September 21st, 2006

Well, it's 10:56pm and I can't sleep. I tried to go to sleep at 9:00 tonight for the first time, it worked too until about 10:20 when a few of the guys awake on the wing decided everyone else needed to be awake to.

But since I'm awake, it's time to write an essay I've really been wanting to write for awhile. I meant to write it the day that it was conceived. But now I can leave my desk and relive the beauty of that morning.

 

Racing the Sun

My head is lifted from my pillow and I listen - to the sound of nothing. I reach over and turn off the phone alarm that would have wakened me in two minutes. Quietly slipping the sheets of my bed back I sit up, set my feet on the floor and continue to softly listen to sounds not yet begun. Then with care I tiptoe across the wood floor, trying not to squeak the boards and waken my brother.

Successfully across the wooden floor I am safe on the soundless linoleum tiles of the bathroom as I wash my face with warm water and quietly put on light tan pants a lightweight green shirt, and my comfortable running shoes. I then once more attempt a soft journey across the floor back to my bed. The soft warm mattress and pillow that would invite me back most mornings now is resigned to rest peacefully till dawn without my presence. I lay the covers back over my pillow without a sound.

A deeper stillness fills the room as I turn to the chair by my bed. The only sound is that of the fabric of my vest as I lift it from it's resting place upon the chair and carefully fit each arm through its hole. The zipper makes a light but soft grating sound as I close the vest around me. I check each pocket. One holds a soft brush and cloths and another paper and a map. There is a reflector in one pocket and memory cards inside the zippered portion of one of two large pockets at the bottom of the vest. Inside the those pockets are my lenses and flash. Anticipation grows in me as I inspect each lens before carefully returning it with cap to its pocket.

Then with a strange lack of ceremony my hand gently grasps the camera that sets patiently on the table at the head of my bed. I place it in my hands and remember its familiar weight. My finger touches the on switch but I do not turn it on and a stronger anticipation fills me suddenly. I slip the strap over my head and slowly stand up straight with a determined will now fully active.

I cross the floor for the last time pre-dawn still softly but with a determined resolve in each step. This determination is unobserved, alone and seen by no one - only felt by me. It feeds off my resolve and strength but increases them with each step. There is a reason for this determination I know as I leave the warm and comforting quiet of the apartment behind and exit into the warm and exposed stillness of the remainder of the night. Determination is necessary as I take that step, but there is a greater competitor than the amiable though often illusory night who has consented to challenge me.

My hands work quickly to fasten my helmet on and I step up onto my bike giving the first strong push of the pedals. The stop sign immediately before me that marks the main intersection of town is quiet and empty as I roll through with a look toward the cemetery on one side of main street and the tall, red brick Lutheran church on the other. There is no one living present at either and the church's bells have not yet begun their duties.

My camera is slung behind my back and my legs work as pistons propelling my bike along this quiet country road. All around is a light mist. In each meadow that dips below the terrain which surrounds it the mist has settled; the pine trees therein are surrounded by mist as buoys in a transparent sea and the tops of maples and their hardwood cousins rise up like reefs, their slender trunks hardly noticed in the thickness of fog. Anywhere the terrain dips the mist has settled and slowly circles itself in a peaceful and slow manner.

I move with speed however, for above the forested hills on the horizon golden strands are permeating the silver linen in which they are clothed.

I turn right at a stop sign far from town, and then stop. Far from the road to the left is a house but to the right there is a meadow with a pond. My eyes slowly wander across the water, where the mist has settled like a blanket, to the site of a lone tree. The forest surrounding the meadow sleeps but here by the pond a single tree stands. Though it stands alone it never crosses my mind to think it lonely - rather I see in it a picture of rugged determination. It alone stands there by the pond watching the moving blanket of mist and enjoying the ever moistness of its roots. It is not only of extra beauty for its solitary placement but it shares this beauty with the entire meadow. Because of its determined uniqueness the scene is filled with an unscripted completeness that makes me long to merely sit for a lifetime and observe this serene meadow as it willingly travels through each season.

In hopes of capturing but the essence of this place which cannot be described - even with a thousand words - I involuntarily take my camera in hand. There is little light about the immediate world still and so I must hold my camera steady to prevent the picture from blurring. The ISO is set at sixteen hundred yet the shutter speed is still slow; this assures me that I still have time to observe the scenery that is presented because I race the sun.

The mist is slowly dispersing as it rises from the surface of the pond and is a gentle reminder that the sun has not stopped to rest as I have. If I am to reach my destination before the sun I must continue on with speed.

Camera once more slung behind my back I race onward with an intense focused speed, yet the world around is slowly growing more visible. The dawn is that short time when the sun illuminates the solitary and individual world of the night before subjecting the world to its gentle rule and awakening all to participate in community together. Thus the ending of the night is seen through the light of the day. But the mist is a veil and though I may witness this transition its beauty is only magnified by the secrecy that surrounds it.

It is not long before I come to another road and turn left. Upon a hill on a lot by the road there is a house being constructed. I do not stop to look at my family's house however but instead turn onto the trail that will bring me to my destination. The forest is ahead of me and before I enter its created dawn that will last throughout the day I stop to admire God's golden painting growing stronger on the horizon. The now visible white clouds seem portions of this canvas that have yet to be painted.

Leaving behind the stretching meadow of flowers from which I observed the fanfare of the heralds of the sun, and dropping my bike onto the ground, I enter into the forest. All around is moist and green and the anticipation of the sunrise grows even stronger. In here, though surrounded by beauty there is no measure by which to discover if the sun has risen. Not till I exit the forest will I be able to see the sunrise, or the sun.

I have been walking briskly but now I begin to run. I run lightly and alert to all around so that it does not diminish the beauty of all around, but it is a run that recognizes a goal. I am running because I am racing the sun. Though the sunrise will provide light to photograph with all day long, and though all around me is beauty springing from its rising I will not allow myself to lose focus. I continue to run for I wish to see the source of these beautiful distractions.

The forest opens into a meadow and there I see across the sparkling grass crystallized in dew the sun beginning to rise.

 

 

 

September 17th

Today was the first day of Discovery Club at Grace. This morning Keith and Krystine Getty participated in the leading of worship in Big Church. (sunday school lingo sticks with you, even when your in college.) The music at Grace is so wonderful, and being able to listen John MacArthur preach live sure beats a cd. The truth is I was somewhat torn between being a "Leader" in Discovery Club and being able to sit in "Big Church".

Tonight I was reminded of just how much I love helping and working with kids. I was also reminded of just how squirrly third grade boys are. Actually, you really have to describe the energy of third grade boys with several combined adjectives in wild hopes that somehow you will be able to express the massive sum of their energy. This energy is somehow generated at such a rapid rate that it's containment for more than half a minute is apparently impossible.

After about 45 seconds it appears that it becomes necessary for the various third grade boys you are attempting to "control" during the 20 minute message (which has been reduced to 15 minutes for most due to suddenly desperately needed bathroom breaks. Although this need does not become evident until they have passed the restrooms and are seated - and, recognizing the seeming permanancy of their situation and being enlightened to their plight they request, en masse, to be escorted from the room. The escort of one resulting in an avalance like effect which I imagine could effectively empty a small audience of learners, although it in most cases only results in aproximately half of the section you are seated in leaving.) And... since those parenthesis are so long, I'd better back up.

After about 45 seconds it becomes necessary for the third grader to release this build up in energy. This generally results in mostly a quick shuffling on the chair and then a whisper to the friend next to them, although in more dire situations one may witness a complete kneel and spin around on the chair upon which your charge is seated.

Despite having a whopping attention span of thirty seconds eight and nine year old boys are so much fun to talk and play with. There's no hesitation to explain how you should be doing something if it is percieved that you're somewhat new to your resonsibilities. (I was informed by one of my young buddies that my duties include the bringing of generous quantities of candy.) Games are always exciting no matter how simple they are, as long as they entail generous amounts of movement and energy release. This becomes understandable when one recognizes that random flailing of the arms and sporadic leaps into the air are generally prefered to sitting, especially if one must sit while someone talks.

Yet, this seemingly short attention span is really a great gift. It acts somewhat like a reset button in that every thirty seconds or so what's on your young charges heart shows up on their face. Your buddies can't help but be honest and sincere with you. You can easilly tell if they're happy, disapointed, joking or attempting to fib. There's rarely attempts at the hiding of thoughts, rather they are simply blurted out. There's no hiding of emotion or need, as these are simply expressed in the face on the spot. What a great age to be able to shepherd - the age at which the heart is simply revealed.

- Josh Wheeler

P.S. My buds were actually extremely well-behaved as well as very bright and excited. They quickly endeared themselves to me. However, in the honor of accurcy, their attention spans were as described. The most focused point during a lesson appears to be when one is raising their hand in hopes of being able to talk.

It's funny how often stuff tonight brought to mind memories from when I was in third grade. I think by fourth or fifth grade I was already volunteering in sunday school classes though... I remember it seemed to me at the time I was so grown up.

Kind of makes me wonder what I'll look back at myself as a twenty year old like?

 

September 11th, 2006

 

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-5

 

 

 

 

(Due to school network downtime the following is being posted late)

September 10th

Rachel and I submitted our applications for membership with Grace Community Church today. It makes me pause a minute to think about it. This marks our first membership in a local church body apart without it being through out parents.

I don't have the time to write a long entry - but I'm not really ready to yet. Transitions are always at least somewhat strenuos emotionally but I can truly say, though I do fear them at times, I love not just change but the trials God places in my life. Trials are not pleasant experiences but the peace and assurance that comes through Christ in them cannot be expressed in words.

One of my friends, Elizabeth Howel, expressed with eloquence the same sentiment in her August 22nd post that I'd like to express now. When I read it I realized, that's the where I'm at right now. I'm sure this sentiment is shared by many my age when it comes to communicating what's on our hearts. It seems that I haven't written much of depth for a while, not because there's nothing of depth I've wanted to write about but rather because their are so many thoughts developing right now that just aren't ready to be expressed. I would devolop this thought further, but...

Of course, there's still alot of great stories from moving I need to tell too (don't carry a couch on your back and forget that there's stuff that extends downward from the ceiling) - but I think I'll write D Clarinet tranpositions instead.

Oh yes, but first - here's a couple photos from Minnesota. Once stuff settles down here I'm looking forward to taking some time creating a gallery of my photos on the new 200 GB hard drive my dad bought for me this summer. My photography website is somewhat lacking right now and I'd really like to be able to share my favorite photos.

Here's a few photos from Lake Superior - mostly because I wanted to look back at some pictures and remember it. I love the beauty of the Colorado Rockies and the Rugged Coastline of Northern California. The Sequoias and Redwoods awe you into respect with their ancient trunks graced by ferns and when you paddle out past clear twelve foot face waves on the Southern Coast of California and are invited into a pod of dolphins your mind forgets for to short that time that time exists. But something in the constant breeze of Lake Superior - whether you're sitting by the lighthouses watching ships from around the world enter Duluth's harbor, or hiking through the mixed pine and hardwood forest along the coast - something in that easygoing wind rustling the tall sparse grass loitering amonst the offwhite shoreline sand whispers, "welcome back home" - and yet this is the first time you've ever set foot in its domain.

Split Rock Lighthouse

"Take BiG steps"

I'm really looking forward to getting my bird photos up from Minnesota. Actually, I'm looking forward to getting my bird photos from the past few years up. God's blessings are so immense and there are so many blessings He's given us, none of which we deserve. But I'd just like to say, in a very simple way, I'm really thankful He made birds.

- Joshua Wheeler

1 Isaiah 65:17
“ For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind."

 

September 6th

I'm not the kind of person who tends to feel overwhelmed easily. But these first few days of school have been intense both physically and emotionally. The classes and social engagments aren't the reason - they are merely the cage that prevents one from running into the cool stream of rest. When every day becomes packed with responsibilities, tasks to be completed and mandatory destinations you begin to realize the importance of rest, and I mean on a deeper level than mere physical sleep. Only through a strength not my own I am not overwhelmed.

How amazing that I cannot take credit for even the smallest perseverance through the most trivial of circumunstances. Is it not in the smallest misfortunes that I am often tempted to respond with the fix my flesh desires? Be it selfish complaining, laziness, unrightous indignation or other. How wonderful that in 1 Peter 5:7 the Holy Spirit tells us that we are to practically humble ourselves by casting all our cares upon God.

Philipians 4:6-7 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Sometimes I just need a reminder that even the trivial problems are for God to solve. I'll bet this is why I can lose my keys and pursue a solution to the problem with all the calmness of a scuba diver out of oxygen and yet when it seems the whole world is falling apart I can stand strong with a peace that surpasses all understanding. May I be filled with the same trust over the small issues of life as the the Holy Spirit gives during the big. After all, what I'm really doing is not solving my problem but worshiping Christ through my humble admittance that no problem, no matter how great or small may be solved on my own.

Josh

P.S. I actually did not lose my keys. Not today at least...

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