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The Tops Not the Edges

October 22, 2012

“May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness” ~Psalm 72:3 (NRSV)

When hiking, I like the tops, but not the edges.

Call me over-cautious, if you must. I think of myself more as a parent of three kids under the age of eight, where the edges bring unlimited potential for disaster. The vistas around them, though? Amazing, beautiful, and every other cliche that might spring to mind.

In the bank of my memories, this hike on Saturday, October 20th will probably linger for a long, long time. It may well one of the views that passes before my eyes when life finally ebbs. It’s the view from the Lookout Hill at the Blackstone River and Canal State Park. Each week, the couple who lead our Connect Group pick a spot for all of us to hike, and we’ve got quite a crew; typically, eight kids and six adults. I’d hate to walk into a 99 looking for a table, but out in nature, it keeps things interesting.

Connect Groups are the small group program at Franklin Federated Church, and it’s been a wonderful semester. It’s a brand new program, but seems to have gotten a lot of traction with members of the church…and even some non-members! We are blessed to be able to gather once a week outside of church in these groups, with different activities to focus the fellowship and the conversation. Our group meets for a weekly hike, but others go to the movies and have a discussion group, or read a book and discuss it over soup, or practice digital photography, and so on. The only requirement we asked folks to stick with was to pray for one another around a circle in what we’ve called Connecting Prayer: you sit in a circle and pray for the person on your right, then they do, and so on.

The reports so far are that people really like this format, especially since the activities vary based on what you’ve chosen. None of them are getting view like we are, though!

A few weeks we traveled to Hopedale to hike a gentle loop, and the week after that we hiked the Franklin State Forest. Sometimes the kids get a little whiney (the youngest is four), but if they push through they seem to have a good time. Most of them seem to be sleeping a little better on our hike days. But the real treasure comes somewhat near the end of our time together, when we circle up and pray; yes, kids included!

Sometimes they are too shy. Sometimes they wind up just whispering a prayer in the ear of the parent they’re sitting beside. But sometimes, we get what feels like gold; they manage to thank God for the glory of the creation around them, and they point out something they like and value in the person sitting beside them. Having a child pray for you in a unique and humbling experience. The first week, my son thanked God that I made such great breakfast. I don’t know, I don’t think my breakfasts are any better than most interested guys can come up with, but it was nice to know we’re making memories together both around the table at meal time and out on the trail hiking.

Yes, it’s hard work getting to some of these vistas. It doesn’t always mean traveling in a perfect line. Some run ahead. Some run to the edges. We keep calling them back, calling them back, to focus, to see, to breathe and to pray with us. I know we don’t get to the tops without skirting the edges. And ultimately, it’s all worth it.

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