I recently got back from my yearly vacation with dantheman and the crew. This year we went to Southern Idaho, just outside the small town of Pine.
In the past this trip has been a pivotal part of my faith. My first trip to Colorado after leaving Simi CofC gave me time to think life through and reconnect with God. It was the first time in a while where I earnestly sought God, and the reward was great. I came out of that trip with a renewed spirit for youth ministry, and more importantly, a renewed zeal for living a life of worship. Last year I came out with a new appreciation for the beauty that God provides. It also made me re-evaluate the worth that I give to the things in my life.
Needless to say, I went in to this year’s trip with a heart full of excitement, ready to be stirred from my core. And, needless to say, God showed up in big ways. I really shouldn’t be amazed at how quickly God makes His presence known when we call on Him.
For the ease of conversation, I tell people I am going on a hunting trip because that’s the context for most of the guys (and it sounds really cool) but in actuality I’ve never even purchased a tag. I’m not against hunting, I’ve just never had the money. Although seeing how few deer are actually brought back, it’s hard to justify spending the money on future ventures. My purpose behind the trip is solely to reconnect with God. The fact that you are reading this probably means that you know how ‘plugged in’ I am most of the time. So when I travel, I like to unplug.
I also like to bring my cameras.
I have two cameras, my dad’s old 35 mm that he bought in Japan back in the 70’s, and my iPhone camera. I usually pack both because I love taking pictures of God’s creation. Last year was a great year for hunting pics, and I was really excited to head out again with my trusty cameras to try and capture some of God’s great earth on film. This is my hunt.
Things were looking promising as we neared our destination. Mounds of dry dirt started turning into beautiful foothills. After an overnight stay in Twin Falls, ID we headed out to our camp site and were almost immediately surprised by massive gorges north of town, very similar to the Grand Canyon. We were all caught off guard, and glimpsed as much as we could as we crossed the massive bridges. As we neared camp, we passed Anderson Lake Reservoir, one of the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen. We passed the lake and drove up into the surrounding mountains, where we were greeted by forests of pine, cedar and birch trees. Our camping spot was at a crossroads of trails. One of the few decisions I would make on a daily basis was, “which direction do I want to head today?”
After a few hours of setting up camp and settling in, we went on our first hike. I decided to follow the guys with my camera which is unusual because I typically try to avoid them while they are hunting, as not to accidentally spook any game along the way. I figured the first day allowed for many other opportunities for them to hunt on their own if my camera was too loud. So we set off down the canyon to our south. Dantheman, El Fuego, and LewisXVI had their guns slung over their shoulders and I had my camera in hand ready to capture every exciting moment and great view. We walked a mile or so into the woods (which feels like 5 when you’re a mile up and there’s an uneven trail) and scouted the area out.
Joy quickly turned to frustration for me though. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful forest I have ever seen. The yellow leaves of the birch trees staggered among the hills of pine were absolutely breathtaking. But every time I pointed my camera, I couldn’t manage to get a good shot in my lens. With the price of film development I am learning to be more selective with my shots, and I wasn’t ready to resort to just using my camera phone just yet. We were out about three hours or so, and I kept getting more frustrated. Why was I lugging this camera around my neck? If I couldn’t get any pictures the week was going to be a bust. We ended up splitting up, and I headed back to camp a little frustrated. I had a few point and shoot shots with my phone, but nothing I was really excited about. I also realized taking pictures of a bunch of guys is kind of awkward.
That night as we all set out to go to bed, I stayed outside for an extra minute to check out the stars in the sky. I’ve never seen that many stars in my life. The Milky Way (at least I think that’s what I saw) formed a bright strip across the sky. I grabbed my camera and tripod and experimented around with some long exposure shots. I still haven’t developed the film, if any of them came out I’ll be sure to share.
The important thing that came from this part of the night was the question that I was needing to ask all day. How do I capture all of this on camera?
The next morning I went on my first solo hike. I took a trail that looked promising and set out to follow it until I found a good picture. An hour into the hike I was severely frustrated. I spent time praying that God would ease my frustration, that he would speak to my heart and distract me from my issue at hand. After a little adventure that I’ll write about later on this week (I feel a blog week coming on) I was back on the trail, glad to be alive (How’s that for a teaser?). I climbed out of the ravine onto the main trail and hiked back to camp, with a lot of stops to catch my breath. While standing there panting for air, too tired to talk to God, I started looking at the beauty of my surroundings. I tried to find a good shot, but once again failed. Then it hit me.
The problem with a beautiful forest is that you can’t capture enough of it on film to do it justice. A lot of trees look amazing. A few trees, don’t look that impressive at all. And one tree by itself hardly seems worthy of a picture.
The soul was stirred.
I do this to God all of the time.
I’m in this weird middle place where I try and capture the presence, majesty and love of God in little snapshots. I try and frame Him in my little window, and then get frustrated when He doesn’t seem that impressive. It’s like I am constantly looking through a lens at God, knowing that there is so much more out there, but I am too busy trying to capture Him to soak in all of the view. Even worse, I fail to see the beauty in the little things that He does that make up the great amount of love that He shows. No wonder I lose my sense of awe when it comes to God. I try so hard to capture Him so I have these little moments to hold on to, and all the while He is calling me to be fully present in a much larger landscape.
Despite being tired, I was excited walking back uphill to camp. God spoke very clearly to my heart that day. I could bring along a camera if I liked, there would be moments that were able to be captured on film. But my bigger calling was to live in the landscape, and to pay attention to the little things God was providing.
I may not have as many photos as I had originally intended, but God made sure that I walked away with a much larger picture. May we all stop every once in a while and soak in the vast glory of God.
The rest of the week promised more soul stirring moments, and I am looking forward to sharing more of those stories later.
One love, one heart.