So I had one of those nights last night - you know, the kind where you make yourself go to bed because it's late, and you ought to... and then you just lay there. Blinking. Wishing you were asleep. Thinking about all the things you could be doing that would be more productive than laying here in the dark thinking about all things you could be doing and blinking, wishing you were asleep. And then two hours later you wake up, realize you were asleep, and then lay there some more, wishing you were still asleep... I did eventually fall back asleep, and just before I woke up (1/2 an hour before my alarm?!?! after a night like that? oy. and oh, yes, there's already coffee, here at my kitchen table at 5:17am.... that time stamp down there is not kidding - I really did get up at 5:00am today) I had the coolest dream.
There was this conference - I think it was on different aspects of worship, maybe? Not sure - but my friend Cheryl was scheduled to be one of the conference speakers - Jenn, too. Neither one of them had the least idea what they were going to speaking on, and pretty much figured it out on the fly. Jenn, I am pretty sure, spoke on sacred dance or something. Cheryl taught on the practical technical dimensions of pulling off a Sunday morning service. The conference was held in an outdoor amphitheater, and there were a lot of people there, all of whom played various roles in the church.
Following the conference, there was a retreat of some sort at this small, out-of-the-way, relatively obscure little church with an outdated building (you know the kind - the ones that were constructed in the early 70s and never remodeled... this one had a craft room that doubled as storage closet, and to put anything away you had to interrupt the kids working on their projects and fold up the tables to get into the room...). Cheryl was speaking at this retreat too, and she was closing her session with worship. Sometime before the session, she taught me the chords to this new song she wanted to teach. She was really excited about teaching it, and she played piano and I played guitar - except I was borrowing someone else's guitar - one that belonged to the church - and the strings were all rusty and not tight enough, and it wouldn't stay in tune, and I was so afraid that a string would break and hit me in the face - which is bad enough, but with all the rust, it would've been worse. Someone offered to loan me their guitar, but the wood and the strings were totally warped and it wasn't any good either. So I'm telling Cheryl that I need to go get my own guitar, and she's all confused about why that would take any time the way I'm explaining that it will - because mine has been sitting there, the whole time, completely in tune and ready to play. I felt a little foolish, and excused myself anyway, and told her I'd be back in a few.
Well, as dreams go, I'm not sure where I went, but the next thing I remember is running late and trying to get back to the conference before the session starts, because I know Cheryl's probably internally freaking out about me not being there yet - but I'm driving along, and these two cars whip out around me, one on the left and one on the right, and then they stop, right in the middle of the road, and these two high-school-aged boys that were driving get out, and I'm not even sure what they were doing, but I went around them, and I was like, yo, next time could you maybe just pull over? And I kept going, but now, instead of being in my car, I was riding a tricycle, and I was way late, now. And I tried running down the sidewalk without the tricycle, but I had all this stuff, including my guitar, and it wasn't any faster, and I didn't want to just leave the tricycle there in the middle of the sidewalk, so I tried scooting along - you know, when you grab the handlebars and push off with one foot while you're standing on that otherwise purposeless step on the back - and then my sister came along and I think she might have actually taken the tricycle, and tried to get me to go faster because the session was starting - and she rode right through a newly constructed section of sidewalk. (I think there may have been someone else along at this point in the dream, but I can't remember who, or when or why they got there.)
It wasn't just any old sidewalk either - on the sides it was regular cement, but in the center it was all these large square red brick-like tiles - very precise - someone had spent a lot of time making this look nice, and it was all still wet cement. And now there was this three-wheeled track driving crazy through the whole thing... The woman who was laying the sidewalk was down in a ditch at the side of it, and she started to yell, then took a deep breath, and said, "no, hon, it's alright. i can fix it," and waved my sister on. But she kept talking under her breath, and said something that caught my attention - something about dead-end jobs and leaving them - and I asked her about it, if what she'd just said was true of her -and she ended up telling me her story - how she'd been doing this job for years but felt so stuck in it, and had finally just taken the risk and quit - and how she didn't have a clue what she was going to do now. She didn't have a plan. She'd just quit. And I spoke into her life, and told her that she was going to be okay, and that God would take of her, and that He was proud of her for setting off on a road that would be freer and would help her to find who she was always meant to be. And she climbed out of the ditch, and we hugged (her name was Pam) and it was such a cool appointment with destiny, you know? Like I was just supposed to be there. So she starts asking me about myself, where I was going, etc. and someone comes flying out of the church to tell me that the worship part of the session is starting and they need me now.
So I go dashing into the multi-purpose room to discover that it is a very small retreat - less than 20 people on folding chairs gathered around one end of the room where Cheryl is standing at her keyboard playing the new song, and I drop all my stuff on the floor (at a perfectly quiet moment in the song, so everyone heard it, but hey, at least it was on the beat, right?) and Jake's there and looks at me funny, like, "where have you been? this is so not like you?" and I'm looking around and most of the people there are from his dad's church. I just sort of grin, fix my guitar strap, plug in, and step up to the mic - we're at the chorus - and the room just erupts in worship - and I discover that not only are my fingernails too long to hit the strings properly, but one of them is all torn up and keeps getting snagged on the strings. I make it about half-way through the song and finally just give up. There's no way I can keep playing. And then the music transitions into "Come, Now Is The Time To Worship" - and that song talks about coming just as you are to worship... (completely late, frazzled, unprepared, and with broken nails?!), so I did - and as I woke up, I said, "Okay..." :) So here I am for the day, God, just as I am, to worship...
That was a crazy dream... and it feels (again) like there are dimensions that are probably just stuff from life - but others that might be God trying to tell me something... Time will tell, I guess. :)
The thing about Yellowstone is that it's about 40 miles between every major intersection - lots of really cool sights along the road on both sides, mind you - and the speed limit is understandably fairly mild (in comparison to the highways in the surrounding states!) - so it took awhile to get where I was going... When I first looked at the map, and prayed, asking God where I should stay, I felt a pull toward Lewis Lake... so I headed there.
It was worth the drive. Isn't this beautiful?! I could've stayed here for hours, and I would have given a lot to sit on this shore and watch the sun go down - or come up. :) There was just one small problem with my grand plan to camp by this lake...
Several feet of snow.
Yep. Middle of June, and the campground was completely snowed under. Time for Plan B... (God, I thought You said something about this lake? Did I miss something? I mean, it's beautiful, and I want to come back here tomorrow, but oh my goodness... I really thought... wow. Now what?) So I looked at the map, and started driving to the nearest campsite... which was over half an hour away... and it was late afternoon already.
Stop #1 - the campground at Grant Village. "I'm sorry, we're full. And I know all the hotels and lodges in the entire park are booked for tonight. But check with lodging... they should be able to tell you if there's been any cancellations or if there's a site somewhere open..." All day long, I thought I knew where I was going; I thought God said He had this. What was I going to do?!
(This is my first camping experience on my own. I'd rather not be eaten by a bear. That would sort of suck. Kind of like getting trampled by a bison. "What did you do on your summer vacation?" "Um...." yeah... I think I'd like to stay in the Park.)
"Well, what about over here?" the same girl helpfully suggests. "I've never seen bears over there. Same thing - no toilets, just a field - it's not a campground or anything, but there's no sign that says you can't camp there, so I'm sure it would be fine. And if you're scared of bears, that's the end of the park to head for. I've not seen very many over there, just a lot of moose..."
At which point, someone else looks at her, and says, "Will you shut up? You're scaring her!"
And I start to hyperventilate.
I'm not kidding, I actually at that point in time started to have a panic attack. I haven't had one that bad in over a year - and I've never had them often or anything - but in high stress situations they can happen, and it happened then. The room started to close in, and I could barely breathe, much less stand up, and I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out or throw up. So I said, "excuse me, I need to sit down!" and concentrated on breathing and prayed hard for the grace to get thru this, and asked God to please help. "I need to go sleep, God. I'm exhausted."
And He came through. I got a reservation - at that point, probably the last site in the park, and drove the 40 minutes up to Canyon Campground. Checked in, signed the disclaimer about the bears.
me (to the elderly gentleman who checked me in): "Um... really? there's bears?"
the man: "Nah. I mean we saw a lot of them a week ago, but now that there's people around all the time, they don't really bother you all that much."
me: (heaving a sigh of relief and speaking without thinking) "oh good. because this is the first time i've ever camped by myself and that would really suck."
the man: (blinks in surprise, grins) "yeah. that would suck."
So he explained in great detail about how to minimize the chances of a bear visiting you. And I drove to my campsite. I pulled into the parking space and just sat there, looking at it. Yep. This is it. "You have got to be kidding." I think I actually said that out loud...
This isn't even all the snow...
I had two options. I could set up my tent over there and tromp thru a snow drift (in which, when I did tromp through it, I sank in up to my knee - and I was wearing shorts. It was cold...) to get out and to the road. (I was fortuitously very close to the rest rooms.) Or I could set up in the just enough space between snow banks at the very edge of the campsite. Close to the road (less likely to be pestered by bears, i hoped). It was rather scrunched - but the firepit was too wet to build a fire in anyway, and i wasn't going to eat at the table... so I got to work. And a very nice man from Minnesota named Scott watched me with a bit of amusement and then came over to help me set up my tent. "Are you sure you want it here?" "Yep." And I explained about the bears. "Well, if they bother you, we're right over there." "Oh, don't worry. You'll hear me!"
So, this is the view from the front door of my tent. That, right there, all that water - we nicknamed that "the little Yellowstone River." "You can tell all your friends you survived bears and camped by a river," said Scott. "And a bison," I added.
That night, I crawled into my tent around 8:00 or so, completely exhausted - and faced my faithlessness. "I told you I had it." "I know, Lord. I should have trusted You. Um. It's going to be 28 degrees tonight." "You'll be fine." "Ok..."
And I met with God. I read the Word, I journalled a bit, I started a book that I think may literally be life-changing... and for a couple of hours that soggy little patch of ground became incredibly holy. And I was home.
Day 3. I looked at the atlas that morning, and I thought, okay. I can spend another 6-8 hours in the car and drive all the way from Billings to Glacier, have a day there, and a three-day drive back... OR I can drive 4-5 hours from here to Yellowstone and have 2 days there, and only 2.5 days to drive back.... hm. God, would it be alright? And what I felt from the Lord in that moment was pretty much something along the lines of, "Hap, I don't really care where we are. This is about you and me being together. Yellowstone is fine. Let's go."
So I went to Yellowstone National Park. I took the interstate a ways across Montana, stopped in the last "big" town for gas and coffee just in case - and hit the back roads towards Yellowstone. The drive in was stunning -I got stopped for construction but actually enjoyed it, as I was in a pretty spot overlooking a river that you could actually hear if you listened over the construction noises. And there were any number of what you could actually call "vistas" and not be the slightest bit cheesy... And then there was the Park itself.
Lol... the first thing I noticed is that there are an extraordinary number of bison in Yellowstone National Park. It actually became laughable by the end of the trip, how many completely unconcerned bison there are in the world...
I stopped and hiked the Norris Geyser basin. That was fun. It was so good to be out of the car!!! Unfortunately not all my pictures turned out very well... but there are a few things I remember distinctly from that bit of my trip:
1) a jackrabbit (it was enormous) bounding thru the brush on the side of the trail that totally freaked me out (because i was alone and because of the bison and the new possibility that it might (because of my current location) be a bear... ("ooo, see the bunnies" has new connotations now...lol)
2) wildflowers growing at the edges of extremely hot pools of water - what incredible tenacity in the midst of such barrenness! (i want to be like that... which, oddly enough, reminds me of one of my favorite songs, and when i went just now to read the lyrics, they totally floored me... but... well, that's a whole different post someday, i think!)
3) what happened at the Steamboat geyser...
and someday, it will all be made new... someday, we'll be home - and we'll live on the earth as it was always meant to be... i wonder what it will really be like...
Jon Birch has a post up that sparked some conversation on this very subject...
1) it is very important (judging from the number of billboards i saw proclaiming such) to "stop aquatic hitchhikers." (?!?!)
2) North Dakota is home to the largest metal sculpture in America. (I did not stop to see it.)
I did, however, after driving for hours, get off at Exit 1, because there was a sign for a rest stop with a scenic overlook, and yesterday's had been so amazing. So I took the exit ramp, and turned at the end of it - directly into Theodore Roosevelt National Park! (who knew?) ok, maybe if I'd been looking at the atlas, i wouldn't have been quite so surprised. :)
The view was absolutely incredible. The colors, the play of light and shadow - it was breathtaking. Maybe even more so because I hadn't expected to see it - I had no clue that I would turn a corner to a view like that...
The view from that ledge was amazing, and I stood there for a minute, enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of God's creation, noticing the interesting hoof-shaped tracks in the dirt, and thought, wow, that's odd. i thought that sign said "no horses..."
BISON IN PICTURE IS CLOSER THAN HE APPEARS...
I left home last Sunday with my Bible, a journal, a sleeping bag, a tent, a suitcase, a bunch of non-perishable groceries, and an atlas. Plus the usual number of books I would not actually read. (You would think I would learn from these experiences, but no... you see, I might have time to read that one, and I need this one, just in case... etc. You never know...)
Milwaukee was the first minor adventure of the trip - as a person with no internal sense of direction (as in, if you say words like "north" and "east," my brain freezes up and I just get stupid for a second), I was less than thrilled when the signs saying things like "interstate closed ahead" and "detour" began appearing. But somehow I managed to actually follow the signs and ended up, having driven through several small Wisconsin towns that I may otherwise have never seen, back on the interstate. Kept driving for a bit, and eventually, around dinnertime, pulled off at a rest stop somewhere in the Black Hills of Wisconsin that promised a "scenic overlook." (Sidenote: If you are driving along and see a sign that says "scenic overlook," I would highly recommend pulling over and checking it out. Unless, perhaps, you are in South Dakota...)
The rest stop itself was fairly nice, and I found a picnic table in the sun and had dinner. Then I wandered off towards the part of the little park that I thought might be the overlook (as it wasn't really evident at first glance what one was supposed to be looking over). What I found was a trail, and it led up through the woods for quite a ways. I thought a couple of times about turning around and going back, but I pressed on and finally, after a bit, I came around a corner and found this lovely little spot.
This deck became, for a few moments, incredibly holy ground. I sat on the bench at the far end of the platform, and just looked at the beauty of the hills for awhile - then got out my Bible and began to read. I read Psalm 27 out loud. Have you ever done that? Just read the Word out loud when you're all by yourself? There's just something about saying the words aloud, out in the middle of nowhere - I don't know how to explain what happened, other to say that this psalm, which has been a theme psalm for me for months now anyway, became a very personal prayer for the whole trip in that moment. I genuinely prayed the words of this song up there in the hills, telling God how much I wanted to be in His presence and to be aware that I was... asking Him to make a straight path for me as I traveled, to guide me in where to go and what to do... and as I prayed, this verse jumped out at me: "My heart says of you, "Seek His face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalm 27:8) "God, I'm seeking You."
And His answer: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (v. 14). So many things I am waiting on Him for - but it is not a sitting around, doing nothing, sort of waiting - even when it looks (and sometimes feels) for all the world like it is... For these 5 days anyway, waiting on the Lord involved driving - and driving, and driving, and... - and seeking Him out. Letting go of my agenda, my plan, my idea of what the road should even be. Taking each moment as it came. Waiting to see what happened in the course of a day. And smiling.
I was struck so often, over the course of this trip, by a sudden realization that I was smiling. Just driving along. Grinning. I was happy. And I was aware that I was happy.
I'm not 100% sure why this surprised me, but it did. In a nice sort of way. The peace and ... quietness ... that filled my heart, especially over the first couple of days, was so needed, and so welcome. I actually succeeded in driving along, being happy, and not really thinking about much of anything. It was heavenly. Kind of like this view from that bench. :)
One of the "quote of the week" moments tho, came from Richard Allen Farmer, in one of the main sessions. He was giving us a "tour of the artist's brain" - and he said, "That fog in your head? Don't try to fix it. It's supposed to be there." :) lol... phew. You have no idea how relieved I am to know that... :)
The "fog" is simply an acceptance of mystery - an okayness with the not-knowing-ness that comes from a life of faith; oddly coupled with another artistic tendency: asking a zillion questions, much to the annoyance of our friends and family. :) I can't explain it any better than that - I question everything at times, but I love the mystery of life, love, God Himself...
The Israelites followed a cloud... and at times that cloud would fill the temple, and the priests would be unable to minister because of it... what a glorious, mysterious, specific encounter with God that would be...
I'm doing a bit of my own cloud-following this week. It's pouring rain right now, so I am putzing a bit, waiting for it to stop - but in a couple of hours, I am hitting the road and heading to Montana for the week. I will probably spend more time in my car than I do in Montana, but hey... I've always wanted to see it. :) My goal is Glacier National Park. I am not sure I will actually get there. And I am so okay with that. :) It's so cliche, but in this instance, I really feel like it's going to be so much more about the journey than it is about the destination. I have no idea where I'm going to sleep tonight. It's kind of cool... in an unsettling sort of way. :) I wasn't going to leave until tomorrow - but already, I'm just feeling a tug to get going, to get away, to turn off the phone and the computer and just go - out into the wilderness with the Lord, to wait on Him, and to hear what He has to say. I am completely and totally lovesick for Jesus right now - and so looking forward to this week.
I should probably go pack... :)
I don't remember why, but I thought of that the other day, and it totally made me crack up. Partly because it's just funny... and partially because for the longest time it was true. Ruth recently was praying for me, and felt that God used the word "bashful" in reference to me. There are a few reasons for that... one is simply that it's been so true for so long - I am ridiculously shy, but not a lot of people know that, because I've learned to overcome it (for the most part). But there's also a sense in which it is no longer quite as true as it once was...
One of the fundamental shifts that's been happening of late at the core of who I am is completely centered around this whole bashfulness thing. I mentioned yesterday that I was thinking of changing the name of my blog. If I changed the name to anything, it would be this: "A Curious Thing..." and it's because of something my friend/mentor/pastor/brother/person Mark said a couple of weeks ago.
A bunch of us were sitting around in his living room one evening, playing the encouragement game. (If you've never played, you should - it totally rocks. Basically everyone goes around and says something really nice about you, and then it's someone else's turn and you all go around and say nice things about that person...and so on. It's great.) :)
So it's Mark's turn to say something nice about me, and he kind of tips back on his chair a bit and says slowly (he's still thinking really hard about how to say what he wants to say): "You... are the most curious thing..." and then there's this pause, and I couldn't help it, I just started laughing. It was right up there with the time Veggie said I was complex person....
But Mark went on to explain it, and what he said was that I have this really tender heart, but on the outside, I'm like this really tough warrior woman...
And I kind of know what he means, tho I kind of don't... and sometimes I feel more like the flip version of that - easily wounded, but chock full of chutspa in spite of it... but maybe it's more that I'm a little bit of both. At any rate - this warrior woman side of me, whether she's more inner or outer me - she's new. And I like her. And she doesn't put up with much, and she chases Jesus in a pretty hard-core way. And if you happen to mess with her... chances are pretty good she will actually roar.
Which is probably why Stephie says I can be a ninja now. :)
I woke up this morning with Rich Mullins' "One Thing" in my head... "and the pure in heart shall see God" keeps playing over and over in my head. (I love being a walking jukebox...)
2) I'm thinking about possibly changing the name of my blog. Would that totally throw everyone? :)
A recent conversation with Ruth over at grains of truth about the prophetic and particularly how it relates to inquiring of the Lord about specific things got me thinking about a dream I had this winter. I've asked God for visions and dreams at different points in my walk, and sometimes He's said yes, and other times He's said no, and sometimes they've come unbidden. (Sara was there when I woke up from the first one. It was quite a morning.) I very rarely remember my dreams when I wake up unless they're weird or prophetic - and I can still count on one hand the number of dreams I've had that I would label prophetic. But this one... It came during a season this winter in which I was asking God to speak to me through my dreams, and He was generally saying, "Hap, you don't sleep enough as it is - why would I wake you up? We'll talk in the morning..."
I'd actually forgotten all about it, until a friend of mine was talking about a series of dreams she had where she was in various train stations - and all of a sudden it came flooding back in great detail, and I felt it was extremely important to write it down. It still seems to me, months later, like there is something that God wants to say to me through this:
The station was in a wooded area - I believe it was a sunny day. Felt like it was the middle of nowhere, dirt/sand road leading up to the station through a tunnel of trees, tho my sense is it was not so far from some sort of smaller town. Wide platform, nice building, wood floors, lots of windows - nice. The kind of train station you don't mind waiting about in.
I was ready to leave wherever I'd been, and this was the way I was going. It wasn't an "oh, I've got to get out of here" panic-type departure but it was more of a quiet "it's time to go and I'm happy about this" sort of thing.
So the train comes and we all get on, and it's fairly spacious, not crowded or anything, but it doesn't leave right away. It just sits there. We're not sure why it's not moving, but it's not, and so everyone's hanging out and being really good sports about it (no one was in a hurry at all), and we're all getting to know the other people on the train. I remember there were two really nice older ladies and some guy nearby us that I was talking with, and we were talking about where I was going, I think, but I don't remember anything about it now. Finally the train starts to pull out of the station, and as it's picking up speed, all of a sudden, I yell, "WAIT!!! WAIT!! I have to get OFF!" - and again, it wasn't panic or anything, but I just knew that I knew that I knew that I needed to get off the train. The conviction was intense - not an awful "i'm in the wrong place" sort of thing, but just a really, really strong belief that I needed to get off.
Well, the engineer wouldn't stop the train, but the conductor opened the doors while the train was moving, and I jumped out, and the people on the train were all cheering me on, even though they totally didn't understand why I was getting off. They all wished me well and waved as the train disappeared down the tracks, and I put my backpack on, and started hiking up the road, away from the station and into the woods.
I'd be curious to know if any of you have any insight into this...
But it really does, you know. Hope is incredible. Even the world knows that. "Hope Floats," as the movie title has it, and a good point. Hope rises to the surface like the bubbles in 7-Up. It's effervescent. It's bubbly. It can't help rising up. It's clear. It's airy. It's... well... hopeful. Hope is good thing. It is necessary. And sometimes it is all we have. (And if that is so, it is enough.)
HT: The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus
I was watching old episodes of "Alias" tonight - my boss knows me well, and got me Season 1 for my birthday last week. And there's this quote in the fourth episode that just leapt out at me as I watched, so when the show was over, I scrolled back and wrote it down word for word. It spoke to me not only of the incredible value of hope - but of at least one dimension of what the church should truly be. I've thought about chiming in on this whole conversation that's been going around about the church and where she's failed and what an ideal community would look like, or how you even try to come close when there's so much brokenness in the world, and in us... but honestly, I think Sara's written an amazing letter, and I'm not sure I have much more to add except that if you are someone who has been wounded by Christ's bride, I am so sorry that happened to you...and I wish it hadn't. It was not supposed to be that way. Please forgive us... and give God the chance to make it up to you. We won't ever be able to - but He can.
For those of you who aren't familiar with "Alias" - it's about an undercover agent named Sydney Bristow. In this scene, she's with fellow agent Michael Vaughan, on a boardwalk somewhere by the Pacific Ocean. She has just thrown her pager into the ocean at the end of a complete melt-down - it has been a horrible day, and she is more than a bit overwhelmed. This is what Vaughan has to say:
"In this job, you see darkness; you see the worst in people. And though the jobs are different, and the missions change and the enemies have a thousand names, the one crucial thing - the one real responsibility you have is to not let your rage and your resentment and your disgust darken you.... When you're at your absolute lowest, at your most depressed, just remember that you can always... you know. You've got my number."
Do you have friends like that? I hope so. I do. Some of them go to the local church I currently call home. Some of them live a couple hundred miles away. Some of them are on the other side of the Pond. That - if you will - is what the Church really is. A few people close by, a few far away - each person with their own unique gifts that they bring to the mix, their own things that need fixed, their own hurts and struggles and strengths and joys... all, built together, across the world, and across time, into an absolutely amazing thing called the Church, who has the privilege of being called the Bride of Christ. She is wanted. You are wanted. I have hope that one day, we will all see that.