For centuries Christians have been following Jesus’ lead and heading out into the wilderness to find God. Wilderness experiences strip away what’s unnecessary in our lives and give us an opportunity to pay attention to the inner workings of the soul. In his book Backpacking with the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice, Belden Lane writes, “What I seek most in going into the wilderness is not exercise or escape, but a physical and spiritual depth of intimacy. I’m moved by nature’s power and beauty…. I go to spend time alone with God” (p. 10). Renewal can be found in the wilderness if we take the time to venture there.
During the summer of 2017, I’ll be heading out into the wilderness on solo expeditions and with those I love on a Clergy Renewal Sabbatical. St. Mark’s — the parish I serve — and I received a Clergy Renewal grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund this amazing opportunity.
From late May through late September I’ll travel to:
- Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico for a weeklong retreat.
- Vancouver, BC with my wife, Melissa, to explore and hike for a week.
- The Green Mountains of Vermont with my daughter.
- The White Mountains of New Hampshire to work on my 4000 foot peaks (I’m at 23 out of 48).
- A month-long car camping trip as a family hitting 10 National Parks:
- Mt. Kilimanjaro to trek with my son.
- The Boundary Waters Canoe Area with Renewal in the Wilderness.
Throughout my sabbatical I’ll be reading, writing, and taking photos that I will share on this blog. My booklist is extensive, building off of the Desert Mothers and Fathers and moving to the current day. I’ll be posting quotes from that reading as well.
For the summer much of my social media interaction will be automated, depending on the plethora of helps out there to notify people. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for a weekly summary of posts delivered to your inbox (see the right side column to join that newsletter).
Most of all I appreciate your prayers that I may be renewed and refreshed, that my relationships with my family might be strengthened, and that I might grow closer to the God I love and serve.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” — John Muir
 The wording “renewal in the wilderness” comes from the title of John Lionberger’s book Renewal in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Guide to Connecting with God in the Natural World (2007) and from the organization he founded.