Tag Archives: Travel

The Boulevard and the Gate

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:7 (NIV)

In the early stages of my spiritual journey I wandered down the path of legalism. I was never particularly comfortable with it’s straight-and-narrow streets and the authoritarian, self-appointed traffic cops on every block wearing their spit-polished Junior Holy Spirit badges. Nevertheless, I came to an understanding of why so many people find their way to that huge boulevard.

There’s a certain ease to the path of legalism. It requires little in the way of thought, meditation, grace, wisdom, or knowledge. Everything is prescribed for you in black-and-white terms and simple rules of obedience. There’s strict accountability to keep you on the straight-and-narrow. Your fellow wayfarers will, of course, watch you like a hawk, but then there are the self-appointed traffic cops to watch your every move, remind you of the rules, and threaten you with any number of heinous punishments (i.e. alienation, condemnation, damnation) should you stray from their prescribed path.

Along that stretch of the journey I met a number of individuals who had been walking the path of legalism for many years. They had given themselves over. So comfortable had they become with their enslavement to the rules that the simplest notion of grace or freedom became a fright. They reminded me of the Hebrews in the wilderness begging to return to slavery in Egypt. “At least we knew the rules. Life was so much easier to understand. It wasn’t so hard or so complicated.”

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia, he finds them in a similar spot. Having received the Message of Jesus by faith when Paul was with them, they are now being told by some self-appointed traffic cops from the path of Legalism to get themselves back on the straight-and-narrow. These Officers of Legalism are demanding obedience to their list of religious rules.

In his letter Paul calls on a powerful word picture. He argues that Jesus came to make us children of God and co-heirs with Christ. We are, therefore, no longer slaves to be herded down the path of legalism constantly threatened with alienation, condemnation and damnation should we fail to march lock-step in accordance with the self-appointed traffic cops.

Paul argues that we are free to walk down a very different path as heirs of grace freely given, of forgiveness poured out in excess, of extravagant acceptance, and of unalterable love. Why, Paul asks, would you ever want to go back to Legalism Boulevard?

Along my journey I’ve observed that some people find the path of legalism to be easier than the path of love. Having walked that Legalism Boulevard for a block or two, a piece of me gets why people spend their entire lives on its pristine concrete between its high curbs. I found obedience to a set of well defined rules less painful than dying to myself. I found that condemning rule breakers was easier (and even felt self-righteously satisfying) than forgiving them as I have been forgiven. And, I found that following the straight-and-narrow of Legalism Boulevard was guaranteed not to twist, turn, or lead me to uncomfortable neighborhoods where people look different than me, act different than me, think differently than me, or speak differently than me. There’s a comfort in that.

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded that Jesus said that the path of Life lies behind a narrow gate that’s not particularly well-marked. It’s narrow and not necessarily easy to make out because, like Frost’s poem, it’s less traveled than Legalism Boulevard. But those who ask directions will find their way there. Those who seek it out will find their way there. Those who knock on the narrow gate will find it open to them.

I’ve found it a messy and slippery path with some steep inclines and deep valleys. There have been lonely stretches where faith was required. There were some stretches I shared with companions that required humility, trust, forgiveness, teamwork, and grace to get through some of the terrain. I’ve also found myself in some foreign places that forced me to get past my fears. It hasn’t always been easy, but the further I travel on the path the more Life I’ve experienced.

I’ve never regretted leaving Legalism Boulevard. In fact, I’d encourage anyone who’s walking lock-step down that street to make their way down the alley. Ask about a narrow gate. Seek it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Just don’t let the Traffic Cops see you 😉

Arriving

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

Wendy and I have been enjoying photos and videos that Taylor has been sending us this weekend from Stockholm, Sweden. She, Clayton, and Milo are visiting the Scandinavian city with their friends and, according to the visual evidence, having a marvelous time.

I’ve been thinking this morning about the experience of travel. When going to a new place, one can learn many things about the destination. You can learn about where you will be, you can be told about it, but until you actually get there, you don’t really experience it for yourself.

In today’s chapter, Peter is called by God to visit the home of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. The resurrected Jesus had told Peter and the rest of His followers that they were to share Jesus’ story and their first-hand accounts of their experiences with Him to “the ends of the earth.” Nevertheless, the followers of Jesus had remained a Jewish sect. While there may have been some Gentile (that is, non-Jewish) converts, the twelve had continued to be headquartered in Jerusalem and they still centered their activity around the Temple and the Jewish community.

Now God calls Peter to visit the home of a Gentile, which was against Jewish custom and law. To enter the home of a Gentile was to make oneself spiritually unclean. It was a strictly taboo in the Jewish religion and culture of the day. Not only was Cornelius a non-Jew, he was also a Roman Centurion, which added an entire layer of political and social stigma on top of the religious prohibitions. The Romans were military occupiers of Judea. They were hated and they were detested by the Jewish people.

Now God is once again blowing-up human division and Jewish tradition by sending Peter to visit the unclean home of what a good Jewish man would have considered a “vile and detestable” Roman officer. Cornelius and his entire household believe Peter’s stories about Jesus, and Holy Spirit pours into them. Peter says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

Peter had witnessed Jesus breaking social barriers. Jesus made friends with a Samaritan woman and healed a Centurion’s child. Peter had been told by Jesus that they were to take the good news of Jesus to the “ends of the Earth.” I’m sure that the earlier believers had already been talking, even debating among themselves, whether they should accept non-Jewish converts and how that was going to work. God had been leading Peter and the other believers towards this reality in their journey. At Cornelius’ house, Peter finally arrived and knew for himself where Jesus had been leading them. It was waypoint in Peter’s journey that would change the course of the Jesus movement and human history.

In the quiet this morning I’m thinking about our lunchtime conversation yesterday with a friend. She shared about a major spiritual break though that she’d been moving towards for four years. It finally arrived this past week and we all shed tears hearing about her experience. It was not unlike Peter’s experience. She’d been moving toward this spiritual reality for years, but didn’t really experience it until she arrived at that waypoint.

This is a spiritual journey. We don’t experience things once and for all. We experience things progressively as we continue to press on in faith asking, seeking, knocking. In my experience it can be frustrating, but it also exciting to look ahead and wonder what God has in store there on the horizon.

Have a great week everyone. Time to press on.

 

South Carolina

Speaking of embarkation, Wendy and I embarked on a long discussed trip to South Carolina this past weekend to visit our daughter, Madison. Maddy Kate has been living in Columbia for well over a year now and works as a sales and training coordinator for a cosmetics company with SC and portions of NC as her territory.

We flew to Columbia on Thursday evening. Madison picked us up from the airport and took us to Publico, one of her favorite haunts the serves craft beer and Mexican. We could tell that she’s a regular there as the bartender was quite familiar and friendly. After a bite and a quick catching up she took us to our hotel.

Columbia Art Museum, Columbia SC

On Friday Wendy and I worked in our hotel room most of the day as Madison likewise had to work. We had originally planned on flying in  on Friday but he airfare was so much cheaper on Thursday evening that it paid for the hotel room and then some. Wendy and I knocked off mid-afternoon and walked to the Columbia Art Museum which had a couple of really interesting exhibitions. We then walked down Gervais Street and stopped at the Casual Pint where we enjoyed a….wait for it….casual pint.

Madison met us at Gervais and Vine for dinner with her friends, including Max, a Pella peep, who is in law school at the University. We enjoyed a leisurely evening with Abby, Sara, Max and Madison. The wine and tapas were top-notch, and it was fun getting to know Madison’s Columbia crew.

On Saturday Madison took us to the Soda City Farmer’s Market, which was a lot of fun. We also got to stop and check out her apartment and share a long-time-coming house-warming gift with her. We then jumped in the car and headed towards Charleston.

We spent a few hours at Magnolia Plantation. The grounds and gardens were unbelievably gorgeous and it was fun to walk and wander. We finished our time there touring a group of slave cabins built in 1850 and still standing. It was sobering to learn that a family of 15 was living in one of the tiny cabins as late as 1969.

We journeyed on to Charleston and we were all very hungry. It was late afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch. We found Mac’s Place, a Chicago themed Irish Pub complete with a Cubbie bear painted on the front window. After a bite and a rest we walked a few blocks to McCrady’s Tavern. I first visited McCrady’s Tavern when I visited our friends Dave and Maria about twenty years ago while they were teaching at the College of Charleston. The tavern dates back to 1778 and served George Washington back in the day. I really wanted to visit again and share it with Wendy and Madison. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some excellent beverages concocted by the talented bartenders.

We finished our brief visit to Charleston with a stop at Carmella’s dessert bar where we grabbed coffee and a small fudge cake. We walked down to the sea front and sat on a swing. It was fun to eat our cake, drink our coffee, and watch the ships leaving the harbor as we swung together and felt the sea breeze on our faces.

Sunday morning Madison took us to her church. It reminded Wendy and me of our local auditorium gathering at Third here in Pella. Once again, we enjoyed getting to meet Madison’s community. Brunch is a big deal in the south, so we left church and went directly to 116 State where we enjoyed brunch together in the quaint little wine and espresso bar.

It is football season and we wanted to watch our beloved Vikings play. Madison took us to the Carolina Ale House where we got to enjoy watching the game together. Madison was on the nods in the second half and we told her to go home and take a nap. After all we’d had to eat those couple of days, Wendy and I were glad for the long walk back to our hotel to stretch our legs.

A few hours later a refreshed Maddy Kate picked us up and we went a couple of blocks over to 1801 Grill where we were met by her significant other, Doug, who had just returned from a friend’s wedding in another state. The restaurant was getting ready to close, so we had appetizers (Wendy liked the grit french fries) and a drink. We then drove to another local dive that Madison and Doug appreciated because they’re always open and always serving food. It was a lovely, quiet evening chatting and enjoying one another’s company.

On Monday Wendy and I packed up for home and checked out. Madison picked us up late in the morning and took us back to Publico, and we ended our Carolina trip where it began. Doug met us for “two dollar tacos” lunch. We bid him farewell and went to a local coffee shop where we got a little bit of work done before heading to the airport.

Wendy and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Columbia and Charleston. There’s so much more to see and experience there. Madison seems to have settled in, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find we have many more Carolina experiences ahead of us.

Kauai: Day 9

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Our last full day on Kauai started a bit later than usual. Wendy and I rose just after sunrise and enjoyed a cup of coffee together. We got ready early and headed out to explore the west side of the island. We stopped for a light pastry breakfast and drove around the southern side of the island. It’s a bit of a strange experience because one minute you are driving through tropical rain forest, then you cross into an arid plain that reminded us a lot of eastern Colorado.

We headed up the highway along Waimea Canyon which climbs in 18 miles from sea level to about 4,000 ft. Along the long and winding road (sorry, pun intended) we stopped for breathtaking views of Waimea Canyon which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The 800′ Waipo’o Falls and then up to the Kalalau lookout overlooking the Na Pali coast which was the end of the road.

Wendy displayed an unusual case of the heebie-jeebies as we climbed up the canyon road. The combination of having nothing but a sheer drop off outside her car window and not being in control of the car tested her nerve a good part of the ascent. Nevertheless, we loved the views, the exploration, and the adventure of it.

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Old Town Hanapepe has a nice little art district.

We descended back the canyon road and stopped for a stroll in the old downtown market area of Hanapepe which boasts a number of art galleries. We wandered in and out of the shops. There was some beautiful artwork and photography and it was a quaint little area. They have an “art stroll” every Friday evening. We wished we’d have known about it last week.

We made our way back to the room. Becky, Court and Lydia were off on an adventure of their own. Wendy and I made a light lunch and got cleaned up. We are all going out to eat this evening to celebrate our last night on the island.

We strolled down the ocean walk to Sam’s Ocean View for Happy Hour. We were welcomed back by our friends behind the bar and enjoyed some great conversation as we peered out at the surf and the motley cast of characters who walked past. We will truly miss Sam’s, and will always have fond memories of the place. It was sad to say good bye. We walked back to the resort where the rest of the crew were ready for dinner.

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We drove to Lihue and dined at a nice Italian restaurant called Kauai Pasta. It was an enjoyable meal, though the room was amazingly loud (hard for me). It was a great way to end our time together with the Oakes clan. Tomorrow, it’s time to start the journey home.

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5
Kauai Days 6 & 7
Kauai Day 8

Kauai: Day 4 (Our Sailing Adventure)

On Sunday we enjoyed the sunrise (a daily occurrence) and then headed to Gaylord’s for brunch. The old sugar cane plantation has been remade into an amazing destination. The old plantation house contains a gorgeous restaurant with an upscale brunch buffet.

Wendy and I really enjoyed the experience at Gaylord’s. The brunch was wonderful. The plantation now contains orchards which contributed fresh fruit to the buffet and to the incredible Mai Tai I enjoyed. It was stellar.

It was Sunday and we retired back to the room to enjoy some Sunday football. It’s a little strange with the time change. Games Wendy and I would rush home at noon to watch start at 7:00 a.m. The mid-afternoon Bronco’s game (which Court was most interested in) had already started by the time we got back to the room around noon. We watched football and relaxed during the afternoon.

When we were getting ready for our Kauai vacation I had one specific desire for me and Wendy. I wanted to sail on the ocean. I wanted Wendy to experience sailing for real. I didn’t want the commercial “herd 100 people on a huge ‘Sailboat’ and feed them Mai Tai drinks from a plastic pitcher” sailing, but a smaller experience on a real sail boat owned by a real sailor. I scoured the myriad of websites by all the tourist minions and eventually found a total gem named Stephanie.

I e-mailed Stephanie and, long story short, we circumnavigated negotiations with a local and found ourselves on a 36 foot catamaran with a young sailor, his girlfriend, and three other passengers. We headed out from Hanalei Bay at 4:00 p.m. We sat out on the front of the boat to the sound of nothing but the wind and the waves. We  experienced dipping below the ocean swells until they felt like they would swamp you and then got soaked from the waves crashing over twin hulls.

Our host shared about his journey on the sailboat from San Francisco to Hawaii. I can’t imagine the arduous task of sailing a 36 foot boat across the Pacific. He shared his dreams and desires of cleaning up and outfitting the boat for a sail to the south Pacific. I enjoyed thinking that we could contribute to his dream even as he made one of my dreams come true.

sunset-rainbow

We sailed northwest out of Hanalei and then sailed back as the sun set next to Bali Hai and the Na Pali coast. It was an amazing evening of sun, salt water, and wind. The rain began to fall even as the sun set. To our right we could see the blazing sunset and to the left was a gorgeous rainbow.

We returned at dark and drove the 30 minutes south back to our temporary home. Beck, Court and Wendy enjoyed a video but I was bushed from the day and retired to our room to read.

Kauai: Day 3

Day three of our Kauai vacation started with watching the sunrise. The weather here is strange. It rains virtually every morning, so the sunrise is often masked by a blanket of gray clouds. The sunrise was really anti-climactic the first two mornings here. We’re all typically up before dawn since our bodies are still trying to get used to the time change. We’re five hours behind so sunrise in Kauai is nearly lunch time back home. The entire crew has been getting up around 5:30-6:00 a.m. each morning and sunrise is about 6:30.

This morning there was a nice break in the clouds just as the sun came up and it made for a gorgeous, dramatic sunrise. I went out to take pictures and the rest of the crew eventually joined me.

The farmers market in Hanalei is a little different environment than the farmer's markets back in Iowa.
The farmers market in Hanalei is a little different environment than the farmer’s markets back in Iowa.

It was Saturday morning and we headed to the north side of the island and the town of Hanalei. There’s a farmer’s market there that Becky wanted to visit. It rained the entire drive there and the terrain changed as we drove. There are many movies and television shows filmed in Kauai because of the beautiful terrain which seems other worldly at times. I began to appreciate this as we drove. I felt we were in Jurassic Park at one moment and under the jungle canopy of Avatar the next.

We arrived at an outdoor shopping mall in Hanalei, parked and made  a b-line to the shelter of an awning to escape the rain. We visited a few shops an within about ten minutes the sun came out. It continued to rain with a bright sun shining for several more minutes before the rain finally gave way. We shopped for postcards and gifts and Wendy enjoyed visiting the Kauai Nut Roaster’s shop for some Macadamia nuts.

This ancient, run down set of post office boxes was just sitting out. I imagine that at one time this was Hanalei's mail system.
This ancient, run down set of post office boxes was just sitting out. I imagine that at one time this was Hanalei’s mail system.

We walked a block or two along the highway to the Farmer’s Market that was nestled at the base of the most gorgeous tropical mountain scene. Mysterious clouds hovered over the peak and steep waterfalls fell along the sides. In the valley below were the tents of local marketers and farmers. The variety of fruits were colorful and amazing. Our feet squished in the mud as we walked around the market. I grabbed a few limes for evening cocktails and Wendy got an avocado. Becky bought some Basil that was so pungent it seemed to fill any space it was in.

We made our way back to the car and headed to Hanalei Bay, which is known as a popular destination for sailors and surfers. It’s nestled on the east side of the Na Pali coast. We took some pictures on the beach and watched surfers waxing their boards. Out in the bay you could see surfers catching waves. We stood and watched for a while, but the clouds were gathering and the next wave of rain was clearly about to break.

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We made our way back towards Kapa’a and stopped at Kilauea where there was a bakery where Becky and Court wanted to grab lunch. We dined on the patio. Lydia was beginning to tire, as was evident with the increase of whining and willful disobedience.

Market in Kapa'a
Market in Kapa’a

After lunch we made our way back to Kapa’a. Becky wanted to grab ice cream at a place they’d visited in previous visits, but we found that it was temporarily closed for renovations. So, it was back to the room where we enjoyed ice cream we’d gotten at the store the day before. Becky, Court and Lydia headed in to take a nap while Wendy and I walked to an ABC store to get some Macadamia nuts. We stopped a local market set up on the grounds of a church and viewed the wares before walking back to the room.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a combination of relaxation and work. Wendy needed to capture and assign some calls for a project. We sat out on the patio and listened to the surf. Wendy worked and I read a book. I made friends with a little pigeon who was brave enough to eat from my hand.

I grilled up some chicken for us and we enjoyed a nice meal together before retiring for the night.

Related:

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2

Kauai: Day 1

Wendy’s sister, Becky, and her husband Court have a time share in Kauai. They invited Wendy and me to join them and their daughter Lydia for a few days in paradise this fall.

Whenever Wendy and I travel somewhere beautiful and warm, we have historically faced difficulties that parallel the seven seals of the Book of Revelation. Delays, cancellations, re-routing, and “you can’t get there from here” type obstacles are all par for our course to paradise. We’ve begun to simply expect it.

Part of the "fun" of getting rebooked on a flight is ending up in middle seats across the aisle from one another!
Part of the “fun” of getting rebooked on a flight is ending up in middle seats across the aisle from one another!

Wendy woke early on Wednesday to find that United had cancelled one of our three flights and rebooked two of the three legs of our journey. Only we had to take off an hour EARLIER. Those who know Wendy well assumed that she freaked out at this, but she really approached it with zen-like calm. We simply dressed quickly, threw our bags in the car and headed to the airport.

Instead of DSM to DEN to LAX to Lihue, our route was now DSM to ORD to LAX to Lihue. Our flight in Chicago was delayed with mechanical problems (another seal on the scroll of travel tribulation) and so we had lunch and the Berghoff in Concourse C and listened to the polka band playing and watched one couple dance. The delay out of Ohare trimmed our three hour lay-over in L.A. down to about an hour, but things progressed without a hitch from there. We arrived in Kauai about 7 p.m. (back home it was midnight), stopped at Wal-Mart for some staples and then drove to meet Court, Becky, and Lydia at the time share. So, our travel from home to time share was roughly 18 hours. After a few bites of pizza and unpacking we collapsed into bed about 9:30 p.m.

We woke about 5:30 a.m. Everyone was still pretty zombie like, so this morning so we took it pretty easy. Our room is a first floor walkout that is about 20 yards from the ocean. We’re on the east side of the island so we get to watch the sun come up. Well, we would watch the sun come up if it wasn’t so cloudy. By the time we finished up some breakfast the sun had come out and we went to an orientation by the swimming pool where we got to hear about several different options for activities on the island. I’m glad there was free coffee. I was still pretty wiped.

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No one in our party was very ambitious. We hung out in the room all morning and I took an hour nap. Becky, Court and Lydia headed out to a market while Wendy and I worked for a couple of hours and made ourselves some lunch. We walked about three blocks to a sports bar to see if we could watch the Cubs vs. Brewers game, but the inebriated owner couldn’t find the game. So, we walked back to the room, pulled the game up on our computer and watched it as we napped.

We walked to the Olympic Cafe for dinner. It’s your basic bar and grill on the second floor of a retail building. It’s wide open and we sat and enjoyed the sea breeze blowing through as we ate. There was a full moon tonight and it was a gorgeous walk back to the room as the full moon rose over the Pacific.

I think it could be a day or two before our bodies are over the jet lag and time change. It’s been wonderful and relaxing just hearing and watching the ocean waves outside. Looking forward to what the week has in store for us.