adventure, Adventure Tourism, Affirmation, Camping, canoeing, Faithful Living, God, Lessons from Mom, Lessons from the Wilderness, Outdoor Adventures, Rainforest, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized, wilderness

Thanks Mom

It is the last week of a month in France for us, and I find I have been thinking much about my mother, who first took me to France when I was eighteen.  She is no longer the robust, tireless woman of my youth, now frail in mind and body, though not in spirit. I have been missing her!

My mom taught me much of what I know about outdoor adventure. The first lesson in camping was how to squat to “go” in the woods: heels apart, elbows inside knees flanged wide, facing up a slight incline so the stream trickles downhill without pooling at your feet. My first attempt at the age of 5 exasperated her, as I haplessly filled my sneakers to the brim.

We camped a good deal back then, so I learned about tent setting and sweeping out, about food handling, about packing, site selection and more. We had a wonderful old tin breadbox that was the “kitchen” filled with cutlery, salt & pepper in Tupperware shakers, metal plates and coffee cups, tightly rolled dish towels, and, of course, matches. I still have it, and memories flood in whenever I open it.

My mom taught me how to ride a horse. And canoe. And row. And sail. And hike. And travel. I have climbed to high mountain tarns in the Colorado Rockies with her (she herself summited the 14-er Longs Peak). Together we climbed Mount Snowden in Wales. We paddled rivers swift and lethargic, and sailed and sailed and sailed. I owe my love of nature and the outdoors to her. Mom took me to Europe for a month before I started college, finding ourselves in Paris in the middle of the hottest weather in recorded history. We traipsed the city from end to end: Eiffel Tower, Tuileries, Montmartre, Notre Dame. This was when I learned that the French don’t like COLD drinks, and that asking for ice-MORE ICE S’IL VOUS PLAIT-only brings looks of disdain from the server.  My mother taught me to seek out the adventure, to get out into a new place and explore by foot. We had escargot in Nice because it was important to try a culture’s exotic foods. Today I recognize the privilege of such an upbringing, with a mother who worked fulltime to pay for the adventuring.

The world is a kind of wilderness in its beauty and unpredictability.

Still, I am a more cautious traveler now. Just the other day, two women surrounded me with clipboards asking if I spoke English. This is a typical scam in France-for gangs to send out emissaries to distract a tourist with a petition for a charitable cause and lift her valuables while she is signing. I said “no.” When they pushed further into my personal space, I shouted, “NO!” They jumped back as if I had a communicable disease.

My vehemence surprised even me, giving me pause. I must thank you mom for everything you taught me, but most especially for taking me to church week after week where I would encounter the adventure of a life with God.  I am learning that the world is filled with people wandering in a different kind of wilderness, where God is remote and survival is everything.

So, I have spent this week contemplating the wide gulf between awe and pain. Between beauty and baseness. Between the fist that holds tight, and the open palm that gives away. Between pushing away with a shout and beckoning the lost by gently saying, “Jesus loves you.”

It’s an uphill climb, and I have miles to go, but my mother taught me well.

~J.A.P. Walton

Thanks for reading!

adventure, Backpacking, Camping, canoeing, Creation, Creator, Faithful Living, God, Henry David Thoreau, Lessons from the Wilderness, Nature, Outdoor Adventures, Prayer, Uncategorized, wilderness, wisdom

A Song of Praise

Why do people yearn to go to the wilderness? Is it as simple as wanting to get away for a break? Is it an escape? For some, these adventures take the form of a quest to seek out beauty and peace and quiet, to discover new worlds. For others, getting away- in a canoe, or a tent, backpacking or biking- is a form of worship. Thoreau once saw a man fishing, and described it as “a sort of solemn sacrament and withdrawal from the world.”[1] Even Jesus was known to draw away for time alone. But he was not really alone, because we are also told that he drew away to pray to his Father.

We should think about the reasons we draw away from our busy world. I have heard people laughingly say that they don’t go to church on Sunday morning because they prefer to enjoy God’s world out on the golf course. Nature is beautiful, and no doubt golf is fun. Time spent in nature is restorative. Instructive. But to worship the creation instead of the Creator, to create our own god out of nature, is a mistake because nature is not God.

Nature teems with life. We rise from our tent, look out across a fog-shrouded wilderness lake, hear the birds, and breathe deep sighs of contentment. We feel so alive! But where does all this life come from? Your life does not rise out of the deep waters, the sighing pines, the quick-footed hare or the soaring hawk. God made all this beauty. Heart-wrenching, breath-stopping, glorious beauty. Why? To point our hearts to Him. It turns out that all of creation is a road map to God, and the delight He took in making everything is the same delight we are to take in Him.

Job knew it was all too wonderful to understand. But he did appreciate that “earth will never be your savior…that God alone is able to give you life.”[2]

There’s more to living this life than we can see, just like there’s more to a river than what we see on its surface. We don’t go out in nature to worship what we see but what we can’t.”

The next time you pick up a paddle or a pack, and find yourself surrounded by the glories of the wilderness, take a moment to let the awe sink in that a Creator would make all this life, including your life, and that He takes great delight in you. A song of praise can’t help but well up out of your heart.

~J.A.P. Walton

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[1] Henry David Thoreau. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Viking Press, 1985. p. 22.

[2] Paul David Tripp. New Morning Mercies. Crossway. Wheaton IL. 2014. Devotion for March 24.