Another box.

Okay, so I’ve been doing CrossFit since last October. That means I have a whole three months experience under my belt. It feels like I’ve been doing this a lot longer, but I guess I’m technically still a newbie. I’ve been pretty good at showing up four or five times a week. In just that short period of time I’ve learned a lot of skills and I’ve developed a lot of strength and stamina.

When I took my recent trip to Springfield, VA to visit my dad, I decided to drop in on a box right near my brother’s house where I would be staying. (Dropping in means you are visiting another affiliate other than your home location.) This was a big step out of my comfort zone. At CrossFit Hammock Beach, I know the coaches, many of the other members, and generally what to expect each time I go. I had no idea what I’d encounter at another location.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that CrossFit West Springfield was just a few blocks from my brothers house. Their website made it very easy to sign up and pay for a few workouts and digitally sign a waiver. However, now I was committed.

First, it was snowing when I arrived. I’ve been a FL resident for over twenty-two years. I can’t remember the last time I saw snow! I would not soon forget this day.

When I walked in, I saw a familiar assortment of racks, barbells, rings, ropes, rowers and assault bikes. An open gym time was still in session, so people were working on various skills. Background music was punctuated by the sound of heavy bars being dropped after lifts. Someone met me at the door, learned that I had already signed up, and directed me towards a place to change.

After I was dressed to workout, I reentered the room and met the owner/general manager, Ryan. He was friendly and enthusiastic about the box, pointed out the four o’clock coach, and told me they’d be assembling at the white board in just a few minutes. The room was set up differently than what I’m used to. The racks were all in the center of the room, surrounded by open areas. It was supposed to get pretty cold that night, so they had cancelled some of the evening sessions. This meant that the 4:00 and 5:00 times would be unusually crowded.

My group at 4 numbered more than twenty people. I don’t think the coach, Matt, expected that many. He briefly explained what the days skill and fitness workouts would be, then set us free to work on 5×5 press jerks, increasing weight as we went. He did not lead us through any warmup, stretch or teaching. All the weightlifting skills are new to me, so I stay light as I work on my technique. 85 pounds was plenty. There were many there who were working with upwards of 300 pounds. I felt like these folks were a bit more advanced than most of my friends at home. I learned some just by watching them. From the banners on the wall, I knew that teams from this box had been in regional competitions over the past few years.

Since we had so many there, they changed the workout in the moment. It was a partner workout consisting of a 1500m row, 90 deadlifts, 70 burpees over the bar, and fifty push jerks. A guy who was similar in skill, Carlos, pointed to me and we partnered. He was fine with 85# on the bar, so we were good. “Three, two, one…” and we began. This felt familiar as we traded off 250m rows, and then ten reps on the other exercises. He was able to pull a little better on the rower, but died on the burpees. I can fly through those. We didn’t quite finish under the 18 minute cap, but it was a good workout.

When I came back the next day, it was even colder. No snow, but how holy cow, it was about 15 degrees! Walking in was less intimidating, and the coach on Wednesday was Will, whose style was a little more like what I was used to. Good warm up, good teaching, and then some skill work: handstand walks. No, I can’t do handstand walks. But there were some there who practiced walking the length of the floor and back. I and most of the others walked my way up the wall and back down, developing arm and shoulder strength. I had never worked on that before, so I got to do something new.

The fitness part of the workout was 25-20-15-10-5 double unders and situps, followed by 5-10-15-20-25 walls balls (14#) and kettlebell swings (44#). Since I haven’t mastered double unders yet, I did twice as many singles, but could handle all the other skills. These all felt very familiar, and I enjoyed the challenge of a modified “Annie.” On this second day, the group seemed more diverse in experience, skill and age, and I was both encouraged and an encourager.

Even though I am not the best at any of the exercises, I felt like I knew what I was doing and enjoyed visiting another box. I realized the importance of talking to and encouraging others in the workout. I wanted to buy a t-shirt but there was nothing in my size. Boo.

I’m going to drop in a few times when I’m in Dallas next week. I expect to encounter the same mix of knowing what I’m doing with learning something new. I’ll let you know.


livermushScanning the breakfast menu in the small North Carolina restaurant, I paused for a moment at an unfamiliar word in the menu. Livermush. Along with eggs and biscuits, you got to choose bacon, sausage or livermush. Interesting. At first glance it looked like the name of a Chronicles of Narnia character.

I did some quick Google research and discovered why I had never heard of livermush. It’s a southern dish, especially treasured in North Carolina. I’m a Yankee so I hadn’t ever encountered that stuff. Where I come from – not too far from the Pennsylvania Dutch — you eat scrapple. They are basically the same. When Mary Rizzo writes about the recipe in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, she explains, “While parts of the pig became sausages or bacon, the rest, ‘everything but the oink,’ was collected for scrapple.” It was boiled up with sage and pepper, then thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat. Once it cooled into a loaf, you slice off a piece to fry up in a skillet. In the south, they threw in pig liver to make it a bit more palatable. In Ohio, oatmeal was used in place of corn meal, and it was called goetta.

scrappleWe didn’t eat scrapple all the time growing up, but often enough that I remember it well. My dad must have liked it. Of course, he also relished pickled pigs’ feet, sardines packaged in tins of oil and mustard that he would spread on a slice of buttered bread, and a vegetable he grew in his garden called kohlrabi. Thank goodness mom only worked as a nurse on the weekends. When my dad cooked, kohlrabi often made it to the table.

eggs and livermushYes, I ordered livermush that day with my scrambled eggs and it was almost as delicious as a fried slice of Habbersett Scrapple from the A&P (or from Friends restaurant in Flagler Beach, FL, who import some from Philadelphia each week). I offered to share, but few at my table dared to try a bite.


A beautiful moment

By Gods grace we are spending a long weekend near Harrisonburg, VA at the time of peak fall color. It’s hard to predict, so I don’t take credit, but just thank God for the beauty of autumn all around me for these next few days. 

As I sit and enjoy the reds, yellows and oranges, and watch as gentle breezes suddenly shake free leaves that lazily fall like huge snowflakes, I realize how fleeting this moment is. In a week, these leaves will be gone. Okay, they won’t be gone. They will cover the ground, but without their brilliant color. The trees will be bare, mere sticks coming up from the ground. The view will be hues of gray, brown, and black.

Isn’t that the way of so much beauty? Beautiful people surrender to aging, beautiful night skies disappear at dawn, a beautiful sunrise gives way to the day and the colorful fall leaves too soon fall. 

So we savor the moment. We do not despair it’s passing, for we know it was never meant to last. We await beauty’s next appearance, for we know she’s on her way. 

Ocean City conference


View from the deck of the Port-O-Call Hotel

My travel day to the district’s regional pastor’s conference in Ocean City, NJ began early. Really early. Since I had to fly out of Orlando this time, I was on the road by 3:30 am. Pretty easy drive, breezed through security with TSA pre-check, and had time for some people watching. A few things that caught my eye:

  • They still use dot matrix printers at the gate when printing out the passenger list. The zzztt-zzzttt-zztttt is a strange sound when you are used to laser printers. The continuous feed paper is a strange sight, too. Bonus points if you know the other place they still use these printers. That’s right — at the car dealership, as they print out your financing forms.
  • Chinese food must be popular for breakfast at the airport. The line at the Manchu Wok was longer than any other restaurant. I passed on the lo mein and opted for Cuban coffee and a muffin instead.
  • Classical music is still the go to background music at the airport. Hundreds of years later, Mozart and Handel fill the air at the busy gates. Is there anything else that can match the shelf-life of good classical music? 
  • This guy carried two basketballs onto the plane. They didn’t seem out of the ordinary. They weren’t autographed. He and a friend practice their dribbling at the gate before boarding.

There was no line at the rental car desk. They asked me, “Will you take a free upgrade to an SUV?” Absolutely. A few colleagues met me there and we had a nice drive to the Jersey shore.

Forget about minimalism when a hurricane comes

I’m not the best minimalist, but I’ve adopted a few habits that have decluttered and simplified my life. After I read a book I donate it to a library. When I purchase a new item of clothing, I get rid of something older. I’ve stopped accumulating bolts and nuts and screws and nails I might (but probably won’t) need someday.

hurricane-3But when the hurricane is breathing down your neck, you urgently have to accumulate things. Gas cans (4), extension cords for the generator (2), battery-powered lanterns (2), disposable plates and utensils, candles (#?), bottled water, ice (5 bags from our own ice maker), a new cooler, a new fan (a life-saver), chains for the chain saw (2), a yard rake, a new pair of work gloves, and calming toys and bones for the dog (3).

We ended up using most of what we bought. We never lost water, so I donated it to a semi headed for south Florida. We didn’t really need the ice; our generator kept our refrigerator running.

Clutter during the storm? We didn’t mind it so much. On the plus side, we won’t have to buy those things again. But now I have to store all of that away. Somewhere. Because there will be another storm. Someday.

I wonder what people will do with all the bread and water and chips people bought before the storm. The shelves at the storm were empty, so their houses must be full of those items. Did you really eat that much bread before? Are you really going to eat that many peanut butter sandwiches now? How much food will be thrown away in the next few weeks?

If I were in a flooded area and I lost just about everything, would I try to replace everything? Or would I downsize, just getting what I need and use? I don’t know. We didn’t lose anything this time. This storm added to our possessions.


Haiti (final entry: returning home)

After a very early wake-up call, we assembled for a quick 4:30 am breakfast, loaded up the trucks and headed to the Port-au-Prince airport. Though it was barely dawn, the roads were already lined with people preparing for market day.

The airport is always part of the adventure. As soon as you step out of the van, you are surrounded by vendors and others eager to help you with your bags. This is when you get a lot of practice saying, “No, merci.”

Inside, long lines snake through the room where you wait to check in. Some check-in kiosks are working. Most are not. Finally we all get checked in and our bags dropped and its off to immigration, security, customs and a second security check. But this was a good day. It only took an hour to complete the process and we could sit down to wait for our plane to board. There are some nice little restaurants in the airport with some very good coffee, sandwiches and pastries.

The flight was uneventful, and immigration and customs on the US side went quickly. But that’s when you have to say goodbye to everyone heading off to different parts of the country. Facebook means we won’t lose touch. In fact, we’ll get to know each other better as we keep in touch and plan our next getaway to Haiti.

We still had a long drive home from Fort Lauderdale to Palm Coast, giving us lots of time to reflect upon our trip and short-term missions in general. More on that soon.


Our team: Tamara, Cassie, Lisa, Doris, Nancy, Megan, Helen, me, Elizabeth, Jesse, Oz, Brenda and Quinton


Haiti (April 15: transition day)

How do you prepare yourself to re-enter the real world? After a week in Haiti, it’s good to have a day to reflect, recuperate and recharge for the journey home. 

We didn’t have to get up as early today, and traveled to Kaliko Beach Club just a little bit north of Port-au-Prince. It’s a nice little resort on some clear blue water lapping up against a rocky shore. You can just reach down and grab spiny lobsters and giant crabs, which various locals did who then offered to cook them up for me.

We sat on the beach, talked in the pool, napped and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

After supper our group reflected on the week, and how it affected us and our faith. Plus, what will we say when someone asks, “So, how was your trip? Did you have fun?”

It’s a difficult question to answer. It was a hard week of grueling days and not drinking the water and not opening your mouth in the shower. It was a series of long rides to parts unknown where curious looks welcomed us onto their home court in strange tongues. It was a constant encounter with poverty, mercy and faith. It was as a previous team described it: “The worst vacation I ever loved.”

Everyone from rookies to seasoned veterans talked about “next time.” Lophane and Helen reminded us of the value of “presence.” And we were reminded that our friends, family and colleagues will now try to reel us back into the world from which we have been absent, whether we are ready or not. 

The images of young eyes peering through holes in the walls, impossibly bumpy roads, the joyful splash of baptismal water and smile after amazing smile will play over and over again in our day and nighttime dreams. Those visions make you see every person, headline and bible passage in a different light. 

How do you re-enter the real world? Transformed, renewed, discerning and grateful.

Haiti (April 14: final clinic day)

Another long bumpy ride took us back to Thomonde for our last clinic day. I talked about Jesus and the woman at the well to start things off today.

I was honored to do another baptism today for a man nearly at the end of his life. The tap on my shoulder late in the morning took me to a gentleman failing quickly due to old age. A celebration broke out as he confessed his faith and I spilled three handfuls of water from a small bag over Jean’s head. God just keeps adding to the number of those being saved! What a privilege to be the first to pray with a new brother in Christ!

The local church will send people to his home to provide care in his last days. 

I had two encounters with a woman who came through my little prayer station. Pregnant, with a history of miscarriage and a tumor on her neck, she neede extra encouragement today. We surrounded her in prayer for some of God’s joy and peace in her life.

A number of people asked for prayers of “deliverance” today. They offered no other details, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they had at some point connected with voodoo. Voodoo is still a part of the fabric of life here. In any event, I offered a number of prayers for the freedom Christ brings.

We saw people for about three hours today before packing up to return home before the evening rains. I don’t know that we saw many really sick in the mountains this week. Beyond a few aches and pains, most were fairly strong and healthy. 

Haiti (April 12: second clinic day in Bien Amie)

Learning an important lesson from yesterday, we left much earlier and got to the church in Bien Amie by 9 am. As we set up I taught the story of Zacchaeus to the waiting crowd of moms and babies. Then we settled into seeing patients. 

Some of the team taught a birthing class, a newborn class, along with the tooth brushing class. Nothing extraordinary today — except for a baptism! 

 Sometime in the morning we stopped everything and I got to baptize a beautiful 18 month old little girl, Essmina. With a tent full of witnesses and more watching from the outside we celebrated her new birth into the family of God. What a privilege and what a great moment. God’s mercy, life and salvation poured out onto that mountainside piece of holy ground! I guess I probably taken my shoes off. Oh well; next time…

As I prayed with all who came through the main registration, I did the wordless book with two more who trusted Jesus as Savior. I ask every one either, “Are you a Christian?” Or “Do you trust that Jesus is your Savior?” Most say yes, and I believe most are sincere. And then suddenly, some one says, “No,” and I get to tell them more about Christ. My translator, Jemmy, is great and keeps right up with me. 

Tomorrow a new site, another remote location at the edge of somewhere.