April 17, 2012

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:1-3

Good news for all you iphone, ipod touch and ipad users who love the national parks—the Passport to Your National Parks app is now here! (Sorry Android users—you’ll have to wait a bit.)

The app contains a database of all 397 units of the National Park Service, which you can search by name, state or region. Each listing provides addresses, phone numbers, maps, directions, entrance fee information, upcoming events and a brief description. A GPS function locates a site within 50 to 250 miles of your location. And it’s also interactive: you can digitally log your visits to each park and make lists of ones you want to visit in the future, and even add photos.

Best of all—it’s free! Just go to the itunes store and download it.

And here’s more freebies: the app developing company Chimani will once again give away its national park apps in celebration of National Park Week April 21-29. And they are for Apple and Android operating systems. The apps normally sell for $4.99-$9.99, so this is a terrific bargain. Last year, when the company began the giveaway program, over 100,000 apps were downloaded; this year it hopes to top the million mark, so go for it!

Among the Chimani apps are Acadia, Cuyahoga Valley, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks; as well as Cape Cod National Seashore and the general National Park app, which the company calls “a virtual passport for tracking visits to all national parks.” Each app’s information is constantly updated, with maps, shuttle bus schedules (no cost to ride!), restroom locations, auto touring points of interest, hiking guides, sunrise and sunset times for the most memorable scenic overlooks, tide schedules, lodging options, and more. The Android version is available from Google Play; the Apple versions, again, from itunes.

Two other freebies I’ve found online are from MapQuest National Parks and Conde Nast Traveler. Both feature a series of beautiful photography and/or videos of the parks, accessible from the comfort of your desktop.

Oh, and the final piece of news? National Park Week means entrance to all the Park Service locations are free April 21-29! So you can put all those apps to good use! But even if you don’t have any of these devices, you can still have a great time at no cost.

Have I mentioned that all these things are free? Well, some at least for a limited time only…

I love a bargain. Even better, I love getting stuff for free. To me, the ultimate freebie is freedom from sin and guilt through the death and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus. That freedom—salvation, eternal life—is a free gift (Romans 6:23), a gracious present from God we did nothing to deserve and can’t earn (Ephesians 2:8, 9), and available to everyone anytime, anywhere (John 3:16, 6:37; 2 Peter 3:9).

Putting it in app terms—we can download Jesus for free!

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