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Day 1 of November Thankfulness-Don’t Box Me In

There used to be a skit on Saturday Night Live about a couple named Doug and Wendy Whiner.  The skit was based around this couple who spoke in a whiny voice all of the time.  I can remember traveling in Panama as a teenager and while doing a little sightseeing, my friend and I began saying things in our Doug and Wendy Whiner voices.  Looking back, we cracked ourselves up but were probably annoying everyone else.

So, now it is time for me to divulge a truth……I’m often like Doug and Wendy.  I whine. I suppose the reality of it is that I’m a pretty thankful person.  I realize that I have been blessed with a great husband, great kids (even if they do roll their eyes at me at times) and a great family.  I love my job and my co-workers. I have some precious friends. My kids never have to go without needs. (I am stressing needs… wants are a totally different thing.) I’m thankful to God  for all of these things and so much more.  BUT…. I’m also still a whiner.  Not so much of one out loud and to people (okay, maybe a few get to hear me) but in the quietness of my life, wherever that may be, I whine to God about what I don’t have or what I don’t want.

Last spring, I took a day long personal retreat.  It wasn’t much of anything other than a hike all by myself to a rock that overlooks a river.  I took my walking stick, a backpack, some music on my phone and my Bible.  The intention of the retreat was to spend my time with God….. whining.  I had been dealing with a perpetual thorn in my side… as much as I have done and as hard as I have tried, I couldn’t (still can’t) get that thing out of my side.  So, my retreat time was going to be me and God…. I totally had planned on him showing up at that rock with me.  I sat down, prayed some, opened my Bible, read some….. nothing.  No God.  I did those things again.  Still, no God.  For whatever reason, though I know I am always in his presence, he chose to be quiet.  And my reaction… I was disappointed…. I wanted to complain about this thorn in my side… I wanted answers….. It was a great day for it to be removed! Still nothing but silence.

I basked on the rock for several hours, reading, waiting….. I was at the point of putting God in a box and of believing that He was also annoyed with my whining, so I finally gave up and decided to leave.  Now being a girl that grew up on a farm, with a tad of hippie inside and lack of desire to be like others, I decided a hike without shoes would be great….  I put my shoes in my backpack and began hiking through mud, rocks and grass… It was wonderful.  The smells of fresh mud and grass, the feel of walking on gravel and squishing through mud, the sounds of a running creek and singing birds… I was instantly taken back to my childhood.

I made it through the rough terrain and back to a concrete sidewalk and was watching a group of kids in the distance when I looked down and caught myself in mid-step.  I almost stepped on the biggest thorn I’d ever seen in my life.  It was huge… at least to me it was.  It was probably three inches long and the thorns on the side were sticking a good two inches outward.  It looked much like a cross.  I thought in my mind that thorn would be great to show the kids at church because it was probably the size of the thorns placed on Jesus’ head.  I looked around to find more but there were none.  The only ones I saw were about 40 feet in the air, wrapped around a large tree.  So, I picked it up and decided since God wasn’t meeting me that I would listen to some music.
I put in my ear buds and without looking, clicked on my music.  A song began to play and as I sat down in my car, I heard the words in a whole new way….

The song was, Don’t Give Up by Shawn McDonald…. These are the words that I heard….

Sometimes it is hard to go on
It’s hard to see the reasons
For breathing, living, letting love guide the way
But you must hold on

 
Don’t give up
Don’t give up
Hold on for one more day

 

Sometimes we fall down
We get ourselves in trouble
But it’s OK
Cause we still have another chance to get it right
To get it right

 

I’ve come too far
I’ve seen so much
I’ve heard the call and felt the touch
I’ve tasted love that I cannot deny

 
Don’t give up
Don’t give up
Hold on for one more day

 
I remembered the words that had been spoken to me just days before, ” Maybe the thorn in your side is to keep you relying on God.  If you didn’t have it would you depend on God as much as you have to with it? Maybe not” … I looked at the thorn… it was a souvenir…God waited until I was like a child and spoke to me in a way that was creative and miraculous….. I wept…

I’ve kept that thorn. It sits on my desk as a reminder of that day.   I still don’t like the thorn in my side and it still bothers me a lot, but at least I have an understanding and that understanding came in such a loving and beautiful way.

 

 

Day 1: I’m thankful for a God that cannot be put in a box, desires a personal relationship with me (and you) and speaks in beautiful ways.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young-

Grow strong in the Light of My Presence. Your weakness does not repel Me. On the contrary, it attracts My Power, which is always available to flow into a yielded heart. Do not condemn yourself for your constant need of help. Instead, come to Me with your gaping neediness; let the Light of My Love fill you.

A yielded heart does not whine or rebel when the going gets rough. It musters the courage to thank Me even during hard times. Yielding yourself to My will is ultimately an act of trust. In quietness and trust is your strength.

 

Don’t Give Up- Shawn McDonald

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Take a hike… seriously… I mean, really… literally….

hikingI don’t know what I was thinking… an hour to spare and I said, ” Why don’t we take this other trail?  It seems silly to go home when we could keep walking for another hour.  It can’t possibly take that long.”  I don’t know if the map was totally exaggerated or if I was oxygen deprived and not thinking straight, but for me to suggest we hike further????? Totally not me.  First of all, let me set the record straight, I do like to hike… as long as the trail is relatively flat, the air is cool and I can wear my flip-flops.   Also, I need to walk with slow walking people… my leg stride is so short that I have to run to keep up with others and believe me, I have a few friends who just about kill me when we are walking… at the mall.  You know who you are..

But the point is, hiking is a fun way to exercise my body and my mind.  I love to look at the world around me as I walk and marvel at creation..( I also, like to stop and sit on creation and take a breather every now and then)  I often wonder what it would be like to be someone walking that same route 100 years ago.  Obviously,  it is a way to get my mind off of the fact that I’m panting and doubled over… but it is way better than walking through a neighborhood or on a treadmill.  Way prettier pictures…

Our hike last Friday was at a place we had never been before… we checked it out for its family friendliness and decided that it was going to be a diamond in the rough… a total treasure that we had overlooked.  The pictures sported beautiful streams, small and medium sized water falls, a river overlook,  rustic bridges, a wild animal or two… we were excited.  We gathered our walking sticks… yes, we are that professional… our picnic cooler, cameras and I threw on my flip-flops and headed out the door.

After lunch we headed to the information center to get our trail map and into the woods we went.  Our walk was a tree covered, dirt path that took us to a water gate that was long deteriorated and gone … probably for a century and a half… there was an incredible rock wall that had stood the test of time but the stream was a trickle…The only wildlife we saw was a tick crawling on a leg and my husband throwing a rock off of the trail to make us think something was moving in the woods…. Our seven-year-old began to grow weary and began stating her favorite hiking place was not the one where we were…her favorite, she reminded us, was the one that my husband had first suggested we go… I kept telling her to keep her opinions to herself… she longed to see a waterfall…I was determined that this would be her new favorite place…mainly because it was my suggestion… so I didn’t want to leave until she could find that picture perfect waterfall.  I wasn’t finding the waterfalls on the map so I thought the river overlook might satisfy a seven-year-old’s desire to see water.

We worked our way back to the main path and I realized that we had a hour before the trails closed… it seemed such a waste to leave after such a short little walk…. we hadn’t even seen a waterfall.  As we stood on the hot main trail, our older daughter decided that wanting a haircut was more important than our physical health and she started to zone out of the hiking mood… the first trail was fun but now in the hearts of all but me… well,  it was time to leave.  Instead, of leaving we took a shortcut through an open meadow that made us all cranky and thirsty.  I hike in flip-flops so it is probably also apparent that I would not hike with a bottle of water or any other kind of liquid for that matter.  We all began to get thirsty.  My husband just so happened to have a Diet Coke Plus in the camera case and the girls were at least able to share that.  About two thirds of the way into our “shortcut” we realized our timing was going to be an issue and now the whole bathroom thing kicked in too.  We were so close to the river overlook that it seemed silly to walk away so my husband said that we could definitely make it if we walked back in double time.  “Double time? I have been walking in double time,” I said.  ….. (Remember my walking stride is short) So I finally shrugged it off and said, “On to the Overlook”  With frustrated hiking daughters, we made it there.  Still no waterfall, but it was a nice view… a cool, safe cliff to sit on and look over into the murky waters of the Kentucky River…. totally worth the walk….  we double-timed our way back to the car… we made it out of the park with 3 minutes to spare before they closed the gates.  It was as if we had accomplished a tremendous feat.

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult thing to overcome happens to be the best experience that we never dreamed it could be.  Our hike wasn’t devastating… but it wasn’t filled with many moments that would be considered incredible at the time either.  However, looking back, had we stopped walking when we did, we wouldn’t have seen the river from the overlook point and we wouldn’t have had the family memory…. now we can laugh about it.

I’m preparing for The Family Adventure (a family event where I work) and I was reading  the Persistent Widow Parable.  You know, that lady kept on “keeping on.”  She didn’t give up asking for justice.  She finally got on the nerves of the judge so he gave in to her request. widow Jesus said that if we see this uncaring, unjust judge answering the request, then just imagine what a loving Father would do.  It would be really easy to look at that parable and take away from it that we have to beg and whine in order for God to answer our prayers the way we want them answered or we should ask God to be our genie in a lamp,  but I don’t think that either is the point.   I think the point may be to not give up before it is time to quit so you don’t miss out on the blessing that God has in store.  Maybe persistence in prayer is not for us to feel good about the accomplishment or the gift, but maybe it helps us appreciate the power of God.

So, if you are hiking and are ready to quit before the trails close… double-time your walk and continue on to another trail… you might see something incredible.

If you are praying and seeking God’s will, don’t give up when things seem quiet…  but instead keep on “keeping on” and hold on for an incredible experience of God at work.

He loves you.

Luke 18:1-8

Parable of the Persistent Widow

1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man[a] returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2009 in Devotions, Faith, Fun, Life Stories

 

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