A Meditation on Confession

Oh, how the words of confession reverberate the deepest parts of my being.

Most Merciful God–for you alone are God and You alone show mercy that is pure, for you are the source of mercy. It is one of your holy characteristics.

We confess–for surely confession is not an individual act, but communal, for you are relational and so we, your image-bearers, are relational as well. And so together we confess, and we confess because our souls are burdened by the shame and guilt of our sin. We have separated ourselves from your presence and we have hidden ourselves from you. By confessing our sins, we step back into your presence; from the bushes we climb into Your light which reveals all. Search us as we confess:

We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have stored our desires as treasures and hoarded them against you. We have claimed portions of our hearts for us and have barred you from entering within. We want what we choose and not what you have given and placed before us. We have filled our hearts with other things and therefore we have left no room for your love.

We have failed to be an obedient church. The church is to be the body of Christ, but we have dismembered ourselves from you. We have disfigured Your image into our own. We use you as a banner to wave over our own agendas. We do not coexist or support another, but we fight and steal and claim glory that is not ours.

We have not done your will. We are selfish people seeking selfish desires. And when we seek You, we do so in our own terms. We do that which is evil and do not do that which is good.

We have broken your law. You have commanded the way to live for You, we follow that which we set for ourselves instead. We subjugate and advocate a code that You have not written, a code that does not reflect what You have commanded.

We have rebelled against your love. In our shallowness, we reject Your love for we think it is not what we want, though truly it is what we need. We would much rather You give us blessings that we ask for and answer our prayers when we insist upon them being answered in the way we demand. We do not choose You for You, but for what You can do for us. You try to help us as You know that we need, but we fight against and argue and complain. We are not grateful.

We have not loved our neighbor. In selfish pursuit, we do not share that love which You have given freely and abundantly. We refuse to look at those beside us and see them as our brothers and sisters, as people You have chosen to love. We shun those who are different, cast away those deemed incapable.

We have not heard the cry of the needy. We turn deaf ears upon those who cry for help. We curse them as something less. We make excuses to satisfy our justifications for not helping their affliction. We do not help, because we do not want to acknowledge. When we do help, we still hear not their cry, only our own pride, for we help out of our selfish desire to be esteemed.

Forgive us, we pray. We have failed, we admit our failure. Rescue us from ourselves. Redeem us so that we do not carry this crushing burden that sabotages our soul. Purify our desires.

Free us for joyful obedience. And let this forgiveness not come to answer our own desires of self once more. Grant us freedom, not that we might serve ourselves, but that we can willingly choose with happy hearts what is good in Your sight. May we serve diligently because it is our desire to do so.

Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. For only through Christ is this accomplished. He forgives, because He has sacrificed Himself for our forgiveness. He is our Lord, our Redeemer, through Him we find freedom of our sin.

Amen. So let it be. So let it be.

A Night of Worship

Tonight I went to something called “A Night of Praise.” It’s a time of worship and prayer that Asbury was hosting. I decided to go, because I felt like I needed to praise God. I needed to truly worship Him. My thought before going was this: “In worship of the One True God, our soul is set free, for in worship, we give all of our self to Him and He has set us free.” And I really needed to be free and to feel free in Him. Life has a lot going on and I wanted the intentional time just worshiping and praising God in the midst of it all. One of my favorite moments learning about worship here at Asbury is something Dr. Stamps, the former dean of the chapel and my professor for Sacramental Theology, once said in class: “God wants us. But there’s a particular way He wants us. God wants us in worship to Him.” This way of thinking has helped strengthened my own praise for God and how I view worship. Within worship, within praising God, everything is placed in proper perspective. Being in the midst of worship, truly diving into the depths of devotion, that’s where I find God, that’s where I find myself. Tonight as worship began, my prayer was that God might reveal a glimpse of heaven and He provided much. So I thought I might share some of my reflections.

 

 
The Lord is my stronghold
The night started with a reflection on Psalm 27. The second part of verse 1 really captured me: “The Lord is my stronghold.” God has not only created a dwelling within me, He has made a fort, reinforced against all evils. He has claimed His place within me with powerful force and authority. He will defend me against all that might try to attack and destroy me. He has built something that is strong, resilient, and longstanding within me and He dwells in that which He has prepared.

To see You high and lifted up
During the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” where the song goes “to see you high and lifted up,” I saw a series of images that honestly reminded me a lot of the Christos stained glass window in Estes. The first image I saw was of the crucified Christ, lifted high upon the cross. Then beyond the cross, I saw the resurrected Christ in pure white, ascending high into the sky. And then I saw a man collapsed before Christ. Jesus reached down and lifted the man’s face, my face to see Him. I, on my knees, saw Christ when He lifted my vision high enough to see His face. From my perspective completely fallen upon the ground, Christ was high and lifted up, though He stood right in front of me.

Leaning upon Christ
I remembered the scene of the Last Supper as described in the Gospel of John, where the one disciple reclining next to Jesus asks who the betrayer is. I once heard this scene describe with some historical context as to how meals were eaten while reclining on pillows and how close those gathered at the table would be. I remember it being described that the disciple, because of the way they were all reclining, was able to lean back and rest near Jesus as he asked the question. This familiarity, this trust, this closeness, this intimacy with Christ is something that I want.

Dance, my soul, dance
The only time I truly feel like I want to dance is when I am in deep, authentic worship of the One True God. My feet and legs start bouncing like crazy, I rock in various rhythms. It reminds me of when I saw inside of a school for rabbi at the Wailing Wall. I remember how they rocked back and forth, perpetually bowing as they read scripture and worshiped. Sometimes, I feel like I need to just start jumping up and down, because my body itself cannot contain the amount of praise coming forth from the depths of me.

This is my church, this is your church, this is His church
In the midst of worship, I feel the presence of God. It’s a place where I know that I can always meet Him. And yet, there’s something always spectacular to be able to look around and see brothers and sisters of Christ worshiping God in their own way. Our collective worship filling the air with our love for God, and there we are surrounded by His love for us. Together we are the body of Christ, united in Him.

A journey through worship
When we worship, we move from earth into the heavenly, entering into the Kingdom of God, where we find ourselves not only in His Spirit, His presence, but His heart as well. When we worship, all barriers fall and we stand before God. We feel the power of the presence of His Spirit, and there we also find His heart and know His love.

Center of the cross
May I be found in the center of the cross, where the words of Your mouth, the searching of Your feet, and the works of Your hands meet, the center of the cross where Your heart might be found; let your love flow…

Asbury is my Oxford
This one might need a little more explanation. I am currently taking a course called Theology of John Wesley. As I’ve read the history of John Wesley and his theological journey, I can understand why I’m such a Wesleyan in my own theological thought; I see so much of my faith reflected in Wesley’s own faith journey. The recognition that I had tonight was the way he once described how he viewed Oxford when his father wanted him to come take over the congregations that his father tended: “…wherever I can be most holy myself, there, I am assured, I can most promote holiness in others. But I am equally assured there is no place under heaven so fit for my improvement as Oxford.” (From one of John Wesley’s letters as edited and compiled by Frank Baker). Asbury has been a place for me where I have learned the most about holiness and where it feels as if God has done most of His work in my life. I often advise to other newer students to throw themselves upon the altar as living sacrifices and let God do what He will with them, because if given the chance, God will do so much during their time here. My journey here has been amazing and I know that one day that journey will come to an end, even as a new one begins, but I do still treasure this time, where God has transformed and redeemed so much of me. Asbury is an important place to me and I know that it is a place where God truly dwells.

There were even more thoughts than this, but for now, I will continue to meditate upon them myself. I know I’ll probably write another blog just on how much I love the Eucharist and what it means to me. But for now, this is where the journey goes.

The shifting of the seas and setting sail once more.

The sea always has a tide, the ebb and the flow; sometimes it’s high, sometimes  it’s low.

Hello friends, it’s been a while. I am well into my semester now, halfway in fact. My, how the time goes when you’re not paying attention to it. This semester has been different for me in a lot of ways. Each semester always has its own feel, but there are so many things beyond the norm as to why this one is so different for me. Transition is hard. There’s been a lot of transition for me this semester. Some good  (great actually), some not quite so much, but a lot of it just simply is. It’s been difficult adjusting to life without the mobility and freedom that having a vehicle provides. There have been so many things that I would have taken care of earlier if I had my own set of wheels instead of bumming rides.

The sea always has a tide, the ebb and the flow; sometimes it’s high, sometimes  it’s low. Yet its shifting reveals new secrets upon its shore. Each wave a chance to uncover a piece of treasure buried, either long forgotten or hidden, waiting for its chance to be discovered.




 

I wrote the previous (and incomplete) draft in the middle of last semester and though I am far from that moment now, I couldn’t quite give up on this piece of writing. But now it is time to write once more and to finish what was started, to continue the journey.

Transition is definitely the key word for the past six months for many reasons. Yes, the loss of my vehicular companionship is still noticeable, but I have adjusted. I have had many friends who were willing to help me with whatever I needed, even if it was just a drive out of town; hopefully they’ll continue to do so.

Transition also includes a look at the end of my seminary career. I am nearing the end of the M. Div. program and yet I don’t feel as if my time is done. I did a lot of prayer over the summer on this in particular. I have made the decision to pursue a postgraduate level degree: the ThM (Master’s of Theology)  in Intercultural Studies. I feel as is this would better prepare me for what I hope to accomplish when I really begin that intentional lifelong ministry for which I have been preparing myself for the past 4 ½ years. I am hoping to be accepted into the program here at Asbury as there are still a lot of great opportunities available. This is something I’m going to have to truly work for and even if/when I am accepted into the program, it will be quite rigorous, but I do feel like it will all be worth the effort and more importantly, I feel that I am being led to try.

The next transition is one that makes me very happy. I have fallen deeply in love with a wonderful, amazing woman. Sandi is truly a blessing in my life. We met this past summer in Yellowstone, where she was also a volunteer with ACMNP, though at a different site. I was a fool the majority of the summer for not paying her much attention until near the end of the summer. God had a lot of work to do within me before I was ready to date again and He did so. God had made clear to me what my desires were when it came to dating and relationships. I realized that I had been really holding myself back to due some past pain and hurt that never truly healed and then he revealed a great desire I had for a relationship: I wanted a beautiful friendship that blossomed into something more. Shortly after all of this, just within a week or so, I get a message from Sandi, after we had already technically said goodbye at the final ACMNP meeting. Within the message, she tells me how she sees me, admits that she likes me, and wants to know if there was a possibility of something more between us. Honestly, I was flabbergasted, for no one has quite described me the way that she did. I was honored and humbled with her honesty and intentness. At the time, I felt like I could not return her feelings; I felt as if I barely knew her truly, despite the several times we spent time with one another throughout the summer. And so, I asked her to join me on a journey of intentional friendship, because surely I wanted to know for myself. After a few weeks of being intentional, growing and deepening our relationship, I knew that there was not only a possibility of something more, but that I also wanted to seek those possibilities with her. We had shared our testimonies with one another and I could see God working so clearly in both of our lives. When I kept praying to God about this possibility, I heard God say clearly to me one day, “Go for it, my son.” And that was the day I told her that I wanted to talk about pursuing those possibilities. We’ve been dating for over four months now and everyday has been just as intentional as our friendship. We have truly grown in our personal lives, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with God. We see each other as a blessing from God and we seek to do our best to cherish that blessing. I did not know I could love so deeply. One of the prayers that I had in my moments with God preparing me for relationships was that I wanted to be able to love someone as He loves. I have had that opportunity with Sandi. I love her for who she is in God and for all that she seeks to do with her life. It is an honor and privilege to love her. I see many great possibilities before us in our journey together.

The last transition is more of a recognition: I have grown and matured in ways I never expected. This past summer has revealed to me how much I have learned and grown from my time here at seminary and through the hard lessons that life has taught me within recent years. I am not that same young man who left to go seek God, and really, who left to seek himself. I have found myself more and more in God and claim more the identity I have in Him. I feel as if I am closer to being who I truly am and who I am meant to be than I have ever felt in my life. There is still much to learn, and ways to grow, but I look forward to them in a different way than when I was younger. I am no longer desperate to cling to an identity, even a false one, just for the sake of security; I am secure in who I am in the Lord. I see growth not as a complete redefining of who I am, but the revealing of a new depth unexplored. Yes, some adventures are harder than others, but those are the ones that usually grow me the most and often have the most rewarding treasure for me. And so, my friends, the adventure continues once more…

Summer’s End and Farewell: The Journey Home

Well, it’s the end of the summer adventure. It’s been a great journey, but all journeys must end to allow a new one to begin.

After my fellow ACMNP team members left, I still had a week and a half to go. I thought it would drag on, but surprisingly passed fairly quickly. Of course, having some amazing adventures of my own helped with that. Check out my previous blogs for my two biggest of those adventures.

Working as storekeeper was a very demanding job to say the least. Sure, I may not have been working 12 hour days at the end of the summer, but the changing nature of the kitchen always kept me on my toes. At a certain point towards the end of my season, business slowed suddenly and I had to adjust everything accordingly. For my last month essentially, I was preparing for the closing of the season there. During my last week, I had the lucky pleasure of doing my third monthly inventory. I just wish my relief had really helped me out there. Unfortunately, my relief, the person who worked as storekeeper on my days off, was never quite a relief for me. Every week I had to go in and begin my week by fixing all the things that went wrong. This routine on my Monday typically made for my longest and most stressful day; those were the days I felt most useless because on the majority of those days, there was nothing I could do to solve the problems that had been created. But that’s all I’m going to say about that, because, honestly, it wasn’t a bad job. I might even say I enjoyed my job, despite the challenges it often presented. The head chef did ask me back next year, so I know that I’ve done well. As I finished my last day of work that Saturday and said my good-byes, there were audible groans and complaints from a lot of people. I can’t lie, it made me really happy to know that I would be missed in that kitchen.

The next day, since I was no longer leading services, I was able to attend Mt. Republic Chapel of Peace where my mentor this summer is located. He wasn’t expecting me and it was a nice surprise. I’m glad it turned out to be that particular week, because it was the celebration of Yellowstone’s Christmas in August. At a point during the service, I was introduced to the congregation and told them a little bit about my summer and my plans for the future. After the service, I was given some advice by one of the congregants who has gone the path I am considering for my future. I also met with a member of the national Board of Directors for ACMNP. It was really nice being able to meet  with these people, because they had wise words for me and when I think about it, how great is God that he sends me and these people to the same place at the same time so this meeting can occur.

The next day was my last full day in the park. Check out my other blog for my adventure to the Old Faithful area. After I returned to Rosie, I had the opportunity to have a meal at the Lodge with my mentor and his wife, the board director I met the day before and his wife, and the former pastor of the local church there and his wife  (both are legends in ACMNP; they served alongside ACMNP at the community church for over 30 years). This dinner with these folks was a really amazing opportunity. I was able to share quite a bit about myself and was able to receive more wisdom, guidance, and advice. There were also some other opportunities presented for me for next summer back in the Yellowstone area that I am continuing to think and pray about.

After dinner, I spent that night visiting with my coworkers once last time… and then finally started packing. The next morning I went through the checkout process and said some final goodbyes. I was leaving much later than I wanted, but that’s the way it usually goes for me. On the way out of that area, I made one last stop to talk with my parkwide mentor and to drop off the worship supplies for the next summer.

And so the drive home started. My first real stop was Chicago, so that I could visit a really good friend. On the way, when I was idling, I noticed some rumbling happening with my car and decided to get it checked out when I got my oil change along the way back to KY. When I got to Chicago, the rumbling became a knocking that was actually shaking the car. I met with my friend and had a good dinner, and then I planned to show him what was going on with my car. When I cranked the car, it just whined and sounded like a go-cart. Taking it for a quick test spin around the parking lot, I discovered it drove like a go-cart as well. We took my car around the corner to a mechanics and spent the night with my friend. The next morning I had a phone call from the mechanic. He told me my engine was falling apart. And so began the process of saying goodbye to the car I’ve had for nine years. Down below, I have a tribute to some of the memories I have with this particular car. But for the time being, my car was unable to finish the journey home. God’s grace is apparent as to the timing of it all. I had made it to Chicago, with the friend who would best understand me during this time. He and another friend saw that I made it back to Asbury. And so the summer ended and the transition to student life started once more, but that’s a story for another day.

 

Ode to Polyphemus: Abounding in song and legend

Okay, so it’s not really an “ode,” but I did want to share some of my favorite memories that I’ve accumulated in the past nine years.

Within the first week of having my car, I was backing out of my mom’s parking spot back home. There had been an old man running in the neighborhood a lot recently and I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t behind me, especially since I had the habit of backing up quickly without looking. As I turned to look behind me, I turned the wheel a little further and didn’t notice…until I back up like I normally do. I hit a tree next to carport and put a dent right behind my headlight, which no longer worked after that. Because I blinded my car with a tree, it reminded me of The Odyssey when Odysseus blinded the cyclops in order to escape. And so, my get-away car was officially named as Polyphemus, after that cyclops of legend.  And one of my first (and few quite honestly) acts of auto-manliness was replacing that headlight myself.

The United Methodist magnet on my car has been on there since essentially the beginning. It’s actually the second one to be on there. That particular magnet, with the kids around the cross, was the symbol for the children’s program back at my home church. My first magnet was just the basic UM symbol, but that one was stolen off my car one night in college.

This car has been with me since my last semester of community college, through my university years, through my year as a teacher, youth director, and back to student again. It has been such a huge part of my life. I recognize it as a blessing, and yet I’m still attached to it. It’s always been ironic to me that it was an Escape, but it did allow my certain freedom that I’ve missed in the time I’ve been without a vehicle. I can’t just “get-away” when I need like I used to.

My longest roadtrips were my summers spent in the National Parks of Mesa Verde and Yellowstone. Both trips were about 24-27 hours one way.Yet the most common roadtrips always involved a place I called home, whether it was my home in Marianna or Pensacola, Blue Lake Camp, or the place I call home now, Asbury.

I learned that my car’s name, “Polyphemus,” has a meaning of “abounding in song and legend,” and I don’t think there’d be a more appropriate name for where so many memories of some of my favorite people happened. From “man dates” with my other brother in college to late-night food runs with my brothers here at Asbury, so much joy occurred within this little space. I actually really loved giving people rides when they needed it (except for that one time where I didn’t completely unpack my car for a semester…), it was one of the ways I could share the blessing with someone else.

And so, I thank God for the blessing He gave me. It’s been a great nine years and it never gave me any trouble until its time. He gives and He takes away, and He is always good and faithful towards His servants.

My Day as a Tourist

I finished my last day of work on Saturday, August 27. On the following Monday, my last full day in the park, I finally did something I’d been meaning to do all summer long. I got up at 5AM, which is quite the accomplishment in itself, but there was good reason for it. I jumped in my car, while the night sky still shone and the sun yet to rise. I drove out towards the Old Faithful area. I was excited for this trip for a few different reasons. One was that it was my first time going to this part of the park. Some of my coworkers were surprised that I hadn’t been out here yet, but I focused most of my attention this summer to my job and to my ministry at Roosevelt. True, there may have been opportunities to turn this trip into ministry, but as I was driving out there, I was glad that it was just me. This trip was also personal. I had remembered the memory book my grandmother gave me and how Yellowstone was always a place that she wanted to visit. In some way, this trip was fulfilling an unspoken promise between she and I. This trip was also a time of worship for me. I’ve spent an entire summer serving the Lord and He has had a busy summer working within and through me. This trip was a recognition of the great things He has done.

As I drive, the sky begins to lighten and as I get out towards that area, the sun has risen a little. My first glimpses of this area are just pillars of steam rising into the sky. My first real stop was Midway Geyser Basin, home of the Grand Prismatic. This is the number one stop on my list and my only “must-see” before I left. As I arrive in this area, the sun is just peaking over the mountain ridge in the short distance. Because it was so early, there are practically no tourists here. There was enough space between the small groups of us that it seems like we have the entire place to ourselves.The cool morning and hot springs produce a lot of steam, billowing into the morning air; the clouds hovering above the pools of color that have yet to shine from the day’s light.  What I didn’t expect was the beauty of Excelsior Geyser in the same area. Its craggy rocks and the clear bright blue water still shrouded in steam was absolutely breathtaking.

After I took in the beautiful sights there, I moved along and parked my car at Biscuit Basin and crossed the road to the trail towards Old Faithful area. I took the rest of the morning and walked down the geyser boardwalks, making a complete loop of the Old Faithful area. Morning Glory and Artemisia were definitely good sights to see. The first geyser action I saw was at Grotto Geyser. It was sending steam up high in the air as I approached it. The water gushing out reminded me a little of those structures they have at water parks for kids to splash them occasionally. I sat and watched it for a while before moving on.

From this point, I had to walk on boardwalks that were there. Because of so much geothermal activity, the ground itself is unsafe to walk on and by treading upon it, the ecosystem could be harmed. It was really weird though. Walking along and just a few feet away from you, there is a pool of water that is naturally boiling. I walked by most of the sights fairly quickly, because there was no way of predicting their times of activity and the ones that could be predicted were not in the window of available time for me.

I finally made it to the Old Faithful area itself but took a side trail that led up to an observation point that overlooked all that area. Along the way, I passed by a place called Solitary Geyser. It was a hot spring that people back in 1915 thought they could harness and so they put a pipe into the water. This action caused the hot spring to start erupting every 5 minutes or so. They took out the pipe, hoping to restore it back, but the eruptions still kept happening. The eruption is really small, no more than 4 ft., lasting only for a few seconds really. As I got there, I just had to wait less than a minute before it went off. I waited around a little longer, not realizing that was the extent of it. Some other people got there shortly after the water had calmed. A few minutes later, it went off again; this time I was prepared with my camera and got a video of it. The other people were not impressed, “Wait? Was that it?” On my way out, I told them that at least that one eruption was bigger than one they had just missed.

After finishing the trail, it was time for the main attraction in this area. Luckily, I had plenty of time to rest for a bit and prepare myself. I had been warned not to expect anything great from Old Faithful itself: “It’s a tourist thing.” “It’s in the middle of a parking lot.” “I mean you got to do it, but make sure you see other things.” Considering that this was my one real geyser that I saw erupt, it was pretty cool. It does tease a lot though. There were so many times, the rumbling would be followed by a quick burst of water and steam and you’re left to wonder, “Is this it? Is it finally going to erupt this time?” When it finally did erupt, the water gushed about and everyone did the very touristy “ooh! ahh!” exclamations. After seeing Old Faithful, I’m definitely curious to see what other geysers would have looked like, but alas, it was not my time to see those. On my way out of the area, I saw the Caste Geyser was already in its window of time to erupt, so I sat down to wait. I waited for nearly 45 minutes and then a volunteer working with the NPS (National Park Service) changed the estimated time to later than I could wait that day. And so I continued my way back to my car.

As I walked back, I walked by some of the very things I passed that morning. It was interesting to be able to see them in the different light of the afternoon. I decided that I would stop by Midway Geyser Basin again to see how different Grand Prismatic and Excelsior would look in the afternoon light. The tourist situation was not as bad as I thought it would be and it was totally worth risking it anyways. The colors were so vibrant. It was a good way to end the day, just as I had started. Then I made the drive back and so ended my day as a tourist.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Falling through the Heavens

Monday, August 22, 2016: The Day I Flew

It’s kind of crazy looking back on it now. I’m writing this blog later intentionally. The moment happened so quickly, I needed time to process and see how I really felt about it.

It was something I was looking forward to all summer long. Every time I met new people this summer and they asked what were some of my plans for this summer, I told them that I planned to skydive. It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time. A dream deferred to be honest. I tried to go three years ago, but complications there prevented me from doing so. One of those complications was my weight; it was an obstacle this time, but it did not stop me from achieving a dream.

A coworker and I had decided that we were going to do this, so we set things into motion and traveled from Yellowstone to Boise, Idaho. The company I called sent us here because we are a bit bigger guys and the lower altitude would help make it a bit easy for us to go. Later I found out, that this was also because I called a booking agency instead of the company itself; the company that was local closed and so the closest place became a place a bit farther away.

The road trip in itself was really amazing. It was my first time heading out towards West Yellowstone area and once I left the park, it was all new to me for I was traveling in lands that I had not yet experienced. We left on Sunday and just made a weekend trip out of our adventure. The whole time I had some tunes going; I had Pandora set to my Irish Pub and Classic Rock stations, which was helping us get pumped. We arrived in Boise in the early afternoon and had some time just to chill, walking around downtown Boise. We found a pretty awesome place to eat called Bittercreek Alehouse. It was here that we had our potential last meals and we were both thoroughly impressed by this place. Seriously, if you’re ever in Boise, check them out. I had a really nice burger, homemade fries that reminded me of the fries my mom makes, oh and the best cheese curds I’ve ever had.  My friend and coworker, who is a culinary trained cook, was impressed by them as well. He and I were really happy with the trip thus far. We called it our best weekend and we still hadn’t accomplished our purpose for traveling yet. But the experience of this night definitely made the trip even better. And to end our dinner there, we had a little scotch. I mean, it could’ve been our last night on earth; it seemed appropriate.

The next morning, we climbed into my car and headed out, jamming to the music on the way to the place that would send us into the sky, just to plummet down. But irony was in charge of the playlist. The first song was an Irish rock song that begins “off to hell we must sail.” We switched to the classic rock station and heard “Highway to Hell.” I laughed and said the only way this could be better was if “Living on a Prayer” came on next; it did.

As we pull into the parking lot, my excitement was building for sure. I was trying to keep it cool, in case something did happen just like three years before, but I was definitely ready to do this. We go in and watch the same cheesy training video from the 1980’s that I totally remembered watching before. After that, we get weighed and this is where the trip sours a little. I was told to prepare to pay a little extra for being over a certain weight. I was also led to believe this would be about $20-40. Yeah… it was 4x as much as I was expecting, all because I was seven pounds over the $1/lb extra fee. There was already a lot of money already paid for this trip, including the video cost. My friend and I, we weren’t happy with paying so much extra, but we weren’t backing down from this, not after we had come all this way. So we paid and suited up.

WARNING: The angle of the GoPro camera sometimes produces really unflattering angles. Just saying…

 

DCIM154GOPRO

DCIM154GOPRO

We decided to wear jumpsuits and because we wanted to wear our glasses, they made us wear soft leather helmets to hold the huge goggles in place over our glasses. After we were suited up, we met our tandem instructors.

DCIM154GOPRO

DCIM154GOPRO

My tandem instructor had the unfortunate ability to never remember my name; he had to ask every time before starting recording for the video. Not exactly the worst thing, but… well, I mean, come on…

 

DCIM154GOPRO

DCIM154GOPRO

Anyways, after I proved over and over again that I could lift my legs up high enough for our landing procedure, we climbed into a really small plane with about 10 other people. We were all crowded over the wings so that we could actually get up in the air.

DCIM154GOPRO

DCIM154GOPRO

There were feelings of excitement and nervousness, much like before riding a new rollercoaster. It wasn’t until I was actually up in the air that I began to consider what I was about to do.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

But there was no going back. I was doing this and I was ready. There was a moment as I was looking out the window, close to our destination of 10,000 ft, where I just couldn’t help but sing to myself, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

The other jumpers, besides my friend and his tandem instructor, were jumping by themselves. I watched as they jumped out of the plane, each in their own style. There was something really mesmerizing by watching the joy light up on their faces before diving or back-flipping out of the plane. I had the best seat to be able to see them as they fell out of view.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

Then it was my turn. I awkwardly waddled my way to the side of the plane and sat so that my legs began to wrap underneath the plane itself. And then, a lean forward…

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

And I was falling. It happened all so quickly. The rush of air wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, but then again, I was in a jumpsuit…

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

They had warned us to keep our heads pulled up against our instructors’ shoulder and to look up, even if it felt unnatural, but when you’ve never seen the ground like that, it’s hard not to look around.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

And the freefall was over. My instructor said that for the freefall, we probably hit speeds of 120-150 mph. It went by so quickly. It felt like I had just gotten my bearings when my instructor pulled the chute.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

The sight was beautiful for sure. But there was one thing they didn’t warn me about.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

It’s science really, but all my weight went straight to the harnesses wrapped tightly against my legs. I’m sure my extra weight had something to do with this, but it was slightly painful, more uncomfortable, and completely unexpected.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

The gliding down seemed to pass really quick as well.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

We came in for a landing right next to where the plane had originally taken off.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

The landing area was packed with lots of dirt, which made landing a bit easier.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

It may not have been the perfect landing, but we made it. And better yet, no injuries.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

Another thing I didn’t expect, but probably should have: after landing, my ears were built up with so much pressure, I had a hard time hearing. It took most of the day for my hearing to return to normal.

So after it’s all said and done, I wasn’t too sure how to feel. It happened all so quickly and there were too many things I didn’t know to expect and well, I paid a lot more money than I was expecting. In short, a jumble of emotions and thoughts. My eventual conclusion though: this one trip is not enough for me. My adrenaline junkie is not satisfied. So, after some more weight loss and making sure I’m working through a business directly, instead of a booking agent, I’ll try again. And if I’m not satisfied, I’ll try again. If I need to go through training to be able to jump out by myself, it will all be worth it.

DCIM155GOPRO

DCIM155GOPRO

Ordinary, “bored”-inary…?

Well, folks, it’s about that time. I’m feeling the transition from everyday life here at this amazing place to reentering everyday life once more as a student at Asbury. I’m still a couple of weeks out from my own departure, but as coworkers are already departing and preparing to depart later this week, I’m definitely feeling the movement towards my own leaving. This summer has been amazing and I’ve still got some amazing things to do yet this summer before I can really call it all over. Yet, I’ve noticed certain thoughts even in my recent life here and in my thoughts of returning to school, the idea of “ordinary.” The routines are firmly established and the excitement that once accompanied me everywhere has dwindled into acceptance. Even in a place as amazing as Yellowstone, I struggle with the mundane. I get caught up in the little things and stop noticing the greater things around me. I’ve had to chastise myself for wanting to rush driving and complain about the traffic caused by tourists instead of taking the time to praise God as I drive through His beautiful handiwork as I once did. The bison and elk have become everyday sights and I’ve become accustomed to seeing them and think nothing more of it. Some days, work is just work and I forget to be intentional about the important ministry I’m supposed to be doing as I live my life here. Things settle into something less than spectacular. Yet, things don’t have to be this way. One thing I’ve learned here, and honestly, it’s amazing how many times I need to not only learn and relearn but actually apply this: the ordinary can be something special, if we let it. There are always those moments where what seems ordinary can be transformed into something more. These moments of transformation are what makes being incarnational and intercessional so necessary in our lives as Christians. When the presence of Christ is involved, things change. I think of Holy Communion where the ordinary elements of bread and wine (or grape juice, particularly Welsh’s…) represent and carry within their physicality something much greater that cannot be described without faith. The same miraculous transformation can happen daily in our lives. What difference our lives would make and what a difference in our lives would it make if we could remember that every moment is a moment that we could be sharing something much greater in the world than just ourselves, if we allow Christ to be within us and to allow Christ to flow from us, if we live our lives in such a way that we are Christ to those around us. This concept goes for every occupation, every person, every experience.

Earlier this week, I went out on a whim to go check my phone messages, even though I had only done so the day before. Yet, God created this opportunity for me to be in the right place at the right time for a few people, including myself. I talked to two friends who needed some encouragement and prayers that night, while I was on the side of the road where I could get phone signal. While I was there I got a message myself that shook me up a little, and when I went to go talk to someone about it, I got back at just the right time to speak with that person. And even though I sought this person out for myself, God was able to reverse the situation and I was there for her as a presence of Christ. God has shown me clearly that my time of ministry is not over yet, the opportunities are still there. There will always be a need for me to live in an intecessory and incarnational way, allowing Christ to work through me as He works in me. This will always be the case, whether I’m doing something ordinary or something that I would consider special, for with Christ, it’s always important, whether big or small.