Thin Places

Thin places are amazing places.  Like an early morning mist, they are elusive and often change location in a moment.  They are well camouflaged, so much so in fact that most people run right past them never even knowing they are there.  Worse still, they often run right through the middle of them, busy, hurried, and oblivious. Like rushing across so much gold in the sand beneath our feet. Such loss.

Thin places, in Celtic lore, are those places where exists only a thin separation between heaven and earth.  A place where we can be in the earthly realm and in heaven all at the same time.  A thin place is where the holiness of the Eternal can be seen, felt, and experienced on this side of the veil that separates mortal from immortal.

Some thin places seem to stay in the same place. They don’t always move around, though it seems that mostly they do.  I have experienced a thin place, close in perception of the Presence of God while standing on familiar ground.  I know I am in a thin place every time at Dinosaur National Monument.  Each time I go I feel heaven so close. Strange, so many of the scientists who study ancient species believe their findings separate man from God.  When I am there I feel even closer.  God. Creator. Savior.  He first thought about dinosaurs and they did not fall apart from His knowledge. He thinks about me too.  Nothing that happens to me is apart from him.  Such care.  I sense creation in the presence of the ancient.

There is a thin place in the mountains where I live.  Often times I find it hovering over the town. Even more I find it hovering over our home just outside of town.  When I cannot find it there I can usually find it in the lonesome trails that are minutes from my front door. It is strong when I am alone.  Stronger still when I share it with others, but that kind is even more rare.  Finding two humans in the same heart at the same moment doesn’t happen often..

Thin places are healing, warm, and restorative places to be.  You can only experience them by first finding them.  You can stumble across them accidental, but will notice only once your senses are tuned to find them.  Loving God and loving folks is the best antennae for tuning into the presence of a thin place.  It makes them stand out more. They are more common than you think.  You just have to look for them, feel for them, and long for them. The best way to increase your odds of finding thin places it to linger longer than necessary once you have found one.  Get to know it.  Get accustomed to it.  Allow your pallet to be changed to long for its taste.  Perceive it, sense it, explore it.

Thin places are miraculous.  The downside is that when miracle becomes the rule then law becomes the exception.  That is why we cannot stay in a thin place, or if we do the thin place seems to move on away from us.  Thin places are special places.  They are places where we love to be.  I think that God loves to meet us there.  A lot like He did with Adam in Eden.

Thin places can go away in an instance.  A clumsy disregard for what is holy, an attempt to explain or somehow invite yourself to partner with it, and poof, there it goes.  Jesus invited three of his disciples to join him in a thin place.  Moses and Elijah came down to meet them.  Peter opened his mouth.  First mistake in a thin place.  Don’t pollute the air with what you have to say.  He tried to get involved, adding man efforts to a God event.  Second mistake.  Then it was over. Vanished and gone.  I wonder how long it could have lasted if he had just been.  I wonder if Jesus was disappointed.

You cannot make a thin place.  It simply is.  It is there.  It is just beyond the common.  It is waiting for you to take the time and to dream the dream of finding and letting it wash over you like a shower.  A baptism of closeness to the One who created  you, me, and the thin places too.

Revelations

Winter fest was fun. Warm, a bit above freezing, but cold enough to keep it wintery. Because of the recent warm weather the city went to where they had all the snow stacked that they had removed from the streets previous and placed it strategically on the main street as needed for the events. They hauled it all away, then hauled it back for the occasion.  Job security.

Our event was the snow sculpture competition. We had some friends who were recent additions to our tribe make the trip down from their mountain nest to help out. Being the local barber, I made the plan for a giant mustache with curved up ends. Our two families had a great time grooming the stack of snow into a reasonable facsimile of a handlebar mustache.

I had only recently moved to this small hamlet tucked deep in the gold filled mountains of Eastern Washington. I felt had become overwhelmed in our previous life on the coast. I had opened several businesses, managed a growing staff, and was busy building my status as a motivational speaker and trainer.  One day we just sort of bagged it all and moved to a small, dare I say minuscule, little town in the mountains.  Being away from the busy crowds and lifestyle of the coast had been refreshing. In fact, I felt better than I had in years.

This was the first time I had ever seen our little town busy. Where there were seldom more than a handful of folk walking the main drag at any given time.  I ha d a small shop on the street and spent days there doing my work in front of the big picture windows looking out and down the main drag in town.  Even at it’s busiest there were hardly more people out there than could fit in a large van.  Now there were a few hundred. As my wife, kids, and a friend walked the sidewalks looking at the booths I felt uncomfortable. At first it was a mild anxiety, but over the next fifteen minutes or so it grew into an inner rage that I was having to fight down. There were too many people. They were too close. They were close behind me, which was the worst of all. I began to panic.

The center of the blocked off street had only a few folk milling around and I escaped to there, breathing, almost panting with relief.  My wife looked at me a little funny but it didn’t look like a big deal so she went right back to enjoying the day. Inside, it was more than a big deal, it was huge!

We managed to enjoy all that Winterfest had to offer. We didn’t win with our gargantuan cookie duster, but we got a lot of encouraging comments. We went on to share a delightful dinner with our friends, family, and extended family, later that evening, but my response to the crowds left me questioning.

In the next couple of weeks I did some inner searching as well as some internet searching. It was then I discovered my secret, I had enochophobia. Enochophobia is what they call a fear of crowds.

Enochophobia made sense. I thought about my life, the things that made me think I was somehow abnormal and defective. I loved live music but I hated concerts. I loved faith teaching, but hated going to church. I could wait patiently for hours but I hated being in line. People, crowds of them, made me miserable.

Enochophobia. Enoch was an Old Testament fellow who had so much love for God that he never died. Enochophobia makes me die a thousand times over when I am around too many people.

I think I am a rare version of extroverted enochophobe. I really like, care for, even love folk. I love having people over for dinner, small groups, and jam sessions. The more there are, though, the more uncomfortable I become. There is a tipping point where my extroverted energy becomes overtaken with my crowd anxiety. Trouble is it changes from situation to situation.

It took me moving away from the crowds to realize those very crowds were a great cause of misery. I couldn’t be happy because I was almost always either uncomfortable or on the verge of it.  I am a little perturbed that I wasn’t aware before. Maybe I could have done something about it. Maybe counseling, acupuncture or electric shock therapy could have helped. My nature opened doors for me that my anxiety would never allow me to enter through, or if I did it would not allow me to remain.

Without really knowing why, I was given the cure, or at least the medication. At the urging of The Spirit I moved away from the crowds and the press. I was planted in a community stuck in the 1950’s. I was told to become faithfully rooted in this little hamlet where crowds are rare, community is common, and where love is the cure.

I don’t know if my mountainside medicating will ever cure my enochophobia.  I don’t even know at this point that I am interested in a cure.  Like I said, I feel better than I have in years.  I suppose the occasional crowd that springs up can be managed.  Maybe I can pray or ask for prayer.  Maybe I will just be, and enjoy being, and let things be as they are.  Maybe, just maybe, that little phobia was put there for a reason, to mold me, to make me, or even to send me.  Who knows, I may have just been born for such a time and such a place as this.20190119_1234365379708117099613349.jpg

Bread Crumbs, Cookie Crumbs

When I wrote about our Jurassic Journey, I talked about following the crumbs.  Following the crumbs is the way my wife and I describe how we go through life.  We believe that the Holy Spirit leaves little trails of cookie crumbs for us to follow.  We enjoy the taste along the way and find some pretty neat places in the process.

We felt we were on a different crumb trail than the one that we had been on for quite a while.  Who knows, perhaps it was the same trail, just a different type of cookie.  We felt it when we began to plan for our first real breaking away, a vacation from our home network and our two businesses.  At first we thought we were going to look at an old motel we could have possibly purchased in the desert.  On the way there it didn’t feel like it, but it did before and it got us moving and solidified our resolve to explore.

We went along the trip, looking for those thin places where you could actually be in heaven and on earth at the same time.  We found a few and we found clarity in the lack of definition.  We were on a journey, not a trip.  A trip has a starting point, an apex point, and a return.  A journey leads you wherever, and the point is not in the points but in the serendipity of the path.  We didn’t get the motel.

If you have followed along on Facebook you will know that the last few months have been, interesting.

Usually I have visions.  They aren’t all inspired.  In fact most of them are not.  I like seeing them and running them to ground.  Often they are more ghost like, or like a mirage in the desert.  I am energized by them, nonetheless.

In our recent case, the reality is unfolding long before the vision.  Oh, my brain keeps trying to catch up.  Usually it is the other way around.  First you see the vision then you shape the reality.  Oh no! That would be too normal.  Right now it seems that we are seeing the reality and it is shaping the vision.  The reality is changing, and I mean changing really quickly.  The vision thing is just catching up.

I don’t really know what was going through the minds of the early Christ Followers.  You know, Jesus said all that stuff about going in all the world and to share this good news of God’s kingdom, then with a puff of smoke they saw him head up into the clouds.  Dramatic. What did they do?  They stayed in Jerusalem and shared the good news of God’s kingdom.  Half right.

When things got really tough in Jerusalem and the church was being persecuted, I kind of doubt they thought of that as a commissioning service. You know, the cool church thing where we pray for our missionaries and send them off with our blessings.  I think that reality happened.  It happened quick and the vision of the missionary call sort of caught up  with them along the way.

Long story, short version, within a few short weeks we visited a community in another part of the state, felt that we were supposed to become a part of that community, got financed for a house in that community and began packing.  Actually it only took 3 weeks.  In the mean time we are living, doing, and going about what we have been for almost a decade.

We carry with us some cool good news.  It is that the Kingdom of God is here!  Jesus grants us access to a great way of living, heavenly, you might say.  We also carry with us some stuff that we have learned about how we as a family do that best.  We do it best through hospitality, love, and acceptance.  How simple is that?

Our mission, in our current community or the one that we are moving to, is to create sustainable rhythms of hospitality that reflect the same love, acceptance and forgiveness that Christ offers us.  I’ve been trying this for a few years.  I have failed at it more times than I can count, but I am doing better.

I live my life out open.  If you happen to come close you will get to see me in all my un-glory.  I get some of it right, some of it not so much, but it is out there.  I put it out there because I am trying to be real.  I was good at a contrived version of who I thought I should be.  Too good, actually.  I don’t want to be anything other than what I am, each version an improvement on the last.

If you are interested, I would love for you to follow along.  If you aren’t, you can always follow along anyway just to do a guy a solid.  The more people who follow the better my blog looks and the more people who will follow.  OK, so that may be too much to ask.  Well, at least pray for me, ok?  I need the blessing and we all need the practice.