Posts Tagged With: travel

A Twist on Tolkien: All Who Are Lost Wander

Sassy

Sassy’s World PC Eugene C Scott

Of all the dogs I’ve owned, I loved the one I lost most. She was a black and white Springer Spaniel we named Sasson, Hebrew for joy. I know, I know. We were young and so spiritual and didn’t have kids yet.

We bought her in our first year of marriage. Dee Dee chose her, dark puppy eyes saying, “Pick me, pick me.”

We called her Sassy. And she was. She was arrow quick, sweet, and easy. I’d return home from my construction job and she’d run around my legs and shake with excitement. She learned to sit, heal, come, stay, and all manner of dog tricks so quickly she convinced me I was a dog whisperer.

We took her everywhere. She loved to ride on the wheel well of my white Toyota pickup, catching the wind.

In the summer of 1980, we took her backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness. While I reeled in brookies, she stood on the rock next to me trembiling to see what was on the end of the line. She slept in our tent with us.

At the end of the weekend, as we drove down the long dirt road out of the mountains, she perched on her wheel well. Dee Dee and I planned our next trip and were captivated by a world exploding with wildflowers. We stopped for gas in Eagle. That’s when I noticed Sassy was gone. Instantly I knew what had happened. She had fallen out on the twisty, bumpy dirt road. We raced back and searched the entire route. Desperate, we stopped cars and asked if they had seen a black and white Springer.

“Yes,” one driver said. “Right back up there.”

Our hearts soared. We drove along praying, slowly searching the road and the woods. Another car approached and I got out to stop it and ask. They ignored me and drove by. We drove up and down the road growing more frantic and despondent each moment.

Finally, we returned home, silent, guilty. We burst into tears entering our tiny living room with her dog toys scattered about. We placed ads in the Eagle County papers. We waited. We hoped the people in the car that didn’t stop had her. But we never saw Sassy again. Even thirty-seven years later, I miss her and feel guilty for letting her ride the wheel well, for not watching, for losing her.

DogHeaven

Fb.com/ilovemydogfans

This memory came back sharp because of the Facebook meme: “Heaven is a place where all the dogs you’ve ever loved run to greet you.” That thought gave me hope. Heaven will be a place to be reunited. And with more than lost dogs. My mom. My brother.

But it also gave me pause. If I were lost, who would search for me?

I picture myself standing along that dirt road, watching the truck tires throwing dust. I raise my hand but the truck heedlessly turns the corner. I shiver with shock and thrust my hands in my pockets. Soon the dusk rises cold and dim from around my feet. A fading sliver of light clings to the tips of the dark pines. I glance up and down the empty road. I wait. They’ll come back. The silence and aloneness beat together as an ache in my heart. I’m lost.

Life is often like that. More metaphorically than literally, we’re lost.

And we always believe we’ll find ourselves just over the next rise, or in the next relationship, or job, self-help book, or birthday. I turned thirty, forty, and fifty thinking with each birthday: surely now I’ll know who I am and what I’m about. Finally, I’ve arrived!

Arrived where? Now in my sixth decade, I’ve learned that without a fixed point, a north star, there is no finding yourself. In “Meditations in Wall Street,” Henry S. Haskins wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

As inspiring as this oft-misattributed quote may be, God did not design us with an infallible inner compass. It’s as if our inner-Siri tells us to turn north on Main Street, but we don’t know north from a hole in the ground. Even if we deny it, all internal drives find themselves following external maps. Too many of these lead nowhere, at least nowhere good. This is why each new generation sets out to find itself and comes up empty. Self is not something we find, but rather something created and pointed out by God.

John Newton had it right in “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost, but now am found.” The passive voice in those lyrics speaks volumes. Newton’s internal sense of lostness left him searching until it was confirmed and answered by God. God is the ultimate North.

Thus the Bible describes humans as lost. And worse lost sheep. Jesus especially uses this metaphor. He is the shepherd searching for the one lost sheep. If I were lost, who would search for me? For you?

Though God was not careening down a mountain road and carelessly tossed us out. Rather we jumped. Still, Jesus walks that dusty, lonely dirt road calling our names. Jesus placed a lost and found ad in our newspaper. He weeps for our loss. He has marked your soul with his breath and that lonely heartache you and I feel is for him. He is home. He is North. He is found.

If heaven is the place to be reunited with loved ones, maybe even dogs, then earth is the place Jesus traveled to reunite us with heaven.

Road

Wanderlost PC Eugene C Scott

Tolkien may be right that “Not all those who wander are lost.” But it is just as true that all who are lost wander. And wonder. Where the hell am I? Who am I? Why am I here?

The answer is not within, except when from inside we cry out.

“My God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus felt that lostness.

And God the Father answered. “I Am!” I am with you. Even in death on the cross, even in suffering, even in daily life and periodic drudgery. I am with you. Reach out your hand and take Mine.

Categories: adventure, belonging, Bible, Christianity, creation, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Is God in All Places, All the Time?

There are two places most people expect to catch a glimpse of God: In church or in nature. The trouble with that is we are neither place often enough to then live as if God is omnipresent. God becomes an add-on rather than a constant companion.

“A primary but often shirked task of the Christian in our society and culture is to notice, to see in detail, the sacredness of creation. The marks of God’s creative works are all around and in us. We live surrounded by cherubim singing, Holy, Holy, Holy.” Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in 10,000 Places.

In the above quote Peterson is not using the word creation as we often do, in the sense of  wilderness and nature untouched by human hands. Peterson rather is using it holistically, meaning all that God has created: humans, and even the good things we have made.

The pictures below are from an evening with a friend on the deck of a trendy place called Tsunami. God was not only in the sunsets, but in our conversation about family, frogs, rootedness, what the future holds, and most of all how we two are simple men who are trying to live authentic lives of faith. Such things are hard to catch in photos. So, the glass of wine reflecting the Cajun sunset will have to also reflect seeing God in the spaces between two people.

The tug toiling in the golden water . . . well what metaphor is that?

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, Christianity, creation, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Find God

The Cloud of Unknowing in Maui, Hawaii

Living spiritually is about finding God, who is sometimes more elusive than we think. This may be because of what the anonymous 14th century monk called “the cloud of unknowing,” a realization that though we can know God in part, God is beyond our ability to grasp fully and thus we may need to approach God not as a project or idea, but a beautiful, personal being to contemplate, as in a painting, or piece of music.

This often calls for stillness and silence.

As Mother Teresa wrote, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence . . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

I have recently rediscovered this spiritual discipline of stillness and silence. For more on that click here. But what has grown and the movement I have seen in and around me in that silence has been as difficult to grasp as the clouds themselves. I have tried to better understand and then communicate the life this silence produces. And often have failed.  Because not only is God hard to grasp, but the work God does in us too. The seeds of growth germinate in silence, but even as sprouts, they have a quietness to them as well. No neon signs shouting, “Look here!” This growth is a silence words falter at. And of course, as with all organic, silent, beautiful things, the evidence of their existence is slow to come.

We may be better off not knowing.

You won't find God here

Perhaps if there were a time-lapse camera that could capture soul growth, I could see it, and describe it, and understand it. And post the picture here. But attempts to describe them, often choke and kill them.

As that ancient monk well knew, there is an unknowing that is sometimes the mysterious precursor to knowing. We cannot chase after or use cameras, or digital recorders to capture life that is spiritual. “We need silence.”

Eugene C. Scott is not often silent. He knows lots of words and likes to use them. But most of them don’t really draw him any closer to God. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: adventure, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Several weeks ago my son, Brendan, and I traveled back to his home away from home, Guatemala, to teach in his old school. These are some of the photographs he took while down there. They are perfect for today: Good Friday: The Day of the Cross.

Adventure With Brendan

The journey to the top of Calvary must have been difficult.  Jesus was exhausted as he carried the weapon of his demise all the way up Calvary.  He’d been beaten.  He’d been mocked.  Yet he endured the pain of that brutal cross.

For me.  For you.  For the sins of the world.

Since the first good Friday, the cross has become more than a tool for execution.  For me it is a reminder of forgiveness, how much I’m loved, and the tool used to redeem my brokenness.  To others the cross is just art, something to look at.  But as you can see from the pictures I took during my recent trip to Guatemala, even when the cross is represented artistically, it can still mean something.

Today, Good Friday, the day we celebrate Christ’s death on the cross, what does that cross mean to you?

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Categories: Eugene C. Scott, Jesus, Living Spiritually, love., Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Extreme Sport: Walking in Guatemala

Brendan taking his life and luggage in his own hands in Xela.

Walking in Guatemala should be considered an extreme sport. Except extreme sports aren’t nearly as life threatening. Every time I stepped into the street this last week while in Xela (aka Quetzaltenango), Guatemala on a mission trip, my life flashed before my eyes–along with several speeding motorcycles, microbuses, cars, trucks, and Chicken Buses. The only exception to this was early Sunday morning when mainly church goers are out and they are unlikely to hit you because that would make them even later to church.

But seriously, two years ago on his birthday my son, Brendan, was hit by a car that was going the wrong way on an “Una Via.” Brendan did not look both ways before stepping into the street. The car bowled him over and didn’t stop. Thankfully he’s ok.

Therefore, when I was out, I paid close attention. And when I wasn’t dodging careering vehicles, I noticed something.

There are few smooth, straight roads in Guatemala. 

In Xela, even city streets are rugged, at best cobblestone, sometimes dirt. Alley narrow and full of potholes, the streets wind and twist through Xela, the second largest city in the country.

A Typical Sunday Morning Street in Xela

This has economic roots. They don’t have the money to repair every road. Even the Pan American Highway has dirt sections and whole stretches that have collapsed down the mountainside and have only white painted stones as warning.

Still, even if Guatemala had the funds, I’m not sure they would spend them repairing roads. In the U.S. we believe every pothole, every headache, every problem has a solution. And the solution is money.

Not so in Guatemala. Bumps and curves are part of life’s terrain and are incorporated into life. There seems to be an unspoken acceptance here that not all roads (both real and metaphorical) need to be straight and smooth. Does this make some Guatemalans more adaptable or tough? There’s a gaping hole in the sidewalk? Step over it.

It made me wonder. Do my often smooth, straight roads (both real and metaphorical) make me less tough and adaptable, more apt to complain? Do I then expect more provision from God than God ever intended for me? As if God is the Concierge of some five star hotel I call my life?

In other words, life in reality has few smooth, straight roads, Eugene. Get over it.

Few Guatemalans go anywhere alone.

I also noticed that those speeding cars, taxis, microbuses, and Chicken Buses one needs to watch out for are always stuffed full of people. The good news is if you are unfortunate enough to be struck and killed by one of these vehicles, there will probably be plenty of witnesses.

Obviously this also is an economic issue. Most Guatemalans have even less money for cars than they do for roads.

But I think there is more to it than that. They, Quetzaltecos, even walk arm and arm. Sometimes whole families strung together totter down the narrow, cracked sidewalks. Almost anytime of day you will see people standing in groups in parks and on corners, or in front of tiendas, talking and laughing, maybe arguing too, though I’m not sure. I don’t speak Spanish.

It seems to me Guatemalans live life together. And they seem to like it.

Kids hanging out together at the InterAmerican School.

Economically many may have to live and work close to each other. Whatever the reason, Guatemalans seem to be “together people.” They are not isolated from each other. They do not embark on a solitary commute to work only to be re-entombed by an electric garage door opener when returning home. Our wealth and ubiquitous technology lets us live with a false security and facade of self-dependence. The rugged individualism so prevalent, and detrimental, in North America seems not to have taken hold in this part of Central America.

Could this be why all roads need not be smooth and straight? Life’s potholes are easier to climb out of with a helping hand.

Ten days in Guatemala is not enough to even scratch the surface of its culture. And Guatemala has serious problems with poverty, government corruption, poor education, and severe prejudice.

Central Park in Xela. Picture by Brendan Scott

Even so, Guatemalans are fascinating, hardy people in a beautiful country. And these are the insights that struck me as I walked the streets of Xela (pun intended).

I would like to be more rugged and yet less individual; more willing to use my own God-given strength but also more willing to bear burdens with and for others. I would like to be less apt to depend on governments, programs, and pretty promises for my well being yet more dependent on God and interdependent with the people and things God has given me.

I don’t want life to be safe but rather a walk with God that can be considered the most extreme of sports.

Eugene C. Scott has been to Guatemala twice. His son, Brendan, lived and taught there for three years. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: adventure, belonging, Christianity, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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