A First…

If you haven’t been able to tell my posts (or lack thereof), I am a student.  Specifically, I am a student in seminary working toward a degree in Biblical Counseling.  That being said, I have plenty of problems.  I am a selfish person.  I am a lazy sometimes.  I am racist in some situations.  I am a legalistic person.  I have many places in my life where I desperately need to experience God’s grace.  However, I was allowed to eavesdrop on a very great conversation today.

I was in the library at our school today when I heard two people talking.  Through a combination of it being pretty close and being in a library, I could hear them clearly.  There was a man who had just gotten a new job he really needed.  He had, in spite of himself, been offered the job.  This man was so happy.  He was praising the Lord as he told his story.  It was great to see the joy in his face as he recounted how poorly he had done in the interview.  His joy was based, not on his performance in the interview, but on the fact that, through God’s grace, he had still been offered the job.  I know this isn’t a huge, earth shattering revelation, but it made my day to see two friends rejoicing over the grace God had extended to one man.

While this may not have been the first time I had ever seen two men in fellowship over something God had done in one of their lives, it was the first time in a long time that I can remember seeing genuine joy on someone’s face for a great thing that had happened in another person’s life.  Selflessness is something that has been lost in our day and time, and it was nice to see it today.

Praise the Lord for fellow believers!


What is Success in Ministry?

I have recently started an internship with my church.  I have to admit, it isn’t a job that I was really looking for, but it is one that is exciting.  I am anxious to see what God will do with it and how He uses it to change both my life and other people’s lives as well.  However, at the beginning of this journey, I am having trouble defining what success would look like in this internship.  How do I know if I’ve done well?

My first thoughts jumped to the number of people who come, how much money we raise for a specific charity or cause, or how many new people come to know the Lord.  But then I began to wonder, “what if God doesn’t want this to be a big production?”  What if all God wants is for this to be is a small intimate gathering of a few Christians who are transformed through their service to our local community?  I could get on board with that.

Then I was hit with what I felt like was a very selfish thought.  Could I be happy if all the work I am about to put in was just to facilitate God working out salvation in one person’s life?  Would that be enough “pay off” for me?  I am ashamed to say that I balked at the idea that only one person might be impacted by my/the church’s work in this ministry.

This led me to think about how much I value each person in our community.  Do I value people, as the created image of God, enough that I would give  my life to be used for the salvation of just one?  This is very much changing the way I view purpose and success.  Ultimately, I guess it would be successful if only one person came to know God through anything that He allowed me to do.  And, if I trust in Him and His sovereignty, I would have to agree that, if God deems it good, it would be worth it to have even one person come to a saving knowledge of Him through anything He allows me to do.

With that in mind, success looks very different.  Through that lens, success is simply allowing yourself to be used by God for whatever he sees fit.  It does not matter what I see success as if I believe in God and trust in His sovereignty.  Now success must be seen as completely yielding myself to His will and believing that His purposes will spell out ultimate success.

Not only does that mindset seem easier, but it is very freeing.  Now I am free to stop judging every little nuance and outcome of what I try to do, but also I only have one job; follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I can work with that vision of success.  I can be okay with this simpler idea of success and how to measure it.


What’s in Glen’s Pack?

Ever since the summer after my freshman year of college, I have been an advocate of lightweight backpacking.  There are a ton of great resources out there to learn more than you will ever want to know about lightweight backpacking (like this one).  Lately, one company has really come on as a great resource for lightening your load.  Gossamer Gear is a company dedicated to making lightweight gear and spreading the lightweight backpacking gospel.  They also have a pretty good blog and a few good videos.

Of all the things they have on their website, this video is my favorite.

Glen is an incredible backpacker, because every time I hear him talk about gear, I learn another way to cut some weight.

I realize that everyone must hike their own hike, but if you haven’t looked at going lightweight, you should.  I should cover this in another post, but I’ll just say that you can go longer and be more comfortable with a lighter pack.  And since nature is the reason you’re out there, with a lighter pack you can enjoy nature more, because you’ll have more time to rest, hang out in camp, and cover more ground.

Maybe I’ll post soon about why I think lightweight (or UL or SUL) is the way to go for backpacking.


Springpad…Awesome Organization/Productivity Tool

I cannot say that I am the person with everything together in their life.  However, for whatever reason, I really like productivity tools/programs/apps.  I have used many programs like outlook (entourage after I switched to Apple computers), Evernote, and a ton of others.  I have also used things like Anki, stickies, and good old fashion index cards to keep track of to do lists, and to be honest, the index card was my favorite.  There is just something I like about having something I can utilize any way I please.  Obviously, I felt like I was a little bit in the dark when it came to using technology to be more productive.  It felt like technology was just complicating my life more, because I could not make up my mind about which one to choose.  I had almost settled on Evernote when I came across Springpad.

This is a full feature productivity tool!  It can do so many things.  Springpad will allow you to make to do lists, notebooks for different projects, date based tasks, and many other things.  It can handle stuff from grocery lists to multi user projects.  Taking Springpad on the go is easy too, because they have mobile phone apps that have (as far as I can tell) the same features as the web-based tool.

Admittedly I have not used it enough yet to fully appreciate the capabilities of Springpad, but there are many resources that can be used to get all one can out of Springpad.  First off, Springpad has a great blog about using their tools.  There are also other great reviews out there from independent blogs.  A simple search of springpad reviews on google will yield a lot of useful results.

Anyway, check out Springpad, and I plan on writing more about the features of Springpad after I have used them more and understand them better.  If you are a Springpad user, let me know what you think!


Camping @ Eisenhower State Park

This past weekend me, my wife, and some of our friends went camping at Eisenhower State Park (ESP) near Denison, TX.  It was really a nice park.  One of the things that I am having to get used to is the way the park system is ran in Texas.  It is a little different than my days of camping in Arkansas.  In Texas, every park has a day use fee.  This makes it a little bit more expensive to stay at a park since it is usually my wife and I together.  So, this weekend, we paid $20 just to be in the park for two days.  Other than that, the park is pretty standard.  The campsites are nice, well kept, and reasonably priced.  There is one feature that came in handy this past weekend.  They have a pretty nice swimming hole.  At the park, there is a cove that has rock walls on two sides, a beach on the third, and what would be the fourth is open to Lake Texoma (obviously because it is a cove).  The water was so nice, because it was consistently 108 degrees on Saturday.  Needless to say, we were in the water a lot.  Due to the heat, we didn’t get to do much else.  My wife and I tried to go fishing, but it was to hot to stand out on an exposed, metal dock for any length of time.

All in all, ESP was nice, but the weather made it tough to enjoy.  I’m sure we will go again when it is cooler and enjoy everything the park has to offer.  Below is an official video the park service has put on Youtube about ESP:


Summer Gear List

After writing what became a rant about lightweight backpacking, I figured that (if any one ever reads this) readers might like to know what I carry.  So, since it is summer, here is my summer gear list:

Packing

Backpack: Gossamer Gear Whisper
Pack Liner: Compactor Trash Bag

Shelter

Tent or Tarp: Tarptent Contrail
Ground Cloth: Plastic Drop Cloth
Stakes: 7 Titanium Shepherd Hook Style Stakes
Support: Use Hiking Poles

Sleeping

Sleeping Bag: Marmot Trails
Sleeping Mat: Soft Blue Closed Cell Foam Pad
Pillow: Flexair Large

Clothing

Shoes: Chacos
Socks: Injinji Toe Socks
Shorts: Patagonia Gi II Shorts
Undies: Patagonia Capilene boxers
S/S Shirt: Nike Dry Fit
Rain Jacket: FrogTogg knockoff
Hat: North Face Synthetic Ball Cap
Extra Undies: Whatever synthetic pair I grab out of the drawer
Extra Socks: See above
Cloths Bag: Homemade Stuff Sack

Cooking/Hydration

Pot: Foster’s Beer Can w/ Lid
Stove: Trail Designs Gram Cracker
Windscreen/Pot Supports: Caldera Cone
Lighter: Mini Bic
Eating Utensil: Jetboil Plastic Spoon
Misc: Cozy for Foster’s Beer Can Pot
Storage for cooking system: Homemade from ziploc containers
Bear Bag System: 50 ft. Cord
Bear Bag System: 12″x20″ Loksak (odor proof)
Bear Bag System: #1 Nite-Ize S-Biner
Bear Bag System: Homemade Food Bag
Water Storage: 2 L Platy
Hydration: Platy Drink Tube
Water Storage: 1 L Smart Water Bottle w/ Sport Cap
Water Treatment: Repackaged Aqua Mira Drops, Micropur Tabs, or Frontier Pro (or a combo of chemicals and filter)

Misc

Toothbrush: 1/2 handle cut off
Toothpaste: Repackaged Dr. B’s
Hygiene: Repackaged Hand Sanitizer
Journal: Rite n Rain Small Notebook
Pen: Fisher Pen
Towel: MSR Pack Towel
Fire Starter: Striker and Tinder
Hiking Poles: Leki
Sunglasses: Walmart Cheapos
First Aid/Repair Kit: Meds, Bandaids, Duct Tape, Needles, Thread, Scalpel, and Moleskin
Blade: Old Kershaw Pocket Knife

This is my summer list off of the top of my head.  I will be going through it in the next couple of days, and I will add anything that I have left out.

Just to give you an idea of how I round out the kit, I carry about 1 Esbit tab per hot meal.  That comes to .5 oz per hot meal, and I usually average 1.5 hot meals per day (I go about half and half on a hot breakfast).  Also, I do my best to ascribe to the 1.4 PPPPD rule that Mike Clelland has described NOLS as using (you can find write-ups on this at backpackinglight.com).


Lightweight Backpacking…My Take

Before I give my take on backpacking, I think a little background is in order.  I have been hiking and backpacking for well over 10 years.  Most of my experience has been in Colorado and Arkansas.  About 8 years ago I went on an outing that changed my life (at least the backpacking part of it).  I was hiking up Mt. Elbert in Colorado with some friends.  This event was not really crazy, life threatening, or dramatic, but it was educational.  We chose Elbert because it is the tallest mountain in Colorado.  Being able to say we made it to the top of the highest point in Colorado was pretty cool.  However, for me, getting there was pretty rough.  At this point, I was relatively new (two years experience) to overnight backpacking/hiking.  So, being the newbie I was, I had all the cool gear I could afford.  My backpack was a Jansport hiking bag.  Something like this:  

It was big, cool looking, and anything but light. I also had it stuffed with a heavy water filter, tent, sleeping bag, too much water, and way too much other stuff.  On top of that, any extra room was filled by whatever my companions wanted to take but couldn’t fit in their school bags.  All that being said, my pack weighed about 50 pounds.  60 after you add food and water in there too.

This experience is what started my journey to lighten my load.  For the last 8 years since that trip, I have been working on going lighter and lighter.  Buying lighter gear that I could afford, leaving things behind that I realized I didn’t need, and making gear myself when I can have been the methods I have used to lighten up my load.  Since then, I have gotten my base weight down to about 5 pounds.

Now that I have told you a bit about me.  Here is my take on lightweight backpacking.

For the most part, I think it is pretty misunderstood.  Since backpacking has no governing body like an organized sport would, there are no standards that mean the same thing to everyone.  For example, there is not much meaning tied to lightweight (LW), ultralight weight (UL) or super ultralight weight (SUL) backpacking.  The way I think about it, SUL is anything below 5 pounds, UL is anything under 8 pounds and LW is anything under 12 pounds (all weights pertaining to carried weights when backpacking are of course pack base weight).  However, there are other people who carry 20 packs that call themselves lightweight backpackers.  This is the result of looking at pack weight as something relative (due to the lack of universal standards on the afore mentioned groupings of backpackers).  If you compared my 60 pound pack to a 20 pound pack, then yes, a 20 pound pack is lightweight, but this is an incorrect way to look at the issue.  This would be like calling a box that weighed 500 pounds heavy and calling 300 pound box light.  When compared to the 500 pound box, it does seem light, but when compared to some other outside standard (say the amount that a normal man could comfortably lift) it is still heavy just like the 500 pound box.  This is what I think happens with backpackers, and it is very understandable.

Take my experience with what is known as the “big 3″ in backpacking circles.  I carried a 6 pound tent, 4+ pound backpack, and a 5+ pound sleeping bag.  Together, in just these three items, I was carrying over 15 pounds.  However, after spending $750, I now carried a 3 pound tent, 1 pound pack, and 1 pound sleeping bag.  When I bought these new pieces of gear they were part of a 14 pound pack that I carried about 5 years ago.  However, it kind of still felt empty, because I had not reached what I thought was a LW pack weight.  This is what I think may happen to some backpackers.  Having spent a lot of money and dropped over 20+ pounds, they feel like they have bought the title of lightweight backpacker.  This is not true and does an injustice to others who have spent their time and energy to get what I would call a LW, UL, or SUL pack weight.  Herein lies my gripe.  When people are talking about their gear (like every backpacker does), no one knows who actually knows what their talking about.  No one knows if you version of UL backpacking is the same as mine.  Are you talking about a 6 pound base weight and I can learn something from you?  Or is UL 10 pounds to you and you are in the same boat I am?  I guess in the grand scheme of things this issue is pretty unimportant, but when you are trying to figure out what you can do to lower you base weight and you begin reading about UL backpacking, it would be nice to know that you time will not be wasted by someone who is just happy to have a 15 pound pack.  Bottom line is that one of the great things about backpacking is that you get to carry what you want how you want, but to make the hobby grow and become more widespread, we should try to standardize some things.  This way the conversation among backpackers will be a little bit less confusing.


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