Archive for October, 2014

First 10 days!

Oh, the futility of my life! Solomon knew what he meant when he said “all is vain!” He too must have been trying to capture the majestic sweetness of creation with his camera as well…it is just so futile! I suppose each day is just to be experienced in the present moment and hopefully I will be positively changed as a result! (But that won’t stop me from taking pictures anyway!)

Looking at the Smokies from the NC side at Water Rock Knob. A good brisk day kept the flag waving.

Tuesday after our last class of Women’s Bible Study of Wonderstruck, there was a great farewell lunch held at Tupy’s. Every week this caring community was on my wonderstruck list…and they will continue to be even as I travel through another weekly awesomeness that made my life…God’s creation!

Last day with the St. Philip’s Episcopal Women’s Bible study group!

As I pulled away from St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (I had to go back and visit a few other folks!) I was impacted by just how vast the alterations of the last 3 months have been…and that the next 15 months are going to be exponential to even those. As Big Blue and I scooted down the road, I kind of felt like I was putting my head into the jaws of Change…either be gulped down its throat, or be blessed with having made friends with one of the scariest of beasts…

The T-Rex of Change!
(Visited Heard Science Museum with the ever adventuresome Shadow clan!)

Having left late Tuesday, I only made it to Monroe, LA where my van provided a most comfortable sleeping quarter. I then continued on through Mississippi until I ran into Tallegada traffic in Alabama…even on a Wednesday.

Farewells are never easy when you love those who you are leaving.

 

I met a very pleasant older couple in Birmingham, as they needed a jump start (first battery-in-the-rear new car I’ve seen). It was kind of funny as the woman leaned in a little close to my ear as if she were about to reveal a secret like “I didn’t want to go to the races so I pulled the distributor cap” or something like that. But instead she made confession. One which I’m sure she thought was akin to blasphemy or some such… “I’m reeeeally not a ‘bama fan…in my heart of hearts…LSU!” Gasping in feigned horror, I granted her absolution in Jesus. Thankfully, we both were able to roll on right out of Birmingham, each going our own way, cheered by our meeting.

I got into Canton, GA Wednesday night and stayed with my high school pal Paula and her family. We went to Chattanooga for the weekend and were able to redeem an expired Groupon to rent 2 electric bikes for four hours (thanks to their mom-and-pop service!). Oh la la! All of a sudden I’m a killer-bike-rider! Power-assisted pedaling. I can take on any incline with those thing…and not even break a sweat.

This kind of bike can get me off the couch and out on the trails!

We spent our time riding around downtown Chattanooga and Moccasin Bend National Archeological District (thankfully/unfortunately the only snake we saw was a dead one on the street). I LOVE (ok, that may be a strong word to use for material things…but I really really liked it!). And I even felt the muscle ache of it all the next day!

We then returned to Canton via the Appalachian Foothill Parkway through the Cataloochee Forest. The locals said there wouldn’t be a color-popping-peak this year because of the weather…and yet…the majesty of the trees and the variety of them all was still breath-taking (here enters one of the many futile attempts to capture it all!)

Another futile attempt…but it begs to be attempted until I master this photography thing! The Cataloochee Forest

I washed up everything on Monday and Big Blue and I headed out all refreshed for a Tuesday departure. I traveled back up through the Catacoochie Forest, the Nantahala Forest, hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway, overlooked the Great Smoky Mountains from the NC side and edged my way up the Parkway to Asheville.

Big Blue entering the Blue Ridge Parkway 1,000 miles into my trip!

 

While at one of the overlooks I met a tough looking fellow (Curtis, if you’re reading this, you have to admit, don’t you, that you are one tough looking dude?!) who was riding his Harley through the Blue Ridge Mountains as well. After a few cursory introductions and mutual “wow’s” about the landscape, I offered to take a pic of him on his bike with the blue smoky mountains as the back drop (he offered me the same photo stage, which I, with great difficulty, turned down—only if I actually rode it would it make sense)! He then pointed to my van and the front bumper sticker on it and asked, “so, are you a Christian?” “Yep, I love Him! He changed my life and His love is the petrol for my heart.”

Well, if he didn’t just go and bless my socks off with his testimony afterwards of how God delivered him from motorcycle gangs and drugs, and I suspect many other bondages, while he was in his 40’s. Not long afterwards, his mother had to battle cancer. And it was he who took care of her until the end of her struggle with that deadly disease. She said to him “never in a million years would I have thought that I would be asking you, of all people, to care for the rest of the family.” Definitely an awestruck moment meeting with Curtis Holbrook of Florida!

Curtis motorcycling through the Appalachians…great to meet him on the trip!

 

I headed to downtown Asheville, NC to find the library so I could get some work done on God’s Story handout for week 43 and send it off via wi-fi. Well, it didn’t quite work that way. I walked up and down the street looking for a place to grab a bite to eat (ended up at Twisted Crepe). I suspect I looked a bit homeless with my backpack, hoodie and cowboy hat. A busker created great ambiance for the whole downtown area with his soulful sax playing…so I sat a while in front of him just listening and people watching.

All that to say…that might explain why Shawn, a 25-year old, thought he would do me a favor and offer me an opportunity to make money by recruiting me to his pimp-dom (because it certainly wasn’t my attire or appearance that compelled him to invite me into his service!)

What seemed normal attire to me while hiking the WaterRock Knob trail, apparently can have a “homeless” look when walking in downtown Asheville, NC carrying a backpack!

Totally caught off guard, I oddly thanked him, and then let him know that Jesus is my provider and he never puts me in compromising situations. He then launched into his understanding of following Christ starting with the rebellion of Adonijah who pronounced himself king (right! Where in the world is that story?! See week 16’s weekly readings to brush up on that account!) and then that lead into injustices against the African American and why they weren’t compensated like the Native American was. “Where are our casinos and reservations?” Hmm.

I then asked him why he was doing what he did. “Because I’m good at it. It’s what I do best. All the men in my family are the best at whatever they do.” There was no convincing him that what he was engaged in was hurtful, if at least not questionable. “Is there a dream you have or a desire for your life, that kind of aches in you? Like maybe God made you for something more than this?” “I never thought about it. Everyone knows I’m good, to the girls and to the customers…fair. They know I’m the best at this particular art/business.”

True confessions…I was stymied in so many ways, so I just asked at the end of about 40 minute conversation if I could pray for him and “his girls.” So after a wee prayer I bid him adieu and headed to the library, only to discover it closed 4 minutes before! (Perhaps one day he will be on the overlook of the Blue Ridge Mountains blessing the socks off someone giving testimony of a changed life and his work with women that empowered them from off the streets to stability!)

Spent the night in Newton, NC in my cozy van and then made it to a friend from my Grand Rapid’s days house with her and her family in Fredericksburg, VA. Looks like I will stay here until Monday when I head up to my bosses and stay with his family and get suited up for the trip, DV.

What a delightful family it is. They are fully prepared for a national collapse and apocalypse out in the country. Their philosophy is so contrary to my way of thinking (or perhaps non-thinking!) but it is one of those things where I sometimes find myself thinking “You are over-reacting, but let me have your phone number just in case!” Oh, and not only that…they may have a few “extra” solar panels and batteries lying around that might could set me up for electricity in my van when I am off grid in the parks…that’s at least half a grand, if not more! I’ll let you know how that develops!

Garden, Compost Tumbler, Solar Panels, Greenhouse and Off the grid house…and all with gracious hospitality!

But regardless of our varying views, it is a blessing to be with Heather and Duane and their two kids Grace and Jacob (6 & 3 years old respectively) and 33 animals. I could gobble up both the kids as they are so doggone participatory, and that so cheerfully! Instead I’ll just gobble up the eggs and milk that the animals offer!

Grace and Jacob are such good sports to “pose” for the camera! They are funner than they look even!

Today, we made soap (the universal “we” as really it was Heather and Sharon!). Lard, frozen goat’s milk, lye and oatmeal. A tad consuming time-wise, but it makes so many bars of soap that it shouldn’t have to be done so often…unless you want to get in the business of making it! It will be a few weeks before the lye is neutralized, so I will have to come back through here and gather up a bar or two!

The final stage of pouring the oil, lye, goat milk and oatmeal mixture into the molds. The lye should be neutralized in a few weeks!

Well, there you have it…my first week and a half on the road! And Big Blue is doing good, thanks be to God!

Christ the Gracious Plowman

I have been spending an unduly amount of time pondering on this passage, so I thought I would give voice to it here on my “Ramblings” blog.

Matthew 13:44
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Perhaps the primary understanding of this passage coincides with the commentaries that explain it thusly:

Robert Hawker says:
The treasure may most probably be Christ, hid, in the field of the Scripture, from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes…gladly will a child of God then turn his back upon all the objects which might otherwise be desirable, in this waste and howling wilderness

BW Johnson has this to say:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in the field. Valuables which, with us, are entrusted to banks, are in the East buried in fields and gardens to save them from robbers and accidents. This parable teaches the immense value, priceless, of the gospel; and that one who finds out that value will give up everything else in order to possess himself of the privileges and hopes of the kingdom

Alexander MacLeran
You may say that the treasure is the blessing that comes from Christianity, or the inward wealth of a submissive heart, or may use various modes of expression, but below them all lies this one great thought, that, when all is said and done, the only possession that makes us rich is God Himself. For that is the deepest meaning of the treasure. And whatever other forms of expression we may use to designate it, they all come back at last to this, that the wealth of the human soul is to have God for its very own.

And just one last one, Matthew Henry:
Jesus Christ is the true Treasure; in Him there is an abundance of all that which is rich and useful, and will be a portion for us: all fulness (Col. 1:19; Jn. 1:16): treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), of righteousness, grace, and peace; these are laid up for us in Christ. 

But…
…this past week I’ve been struck with the uniqueness of Christ and His persistent love and constant work on our behalf…all gathered from this one-sentence parable about the kingdom of God. Perhaps not an interpretation, but rather a heart application:
  • What if we are the treasure?
  • What if Christ is seen as the finder of this treasure?
  • What if the field is simply our thorn-covered, weed-filled, flawed life?
  • What if the giving up of everything to secure this seemingly worthless piece of land was Him giving up heaven’s glory to get to the core of it?
To look only upon the surface of our fields and judge by that, we would not find much winsome or fruitful reasons enough to pay the extraordinary price, much less put forth the tireless effort to break up the fallow ground. No, this treasure was not hid in a garden enclosed or a spring shut up.

But for some reason, the field garnered His attention and labor. And so He put the plowshare to the ground, turning up the thistles and thorns when all of a sudden the mattock of His plow rings against a box of buried treasure…a heart that was made for Him!

God…giving up Heaven’s Best…for the property not even considered worthy of a spade or plow. And yet He looks on the heart, plods across this laid-waste plot of land enough times over and over to actually come across a treasure buried that He concludes…sell it all…I want this child to be Mine. She is precious, honored and…treasured!

Christ breaks up the fallow ground of our field to get to the buried treasure of our heart…He sold all to procure us!