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As I write this, I’ve just returned from hiking in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. I’ll often listen to songs or an audiobook on the trail. However, today I was accompanied by the music of the breeze and cactus wren, and occasional chirp of a grasshopper. And the sound of my shoes falling gently, reverently, on the earth.

The great naturalist John Muir didn’t care much for the word ‘hike.’ He preferred the idea of sauntering. He explains the origin of the word:

Way back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so, they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.

And so, I sauntered. Watching the dancing interplay of clouds and the sun as I went. Taking in the saguaro, ocotillo, cholla and creosote. Prayerfully I walked, heart brimming with gratitude for life and the wonder of it all. (I don’t mean to romanticize nature and life, which of course can be harsh and brutal; only to stand in awe of the mystery.) Plus, I was fresh off a full and meaningful weekend that included a lovely wedding, Blessing of the Animals, Sunday morning celebrations and a touching memorial service. I’m so grateful to be in ministry with each of you at Dayspring count it a high and holy privilege!

Major life events have a way of bringing clarity, perspective, and a heightened sense of gratitude. I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. This was not altogether unexpected; Janice and I have been bracing ourselves for the possibility for years, as both my father and brother contended with it. Nevertheless, it’s jarring, and a sober reminder of the evanescent nature of life. My surgery is scheduled for Nov. 15. The doctor believes we are catching it early, so we are hopeful I’ll make a full recovery. I am extremely grateful for the support of our leadership teams and staff, and to Pastor Joel, for his willingness to take the lead during my 3-4-week absence. Of course, I welcome and appreciate your prayers. And I invite you to join me in finding ways to express gratitude for the gift of life and wonder of it all, especially during challenging times. I affirm with John
Wesley, that “the best of all is this: God is with us!” May we be reminded that wherever we are, the
ground on which we stand is holy, and may you find time to saunter in the mountains and revel in the
beauty of it all!

Blessings,
Pastor Jeff