Tuesday, August 3, 2010

From "The Grand Canyon" to "Wolf Creek Pass". A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

We have all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon and know what it is.

Wolf Creek Pass (el. 10,863 ft.) is a high mountain pass on the Continental Divide, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It is the route through which U.S. Highway 160 passes from the San Luis Valley into southwest Colorado.   

A canyon is a just that; a big hole, surrounded by lots of higher places.   A mountain pass is just that, a path that takes you though a mountain range, essentially from one side to the other.    Without a pass, or passageway, you would have to "go around", or just be content to stay where you are presently.     There's an intended analogy here, from the physical place to a mental  and emotional place.

Our family made our way through Wolf Creek Pass yesterday en route from southeast Colorado to meet up with friends in central Colorado.   It was my first time to go through there.   All in all, this has been quite a trip.   Family vacation.   Escape from work for a couple of weeks.  "Senior Trip" for HVB, who moves off to college in a few days after we return.   The down time provided on this vacation has been in itself a significant part of the journey.

Some. definitions are in order here.   Serendipity, propinquity, epiphany, even narcissism.    Stay with me.    Hopefully there is a point at the end of this.

Serendipity: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

Propinquity: nearness in place; proximity; nearness of 
relation; kinship; affinity of nature; similarity; 
nearness in time.
Epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or 
essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Narcissism: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love;vanity.

Now to tie all of this together.  This trip has provided some mental and emotional "passes" for me, as well.   We've been high in elevation (mountain jeep ride), and we've been low (Grand Canyon floor).   Emotionally, the same can be said for me over the past few weeks, months, or even years.   As we drove through Wolf Creek Pass yesterday, my mind was literally exploding with thoughts, ideas, and big words.

Discoveries by accident; nearness in place; proximity; 
nearness of relation; kinship; affinity of nature; 
similarity; nearness in time; 
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight 
into the reality or essential meaning of something.

A disclaimer is in order here.    I've probably posted over 250 pictures to Facebook of this family trip, this "pilgrimage", if you will.    I've gotten lots of responses, comments, etc, many of which contain humorous comments about how over the top I've been with the Facebook activity.   But I've wanted to log, to pictorially journal, if you will, the moments, the sights, and even the emotions of the trip.    I've snapped over 1,800 pictures in the past week, but the ones posted to FB are very intentional.   Some pristine scenery shots, but most containing moments, family, and specific memories or feelings.      It has been fun, but admittedly it feels a bit narcissistic.    

There has been method to the madness.    First, all of these pictures were taken on an iPhone (I left my laptop at home, intentionally, on this trip, so no backup of pictures is occurring and FB is archiving my favorites), and you are always only one mountain pass or one canyon away from dropping the phone "into the abyss".    Second, I am an early riser, and I've intentionally stayed away from email on this trip, and aside from early morning hikes, Facebook, reviewing and posting favorite pictures, and prayer has been my morning quiet occupation while the family sleeps.     Likewise, processing the shots, mentally, has been part of the emotional journey for me.     Finally, I did want to share.  That's why I'm writing this post this morning, while my family still sleeps.   It is a key part of my own mental and emotional journey.  If that makes me come across as a little narcisstic, then that's a risk I have to take.  Isn't that what Facebook, blogging, etc is all about.    We live in a reality world.   People share in each others lives and thoughts in ways never imagined or deemed appropriate years ago.  In this world of reality TV (Big Brother, Survivor, etc), a little positive reality is a good thing.      

It's been said that perception is 90% of someone's reality.    We all have our own perceptions.   People have their own perceptions of me.    Mr. CFO.    Mr. Uptight.   Mr. Goofball.    I even learned this week that one of my daughter's good friends thought that Sherry and I were separated, I suppose because Sherry is living with and managing Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic disease, so I'm often seen in public, at church, etc with the kids but without Sherry.   Who knew?     So, hopefully, the distribution of these favorite images of the week will add to, or more appropriately, clear the perception of who Jeff Bingham is, and that faith, family, and fun are at the core of my being.

So, back to "serendipity, propinquity, and epiphany".     There is a reason God rested on the 7th day, and a reason he commanded us to do the same, originally.   We've gotten away from that.    We are a workaholic, playaholicy, spendaholic, stessaholic society and generation.    We need to learn to slow down, "Be Still", and rest our mind.      When you do that, it's amazing what you remember, realize, think, and feel.

As we prepared to leave on this trip, I was trying to get a million things done.    Sherry suggested a book to me: "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller.    I love reading Don Miller's stuff.    He is a bit irreverant and unorthodox, (and he and I obviously have take a different life path to the places we are today) but his thoughts and message resonate with and challenge me emotionally and spiritually.      I wanted to buy the book before we left and read it "in the downtime", but did not have time to do so, and downloaded the audio book instead.   So, as we have been driving thousands of miles, I've been listening to "A Million Miles..." (an analogy of the journey from life to Heaven).     Read the book, or listen to it.    Stories of pain, passion, love, and learning.   It is a story about "telling a better story", or more appropriately, living a better story.  It has moved me, and hopefully, helped to change me for the better along with other parts of the trip.    Stillness; quiet; experiencing creation; experiencing my wife and kids; prayer.     I want to live a better story.  

As we came through Wolf Creek Pass, we were looking at the constructed walls meant to keep rock slides from covering the road.   Suddenly, my son Alec asked us to put Mark Shultz's "Song Cinema" CD into the player.   I don't know why (actually, I think I do), as that is not usually part of his musical preference.   The words hit me, just like the rest of the experience:

You stand on the edge
You followed the call
No turning back you are risking it all
He whispers your name
In a moment of truth
The rocks fall around you
The ground starts to move
You step out on faith
It's all that you know
You jump into darkness and hold onto hope

When the mountains fall
When the rivers rise
Security crumbles before your eyes
The one thing you know
In faith you'll find
Something to stand on or you will be taught to fly

So dream your dreams
And live your life
Knowing there's more than to merely survive
Don't give up, don't give in
Fight through the rain and lean into the wind
'Til you come to the edge of all that you know
Run right through the dark knowing you're not alone

When you walk through the fire
It will not consume you
Though the water will rise
It won't overtake you

Though the mountains will fall
Oh, still I am with you
I've called you by name
And I will not leave you
I'm learning to trust you
I'm learning to fly.

Hannah goes to college in a couple of weeks.   I think Alec's musical selection was for all of us, but especially for her, and especially for her mother, and for me:

A chapter done
Turn the page
And separate roads
Lead separate ways
But as we go, we're not alone
No, we're not alone
Because faith and hope and love
Are waiting for you when we say goodbye

I work in Christian Higher Education.    That seems like almost an oxymoron, at times, given the challenges we experience in the industry.   Being a good Christian in a stressful environment where training for and promoting being a better Christian is our mission.    Maybe I'll write more about that later.     But, back to serendipity.    I brought a business officer trade magazine with me "to read in my down time".    I've not touched it the whole trip.    But, for some odd reason, Sherry sat down and read it over coffee a few days ago, and there is a quote in there about being an administrator in higher ed, and that if you passionate about what you do and why, there will be struggle, pain, hardship, etc along the way.     If you love what you do (and I do), you should expect that, and even be rewarded by it.    Kind of a "refininer's fire" type of analogy.    Highly Biblical, and from a business officer magazine.   Who knew it would be in there, and that my wife would read it instead of me and share the insight in a way I might have only glossed over.

As I've gotten older, I sometimes tend toward a state of perpetual angst.   Maybe it's part of getting older, but I always said I would not end up there.    I'm now getting comfortable being "the older guy in the conversation" (I've always viewed myself as "the young turk" persona, right or wrong), but I want to be thoughtful, insightful, helpful, and a blessing to others.    I want negative experiences to make me better, not bitter.   I want to bless and help others on the early part of their own journey.    My kids, my co-workers (young and old), fellow Christians, and especially, those who don't know Jesus that I experience along the way.

I have gone on too long here, and could probably go on forever.    My heart and mind are full of so much right now.    What a blessing it is to be alive in Jesus.    We should not forget that, ever.     Look around as you are on your own journeys.     Watch for serendipity, propinquity, and moments of epiphany.    If we don't think God speaks to us today, we are not listening.     My mind has been empty and open to it this past week.    I want and need to take that down from this mountaintop and into the valleys and canyons (and the heat, ugh) that is part of our everyday life.     I need to be listening to God in the day to day, and looking for where he is leading.   If you have read this and know me, challenge me on that from time to time.   Ask me how I'm doing with it, and I'll ask you the same.    Maybe we can help each other on our journey of "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years".

Finally, back to the narcissistic question.   We are all telling a story with our lives, and others are reading it, even when we don't realize, but it's not about us.

I want to live a better story.    I realize that "I am just a tree in a story about a forest" (a quote from the book), and I'm blessed by that reality and understanding.    If I can bless, challenge, and help others by my story, and living and telling it in the best way possible, the good, the bad, the ugly, and most importantly, the beautiful, then let's take the journey, together.


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