Last Weekend/This Weekend: Rain, snakes and service

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I have lived around the Appalachian Trail my entire life. I pass the signs regularly as the trail crosses the main state roads in and out of town to the east. I’ve stopped at the AT office in Boiling Springs just to see what was there. Once, I even saw some through hikers give an impromptu concert on a street corner at Foundry Day, collecting tips that – in my imagination – were used to pay for an air-conditioned hotel room and a hot shower sometime later in the trip. Though I suppose it’s entirely more likely the tips bought a couple of beers at the Boiling Springs Tavern a block or so away.

But, I can honestly say I have only hiked the trail one time. It was a crazy rocky patch in Michaux State Forest after a guided tour of the old World War II POW camp. The tour guide gave us the option to go back to our cars on an easy trail or we could hike the AT back. I chose the AT. That ankle-twisting adventure was the last time I had been on the AT until last weekend.

During the First Steps program, I settled into the routine of going on a group run on Saturday mornings, and I hated the idea of breaking the habit I had only just established. So I decided to join up with a group run on the AT north out of Boiling Springs that was billed as “ a relatively flat, easy part of the trail without too much technical terrain.”

Key word? Relatively. There were a few little hills, one fairly rocky downhill, and one swinging branch that my running buddy and I dodged. There was also a little rain, a lot of mud, and a half a dozen hikers who were far more prepared for the conditions than I.

I finished four miles wet and a little chilly with a good bit of mud splashed halfway up my calves.

And I can’t wait to do it again!

Sunday, I took my mountain bike, Blue, out to the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail for the first ride of the season – an easy 10-miler. Last fall, I made the colossal mistake of going on a bike trip without having ridden much over the summer so I’m trying to avoid that disaster this year.

It was a gorgeous day, and the ride went quite well … until the last half-mile or so. I pedaled across the newly installed bridge high above a road below and continued a short distance to the trail’s end. I turned around and started back toward the bridge, and saw a number of people on the bridge. It seemed odd since the bridge had been empty moments before – and even odder when someone else stopped to join the conversation.

When I got to the bridge, a young Mennonite man on a bicycle said, “Did you see the snake?”


It is at this moment that I was (one) glad the bridge had high railings (two) annoyed that the only way back to the car was past the snake on the bridge.

As I neared the end of the bridge, staying as close to the opposite side from the snake as I possibly could, one of the people who had gathered helpfully told me it had slithered up through the cracks.

“Great,” I thought, looking down at the crack on which I was standing.

For a moment, the critter looked as perturbed at our presence as I was at his, and it looked like he might take a header off the side down to the street below.

In the end, he went his way. I went mine.

No offense, little dude, but I hope we don’t meet again.

NEXT WEEKEND: On Saturday, I’ll be doing my usual run/walk routine at Adam’s Semper Fit Challenge and Semper Fest 2017  It’s a first time event in memory of a local man, Adam Schoeller, who died in a helicopter crash during a military training exercise off the coast of Hawaii last year.

Joy joins the fight

It’s not easy to hold on to joy.

Sometimes the day has a way of wearing you down, stealing your joy bit by bit until the person who tumbles into bed exhausted at the end of the day is a shadow of the one who arose that morning ready to tackle the day.

It starts when you stumble out of the bedroom with solitary goal of getting the coffee maker running – and you step in a wet, gooey “present” left on the floor by your cat. It continues when you get behind a slow driver on the way to work, deal with an angry phone call at the office and wait less than patiently for someone to return an email containing the last bit of information you need to finish a project.

And, that’s the small stuff. Joy all too easily evaporates when a loved one dies, when a job is lost or when news of a devastating medical diagnosis is received.

Every day annoyances or true life crisis. We have a choice on how we face both.

We can choose to fight back with joy.


Margaret Feinberg discovered this in writing her latest book and Bible study, Fight Back with Joy. She had been working on a book about the more than 400 references to joy in the Scripture when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. All those references were then seen in a much different light.

Fight Back with Joy explores real joy against the backdrop of Margaret’s own journey through her cancer diagnosis. But here, let’s let Margaret tell you a little about what she’s discovered about joy. Joy is more than a feeling. It’s a choice we make as we face the world.

Learning to fight back against the challenges of life with joy is a choice we have to make every day. It’s a choice that affects everyone near us, and ultimately points us back to the true Joy-Giver.

What will you choose?

This post is part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob for her brand-new book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy. To join the celebration (and learn more), click here. To grab a copy of this book, visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The six-week Bible study kit can be purchased here.

Wednesday Worship Thoughts: Limited Time

Last week, I posted my take on the topic of “focus” as part of Lisa-Jo’s weekly Five Minute Friday experience. In it, I talked about how limited time tends to sharpen my focus.

It is at this point that I must tell you. The people I worked with at Project SHARE called me a walking iPod because any turn of phrase could be a prompt to sing a line of a song in which that phrase appeared. I kid you not. It actually became quite the game and stress-reliever.

So, it should be no surprise that my musings on limited time made me think of a song. Why not use that to resurrect the old Wednesday Worship Thoughts series?

The song, Limited Time by the band Reilly, always struck a chord with me (no pun intended) because I see so many people – myself included at times – just going through the motions of the daily grind. You have to work, do the laundry, clean the house, make dinner. You want to blog, read, go to a concert or a movie. Most days you just go from crisis to crisis without really thinking about the purpose for which you were placed on this earth.

And, all of us were placed for a purpose.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

And, the truth is that we are all here for a limited time. We only have a certain amount of God-given days to share the love of God with the ones we love. What are you going to do with those days?

As always, lyrics are below the video.

Limited Time Lyrics

Father we’ve proved we know not what we do
We’re spinning round and round wondering what is up and what is down
Ashamed, confused by twisted things we do
You came to change the ways clean the stains of the crooked man

It’s time we listen to what you’re asking for
It’s time we shine

You’re in my heart now, you’re in my soul now
You’re in my mind now, going to share you with the world now
We’re running on limited time sleepwalking half-alive
Can’t bury the truth inside going to share you with the world and shine

Salvation comes to those who do not presuppose
in a love that sent the Savior into the darkness of the earth
I choose to bow down low and join the chorus with all those
who bless and glorify your name

It’s time I listen to what you’re asking for
It’s time I shine

You’re in my heart now, you’re in my soul now
You’re in my mind now, going to share you with the world now
We’re running on limited time sleepwalking half-alive
Can’t bury the truth inside going to share you with the world and shine

Can a city on a hill be hidden
I’m going to shine because of you

On the go: Favorite iPhone photos of 2011

Recently, I posted my four favorite photos of 2011. I totally forgot that I used my iPhone as my primary camera for much of the year. Crazy that a phone with a camera now can produce images of better quality than the ones I used at the newspaper when we first went digital! As before, I couldn’t come up with just one so here’s my top three.

1. We all need love
I saw this painted on the side of a factory when I started riding my bike to work this spring. I must have rode past it for a month or two before finally deciding to stop and take a photo. I’m glad I did because they painted the whole wall of the factory, covering the drawing.

2. Snow at Relevant
The only snow we’ve had this year in Central PA was the six or so inches that arrived on the Saturday of the Relevant Conference. These little flowers were still in bloom outside the hotel.

3. Saved in an old Bible
I was writing a post about an old Bible on my Grammy’s bookshelf. Inside, I found this flower or clover or something, carefully pressed between the pages. I played with it in one of the nine apps on my iPhone. {Seriously need to get that addiction under control!}

Images of Passion 2012

I returned late yesterday from Passion 2012, where I served as a doorholder for 44,000 college students who met in Atlanta for four days of teaching and worship. They were also asked to help fund organizations working to end modern-day slavery. The goal was $1 million. They raised more than $3 million.

Words can’t express how amazing the week was, but maybe these images can offer a glimpse …

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2011: The soundtrack

I’m sitting on my couch watching Coldplay on Austin City Limits – a lovely way to ring in 2012 as far as I’m concerned. What better time than to look back at the music I listened to the most in 2011.

Every year I make such a list and it always contains the caveat that the music may not have been released in the previous year. It’s just the music that I seemed want to hear.

Until this year it was highly subjective. Whatever I remembered listening to the most ended up on this list. This year, I got creative. I reset the play count on my iTunes to zero on January 1, 2011. That way, whatever was at the top of the list at the end of the year would be the “for real” music I listened to the most.

Here it is:

Now, a few things to note about this:

1. I didn’t buy a lot of music this year and I listened to Pandora or the single best public radio station around (WXPN!) more often than not. As a result, the newer music I loved didn’t make it to the list. The Civil Wars, for example. Or Adele. Or Foster the People. Or the new Passion CD. All the same, I can’t disagree with what made the list. I definitely stop hitting the next button every time they come on.

2. Clearly I had a British thing going this year. Mumford & Sons. David Bowie. Manic Street Preachers. Coldplay.

Anyway. It’s time to hit the reset button. Let’s see what 2012 brings. In the meantime, enjoy Sigh No More, the first song by Mumford & Sons that I ever heard.

Gifting a legacy …

The legacy sits quietly on the bookshelf, too fragile to be of any practical use. It’s yellowed pages threaten to flutter away and must be turned carefully to find the treasures within.

A piece of paper with names and dates. It’s the birthdates of the family members who have gone before me, beginning with Mary in 1822. A note on the pages between the testaments tells me that the volume was published by the American Bible Society in 1894. Does this mean Mary was in her 70s when she wrote her name on the inside cover? And what does it say that a woman born in 1822 could read?

Later, pressed carefully into the pages of the gospel of John is a clipping from a newspaper dated 1900. It’s a poem, or maybe a song, titled, The Church of My Youth. Did Florence, born in 1883, add this to the legacy? Or was Mary still an active, reading 78-year-old remembering the church of the Victorian era?

What does it mean that the onlymarkings in the book are brackets and large X’s next to certain chapters and verses in the book of Ezekiel? Does it have anything to do with the strange bookmark that says, “Ex-pupil?”

And the flowers … or maybe clovers … pressed into the pages? Where were they from? What did they mean to the person who put them there?

All these mysteries are secondary to the greater legacy of the Bible itself, of the love of the word of God that has been passed down through the generations on both sides of my family and now rests in me.

Yet, I am keenly aware that for 340 million people on the planet, there is no such legacy. For these people, the Scriptures simply do not exist in the language they understand best.

Let me say that again. 340 million people. 

340 million who have no Bible … or even a portion of a Bible … to hand down to the next generation.

This Christmas, you can give them a gift of a legacy through OneVerse while honoring those who share in your legacy of faith. For $26, you can sponsor the translation of a verse for one of seven Bibleless people groups. In return, you receive a card that you can personalize before giving it to a loved one.

The best part is that you will also receive a code that allows you to look up what verse your sponsorship has translated. When I did this for my grandmother … who is clueless about all things Internet, as you might expect from a 94-year-old … I looked up the verse and created a postcard for her to keep in her Bible.

Not the old one with the pressed flowers, odd bookmarks and newspaper clippings.

The one with her handwritten notes and underlining.

A whole new legacy waiting to be explored.

Monday Morning Prayer: The Penn State-Nebraska edition

A sea of red and blue gathered at midfield prior to the Penn State-Nebraska game Saturday. In a few moments, the two teams would be going full tilt at each other to win this key Big 10 match-up.

But right then, in that moment, they were men seeking God in the midst of a devastating scandal involving a former Penn State assistant coach.

Ron Brown, an assistant Nebraska coach and the founder of Mission Nebraska, led the prayer, calling on protection for the victims and for truth and justice to be known. “Every one of these men have been called to this platform today,” Brown prayed. “And Lord, we know that we don’t have control of all the events that took place this week, but we do know that you’re bigger than it all.”

After the game, Brown summarized his prayer to the Altoona Mirror, “”Everybody was kneeling, their helmets off in reverence to God, asking God to heal this place.”

May God indeed heal this place.

Not just Penn State.

But also nation that has seen far too many of these sorts of scandals.

Sista-voices of God

She flat-out asked me within the first half-hour of Relevant.

“What do you want from the conference?” Lisa-Jo (aka the gypsy mama) asked.

I told her about how my blog had more focus when I started than it did now and how I wanted to find direction.

That was true … as far as it went.

What I really wanted was to hear God’s voice.

If he wanted to talk to me about blogging, great. If not, great. I just wanted to hear him.

The first evening passes without a whisper.

No voices the first morning … or afternoon … or evening. Nothing as I jumped out of bed Saturday morning thinking that breakfast was at 8 a.m. not 8:30 a.m.

Why, God? You’re talking to everyone else. I see it on the Twitter stream. I hear them talking about it. Didn’t you want to say anything to this daughter of yours this weekend? You brought me here. What did you want to show me, tell me?

Then I thought of Bonni and her encouraging words when I told her about my ideas for e-books that looked at Scriptures (particularly the Old Testament) in creative ways.

And then I heard Johanna’s laughter as we talked late into the night about dreams and visions for social media at The Seed Company while we rehashed the talks from the speakers and sessions that day.

I remembered the jolt I felt when Tsh talked about being in your element when you work at the intersection of your skills and passion.

I listened to Shaun Groves, Kristi Greim and Kristen Welch talk about communicating a cause to blog readers with grace and compassion … and then a few hours later see about 15 women come to a meet-up of bloggers interested in using their voice to speak for the Bibleless.

I saw a prayer room filled with women writing, writing, writing in journals they would give away.

I marveled at how I seemed to pick seats at random tables only to be joined by women I had “met” on Twitter and hoped to see in real life.

I heard my own voice as I talked about the beauty of the interconnections between the Old and New Testaments.

Then, a lightning bolt.

God had been speaking all along.

He spoke through the sister-voices (and one brother voice!) all weekend, inviting me to remember my first love … Him and the precious Word he gave us.

How does that translate to blogging life?

I’m not sure yet.

Sometimes God only – maddeningly – reveals his will a step at a time. For now, I simply rest in his presence and in his word.

And, I keep listening for the sista-voices of God speaking truth over me …