Happy 40th, Danny Ray!

by Joe Castaneda

Time is a funny thing. Years pass by in what seems like a blink of an eye. And hours can take forever to pass. I’m sure at some point in your life your parents or grandparents or neighbors have said to you, “It just seems like you came home from the hospital  yesterday…” on your 24th birthday! 24 years — 8,765 days — can pass like the blink of an eye. But take a visit to the dentist and spend 90 minutes in the chair while the doctor does her work — time seems to stand still.

No matter how “slow” or “fast” time seems to pass by, one reality is true: it’s moving at the same rate for all of us. Seconds become minutes, minutes turn to hours and days, days march on to weeks and soon become months and years.

During time’s march, there are some interesting markers. The zeroes always seem important: 10, 20, 30, 40 and so on. Each new decade brings with it the opportunity for evaluation, goal setting and course-correction.

This past February 14th, my friend Danny Ray crossed over one of those markers. 14,610 days prior, Danny had been born, and on this Valentine’s Day in 2014 he celebrated 40 years of life. By today’s standards, Danny is crossing the half-way point for life expectancy among American born males. 40 is a big marker.

So how would you celebrate the half way point of your life? Many people like to use these key dates as opportunities for big parties. Some prefer a quit reflection. Danny? He faces these key dates like he does every moment of life — by challenging himself to be more and more of who God made him to be. This year’s celebration? A 40-mile run on his 40th birthday.

Danny RayIf you know Danny, it won’t surprise you that he took on this challenge. The man that locks himself in water tanks, dodges bullets, screws down the cover of a coffin while lying down in it and literally puts his eye in the path of a rusty old hay hook is prone to big challenges. What might surprise you is how he did it, incorporating 40 of his friends to join him, one on each mile. I had the privilege of “running” mile 34 with him from my home here in Michigan. A friend doing ministry in France also ran with Danny from afar. Many others joined him stride for stride through the streets and hills of Yucaipa. Mile after mile, friendship after friendship, Danny ran, runners prayed together, and the challenge marched on.

As Danny completed his sub 7-hour race, he had a following. People were running with him the last two miles, total strangers were following in cars and honking their support, and facebook was lighting up with messages with #nowaydannyray. Like his stage show, Danny was inspiring others to do more, to take on challenges and ultimately to live life without regret — without leaving anything behind. This 40 mile run was a powerful metaphor for his life.

Truthfully, I’m not sure Danny realized how much this run was going to affect others. I was thinking about it all day, and while I ran on the treadmill during the early hours of Danny’s run, I was thinking about him, praying for him and praying for the team of people surrounding him. When I logged into facebook I saw prayers going up for him and started to see how much this personal challenge was influencing others:

“Such an honor for [my hubby] to be a part of this milestone celebration for such a dear friend.”

“Super proud of my brother…”

“He made it! What an awesome experience!”

“Congrats Danny! Really inspiring, thanks brother.”

“It truly brought a tear to my eye [a video of Danny of running] to see the family of God in full force! It was an honor being a part of the wee hours of the morning dawn patrol run. So glad so many people got to be a part of this…”

On and on. And the posts didn’t stop the day of the run. Just today, March 4th, I saw this one:

“Partly inspired by Danny’s birthday challenge…I wanted to come up with something different for my birthday…Today marks 30 days until I turn 30. What better way to end my 20’s and kick off my 30’s than to start a 30-day, random acts of kindness challenge?…So from now until my birthday I’m going to perform 30 random acts of kindness, one each day…”

Danny Ray (2)This 40-mile run was bigger than Danny. And that’s why I think it’s the perfect metaphor for his life. I’ve not known many people who intentionally direct their lives toward a bigger-than-life goal like Danny. On the stage, his magic isn’t about you seeing his greatness, it’s about creating some mystery, stirring some inspiration and challenging people to ask the important questions that beg asking. Danny wants you to connect to God, the biggest bigger-than-life you can ever connect with!

I’ve been privileged to know Danny for just a few years now. But I’ve seen the same attention to detail he applies to his magic, be applied to his off-stage life. I’ve watched him create powerful moments for his children to experience personal growth and to see glimpses of God. I’ve learned from him as he has prioritized his marriage, ministered to his extended family, stopped the world to help a friend and taken time to keep his own connection to God going strong.

So I wasn’t surprised by Danny’s run on his birthday. I wasn’t surprised to see the crowds follow and people be honored to share in his journey. I’m not the least surprised that others are following suit and thinking about their next milestones (Danny has impacted my upcoming 40th celebration, too!). The only thing that surprised me in this event? The fact that Danny was surprised that so many other people were watching.

Thanks for leading the way, Danny. Thanks for inspiring us to run further, to join together and to live an extraordinary life of faith in all that we do. This facebook comment maybe sums it up best:

“Today was an extraordinary day. Being part of something bigger than myself was inspiring. Running along side Danny Ray reminded me that supporting others in their endeavors can remind us of the amazing things God is doing in us. Sometimes we are the ones doing great things as others partner with us. Other times we make small contributions that help others achieve their goals. Incredible.”

I’m guessing the magic-man is already thinking about his 50th celebration. Even more, he’s working, planning, dreaming and praying about the second 40 years of his life. Somehow, I am confident that even with all we’ve seen God do in, to and through Danny, that like one of Danny’s mind-blowing performances, God’s greatest reveal is yet to come.

I will be enjoying every moment of the show. Happy 40th my friend.

Go ahead and follow Danny by taking the plunge…life is always better on the water!

Be sure to check out Danny’s web site, follow his blog, and see what he is up to at: http://www.dannyray.tv

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