By Gary Miller
One of the ways to get a great cycling workout without going a long distance is to ride to the pinnacle. That may sound like a motivational statement but in my area there is actually a place called the Pinnacle. It is within the boundaries of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. It is a place where thousands of visitors travel each year to see the spectacular view, hike its trails, and learn about its history. From the Visitors Center to the Pinnacle is only about 3.5 miles but the elevation gain is almost 3,000 feet.
This one, big, long hill is a challenge to cyclists to say the least. It becomes even more difficult when her participants decide to repeat the trek multiple times. My personal best is three but I can remember the first time I ever made it to the top. I thought I had won a medal in the Olympics. At my age, speed is not a priority. Finishing is all that matters.
One of the most satisfying moments of these rides comes when, on occasion, some motorist yells their words of encouragement, sticks up their thumb in approval, or claps in appreciation as our paths cross. It never fails that no matter how difficult the past few pedals have been, no matter how much sweat is in my eyes, or how bad I want to get off and walk, I become renewed and strengthened to continue my uphill battle. In those simple, slow, and silent moments, the voice of encouragement screams its value. It is palpable both mentally and physically.
It is my sincere and genuine belief that this ought to be the picture of what happens each time believers gather together on a Sunday morning. I believe it is the business of pastors and parishioners to be people who are constantly showing our encouragement and appreciation for those who have been fighting the good fight of faith. Some of those individuals have had a tough week. They have endured difficulty for simply choosing to follow Christ.
And just like my cycling trips, they do it because in the midst of its challenge, there is a love that keeps drawing them to its gratification. I say, at our churches, we replace greeters with clappers and instead of shaking someone’s hand, we stand in applause for each one who comes through our doors in appreciation for the faith-feats they do each week. For those who are on the verge of quitting; their resolve would be reinforced and for those who feel as if they are pedaling the journey alone, their strength would be renewed. Encouragement really is a powerful tool. It works on those who struggle the greatest or the least and its power can be released through a card, a word, or even a thumb pointing up from an anonymous passerby. I applaud you today. Now go and see who you can do the same.
Gary Miller can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org