Where I sigh because Jen Hatmaker gave words to the most vexing part in my mountain church trek. Find me linked up over at Jen’s blog with a team of writers for this review of her book,“Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.”
sleeping giant framed

Comfortable Christianity 

I have long suspected that my brand of ‘church’ is about to crumble to the foundations. This angst-y feeling runs like a hot wire up and down the spine of what I currently know as American Christianity.

My angst is fueled by a nagging sense that wealthy conservative protestant church (as I’ve known and/or created it) is in hibernation like a sleeping giant. I’ve written about the tension here. But, it’s still hard to find a quick way to explain. My best efforts include words focus like bigger buildings, better coffee, slick in-house marketing programs and parking lots chock full of SUV’s. Or, take this indicting Jesus quote:

“I’ll say it it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.”

These are harsh words for rich people, for sure. But, regularly in my North American evangelical experience this quote is preached and muted, tempered — traded for all the things a sleeping giant needs; things like sooth-saying words, permission to have plenty of food, comfortable shelter, and Do Not Disturb signs on the door.

Jesus has a point about wealth. Most Sundays, we sleep through it.

 

Hatmaker interrupted rich americans

 

Or maybe, to be fair, I should say “I’.  I either sleep or get hyper-vigilant. I ride a wild pendulum that swings from obsession to utter neglect. There is no in between for me with those Jesus words. I don’t know what to practically do about them. Some days I get all hot and bothered and declare to my husband that we are selling EVERYTHING in the garage. He rarely takes this well as most of HIS stuff is in the garage. The rest of the time, I turn it all off and place my focus elsewhere. But that’s becoming increasingly more difficult.

Sleeping Giants

For a while now, I have felt the increasing tension of my wealth and comfort like a relentless alarm clock beeping through the fog of a dream. Most mornings I feed my dog and cat and head outside, warm beverage in hand. I stroll my yard surrounded by a Colorado fortress of mountain ranges, isolated from all danger and poverty, and I wonder if the human version of Jesus would choose to live here. Or, if he would leave in order to be with the people who are aware they really desperately ‘need’ him.

These days, I am Rip Van Winkle in a waking stretch. I am starting to understand what I missed in my dozy self-consumed church years. I feel the increasing chasm of injustice and disproportionate wealth in the world. I am the sleeping giant trying to force my heavy eye lids open, to throw back the warm covers and dare to wake to poverty and violence and a kingdom of orphans and widows. And it feels like a colossal fight with gravity. This is one part of the angst, the unrest I feel about myself, about church, about what it means to be a Jesus Follower.

I am not alone. Others are speaking these same ideas and longings.

Awakenings

Author and speaker Jen Hatmaker grew up in church a a pastor’s kid, went to a Baptist college, married a pastor and served full-time in ministry for a dozen years before her personal awakening. She articulates her pre-awakened state this way:

“I am still stunned by my capacity to spin Scripture, see what I wanted, ignore what I didn’t and use the Word to defend my life rather than define it … Looking backward, I can better identify the tension that lurked at the edges, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was … something off for me. We spent an unhealthy amount of time dreaming about our next house, our next financial increase, our next level of living. We were the opposite of counterculture. We were a mirror image of culture, just a churched-up version.”

I just read Jen’s book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity, and found myself shaken in a good way. Jen Hatmaker is loud. She admits openly that she has no filter and over-shares personal things about her life.  If you’re the DIY type, you may want to watch Jen and her husband Brandon on their new HGTV series “My Big Family Renovation“. The show follows the Hatmakers and their 5 children as they tackle the complete and chaotic renovation of a 100-year-old farm house in Texas. And all of that housey-ness may seem a bit contradictory to the premise of wealthy Christians seeking a simpler and more radical path. A little perplexing. Yes. But here’s the thing …

I saw Jen speak at the Allume blogger conference last year and was drawn in by her infectious laugh and pure-form authentically raw love for Jesus. For better or worse, Jen is willing to lay her loud life bare for the rest of us. Take it or leave it. She says things in ways more diplomatic people wouldn’t. She is like your boisterous neighbor that makes people laugh and roll their eyes – or your brother’s extremely loud and lovable ex-girlfriend that everybody remembers and smiles about.

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A few years ago, Jen and her husband set out to plant a church and found themselves living a radically renovated life of service to “the poor, the least, the forgotten.” Interrupted is their story of rediscovering what faith community means. Her language gives word to my own church angst. Her story creates a missional path through as she answers the question:

If the gospel is good news at all, then it’s not just an idea to consider, a time slot on a Sunday, or a task assigned to a select few — it’s a life to live. And it’s bigger than all of us.


As I trek around my mountain town, wandering in and out of faith communities
, I am searching. I hope to catch glimpses of interruption and spiritual awakening. I long for bracing storm clouds to blow in and douse us all with tidal waves of holy water that make us gasp and shudder, eyes wide open. Jen has her own way of speaking this same yearning, in a voice that is all her own. Again, take it or leave it. But I think her book is like an ice-bucket dousing … an inspiring jolt to move beyond comfortable into something that is bigger than all of us.

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Related Posts from Kelley

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How “Busy” Nearly Wrecked my Marriage

Losing My Religion

 

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Don’t miss the small town adventure … I’ve spent my entire life in the stackable chairs of conservative evangelical churches. I’m starting over with ‘church’ by trekking around and exploring the faith communities in my quirky little mountain town. It’s a wild ride. Jump in!

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Hatmaker_Jennifer_Author_photoJen Hatmaker is the author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. She speaks at conferences around the country. Jen resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Brandon, and their five children.

 

 

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Sleeping Giant Image: Lost Gardens of Heligan, UK, photographer unknown.

 

Where I visit a charismatic church that expects to encounter God at any moment — and it feels a bit like riding a roller coaster. 

 

Big Dipper roller coaster

 

Buckled In

Walking in and sitting down in a new church feels a bit like buckling in for a roller coaster ride. You know what I mean. That feeling where you have no sense of the path ahead and the roller coaster cars are creeping upward toward an inevitable crest and plummet into the unknown. Click … click … click … here we go.

At the second church on my trek, I arrive a few minutes early and find my place toward the back, in a row of old Lazy-boy rocking chairs. Even though I am am generally up for whatever a Sunday brings, I still feel a little bit like an uninformed passenger, leaning back into gravity as the track clicks forward. There are no worship programs handed out at this church. No instructions on the wall. In their artistic and informal sanctuary space, these people expect to encounter God, no obvious scheduled agenda or pre-service explanations given.

The Church

The praying church resides in a historic building across from the city park on the same street where the Farmer’s Market sets up each Friday. Built in 1890, the simple one room church building was the longtime site of the funeral church I attended last week. In the 1990′s, that congregation outgrew the building and moved across town. Eventually the praying church moved in. I know of three other churches in town that exchanged property or moved into each other’s buildings. In a way, churches in this county resemble hermit crabs who switch shells as they grow.

The renovated building is now a prayer center open Sundays for a worship service, and every day of the week from 10 am to 10 pm for anyone to stop in and pray. Inside, your grandmother’s gold print 1970’s couches and leather chairs offer seating in a coffee shop section. Most weeknights, ‘soaking worship’ times are set aside in the sanctuary “Living Room” where live acoustic music happens, or recorded music runs. The stated long-term goal of the praying church is to eventually have the prayer facility open to the public 24-7. As one of the pastors explained,

“People need to have a place to go where they can just BE with God … where they don’t have to talk to a pastor or behave a certain way. Most churches are open on Sunday and have office hours, but don’t provide a place to just hang.”

The praying church encourages all forms of spiritual gifts (including prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing) in order to edify people and encounter God. Ministries have names like “Dream Interpretation” and “Prophetic Ministry”. Visiting speakers often come from Bethel Church, the charismatic mega-church and equipping facility in Redding, CA. Oft-quoted are spiritual leaders like Graham Cooke, or Bill Johnson. The praying church expects to hear specifically and personally from God on a regular basis, intentionally pursues joy, claims God’s promises, and believes in the miraculous healing work of Jesus Christ. Sunday worship is an eclectic mix anywhere from casual street clothes to full-on Easter dressy. They speak boldly against Satan, laugh often, and say AMEN more in one Sunday than I’ve heard in a lifetime.

Side Note: Right now, my more ardent and conservative protestant reader-friends are tsk-ing the idea of dream interpretation and Googling the sources I just named to find any way the praying church might be incorrectly interpreting Christianity. I’ll be here when you get back.

I sometimes use the praying church’s coffee shop couches during the week to quiet my brain, and pray, or write. This is a familiar dwelling spot, even though this is my first time visiting on a Sunday.

The Music Begins

I calmly situate my notebook and cross my legs pretzel style and rock in the creaky beige Lazy-Boy. 50-75 miscellaneous chairs and various bean bag or pillow seating are lined up in an L shape around a small stage. The praying church people arrive comfortably late, greet each other, mill around, smile, hug each other like family. Several minutes after the hour, the music starts and I am immediately surprised and engaged. The sound system is state of the art; even with my hearing impairment, I hear details in words and notes. The worship leader and band are extremely talented, relaxed, easy like seasoned musicians.

This Living Room service is full of open and reflective response time for communion, for thought, for music, and for conversational teaching at the end of the gathering. During worship, congregants are invited to get up and take communion at a small makeshift table up front, whenever we feel ‘led.’ The worship leader fills extended vamp sections with impromptu melodies of prophetic prayer and petitions. Some people stand. Some sit. A line of willing partakers file up front and take a piece of bread and a sip of grape juice. The service is not timed down to the minute. Come what may.

I observe the unfolding events from my comfortable chair. I have a plan to enter each of these unfamiliar little mountain sanctuaries with a calm exterior. I maintain a certain outer shell, for objectivity’s sake, of course. This is a writing project after all.

But, this church worries me a little bit. They leave so much open Spirit-filled space. Anything could happen.

And the roller coaster goes, “Click … click … ”

Sobbing Prompts

Somewhere at the center, I know I am vulnerably soft like the yellowy yolk of an egg. In churches with tightly scheduled, down to the minute this-then-this-then-this worship services, I expect to be able to sit and participate in a manageable way. But in places that leave plenty of room for response, I have kind of an issue.

Before I explain, you need to understand. I have lived most of my life in church cultures that believe inner emotions are generally suspect and intellect should always be trusted as bedrock container for faith. The Problem: I have something Spirit driven that doesn’t fit in a container. Now and then, certain sacred things crack through my shell and cause my contents to emotionally spill all over the place. The usual suspects are great music and unexpected stories of mercy or redemption. These things touch my core and bring tears in a manageable way. However, on the rarest occasions I am rendered helpless.

Sometimes certain truth or Jesus words cause an inner tremor deep in my chest like the approach of distant thunder. A cry begins to pound hot behind my eyes and it feels like my soft spiritual underbelly is exposed. In those moments I typically end up weeping with an odd weighty joy that is followed by some moment of clarity like a shooting star or ignited flame.

In those cracked-open instances, I have come to believe that God’s Spirit is alive at my soul’s most malleable center, mega-phone in hand, with Truth not just for me but for all of us — truth that God wants to to speak and be heard. And it gets loud but never audible; big, but small enough to doubt. And those messy moments of revelation always require a thread of faith to speak out loud because they are usually gone in an instant.

For lack of better words, I call the incidences Sobbing Prompts because they precede some kind of clarity. Maybe other religious language would name them as prophecies or visions. In any case, to be clear, they don’t happen very often. And who knows, maybe they’ll never happen again. I can’t know because I can’t conjure them up. But they’ve happened enough to be recognizable.

Maybe that sounds crazy and you want to unsubscribe or un-follow right this instant. So be it. It’s ok.

Remember, I’ve spent most of my church time in pews and matching stackable chairs. I get it. For the most part, my past experience in conservative evangelical churches hasn’t given a lot of room to explore or affirm my weird sobbing visions. But I am starting to embrace them as a gift to share, rather than a burden to be hidden or tolerated.

As I visit these churches, part of me wants to altogether avoid the vulnerability of an all-out Sobbing Prompt among people I don’t really know. But another piece longs to be touched, cracked open, unleashed.

On this mountain church trek, I hold the two in tension and try to maintain a general posture of openhandedness — with a trust for where God may be leading, without concern about outcomes.

Puppies and Dancers

As the music continues, a group of 3 or 4 little girls in dresses move up to an empty space in front of the communion table and spontaneously begin to dance to the worship music in a small cluster. Unplanned. Free. One smiley girl notices a sad boy in the front row and offers him a communion cracker as solace. The girls twirl and sway and step and sit down, then resume and repeat. A little girl walks up the row holding a puppy the size of a tea cup, and situates herself up front matter-of-factly for the duration. As the piano and guitar quiet down, the dance unexpectedly pares down to one dainty grade school girl in a print dress Laura Ingalls Wilder would wear to a picnic. My well-managed exterior begins to crack.

The music seamlessly shifts to a song with one repeating phrase and the graceful blonde girl swirls with her arms outstretched.

I am not alone …
You will go before me
You will never leave me
I am not alone.

The dancing girl swirls freely as the lyrics pour over the room. Pricked by the reality that I am again alone in a room full of people on this quest for my own sense of community, the manageable form of sweet tears start to swell.

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me. *

I cry quietly, touched by the personal goodness of the lyrics. And these familiar words come to mind:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior”

 

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”

A gracefully aged woman with coiffed hairspray hair and dressy Southern Baptist Sunday clothes has been pacing the aisles and floats around the room. She is extremely thin and moves the way tall reeds bend and flow with the wind. She holds a tambourine tied with a flow of colorful ribbons and peacefully dances in shuffles here and there with the music. I sense her close presence and notice she has moved to stand next to me. I think she is praying over my tears. But she doesn’t intrude. She is simply present. Near.

And I feel infinitely un-alone.

I rock in my chair, aware that I am soundly placed in sanctuary, grounded. I am centered like a dot in the middle of life’s timeline, between a young girl and an aged woman who dance in the presence of God. Their whirling presence testifies that God’s Spirit is always available, near, no matter the unknown waters, dangerous fires or shadowed valleys we face.

 

 

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Coming Up …

Up next from my praying church visit: Thunderous teaching words from the female pastor. And, a surprising response to your hard hitting question about homosexuality.

 

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 The Worship Song

I am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe.  No commercial infringement intended. All rights reserved.

 

“Familiar words” — Referenced from the Bible:

Deuteronomy 31:6

Hebrews 13:5

Isaiah 43:1-3

 

Roller coaster image from The Cleveland Blog

Where my mountain town church trek begins unexpectedly with a funeral for a child.

I didn’t anticipate starting this series to start at this church on this day. But, nobody plans for the death of a little girl. And at times like these, community must gather in the place of loss.

 

blue dandelionSnapshots

The sight of a hearse parked outside a church sends a shudder up my spine.

The funeral is set to begin at 10am on a dreary and rainy Thursday, in one of the oldest established churches in my quirky mountain town. The non-denominational church has the largest facility in town, and even though it provides a lot of programs and local charity assistance, in the last year or so the congregation has experienced a large exodus of members. Many families have left, scattered like a dandelion seeds in a hard wind.

Today, displaced people of faith find their way back to the familiar sanctuary and sit in solidarity as One church, One Body.  Today, together as community, we mourn.

Barely audible music whispers in a dark sanctuary packed full of people. We sit shoulder-to- shoulder, row upon row. On the screen at the front of the church, images appear and dissolve. Perfect soft white skin, big brown eyes, thin airy blonde hair, willowy little girls. Snapshots roll by of three small sisters, of a baby held by her mother, of the toddler playing dress-up. Happy images scroll on the screen above a room full of tearful observers. Until two weeks ago, the six year old little girl featured in the pictures was a vivacious container full of joy, always smiling or about to smile.

No parent wants to live this story. It was quick and unexpected. A few months ago, the three perfectly healthy little sisters, 10, 6, and 3 years old, arrived in SE Asia with their missionary parents. And then, in a breath-stealing series of events, the middle daughter contracted a common virus which on rare occasions attacks and destroys the heart. The parents spent long heart-wrenching hours in an Intensive Care Unit watching over their daughter. She was kept alive on full life support for four days before she quietly slipped away.  She entered the hospital on Wednesday and died on Sunday. The weary mom and dad packed up their family and flew back to the States to bury their daughter.

A final picture of the beaming little girl’s face remains static on the screen. She smiles down on us, frozen in time. The keyboard player begins to softly play “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” The precious smile on the large screen is the only light in the dark worship center. One word, written at the bottom of her picture, shouts into the room, “Celebrate!”

But no casket should be that small. 

Who would celebrate at a time like this?

 

The Collision of Sadness and Joy

I sit in the midst of a weeping community and resist the joyful mandate from the screen.

The beautiful tired mom has the same perfect skin, wispy hair and sweet face; a time-lapsed mirror image of her daughter. She sits in the front row and stares at the tiny casket.

I sit and steep in her loss and it boils over, expands from singular to collective.

I look from the image of the departed child’s smiling face on the screen to her crying mother below, and see a saturated single picture of a dying world gone desperately wrong.

The pastor steps forward to greet the gathered and speak words of hope. If the words and music were like paint brushes, the rest of the service created a mural of strange collisions between joy and sadness, grief and hope. We took in wide-angle perspectives of eternity, like broad sweeping colors full of the joy of unending life. We witnessed mighty strokes depicting the impotence of death which has lost its sting because of Jesus. We sang. Cried. And listened.

And somewhere at some point in that outpouring art of worship, there at the core of so much loss and despair, emerged the reason to celebrate.

Times like these, community helps me remember the and yet. As Jesus Followers, we do not celebrate because unexpected tragedies happen. We celebrate because of the and yet.

The world is dying and desperately broken, and yet …

And yet ... always available at the center of so much suffering, there is love, God’s love; comforting, brave, omnipotent, anchored, merciful, rescuing love. A love which overcomes death and enables us to sing side by side while standing next to small caskets.

 

Life Among The Scattered

The little girl’s parents wrote a letter which a pastor reads out loud to the room. It outlines their gratitude for so much prayer, support, and gifts like food, transportation, and love. Honestly, at that point, in that room full of supportive community for a grieving family, I felt vulnerable — secure in my relationship with God, but lost in the crowd. After today’s display of large church, I felt small in the universe. Why? Because I am The Scattered. I don’t have an established faith community. I am one of the many who used to be a part of a traditional church but currently find ourselves floating, orbiting on the outside without intimate ties to a larger body.

Yes, my husband and I experience a small, micro-version of church. But I feel untethered from what the funeral church people share. I have known it in the past. And I felt the longing and loss of it today.

After the service, my husband and I walked through the rain to our car with the same damp and nagging question. Where will we have our own funerals? If we experienced a death in the family right now, who would gather to console and remember? Where will we share our sacred moments of loss?

Neither of us have the answers to those questions yet.

But I do know this …

There is something about the grief and physical separation of death that painfully amplifies the sweetest parts of life, of relationship, of community. Times of trauma and loss sharpen love like a surgical needle and point us to the mending of what matters most.

Humans need each other. We belong to each other. We are built to be in community.

I believe this.

 

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Coming Up …

Hey, I’m not going to tease you with what’s coming up, because every time I do, I end up writing about something else. Whatever happens next will probably surprise us both!

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Where I pause before proceeding with this series to tell you about the necessary parameters of the project, and — because I feel like I am about to poke a bees nest — the disclaimers.

contract1 doodle

One Moment Please

“My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” As I initially waded into the first parts of this project (inspired by my local Farmer’s Market) I quickly came to understand that I bit off more than I can chew.

– Yes I am interested, hungry to discover more about the larger idea of ‘church’ by beginning with a bit of exploration in my quirky little mountain town.

– Yes, with this series I have had a surge of new interest on my blog and a sudden spike in subscribers (Welcome, new subscribers!).

– And yes, I have already visited two churches. In the last post I noted that the church trek would begin here, with the first church on my list. I am ready to get going!

However, turns out I needed to pause for a bit. There are a whole lot of local faith communities in my town. More than I thought. If I visit all of the churches in the area I will still be doing tis project in the fall of 2016. That’s … well … too much, really.

Before heading forward, I backed up a bit in order to build some specific and more realistic project parameters. So, before we proceed with the first church on my trek, I thought you should hear what I’ve been working on, behind the scenes.

 

The Scope

The number of faith communities in relation to population is a little staggering up here on the mountain. So, I set out to create a list which limits the participating communities and narrows the scope. For the record, my long list of potential churches is nothing compared to the nearest city. Down the mountain, Colorado Springs has a reputation as the conservative Christian mecca in the United States. It is home to power house ministries like Focus on the Family, Young Life, Navigators, YWAM, Compassion International, and New Life Church. Christian radio stations abundantly populate the FM dial. Christian bookstores are easy to locate. And, there are a LOT of churches. A lot.

I got side-tracked in my research and spent some time flipping through the lists of churches in the Springs. The longer the list got, the more I felt a familiar burn and nag at my core. It’s the same bothersome question that follows me around lately:

Why do we have so many of the same kinds of churches and so few that will actually interact or relate with each other?

I am bothered with this question. (I asked a similar question on my Facebook page a few weeks back and got some really interesting answers. You can go check that out in the direct link at the end of this post). The question grows out of the same space in my brain that is currently questioning American Christian wealth, and power and elitism. I wrestle with the legacy of American protestantism which constantly measures the threats of The Wrongs vs The Rights and defends The Correct from The Incorrect. Not to sound all utopian, but I wonder about our tendency to go to separate corners and build separate buildings and create separate mission statements. In my experience, we don’t generally behave like we are all a part of the same “one body” and “one Spirit” as described in the Bible.*

Hopefully my burning question will fuel some open dialogue and bring some clarity. In the meantime, back to the point, I have narrowed my list of faith communities.

For research purposes, I have chosen to visit a significant sampling of churches which:

  • Are local, meaning, reasonably close to my house
  • Demonstrate a fair cross-section of “Christian” denominations and backgrounds.
  • Currently meet in a local church building
  • Profess belief in Jesus

The Parameters

  • I will not name the exact names of the churches I explore, as I want this to be a larger conversation about going local with faith community rather than a small conversation about specific churches.
  • I will attend each community’s worship service 2 or 3 times.
  • I will not dress up ‘churchy’. I will wear jeans and/or similar every day clothes.
  • I will contribute tithe.
  • I will read the mission statement.
  • I reserve the right to arbitrarily exclude communities which exhibit dangerous community practices or cultic characteristics.
  • I will set up an interview with a church leader, priest, or pastor.
  • I will ask the question, Why Is your church necessary when there are so many other churches in the area?”

 

The Disclaimers

I am not an expert. I have a lifetime wealth of personal and professional experience in the conservative evangelical American protestant church. That said, what I write on this blog may not reflect a scholarly body of knowledge — the kind that might come from any number of people who are smarter and wiser than me. Any views I express about the faith communities I visit are unapologetically from my limited personal experience. I am committed to being as fair and objective as possible. My opinions are simply offered to be considered and weighted as opinions which are open for discussion.

I am a Jesus Follower. This mountain church experiment will openly embrace and explore various views and religious affiliations or denominations. Most any day of the week I am totally game for conversations about different world religions. However, the scope of this particular project is limited to faith communities which claim and in some way adhere to a Christian belief system.

We will be civil.  Feel free to respond, challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section, but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (including trolling, abusive, profane, or rude comments). I am the sole moderator of the content of this site, so we are going to keep it civil.

There you have it.

 

Your Turn … Your Question

I just mentioned my burning question about why there are so many churches in my region. And now I’d like to know yours.

I tossed the following question out to my subscribers and got a load of great hard-hitting responses. So I am opening up the opportunity. What’s your burning question(s)? Go ahead leave me your question in the Comment section. Or, if you don’t want your question to be quite so public, feel free to message me in the Contact tab up on the top of the website.

As I’m formulating my own questions for pastors, priests, and elders, I’d love to consider yours as well.

church question

If you’d like to make sure you are a part of the Church Trek experience, please subscribe HERE. You’ll get a weekly Saturday update anytime there is new content, and I will occasionally check in with this group as I need specific help or insight. (Because yes, I do NEED HELP on a regular basis.)

 

NEXT … the first church on my Mountain Church Trek. Really.

Unless I get bogged down in more disclaimers. : )

 

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*Referenced: The Bible, Ephesians 4:4-6

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

 

See the Facebook Discussion and join in here … Hit this link: Post by Kelley J. Leigh.

 

Where I explain that I left “church” and why I have decided to try again … kind of.

 

woodland-park-farmers-market

Community

My quirky little mountain town clears the road by the park every Friday morning for The Farmer’s Market.  One half is art and crafts, the other half is local produce, food, and flowers. The street is lined with tent tops on either side and lines of crowds streaming between, to pet rescue puppies, taste salsa, buy bread or admire woodworking.  For me, last week’s market meant beets, basil, and honey from the guy who owns the RV park out in Lake George that just got hit by a freak tornado.

This summer I have made a commitment to be at the Farmer’s Market early, and to be open to pause and engage with whatever interactions happen. I don’t intimately know absolutely everybody, but a majority of the people wandering the street at least know of each other. And since I stepped away from the church our family attended for over a decade, I hear a common question, over and over. At community events, weddings, funerals, or farmer’s markets I hear, “Hey, what church are you going to now?”

Up-Rooted

For a while, my acceptable answer to the inevitable question was the name of a downtown church that my husband and I occasionally attend.  It’s a progressive Anglican-influenced faith community that meets in a retro auditorium of a high school about 30 miles down the mountain. I enjoy visiting there for three reasons.

One: The pastor is a spiritually gifted and anointed teacher. Freakishly personal things come out of his teachings. Some Sundays I’m like, “Was he a fly on the wall of my house this week?”

Two: Group worship and communion are just plain good for my soul and my faith.

Three: It is far away. The downtown church is a long drive down the mountain. This worked especially well for me during my season of healing from what I’ve known as church. I benefitted greatly from being the consumer anonymous. In a Farmer’s Market sense, I became the warehouse shopper without any connection to the food growers.

The cool new downtown church-plant is an awesome community, but it is not ‘home’. My soul has not set down roots there.

Untangled

The idea of living out faith in a community is bolted, welded into the shape of my faith. I grew up happily bouncing between pews and Fellowship Halls as a pastor’s kid in a northwest suburb of Chicago.  I spent rich childhood years with close friends in rooms with insider names like The Fireside Room and the Narthex. My weeks were filled with Sunday School, youth groups and church services. A long thread that is the American Protestant church weaves and sews through the tapestry of my life through adulthood.

If I have been woven and spun within the culture of conservative evangelical churches, the past couple of years have been a rather strenuous unraveling.

In the untangling of what I’ve understood as church, I have come to understand how the work of church became a drug for me. I mistakenly came to use church like a false cistern to fill my sense of worth in a constant flow of programs. I had a hundred busy ways to ‘serve’ God while running away from any true rest or healing from him. As Christian mystic, Richard Rohr puts it, I had “a love affair with words and ideas about God instead of God himself or herself.”

Somewhere along the way, church became my best means to avoid true intimacy with God, and people.

Boiled Down 

During our shared process of church deconstruction, my husband and I chose a stripped-down faith community setting.  We moved into a micro-church and met with our 3 or 4 people each week. In living room spaces, I learned a lot about the benefits of:

  • Eating together in homes
  • Intentional time that is not scheduled down to the minute and is open to spiritual interruption
  • Healing Prayer
  • Reading Bible quotes
  • Hard questions about how to stop ‘managing circumstances’ and rest long enough to really trust Jesus
  • Authentic conversation about how to allow God’s Spirit into marriage and real life struggles

According to Christianity Today, we were in good company:

“24.5% of Americans now say their primary form of spiritual nourishment is meeting with a small group of 20 or less people every week. About 6 million people meet weekly with a small group and never or rarely go to church,” [Ed] Stetzer says. “There is a significant movement happening.”

It’s all fine and well to be a part of a significant movement. But personally, I just needed time to relearn community in a smaller context — one with space to heal and the absence of a stage. After some time away from my ‘drug’, I feel lighter now, more authentic, in a new way both sober and joyful.

If my faith used to be a full pot of thick liquid on the stove, it is now boiled down to the last essential salty remnants. A handful of irreducible minimums remain of my core beliefs as a Christian. So many add-ons and non-essentials have evaporated. What remains for me are a very few tenants of Biblical doctrine as found in ancient bottom-line statements like the Apostle’s Creed; a whole lot of listening prayer; and a longing to love people in a newly-born Jesus way.

And, boiled down, at the very bottom of my pot called Jesus Faith, I can honestly say I still believe we are built to grow in context of a larger faith community.

I just have so many open questions about what that means. I feel like I’m starting over.

Going Local

Most of the people I know who are looking for a new faith community head down the mountain to large worship centers and mega churches; the ones with blockbuster worship, coffee shops and parking attendants.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In food speak, most people I know choose to make a long drive to the huge high-volume warehouse versions of church down the hill.

But The Farmer’s Market got me thinking about about the benefits of going local; of eye contact, everyday relationships, shared food, and sustainable travel.  And somehow that translates cleanly to my current experience with church.

The Farmer’s Market used to kind of stress me out because it was so … well … social. Little local markets are about face-to-face community, people and their livelihoods. Commercial warehouse and grocery stores are about clean floors, well marked exits and entrances, properly marked shopping cart returns, and customer service. Farmer’s markets are about dogs, soil, weather, unplanned conversations and a lack of parking.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all about the comfortable convenience of a commercial grocery store. But these days, in a lot of ways, I’m more about the mess.

I am walking the streets of the open air mountain market more slowly, with a lot more peace and freedom. I am seeing people from the faith community I used to attend and I am freer to engage. I find myself simultaneously holding a hope for those who have left, and a love for those who stayed. And that freedom has led me to a question.

What would it mean to go local with church?

Even though I was obviously very involved at a church here in town, I don’t actually know all the faith communities within spitting distance of my house. I want to embark on a journey to find out about the local church around me. At least, I think I do.

Like I’ve said, this is a quirky town. People move up here because we tend to be difficult lone-eagle types with authority issues. Area churches tend to sprout up and split-off the way viruses grow under a microscope.  I’ll talk more about that as the series goes on. Frankly, I am a little nervous – concerned that maybe I am poking a black bear or a bees nest.

But I want to do this.  I am hungry for a bigger picture of the organism called local ‘Church”. And it all seems right and messy like the Farmer’s Market.  Eye to eye. Hearts beating. Face to face.

I’m going local.  ‘Wanna ride along?

I’d love to hear your thoughts:

What about you?

Do you relate to the need to explore a new way of doing church?

_________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss any of the small town adventure.

On my first stop … find out what I discover at the church

with recliner Lazy-boy chairs, tambourines, and a puppy in the front row. 

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Going Local Blog Series logo

CITED:

Christianity Today, “The State of the Church“, Ed Setzer, October 2013.

“The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See” by Richard Rohr, 2009 Crossroad Publishing.  (I love this book!)

 

 

Where I wonder about the necessity of certain fractures in life and share a quick picture of two little dove eggs hiding in a charred log.

After dinner. Before sunset. In the forest. On a hike.

My husband and I huffed along behind our big old dog on a dirt trail up on Rampart Range. A mourning dove flew off to our left in a panic. “What was that!?”  The bird had flown from the truncated remains of a pine tree. The black trunk, now a stump no taller than my chin, probably burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire that raged through these parts back in 2012.

Up on my tip-toes, I peered down into a nest the size of my hand. There in strands of grass, lay two oval shells the size of large June strawberries. Warm round possibilities of new life incubated in a bed of coal black ruin.

In that unlikely place, those eggs got me thinking about the necessary pain of hatching.

Staring at those perfectly smooth shells, it’s hard to believe:
Brokenness is the gateway to flight.

 

hatch

 

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Where I talk about embracing hidden messes.

 

old-couch_ashley-vowinckel

 

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.

It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest.

The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

 

Brene’ Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

 

Craigsrisk

I should have known. The picture on Craigslist was a little too blurry and dark.

The heavily pregnant wife met me at the door. She pushed back her long hair, set her hand on her lower back, and led me past three young grade school boys and a dog playing in dirt and swings beyond the smudged patio doors. They had just moved in, she explained. It was going to be a girl this time. We walked past her husband’s newly framed Army medals hanging on the wall and found the couch in a room full of unpacked boxes and bags. The claw feet were in a separate bag, so I couldn’t sit on the couch and test it out. Only a year old, it had cost over 3,000 dollars she said, and it should look brand new but the movers just wrecked it when they pulled it out of storage. She sniffed and rolled her eyes like it happened yesterday. I touched the leather and craned to see around the back. I removed the pillows and a couple crayons peeked out from between and I thought I saw a juice box stain. I have spent much time vacuuming and cleaning similar terrain beneath cushions. This couch was not one year old. The scrapes were not from movers. I am a seasoned mom of four boys. I know.

She looked so weary; the baby had clearly dropped and was due any day. She was tired, desperate to be rid of the sofa which clearly would not fit in her new house full of small children. She was willing to use any means to get rid of it; any means except an admission of the buried truth.

 

I recognized something of myself in her.

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I experienced a long free-falling icy slide at mid-life. To that point I had built a life around the management of circumstances and emotions. I maintained a facade and kept up appearances. Before my husband bravely demanded a change in our marriage, before so many other cracking and transforming things of life that came crashing in besides him, I used to regularly hide and cry in the bathroom. I used to isolate until I could pull myself together. I masterfully concealed my anger and suppressed my depression. I lived that way, in crowds of unsuspecting family and church friends, hiding in plain sight with broken things stuffed away in the deep creases of my private world.

Given the crayons and lies, I got the feeling there were hidden things stuffed deep inside the young Craigslist mom as well; things only God could see.

Sharp Things

I decided to take the risk and buy the couch. My oldest son and the military husband strained to load the monstrous piece of furniture into the back of our pick-up. As we drove away, I had serious second thoughts.

At home in my living room, I pulled off the cushions and reached down in the folds with a well-practiced caution. I know this drill. Sometimes sharp objects lurk below. My fingers prodded with learned discretion from forks and scissors in years past.

Sharp and painful things can’t be removed unless we are willing to take a risk and drag them out into the light.

So, I gingerly retrieved an unopened new pack of soccer pencils, chewed lollipop sticks, a Lego brick, candy wrappers, and a small stack of tags for new toddler clothes. Honestly, the more junk I found, the more irritated and angry I felt.

Somewhere in the midst of so many found objects, anger wore away to sadness. I felt sad for her prison of hiding. Because, I get it. The way of vulnerability — of moving toward and being honest about the mess — it’s scary business. Having pulled my own crap out into the open, I know. In that place, you could say I found Jesus standing beside me with a gentle smile and a garbage bag. As a result, I’m a changed woman with less tendency to hide in the bathroom. I’ve learned it’s ok to speak the truth of broken things hidden away. In fact, that’s a wide path to freedom. But I remember when I chose my prison instead. I do.

So, I gently scrubbed the remnants of something that looked like spilled milk, and I wished the same freedom for her. I wish I could tell her I’ve seen her concealed debris but I’d still choose it anyway. And I hope her new baby girl is thriving.

craigslist couch

Repurposed

My husband fixed the sagging springs on the left side. I buffed the leather seats and arms, and covered a bunch of big old throw pillows with new fabric. The couch doesn’t really match the style of the rest of my house, but it is everybody’s first choice seat in the living room. The big comfortable well-worn sofa invites you to put your feet up, settle in, and talk at length. I like to think it’s a personal reminder, smack dab in the middle of where we live everyday.

There is freedom in the vulnerable face-to-face embrace of hidden messes.

 

Gifts of imperfection

 

 

 

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Free Couch | Flickr image by Ashley Vowinickel 

 

Where I recover from my third son’s graduation and talk about what tangled weeds have to teach us about relationships … 

 

a good year for daisies

First Day of June

My hard-packed green grave of a garden stares me down like a dare. I’ve been too busy. After successive weeks of last-minute preparations, guests and graduation celebrations, it is time. The high-altitude garden in my front yard has become a collection of brambling growth and hard dirt. While I was planning parties and running with the clamor of life, the weeds quietly moved in. They arrived and pretended they were just passing through, hands in pockets, whistling and looking at the sky. Now tenacious clover, wild grass and dandelions are doing their best to avoid eye contact and blend in. They act as if they belong, and tighten their rooted grips.

Inevitably, the defense of flowers requires a fight with weeds. And where weeds are concerned, today is always a better day than tomorrow.

After a long angry May full of snow storms and floods, the mountain sun rises on a warm first morning of June. I find my crusty garden bag and wonder why the middle finger on my right garden glove always has a hole. I set down the claw, rake, and shovel and pick up my cup of coffee. I stand and stare at so many weeds and flowers mixed together in my tangled bed. My flower garden runs the length of my yard and is a wild but intentional swath of collected favorites and mostly whatever will grow.  I wonder what this year will bring.

Last year was a boon year for blue flax. Like a sprays of blue drops hovering in the air, flax has four delicate little papery blue pedals which float atop tall wiry stems. I’ve heard the tough twine-like stems were used to wrap mummies in Egypt. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do love blue flax. The year before that was an explosion of lamb’s ear. The year before that, daisies.

I take a sip of coffee and note the apparent absence of daisies. I realize I miss the cheerful crowds of white blooms and wonder if they are gone forever.

The Weeding

Down on my knees, I begin to carefully sort growing leaves as foe or friend, enemy or ally. Before each ruthless yank of war, I inspect. Since so little actually grows in the thin air at 8900 ft elevation, I allow some so-called weeds take up residence. A long wandering purple sweet pea, wild sweet sage, tiny blue penstemon are unruly about where they set down roots, but welcome nonetheless. I reach into the middle of tender clumps of creeping flox. With two fingers, I pull the unwanted blades of grass while protecting the new growth. I cut brown twiggy stems left over from last year and expose the hidden green beneath. Choices matter in a garden.

Left untended, the good and the bad grow side by side. Eventually, one chokes out the other. 

I pull out my iron claw and confront the tall grass and dandelions. My husband ambles out of the house to stand beside me knee deep in my weedy war. We begin to catch up on the last weeks of busyness and guests. We agree about running on the surface and recount how we slid back into the worst versions of ourselves. For a few weeks, we fell into the old default modes of avoidance. He stands patiently and we chat about all the things we kept shoving out of the way, all of the unattended conflict seeded below the surface. We dig them out, one by one:

That shut down interaction in the back of the pick up, while we were freezing in sleeping bags…

That anxiety melt down I had before the party …

The way neither of us knew exactly when loving touch disappeared …

The way we both headed for our corners of isolation after that one dinner …

We talk, and pull the weeds in our relationship. I move across the long yard of dirt, slowly yanking green and revealing wormy loose brown goodness beneath. Piles of limp cast-off plants grow and so does our pile of cast off hurts. I feel empowered about the excavation of a very hard surface and then, I discover them. Twenty, maybe thirty small clumps, hiding beneath last years stems and this year’s weeds. The daisies are there, clump upon clump, small, determined, green and growing; no blooms yet, just the small regenerating signs of life. Turns out, it’s going to be a good year for daisies.

My husband and I pause after so many difficult words and finally thaw enough to smile. We speak the obvious, “Why is this always so hard? It is always so much better afterward, and still we resist entering the work of it. What’s that about?”

New Growth

Weeds move into untended spaces when we are too busy to notice. The surface gets hard, difficult to penetrate. Roots become tenacious. But in the end, the work of yanking dandelions creates space for daisies. And I think those principles apply to humans, too.

The good and the bad, the wise and foolish, always grow together in a big tangled mess. We are always both, side by side. In a way, the process of weeding is a lot like the practices of confession and repentance. Confession is speaking the hard truth, and taking responsibility. Repentance is turning in a new direction. The simple act of entering into the mess and moving toward each other with our words clears out space for understanding, intimacy, and goodness. And on the best days, space opens up for supernatural regeneration which could only come from God.

The Dirty Bottom Line:

Life in relationship with people, and God, requires white-knuckled confession and dirt-under-my-fingernails repentance. What we allow in the garden, grows.

Just in case something in this weedy tale resonates with you …

Maybe you are currently avoiding a hard conversation

Maybe you are getting ready to speak a secret that has kept you in prison for a long time.

Maybe you have been isolating, running away in dangerous ways, and you need to stop and re-engage with God and your safe people.

Whatever the current obstacle or fear, if you are hesitating because of the hard work ahead, hear me say this: In the end, the growth that comes after the weeding is always worth it.

Don’t give up. Keep going, friend.

 

daisy+6

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other

so that you can live together whole and healed.

 

The Book of James | The Bible

 
 
 

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Single daisy image by Mass Pictures

 

Where I talk about my explosively creative third son and what I’ve learned about nurturing the voice of an artist.  

Some characters can’t be described without long intentional pause and focus. I have paused much in this project of sketching my third son. He is layered and complicated to describe. He is like a prism, a crystal that catches and refracts layers of light in different ways. Sometimes an irresistible vast array of delightful color, other times, bright shards of light that make the eye squint and adjust.

In the writing of this post, I have struggled to differentiate the shiny vessel from its affect. And in the process, I find myself steeped in the fact that the rainbows will soon be gone from the walls.

I usually write a note as each of my sons move out of the house (even if they end up coming back for seasons here and there). Here, the latest benediction to one of my sons.  For Isaac, about to head for college; a word to the one who paints the walls of life and gives voice for the rest of us.

 

isaacs sight

At the Heart

My third son arrived like a fog horn in a house full of whispers. As a baby in restaurant high chairs, he screamed like a baby eagle with piercing yells loud enough to jar and startle neighboring diners. His nickname was “Budge” because he wouldn’t. Ever. Budge. A late- blooming talker, he yelled and thumped and stomped. Sometimes he was a joyful and tender little toddler. Other times, he shoved and bit playmates. He would melt into loud angry sobs when we left him in the church nursery or with babysitters. In grade school, teachers routinely commented on report cards some variation of, “I don’t ever have to wonder what Isaac is thinking.”

In our family he says things others won’t. He does things nobody else would. Because he leads with his actions and words, and because for some reason all eyes turn to him in a room, often he commands the attention of groups and is involuntarily ascribed leadership. He is gifted with an ability to create impact. As a result, more often than any other son, on many ceremonious occasions my third son has caused my well-behaved church-girl’s heart to nervously pound in my chest.

Back in the early days when I cared about such things, Isaac hated to dress up for church. HATED it in a way that meant war every Sunday for weeks on end. We fought like cats and dogs about kaki pants and combed hair. He saw no purpose for dressing up — except that people were trying to look better than they really were. And honestly, he had a point. In later grade school, he tried to tell us his teacher wasn’t paying attention to him. We missed his point. So he started not coming back in to class after recess.  He did it for days, staying outside, playing, waiting to see how long it would be until she noticed.  He had several days of free play, unnoticed outside until a playground attendant figured it out. He got in trouble, but he had a point. In high school more of the same, he named broken pieces of the system in forthright and sometimes inappropriate ways. He got in trouble. But he had a point. And that’s the bottom line: Sometimes Isaac finds himself holding a lonely truth, because he usually has a valid point which the rest of us aren’t brave enough to speak.

And that has been the tight rope my husband and I have walked with our Third Son. When he speaks with his iron voice, my first default response is to bristle and demand quiet compliant relational behavior. In the process, I have often overlooked the heart of the issue. Fortunately for Isaac, my philosopher husband chooses to see life on a case-by-case basis.

 

After years of practice and constant failure, my life with Isaac has taught me to care more about what’s happening in the heart of my child more than worrying about people’s responses to his behavior.

 

Isaac graduated from high school last month.  His three brothers would tell you, Isaac makes people laugh … hard. He is a student of social behavior and a cunning wit.

Over the last couple of years, Isaac has filled mounting piles journals with sketches and poems, and lyrics, and invented languages, and short stories. He carries a Field Notes journal and pencil pretty much everywhere he goes, to capture and comment. He spent much of high school on stage, an actor affable long and lanky like James Stewart. He has dabbled in photography, public art, painting, sketching. He plays guitar and bass guitar and writes music. And as his voice gains focus, he continues to physically morph. At times, his hair has been long cowlicked and wild. These days he wears his thin curly hair with a swoop and slicked back whistle like the Great Gatsby.

The Wall

A couple years ago, we stripped down his bedroom. Isaac wanted more of a blank box than a bedroom. We pulled up the carpet, cleared the floor down to the concrete. I purchased a long repurposed unit of cubbies from a first grade class somewhere and stood it on end. The tall wall unit is now a display of old typewriters, sketches, sketch books, camera accessories, art supplies, miscellaneous old magazines and asian newspapers. A TV from the 1950’s and a turntable for vinyl records sit in the corner. The rest of his creative space consists of a tilted art desk, a chair, a bed, an area rug, and ‘the wall.’

The wall in Isaac’s room is like a constantly changing billboard; a 20 ft. x 10 ft. dynamic canvas.  The wall is Isaac’s visual voice. Over the years he has laid layer upon layer of large art expressions one on top of the other like a visual timeline of his inner world.  For spray painted graffiti projects, he puts a box fan in the window wears a gas mask. To start over with a clean slate, Isaac uses a homemade wheat paste adhesive to plaster a blank canvas of paper over old wall thoughts.

Isaacs Wall

The wall has morphed with abstract images, words, outlines, facial portraits, repeated negative space graphic images from floor to ceiling, single framed thoughts, big and picture questions. One of my favorite walls spoke with influences of Banksy or Shepherd Fairey. Currently, the wall is plastered with retro choir music he retrieved from the choir room trash can. The wall changes with his messages and moods.

The bedroom wall full of morphing art is a perfect picture of how my son lives his life.

When he leaves for college in the fall, the walls of our house will go quiet. I will miss the ever- changing color, music, and words that have filled our rooms. The leader that is my third son will take his voice out into larger spaces and speak words and ideas for the world to share. As it should be.

 

To the One Who Speaks for Many

May you find the answers for your soul’s search.

May your questions lead you to the source of true love and grace.

May you grow in your ability to see realities the rest of us miss.

May God protect your heart in the process.

And may you continue to find your voice as an artist who writes words on the

walls of hearts and minds.

 

isaac timelapse

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 Da Vinci Quote / Image: Photo of Isaac Leigh, taken by Lucas Leigh. 

field notes

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Where I talk about running on the dirt trails behind my house.

I am a mountain trail runner. I don’t run every day. But regular seasons of running help keep my brain clear and my soul fed. I also write a lot about dirt. I love how dirt is the stuff of both gardens and graves; the material of life and death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Here, a ramble of thoughts about the divine dirt of the trail … from my book notes.

star sky

“Oh that God would have made man of a better metal than dirt.”  

~Wm. Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

Trail Running

Dog and I follow narrow dirt game trails. Beyond my backyard, paths of black bear, fox, mule deer, and humans wind through rocky inclines and aspen valleys. Pike National Forest climbs behind my house and spills over the southern front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. On steepest running inclines, the high altitude air is thin, harsh, dry, pine salt in the back of my throat. My heart pulses blood rhythms in my ears, loud thumping like the drums of Ute Indians who walked these forests hundreds or maybe even thousands of years before my European ancestors. The paths are ancient, dynamically eroding and rebuilding, forests burning and regrowing. Ancient and present, birthed and buried, bones now crushed into quiet direction beneath my feet.

My shoes thud and I think about how humans travel with similar thumping feet on top of each other’s ancestry, so many stories buried with the dirt of our bones. We run the same trails, with the same mysterious breath, inside the same crumbling clay shells.

Stars

I have heard that human bodies are made of the same substance as stars; carbon fallen to earth and redistributed, elements from somewhere beyond the atmosphere. 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of the same six elements — oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus  — with a thimble full of another five elements. We are the stuff of stars. 100 million people on the same planet surface with the same dose of celestial carbon.

We are stars and dirt, animated by divine alchemy.

Dust

In the poem at the beginning of my faith’s book, the genesis of man is described in terms of elements and animation; dust and breath. The first book of both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible names Adam as the first living, breathing, created man.

The substance God uses to create Adam is described as “dust”. This word in ancient Hebrew is the word “apar” which literally translates, “dust of the ground” or fine particles of earth, dry earth, fine dust as blown by the wind. Adam’s name means “red clay” but later came to mean “man”.  So in a sense, the man made of dust and clay was named Man; Like naming your fish, Fish or your dog, Dog.

My pet cat is an example.  At my house, our orange marmalade cat, (who, sadly, was eaten by a coyote last week) was actually named simply,”Cat.”  My sons tried different variations of naming when we adopted our mountain savvy hunter from a camp down the road.  But, in the end, when we went to the door to call him in at night, we did not yell for Ted or Iris (my first choices).  Instead, we hollered, “Cat!” The name Cat identifies our one particular mouse-hunting pet, while the word “cat” describes all cats of his species.

In the same way, the first human in Genesis is named “Man.”  He is the first to breathe and he is all who come after, singular and collective. Adam is us. We are man, given breath from God, created from dust.

I run on remnants of Adam, crushed particles of the universe and fool’s gold beneath my feet.  My trail shoes crunch on mountain paths made of pulverized boulders and prehistoric dead things returned to dust.

I am the dust of stars.

I am Adam.

stars and dirt quote

“… then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

~The Book of Genesis, chapter 2.

 

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What do you think about the idea of dirt and stars?

Are you a trail runner, too?

 

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dog on the trail

 A Picture from the Trail | Dog Looks Back to Check on Me

 
 
 

 Mountain Sillouette photo by Anna Liz Photography