Friday, August 26, 2011

thin places

This is a post I've been thinking about since the Allagash. While paddling up Eagle Lake at about 6:00 on Wednesday morning something struck me. It was early and the lake was glass, there were no sounds to disturb the peace that God had placed on the waterway this morning. What I noticed was the clouds. I looked up and it seemed that they were closer to the earth. I felt that if my arms were just a little bit longer, I could have reached right out of the canoe and grabbed one. Unfortunately words can only do so much to describe not only the setting, but the feeling it caused. I don't mean that there was fog: there was plenty of that, but these clouds were different. These were the clouds you see floating lazily by on a summer day in the midwest, miles above you. These are the clouds you make animals out while laying in the grass. These are the clouds that make you feel small when you fly by them in an airplane. These were real clouds, and they were mere feet above our canoe.

A "thin place" is one of those locations where the dividing line between holy and the ordinary is, well, thin. Those places you get to and a shiver runs down your spine because you know that just on the other side of the paper-thin veil God rests. The Allagash is one of those places for me. If I had my druthers I would probably be on the Allagash right now, with nine of my favorite people. In fact I'm somewhat convinced that when I die and go to Heaven I'll be paddling my way there in an Old Town Tripper with my Shaw & Tenney paddle. I don't want to give the impression that the reason that the Allagash felt like heaven was because the clouds were close to earth, because there's much more to it than that. Sleeping on the ground, reading Psalms out loud, sharing who I am without fear and that same trust being reciprocated...all these things are heavenly. All of these lead me to the feeling of being close to the other side.

I think one of the reasons that we don't experience thin places is because we have built our lives in our own image. How often are we forced out of the fortresses of our mind to something totally new and novel? How often do we take a step out the door into something we've never experienced before? For me the answer is, simply, not enough. It's a wonder that it's taken me this long to "figure out" why I struggle with life sometimes. I've kept the same old habits for a long time. And not even bad ones, just habitual behavior that leads me on to the next habitual behavior. I've been blessed with singleness at twenty-four, and all I can think about is how I want my life to be a job, wife, and kids. Those are great things and things I eventually want. But as for now I want to take what God has given me and run with it. I want to be dependent on Him to lead me through the valley, and rejoice with me on the mountaintop. I want him to be in the back of the canoe, guiding me through lakes and rivers. Feeling the pain of headwinds the joy of rapids. I don't know how I'll manage to become that, and I'm sure that just as soon as I take a step  in the right direction it'll get hard. But I'm tired of yearning for something different. I want to be thankful for what I have.

So for the next couple of months I hope to find more thin places. But I also hope to find Him in the thick ones. Get out your front door and go someplace. Hike up a mountain, paddle across a river, seek God and you'll find Him. And when you find one of these thin places, rejoice. Take it all in, and go on home. Because we can't hold on to time any more than we can decide what the weather is going to be. But we can remember, and we can share.


Friday, August 12, 2011


The response to the last post was about what I expected it to be. Cody came up to me on the front lawn and told me that I needed to change my blog post. A couple of people posted reminders on Facebook saying such things like "God is good" and "you'll get better." One friend at camp even wrote a note telling me that God still can use me and that perhaps this is His way of knocking down my pride. I first want to say thanks to everyone who said something, either directly to me or straight to God.

But I also wanted to add something to my last post. I'm aware of what we all say when something like this happens. "All things work together for the good of those who love God and live according to His purpose." "He has a plan," "things are bound to improve," etc. And while, again, I'm thankful for the reminder, I still needed the time to process what happened to me. My part in this was to work through it and the part of everyone else in my life seemed to be to continually remind me of the Truth. I'm incredibly blessed to have people in my life who are willing to put up with my bad attitude and so glad to hear from everyone. 

As I said above, my part in this was to work through it. My thought was that I was shortchanging the healing process by saying to myself that everything would be OK. I want to be honest to you and to myself. And the honest truth was what I was feeling a couple of days ago. But that snapshot is just that, a picture of me at a certain point in time. To know the real me you're gonna have to be around me and see that no matter what I put up on this blog I'm growing, that almost as soon as I put something up on this blog I've grown from it. I'm already a little better and less emotional about being hiked out, and I think part of that is the discipline of writing and the rest is time.

The other thing I want to say I've already touched on a little and it has to to with honesty. I feel that what I write in this blog has to be honest or I'm wasting everyone's time. I could just put the fluffy, happy things up and you and I would probably feel just that way about it. But when I first starting writing in this thing I made a conscious decision to write the truth no matter what. So that's what I've been trying to do, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. So in one hand I'm sorry for being a bummer sometimes, but on the other hand I'm not sorry for that. Our feelings are from God and if we don't use them they'll become lazy and atrophied. If I can make someone feel something from what I'm writing I'll be perfectly happy, and if that feeling is sadness come and talk and we'll work through it together.

Thanks for reading, and in the next couple of weeks I should have a guest post coming up.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


This past week I was supposed to be hiking in the White Mountains with my campers. All the preparations were made, the group of 24 was split into three, and we set off. But during staff week I had tweaked my right knee just a little, and about an hour into the trip it started bothering me. By halfway through the first day I was wearing two braces and leaning heavily on the trekking poles that George Bowling let me borrow. We got in camp a little late and found that our water source was a stagnant pond. Beth (trip staff) and I decided that her, Paul, and Scott would go back down the trail to get clean water for the group, and they headed off. While they were doing that I was sitting on the ground with my leg resting on a log. A wet bandanna was wrapped around my knee as the only way to "ice" it. After Beth got back we talked about my options and figured that I would at least need to continue on the next day to get to the best possible evac site.

In the middle of the next day Beth made the call to camp and the evac was set up. Christian would come in, hand the keys to a jeep off to me, and I'd hike myself out. We camped that night about two and a half miles away from our meet up and made really good time getting there the next day. The hand-off went off without a hitch, and Christian took my place with my campers. And I walked two miles out of the White Mountains to a parking lot and civilization.

What have I learned from this? Well, I think it's too early to decide on that to be honest. But I can tell you what I was/am feeling because of it.

  • I feel like a failure. Like I failed my campers, I failed camp itself, and mostly that I failed Beth. I feel like I should have known that my knee was going to give out. That I should have just said that I couldn't go. I feel like I was too prideful and that if I wasn't so much I would have not gone and put the campers and Beth in the position I did. 
  • This is the first time in my life that I've not been able to do something because of my body. I wanted to finish that trip. I wanted to grit my teeth and bear down and keep going. But I couldn't. I can barely make it around camp, much less up and down mountains.
  • I'm incredibly grateful for my camp family. My co-counselers have been great. They have lifted me up, they've helped me get out of the funk I was in, and they've made sure that I am making it. I missed out on the hike experence, but I'm not missing out on the rest of camp thanks to them.

I'll be going into the hospital on Thursday to get it checked out, and we'll see what happens. I pray it's nothing too bad, but I also hope that it is. I don't think I could bear it if it wasn't anything big and I was just being a pansy.

Thanks for your prayers, and contrary to the tone of this post I'm really doing well. It's hard, but it's good. Can't wait to see you when I see you.