Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sorry for the Long Delay

Every once in a while you just have to splurge. At least, that is what I told myself to justify the venti Mocha Frappeccino that I ordered at the original Starbucks in Seattle, WA. I was really surprised that there was not even a plaque inside to denote the special store at the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street.

Pike’s market is one of the most famous areas in Seattle, and for good reason. With the exception of the lone Starbucks, Pike’s market has no national retailers. Instead, the market is made up of local and small vendors selling all sorts of touristy goods, pastries, cloths, and my personal favorite, fish! For the low, low price of $29.99 a lb. you can buy the best smoked salmon that I have ever tasted.

I would not normally spend the money to go to a downtown market place and buy overpriced coffee, but this was a special scenario. Friends of mine from the JH Ranch were in Seattle for one evening, so I made as point to meet up with them and explore. A city is just not the same when you are alone. I much prefer having friends around so that I can take their picture while they have fresh, whole salmon thrown across a store into their waiting arms.

Some things are just better with people. It is this motto that led me to my next adventure, a three hour drive at night back to Portland, Oregon to buy a set of studio strobes and visit one of my friends.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

G-d's Sewer

When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of the dark. My active imagination told me that every shadow, every blanket, every cracked closet door was something that did not like me. I had two strategies to cope with this fear. The first strategy was to have my little sister escort me up the dark hallway to my room. The second was to turn on every light, one by one, all the way to my room, and then to return to the first light and turn it off, followed by the second, until I could finally turn off the light in my own room and go to sleep.

It is funny how G-d does not allow his children to live in fear. He helps us to overcome it. He helped me to overcome my fear of the Screaming Eagle, a contraption at the ranch that has you lying in a hang gliding harness, suspended 80 feet in the air, until you work up the bravery to pull a string and release yourself on the longest swing of your life. He helped me to overcome my fear of jumping 45 feet off of Scott River Bridge. He helped me overcome my fear of camping alone with no tent in bear country.

That being said, it was not much of a surprise that today I found myself in the single darkest place that I have ever been in my life, forcing myself to turn off my flashlight.

Mt. St. Helens is a famous volcano in the state of Washington, noted primarily because of its unexpected eruption in recent history. One interesting characteristic of volcanoes is that they produce lava tubes, huge underground tunnels that act as an underground highway for flowing lava.

It is in one of these lava tubes, known as Ape Cave, that I faced my fear of the dark. The tube is 1.5 miles long, varying in size from about the width and height of a subway tunnel to only a few feet in diameter in places. As I climbed down the steep stairway that marked the entrance to the tunnel, I was overwhelmed by the darkness all around me. I stood there, alone, in a single shaft of light, with darkness surrounding me on all sides. My puny little flashlight could only penetrate the darkness a few feet ahead.

What if my flashlight and headlamp both quit working? What if I get hurt climbing over loose boulders? What if I panic? Irrational fears almost made me turn back, but before I could, I saw an elderly couple walking up from the easier and of the tunnel. I spoke to them for only a couple of minutes, but it was just enough to get my pride working. I did not want them to know that I was afraid, so I decided to start walking.

Within a few minutes my fear was gone. There I was, completely alone, with more than a mile of subterranean unknown before me, and I was not afraid.

I am so glad that the L-rd brought that elderly couple along. He designed me, and he knew that my pride was the secret to getting me to do stupid and irrational things. He also knows that forcing me to do stupid and irrational things has made a huge difference in my ability to discipline myself and do what needs to be done in life. Even in something as trivial as Spelunking, the L-rd is training me and preparing me for the purpose to which he has called me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

To Get Her Prescription Filled

Again I find myself at the top of Mount Tabor, watching the sun set and contemplating my day. Portland feels like a spiritual desert to me. Mount Tabor is the only place in this town where I feel a real sense of peace. It is easy to become discouraged in this environment, but the L-rd is my oasis and he keeps giving me water to refresh me. I got a call from a friend today. She called to tell me about the failing health of her grandfather, but she ended up sharing with me about something that Go-d spoke to her in her quiet time.

Throughout the scriptures, the L-rd calls people into the desert before he does something huge in their lives. The L-rd told her that I am in that time now, and that he has so much to show me while I am alone with him.

I would say that Portland is nothing at all like I expected, but honestly, I don’t know what I expected. The city definitely has a hippy vibe, but it is every bit as urban as any other city that I have been too. Scattered throughout the neighborhoods are pubs, coffee shops, and whole foods stores.

What amazes me the most about cities is the number of homeless people that I see everywhere that I go. Some cities hide them better than others do, but they are always there. I sat for an hour in Laurelhurst Park listening to a 7th day Adventist talk to me very fluently about the scriptures while doing a poor job of remembering whether or not he was homeless.

Another time, later in the day, I gave a homeless woman at an intersection some money. She proceeded to thank me profusely.

“I need $17 for painkillers for my back, and that brings me up to $5! Thank you!”