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How Sacred Waters Taught Me to Embrace Utopia When it Finds Me

In Thingvellier National Park in Iceland, you can snorkel or dive between the space where two continents meet. Inside the tectonic divide between Europe and America, you can swim inside a freezing, beautiful blue oasis.

Within the same park, steaming hot geothermal puddles boil and the Stóri Geysir explodes ever few minutes. The Haukadalur Valley, which is commonly known as the Golden Circle, is one of few places on earth where molten magma is close enough to the earth’s surface to boil water.

As a pastor, I often meet people who feel like they don’t fit into the world around them. The heartbreak, pain and depression these individuals carry, feels unbearable. Yet, in nature, some of the most beautiful sites erupt from the spaces between worlds. When magma is out of place, lava forms beautiful landscapes in Iceland and Hawaii. Even when it doesn’t feel like a blessing, being out of place is beautiful.

Faithful people and philosophers have long imagined what a perfect world would look like. These imaginings are called a utopia. In scripture, the utopia just beyond the grasp of the Israelites was called the “land of milk and honey.”

Most everyone has dreamt of living in a better place, but few have the courage to build the utopia they long for. Just off the coast of Phnom Penh, there is a utopian city on the water.

Between the border of Cambodia and Vietnam individuals, largely living without documented status (in any country), live on the water in houseboats. They have their own floating stores, restaurants and schools.

Some of the residents of the floating village experience injustice when they are paid less or charged more for supplies than others who are documented and living on the shore. Sometimes they have to re-anchor their city in a new spot when nationalist fears bubble up around them. But, many in the floating village enjoy the freedoms that come from dwelling between lands.

If you want to open yourself up to more of the blessings this world has to offer, you must embrace utopia whenever you find it. Instead of dwelling on the reasons you feel out of place, look for milk and honey within the unique space you occupy.

Of all the sights and sounds my mom, grandma and I saw on our trip to Germany and Switzerland, the most memorable was my grandmother’s bird feeding adventure in Sachseln. The sound of the day-old bread hitting the water caused a swarm of birds to gather.

It’s hard to explain why this moment was so magical and joyful. But, you can watch the whole ridiculous experience here:

Our encounter with utopia, while feeding the birds, could have occurred anywhere in the world. Laughter, someone (or several people) who loves you just as you are and a bit of food is all you need to build your own utopia.

One person’s milk and honey is another’s day-old bread. Stop looking for a utopia that stands the test of time. Your utopia doesn’t have to be validated by anyone else on the planet. Enjoy each glimpse at utopia you find, for as long as it lasts. When you expect utopias to stay forever, you trade your blessings for disappointments.

In the video below, you can see three of the sacred waters I encountered on my trip to Cambodia.

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