Tag Archives: New Mexico

In The Wild

When 11,200 feet above sea-level, sleeping in a tent, living like the early man, fishing, cooking over a fire, it is easy to feel uncomfortable and a little challenged.  Unless you’re this guy:

If you have been following my blog, you know that I spent the first week of August up in the Pecos Wilderness.  I’ve talked about wandering around lost and how hard the hike was, but what about what happened in the wild?

I went into the wild on a search, for fish, a fresh night sleeping on my new sleeping mat, and friendship.  What I found might have been a little different.  Heck, I shared a tent with the older version of the man pictured above, so how could my adventure turn out the way I expected?

Life in the wild is therapeutic for me.  I love backpacking because it gives me a chance to leave my normal life and leave it all behind.  Computers. Smartphones. Jobs. Stress.  I love being off the grid.

Guatemala was off the grid, or at least I was off most everyone else’s grid.  Living off the grid can be a challenge, especially not knowing the language, something unexpected could always be expected to happen.  But now that I am living in Colorado, I feel the need to get away, go backpacking, so that I can be challenged and refocus on life.

And so, up in the Pecos Wilderness, off the grid, we were attacked by a hungry heard of chipmunks.  Those little rodents were aggressive.  We had to lock away our food, even so they unzipped my backpack and chewed through three layers of plastic bagging just to eat three raisins.  They were telling me that the Stewart Lake campground was their home turf and I better show some respect.  Maybe they’d grown too used to backpackers and I could see why.  As I packed my backpack a troop of 15 teenagers hiked into our area to set up camp.

After a little fishing we packed our tent and trekked up to Lake Johnson.  If Stewart Lake my first step into the wild, albeit a little crowded, Lake Johnson was truly off the grid.

Other than the Rices, our backpacking partners, we didn’t see another human for a couple days.  It was just me, my dad, and the wild.

The fishing up at the high mountain lake was great, but then again, not great.  But maybe that was part of the challenge.  When I can’t just walk up to the closest Chipotle for a burrito to feed my hunger.  Providing food for myself isn’t meant to be easy.  Sometimes the fish just don’t bite.  And when they don’t, what’s going to calm the hunger pains?

Fortunately, I packed in enough food and really, caught plenty of fish.  I spent most of my time out by the lake, casting my line.  It was a beautiful time, but also invigorating.  Each night on the backpacking trip, we lit our stoves, boiled water so we wouldn’t get sick, and then hoped our food would turn out edible.

In the wild you can’t rely on your own strength, just ask Aaron Ralston.  He got stuck and lost an arm.

In the wild it can rain or not rain.  Too much one way or the other and you could be dead.

But in the wild you can also find life.

In the wild, up at Lake Johnson, I reconnected with my best friend.  Philip and I grew up going to church together, but because we live in two different states, hadn’t been able to talk in several years.

At night around the camp fire, with no computers or iPhones, we were able to engage in each other’s lives again.

Philip is currently stepping out into the wild in his own life.  God has called him into the full time ministry.  He has left his job, just months after becoming a father, and is placing his trust in God to provide for him.

There is nothing wilder than living on the edge for God.

On our last night around the fire, Sid, Philip’s dad, asked us to talk about what we’d experienced on the trip.

We’d talked about fishing, joked about all the deer that’d wander through our campsite (they would wander through and nibble on our leftovers knowing they were safe as it wasn’t hunting season).

But my favorite part was was talking about faith and community.  I don’t think these conversations would’ve happened if we hadn’t gone into the wild.  I felt focused on life, as each morning and night, around the the camp stove, we shared our hearts.

As I packed up my tent to hike out of the wild, I knew I didn’t want to stop sharing my life with the people around me.   It took going into the wild to see that my life needs true community.

This year, while I pursue my masters in teaching, I don’t want to forget what I learned in the wild.  I know that my studies will be challenging, but I’ll get comfortable. I know I’ll be connected to the grid.  But I hope that I stay connected to the community around me and not stop living in God’s wild creation.

I would like to thank all of my readers here at the Neighborhood Cafe.  I hope you guys continue to be challenged by God and that each day you see how much he loves you.  God will provide for you, just put your faith in him.  I believe a life connected to our creator is life out in the wild, even if that wild looks like a city street.  Again, thank you all for reading my blogs over the last several months.  I would love to keep you all as part of my blogging community.  If you want to continue to read what I write, click here, and follow me over to my blog.  I hope you all subscribe so we can continue to build a faith community.  

Brendan Scott

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All Who Wander

“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly.  My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.

“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began.  Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet.  And wither then?  I cannot say.'”

Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote.  “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”

“Yeah,” answered my dad.

“We’re wandering and we’re lost.”  Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild.  And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.

My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack.  It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East.  After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead.  The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill.  After five minutes I knew this was no good.

We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain.  Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one.  An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.

It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.

Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”  There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually.  If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering.  I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.

Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination.  Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.

I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other.  Quickly the trailhead slid behind us.  The sun was hot and my mood was still low.  We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson.  We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.

As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind.  “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”

Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.

With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack.  He’d stopped for some reason.  “Hey!” said a familiar voice.  It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see.  He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport.  He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly.  I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.

Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered.  I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me.  I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over.  I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down.  Even if I get lost along the way.  After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier.  And definitely prettier.

And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson.  My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the grater adventure along the way.  And while we hiked I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.

Tolkien is right, not all who wander are lost.

As the Neighborhood Cafe closes down at the end of the month you can keep reading what Brendan Scott writes on his Adventures in Guatemala blog.  Just make sure you subscribe by selecting the subscribe button on the right hand side of his blog!  He writes regularly about his adventures and how he saw God working through his daily life and would love for you all to be a part of his adventure.  He is very thankful for all of the readers here at the Cafe.  

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In The Stillness

Six weeks ago, I embarked on a 5-day trip to Taos, New Mexico for some extended time alone with God. To my delight, I stayed in a beautiful house nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking the city while some relatives were out of town.

Immediately upon entering the house, I said to myself, It sure is quiet in here. No one yelling. No one telling me what to do. Apart from an occasional dog barking in the distance, the stillness was deafening.

That night as I prepared for bed, I started freaking out. Every errant sound transformed itself into an imaginary wild animal or fugitive attempting to break into the house. As I turned off the lights, I checked to make sure the bedroom door was locked.

Obviously, nothing happened, but I soon realized how ill-equipped I am to cope with silence.

Join me today as we look at the benefit of silence.

TODAY’S READING

1 Kings 19:1-21
Acts 12:1-23
Psalm 136:1-26
Proverbs 17:14-15

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 19:1-21. After serving as the instigator in a dramatic showdown between Yahweh and Baal, Elijah heard Jezebel had sent men to kill him…so he ran. The explanation of why Elijah ran after such a significant “God encounter” has always escaped me—so if you have some insights, please join the conversation.

Elijah shows us that no matter how powerful or godly a person may appear, everyone stands on feet of clay.

This passage is rife with parallels between Elijah and Moses—both stood on Mt. Horeb (Ex 3) and both possibly hid in the same cleft of the rock as God appeared (Ex. 33).

Acts 12:1-23. Two elements about this story of Peter’s dramatic release from prison struck me as I read this section from the Bible.

  1. The people prayed earnestly for Peter’s release. Verse 5 tells us that “the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” In prayer, we ask God to intervene in our everyday circumstances. This may seem pretty basic, but all too often, I witness heartless prayers that seek nothing tangible from God. It’s okay to ask God for something!
  2. The people were surprised when God answered their prayer. After the servant girl announced Peter was at the door, they remarked, “You’re out of your mind.”

Psalm 136. This psalm served as a recitative prayer between the leader and the people. And what is the theme? God’s love endures forever. Sometimes we need to keep reminding ourselves of this because we so easily forget. By tracing various examples of everyday life and Israel’s history, we begin to see the breadth and depth of God enduring love.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

If God could throw lightening from heaven and bring an end to a overwhelming drought, surely he could defend Elijah from lowly Jezebel. Nevertheless, after serving as the instigator in God’s show of superiority over Baal, Elijah was burned out and desperate. He ran for his life in fear of Jezebel’s threats and then pleaded for God to take his life. So fearful was he that Elijah ran to Beersheba, the southern region of Judah on the edge of the desert. Surely Jezebel’s troops couldn’t find him there.

Elijah desperately needed an encounter with God. He needed something that would prove God was there, and that he cared. And where else should he go but the same place Moses had encountered God 650 years earlier?

There, standing on the side of Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb), Elijah waited for an experience with God he could call his own.

A powerful wind blew across the mountain.

An earthquake shook the ground underneath his feet.

Fire raged all around him.

But God wasn’t present  in any of these “manifestations.”

How often do we ask God for dramatic experiences? Maybe you don’t, but I do. I want him to rescue me, heal me, deliver me. And I want it NOW!

While he has the power to do any of these—and sometimes he does—he usually appears to us in the same way as he did to Elijah.

The NIV translation of the Bible says that God spoke to Elijah in a “gentle whisper.” Most scholars, though, translate the word as “silence.”

A deafening silence.

Interestingly enough, the writer of 1 Kings tells us that Elijah heard it (see 1 Kings 19:13). Then out of the silence, God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah’s answer reveals his good intensions as well as his skewed view of reality. God then gave him direction and courage to continue.

In an age of overstimulation, the idea of being still and silent is frightening. Yet perhaps that’s exactly what we need.

When we turn down the volume of the many voices vying for our attention, we create room for God to speak to our hearts.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you feel about spending time alone in silence? What prevents you from this important spiritual discipline?
  3. Why do you think it’s important to God?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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