great haste along chilly, dimly-lit streets.

Glenn never complained, because the task was just another excuse to run! And he loved to run! Perhaps he even lived to run. Running gave the boy both a sense of freedom and purpose. When Glenn ran he experienced the joy and excitement of knowing that he was going placesfast — with the world rushing by in a quiet, sleepy blur. When he wasn’t running, he dreamed about it!

On a morning that felt like those of countless days before, Glenn and Floyd arrived at the silent schoolhouse to light the stove. Still breathing hard from their race through town, the boys fetched the kerosene can they’d used the previous morning — unaware that someone had mistakenly refilled the can with gasoline! When Floyd lit the fluid the stove exploded in a fireball that engulfed the brothers. Floyd died in the fire. He was thirteen.

Glenn miraculously survived the explosion, but his legs were burned seemingly beyond repair. All the flesh from his knees to his feet was burnt away, and his left foot was practically destroyed: he’d lost the toes, as well as the ligaments and tendons located in the arch of the foot, which are necessary to support body weight and maintain balance when walking. Glenn’s doctor felt the boy would never stand again, let alone walk. So he strongly recommended that Glenn’s legs be amputated well above the knees.

The sheer terror of losing his legs, of never running again, sent Glenn into uncontrollable hysterics. He screamed and pleaded with his parents until they finally relented and refused to allow the doctor to go through with the amputations.

After a long hospital stay, Glenn finally went home, where he continued the arduous journey to recovery. He was determined, however, not only to walk again, but also to run. Even as a child he had great faith in his God, and held tightly to what quickly became his favorite Bible verse, “But those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

Two years after the accident, Glenn took his first painful steps. That was in 1919. By 1929 he was training for the 1932 Olympic Games. As he dashed through vacant lots and empty fields, the citizens of Elkhart would remark, “See how he runs?” With intense pride, Glenn’s neighbors named him the “Elkhart Express”! But in the 1932 Games, where he took fourth place in the 1500-meter run, he was known as the “Kansas Flyer.”

Glenn continued to run, always with the goal of getting faster. He again competed in the Olympics — this time in the 1936 Games in Berlin — taking home the silver in the 1500-meter run. He also set the world record in the 800-meter run that year. But Glenn’s greatest achievement came in 1934, when he ran the mile in 4 minutes and 6.8 seconds, setting a world record that remained unbroken for three years.

Fast as he was, although, one of Glenn’s big dreams remained unfulfilled. He wanted to break the 4-minute mile, but he was never able to shave more than 2 to 3 seconds off his own best time. Of course, as with most of the world’s greatest accomplishments, there were plenty of people around at the time who swore it simply couldn’t be done. (Another dream-chaser, Roger Bannister, proved them wrong in 1954.) Still, not bad at all for the Elkhart Express!

One last detail remains. When Glenn Cunningham ran, he had this peculiar way of tilting back his head — as though he were looking down his nose at the world around him. Some people took exception to this, and commented, “See how he runs? He thinks he’s better than us!” But the man who was voted “Most Popular Athlete” by his fellow 1936 Olympians always remembered that it was God who enabled him to run! He remained humble throughout his career; but he did continue to look down his nose whenever he ran! You see, the accident that nearly claimed his legs had also severely scorched his lungs; but by tilting back his head, Glenn was better able to breathe!

Folks, never give up. Keep the faith and follow your dreams. Run if you can, crawl if you must — but never allow the shortsighted opinions of those who merely stand by and watch, to keep you from your prize! Let the whole world see how you run. Afterward, you’ll be able to echo the words of the Apostle Paul, who also overcame great odds: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)

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A Writer’s Journey (Encouragement for Creators)

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“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.”

John Wayne in Hondo

Louis Dearborn LaMoore, who wrote the above statement, was born in North Dakota on March 22, 1908, a time when the Great American West was beginning to fade into history. As a boy, Louis would talk to the cowboys who frequently traveled through his hometown, driving livestock to and from ranches in Montana. Louis often fantasized about the bygone days of the Wild West, played “Cowboys and Indians” in the family barn, and devoured scores of historical adventure novels.

Louis’ father was a farm veterinarian and politician who’d arrived in the Dakota Territory to make his fortune in 1882. But in the winter of 1923, following a series of bank failures that devastated the area’s economy, Dr. LaMoore headed South with his wife and seven children. During the next several years, the LaMoores worked the mines in Arizona, California and Nevada, baled hay in New Mexico, and skinned cattle in Texas. Along the way, Louis met dozens of fascinating people, from all walks of life, which would eventually inspire the colorful characters in his fiction.

LaMoore dreamed of being a writer. And although he initially found some success writing articles about his travels, his short stories were repeatedly rejected. LaMoore would eventually publish 105 books (89 novels, 14 short story collections and 2 works of non-fiction), but before then he had a long ways to travel.

LaMoore took to the road. Along the way, he spent time as a mine assessment worker. He later became a professional boxer. And as a merchant seaman, he traveled the world, visiting England, Japan, China, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama. But he returned home in 1933, settled in Oklahoma, changed his name to Louis L’Amour, and pursued his writing.

L’Amour mostly wrote novels about the Wild West, classics of the genre, many of which would be adapted for movies and television — including Hondo, starring John Wayne, and The Sacketts, starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott. But getting the first few published was laborious. LaMoore once wrote, “Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”

Tom Selleck & Sam Elliott in The Sacketts

L’Amour slowing gained ground with American publishers, but the writer was extremely prolific and wrote more novels than he could place with the few major publishing houses. None of these companies were willing to publish more than two of his books a year — and L’Amour had already placed novels with several of them.

Bantam Books finally took a chance on Louis L’Amour, and contracted to publish all of the novelist’s works: past, present and yet to be written. And the publisher never had occasion to regret its agreement. L’Amour was a perennial gold mine for Bantam, ultimately selling over 320 million copies, and the publisher continues to keep the L’Amour Library in print.

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.  (Louis L’Amour)

A person’s gift opens doors for him, bringing him access to important people. (Proverbs 18:16 ISV)

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