Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heading home soon ....

I am getting to spend a few more days in New Mexico before heading back to Texas and arriving home on August 2nd.  I will be in worship on August 4th, and back in the office on August 5th.

The past days have been a time of relaxing, thinking, reading, feeding hummingbirds, and driving around the Golden Triangle area of northern New Mexico.  I'm so happy that Liz could join me this week to share in the experience.  I have missed her so much.

For the record ... She is the better driver.

Today is one beautiful day for sure .... Not a cloud in the sky.  Today is an official "exploration day."  Meaning, we hope to head out on a road we have not driven on ... And see where it goes.

In a couple of days ... The road we travel will lead the way home ... A road we have driven on before, a road that we know well ... A road that calls us gently with the words, "it's time."

I'm looking forward to going home.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Friday, July 26, 2013

Philmont Report #5 - Last day . . .

Friday, July 26th . . . my last "official" day as a Philmont chaplain.  Tomorrow morning I drive to pick up Liz at an area airport, and then we will spend a few more days "on vacation" before leisurely heading home to the DFW area.  I will be back in the worship services at FUMC-Grapevine on August 4th.

I made 3 camps this morning, then spent the afternoon cleaning and packing up my stuff, doing laundry, reading, and saying a lot of "goodbyes."  I am honestly surprised by the number of staff who have come by to wish me well and to offer me travel blessings.

I guess in some way, I will miss Philmont . . . the camp, the mountains, the scenery . . .

But the truth is, I will miss the people here the most.  I have worked for 26 days with a whole lot of 19-23 year olds . . . and I have hope for the future of our country and our world as a result.

But, it is time . . . time to head back to those who I have missed working with and beside back in Grapevine  . . . much much more than I will miss my new friends here. 

I had thought that Philmont might possibly be my "dream job." 

I was wrong.

My dream job is the one I am returning to back home . . . serving on the pastoral staff at FUMC-Grapevine, and to sing when my schedule allows with the Hugworks gang in area children's hospitals, nursing homes and for those in hospice care.

I have other things I need to write about, but will do so after I get home and think about them for a while . . . in addition to downloading and posting a few of the pictures I took during my stay. 

Time to rest for a bit . . . then head back to that great Lone Star State . . . to my family, friends, church . . . my life.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, July 22, 2013

Philmont Report #4

A quick update . . . as I start my final week at Philmont during this Summer 2013 camping season.

As of today, I have only 4 full days left here . . . and I am serving as the Back Country Chaplain, which means I am in a Chevy Suburban driving all over the place.  Today I went as far north as Dan Beard Camp . . . the first Philmont Chaplain to do so this year!  The final leg of the trip to Dan Beard Camp is the steepest road on the entire Philmont property. 

Thank you, Lord . . . for 4 wheel drive.

The north country here at Philmont has a distinct Southwest flavor . . . which I just love.  I actually walked up on a patch of Indian Paintbrush blooming at 8,300 feet elevation.  Awesome.

Tomorrow, along with Cantor Michael Dzubin (our Jewish Chaplain), I will be travelling back into the far north part of Philmont, called the Valle Vidal region . . . which I drove into last night with some of the staff from the Health Lodge, to pick up a sick camper who was participating in the Rayado program (a 21 day "pretty-much-on-your-own" hike through the region).  On the way back, after picking up another ill staff member . . . we blew a rear tire . . . at 1 AM in the morning.

Have you ever changed a tire in Northeast New Mexico, in the mountains, at 1 AM on a moonlight night . . . 30 miles from the nearest town . . . all 30 miles on a dirt road that is supposed to be a New Mexico State highway???

If you have, then you know what I mean by saying we were working fast to change the tire due to several series of "growling noises" coming from off the road near us.

We guessed it was a mountain lion . . . but we never saw it.

Or "them."

An adventure for sure.

I've had difficulty posting pictures . . . so I will do that after I get home in early August.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, July 19, 2013

Philmont Report #3

Sorry for the delay in posting report #3 . . . it's been busy!

This past week, I was assigned the relief chaplain rotation.  In other words, I covered 6 of the different chaplain rotations, in the process allowing the other chaplains to have some time off.  A lot of what I learned the first two weeks here came into play this past week, as I made several trips into the back country to notify advisors, campers or staff about family situations back home.

Yesterday I was assigned to travel out to the Saw Mill camp on the far west border of Philmont, to share with an advisor and his son that their father/grandfather was near death.  It was a very emotional time for them, and for the members of their crew, as they were only half way into their 12 day trek.   Their crew rallied around them, and they decided to hike on until they received additional word from their family.  

I guess it's one thing when your pastor arrives to tell you something potentially uncomfortable.  And it can be another thing when a stranger walks into the room to share the same information with you.  It is amazing to me, that most everyone here recognizes that the Philmont Chaplains are "their" pastors while they are here.  It feels good in my heart and soul to make that kind of connection with people here, just as I have made connections with the good folks who make up the FUMC-Grapevine congregation.

To tell you the truth . . . I am enjoying it here in New Mexico.  However, I truly miss my church family and church staff family.

I miss all MY family.  

This coming week, I will be the chaplain assigned to the back country of Philmont.  I will be charged with visiting as many of the back country staff camps as I can, driving to each in the Philmont Chevy Suburban that was assigned to me.  I am glad this is the assignment for my final week, as I have been making lots of notes on my map, and feel pretty confident now that I won't get lost driving around in the mountains on single lane dirt/rock/and mud roads.

FYI - I  loooooooooove 4-wheel drive!

Another FYI - if you ever have a chance to purchase a used Philmont Suburban at auction . . . DON"T BUY IT!

The vehicle, I promise you . . . is plain wore out!!!!   After 75,000 miles of 4-wheel drive mountain travel, they are on their last legs.  I feel very safe and confident in the one I have been driving.

But it's only a couple of years old.

Yesterday I drove about 94 miles, visiting 4 camps, delivering the message I wrote about above, carrying an ill advisor back to the Health Lodge at Camping Headquarters for assessment, and finally getting to drive to the northern part of Philmont to visit the Ponil and Rich Cabins staff camps. 

And, I still managed to walk over 14,000 steps (about 8 miles).  I'm not sure how much weight I have lost (not as much as I would have hoped for I'm sure), but I have got some decent walking legs under me now.  I am going to really try to keep up walking after I get home.

Besides working in the back country this next week, I will be preaching 3 more times, playing guitar and singing with the Philmont Wannabe Band at least two more times  . . . and, starting to pack.

I came to Philmont with a list of things I wanted to have answers to . . . and after a week, that list of "wants" was complete rubbish.  Instead, I come away with the knowledge of things I needed to come away with, instead of wanting to come away with. 

First, based on life-long dreams and goals . . . I thought working at Philmont would be my dream job.

Now, for the record, I have enjoyed every minute of it.  I've been doing inter-faith ministry every day, doing ministry the way I felt I was called to do it.  Philmont is a place I would like to work, perhaps after I retire.

But the truth is, I leave Philmont  next week understanding that my dream job is the one I have back in Grapevine, TX, serving on the pastoral staff of the FUMC-Grapevine, and singing when I can for Hugworks.

Too bad it took a month-long trip to New Mexico on renewal/mission leave to figure that out.  But lessons learned are, in the end, what is most important.

Second, I come home with a very clear, and very short, list of my core-value driven priorities.   In other words . . . I am saying "Yes" now to the things in life that matter the most to me . . . and saying "No" to the things that are not important to me.

In other words . . . I will come home with a very clear understanding of the many things that have a tendency to distract me.  Hopefully my focus will be clear enough that I won't waste any more time on distractions . . . but focus more on the things I am passionate about . . . the things that I am good at doing . . . the things that play to my strengths and passions.

I'll probably publish my list of important things after I return home in August.  It's on my to-do list.

One more week . . . then a week of vacation . . . then back home ready to hit the ground running.

I am ready to go home . . . back to my family . . . back to my dream job.  

It's all good.

God's graces still amazes me . . . ><>


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Philmont Report #2

Greeting from Philmont Scout Ranch, and a somewhat wet north east New Mexico.

Rain is the order-of-the-day, and every drop is being welcomed and appreciated.  The area around Philmont in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is still in a severe drought.  However several inches of rain have fallen in the past 3-4 days, and things are greening up a bit, as the ground is finally able to soak up some needed moisture.  At this elevation, lightening is always a threat, and I've driven through two hailstorms in the past week.   Mornings are bright and beautiful, but afternoon rains are now a regular occurrence, and muchly needed.

My assignment this week is serving as the Camping Headquarters Chaplain.  After breakfast, I take off on foot and try to visit as many staff members as I can, and also hang around the Welcome Center to greet arriving trail bound crews, as well as home bound crews.  During lunch time, I head over to the Dining Hall and speak to as many crews as I have time for, finding out where they are from, inviting them to Chapel services, and offering to help however I can.

FYI - Philmont averages 300+ campers arriving daily, and 300+ campers departing daily, with several thousand campers on the property every day.  I am amazed at how many staff people it takes to support all the crews who are here for their trek.  I am also amazed at how logistics here runs so smoothly.  There is a sense of expected efficiency here . . . and I am taking lots of notes.

I am also blown away by the servant spirits among all the staff here.  Much effort goes into training all the staff in the principles of servant leadership.  I cannot remember a time when I was surrounded with a large a number of people whose first response to advisors and campers is "how can I help you?"

In the afternoons, I visit the Staff Activities Center, as well as hanging out around the courtyard next to the Tooth of Time Traders Store here on site.   At 5:45 PM, I meet with all the Chaplain Aides from every incoming trek crew, and train them on their responsibilities. Afterward, I step into the Crew Advisor meetings, and share with them the role of the Chaplain, and explain all the worship service opportunities.

This past Sunday, I led the 9 AM morning Protestant Worship for staff members, and both preached and led worship (with guitar) for the 7PM Protestant Chapel Service.   My first day off is this coming Thursday, and I am looking forward to it.  I hope to head into either Raton or over to Taos.  The weather that day will determine which direction I go. 

Tomorrow I have the honor of leading a short interfaith service for a group of Scouts and leaders who are members of the Order of the Arrow, before they depart Philmont.  Since I have not been invited into this order as a member (which I hope happens one day) . . . I am taking it as an honor to be invited to be the Chaplain for the service.

I believe I am averaging about 14,000 steps a day this week.  I believe 18.000+ steps has been my record so far.  The exercise is needed. Now that I seem better acclimated to the elevation (6,500 feet here at Camping Headquarters), walking is not tiring me out near as much.  I have hiked up to crew camps at altitudes near 9,000 - 10,000 feet . . . and SURVIVED!

More to come in the next few days.  Prayers being sent my way are appreciated!

God's graces still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, July 5, 2013

Philmont Report #1

Greetings from Philmont Scout Ranch!

I arrived at 8:15 AM on Monday, July 1st, having left Colorado Springs at 5 am.  It was an awesome drive going south through Pueblo, Trinidad, Raton Pass, and then out to Cimarron, and finally to the Philmont.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in getting in a weeks worth of training in 2 days.  I did get to lead evening Protestant Chapel on July 1st, and preached on July 2nd. I will preach again on Friday.  I am sharing Protestant Chaplain responsibilities with 2 other gentlemen, and we are getting along great.  my back country driving training was overseen by our Jewish Chaplain, Cantor Michael Dzubin of Miami, Fl.  Yesterday I drove up to Cimarroncito Camp, and then waaaaaaaayyyyyy out to Sawmill Camp to pick up 3 hikers who were ill, to bring then down to the Health Lodge at Camping Headquarters.   I am thankful the Suburban's we drive here have 4 wheel drive.  I drove from 6500 feet up to over 10,000+ feet in elevation on gravel, dirt and mud roads, including driving to Sawmill during a hail storm.

Awesome . . . I can't wait to do it again.

Being a chaplain at Philmont is a "ministry of presence."   We are expected to be visible and available to campers, adult advisors, as well as the Philmont Staff.  This coming week, I will be the Camping Headquarters Chaplain, and will spend time training the Chaplain Guides on each trek crew.  This are  youth who have volunteered to serve in this capacity for their crew.   I will participate in 3 services on Saturday, and will preach at least 3 times on Sunday.

A miracle of sorts has taken place.  I haven't limped much in the past couple of days.  Many friends and church members are aware that I have dealt with some chronic plantar facaistis pain over the past few years.  I've averaged over 14,000 steps each of the past 4 days, and my foot seems to be hurting less.  I'll take it.

On Monday and Tuesday, we had chapel at an alternate site due to rain showers.  The past two evenings, we had chapel outside at the Protestant Chapel area.  It is an awesome place to have worship.  I haven't been able to upload the pictures I took, but hope to have that worked out soon.

I hope to write some more in the next few days, and perhaps post some pictures.  Wish I hadn't forgotten my camera . . . but my phone seems to be working ok with pictures so far.

Appreciations for those who promised to pray for me daily during my time away. I really appreciate it.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>