There is a small town in north Georgia that knows how to have really big fun! Spectators from all around gather each week to see what happens when someone digs a long trench in the red Georgia clay, fills it with water and invites a few dozen tricked-out Pickup Trucks to play around in it.
Welcome to one of the South’s “Good Ole Boy” mode of Saturday entertainment… the North Georgia Mud Race… where hundreds of sunburned enthusiast soak up hours of deafening engine noise to watch all manner of vehicle crank it up and kick it up on their way to the checkered flag.
Some might think the monster trucks with the monster paddle tires would engender the crowd’s greatest accolades. And they would be completely wrong in that assumption. The big dogs do get a lot of attention. But the crowd’s all time favorite is the race reserved for the green horns, the “what the heckers.” It’s for those who simply want to test their metal and give it a go down the tunnel of mud. Regardless of what they drove, how old or beat up it is and regardless of how inexperienced the driver… everyone is invited to participate in the “Run What ya Brung” race.
The requirements are simple; drive whatever you brought, no matter what it is, and cross the finish line. Their only reward is the personal satisfaction of getting in the trenches and doing their best to make it to the end. Whether they complete the race on their own, or receive a push from the crowd, everyone makes it to victory one way or the other.
Yes, the big dogs leave with the fancy wheels and bragging rights. But those who participate in the “Run What ya Brung” race receive the greatest admiration. They are the least equipped, yet have the greatest determination. They are the least likely, but overcome the greatest obstacles.
Watching folks get neck-deep in the mud and the grit and the grins is more than entertainment. It’s inspirational. It’s tenacious. Dare I say, it’s divine? And it is the same type of strong determination that can be found in a young girl named Lori Mae Hernandez.
When Lori Mae was 10 years old, her father developed Bell’s Palsy, a paralysis that affects the muscles on one side of the face. Lori Mae looked up to her Dad. They had a great relationship. Over time his illness worsened, making it almost impossible to live a fulfilled life. He was no longer able to drive or work or do the normal things he had enjoyed. But what bothered Lori Mae the most was her father’s inability to smile… to smile at her…. to laugh with her.
One day she decided to do something about it. Determined to reconnect with her father she began writing jokes for him. Everyday young Lori Mae would write an original joke to share with her dad in the hope of helping him smile again. After almost two years of faithfully offering her simple gift of laughter, her father finally smiled. Lori Mae said it was as if she got her father back. She achieved her goal of reconnecting with her hero.
But her dad’s happy ending was only the beginning of something wonderful for Lori Mae. What started as a mission to transform her father’s life, actually transformed her future. Turns out, the more jokes she wrote the more she was able to let go of the extreme timidity that had created an internal emotional paralysis.
“I was very very shy. My biggest fear was talking,” she explained. “Most people did not even know what my voice sounded like.” But writing jokes helped her discover her voice. She also gained a new awareness of the gifts and talents that were dormant inside. Lori Mae soon realized she had something wonderful to offer the world.
Three years later, in front of a live audience, and with millions viewing by television, 13 year old Lori Mae Hernandez made her public debut on America’s Got Talent. She graced the country and the world with her new found talent as a Stand-up Comic. Lori Mae knocked it out of the park. In addition to a standing ovation, she also received a big green light from all the judges, including the very discriminating Simon Cowell.
During those months of joke writing for her father, Lori Mae had no promise of reward, and certainly no thought of becoming a Stand-up Comic on a world stage. But day after day, and month after month, Lori continued to Run what she Brung and trust God with the outcome. And what an amazing outcome she received.
In a similar way, that is what a lady named Jochebed decided to do. In light of her situation, she could not afford to wait for all the conditions to improve before she took action. Her son’s life was at stake. Born into extreme social un-rest and cultural hostility, the odds seemed insurmountable from every possible direction. But Jochebed knew her son was destined for something better. She knew he had the favor of God on his life.
She had no social connections, no political clout, no financial means to ensure her sons survival or success. With nothing but a homemade reed basket and faith in God, she placed her new born baby directly in jaws of uncertainty with no guarantee of survival. Jochebed chose to “Run What she Brung” and trust her God with the outcome.
Years later, that same tenacious spirit inspired her son Moses to trust God with a few outcomes as well. With nothing but a staff and faith, Moses trusted God to part an entire sea so an entire nation could walk to freedom on dry ground.
Fast forward a few hundred years to a remote location near the shores of Lake Tiberius. Jesus had spent the entire day teaching a large crowd of curious followers concerning the kingdom of God (and who better to do it than someone with first-hand knowledge). But when dinner hour arrived, his disciples quickly realized the pressing need of the crowd, as well as their own inability to meet it.
Their attitude was to simply walk away and put as much distance between themselves and the problem as possible. They chose to run away from what they brung, so to speak. But Jesus refused to tolerate their limited linear thinking.
“What do you have,” he asked them. “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they replied. Then Jesus challenged them put their lack and inadequacy in his hands and trust him with the outcome. They could have refused and walked away. Thankfully, however, they chose to “give it a go.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” In other words, if we are always waiting for everything to be perfect before taking action, we will never move forward. We will get stuck in the ditch of of our circumstances. We will become fixated on our own weakness rather than fixing our hearts on God and his love towards us.
Even Jesus himself does not wait until all the conditions of our lives are perfect before he chooses to bring us to salvation. God takes us as we are. Then his Spirit in us makes up the difference. It fills in the gap. It covers our weakness. It overcomes our inadequacy. It makes us more than conquerors. In spite of all we do not have, he still leads us to a victorious finish.
Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall make your path straight.” And Deuteronomy 33:25 promises that “As your days are, so shall your strength be.”
Both of these passages are basically talking about putting our faith in God’s goodness and provision towards us, at every stage and age of life. The truth is, the more we embrace God as a loving Father who desires to bless us, the less we need to have everything figured out before we start out… The less we demand to see the finish line before leaving the starting line… The less we try to control situations, people, relationships and opportunities in order to have peace for a peaceful outcome.
I recently heard the story of an elderly man who had a deep desire to be baptized. Because he became a Christian later in life, it was an experience he had missed out on. Yet the desire still remained. One Sunday during church, the Pastor announced they were going to offer baptism that month. The elderly man spontaneously turned to the young man next to him and said, “I would love to be baptized.” The young stranger encouraged him, “Why don’t you?” The older gentleman responded, “I’m in a wheelchair now. I just don’t think it’s possible.”
Weeks later the elderly man was at the front of the sanctuary seated in his wheelchair waiting in a long line. When it came his turn to be baptized, the young stranger he had conversed with a few days before gently picked him up and carried him down the steps in to the baptistery pool. He continued holding his elderly friend in his arms while the minister immersed him in the waters.
Both the elderly man and the young 20 something stranger decided to “Run What they Brung”and trust God with the outcome. The pastor later commented it was the most unforgettable sight he had ever witnessed… the most moving moment of his entire ministry.
It is amazing how history has a way of repeating itself. The Gospel of Mark tells about a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus on a stretcher, carried by four of his friends. It was a very crowded venue. Several people were waiting in line to see Jesus, making it impossible for the paralyzed man to get there on his own. But just like the 20 year old stranger, his friends were determined to make it happen. They tore a hole in the roof and lowered the man down through the ceiling. They carried their friend to his pool of healing, so to speak.
When God asked me to travel to Aberdeen Scotland to pray for the city, I had no job, no income and no idea what I was supposed to pray about when I arrived. There were no connections for me in Scotland. No family. No friends. No acquaintances. Nothing! All I had was a word from God and an airline ticket. But what happened when I arrived was truly remarkable. The way God showed up and showed off for that country was life changing. You can read all the details in my blog from September, 2015.
Brothers and sisters, what we must never ever ever forget, is that our Heavenly Father is eternally for us… and not against us! That doesn’t mean we live reckless and foolish. Colossians 3:17 instructs us on how to keep things in balance with a Godly attitude; “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” It simply means we need to live every day with the abiding knowledge that God’s Spirit at work in us is also at work for us.
He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. If we are seeking after him, and if we desire to see his Kingdom at work in our own lives, then we can move forward with faith and confidence. In fact, one of the last words of encouragement Jesus gave his disciples was that he would “be with them even to the end of the world.”
I remember the day God made this promise an abiding reality for my life. There was a particular situation that had me very perplexed. I was at a cross road and needed to make a decision on which direction to pursue. But I was frozen with fear, overwhelmed with all the “what ifs.” What if I make a mistake. What if I miss God. What if this, and what if that. It played in my mind over and over for days and days.
Then one morning, as I was meditating and talking to God about how I felt, he spoke something I will never forget. He reminded me that his Spirit was living on the inside of me and that he would never leave me. Then he whispered to my heart and said, “Tawana, in order for me to forsake you, in order for me to abandon you, I would have to forsake and abandon myself. And I assure you, that will NEVER happen!”
That revelation was a completely new wrinkle in my brain, a new imprint on my heart. And it transformed my attitude about just how much God himself was invested in my ability to live victorious, to conquer fear, to walk with confidence through times of uncertainty, to rest in his unchanging love.
What I want you to see is that God has made the same investment in you! If his spirit is dwelling on the inside of you, it is impossible for him to forsake you… Impossible for him to abandon you… Impossible for him to leave you twisting in the wind, alone and on your own.
I believe that understanding is the very reason Saint Paul could proclaim with such un-wavering grit in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Maybe you are facing an uncomfortable challenge or a difficult situation. Maybe you feel stuck, unable to take action, uncertain about how to move forward. Maybe you are feeling inadequate for the task, ill-prepared for the future, or overly focused on your own inability.
Perhaps God is prompting you to let go of a business relationship, a friendship or family situation that is keeping you from moving towards your best future. Maybe there is a fear you need to confront, an addiction you need to lay down, a toxic environment you need to let go of. Or maybe there is a desire in your heart you know you need to pursue, a dream you have put on the shelf that you need to dust off and reconsider.
If that is the case, then let me encourage you to stop looking at it from your perspective. Stop thinking about the impossibility or improbability. Stop analyzing the outcome based on a spreadsheet, an income statement or all the logistics. Stop listening to the experts, the conventional wisdom, the naysayers, or even your old way of problem solving.
I’m not suggesting you go off and do something brain-dead. But in order to become all God wants you to be, at some point you have to come to the realization that no matter how ill-equipped you may feel, no matter how inadequate you may think you are, no matter what the experts say, regardless of what experience has taught you, and in spite of what conventional wisdom is screaming…. sometimes you just have to “Run What ya Brung” and Trust him with the Outcome.
God has great things in store for your life. He is not only at the finish line with open arms, but he is also at every turn on the track. He is moving and working to send the people and resources you need to succeed. Your part is to put your faith in his faithfulness.
Forrest Gump said that “Life is like a box of chocolates.” But I think life is more like a Run What ya Brung race, better displayed in the life of a young girl helping her father to smile, or in the giving heart of a young man helping an old man achieve his dream, and in the tenacious spirit of determined mother trying to give her son a better life.
If you look carefully, you can find a Run What ya Brung attitude all throughout the Scriptures. It’s in the Parable of the Ten Talents and the story of the Four Lepers. It jumps off the pages through the courage of Gideon and Sampson, from visionaries like Joshua and Caleb, and the lives of countless other men and women who who put their hope in God, ignored the obstacles and ran their race with whatever they had to cross the finish line victorious!
And YOU can be a Run What ya Brung hero as well. You can choose to let God fuel your life with faith filled moments that will impact eternity. Dare to get in whatever vehicle you have and head for the finish line. Go be that person who inspires others in the mud and the grit and the grins. All things are possible with for those who believe. Poet R.L. Sharpe puts it this way, in his poem entitled “Bag of Tools.”
Isn’t it strange, that princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common-folk like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
To each is given a bag of tools,
a shapeless mass and a Book of Rules;
and each must make ‘ere time has flown,
a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20