“I’ve Been to the Mountain Top”

Shere Hills Jos Plateau State

Shere Hills Jos Plateau State

The first time I remember hiking it wasn’t even called hiking. I was an 11-year old military school cadet and we were sent out on a road march into the hills of northern Nigeria. We were given a map, a compass, and told when supper would be served. We had some water and no snacks. Just a dozen young boys out in the woods looking for clues. It wasn’t a fun experience although some of the scenery was breath-taking. My team got lost, couldn’t find any of the clues we were supposed to when we were supposed to, and bickered amongst each other for hours. By the time we made it back to camp, the food was almost gone. I didn’t make any vows that day but let’s just say words like camping and hiking were relegated to the recesses of my memory bank.

Fast forward a few years and this time I’m a 19-year old college cadet. Another road march; a very familiar scenario. The environment, a bit more controlled. Woods, yes but bound by a fence line. We were on a large military base in the midwest of the U.S. This was a test of our ability to survive and operate. Figure out what was edible and what wasn’t. Learn to take cover, avoid being seen. There was a sense of adventure on this one and of course, every thing I’d learned in military school came back to me. I was calmer this time. I fell into a natural role as the cool, calm, and collected cadet offering suggestions when needed and calming fears when they arose.

The Rock, Gardez

View of The Rock from a Forward Operating Base in South West Asia.

Then there was “The Rock”. This time I’m a lot older and in a more hostile environment.  I was an advisor at a base in South West Asia located in a valley and surrounded by mountain ranges and outposts said to have been built by Alexander the Great’s soldiers. We were already sitting at 7,500 feet. Those assigned to this location were challenged to climb “The Rock” at least once before their tour was over. And what would one get? You guessed it…a t-shirt! It was a tough climb up to 9,250 feet and very thin air. I remember the gasping like it was yesterday. It took about 3 hours to get to the top and another 2 hours to get back down. I did get a t-shirt and proudly counted myself among those brave enough to dare take on and conquer “The Rock”…not Dwayne Johnson. 🙂

So today I find myself in yet another valley, this time in Bavaria and the view is breathtaking.  I’m reminded of the words to a song my mom would sing when I was little:

“When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.  When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art! 

[The hymn “How Great Thou Art” is based on a Swedish folk melody and was adapted and written by an english missionary, Stuart K. Hine based on his experiences in the Carpathian mountains.]

Krammerspitze Mountain Top

Krammerspitze Mountain Top

There’s something about mountains that inspires us inwardly. That adventurer I thought I’d pushed away time and time again came rearing its head and I decided to not only admire the beauty of God’s creation, but to also experience it by hiking.  At first I took the tourist option and climbed the Zugspitze with the cable car and oh what a view it was!  I was on the highest point in Germany and on a clear day, I’m told you can see all the way to Italy. I looked down and saw hikers who looked like ants from where I stood.  I was inspired by their courage, sense of adventure, and resilience.  From the bottom it was a 5,900 foot climb and most people did it in two days.  I hadn’t climbed or walked that far before, well airplane rides don’t count.  So I signed up for a guided hike as soon as I could.  A week before the big hike, I decided to go on a day-hike just to evaluate my mental and physical readiness. I’d had mixed experiences in the past but this one was all on me. The Krammerspitze Mountain sat at about 6,500 feet and I was told the hike took about 5-6 hours (not counting stops for lunch, etc.)  I made some mistakes on this outing; like forgetting my trekking poles for example (you definitely need those) or not packing enough electrolytes (cramped muscles are never fun) or not getting a good idea of where the peak was actually located (thought I was done when I still had an hour of climbing left, lol). Thanks to friendly fellow hikers, I made it up and back, with needed rest and lunch, in 8 hours. My knees and feet didn’t appreciate the trek, but my mind did. I took what I learned that day and prepared myself to tackle the Zugspitze.

The following week, tIMG_1599emparatures had dropped slightly, it had rained almost everyday and we knew it had even snowed at the top of the mountain. There were 11 of us in the group aged 12 to 60-something.  We pushed-through, we talked, we stopped to take pictures and at night we slept in the closest quarters I’d ever seen. Amazing how quickly 11 people with one focus can bond.  By far, this turned out to be the best hike I’d ever been on (although my hike total sits at only 1/2 a dozen). It was everything I expected it to be: Grueling, cold, wet, picturesque, exhilarating, and a priceless sense of accomplishment at the end.

I can now say that “I’ve been to the Mountain Top” and I’m glad God “allowed me to go up to the mountain” and that He let me “look over” and “consider all, the works His hands have made”.  To Him Be the Glory!!

Zugspitze Mountain

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Memorial Day: Living & Dying for Something Greater

This weekend I visited the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg as part of our Memorial Day commemorations. As many may know, the last Monday in May is a federal holiday in the U.S. when we remember those who’ve died while serving in our armed forces.

 I walked the hallowed grounds of the cemetery in quiet reflection. I saw General Patton’s grave and took time to reflect on his story and place in history. I thought of all the books and movies that depict the story of one of America’s most famous wartime Generals.  Then walking between the other headstones you realize that some of those who lost their lives where still teenagers; lives sacrificed in defense of freedom.  Gone too soon?  You wonder if the family line ended with their sacrifice. You wonder who’s telling their story.  You see the gravestones of siblings buried next to each other and are saddened even more. Then you come across the gravestone of the unknown.  

These were regular folks, factory workers and clerks, like you and me, who went to battle. These regular folks did the extraordinary to secure our right to free will.  Looking out at the spanse of headstones it should quickly dawn on anyone breathing that freedom should never be taken for granted. I immediately felt immense gratitude to those who faced the jaws of death and paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is a special calling to be one of the few willing to die in defense of one’s country. It is a calling to a cause much greater than oneself. This calling isn’t understood by some today. Those who get wrapped around their individual ideologies about war, forget that there are a few good men and women who, regardless of how you feel, train day-in and day-out in preparation to answer their nation’s call. They do so knowing that response may require never returning home. America collectively values this special group of people and honors them with days federal holidays and more.

As I stood among the rows of white-marbled headstones, I felt in the greatest of company; among heroes of a great generation of Americans.  This Memorial Day, take a moment to reflect on those who lost their lives in defense of freedom. You enjoy yours today (even the ones you don’t appreciate), because they gave up all of theirs.

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Thank God for Doctors & Nurses

Bandaged Wrist Right After Surgery

Today, for the first time in my life, I had surgery.

Yes, all those years of training, football (soccer to many of you), track and field, and mountain hikes in South West Asia, I’ve never gone under the knife. Well, today I did. Was I scared or nervous? No…more like anxious to get rid of this “thing” that had been growing like an alien species on my wrist for months.

However, all the appointments to discuss the risks of anesthesia (in its many forms); the advice from friends (about what kind of anesthesia to go for); and, just the reality of a part of my body being cut open only helped to increase my anxiety. Then came the doctors and nurses, at separate points before I was rolled into the operating room. They each explained what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, and how long it would take. They were so reassuring!

About 30 times today I was asked to verify my name and date of birth. Part of me started to think they were planning a surprise party afterwards and wanted to be sure. It never happened. They also kept asking what I was allergic to; this is when I decided to add the word “stupid” to my list of allergies. Yes, I’m allergic to stupid. Unfortunately, the nurses didn’t have a wrist band for that allergy; but they all laughed in agreement.

I was promised a drip “cocktail” that would sedate me while I was in surgery. Whatever that cocktail was, they need to put some ice cubes in it and pass me a glass, because I don’t remember squat! One minute, I was repeating my name and birthday for the umpteenth time, and the next minute, a nurse was explaining the bandages and stint on my left forearm. I slept through the whole thing!

I’m in recovery now…at home, and will need weeks of physical therapy. Nevertheless, the fact that I’m blogging this with one hand and not curled up in a fetal position in bed is a testament to God’s goodness; the professionalism and expertise of the doctors; and the care those nurses provided.


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Again on Prayer


Today I found a chance to teach my sons deeper lessons on prayer by watching the movie Bruce Almighty.

Three lessons:
1. God answers prayers in three ways: Yes. No. Maybe.
2. Left to us, we’d want yes answers to all our prayers and it would result in chaos.
3. Our deepest desire in prayer is to desire God’s will above our own. Christ exemplified that in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will but your will be done…”
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Condemn Not


Pieter Bruegel, Oil on panel, 24cm x 34cm. Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

John 8:4-11

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

To professing Christians: Are you known more for what you stand against, or for what you stand for?

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Received this from a friend today who knows the value of journaling thoughts that come to mind in the midnight hour. She’s given me permission to share on this blog. POWERFUL!


I am a parent and I am an airman. I struggle every single day to balance the two…by myself. I am alone and I am scared, often. I became a widowed mother of 2 at the age of 24, and then a widowed mother of 3 again at 27.  I lost my first husband to a battle with drugs that stole his life and the memories that my children could have had with him before they were old enough to even remember him. 

I lost my fiancé to a motorcycle accident on Thanksgiving day that obliterated the possibility that he would know what it felt like to hold his first child in his arms surrounded by our little family that adored him. 

I have very few friends; when I am not working I am cleaning, cooking, helping with homework, paying bills, grocery shopping, tending children, or attempting some form of hygiene of my own amidst my chores…on the days I’m not utterly exhausted. Oh, let’s not forget…volunteering and education are key in the whole person concept these days. 

I am a coordinator for a volunteer corps for the base I am stationed at and I am slowly working on my Bachelors degree because it’s getting harder for me to be judged only on the quality of my work. How you ask? I cry myself to sleep some nights, others I’m too tired and am not even sure how I made it into my pajamas let alone to my bed. I wake up and do what I was always taught to do…keep going, don’t give up, push harder. 

Nobody likes to fail, and failing would start by not getting out of bed. Why do I keep going? I can honestly say I have lost count of how many times I have been so tired of it all, and so exhausted in the last few years that I wanted to just stop and give up. But then, every single time, I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t give up. I reminded myself that someone else had it worse, there’s always worse and there’s no way that I wanted my children to see me give up.  After everything that THEY have been through, they were watching ME. They were learning how to cope through ME. I reminded myself that I will show them that even through the most devastating times, that they CAN be strong, that they CAN get through it. I could not let them see me give up if I want to instill this quality in them. The humanity and compassion they have learned as they dried the tears running down my face. And then I realized, they were not the only ones watching me. 

While we may not be able to put onto a performance evaluation the real life success of struggles that truly makes someone a leader, I sleep so much better seeing my resilience help someone else bounce back.  We think our struggles no matter how big or small are our own, and they’re not. While we may feel the the heavy burden and the root of that instance, our branches touch so many that can relate. It may not be just our children that we are teaching these qualities to but our friends, our families, our coworkers, and even our friends that we may or may not ever even talk to on social networks. 

I get up every morning and I tell myself that I have no other choice!! I will succeed today! Today is not the day I am defeated by myself or by life! I will not be pushed down off this mountain I have worked so hard to climb because I want to reach the top; and I don’t want to do it alone, but I will if I have to! 

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Answered Prayer

“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer” — Author: F. B. Meyer

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Saying Goodbye

I travel by train a lot.

One of the things that gives me a great warm fuzzy to see (even when traveling by air) are the goodbyes at the point of departure.

They vary from tearful waves to passionate kisses and even funny faces pressed against the window. So many ways to express the thought that one has enjoyed the company of the departing. Sometimes the look expresses the thought that “I’m glad you’re leaving and I’m only here to make sure you get on that train.”

Either way it speaks to the connection and impact our physical presence has on those in our lives.

This season, many will send cards and gifts to loved ones. Regardless of how pleased they’ll be with the gifts, I can almost guarantee, they’d wish you were there in person.

Reminds me of the greatest gift the world ever received…the reason for the season: God sending his only begotten Son to be with us in person (Emmanuel: God with us).

No matter what your belief, we wouldn’t be doing any of this if God hadn’t seen fit to visit the world He created and save it from itself. I thank God for this season. We may not all have tons of gifts under the tree…but boy am I glad to have the greatest gift of all: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!!

Merry Christmas!!


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What is a Miracle?


1. A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

2. A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

3. An amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

Regardless of your dogma, I’m sure you can probably point to an event in your life that fits one, or all, of the 3 definitions above. My family experienced all three recently. Our personal dogma allows us to give credit to the One to whom ALL credit is due.

This week, over Thanksgiving, we’ll get together to celebrate the miracles of healing, achievement, and undeserved favor. God has been extremely gracious in spite of our weaknesses.

Why do we consider these miracles? Mainly because we can’t take credit nor explain their occurrence.

TGBTG: To God Be The Glory!!

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

— Albert Einstein

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I love people watching. One activity I enjoy in particular is, at airports and train stations, watching the welcoming of those who’ve been away.

There are welcome home signs, flowers, screams filled with glee, leaps in the air into a loved one’s arms, children sprinting into a parent’s arms and then there’s the standard hug ‘n long kiss of two lovers who’ve missed each other.

I also recall the warm hugs of the old ladies at Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport welcoming troops from deployments; fulfilling a long held promise never to mistreat returning troops the way it occurred following the Vietnam war.

It’s a great feeling to be welcomed and to see loved ones after an extended absence.

I’ve also seen some not so good homecomings. Recently I witnessed a homecoming at an airport in W/Africa. Family members rushed to greet a young man who’d just gone through customs only to be greeted with his cold shoulder. He even refused to let them carry his suitcase. I wondered what would prompt such a cold response? Was he ashamed of them? Was it a feeling of disappointment that he’d failed in his mission? Did he want to temper their expectations that he had nothing to offer in his one suitcase? It was awkward to say the least.

We want to be wanted. We want to be missed. It speaks to our sense of belonging. It affirms our sense of being.

It reminds me of the story Christ tells of the prodigal son. A father throws a party to celebrate the homecoming of a wayward son. The party speaks to the father’s unconditional love and acceptance of His son. Not everyone is in a celebratory mood but it is the Father’s opinion of His son that counts.

When it seems like your homecoming will be met with anything but joy and celebration; know that there’s a Father who’s been waiting with open arms to reconnect with you.

Come home.


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13: A Coming of Age


Today my oldest son turns 13!

Some of you have raised teens and understand fully what a challenge that can be. All the changes that attaining that age implies. Even scarier, is what it means today. Someone even coined the term “triskaidekaphobia”: the fear parents face with a child turning 13. Yes, there’s a word for that too. Smh. Not sure I would call what I’m feeling “fear.”

It wasn’t an age I looked forward to growing up. I’d already been an independent youth attending military school for 2 years.

There was no online bullying…it was all in your face. My life was structured by a regimented discipline controlled by “seniors”.

There was no “interweb” to flood my sense and sensibilities with images that numbed my emotions.

It’s a new environment and a different culture all together. He’s already been exposed to much more. It can be scary for parents today.  And for some, maybe it’s triskaidekaphobia scary.

There are so many conversations he and I need to have. Some reiterations of previous talks. Some new ones. I’m hopeful though because of the foundation his mum and I have set. And the reinforcement we get from the extended family: grandparents, uncles, family friends…pretty much the whole “village.”

He will learn some lessons the hard way like we all do (as much as we hate to admit it). He will discover new things and learn some harsh realities. He will learn hurt, shame, ridicule, acceptance, rejection and more importantly, I hope he learns more about the love his family has for him and the unconditional love of God.

I pray he learns that when those he desperately seeks acceptance from reject him one way or another, that there’s a  God who sees and accepts him just as he is.

Son: you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Everything about you has been designed by the Master for His glory. You are named after a King and the plans God has for you are beyond our wildest imagination. I pray this milestone is just another marker in your journey to fulfill that divine design.

3-2-1 Go!

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Heard Today…

Heard an amazing quote today; had to share it:

“The tongue is the ambassador of the heart.”

Enough said…let that sink in.

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The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

Scott Dannemiller Headshot

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

“So, how’s work going?” he asked.

For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.

I plead the fifth.

I answered my buddy’s question with,

“Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.”

The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s.

But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the “Feed the Dannemillers” fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year’s quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits.

Last year was the best year yet for my business.

Things are looking busy in 2014.

But that is not a blessing.

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the “amen” at the end of a prayer.

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do?


As I reflected on my “feeling blessed” comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I’m splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It’s one of those things we can’t see because it’s so culturally engrained that it has become normal.

But it has to stop. And here’s why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can’t help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M’s to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it’s for our own good. But positive reinforcement?

God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day.

During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.

The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

I’ll take door number three, please.

If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,


2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.

And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me “burdened.”

He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers.

So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.


My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.

And for this blessing, may our response always be,

“Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.” Would love to hear your thoughts.


Scott Dannemiller is a writer, blogger, worship leader and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church. He writes the blog The Accidental Missionary, where this post first appeared.

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