Holy Spaces and Familiar Places

I was given a great opportunity this year to co-lead the Anderson University Tri-S trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation. As a way to bring people along, and to process my experience I’m planning to blog each night. This is my third trip to Pine Ridge, but it’s the first trip where I will be working with the Wounded Knee Church of God.

March 16, 2013

Travel Day 2: From Des Moines, IA to Wounded Knee, SD

Holy Spaces

photo-chapelExteriorsmall

I love holy spaces. Over the last few years I have come to appreciate the fact that God created us to be both spiritual and physical beings. You cannot divorce the two and fully experience life in God’s presence and so the space that we live in becomes important.

There are certain spaces in my own life that have become sacred or holy, places I treasure where it’s simply easier to transcend the veil of this world and breathe in God’s nearness.

Because of the route we took to get here, I got to visit a holy space. On the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota we stopped at this small white chapel to take pictures and see the beauty of the frozen river. It was cold, and it was quiet, and it was beautiful.

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I went into the chapel and as I stood in front of the alter I was overwhelmed with the reality that God was very near. I don’t know how many people have stopped there to pray during the years, to experience the glow of light through the windows. As I stood at the alter I realized that its main feature walked you through the parts of the Lord’s Prayer. As I have been walking with a scattered community along the path of Lent to Easter saying the Lord’s Prayer twice a day I knew I had to stop and say it myself. In that moment I felt connected to God, to my friends all over the globe, and to an unknown number of brothers and sisters who have drawn from this small well by a great river.

It was a beautiful way to enter into the rolling hills on the other side of the river.

Familiar Places

As we neared Pine Ridge, things began to look more and more familiar. The land rolled like I remembered. Corn fields slowly turned to prairie. Things I remembered well.

But both of my previous trips have come in July, when things are green and scorched. In July the corn has grown high and the sun beats down relentlessly at times. But now, in March, things are different. All the fields are still empty and brown, and it’s been snowing.

photo-PineRidge-Mar16small

The white of the snow and the brown of the field are eerie and beautiful. They remind you how harsh this place can be, and yet how beautiful it remains.

In some ways today felt like it might become the metaphor for the entire trip, getting to experience a place I remember, in a way that is totally different from what I know. After all God has done in my life in the last four to five months it seems like exactly the sort of week that I should be having. I mentioned at one point today that I’m in a “heart wide open” sort of place where everything I experience is landing heavy. My goal is not to be afraid of that, but to find a way to embrace it without letting it overcome me.

It will be a challenge, but I also believe it could be a really good thing.

Tomorrow I will be preaching in the morning, which is always nerve-wracking out here, and then we have a pretty laid back day planned which will be good. May God be lifted up in all we do, and may we go forth with the hope of Christ as our word to all.

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