Essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of less

Here's a concept I am currently looking into that I think is very important for Christians in ministry and leadership. To people pleasers, who say yes to every opportunity that comes their way, Greg says, "The biggest lie that we tell ourselves is that when we take on more there are no trade-offs". I think that is so true but so often I tell myself "I can do it – I can squeeze this in and still do everything else well". When I think about all the areas of my life where I need to maintain balance, when I give too much time to one area, other areas pay the price.

As Kevin DeYoung says in his book Crazy Busy, "God expects us to say no to a lot of good things so that we can be freed up to say yes to the most important things He has for us". Saying no is not easy but it becomes easier when we know what is essential and use that conviction to be deliberate in how we use our time, energy and resources. If we are aware of what God has called us to do in life and we desire to stay on point, then we need to stop the undisciplined pursuit of more, and embrace the disciplined pursuit of less.

Fell running is not trail running

Slieve Donard mountain 850 m climb from sea level

For a while I have been asking myself what the difference is between fell running and trail running. Last weekend I found out the hard way, when I accompanied three fell runners up the highest mountain in N. Ireland, Slieve Donard in the Mountains of Mourne.

It was a humbling experience to watch the leader of the group effortlessly stride straight up like a mountain goat while I was reduced at times to going on all fours and being offered energy gells. The stamina required to go straight up a steep grassy sloop, maintaining forward momentum while a gale-force wind makes one side of your face feel numb and the mist disorientates you - cannot be overstated.

So if you asked me what's the difference, I would say that fell running involves setting a compass bearing to the summit and basically running the most direct route to the top and the same to the next checkpoint. Whereas trail running (as the name suggests) is about following the trail wherever it takes you (even if it is not the most direct route).

I now have a fresh appreciation and admiration for fell runners. I really appreciated the day out but my mind is made up – I'm staying with my Black Forest trails!

 Another post of mine on fell running

 For more on fell running in Northern Ireland visit: Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association

Essential advice for runners on dealing with dogs

I have often lifted a stick or a rock but haven't needed to use it. I do keep my rabbies vaccination topped up. But I still haven't worked out how to calm a dog when he gets freaked out at night by my head-torch and high visibility jacket.

Fell running

The term “fell” is an often used Northern England expression for hill or mountain. It is presumed that Shepherds were probably the first ever fell runners with the earliest documented accounts of running in the fells dating back to the 11th Century. By the 19th century organised fell runs began taking place in Cumbria in the United Kingdom. Locals raced each other up and down hills and a sport was born.

In “Of Fells and Hills” we travel with American Writer, Photographer and Trail Runner, Rickey Gates, to the UK to explore and discover the history, culture and legends of the ancient practise of Fell Running.

The darkest day in Binzen's history

On the 22 December 1939, 101 people* lost their lives in the worst train accident in the German Reichsbahn history – 42 of the victims came from Binzen.

The second world war had begun four months earlier and the invasion of Poland had already been completed. While many of the men had been called up to join the war effort, many of the residents from the southwestern border region, mostly women and children were evacuated by train to Kleinwalsertal in the Bavarian Alps.

However an expected French led invasion along the Rhine, did not materialise and the decision was made by the Wehrmacht to allow the evacuees to return to their homes in time for Christmas.

On that fateful evening, a special train left Oberstdorf in Bavaria, packed full with 500 people, excited to be able to spend Christmas at home. They came from Weil am Rhein and from the many villages surrounding the German town (the area known as Markgräflerland, on the southwestern border with France and Switzerland).

Recently the local newspaper (die Badische Zeitung) remembered the 75th anniversary of the disaster by publishing an interview with a sister and two brothers from Binzen who survived the accident. They shared how their mother was so nervous about the journey that their father had taken time off so he could come and personally accompany them home. While many were pushing to get into the front carriages, that would be warmer during the long journey, the father held the family back until the rush had passed. "He was always the one who called for calm", remarked his daughter. As most of the fatalities were in the front carriages, the siblings have often wondered if it was the calm nature of their father that saved their lives.

The passenger train and the freight train carrying coal, both travelling at 60 km/h, collided at 10:17pm. The explosion caused by the collision could be heard across Markdorf and further afield. 

Hans Krebs who was 9 years old at the time recalled the moment of the collision, "there were two strong jolts, in fact with the first one we fell out of the overhead baggage nets." At least they landed on other family members who had slipped off their seats. In the final seconds, the driver of the passenger train had applied the emergency break. The second jolt was the collision. "After that there was no light and for a moment it was very quiet". "Then everyone started shouting". The father went out to investigate and then came back to tell them to stay put while he went to offer assistance. Later he would return covered in blood, while outside the emergency services dealt throughout the night with the carnage.

Despite it being a dark, foggy night, the investigation would later establish that the accident was the result of multiple failings that ultimately came down to human error. The signalling employees at Markdorf station had forgotten about the specially chartered train that was approaching, and had not followed proper signalling clearance procedures, so that the freight train was given the all-clear to proceed on the signal track railway - directly into the path of the oncoming passenger train. 101 people died that night, including 56 children and 27 women, 47 were injured. The majority of the victims came from Binzen 42, followed by Egringen 7, Fischingen 2, Haltingen 7, Weil am Rhein 27 and Welmlingen 13.

On Christmas Eve, relatives and local people gathered in the Market Square in Markdorf for the memorial service. The relatives sat in stunned silence with tears in their eyes. While around them thousands of local people dressed in black stood close by to show their support at this time of great sorrow.

99 coffins were on display in Markdorf town square – those on the right for the children, left those of the women and the few men who lost their lives.

The Bodensee-Rundschau newspaper reported that the Wehrmacht solders on leave, an SS-Group, the Gauleiter, his assistant, the Lord Mayor of Markdorf and senior party members were all present. 

The Hitler-Jugend formed a guard of honour. The flags of the Gro√üdeutschen Reiches were at half mast. In his speech to the mourners, Gauleiter Robert Wagner sought to bring comfort to the German people by appealing to their national pride and reminding them that as Germans at war, they had a different view of death. Every death was a sacrifice that was not in vain. Wagner spoke of "the sacrifice of the people for a better future" and from "dying in the peoples battle for life".

Not wanting this tragedy to negatively affect the morale of the people, the NSDAP (the ruling socialist party) tried to prevent the incident from being widely reported. With war now in its first winter, this event could not be allowed to affect the morale of the people. 

On the 25 December 1939, the coffins of the victims came to Binzen and were laid out in the Laurentiuskirche (Reformed Church). Gradually the children came to realise that their school friends, neighbours and relatives from the village were no longer there. 

Today in Binzen a small plaque beside the war memorials list the names of the 42 people who tragically lost their lives that fateful evening, their bodies are laid to rest in the adjoining graveyard.

* The final number of fatalities including those who died later from their injuries was 106

Christmas Greetings

Recorded while visiting the (DMZ) North/South Korean border – 13 December 2014.
Please take a moment to pray for the men, women and boys and girls of North Korea. Pray that just as the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago reuniting East and West Germany, that soon the DMZ and the Korean border will be removed and the two Koreas, North and South will be reunified. 
That the suffering and persecution will end and that the Gospel will have free course. 


This is the question I have finally reached a decision on after several months of going back and forward testing both platforms. My decision is that EVERNOTE and DAYONE both have their strengths and weaknesses that's why I will continue to use both. So have I really made a decision? Well yes, because I believe the key is to decide which App is best for which task - and to be consistent in their use, no matter what. In case you have not a clue what I am talking about – let me explain! EVERNOTE and DAYONE are both applications available for computers and digital devices. They have been created to help you organise (and even replace) your paper notes and records. There are many such Apps available but as these two would seem to have made their own dent on the App store, I will give you my impressions of both.


EVERNOTE is very powerful, provided you think long and hard at the outset about the storage categories you want to use. Another key, is to understand the difference in notebooks and tags. I have set up notebooks for the different organisations I am involved in as well as separate notebooks for bigger projects. Tags are then used as subheadings to attach to the notebooks. For example I have a notebook called “CEF”, then I have separate tags such as “meeting” and “NW Advisory Group” which can then be added to an individual entry. Both EVERNOTE and DAYONE have powerful search and display capacities, providing you take time to assign the correct labels when creating your entry. Both Apps automatically record the location the note was created and can attractively display these on a world map. 
There’s not much EVERNOTE cannot do and I will not try to mention all its features here, however the importing of handwritten notes using the camera on a smartphone/iPad is worthy of particularly mention. This feature works extremely well and with the premium option, a search will also turn up handwritten words. I found it quite impressive.

What do I do with EVERNOTE?

  • sermon notes (my own "ready to speak" manuscripts)
  • meeting notes (my own notes. Later I import the official minutes from Word files)
  • research cut and paste (store quotes from articles)
  • clipping webpages (using the one-click clip function available as an extension for most browsers) 
  • songs and sheet music (for when I have the guitar but don't know what to play)
  • store all my highlights in Kindle books
  • receipts, bills, costs, documents (can all be photographed, scanned in or imported


Free with 60 MB/month of new notes, unlimited total storage, and sync across all devices. For the past year I have been using a complementary 12-month subscription to "EVERNOTE Premium" which gives you some additional search features, presenting tools and 1GB/month. However most people will find the EUR5/month to be too pricy and will be very happy with the free version.

DAYONE Journal

The DAYONE journal is a really nice, clean, clutter-free interface that is designed to inspire you to write creatively with the minimum of distraction. It won an Apple Design Award in 2014 and won the Mac App Store "App of the Year" in 2012. 
This is a great outlet for journaling down those thoughts that, let’s be honest, shouldn't really appear on Facebook or Twitter. If you later decide to share your thoughts, simply clicking on publish will create a link to your post that is not restricted to the 140 twitter characters.
Each entry automatically records the date and time, weather at that moment at your location (which it also records), the title of the music track in the background, your motion activity and you can add one photograph per entry (Evernote allows multiple photographs).
There are many things that DAYONE doesn't do but it's the simple interface that is so pleasing to the eye that invites you to write. Even this blog post started out as a draft on DAYONE.

What do I do with DAYONE?

  • sermon notes (when I am the one listening)
  • noting down key points of conversations as a memory aid 
  • journaling (as a way to record and order thoughts)
  • taking notes (anywhere I find myself thinking)
  • ideas / brainstorming
  • drafting ideas for an article or seminar/sermon
  • travel log (writing a text to accompany a photograph)


A one time charge of 8,99 € thereafter free. Sorry this App is only available for Apple products. However if you are using Android, then you will not have the dilemma and to be honest, with Evernote you have an “all-singing all-dancing” product in one package.

In a further post, I will share about some other essential Apps and how I use them.

The biggest trail run of my life

A few weeks ago while camping in Les Vigneaux in the Hautes-Alpes region of France I went on what turned out to be the biggest trail run of my life - the Trail du collet la Salcette. The area is a paradise for outdoor sports with local tourist brochures dedicated to trail running, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, rafting and canoeing. The trail I chose was the red route, number 10 from the brochure Station de Trail with the following stats:
  • Km : 20.31
  • Ascent : 1389 m
  • Descent : 1389 m

My equipment

  • suncream applied, quick-drying shorts and t-shirt, trail-running shoes, bandanna, a 2 litre hydration pack filled with water, wind jacket, sandwiches, chocolate/muesli-bar snacks, emergency foil blanket, tissues, wet wipe, walking-map, GPS watch and smart phone.

The route

I was grateful for the smart phone App from Station de Tail which I could use to check my current location and reassure myself that I was still on the intended route. The signposting was not great. Some junctions had signs for several different routes and at other junctions the all important red square with a black number 10 was missing. You will see at the top of the map that on one occasion I missed my turn and had to retrace my steps (after doing a serpentine climb). By the time I consulted the map and returned to the point of error, I had lost about one hour. So what should have been 20.3 km ended up being a gruelling 26.55 km in the summer sun.
The constant climb on the trail and the warm conditions pushed me to my physical limits. Further up (around 2000 m) the effects of altitude meant that for longer stretches I could only walk. The advantage being that I was able to better take in the view. Towards the summit, the wind was cool and I was glad for my jacket. Realising that I would have to keep moving to keep warm, I took only a few photographs on the summit and started the decent looking for a sheltered place to have my lunch. I then ate the two nicest cheese sandwiches I have ever had!

Five minutes after continuing the descent I saw a red sign with the number 10, but after following that route for 2 minutes I could see from the terrain and the campsite, which was now visible, that the sign was pointing the wrong way. I retraced my steps and continued on the zig-zag trail down the steep slope.

The terrain changing constantly from single grass/dirt trail to forest road limestone with potholes, craggy outcrops, gravel, scree (which moved liked a avalanche), pine cones, mixture of roots and rocks, peat, several river crossings (where I could refill the hydration pack), and surfaced roads back to the campsite.

Not only was it physically challenging but it demanded all of my mountain navigational skills and running experience.

Why do I do it? 
Sorry, if you are asking that question I don't think I can answer it to your satisfaction. I am thankful to God for a healthy body to enjoy locations in his creation that most people don't get to see. That's what drives me on.