The Tale of Ranger Randy

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? That is a question that came up in my Facebook stream this year. Perhaps you saw it too. If so, what was your response? 

I remember being asked the question in school when I was a Jr. High student. My answer then was: a Forest Ranger. I imagined myself in the neatly-pressed, green ranger uniform, patches on the sleeves, hat on my head, walkie-talkie on my belt, standing in a fire tower, looking out over the forest through giant binoculars. The picture in my mind is still as vivid today as it was then. I can see the tops of the trees all the way to the horizon, broken only by a river and some winding dirt access roads. There are birds in the air and other wildlife occasionally passing by on the ground, next to my Jeep. Yes, the forest ranger in my head drove a Jeep. 

The follow-up question on social media went something like: …and are you doing that thing today? 

If you know me now, you know that I am not a forest ranger. I am a pastor, serving as full-time hospice chaplain. Life takes us down many roads. Things change along the way and many of us end up doing something completely different than our childhood dreams. Ministry is my calling and I love the work I do, but there are still some elements of my childhood dream that are alive and well in my adult life. 

Sharon and I have been campers the entirety of our marriage. In our early days, we would take a tent to Cook Forest, Pymatuning, or some other western Pennsylvania location. Our outdoor adventures did not let up when our children came along. We would shoe-horn all of our equipment into the trunk of the car, load the kids and head out to a woodsy site. 

I may not be a ranger in the fire tower today, but we have climbed them. My uniform may not be that of the park employee, but my hiking gear does just as good a job at helping me feel connected to nature. I enjoy collecting sticks and starting a fire with my ferro rod. I enjoy a good meal, cooked over the campfire. Although we like the comforts of an RV, we are not beyond pitching a tent, and have on a few recent excursions. 

God created each of us to be a one-of-a-kind treasure, molded together with interests, talents and dreams that are uniquely you. Take time to enjoy the path he has established for you. In so-doing, you will find that life is full of joy and the embers of your childhood dreams are still glowing within. They may not look like you envisioned them when you were young, but they have a way of weaving throughout the building blocks of who you have become. 

My love for the outdoors converges with my faith as I ponder the origin of the trees; the feel of the ground under my feet; the crackle of the fire; the beauty of the vast night sky. Psalm 19:1 says it well: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. All of this natural beauty draws my attention toward God. 

So, getting back to the question; are you living your childhood dream? If you are, congratulations on the unwavering dedication to make your dreams come true. I suspect, however, that many of us diverged onto another path, somewhere along life’s journey. If that is the case, are there elements of your childhood dream still alive in your experience today? 

May you find joy as your childhood dream gets rekindled. Fan that spark into flame and see where it takes you. Perhaps we can share a campfire someday and reminisce about the journey. I’ll bring the hot dog sticks! 


Pastor… or should I say… Ranger Randy 


No Resolutions!

IMG_20171230_104852_083A few years ago, I was asked to preach on a particular Sunday that just happened to fall on New Year’s Eve. Determined not to preach the same old year-end message, I turned to the Lord for guidance and inspiration. Not only did he come through with the inspiration, but he cast a vision on me that changed my outlook on New Year’s resolutions forever! 

Think this through with me. On a typical year, we approach New Year’s Eve 5 to 8 pounds heavy, having just spent the last few weeks gorging ourselves on the holiday over-abundance (I admit, I usually lead the charge). As we look ahead to the new year, there is a certain amount of guilt and a general fear that we will not be able to reverse the damage that those cookies have inflicted on our mid-section. 

New Year’s resolution #1 – lose 10 pounds (or 15 or 20… you fill in your own blank). All other resolutions for personal improvement, family matters, career or educational goals fall in behind that big one. 

January 1 comes. We think, “I’m going to be unmovable. My goal is set. Healthy, light breakfast… check! No morning snacking… check! Healthy lunch…


check!” Then, out comes the cookie tray with all those leftover goodies. “One won’t hurt.” So, we go ahead. Maybe tomorrow will be better. It is not. By January 3, we’ve pretty-much blown it and we’re back to that old normal self we’ve always been, only this time carrying that extra weight. We feel defeated. So much for the resolution. 

Wow. That was pretty depressing! What if there was a better way? 

Instead of making resolutions this year, what if we were to pray about the vision God has for the year to come. What if we were to take a look at December 31, 2019 (that’s right, I said 2019) and ask ourselves, “What do I want to look like at the end of the year? What do I hope to have accomplished?” What if, rather than make year-beginning resolutions, we set some year-end goals? With the end as the goal, set-backs are not permanent failure, but rather a bump in the road on the way to success. 

Child development author Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” That quote was the God-sent catalyst that caused my annual vision-seeking to permanently shift. 

Using weight loss as an example (because that is perhaps the number one new year’s goal for most people), let’s say in the first month of the year, you were to lose 5 pounds on your way to 10, but you had a big weekend and really fell off the dietary restraint wagon. In the resolution model, all is lost. You’ve broken the resolution and you might as well give up. But in the year-end visionary goal-setting model, it’s a minor set-back. I may have gained 2 pounds over that February weekend, but I’m still 3 pounds better off than I was on January 1. Let’s start today to make that new ending. This time however, I don’t have 10 pounds to lose. This time, I only have 7 left! Hope is rekindled and we get back on track. 

20180111_124656-01If we could apply the wisdom of the apostle Paul to the situation: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14). But wait, there’s more! “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (vv. 15-16, emphasis mine). 

When we have a set-back, all is not lost. We are responsible to live up to the level we have already attained and we can now start over to press on toward that year-end goal. Forget about that mistake. It’s in the past. Start today and press on! How refreshing. 

May the Lord inspire you toward a great 2019 and may you find success at meeting your year-end goals. I will be praying that my readers will find inspiration and motivation in Him. 

Happy New Year! 

Pastor Randy 

© 2014 & 2018 

Spring… Finally!

It has been a while since The Traveling Kites have traveled, but spring is finally here. You may be quick to remind me that spring actually arrived a month ago, but we live in western Pennsylvania so trust me; spring has finally arrived!

We made an appointment several weeks ago to pick up our camper today from its winter storage home in the mine at Brady’s Bend, PA. Since the temperature in the mine is in the 50’s year-round, I don’t winterize before we take it there. Instead, we try to time it to get the camper put away before the sub-freezing temperatures set in and pick it up when we no longer have to fear freezing our pipes. Our timing today was impeccable! Last night, the temperature dipped into the upper 20’s, but beginning tonight, our low temps are to be above freezing.IMG_20180421_090556

We invited our two granddaughters over for a girls weekend at our house. Addison and Aly are cousins and are a little more than a month apart in age. Both are the only girl in their family, so they really enjoy getting together at our house.

Our appointment was for 8:50 AM at the mine, but we had a one hour, twenty minute drive to get there, so we left early. We arrived in good time; about five minutes before our appointment. We went into the office to settle our prorated balance and secure our place for this fall, then we went on, into the mine. One of the escorts met us and led the way to our camper. It is good that they guide you in because it’s like a maze in there and one could easily get lost.IMG_20180421_091056When we got to the Hideout, our escort assisted in directing us back toward the tongue of the trailer. It is rather dark in the mine, so this bit of help is appreciated. After hooking up, our guide led us back out, pausing occasionally to instruct me on how to negotiate a blind turn. It could be a bit nerve-wracking, maneuvering through such tight turns, but we have done this IMG_20180421_103940a few years now, so we are getting more comfortable.

We stopped in the parking area just outside the mine so I could put on our sway bars and do a walk-around to make sure everything looked good. Then, we were on our way.

I wasn’t sure how the granddaughters would feel about these dark catacombs, but it didn’t phase them a bit and Aly said she was going to tell her teacher all about it!

We stopped for a late breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant on the way home, then backed the Hideout into its place in our yard.

I spent a few hours in the afternoon doing a little maintenance to get ready for our first trip. We are excited to get this new season under-way.

“The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” ~Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV). We have certainly felt God’s protection throughout our lives and, though our future is uncertain, we do not fear anything that is to come.

Here’s wishing you a great summer!


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