Tag Archives: BWCA

After the Fire

Yesterday I returned from a wonderful trip into the Boundary Water’s Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota. Pictures and a complete trip review will be forthcoming. Overall it was a wonderful trip — great fellowship with the men of Resurrection, great wilderness solitude and great exercise.

One strong impression came on the first day. After loading our canoes at the Kawishiwi Lodge at Lake One near Ely, MN we enjoyed an early morning paddle along a shoreline covered with green pine trees. After we crossed the first set of two short portages to Lake Two, we immediately we encountered a different sight. The shoreline had been heavily impacted by the Pagami Creek Fire last year. Large sections of the forest were burned to the ground, with only small patches of green trees still standing. It was a stark reminder of how fragile a wilderness environment can be.

But it also was an example of how resilient the forest can. Even as we paddled past acres of dead trees, we saw thousands of small shoots of green shrubs, flowers, and trees pushing up through the charred soil. In time the forest will restore itself. Fire is part of its life cycle.

When tragedy hits, we human often have a short-sighted vision of its consequences. We see only the pain and sorrow and rarely have the ability to see how good can arise from it. This is natural. Yet we have God’s promise that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Even when a forest is crushed by a fire, new life can begin. Even when God’s own Son is executed on a cross, resurrection becomes reality.

Lord Jesus, continue to remind us that all will be well with you.

Canoe Journey Begins

This morning I start a four-day canoe trip in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness with my son and nine other men from Resurrection Lutheran Church. It will be journey not only through the beautiful wilderness of northern Minnesota, but also a spiritual journey into the wonder of God’s grace.

The image of journey or pilgrimage has deep roots in the Christian tradition. A person starts in one place, travels to another, and then returns to the starting point. The person make look the same, but the journey has transformed him or her.

The Biblical narrative is filled with journey stories from Abraham and Sarah to the Exile in Babylon. The life of Jesus is primarily a journey. Each Gospel records how Jesus’ ministry begins in northern Galilee but eventually he heads south to Jerusalem to the cross and empty tomb.

The Gospel of Luke perhaps takes this image most seriously. Mary travels through the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel’s visit (Luke 1:39). Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth and then to the temple in Jerusalem for his dedication (Luke 2). As a boy Jesus makes the pilgrimage to the Passover Festival in Jerusalem where he is lost for three days. (An excellent post on this story here).

As an adult Jesus’ ministry is a journey from town to town and across the Sea of Galilee. Two of my favorite parables from Luke focus on people who travel—the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Jesus sends his disciples on not one, but two training missions (Luke 9, 10). After his resurrection Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). The final scene in Luke is Jesus leading his disciples out as far as Bethany for his ascension. (I will only mention that the Book of Acts, written also by Luke, contains more journey stories.)

I do not know how or where God will encounter our two canoe groups, but I am confident that through the journey, the Spirit of God will be working to transform us into his glorious image. I’ll let you know when we return.

Lord Jesus, may we walk, canoe, run, move, dance, play, work, serve with you today.

Club Moss And The Male Mask

Club Moss in BWCA

My trip to northern Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area with the men of Resurrection Lutheran Church is only a few weeks away. As posted earlier, we have been reading Andrew Rogness’ Crossing Boundary Waters. I wrote about his early encounter with a outlet stream and later on his thunderstorm adventure. Today it is his simple encounter with a small green plant.

Near the end of his four-day solo canoe trip, Rogness stops to pick blueberries and then lays down to observe a small patch of forest floor. His attention is captivated by a club moss, which has an asexual reproduction.  The spores of the club moss contains both the female egg and male sperm.  As he holds a small piece of moss in his hand his mind contemplates deeper issues.

I stretch forward and put my face close to the granite, then roll over into the midst of the club moss.

I came to the Boundary Waters because I felt disjointed and out of control. Was this not a dilemma brought on, in part, by an unhealthy assumptions on my part—that I, as a male, must always be in control and have things together, that I must always achieve, compete, and conquer? Yet this is no more possible for males than for females. As a matter of fact, what’s wrong with having moments of life that are a bit out of control and disjointed, assuming they do not damage anyone? And nothing is wrong with having moments of achievement, competition, and success.

My illusion has been that I, as a male, should at all times have a clear understanding of my purpose, a disciplined strategy for accomplishing that purpose and tangible success stories that establish my worth. Trapped in a game I did not consciously choose, I look at the scoreboard. It is halftime. Soon the game will be over, and my score is not high enough.

I came here to start a new game plan, to regain control of a game that was getting out of hand. The rules—in fact, the whole game—were blown away by a connection with creation, by crossing boundary waters (p. 106).

Rogness had a journey of acceptance and redemption. He rediscovered his value as child of the Creator. Sometimes we need to leave the familiar in order to discover the profound reality of God. In a way, Rogness describes a spiritual pilgrimage. He has made the journey to a holy land other than Jerusalem or Rome. In a small piece of club moss he has discovered the infinite wonder of God’s grace.

I am praying that our men’s trip to the BWCA might have a similar spiritual impact on each of us.

Have you had moments of grace, when God has grabbed hold of your life in a fresh way?

Lord Jesus, be Lord today in my life.

Baptized in the BWCA

Earlier this spring I wrote about  Andrew Rogness’ book, Crossing Boundary Waters: A Spiritual Journey in Canoe Country. You can read that post here.  I am rereading it in preparation for a canoe trip in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) later this summer with men from Resurrection.

Through out the book Rogness is wrestling with his own restless soul, seeking to restore a sense of emotional and spiritual balance in his life.  He describes a dream in which he see himself as a broken Superman who needs repair.  His self-mage has become twisted and distorted, trying to stay in control.  As he canoes alone through the wilderness, he senses a storm brewing inside himself.

In one dramatic scene, a thunderstorm rushes towards his campsite and he decides to keep his clothing and gear dry by stripping everything off and meeting the storm naked.

Now where to stand?  Near the trees isn’t a good spot, with lightning searing the sky. I walk down to the water’s edge, face west, and greet the oncoming rain with arms outstretched.

The rain pelts my skin and streams down my face.  I am surprised not to feel cold.  It is as though the water is cleansing, purifying more than the outer me, and drawing me away from the center of what is happening.  I am in this storm, not just watching it. I am in the world, not apart from it.

Across the bay, I see mist rising from the forest. Even while the rain descends, it also rises to renew itself.   I am whipped by the storm, brought to the ground of my being, and I sense this same kind of transformation rising from within.  I think of what has happened to me in three days, what has been poured out of myself to be cleansed by the wilderness and like the mist now rises to new birth (p. 92).

Rogness takes time to reflect and describe how a wilderness journey can be a spiritual experience in the Christian tradition.  He senses the power of God in storm and within himself.  His canoe trip give him the opportunity to reorient himself as a child of God.  The rainstorm is a kind of baptism in which death and new life become possible.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Have you ever experience a moment of new birth?

Has time in the wilderness helped you reorient your self-image?

Lord Jesus, create a new center within me.

Crossing Boundary Waters

I am looking forward to a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) of northern Minnesota this July with men from Resurrection Lutheran Church. Part of our preparation is to read Andrew Rogness’ Crossing Boundary Waters: A Spiritual Journey in Canoe Country. Andrew was a Lutheran pastor who wrote about his four-day solo canoe trip in the BWCA and his personal discoveries.

Early in his trip he encountered a small narrow opening to a lake that had a swift current to it.

Enough water moves through it to form a clear “V” shape with swirling eddies and small whirlpools. If I try to paddle through it, I will be going against the current. This can be hard enough for two paddlers, but manageable. I have never tried it alone. Now with a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude, I decide to try. (p. 26).

Over the next several paragraphs, Andrew described his three attempts to conquer this small rapids at the entrance to the lake. It becomes almost comical in his description of different positions and approaches. After his final approach, he paddled to the smoothly rounded granite bed on the east side of the narrows. As he sat on the rock, his feet dangling in the water, he reflected on his attempt to conquer this small section of the river.

I realize that I had entered the water to manipulate, dominate, and objectify it as though it were there so serve me. This image explodes into a maze of thoughts and insight, leaving my body on the edge of the rapids. . . . What I thought were the reasons for my coming here, I now see as symptoms of a deeper issue. I had intended to search for myself, unsure if my problems were with me or with others and my relationships with them. Maybe the problem is how I relate to myself. I hear words reverberating in some forgotten sanctuary, “Whoever would find their life will lose it. And whoever would lose their life will find it.” Words that were an utter mystery to me. Why do I remember them? Why do they make perfect sense now? (p. 28-29)

Canoe trips, summer hikes, or long car drives can be time for self-reflection and renewal. Leaving the familiar routines of daily life can sometime open cracks that allow the Holy Spirit to break into our lives in a fresh and powerful way. Times of reflections can help us understand our spiritual emotions and cultivate a healthier perspective on them.

I look forward to such encounters and contemplations during my travels. May God give you time for such spiritual reflection.

Lord Jesus, grant me your perspective of my life.