There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All this places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
The Beatles (In my life)
I was challenged by a friend (OK it was God) to analytically look at the places on earth I treasure the most. Not places I'd LIKE to love... or are the prettiest... but "those" places I've actually been to on this planet that hold the most meaning. Places that are forever etched inside me and hold more magic than the rest. Over the next few days, I want to look at the top 5 places on earth I've discovered and look at the reasons why. I hope to discover something new about myself through it and I want to welcome you on my trip :)
First though, there was a long list of honorable mentions:
Quite a number of sports settings came to mind (and some made the Top 5 too) but I'll never forget being at the old Yankee Stadium in the fall with two of my best baseball buddies. It was the center of the baseball universe and it felt like you were part of something larger when you were there.
There were the bleachers at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. When I was in high school, we'd stir up trouble with the drunken steel workers and smoke cheap cigars. Simply the most fun atmosphere of any live sporting event I know... I can still smell the waft of the Century Sams. Saturday night's on Carleton Street Toronto outside the old Maple Leaf Gardens in the winter was a magical place. The row of scalpers standing outside the "No Scalpers" signs always warmed my heart. I once bought a seat in the 1st row of Red's against Winnipeg for 100$. Tie Domi fought Wendel Clark. If I close my eyes... I'm there.
There are personal family places like my parents family room on Christmas morning. Christmas morning was my favorite day of the year growing up. Everyone was at their best towards each other while the fire roared. My Great-Grandparent's farm in Madoc Ontario is the historical center of my familial history. We'd vacation there and even thinking about it, to this day, connects me to my past. Harrison Park in Owen Sound Ontario holds a very special place in my heart as our yearly Thanksgiving camping pilgrimage destination.
I proposed to Krissy on the pier of Port Dover Ontario and I smile when I think of it. I remember Bark Lake camp in Northern Ontario as an 8 year old where my Dad took his Grade 7&8 students to teach them about the outdoors. I'd sit in on the sessions, and combined with what he had already taught me... I'd school the students. It was a proud moment for my Dad and it meant something very real and lasting to me too.
Two places specifically very nearly made the cut. I remember being on the island of Puerto Galera in the Philippines. I had been apart from my wife for a couple weeks while preaching and leading a team around the Manila area. It was our last few days and the host missionaries took us away for a little R&R but my mind was only on my wife. Along the coast of the South China Sea, I walked the most beautiful shoreline I'd ever seen. Brilliantly colored coral reefs lay right at my feet. I found a small Internet cafe with a view of the crystal blue water and I chatted with Krissy on MSN Messenger from very literally the other side of the earth. I started with the words... "You can't even imagine what I'm looking at right now". Connecting with my wife and sharing the moment, knowing she was in my living room seeing my son crawl for the first time, made for a slice of time that is forever etched in me.
The final honorable mention goes to what we called, "The Big Blue House". As a headstrong (and as you'll see MUCH skinnier) 20 something, my friend Brian allowed me to partner my vision for a city with his and we started a church. From nothing. God miraculously allowed us to buy an old crazy bar that was painted blue. Bright Blue. On the black and white checkerboard former dance floor, I saw my kids dedicated, baptized my first person, lay prostrate feeling the weight of the Spirit of God, prayed and danced like a wild man at 5AM while the city slept... and tangibly saw my dreams of what an honest effort at city transformation via an effective, full-on church movement begin.
The Big Blue House is now a Big Beige Apartment complex and it's former self is but a wonderful memory. But places don't stay the same. They change just like we must. We can't hold on to them. They mark times, and lands, and events, and eras. What happens in those places are whats important... because we're called to walk on and discover new wonderful places.
Tomorrow.... my #5 favorite place on earth.