Monday, June 25, 2007

Camping in the Rockies

One of my favourite activities is hiking. Now combine this with camping and I am a happy man.

Had the opportunity to do both this past weekend. Friends of mine, the Veenstra's invited me to join them in sharing a campsite at Elkwood Campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. John went out on Thursday night and found the site, sheltered as they all are in lodgepole pine, and set up the family trailer. I had Friday off as pertaining to regular work schedule. I busily got all my gear together that morning (I had a council meeting the evening before). I made some last minute purchases on the way out of town, and hit the Trans-Canada by 12:30 PM.

I arrived at the campsite around 2 PM. On a side note, throughout Alberta this month there are a number of jazz festivals going on. To foster a good appreciation and turn-out, CKUA is promoting the playing of jazz n its daily line-up. So along the way to Elkwood my fingers were drumming to the beats from the radio. That alone had me in good spirits, plus the anticipation of the weekends events and the natural beauty as I turned down Kananaskis Trail (Hwy. 40) - my heart was grinning 5x5.

John assisted me with getting my tent up and gear stowed. we sat back and had some beer. Enjoying the sunshine. His wife, Edith and their two daughters had yet to arrive. i thought they were going to leave Calgary ahead of me. so it was with some surprise to find him minding the camp alone. They eventually did arrive a couple hours later than me. All was well.

There is a interesting phenomenon that happens in a forest of lodgepole pine. These skinny pine trees that have no branches on their lower stalks tend to sway in accord with the wind. It comes in waves. Across the valley nestled between the crags of the Rocks. Down, down it flows with a rushing sound into the sea of green. You can hear the noise ahead of itself like a freight train when the weather gets colder. Pushing the limber lumber ahead it passes through the pines making them rock like so many pentameters dancing like Fantasia broomsticks. And here is where the phenomenon happens -- the trees literally clap. From down below you observe them going out of time with each other, and then they collide. Its difficult to assign a word to the effect. Its an applause for all that is good in the forest.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Passionate Living

Over the past week I have been listening to a CD of Praise & Worship songs. There are many styles to be found in contemporary gospel. One such song I have been very taken with is a single by American country music artist Tim McGraw
called "Live Like You Were Dying". To quote the description in the Wikipedia article,
"...tells the story of a man in his early forties, with an unspecified, life-threatening disease. Upon realizing that he does not have much time left to live, the man decides to engage in certain activities that he has always wanted to do, such as skydiving, mountain climbing, fishing, and bull riding. He also decides to improve his standing with other people, including his wife. Also, the man starts to read the Bible, and forgives everyone against whom he previously held grudges."

To some jumping out of airplanes, climbing sheer cliffs and bull riding are NORMAL activities. They may have excited me when I was a much younger man, but that doesn't mean I went and did them (yes, Laura I lied in that Grade Ten speech about getting bucked off at a Hoosier rodeo). Now, it seems all that more remote that I would begin doing these things. But, that's the whole point. Living like your dying. When are you going to do these things?

The question dovetails nicely into something I read tonight. Written by Pastor Rick Ezell, with Greer Southern Baptist in Greer, S.C., Passion--A Critical Need of a Leader explains that passion is a force that when applied properly drives the soul to life-changing action. Ezell writes that "passion comes from the heart of God to embrace our hearts, and it compels us to act...passion without action is just a dream, and action without passion is drudgery. But passion with action is sheer delight."

Throughout my adult life I have had many dreams. That is, passionate ideas that bore no fruit because I wasn't able to convince anyone that they were viable or they were a little ahead of their time or, as in most cases, I had not the money. During and after high school I had two passions: to be a radio disc jockey and to be a pilot. I tried to accomplish the first by coming to a Calgary college to study broadcasting. I described what occurred in a sermon about failure I preached on March 11 of this year:

What happened next wasn’t in the plan. I got homesick. I started to fail. It wasn’t like high school. I had to have an assignment handed in every week, and in some cases one assignment for every class. Before you know it, nine weeks have passed and I have seventeen papers overdue. I’m drowning. It was at that point the College asked me to leave. Stubbornness followed Disappointment. I wasn’t going to go home a failure. I got a job at a collection agency. Things went well at first. But my friends were Loneliness and Boredom. Soon I wasn’t meeting my quotas and I was fired. And on a New Year’s Day in 1981 I returned home.

I just wasn't ready to be on my own, facing loneliness in a big city at that time I was willing to sacrifice that passion for something less.

The second dream -- to become a pilot -- that died a little harder. I was raised in an environment where, although unapparent, there weren't too many frills. Any dreams about getting flying lessons were considered unrealistic. What was more acceptable was to graduate and go down to the meat plant the next day and get a real job. But I wanted to fly. I had an extensive knowledge of planes. Yet, it didn't help that due to the National Energy Plan (1980) there were very few pilot jobs available. Consequently, there were fewer jobs for teenagers willing to sweep out hangers. It had been my plan that I would get that kind of a job to gain experience and rub elbows with pilots, you know slowly working towards getting flying lessons.

A lot of things happened between 1980-1985 before I put my sights on a more reasonable goal such a being a farm labourer. Getting a job with an airline of any kind didn't happen. The closest it ever got was in 1998 when I worked for a crop dusting outfit for a short time. All the while that bank of knowledge continued to grow. After that I guess I must have came to conclusion that I could enjoy looking at planes, however I was never going to fly one.

As I have aged I have become more mellower; willing to accept that the job that earns my living is important enough. Notwithstanding the short-term mission I took to Chiapas, Mexico in 2005, perhaps there is nothing wrong with doing the 9-5, and being active in church (and don't forget the occasional hiking/camping thing).

Listen, its not that I am unhappy. I am not having a mid-life crisis. But, Live Like You Were Dying , written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman speaks to doing more. It speaks to living without fear.

I don't know how I begin. And I think that is a good admission and a good place to start. It states in Proverbs 13:10 (The Message) that "...wise men and women listen to each other's counsel." Tonight I have asked a friend whom I admire if he would mentor me on this issue. He said he is going to pray about to see if it fits with his skills and gifts (i.e., life coaching). I will patiently await his answer. I will pray on it as well. In the meantime I am going camping in the Rockies.

The Spotlight

I got admit there have been times when I have wanted the spotlight. Not only did I just want it, but went out of my way to get it. Part of that craving originated from having a low self-esteem for most of my life. Furthermore, there are still times when I want attention. I am getting better and noticing those tendencies – even when writing for this blog – and respond correctively. I have reflected on this in the last little while, especially since writing about the Power of Story.

As you recall I asked a question that if the status quo remains the same who will know of my beginnings and journey. The framing of this question solicits, potentially, the claim of arrogance or some other not so nice view of myself. And that is not the intent.

As I grow in Christ I recognize the need to be humble. I am trying to find the balance that exists with practicing humility and being confident. So I want to tell you a story about my life not to say here I am grand and tall, and am I not the cat’s meow. Rather, I think I have something to share that is worth telling; that perhaps you can find useful in application to your own life, and to offer appreciation for what it is like growing up on the Prairies. It’s a bit scary for me. I have to decide how much I want to expose or maybe for those points should I invite another writer to give a perspective. We'll see.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back from Vacation

I have returned from a vacation to Saskatoon, SK via Edmonton. It was great trip. To borrow a cool word, I "chillaxed." I took time in my childhood neighbourhood and school. I took some pictures of this experience, and I plan to write about them in posts to follow. I also spent time with my grandmother who is a retirement home; saw some other family, and enjoyed company of friends who are dear to me.

The trip coming back was great. On Saskatchewan license plates there is slogan, "Land of Living Skies." The CBC recently ran a contest called the Seven Wonders of Canada. One of the successful nominations was Prairie Sky, Canadian Prairies. I wholeheartedly agree with this choice. The day I returned to Calgary I was treated to some of best horizons to be found anywhere. A example of what I saw is found in the picture above, taken in Alberta shortly before the intersection of Hwy 21 and Hwy 9. There was a storm cell building up over the Hand Hills and it was throwing up these high clouds. Only a few sprinkles ever hit my windshield. There have been times when the drive through this same stretch of road has been boring. Perhaps it was how refreshed I felt from being "home," but I did not find this drive to be dull. The landscape always had something to keep me looking and anticipating. The Prairies...the land of living skies. Yeah, that makes sense.