When we sold our house last year we were doing more than preparing for our move west. We were also committing to a simpler lifestyle by choosing to become renters and giving up most of our possessions. I recall saying, “By renting our ministry can be more responsive to the Spirit’s call on our life.” Little did I know that God was listening and would hold me to my words.
Settling into our efficiency in Portland, we were finding joy in our quirky, big city life. I was delighting in the city that I fell in love with as an adult and recalled fondly from my childhood. My wife was doing important ministry with veterans and I was working on “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19).
But after five months, God lured us out of the city and into the Hood River area, a place famous for its windsurfing, breathtaking scenery, and outdoor recreation. I was, ahem, a tad stubborn. I didn’t want to leave “my city” but the Spirit reminded me of my commitment to faithful mobility.
The palpable presence of the Spirit in Maggie’s ministry as a clinical chaplain at Providence Hospital in the Gorge daily reassures me that this is our path. Opening myself to the pleasures of the Gorge I began hiking. On the trails of the Gorge and adjacent Mt. Hood National Forest I find God. I write about and photograph my spiritual adventures with gusto. (See some of my posts about Hiking with God here.)
It could not have happened without my brief stint in Portland nor without the sparkling allure of the Holy Spirit that enthralls my attention. I am now working on a project tentatively titled “Hiking with God.” I perceive the Spirit’s presence as I begin to outline and write a spiritual hiking guide to specific trails in the magical land called the Columbia River Gorge.
The “new thing,” the path upon which God lured me during a Holy Spirit moment in San Diego three years ago, has evolved. God has me on a need-to-know basis. The single word “Portland” that I perceived during communion in San Diego was not a destination but a direction. I’ve learned that the divine deal works like this: I choose to be open to the Spirit and to continue removing clutter from my life. I also strive to respond to God not with “that can’t work” but with “how can we make this work?” and God nudges me toward responses that are loving to others and to myself.
Our God is a remembering God. God noticed that I committed to flexibility and mobility as part of following the Divine claim on my life. After a joyous summer of hiking, junior camp with the Oregon Region of my denomination, not to mention my near gluttony on the Gorge’s fruit and vegetable harvest, the Spirit called again.
And, so, I find myself in the remarkable small town of Ione, Oregon as an Interim Pastor while the settled pastor is on sabbatical. I spend four days a week in a town of three-hundred fifty. I cheer at local sports, I leave my doors unlocked, and I smile with abandon. I am privileged to have this opportunity to fall in love with the people of Ione Community Church and the town. In the vernacular, “who’d’ve thunk?”
Though my time will end in January, my time in Ione has already opened me to other movements of the Spirit that — if they come to pass — will allow me to serve God inside the traditional church and among those who do not find God within an institution.
Help me to trust you. Help me to perceive your loving presence and signposts. Help me to keep the clutter that obscures you out of my life that I may always throw off my cloak to follow love, to follow you.