For most of my life I would have been considered anything but urban. I've lived in the cornfields of the Midwest. I've lived among the rural farms of Upstate New York. Some of my fondest memories are still the many days of my life spent in the solitude and wild of the Adirondack mountains. In many ways I am convinced that those were the days that formed my inner places. I am an introvert by design. I am a writer of sorts and this place breathed the life and contemplation into my soul necessary for words to then be poured out. I could feel the very presence of God there. The secret places of the forest seemed to wrap themselves around me and even now, nearly 30 years after last stepping foot on those paths, I can still feel them calling to me. Especially now.
These past 17 years I have chosen to live within the city limits of one of our country's major urban centers. In fact for these past few years it has been considered the fastest growing urban center in the US. We moved into an urban neighborhood, raised our family and loved nearly every minute. My life and being as a husband, dad, papa, and pastoral artist to an amazing faith community held relatively few regrets and much of it along the way I recorded in the earlier moments of this blog. Much of that was written along the beaches and the water that surrounded our neighborhood penninsula. This became my place of inspiration, but it was always just a bit louder than I was comfortable with. When the still small voice of God began to resonate about the din of the neighborhood, we discerned that it was calling us somewhere deeper in ... and what I had always considered to be urban soon seemed not so much so. Apartment living, cranes, wealth, desperation and the chance to plant Jesus in the midst of if seemed to be our calling. 3 years living on the fringe of downtown followed, realigning what I had considered to be my breaking point. My recording of it all became sporadic and inconsistent.
Two months ago it became financially necessary for us to move one more time ...now no longer living on the fringe of downtown, we are downtown. When you live one block from cruise ships, one block from "the market" (think throwing fish) and a few blocks from Amazon you end up in this surreal place of relentless sensory assault. This morning I walked out of my overpriced apartment building, through an encampment of a half dozen tents housing a handful of our homeless neighbors, into the market filled with wide eyed tourists and well off tech workers being led by their iphones to highrise office towers ... all of this within 200 yards. Into this, it seems, we have been led to lead a community of Jesus seekers and followers.
I'm not sure that I could ever relate the intensity of this experience. I could post pictures. I could create a Youtube channel. You would still be merely a spectator. The people we are called to range from those who have everything that they deem necessary to live the life that they want ... to those who need more than we could ever provide them with to merely live. For those who want to take a side trail and offer judgement, let me just add this; It is one thing to realize that all "they" really need is Jesus, it is an entirely different thing to persevere in the task of figuring out how to demonstrate that reality.
All of this to say that, years apart from the secret places of the forest, I find myself in another forest, waiting again to feel wrapped in His presence. My days range from overflowing optimism to not knowing how much longer I can do this. Most days I live in the "in-between".
I know he's here, I see him everywhere in the faces of the city. I have no doubt, today at 10am, that we are where we've been called. I just need to find Him in the secret places of this other wild. Whatever that looks like and however transparent it may be, in the hope that it might give courage and voice to someone else, I'm going to commit to recording it here weekly.