Showing posts with label camp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label camp. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Worshiping on Sabbatical

Laurel-covered cliffs atop Mt. Le Conte.
Thankfully, our church has a policy allowing full time ministry staff to take significant time for rest and restoration every seven years. I am very grateful. I've been at Providence 21 years and am surprised at how much I needed this break. We went to the beach first, then we came home for a week to start building a new house (crazy story about how/why we moved—maybe later!) and then left to go camping in Miss Daisy. We just got back. I've been away long enough now to shed some anxiety that I didn't know I was living in. Do fish know they're in water when that's where they live? And THAT'S why we have sabbatical.

One of the activities I have gotten to do again (in addition to blogging!) is to worship with Christians other than those at Providence Church. So far, I haven't gone to any big hip or happening churches about which everyone is all abuzz. That's what I usually do so I can learn about what new stuff they are doing. Instead, among those I've attended are a small church in Port St. Joe Florida, Providence Jefferson City (a church we planted years ago), and a service at the campground amphitheater led by a college student with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) at Elkmont. All these worship experiences have been great for me and I could write a post on each of them. But I want to say a little bit about the latter.

Friends, family, and dogs just behind our site.
It rained for parts of most of the days we camped, and Sunday was no different. It had already showered Sunday morning when the student with ACMNP passed by our site while we ate breakfast and told us about the service. We had already talked about going, but hadn't seen any signs that services were happening. We walked to the amphitheater for the 10 AM service and there was only one other camper there, so we took a seat on our raincoats. Then others trickled in—people from New York to Mississippi—about 20 total (not counting the big dog someone brought). The sun peeked through the clouds. Emily, the college student who invited us a couple of hours earlier was the only leader. She welcomed everyone, passed out worship booklets, strapped on a guitar and invited everyone to stand and sing with her. It was a contemporary hymn by the Gettys. No microphone, lights, projector... nothing. We did some responsive reading, sang another song, and she seated everyone asking us to turn to 1Kings 19. She read the familiar passage about Elijah fleeing from Jezebel after defeating the prophets of Baal, and then hitting a wall of exhaustion and discouragement. He just wanted to die. God provided an angel to prepare food for him and told him to eat "for the journey is too great for you." Elijah then walked 40 days to "the mountain of God" and hid in a cave where God finally spoke. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God asked.

As soon as I read this along with Emily, I almost broke out in tears, which caught me by surprise. The rest of the world went away and [in my heart] God asked me the same question. "What are you doing here, Chad?" It's amazing, the power of God's word, especially when read with other believers gathered to hear from God. I realized God was speaking to me. I, like Elijah, was tired, discouraged, and even after experiencing some ministry success, felt despair after difficulty has come my way. I felt like a failure and I hadn't even acknowledged it. "What AM I doing?" I thought. For that moment I didn't have an answer.
A little wooden bridge across the Little River near Elkmont.

Elijah then spoke for me. “I have been very jealous [some translations: "zealous"] for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” Now, obviously, no one is wanting to kill me (that I know about!). But despite zeal for Christ I have experienced unrivaled spiritual warfare in my life over the past year. And it is lonely. And everything in me has wanted to give up at times. And sometimes it can feel like no one understands. And God doesn't seem to be acting.

God told Elijah to step outside the cave, and we know what happened next:
 And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.         
1Kings 19:11-12 
Then God asked again, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah answered just as before, yet perhaps this time (I have imagined) much more softly and contemplatively. I too thought about his [and my] answer more. It seems shallower and more self-focused this time. Here is God who had graciously called Elijah [and me] to serve him. Here is God who had showed up before the prophets of Baal showing his unmistakable presence and power. Here is God who had used Elijah, promoted Elijah, hidden Elijah, and fed Elijah (just as he has me). Now God, like a gentle Father spends time with Elijah reminding him of his power yet speaking to him with tenderness and concern.

Emily's message was much more a devotional than a sermon. It was reminiscent of the kind of talk I've heard numerous times from students who were fairly new to the faith and the Bible. She gave some brief context and then simply shared her take on the story, meshing it with her own journey. She reminded us that sometimes when we experience hard times in the busy-ness of life it takes getting alone with God on the mountain to hear him whisper. Yeah, it was that simple...and great. We sang another song and cited a creed. Darla and I greeted some worshipers (and the dog) and walked back to our camp site. I remembered the rest of the story. Elijah left that experience with specific instructions from God to anoint new kings for Syria and Israel, and anoint a prophet to replace himself. God was about to move by replacing the current political and religious leadership. And things weren't as bad as Elijah thought. God told him, “I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Effectively saying, "I've been at work, Elijah. You're not alone, and the story doesn't begin or end with you." Elijah did much more before God took him into heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire—one of only two people in human history who never died physically.
Dara and I on a climb.

Yes, ministry is taxing—thank you God (and Providence) for some needed time at the "mountain of God"—the journey IS too great for me. Yes, it's easy to be self-focused instead of God-focused which results in stress and loneliness. Yes, God is at work, whether we see him or not.  And yes, God cares for his children as a loving and gentle Father: whispering, encouraging, reminding, strengthening, and using us for his glory.

Ha! I guess I needed four "so whats" for myself.

I miss worshiping with my Providence family. It is always one of the hardest things about being on sabbatical because I LOVE Providence. I love listening to the podcasts of the services. But God is using my time away in many ways including speaking through different gatherings of Christians and his word to me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Glamping in Miss Daisy

Most summers have a theme that just kinda happens. For us, this is the summer of Miss Daisy. Daisy is our 1967 (we think, the previous owners thought it was a 1969) Field & Stream vintage camper that we bought and refurbished in less than 3 weeks. What that essentially means is for every waking minute, from virtually sun up to midnight, when I wasn't doing my job as a pastor, I was working on that camper (and so was Darla, and sometimes our kids). And it happened to be during the hottest week of the year so far.

Here's Daisy on Memorial Day as we were stripping her down to the bear metal. Duncan taped off all the aluminum window frames before scrubbing and painting them silver. You can't really see it, but the frame/tongue/rear bumper was rusted and needed much work.

Here's the family giving Daisy her new coat of paint. We put a thick rubberized coat of waterproof roof sealer on the top, and a high-performance marine-grade acrylic on the rest of the body. I used Rust-Oleum black paint from a rattle can on the hitch and new bumper after removing at least three previous coats of old paint, sanding and grinding it to the bare metal.
Here's the camper in fresh white paint, before we put on the yellow stripe. We also had to remove and clean all the old louvered window glass, and repair the windows.
Here's the other side. Notice the ugly rusty wheels.
Duncan did most of the work on the yellow stripe. She gave guidance in picking the right shade, too. I wanted to match the camper's color with that of my Wagoneer (maroon with a wooden stripe), that was summarily vetoed. The yellow color came from the color of the faux wood molding on my Wagoneer. I wouldn't consider that a compromise. More like a not-so-veiled attempt at placating me!

Here's Daisy's old bumper. It was mangled and rusty. I designed a new one that would also serve as a spare tire carrier. I bought the metal pieces and took them to a welder so he could cut off the old bumper and weld on the new. Afterward, I painted it with several coats of Rust-Oleum. Darla wanted it white for looks, but I campaigned for black because I'm afraid white would show rust pretty soon, no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it all. I don't regret it, at the vintage camper rally, I saw several nicely done trailers with white on the bumper/hitch, and they had rust and dirt that marred the camper's looks.

Yes, that's a receiver hitch welded in the new bumper. That's for a cargo cage or bike holder. And yes, if we courageously (stupidly?) wanted to tandem-tow a small trailer, we could (we actually met some folks at the vintage camper rally who did!) but we wouldn't be able to go in reverse.
After the painting was done, we resealed all the windows and other joints and openings so that NO WATER CAN GET IN. After several rains, some quite hard, it seems we were successful. So far, so good.
Here's the finished camper! New "steelie" wheels (that I bought, sanded, and painted yellow to match). I tell you, by the time we drove to Elkmont, getting this thing ready kicked my tail.

Here are some pictures of the inside. We put in new faux wood floors, ripped out any water-damaged surfaces, and repainted or re-surfaced everything. This includes tile backstops, plastic antique-tin-looking wall covering, re-stained original birch ceiling, and aluminum trim. We tried to keep the vintage countertops and appliances (and many of them required repairs).

Thankfully, the previous owners reupholstered the seats and made expensive new curtains. They also tried to salvage the original stuff. Daisy's whole color scheme

Here's the backsplash tile. Also notice the original stove and ice box. I just bought an old gas-powered refrigerator that I plan on fixing and installing where the ice box is. Note also the original gas lamp on the wall above the stove.
One of my favorite parts of the trailer is the birch ceiling. I'm so glad we were able to keep it. There were some rough places where previous owners had peeled chunks of it off, and some areas that had been stained by water. We did our best to either hide or re-stain the damaged parts.

Notice the antique fan on the shelf, the baskets we turned into handy shelves, and all the vintage daisy-themed stuff. It's kind of been fun to look for daisy stuff at yard sales, thrift stores, and online for cheap.

Perhaps the hardest job of all for me on the camper was cutting and attaching the new wall surface. All pieces of the white tin-looking tile had to be perfectly matched and cutting to fit the rounded-corner ceiling was really hard. It looks great, though.
Here's the sink area. Darla did a great job decorating. Duncan painted all the cabinet drawers and doors grey. Darla bought a new hand pump online for the faucet, installed it herself, and it works! It's for when we camp places where there is no hook-ups. We camp more where there are no hookups more than where there are. That's another reason we want to get a gas refrigerator. Then we will have water, light, and refrigeration for food.

After working to fix all these things, we still have some small leakage in the "hook-up" water pipe, and in the drain pipe, but not much.

Other tasks we accomplished include rewiring all the trailer harness lighting and some of the 110-volt system (thanks Drew Sparks), repairing the gas lines, removing the rusty old double-LP-gas-tank-holder and restoring the original one-tank holder.

As I write this, it's the end of August and we've camped in Miss Daisy 4 times. Here's a brief recap:

June 20-25 at Elkmont near Gatlinburg, TN.
After speaking at a marriage retreat for Coaches Outreach in Black Mountain, NC, Darla and I brought Miss Daisy for her inaugural (with us) trip to our favorite family campsite. We put up the usual huge brown tarp (which requires some engineering prowess on my part with ropes and trees). We decided we needed to retire the tarps. Too much hassle and time.

We camped next to the Hicks and the Childresses as we have for the last several years. We miss the Sanders family who moved to Washington state.

July 1-2 Elkmont
My sister had reserved more days than she could use, so instead of canceling the extras, we paid her for them and spent a couple more days (without kids) in Elkmont, moving only a few spaces upstream from our usual spot.
As you can see, we didn't have an awning yet. We had ordered one, but it was being made.

July 17th at Gee Creek Campground between Delano and Reliance, TN.
Darla and I escaped for a weekend next to one of my favorite rivers. The Hiwassee. Darla was gracious and allowed me some time to fish. Both days I caught a limit of trout! Thanks for that good time, God (and Darla).
We had a few new additions with us: a new canopy from Walmart, and an awning we'd ordered from California, and a Dutch Oven. The oven was fantastic! The awning, on the other hand, while practical, was really the wrong color of yellow. This didn't bother me, but Darla couldn't stand it. She thought it clashed. So she sold it on eBay, and bought one made by a lady in Georgia for less!

Thankfully, we haven't needed air conditioning yet. Elkmont is always cool, but we were afraid we would be hot at the Hiwassee. All turned out well. We couldn't have used it even if we had it (because there were no hook-ups). Gee creek is clean and pretty nice. But there's no easy access to the river, and there's poison ivy everywhere.

August 25-27 Near Hiwassee, GA.
We did our first vintage camper rally at the North Georgia Vintage Trailer Rally at the Riverbend Campground.

As God would have it, we got a spot between two senior couples, on one side was the lady who made our new green awning!! Everyone was nice (with a few exceptions), and we learned so much. I got most of my questions answered, like: how do I install an air conditioner without cutting a hole in the side of the camper. We don't want a roof camper, we want one that can sit inconspicuously under the bed or somewhere else.

I also got ideas on how to build a wooden screen door. I will have to fabricate some hinges, but that's going to be a fun challenge.
We went all out and brought old stuff to glam up the camper: vintage suitcases, old-fashioned lawn chairs that we got cheap (that I have re-webbed twice), and several other things. We also had a new green rug to match the awning, and a new coleman canopy over the picnic table.

Most of the day on Saturday, people from all over came to the campground for the show. Hundreds walked through our and others' campers.

Having power and water was pretty convenient. But now we know we need air conditioning! My list is growing of future improvements for Daisy! Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Vintage Camper?!

There it is, waiting to be washed, fixed, and painted.
What have I done...again?!

This time I really might end up being sorry. Since July last year when we sold our reasonable, clean, perfectly functional popup camper, we've been looking for a vintage old "canned ham" camper to work on and camp in.

Have I lost my mind?

This isn't ours. It's a "Sisters on the Fly" camper.
Why would we do this (you might ask)?

Because life is an adventure.
Because we don't have enough money to buy a new camper.
Because vintage campers are cool and have character.
Because I think we can always sell it for more than the amount for which we bought it.
Because I'm a glutton for punishment.

Another "SOTF" camper.
This whole idea began a couple of years ago when we went on our annual summer camping trip. Dara and I went up a few days before everyone else—Drew was having to work at his college and had to come late, Duncan was on the way home from a mission trip, and Darla was getting Franca (our German exchange student) ready for her trip home.
This "Sisters" camper was stunning. The painter is talented!
Dara and I, never being able to fully scratch the outdoors itch, set up camp and hung out together. It was pretty awesome. What was crazy, however, was that there were dozens of women with a group called Sisters on the Fly. Most of them were breast cancer survivors, many of whom had taken up fly fishing (an activity that reportedly exercises muscles damaged by breast cancer and treatments). We had some wonderful conversations with some really great people.

Yet another "SOTF" example.
Something that was really cool about this group was their campers! Most of them had incredible vintage campers that had been completely restored or remodeled. Dara and I were awed by their campers! When Darla, Duncan, and Drew finally made it to the campground, most of the women had packed up and departed, only a few remaining.

I took many pictures. These are only a few.

There were several old Airstreams there. Always classic!

Now it's our turn. Oh boy.

Ours right after the purchase. Bringing "Daisy" home.
Darla and I have been looking, even stopping at people's homes to ask about campers that sat stranded in their yards (yes, I could tell you some stories).

This week we saw a 1969 Field & Stream camper on Craigslist. I went to check it out and liked it. It didn't leak, wasn't plagued with rust or rot, and the couple that had it had done some work on it but appreciated vintage originality and kept it pretty stock. After negotiating on price, I brought it home. That was Saturday. We cleaned and worked on it until we ran out of daylight. We got cranking after church and the picnic that followed, and again worked on it until dark. I'm not complaining! I like having something to work on! Darla's determined the name: Daisy. She's going to paint the faded gold stripe a gold-yellow. It's also a little bit of an inside joke. I call Darla "Daisy" when she complains about my driving. You know, like in the movie, "Driving Miss Daisy."

We're going to spend Memorial Day fixing, painting, and remodeling this old thing (and then we're going to eat BBQ Pork that's cooking right now).

Life is good.

Driving Miss Daisy home to meet the family. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To The Easternmost "Tip" of Tennessee

Tennessee is, generally speaking, shaped like a long parallelogram. Of course, a closer look reveals a much different and irregular shape.
Many people think the northeastern tip of Tennessee is a tri-state border with Virginia and North Carolina. There is a tri-state point, but that is not the northeasternmost point. Like a puzzle piece that seems to not quite fit, it strangely protrudes away from the NC line a bit. A few miles, in fact.

This northeasternmost point of the state has been a curiosity of mine since I was a kid. I've known for years that this oddly shaped tip of the state was located near the Virginia Creeper bike trail, but I've never determined to find it. That is until today.

Our family (minus Dara, who was invited by her friend to go to the beach) took advantage of a couple of days when Drew was home from Berry College and before Duncan must begin at Carson-Newman, to take a stay-cation. So we hurriedly packed the Wagoneer and hooked up the pop-up and headed to Bear Tree campground near Damascus, VA.

It is one of our favorite places. After the first night, we ate a big breakfast and spent the day at Grayson Highlands (awesome) eating our fill of wild blueberries (everywhere and delicious), apples, blackberries, and lying around the rocky peaks and grassy fields watching the clouds blow by.

Sparky and Mo (our ten-year-old Chocolate Lab and one-year-old Beagle, respectively) had the time of their lives (Sparky relaxing and Mo running free)!

On the 28th of July, it was around 58 degrees! With the wind blowing, you really needed a fleece or a warm jacket.

On the way back we stopped at a couple of places to let Drew collect some wild Beebalm to make tea.
We went to Damascus for dinner and discussed what we would do on Tuesday. That's when I sprung it on them: "Let's go find the easternmost tip of Tennessee. It's really close to the Creeper trail near Green Cove." No enthusiastic response. It seems that I was the only one who appreciated the novelty of finding the spot. No one had a better idea about what to do so I brought it up again. This time I got questions:
"How do you know how to get there?"
Me: "My topo map shows the place and I have a compass. I even have satellite photos on my phone."
"Is there a trail?"
Me: "I don't know. I don't think so."
"How far down the Creeper from Green Cove do we have to go?"
Me: "It's UP the Creeper, and it looks like about a mile."
"Up?! That will be hard."
Me: "The Creeper isn't steep. We can do it, no problem."
"What will we do with the dogs?"
Me: "We'll take them with us."
"Mo will run in front of the bikes and cause a wreck, and Sparky can't run that fast."
Me: "I'll take care of Mo on a leash, and Drew can get Sparky. We won't go fast. It's just a mile."
Truth is, I was feeling the pressure. This crazy idea had better work.

We got up the next morning, ate breakfast, and headed to Green Cove. A beautiful day. The dogs did fine. Drew ended up giving up Sparky since his bike wasn't working well. Mo pulled me up the trail like a sled dog. He couldn't go fast enough! I was laughing the whole way. We got to the place where I had figured was closest to the point and parked the bikes. Darla wasn't happy when I started up the hill in the thick woods and crossed a barbed-wire fence. "There's no trail! This is crazy!" She almost didn't go. We walked through some pretty thick stuff, including spider webs and brush, all the while keeping an eye on the compass.

I'm standing on the very tip of Tennessee looking west-southwest.
Virginia's border follows the fence lines on either side. Beyond the
fences are thick woods dominated by laurels & hardwood trees.
Drew saw what appeared to be a clearing in the otherwise thick woods. About 30 feet from "the point" there were some stout barbed-wire fences that the girls decided not to cross. Drew and I did, and (imagine the sound of angels' voices from heaven) there it was! It is an unceremonious spot, really. There is no sign. What once was a marker has been broken. But looking west into Tennessee is a beautiful view. I took in the moment. Thomas Jefferson's father was the first to mark this very spot. Since he did, there have probably not been that many more who have stood there. But now we had.

Here is what's left of a border marker that's buried deep in the
ground, inches from the very point of Tennessee. You can see
what's left of a hole that was once carved in this old stone that
perhaps contained a signpost of some sort.
I'm sure there is some spiritual analogy here, but I've not found one. It was just cool. I'll try to add some more pictures later. A great day.

I just wish Dara could have been here with us. I bet she would have appreciated it. Guess I'll just have to bring her back!

Oh, and I want to find the other three corners of Tennessee now, too.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Amazing Time.

From my high school days I dreamed of going to the Rockies on an outdoor adventure. When Drew was seven years old, I shared this dream with him after reading a book about the western wilderness. He said, "Maybe we can go together sometime, Daddy." We decided that night that we would when he was old enough (if he still wanted to). Drew LOVES hiking, backpacking, and experiencing the wilderness. It has always been his thing. And it is something we both love.

I am profoundly grateful that our church has from the start determined to give full-time staff a sabbatical after every seven years. Pastors in particular tend to get buried in their work and sometimes burn out; or perhaps worse, burn out their families. I could give numerous examples. This policy helps us keeps family first and rekindle the burning passion for Christ--both necessary if we are to lead people spiritually. It is because of this intentional policy that I was able to fulfill my and Drew's dream, and spend some invaluable time together before Drew goes to college in a couple of years (I dread the thought!).

Many months ago, I blocked out July for the trip. I didn't know where the money would come from, but I knew God would provide. He answered my prayers. I was able to save a few hundred dollars over the last year, and without ever mentioning the need to anyone, a couple of wonderful people from our church gave me gifts that made it possible to go. I am so grateful.

We flew out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming on July 4th for 23 days. There is no way to tell every detail. We backpacked and camped in the Tetons, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Yellowstone, the Winds (a desolate high mountain range south east of the Tetons), the canyon land of Utah, the Colorado Rockies, and other places. We saw 7 states (not from Rock City): Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and (barely) New Mexico and Arizona. It seems most spots had their particular plague: cold & snow, mosquitoes (often), gnats, no-see-ums, horseflies, heat, bears, or something else! But believe me, the beauty and exhilaration of each place far outweighed these tolerable negatives. I'm sure you Providence folks will hear stories in the future from the wild and wonderful adventure Drew and I had together.

The one thing I will say at this point is this: I would not trade anything for the time spent with Drew. I love my son. Yes, we had some good deep conversations--sometimes about very spiritual things. Yes, we had to depend on each other. But perhaps best of all we were TOGETHER; laughing, hurting, stinking, and experiencing amazement. I (intentionally) did very little reproving. We are completely different in many regards, but we are also very much alike--a fact that I focused on. We both like to eat well. We both like to read. We both like to observe the plant and animal life around us. We both like tech stuff (computer and cell phone related in particular), we both like the same styles of music, we both like to talk about politics. We both like our sweet tea.

One of my daughters was going through a rough-spot a while back. A Christian friend Darla and I respect gave some advice. "Enjoy her. Let her know you delight in her." I took the advice and it made all the difference. As parents we can easily become negative. In this I am guilty. Drew is our oldest, and the fact that he's a son makes him even more the victim of my high expectations. Of course, I have his best interests at heart and only want him to experience the benefits of wisdom. When he resists wisdom, I can become negative. Sometimes negative communication can be inferred as, "You're a failure." ESPECIALLY if a kid does not have the confidence of knowing his parent delights in him or her. My brother-in-law wisely said it this way: "Reproof without relationship equals rejection and rebellion."

Relationship is the key. There is no substitute for time spent doing what your child loves to do--encouraging them and delighting in them and with them. I challenge you parents to MAKE THIS HAPPEN. Consider this a great task you must accomplish. It is not complicated. It is invaluable.

Here are a few pics of our trip.

Hidden Falls in the Tetons:

Cascade Canyon:

Fixing lunch after a cloudburst next to Cascade Creek.

Hiking on snow in July:

A hill of flowers with quite a view:

The beginning of our hike around this lake (Green Lake) to the top of one of the mountains in the back.

This is Slide Lake which is a several-mile hike into the Winds range. Incredible!

(Above) Climbing the talus (rock slide) above slide lake on our way to 12,000+ ft. Flat Top Mountain. There's no trail here! We call this "the Epic Hike."

(Below) We are probably 80% of the way to the top where we rested and ate.

Canyon country near Moab, UT.

Gemini Arches. Look closely to see that we are hundreds of feet from the floor! There was a monument there of a guy who died here driving his Jeep. I can see how.

This is a great campsite Drew picked on a mountain across the "hole" from the Tetons. Perfect (except for the horseflies and mosquitoes)!

Red Mountain in Colorado, above the famous "Yankee Girl" silver mine. We camped on the mine site.

Different from Red Mountain is "Red Hills" in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Our last night was spent near here.

Buffalo. Umm...I mean, "Bison."

Evidently I've reached the max of photos I can publish on this post. There are literally hundreds more!