What’s in Your Backpack?

Here is a preview of Sunday’s Sermon (Aug 1, 2010), Luke 12:13-21.

I’ve taken part in a lot of funerals this year.  It gives you a perspective on priorities in life.

When my daughter and I both graduated (long story), we celebrated by going backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.  I learned a lot about life from that trip.  The first lesson was, “No Turning Back.”

Mr. Jewell Church was the proprietor who agreed to take us from our destination to the drop-off point about thirty miles south of where we left our car.  We put our backpacks in the back of his pickup truck and took a scenic and winding ride through the hills of North Carolina.  After a half-hour or so or enjoying his company, he dropped us off at the bottom of a steep and long hill.  As we were strapping on our backpacks, we watched him quickly drive away.  We looked back at his disappearing tailgate and up at the steep climb ahead and realized–this is for real.  There is no turning back now.

Later I reflected on what we carried in our backpacks.  First the necessary items for survival: a three day’s supply of food, our tents and sleeping bags, a few basic survival utensils, a water purifier and bags to carry water in after we found it and filtered it.  You don’t want to drink in some nasty parasite a three days’ journey from civilization.

Next were the necessary tools for the mission, to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish on the journey.  Both of us brought cameras and journals.  What we wanted to accomplish was the experience, but we also wanted to preserve the memory.  I crafted a walking stick along the way, using my Swiss army knife, and still have it as a souvenir.

The third category was small: whatever luxuries we wanted–as long as we were willing to carry them on our backs.   Not knowing any better, we packed one of my wife’s prize quilts.  We brought it back unharmed, but realized it was heavier and bulkier than we needed.  But my daughter enjoyed it.  We also brought some canned chicken breast fillets.  Again, it was more weight than was necessary, but a pleasant relief from trail mix, granola, and beef jerky.

I have remembered that ever since.  Some possessions are necessary, and some luxuries make life more enjoyable–but we do carry them on our backs.  Life’s journey is easier when we keep it simple.

There is another fact about possessions and wealth, according to Jesus’ parable.  We will have to give account for them.

God will hold us accountable for how we acquired our wealth and possessions, what we sacrificed to get them, who we hurt, helped, or neglected along the way, and what our attachment to them shows about our priorities.

We are more than material creatures.  While we can’t avoid living in this life and dealing with material things, we need to keep an eternal perspective.

Peddling Peace

Marco Polo?

Marco Polo?

About ten years ago I went on a backpacking adventure on the Apallachian Trail with my daughter, who had just graduated from high school.  Some day I’ll describe some of our adventures, but right now I’m thinking of some of the interesting characters we met on the trail.  Some of them included men who had left the rat race of high-pressure careers to go for a long walk and sort things out.

Marco Löchner is a young man like that.  This December he began a bicycle Odyssee from Berlin that will take him to Hanoi.  He is going to interview the people he meets along the way.  Marco and his team just recently passed through Lithuania.  Maybe I should have deferred my Sabbatical and joined him on the adventure.  Maybe my colleague Wes would have even joined.

But I have had my own adventures and look forward to more in the future.  For now, here’s wishing Happy Trails to Marco and team.  (More here)

Did I say bicycle? Now that I have seen the video of Marcos peddling through the snow in Lithuania, his ride is acutally a 4-wheeled cycle with a trailer attached for his gear.  But it is definitely a human powered vehicle.  Check out the video from Lithuania TV by clicking here.

Photos from Prague

Here is a link to some of my photos from Prague via shutterfly.  We toured the old Jewish town with the world’s greatest tour guide.  I may have to apologize for one, I didn’t realize it was in there, but it’s–well, it’s art in the capital of Bohemia in front of the Kafka museum; so you have to have a kafkaesque sense of humor to appreciate it.

More later.

My Bonnie Jayhawks

Jayhawk FanJayhawk Sasha Kahn

and one of his biggest fans

I took a nap Saturday afternoon so I would be fresh for church in the morning. Then I set my alarm for about 1:30 am and got up to watch the big game online. Round one of the Final Four. I saw the last two minutes of the Memphis-UCLA game. Since we lived in Memphis for 10 years, I was glad to see them trounce the Trojans. But the game I was interested in was up next: The Jayhawks of Kansas vs. the Tar Heels of North Carolina.

The announcers, at the close of the game, said there had been three periods instead of the normal two. For the first 14 minutes or so the Jayhawks fairly demolished the Tar Heels, establishing a lead of 40 to 12, completely shutting down the opposition’s offense. Then before the buzzer sounded Roy Williams regrouped his troops and they regained much of the lost ground. They continued their comeback for several minutes after the halftime break pulling to within 4 points. Then finally the Jayhawks remembered why they had come and finished with a solid victory.

I’ve been educating the local folks here in Buckie on who and what the Jayhawks are, including the pre-civil war history.

I’m not one to gloat over my enemies destruction. Five years ago most Kansans turned against their beloved coach Roy Williams, who had pledged to finish out his career in Kansas, when he took an offer to return to his native North Carolina. But we have now grown to love Bill Self. I’m not one to gloat–still the victory was especially sweet. (If I were writing that epic poem, I’d find room for William HimSel and Roy O the Williams Clan; and lament how what Missouri Fire could not accomplish, Carolina gold hath wrought–and how treacherous Roy got his just deserts.)

My kids are glad Memphis made it this far; in a sense they can claim the champion either way. But there preference is for the Jayhawks. I’ll have to take another nap this afternoon.


Buckie Skyline

I’m having a wonderful time, although I was greeted with news of a tragedy that affects the whole town. There was a terrible accident in which three people were killed and one remains in critical condition. One of the victims was an 8-year-old boy, two were his great aunt and grandmother, and one was a 19-year-old young man. The granddaughter of one of the women, Lisa, is a member of the church. She came back from the US, where she is studying nursing, for the funeral. On top of her loss, she now has to reapply for her visa. Pray for everyone affected by this loss.

We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

I have also been doing plenty of rejoicing.

We did find the Loch Ness Monster. You can see her clearly in this picture:


To see a few other pictures from Scotland (one is from NY, and some are from the air), click here.

Learning to Speak

I’m learning to speak all over again.  I am enjoying learning a wee bit of the local dialect.

Here is a sample, from a blogger who now lives in Berkely but still calls Buckie home:

As we say in Buckie,

‘Better tae be oot the qweets, than oot the fashion!’

(‘Better to twist your ankle than be out of fashion!’)

Bit it’s nae me that ye’ll see on thon stilettos!

From http://berkeleyscot.wordpress.com/category/buckie/

Pictures tomorrow.

Travel Notes 1

Here I am at Gatwick International Airport in London where I am awaiting my flight to Aberdeen, whence I will proceed to Buckie.  I finished reading Last Girl in the wee hours (I can use that adjective here, right?) of the morning, and began reading Traveling Mercies.  I should have reviews on them shortly.

 I also will be posting some pictures of Rhinehold Niehbur street and Grant’s Tomb from NYC.

 It’s Saturday morning; and I haven’t heard the results of last night’s basketball game, but I have a friendly wager from Joe, our reporter/reviewer from Villanova–Alma cheese vs. maple syrup from New Hampshire (Joe’s home state).  I’m opposed to gambling, but it’s just a friendly gift exchange between friends.

Basketball on the Baltic

Lith BB team

Basketball is big in Lithuania. This is Lithuania Christian College’s team (in the white Jerseys). I wonder if number 13 (from China) would like to pose for a picture with Sonja?

See http://www.lcc.lt/ .