we are doing it wrong


Today marks a month since I landed on Scottish soil, and so it seems only right for me to spend some time reflecting on how the ‘big move’ is going. I think the title of the post sums things up accurately enough. And by it, I mean everything.

Sure, maybe you’ve seen some pretty pictures or heard rumour of fun adventures. While those are pleasant enough moments, they have only been a tiny slice of what the past month has been like for us. Let’s take stock of the journey so far – the life we have left and the one we’ve embraced.

Back in the States, I had a j–o–b. One that I found fulfilling, and one that I would occasionally feel half-way competent at. Now, I’m an under-employed full-time student. While the pastorate wasn’t a lucrative profession, I never wondered if we were going to be able to keep the lights on. We now find ourselves in a situation where despite many people’s generosity, we will have opportunity month after month to see God’s provision for us. In sum, we have traded in a measure of financial security for financial vulnerability (or perhaps more accurately, financial irresponsibility).

Speaking of irresponsible, we left a house. We haven’t sold it. We haven’t rented it. We left it. Mind you, we hope that one of those two options will work out soon, but a month has gone by and nothing yet. What have we gotten in return? After two-weeks of an ulcer-producing home search, we landed in a home that is smaller and less nice than the one we left. Oh yeah, and it costs nearly twice what our home in Arkansas might rent for… that is if it would, in fact, rent.

The list could go on and on. Schools we really liked for schools that are ok. Roads, grocery stores, and bureaucracy that we knew how to navigate for a world of unfamiliarity that takes three times the effort and time it should to get through. I don’t even want to think about the fact that I haven’t clipped into a pair of pedals in over a month.

But frankly, all of that pales in comparison to that which has been the hardest to leave which is of course people. Friends, family, church, small groups, students, teachers, biking buddies, familiar faces at restaurants and grocery stores. We’ve left a community in which we were deeply embedded. People whom we had the privilege of loving and who in turn loved us. And while we are well on way to making new friends here, there is a sense in which I think all of us feel lonely. Thank goodness that there are six of us (presently seven!) so that we are never truly alone.

The story of Abraham has often come to mind in the past month. Not that I would presume to suggest that I have anything close to the measure of faith that he had, but I would say that I have come to better appreciate his story more in a very tangible way over the last thirty days. I think I can identify with the bits of his story that are left untold in the Genesis account. The sort of thoughts and emotions that one has to read between the lines in order to pick up on.

I’ve wondered how he felt about leaving the familiar behind. Or how easily he slept at night in the Judean country-side while the burden of providing for his clan weighed heavily on his mind. What were his thoughts as he wandered through a unknown land and encountered a foreign people? Most of all, I wonder how many times Abraham second-guessed his encounter with God in which he was told to set forth into the unknown. As he led his family out of Ur, surely he look back over his shoulder more than once and thought, “this is all wrong.”

Not that I was under the illusion that it was all going to be easy. From the outside looking in, one might have made the mistake of thinking that this journey has been an easy one for us. Certainly as I tell the story that began over a year ago, there are countless stories of God’s faithfulness and his seeming to open doors that would have otherwise appeared sealed shut. And that is all true enough. But what may have gone unrecognized is that getting to the place to even test the doorknob took a fair amount of perseverance. Likewise, many have only heard the part of the story in which hurdle after hurdle was miraculously overcome. But it doesn’t convey the sense of discouragement that comes when you bump up against a door that doesn’t seem to budge.

What do you do when your house hasn’t sold? Do you take that as a ‘sign’ that this isn’t God’s will for you? Or do you push on? Similarly, when you don’t have a predictable source of ample income, is that also a sign that it is time to head for greener pastures? I’m wondering how often I’ve simply reduced godly decision-making to fiscal responsibility. Surely, I bow the knee to Christ and not just the almighty dollar.

Sorry if this in any way shatters the image of the idyllic life you thought the Chinos had found across the Atlantic. The truth of the matter is that while following a God-given dream can be exhilarating, most of the time it is just hard work. In fact, maybe the willingness to press on when it is hard is the difference between a fancy and calling. I came across an article on Steve Jobs, and the following words describing the difference between passion and obsession resonated with me…

A disconnect develops between what many of us want passionately and what few of us are willing to obsess over and sacrifice to achieve. The passionate and obsessive are often reading from similar scripts with entirely different endings.

Obsession camps out for Radiohead tickets. Passion goes to the show and sings along, but thinks the fans with their Kid A tattoos are creepy. However, only the obsessed end up with front row seats.

Obsession demands an outcome, where passion doesn’t. It can be swayed into other pursuits when it doesn’t get its way.

Passion wants to change the world, but often hasn’t put in the effort to become great at anything of value. Even worse, passion sometimes knocks over those in the trenches, the obsessed doing the hard work to push their fields forward despite the obstacles.

Substitute the word obsession with calling (not that they are dissimilar) and I can get fully on board with the sentiment. I’ve ended up with a fair share of front row seats at concerts, and I would consider it tragic if my efforts resulted in knocking over someone trying to do the hard work in the trenches. I can only hope that the clarity of God’s calling in the days and months leading up to our departure will sustain in the hard work of pushing forward.

As always, I have more to say, but it is time for other pursuits.

high adventure

Once we were down from Snowmass, Craig and I had a day to clean up, rest up, and gear up for our next adventure with our college friends from back home. Monday morning, they pulled up in not one but two church vans and start spilling out into the streets of the small town of Dolores in southwestern Colorado.

I’ve shared some before about the significance of a week together in the mountains. And my friend Tyler spent some time describing what impacted him about this specific trip. But there were a couple things about this week that made it unique for me.

First, the group was huge. In fact so large that we had to divide our group in half to fulfill the wilderness area imposed restrictions. Craig took the college students who already had at least a year under their belt, and I had the group who had freshly graduated from high school plus a handful of adults.

Which brings me to the other thing that made this trip so special. It maybe should come as no surprise that I ended up with the class of 2012. These guys belong to me (well, me and Rob). For about three years now, we have had the privilege of being the small group leaders for the male half of this group. We have watched them (and at times helped them) navigate the challenges of adolescence. Week after week, they would show up in our homes and we would break bread together. Laugh together. Get upset with each other. Learn together. Pray together. Year after year, we would take them on various camps, retreats, and trips. We poured into them. And whether they realize it or not, they poured into us as well.

Of course, there is the actual mountain itself. We climbed Wilson Peak, which like Snowmass is another Class 3 mountain. That means it looks sort of scary, but it isn’t super dangerous. These guys and gals climbed like champs and through perseverance, team work, and the grace of God we made it to the top. The last pitch is especially intimidating, so it makes for a rewarding and emotional payoff on the summit. Of course, once you’re standing on top, you are really only half way there. The return trip, while not quite as strenuous, is no piece of cake either. While we got a little wet and were a lot exhausted, we did manage to all make it back to camp safe and sound. That evening we huddled underneath the “magic tarp” and delighted in the gift of being dry and warm. But mostly we enjoyed simply being together.

While our trip to the high-country brought this leg of our journey together to an end, it also marked the beginning of a new chapter in which they would discover just how high they can climb on their own.

snowmass epiphany

Yesterday, I shared briefly about my climbing Snowmass Mountain. Not twelve hours later, I get a Facebook message (oh Facebook, how I love/hate you) from one of the guys I met up with along the way. He tells me that his friend, Joel, who was climbing with us made a short video of their experience on the mountain.

In a word… stunning.

Worth every second of your four minutes. Yours truly even makes a blink of an eye cameo appearance.

Snowmass Epiphany from Joel Pilger on Vimeo.

I don’t want to ruin it with too many words, but two quick observations. One, I had no idea that he was videoing all this. Granted, I was pretty busy with what I was doing, but come on. You think I would notice a dude whipping out his camera every few minutes. Two, you just have to appreciate the art of telling a story through video. Of course, not anyone can pull this off. Joel obviously knew what he was doing. Great angles. Great material. Great music. Even great words. But a four minute video tells a story that I couldn’t have even if I had all the paper and ink (or screen space and pixels) in the world.


Snowmass Mountain

While we were all in camping heaven, our ever so enjoyable time at Crested Butte needed to come to an end. The Chino-lings attend a “year-round” school which meant that summer was being cut short for them. We loaded up and the family began the long drive home. The whole family minus one… or two. Craig and I would be staying to wait for the college folks from our church to show up for our annual backpacking/climbing trip. However, they weren’t due to arrive for another couple days. So what do you do when you have a little time to kill in Colorado?

Go climb a mountain, of course.

Our destination was Snowmass Mountain (not to be confused with the ski resort). I should say it was my destination. Craig has climbed all of them and didn’t necessarily feel the need to hold my hand up the mountain. So we loaded up our packs and hiked a couple miles up to a pretty typical (meaning gorgeous) mountain lake high in the Rockies.

We set up camp.

We feasted on a few trout that Craig caught and turned in early.

The next morning, I was up before the sun and began the climb. Snowmass is a pretty straightforward mountain. It is Class 3, which means it is on the challenging side. Route-finding is a little tricky, but not overly so. I met up with a team of three other climbers and was grateful to have some company on the mountain as well as a few more sets of eyes. We made it to the top around 10 or so. Snapped a few pics and headed back down.

All in all, it was a great climb. People always ask me how many “fourteeners” I’ve climbed and I never really remember. I tallied them up when I got home and Snowmass was #28. Or 26. Or 29. All depending on which ones count.

Back at base camp, Craig had caught and prepared another fresh trout feast which I swallowed in two or three bites. We quickly packed up and headed out. We were eager to get some rest for our next big adventure with our friends from back home!

Crested Butte

During our stay in Moab, we mustered the troops for a visit to Canyonlands National Park. I had always heard great things about it, and so we made the short drive to go take a look. I can’t tell you what a great decision that was. Truly amazing. I’ll let Alison tell you THE REST.

I should mention that while we were in Moab we were joined by another longtime Seattle friend, Jermaine. These days, she lives in Turkey where she is pursing her doctorate, so a visit with her – no matter how brief – was a real gift.

So with Jermaine in tow, we woke up one morning, said our goodbyes to the Peterson’s and headed back across the border to Colorado to meet up with Alison’s parents. But we weren’t just returning to Colorado. In route, we figured out that due to circumstances outside our control, we were going to be headed back to Crested Butte. This news was met with joyful ‘whoops’ by every Chino, because you see, Crested Butte is our very favorite. I anticipate that Alison will do more of the sharing here as well, but I leave you with just a couple photos.

This is taken from the Oh-Be-Joyful Campground and over the years I have had the pleasure of staring up this valley repeatedly. Coming to Crested Butte in many ways feels like coming home. We camp. We hike. We bike. We visit town. We go to Camp 4 Coffee. We go to The Alpineer. We go to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (yes, another one). We go to Teocalli Tamale. We go to the park. We ride the “bus that costs no money.” It always very familiar, very good, and we never get tired of going back – again and again.Who knows? Maybe sometime we could show you around.


Photography in Arches National Park

After a brief but enjoyable stay in Aspen, we ventured westward to meet up with some dear friends from our Seattle days. They were a on a multi-week journey to see various national parks west of the Rockies. And after a flurry of email exchanges, our paths crossed in Moab, Utah.

Lots I could say, but Alison has shared some great photos and thoughts over HERE. You should go take a look.

The only thing I have to add is this handy guide for helping someone figure out the best time of day for taking pictures of the various arches in the park.

I realize that this is a pretty dorky thing to put out there. But what can I say? I’m a dork. It’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret.

vacation in Aspen for less than $50 per day

The recap of Chino summer adventures continues. Since Alison has already shared some about our time there, I’m going to try to come at this from a different angle.

There is so much that I appreciate about camping vacations. The cool clean mountain air. Drinking in the beauty of our surroundings. Being outside. Time with people I care about. Fires (when they haven’t been banned). Quiet. Good food. Hiking. Morning coffee. But there is a benefit to camping that sometimes doesn’t get near the recognition it should…

It’s cheap.

Aspen is possibly the most pretentious (and expensive) resort town in Colorado. If you need to be reminded of this, let me recommend seeing the time-honored classic, Dumb and Dumber. Most of Aspen’s vacationers are burning money in the streets and are proud of it. I haven’t a clue what four days of room and board for six people in Aspen would cost, but my guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000.

Contrast that with the $21 a night scenic campground located 6 miles outside of town. It was far enough from town to make you feel like you were really away from it all, but close enough for daily forays into town to shop for groceries, use the internet, play on the playground, visit the library, and people watch. And did I mention… it was $21 a night.

Likewise on the food. Saving so much money on accommodations easily could have justified eating a couple meals in town, but  we didn’t.  And we really didn’t have much desire to. We were usually on the go around lunchtime and so picnic fare just seemed to make sense. Plus, our breakfasts and dinners back at camp were meals fit for royalty. I can’t imagine that food cost us more than $15-20 per day for our family.

While there are any number of places to part with your hard earned dollars in Aspen, there are only three establishments that will repeatedly suck us in.

1) Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory // This isn’t true only in Aspen. Any mountain town that has one (and they all seem to have one) is sure to get another $10-15 from us. Worth every penny.

2) Ute Mountaineer // This particular store caters to an addiction of mine that I am neither proud of – nor ashamed of.

3) The Thrift Shop of Aspen // The name itself seems like a oxymoron. And yet, there truly are bargains to be had in this funny little store.

So there it is. A four day stay in Aspen that ends up costing a couple Benjamins. Hard to believe… but true.

Next stop – Moab, Utah.


summer revisited // Hondo2012

I know it has been a while, but summer gets crazy and the blog falls to the bottom of the priority list. However I’m back from a summer full of adventures and my hope over the next few weeks is to give you a glimpse into what’s been happening in my life over the last few months. Ready? Go.

The first trip took place before summer break officially began… Hondo2012. Nearly a year prior, Bobby and I sensed that maybe this year’s graduating class was up for an international mission trip. This group of students had a number of young men and women who had done it all. Attended and provided leadership in the youth group. Served in church and in the community. Been on every retreat, trip, camp, mission, activity we had ever thrown at them. It was a group of students who were deeply connected to each other, the church, and God. So a mission trip to Honduras seemed like just the right thing to bring their high school years with us to a close.

Plans were made. Money was raised. Training meetings were held. Airplane tickets were bought. And providentially a group of twenty-one people were assembled for the team. Out of that group nine of them were graduating seniors and the rest were a wonderful assortment of adults who had various reasons for wanting to be on the team.

It is difficult to put into a few words all that we experienced that week, so I’ll share a bit and then maybe the pictures I include will fill in the gaps. Pictures are worth a thousand words, right?

The bare details of the week are that we showed up on Wednesday. Visited their orphanage on a ranch in the mountains on Thursday. Staffed their medical brigade on Friday and Saturday. Went to church and sight-seeing on Sunday. Another medical brigade Monday and Tuesday. Flew home on Wednesday.

What the run down of our itinerary doesn’t convey are any of the things that made the trip what it was. We walked away from the week having had a wonderful opportunity to serve the “least of these” without much concern for what we would get in return.

However, as is always the case, we stood everything to gain from the experience. An appreciation for what is happening in another part of the world. A chance to recognize some new things about ourselves. Some pleasant surprises. Others less so. An opportunity to work along-side Honduran brother and sisters in work that was meaningful.

But perhaps the thing that will be the most lasting is a sense of connectedness to the other people on the team that came about through our shared experiences. Shared joys. Shared struggles. Shared service. Shared stories. Shared meals. Shared worship. Shared lives.

With any luck, there will be a Hondo2013!

The next episode of “Summer Revisited” will feature D-Camp!!!


Four (Weeks) for Friday

It has been a month to the day since my last post. Just over four weeks. And since it is Friday… well you’ve read the title. Here is what’s been up with me over the last four weeks.

Week 1 // KAA – Fortunately, my pardner in crime has done a pretty extensive write-up of the week. So, I’ll leave you with a song and a picture.

Tedashii – Dum Dum (feat. Lecrae)

That’s Lauren Foster (one of our 9th grade students) about to launch herself from the top of a thirty-foot telephone pole. This photograph is a snap-shot of what the whole week was about… risk, facing fears, trust, and leaps of faith.

Week 2 // The family loads up and heads west. It is no secret that I love the mountains and that they regularly provide the backdrop for our family’s adventures. Alison has shared some here.

Josh Garrels – Pilot Me

Week 3 // We are joined by more family and friends and bikes… and games. There was easily a game of Settlers a day. Many days, more than one.

Leagues – Mind Games

Hiking to Judd Falls

Taking “5”

One of the “floats” at the 4th Parade

Week 4 // The infamous Senior Backpacking Trip.

Mumford & Sons – Home (possible title live)

This one started off this way…

and ended like this…

It has been a very good four weeks.

More Mountains

Like most summers, the Rocky Mountains will provide the backdrop for various adventures in the coming weeks.

I’m taking my family (and an assortment of others) for a two-week camping trip. This annual event is sure to be both epic and rejuvenating at the same time.

I’ll also help lead a pack of graduating seniors as they take a week to pause and think clearly about the next chapter of their lives.

In between those two trips, I’m hoping for a couple days to do some climbing in southwest region of the state.

And then, later in the summer, I’m looking to take a group of guys (18 year old plus) for a long weekend of the perfect combination of mountain-leisure and mountain-rigor. I never exactly know who is game for this sort of thing, nor am I the kind of person that wants to make it an exclusive affair. So, if you are male, have August 3-9 more or less free, and desire this kind of mountain adventure, let me know. I’m going to be there. And I’m thinking about a dozen others will be joining me.

May all your summertime plans bear good fruit… no matter where you find yourself.