Monday, August 27, 2012

Fast, Pray, Camp!

I lay sprawled out on my office floor fighting a fever, my head foggy as if someone had injected jello into my nasal cavity and my throat burning as if someone tried to scrape wallpaper from its lining. I never get sick, but this cold placed my solo decent to the floor of the Grand Canyon in jeopardy. No it didn't. I knew I would go, fever or not, and I did.

I spent the first cool night on the canyon rim curled-up in the fetal position in the only free lodging around, the back of my Nissan Sentra. It had plenty of room to spread out if you reside in Munchkin Land, but for an average 5'10" American, it simply provided a long night of waiting for the sun to rise. It did. It always does and when it did I began my 11 mile decent. I would describe the beauty of the journey, but I lack the writing skills to do it justice. Let's just say, even though I arrived with dried snot smeared across my face, exhausted from the ill-timed fever it was well-worth the discomfort.

As night covered the canyon, I sat alone outside my tent, swallowed by its grandiosity and God made me cry. He wasn't bullying me or making fun of my name. He simply whispered, "HERE I AM!" I felt him. I felt small. I felt peace.

Not everyone drools over the outdoors adventure like I do. Many people's idea of roughing it consists of a willingness to settle for a 4-star hotel, and while I do not want to rewire anyone's circuitry I do suggest camping as a spiritual discipline - yes, a spiritual discipline like scripture meditation, fasting, prayer, and anything else Richard Foster would suggest. Here are three ways I think camping forms our souls...

[Note: There are 1001 ways to camp, but I prefer, first, backpack camping where everything you need you carry on your person. Second, tent camping (usually done with my family)].

  1. SIMPLICITY. Camping strips you of all life's bells and whistles and all its hustle and bustle leaving the basics exposed.  You have two concerns when you camp: food and shelter. Once you pitch your tent, your next major decision, "When do I cook lunch?" You do not need a day-planner. Automobile traffic is not welcome. If you are remote enough, nature renders your phone useless- no emails, checking the score, or crafting the next clever tweet. No drive-through exists to encourage you to hurry your lunch. Camping is simple and when your life slows down you become aware of the nuggets of life you normally speed past.
  2. MEDITATION/CONTEMPLATION. When you camp alone, The Great Outdoors demands a vow of silence. You can talk to the squirrels, but it is always a one-sided conversation. The moment the squirrel talks back, it's time to return to the city. The vow of silence has a way of cleansing your system. After a few hours of worrying about all you are not doing back home, nature forces you to be honest with yourself, "How am I doing? Why am I afraid? Why do I behave as I do? Why am I so hurt?" When the squirrels refuse to engage in dialogue, you find yourself talking to God.
  3. COMMUNITY. Solo-camping is not the only way to camp. I love pitching the 6-man tent, blowing up the air-mattresses (look out Hilton) and spending a couple of nights in the wilderness with my family or friends. With no TV to numb your mind and dull your conversation, with no rooms to compartmentalize your family, with no work or school to consume your thoughts, camping guides you back to relationship. When you camp with someone, you set up shelter, you cook together...and then just ARE together. Every night you gather around a camp fire and you do three things: you stare at the fire, "Fi-re!" You throw stuff in the fire. You talk. When you return to the basics, you often find yourself returning to what is most important: relationship.
Okay, so you're not Bear Grylls but camping can be food for the soul. Time in a tent could just make you more like Jesus.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ending of a Beginning

Sunday I begin the last message of my first series at TCOC and I have loved every minute of it. The faith community at TCOC has welcome me and my preaching with open arms. Mark Frost, the former preacher, did everything within his power to set me up for success. I'm so honored to count him as a friend and mentor.  The community has freed and empowered me to preach honestly and authentically. I look forward to the thrill and joy of exploding the Word of God with my faith family each week. I wrap up my first message series in the north country it marks the end of beginning. Over the summer I took us to Luke and John's writings. I investigated the aftershock of a Jesus encounter by centering on different individuals who collided with Jesus throughout his ministry. All of them walked away with a limp, because when you encounter Jesus - not meet him, not follow his blog, not seek to understand him as a theological idea, not learn from him as teacher - but when you encounter him...he leaves a mark. Throughout this series, I prayed the TCOC community would not only have front row seats to these Jesus encounters but they we would walk away with "Jesus whiplash" of our own.  Below are the ONE THINGS I prayed we would take home from each message:
  1.  MESSAGE 1: When you encounter Jesus you lose your religion and join a Kingdom. (Nicodemus - John 3:1-8)
  2. MESSAGE 2: When you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. (Samaritan Woman - John 4:4-42)
  3. MESSAGE 3: When you encounter Jesus you develop a life of gratitude. (Sinful Woman - Luke 7:36-50)
  4. MESSAGE 4: When you encounter Jesus you must make a choice. (Rich Ruler - Luke 18:18-30)
  5. MESSAGE 5: When you encounter Jesus you change your heart and your behavior. (Zachaeus - Luke 19:1-10)
  6. MESSAGE 6: When you encounter Jesus you find hope. (Criminal on the Cross - Luke 23:39-43)
  7. MESSAGE 7: When you encounter Jesus you recognize it's not about you. (Centurion at the Cross - Luke 23:47)
  8. MESSAGE 8: When you encounter Jesus he calls you to mission. (Saul - Acts 9:1-31)
As I studied and crafted these messages, Jesus continued to amaze me. I have met him over the last year in way I never have before. There is not sweeter name than the name of JESUS.

NOTE: If you would like to listen to any of the above messages you can find them at the TCOC Podcast.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Words!

I'm Charlton Taylor and I'm an Olympic junkie. Unfortunately my wife is an enabler because she is equally addicted.  Luckily, the summer Olympics only come every four years, giving Mary Beth and me four years to detox. Here are some things I learned from the London 2012 Olympics:

 Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, runs with able-bodied athletes.  Years of striving, pushing, and training coming to fruition. He ran the 400 without legs!! 

 Caster Semenya claims silver in the 800 meters. After years of humiliation and investigations questioning her gender she bravely stepped onto the track to compete.

Gabby Douglas wins Gold in all-around competition. Whether you agree with Gabby's willingness to leave her family for training at a young age or not you must agree she is dedicated.

Usain Bolt winning...just winning. I know he said, "I'm working on my legend status," and although obnoxious, what can you say when the guy is telling the truth.

Michael Phelps receiving his 22nd Olympic Medal. 

Although she made a statement in the pool, Allison Schmitt's perennial smile was golden!

Farah (United Kingdom) and Rupp (USA) taking gold and silver in the 10K - authentic celebration for each others' success!

Misty May and Kerri Walsh win 3rd Olympic gold. Twenty-one consecutive Olympic match wins and 42-1 in Olympic sets.

Allyson Felix wins gold in the 200 meters. After coming up short, winning silver in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Felix finally reached her 2004 goal in 2012.

Rhythmic Gymnastics.

In conclusion, Morgan Freeman is the present of awesome!