Fellowship In The Red Dirt

Only a handful of cars passed as we drove eight hours north from Coober Pedy on the two lane highway. It was the red dirt that called us to the center of the Australia. Hours passed with not a word, just the hum of the van and the slow motion of our breath. We stopped several times along the track to touch the unusual crimson sand. It was enchanting, mysterious and unlike anything we had ever seen. As our eyes delighted in the arcane landscape our minds began to wonder off. The rhythmic monotony of the road was comforting and as I sunk into the richness of the deep red, ancient words came into focus.

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.
If your sins are blood-red,
    they’ll be snow-white.
If they’re red like crimson,
    they’ll be like wool.

I contemplated that first line. It was true, I was unsettled and ready to hash it out. I delighted in the relational nature of a God that was willing to argue it out with me. Then memories of the past twelve months began to flood my mind. Memories of new people and new places. So many new experiences to digest and to try to make sense of.  I realized I was full to the brim with newness almost the point of bursting. I was overwhelmed with the stories of kinfolk we had met along the way. Some were stories of overcoming great obstacles, while other were filled with such betrayal, suffering and heartbreak.

I had witnessed injustice face to face, through the eyes of so many who have been oppressed by empires and religions. Then I watched a mighty storm roll in from afar, as those I loved began to war against one another in online forums. And, then there was the recent news of my fathers ailing health which sent me spiraling, wondering what I was doing in the middle of the desert, when I just longed to be home.

There is a flux between faith and reason and I was wrestling to find the balance; questioning what was the point to all of our suffering and rightly so! In his book, God, Medicine and Suffering, Stanley Hauerwas states that suffering creates a silence which is not easily shared. Oh! the silence.

As the miles of red dirt passed, my soul was overwhelmed at the uncertainty and I wept. I pressed into Abba’s heartbeat like a child to her mother’s breast. Then He whispered, “I am with you.”

I was reminded of Jesus last recorded words which were translated from the original Greek to English, “I am with you always—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion, even to the end of the age.”

I don’t have many answer to sweeping philosophical or theological questions about suffering and evil but I do have a divine community of care that has made it possible for me to absorb the waves of suffering that may threaten to destroy.

It’s not wrong to ask tough question but those questions cannot be divorced from the power structures of the social situations they reflect. When we turn the Christian faith into a system of beliefs that can be universally known without transformation; then that faith practice becomes a civilization religion or what I call Empire Christianity.

It is empire Christianity that creates the ethos necessary to sustain the empire rather than being a set of convictions about God’s work in Jesus Christ.  It is empire Christianity that makes the assumption that good must ultimately triumph, otherwise the universe, as well as, the social order is incoherent.

However, in my faith practice as a Jesus follower, I recognize that suffering cannot be separated from my calling to be a new people made holy by transformation. That transformation is inseparable from fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is that assurance of community that has made it possible for me to push past the silence to tell the stories.

I’ve heard it said that it is the gift as well as the burden of the artist to tell the stories, to break the silence.

The Psalmist shows us the way and teaches us to tell the story of suffering. The psalmist teach us that Abba can handle our complaints. These laments are meant to name the silences that our suffering has created and bring us into communion with Abba and with one another, to rage that we see no point to it all. And yet, our very acknowledgement of that fact makes us a people capable of living life faithfully. In fact, our willingness to expose our pain is the means that Abba gives to help us identify and responsed to evil and injustice, pain and suffering. It is through lament, through story that we find our way out of the silence and back to the light.

Physically, the red track led us to Alice Springs but spiritually the track led me back to the heart center.

Psalm 80; God Implored to Rescue His People from Their Calamities.

To the Chief Musician; set to [the tune of] “Lilies, a Testimony.” A Psalm of Asaph.

You brought a vine out of Egypt. You drove out the nations, and You planted it.You cleared the land for it. And its roots went deep and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shadow. And the tall trees were covered with its branches. 11 It sent out its branches to the sea, and its new branches to the River.12 Why have You broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its fruit?13 The wild pig from among the trees eats it away. And whatever moves in the field eats from it.

14 O God of all, we beg You to return. Look down from heaven and see. Take care of this vine. 15 Take care of the root Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You have raised up for Yourself. 16 They have burned it with fire. It is cut down. May they be lost when they hear Your strong words. 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, the son of man you have made strong for Yourself. 18 Then we will not turn away from You. Give us new life again, and we will call on Your name. 19 O Lord God of all, bring us back to You. Make Your face shine upon us, and we will be saved.

 

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Hashtag Community

instagramWhat the heck is a hash tag, and why should I use them? We get this question all the time and usually answer it by saying the # is a way of “filing” your photo into a world-wide folder with photos that also have that same hashtag. The purpose is to link up people who have similar interests. So for instance, say you were into tea, you could start an instagram and use it as a way to document different tea shops you’d visit, teas and big hats via photo and then when you post those photos, you’d hashtag something like #teaaddiction. When you had a moment, you’d click on #teaaddiction and find all sorts of kinfolk who love tea. You could look through their photos and maybe even click on their profile, eventually making friends, finding solace in your tea fanaticism.

For us, social media outlets that use hashtags, specially Instagram have allowed us the privilege of meeting so many wonderful traveling kinfolk along our way. Just hashtag #busconversion,  #familyontheroad, #ditchingsuburbia, or #homeiswhereyouparkit and boom, they are all there; nomadic kinfolk, wanderlust rangers and road-school families. These tools provide opportunities to make an initial contact, where we can develop a slow adoration for those we follow, bonding over shared experiences and eventually leading to a #meetup. That’s when the real fun starts for us! Those moments of serendipity when we find ourselves in the same neck of the woods as fellow travelers, reaching out, setting a meeting time and place and making that first face to face connection, is sheer excitement and delight.

IMG_2192We’ve met up in MI with fellow bus owners, Herd of Turtles (The Shanks Family riding in an Eagle) and Scott and Heather Bennet (MCI owners), sharing a meal, stories of our bus conversions, and music by the campfire. Also, fellow bus owners Technomadia, who we met up with in California. When we pulled into the state park, they heard our 2stroke engine and came a running. We spent that evening sharing bus stories and tricks of the trade.

Our nomadic community isn’t just limited to bus owners, as we’ve met up with “The Van With No Plan” brothers, Josh and Matt in Phoenix AZ, where we learned about their adventures in multiple vehicles and drive to bring joy wherever they go. We met up with “meredithmarieyo” in Austin TX and learned the Texas Two Step. Also, in Austin we met up with world troubadour, Andrew Jones, from Jonesberries, one of our greatest inspirations and in our opinion, the original traveling family. And, then there was that quick but fruitful breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lafayette, LA with One Year Road Trip (The Webb Family). We can’t forget The Wayfaring Family in Lexington, KY hosting us for a few nights, sharing stories of their one year of world travel, and adjusting back to home life. Then there was our recent link up with 5th wheelers, Wandering Jess (The Marshall Family) in Pensacola FL and The Boyink family (aka Ditching Suburbia) at Silverspring State Park, Florida. Both of which shared stories of faith, motivation for full-time travel and raising teenagers on the road.

They all have their own beautiful stories of how they transitioned from life on the ground to life on the road. They all make their way doing different sorts of jobs, some work remote corporate jobs, some IT jobs, some bloggers, some pick up odd jobs, some do photography and some are film makers. Some have children and those who do have all sorts of ways they home school, from online resources to unschool. Some have pets, some have spouse and some have both.  They all travel in an array of vehicles from 5th wheels, classic airstreams, campers, buses, vans, to cars & bicycles. Some have converted their vehicles and some have bought them off of the lot. Some folks, downsize all the way, some still have homes, etc… Some have an abundance of resources and some live day to day. One thing they all have in common however, is their commitment to swimming upstream, seeking freedom, asking tough questions about societal norms and pushing against the status quo.

IMG_0155Everyday a new traveler, family or couple ends up in our different hashtag folders and when they do we reach out welcoming them to this community of drifters and wanderers. We’re always keeping an eye on the whereabouts of our fellow travelers, hoping that the wind might blow us together sooner than later. These moments of connectivity with our nomadic community are inspiring and reassure us that we’re not odd or alone, we are part of a bigger picture, in it together. #neverstopexploring #community

You can find us on Instagram at The Hollands and on Twitter at The_Hollands

This Land Is…

CNLD-PANO

This is what we’ve learned. And this is how we’ve understood it. This is a story we feel is worth re-telling. For those who have ears…

It’s about a fella named Tim DeChristopher verses the United States Government.

Hearing this story as a fellow US. Citizen was eye opening. Hearing it as a mother, was heartbreaking and yet invoked a sense of pride.

This is an paraphrase from a website called peacefuluprising.org which tells his story better than I can.

“From West Virginia, Tim came to Utah in his early 20s to work as a wilderness guide for at-risk and troubled youth. In 2008 as a student of Economics, Tim attended a Symposium at the University of Utah, where he was greatly moved and galvanized by Dr. Terry Root, a scientist for the International Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Dr. Root explained to the audience that elements of the climate crisis were already irreversible and that many species, natural wonders and bioregions were in imminent peril. Her words haunted Tim, and dramatically changed his personal worldview.

While Tim was taking his finals, advocates for Utah’s wilderness like Robert Redford and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) were attempting to bring attention to a controversial auction of Utah public lands, orchestrated by the outgoing Bush Administration. The auction included parcels adjacent to natural resources like Canyonlands National Park. SUWA and other regional advocates brought a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in efforts to halt the auction pending further review and public comment. Through no fault of SUWA or their allies, the lawsuit could not settle the issue prior to the auction.

On December 19th, Tim finished his last final exam and went to the protest that SUWA and others had organized outside of the auction. On arrival and with no prior plan of action, Tim decide to enter the building where the auction was held and approached the registration desk. When asked if he was there to bid, Tim made a quick decision. He registered as Bidder 70 and entered the auction.

Tim intended to stand up and make a speech or create some other kind of disruption. Once inside, he waited quietly with his bidder paddle lowered, until he saw a friend from his church openly weeping at the sterile transfer of beloved red rock lands away from the public trust and into the hands of energy giants. It was then that Tim decided to act.

At first, Tim simply pushed up the parcels’ prices (some starting as low as two dollars per acre, and were ultimately sold for $240 per acre). Once almost half of the parcels had been sold to oil and gas companies, Tim felt he could no longer bear to lose any more public lands. Tim bid on and won every remaining parcel, until he was recognized as an outlier and escorted from the auction.

Once it was revealed that Tim did not have the intent or the means to pay for the parcels he won, the auction erupted in chaos. Because Tim won so many parcels and inflated the prices of so many others, the auction had to be shut down. The incoming administration took office before the auction could be rescheduled. Upon review of the parcels in question, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar dismissed the auction, declaring that the BLM had cut corners and broken many of its own rules, including a crucial statute requiring all federal agencies to take the impacts on our climate into account prior to auctioning off public lands for the purpose of energy development.

Tim’s action garnered a great deal of media and public attention, and catalyzed an overwhelming influx of support and applause for his creative, effective, and nonviolent act of civil disobedience, which ultimately safeguarded thousands of acres of Utah public lands.

Although Utah’s public lands were safe, Tim’s action on December 19th radically changed the course of his life. After the current administration decided to indict Tim, despite the confirmed auction’s illegality, Tim took his message to the widest possible audience to bring attention to the desperate need for effective action to combat the climate crisis.

It took the federal government more than two years to convict and sentence Tim. The trial was delayed a total of nine times by the Prosecution. Federal Judge Dee Benson dismissed Tim’s initial defense (the “Necessity Defense,” claiming that Tim’s crime was the lesser of two evils when weighed against the threats posed by the illegal auction). The Defense’s assertion of Selective Prosecution (as no other bidder had ever been indicted for failing to pay for parcels at an auction) was also dismissed. The threat of climate catastrophe that motivated Tim was banned from the courtroom and kept from the ears of the jury, as were the fact that Tim managed to raised adequate funds for initial payments on the parcels after the auction; the fact of the auction’s confirmed illegality; and the dismissal of multiple parcels.

Despite the multiple rescheduled dates, climate activists, organizers, and advocates from all over the country came to Salt Lake City for Tim’s trial to demonstrate their solidarity with a brave young man willing to offer up his own future to fight for the future of our planet.

On March 3, 2011, after hours of jury deliberation, Tim was convicted of two federal felonies: one count of false representation, and one count of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

On July 26th, 2011, Tim was sentenced to two years in federal prison. In the pre-sentencing report, the Prosecution openly admitted that Tim himself was not a threat to society or at risk to reoffend; the stated purpose of the sentence was to deter other activists from taking similar action to further the climate movement. In his final statement to the Judge, Tim said that he understood why the Prosecution saw him as a threat. “[My message] may indeed be threatening to the power structure,” he said. “The message is about recognizing our interconnectedness. The message is that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.”

After his sentence was issued, Tim was removed immediately from the courtroom and taken into the custody of federal agents. 26 people were arrested outside the Salt Lake City courthouse, and 26 solidarity actions happened at federal courthouses throughout the United States.

Tim’s conclusion to his final statement to the courtroom at his sentencing hearing crystallized his own personal stake in that commitment:

“You can steer my commitment to a healthy and just world if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it. This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.””

Rulers rise and fall. Our elegance is not to a government system but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. We are thankful and inspired by Tim’s willingness to sacrifice for the good of us all. We are thankful to share in the woes and the joy.

“Those people are your people are my people are you people are us people!” ~The Hollands!