Saturday, December 23, 2023

A New Set of Clothes

[Originally published in the Monroe News on December 22, 2023]

It's almost Christmas time and so that means we're all thinking about new clothes right? I mean isn't that what every person is the most excited to see in one of those boxes under the Christmas tree? Okay, maybe not. I know when I was a kid I dreaded the idea of seeing one of those rectangular boxes that looked like they were from a department store that surely must have had clothes in it. New clothes were the last thing I would have wanted for Christmas as a young kid. I'm not entirely sure that has changed since I've become an adult. Although, I will confess I may have a new pair of dress pants on the list this year.

On the other hand, there are some fun aspects of clothing around this Christmas time. Surely we all must love the new fad of the ugly Christmas sweater. There's some joy in delighting in different styles and trends and fun as we relate clothing to one another at this time of year. There might also be the mothers who love to get beautiful Christmas outfits to dress their children in to make them look wonderful for Christmas pageants and family gatherings. I’ve even heard of couples and entire families who are into the matching Christmas pajamas thing.  So maybe clothes and Christmas really can go together quite well.

There is another reason many among us might truly be interested in new clothes at Christmas especially with the new year right around the corner. There is something special about getting a new outfit, perhaps even a whole new wardrobe of clothes, that can really bring a new season to one's life. As many of us contemplate what the new year will hold for us The idea of a fresh start or a big change might be enticing. Often a new set of clothes is a part of that. Consider how many new students love to have a new look for the start of a school year. How many new workers love to have a new outfit to begin a new job. There's something special and refreshing about newness in our look. It's almost as if we can become a new person and start over.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Honor Matters

[Originally published in the Monroe News on November 17, 2023]

Last weekend we celebrated Veteran’s Day.  It is a very appropriate and honorable holiday for a group of people in our nation who are rightly remembered and celebrated.  I give thanks every Veteran’s Day for all who have faithfully served our nation giving of themselves, and in some cases their very lives, to protect and defend our liberty and our nation.  This rings true especially in my family as I have many relatives who are veterans, including two grandfathers, and more relatives who are currently serving including a brother.  

I hope that our nation will always continue to celebrate Veterans Day as well as other similar holidays like Memorial Day and Armed Forces day.  I believe this because I believe honor matters.  We celebrate these holidays and the men and women they represent because we should give them honor.  They have made sacrifices, some big, some small, for the rest of us who regularly benefit from them.  They have put themselves in harm’s way and they have spent much time away from family for the sake of others.  This deserves to be honored.  Honor matters.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Press On Toward the Goal

[Originally published in the Monroe News on October 13, 2023]

The name Mt. St. Helens rings a bell with most of us.  Some are old enough to remember the day this volcano erupted in 1980.  It was a modern example of catastrophe. We were reminded of the power of the forces of nature and just how much the face of the earth can be changed in a short amount of time.  We’ve all been struck with awe at the pictures and stories of its aftermath.  Days turned to night.  Clouds of ash moving across our continent.

Mt. St. Helens is also an amazing story of recovery and wonder.  In the 40+ years since its eruption its site has now become a place of rejuvenation and new life.  You can visit its surrounding areas and see how “life finds a way” as a new landscape has come to life.  You can still see the mountain itself with its side blown open by the blast.  It makes for a powerful contrast to the other volcanoes in the area like the world famous Mount Rainier.

Just a couple weeks ago my brother and I were on an adventure trip in Washington and one of our objectives was to summit Mt. St. Helens.  We wanted to see what it was like on the crater rim and to get those views down into the heart of the volcano.  We wanted to see that once devastated and now reborn landscape from the heights of the mountain top.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm (North Cascades)

For a number of years now, when I go on the hunt for beautiful scenic nature wallpapers I would inevitably be directed to shots from the Sahale Arm in the North Cascades of Washington. This was especially true if I was searching for fall colors and I would be enamored by the reds, yellows, greens, and mountain scenery of the Sahale Arm. It seemed like a pipe dream to somehow find a way there in the fall when my person and family calendars are always so busy. So it was quite fortuitous when my brother invited me to join him in Washington after he was finishing with a conference. It would be late September and there was hope that we might hit the colors and scenery just right.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Camp Muir (Mount Rainier)

For most American mountaineers, to summit Mount Rainier is a high and worthy objective. In the Lower 48, it probably is the premier mountaineering objective. You would have to journey up to the Alaskan peaks, like Denali, to find something bigger and greater. My father, brother, and I spent 24 years climbing the highest peaks in Colorado and we would readily admit none of them are in the class of Rainier. For my brother and I, it remains on the possible future objectives list if and when we feel the time is right.

For now, we just wanted to wet our appetite. A climb up to Camp Muir is special in its own right. It is a bit of a halfway point to the summit of Rainier and also an overnight basecamp for those intending to summit. It also happens to be a popular dayhike objective for many tourists and hikers alike who make the trip to the National Park. Generally speaking, it is a fairly accessible route to get up to Camp Muir with most hikers of average experience being able to do it safely. One should be prepared with reasonable skills for snow travel and also understand the perils of mountain weather and terrain. There is nothing strictly technical about the route in terms of rock climbing, rock scrambling, or glacier travel.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Mount Adams (Washington Volcano)

To climb a volcano in Washington state is quite an endeavor. Most people from out of state generally only know about Mount Rainier as the big mountain climb. Many others are aware of Mt. St. Helens but few think of it as a mountain climb and rather a tourist destination. Mount Adams exists in the middle of it all with little outside attention. Its the 2nd highest peak in the state and from afar looks every bit as imposing as Rainier. It has sides that are glaciated like any of the other big volcanoes in the state. It has a massive prominence that adds to its grandeur. But it also has something that some of the other big mountains do not: a non-technical approach.

My brother and I are arguably seasoned mountaineers now and we have a ton of experience on Colorado peaks and others. We have finished the Colorado 14ers. We've handled our fair share of class 3 and 4 mountain terrain. The one thing we haven't done: glaciers and crevasse training. Maybe someday. Without these necessary skills for a safe summit right now peaks like Rainier and even Washington's Mt. Baker remain outside of our comfort zone. Adams, though, fits right in. The South Climb approach to Adams can be done without glacier travel and many people do it every summer. There are through much of the year persistent snowfields but they can be safely traveled with the very skills we have honed in Colorado. The biggest challenge for Adams is simply the length of the approach. It is a long day and maybe will tackle it over two days to lighten the load.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mount St. Helens

Picture taken from Coldwater Ridge in July 2023, 
not taken during our Sept. '23 hike.

What a special mountain. It is unlike any other mountain in our nation, possibly in the world. The geology, the history, the beauty is fascinating. A mountain without a top and a mountain with side blown wide open. A volcano.

I've long been fascinated with learning about the story of Mt. St. Helens and what we have learned from it in the 43 years since. I can date myself with this mountain as it erupted the year I was born.

I couldn't possibly wait to see its summit and the view into the crater as well as the desolation of a landscape all around it. This would be my first adventure onto any volcano. What would the rocks be like? How would it differ from other mountains?

Friday, September 8, 2023

Does God Care?

[Originally published in the Monroe News on September 8, 2023]

Is there such a thing as a stupid question?  I’ve heard there is some debate over this idea.  Perhaps we could even get philosophical debating the question about questions.  Those that say no would argue that so long as we are asking questions, any questions, we are rightly and actively trying to understand this world and that is good.  Those that would say yes, there are stupid questions, are simply realists.  You know stupidity when you hear it.

Parents might have their own answer to this question.  When you’ve been endlessly peppered with questions by a toddler you’ll have a few thoughts on the validity of every question.  A classic is when your eyes get pried open at 3am by your 5-year old only to have them ask you the question “Mom/Dad, are you awake?”  But its not just our little ones.  We do it too.  Did you have a neighbor catch you doing yard work on Labor Day in the 90 degree heat and ask “hot enough for you?”  Yea, thanks for asking.  Or perhaps it will be on a snowy sub-zero day in February when the same neighbor stops to ask “I just love winter. Don’t you?” So maybe there are a few foolish and stupid questions out there, you decide for yourself.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Recreation and Re-creation

[Originally published in the Monroe News on August 4, 2023]

One of the really great things about our beloved state of Michigan is all of the opportunities for recreation.  Has anyone ever counted up all of our State Parks and State Recreation areas?  I’ve maybe frequented a dozen of them so far and I think I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.  Our state is truly a haven for camping, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.  The opportunities for recreation are seemingly endless.

My favorite forms of recreation involve hiking and trail running.  You might also throw in camping which combines nicely with my favorite forms of movement.  Anywhere I go I’m on the lookout for a nice trail to explore.  When I have free time (usually a rarity!) I love to head out for some recreation on the trails.  One of my big summer adventure goals this year was to hike a big alpine loop over and around two of the biggest mountain peaks in Colorado.  It was refreshing!

Recreation is good for all of us no matter what form it takes.  If you like the great outdoors then go for it!  Maybe your form of recreation is taking care of the garden and the lawn.  Perhaps recreation can even be an inside hobby like sewing or crafting.  At its heart all recreation needs to be is something we enjoy and hopefully something that helps us renew and rejuvenate.  If nothing else, our recreation should also involve rest.

If you were to do a bit of word studying you would find that the word recreation comes from the Latin word for “create again”.  Literally we might say “re - creation”.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Pinckney Blind Lake Backpacking Jul '23

Time for night #13 at Blind Lake and my second in 2023. This overnight and round trip would have a couple of firsts. My father joined for the first time to see Blind Lake. He didn't want to stay overnight this time however so he still hiked out on Friday night. It was also the first time I went in just Jonah and I. The rest of the family has been out of town this week and so this was our time to go out and explore the outdoors. The third first was that Jonah was trying out a hammock for the first time to see how that goes with backpacking.

Trip Info:
Potawatomi Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 888 ft.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Marymere Falls (Olympic NP)

Another popular hike in Olympic National Park that starts near the beautiful Crescent Lake. Its not a location I had heard of before our trip to Washington State but it caught my attention as we were looking for outdoor options on the north side of the Olympic park. Apparently plenty of others knew of this hike as the parking was full and then some as we prepared to begin our trek.

Trip Info:
Marymere Falls Trail from Storm King Ranger Station
Trailhead Elevation: 0,000 ft.
Distance: 1.60 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 356 ft.
Start Time: 2:37pm
End Time: 3:19pm

Trip Report:
We began our hike from the Storm King Ranger Station. You can also begin this hike from the Lake Crescent Lodge. There is nice signage from the Ranger Station highlighting the start of the hike. It also describes in brief the nature of the hike. The beginning half mile plus is mostly flat and a wide trail. Then there are two bridge crossings and then the last 2/10 of a mile is an uphill climb. At the bridge crossings there was some signage about how the salmon create egg nests in the creek. After the crossings there is a brief climb up to a sign highlighting the beginning of a loop that takes one up to two different viewing areas for the falls. The sign suggests a clockwise passage of this final loop.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Rainier Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail loop at Rainier is the premier dayhike for the average tourist visitor to Paradise. I would describe it as your typical National Park loop where everyone and their grandma are out there giving it a try. On the plus side its getting people outdoors. On the negative, it makes for a crowded trail and a number of people who are one step from calling search and rescue. The trail is consistent with amazing views of Mt. Rainier and in a year like this, 2023, even in early July, had plenty of snow patches to deal with on trail. While there is no summit on a trail like this its primary destination is the Panorama Point overlook near the high point of the loop.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Maple Pass Loop (North Cascades)

One of the premier hikes in the North Cascades is the Maple/Heather Pass loop which leaves from Rainy Pass along Washington 20. This evaluation is true at least for the average day hiker not getting into backpacking deep into the mountains. This loop holds the promise of two great mountain passes and plenty of fantastic views along the way. There is the added bonus of a spur to a mountain lake and views of another lake. The trail is very hikable with no rock scrambling necessary. We saw good words on this trail in our research on the North Cascades during our family vacation to the Pacific Northwest. Looking for a big afternoon hike to add in to our day's tour through the park this was the perfect fit.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Jesus' Inclusive Love

[Originally published in the Monroe News on June 30, 2023]

The inclusiveness of Jesus really is an amazing thing.  St. Paul really describes it best in Romans 5 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  When Jesus went to the cross it was to die for every last human being that has ever lived.  Jesus didn’t make distinctions or create boundaries when He poured out His life and His love, alongside His blood, on the cross.  We hear of this kind of love in well known verses like John 3:16 where it speaks of God’s love for the world.  And the openness and the inclusiveness of God’s love and salvation in Christ is amazing “whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”  I’ve always loved that word there, “whosoever.”

In a sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago I tried to capture in more relatable terms just what God’s amazing love for us looks like.  This came to be in a Gospel lesson we shared in worship from Matthew 9 regarding the calling of Matthew.  When we first meet Matthew he is sitting in a tax booth likely doing his daily job.  And Jesus very simply and bluntly says to him “Follow me.”  And then the text tells us Matthew “rose and followed him.”  Just like that.  What’s amazing about this is the fact that tax collectors were widely regarded by society and particularly the faithful Jews of that day as being sinners through and through.  They were seen as traitors to their own people as they aided the Romans.  They were usually thieves and liars in how they conducted their business.  We have no reason to think Matthew was any different.  And so we come to the point: it was a sinner like Matthew that Jesus called to follow. That is amazing love.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Mount Ouray

My wandering adventure to the summit of Mt. Ouray was a reminder of how quickly the mindset of a single day can change. I began the day barely able to drag myself out of bed. Two days prior I had done a 31 mile loop over Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia making a loop around the mountains including Horn Fork Basin and Pine Creek Basin and the Colorado Trail. Yesterday my father and I made a bushwhacking summit of Marmot Peak, just east of Buena Vista. My quads were shot from the previous days' climbing, my arms ached from trekking pole use, and my motivation as a whole was beat from all the wear and tear. It took a lot of determination to get moving. Yet I found along the way my motivation changing. The soreness in the legs and the body dissipated. The spectacular wonder of the summit lifting my spirits and suddenly I found myself renewed and refilled and loving every minute of the day. I carried that newfound spirit with me back down the trail.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Marmot Peak

For all the years my father has lived in Buena Vista he has set a goal of hiking all the prominent peaks that can be seen from his house. This has included Mt. Princeton, Mt. Columbia, Red Deer, Midland Hill, the Buffalo Peaks and Marmot Peak (its possible a few more are missing my list). Marmot, a mostly obscure peak, was the last missing goal. It sits in the southern shadow of the Buffalo Peaks and is accessible from the Fourmile Recreation area roads. There is no trail to the summit but a reasonable bushwhack can be made from the nearby Salt Creek Trail and that was our goal.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Harvard & Columbia Circumnavigate

I'm learning to become old acquaintances with challenges and failure. I chose to tackle a big self-made adventure again this year with high aspirations, but it didn't quite go as planned. I've been doing ultras for several years now and I decided my big goal for summer 2023 was what I would call an "adventure ultra", that is, not a sanctioned race but rather an ultra length adventure of my own making. I wanted to create my own route and then see if I could complete it. Half the adventure would simply be in the weeks and months of planning for this adventure and that part went exactly to plan.

While my big ultra adventure didn't go exactly as planned its hard to say that it was a total failure. I fell short of my ultimate goals but I still accomplished a lot and I didn't quit in big ways where I easily could have. Perhaps most importantly, I had a great time and still put a wonderful challenge to myself and felt very good about it in the end.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Lutheran Westland Commencement Address 2023

Brothers and sisters in Christ, faculty and staff of Lutheran Westland, honored guests, proud parents and family, and our beloved class of 2023,

It is my honor to stand before you tonight.  I have been a life-long lover of our Lutheran Schools. I come from a family of Lutheran School supporters and educators who have collectively spent near a century teaching in our grade schools, high schools, and universities. To speak before this body of brothers and sisters here in this beloved Lutheran School on the night of your commencement, is a true joy.

Can you believe that 1st grade was 12 years ago for you.  Do you even remember what it was like?  Did your mom dress you up in a cute outfit for your first day?  Did you have Anna and Elsa on your school bag?  Or was it the Spider-Man?  Do you remember your first friends as this journey began?  Are any of them still your friends today?  Maybe even here at Westland with you?  

Can you believe you have not only made it through the years of grade school but you've also made it through these four years of high school. Did they go fast for you? Does it still feel like you were just a freshman yesterday? Well fasten your seat belts, ask your grandparents just how fast life will get as the years go by. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Knowing Someone

[Originally published in the Monroe News on May 26, 2023]

How well do you really know someone?  Do you have to spend time with somebody to get to know them?  Can you know someone by writing through the mail or over the internet?  The ways of communication in our day and age have really stretched this question to the limits.

Consider how we use social networks, I follow a number of athletes and other public personalities.  Many share their personal stories, their highs, their lows, even some about their family. You almost get the sense you know them. By following somebody like this you might learn their favorite vacation spot or their favorite food.  If I follow someone who shares a lot I might begin to give myself the sense that I’ve come to know them.  I’ll form opinions about them.  I’ll assume I know the way they think about things. But do I really know them?  If I met them on the street would I be able to pick up with them like old friends? Of course, the answer is no.  In all of this there is an inescapable point: this is one-sided.  I might think I know them, but they certainly don’t know me.

And the truth is, I almost certainly don’t know the other person as well as I think.  When it comes to social media, people tend to be very selective in what they share about themselves, giving a picture of a life that is quite likely far from reality.  It isn’t hard for me to share all of the good things I do and the highlights of my life giving the impression I’ve got it all figured out, while at the same time hiding all the lows and the challenges and struggles.  

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Forbidden Fruit

[Originally published in the Monroe News on April 28, 2023]

I imagine you might be familiar with the idea of the forbidden fruit.  Its origins, of course, come from that all too unfortunate moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit. God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit on the tree in the midst of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and after some temptation from the serpent this is the very fruit that they choose to eat.  Ever since this terrible fall into sin, we have all been party to history repeating itself as we too partake of forbidden fruit in our lives  The true nature of our human nature has revealed itself in that we are constantly drawn to and tempted by the very things which are forbidden for us. 

Psychologists have deemed this the “forbidden fruit effect.”  They say it boils down to man’s curiosity and this desire to learn about things unknown and to explore the consequences.  It also has something to do with our rebellious side and our innate desire for freedom without restraint.  Mark Twain once described it “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”

While this forbidden fruit effect can be seen in many facets of our life from children challenging the limits of their parents authority to us as adults exploring unhealthy relationships, it is perhaps easiest to understand by sticking to the realm from which it all started: food.  We spend much of our lives telling ourselves we shouldn’t eat certain foods because they are bad for us.  We even make pacts with ourselves to give up certain foods which are particular vices for us.  Most diet plans revolve around groups of foods that we choose to deny ourselves with the hopes of improving our well-being.  

Friday, March 24, 2023

The Hospital for Sinners

[Originally published in the Monroe News on March 24, 2023]

Just recently I found myself at the hospital on a Saturday afternoon making a visit to one of the members of my congregation.  This was a fairly typical thing for me so I wasn’t expecting to notice anything out of the ordinary.  Nonetheless, I was struck by something as I wandered the halls of the hospital that Saturday.  I was surprised at how many sick people were in that hospital.  It was as if the hospital had open doors and sick people could just wander in and seek help.  I mean every floor of the hospital was full of people recovering from a myriad of illnesses and diseases.  What a place!

Ok, I hope you can sense I’m being a little facetious in this surprise.  It is with good intent.  One might point out the obvious here that one should expect the hospital to be full of sick and ill individuals.  That is the very purpose of the hospital to provide a place of healing and recovery for those who are not well in the body.  This we all know.  But I have also come to learn in life that we can’t always expect the obvious to be, well, obvious.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Amazing Grace 250

[Originally published in the Monroe News on February 10, 2023]

250 years ago a curate in the Church of England wrote the words “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; His grace brought me safe thus far, His grace will lead me home”.  These words were a part of several verses written by the author.  They were written to help illustrate a New Year’s Day sermon.  It is unlikely the author would have realized at the time the life these words would have or that the world would still be loving them and singing them 2 1/2 centuries later.

If you haven’t recognized those special words yet, they are one of the verses of the beloved hymn Amazing Grace.  They were first written by John Newton.  They, like most of the hymn itself, tell a bit of his story and his relationship with God.  They are also part of one of the most well known and beloved hymns of all time. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Love in the Aftermath of Columbia

[Originally published in the Monroe News on January 6, 2023]

I want to share with you today a story of love.  But in order to get to that part of the story we first need to talk about a tragedy.  In just under a month’s time our nation will mark the 20th anniversary of the shuttle Columbia breaking apart upon reentry into earth’s atmosphere.  Seven beloved astronauts were on their way home to their families and loved ones when the unthinkable happened.  It was February 1, 2003.  

For our nation it was one of those moments that you will never forget where you were when it happened.  I was in the state of Indiana at the time. I was playing basketball for my seminary team and we were on our way home from a game when we heard the news.  It was shocking.  It was heartbreaking.  I was a little too young to remember when the shuttle Challenger was lost during takeoff in 1986. But I remember hearing people talk about it.  I remember watching videos of that event.  Likewise, the memories of the various clips of Columbia breaking apart are now etched forever in my mind.

I remember hearing stories of the investigation and the attempts to understand what had happened.  What I don’t remember is the amazing story of the search for the remnants of the shuttle and the crew.  I don’t remember hearing about how thousands of individuals volunteered their time and their efforts to find the remains of this disaster to help lay the astronauts to rest and to help bring closure and understanding to this disaster.  

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Pinckney Blind Lake Backpacking Jan '23

West end of Hiland Lake
Potawatomi Trail, Pinckney State Recreation Area.
Trailhead Elevation: 888 ft.

Jan. 1 Hike In
Distance: 11.23 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 1224 ft.
Start Time: 2:53pm
End Time: 6:50pm

Jan. 2 Hike Out
Distance: 7.05 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 850 ft.
Start Time: 8:52am
End Time: 11:10am

Trip Report:
It was time for another go at Blind Lake. This would be night #12 at this lovely campground. In 2021 I made it there via a big hike on the Waterloo-Pinckney trail from Portage Lake. In the morning I had to bike from Blind Lake back to Portage Lake. The last time I did the standard Poto Trail hike to Blind Lake was 2019.

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