It’s been a great summer as we’ve been discovering some valuable “LIFE LESSONS” from the Bible to help us in our faith journey. This past weekend we were challenged by the prophet Jeremiah (17.5-9) to trust God with every step of our journey. Often we long for clarity in life. But spiritual maturity is the process of learning to depend on God even when the way ahead has limited visibility!
Jeremiah paints a motivating picture to trust God as he descibes the life of self-reliance as being like a bush in the desert. The person who trusts God step by step is described as a tree planted by water. When tough times come the tree is rooted in an unending source of nourishment so that it stays green and bears fruit! Our God is faithful every step of the way!
To help communicate the image of trusting God step by step a couple guys, Bob Curran and Joel Christensen, shared their mountain climbing experience with us! Just weeks earlier they took on the 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado – Longs Peak. God gave both of them many “take-aways” from the adventure. Joel listed 15 things that he learned that parallel our faith journey. I’ve listed them below as well as Joel’s log of their hike.
May our God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust HIM step by step by step!
So, about what I (Joel) learned.
- Bob is the man. Tracy is too.
- One step at a time, I exceeded my perceived physical and medical limits.
- Listen to the ranger. He won’t stop you from heading into danger, but he will advise and let you know the potential consequences. (Like the things that have killed the future of others.)
- When the ranger asks what your plan is and says “NO,” listen and set goals nearly as high and equally satisfying. Rangers have experience and can probably spot fools who ignore them or are not prepared for mountain conditions.
- Prepare for multiple ways to succeed. When God opens or shuts doors, be flexible.
- Each has own physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. God meets them uniquely in the challenge.
- The Keyhole is not a vague description, but a very definitive moment. When the ranger asks why you should go beyond hiking this side of the keyhole to climbing on the other side, be prepared with the answer. The difference between hiking and climbing are as dramatic as the cliff edge. When God asks why he should let you into heaven, are you prepared with the answer?
- The Glory of the mountains is so big, there is no echo.
- God created and blesses more than imaged, just in beauty of nature by framing a mountain.
- When we shed our packs and lighten our burdens, we jump from boulder to boulder. Trust God has prepared and provided.
- Majesty and grandeur of God’s creation may be as close to God as you will ever feel here on earth.
- God can take breath away on the mountain top experience.
- I know the thrill and have seen the expression we will have when we step through the challenge and God says well done, you have finished the race.
- I have felt what it is to realize the majesty that previously I had only read about or heard talked about. The description became reality. Words cannot fully describe.
- One step at a time. Sometimes lead, sometimes follow, sometimes help others, and sometimes ask for help. Just one step at a time all the way to the goal.
The way way up…
So, about the idea. My friend Bob told me he was going for a walk in Colorado. He was then the illustration for a sermon on dying. Ya, nobody wants that. I and others said he shouldn’t do that walk alone. He said he had been preparing for 2 years. That gave me 2 months to prepare. Bob sent an encouraging email. “I encourage you to bring your best pain killer, because this is going to hurt”. So we drove 2,700 miles to take a 13 mile walk, punning all the way. The month is July 2015.
So, about walking to acclimate. My friend Bob and my new friend Tracy (Bob’s wife’s sister’s husband) took a couple of practice walks to acclimate. You know, acclimating can bring you to tears and twist your stomach. I hadn’t crashed or panicked from low blood sugar yet. And we are just talking about practice. The big day is tomorrow, Thursday, 02July2015.
So, about that hike in Colorado. Prepare the night before: eat pasta, pack camelbacks, load backpacks, and then to bed. Wake up, early comes early, and hoist my 30 pound pack. Start down the 2 lane paved road by moonlight and flashlight. Pray at the ranger station, the sign says 7.5 miles. Adjusting, I’m running 50% on my pump for the next 14 hours. Moved single file onto a hiking trail toward “Goblin Forest.” We are alone together. I’m at 224. The time is 3:10.
So, about that weather. The dark clouds rolled in. The moon disappeared. The flash of lightening, from storm cloud to storm cloud, over the trees, but no thunder. Getting a little wet, we put on the rain suits and keep walking through the trees, flashlight showing each step, one at a time. I’m at 235. I’m trying to drop, drinking only water, to reduce the work load on the heart. The time was 4:10.
So, about the trail. The log and stone steps, one after another. Avoiding the stones that could break an ankle. The path crosses a waterfall. Bob stepped into the water to cross before the flashlights landed on a split log bridge. Hiking, climbing, one step up at a time. We pass the sign warning about lightning. We keep going and clear the tree line. I’m at 222. The time is 5:10.
So, about moving above the tree line. The clouds are just above. You can see the town lights far below and the city lights even farther down in the Front Range, all over the ground floor, before we ascend into the fog. You cannot be discouraged by looking up or down inside a cloud. I’m at 189. The time is 6:10.
So, about the dawn and light. As we climb the steep path in the fog, four young trekkers meet us from another path, going a different direction and zooming up the incline. Slowly up, up, up. The next sign points the way to the top. I’m at 148. The time is 7:10.
So, about the view above the clouds. The sun is up. We are stopping and resting regularly. Bob’s got on one shoe from each of his pairs of hiking shoes. Dressing in the dark, I had grabbed my wife’s purple hiking socks. Tracy’s wondering how he got on a mountain with these fashionistas. They are more than willing to stop each time to let me check my blood sugar, or dig snacks and drinks from my pack. They get to rest until we hoist the packs back on. The sign says “Granite Pass.” 5 miles down, 1.5 to go. We meet a couple who stop to talk about how they spent the night huddled under a ground cover blanket in a lightning storm. They are headed down, a schedule to keep. I’m at 114. The time is 8:10.
So, about climbing towards the “Boulder Field”. Most every step I’m looking at my feet. A step, a pebble, a rock, a stone path. How to make each step just a little easier with the weight on the back and the burn in the legs. Looking up, we see the “Diamond Face” peaking over the horizon. We stop and look. We see marmots, flowers – yellow, purple, blue, clouds that fill every valley below. The tallest peaks are all that is above the white pillow of clouds. The sun is slowly burning off the clouds to show glimpses of the valley floors. We follow the “cairns” – stone rock piles to mark the trails across the boulder fields. The runner in white tank top, blue shorts and water bottle, passes us going up, hops across the boulder field, then turns and passes us going back down. Not a word. I’m at 110. The time is 9:10.
So, about the keyhole. It is in sight, not so far, maybe 30 minutes more. Can finally shed the heavy pack and make it just with a camel back pack? I’m out of water anyway and going on Gatorade, juice and sugar. Shedding the 20 pound pack, I jump from boulder to boulder to snow, passing a climber. The campers are following. There is no path, except across the snow. I post holed, sinking deep into the snow to the knee. The sudden stop hurts the knee. Climbing rocks is safer, with juice in one hand and camera in the other. At 13,000, we are panting all the way. I’m at 87. The time is 10:10.
So, remember the story about the girl and the rabbit hole where things are different on the other side? When you scramble up the last, steep rocks, hand hold by hand hold, passing the shelter door, you pass from hiking through the “Keyhole” to climbing. What breath you still have is taken away. One step through, not two, the cliff falls away. Tracy, the climber and the campers arrive. GoPro Live (aka Bob) is making his way up the snow. The marmot is begging for food. This is where hiking ends and climbing begins. The wind is still, the ledges look clear of ice and snow is in the trough. We have arrived at the goal and the ledges are so steep. For a moment, I know the fear of heights. Don’t do anything crazy or get hurt, so crossing the ledges has no point. The rangers’ words are heeded, with the snow in the trough and a rescue on Sunday past. The ledges have been breached, this is enough. It is all the mountain will allow this early in the season.
So, about the view. Mills Lake is far below, as is Ribbon Falls. Falls at the end of the hike even on top of the mountain. It must be huge, but it’s so small and far. The crevice in the rim frames another peak far away. Reaching the Vaille Shelter “sells” tee shirts, but no weed. Bob steps onto the ledges with more than a smile. Again, we break out the camera. I face uphill and not the cliff. The Colorado symbols mark the path leading the way up. It’s all as described on the web. I didn’t watch the GoPro videos on YouTube. Shouts of “Glory” – but there is no echo – the valley is so massive. Oops, was Bob’s Go Pro still on? We see the clouds bubbling up on top and at the diamond face, so we start back down. I’m at 124. The time is 11:10.
So, about the walk being only half done. The pack is retrieved, the privy is visited and a rock is retrieved. The summit and diamond face at the top of the mountain are covered and cleared of clouds bubbling up from below the diamond face. The 7 am hiking group goes up the boulders as we go down. Gave away Gatorade to thirsty guys to lighten my pack. The views amaze. Breaks are needed going down. Blood from a cut on the neck? That mosquito must have fed on the jugular. I’m at 97. The time is 12:10.
So, about stepping down. The trekking poles soften each step for the knees. Down granite pass. 1.5 miles, 5 to go. Dark clouds below. “No” to hiking to Chasm Lake. May never see, but diamond face is covered anyway. The runner chick checks her watch, turns and goes down. The warnings of lightening below the dark clouds are spoken, so we hustle down. Bob doesn’t stop. I’m at 107. The time is 1:10.
So, about needing a break. Stepping down hurts in the hips. Liquids are gone. The trees finally line the trail again. Many hikers continue to climb, and a family passes us going down. The things we couldn’t see in the dark go on and on and on. I’m at 113. The time is 2:10.
So, about those scouts. 1.5 miles still to go. Time to stop and drop the pack. Kids in tennis shoes run by sharing water, thank God. The sunglasses are lost on a rock break. Please end the pain. I’m sick of sugared snacks. The ranger station is passed. This hike is done and the 15 pound pack is off. Advil, crash and continue to burn. It is over at 3:10 p.m.
I love the question David asks in Psalm 27.1 – The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? If God is our stronghold – our refuge – our fortress – our source of security and strength then why fear? But fear is persistent and has a way of sapping our strength to live. So in Psalm 27 we watch David run to THE stronghold and in doing so show us how to live fear-free!
This Sunday we’ll wrap up our “STRONGER” series as we follow David down the beaten path leading to THE stronghold! Wouldn’t it be great to come to a point in life where fear makes absolutey no sense in light of God’s protection? Whatever you’re facing may this simple truth encourage you – “The LORD is the stronghold of my life – WHY FEAR?”
Hope you can join us in Ellis Park @ 10:00 on Sunday!
On Easter Sunday we’re launching a new message series that will answer this question:
How do we live with hope when life is hard and our future seems so uncertain?
God created us to live on hope.
When our hope levels are running low we struggle to get up and go.
When our hope levels are up we have energy to tackle the challenges of the day.
We’ll discover timeless truth from the Bible that will help us face our everyday circumstances with a heart full of hope.
We hope you can join us at 9:00 or 10:30am as we celebrate Easter at West Bridge! If you’re a first time guest and you want to know what to expect click here.