adventure, Affirmation, beauty, canoeing, Creation, Creator, Faithful Living, God, joy, Kindred Spirits, Lessons from the Wilderness, Nature, Outdoor Adventures, Peace, Rain, River, Spring, Uncategorized, Water, Wilderness Paddling, wisdom

The Kindred Spirits of Water and Life

The brothers went canoeing last weekend, a spring paddle to quench a long-wintered thirst. Boats and paddles silently slip into waters roiling with snowmelt. Spring rivers are generally unpeopled, effortlessly pulsing on with energy and focus, down, ever down. How odd that their endpoint is called a mouth, opening wide in confluence with some other body of water.

As the brothers shove off, the water embraces each canoe like long-gone and dearly-missed friends, kindred spirits which understand and accept each other with the delight of contented belonging. It is a holy reunion. The brothers wave and paddle off in an unconscious identical rhythm, letting the water carry them downstream. They, too, are kindred spirits-they have been since the day of the younger one’s birth, perfectly matched in mutual respect and a shared understanding of the world and one another. It is a rare and beautiful friendship. They are silent, letting the water and the birds do the talking. What a happy picture of harmony and rightness!  And just like that, they are gone, carried by the water around a bend and on to the day’s adventure.

Water is so dynamic, ever on the move from lake to cloud to rain, from headwaters to the sea, where ocean currents bathe continental shelves. Eventually, their energies amass in swirling foment of wave and hurricane and flood.

I often wonder at the mystery and miracle of water’s global expeditionary nature. Where has it been? Where is it going? Can it be that this very water dripping from the paddle once kissed Jesus at his baptism?

Did this very water float baby Moses in a basket? Did it balk into walls so the Israelites could walk through the Red Sea? Was it one of billions of raindrops that floated the ark? Was it in the spit with which Jesus made mud to heal a blind man’s eyes? Was it in the roiling, storming waves so quickly calmed by Jesus’ rebuke?

Water, so critical to life, lives on long after we die. It passes through us like we pass through it. We are kindred spirits with it, even though we fail to care for it properly. Next time you’re out, dip your hand in the water- be it creek, pond, or lake. Feel the life in it. This too is holy reunion. Listen to its stories. Marvel at its travels. And be resolved to care for it like a dearly-loved brother.

~J.A.P. Walton

 

 

adventure, Adventure Tourism, Cancer, Cancer treatments, canoeing, Dying to Self, Faithful Living, God, Lessons from the Wilderness, Life's Storms, Nature, Outdoor Adventures, Perseverence, Prayer, Religion, River, Serving Others, Uncategorized, wilderness, Wilderness Paddling

When God Floats Your Boat

Two years ago, the Walton brothers paddled in Ontario’s Spanish River Provincial Park. SRPP info   They chose a route that threaded through multiple lakes connected by short, shallow outlets. In low water, these outlets turn into tricky portages that leave the canoeist knee deep in boggy, rocky muck. It can quickly become a slog hauling canoes and supplies over challenging barriers that were supposed to be paddled but instead have to be portaged without any trails to follow. The brothers were dismayed to find when they arrived in September that the water levels were at their lowest in a long time, clogging their planned paddling route with clots of muck and rock where lakes should have been.

After Hugh underwent his second round of chemotherapy and subsequent bone marrow transplant, he developed blood clots called DVT, or deep vein thrombosis in one leg.  It is actually quite common for leukemia patients to acquire DVT.  DVT info  These clots are life-threatening because they can move through the blood and lodge in the lungs. Once in the lungs, the clots become barriers to oxygen exchange, and the patient can quickly die of suffocation. As a result, Hugh is now on blood thinners. While this is a terrific remedy for blood clots, it does raise the risk of a dangerous bleed-out from cuts or accidents. As a matter of fact, on one trip, Hugh was pulling a canoe up onto a sandy beach in his bare feet when he stepped on a buried and severed tree root that stabbed deep into his instep. It took some time for the bleeding to stop, and the brothers were too far into the wilderness for immediate help. They now have a rule that you can’t ever be barefoot on trips unless in your sleeping bag.

There are barriers in life that quickly and easily clot our thinking. I often find that they are spiritual in nature, and usually begin innocuously when we let our focus become too heavily inward. Our inner dialogue evolves into a diatribe. We’ve been wronged, treated unfairly or with disrespect, and the “I” language in our head bubbles over in frustration and anger. These are times to take great care, because the lifeblood of the Holy Spirit is clogged, and our sour thinking then deprives us of the spiritual oxygen to act and live rightly toward God and others. Days become a slog of carrying heavy burdens that weigh us down in the muck of our darkened thoughts.

There is a spiritual blood thinner though, and it is incongruously connected with the blood of Christ.

If you can intentionally move your thoughts from yourself to God, if you are willing to unyoke yourself from life’s burdens, to think of and serve others first, God will float you up out of the muck. It’s a wonderful experience to feel the waters of the Spirit float you up, out, and on your way. Next time your language is laced with “I’s”, get in the boat with God and get moving again.

~J.A.P. Walton

 

 

adventure, Adventure Tourism, Camping, Creator, Faithful Living, God, Heaven, Home, Outdoor Adventures, River, Travel, Uncategorized

Home is a Comfy Old Robe

It feels so good to be home after a month of adventuring. Stepping across the threshold is like slipping into a comfy old robe. Sleeping in our own bed. Salivating over the stack of waiting books that were too heavy to take along. Standing under a cascade of endless hot water. Driving a car! I think being far away from home for long stretches of time is good for us. We learn to appreciate what we have, and to be grateful for the hospitality of others. It teaches us to be better hosts, offering others sanctuary, nourishment, and rest.

To have a home is a great privilege, whether it is a dorm room, a tent in the wilderness, a small loft apartment in the city, a 3-bedroom ranch, or an old drafty farmhouse. What pleasure there is in making our own “nest” for rest and comfort and for hosting others, with a roof over our head, a place to sleep in relative safety, and an inviting place at the table!

Adventuring often means taking your entire home with you in packs- tent, camp kitchen, food, sleeping bag, first aid kit, knife, matches, lantern, clothing, water filter, camp stove, bucket, bear bag, hatchet, and trowel (for your outdoor “bathroom”). It is amusing to discover how much stuff you can live without when you travel like this, when the weight of everything is a factor for consideration.

It’s true: our stuff truly does weigh us down, and makes our homes cramped and confining. I think we try to fill a hole of deep longing with more stuff because of an undeniably lingering sense that we are never truly at home on the earth.

Jesus, to become a human, left an indescribably magnificent home in heaven. During his 3-year ministry he was an itinerant with no home and, short of the kindness of strangers, had nowhere to lay his head.

Imagine the Son of God having no home!

But he wasn’t homeless either, because he knew where he had come from and that he was going back. More than that, he told us before he left that he was leaving in order to prepare a home for us in heaven. Our unease on earth- really our dis-ease, is this whispering sense of longing, and of knowing that there is something better. It’s a God-given sensation, that we might pine for heaven and God himself while living right here.

These feelings are often most acute when we are away from home, sleeping under the stars, wondering what they look like from God’s vantage, carrying our necessities on our back, needing a map to get around, and relentlessly relying on the kindness of strangers. We miss our own bed, and the comfort of the rooms we know so well. It is a whiff of what heaven will be like-somewhere on the other side of the river of life, a place to be home, known, safe, and loved. That’s a trip I want to take, a threshold I will be glad to cross, and a robe I can’t wait to don!

~J.A.P. Walton

Cancer, Creation, Darkness, death, Faithful Living, God, Hope, John Muir, Lessons from the Wilderness, Life's Storms, Prayer, River, Sierra Nevada, Spring, Trees, Uncategorized, wilderness, wisdom

The Geese, the Floods, and John Muir

Geese flew over the house this morning, with a honking so hauntingly welcome that it stopped me breathless with the happy assurance that winter is losing its grip. This has truly been a winter of discontent, to borrow from John Steinbeck (my favorite author of fiction). We lost a loved one. Another continues to decline. We are sending up prayers for too much cancer, too many bullets, the sword-rattling of our enemies, and the deaths of two great men of prayer and faith, R.C. Sproul and Billy Graham. This week we had days and days of rain atop melting snow, sending our creeks and rivers out of their banks.

To dwell on all this too long leaves us as drab and lifeless as the snow-matted flood-stained grass. We defend ourselves with intentional numbness. Yet the geese remind us that goodness abounds, that life is not snuffed out entirely, and that there is work to be done. This week, as Trout Creek rose higher and faster, swelling and bullying itself downstream, I thought about the nature of things-water most especially. How it gathers to itself, seeks out the lowest places, dwells and swells with an abandoned playfulness that lurks with deadly innocence too. Water has a voice and a rhythm. It sings and swings down its course, sweeping everything unrooted away with raw power. What other than our faith can anchor us amid the flood of evil tides?  But water is also life-giving.

I have spent this winter reading the selected works of John Muir because his writing is extraordinarily uplifting (winter is long in the north, so I strategically choose reading that will edify and encourage me). Muir’s prose is divinely poetic, and his love for God and Creation oozes from every page. He often wrote about the waters that fall from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada in California, carving out passes and canyons-

“The happy stream sets forth again, warbling and trilling like an ouzel, ever delightfully confiding, no matter how dark the way; leaping, gliding, hither, thither, clear or foaming: manifesting the beauty of its wildness in every sound and gesture.” 1

Muir shows us that part of the water’s power is in the way it glories to be on its way, hailing any who would heed. Spring is coming friends. Won’t it be glorious to be on our way, doing the work God has given us to do, righting wrongs with energy, and pointing others to the same hope we have in God? May you “set forth again” and rise up out of your banks with a renewed vigor, confiding in one another no matter how dark the way. Look up. The geese will show you the way.

~J.A.P. Walton

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  1.  John Muir Selected Writings, A.Knopf, New York. 2017,p.178.  This excerpt is from Muir’s first book, The Mountains of California published in 1894. (an ouzel is a bird)