Ministry Training (ACMNP) and a Return to the Beginning

This weekend I attended the national training conference for A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) up in the Rockies of Colorado. I had the utmost pleasure of meeting my ministry team to the Grand Canyon for the first time and I already feel myself falling in love with our dysfunction. During our free time, I set out to hike on my own and was quickly engulfed by four other ministry members who refused to let me find the freedom in solidarity I thought I was chasing. We summited a peak that was supposed to take two hours, so naturally, we did it in one. The second we set out at that boisterous pace, huffing and puffing, I thought about the palaces I had been summiting just months early and realized “this is a piece of cake” even though my sensitive sinus cavity screamed with the change in altitude. Mind over matter is not just a mantra used for the weak who capture our pity. When we reached the top, someone, I don’t remember who, said, “you guys just want to read and chill?” and that’s how I knew I found my people. I threw up a hammock between some rigid pines and fell into a Spanish story of love and mystery and regret while the sky dusted it’s icy blessing onto my head.

We had hiked the first mountain that ever captured my undivided attention some 8 years ago. I remember how that peak flirted with my competitive side and how the bigger, older, stronger boys won me over to loving the dynamic landscape by daring me to sprint down the mountainside with them. They must have seen that subtle flicker in my eyes of someone who is never satisfied and whispered, “let’s go” before going full force with the pull of gravity. And me in all baby-of-the-family mindedness had the nerve to think I could keep up with them. I was right. When we reached the bottom eons before the rest of the group they all turned around to me and laughed, not at me, but in surprise. One of the boys leaned over to me and said “keep flying, kid”. At the time, I might not have known what he meant, but I think my heart kept that promise anyways. I remember how we parted ways from there and never shared a moment of depth again. I remember how one of them died a few years later and how that was my first clue into the fact that death doesn’t see in the spectrum of age but rather in the black and white of “yes or no”. I hope he thought about flying down that hillside when he laid his head back for the very last time.

My ministry team kept things slow on our way down that old familiar peak and even though I was grateful they had chosen me to go along at all, I realized I have a thing or two to teach them this summer about choosing to go fast simply for the sake of going fast. About speed for the sake of speed. About flying for the sake of flying. But, we had just met so I kept my mouth shut like I always do and hoped it would be enough just to write it down later.

My team makes a lot of sense to me and I’m not really sure why. I suppose it’s because their quirkiness seeped through their cracks just enough to not make me feel incessantly uncomfortable in my own skin like I do with most new people. I felt that I didn’t have to keep my mummy wrappings on so tight, that I could loosen them up enough to breathe even though a bit of weird and dark and sarcastic and spacey slipped out. Heaven help them the day I cut the wrappings off in full this summer.

We learned many things about how to do effective ministry in a national park and throughout it all God spoke to me and said, “this is what you’ve been looking for” and I believe Him. I believe Him in that He sent me to the place of my roots in Christianity to tell me that this season of my life isn’t an escape like nearly every other season has been. He sang Job 5:8-11 to me all weekend long saying “little thorn bush of mine, it’s high time you realize you’ve got flowers coming alongside your thorns and they will make each other beautiful. stop acting like you were meant to scare everyone away”. I realized that I am the earth He has been pouring rain on and that this period of sunshine – hot, dusty, desert sunshine – will go hand in hand with that rain and make flowers pop up on my skin previously thought to be barren.

I am still hopelessly afraid of that canyon; I keep having dreams that he reaches up and swallows me whole. I think it stems from the fact that I haven’t been able to place my hands and forehead upon this type of land yet to ask it for forgiveness and permission. I’m worried he will speak to me in a language the mountains never used. I’m worried I’ll like it more. All I know is that I fully plan on standing on that rim with my guitar singing songs yet unwritten into his open palms and hopefully, he will believe that I mean good.

I’m overly excited to get the summer started, to be back with my team, to be back surrounded by Christians who treat the earth as a sacred place and not a servant. I’m ready to be challenged and lonely and swallowed and completely whole in a place where most people aren’t. I want to get lost in it all, I think I already am.

(Mostly) Unnecessary Update

I suppose this is one of those posts that don’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone reading it but is still necessary for me, the writer, in order to make sense of myself and the place I am living right now. I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting angry with people who ask me “how was Ecuador?” expecting anything other the very long-winded truth that leaves me near tears and them wishing they’d never asked. I cannot tell you how Ecuador was in three words, if you really wanted to know, you would choose to be important enough in my life to see how it was just by looking at the circles under my eyes and the stars in them. Everyone that got to stay in Ecuador keeps posting pictures of the things they are doing and it makes me want to peel off all my skin and put someone else in that frame, so that Hannah Asfeldt wouldn’t be able to remember the might of last semester. I guess to put it plainly, I am jealous and I already feel forgotten, two things that I haven’t ever let get the best of me before, but now it seems they are. I want someone to say, “I wish you were still here”, heck, I wish I was still there. Do you realize how lucky you are? Do you realize how easy it is for a place that once felt like home to start feeling like a coffin?

 

I’ve been staring at my homework for hours lately, just staring, not doing. I’ve been staring and wondering if any of it is worth it, if I wouldn’t actually be happier running away into the Great Unknown, (seriously attempting to make money off of my words and my music), buying some little trailer and just driving and camping wherever I need to. I could settle down in Glacier National Park and strengthen my new found faith in ice people. I could crash in the Redwood National Forest and speak to trees all day long and tell God that He did well. Or I could (finally) conquer my fear of Utah and discover canyons and rock I have never experienced before. I still do not know what the desert looks like. I had real fun for the first time last night in a while and it had a little bit to do with the phenomenal company and whole lot to do with the wind in my hair and the lack of a destination. The call of the Great Adventure is turning into an incessant pounding of drums at the forefront of my ears and I’m wondering how long I can resist for the sake of ‘adulthood’ before I go and once more join in that song.

 

It seems I’ve started thinking three years ahead of everyone else around me and that makes justifying anything Undergraduate related seem positively ridiculous. My degree is now the only thing that matters at college, and I can’t even muster the motivation to work better at that. Everything is foggy.

 

God has been making me trust Him more as of late. I always trusted Him, in the way a trapeze artist trusts that the net beneath her will catch her, but she does the whole show perfectly anyways so it doesn’t even matter that the net is there. Now that I know life doesn’t have a safety net – if you believe it does, you haven’t lived – God is telling me to give the show all I’ve got anyways because He will catch me when I fall. Note that I said when not if. He’s been telling me lately that I really don’t know anything of true trust, that I’ve never actually let anyone in that deep. Sometimes we talk for hours and sometimes we don’t even speak for a minute, sometimes I can’t look Him in the eye without my walls up, but He tends to take them down in the most violently loving way possible, so I’m learning to just leave them there, down.

 

Scandinavian music has become the soundtrack to my life as I have finally realized that I have to stop chasing the understanding of everyone else’s background and finally start chasing my own. So far one of the most surprising things I’ve found is that my old Viking ancestors were way more religious than I thought. Naturally, they believed in different gods than I do, but their faith was just as much if not more guiding than the compass of the man at the helm of those ships. Even though I don’t believe in those gods, I’ve found their stories to be a comfort; I’ve found their truths in my own blood regardless of their level of fiction. I’ve found Loki hopping between my neurons when I sit down to write, I’ve found Thor chasing behind me when I run, I’ve found Forseti perched upon my shoulders when I read the news, I’ve found Vidar hold my chin up when it starts to fall, and I’ve found Skadi placing a crown of ice on my head when I feel my beauty is a thing to be ashamed of. I wonder if they know they aren’t real. There is a reason people keep writing books when the world already has enough to fill several lifetimes. Stories are what keep us alive.

 

Basically, being alive is really good. My future is unknown but it’s bright. My body is doing things it’s never done before and my mind is falling in love with what it’s convinced itself to do. I miss Ecuador and it’s mountains and the way everything felt alive always. I miss feeling alive always. I’m at about a 77/23 where I am now. But I’m learning, as one tends to do in college, and I’m listening in places where I’ve previously heard silence and the whole of it is beautifully loud. I sometimes wonder if people want to hear the things I have to say. Is there anyone out there who would listen if I wrote more than this website? Maybe it doesn’t matter, I think that’s part of being an artist, making art for creation and not for reception. The more I listen the more I have to say and to me, that’s why God is an empowering God. He never tells me to be quiet, not the way the god I thought was God used to.

 

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be going to South Dakota for the summer (which is surprisingly sooner than you would think) and hopefully the openness of that place will help clear the fog away. Life is good but the future is confusing. Or maybe it’s life is confusing but the future is good. I’ll take it either way.