Category Archives: Joy

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

AC_header_LWI_NEWLast Sunday, as part of the Advent Conspiracy, I preached on “Spend Less” and shared a specific story about an alternative giving idea. Nancy W. Gavin started a tradition in her home of placing a small white envelope in the Christmas tree. Inside the envelope was a very special gift. You can read her original inspiring story (published in Woman’s Day December 14, 1982) here.

The main reason I “Spend Less” on Christmas gifts (that are often given out of guilt or custom) is so that I can truly “Give More” in the Spirit of Christ. As an Advent Conspiracy pastor wrote,

We know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t they just say I should spend less, and yet here they are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

A strong Christmas memory from childhood was opening our special family present. It was often a simple board game: Clue or Mousetrap or Trivial Pursuit. We would then play the game together, enjoying the friendly competition. I have no memory of who won or lost, but I do remember the powerful sense of family joy. My parents practiced “Give More” in that simple present.

 

After my sermon on the white envelope someone talked with me about starting their own white envelope tradition in their family. I gave him a few ideas on what projects he might consider. One was our local food shelf. Another idea is to give a gift from the ELCA gift catalog, such as a goat or pig to a family in the developing country or a week’s tuition for a seminary student. You can learn more about such good gifts at the here

The practice of “Give More” is at the heart of the Christmas story. Jesus gave himself for us. In the babe of Bethlehem, God came to us in a simple child, vulnerable and poor. As Paul reminds us

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (Phil 2:4-8, The Message)

How might you “Give More” this Christmas?

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving yourself. Teach me to give in new ways.

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Underground Work

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

This week at Resurrection there has been plenty of working going on, but most has been invisible. A horizontal drilling machine was on site and it drilled a 350 foot tunnel under our parking lot so that a sewer pipe could connect our building to the county sewer line. It encountered rocks and layers of stone that slowed progress but the drill eventually broke through and the connection made.

Meanwhile our pumpkin patch continues to flourish and will soon be ready for our annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 6. The small seedling that were planted last June have flourished over the summer and more than 500 pumpkins that were once hidden by leafy vines are now visible.   They are ready for the harvest.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

The Harvest Festival is a celebration of local farm heritage and your participation is encouraged, both as volunteers and participants.  Discover how you can help make this day special by volunteering here.

All this underground work reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Mark 4.

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus’ parable states that the kingdom is growing all around us, often in invisible ways that we do not fully comprehend. Jesus calls us to be faithful in scattering the seed, God’s Word of promise and hope for all people.  The Word is often mysterious in how it calls people to faith in God.  I am one who wants to see tangible results right away, but God’s Word sometimes needs to be like the horizontal drill, pushing through a stony sinful heart. I need to persevere in my spreading of God’s Word.   The harvest of faith will eventually come.  And oh what joy comes with the harvest!

I am confident that all the underground work done this week will eventually bring glory to God’s kingdom. We need to remain patient in our trust of God’s promise of a fruitful harvest.

In what ways have you had to be patient with God’s underground work?

Lord Jesus, work your Word into my life and world.

Days Six, Seven and Eight: A Peaceful End

My final days hiking on the PCT had a certain lightness of being. First, my pack was becoming lighter as I consumed my daily granola, tortillas and trail mix. Second, my legs and heart had strengthened during the daily routine of hiking up and down mountain passes. Third, after my fall in Sitkum creek, my loss of glasses gave everything a kind of dream-like quality. Finally, I had been using my phone as a camera and the battery began to die so I took fewer pictures.  All this meant that I simply tried to be in the moment.

On day six, I was traveling along some of the most beautiful alpine country in the North Cascades. The alpine lupine and Indian paintbrush were abundant. The clouds cleared from around Glacier Peak and it remained the dominate peak to my north even as I hiked south.

Another blogger’s picture of Lake Sally Ann.  (Theo’s Roaming and Rambling)

The temperatures rose and I decided to take a quick dip in Lake Sally Ann. The cold water renewed me after miles of dusty hiking.

Blocked TrailAfterwards I came to a section of trail where a winter storm had blown down scores of trees across the trail.  Later I met a trail crew that was slowly clearing the many down trees. I say “slowly” not because they were lazy, but rather because in Glacier Peak Wilderness Area they could only use hand tools. No gas power chain saws were allowed.

That night I camped at a small campsite near a small stream, thankful for the trail crews, the silence and the trail itself.  The trial has many similarities to life.   Though the path may be blocked at times, God shows a way around the obstacles.

On day seven I enjoyed a fine lunch on Grizzly Peak and a delightful afternoon swim in shallow Lake Janus.  I had one last look at Glacier Peak before the trail dropped over a ridge.

My last look at Glacier Peak

My last look at Glacier Peak

My final campsite was by Lake Valhalla, only six miles from Steven’s Pass. The last morning on trail had a relaxed tempo. I knew that three of my four siblings would meet me on the trail around noon, so I took my time packing my tent and eating breakfast. I even relaxed in a mountain meadow to read for a time.

End of the Trail with Kris and Rob

So thankful for my sister Kris, my brother Rob, and my sister Kathleen (taking the picture) who gave me a ride back to Seattle.

Less than a mile from Steven’s Pass, my siblings spotted me and we took a couple of pictures. They still wanted to hike a bit more, so they continued on up the trail while I headed to the car to clean up and change clothes.

In spite of the fall in Sitkum Creek and the lost glasses, I truly enjoyed my trip. The high alpine meadows, the majestic forests, the craggy peaks and the meandering trail all speak to my soul. I felt renewed and refreshed as I drove with my siblings back to Seattle. Though the Psalmist in Psalm 48 was writing about Mt. Zion, I take a much broader perspective, seeing all mountains with such beauty.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of the whole earth.

I am already pondering my next mountain trip. And yes, in case you are wondering, I will pack an extra pair of glasses and my hiking stick.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your peace that surpasses all human understanding.

Day Five: Pride Goes Before the Fall

IMG_20130818_134449_651Day Five of my backpack started much like day four: the glorious beauty of Glacier Peak surrounded me and I felt tremendous joy as I ambled down the trail. My feet felt as light as my heart. With my lightness of feet I jumped a couple of streams. I thought, “It’s going to be a wonderful day.  Thank you, Lord!”

The Cascade Mountains are a named for the many streams cascading down from the glaciers and snow fields. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses many of these streams. On major rivers, there are often bridges. Some of these have been battered by the spring floods. I wondered how long Kennedy Creek would keep its bridge.

Kennedy Creek Bridge on the PCT

Kennedy Creek Bridge on the PCT

Shortly after crossing Kennedy Creek, I came to Sitkum Creek. Sitkum is rather small and has no bridge. I stopped to consider my options. I noticed several larger stones that could be used to boulder-hop across. I also could easily wade across since it was less than 6″ deep. I did not have trekking poles and my shoes were dry. After a moment’s reflection I decided to try boulder hopping, thus keeping my shoes dry.

Sitkum CreekI loosened my pack and started across. One boulder, two boulders. . .  .

Suddenly my foot slipped and I fell into the stream. Unable to catch myself with my hands, my face slipped below the water and my head hit a rock.

I heard a crunch and felt the sharp blow to my head. I quickly scrambled up to my knees. I felt my forehead and discovered a rising lump above my right eye. I also discovered my glasses were gone, swept away by the stream.

I got to my feet and splashed across to the far side of the stream. I took off my pack and took stock of my situation. Other than the bump on my head, I had no other scrapes or bruises. I went back to look for my glasses in the stream, totally oblivious to how wet my shoes had become. Though I looked and felt all around the area where I fell, no glasses could be found. I suspected that they broke in the fall (the crunch sound I heard). Since I was packing light, I did not have a spare pair of glasses with me.

LumpAfter a fruitless search, I considered my options. I am nearsighted and usually wear glasses, but I am able to see okay without them. I could clearly see the trail, trees, stream, and rocks around me. I had not blacked out in the fall, nor was my vision more blurred than normal. I was at least twenty miles from any trail head and still forty-five miles from Steven’s Pass. So I picked up my pack and marched on.

I must say I was having a small pity-party as I hiked. “Why didn’t I simply wade in water?” “If you had brought your hiking stick, you probably would have regained balance before falling.” “A spare pair of glasses isn’t that heavy.” There is plenty of time for self incrimination walking down the trail.

For a moment I thought, “Why did God let this happen?” Then I remembered what I have so often said to confirmation students and others, “God gives us free will. He does not wrap us in Kevlar bubble wrap that keeps us from experiencing the consequences of our poor choices.” Upon further reflection, I thought it may have been God’s voice telling me to “wade in the water.”

I covered more than sixteen miles and several thousand feet of elevation change that day. I passed several people who could have helped me if I needed it. Even though I was in some of the most scenic alpine country, it was all blurry for me.

I joked to myself that I was hiking through a Monet impressionistic painting.  (Perhaps Monet’s Bridge would fit over Sitkum Creek.)

Late that afternoon, I met a younger man who was hiking in the opposite direction. After I shared with him a bit of my story, he looked at my bruised head and said, “And I was going to complaining about my blistered feet. I am going to stop my complaining right now.” We both agreed that simply being out in the beauty of creation is sufficient.

What I would have seen if I had still had my glasses.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your protection even when I fall.

 

Day Four: Rejoice and Be Glad

Mica Lake in Glacier Wilderness

My fourth day on the trail was a joyful one. As I climbed up to Firecracker pass, I passed Mica Lake, ice still lingering.  At the top I was treated a spectacular view both south and north. The cutting wind pushed me down to Fire Creek where I stopped for lunch. The wildflowers and blueberries were abundant and I enjoyed the break.

Fire Creek was ablaze with color.

Fire Creek was ablaze with color.

At Fire creek as (I was taking the picture above) a voice startled me with the question, “Is this Pumice Creek?” I turned to see an older woman with a broad hat and friendly face coming from the south. I responded, “I think this is Fire Creek. You already passed Pumice.” We consulted the maps and she agreed.

I quickly learned that her name was Mary and that she was doing the reverse of my hike, starting at Stevens and hiking north to Stehekin. She was hiking alone. In past summers she had hiked often with her husband, but he had died suddenly in the past year. Her voice caught for moment with grief as she described him. Hiking appeared to be part of her healing. She shared that  she would turn 65 in a couple of months and she wanted to see if she could still hike. She obviously could because we were near the half-way point for each of us.

I asked her if in the past her husband did the map reading. “Oh no.” she laughed. “He was as bad as I am. We could be looking at a map of Paris, see the Eiffel tower to our right and the Seine River to our left and still have no idea where we were. But somehow we got where we were going.”

We discussed some of the through-hikers that we had met of the trail. Mary remarked, “I sometimes wonder if in their hurry to cover miles if they see what beauty is around them?” We agreed that our more leisurely pace had value.

We exchanged information about the trail ahead for each of us. She told me where some great campsite were. After filling our water bottles, we lifted our packs and headed in opposite directions, yet holding similar joy.

Later that evening I stopped early at a great campsite Mary had shared and fixed a meal. The day had been filled with joy so I decided to have fun recording my meal prep. Below is a taste of what it is like to camp in the high alpine country.

This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24  That verse was certainly true for my fourth day.

Little did I know that the fifth day would be a test of my joy.

Easy Burden and Light Pack

Lake Superior from the Superior Hiking Trail

Lake Superior from the Superior Hiking Trail

Tomorrow I am headed north to the north shore of Lake Superior. I am planning to hike four days along the Superior Hiking trail, starting just south of Gooseberry Falls.  My goal is to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation while also testing my equipment and endurance for a longer hike this August. If all goes well, I should cover between 50 and 70 miles of the trail.

Always a good idea to erect the tent at home before one tries it in the wild.

Always a good idea to erect the tent at home before one tries it in the wild.

Recently I  have been reading about ultra-light backpackers who are scrupulous in reducing the weight of their packs to less than 10 pounds (without food or water). That low weight includes the pack, shelter, sleeping gear, cook gear and clothing. I am not there yet. I did get a new a new tent that weighs less than three pounds. After my first round of weight cutting, I have reduced my pack’s weight from 30 to 20 pounds.

Ultra-light hikers stress that backpacking is mostly about hiking, not camping.  The joy is the journey, not the destination, and to enjoy the journey, one needs a lighter pack. As I have worked to lighten the load I am reminded of Jesus words.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

I realize that backpacking is not everyone’s way of “resting” in Christ, but it is a way to restore my soul. I’ll let you know how it went when I return.

Lord Jesus, teach us how to rest in you.