Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Miracle of Flight

A few weeks ago I got the incredible opportunity to run off a mountain and take flight. It was an amazing experience I would recommend that everyone give it a try... just make sure you have a good pilot. As the following photos will show I got to go paragliding in Golden B.C. off of Mount Seven. We weren't sure if it was going to be able to happen because of wind, which was going to be a real disappointment because we got up at 5:30 in the a.m. We made the drive up to the top of the mountain, which was worth it for the view alone, and there we waited.
My pilot Will wanted to be real sure about the wind, which I really appreciated. While we were up there though some guys who run a tour company showed up and said "it's a great day for a tandem!" and it was on.
Here I am harness on ready to fly. Thanks Kim for lending me your jacket.

Will giving me some instructions about the take off procedure. "So when I say run... run! And don't stop until I say." He said this because the people who were going tandem before us were making things really difficult for the guide they were with. It is really awkward to be fair though. If you want to know what it is like just tie yourself to a total stranger, one in front of the other kind of like spooning, and then run. Ya! good times.

So here we are lined up and ready to run. We stood there like this for about 10 minutes waiting for the right wind.

Will shouted "Go!" and I started running... well actually I tried to start running but just then the shoot filled with air and it totally stopped me dead. But I remembered my training and just kept my legs moving until we were about 15 feet up... then Will remembered to tell me to stop. I think I might have kicked him or something. Gord had a good laugh over this.

Well there it is. Thanks to Gord for getting these shots with his phone since I left my camera in the truck in town.

bye for now,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lost at Sea

So I was having one of those moments the other day. You know, the ones that sneak up on you like a ninja assassin. At first you are not quite sure what has happened and you have little or no reaction, but slowly (maybe that slowly part is just me) you begin to realize the enormity of what has just taken place.
It happened something like this. My friend Kevin and I were on a hike, and we were engaged in a good conversation, though to try and describe what exactly we were talking about would be quite tedious and poorly represented by my writing. Suffice to say, it was the kind of conversation that leads down a path of mountainous proportions. Good thing we were on a mountain. It is the mountain that lead me to my moment. The moment had a lot to do with position, my position to be exact.
It was Kevin who first pointed out that it was good for him to be out on the mountain, it helped him recognize his smallness in the grand scheme of things. This is not a feeling I often get whilst on top of a mountain. I usually like to take great pride in my accomplishment of conquering the mighty mountain, standing like Hulk Hogan victoriously atop my giant opponent. But then it hit me. My mind started to drift to a place where I would feel small and most of all helpless.
The picture that entered my mind was that of being lost at sea. Alone in a vast expanse of water that heaves and roles with power. Alone in a place that has no apparent end in any direction, up, down, or side to side. It is in this place that I would feel most helpless. As I let myself go to this place a little my chest tightened and stomache kind of lifted and I was truely frightened!
Back to the mountain (you have to pay attention when you are walking on these things). I started thinking about where I live, my house. I started thinking about how easy it is to exist in that little box. I have all the things that I need there...well, there is always more stuff to acquire but that is a different topic. My house is my castle. I have the power move things around, change colors, set the mood. I keep it somewhat clean and orderly. I make lists of things that are within my power to change or repair, and I can busy myself with this endless list till the cows come home. I am the king, and I rule my kingdom well. I... am... the... KING.
I quickly had this flash of floating in my comfortable house, king Aaron sailing the seas in the luxury of his kingdom. And then... my house was gone! And I was alone in the sea again.
I have found myself since that time reflecting on this wonderful picture of the vastness of God. Trying to let go of own ego and sense of control, and it is scary and thrilling all at the same time. I think that what is coming down to is that freedom and the kingdom of heaven are frighteningly huge. It is so easy to fall into the trap of shrinking the vast space Jesus has provided for us to be with him in. We like to corral ourselves into an area we can control and be familiar with. "Here are the parameters. Don't venture out beyond this point."
I am slowly coming to the place where I think I just want to say "good-bye" to my tiny kingdom, and enter into his mighty kingdom. Perhaps the picture to leave you with is similar to that of an old western film, except the desert is replaced with terrifying water that is endless and there is a small speck heading off into the sun set and a voice calling "Come farther in!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Son

I recently finished reading a great book by Henri J. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. As someone who has grown up in the church and has heard the story of the Prodigal Son many, many, many times I was a little skeptical about reading this book because "what else could I learn?" I thought. As I began reading it soon became clear that this was going to be a refreshing new examination of this story. I am not going to write a book review or report here, I am sure that other more qualified and read writers have that under controle. I just wanted to share some things that I found myself identifying with and realizing as I read.
Nouwen is taken on this journey through his interaction with a famous Rembrandt painting Return of the Prodigal Son (seen on cover of book). Starting with the rebelious son, he talks through his process of identifying with each of the 3 characters. It is this that I wish to examin in myself as well.
Let me share with you a little about each of the things that grabed me most as I read this story.
It was not so much reading about the rebelious son that I found myself, though it is true that there are ways in which I do. It was mostly identification with the eldest son, and then the depiction of the great love of the Father that has really captured me at this point.
The older son was the one who worked for his father and did the things that were required of him. In the end he is found to be bitter and unable to enter into his Father's joy for the return of the younger son. Both son's are given invitations to enter into the celebration of the Father, the younger accepted, the elder is not sure what he will do. Will I let go of my bitter selfishness, and respond to the Father's welcome of relationship and blessing. Can I rejoice when others, who are probably not as righteous and good as me, seem to be the direct focus of God's love at a particular time? Can I stop seeing myself in competition for the Father's love and just recognize that there is an abundance available for all His kids. I guess I am just recognizing this subtle, maybe not so subtle, air of entitlement that I feel based on my good works. I have become a Pharasee without hardly recognizing it!
In light of this it was really something to understand the father's disposition in the story. The generousity and mercy and grace and patience and humility shown by the father is breathtaking. I was truely chalenged by the portrate of God in this book, and I don't feel I can really do justice to the way he is portrayed. What was interesting though, and what I will comment on, was the exhortation of the father teaching his son's how to be fathers. The call for us to not remain as we are but to learn from our Father and to become fathers ourselves. This is what has really inspired me from this book. What are the good things I have learned from Father God, and how can I help others participate in those same great revelations.

I really do recommend this one!

Bye for now,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Entertainment Media Addiction

So the other week I went to this Catholic Spiritual Retreat Centre, called Marywood. I was there for a total of 24 hours. It was a great experience and I especially loved my times speaking with Sister Nina. But that is a different topic for a different time. One of the things that I noticed about myself while there was that I really didn't know what to do with myself in the midst of quiet reflection that is longer than 10 minutes.
My schedule at the beginning went something like this;
  1. I arrived at the centre at 1:00pm,
  2. got settled into my room
  3. had my first visit with sister Nina at 2:30pm
After that, supper was the only thing on my agenda. This was going to be great! I went to my room after my time with Nina and promptly fell
asleep reading in the recliner chair. I should note here for those who don't know, I should never nap during the day... ever! I am a wreck for the rest of the day. Anyways, I was then called for supper and up until this point I was feeling pretty good about my retreat.
At about 7:00pm it started to happen. I was really feeling the need to check some group status, or play some fun little game on the computer. Maybe I could find some sort of interesting thing to watch on a TV somewhere, or a witty radio program to listen to. It was a bit ridiculous how it was all happening in my head. I was there to read and rest and pray, and all I could think about was having at least my computer to twittle away some time. I felt really spiritual!
In an effort to combat my "need" I read. I read until I felt like I could not read any more. I read in my recliner. I read in a different room. I started reading in my bed and then I finally came to the conclusion that I should just lay down and go to sleep... it was 8:45pm.
It was kind of like the feeling I get when I have a really bad head ache, "if I just go to sleep I won't be in pain any more." It was so weird!
Because I had had an almost 2 hour nap in the late afternoon, my attempts to get to sleep went no where. I struggled for about an hour to fall asleep, and finally I remembered the words of my Bible Meditation instructor from Bible school. "If you are having trouble getting to sleep at night," she would say, "just read your Bible, you will be asleep in 10 minutes." It was something like that I am pretty sure. I read the Bible in bed until my neck was sore in any position, I could not fall asleep. I took the next logical step being that I was on a spiritual retreat, I started praying. This is what it sounded like, "God please help me fall asleep." Really spiritual I know.
During this whole process I could not shake the thought about wishing I had some sort of media device that would be able to help me become numb to the pain of my situation. I probably didn't end up falling asleep until about midnight. I also woke up every hour and a half. It was probably one of my worst sleeps that I can recall in years... and I have two kids.
It really was an eye opener to have had this experience. If I ever do it again I think I will start weaning myself weeks in advance, and not let myself nap in the afternoon. I have now started, I feel, to reduce the amount of time I am entertaining myself with technology. Not that I think it is bad or evil, it just needs to be reigned in. I don't know if there is a support group for this sort of disorder but I am sure it would be helpful, and well attended if there was.
All in all, I do feel that my retreat was fruitful and good for me. I would recommend it to anyone.

I would love to hear feed back on this, and invite you to share your own experiences with "digital withdrawal." please leave a comment.

Bye for now,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Maybe We are Too Literate

I imagine this is not a new revelation to most, but there appear to be great holes in our social networks these days. These holes are devoid of essential relationships that once permeated and perpetuated society. I am talking about the great need we have for cross generational community. The young the old and the in between, living together sharing lives and experiences.
As my friend Ken and I where X-C Skiing the other day we got to talking about the great value of grandparents, not monetarily but in a family life kind of way. We noted that in our world there seems to be very little emphasis placed on what might be called tribal living. The concept that it takes an entire village to raise a child. In this day and age it is not uncommon for families to be separated by thousands of kilometers only having the chance to see one another a few times a year at most, a very broken up tribe. With that being the case tribes should not be thought to consist of just immediate family. There are neighbors, friends, people who attend the same churches as us, there are all of these people in and around our lives who bring with them knowledge and wisdom that we are not in possession of.
A lot of the time we see generational groups who are gathering together to help each other; young married couples, high-school students, empty nesters, all groups seem to gather together based on similar life circumstance. This is great but where are those who have been where we are now, who have weathered the storms we are facing and have come out alive. Where are the young enthusiastic shakers who would challenge the standard and cause truth to be uncovered and progress to be found.
At a recent film fest that came through town I watched a great story that captured some of what I have been thinking about. The name of the film was Red Gold. It sought to tell the stories of those who's lives are connected to the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers that flow into Bristole Bay, Alaska, and how their lives could change as a large mining corporation tries to get access to the water shed that feeds these two great rivers. Excellent film! The part that affected me most though was not the main point of the movie. Instead I found myself being drawn into a story of a 75 year old Inuit woman and her daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters. This 75 year old woman was responsible for teaching her children the art of harvesting the great salmon from the river in order to survive. From pulling in nets to gutting to preserving, all the parts of this essential practice where being instilled in the family. She taught them the rhythms of the land they were living in in order to survive, rhythms that had been passed down to her the same way.
I am not sure why we are now in this situation of dysfunction and being out of step with other generations. One thought that comes to mind is from something that I heard Eugene Peterson say in a lecture he was giving on spiritual formation. His comment was that we have lost the practice of orality in our society. People don't listen the same way they did in the past, it isn't essential that we do. We can turn to all sorts of reference tools that are available to us, whether they be in books, audio, or video, we have access to more knowledge than we are able to ingest. We are too literate. There is no sense of urgency in listening. In older days we needed to listen when someone spoke because our lives might depend on it. The old woman in Alaska needed to listen to her elders or her family line would be wiped out. I am not proposing that we become illiterate, I am just thinking out loud that this might be a reason we have a disconnect between generations. In our culture when something becomes outdated, we toss it out and get the latest and greatest, maybe we have taken this behavior too far in applying it to people.
I would like to leave you with a list of words that I have come across in my own story that have caused me to be in this place of contemplation:
  • Elder
  • Honour
  • Mentor
  • Inheritance
  • Master
  • Well aged
  • Seasoned
  • Chief
  • Wisdom
  • Experience
I Would love to hear from you about your experience in this and your thoughts, please comment.

bye for now,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Points of Contact

A few years back, when Robyn and I were just married, we went on a caving trip in Horne Lakes Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. It was my first time caving and we had chosen to do the extreme adventure tour, which of course came with a guide. We were going to journey to the depths of the earth and see dwarfs and dragons and stalagmites. It was going to be awesome! At this point in my life I was an enthusiastic but slightly under-educated adventurer. I was not totally unlearned in the ways of hiking and outdoorsy type stuff, I had just never heard anyone put into words the things one should do to prolong one's life on this planet when exploring the underworld. Our guide shared some advise with us as we prepared to enter the cave system through a little tiny metal door at the end of the muggie trail that we had been hiking: always keep your helmet on, don't urinate in the cave, stay with the guide so you don't fall down into a bottomless pit, (and this one that I have entitled this entry with) always maintain two POINTS OF CONTACT. This simply meant that if we wanted stay balanced and safe while walking in this lightless world of mystery that has slippery rocks and uneven ground it was in our best interest to have a hand reaching out and resting on something while we moved a foot. I have recognized this to be true in other forms of travel. Using a hiking pole while climbing a mountain, or an ice axe while climbing a wall of frozen water, or hanging on to the rail in a subway car or bus. I find that for terrain that is not part of my regular routine it is usually best that I stick to the 2 or 3 points of contact guide-line.
I have started to think about what the implications of this might be for my walk in this life, and here are some thoughts I have had.
  • As people we should be seeking out others who would help steady us as we journey forward.
  • In building new friendships we must be using multiple points of contact in getting to know each other.
  • When we venture into the world of familiar with long term friends it is then safe to walk with the confidence that comes from knowing.
For instance, if I am going to meet with someone new I usually talk to them two or three times before the meeting; once to introduce myself, once to set up a time to meet, and once to confirm that the meeting is still a go. If I am meeting with someone familiar I usually just talk with them once to set up the meeting and I know that I will see them there.
I see this working out in the world of business as well. Companies are always trying to maintain as many points of contact with us as possible through fliers and commercials, and all the other things that go on in marketing. It is fairly cold and impersonal for the most part, but we see it non the less.
Perhaps this is something we could use in the world of church. We need to recognize that we are Christ's ambassadors and that he is miraculously using us to reveal himself to the world. The more we as christians reach out to people in our communities who don't yet know Christ, the easier it becomes for those people to trust that He loves them too. I am sure that this could carry on in a number of directions, and I hope that it does.

Bye for now,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Round 2

I am going to have this as my thought poster blog instead of trying to reform the one that was dedicated to Family Hansen. It seems best to me to do this, I felt so weird trying to write stuff on the other one. I kept thinking "put pictures of kids in" but it didn't really suit the text. Hope this works out.