Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mature Manure and Cheeses

Good Morning.
Can't honestly interpret my title this morning. It would be incriminating.
Just read a FB update from an ex-pastor who was chewed up,  spit out, re-married and trying to reclaim life as a disciple - not - an oracle in the world. Well I have news for the spiritually mature.  

Hard to believe for some indoctrinated Mature and overfed spiritual cattle but yup "manure happens, and it's a natural part of life" , The super natural part is dealing with it in a Christ like manner and seeing our fruit change from bitter to sweet as we become more like Cheeses. Gosh if someone is translating this blog in another language "I'm so sorry this morning for you".  I've always been a sucker for metaphors.

The thing i love about new believers and followers of Jesus is that they know their stuff stinks. They are so happy to be redeemed. They know they have so much to learn, and they hunger for reading the bible and praying.  Their guilt lies in the fact that they are trying to give up all the flesh habits of their  walk in the world, and now slowly and surely learn to replace them with some better choices. Usually the world gets us addicted to the things that are "ok" in moderation of life and we abuse them horribly. Now a life of faith can help us either get a grip on those issues or eliminate them for our own safety. And in this process new believers naturally  have all the flesh issues to deal with that manure opps, I mean mature christians love to point out over coffee.  But, new believers,  they LOVE  and eat the Word,  Love devotions (even if they don't know that word yet), and love prayer with a passion.  It's so exciting to see. They don't judge others and non-believers --- daaa --- . They know what they just came from, and haven't been indoctrinated yet into learning how to become a  judgemental pharisee or a  "lookatmee".

  And then there's the flip side. 20, 30, 40 years of "deep" teaching and american church. Those of us in that camp. (ME)  Well, we've eliminated the obvious sins that the church doesn't want to see in us, and so, we "look", really clean on the outside.  "lookatmee"..   However we find it harder and harder to feed ourselves and be excited each morning to have devotions and pray. We look for the super teacher or writer to enlighten us, so we have something new to discuss over coffee, with our other enlightened mature believing friends, as we heartfully discuss all those in our lives who are struggling and need "our" prayer. "insert fresh pile photo here".

So today, I sit writing Lord Jesus. There are topics Lord, that make me sick of myself and to my stomach. And this is one of them. This is my morning confession and regurgitation of my own disgust of my heart at times.   "judging others, bearing false witness". I recall those I've judged over obvious wrongs to me. Things i've had a right to be upset about, but things in which I've not had a right to judge or malign them or their characters about, any more than others to me. So forgive me for my Mature Manure of religious indoctrination that has ever made me think more of myself than i ought.  Not only forgive me... CHANGE ME. 

I said the other day over lunch with a traveler. When asked how to address sin within the fellowship of believers?  What do you do they asked.?  I said, quite honestly "today" i'm standing at a place where i lovingly remind them that I love them and that the Word of God says that  "x" actually is sin and they are in it. Then I tell them that I love them and that i have my own "x" 's  I'm trying to come to terms with every day and I need their prayers as well to be humble enough to admit it and see it so I can deal with them as well. I tell them that I will be with them, regardless of their choices, and love them as a friend. I tell them my prayer for them as well as me, is that as I draw nearer to Jesus in word, deed and prayer and supplication, and that He will transform my very soul and those ties to my flesh will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace each day.
And there it is. No judgement, No i'm better, No gotcha.    Just "do you know what you're doing does not align up with Jesus basic truths in the Word for abundant life, and that I'm praying as we walk this "together " that He will make that change in you "and" I, and we will gloriously look and act more like Him in the future".  Does that look like friendship, brotherhood, love and grace to you ---- or does that look like milk toast, whitewashed, watered down, greasy grace Christianity?

I guess that all depends on who your teachers were. 
Matt.,Mark, Luke and  John's accounts, or, Luther, Calvin, the Pope or another modern day pied Piper....with - of course -  great intentions, telling you "without telling you" that they are/were the oracle.  Come on now, don't read too deeply into that, or you're likely to start the "lookatmee" routine over your spiritual mortal heros you think i've maligned. No doubt they all were/are better and more spiritual than I'll ever be. Better scholars, better whatever's.. It's ok. I'm just sharing the confessions of "one" worshipper here to others.

As I leave today, remember it's "never what you say but what others heard you say" that get's repeated and "spun"  in life, and causes so much confusion and division.  
That's where constant prayer and asking of God's Holy Spirit to help us, and lead us each moment of each day, becomes the real "x" factor to a life of hope filled humility to humanity in search of real love.
Just because Manure Happens, doesn't mean God can't turn it for good, or that you should think "you" don't possess any for any periods of time. Think of this photo from India and be reminded of what fuels and heats their huts in places where there is no elect. or gas and no power plants either.

"Whatever is good, whatever is pure, whatever is of good report, whatever is uplifting, whatever is beautiful, whatever is lovely, whatever brings peace and a smile.. focus on these things."
Did i forget " whatever brings espresso"....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Montana Dreamin

I lay in my old hot tub at Lifetime Fitness at midnight the other night with my eyes closed, dreaming I was back in the Boiling River section of the Lamar river (as seen here).  I went to see a great country band "The Killer Hayseeds" last night outdoors in Osseo MN,  and all I could think of was the cold Montana night air and watching a band with the mountains all around at night outdoors in Chico Hot Springs MT. Then I'm on my deck at midnight last night staring at the city version of stars, as I do most nights, but I was again dreaming of Mountain Stars. I guess I'm just Montana Dreamin... Just skip California Dreamin and bikini tans and surf boards and gimme the Grizzly prints and scat big enough to make you shat and keep a hand on your pepper spray and your bell ringing!  God gave us fear for a reason. Not to be lived in or it will kill you from the inside. But, I think it's  pre curser to the great reckoning or other epic events that mortals need to be aware of and think seriously about, so we don't end this life pre-maturely.

Ok, driving with a foot while drinking espresso and texting with the other hand comes to mind. Geeze that's a tough confession to recon with. But, my boys will give me "MY" look on occasion when I'm being foolish like that. I cant help I did a one man show for years that was a multi tasking nightmare, and consequently I live on that edge whenever I can, to see if I can still juggle that extra plate at 70mph. "and after I got over that brain injury".... I'm trying now to think about that a bit more these days.

Never having been lost in the wilderness or in a POW camp, I can't imagine what it must be like to re-introduce yourself to the mainland, but just after 9 days alone in a little tent in the mountains I must admit I have a quarter ounce of that feeling as I return home. My wife, my bed, my kids, my friends, my cars and home and church and restaurants and and, and I'm missing boiled water and wind storms and hard rain and freezing morning dirty wet socks, and yes, beautiful trout.
Beyond that it might be the adventure.. yes, that might really be it.  However you could experience a similar feeling living in a van,  under a bridge by the river, in any city. But somehow that doesn't appeal to me like it did to "the whiskey drinkin preacher" talked about in the classic Chuck Cannon song. (now, one of my all time favorites, that country singer Michael Peterson introduced me to last year).

So it's Saturday, I should be cutting grass, but I'm still drinking espresso and dreamin bout Montana...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Hunt For Red Montana.

Finishing a dance with a pretty girl on Armstrong Creek. The blue of the sky on the crystal waters. The flash and dance of the lime green moss swaying on the rocks.

Ms. Salmo Trutta

So I’m walking Main Street Bozeman Montana at Midnight.

It’s 70 degrees now and dropping quickly. Like most nights, there are traveling homeless musicians entertaining themselves by streetlight on a few cheap guitars. Singing old folk songs in an out of tune, wine filled holler. You get the feeling they are calling out to other lost souls in the night. Very tan with Dredded, tattoo'd, dirty clothes and large backpacks, sums up these 20 somethings very well. A couple of them had a cheap guitar case covered in stickers and wrapped in clothesline. It could be 1968 here tonight. But drive 5 minutes out of town and it could be 1868.

It’s been 9 days alone with a one man tent, my trusty Sage fly rods and a 20 yr old Able #1 reel. Enjoying freeze dried food, a water purifier, one pair of shoes, and a solar USB charger for my Android (which I use for photos and updating) has been quite rewarding.
No radio, cable, newspapers or media to fill my head during this trip. I will admit that having cell phone service just about everywhere I was, to be able to do updates and call before bed from a tent was an unexpected blessing I didn’t think was possible. I turned the radio in the car on but once to hear static on every channel. It was as if God was saying "Shut up and listen to my music for a while will ya please.  My river at night is the best sleep mate. The high winds and critters and noises in the night do make you pause and talk to Me. And by the way,there are no paintings or photos to reproduce the sights and views i make as I dance the sun through each day, reflecting on the sames surfaces and changing their looks every day 100 times for YOU to enjoy.

 Getting my Jeep Wrangler and pulling out of the BZN airport I stopped at 1AM to get a few supplies before heading down Hwy 89 through Paradise Valley, Gardner, the N. Entrance to Yellowstone and over into Slough Creek.  My fishing buddy Bruce of 30 + years could not make this trip, but as I walked the artificial neon lit isles to get supplies, there it was, a picture of Bruces' old friend "Lucky" the black lab. Well, I had to get a 6 pack, and know that I would go to the mountains and toast my dear friends old best friend.

I had decided to make this trip with just one backpack for everything.  So, scaling down was a big deal from the 10 man tent and 4 burner coleman stove with the mondo grill propane tank:)  JetBoil had a new cook system for 16oz of water. It also had a French Press adapter. Whellll.. That sold that sucker right there and then. 1lb of large ground Dunn Bros. Espresso and I was ready for just about anything but a bear paw coming through my tent at 3AM.  30 degree nights and mornings made boiling water a real pleasure at 6AM  and  10PM, before kneeling into a boy size tent for a 6'3 man.
As far as trash, I never realized how little imprint I could make by using those pouch meals for everything. No dishes, and one napkin. that's it. Put it all in the cook pouch when you're done eating, along with any daily wrappers from Cliff bars, and Voila', that's it. Well ok, the coffee grounds out of the flashboil each morning was the biggest mess, but good coffee does have a price. And honestly I've kind of grown a custom to chewing on Dunn Brother grounds after the fact. But with all that said....

It wasn’t till I ended up on day 8 in Chico Hot Springs Montana, and smelled a Pizza and Brats, as I got out of my truck,  that I realized how much I love a fry pan, grill and an oven.
That feeling must be the same one a bear must smell when he's hungry and smells meat from a long distance. I'm guessing he gets as excited as I was at that moment. ok -- i got pizza, if ya really want to know. I ate 4 pieces and brought the rest back to the river for my neighbors to devour.

Since I've written this in different stages of my journey, I mention that earlier tonight on my last night in downtown Bozeman Montana I ended up at Ted Turners Rest., having a Bison Rib eye and all the accouterments. Could have had steak, but I ate Bison in memory of the buffalo listed later in this blog. Being at Ted’s for dinner was only funny because floating the Yellowstone last Thursday, we floated by Ted, Mr. Turner, Janes ex. There he was standing alone along a bank, crouched over throwing hoppers. My guide and I  shared 3 or four jabs about the weather, and fishing, as we floated by.  His unmistakable looks, moustache and voice made me giggle and say “ how good is Montana, where billionaires dress up in goofy clothes, climb down ravines to rivers and sweat and swear as they hunt the most beautiful girl for a chance to dance with a rainbow. And finicky she is..

Like 400 boys at a dance, you'll tie on and cut off fly after fly and drift it by her only to have her say "nope, to tall", "nope wrong color", "nope wrong family line" and on and on, till suddenly one of your handsome flys takes her fancy.  (By which time you're usually doing the a.d.d. look away at a shiny object after 100 casts), and at that moment the big girl notices you looking away on your cast and thrashes your fly, flips a tail or rolls away smiling -- never --- to look at that fly again for sure. And you.. well if you are used to cursing, they will fly. For me it's self deprecation like "for cryin out loud Craig, how can you still do that after 30 years of throwing flies at trout". And honestly the answer is, that fly fishing is an amazing balance of multi tasking. There are so many things going on at one moment, that if you focus on one thing you are toast. Example. You've spotted a trout "or", where you swear one will be feeding. You have to enter the stream behind them far enough so you're not seen, or, oops. "toast again".  You must be in the river or on a high bank in a way to get off a cast to the spot you want to get your drift to, to drop that fly naturally over their magical circular sight line. Anything less and "toast again". Can't lose footing in the river, or you're possibly dead, so that's kind of a big one. Back casting with trees, brush and banks makes it interesting getting your fly up to where you need it also. The blessings and cursing of up or down stream winds. argggg.  And then there is the fly and leader selection. That's a library in itself..

So what I'm saying is, it's not a guy from "A River Runs Through It" beautifully shadow casting 60feet in both directions in a windless open river.. And no, that was not Brad Pitt doing that.

Well tonight I think back on what I was desiring from this adventure. As always, there are the things you planned on, the things you didn’t, and the wild cards. Entering Slough at 4AM, I slept in the jeep till a site opened up at 6AM. There on a rock next to my Jeep was a little matchbox tractor.  I can only imagine a little boy was playing with it here in the wilderness days before. And like "Andy"  in Toy Story, decided that it would be best to leave his friend the truck where he could have the most fun and seek the wildest things. I did look for Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and Ken and Barbie behind the bushes having a weird party while squatting one time, but alas, only a slinky dog.

I planned on - a few days at Slough Creek up in the meadows, and it didn’t disappoint. Large native Cutthroat trout sighted, hooked, broken off and landed. These are smart fish. They learn to live under the high banks, where the only way to reach them with a fly, is to cross river and throw down from the high banks to them. That’s great until you hook one and have no way to land her. You can only try to get down the stream with them 50 yards or more, where you can safely slide down the bank into the river, get full of mud and slide into a ft. of mud, only to have them wait that long, before they break you off, and shake a tail fin at you, and SLOWLY swim away.  And of course you NEVER get the largest ones you sight and hunt, and… , it’s always true, that when you turn away from your fly to sight your next cast.. . that’s when the biggest fish crush your fly, spit it out, and roll away. Come on now, doesn't this all take a worm on a hook, or a buzz bait to new levels of excitement.
You see Slough Creek and the meadows are Breathtaking views, with wild animals to close for comfort.
I've talked to many a camper, hiker ,who tell me there's no way they'd camp up in the NE section of Yellowstone. Way to much danger.  This week there were the two buffalo’s in rut on the trail head that surprised me coming home at night. Coming around a big 12 ft rock on the trail, you blindly walked into a large male buffalo. Very un nerving, and I quickly turned, made no eye contact and heading into the woods to do the end around, only to come back to the trail from the other side  and have a conversation with them from a distance.
 I reminisced at every turn of the trail through forests and meadows, of my time there with my oldest son Jamison a year earlier; hiking and fishing to the second meadow. Laughing, sweating and complaining about the weight of our packs. Sorry son, we didn’t need it, and I didn’t take one this year. I would find myself stopping on occasion. Stopping where my son and I had stopped. I’d suck in the view, take a breath, shed a tear, and have an open conversation with him about how much I love him, and wished he were there with me at that moment.
Funny but now that I think of it, that’s very similar to the conversations I have on the golf courses today, where I played golf with my dad for years, when he walked this beautiful blue marble. Aren’t memories an incredible gift? !

Things I didn’t plan on - two very large storms coming in with hail and almost blowing me away through the night My neighbors tents at Slough were crushed and uprooted and blown down to the river with their gear in it one day. That was the night before at 4AM where I awoke to lights. I climbed out of my tent and saw the unbelievable. Half the sky was a billion stars and the other half was a ferocious storm rolling in filling the other half of the sky with lightning and thunder, turning the black sky grey for moments and flashes of terror, as it slowly and ferociously over took the incredible star curtain. I remember the family that lost the tents were a special family from N. Carolina. Mom and dad drove out and met their 20 something, tattoo’d, x-game styled son and best friend living in the west. So cool to see this conservative mom and dad there camping, doing their best to understand and relate to the large gap between generations. They sat at night at the fire discussing life every night till the wee hours. Yea mom and dad!
Then there was the group I melded into the first few days. Made up of a high end custom dentist, a radiologist, the owner of a computer software company, a teacher and a pagan.  On your left is the retired dean of an east coast college climbing to the first Meadow on Day 1. We'll call him "Dean :) ".
Other than the pagan, all these guys were converted Catholics, Morman’s and non denoms., with all the same frustrations with organized religion, that I’m finding across the country.  Great conversations about faith, and about different writers of today from different religions. All discussions coming down to the unspoken fact that God lives in the wilderness in profound ways. And that’s the attraction of all these men being called there like the devils tower in "Close Encounters" ….  Not to find space ships, but to reconnect with original manhood. To come and be real. Have a beer and cigar over a campfire with a billion stars and Grizzlies to keep you honest.  To rekindle and find and hear God’s voice in a way they can not find in the cities across the nation, where they are told and taught and presented in media to not to be real men anymore. Well, long live the  hunters, explorers, conquerors and gatherers God made us to be. In the words of the great Nugent " Kill it and Grill it".

Wild Cards - Upgrading from a small SUV to a 4 door Wrangler Unlimited was one of the best wild cards. You see it's been my secret dream vehicle for over 20 years. I took a wrong turn once on a ranch this last week, ended up down in a mining pit, and realized before turning around, that I could just drop it in low range 4x4 and climb up and out. Holy Yee Haa. (insert Yoda) “Unexpected pleasure it was” .  I came out of the pit into a field with a dozen deer staring at me “hey, what are you doing here”. I just drove through the brush till I came to a road… That was a nice wild card.
Then there was “Mac”. I pulled into a remote free camp sight called “Carballa’s” at mile marker 17 off of hwy 89, 50 feet from the banks of the Yellowstone. (Oh the sound of the river all night).   There was this large canopy set up “no tent” with cookers and a ClickaClack drifter and a whitewater raft and a bike and a partridge in a pear....  . Wow.. I thought, I need to meet this guy. He sleeps off the ground in the open, covered in a bag and blue tarps with a tire hung from the middle of middle eastern looking party tent.
Well, Mac is one of those guys you can write book about. A self confessed alcoholic, who’s 60 and single. Prays all day long for others, sleeps every night with a bible on his heart.
He’s a Native Montanan who lost his mom at 3 and was raised by grandparents in a strict Catholic home. Mac became an entrepreneur in his early teens selling worms off of the famous Rock Creek where the Salmon Fly hatch is famous. He moved to Alaska to be a roofer, and then back to Montana to be a Fishing Guide for 8 years, and then a manufacture of Drift Boats, and a seller of Phone book advertising and.. a real estate investor and land lord of a few properties across Montana.
  Mac streamed tears over the fire as he recounted losing his best friends of 17 years. His two twin golden labs died last year, and he’s needing counseling to live with the pain, instead of tequila as the main equalizer. Mac is now a friend for life. We will talk and cross paths again and again, this side or the other. He took me on a float of the Yellowstone, and let me man the oars as he fished for a while as well. What treat, learning to man the oars and “keep a good drift” amidst the currents, to allow a fisherman to throw line in a proper fashion to the good riff’s, rocks and drop offs.

There was all Mac’s girl friends. Patty Cakes and crew. Patty is a 50 something Green Queen who knew more about pollution than anyone I’ve ever met. She looked like a Swedish aunt I had growing up,  with all those smooth oiled lines and wrinkles in her well lived face and an honest true smile.  Don’t chew gum, don’t take vitamins, don’t use regular soap or take meds, or burn any paper with printing. Don’t fry food and for God’s sake, slow cook all food.  Each of these things would bring Patty to a well thought out explanation of the live or die elements in each items molecular structure.  Patty was from EauClair, and had grandparents from St. Paul MN.  She would say in that great “Wis cannnnn sin” accent, “Grandma said you could never cross the river to Mpls. or you would for sure get lost.” Her best line when discussing something stupid was “ well after I woke up from that brain injury”.. Cracked me up every time. Mac and Patty and friends took me to Chico Hot Spring two nights in a row to see the best in local music.
Chico is a 40’s throw back resort in the mountains. From the western bar there is a door and windows into a large pool with black and white checker board tile filled with Mineral Springs hot water year round. Weird to be in a bar and see 50 people through a window swimming… Saturdays country band was very good with a guitar player from Minnesota. Sundays band outdoors was Ivan and the Red Elvis’s. Dressed in psudo elivs’eee outfits, this was a Russian alternative, surfing, party music experience. Wheewwww.  It was interesting, seeing all the native Montanans mixed with high end campers from all over the country. So interesting to see such raw real people mixed in with the “cant get older”, over done Hollywood plastic surgery, over tanned and designer clothed millionaires.  I sat thinking “God loves everyone of these people as much as me, and He wants to have fellowship everyday with everyone of them. Those are the sobering moments when you feel helpless in it all as a believer, other than to just smile and say hello to every set of eyes you contact… That guilt of “you better witness to some lost person or they’ll go to hell”, always creeps into your religious subconscious, planted by years of traveling evangelists yelling and teaching that to you with a pointed finger and with good intentions.
Yup it is our job to love and “connect” with people.  But it's  God’s job to call them home when their hearts reach the point where they can’t live without Him. Glooooory.
It’s so easy to get caught up into the “It’s my job to save them” mentality. That just tends to put you into the flesh based hyper “you need Jesus” mode, that has created half the problems the world has with accepting Jesus in the first place.   Well.. look at the mountains and cry holy!

And then there was Sunday. I was invited to whitewater raft  Yankee Jim Canyon with Mac and Patty and friends.   Well I'd not had a day off since arriving,  and after praying about it,  I decided to just find a place to have church outdoors.
Patty suggested I go to an unmarked place call "the boiling river". She gave me directions to a small 100 yd section of the Gardner river and away I went on Sunday morning. Arriving, I made my way to the rock pools by 11AM. There were only 10 or more people. I lay there for two hours in a dream state of 60degree water one sec. and 150 degree water the next second. Incredibly intoxicating. After Lunch I lay there talking to more and more folks showing up until there were about 100 by 4PM when I left. So many families returning year after year to this little hidden hole in the mountain stream.

I booked a rod on Saturday at the famous Armstrong Ranch on Hwy 89 in Paradise Valley.  It's a cattle ranch with an incredible stretch of river coming off the Yellowstone and thru their property. I arrived as the sun was coming over the paradise hills. Dogs barking, horses all around. There was a Giant White Swan in a corner pool, an otter dancing very fast in and out of the stream and a beaver slowly making his way around the pools as they did their business.

The waters at Armstrong come from two very large aqua ducts at the head of the ranch. Out of the earth are two huge holes where massive amounts of water flow to create the instant stream in the middle of nowhere that flows into the Yellowstone river. With horses around there are a lot of peacocks as well who live on the property and display the beauty of such an incredible bird. Not to mention that in fly tying Peacock hurl and feathers are one of the best feathers to tie into nymphs of all sizes.

And the fish. OMG.  Lucky for me it was not a day of #24 Pale Morning Duns or Trico's or any other hatch the size of a knat that you have to try to cast to a rising fish... Today it was giant #8 hoppers and ohhh how glorious it was.

I sighted very VERY large fish across stream who were toying with me, knowing that there was no way I could wade out far enough to get a fly to them. So they would lazily roll and thrash on hoppers in my face as if to say "neener neener neener sucker...."  I know that seems impossible to think but, ok, I swear that's what they are doing, and they do it to every hunter that creeps along the banks of the Armstrong.  You see big trout often live by day 2 or 3 feet back under the banks of the stream  where you can never see them. They only slide out if something REALLY peaks their interest, and, if they know it's real. That's why they are 24 inches long and snap leaders going down stream like butta..

Sighting them, getting into position, tying on the proper fly and presenting it "just right" as it passes over their circle of vision is an art form. And you can not make one mistake or they go silent on you. Gosh it's a fun hunt. When you get one to come up

and check out your fly, that alone is a touchdown in many streams. And in the end, getting the hook out as fast as possible and holding them in the stream long enough for them to regain their strength and swim slowly away under their own strength for another day and another fight, is remarkably satisfying.

 Here a beautiful trout in the stream, under water, in my old net waiting to get a hook out and be released. the colors are so fantastic and the fight is remarkable.

There are the  instant pictures that suddenly come as you move from place to place.  Out of nowhere you'll come upon a herd of Elk Crossing a river, or around a bend you'll come upon a herd of Buffalo in  a meadow or behind you as your fishing and didn't hear them creeping up on you... :)

So I sat typing in Ted Turners Bar downtown at closing time. The bartenders from Minnetonka Minnesota, one of the guests sitting next to me was a married family guy who’s gay, and out here with a “friend” hiking, who lives in Uptown MN. Another person tonight was a mom and dad from Cleveland who came to celebrate their daughters getting her doctorate in Edu. Science. He’s a seller of a company called “find a place for mom”. Helping people place loved ones when they have Alzheimer's and such life ending diseases. Since I’m in that place of placing my mom right now to final care for this disease, we had a heart felt conversation. He went and had dinner with his family and before leaving, took time to come back to the bar and leave me his card saying “Craig if you need anything, call me, no charge in Cleveland for advice." Nothing is by chance if you open up, smile, and say hello to a stranger! There was the young native American couple out on a date, eating dinner with a 1 month old. Then she was served her food and the baby started to cry… and… she let her food sit there as her husband ate.  I got up, walked over, and offered to walk the baby around the restaurant while she ate her dinner. I totally freaked them out. She had eaten some quickly and didn't want help, but it was the idea of offering that counted, and, I loved their smiles as I walked away.

Then there’s family and friends.… 
Oh the webs we weave and the story lines we draw in this crazy life, as we try to be our best. Unconditional love is so hard to give. We want it, but it’s so hard to give. The nature of man since the fall “is” sin. In a million ways. And in a million ways we learn to think we can avoid it. Jesus saw his twelve fail him over and over and yet he never gave up on them. Actually tried harder to love them and build them up, in the midst of their humanity. So we have friends and family and children and spouses and work mates that we navigate all of this with.
I think of all the things I didn’t tell my parents in my teens. How bout you. Some to protect them from feeling like a failure with me, and other reasons to keep them from stopping my behavior, while I was working through life's issues ,while finding and becoming “me”. Has anything changed since Adam and Eve?  Not really, just that we have an advocate through the cross for grace and forgiveness that didn’t exist then. God knew we were incapable of being obedient to his voice in our hearts. But He didn't give up on us!

Well I notice here in Montana that most people I meet have moved here because they desire to live out their lives quieter and simpler, with more effort, for less income, but more space. Something we all can learn from.
I’m reminded of Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming. One of my all time favorite politicians. Oh I’m sure he’s been a part of all the same crappy, dirty lobby money and stuff that IS part of the system; if you want to play in that game. But, I so have always loved his independent voice of reason and humor in it all. It wreaks of western logic. More Will Rogers than Socrates.   Wreaks of “daaaa”not Huh? ", and of all that I wish people could be. Honest and straight forward with their opinions, without tearing others down.  Such a hard dance to dance if you feel threatened by your opinions.  So much easier to tear others down, to make your equally biased point and positions feel better to yourself...  (guilty many times I'm sure)....

So in the end what was Montana and nine days alone in God’s country all about?

Well I guess it will be played out by what I say and do beyond today.
Will anything change? Will I be more honest, loving, compassionate, giving, listening? Will I spend more time listening than talking? Will I judge less and give more? Will I be thankful more, and complain less? Will I stop and be thankful for more of the little things? Will I be a better worshiper, son, friend, father, dad, mentor, husband and brother ?
I can only hope so, and only by His grace and my brokenness can it begin.
So thank you God for all you’ve created and the ability to go “see” it, and hang around your majesty for a week. Thank you for showing me once again I can be alone and be "ok".  Thank you for speaking to me in those quiet moments alone, and reminding me that You are for me, not against me. You know my every thought and still love me passionately. You want me to succeed and live life to the fullest, with all You’ve blessed me with.

So there alone on a trail, hiking down the mountain from the 1st meadow of Slough Creek 30min before sunset I turned a corner,  and was faced with a massive Bison in my path. I did not shat myself, but that might have been possible with the surprise of a 1 ton killing machine staring at me and in the rut . There he was. Lying 10ft from me as I blindly rounded that large rock on the trail.  He lay there, and i realized he was a victim of a battle he'd lost. This majestic warrior, bleeding with one eye out, and most likely dying. With his tail wagging, I took a wide birth into the woods around him and came back onto the path. I walked back up 10 paces to him and had this spoken conversation in the silence of a sunset as he looked me in the eyes.  “Hi friend. You’ve lived a good life. You are an incredible specimen. I’m proud to have met you here today, as you will most likely die tonight and be consumed by the wolves and bears. Know that I’m honored to stand here and see you, as a fallen mighty warrior of the past. May you pass quickly and silently. Good bye my friend.”  I said that out loud in the forest and then sadly turned and walked away down the Mountain.  A I turned he had a resolve deep in his eye and in shortness of breath that said “ this will not end well on this dirt path in the mountains.” He knew that without the ability to fight and run, it would not be a pleasant ending.  Like the Elk I came upon on my way to the stream one morning, nature is cruel and not sanitized.

Life is short my friends. Don’t waste it doing things that don’t make you thankful for every breath, every kiss, all your passion and every blessing. Fight hard for the things you love and believe in, and, let go of the rest of the hills not worth dying over.
You will lose, and you will fall in that pursuit. But, don’t ever lose sight, that our only hope is found in just one place…. Unconditional Love. A love given for you and I, when we didn’t even believe in, and for it.  For at the great crossroads there sits a cross. Some of us pass it every day and scoff or laugh at it, out of our own histories of pain in and with religion. Others are reminded of price it paid for our ability to re-connect with God. Others view it only from the words of Sunday teachers lips and never their own.  But like the buffalo on that path, without hope, it doesn’t end well.  In all of nature, God screams and whispers “I did it for you”. He shouts that life is dangerous in natural disasters, and that it’s painful in natural law.  But God’s Last Will and Testament - That Word that became flesh – that was, and is, in and through all. That existed before the billion starts in a Montana night. That came down to give us hope.
By that cross - that piece of wood - and that rock cave – an empty grave.
And hope for a Fathers planets children. Each one He died for. Each one is precious. Each one He pines for, and worries about. Mostly I think, he hurts for the broken and hurting who are really trying to survive themselves and “life’s shuffle”.
And this my friends, you can take through your mountains and valleys, to infinity and beyond, to Montana and back. God loves us beyond any measure of understanding that will ever be understood by man, until we stand before Him and see Him face to face. And then and only then, the words “I’m Unworthy” will truly take on new meaning.

Hope you enjoyed the journey my friends.  Pass this on and re-post.

All photos , Craig T. Olson on an Android EVO in a waterproof jacket.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Little Boy Dreams

Like every little boy, I dreamed of being out west. Cowboys and Indians. Alone in the dark in the Forrest. I've been out west many times. Traveling and fishing but thistrip I went alone for the first time. Somethings different. With only God
to talk to, you do a bit more of that out loud than normal, especially in the big brown bear habitat where I like to fish..

This photo was taken near my tent in the woods at Slough Creek. If you know me on Facebook, you can go back and see the GPS tracking on Google of right where this is.
Anyway. Here I was entering the wilderness and i find a little boys tractor left on a rock near my fire. All I cou

ld think of was, here was a boy, experiencing the magic of all God has left for us in this beautiful place. Like all boys, some ride in on horses, for me a Jeep Wrangler and for this boy, it was his little red truck. Left on a rock where I can only imagine he thought it might have a better life here than in his backyard somewhere..

Experiencing firsts..

The Milky Way at night runs like a ribbon from one horizon to the other at night. The tree lines all around you silhouette like a Christmas candle box and the constellations move all night in a circle around you if you take the time to lay and
watch them..
Well Monday night I awoke at 4am to lights... Not normal in the wilderness. Up out of my tent in 30 degree weather I saw something i didn't think was possible.

If you stood surrounded by mountain peaks Like a snow globe. Then starred straight up at 12o'clock, and drew a thin line across the horizon. from 12 forward to 6 there were a billion stars as bright as could be without a moon. Then... from 12 back to 6 there was complete black without stars and an incredible storm with massive lightening from horizon to horizon lighting up the mountains and black skies to grey then back to black. One side complete calm stars. The other this massive storm with thunder that shook the upper meadows. Well the storm did roll in at 5AM for 6hrs. and it was BIG.. like everything in Montana.

Slough Creek is magical place for me. It's the most remote of campsites in NE Yellowstone. Lot's of bear, wolf packs and bison. and the best and biggest Cutthroat trout.. "The only native trout we have here" I sit alone at a campfire till it's late and very cold staring at the stars, praying, crying, laughing and saying my soul cries to God in His private Garden in the Mountains. Good Wine and a Cigar's makes it even more special.

I came here years ago with my lifelong friend Bruce and we fished it one day near the hi

ghway. We encountered the infamous Mormon Cricket. A prehistoric looking monster black cricket the size of a mans thumb with a scorpion tail.. oh that's another story of near death for another blog.

Anyway I've come back and camped it with my son Jamison for a few days. Such a full-filling Dad/son experience. Now every time I pass a rock or a tree we sat and talked and stared at I'm reminded of how much I love him and I'll stop and talk to him in mind for a moment. That is the beauty of sharing things with others... The memori

I've met so many interesting people alone in the woods. Shared life, food, wine, beer, stories, cigars AND in this setting somehow it always comes around to God and I'm honored to quietly listen to faith and non faith stories of people on their journey from boy and girlhood to man and womanhood. People share things with strangers in the wilderness that they don't tell their families, and what happens there stays there. It's a beautiful thing. No addresses, or emails, and when people share their innermost, they don't want anyone to know who they are. Just another person seeking to find God and make peace with Him in the best way they know how.

I'll write later about a guy named Mac. I'm with right now. 60 and single. what a storied life. Native Montanan, Done just about everything there is to do here and then some... ;)
There were the two doctors. A dentist and a radiologist. One a Mormon one a catholic and both converted to Christ and now Presbyterians. Really radical ones, I might add with salty language and a disdain for most of organized faith. The east coast man and his wife who owned a cigar company and left me with the bes
t rated cigar of last year.

There was the owner of a software company and then the man who said "Craig, I'm a pagan and that's just how I see life. I think I live more like Jesus than a lot of people however..". THAT, was a great conversation over a few days, and all I really wanted to do was listen and ask the Holy Spirit to radically move through my smile as he would talk and look at me. Oh, on and on I could go today fro
m this little espresso shop in Gardiner MT at the North Entrance to Yellowstone. I'm here cause it's just to windy to fish today.... so far:)

Then my new friend Mac, well I've got to go now and drive 20miles back to mile marker 17 to hook up and float the Yellowstone till dark. Then back to our tents to make our own dinners, start a fire, put on the best of Willie Nelson live and watch the stars dance over a hot and cold beverage around the fire. And in it all, I'm reminded everyone has little boy dreams that need re-freshing now and then somewhere, someplace, somewhere back in time..

And as I stood high above the Lamar River I could just hear..
"Better is one day in your house "Lord"than thousands elsewhere" What a house these there mountains are.. Till later... surprise me God.