Friday, May 1, 2015

The Appalachian Adventure Continues

Day 27: A Big Splash    

Thanks for calling tonight! Please know that Mom and I fully expect long spans of time where we don't hear from you…but it was so good to hear your voice. We were talking about you two right before you called, Katie. I told Mom that I shot you a quick text early this afternoon because it had been over 4 days since we heard from you last and she said, "I'm trying not to worry. I know there's going to be times when we don't hear from them for a week." I can't explain it. All I can say is that there's something about just hearing your voice that settles our hearts--especially when you're as happy as you were today.   

We loved hearing about all the characters you're experiencing life with out there on the trail. Listening to you, Katie (Sunshine), talk about how you and Nick (Breeze) continue to bump into other hikers and wanderers with trail names like Hardware and Ambush--it only makes me smile…and makes me a little jealous. Hearing about how you two shared a motel room in Gatlinburg with 6 other hikers makes me shake my head in wonder. I know that splitting the cost 4 ways helps your trail budget, but holy cow! I don't think I could do that…and I'm so proud of you two for being so adventurous on your journey. Listening to you tell the story about the full-on hippy couple who joined the other 4 people on your motel co-op got me thinking. You said they followed something New Age-ie and wacky called: New Law or New Calendar. I tried to find it on Google, but couldn't come up with anything. It made me immediately think of what the Apostle Paul wrote to his friend, and ministry partner, Timothy:

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."  (2 Timothy 4:3) 

Katie, you said that this hippy couple was young…in their early 20s…and that the guy asked Nick, "Do you know how the sun works?" Nick said, "Yeah…do you mean how it's just a bunch of gases?" the hippy dude scoffed at him and went into some weird, non-sensical explanation that had no foothold in reality. Anyway, it made me sad. It made me wonder what has happened to him in his few short years that sent him off into left field and into this bizarre belief system. And I thought about you and Nick…a young couple, not much older than the hippy duo…and how your belief system must sound equally crazy to them. I know it's hard for some people to believe that a Jewish rabbi was killed and rose from the dead 3 days later, but there's so much we can point to that validates our belief. Still, I'm sure that hippy dude would probably combat every aspect of Christianity with something his "itching ears" have heard. In the end, it all comes down to faith, doesn't it? Faith in a loving God who revealed Himself completely in the personage of Jesus…or faith that all that we see (the endless universe, the intricacy of nature, the complexity of all creation) happened by chance. Either way, I pray that something in Nick's conversation with the hippy dude planted a seed…a seed of doubt in his New Law/New Calendar…and a possible seed of hope in the Jewish rabbi who proved He was the son of God.

As you two continue on this journey north you are going to pass through town after town…and through countless lives. I hope you are mindful of how God created us; as people of relationship…and as people of relationship and connection…we can't help having some sort of influence on others. We're like pebbles dropped into a pond. We're going to make ripples…it's just a matter of how big a pebble or stone or boulder we're going to be.

I pray that you will be a big splash on your travels.


Day 28: Holy Ground    

So this morning we went as a staff into downtown Denver to the Paramount Theater--where we're going to launch Flatirons' 3rd campus. This historic theater is one of those old school places with high, ornate columns and ceilings with art deco designs, and private boxes on either side of the theater ("Did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"). There were posters up in the lobby showing various artists who are coming soon to the Paramount. People like Pat Benetar, Wanda Sykes, Patton Oswalt and David Sedaris. It made me happy. It's one of my favorite things about Flatirons--thinking and living outside the box. I mean, Patton Oswalt and Wanda Sykes cussing up a storm on Friday and Saturday...then Jim Burgen or Scott NIckell on Sunday…and the possibility of the same people at all three shows! 

Once we got settled into our seats this morning, Jim asked the entire staff to break up, find a place by yourself in the theater, and pray for what's going to happen within those walls in a few short months. I found a crushed velvet aisle seat and began to pray. I prayed for the Paramount team as they prepare for the Fall launch…and for the people who might show up…and I prayed specifically for Mom's brother, Uncle David, since he only lives about 20 blocks from the place. We all know that Uncle David likes Jim Burgen. The last time he went to church with us over 2 years ago he said, "I like the way that bald dude preaches!" Maybe David will give God another try if He's living right around the block…and the Bald Guy's the one bringing Him to the neighborhood. I also prayed for you two this morning. I can't help it. I didn't pray for you because I think you'll be going to Paramount for church…I mean you might--but I really prayed for you because you're always on my mind when I pray.            

Sitting in silence…praying in that theater…I was struck by the musty smell of the place…and how battered it looked in the light. I thought about all the shows that have rolled through there over the years…and the ones that will roll through there in the weeks ahead…and how (beginning in September) the Paramount is going to be a church for a few hours every Sunday. I was in awe of the way God works! As I sat there praying I kept thinking about this…from Exodus 3:1-5:

"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.' When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses! And Moses said, 'Here I am.' 'Do not come any closer,' God said. 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.'"  
Holy Ground.

God called out to Moses from the burning bush and told him that he was standing on holy ground--the same rocky desert where Moses was leading his flock…and surely covered in sheep poop. But it was holy. It was holy only because God was present and God's presence makes anything holy. So if God can take a desert expanse, covered in sheep crap, and make it holy…then He can transform an old, historic theater where His name, and reputation, is blasphemed regularly and make it holy too. And God can take any portion of the Appalachian Trail you're hiking…and call out from the trees and rocky balds…and tell you it is holy ground.

As you two hike your way through the woods on your way to Maine, I pray that as God calls out to you…you will hear…and you will say, "Here I am"…and find holy ground.     


Day 29: One    

I HAD to mow my yard today! Being away from home last weekend at men's retreat…and heading back up to Crooked Creek this weekend to help out with women's retreat…I HAD to mow my yard. It was really starting to get out of hand. Between all the rain-sun-snow-rain-sun kind of weather we've been having, I haven't had a real chance to get out there and do the first cut of the year. So, with the weather today being sunny and in the mid-70s…I took off half the day and went to town! Mowing…weed eating…fertilizing…weed killing. I was outside most of the afternoon. I even put up our new American flag and hung a porch shade that drops down and shades half the front porch from the late-afternoon sun. Mom's in heaven! 


While I was out there all afternoon, I had my headset on with my iPhone shuffling through my "Mowing" playlist. A major portion of that playlist is Bon Iver's "Bon Iver" album…which always makes me think of you two...and the summer you got married (Almost 3 years ago! Yikes!). Katie, you're the one who first introduced me to the band Bon Iver. Remember? It was about 2 weeks out from your wedding day. I came home from church that Sunday, and after we ate lunch, you and I sat on that covered 3-seated swing in the side yard--taking turns playing each other songs off our iPhone playlists. At first we were just trying to make each other laugh by playing stuff we thought the other would hate. I kept playing you a bunch of Dan Fogelberg songs and you were playing stuff that made my ears bleed! :) Then, you said, "I think you'll like these guys" and played me Bon Iver's "Holocene". I immediately loved the music and…F-bomb aside…the lyrics really struck a chord ("…and at once I knew I was not magnificent…"). We ended up sitting in that swing the rest of the afternoon playing, and re-playing, that Bon Iver album. It will always be one of my favorite memories of you, Katie Bug…a couple of weeks from your wedding day…one of our last times together before you moved out of our home…sitting and laughing and listening to Bon Iver. After we came inside that day, I immediately downloaded that album to my playlists and for the next 2 weeks…leading up to your wedding…I played it over and over again. Even after your wedding, I continued to listen to it for weeks on end. That's why, whenever I hear any part of that album it takes me right back to the end of May and beginning of June 2012…when you two finally became one.         

Two Will Become One

As I mowed and fertilized the yard today, Bon Iver kept reminding me of the day you two became one…and where you are now…almost 3 years later. By that, I don't mean on the Appalachian Trail. I mean, where you both are as a married couple and as friends. If any couple exemplifies the couple who are BFFs…it's you two. It's always been that way since you first met back in middle school. Nick, it was one of the most threatening things about you when you were both in high school. You and Katie were obviously great friends…and I was on the outside looking in. Now, it's one of the most comforting aspects to me. My daughter gets to spend the rest of her life with her best friend! You two are as united as any couple I know. Jesus said,     

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:7-9)
You two are one flesh. One. United. You are united in your love for each other…just as you are united in your hopes, dreams, and desires. This hike through the Appalachian Trail is proof of just how "one" you really are. I'm so grateful God led you to each other.  

Stay safe…keep walking…and Mom and I will be praying for you two, now one.


Day 30: Two Better Than One   

Ben came in my office this morning to chat. With both of our schedules lately, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to just sit and talk at the office. Katie, he told me that he texted with you today. That’s great! Ben said that you two were now 274 miles into the AT and that you were going to post your first video up on by the end of the day. We can’t wait!

Most of what I wrote to you guys yesterday was about your wedding day and what God says about two becoming one flesh (Mark 10:7-9). That whole “two, but one flesh” thing is one of the great mysteries God has gifted us with; two individuals with their own desires and preferences…united as one. As I wrote yesterday, you two are about as united in everything as any couple I know, but you still have your struggles, right? Like all of us, our selfishness can always get in the way.  At times, it seems like being “one flesh” can be the hardest struggle there is in this life. Usually, when Mom and I have an argument, it’s because one of our “individuals” has stomped its way through our “oneness” -- damaging that unity. In our 34 years of marriage, I think the hardest thing that Mom and I have had to deal with has been damage to our oneness. I’m grateful (and at times guilt-ridden) by the fact that we have had a relatively trouble-free marriage. We’ve still had a lot of hard times: health issues, financial ruin, family crap. Katie, you’ve seen most of them…and Nick, you’ve witnessed a bunch! But hands down, I think one of the toughest things Mom and I have worked through has been broken trust… 

It wasn’t an affair or marital infidelity. Trust was broken when Mom hid stuff from me when you were in high school, Katie. And it really wasn’t what you were doing…what Mom was hiding from me…that was the problem. I mean, most of what you were doing wasn't anything I hadn’t done when I was in school--  skipping class, missing work, hanging out with friends when you told us otherwise. It wasn't your actions as much as what finding out exposed. It revealed a crack in our “oneness” that had been there since 1985—when Ben was born...and we became parents for the first time.

Ever since we had to put our parenting skills to a test, when Ben was a toddler…and then after you came along, Katie…it was obvious that Mom and I were not on the same page when it came to parenting. I usually laughed it off to friends and family by saying, “Amy’s the Good Cop and I’m the Bad Cop.” But this crack…or chasm...always reared its ugly head when it came to discipline.

You both know that Mom is a softy and I’m not…especially when it comes to discipline. This was one thing when you and Ben were little…it was a whole other matter when you were in high school, Katie. When I learned that Mom had been hiding the pranks you were pulling, Katie, and had been hiding them for months…I went ballistic! I was angry. I was hurt…and a trust was broken. And you know what bothered me the most? It was this: I knew it was going to happen. I mean, all this happened during a real tough period in my relationship with you both. While you were both in high school, I didn’t trust Nick…and Katie…you knew that and it wrecked my relationship with you. And when things were at their worst...I abdicated my role as father and leader of our family. I buried my head in the sand and let Mom handle life with you, Katie. 

Then, the wheels came off and Good Cop allowed things to happen behind Bad Cop’s back…and it damaged our oneness. Mom didn't trust that I would handle your disobedience well…and I ended up not trusting her. I have said over the years that Mom is a very tough…unless it’s dealing with her kids. Her love for you all (you two, Ben and Ali, and Emery and Micah) knows no bounds…and sometimes obscures her judgment (Don't worry. I’ve already asked her permission to write about this).

There’s this great little part of the Old Testament in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that reads:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”    

We fell down. Together. But Mom and I were able to help each other up and work through the trust that had been broken. I really think this is one of the reasons God takes us…two individuals…and makes us one; to help each other when we fall. Mom and I fell flat on our faces…and we were able to lift each other up from the wreckage of our broken trust…dust each other off…and put the pieces back together. 

If I can guarantee you anything in life it would be this: You WILL have problems and struggles in your marriage, but you can make it through ANYTHING…as long as Jesus is at the center of whatever you walk through. Right now, as you do your thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I’m sure you’re literally helping each other up when you fall. It’s good practice for what lies ahead in the years to come. 

Look at Mom and me. We have the bruises to prove it.



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