January RoadTrip…Flying Father Brian, Makes his Canadian Debut!

So it’s days four and five and we’ve made it all the way to Canada, sweet Eh? The sky’s are holding clear and the weather is beautiful but cold, -24-27F at times. We’ve visited all of our favorite summer places and all of the places we missed seeing the year before, including Bow Lake, Athabasca Glacier… Jasper and Lake Louise. All “MUST SEE” Canadian stops at anytime of the year!

Lake Louise - Jan 13'

Lake Louise – Jan 13′

But the crazy stuff has yet to happen. On day Four we enter Jasper (Alberta Canada) ready to look for the rugged beauty and wildlife the area is so famous for. It’s in Jasper that the real heart of the untamed wild remains for us and we love to see where and what God will lead us into every time we get to visit. Brian asks about Maligne Lake and suggests we give it a go and try to drive the lonely winding road from Jasper back to the lake, knowing it’s probably not plowed or open to the public in the winter months.

We find the road and sure enough it’s coated in a good five to six-inch layer of fresh snow, but appears to be passable in our SUV. So we drive on, winding our way in the infrequent tracks of other outdoor enthusiast’s vehicles that have come before us. Within thirty minutes we run out of tracks to follow and have to start creating our own in the fresh snow, we have yet to see a soul and it’s clear we are not going to.

Road Outside of Jasper - Jan 13'

Road Outside of Jasper – Jan 13′

We are alone. Isolated and removed from the bustle of tourists and trinkets and happy to serve you Canadian restaurant’s, we are off the beaten path for sure and well into the not to be traveled for another four-five months road. Along the way we discover the awesome impact that total and complete silence can have on the soul and spirit. Nothing is stirring, no one is moving and no animal is even attempting to approach. The wind is still, the snow is completely covering all that we can see and the ambient sounds of nature are all dormant in mid-January. We have the place completely to ourselves and as we wade out in the thigh-high snow to stand at the base of the famous Maligne Lake we are awed by its majestic beauty and wondrous silence.

Brian takes some super cool – 360 view pictures with his new iPhone5 and we stand quietly, soaking up the view and the beauty and the presence of such God breathed glory…all alone and undisturbed in this winter paradise. We are about 40 miles from Jasper and civilization and the sky is a clear but greyish color, hinting of snow to come…but it’s beautiful and open and reveals to us the many glacier tipped peaks that surround this gorgeous place and allows us to remember the ancientness of this sacred site. Knowing that what we are gazing upon what generations of Native Americans have seen for thousands of years before we ever arrived, just as it has always been…undisturbed and perfect!

Flying Father Brian!

Flying Father Brian!

On the way back we are enjoying ourselves, relieved we could find the place and overjoyed that we had ducked the crowds for the solitude of Maligne Lake in January. Brian loves the view we have as we drive the winding snow blanketed road and decides to get on the roof of our SUV with his HD camera and try to film it!

It’s a brisk 5-7F out and he’s bundling up with most of what we have in the car – scarfs, gloves, hats,  hoodie, down coat etc… he gingerly climbs up on our Chevy and balances himself and his gear in the best way to capture the most view without exposing any more skin than is absolutely necessary…. He thumps the roof (he’s ready) and off I go, driving slowly through the Narnia-esqe scene before us. After 10 minutes and about 2.5 miles we stop at the shores of Medicine Lake and Brian unwraps himself from the roof and re-enters the heated atmosphere of our vehicle. Stoked at the adventure, He loved it!

From that moment on… I dubbed him “Flying Father Brian Hardin and it’s clear that his Canadian debut was a success! Can’t wait to see his HD film of it all and promise I will share it with you on RTP.

The truth is this… When we go out of our way to seek out the silence and solitude of being alone, of experiencing God on His terms…we open ourselves up for something beautiful and significant to occur in our lives. RoadTrips are an excellent way to step back from the crazy and chaotic and re-set, re-center ourselves around the beautiful and substantive things that make our lives worth living!

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Tomorrow… our return drive through Idaho and the Land of the Mormons.

Sharing IS caring, especially at Christmas

Living life in isolation as a Christian is a legitimate option. I dare say that EVERYONE has been wounded by a fellow believer or by a particular Church in their lifetime. That pain un-checked can drive us away from community, from allowing ourselves to get close… it pushes us back from admitting we might need others in our lives. According to a 2008 Zondervan/Knowledge Networks study, 24% of Christian’s only practice their faith “privately”, outside of the church, they are called “christers”. (Christmas and Easter atttenders)

Isolation denies the opportunity for us to develop trust, it robs us of the richness of a true friendship or the intimacy of an earned comrade by your side. When we withdraw from the uncomfortable, from the risk of relying on someone else… we do limit our ability to be hurt further, but we also remove ourselves from the strength and companionship of a community of faith. Many of us slide into depression or worse… numbness.

Courtesy - "Broken Believers"

Ever wonder why so many of us get angry or bitter towards the Church? Ever consider why there is so much cynicism and angst with the way a particular pastor or leader teaches or a specific church handles its ministries and events? When we add kids and marriage into the mix… this whole issue becomes simply overwhelming at times. Families are tempted more than ever to just isolate themselves from others. I believe as in most complex circumstances… the simplest answer might serve us the best.

Could it be that we are just afraid?

No shame in admitting to that. No doubt many if not all of us from time to time avoid the risk’s of being too close to our fellow believers. Choosing instead to skip services, or ministry events or even social time with those we attend sunday services with. We all can identify with the struggle between trusting someone with our true feelings vs. giving the expected and safe responses to the standard social greetings we exchange each sunday.

But what if we decided to we wanted more?

What would happen if an entire generation of Christians chose to risk relationship? Risk rejection, risk condemnation and risk betrayal? What if we took the step of faith to come out of our safe and secure isolation and embrace the messy and often painful scrum of real community with real people?  It might change us, and it might change them.

Real Christians…with real life in them, living in real community. That could begin to re-establish love and trust and hope of living in even the most jaded believer. It might create a genuine – sacrificial – faith in us that not only met our needs, but the needs of all who joined with us. That kind of living would be sort of like leaving one kingdom or world and stepping into another.

Leaving a world full of doubts and fears and regrets and entering into one full of redemption and forgiveness and second chances. A new kingdom with a new king that would allow for us to be messy and inconsistent in our faith, and who would only demand we give up our right to be in control. In exchange, that King would grant us a life of peace and renewed strength and healing for us to have new life, new perspectives and new depths of love and patience for others. A king that would be full of justice and mercy and compassion to all who entered his realm. Where peace overshadowed war and hope displaced despair…

Sounds like a fantasy right?

courtesy of Tevin Wax

Not any more. Jesus actually did all of those things for us. He left His isolated  and comfortable place in Heaven to become a weak and vulnerable man. He took the risk to live in community with people who were messy and foolish and unfaithful. He was willing to let go of His “rights” and suffer the rejection and pain of betrayal. In exchange He gained 11 disciples who would follow Him no matter what it cost. Those first disciples were the beginning of something new. Something different. A Kingdom without the constraints of geography or age or time. A kingdom that’s been offered from then until now… to everyone.

A baby boy in Bethlehem was the beginning of this historical and epic true-life-fairytale that invites all who will… to play a part. A specific role that requires us to risk everything to be a piece of the bigger whole. This Christmas, would you consider stepping out of the comfortable places in your life and into the “dangerous” world of community that Christ has prepared? It will require us to share what we have and help and be helped by people who may or may not understand, appreciate or reciprocate our sacrifices. But I believe it’s the ONLY way we can step completely into Christmas.

I pray that as families you will consider doing more than just donating a financial gift to your local church this year. Maybe it’s time to take the risk of stepping out in faith to the offer of genuine community. My Christmas wish for us all is the gift of… Reconciliation, with man, with God and with our families. Take the risk to live and SHARE your life this year! We need you… badly.

peace out,

brad.