Trail Musings

13662147_10210304832600440_5084934451114239592_o This summer and last, Alex and I have committed to backpack sections of the Colorado Trail.  We have committed to step into the wild, unplug from distractions, enjoy some time together, and cover miles of some of the most beautiful backcountry in the United States.  Our goal is to hike the 485-plus-mile trail, 4-5 sections per summer, until Alex graduates and then hike the entire trail that summer (it should take about a month).

 

As we have ventured into the woods, we have learned things about ourselves, nature, discovered numerous truths about God and our relationship with Him and how that spills over into our daily interactions.  I hope to summarize some of these realizations and encourage you to wrestle with them l, as we have, and that they lead to spiritual growth and transformation.

13923723_10210304714397485_3287098060709887719_oPassionate Pursuit– A little more than a week ago, Alex and I struck off for our longest trek to date, 31.5 miles in three days.  We covered 40 miles of the trail across multiple hikes last summer and we knew the task that was before us, yet we approached this challenge with excitement, determination, and passion for spending time in the amazing creation of God.  Does our walk with God mirror that passionate pursuit?  I can look back on the trail I have walked with God and know that it is taxing, beautiful, frustrating, convicting, uphill, and completely worth it.  Learning to passionately pursue God and point others to the adventure of walking with God is our task according to the Great Commission.

 

13914055_10210304850000875_3704453512915995882_oGlory– I am not a morning person.  This is not a new revelation to many of you.  I have worked several jobs that require me to wake before the sun and I still have not been able to make t
hat my routine.  That being said, tents don’t have blackout curtains.  The sunrise is bright and, every time I am out on the trail I wake shortly after the sun comes up.  The glory of God refers to His radiance and splendor.  We get to experience God’s glory on display through t13680131_10210304735238006_249574120009526617_ohings we take for granted in the city.  Things like the sun (especially rising or setting), breathtaking vistas, and the amazing creation that is right around us.  Sometimes our routine gets in the way of noticing God in the ordinary.  We are so focused on what is next that we forget to think about Who created, loves and sustains.  God’s imprint is all around.  Take a minute to recognize and worship God for giving us small glimpses of His glory.

 

13909425_10210304727717818_8151682851947379900_oWork– Each trip that Alex and I take requires work.  There is work to do to prepare our gear, food and water.  We work hard on the trail carrying around 30 pounds each, for miles.  We work to cook, clean, set up and tear down camp.  Backpacking is not for the faint of heart.  Work is also  necessary for us to reach our goals.  Life in the kingdom of God is very similar.  God has created works for us to walk in them (Eph 2:10).  In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story of Laborers in the Vineyard.  Each laborer is hired to work during the harvest.  God draws us into His kingdom, not to bask in His glory, but to work in His vineyard.  The kingdom of God is not something we gain through our work but there is much work to do once we enter.

13923778_10210304716637541_4398361795154846852_oAdventure– Maps are great.  We use them to make sure that we don’t get lost, but the two-dimensional nature of them does not give the full picture of the trail.  Each bend in the trail presents different views and experiences.  There have been multiple times that we have rounded a corner to see an alpine valley below, walk into an aspen grove that stretches for miles, or to see more of the incline you thought or wished was over.  Walking with God takes us into the unknown.  We have an idea where the journey is taking us, but we cannot say what is around the next bend in trail.  God has a plan for us and leads us forward into the great unknown.  The adventure of following God is worth every step and challenge on the trail.

 

It is my prayer God will take these musings and challenge us and you to step deeper into relationship with Him.  The journey is worth the work and the relationship deepens with each step and challenge.  So, get out on the trail with God and experience His glory.


Hibernation

I grew up in North Alabama and spent all of my life in the South.  Three years ago, my family relocated to Colorado and, within a few short months, I learned a truth about a season called winter.  It was rare to have white stuff fall from the sky in my hometown.  It would happen no more than two times a year and then, only rarely would there be anything left the next day.  My experience has been different in Colorado.

Snow falls at regular intervals and remains on the ground for days at a time.  This winter we had ice in our alley for almost two months.  As a result of this weather, people act differently during the winter.  I was asked the other day when the best time is for a mission team to come to Colorado.  My answer is mid-April to early October.  People tend to hibernate here once the first snow falls.

Hibernation affects many different areas of life (i.e. relationships, crime, attitudes, events and activities).  But there is a spiritual component to hibernation too.  Individuals turn inward, families become reclusive, community building is sparse, and isolation is the norm.  Wherever old-man winter holds a tight grip, hibernation is a spiritual condition that must be addressed and worked against.  But, for now, I am glad the sun is in the sky and rain is in the forecast for the first time all year.


Winter Snow

In light of the snowiest February in Denver, I felt this Winter Snow by Audrey Assad was greatly appropriate.

As a follower of Christ, one of my great joys is celebrating Christmas, no matter the date on the calendar.  Advent represents God loving us and coming to rescue us from our sin.  Jesus’ incarnation was not world headline news, yet is one of the most important events in history.

Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,’Abba! Father!’  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir though God.”

I am grateful that God offers redemption to those who are guilty under the law.  I am thankful for a baby that came to die for my sin.  I am in awe of the kind of love that God has for us.  I am amazed that I am a child of the King through adoption.

It is my prayer that the next time is snows, our thoughts will not be that of snowmen, cabin fever, or milk, bread and eggs but of the Son of God who came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

 


100!

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We have issued ourselves a challenge…connect with 100 neighbors in 100 days! Truly connect! Learn his/her name, find out what he/she enjoys, swap stories of our spiritual heritages, and gather follow-up information. Our missional community is growing, we are meeting new neighbors at each of our monthly theme parties in our home, and God is prompting us to reach out even farther and connect even deeper. We know all too well that the spiritual warfare may be intense for these 100 days, but we believe God fights for us and will use this challenge in big ways! Please commit to pray for us specifically once a day, from Jan 26-May 5! If you’ve adopted a street in Lowry, pray specifically for the residents there, like never before! Many will be reached in this time! May His Kingdom grow and multiply and may Lowry see His light and His love in us!


The Art of Neighboring

Take just a few minutes to think about those who live nearest to you.  What are their names, jobs, hobbies, and political and religious views?  If you are unable to answer all of those questions, you are not alone.  A majorty of Americans cannot answer those questions about their neighbors.

The Art of NeighboringWe have lived in the Lowry neighborhood for just a little over one year and we are working hard to engage those around us at a deeper level.  The genesis for came from The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon.  We have been putting into practice many of the principles of this book.  We host a monthly party, with the intent of getting to know our neighbors.  We also actively engage in caring for our neighbors by getting to know more than just their names. We celebrate with them, pray for them and walk with them through difficult times.  We now, more than ever before, view those who live near us as our mission field.  As we plant our church, we are focusing on creating a culture of loving our neighbors.

Who is it, who lives within proximity to you, that you need to know more deeply?  How can you build a relationship that opens the door for conversations, not just about likes, but deep rooted heart issues (loves and hurts)?


Hustle

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I grew up playing basketball.  I was an NBA player when I practiced alone, but I was a far cry from that body type and physical giftedness in games.  I did have one thing that kept me on the court: hustle.  The greatest compliment I ever received from a coach in my playing days was, “Give me 5 guys like that, and I will win 9 out of 10 times.”

A few years ago, I read a book called Quitter by Jon Acuff.  It was a great book about working toward your dream job, while still working hard in your current job.  I came across this book shortly after I knew that I was called to the Lowry neighborhood of Denver to plant a church and while only a few people knew what God was up to in our lives.  The chapter entitled “There will be Hustle” has impacted me in great ways.

I hustled to leave well by equipping and empowering leaders at my former church.  I hustled to find a way to learn the culture and relocate my family to Colorado and, once there, I hustled by working and participating as a church planting resident.  I applied hustle once we moved to Lowry by getting a job in a neighborhood Starbucks.

We have been in a season of hustling and see that hustle will be necessary over the next few years.  I apply hustle at Starbucks and even in getting things done that I really don’t love to do.  In this season in our lives, we know that hustle will be key in accomplishing what we are called to do, while taking care of the top priorities of a healthy marriage and a loving family.

Hustle has become part of my self-talk when work gets stacked up.  I even shared this idea with a regular customer at Starbucks and he reminded me about it today when the line was long and a co-worker did not arrive on time.  I might not be great at anything, but I am willing to hustle to make up for my weaknesses.

 


Refuge

For the past 6-12 months, I have lived and believed that God is my refuge more than ever. The attacks from the enemy and the trials of this life have been great, though we have kept much of it private. I have studied the Psalms and a wonderful friend has texted me many Psalms to pray aloud and cling to. I have prayed Psalms aloud, over my home and my children. I have praised God for what He has done and is doing to fight the battles for us all. I know we need only be still, but I admit that is a weakness of mine in my Christian walk. My trust is BIG, for I know the One who holds me in the palm of His hand and sings and rejoices over me. I know we are in His will as we live and love in Denver, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He is my refuge and strength and has for sure been an always present help in these months of troubles. Praise Him with me as we see follow Him on good days and bad!
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in Him at ALL times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:5-8

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We had family portraits taken last weekend and I cried as I viewed the proofs. I saw evidence of God’s goodness, of the fact that the love He has given Eric and I is indeed a strand of three cords, not easily broken and that the trials the 4 of us have faced haven’t dimmed the light of our true joy, found only in Him!


DNA

dna-strandEveryone is born with miles of information that define their way their body is put together.  DNA contains all the vital information for cellular replication, and the intricate organs and systems of the body that allow life to be sustained.  DNA sets the stage for existence and life.

DNA is just as vital in a church.  The DNA identifies the purpose, the direction and the mission.  As we begin meeting with others in our Missional Community, we seek to replicate the DNA that God has placed in us over the past few years.  God has impressed upon that our church be focused on Knowing the Master, Mimicking His Ways, and Apprenticing others.  We desire to make disciple makers.  We practice and communicate these foundations that God has placed in us as our DNA and help others to take hold of them and move forward in the direction that God has for us to carry out the mission He has called us here to accomplish.

 


Stepping Onto the Porch

On several occasions the past two months, we have placed invitations door to door in our neighborhood.  As we have stepped onto the porch, at least 1/3 have some form of a “No Solicitation” sign.  According to Merriam-Webster, soliciting is defined as, “: to ask for something (such as money or help) from people, companies, etc.”  When we have gone door to door,
we have not asked for anything but, instead, invited the families to something.  We have had several people who were grateful to be asked, but we also had several people who rudely dismissed us and wanted nothing to do with us or anyone else.

We have seen various signs to dissuade individuals or groups from soliciting at certain houses but these are a few of the ones that caught my eye.IMG_0687Two things that stick out to me about this sign are that it is made of painted fired clay and that they are happy the way they are.  This view is prevalent here.  I have met atheists, agnostics and non-practicing-fill in the religious group-individuals here, and the overall sentiment is what is good for you is good for you and I am fine just they way I am.  IMG_0688

This sign made me chuckle because it was different but it is sad that Girl Scouts are more welcome than salesmen and God-fearing soul savers.  It is a sad thing to be filled with Thin Mints and not the Holy Spirit.

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As an owner of a Welcome Bear, I was sad to see this twist on a typically friendly porch dweller.  What I can take away from this item is that, to those who are in their circle this family is friendly, but to outsiders they are unwilling to engage.

 

By no means is this the overwhelming view of the people of my neighborhood, but a significant portion of people feel this way and it is a barrier that we must work with to reach the people around us.  What are those barriers in your ministry?


Empty Porches

One of the key architectural features of our neighborhood is the front porch.  Every housing unit (condominium, town house, or home) is required to have one.  Some are little more than a front stoop, but even those have a balcony on the second floor overlooking the front walk.  The intention is to create a sense of community and draw people into public spaces to relate.

Some of the people in the neighborhood do a great job of using their porches for just those things but there are other porches that are completely empty.  The definition of community varies from person to person.  Some see community as a tight knit group of people who care for others, while some see it as a safe place where people are like them. The state of your front porch seems to indicate where you land on the spectrum.

What does your front porch say about your value of others?  Is it empty, inviting, or some where in the middle? We strive to keep our front porch inviting and our door open to those around us.  And, for so many around us, that is a foreign concept.  After all, we are strangers and aliens in this land.