I woke up to the sound of my phone, church had been canceled. My parents are flying back from Tulsa today, and if their flight get’s canceled it will be due to an act of God. So, can you say God canceled Church?
After I made a couple phone calls to let the rest of the people at The Neighborhood Church know it was okay to stay at home and worship at home, I decided to figure out what to do with my snowy day.
I decided to attend Lifechurch.tv online and read a devotional, the same devotional I quoted when I wrote about my worst Valentine’s ever. Here is what Sarah Young has for us today,
“Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you. There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love. You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’. But there is no limit to My love; it fills all space, time and eternity.”
God’s love seems to be as big as the snow storm that is howling outside. His love, according to Craig Groeschel, is also big enough to forgive our sins. If I have been forgiven, then I need to forgive as well.
Snow days are a great reminder of forgiveness. When the snow covers the ground in a fresh white layer, it always reminds me that God can cover up my dirtiness and brokenness.
Today seems to be a great day to be still and know that God loves me and has forgiven me.
It’s also a great day to take a couple of pictures.
I tried to use the snow-blower, but it is still broken.
So I had to shovel.
I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, and if you are here in Denver, stay safe, and be still and know that God loves you and will forgive you.
“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly. My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.
“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet. And wither then? I cannot say.'”
Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote. “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”
“Yeah,” answered my dad.
“We’re wandering and we’re lost.” Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild. And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.
My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack. It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East. But neither of us are expert map readers and each time I tried to decipher the counter lines and trail dots my head spun. After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead. The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill. After five minutes I knew this was no good.
We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain. Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one. An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.
It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.
Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.” There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually. If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering. I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.
Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination. Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.
I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other. Quickly the trailhead slid behind us. The sun was hot and my mood was still low. We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson. We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.
As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind. “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”
Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.
With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack. He’d stopped for some reason. “Hey!” said a familiar voice. It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see. He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport. He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly. I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.
Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered. I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me. I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over. I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down. Even if I get lost along the way. After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier. And definitely prettier.
And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson. My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the greater adventure along the way. And while we hiked, I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.
Last week I hiked up into the heart of the Pecos Wilderness with my dad and some old friends. It had been over a decade since I’d truly backpacked, not counting my winter hunting trips. It was great to set up the tent, cast the rod and catch some fish, and to renew old friendships.
So I don’t wander off in this blog, like my dad and I did on our trek up to Stewart Lake, I’m going to graciously trek right to the point. Though fishing was great, hiking was breathtaking, and reforming friendships over conversations about faith and serving in our own community was refreshing, what really hit me was the weather.
Yep, I’m going to talk about the weather. Okay, I promise that my next blog will hike back into the realm of backpacking and what a joy it is to wander, especially when wandering into challenging conversations of faith and community.
I want to talk about weather, because I want to talk about grace. Have you ever noticed how we can’t really control the weather? It either rains or it doesn’t, especially when you’re out in the wild. Grace often works the same way. You either receive it or you don’t. It’s never something you deserve.
As my dad and I hiked up the sun slowly baked us. It was hot, and it stayed hot all week long. The last time we’d been up in the Pecos Wilderness it had rained non stop. I remember it being so wet we had a river in our tent. Not this time.
It was weird that it didn’t rain. I really didn’t mind the lack of rain, but it just felt weird.
As we hiked 9 miles down out of the wild it was so hot my feet started to burn. I had to walk on my toes so my heals wouldn’t blister up.
What little water I had left at the end of the trail I dumped on my head just to cool off. It felt amazing. A little water can really be gracious on a hot day.
The water dripped off my bare head and shoulders onto the dry ground, evaporating immediately.
It wasn’t until we drove out of Las Vegas, NM that we felt the first drop of rain. Or at least the Nisan Titan felt the rain. The rain clouds looked like hands dragging their long fingers along the dry mesa tops as if they were scraping for last crumbs.
It was gorgeous. But inside the cab I still felt parched. We’d brought along two Dublin Dr Peppers for a celebratory drink at the end of the hike, but, as they’d been sitting in the hot truck all week, we were forced to wait until they could be cooled down with ice. As we sep north on I-25 I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I popped open our two Dublin Dr Peppers. They were ice cold. As I swigged down the real sugar drink, I knew I’d just broken my sugar fast, but after the dry hike it was worth it. Mine tasted phenomenal. Probably as good as rain does after a long dry summer.
As we drove through Pueblo, Colorado the rain was coming down in sheets. I was thankful we hadn’t faced this type of rain on our trip, ’cause now I was safe inside the cab of the truck with the AC blasting and no need for rain to cool me down.
Inside the cab we were listening to U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind and as the rain died down the album came to a close. Bono was singing about Grace.
Grace, she takes the blame. She covers the shame. Removes the blame. It could be her name.
It hit me, not like the soft rain we’d driven through in New Mexico, but like the drowning rain in Pueblo, we need grace just as we needed water on our hot hike. I had to press repeat on my iPod so I could listen to it again. It made me think, am I showing grace to the people around me or am I like the hot dusty trail I hiked on?
Am I a thirst quenching Dr Pepper or am I a hot pair of boots rubbing blisters?
Bono says, “Grace finds beauty in everything. Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”
I’ve been doing yard work again. I don’t have much of a green thumb, more like a brown thumb. I tend to pull more weeds than plant bushes. Despite my lack of talent in the field of botany something really cool happened this last week.
To explain what happened I need to back up my story a little bit.
For the last couple of years a nasty weed has been growing near the mailbox. Oh, you guys know what a mailbox is, you know the box at the end of your driveway that magically receives junk and the occasional birthday card from your grandma that always has the two dollar bill tucked inside.
Anyway, this “weed” never really looked like a weed. Last summer it bloomed a beautiful white flower, but it also took over wherever it grew. (It also made it hard to back out of our driveway) So I decided to transplant this “weed,” still thinking it was a normal plant, to a more advantageous location. But when I started to dig it up I realized the job wouldn’t be worth it. What I thought was one plant was five or six different weeds. This monster was growing crazy and choking out everything around it.
After talking to my dad, we decided to rip this weed out. We dug and dug, for about ten minutes, making no progress. Then my dad had a brilliant idea. “Why don’t we rip the roots out with my truck,” he said. “Heck yes!” I replied. Two hours later, after a lot of grunting and other man stuff, we’d pulled the monster out. The roots looked more like alien tentacles.
That’s the kind of weeding I like to do. Honestly I didn’t expect anything good to come from it. But then yesterday I went over to the mailbox for the first time in a couple weeks, really I only check my mail on my computer, and was shocked at what I saw. The bush, which had been growing resolutely between the monster weed, had always been deprived of its nutrients because of the weed. But now everything had changed. A perfect yellow rose had bloomed.
Because I took out the weed the rose bush is now blossoming amazingly!
It made me think about how God works in our lives. Sometimes he takes things away from us. Sometimes those things are bad like weeds. Sometimes those weeds even look good, but in fact they are choking out something that God wants to nurture in our lives.
So I have a question, what do you think God wants you to give up or get rid of so that you can experience an amazing blossom?
As we live spiritually we need to trust God. He has a plan for us, even if that means letting go of things we think we need. Let God help you produce roses, let him work in your life.