Kalispell by night.

thankful places.

“Geography is every bit essential to the Christian life as theology.”

Lorne Jaques
5 min readFeb 25, 2018

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If you could pick up the four years I’ve spent at Lipscomb University, they’d fold neatly in half along the crease of the summer after my sophomore year.

My first two years at college

were (broadly speaking) spent discovering and confronting my own insecurities by building my faith. These last two years, I’ve been living out of the confidence that only comes from diving into the deepest, messiest parts of one’s soul.

The transition between those two parts of college

came with an internship in Kalispell, Montana. That city rests in a valley between three ranges of the Rocky Mountains, and there was nothing more beautiful than a sunrise over one range or a sunset over another.

I’ve always connected with God most through the light of the sun just cresting one horizon or another, but that summer was something else. I didn’t have a car, and my time biking throughout the city after work forced me to actually watch what the sun was doing.

On top of that,

church set-up started at 6:30 every Sunday. On those days, another church intern would pick me up at 6am, and we’d drive from one end of the valley to the other watching the sunlight break over the ridgeline, praying for the morning with every mile.

At the end of this internship, I took a walk asking God to show me what my career path was supposed to be. As I watched the sun set over the mountains, I heard my call to ministry. You cannot overstate how much that moment meant to me.

Montana, post rainstorm.

Three years ago,

the founding president of Theta Psi (my social club/local fraternity) facilitated an initiation ceremony in a very particular location that welcomed me and my pledge class into the club.

Through some very odd twists of fate, that same responsibility fell to me this year, and I stood in the same place to facilitate the same ceremony as that same founding president looked on. Words fail to capture the gravity of that experience.

My time running initiation pointed me back to all the good Theta Psi has done in my life. On top of that, it brought me to reflect on how much I’ve grown since my grand-big welcomed me into that club.

Freshmen Lorne lacked the skills to do laundry on a regular basis,

much less meaningfully run an initiation ceremony. I’ve grown in confidence and abilities in those three years, and the greenhouse for that growth has been Theta Psi.

When I engaged those guys, I found a place where I walked into the room and everyone said, “We’re glad you’re here.” With that kind of community shoring me up, I gained a freedom to engage my deepest insecurities in a way I couldn’t have otherwise.

Technically this is 2 hours north of Kalispell, but you get the idea.

“The lived Christian life always occurs in a place. It is never an abstraction, never a generality, never a technique…Geography is every bit essential to the Christian life as theology.”

Eugene Peterson writes the above

about the long lists of places you find throughout the Bible. He’s got a collection of sermons called As Kingfishers Catch Fire, and this one is titled “I Will Awake the Dawn”.

The summer before he left for college,

Peterson worked an overnight shift caring for the roadways in the town he grew up in. He spent eight hours by himself each night, and he took to praying Psalm 108 over his work and his city.

As the summer ran on, he fixed on a single phrase;

“I will awake the dawn.”

He saw his work as not just maintaining the streets of this town, but praying the sun up over the horizon. Throughout this sermon, he constantly references places and streets throughout this town, and as I read the places, I realized I knew most of them.

Peterson grew up in Kalispell, and just as I spent a summer seeing God in the rising and setting of the sun in that beautiful valley, he spent a summer praying the sun into the sky in the very same place.

I read that sermon this past week, and was brought to tears as I reflected on all that God had done through that internship.

The rain was something else.

This has been God at work in my life:

Over the past week, He’s been rubbing my nose in all the good and beautiful things he’s blessed me with during college, and he’s done it by reminding me of the places where he’s worked.

I’ve been reminded of Montana through the words of a Eugene Peterson sermon.

God brought me back to my own initiation into Theta Psi through running this one.

A drive through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee took me back to the Slovenian Alps in Eastern Europe.

Visiting a very boujee University with a very not dry campus made me appreciate my own a little more.

Talking to people at my own University who have had very opposite experiences from my own have made me that much more thankful for how my four years turned out.

Here’s the thing though.

I’ve felt nothing but joy looking back on even the darkest parts of my college career, but this isn’t the joy of a self-affirming pat on the back.

I didn’t create Theta Psi.

Neither Eugene Peterson nor I actually lifted the sun up over the horizon with our prayers, no matter how dedicated we may have been.

I didn’t form the Slovenian alps out of the primordial bedrock of this planet, nor did I do anything to make Lipscomb University.

I did nothing to earn or manufacture the blessings of God in my life.

He made them, and put them right in front of my face, and I’m left four years later repeating verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 108, again and again and again.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;

I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;

I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;

I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;

your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Amen.

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Lorne Jaques

Writer. Teacher. Pastor. Interpreter of strange times, and aspiring polymath.