adventure, Camping, Close Quarters, Creation, Faithful Living, Forest, God, Lake Michigan, Lessons from the Wilderness, Life's Storms, Nature, Prayer, Rain, River, Uncategorized, wilderness

A Golden Prescription

I went camping last weekend at a state campground along the Lake Michigan shore with 21 other women and girls from church. Group camping presents me with an immediate conflict- I seek out the wilderness for its solitude and quiet, as a salve to an agitated personality, but the building of intimate community through group experience is a critical component of faith formation and practice. Let’s just say it pushes me out of balance to be in the woods with so many people and so much chatter.

To ensure some semblance of quiet time apart, I took a solo tent so I could bookend the day with thinking and prayer, zipping myself inside a tiny cocoon of solitude while the junior high girls laughed and squealed in a tent as big as a 2-bedroom apartment.  We were each having fun in our own way.

The second night, there was a long, slow, low rumble of thunder from far out on the big lake as I zipped up for the night. While rain in camp makes for muddy messes, and complicates the packing up of tent and fly, being snug and dry inside your tent as a thunderstorm rolls in, over, then onward is a singular thrill.  The flash of lightning, the bass thrum of thunder, and the percussive rain all around is like a cleansing bath for the soul. As I lay on my back, a gentle storm all about me, I was reminded of the way the spirit of God stills us even in the grip of life’s gales. The prophet Isaiah wrote that from the heavens above, clouds rain down righteousness; they shower it down to earth so that salvation can spring up, a salvation God creates and showers upon us. (Isa 45:8, paraphrased). In truth, all restoration and flourishing come from God.

But, our life is usually too rushed to feel like it is flourishing, restorative, and life-giving.

The present often seems more like a flooding river hurtling itself downward, always rushing in multiple directions, void of any sense of calm, hungrily sucking in those unaware and unprepared, flinging everything in its path down, and under as the waters close over, drowning all light and life. We are constantly trying to catch our breath, to hear God’s voice in this wilderness, and to spend a quiet moment alone with Him, that His Presence fills our present.

Who needs to worry about the future with a present like that?

If you are tired of your to-do list a mile long, I highly recommend a solo night under the trees in a rainstorm as a golden prescription.

~J.A.P. Walton

Accomodation, Affirmation, Camping, Close Quarters, Uncategorized

The Buck Snorts of Life

One intent of this blog is to challenge us to live life fully… grace-fully, wonder-fully, hope-fully.  Because being around the Walton brothers is such a hoot, I hope to experiment with using humor to face our challenges with this grace, wonder, and hope.  Here’s to first attempts!

My husband Mark and his younger brother Hugh have been paddling their sea canoes in the wilds of the north for over 25 years. For most of those years the brothers always shared a small tent. Mark will readily tell you that his brother snores. Not the little snips and snorts of a sleepy tongue relaxing at the back of the mouth, but the giant, gaping, mawing croaks that sound like an angry and randy buck. If you have spent much time around deer, you know about the buck snort. It’s a cross between a loud grunt, a sneeze, and a bawl.  Earplugs don’t begin to help Mark with Hugh’s buck-snorting antics. The noise keeps him awake through the watches of the night, as he lies there rigidly, imagining the tent looking like a flimsy lung inhaling through his brother’s open mouth, followed by a cracking and whiffling forced expulsion of air out his face. Snuffle in. Snort out. All the blessed night long.

Mark has tried pushing Hugh over. Turns out a true buck-snorter can snort as well on his stomach as his back. Each morning he awakes refreshed and looking forward to his coffee, while Mark groggily assess how much sleep he did, or did not actually get. Why it took over twenty years for Mark to start bringing his own tent-pitched as far from his brother’s as the campsite will allow-is something for the psychologists to study. In the end, Hugh’s snoring is likely why they’ve had so little trouble in camp with bears.

We who live intimately with other people know firsthand the little, but many annoyances that intrude on day-to-day life. The power of love in such relationships is to learn to accommodate with grace.

It is the most basic premise of hospitality to accommodate. And it is always your choice: you can either affirm or infirm those you love with your gestures and words (and the tone you use). You can be grandly grace-filled, or you can belittle. One builds, the other tears down.

Take a look at your closest relationships. Can you accommodate the little annoyances without taking offense? Without self-importance? It means to make room for somebody, to be obliging, to tolerate with sacrificial humility. I am not saying you must become a doormat- sometimes the solution is to get another tent! But for most of us, it is just like being in your sleeping bag; it may be time to roll over and cherish the one you’re with, no matter how loud the snorting.

~J.A.P. Walton

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