Category Archives: speed of life

From the Wilderness

Insula Lake campsite

Insula Lake campsite

I’ve taken my half year sabbatical from this blog and it is time to resume it. I love writing in it and the side of myself and my ministry it feeds, but I had to hunker down for a while to get things in order. As small a part of my life these entries represented, they were one thing I could set aside. So I did. It is time to pick it up again.

Last night I returned from the wilderness. Literal more than figurative. My wife, Kris, my two teens still at home and I drove up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Monday and set our canoes in at Lake One east of Ely on Tuesday morning, heading for Insula Lake. It is late fall up there. All the leaves are down except for some golden birch. Temperatures were in the low 30’s at night and low 50’s daytime. It was not a luxurious experience, but it was the transition from fall to winter for one of the places on this planet I love the most – and it is good to be part of it. We all sensed that and it didn’t need to be spoken. We all knew that this wasn’t going to be a ‘fun’ trip, but expected it to be a ‘good’ trip. That means you are there for what the Boundary Waters really are, not what you want them to be. It was a good trip.

It was quiet in the northwoods. We usually saw no other people until the entry lakes as we exited on the weekend. Wildlife has mostly migrated too. Days were short, and when there was no wind, the silence could make your ears ring. It is a season of nature that must happen, but one we typically pass over preferring the more comfortable.

When we sat still, listened and watched we were rewarded. A Ruffed Grouse on a drumming log only meters from our campsite entertaining our ears with low frequencies we felt instead of heard. The bellowing of a herd of moose not far away. Granite formations hidden by summer’s high waters showing their faces and grabbing at the underside of our canoes. Lichens and rose hips and matchsticks of brilliant white birch alight with a golden flame of leaves. Bald Eagles soaring above the waters for a last few weeks before they freeze over. Campfires. Quiet.

I have to say I was proud of my teenagers who wanted to head to the Boundary Waters this time of year. Their maturity of spirit in relishing the bittersweet six days we had speaks well of them. They realized that there are not only things one must experience to have the things one prefers, but that if one has the stomach for it, one can be nourished by them. I spent time thinking about the seasons of our own lives. We avoid and try to pass over the painful and less comfortable times. I understand that and do the same. But while we travel those less climate experiences we can sit back, relax, look around, take in and be enriched by what is happening to us. It is all good.

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Sailing anyone?

Sail to Sunset

Sailing is at least as deep as life…

I long ago learned two things. My most powerful ministries will come from one of two places… my deepest hurts and my deepest passions. I can talk about the hurts some other time, right now I’m into passions! Sailing is a biggy for me and my ability to use it to connect with people and to connect people to the real stuff of life, the world and faith has been one of the most treasured things I get to do.

Interested in an adventure? We will have a Jacob’s Well trip sailing the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior Friday, June 20-Sunday, June 22 (arrive anytime on Thursday, June 19). You don’t need any previous sailing experience, or to be a Jacob’s Well person to come along – just to be interested in an experience of a lifetime.

See a video teaser and find more information HERE.

So, how DOESN’T God speak to us?

This post is a response to ‘Laurie’s’ comment to my “How Do You Find a Church?”

I think we hear God when we get quiet enough. When we journal. When we talk to people who have wisdom beyond our own. When we have long soulful conversations until 2 a.m. with a glass of wine (usually red). When we get close to ‘the fire.’ Times when we break our routine and open a window – preferably, but not necessarily, to the right direction. I know I often hear God when I exercise intensely. That’s why I like running by myself and never take music, those things take over the experience and I seldom hear from God.

BUT, more than any so-called Spiritual experiences I am convinced, like you, Laurie, that God just hangs out and waits for chances to tap our shoulders and get our attention. More often than not we don’t need deep spiritual wisdom from God, just a good reminder of what God taught us long ago. Typically the label on the back of my credit card that says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” (Hebrews 13.5) is all I need to hear from God when I want to buy something.

Is there any sense to the notion that it isn’t so much ‘how God speaks to us’ as ‘how DOESN’T God speak to us?’

After all, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19.1) Sounds like it must be hard NOT to be hearing and seeing God’s presence all the time.

Sabbath was Good

Burntside - north armj

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10) is often cited and for a good reason.  We need to let quiet and breaks from our routine bring space in our lives to be refreshed and to hear God speak again.  We had a great time up in Boundary Waters country.  Company, food, conversation, food, cards, food, skiing, did I mention food? was wonderful.  It was really cold, (high was -3, and typical temps were -25 to -15) but it was beautiful!  And there is something about being in the boreal forest of the north that makes the temps not nearly so cold.  I’d take -20 up there over 0 in the city anytime.  But then being the gimp I spent all my time by the woodstove anyway…

The picture is looking out from the sauna over the North Arm of Burntside Lake.  The little ice wall is built from the ice cut from the hole made for people to dip into the lake from the sauna.  At night (when we perform this crazed ritual) a kerosene lantern sits there, competing with the moon for providing illumination.  The rectangular spot of snow in the right foreground is the “door” covering the hole, snow piled on top, to keep the ice from forming too thickly during the day.  Remember, it’s 20 below zero.

If you look in the distance there is a little island 300 yards or so away.  it is a white lump against the trees on the horizon towards the right.  The teens got daring this year and multiple dips and snow angels in the snow to beat the sauna heat wasn’t enough, so they dashed all the way to the island and back wearing only their, well, you know…

Find a sabbath everyday.  Don’t wait for the big trips.  Let quiet break in for a short time everyday, and for a minute or two every hour.

Rest

Quick note to say I’m off to the Upper Arm of Burntside Lake, northwest of Ely, MN.  Our family is joining a couple of other families we have done this with for many years.  We get a rustic barn of a cabin where we share great food, drink, recreation and conversation.  It is adjacent to the BWCA so the ski trails meander through that wilderness.  For me it is a much needed break from always being “on” with my job and calling.  A time to allow my mind and heart to do some rumination and hopefully find some illumination.

The news on my ankle isn’t good (I now have an appointment with a surgeon…)  so I’ll be keeping the fire company while everyone else X-C skis in the sub-zero temp.  But the sauna and polar bear dip should still be within my grasp.

May each of us deliberately find a time each day, and a day each week, and retreat each year, when we are still and let God be God.

Peace!

Squeezing the best out of life

j-in-apple-treesmall.jpg

Since the early 90’s we’ve had a family tradition of going to the farm of some of our dearest friends, they are known to us as Mama & Papa Pogo, who are surrogate grandparents to our four kids, to make apple cider. We met the Pogos when we lived in Papua New Guinea. They were new people to the country and had been sent to our outstation for cultural immersion. Kris and I had recently had a string of new people sent through our station, many of them cultural insensitive, most of them unable to deal with the high altitude and rugged terrain of Marawaka. We watched as these two got out of the 6-seater Cessna 207 and saw their wrinkled faces and white hair. We both thought, “You’ve got to be kidding. They’ll never make the walk to our house from the end of the airstrip!” We were wrong.

Mama and Papa Pogo impressed and inspired us from hour one. We soon became fast friends and Kris and I decided that as we grow older we wanted to do it like they are… using the opportunity of age to widen our lives, rather than succumb to the temptation of narrowing for the convenience of routine and familiarity. We figure there are realities, like poor health, that can force one to limit life, but there is a large element of choice in this. We choose to squeeze the best out of life like Mama & Papa Pogo.

Which brings us back to the apple cider. Every year about this time – despite the busy schedule of the start of the school year and the subsequent acceleration of church life – we head down to Howling Mountain Farm. We get there in the evening and talk over a cup of hot chocolate before crawling into cozy beds all made up for us. In the morning we wake up to a great breakfast and then head to the orchard. We pick barrels of a variety of types of apples (that’s my son, Jordan, up in a Fireside apple tree in the photo), and then wash the dust off (they are organic), quarter and put them through the cleverly designed apple press Papa Pogo and buddies manufactured years back.

We laugh, reminisce, tell stories and make sure everyone knows just how important we are to each other. And just like those relationships, we make sure that we don’t miss a bit of one apple, because we don’t want to lose a drop of what they have to offer.

So as we enjoy the day a steady stream of clear, turning brown as it flows, liquid pours from the press. We drink freely from it then and there and gather the most (there is far too much to consume then) into gallon jugs to enjoy the rest of the year.

A few hours later we are back in our south Minneapolis home with enough cider to make the wonder of a crisp fall day reappear magically in our mouths until we can squeeze apples again. We also have enough love to make sure we are reminded to continue opening our lives until we get a chance to squeeze some more again from Mama & Papa Pogo.

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 55.1-2 NIV