back to the mines

Saturdays have been set aside for Team Sublett family adventures lately. We’ve hiked a couple of nice little hikes, and everyone has had fun. But I gave the fam the day off this past Saturday. I spent a day with some of the up and coming leaders in our life, and I really worked them hard. There was lots of grunting, a good bit of bruising and scaping, and I’m fairly certain there was some gnashing of teeth.

I took 7 hearty young adventurers caving in one of the caves I know best–Bear Cave, near Derry, PA. I’ve spent countless hours exploring and delving deep. It’s the 6th longest cave in PA, and we covered most of it in our 3+ hour underground journey.

We crawled all the crawls we could find, sometimes inching our way on our bellies, our shoulders touching the walls on both sides, arms stretched out ahead of us so they wouldn’t wedge us in. We climbed up Suicide Pass and wiggled our way through Backbreaker Pass. We slid through the Worm Hole and over Coffin Rock. We eventually made our way back through the Keyhole, dropping down to the water that runs through the cave, slipping back to the Calcite waterfall and the effective end of the cave.

There were 5 young men, 2 young ladies, and one me. They’re all leaders or former students in our youth ministry. It was refreshing and challenging to get back underground. I got to put my cave memory to the test (I passed) and exercise some long-unused caving muscles. We chased lots of fears and phobias along the way–fear of the dark, or close spaces, of spiders and mud and getting lost…

Do you know what I liked most? Simple: seeing young men and women who are passionate about their relationship with Jesus growing in leadership. I loved the fact that I got to spend 9 hours of intense time with these folks, seeing how they react under pressure, watching them encourage and cheer each other on, listening to their stories, laughing at their jokes, observing how they truly live.

Last Saturday I took a day to get back to the mines, and I have to say I love my job!
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the start of a No Bummer Summer

A little falling rain didn’t dampen our spirits tonight as Calvary’s youth ministry got the summer kicked off in style! Intern Jake and his trusty sidekick Collin created a 100′ slip & slide plus a couple of other messy/wet games (which may have included a dunk in the pond!) to get the ball rolling. Meanwhile there was a fire roaring, s’mores s’moring, and some serious sand volleyball action taking place around the barn.

We split the students into 3 groups to cut down on the waiting time for the wet games. Someone pulled the local weather radar up on their phone (that capability should amaze us, btw) and we realized that a thunderstorm was headed our way, so we pushed the groups through the games and got every back to the fire ring for a hot dog or s’more just as the lightning started.

True to our theme, that was No Bummer! We simply moved everybody into the lower area of the Barn, did a little talk/announcement/thanks for coming, and we hung out for the last few minutes until parents arrived.

Our leaders did a great job of connecting with students today. Lots of the students who attend regularly invited friends to come with them tonight, and several new students joined us. The rain and lightning…we just looked at it like it was God’s fancy light show, just for us!

This is going to be a No Bummer Summer!

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crossing the line into tradition

I’m not sure how many times it has to happen before we can officially call it a tradition, but for the third time in four years Team Sublett and various friends descended on the big pond at Harvest Fields to celebrate Memorial Day.  We had boats in the pond, weiners on the fire, and good friends at the ready.

The water was chilly, but there were people in it most of the day.  We even had some folks we didn’t know stop in to splash around in the pond for a time.  Charlie LOVED the “kayak boat” and wanted to paddle around all day.  I’d take him for a cruise around the pond, pull back in to take a break, and he’d be ready to go again.

Levi and Lilly had friends stop by, which was fun.  I like the fact that their friends feel comfortable around us, even if Kim does her level best to embarrass Levi at every turn! Congrats to Levi’s buddy Jeremy for slinging the disc through the narrow slot to win their game of KanJam.  Though it turns out that I was wrong in how I was scoring the game.  I was certain that the only Instant Win was the small slot. Turns out that any throw that ends up inside the Kan un-aided is a winner. Mark Holsing set me straight on that. The kids had fun playing badminton, and I believe that we’ve landed on a Team Sublett tradition.

As an Air Force brat, I know that Memorial Day is much more than a day at the pond with friends. I am incredibly grateful for the men and women who have served in our country’s armed forces.  Our freedoms have come at great cost.  This idea of service and sacrifice is a tradition I hope we never lose.

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my wife doesn’t even know me

I had a few minutes open up in my afternoon today. They happened to correspond with the time my wife was taking Charlie and the little girl she watches to the local park. So I zipped over to the park to see if I could catch up with them.

As I walked into the park, Kim had her back to me, pushing the little girl on a swing. Charlie was across the play area near a bench, so I walked around the play area, thinking that I would surprise them. I managed to walk right up to Charlie without Kim catching sight of me. Naturally, he was excited to see me and moved my way. I bent down to hug him, which is when Kim turned around to check on him.

She had no idea who was leaning over her son. Her first thought was that Charlie had fallen and that I was some kind stranger helping him recover. In the next split second her insides got a little weirded out. She started to go into Mama Bear mode and moved toward me.

That’s when I stood up and smiled at her, and she let out this loud, “Whew!” kind of breath.

I’m not sure what she would have done if I had really been a stranger, but I don’t think it would have fallen in the biblical category of showing strangers hospitality!

All things ended well, though, as I got to take Charlie’s shoes and socks off to let him dip his toes body into a chilly Spring Creek. The boy loves to play outside, and he has all the early indicators of a water bug. I think we’re going to have loads of fun together!
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disc golf adventures

I had a blast with my middle school kids (my personal kids, that is) today at the disc golf course out at Harvest Fields.  This might be one of the best-kept secrets in the valley!

As the school day ended I shot them an email asking if they’d be up for a little adventure. They were, indeed, so I scooted over to the school to pick them up, then headed back to Harvest Fields for a little disc golfage.

The wind started whipping just about the time we hit the parking lot, and the sky was threatening rain.  We had a limited window of opportunity due to one of a thousand school band/choir/whatever concerts this week month. So with limited explanation, Annabelle, Isaac, Sadie, and I hit the links.

The first throws went fairly well, but Isaac’s second went a little haywire. It sailed high, got caught by the wind, banked hard to the left, and splashed into the pond! He looked at me, asking, “What do we do now?” I laughed and told him to go get it!
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Fortunately the water only got up to his armpits and he was able to snag the disc with his toes and we were back in business. (HT to @Brodiesmith21 for the fav of the tweet!)

The course is a beautiful one, winding up the hillside, through the woods, past several ponds, meandering around some of the most picturesque property in Happy Valley. Since our time was limited, we only played the first 5 holes, out & back. We didn’t really keep score, though we did count the number of throws for each hole. We just didn’t tally them up. It didn’t really matter who won. The goal was to have a good time and spend some time together playing. So we all won!

I don’t know how competitive we’d be, but I’d take my disc golf team against yours any day! If you want to play, give me a shout.
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no pants, a bow tie, goodbyes, & thunderstorms

Tonight was Ms. Paschen’s farewell concert with her 8th grade choir and 2 of her acapella groups.  That meant Isaac and Sadie were on stage at the middle school.  Which meant that I had to get Big I some new britches, as he’s out-talled his last pair of dress pants. That’s splendid for him, but no one informed the pant-sellers that we were coming.  There were NO PANTS at TJ Maxx, Ross, or WalMart. None.  Zero. Nada.

Incredible.

I finally got the boy hooked up with a snazzy pair from Sears (there was one rack, with one style…), got his shirt ironed, let him pick a sweet orange bow tie (yes, it’s a real bow tie, not a clip on) and they scooted out the door just in the nick of time.

Kim took the kids to the concert while I headed to a meeting at the church office.  But since the office is so close to the school, Kim gave me the Red Alert just before the choir came out, and I made a beeline over to the school.

Just as I turned out of the driveway at the office a thunderstorm rolled into Happy Valley. Our offices sit on one of the most picturesque pieces of land in the entire valley.  To see a thunderstorm from Harvest Fields is amazing, breathtaking, and captivating.  Everybody should get there for at least one, especially if you can make it at night.mt nittany

The concert was stellar–the kids sounded great, and Ms. Paschen was loved on and sent off with style and flowers!  I hurried back to my meeting, arriving just in time for the wrap up.

But my eyes were on the Mount Nittany ridge, thrilled to see the lightning snake earthward and to hear the booming thunder roll through the valley.

I love a good thunderstorm.  It’s 11:27, and the storm has returned.  I think I’ll keep the windows open tonight…

let it rain

It seemed like spring was on the way.  Warmer days, sunshine, birds chirping.  Then we remembered that spring in Happy Valley means lots of overcast, rainy, dreary days.

And I love it!

When the rains come down the creeks come up.  That translates to days ripe for kayaking some of the creeks in central PA.  A significant portion of them only run for a few weeks every year as the spring rains fall and the snow melts away, so timing is crucial.

This past weekend I got to sneak off with a few friends to run a new one–Shade Creek near Johnstown, PA.  It was a quick (75 minutes) run marked with lots of pour-overs, ledges, little holes, and some fabulous wave-trains.  There was hardly any calm water at all on the 7 mile run.  There were 4 of us on the trip: My buddy Andy, a former youth group student, and a friend who used to guide rafts down big water in Idaho.

I spent most of the day bombing down the creek with a huge grin on my face.  The water level and speed was just about perfect for me/us on our first run of the spring.  I knew that I had to stay focused if I wanted to stay above the freezing cold water that was trying to turn me upside down!  It was a great day, and definitely stoked the fire to get out more often.

But do you know what my favorite part of the day was?  Getting to talk to the former youth group guy about how his faith has become real, how he has grown as a follower of Jesus over the past 4 years.  That was the best…

re-juvenate

Steve preached a good message on the biblical concept of REST (listen here).  I’ve been thinking about that idea for several days.  When is the last time you have felt truly and fully rested–recharged and renewed and reinvigorated?

Steve pointed out several of our bad habits and practices.  I know that I don’t get enough sleep.  I’m far too tethered to my electronica.  My life is more cluttered than is good for me. I’ve worn busy-ness like a badge, and been proud of it.

Part of my solution has to include more rest, more time unplugged, more time disconnected.  I’ve got to learn to say NO to some of the things that are good in order to get after the things that are great. (There’s a good video on this idea here.)

A second piece to my recovery has been carving out time to be with people who add to me, doing things that I enjoy.  Sounds simple, right?  But one of the first things that tend to get snipped and tossed away are those extras, those hobbies, those pastimes that fill our tanks.

So Saturday morning I took a few of my kids, a few youth, and a few friends kayaking. We were able to snag some time in an indoor heated pool.  We spent a few hours paddling and splashing and playing.  None of us are in great paddling shape, and we were all wore out by the end of a couple of hours.

But I’m closer to finding out how to stay fresh, how to stay sharp, how to stay rested.

How are you feeling?
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another quiet ending

Archery season ended Saturday in PA.  Once again, the deer herd was largely un-maligned by my best efforts.  Despite being skunked for yet another season, fall is my favorite time of year to be in the woods for a variety of reasons.

  • I get to see the woods go from green leaves to bare trees over the course of the archery season.
  • The woods are relatively quiet and free of other hunters this time of the year, which means I get some uninterrupted thinking/reading time.
  • Without a bunch of people stomping around in the woods, the animals are generally unaware of my presence as they go about their business.  Over the past few years I have seen the usual deer, bunnies, squirrels, and chipmunks, as well as foxes, porcupine, turkeys, a turtle, and a bobcat.
  • Despite being in PA for the past 23 years, my blood is still thin, but most of archery season is pretty comfortable to be sitting in the woods.

I have some of my best days when I get to spend time in the woods.  There’s something settling and centering about being out there.  I’m hopeful that some of my children will develop this love for the woods.  I need to make more opportunities to get them outside, that’s for sure.

No deer in the freezer, but I got to spend hours in the woods.  I win.

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pink camouflage?

Another member of Team Sublett has taken a rite of passage, reaching a milestone in the life of a Pennsylvania young’n.  Sadie took part 1 of the PA Hunter-Trapper Education course tonight.

She’s been hunting with me for a couple of years now, and she seems to like it pretty well.  She and I had a successful doe hunt last winter (thanks, Mark Banker!) While she couldn’t pull the trigger on Bambi, she tells me that she thinks that she’d like to do some small game hunting.  And I think she’s going to like shooting a bow, once we get around to setting one up for her.

Tonight’s class wasn’t all that inspirational.  She learned a few things about gun safety, and she took lots of notes for the test.  She’ll have to pass an exam before they’ll let her get a license now that she’s of age.  I’m not usually one to compare test performances between our children, but Levi notched a perfect score when he took the test way back in 2007.  Of course, the test was probably way easier back then…

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