Solo and Silent… Waiting and Delay, part 2

Driving in the desert is unlike any other place. Long – vast – uninterrupted horizon – skies that stretch beyond the edges of the earth. Barren and beautiful, it opens up in front of you with subtle detail. Sage and cactus, old washes with sandstone sides, brutal pitches of solid rock and flat-topped mesa’s the size of a small city. It looks and feels like the end of the world, the furthest reach of life. All of it clinging like a thread to survive. Cold and Hot, dry and dusty, it howls with the windswept cry of its isolation and fatigue.desert

Quite a metaphor for life.

How often do we find ourselves driving through a ‘desert’ of existence? How far do we travel on the two lane ribbon of asphalt, wondering if we’re going to make it?

God is in the desert places of our lives. It is in these vast unbroken stretches of existence that He longs to have us come near. To shut off the noise of our existence and simply ‘be’ with Him.

I found myself in such a place and in such a state. Driving for hundreds of miles… Solo and Silent. Waiting for a word from God. A whisper of divine affirmation, a word of encouragement or even correction. Anything to block the nearly silent sadness of my heart.

In these moments I let go. Somewhere between Grand Canyon and Phoenix I decided to stop figuring it all out. To stop calculating and striving, to rest and release my worry and my pain. Somewhere in the desert God touched my heart and made it new again.

Truth began to bubble up in me. Words of insight and understanding. Helpful and encouraging it captured my struggle and restored my hope. Perspective gained in a lonely vigil.

Here are a few of His thoughts that shaped me in the desert;

“The transformation is slow and steady as we move from hopeful to grateful to desperate in our pursuit of Gods voice and presence. It realigns our lives from the inconsistent and extreme to the steady and serene. The obstacles, crisis and tragedies encountered along the way become the building blocks of a divine nature that’s expanding and changing who we are from the inside out. No longer dependent on external conditions for our hope and happiness we find ourselves able to go further in faith than ever before. Not because of our strength or wisdom… But because we have abandoned the familiar safety of a life we can control, for the will of God.” 

“Personal Purity & Holiness are not irrelevant in the shadow of Christ’s grace. The maturing believer moves deeper with their personal intimacy and conviction to live for Christ alone. This movement inspired by the Holy Spirit pulls us away from the past / flesh towards the newness of life in Christ and fuels a growing desire to be more like Him than we want to remain as the old us!” 

“There is a significant difference between the superficial – external – vicarious – circumstantially based faith and the hidden – deep – internal – transformational faith that comes only at the cross of Christ. For the persistent follower of Jesus, the crucible of life becomes the forge of a white-hot faith developed in the ordinary – simple and unremarkable moments of daily living. It is in the choosing that we believe. It is in the believing that we grow and mature and expand.” 

“This process of “becoming” like Christ is not a complicated or convoluted path, it is rather a painfully simple series of determinations to trust God more than what we can see or feel. Designed by God to remove the dross of our inner man – it also nurtures the creation of a new heart that quietly begins to grow and glow in the darkness of our isolated existence.”  cropped-road-pic-roadtrip-instagram.jpg

I believe it was in the “waiting and delay” of my journey that I was able to hear and respond to God. I believe it was in the silence and isolation that I was able to face the issues and patterns of my old self that needed to be slayed. It is in these moments of alone that we grow.

Dear ones… trust where God leads . He knows what we need.

Pastor B.

Road Trip Revival #5 “Cascade Canyon and Flanneling Up”

We awoke to another frigid dawn. (33F with frost on our car windows and reports of snow in the mountain passes) Less surprised than the day before…we armed ourselves with fresh purchases of warm hoodies and winter hats.

Jenny Lake - Grand Teton NP

Jenny Lake – Grand Teton NP

We hit the road west, and ate a quick breakfast on the go… noticing the skyline clearing as the elevation rose steadily on our drive up to Grand Teton National Park.

Everyone knew what was coming next… we had discussed our group plans for a serious hike for almost a week. Reviewing the safety precautions (bear spray, making noise as we hiked to avoid startling a grizzly etc…) and talking about the epic views, what it would be like to go into the unknown.

Trusting the weather to stay clear… we set off to hike the famous “Cascade Canyon Trail… a good 12-13 mile round trip hike with over 1000 vertical feet. Rated “Strenuous” it would be hard for sure…especially for us flatlanders! (folks who don’t live in the mountains)

Everyone was a bit nervous to get started. We loaded up our backpacks at the Jenny Lake visitors center, water bottles and an exotic assortment of cliff bars as we talked about all the ‘what if’s’ of hiking in real wilderness.

I noticed Tanner was unusually quiet as we all got our gear together. She seemed to be shrinking into her flannel shirt as the moment grew near. I could tell she was afraid, the frustration from our day at Yellowstone still cloudy in her eyes. She pushed her lips tight and grunted a shy reply… she didn’t want to go. Intimidated she couldn’t make it up the steep trail and as our designated fashionista she wasn’t really ‘into’ wilderness stuff. I gently encouraged her that we were ‘all’ going together and promised we wouldn’t leave her behind if she got winded on the climb.

Tanner

Tanner

Reluctantly… she got up and started moving slowly to Jenny Lake. The others excitedly babbling about seeing a bear or a moose, and Tanner just tucked her head a little deeper into her collar, head down… wishing she could be anywhere but here, with us. 

But things were about to change…

We headed across the crystal clear mountain lake, using the shuttle boat (I highly recommend) to reach the trail head to the very popular Inspiration Point (tourist hordes) and the Cascade Canyon Trail, (much higher, longer and less traveled) which was our destination. We had a good 5-6 hours of hiking ahead and according to the rangers at the trail-head, bear and moose were active on the trail. I felt Tanner withdrawing even deeper… so far from her comfort zone. I sympathized… remembering how I felt in New York City.

An hour later we were reaching the crest of the first major climb, a brutal 55 minute ascent. Tanner was head down (between her knees) with puffy eyes and tears. Wheezing, and ranting her anger at being forced to go on this hike from hell. I tried to encourage her, explaining the worst of the hike was over… and how proud I was of her sticking it out. She huffed at me. So I moved on, silently asking God to ‘show up’ for Tanner. 

30 minutes later she flew by me almost skipping… laughter and Broadway strains of Les Miserables flowing off her lips. No tears, no sadness… just exuberant joy! What the heck… ?

I stared in amazement as Tanner was leading everyone else up this canyon trail. Full of happiness and energy, pushing us all to keep up! She and Addy climbing rocks, investigating the sights and sounds of a pristine alpine ecosystem with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a ten-year old! Whoa…. 

Some prayers get answered right away… I guess ? Wow.

By the end of the day, Tanner was a convert. Already planning her next adventure…. and excited that she had tried something so ‘un-like’ her! What a surprise… she was more than she seemed, not just an urban diva… she was a woodland mountain climbing machine ! WoooHoo 🙂

Cascade Canyon Trail

Cascade Canyon Trail

I couldn’t have been happier for her if it was my own daughter. I cried a little as she ran and ran… and ran! Like some kind of dam had burst inside of her, freeing something vital and life-giving. Something precious and pure.

The mountains do that…. the beauty of creation invades our minds and breaks through our broken hearts. Restoring and renewing even our darkest places and spaces.

God was in these mountains… whispering. Calling, answering… touching. 

Alexis saw her elusive moose… drinking quietly from the cascade creek, sandwiched between the Grand Teton peaks as if we were in some kind of surreal postcard come to life. God’s gentle reminder… He wants to satisfy our deepest desires and most intimate longings. The moose a long-term bucket list item for Alexis… and here in this remote corner of creation, God was speaking. Affirming His presence.

The trail to Cascade Canyon is one of my most favorite places in the world…. it was and always is a life-changing experience for all who make the journey.

Kind of like life…

Peace out, Pastor B.

PS – and “Flannel Up” is now a code word for those of us who made the iShine Road Trip of a lifetime together... coined by our very own Tanner 🙂 It’s a symbol of how we can choose to trust God – when we get put in awkward or uncomfortable positions and choose to stay in them, believing He will in time make something awful – become incredibly beautiful! Thanks Tanner for being such a courageous and amazing young woman!

Road Trip Revival #3 – Kýrie, eléison

We drove hard to get across South Dakota. Summer skies above and green hills rippling with grass waves of wind, stretching out as far as the eye could strain to see. For the six of us… our hunger to explore and discover grew steadily by the hour. Behind the scenes - roadtripping

We crashed at Wall SD, and quickly found the entire town was built as a throwback western nick-nack haven bulging with tourists off a two block main street drag. Neon cowboy signs dominated by the mother of all trinket stores called “Wall Drug”.  Inside, everything from curiosities and leather goods to candy, antiques, Elvis blankets, and native american pottery from China, yikes!

The food was worse than my college cafeteria, the trinkets for sale were Velveeta cheesy… but after twelve hours of straight driving, we were thrilled to be out and about. The gang hit the hotel pool as evening temps hovered in the low 90’s, it was only another 70 miles to Mt. Rushmore and they were ‘stoked”!

Morning dawned crimson and we hit the highway bright and early, phones charged and every eye looking across the Dakota plains… focused further west, ready for adventure! These guys had all heard about Mt. Rushmore, seen it on TV and lots of movies, but this would be our first National Park to visit and we were ready.Brad with Rubyz

It did not disappoint.

For those traveling westward, it’s worth the effort to re-direct your route to see the sight. An American symbol of leadership and a tangible testament to ingenuity.  They loved it… and so did I.

Pictures, video… selfies and gift shops filled almost two hours in a flash. Trinkets, keep-sakes and treasures stowed away, we climbed back in our SUV and set our GPS to Grand Teton National Park. With some luck and decent weather, we would be checking into our Dubois WY hotel at sunset.

Time to keep moving, time to dig deeper into the adventure of our American west.

The kids were starting to sense the enormous size and distances of our vast county, we drove until the cities stopped and  sky grew to fill the view. We were no longer in familiar lands, the world was changing and we were enjoying the ride. Climbing the sign 6

The adventure of living in the unknown was starting to sink in. Nervous laughter and silliness broke the tension as we six left everything behind to risk discovery. A metaphor for the tween-teen years if there ever was one 🙂 

So we sang, and laughed our way across high mountain plains, snow capped peaks and rolling valleys… always looking for more, no one wanting to miss a thing. Edge of the seat road-trippin, and all of us were becoming more aware…this would be an epic pilgrimage, a coming of age moment we would always share.

 Kýrie, eléison

Passing on our Passion for Life! RoadTrip Parenting

RoadTrip passion runs deep in my heart of hearts.

moraine lake brad 08 DSC_0242[1] (2)

Pastor B at Moraine Lake, Canadian Rockies

The allure of finding the next scenic wonder, the twist of a two lane highway as it snakes past ancient pine and scarred rock, the scent of the hunt has me now…

I long for the sight of it, a glimpse of the far far away, the glory of hidden creation… ancient beauty.

I catch a hint of it in the rugged strength of a towering sequoia, in the roar of a spring time stream straining to break out of its channel, foaming -ripping its way to somewhere ‘below.

I sense the artist heart of God in the crisp bite of pre-dawn at high altitude, the clarity of a mountain vista surround by pink hues of sunrise, a valley hidden by the sea of clouds below. The sacred romance of beauty and wonder tug deeply in my heart. Whispering. THESE are the things of LIFE. The glory of God’s creation… filtered by thousands of years and a millennium of mankind’s industrial advance, it still echoes of perfection!

Exposing our kids to this much pure beauty changes everything! 

It reveals the nature of our creator’s heart, stirring us deeply as ‘awe’ dawns in the mind’s eye and we can’t help but gaze intently into the splendor of life as it was always intended to be…

RoadTrips do so much more than simply connect us to each other, they connect our heart to the possibilities of a life with our creator.

Hiking the Teton's

Hiking the Teton’s

Next week I’m taking my 18-year-old on a hiking – driving – roadtrip to the Canadian Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP…(for his second time) of what I’m sure will be ‘many’ adventures he will have in the wilderness world.

By God’s grace I can see my faith and passion for living being passed to the next generation, one roadtrip at a time.

Peace Out!

Pastor B.

PS – for more info on my roadtrips and the mountain west, check out my book, Road Trip to Redemption.

For an idea of what I’m talking about… check this out 

Sierra Surprise part 3 of 3 – A dramatic conclusion

Leaving Hwy 49 at Jackson CA and turning East, I felt like fresh air had just been injected into my weary suburban heart. The Sierra surprise detour had been wonderful, and now onto my destination… crossing the Sierra Mountains via California State Hwy 88, the road started to climb… elevation 1217 feet above sea level.

20 miles later I was still climbing, I watched as every five minutes I passed another elevation change sign. Five thousand, Six….Seven….Eight…snow was visible now in the wooded terrain, piled up under shaded overhangs and deepest wood. The road was winding and snaking through the changing environment, two to four lanes of smooth blacktop with a magnificent tour of the evolving alpine world of the Sierra’s. Snow could be seen now capping the nearby peaks with glinting ice fields and thousands of frosted evergreen acres stretching out as far as my eye could see.

Carson Pass - Hwy 88

Carson Pass – Hwy 88

Carson Pass is the highest point on Hwy 88 and it topped out at 8,652. Not the highest I’ve ever crossed, but the elevation gain from Jackson CA was significant. Over seven thousand feet in less than an hour and the air was clear, cold and fresh. Just the way I liked it 🙂

I pulled off the shoulder of the road and snapped a few pictures. The scent of pine and cedar was seductive… what if I just grabbed my pack and started walking? Left the crazy – over stressed – psychobabble of the modern world behind and just went to be with God, nature and the silent solitude of the Sierra’s…. it was very tempting.

But alas… the cold was starting to creep into my un-gloved hands and my Patagonia mocs weren’t cut out for much rock hiking, I wouldn’t make it two hours before I would be frozen and frustrated. Better stick with the plan. Keep moving, forward. Responsibilities, obligations…. everyday life was calling me back from my reverie. 

I climbed back into my rental SUV and kept driving East. Hwy 88 was a beauty. A main artery to Lake Tahoe for the locals, it was in excellent condition, obviously one of the key routes for travel during the winter (when the other two-lane, lesser used highways closed for the season) and not a snip of ice or snow was present to slip or slide on. Crossing the Sierra’s was not an up and done, but a long – 60 minute drive with a spectacular,  top of the world – feeling as I passed alpine lakes and cliff top summits, sprinkled with snow and sun. BEAUTIFUL !

eldoradocnps.org

eldoradocnps.org

The California Sierra’s are worth the effort. Driving my thousand mile loop WAS crazy, but it was crazy with a promise and man did that promise DELIVER ! 

Winding over the pass during mid-day and into early afternoon, I could see the golden glow warming the tips of the peaks as early winter sundown approached the sheer flanks of the mountains.

I quit gawking and started driving, needing to get south of Mammoth to make my flight out the next morning. I pushed south on Hwy 395 briefly crossing into Nevada and back as the road again surprised me with stunning beauty and wonderful fifty mile panoramic views. Topaz Lake, Mono Basin and then Mammoth.

Mammoth mountain has always been legendary among outdoor enthusiasts, but to see it personally in the winter was breath-taking ! Juxtaposed between the eastern Sierra mountains and the Death Valley basin desert… it’s divine. My journey south on Hwy 395 caught the last vestiges of a warm pink glow on the horizon; a gentle, winter, sunset.

Mammoth CA

Mammoth CA

The best for last…. for sure. Thanks GOD, I needed that!

If you’ve not seen a desert sunrise or sunset, you need to. Put it on the bucket list. As I climbed into my price-lined $80 hotel bed in Lone Pine, CA.., I was so grateful for the last 24 hours God had gifted me.

It was an escape.

My own private tour of the Sierra mountains. Each detail carefully prepared ahead of time, and all I had to do was just follow the clues…. (my heart’s longing led me to pull away) and the rest was taken care of.

How often did Jesus do exactly the same thing? Dozens of times that we know of in scripture. He frequently went alone to a mountain to pray…I believe to clear his head and listen, to be refreshed from the rigors of public ministry.

Take the risk… go on your own Sierra tour (or one closer to you) and unplug-reconnect and renew your heart. You won’t regret it…the mountains are calling, “Come Away”.

Peace,

Pastor B.

Hwy 395 near Lone Pine, CA

Hwy 395 near Lone Pine, CA

Sierra Surprise part 2 of 3

Mariposa Hotel – Gold Rush Era

Leaving Yosemite via Hwy 140 West leads you straight into Mariposa, CA. A cute little town on the edge of Yosemite NP, it has a two block collection of old west, gold rush era – antique stores and mom and pop shops.

From there I got a map from the VERY friendly visitor center and drove North on Hwy 49 in search of a open highway east to get across the Sierra’s. Both Hwy 108 and Hwy 4 were closed due to winter road conditions and I was told the quickest option would be to drive about 100 miles due north and catch State Hwy 88 near Jackson, CA to go east.

Mariposa was quaint, but hardly ‘scenic’… so I was extra-bummed the other road options were now closed, I resigned myself to drive 2 additional hours to make my Sierra Road Trip loop. The road started as a simple two lane state highway, nothing special… but within 10 miles I knew I was in for a real treat.

Hwy 49 was no flat and straight snore-fest of a road, it was a winding, twisting, turning panorama of rolling green foothills and lakes, shrouded in clouds and as perfect and solitary as any road warrior could have wished for. My only regret… I didn’t have a sports car or Harley to truly wind-my-way through the 10-15 mph curves !

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Hwy 49 – North of Mariposa

Gorgeous and relaxing, this 2 hour drive was a wonderful surprise ! What i thought would be a huge disappointment and annoyance, turned out to be one of the highlights of my drive. It was like driving in Ireland ( I think – as I’ve not been there yet) with the green lush hillsides and mountain vistas. Totally unlike anything I had seen in Yosemite, this was a calm and restful scene that kept repeating every-time I turned into the next valley. Hugging the side of the small mountain foothills, Hwy 49 wound back and forth across lakes and bridges, staying a thousand feet or more above the valley floors and providing camera ready moments for anyone took the time to travel it’s length.

The glory of the late morning sun and the clear blue skies with distant white cotton clouds, gave the scene a sense of the surreal and I found myself distracted….repeatedly grabbing at the wheel to make the next tight s-curve.

Almost no other cars were to be found and I had this “shalom” like drive to myself. It felt like a wonderful moment that God gifted to me, a time and place that satisfied the ‘longing’ of my wandering heart. I live for roads like this…. I yearn to discover new and remote vistas of beauty, and God having created me… knew “Exactly” what I was desiring. I couldn’t help but thank Him for taking me on a detour that turned out to be the ‘main’ event for my trip.

Hwy 49 Scenic

Hwy 49 Scenic

I had seen the desert vista’s and mountain extremes many times before… but the geography between Mariposa CA and Sonora CA was unique and beautiful and lush.

A wonderful hidden jewel just off the beaten path, waiting for me to simply discover.

Makes me think about how many times I have ‘missed’ those hidden blessings of God in my life. When I pushed and pulled and made a path forward without regard for the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. “Making stuff happen” for the sake of getting it done, and loosing out on the divine detour laid out and intended to refresh and renew my spirit.

My unexpected discovery of California State Hwy 49… served as a valuable illustration for me to remember and share. I hope it does….

Pastor B.

Part 3 of 3 in a few days.

Sierra Surprise

Icemaggedon 2015 hit Nashville with a sudden – surprise fury that stranded most and cancelled a week of our scheduled collective lives. My family was left stuck at home while I made one of the last flights out… my destination, southern California.

abcnews.go.com

abcnews.go.com

I wasn’t as thrilled as you might think…

I love winter, cold weather, and all things snow. Landing in Ontario CA… the weather was 77 F and sunshine for a week. Predictably perfect in every way. While my wife and family suffered below zero temps and four inches of solid ice… I dug through my suitcase to find a short sleeve shirt to wear and repeatedly pushed the AC button on my rental car.

By the end of the week… it was clear I wasn’t flying home as planned. Nashville airport was shut down for the 3rd time that week as another snow/sleet/ice storm was pounding the area and flights were not available for another 24 hours.

Stuck in LA. 

I had endured the smog, annoyingly perfect sunshine and 10-lane freeway gridlock for 4 days and I needed to get “OUT” of the city whenever, however I could !

A quick scan of the map showed Yosemite National Park (one of my faves) to the North and the Sierra Mountains slicing between the desert (east) and coastal (west) halves of southern California. If I hustled…I could just make a loop from Ontario CA to Yosemite (up the west side of the mountains and down the eastern slopes) across to Tahoe and down to Mammoth on my way back to Ontario. A circuit of about 1000 miles to be done in 36 hours or less… a bit of a push, one heck of a Road Trip 🙂

I jumped in and hit the road. Not even a hesitation….either sit around the airport for a day and two nights or head out for some high-mountain adventure!

I was already considering a place to crash for the night and figuring rough distance – times and weather factors in my head. If I missed traffic, I could be in Yosemite by sunset. MapQuest said 314 miles through Fresno and north up state Hwy 41 to the southern entrance to the massive NP. Six hours later and I was catching the last rays of golden glow on El Capitan!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

Outdoor tent-sites for $37 (Curry Campground – Yosemite Village) made this a most economical option and without the luxury of planning ahead, it was only option available. (hotels in the NP fill up months or years ahead of time)

Expecting snow… I was surprised to find sunshine and fall like weather in the valley. (60F daytime / 40F at night) Winter was more than mild this year in the California Sierras’… balancing out the nuclear winter settling in over balmy Nashville.

Up before sunrise, I had some surprisingly good breakfast in the food court (Yosemite Lodge) and hit the highway for my push up and through the Sierra’s into Nevada and back down to Ontario/LA. Winter exits from Yosemite NP to the east don’t exist. You have to push south or due west to get back, adding half a day and 400 miles to your journey. Tioga pass road (120) is closed from Dec -May each year and forces a by-pass/detour for anyone wanting to head for Nevada or the Eastern slopes.

Tioga Pass is a FANTASTIC road to drive with a camera. One of my top 10 roads ever! 

Bummed it was closed…I grabbed some extra snacks and a few waters as I cruised underneath the silent giants of Yosemite Valley on my way west to Mariposa, CA… I was being forced to take the long way and although  I didn’t know it… I was about to find a wonderful Sierra Surprise that was worth the entire trip!

Funny how God can use the ‘detours’ in our lives to help us find our way…. 🙂

Part 2 of 3 on Thursday !

Pastor B.