Tuesday, August 30, 2011
After a summer of hitchhiking around Britain and sleeping out under the stars, I felt that I had a grasp of a third element of the appreciation philosophy...a sort of hack-job thought structure that was part "carpe diem" and part "love thy neighbor." Anyway, here is number 3, from the British Isles section of Miles to Cross:
The third pillar of this wanderlust appreciation philosophy is that life itself is a gift. You didn’t ask for your lot in life, and you had no control over your entry stall. Nobody did. So nobody (literally) has the luxury of complaining. Of course, work like hell to better your situation, and to get to the places that you feel called to go. You have dreams for a reason. Complacency has no quarter here. This is simply a recognition that complaining is the root of all evil. Complaining signals weakness. Complaining tips the hat to a selfish frame of mind. Complaints invite anxiety. Gratitude, on the other hand, destroys it. Being thankful for where you are, who you are, what you are experiencing now...this is more than a good idea. It’s a frame of mind that allows you an odd peace in the face of any circumstance. It’s a healthier way to live. Counting your blessings may be hopelessly old wives-ish, but it’s a good idea nonetheless. Notice things, know yourself, and never complain. These three tenants provide the moral fabric for a life on the road, as well as for the person whose travels consist of venturing to the nearest coffee house and back.
“Complaints wither the fragile fruit tree of your soul. Laughter waters it unto life. Abundance, or a sickness unto death? You choose.” –Japhy Tinyspear
Monday, August 29, 2011
After another recent wander through the Pacific Northwest on my iron horse(you can see the pics on my Miles to Cross Facebook Page…click right), I felt inspired to return again to that great meander of twenty years ago. At the time, I found that with a little chalk sign, a rucksack, and a smile, that hitchhiking through the UK was a treat. Here’s a taste:
“It is deep dusk, and I am in a field on a river in a little town in the Peak district near Leeds. I’m on my way to Glasgow. Today I had a huge discussion with Kelly Rivers about life and truth and belief. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t. Can one person really know? Can there be certainty despite confusion? But I do know God, and because of HIM:
I say life’s for living.
Road’s for traveling.
Eye’s for wondering.
Soul’s for soaring.
Bag’s for sleeping.
Heart’s for loving.
God, please don’t allow me too much success and ease as the devil’s advocate. Please don’t allow my love of ale and travel disqualify me from a role in your delight. Do I really have to become a safe, boring CHRISTIAN in order to love you? Tell me what my heart longs to hear…that following YOU well is the only true adventure left.
It is getting dark and I have no light to write by. I’ll lie down and look up and listen. I’ll fall asleep thinking of those I love.
This field is full of flowers.”
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
My friend, Neely, has a blog called More than Gossip, which highlights ministry to girls and female students. She asked me to be a guest blogger for her, so here goes:
First: thanks to Neely for asking me to blog…I love her book: 99 Things Every Girl Should Know. I didn’t read it for me. I read it for my ministry, for my family, and to increase my knowledge. As a lead pastor, and as a father of an incredible, athletic, academic eleven year old girl, and as the husband of an amazingly strong, intelligent woman, I can only describe my take on this new movement known as girls ministry with the word: THRILLED.
Is it really a new movement? You’d think that wouldn’t be the case, since girls have been around, you know, forever. Consider the traditional mindset: “reach the guys and the girls will come.” That’s actual ministry advice that I’ve received over the years. Multiple times. I hear Pastors to Men talk with incredible fervency that ministry to dudes is the only thing that Jesus would really be interested in. Reach the studs, and the doughy eyed chick-lettes will traipse along behind. Can there be any more dismissive view?
But Jesus was an amazing value-giver to women. The cultural appropriateness of males and females traveling together was nil when Jesus was on earth, and so he didn’t choose female travel partners, and his disciples were male. This makes sense. He did exactly the right thing (as if you needed another example of Jesus making a good choice). But Jesus valued women more than any single leader that we have record of up until his arrival on planet Earth. He included women in his ministry: He taught both men and women. He personally ministered to several women. He raised a girl from the dead. He disclosed his role as Messiah first to the woman at the well. He revealed himself post-resurrection to women first, and trusted them to deliver the information to the men, who were, by the way, in hiding.
In all of these ways, Jesus was counter-cultural, and modeled ministry to girls. That’s why I’m thrilled. I get excited when I see the Church (capital C) seeking to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Here’s a quick primer:
To think that only guys have God’s call on their lives for impact or ministry is a tradition that goes back to Genesis 3. It’s the effect of the fall, it’s the curse of sin. But in the church, we’re to go back further, and to see the effects of sin rolled back all the way to Genesis 1. That’s where God created both male and female in His image. That’s where God called both male and female to subdue the earth, to steward its bounty. That’s where God called both male and female to reproduce, to fill the earth and multiply. To hear some preachers talk, you’d think it was Adam’s job to rule, and Eve’s job to reproduce. But God called both, to both.
What this means at my church, (and what it should mean in yours): Speak life into your girls. Speak God’s call over them. Give them opportunities to serve, to share, to speak, and to develop their full potential in the Lord. Invest in your female leaders, just as you invest in male leaders. Try really hard not to use language or jesting that equates femininity with weakness. (There is a whole host of “girlie” language out there that serves as fun-fodder, ie. “You throw like a GIRL.” Why is 'girl' in that context synonymous for LAME? Did you not see the Women’s cup final this year? “You kick like a GIRL” ought to be a mark of strength and skill, and you can help change that context).
In short, I challenge you to believe in your girls.
Because you know Jesus does.
Friday, August 19, 2011
There is still a month left this summer (am I in denial, or what?); just time enough to grab that summer/travel read you’ve been itching to explore. In hopes of spurring you on to a wander (I’m talking about sitting in your front yard, sipping Iced Tea, and losing yourself in a good read), I wanted to give you my take on some EXCELLENT travel logs…these have been my favorites:
7. Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller
6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig (this one got my juices flowing for an American ride-about, plus I was a philosophy major, so double-bonus)
5. Open Roads, by Larry McMurtry
4. Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck
3. Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac (I know that On the Road gets all the press, and maybe it’s because this one gets overlooked that I like it so much more…definite insight into the beat generation)
2. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
1. Miles to Cross, by Mike Howerton (oh come on, you knew it was coming…)
Runners up: Under the Tuscan Sky, and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes, although I think the details mire her work down a bit, and every year I believe there is a “The Best American Travel Writing” book that gets published, but I haven’t picked one of those up for a few years.
Soak in the Summer! And share your favorites with me! I’d love to explore new territory!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
While still a student at Pepperdine, I was able to study abroad two different seasons…once in Heidelberg, Germany, and once in London. My first trip, all of the travel was on trains, but when I stayed in London, I traveled on the cheap, backpacking, hitchhiking, and sleeping under the stars in open fields. I also talked to Van Morrison. Once. Briefly. On the phone. His daughter, Shana, was in my program, and one time I traveled to Bath, England, where she was hanging out at her dad’s house, and I called to speak with her. Van Morrison answered the phone. “Hello?” he said. “Hi, is Shana there?” I asked. “Hold on a sec.” He said. So, I can say from experience, he seems like a great guy. Here’s a nugget…
“Last night as I slept out (this was after a great evening hanging out with Shana, Van Morrison’s daughter) an interesting scene unfolded. I was sleeping in a farmer’s field just outside of Bath when someone blundered through the trees and almost stepped on me. I cried out and the guy ran back to the trees and disappeared, but I could tell that he just stopped in the shadows. There was no answer when I asked who he was, just more rustling. So I packed up my stuff and headed off to find a more secure resting place. I ended up in somebody’s garden, but it was so late the foxes were out, (I saw two) and I didn’t disturb a soul.
I forgot to mention that the night before last I heard witches. It was a full moon, and I was in an isolated field on a hillside (outside of Eastbourne). The field was bordered by trees, and the grass was close to three feet high. At one point, I was suddenly awakened by loud female cackle and laughter at the top of the hill behind the trees. It grew in volume for half a moment or so—then silence. Seconds later cackles loud sound from the bottom of the field, again behind the trees. These continue a moment and cease as abruptly. I suppose it was some sort of broomstick race under the full moon, but perhaps it was just a gaggle of spinsters having fun with a sleeping trespasser.
You never know your luck.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I sense that there is deeper strata of life available: more joy, rich wisdom, wide love. It’s there, down there, beneath this shallow bandwidth of comfortable American suburban maleness that I typically and conveniently dwell in. But in all my writing, in all my preaching…I yearn to be the finger pointing…there, there it is…I’ve glimpsed it, and it’s good. I’ve tasted it, and the tiniest portions of it sentence me to longing for more. And more. More and more life with God.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tonight, after a family dinner, as we were wrapping up a walk together with Scout, the kids spotted a beautiful hot air balloon floating towards our neighborhood. On a whim, we decided to follow it, to watch it land. So a terrific chase ensued. Each of the children were in rare form, cracking each other up, as we galavanted up and down road after road. We finally lost it behind some tall trees, and we headed home, in a car filled with sound effects and third grade jokes.
We totally failed in our quest.
And yet it totally felt like success.
Just wanted to encourage you to fail with your loved ones in a similar fashion...and have a blast doing it.
As a part of my pilgrimage mentality I embraced through spending a year or so on the road (over four travel experiences) in my college days, my brother Mark challenged me to come up with my own philosophy...how do I see life? What is the Tao of How, if you will. So in Miles to Cross, I tried to capture not only the journey, but the weightiness of the quest. Here is the second of four keys:
wanderlust Tenant #2
The second tenant of this wanderlust appreciation belief is that whoever you are is a gift. You are beautiful right now, just as you are, incredibly more beautiful than you think you are. If our media culture would just keep its mitts out of our self-consciousness, you would discover this. You are loved, right now, just as you are. You are loved beyond your ability to comprehend. And the great news, the hope that rises as bright as the sun, is that you are a work in progress. Notice things. Know yourself. Unless you spend the time it takes to know yourself, you will continue to project your own issues on the people that surround you, or sometimes even the places that you find yourself. You can change your surroundings...the people and the places. But you can’t travel away from you. In order to know yourself, you have to listen to your emptiness, to your dissatisfaction, to your restlessness. It is telling you something about your heart’s deep longing. Know yourself, and be comfortable with you. When you are comfortable with you, devoid of arrogance but full of confidence, then you can truly appreciate the Life that surrounds you.
“Know thyself, and love what you know. Then not only can your heart breathe, it can soar fueled with unflappable joy!” –Japhy Tinyspear
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” –The Lord of All Things
Monday, August 15, 2011
like a flea
being sought by the wandering scratch of a dog
or a fly
buzzing the ear of a picnic practitioner
the poetry of discontent goads
not to despair
to annoyed hopefulness
holding out to the end
that true balm does exist:
only not here.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Poetry speaks to me deeply. Honestly, I love sketches of something...a verbal picture that points my emotions in a certain direction. I used to write more of it. Here's a poem from the Freedom Tour portion of Miles to Cross:
walking on a path deserted,
my eyes dazzled by the contrast
and light faded,
so that when I glanced along the darkened path
the shapes and vague movements ghostlike
images cast from older days:
a country lad’s daydreams,
of a more innocent age.
The songs of locust blanketed me
wave after wave; I heard
hoof-clops of a rider returning
from a general store supply run, perhaps,
and I imagined,
giddy, like a school-girl after her love’s kindness,
fireflies, and a soft harmonica playing on
the edge of memory.
it was a helicopter,
not a firefly,
and I realized that the hum of harp
was the toll road speeding cars at breakneck
Saturday, August 13, 2011
When I wrote Miles to Cross, it was originally in the form of super rough journal entries, with pen and leather-bound parchment, and I ended up shoving photos, poetry, and pictures taken en route into these journals. The motorcycle quest for America happened 20 years ago this summer, and we called it the Freedom Tour.
One of the reasons why I’m excited about building the Miles to Cross Facebook page is that I’ll finally be able to include the poetry, the photos, but also interact with folks who are lovers of the journey as well. Meet me there!
Here are a couple of American Soil snapshots:
“I sit in a green valley in God’s country, outside Durango, and I am happy. I am also saturated with fatigue, for the last two days have seen many miles. Toph joined me in Victorville, and we cruised the Las Vegas desert together up to St. George. I hooked a right on Highway 9 to Kanub (Toph was heading north to go through Denver for a visit with his lady, Jen), where I spent one starlit night. Right before I went to sleep I had a cigarette. I recently finished Still Life with a Woodpecker by Robbins, which inspired me to start smoking on this trip. I think its cool to watch people smoke. It’s a James Dean thing. I even like the smell of the Camel hardpack that I purchased to learn with. The problem is this: I can’t do it. I cough and hack like Tuberculosis incarnate. It is ridiculous. Plus, I woke up this morning and my breath tasted like I’d gargled with manure. So I think I’ll cut my losses and call it quits. And spare myself the joy of blacklung.
Today the ride was okay until I hit Cortez. Then, I was amazed. Awestruck. The mountains and the valleys and the green of the hills and trees was symphony and majesty to my tired soul. That breeze of glory carried my horse and I to Durango, where I prepare to bed for the evening. A dog barks, the sun sets, I hear children laughing in the distance. I am, like all my fellow journeymen, a wanderer in this pilgrimage of life.”
A couple of nights later, camping outside of Garden City, Kansas:
“A man named Homer gave me a brochure for the Christian Motorcyclists Association. Their motto is “There’s still time to change the road you’re on,” which is a line from Zepplin’s Stairway. In a live recording of that song, Robert Plant sings the lyric, and then in the pause afterward says, “I hope so.”
You and me both, Rob.”
Friday, August 12, 2011
“Cathy, I’m lost” I said, though I knew she was sleeping. “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.” Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.”
Paul Simon, “America”
This is a pic of the HOG that I hit the road with 20 years ago, with my Buddies Christopher “Toph” Wilshire and Mike “Dean” Anderson. It’s not the exact bike that I did over 11,000 miles on, but I’ll try in the next few days to get a bunch of the original pics up on the Miles to Cross Facebook page. Toph drove a Magna, and Dean was on a Yamaha. All the bikes performed well, and yet, after hitting all four corners of the continental US, each of us had a certain soreness in the posterior region. No matter how comfortable Bike seats are, apparently we crossed the threshold.
Life is a Journey.
Enjoy the ride.
you citizen of this old town
or pilgrim from far away
looking for some
here you may become silent
at the well of all beauty
no one is a stranger
in this old church
where God as a loving father
only for you
onze-lieve vrov wkerk
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I guess I should have noted in the previous post that I spent a total of a year on the road...traveling and studying abroad and through America.
Europe by train.
America by motorcycle.
Britain via hitchhiking.
Central America by any means possible, including light air and riverboat.
The challenge was to live life well, and to come up with a "philosophy"...the Tao of How, if you will. And since that was a challenge far beyond my capabilities, I had to content myself with 4 Tenants of Wanderlust.
Since we're taking a road-trip through the Scriptures at my church this summer, I thought it'd be fun to go nostalgic about the glories of the open road. Here's a snapshot from Miles to Cross...hopefully whetting the appetite for your own miles untasted. For additional Miles to Cross love, hit the Miles to Cross facebook page and post your own roadtrip pics and stories!
Etymology: Latin nomad-, nomas member of a wandering pastoral people, from Greek, from nemein
1 : a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory
2 : an individual who roams about aimlessly
- nomad adjective
- no·mad·ism noun
Wanderlust Tenant #1
The very first tenant of belief in the wanderlust theory of Appreciation is that you have to Notice Things. You don’t even have to go anywhere to practice this tenant. Wherever you are is a gift. Beauty surrounds, even in the oddest, most sterile places. If you’re eyes aren’t open, you will never learn to live a life of appreciation, no matter where you go. If you’re eyes are open, you will never stop. Notice things. Butterflies. Streaks of cloud in the skyscape. The breeze as it moves the wooden chimes, or the smell of rain on the warm asphalt. There are a host of things to notice, even on the most familiar pathways. Notice them. And in doing so, you remain open to wonder.
“If you remain open to wonder, your heart can breathe.” –Japhy Tinyspear
“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” –Holy Writ
It’s been two decades since I first penned the rough on-the-road manuscript of Miles to Cross, and yet I still affirm the idea that our lives are journeys, that we are not people of the destination, but we are in fact travelers, vagabonds, and wanderers in a foreign land. And while we’re here it is absolutely appropriate to appreciate the surroundings. It’s common grace that surrounds us…all of us…if we will but notice God’s goodness and nearness.