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Monday, September 14, 2020

Jim Thorpe from train
Jim Thorpe* from bike train leaving station
Click on photo to enlarge

"Smiles and Waves"

Message summary: Today let us consider two of the lesser considered pleasantries of life; waving and smiling!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Men listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel. After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them. I chose the way for them and sat as their chief; I dwelt as a king among his troops; I was like one who comforts mourners" (Job 29:21-25).

Waving from trainThis last weekend we went on a train/bike ride we'll describe below in photos. There are two pleasantries that seem common in trains and bikes. Have you ever noticed that people tend to wave at and from trains and if you're riding on a bike trail most passerby bikers smile at you? It's true!

We don't know the people on the train but we wave anyway and usually receive their friendly wave in return. While on the landing approach to Harrisburg airport we don't go out and wave at the planes going over. Fulfillment in waving requires some sort of visual connection.

Sitting in our rocking chairs on our front porch we often wave at people driving by which is one of the many characteristics of country life we enjoy. Waving is not found in the Bible but some have likened waving to a virtual pat on the back or the exchange of a hug. You can wave and safely practice social distancing (at one time a strange term to our ears, but now heard daily in this coronavirus season)!

Smiling on bike
During our rides we notice most recreational bikers smile when you make eye contact. (Now the bikers who have the really expensive bikes and wear special spandex biking outfits tend to be too serious to smile. I suppose they're just too focused.) But most of the riders we encounter are just out for fresh air, beautiful views, good exercise and smiles abound.

Babydoll sheepA smile is one of the blessings of humanity that speaks to our emotions. We rejoice in that first smile from an infant and all through life we appreciate smiling people. We even tend to impose the expression on animals such as a dolphin or a baby doll sheep, which gives the appearance of a smile. We can't prove it but we think our dogs smile with their wagging tail!

Some time back we had a discussion with a man whose son has autism. His son was on a new drug therapy that is showing promise and shared of the blessing he and his wife experienced when their son smiled and made eye contact with them, a milestone for this young boy, and such a blessing for his parents.

What a joy it is to be around smiling people. We can think of many people all though life who have blessed us with their smile. Some of you may recall this chorus sung many years ago in churches. Brooksyne was familiar with it and said fellow believers greeted one another and shook hands while singing the words, for sure with a smile on their faces:

Smile awhile and give your face a rest
Raise your hand to the One who loves you best
Then shake hands with those nearby
And give to them a smile.

Interestingly the Bible doesn't have a lot of references to smiling. But today's portion is one of them. It's kind of hard to read this without smiling! Job is sharing his personal testimony while in isolation from his peers in the midst of his deep suffering. In this discourse he considers the blessing he had been to others prior to his trial, "in months gone by" (Job 29:1).

Now I would have a hard time saying this about myself but notice Job's words as he reflected on how life had been, "When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them". That's quite a description of the influence of a smile isn't it? When going through a very dark period the untroubled past can seem so much brighter, maybe even brighter than it was really was, as Job was reflecting on the good old days.

Consider an individual you personally know who has a great smile. It affects the entire face as though it were bringing light to a dismal setting.  Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that a smile isn't just confined to the lower face, but it almost always brings sparkle and light to the eyes. And that is greatly needed so much more these days since in most public settings we are covering our smile with masks.

Consider these words as you receive smiles today and as you share yours with others. Smiles are much less frequent these days with so many playing on or tending to their cell phones whether they're walking on a sidewalk, buried in their phones during a work break or in the lunch room, grocery line, etc.

It can be a gloomy world with so much distressing news and for those going through hard times. What a blessing we can be to one another when our facial expressions are accentuated with a smile. Truth is, we'd much rather be surrounded by those who frequently smile, than those who rarely see anything to smile about!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I consider the words of Nehemiah who wrote, "The joy of the Lord is my strength" and Solomon who reminds us that "A cheerful heart is good medicine." Both verses speak about matters of the heart where we store up Your love, joy and goodness. Help us not to rely solely on external stimulus to bring forth a smile, but let our waves and smiles be contagious as they are evidence of Your abundance within in our lives. Help us to find a person today who has no smile so that we can pass ours onto her or him. May we be purposeful in making eye contact with others so they realize we value them as you would want us to. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Smile Awhile"  Video  Just some normal people enjoying singing!

"Holy, Holy, Holy"  Video  Opening song at yesterday's Calvary Church worship service. Second set of songs.

On the ride Saturday I noticed a young couple with two little girls, one of them altogether unhappy about riding on her bike seat. I wonder if they had acclimated the children to the bikes with shorter bike rides before doing the long trail. Later down the trail at one point I saw the mother holding an inconsolably crying toddler frantically trying to call her husband on the cell phone but alas, there's no cell service in the gorge! All I could offer was an understanding, sympathetic smile in hopes that they soon reunited.

This last Saturday morning we went up to Jim Thorpe in the Poconos to ride the "bike train". In Jim Thorpe we got on a train with our bikes put on a separate gondola car and rode 25 miles up a beautiful gorge formed by the Lehigh River. Then we rode our bikes on another former rail grade along the river, mostly downhill back to Jim Thorpe! Our longtime friend, Mark Pulliam, joined us.
* Jim Thorpe is indeed the name of the town, renamed after the legendary Olympian.
Read the story here.

Bike train gondolas
Bikes are loaded on the gondola cars at the Jim Thorpe rail station for the train ride up the gorge.

One of the diesel engines used for the train. This photo was taken after our trip when we returned to Jim Thorpe. To the right is the historic Jim Thorpe train station.

Bike train unloading
The train runs up to a little town named White Haven where we disembark and wait for our bikes to be unloaded from the gondola cars. Our long-time friend Mark Pulliam joined us for the ride and another friend Richard Spiegel, who along with his wife were also on the train, took our photo. Richard works at White Oak Display and is probably the most avid rail fan we see in the course of our chaplaincy!

Buttermilk Falls, Lehigh Gorge State Park
The ride down the trail was very scenic and we have shared photos from previous trips. Here is a photo Mark took of us at Buttermilk Falls, one of several waterfalls along the way.

Lehigh River rail trail bridge, Jim Thorpe, PA
Following the long ride down the river we rode past the train station to a new section of the trail now connected by this Lehigh River rail trail bridge. We rode over 30 miles. The trail is part of the Delaware & Lehigh Rail Trail which runs a total of 165 miles.

Jim and Dorothy Schmidt at Willow Valley
Friday morning we took our long-time friends, Jim and Dorothy Schmidt, for a countryside ride through Lancaster County. We will share some photos tomorrow. They have been isolated at Calvary Homes, one of our many local retirement communities, since March and were thrilled to get out. This photo was taken at Willow Valley where we enjoyed lunch together. We met Jim at a conference in Boston in 2000. At that time they lived in Ocean City New Jersey and he was representing SEND, a missions agency.

David and Elizabeth Givens at Calvary Church
Yesterday as I sat down for our church service I engaged in conversation with the couple two rows behind us, separated by an empty pew due to "social distancing". However thankfully the church is filling back up and they are adding another service on Sunday morning. As I greeted David and Elizabeth Givens he informed me they were new to the church, having moved down from Michigan. I asked "What did you do in Michigan?" He told me he was in missions work. "With SEND", I asked. "Yes" he answered. I then asked, "Do you know Jim Schmidt?" Of course he did. Then we suddenly realized that we had actually met before at the same "Vision New England" conference 20 years earlier where I originally met Jim and Dottie as they were hosting an exhibit for SEND. They were located across from the exhibit we had for Daily Encouragement!

Finally today:

Coming up for those who may be interested: We plan to join a group from our area going down to Washington DC on Saturday, September 26 for The Return, National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. See here for info. America is in deep trouble, letís call on Godís power and a movement of the Holy Spirit to bring Repentance and Revival to our land!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEģ, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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