Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Signing off...and new address!

This will most likely be my last post on this "blogspot" blog.  There is a great scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the astronauts move out of the Lunar Module which had been their life raft back to earth.  As they jettison it, they thank it for what it had done for them.

So even as I "jettison" Beyond the Pale here, it's new incarnation is up and running at   I hope you come around for a visit.

So, signing off from the blogspot here...Cheers!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Changes coming to Beyond the Pale

Some changes are coming to Beyond the Pale soon.  When I started Beyond the Pale back in 2008 it was simply a fun little project to keep me occupied while I lived in a very remote area in China.  It offered me a chance to give my input on topics I loved namely: God, politics, foreign affairs, movies, books, and baseball.  It was always nice to hear someone read and enjoyed a post but if no one did read, at least my grand kids (someday) may have something to know what grandpa was like.

Since moving to Hong Kong however, and particularly since the start of this year, I find my Christian faith stirred and  my blog posts have been increasingly reflecting that.  Where before I might have been writing on Christian topics 20% of the time, now it has been more like 90%.  I am also posting a bit more frequently and will continue to do so.

For that reason Beyond the Pale is going to make some changes over the next few weeks.  Yesterday, I purchased my first piece of digital real estate;  (Unfortunately the .com address is taken by a more talented and better looking "Steve Hackman" who seems to be a music conductor)  I am working with a friend to design a new webpage for "Beyond the Pale" and soon we'll be redirecting everyone to the new site which will focus primarily on my passions surrounding God's Kingdom, Church, Culture, and Grace.

I realized that it was hard to develop a bigger viewing body when the topics I covered were so eclectic.  A radio station that plays the London Philharmonic, followed by a Gospel Quartet and then topped off with Led Zeppelin will struggle to find its audience.  In the past I didn't care so much...but increasingly I want some of the things I may have to say to be read by more people. 

I have been thinking of how I can still insert some other items without upsetting the applecart and will most likely do a "Weekend Update" a la Saturday Night Live.  A single blog post once a week where I can offer my two cents on the news, film, politics, and current events.  Like the fact:

* that Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera won baseball's Triple Crown last week (highest batting average, most home runs, most runs batted in).  It has not been accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967

* that Republican Mitt Romney totally won the first presidential debate...don't know what game Obama was bringing...but it certainly wasn't his A-game

*  that I love living in Hong Kong and might just write about some aspect of living here

Anyhow, if anyone has advice on who to use for

* website design
* hosting
* any other tidbits you've learned

Look forward to seeing you online and will let you know when Beyond the Pale makes the final move

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prophecy & Nationalism? Proceed With Caution

"In my opinion, the next event on the prophetic calendar will be the rapture of the church. I think that could happen at any moment and as we see all of these other things happening that only reminds us that the rapture is even closer."

OK, that wasn't my quote, that's from Greg Laurie, Pastor of Harvest Christian Church in Southern California.  The quote is from Laurie's recent sermon, "Israel, Iran, and America in Bible Prophecy"

Now Greg Laurie is a respected Bible teacher and pastor and I honor that (especially since he came out of the Jesus Movement which I have a soft spot for) but I find it interesting that it is American ministers in general that seem to focus the most on end time prophesy, timelines, and trying , awkwardly I feel , to insert America into that equation.  I mean why not, "Israel, Iran, and Canada?"  Russia?...Mexico?  See what I mean? I think we err when we, often unintentionally, begin viewing the Bible, and particularly prophecy, through the lens of culture and nationalism.

I know what you're saying, "but Steve, America is the superpower in the world not to mention the main ally of Israel.  Surely it has a role to play in the "end times"?


...but I also know that since that day when Christ promised to return there has been a number of superpowers that have come...and gone.  The Imperial torch passes again and again...and in the end it will be the Lamb (Jesus Christ) who is shown to triumph over them all.  Until Christ does come again there will always be a new power on the block that feels it has the right to rule nations and shape history.  If the Lord tarries 50 years, Laurie's teaching may be titled "Israel, Iran, and China"  Should the Lord not return for 150 years the sermon may become, "Israel, Iran, and Australia"

Yes, could happen! ;)  

It's funny how my view of the "rapture" has changed as well.  When I first became a Christian as a young boy I totally understood the "prophetic calendar" Laurie is referring to.  A long map with the cross on one end, Christ's return on the other and a whole lot of action in between.  I even had a T-shirt that had two empty tennis shoes with a "whoosh" graphic like someone had been snatched from them and the words "In Case of Rapture this T-Shirt Will be Empty" emblazoned on the front.

A snatching away of Christians... Mmmmm makes me wonder who would actually "make the cut" if Jesus did return for His Bride.  I think we'd all be shocked but I'll save that for a whole other blog post.

Until that all reveals itself though I tend to resonate in my heart with something Pastor Brian Zahnd says.  "The Blessed Hope is not that 'we're going' but that 'He's coming.'

I think the thought that Jesus is coming is a joy all Christians can agree with.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blue Like Jazz: Movie & The Book

When Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz came out in 2003 and was the "must read" book throughout most of the decade in the Christian community I thought "this will be the book for me."

It wasn't.

I mean, it should have been.  Lifetime Christian questioning the structures of his religious upbringing while attending "America's most liberal campus"; Reed College...sounds like something that would immediately warm my heart.

It didn't.

Maybe it was a narrative that seemed to go all over the place (I know, its supposed Jazz)

Maybe it was that fact that I was already living in the very liberal college town of Boulder Colorado and didn't need anymore "fuzzy around the edges" in my life.

Maybe it was the famous scene in the book where they set up the "confession booth" and ask forgiveness of non-Christians for all the bad stuff Christians had done know like, the Crusades! (I thought, "Really, this guy is taking responsibility for a political conflict that occurred 1000 years ago.  Couldn't Christians apologize for something a little more recent and know, like maybe Jerry Falwell?)

Whatever the reason, Blue Like Jazz remained on my bookshelf with a bookmark about 3/4 of the way through...unfinished.

Recently though Donald Miller was being interviewed on a podcast I listen to and he was talking about how the movie had come out and they screened it at Reed College.

That got my interest!

Miller, in the interview was pretty humble and engaging.  He talked about how some conservative groups he thought would hate the movie, loved it and some more "progressive" groups didn't.  Go figure...  Miller went on to talk about the screening at Reed and how 2000 people who came out at first to mock the movie, instead were by the films end, silent and reflective.

I was intrigued! I got home that evening and watched the movie in my living room.  (How did I watch the movie in Hong Kong you ask?  Well, lets just say, this is Asia and when I meet Donald Miller one day, I owe him 10 bucks)

The movie itself takes the narratives from the book and loosely translates them into the fictional account of Don, a southern Baptist teen heading off to his first year at a Christian university.  He discovers though that his hyper religious mother is having an affair with the youth pastor and in an act of rebellion to spite his mother, church, and faith, heads off to the very secular Reed College. 

Under the direction of Steve Taylor, the iconic 1980s Christian rocker who was popping religious church balloons far before it became fashionable, Blue Like Jazz creatively navigates a difficult tension between showing the real challenge a Christian has in engaging a "real world"...and not showing so much of that "real world" that no one under 18 is allowed to watch it. 

At the film's beginning Don lives in a Christian bubble.  Anyone who has lived in that bubble and has come out will cringe at some of the scenes depicted here including when Don, before heading off to Christian college, is made to stand in front of the church in full Sunday School issued "armor of God" costume.

Like anybody living in that bubble though and then stepping out, the initial steps can be disastrous.  Don quickly succumbs to the temptations of Reed College and from there the film spends the remainder of the story reestablishing his faith on more solid ground than how he had begun.  The film concludes with the infamous "confession booth" from the book but which was much more emotionally relevant...especially as it didn't focus on apologizing for the Crusades.

Blue Like Jazz is not for everyone and certainly pushes the boundary of what can be considered a "Christian" movie.   My guess though is the film's creator's didn't set out to make a "Christian" movie.  They set out to make a film about how one discovers a legitimate faith in Christ that can replace the cultural doppelganger Christianity that is so pervasive in America and the West.  A faith in Christ that can stand in the storm of modern voices that ridicule it.

Blue Like Jazz accomplishes this.  Its not a "great" movie...but its pretty darn good! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: The Gospel in Ten Words

I've been doing a number of book reviews here at Beyond the Pale but this is the first review I have done where I have known the author on such a personal level.  Paul Ellis, author of the Escape to Reality blog , has published his first "Christian" book.  I have to designate the "Christian" part because Paul, as a university professor of 15 years in Hong Kong, is one of the most prolific authors in the field of International business.  Fortunately for us, Paul has shifted his energies from the academic arena to the area he is most passionate about; the Grace of God.

The Gospel in Ten Words unpacks the grace of God through the use of ten, often misunderstood, words.  I have been on a Christian book marathon since about February and I have read a number that have blessed me greatly.  However, I can name two that will have long term impact on me and I will be buying and passing out copies for years to come. 

The first was Brian Zahnd's Beauty Will Save the World which caused a paradigm shift in my thinking about what church is meant to be.

The second is Paul Ellis' Gospel in Ten Words which will become a major resource tool for me as it is, in all honesty, the best book on explaining the grace of God I have ever read.


Using these 10 words Paul defangs law, cripples self-righteous effort, and reminds the children of God that they are His children and that none can pluck them from His hand! Ten Words reminds us that the "good news" is indeed, good!

Because of Paul's many years as a Christian and ten years as a pastor, he may not have seen it all, but he's seen ALOT.  For this reason,  he is extremely adept at turning long entrenched religious structures inside out and exposing them for what they are; dead works that often keep the Children of God in chains and ignorant of their position as sons and daughters of the Most High.

For example, much of my Christian life has revolved around getting people to "accept Christ."  However, Ten Words suggests:

"The gospel is not an invitation to accept Jesus; it is the stunning announcement that He accepts you.  Although the law reveals it is impossible for you to make yourself acceptable and pleasing to God, the gospel of acceptance declares that in Christ you have been made acceptable for eternity.  Nothing you do can make you more or less pleasing to God than you already are.  All this is to the praise and glory of His grace."
"Secure in your Father's favor you will become fearless and bold.  You will dine in the presence of your enemies and laugh in the face of adversity.  You will dance upon the waves of circumstance and when you are tried by fires of life you shall not be burned."
I've enjoyed the irony of seeing a very academic professor, whose previous professional articles on statistics, research, and business models I could barely understand, produce a book on the gospel that is so profound and yet, so simple.  Probably the reason for that is he ultimately brings everything back to Jesus!

The individual chapters are bite sized nuggets that can be easily digested in a short read.  Hence in the coming weeks and months I will be returning to the book to spend 20 minutes reading about "Holy" or "Loved"; allowing these foundations to be reenforced so that my "good news" remains good.

I really recommend you allow this book to be a blessing to you as much as it has been to me.  Check it out on Amazon here 

Friday, September 28, 2012

My love for "Relevant Magazine"

My wife and I have a little inside joke between us;  Whenever we are a little critical of someone or something, that person or thing will, without fail, turn around and demonstrate some act of charity or kindness which leaves us with egg on our faces.  I think it started with Tammy commenting before our marriage that a particular female worship leader's attire was not appropriate one Sunday morning and then having that same person gush to Tammy how much she would like to volunteer to make our wedding reception something special...

...that kinda situation has been happening ever since.

In March of 2009 I wrote a blog piece on my view that there should be a moratorium on use of the word "relevant" in church circles as people were coming dangerously close to making it a sacrament alongside marriage and baptism.   In fact, my precise words were:

 There are a few words I believe the church needs to have a moratorium on. These include use of the word "Extreme" in any youth group related activities, use of the word "Victory" in any church names, and use of the word "Relevant" in any form whatsoever.

So it goes without saying that in a small way that post has come back to bite me.  Last week I subscribed to Relevant a periodical that monikers itself as a "Magazine on Faith, Culture, and Intentional Living."  And to add insult to injury, I'm addicted to the weekly Relevant podcasts which I often listen to on the train heading to and  from work.

Founded by Cameron Strang, son of Christian media pioneer Stephen Strang, the magazine, while maintaining an anchor in evangelical Christianity, penetrates outside the traditional Christian bubble and examines issues such as social justice and culture.

Put it this way, you're more likely to find Mark Ruffalo on the cover than Mark Driscoll. 

As they say at their website:

We try to publish ideas that break stereotypes, challenge the status quo and spur a generation to know God more—and change the world while they're at it. We want to engage our generation in a deeper conversation about faith, challenging worldviews and causing people to see God outside the box they’ve put Him in. Encountering God changes things.

I really love it but wished it had another name...  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Young Evangelicals are going Liturgical

I have a confession to make;  I have been, and probably still am, a "sneaker."

Now, don't look so surprised.  There are a LOT of us and if you are a Beyond the Pale reader there is a chance you either are one...or may give it a try :)

So what is a "sneaker" you ask?

Well, I read an interesting blog post over at Adorate Worship about how many, mainly young people, are "sneaking" out of their evangelical / charismatic churches on the off Sunday to go hang out with the Catholics, Anglicans, and other more mainline denominations to participate in a little liturgical worship.

Now some of you reading this are wondering "Why on earth would anyone want to do that?"  Others of you reading this are nodding your head and whispering an "amen" because you know exactly why they're doing it!

I've been a Christian for 37 years now and remember the 1970s when the "sneaking" went the other way.  Catholics, Lutherans, & Methodists, bored by the monotony of traditional hymns and church organs, were "sneaking" into charismatic worship times for a little hand clapping, foot stomping "Hallelujah" action.  I remember being 10 years old and telling my Catholic friend Bobby, "Dude, we have electric guitars and church."

Oh, how the times have changed...

So why, after 30-40 add years where evangelical "praise and worship" has become the new "traditional",  do young evangelicals "sneak" off to more liturgical and corporate times of worship?  The blog piece at Adorate Worship suggests:

The reasons for this new wave of sneakers are obvious.  They’ve grown up dancing, so they long to kneel.  They’ve grown up with masterfully orchestrated services, so they long for worship that may be planned, but never rehearsed.  They’ve grown up with the latest, so they long for the oldest.  They’ve grown up with, “God is here, let’s celebrate!”   They long for “God is here, let’s kneel and be silent.” 
They’ve grown up being urged, “Now, everyone can just worship God however you might want.  Just let the Holy Spirit move you.  We are all different.”  So now some are seeking worship where the implied advice is, “Now, everyone leave your hyper-individuality at the door.  Let’s say words together.  Let’s make gestures together.  Stand together.  Kneel together.  Let’s listen to the wisdom the Holy Spirit has given over the centuries."
My own experience in "sneaking" started in 2004.  I attended the Pastor's meetings in Boulder, Colorado and one of the attending minister's was the priest from the local Catholic church.  The very fact that a Catholic priest wanted to join with his protestant brothers instantly warmed my heart to him.  His church was nearly walking distance from my house so one Sat. evening (yes, its easier to do this on a Sat. evening especially when you are "sneaking" away from your own church :) I went over with the family to check it out.

I LOVED it!  There was just a different atmosphere and feeling of reverence that I longed for.  It wasn't "better" per se.  It simply allowed my spirit to experience a form of worship to the Living God that for many in that service was "normal" but for me, at that moment, was new and refreshing.  It's like having eaten hamburgers every Sunday for 30 years and then biting into a nice hot dog.  A different flavor...a different texture.

A visit to the Catholic church became a semi-regular occurrence for me. I even "snuck" out to visit a liturgical Presbyterian church and was amazed that during the Lord's Supper there was ten minutes of silence for reflection. TEN MINUTES!  When was the last time you had corporate silence for 10 minutes  in a charismatic church service?

Not better...just different...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Keeping Heaven, and Toy Story Land, in our Hearts!

Ethan just stood...and stared!
One of the best things about living in Hong Kong is that I have a Disneyland about 30 minutes from where we live.  Yes, God, in his infinite wisdom and knowing I would be returning to live in the city, had Hong Kong Disneyland built just for me...

...Ok, so it wasn't built just for me, but you have to admit, it's pretty cool to live 30 minutes from a Disneyland.

Anyhow, we visited the park late one afternoon last week and I got a little insight from my not quite 2 year old son, Ethan George, on what having a "focus on heaven" can do for one's ...mmmm... enthusiasm.

We were in Grizzly Gulch, one of the 3 new "mini-lands" being constructed at the park alongside Toy Story Land and the soon to be completed Mystic Point.  It was September hot in Hong Kong and the cool water geysers in Grizzly Gulch were helping to keep us all chilled.  (Grizzly Gulch is a recreation of 1880's America West)

The start of the path
After riding the new roller coaster and running through the water area we decided it was time to take little Ethan to his favorite place in the park, Toy Story Land.  Toy Story Land lay just beyond the "soon to open" Mystic Point but the park had wisely put up a temporary wall creating a path through the construction area thus avoiding a long walk backtracking around the Jungle Cruise ride.

Tammy went to use the bathroom and said she'd meet us in Toy Story Land which left Ethan George and I to make the walk together.  The walls along the path were quite tall as to mostly shield the building work as well as to not break the "fantasy" of Disneyland by watching construction workers build the latest attraction.

Is this heaven?
But from Ethan's vantage point it just looked like a cool tunnel and like a bullet raced onto the "path".  But as he ran for a bit he realized nothing changed; just the same old boring high walled road.  As he turned a bend only to discover more road his pace got slower and slower, till finally he turned around and started walking back toward Grizzly Gulch.  I grabbed the little buck-a-roo and spun him back in the right direction and then holding his hand we walked together.

But it was late afternoon, the sun was setting in our eyes, and it was hot.  On top of that, because of his height, Ethan couldn't see the tall buildings and Amazonian theme of Mystic Point that was rising just beyond the walls.  Nope, all the little guy could see was lots of never ending walls and hot sun in his eyes.  After a few paces, he turned around and was literally trying to drag me back to Grizzly Gulch.  If he could speak it would go something like this, " Papa, forget the Promised Land, I wanna go back to Egypt."

I again spun him around, much to his displeasure, and headed us off in the right direction.  I knew once he "saw" Toy Story Land his heart would change.  We trudged on...Ethan hated it...but we trudged on.

Then, after turning a bend, Ethan got his first glimpse of his destination.  I watched him try to make it out as the sun was in his eyes. "Was that Rex the dinosaur?  Is that the Toy Story music I hear?  Is it, no it can't be...Buzz & Woody?"  The contorted look of pain suddenly turned to joy.  A big wide smile from ear to ear broke out across his face.  Suddenly he was running...and in the right direction!

The long path still to be walked was ignored.  The heat, the sun, the humidity...the boredom was but a distant thought in light of the glory that was Toy Story Land!  The only thing that mattered was arriving at his goal!

In my last post I reviewed a book Things Unseen about the importance of keeping a heavenly mindedness in heart as we encounter the world around us.  When we fail to keep our eyes on Heaven we will be continually discouraged by the momentary things that surround us.  We may even be tempted to turn around and head back to Grizzly Gulch.

Last week I had a lesson from my 2 year old on the advantages of keeping Toy Story Land in our heart

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: Things Unseen by Mark Buchanan

If there is is a passion for me right now, it would have to be the Kingdom of Heaven.  For someone who spent years (decades) as a political junkie, I think many who have known me are surprised how much my "politics" have transformed themselves from "things below" to "things above". But "things" have a way of changing  when you move from a theology of "getting from here to Heaven" to "getting Heaven to come here". I realized that many of my "good intentions" not only failed to help bring God's Kingdom to Earth but actually inhibited it's coming at all.

It's in this new environment for me that a pastor friend from Colorado recommended, Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever by Mark Buchanan.  It has been said that "some people are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good."  Buchanan's premise is that without a proper fixation on heaven, you "earthly good" will be all but crippled.

Rather than paint Heaven as the great "Here After",  Things Unseen reveals a heaven that we can have written in our hearts.  A heaven that guides our actions and decisions here and now; and when the time comes that we do move on into eternity, we simply transition into the fulness of what we had already been living in. 

This "Heavenly-mindedness" says Buchanan, "is sanity.  It is the best regimen for keeping our hearts whole, our minds clear.  It allows us to enjoy earth's pleasures without debauchery.  It allows us to endure life's agonies without despair.  It allows us to see things from the widest possible perspective and in the truest possible proportions.  If anything can give us a true scale of values- one that enables us to sort out the disposable from the precious, the trinkets from the treasures, the surface from the substance- heavenly mindedness can."

Much of the book's strength rests on Buchanan's gift at spinning a phrase that makes our understanding of an issue more passionate and inspiring.  Take for example "holiness".  Any preacher announcing he will do a series on "holiness" will usually generate a collective groan from the congregation.  "Holiness" in Buchanan's hand however comes out like this:

"God intends the holy life to be an odyssey of wonder.  The religious impulse tends to make it into a journey both dreary and heavy, perilous and plodding.  But God designed holiness to be invigorating, the discovery of life so abundant that if He didn't unveil it for us, we would forever lack the imagination even to ask for it."
 See what I mean?

So if you are looking on getting a clearer view of Heaven before death rather than after, Things Unseen, should go on your "to read" list!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Does the Chinese Government understand Christianity better than America?

I was in a meeting a couple weeks ago with some Americans and the topic of the U.S. election came up.  O.K., full disclosure, I was watching the Republican National Convention with a group from Republicans Abroad  here in Hong Kong.

(Hey, it included breakfast at The American Club whose club membership I could never afford in a million years so...yes...I shamelessly took the opportunity to have coffee and bagels in such a swank setting  even if it did mean having to endure watching Fox News on the big screen)

Of course being Republicans somehow the conversation meandered on to the topic of God and as I am a pastor and have had a little history with Republican politics my opinion was sought.

"Well," I said, "sometimes I wonder if the Chinese government might understand Christianity more than the American government."

Yes, jaws dropped... and then they wanted to know what I meant.

"Well," I explained, " the Chinese government understands that Christianity is an alternative way to order society.  That it places Jesus as Lord of everything in Heaven and Earth.  For Christians to truly follow Christ is to ultimately have an authority higher than the State.  China rather frowns that; seeing any authority higher than itself as not such a good thing.  Hence, they actively persecute it"

"In America we have a Christianity that tends to put American patriotism and "We the People" as the highest authority.  Yes Jesus is our "Personal Lord & Savior" but it better stay just that...personal.  Any public proclamation of Christianity is expected to be accompanied by tacit approval (and blessing) of general domestic and foreign policy."

I went on to explain in Rome the disciples of Christ were executed, as was Jesus himself, for proclaiming a king other than Caesar. Rome was fairly tolerant of other religions and if the the disciples had basically stuck to an American styled Christianity and just told people if they accepted Jesus Christ they could go to heaven one day, followed up by a "God Bless the Roman Empire", hey, they probably would have lived to a ripe old age.

The early church, however, tended to take the words of Christ seriously.  That the Kingdom of Heaven which had come to Earth through Jesus Christ was fundamentally at odds, not just with Rome, but with the power structures of the age.   As Christians we certainly can honor governmental authorities and engage in the civic process, but when the church simply performs the role of a chaplain called in to bless the latest government policy we lose our prophetic voice which is calling all people everywhere to be citizens of the Kingdom of the Heaven.

When I see American friends who have been walking with Christ for years angrily attacking political rivals  and defaming even fellow Christians who have a different political view I realize the Kingdom of Heaven is but a soft whisper in their ears that, sadly, is all too easily silenced by the kingdom of this corrupt age.

In the end my breakfast companions polietly thanked me for my thoughts on that but, you know, Clint Eastwood was coming on now so lets give the God stuff a rest and watch what Dirty Harry had to say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Coast to Coast Walk Redux

For those of you that don't know, in July my 14 year old son Gabriel and I did the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk across northern England.  We started in the town of St. Bees on the Irish Sea coast and headed east eventually arriving on the North Sea coast 14 days later.  We traversed the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and it was the father / son trip of a life time.

Last week I did a school assembly where I compiled a stack of photos together and using the Animoto software program made a nice little keepsake of our amazing journey together. 

800 students watched the presentation and when I finished I walked over to the side of the gymnasium where one of the teaching assistants was crying.  Apparently she was REALLY touched by the following clip...I don't suspect most of you will have that same reaction, but I do hope you enjoy it!  Cheers..

Friday, September 7, 2012

How not to get Sucked into Election Season Madness

Wow, my Facebook news feed has really changed lately.  I knew the 2012 political season was in full swing  when the normal posts featuring my "friend's" travel adventures, babies being born, and what they had for breakfast were usurped by updates showing why the apocalypse will reign down on America if there is a Democratic or Republican victory in November.

What's most disturbing from my vantage point is that the most bombastic and "cringe worthy" posts come from Christians who, ironically, are supposed to be identified by the love they have for people. I'm left wondering at what point during the election season is the Sermon on the Mount  no longer applicable to Christ's disciples?

Back in 2003 when I was a graduate student at the University of Colorado our department invited former Democratic Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson in for a panel discussion.  One of the questions asked was how things in Congress had changed from when they served.  Their immediate response was the adversarial nature between the parties was much more bitter and personal than it had been in their day.  They noted how President Reagan (R) and House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D) fought passionately over policy but at the end of the day "they were two Irishmen who enjoyed beer."

What happened?  Why have Christians, who are supposed to be putting out fires of strife and discord, are instead fanning the flames?

I recently listened to an excellent teaching by Brian Zahnd called Election Season and your Soul.  He gives his church congregation a 10 point "voter guide" on how NOT to get sucked into the "madness" of the political season.

The original post can be found here:  Let me say I agree with the below points 150%...and you should too.

1. The political process, while necessary, has little to do with how God is saving the world.
For more on this point go here: The Church as an Alternative Society

2. The fate of the kingdom of God does not depend upon political contests.
Don’t be swept away by apocalyptic political rhetoric. It is what it is. Another election cycle. Jesus is Lord no matter who wins the Big American Idol contest and gets their turn at playing Caesar.

3. Don’t be na├»ve, political parties are more interested in Christian votes than they are in Christian values.
Do you doubt this? Thought Experiment: Imagine if Jesus went to Washington D.C. Imagine that he is invited to give a speech to a joint session of Congress. (He’s Jesus after all, and I’m sure the senators and congressmen would be delighted to hear a speech from the founder of the world’s largest religion—it would confer great dignity upon the institution.) Imagine that the speech Jesus gave was his most famous sermon—the Sermon on the Mount. Can you imagine that? Jesus is introduced. (Standing ovation.) He stands before Congress and begins to deliver his speech. “Blessed are the poor…the mourners…the meek.” “Love your enemies.” “Turn the other cheek.” After some perfunctory applause early on, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of squirming senators and congressmen. The room would sink into a tense silence. And when Jesus concluded his speech with a prophecy of the inevitable fall of the house that would not act upon his words (Matthew 7:26–27), what would Congress do? Nothing. They could not act. To act on Jesus’ words would undo their system. In the end, the U.S. Congress would no more adopt the policies Jesus set out in the Sermon on the Mount than they were adopted by the Jewish Sanhedrin or the Roman Senate. The Jesus Way and the Politics of Power don’t mix.

4. The bottom line for political parties is power. The bottom line for a Christian is love. And therein lies the rub.
The problem with our “change the world” rhetoric is that it is too often a thinly veiled grasp for power and a quest for dominance—things which are antithetical to the way Jesus calls his disciples to live. A politicized faith feeds on a narrative of perceived injury and lost entitlement leading us to blame, vilify and seek to in some way retaliate against those we imagine responsible for the loss in late modernity of a mythical past. It’s what Friedrich Nietzsche as a critic of Christianity identified as ressentiment and it drives much of the Christian quest for political power.

5. While in pursuit of the Ring of Power, you are not permitted to abandon the Sermon on the Mount.

When the world is arranged as an axis of power enforced by violence, the pursuit of power trumps everything. But in the new world created at the cross (an axis of love expressed by forgiveness), love trumps everything. The Sermon on the Mount is our guide to this new kind of love. Among other things, this means you cannot deliberately portray your political opponents in the worst possible light. (Attack ads? Remember the Golden Rule?) Jesus also taught us that if you call someone you disagree with a “fool” you are liable to the “Gehenna of fire.” I might put it this way: When your political rage causes you to hurl epithets like “fool” and “idiot”—you are kindling the fires of hell in your own soul!

6. If your political passion makes it hard for you to love your neighbor as yourself, you need to turn it down a notch.

7. Your task is to bring the salt of Christian civility to an ugly and acrimonious political process.

If you cannot contribute to the redemption of the political process, but are instead being contaminated by it, then you are salt that has lost its savor…and what’s the point?

8. To dismember the body of Christ over politics is a grievous sin.
This business of denying that someone is true brother or sister in Christ based upon their politics is horrible and must be repented of! It is no small sin. When the Corinthian church carried their class divisions to the communion table, the Apostle Paul said, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Don’t do it!

9. Exercise your liberty to vote your conscience and conviction, while accepting that other Christians will do the same and vote differently than you.
There are committed Christians who conscientiously vote Republican. And there are committed Christians who conscientiously vote Democratic. This is true. You simply have to accept it.

10. It’s more important that your soul be filled with love than it is for your political team to win the game.
If your team loses, the sun will come up and life will go on. But if you damage your soul by succumbing to politically motivated vitriol that causes love to whither, you would have been better off to have never got yourself politically entangled in the first place.
I leave you with this…
Love is patient and kind.
Love does not envy or boast.
Love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
Love rejoices with the truth.
Love bears and believes all things.
Love hopes and endures all things.
Love never fails.
This is what the Apostle Paul calls the “more excellent way.”
It is the way of Christ.
It is the holy way of love.
It is the way we are called to.
It is the way of human flourishing.
And if you have to choose between love and politics—choose love.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Memorium: Neil Armstrong

America lost one of her legends yesterday.  Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, died at the age of 82.  Armstrong landed on the moon on July 21, 1969 and cemented his place in the history books. 

For the first time a human from Earth stepped on another celestial body.

A lot has been made over the last 48 hours about Armstrong; his accomplishments, his humility, his general good nature.  Seems like everyone thought he was genuine "salt of the earth".  After his history making adventure he chose not to cash in on celebrity, or even leverage his status for political purposes.  (Although the offers were many)  Instead he retreated to his home state of Ohio and taught at a local university.  He rarely gave interviews and chose to stay out of the limelight.

That is until President Obama decided to cut the future Constellation Moon Landing program and development of the Ares launch vehicle.  That was enough to call the legendary space pioneer out of retirement.  In an open letter to the President he said that Obama's cutting of the program was "devastating" and that,

"For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature..."

"Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity.  America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space."
America used to be a leader in "reaching for the stars."  My hope is that the renewed focus on Armstrong with his passing will allow Americans to remember when we dared to reach into the void and "make one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My review of Rob Bell's "Love Wins"

I realize I'm a little late to the party on this one.  Rob Bell's book, Love Wins has been out for more than a year now and the controversy surrounding it has moved on to other targets....but I've been on a book roll lately and this one was one I was meaning to get to.

Most of the controversy centers on Bell's flirting with universalism, which for those of you with a real job means that everyone will eventually be reconciled to God and no one is going to be left in hell to burn for all eternity.  What I always find interesting in any debate, and this one particular, is the attitude of peoples hearts when discussing it.  Seeing some Christian's reaction you'd almost believe they would be furious if many people were not thrown into the flames for all eternity.  Like a celestial crowd in a gladiatorial arena they  gleefully give a thumbs down to Caesar as he seeks their decision on whether a victim who has fought in the games should live or die.

Fortunately Bell brings a bigger and more loving interpretation to the debate.  Someone asked me after I finished the book what I thought.  I said I agreed with a large part of it.  Some of it was a bit of a creative stretch at times (Bell is an intelligent and creative guy).  For example his interpretation of the story of Lazarus and the rich ruler after death had me scratching my head a little but ALOT of what he brings to the table are questions that need to be asked and most church streams and denominations won't touch them with a ten foot pole.

And why?

Because if they do Pandora's Box would be opened and the whole thing could collapse. (which could lead to dancing :)

But didn't Jesus do that very thing?

Didn't he travel around asking questions that made the religious establishment very uncomfortable.  He'd say the Kingdom of God was like "this" or the Kingdom was like "that" in a way that made the priests and pastors of the day crazy with jealousy and anger.  Didn't Jesus then start saying that certain people were "in" when the religious leaders and holy men had declared them to be "out"?

(Believe me, humans are far more enthusiastic about throwing people into hell than God... could that affect our theology at all?)

For example when God says he desires all men to be saved, that every knee will bow and confess Christ to the glory of God the Father, that all creation will be reconciled in Christ... Does God get what he wants? Does the Creator and Author of Life get what he declares he wants to see happen?

Or does the Alpha and the Omega, The Beginning and the End, Does "I AM" give up at a certain point and admit, "I did what I could but that's about the best I'm going to get." 


Much of the book though deals with heaven and getting away from a Christianity that seeks primarily to get people a ticket to paradise rather than participating in Christ's plan of bringing reconciliation and "heaven" to earth now.  That we would be active participants in fulfilling Jesus' prayer that His will be done on earth as in heaven.

Bell says right now the earth is filled with a lot of different "wills" and Christianity should be bigger in scope than has often been the case.

I actually have a good friend who I have known closely since high school.  At one time he was a strong Christian believer but after some years left the faith.  He told me not long ago that he believed in God again but one of the reasons he didn't consider himself a Christian anymore was that Christians made God far to small.

And you know, I agree with him.  We have made God to small. Bell's book seeks to get our view of God back to the standing and scope it should be at.

Do I agree with every aspect of what Bell suggests in "Love Wins".  Probably not...but it is an important contribution in making Christianity the Body of Christ that will bring Life to those in our world that are desperately looking for it.

In the end though I agree with Bell that "Love Wins."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coast to Coast: Day 15 & Epilogue

Bags packed at "The Villa"
Back to London

Woke up the next Friday morning and Gabriel and I almost didn't know what to do with ourselves.  It was the first day in 2 weeks where we didn't have to get up, eat, gather our gear together, and start walking.  Instead we enjoyed a final evening in a Victorian Bed & Breakfast, a final full English breakfast, and a final goodbye to "the trail".

The British Museum
Breakfast conversation was unusually good this last morning as well.  There were about 6 others at the table who asked us a number of questions concerning our hike and what we experienced.  I must say I was often asked by the British folk both at this breakfast as well as for the last two weeks some form of the following question, "So, how has Hong Kong changed since the handover?"  My answer would elaborate on areas where Hong Kong hasn't changed at all as well as areas I feel have changed a fair bit.  Oh, how I do love International discussions...

"Jersey Boys" in the West End
London Olympics 2012!
After breakfast we packed our gear up, ran into Robin Hood's Bay to get Gabriel a souvenir Coast to Coast T-Shirt, and then caught the bus to Scarborough where we would transfer to a train that would take us on a 3 hour trip back down to London.  We checked into a Travel Lodge hotel in Covent Garden which, I must say, lacked the style and atmosphere of the bed & Breakfasts I had grown accustomed. :)  We had enough time to get showered and changed for our big celebration though.  Two months earlier I had asked Gabriel what West End show he would like to see to celebrate the end of our big adventure.  He responded, "Jersey Boys!".  So I managed to get two tickets...second row! 

What an amazing show.  A perfect and joyful end to what was darn near close to the perfect trip a father son can have.  The next day we toured the British Museum for about 3 hours before we headed out to Heathrow for our flight back to Hong Kong!

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking of tackling the Coast to Coast, here are some things to consider:

* Packhorse was a helpful and reliable company for organizing everything for us.  Find them here:

* A rest day!  Not really needed for a 14 day trip but Gabriel and I said one day where we didn't have to rush out the door in the morning and could pause to enjoy our surroundings would have been helpful.  Rest day suggestions: Grasmere, Patterdale, Kirkby Stephen, and Richmond

* People for months asked me what training I was doing for the hike. The answer??   I didn't do any beyond the occasional workouts and runs I do anyhow.  It can be tough in sections for sure but if you are moderately fit and set in your heart you will finish will finish it. 

* Having said that make sure you do everything to protect your feet.  Gabriel and I wore liner socks with a good hiking socks over them.  Plus some form of blister relief bandages and creams.  I went blister free for 200 miles by taking care and Gabriel was mostly blister free.

* Enjoy other people!  Probably the most fun he had was the interaction we had with each other and all the wonderful people we met.  Be proactive...introduce yourself and enjoy a laugh, a meal, and some ale with a new friend.

* Navigation:  We chose NOT to use GPS as we wanted this to be an adventure and risk getting lost at times.  If you go sans GPS don't think you you won't need a will! For all intents and purposes we did the whole walk with the Trailblazer "Stedman" guide which has about 100 hand drawn maps...and a compass.

* Talk to God:  Let's face it, there are ALOT of hours to fill and people are not always around.  God is...and there is perhaps no more beautiful place to chat with Him than in His creation...and if you listen carefully, He tends to speak back :)

* Enjoy!  And if these posts have helped you in any way, leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay

Day 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay
Starting Time: 9:20 AM
Finish Time: 5:10 PM
Total Mileage: 15.5 miles
Bed & Breakfast: Lisvane

Last Day!  After two weeks on the road the excitement has really started to build that the end of our journey is nearly complete.  There is something very different in a hike that takes multiple days and weeks rather than an afternoon.  A feeling of victory, accomplishment, overcoming...etc.  But wait, I am getting ahead of they say, "we ain't done yet!"

Little Beck Woods
Woke up in Lisvane bed and breakfast which was another gorgeous home.  I must admit the owner at first did not win me over.  Not that she was rude mind you, just matter of fact in a way that made us feel a little unwelcome when we arrived.  Then I found out that I had to pay 2 pounds for the wi-fi password which made me slightly annoyed as we hadn't had to pay at any other place the last two weeks.

We found Shelob's Lair...Run!
As with many situations in life though, there is always another side to the story.

In the morning at breakfast our landlady's demeanor had changed and she was very gracious and talkative (maybe something else on her mind last night?).  She explained that she charges for the wi-fi (without my inquiring why) as a donation to the volunteer mountain rescue teams that help stranded hikers.  (Any irritation I had with paying 2 pounds instantly disappeared).  She mentioned that since the BBC documentary on the Coast to Coast with Julia Bradbury had come out in 2009 there had been a spike in the number of hikers needing the services of rescue teams as people watching Julia jogging along the trail were under the impression it was easy...and its NOT!  (Rumor has it that Julia didn't even do the walk).

The Hermitage
Anyhow we bid farewell but I do have to mention that you know you are in a small town when the barmaid who brought our dinner to us in the pub the night before is the same girl who came in the morning to deliver Gabriel and I our full English breakfast. 

Last lunch before finishing
The hike out of Grosmont is a somewhat steep climb and Gabriel's blister was bothering him so we moved slowly.  We had now become accustomed to his foot needing a while to work itself in.  As luck would have it though we took the wrong road out of the town (looked pretty confusing on the map I must say).  Realizing we were heading in the wrong direction and yet trying to avoid backtracking down to the starting point again I looked around for a local I could ask directions from.
Finally...a sign!

I don't think I have mentioned how much I have enjoyed doing this walk in an English speaking country.  The ability to ask a local person directions without crude attempts at a foreign language, speaking in baby talk English, or resorting to charades and hand signals was a welcome advantage.  Finally an older man tending his garden saw me with my map in my hand and said, "you look like a lost Coast to Coaster".  He went on to tell me that the intersection near us would put us back on track with minimum backtracking...a welcome relief.

We left Grosmont behind us and entered Little Beck wood which allowed for about an hour's walk through possibly the nicest, and most enchanting, woods on the route.  It really felt "Middle-Earthy" and we enjoyed the time there save the mud in areas.  At Falling Floss Falls there was a nice little cafe near the waterfall where Gabriel and I had a quick sit down lunch so as not to "rush through" our last day.  We bought some preserves to take home to Tammy and shared a big slice of carrot cake together...when I say share I mean about 3/4 for me and 1/4 for Gabriel :)

Afterwards we hiked off into the woods and ended up on the wrong side of the river.  Gabriel did and "Indiana Jones" by climbing across on a fallen tree while I continued down another 1/8 of a mile until I found a number of rocks that would allow me to get over.  (Only got one boot wet).

Along the coast!
We emerged from the woods for one last march across the moors (I really thought we were done).  Anybody who thinks this last day is just and easy end to the C2C has another thought coming.  The moor areas were darn near close to swamp and as we got closer to the sea in the distance the ability to stay dry became impossible.  We finally gave up and for about 2 miles we alternated between dry grass trail and being up to our calve in water.  Oh, well!

At one point we missed a marker in the midst of a marshy area and we even knew we could get lost as the map said, "Careful, its easy to get lost in here".  There have been a number of times where a compass came in handy on this trip to get our bearings...and this was one of them.  We managed to get on some kind of path but realized it was heading us the wrong way again.  I didn't even need a compass here as I could see the North Sea and knew we were heading towards Whitby and away from Robin Hood's Bay.

Robin Hood's Bay
I started getting really frustrated but it was Gabriel who kept the peace wanting to know why I was getting so mad when we should just enjoy the situation.  I told him I didn't mind getting wet and muddy walking in the right direction...but in the wrong direction?  Fortunately, as what often happened when we got wasn't as bad as we first thought (a good life lesson here).  The negligible path we were on finally merged with a cement path that had a Robin Hood's Bay directional sign on it.  About 10 minutes later we were back where we were supposed to be and FINALLY reaching the sea!

Old Wainwright though, he doesn't let you finish here, oh no!  Like the beginning along the Irish Sea 2 weeks and 200 miles back, he wants you to see the coast for a while before dipping your boot into the water for a finish.  And the wait  is well worth it.  Beautiful cliffs, ocean breezes, and gawking seagulls are part of your last hour or so on the Coast to Coast. Our necks kept straining around every bend to see if we could finally see Robin Hood's Bay...until around one particular bend...there it was.  Just a quaint little fishing village...but it was our destination.

Finishing with new friends!
We entered into the top of the town and walked past our bed & breakfast for the night.  We decided to pop in and let our host know we had arrived before heading down to the bay for our ceremonial finish.  Jane, the owner of The Villa, kindly offered to walk down with us to film the big moment.

Like many others before us, we were getting ready to end our big adventure.  As you walk past tourists and locals alike you want to almost scream out, "You know what we've done?  We've just walked 2 weeks and across a country to be here today!!"  Gabriel and I reached the water whose tide, which unlike St. Bees 2 weeks earlier, was in.  We we let the water wash up on our boots, Gabriel threw his rock (I kept mine and turns out he had 2 and kept one as well) and we hugged.

Mission accomplished!  A dream 16 years in the making was realized.

The boys enjoying the finish!
Our fellow walkers from Germany were also on hand having finished about 30 minutes before us.  We agreed to meet back at Wainwrights bar for a celebration dinner and a toast to having accomplished the Coast to Coast walk!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 13: Blakey Ridge to Grosmont

Inside the Lion Inn
Day 13: Blakey Ridge to Grosmont
Start Time: 9:30AM
Finish Time: 3:20 PM
Total Milage: 13.5 Miles
Bed & Breakfast: The Lion Inn

Ah, The Lion Inn!!  What could make for better atmosphere than spending a night in a 500 year old inn, isolated, located high up on the English moors on a foggy windy night?

Not much I guess.

I even woke up in the night because the window I had left open was now banging in the wind. I looked out into the foggy distance as I closed it and thought this is exactly the moment where the werewolves would attack in the movies...but not tonight.

 We woke for breakfast which as usual was quite good. I even tried "kippers" for the first time which I mostly enjoyed. We packed up and said good bye to our Aussie friends as they would only be going as far as Glaisdale today...and waved to the Germans who we know we would see in Grosmont later.

 When we left the fog had mostly lifted but the wind was harsh. The first hour of the day involves walking in a horseshoe pattern along the top of a moor. Ironically this meant after 45 minutes of walking we were closer to The Lion Inn than we were after 20. It was hard to talk and Gabriel's blister was hurting so we walked slowly in silence as the wind howled. 

Fat Betty
We did come to "Fat Betty" which is a large stone cross on the side of the road where tradition has it you are supposed to take a snack...and leave a snack. Unfortunately due to the heavy rain there was a moat of water and mud around old' Betty. There was a Snickers bar sitting up there but Gabriel and I chose to just get a picture and move on.

 Gabriel and I kept commenting that "tomorrow is our last day". I think it is a bittersweet feeling. We're looking forward to finishing and getting home to Tammy and Ethan George, but we'll miss the adventure and challenges of the trail.  We finally descended off the moors in to the green valleys again coming to the village of Glaisdale. Because we had spent a bit more money than usual at the Lion Inn we wanted to scale it down for lunch today. We thought to just get a couple of sandwiches from the village shop but that was closed for lunch. (ah, small towns). But the village butcher was open next door and we got perhaps the best deal we've had since we started our adventure. Fresh meat pies stock full of beef and chicken for only £1.10 a piece. We each had one and split a third.
St. Heddas

Blue Skies in Glaisdale
 Coming up to the town of Egton Bridge we stopped by the St. Hedda's church which is a beautiful catholic church and surprisingly is quite grand and ornate for such a small village. Certainly worth a look if you get the chance... The guidebook said that in 1679 Nicholas Postgate, the priest at the time, was hung, drawn and quartered for continuing to practice his faith. How can someone be sentenced to such a torturous death simply because they worship God in a slightly different way? Madness!!!

Got a meat pie!
 We finally arrived in the afternoon at the Lisvane Bed & Breakfast which is another beautiful home in a very picturesque town. We had a bit of a rest before heading down to the North Yorkshire Railway Station to look at all the train locomotives. What is it with trains and guys? The locomotives here were used in the first Harry Potter movie as The Hogwarts Express. After a walk around the train yard we headed over to the appropriately named pub called The Station for dinner where we were joined by our German friends who were already there playing darts. We shared a meal together before saying good night and agreeing to meet tomorrow evening in Wainwright's bar for a celebratory beer after finishing the walk. We headed back up the road and prepared for The End...Robin Hood's Bay...15.5 Miles away!

Day 12: Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge

Me & Wolfgang
Day 12: Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge
Start Time: 8:50 AM
Finish Time: 12:20 PM
Total Milage: 9 Miles
Bed & Breakfast: The Buck Inn

Woke up this morning feeling good. Today was only going to be a 9 mile walk.  This in itself is testimony to how we have changed.  If I told Gabriel back in Hong Kong on a Saturday morning we were off on a 9 mile hike he would have given me all kinds of grief.  Now 9 miles was going to be an easy day!

The Buck Inn

Had a great meal the night before with a couple pints of good ale.  Wolfgang may be "Australian" but his knowledge and appreciation of good beer was definitely "German". 

The Shepherds

Wolfgang's wife drove us along with "The Shepherds" (John & Cathy) back to Clay Bank Top.  We started out together but as Gabriel's blister started acting up we said our goodbyes to "The Shepherds" who were heading farther today so as they would be able to finish the walk the next day.  John sent be his audio blog of an encounter he had that we would have experienced if we had joined them in the longer day.  Apparently up on the moor a hiker approached them from the opposite direction.  At first he though the man was wearing pink which is a little strange while out hiking on the moors.  However as the man got closer he realized other that hiking boots and a rucksack, the man was stark naked.  Apparently they passed each other with John saying "Good afternoon" and the man replying the same back.  He waited until the man was about 50 yards away and although he admits he doesn't usually take pictures of naked men, he needed this for proof to which I wholeheartedly agree.  You can get his audio account here!  I hope he doesn't mind me reusing his pic but I can't resist.
The Naked Hiker

We reached the Lion Inn about 12:20 in the afternoon.  Usually this would be a problem at a bed and breakfast as they would be no where near ready to receive you at that hour but being an inn, and a 500 year old inn at that, they handed us our room keys and we were inn.  

Day 11: Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top

Day 11: Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top
Starting Time: 9:40 AM
Finish Time: 3:45 PM
Total Milage: 12 Miles
Bed & Breakfast: Park House

When we rolled into Park House last night we could hardly walk.  Everything hurt.  I long distance walking friend of mine had told me before this trip that when he keeps a daily walk over long distances at 18 - 20 miles, blisters and body do well.  It's after that 20 mile number that the body starts to really feel it.

I can say that is pretty true.  I was in good shape up to about 20 miles...then I started to get tired.  Going upstairs to my room at the Park House I had to grab on to the rail as I was SO sore.  Also, I had misread the guide that had said the Park House provided food.  Gabriel had wanted to eat in Ingleby Cross but as it was already after 8:00 PM I assumed that Beverly, our landlady, would be wondering where we were.  Sure enough, she had hopped on her 4 wheeler and had come looking for us just as we approached.  Apparently, they provide a dinner with 24 hours notice but seeing our condition she took pity on us and in no time we had homemade bread sandwiches and steaming bowls of soup in front of us.

The next day we prepared for our much shorter journey of 12 miles to Clay Bank Top.  After a pleasant journey (all uphill mind you) through a beautiful stretch of woods, you suddenly break out into the open fields and begin the first day of traveling across the moors of England.

Although it was a shorter day there was a lot of elevation change...which essentially meant you went up atop one moor, walked across, and came down the other side only to then repeat the process again.  There were some beautiful views up there though despite the wind.

At one point Gabriel was a distance ahead of me coming down a steep he tended to do on steep sections.  I slipped on a wet rock and slammed shin first into and exposed rock cropping.  In 14 days of walking of the entire trip THIS was the most painful moment.  I yelled out across the moors and then yelled for Gabriel.  My son is something alright.  Being 14 he likes to be a little smart alecky with me but whenever I stumbled or twisted my foot etc. he was quick to be a genuinely concerned son with a "Papa, are you alright"

Now, when I really needed him, he seemed to ignore my calls and continue to prance down the hillside.

I had to sit down for a couple minutes and then walk in circles a bit to "walk it off".  Finally, the pained subsided and I continued down to where Gabriel was meeting me by a stile.  I gave him a bit of an earful and he apologized not realizing I was really hurt.  (I'm writing this entry 10 days after the incident and that shin is still bruised and sore)

We met up with our new Aussie friends who I forgot to mention had spent the evening at Park House the night before with us.  The nephew, Rob, was making a tuna fajita in the field for lunch.  We chatted a bit and then made our way.  We would connect with them the following evening when we reached The Lion Inn.

"Australian - Mexican food"??
When we reached Clay Bank Top there is actually nothing there except a parking lot.  The Buck Inn where we were staying was almost 3 miles away and we were expected to call them when we arrived and they would come fetch us and then deliver us back to the same point in the morning to continue.  Gabriel and I were a little disappointed as we had gone 11 days now using no other transportation other than our own feet.  We were kind of hoping we'd go the whole time without riding in a car but the choice was an extra 3 miles there and we opted for the car.

Gabriel as Abraham Lincoln
Thankfully as we didn't have a phone some fellow walkers lent us their cell and about 10 minutes later we were picked up by the proprietor of The Buck Inn, Wolfgang.  Wolfgang had a strong German accent but said he was from Australia.  Almost automatically he explained he had been born in Germany but lived in Oz for 28 years becoming and Australian citizen.  I appreciated that as through the whole trip people asked where we were from, or the more perceptive asked, "So what part of the States are you from?"  Of course when we said we were from Hong Kong we got that quizzical look  So we started introducing ourselves as "Americans from Hong Kong"...and then the explanation.

After we checked into our room I came down to the bar area and one man was sitting there (it was still early) sipping a pint of ale and tapping on his laptop.  He said hello to me with an air of familiarity.  As I struggled to place him, he said, "I'm John.  You ran into my wife and I a few days ago when we got those sheep through the stile near the motorway."

We missed the trail here
Ah, The Shepherds.  I hadn't recognized him without his hat.  We chatted for a bit and I learned he was a business professional who had never dealt with sheep in his life...he just did what needed to be done.  Good were just about everyone on this walk tended to be.

Gabriel and I had dinner a little later and then got to sleep early excited that tomorrow's walk to Blakey Ridge would be the shortest walk of the whole trip, which after the last two day's walk we were sure looking forward to.