It has been a week made for sailing at the Shore. Nearly every moment I was outdoors this week, there was some sort of wind moving over the hills and hollers. When I walk past the camp sailboat, parked on a trailer outside the maintenance building, I feel the breeze and imagine it grabbing hold of that strip of canvas and pushing that boat through the water. I can feel the boat cutting through the river, with now motor sounds or smells. Just that wind and the sound of water. Standing on the hills this week, you can see the new young green on many of the trees. This is a bright, almost fluorescent, green, as if someone took a highlight marker and colored all these infant leaves. The Tulip Poplars (who generally like to be first for everything) have begun pushing out their hat shaped leaves, and you know we’ll soon have a full blanket of green over these woods.
We started the week by hosting the Milan First UMC Youth group. They had taken a spring trip to Nashville and learned a lot about what it was like to be homeless. One night, they slept in a parking lot in boxes. The youth were finishing up their trip by coming out and doing our climbing tower. They seemed very tired, and I think a few were a little under the weather. I talked to them about challenge and how we did not want to make them do anything, but we did want them to push themselves to something sort of difficult. As we began, I noticed that many were still setting goals that seemed to be very doable for them. Our least challenging side was by far the most popular. Some were certainly challenged by this, but I could tell that many were having a very easy time with the goal they set for themselves.
It’s not really surprising. If you think about it, most of the things we decide to do aren’t very risky. To chose to do something, we have to be pretty assured we will succeed or at least that we will have the same outcome as most other people. Sure, climbing a 35 foot tower is a challenge, but there are challenges and then there are challenges. I guess what I mean is that sometimes when we say, “challenge,” we mean something that is exercise or adventure. When we say “challenge,” on the challenge course, we mean something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. I see, so often, people decide something “isn’t for them,” or even “boring,” if they aren’t yet good at it. How many things do we avoid because we aren’t positive we will master it?
Mid-way through the week, the wind brought rain with it, and the temperature dropped again. I wore shorts and got a little bit of tan on my face on Monday. Today, I am wearing a toboggan and coat. We will likely have a fire going in the fireplace of the Conference Center when our groups arrive, and I am looking forward to some warm tea. My dad was telling me about the various “winters” that old timers talked about throughout the spring. You might read about these in a farmer’s almanac. He mentioned the “dogwood winter,” and the “blackberry winter,” that reference how these cold snaps sync up with the blooming of these plants. Then just a few days later I heard a Nashville meteorologist talk about the “red bud winter.” The red buds have put out their inappropriately named purple buds. It seems that the dogwoods have bloomed or will very soon. My dad thought, if his memory served him correct, that after the blackberry winter, you know it wouldn’t be cold anymore.
I was waiting for the next youth to climb the more challenging side of the climbing tower, and I walked over to a girl who had her equipment on. I asked if she wanted to do the challenging side, and she said, “sure,” with a “well, why not?” kind of attitude. She got a step off the ground and immediately began to scream. This is not a blood-curdling, horror movie type scream–much more a squeaky sort of scream. She was screaming, but never really seemed all that scared. I began to feel that this might just be something to comfort her. Some people make jokes, some sing, she decided she would scream. Her goal was to go half way up, but after the proper encouragement, she made it all the way to the top. After they saw a girl climb, many of the boys decided that maybe the more challenging side was within their ability.
The dogwood or red bud winter is still here today and looks to stay around through a decent stretch of next week. The wind has brought drizzles and even sleet at Lakeshore today. Yet, I still love to hear it, no matter what the temperature. You get on top of the hill, stop and close your eyes, and you could be in one of many places. Maybe you are just off the ocean, and that salt-water air joining you. Or, you’re on a mountain pass somewhere and it seems that you might be the only upright walking animal 50 miles from here. Or you’re standing on that blacktop drive just in front of the craft hut, looking out over the big, wide river, Pilot’s Knob off a mile or so in the distance. You hear the wind and the leaves, a barge, and a train somewhere in the distance. What will this wind bring next? When it does, what will you do?
This weekend we host the second round of our Confirmation Retreat, UT Martin Sigma Chi, and the Open Heaven Orientation. Keep us in your prayers this weekend. Last week we mentioned a need for a donation that will make a stain glass window possible in our prayer chapel. This Monday morning, Bill told me that we received a donation that will make it possible. Thanks to everyone who supports us.