Today’s entry in the Our Daily Bread devotional begins with this: “I have always enjoyed the wit and insight of Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. One of my favorite cartoons drawn by him appeared in a book about young people in the church. It shows a young man holding a Bible as he tells a friend on the phone, ‘I think I’ve made one of the first steps toward unraveling the mysteries of the Old Testament . . . I’m starting to read it!'”
The article to which I’m linking here reminded me, in the midst of all the MeToos, to celebrate and give thanks for all the “good men” who have used their strength to stand between me and those who would have harmed me. Good men who put themselves at great physical risk to protect me or rescue me from danger. Good men who used their influence to open doors of opportunity for me. Good men who have rejected or repented of “locker room talk.” Good men who refrained from taking advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable. Good men who have apologized to me when they’ve let language loose they were raised to believe should never be spoken in the presence of a lady. Good men who have respected me, provided for me, educated me, encouraged me, loved me, blessed me.
I’m linking here to a lament over what is true of all too many churches. It begins with the author’s recollection of a pastor who, in the course of his sermon, said he was discussing things he didn’t understand. Worse, he seemed to have made no attempt to get a grip on the Word and just moved on to something else. This disrespect for the Bible, this disrespect for the Lord, this disrespect for the congregation, infuriates me. I’m sick to death of sitting in church buildings where, on a Sunday morning, no meat and barely any milk is being served from the pulpit. I wince each time I hear a preacher say he or she disagrees with a biblical author on a point of scripture. I don’t want to hear a preacher’s opinion in the sermon; I want to hear what the Bible has to say. I long for content-rich messages that will fill me and keep me full through the week. Why are we settling for this anti-intellectualism? Why aren’t we demanding more from our preachers and more from the seminaries where they are being trained? So many churches are empty or emptying. Too few congregations seem to want genuine servant-leaders who will lead them and who will challenge them from the pulpit. Too many pulpits are being filled with preachers who have little to no training and have received no calling from God.
I was baptized in a church that had a teaching pastor. I looked forward to his sermons each week because I knew I would come away with greater knowledge of the Word and a clear sense of how I was to apply that Word to my life.
I was educated in a seminary that established me in the original biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic) and taught me to work from those in constructing the sermon. I was taught to define a word of scripture according to the original intent, distinguishing the meaning from how the sense of the word might have changed over the centuries. I was taught to consider syntax, parallels, and connections throughout scripture. I was charged with making certain that I would engage in exegesis (drawing out the meaning from each text in accordance with the context and the discoverable meaning of its author) rather than eisegesis (reading into the text what I might want it to say). I was taught to review the authorship, the date of writing, the initial audience, the context (historical, cultural, geographical, and literary), the customs, the current events… I was introduced to the most reliable Bible dictionaries, commentaries, concordances, and books on history and more. When called to preach, I would spend hours in research and would then cull the cogent and craft a sermon to deliver to the congregation. Now, I have been in plenty of churches where that level of academic rigor was carried into the pulpit and evidenced in each message. But, sundry reports and my own observations would suggest this erudition is on the decline.
I should note here that I didn’t mean to go on for so long. My initial intent was just to share the following link. But, every day, it seems, I come upon article after article lamenting the failure of our educational institutions and the decline of the Church. The Church mirrors Society, and Society mirrors the Church. Today, emotions are emphasized to the detriment of reason; entertainment, to the detriment of scholarship. Let us expect more. Let us be more.
I am often asked for advice on long-term RVing and am delighted to share what I’ve learned. If you prepare well, and perhaps even you don’t, life on the road can be filled with wonderful adventures and a good many misadventures! I’m a writer and my husband, who is several years my senior, was able to take an early retirement, so we were in a position in 2010 to sell our home and get gone. We’ve been traveling–off and on–ever since, meandering around–for most of that time–in a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500, towing a 2011 Carriage Cameo 5th wheel (55 feet long from truck bumper to RV bumper). With earlier RV trips added in, we have now visited every state of the lower 48 plus Alaska and every province and territory of Canada, save for Nunavut. I also made a side trip to Hawaii; my husband will have to catch up, minus an RV, to finish the fifty.
We lived in Grand Canyon National Park for a year, where I worked as a guide and instructor for the Grand Canyon Field Institute (the non-profit partner of the park). I also spent a couple of days a week in Kolb Studio, the home and workplace of two pioneering photographers, while Gene was at the Verkamps Visitor Center. We also “workcamped” (more about this in a bit) in Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida for nearly a year and had longer stays of several months on a ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota, at a park on the Oregon coast, and on a winery on the North Carolina coast. I monitored condors for the Park Service at Grand Canyon and–for the last two summers–have served on the sea turtle patrol on Topsail Island in North Carolina (my patrol partner and I found two nests this year and helped our hatchlings make their way to the ocean!). Over this time, I’ve also hosted two radio shows and become a photographer of wildlife and wild places; you can see some of my images at: www.dfghailsonphotography.com. One of my photographs is now on display in a museum. My work has also been on offer in a gallery and in stores at Grand Canyon. Radio hosting and the capturing of images were passions that developed via life on the road.
Two book projects saw release in 2016: Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades, 2nd edition, for which I served as editor, and Celebrating America’s National Parks, a book I authored. Both projects were completed under contracts with black and white nature photographer, Clyde Butcher. I continue to write articles, columns, and book reviews and maintain two websites (in addition to the photography site): https://donnafghailson.com/ and http://www.the-rockery.com/. I’m at work on a devotional book that I’m readying for publication. For a year, I pastored a congregation in one of the RV parks where we were staying. We’re now sojourning on the coast of North Carolina near our daughter, her husband, and our three grandchildren.
I share all of this to suggest that life on the road can open you to astonishing new vistas internally and externally. My years on the road have been years of renewal and reinvention. I now understand, at a deeper level what John Steinbeck meant when he wrote, in Travels with Charley, that, “We do not take trips. Trips take us. Once a journey is designed, equipped and put in process; a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
There’s a lot to consider as you contemplate this life. Will you purchase a Class A, Class B, Class C, travel trailer, 5th wheel, folding trailer, toy hauler…? If you go with a motorhome, what sort of vehicle will you tow? If you go for a trailer, how much truck or other tow vehicle will you need? Do you have enough saved or enough retirement pay to travel without working? Gas, insurance and overnight stays can be quite expensive; this is not a cheap lifestyle. If you want to work while on the road, might “workcamping” be an option for you? Are you willing to commit six months, working a few days a week in a national park, for the park’s non-profit partner, have your site (pretty much) paid for, and have the remainder of each week available for exploration of the area? If you are, you could spend your evenings looking up at star-bedecked skies that 90 percent of the world will never see. You could listen to the night music of coyotes howling and elk bugling and spend your days walking alongside alligators and exquisite plumed birds or wolves, foxes, and bears. You could watch whales migrate and dolphins dance; thrill to chuck wagons racing and mariachi bands playing; meet survivalists, UFO enthusiasts, gold panners, moonshiners and wild mushroom pickers; and revel in glorious natural wonders from the hoodoo-filled Bryce Canyon to the barren salt flats of Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, from the rocky shores of New England to the other-worldly cinder gardens and lava fields of the Craters of the Moon.
Would you want to volunteer for the National Park Service? Are you a medical professional interested in short-term assignments around the country? Would you be interested in working for an RV park or Amazon or any number of other companies that will offer you a place a stay and pay you for your labor? Check out www.coolworks.com and www.work-for-rvers-and-campers.com to get a beginning sense of some of the opportunities.
Be sure to join Passport America (that offers half-price overnights) and Good Sam (discounts on stays, park reviews, and more). Both will provide you with online listings and books with details on RV parks around the country. Get acquainted with RV Park Reviews (www.rvparkreviews.com). Look at insurance options through Good Sam; sign up for excellent roadside assistance. If you decide to head for Alaska, make sure you get a copy of The Milepost, a trip planner and Alaska travel guide to the highways, roads, ferries, lodgings, recreation, sightseeing attractions and services along the Alaska Highway to and within Alaska, including Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Get really acquainted with your vehicle(s) before you hit the road and make sure you know how to make repairs. Be prepared for flat tires; smashed windows; ground surges; hail-damaged roofs; tenuous brake lines; failing fuses; boot-piercing cacti; boot-sucking gumbo; plague-ridden prairie dogs; black water, gray water and most every other variation of mire, muck, ooze, slime and slop; mice that set up apartments under your sink; no-see-ums; intense heat, bitter cold…great exasperation and great joy!!
And do you have pets…??
I did a two-part radio series on “Threats to Pets” and how to prepare your furry friends for life on the road: http://www.petliferadio.com/ontheroad.html.And do you have pets…?? I did a two-part radio series on “Threats to Pets” and how to prepare your furry friends for life on the road: http://www.petliferadio.com/ontheroad.html.
How do you dissuade them from eating mule deer poop truffles? How do you get it through their heads that cow flaps are not to be rolled in or ingested? Do you vaccinate for Lepto because of washed-up-on-the-shore creatures from the sea they might also want to eat or sniff or cuddle? And that marijuana joint your canine companion found on the ground at a rest area; what are you to do about that? Can you prepare in any way for rattlesnake bites? Oh, and you had them vaccinated for everything imaginable before you got on the road, right? Then why, when you’re on the other side of the country, do they contract kennel cough? Questions, questions and more questions. All waiting to be asked and answered on the road.
Bottomline? When all is said and done, much is risked when one embraces a life of wandering but–then–much is gained. As J.R.R. Tolkien aptly noted, “Not all who wander are lost.” Go!! Do it! Do it!! Do it!!!!!!!
I had the pleasure this week of visiting with some of the birds that are under the care of the Cape Fear Raptor Center in Rocky Point, North Carolina. The organization educates the public on the importance of these extraordinary creatures and provides rehabilitation services to injured raptors with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats. The CFRC will hold its Third Annual Owl Howl on November 4, 2017 (rain date November 11) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Brunswick Riverwalk in Belville, North Carolina. The fundraiser will feature raptors, raffles, local vendors, food, and entertainment.
Follow this link for more information on the CFRC:
All photos: DFG Hailson.
My photograph, Shrimper off Topsail, will be on display at the State of the Art, Art of the State exhibition at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina from Oct. 8 to July 8.