Passing On The Left

If you’ve ever been on a bike path, you’ve probably heard the call “Passing on your left!” moments before a bicyclist blasts past you as you try to make yourself as small as possible on the right side of the trail. Or perhaps you have been the biker that shouts the warning before swerving around some slower pedestrian or cyclist.

Maybe you have seen people attempt to get out of the way. Or watched someone just continue on their way without noticing, barely flinching as the bike flies past.

Proper bike etiquette says you should warn someone before passing on the left. Be that a shout or a bell or a horn. It’s also nice to see people out and about on the trail, moving over, waving acknowledgement, or smiling when one passes by.

I enjoy riding my bike.  So much so, that in a few short weeks, I will be joining the folks over at Bike the US for MS to pedal 3,785 miles across the country, from Virginia Beach to San Francisco.

And while I find joy in riding my bike, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I’m not a very fast rider. In fact, I’m on the slower side of the trail. Just as often as I give the shout before passing on the left, I have to move over to allow others to pass me.

My average speed is somewhere around “stop and smell the roses” and 13 mph. In fact, I think my quickest pace maxed out around 16 or 17 mph on the flats, where a lot of the more experienced riders in the area are topping out at 19-21 mph.

I looked at joining a biking group here in the Upstate, but one of the “qualifications” was an average speed of 17 mph. Yes, there are other groups that go at a slower pace, but those were reserved for children and senior citizens.

So, I putz along at my own pace and I still enjoy it.

One of the things that I love about biking is the same thing I once loved about running (before my joints started screaming at me about the impact). I love the feeling of being alone with my Father above, Abba.  The God Who Knows Me.

When I am biking, it is my time alone with God.

It started a couple years ago, when I would go biking in the early morning hours after working all night. Several members of my community group joined me from time to time. And it became a very intentional and prayerful event.

Now, when I bike, I feel closer to God.  I can get everything else out of my head, my body goes into auto-pedal, and it’s a beautiful moment to be in the presence of the Father.

In less than two weeks, I will be hitting the road and pedaling through the entire months of June and July. And I can’t be more excited (and nervous) about it!

And for a final quick update on fundraising: I have met my fundraising goals for the ride. If someone is still looking to donate, several of my teammates are still in the process of reaching their goals. If you are willing and able, please support them as well (as well as our segment and virtual riders)!

I do plan on updating the blog throughout the ride if I get the chance, but for more day to day updates, you can find them on my Instagram Story by following me at @skerr1932

Until next time, God Bless and PEACE

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Hope

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6

Today we celebrate the defeat of death, when Jesus Christ rose from the grave. When the disciples found an empty tomb. Resurrection Sunday. Easter. As followers of Jesus, we live with the hope and the knowledge of His resurrection each and every day of our lives.

Yesterday, while hanging out with some amazing people, I had a thought that made me pause and think: Despite everything they knew about Jesus the Nazarene, that day between the cross and the resurrection was the darkest moment for many of His disciples.

They had lost hope.

I think it is easy for us to be distracted by the expectations of this world and loose sight of the truth, that victory has already been won. Sometimes we get consumed by our own thoughts and get lost in the darkness of despair. We tend to wander from the path and are unable to find our way back.

Even when Jesus was missing from the tomb, some of the disciples didn’t believe. They didn’t understand. They doubted.

And yet, the Lord and King continued to pursue them and teach them about the Savior. He gave them new hope through His Spirit and continues to pursue us to this day.

Each time I have wandered, He has chased me down like the good shepherd to carry me back to the flock. Each time I have been lost to the darkness, He has blinded me with the love of a father and opened my eyes to the beauty of the struggles of this life and the hope of what is to come. And when the noise of this world becomes overwhelming, His voice breaks through as a whisper to remind me that I am His.

Today, we are reminded that this war has already been won. We remember that the Father has already paid the sacrifice for our sins and failures. Death has been defeated. And, through the Spirit of God that dwells within us, we are able to be in a relationship with the God who Knows Us.

Today is a celebration that continues throughout our entire lives. To trust in our Lord to light the path at our feet. To love as we have been loved. To forgive others and more importantly ourselves, just as we have been forgiven. To live a life that reflects our Fathers love for us.

I know that there will be days that are darker than others, but I also place my hope in something that is much bigger than I can ever dream to be. My hope is placed in the one who not only died for my sins on that cross when the temple veil was torn, but in the one who defeated death and adopted me into His family.

When the World Goes Cold

The summer season is slowly coming to an end down here in the land of ice and snow. The weather is getting slightly cooler. The Polar Star (the USCG Icebreaker) has arrived and has begun to break apart the sea ice in front of the station. People have begun planning for their travel and return home once off the ice.

stk_3193 (edited)Oh, and penguins have arrived.

Some people are excited about getting back to a place where plants grow and it gets above the freezing mark. Others are about as happy about the prospect as a molting penguin.

Part of me wishes I could stay down here through the winter and into next year. Part of me doesn’t want to go back because I know how special this place has become for me.

Every day I get to witness the beauty of creation and the glory of the Father above in every facet of this place. Every day I wake up and get to explore with eyes full of wonder. I get the opportunity to go out and see things that most people will never witness.

stk_3194 (edited)And I’ve learned some things about the world and about myself in the process. I’ve learned that while this continent may be harsh, the people that come to this place are far from cold.

Sometimes, you do everything right and bad things still happen. And you cannot blame yourself for what could have been. You got to lift up your eyes and focus on being the best that you can be. To be there for others and to pour out love no matter what.

I learned that not everyone is going to like me, and that is okay. But no matter what people feel about me, I have still been called to love them unconditionally. My love for others will never change.

I’ve learned about independence from the opinions and expectations of others. The freedom of relying on the Lord above for strength to make it through the days. The comfort of the unknown and the mystery of creation.

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In a month I return from the lands of ice and snow. And while I look forward to returning next season, I will be glad to see the colors of life once again.

Sunshine, Christmas, and Ice

I find it kinda amusing that I keep on seeing posts on social media about the Winter Solstice and the joy of lengthening days and more daylight to come. And here I am, on the bottom end of the globe basking in endless sunshine. While all my friends have just experienced the longest night of the year, I will not see the sun set behind the horizon until the early morning hours of 20 Feb 2019.

It’s also fun to think about the fact that while the rest of my friends and family are enjoying Christmas Eve right about now, it is already Christmas morning here at McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. And, to top it all off, it snowed last night and this morning, so we kinda have a white Christmas going on down here (ignore the fact that we almost always have snow but due to the 24 hours of sunlight, most of the fresh stuff has already melted).

STK_2735 (edited)Yesterday, we celebrated the holidays with a Christmas dinner of crab legs and lobster tails and all sorts of sweets and desserts. And for the first time this season, it felt like the holidays. Even if I’ve worked Sunday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas (today).

It’s definitely been a journey and a struggle these past couple weeks. It hasn’t been easy, as a community, dealing with the tragedy of loss that we faced together. It hasn’t been easy for some of our coworkers who have never spent this much time away from home. It hasn’t been easy as some of the only people working throughout the holidays.

But I still love it. There is something special about this place that reminds me of who I am. That reminds me of my Father in heaven who we celebrate and remember this day, when He came down to us as an infant, a sacrifice for our sins.

Even though we have all been working non-stop here in the land of ice and snow, I still smile because I know that all this that I do, from dispatching to creating art, answering phones to sharing love through actions and words, all of it is for the glory of my Lord and King. And when I walk through these frozen fields of ice and snow that surround us, I am reminded of His creation and the love He poured out in every detail that we get a chance to explore.

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Today we celebrate the simple fact that our Father in heaven sent down His own Son to become flesh and blood, fully human. He did this out of love to redeem us and to become the sacrifice that was required to bring to Himself.

So to this, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Shadow on the Path

Two weeks ago, I hiked up to the top of Observation Hill overlooking McMurdo Research Station and the Ross Ice Shelf that extends out as far as the eye can see. Across the ice covered sound, the Royal Society Range stands proud, sentinels amongst the clouds standing guard in the distance.  Past the research station, the dark shape of Castle Rock stands contrasted against the slopes of Mt Erebus, whose steam covered peak rises like a crowned ruler over the whole of Ross Island.

On the top of Ob Hill stands a cross that can be seen from across the entire station below. Each morning as I walk from my dorm to the Galley in building 155, I lift my gaze to follow the winding trail that snakes its way up the hill to the wooden post and crossbeam that rises above the edge of the summit. It is a daily reminder of faith and beauty, but also the harshness of this place.

As I stood up on the top of the hill last week, I rested in the shadow of that cross.

I’ve always found comfort at the foot of the cross, be it here in the land of ice and snow, in churches and cathedrals around the world, or in the thoughts and prayers shared in silence with my Father above. Even in the shadows and the darkest of nights, His presence at the cross brings warmth and light to the soul.

Over the past week, I rest in that shadow once again.

A week ago, two coworkers passed away while performing preventative maintenance on a fire suppression system at a radio transmitter site in the area. Several days ago, we said God-speed as they started their journey back home.

As a child, I was afraid of the dark. But as I grew older, I found that the night held no less terrors than the light of day. My time as a dispatcher taught me that as well. Even here in Antarctica, where the sun will not set again until 20 Feb 2019, shadows fall across our paths.

In this life, shadows are not always physical darkness, but fears and doubts, sorrows and heartaches, pain and suffering.

I’ve lost friends and family before, to sickness and disease, accidents and acts of nature, but no matter how many times you experience a tragedy, it always hurts. It’s always going to hurt.  It’s how we know we are still alive.

That’s how we know that we are still capable of love.

Our faith in God is not defined by good and bad days, but the ability to love unconditionally through these events that shape our journey of life. To love when it would be easier to fly into anger and rage. To love when it hurts. When you don’t know if you have the strength to love any more. When you don’t want to love anymore.

The ability to love others unconditionally is what defines our relationship with God. To find the strength in Him to see the joy in the shadows and hope in the dark of night.

It is okay to feel sad, to shed tears, to question why, to be angry about things outside your control, but those feelings should never prevent us from loving fully. I know I’ve experienced all of those, even throughout this past week as this community of McMurdo Research Station has begun the process of grieving those lost to tragedy.

And as the procession passed to transport them back to their homes in the States, I turned to look up to Observation Hill to see that wooden cross silhouetted against the gray skies. And although the shadow of the hill fell upon those who had gathered to say farewell to our coworkers lost to tragedy, I knew that God would give us the strength to continue this journey.

In that shadow, I found peace and rest.

In the Land of Ice and Snow

Someone once told me that when you land in Antarctica, all you see is white snow for as far as the eye can see. I was told that it was a blinding, shapeless landscape where the horizon fades into nothingness. That no colors escaped the snow. And that the ice was cold.

Well, the truth is that Antarctica actually is cold. But not as cold as one would expect.  It’s a dry cold, so it could be single digit temperatures and still nice enough to wear a jacket. Or a sweater and a hat. Add some gloves and you’ll be good to go on a hike. If it’s windy, you may want an additional couple layers. Or you could just wear your Big Red and all your ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear and you’ll keep nice and toasty.

When we first arrived, the long days were continuing to grow longer. But when the sun dipped below the horizon, even for an hour or two, the temperatures plummeted and everything froze in the darkness. And then something beautiful happened a couple weeks ago.  The sun stopped setting.

The next time the sun sets on McMurdo Research Station on Ross Island, Antarctica will be near the end of February, as we all prepare to depart and go our separate ways. We will return to the States, different than when we left. Changed by the icy wind that continues to blow and the sun that never ceases to shine.

When I stepped off the C-17 and touched foot to snow, for a couple seconds, the bright glare of the light off the snow was blinding. On the plane, the light faded and the shadows gave relief to our eyes. After two weeks exploring the beauty that is Christchurch, we left the sights and sounds of the city and entered the unknown (some of us returned to what they have come to call home).

And through the bright white of the snow that surrounded Phoenix Airfield as we descended the steps of the aircraft and began our journey on the ice, our eyes were opened to the beauty that is this frozen landscape.

It’s not a stark white that spreads out as far as the eye can see, but a glimmer of colors that expose themselves in moments and glimpses. It is the blues and the grays of the snow drifts that creep their way across your path. It is the oranges and yellows that explode off the ice as sunlight reflects across its surface, exposing the dark lines of cracks and imperfections that stretch out in silence. It is the browns and dark outlines of volcanic rock that jut out from ground, exploding forth in mounds that tower over this place and contain a beautiful network or trails that lead you to vistas and memorials and hidden sights that you must seek out to find.

It is the vastness of the ice fields as far as the eye can see that draws forth a primal awe and wonder. It is the majesty of the distant mountain ranges that are half hidden in the mist and the clouds of the morning that draw you in to worship. It is the sound of the wind howling past your ears as its icy fingers caress exposed skin that is the song of worship that is this wilderness.

There are times when the blowing clouds of snow set in and the far off horizon vanishes beneath the white expanse of the unknown. When the banks of snow disappear into the distance and the forms that make up the landscape are hidden and lost to sight.

It is then, when the wilderness of this place is upon you, that it reminds you of how small you truly are. And it is then that worship becomes second nature, when your heart dances before creation, and each new sight reminds you of the love of a Lord that is in this place too.

I find myself smiling with joy in my time here, when everywhere I look reminds me of my God. Abba, my Father. I step outside my dorm each morning to see the memorial cross on top of Observation Hill and I am reminded of His sacrifice to be my Savior. I enter into the galley to witness the compassion and the companionship that is shared among friends and this community that is family and I am thankful that my Lord has allowed my path to cross each one here. I walk out onto the ice as I lead groups out to explore the pressure ridges and to witness the power of this place and I am reminded that even here, at the edge of the world, my King still reigns, just like the never ceasing light of the sun.

We often find ourselves surrounded by beauty. Be it here in the land of ice and snow. Or the mountains beneath the skies above. Or beside streams and trails that wind their way through the forests. In villages that emerge from the dust or cities that are filled with the swarm of humanity. If only we stop to notice what surrounds us.

When we stop to take it all in, we witness the glory of our God.

Of Faith and Flowers

Have you ever woken up to the crisp morning air of spring and felt the world change from death into life? Have you ever looked out across a field and seen a single flower in bloom? Have you ever crept close to a blossom in the attempt to escape into the explosion of fragrance and the overwhelming burst of color? Have you ever closed your eyes and laid back in the open fields to feel the breath of wind across your skin?

STK_1325 (edited)I know back home, the colors of fall bursting forth as winter closes in around us, but here in the southern hemisphere, the first touches of spring are breaking through the frosts of winter.

Flowers are in bloom. The petals are emerging from their buds. And life is returning from the grasp of death.

The other day I was wandering through the New Zealand Botanical Gardens here in Christchurch and I found myself fascinated by the flowers. I’ll be honest, I’m not really a flower guy. But I started to see the beauty in them because I saw the work of my God in each petal and leaf.

STK_1304 (edited)My Lord in Heaven, who created every flower, who placed each vein with gentle detail is the same Lord who has guided me through the darkness thus far, who has guided each step along the way.

And like the blossoms of spring bursting forth in their glorious beauty, I am reminded that my Savior rose from the grave, conquering death. His blood was spilled as a sacrifice of love, a reminder that, though we have fallen short, we have been washed clean, lifted back up to bask in the full glory of God.

STK_1332 (edited)As I walked among the paths of the garden, I couldn’t help think of the gifts that these flowers were giving back to their King and the lessons that we could take from them. They didn’t seem to care if anyone walking by had noticed them, but they continued to reveal their beauty. They have been given a gift of life from their King and each flower revealed it with reckless abandon.

Think what joy would fill your heart if you allowed the gifts your King has given you to consume you with reckless abandon. Think of the love that would pour out from your bones and the hope that would radiate from your soul into the darkness of this world.

What life that would bring to the world around you. What light into the darkness of death.

I have returned several times to those gardens in the past several days, while we wait to hear when our flight is able to take us down to the land of ice and snow, and each time I wander those paths, I am filled with joy. For I know I have seen a glimpse of the beauty of my Father’s love for us.

And as much as I enjoyed the flowers, I found myself drawn to the trees that towered over us. But that will be for another post.

Until next time, may God bless your path and reveal the beauty hidden thought the world around you.