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Marching Off The Map
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Joel Kershaw and I taking a break near

Copeland Falls at Rocky Mountain

National Park

I have been in Estes Park, Colorado, this week enjoying some time for retreat thanks to the generosity of Linda Aldrich and Felipe Rodriguez who graciously let me use their beautiful cabin for a few days. Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple of my favorite places on earth and it’s been great to enjoy the mountain air, do some hiking, and sample some great food in town (the fish tacos at Ed’s Cantina are the best!). 


My friend and fellow pastor Joel Kershaw came up on Monday to join me in a long hike in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. Joel and I, along with Dave Hiester, are in a weekly band meeting together where the three of us support one another and hold one another accountable using the model of the early Methodist band meeting. These are two of my greatest friends and I’m blessed to have them in my life. Dave was unable to join us due to a mission trip he’s leading in Costa Rica, but Joel and I soldiered on anyway and had a pristine Colorado day to tackle a round trip hike out to Ouzel Lake.


Except we didn’t make it to Ouzel Lake. Instead, we somehow missed a trail junction and found ourselves on the much longer trail out to Thunder Lake, which we discovered after talking to some backpackers who were on their way out there for an overnight. I was in the lead, pounding out the miles on the trail at a high rate of speed (as is the usual pace that Jennifer and I tend to hike or, as our son puts it, “death march speed”) and somehow we blew right by the cut off to Ouzel. 


I have to admit that this sort of thing is not unusual. When I was a young infantry officer, I could lead a platoon on a 6km movement through the woods in the middle of the night in a driving rain and hit the objective with pinpoint accuracy using only a map and compass. When I hike on an established trail, however, I tend to be too confident and am moving to fast to notice when I’ve marched off the map. When my friend Chris Howlett and I hiked the Jesus Trail in Israel in 2015, we missed a trail marker at least once a day which turned a 40-mile hike into a 50-miler. In my defense, that trail wasn’t particularly well-marked at the time, but still…


As Joel and I were on the way back to the trailhead in Wild Basin, it occurred to me that there was a lesson here that could most definitely be applied to ministry and my renewal leave. I realize that I have a tendency to move very fast in my life with overconfidence that the path I’m taking is the right one, thus I put my head down and move out smartly in a particular direction. I’ve made some mistakes in this way, all in the interest of getting somewhere fast. In the interest of casting vision and moving a congregation forward, sometimes I’ve missed the junction in the path that would have taken us in a better direction, which I would have seen had I slowed down and paid attention to the terrain, the situation, and the real objective. Moving too fast also means that you have a tendency to miss the scenery and the beauty of your surroundings, and you tend to be too breathless to have good conversations. 


Renewal leave is teaching me to slow down, to move more tactically, deliberately, and creatively. It’s about establishing a pace where everyone can find their rhythm and arrive together—not exhausted but refreshed and glad for the journey. One of the books I read this week punctuated that for me. In The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry, David Rohrer writes to his fellow pastors, “Our job is not to take responsibility to direct the steps of people’s paths but to entrust them to the God who will guide them in the way of peace.” In other words, it’s not about pounding out miles and reaching goals, but about engaging and embracing the journey that God has for us to take together. That’s good advice for the trail and for pastoral leadership. In a few weeks Jennifer and I will be hiking the 97-mile West Highland Way in Scotland, and we’ll be looking to slow our pace and practice enjoying the journey. I’ll be looking to carry that lesson into a new season of ministry when I return. 


Jennifer doing site prep

work at Tel Hadid, Israel.

Speaking of marching off the map, this has been a week of transition for the Kaylor family as well. Jennifer has been in Israel for the last couple of weeks volunteering with her sister Leslie on an archaeological dig at Tel Hadid. The work has been tough and hot, but they have managed to find some interesting items in their designated excavation squares. Best of all, they’ve enjoyed some time reconnecting as sisters. It’s fascinating to hear about the nuts and bolts of archaeology from those who are actually doing it, which is far more tedious than Indiana Jones but yields important clues about the biblical history. 


I helped our son Rob move into a house in Greeley last week where he’ll be living the rest of the summer and this coming school year with three of his friends. It’s his first independent living situation and a milestone in his life. Yes, it’s a college-level house which is a bit rundown and could use a coat of paint (or five), but it represents freedom and new possibilities for him. Hannah received word last week that she has been accepted to a program in France for teaching English to native French-speakers. She spent the fall semester of her senior year there and is looking forward to the opportunity to move there at the end of September for a year. We’re excited for both of our kids as they march off the map into new phases in their lives. 


I also had the chance to attend my friend and mentor Randy Jessen’s last Sunday at Parker UMC. Randy is retiring after decades of effective pastoral ministry and is a model for me of someone who has finished well. Actually, he’s not really finished but will be pastoring a small church in Genoa, CO, in retirement as well as teaching at Asbury and serving as Executive Director of Global Hope, the mission agency through which our Romania team is working. Randy is the founder of that ministry and is an example to me of one who, like Paul, has “fought the good fight and finished the race” with integrity and faithfulness to the gospel and to the people to whom God entrusted him. I have often said that Randy’s the pastor I want to be when I grow up, and I’m glad for a great example to follow. 


And now to head out on another hike…a much slower one! 




I did slacken my pace a bit today (aided by being a little sore from yesterday’s climb) and had the marvelous experience of meeting some people along the way, including a young German man who is on a tour of the National Parks in the US and Canada. He landed in Vancouver, bought a camper van, and is working his way eastward to Nova Scotia, where he hopes to sell the van and use the money to fly back to Germany. It was a little bit of “trail magic” that I would have missed had I just kept trucking along (and no missed trail junctions today, either).



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