Thursday, March 18, 2010

Laying a stone.

I was watching Ken Burn's National Park series tonight. It is so well, well done. Evoking so much longing. It also reminded me of the wonderous beauties of some of the places I have been fortunate to go over the past few years. One of them a trip I took with my wife, Jayne, to the Grand Teton National Park.

We were headed up paintbrush canyon, heading to the backside of the teton range from the park entrance to the east when there was a worker laying trail. There is a need in the trail system to upgrade the trails, and for many of the workers, they camp back in the parks, and work longs day, chipping away rocks, and setting up and rebuilding worn trails. I tell you, it is a back breaking job. Long hours. Sweat. No showers. Heavy lifting.

We stopped to talk to one of the guys, and I asked why he did it. He was laying stones over a small stream bed, rocks that were the size of tires, each one having to be cut, and rolled into place.

He said something of the sort, like, I get the satisfaction of coming back here years later, to see the work, and knowing what I am doing will be here for many years to come.

I dont think I will ever forget that moment. In the midst of what seemed like a horrible job, I heard him explain the connection to the place. Putting something in place that will last many years, even beyond him. The cost was worth the pain.

I need that reminder these days. I want to live that kind of life. So much of what we do, so easily is washed away at the next rain. the easy stuff easily can be washed in the next storm. only to have to be rebuilt, replaced. and often it simply is lost.

I don't know how many boulders any of us can put in place in this life that are eternal. It is grace we can do any. We sure can't make a mountain, or build a entire trail system on our own. but if we grit our teeth, and we sweat it out, and pay the cost, I think we each have a stone or two to lay.

I am in a time of my life, where I am feeling the weight and the cost of placing a few stones in their seeminly right place in the path. Its not sexy like it was a few years back. I mostly feel the cost, the pain, and the weight of the stone, and the pain of my back.

Maybe that is what we all are given. To prepare the path, and lay the stones we are given to lay. Some of us think we have to carve and cut the whole trail, others just want to use the trail, without carrying any of its cost. and some are just laying down pebbles, that will soon wash away.

I imagine for that man, the greatest joy is coming back. Walking up that trail, and seeing those stones he lay. The enjoyment of remembering that season of hard work. Seeing its place and purpose in the scheme of it all. I need that reminder these days, and I am looking forward to the day I can walk the trail, and see the stones I helped cut and roll into place, along with the so many others who offered theirs along the way.

I guess for me right now, that is one of the great mysteries, where is this trail going? If someone came by and asked of where I am currently in the path, I would probably have to admit, I am not all that sure. Its headed in that direction, as I pointed. I know its good. I just am here, doing this part.

I think of that day, when we can walk that trail, as it is finally complete. Fully restored. It will be fully paved.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editing my life .

I am two days away from turning in the final edits of a book I am working on due out this July 1st. It is my second book, and one thing I find is that the last read through is the toughest. It’s the last moment to make changes.

When you are writing stories, for me, mostly personal ones for others to read, it is always a bit of a gasp. It seems that our lives are lived by our interpretation of what is happening. How we view the events of our lives. To tell them word by word, and sentence by paragraph, and form them into chapters, and a book, is in some essence to tell them a certain way. Interpret them. And sell them to people. Give a certain way for people to interpret their lives.

I think that is what is always the hardest for me. I think God's invitation into our lives is to continually reinterpret what is really happening. It is so hard to have the lens of God, as St. Paul says, we see through a glass darkly.

It’s funny because I did a television show for my first book. It was all quite a rather weird experience to be on Christian TV, and feel like those televangelists in those gold chairs. There was a moment when the host had me look into the camera, and really bring the thunder. It was all rather odd to me, but I did it as asked.

They gave me the complimentary copy of the show. And to this day, I have never watched it. I could watch myself in this moment I think, but to watch myself in a moment past, is to look at what I know now, and kind of do a, "oh my gosh, what was I thinking, what was I doing."

I am already reading through it, and feeling that again. Xan, why did you say it that way, or, is that really what that moment should be explained as? And yet, for that moment in time, I wrote it. and I thought it. and it will remain in print, till those moths come and destroy them.

I had heard awhile ago, that one pretty big Christian author who wrote a very popular book as a young man, doesn't recommend his book to people anymore. instead he recommends another book he wrote later about the subject. that makes a lot of sense to me. the older we get, the wiser we hopefully get, and the less we find we know. which is what makes us wise, but makes us feel stupid for all the things we said when we "knew" so much.

And so, this book is my knowing, and will have to be undone by my living on. but I think what I am trying to learn is to allow my writing, like my life, to be a work in progress. of where I am, when I wrote it. it’s kind of like knowing when you are taking a picture that somehow in 40 years; people are going to look at your clothes, or your haircut, and laugh. and say, you wore that? you kind of know that will be true, but you haven't any clue why or what they will say about it. it looks right for the time.

and so it is with this book. it is me, in this moment, of this time. an offering of a perspective that will likely change. and yet, it is worth the sacrifice to bring it, and share it, because I guess we are all in that process of changing and growing, and by the time I realize how foolish it was, it will have been replaced by other fools writing books on other areas we think they have all the answers for. till the next one comes along.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Everything falls apart.

I have been learning a few lessons these days. I guess the lessons are always there to learn, its just a matter of when we are ready to see them. When we have had enough. A good man I like to read says, "we learn by prayer or by suffering." And for most men, the only pathway is suffering. He wish it weren't true.

There is a mentality I think in most men, that is both for his good, and his vice. It is, I can fix it. I can make it better. I can change the world.

I think its probably good to get a sense of that. My generation seems to believe it. We can make a difference. We go out and live for purpose, passion, get involved in social causes like no other generation. We have a great optimism. I love to believe this has been true of my life. I have believed.

But one hard lesson to learn, all things break down. Our bodies. Our bank accounts. Our dreams. Our understanding of just about everything. I think it has to. I think that is part of living. Part of coming to that end of ourselves.

I think one of the things we must find is to see the world as broken, but fixable. To see a world with questions, and believe there are answers to be found. But there is something important I think, when we remain in hope, a hope beyond our own hope, that the world is also breaking down. and we can't fix it.

I realized today how many things I have written down, and then crossed of when it was accomplished. I have this sheet that has a top 2 big things for the day, 5 people to call, 10 things to do. Its kind of my guide to keep me on track. Keep me moving forward, disciplined, focused.

I dont know how many things I crossed off, probably in the 1,000's by now. But I think with each one crossed, I felt that much closer to some finish line of completeness. that somehow I could cross enough tasks of that I would come to the end of them all, and I would find myself at peace, and ready to rest.

But dang it, the lists are growing, the email box is getting more full, and the demands are ever more, and I still can't get my truck's oil changed, and the dust, it just keeps collecting. I wipe it off, and it keeps coming back.

I think I am going to have to learn to find peace and rest in the midst of the tasks yet to be marked off. or the emails to be gotten to. How does one take a break, when that hours of work, could help pay the light bill? is it fair to just take off, and go be with the trees, and your soul, and the one who calls to us in the midst. it is so, so hard.