Welcome to Pennsylvania

Ohio is ideal for biking. College memories of summers spent cruising along the bike path on my 10 speed have one thing in common: no change in elevation. Occasionally the sun would make you unpleasantly hot, the wooded sections of the path might give you mosquitos to fight, there might be cars coming every time the path crosses the road, forcing you to stop and dismount; but you could always count on the path to be flat.

Full disclosure, there were actually two hills. One in each direction. But both forgivable.

Leave home heading south and you shortly come across the first. It’s the kind geriatrics use to increase their heart rates – a gentle upward slope only perceptible to those who are the source of their own locomotion.

Leave home heading north and at the end of the path there is another formed by a bridge over train tracks. But it’s at the end of the path and no one forces you to ride that last tenth of a mile. Cut that stretch out and you’re guaranteed a smooth journey.

These abnormalities aside, biking in Ohio only requires sitting on your bicycle and pedaling, no altimeter necessary.

Pennsylvania is bad for biking. I’ve yet to encounter mosquitoes or frustratingly busy roads. But all rides have one thing in common: unwelcome climbs. In fact, the moment you leave the driveway, climb is your only option. If your parents walked to school uphill both ways, it’s because school was in Pennsylvania.

Question: Is this even possible? Do not the laws of space, time, and topography preclude every trip from being an ascent? If you start at point A, ride uphill to point B, turn around and ride back to point A along the same route, won’t the return be downhill?

Answer: it will not. Nature conspires against the shrewdest logicians.

This past weekend I went for a ride. I spent a good portion of time and energy climbing the hill on Fitzwatertown. As I crested the hill I relished the idea of speedily coasting in the opposite direction on my return. It would be due payment for the work I put in to get 300 feet closer to the sun.

On my return, as I approached this decent, I shifted into a higher gear. Legs churning, I anticipated gravity would pull me down the hill at speeds faster than I could manage on my own. Four pedal pumps into my descent I was ambushed by an angry headwind.

The moment I should have been accelerating with ease found me pushing pedals that had fossilized – frozen mid-rotation for future generations to look at with wonder. Not caring about what future generations would or would not be able to look at with wonder, I forced the pedals to continue turning. Though slowed by the wind’s ambuscade, I wouldn’t have it bring me to a complete stop.

By the time I made it to the bottom of the hill I was traveling the same speed I was going when, earlier, I had crested this earthen formation. Welcome to Pennsylvania, where coasting downhill is climbing up.

“Nothing they feel or fear”


“[God] comforts them when in trouble, strengthens them when weak, makes their beds in sickness, revives them when fainting, upholds them when falling, and so seasonably and effectually manages for them, that though they are persecuted and tempted, though their enemies are many and mighty, nothing that they feel or fear is able to separate them from his love.”

Works of John Newton (2015), 1:344.


“He controls everything.”

“When God’s people are beset by temptation or persecution, a revelation of God’s character and glory is the best remedy. His power guarantees the final victory, his justice guarantees vindication of the right, and his goodness and magnificence guarantee blessing and comfort. The blood of the Lamb demonstrates that solid redemption has already been accomplished. Even in the midst of trials and persecutions, God is still the ruler. He controls everything.”

– Vern Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, 97.



I walk around making strong eye contact with the floor. Though generally flat and non-responsive, it’s often more help than animate objects. I can fall on it, salt it with my tears, and beat it with my fists. I haven’t yet tried that combination on a human. My hunch is that it wouldn’t go well. There’s something about the idea of receiving blows that scares most people off. And the ones it doesn’t scare off aren’t the type of people I like to be around.

Problems like the indoors. They stay inside because they’re allergic to the sun. Knowing this, I step outside for a walk. The high-pitched laughter of robins greets me. Their sounds ride on a breeze and call to memory Jesus’ words about their Keeper. “Look at the birds… your heavenly Father feeds them.”

“God cares for you, dude,” I shout up to the one standing on the telephone wire. I want to remind him, lest he forget. But I’m only returning the favor. He reminded me first.

“Forgive Us For Using You”

“Heavenly Father, you are the Lord of Armies, the commander of the universe. Though we belong to you we confess that we often have cold, hard hearts toward you.

We know your voice, yet we often fail to obey it, preferring to go our own way. We serve you with mixed motives, secretly hoping that our obedience will purchase your favor, and that it will motivate you to serve us as we think you should.

We don’t see our hearts clearly until we ask for things and you do not give us what we want: when we suffer and you won’t take the pain away; when we’re scared and you don’t remove those feelings; when we’re depressed and anxious and the black despair won’t depart.

Then we get confused and think our circumstances reveal how you feel about us. We spin off into sinful patterns of escape, hopelessness and revenge. Father, forgive us for using you and for failing to listen to your voice.”

Christ Presbyterian Church, Prayer of Confession, 4/23/17


“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

– Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay