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“I Think it’s a Loop,” & 4 More Sage Summer Travel Tips

At the end of the Red Route, South Rim, Grand Canyon

“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;

an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”

G.K. Chesterton

Our nine-day. “Out West” adventure ended last week. Some of you have asked for highlights. There were many. Here are five.

1. Beware of “I think it’s a loop.”

Our hiking party on the descent, once we knew it was NOT a loop.

“Wow! This trail is pretty steep,” my niece exclaimed, a minute or two up the trail to Weeping Rock in Utah’s Zion National Park.

“I think it’s a loop,” I assured her as we rounded- or more accurately,  as we turned sharply to the left.  “The sign said the trail to Weeping Rock is only four-tenths of a mile. That’s nothing- a ten minute walk, maybe.” 

“Well, anyway, it’s a good thing we filled our bladders at the last stop,” one cousin added, between swigs from his Camelbak, “because this trail is making me thirsty.”

“Yup- out of one bladder right into the other,” another cousin quipped. 

We with any breath left chuckled. But our bladder banter betrayed us.

Because none of us was an actual-factual hiker.  I mean the kind who does this sort of switchback, steep drop off stuff.  A real hiker. Our knock-off Camelbaks had arrived mere days ago.

Not all those who wander are lost.

Still, here we all were- wandering up Zion National Park’s family-friendly, rated-easy trail to Weeping Rock.

“You sure this is the way to Weeping Rock?” my husband asked me, about ten minutes in.

“I don’t know if it is or is not,” Uncle John jumped in, “but I’m already crying.”

“I think it’s a loop,” I said again.

And we trudged on.

Someone mumbled something about a trail of tears. 

Then, where the trail was so narrow and the drop-off so sheer and my niece’s hand numb for how hard I was holding her- where we were hugging the rock- there came two hikers going down. 

“Hello!” I burst, “Can you tell us if we’re on the path to Weeping Rock?”

That bearded trekker grimaced first, then without a word, he grinned and turned. Our eyes tracked as he pointed down to a dark, little cave way off at the base of the cliff.  

That is Weeping Rock,” he said.

Tolkien was right, of course: Not all those who wander are lost. 

But this I know- those who slog along switchbacks seeking the easy, “family friendly,” route to Weeping Rock are. They are lost. 

We followed the bearded man down.

2. Listen to the rocks cry out.

The second highlight of the trip for me was listening to all those majestic rocks.  All the earth will shout his praise.

I heard the Grand Canyon sing praise- louder and louder as the day wore on and the sun colored those west faces magnificent.

And the Vermillion Cliffs chanted too, driving into southwestern Utah. By the time we reached Zion, I tell you,  the Patriarchs were tenors, belting out glory, Pavarotti. style.

“All the earth will worship You and sing praise to You. They will sing praise to Your name.” Selah Psalm 66:4

Bright Angel Trail, photo tweaks courtesy of David Haessig

I’ve written before about the glory of God in Creation, and how sunsets and canyons and mountains and rivers exist for Christ.

I can’t help but share this John Piper quote again:

Every honorable pleasure we have in the created world is designed by God to give us a faint taste of heaven and make us hunger for Christ. Every partial satisfaction in this life points to the perfect satisfaction in Jesus who made the world.

Creation talks– it sings and shouts- and we hear Creator God.

3. Road trip with friends (and bring your walkie-talkies).

For a full 24  hours after we got home my ears were ringing. I kept hearing “Roger” and “10-4” and “Breaker, breaker.”

I miss hearing the happy back and forth between the brothers-in-law, the “Hey’dja see those longhorn over there?” and “Woudnt’cha just like to see one of those boulders come rolling down?” and ” What song can you sing us, Big John?”

This trip we traveled with my in-laws and now I don’t ever want to road-trip alone. Joy shared is joy doubled.

Switching up the cousins each leg of the trip worked like a charm to ease any conflict and  breathe fresh fun into those 4,000 miles. 

And, trust me, it really helps when you’re eating leftovers out of the trunk for the fourth meal in a row in the parking lot of Wall Drug to have a unified front before a half dozen kids with their hearts set on Culver’s.

Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity…It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. Psalm 133:1, 3

4. A joyful heart is good medicine.

Joy is the serious business of heaven, I’ve heard.

But on earth, it seems it comes to us indirectly- not when we aim at it head on. At least that’s how it was out West. 

At Weeping Rock. Looking out.
Zion’s Weeping Rock, Takes 1-10
Zion’s Weeping Rock, Take 11.

Laughter comes at the strangest times.

Like, when after 14 hours on the road, our hotel landed on Pancake Boulevard. For some reason, we laughed until we cried.

Or when Curious George-like, my nine-year old niece snagged what she thought was her dad’s lost hat at a bus stop at Hopi Point. She was on her cheery way running it to him, when the hat’s frantic owner came crying after,

Hey, little girl! That’s my hat!” 

Or when we made it to Mt. Rushmore at twilight and raced up the Avenue of Flags to catch a glimpse. We’d read the stone faces would light up pronto! at 9. So up we dashed- cameras in hand and poised at 8:59, ready for the lights to shine.

Grand Canyon shuttle bus. Hat’s on.
Mt. Rushmore, tweaks by David Haessig

And we waited and watched. The four faces grew grayer and grayer. We heard singing and a poetic reading and a full-out, complete with flag-lowering,  patriotic show.

And while we were lost in wonder- or wondering- the lights flashed on.

Our cameras were in pockets.  And we laughed.

Or when we finally reached Weeping Rock and I marched up to a real professional-looking, photographer-man and asked if he’d take our picture and after 10 minutes and lots of contrast here and back-fill there, that crazy silhouette shot was the best we got.

And we laughed and we laughed and we laughed. We rejoiced greatly, we sons and daughters of Zion! 

 5. Rocky Mountain highs lead to low sea level lows.

At the  high points of our trip, and we probably averaged about 7,000 feet about sea level, a couple of quotes would rumble around in my head. my head. They’re the lines bolded below, from “The Place of Exaltation,” by Oswald Chambers. 

Glenwood Springs, CO

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain…

We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.”

Monday morning came around and heaps of laundry and lost library books and, no joke, a flat tire too. After 9 days in the sun, for our first five days back on the plain it rained. Rain boots on the ground and bills to pay and a lawn to mow. We were made for the valley. 

The test of our spiritual life is not in going up the mountain or vacationing with gratitude and laughs. Those are easy.

The true test is in descending the mountain with grace.

Walk About Zion

Walking about Zion. tweaks by David Haessig
Glenwood Springs Pool

We walked about Zion. And hiked at Grand Canyon and stood in waist deep Oregon Trail wheel ruts. We bathed in Glenwood Spring’s giant hot pool and sat on a huge petrified rock called Old Faithful and looked straight into the granite faces of America’s greatest. We enjoyed every rock, every trail, every stop.

God gets glory when we enjoy his gifts, as his gifts.  I’ve written before about how we ought to look up the sunbeam and chase back to the source. How we ought to “enjoy everything in God and God in everything” and receive vacations like this as avenues to enjoy the never-shifting Giver of all good gifts

Our western adventure was prime-time for that. For putting this worldling in her place.

Old Faithful, at Petrified Forest, NM

The rocks restored my awe of the Creator. The rocks and rivers and cliffs and canyons shook me up. They reminded me that I- and the rocks and rivers and cliffs and canyons- all exist for God.

We need these gracious reminders.

Because, if you’re like me, you get into a groove- or a rut- and get too comfy in our bubbles. But then something shakes us and wakes us up to reality. He is God. We are dust.  He is a Rock eternal.  We are a disappearing mist. He gives living water. 

If we are Zion’s children, we are more than dust and mist. If we dwell in Zion, in Him, we are as unshakeable as God is.

Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure

Guernsey Ruts, Wyoming

This week I heard an old preacher quote the last verse of an old hymn called, “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,”

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show:

Solid joys and lasting treasure,
  None but Zion’s children know.

Solid joys and lasting treasure are for Zion’s children. They were, and they are, ours.

So walk about Zion, go around her. But beware when you’re scaling a cliff switchback-style and your guide says, “I think it’s a loop.”

Especially when you think you’re on the way to Weeping Rock.

Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, 
that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. 
He will guide us forever.

Psalm 48:12-14

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Fearful People Do Stupid Things

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.  

Proverbs 29:25


I don’t know what the bumper sticker meant. Maybe it was a reference to timid drivers. The ones who go 5 miles under on the freeway.  Those who hesitate then inch out at busy 4-way stops.  

I doubt it was directed at those who keep their life savings under the mattress, only to see it burn. Maybe, as my husband thought, it was a veiled political message. Don’t fall for the lying, fear mongering welfare reform will “throw-granny-over-a-cliff,” ads.

But the minute I pulled out behind the pick-up, my mind flew to two.

Two Bible-time kings prove the point. They happen to be Israel’s first and last. 

1. King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 38:14-39:7)

Judah’s last king sees the writing on the wall. So he sends for Jeremiah the prophet, fresh out of the cistern. Tell me what’s coming, he begs. Assured the king won’t kill the messenger, Jeremiah delivers:

Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared, and the city will not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 

But if you do not surrender then the city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire and you shall not escape from their hands.  

King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” (Jeremiah 38:17-19)

At least he was honest.  Zedekiah admitted fear of his countrymen. No paralyzing fear of the barbarous Babylonians. Fear of the mocking cruelty of his fellow Jews; that they’d laugh at him. Give him the old, Told you so. He’d opposed their surrender before. They’d mock him to scorn if he surrendered now.

Matthew Henry asks, If he should be taunted a little by the Jews, could he not make light of it? What harm would it do him? Those have very weak and fretful spirits indeed that cannot bear to be laughed at for that which is both their duty and interest. 

What would you have done?  What do you do when you realize you’re wrong?  

Do you swallow your pride, and eat your words? Fear the God who hates haughty hearts and lying tongues? Or do you double down, afraid you’ll be mocked? Surrender to the marauding Babylonians? Or hightail it outta Dodge?

Wrong fear reigned and he did a stupid thing. Zedekiah fled. Fear of his fellow man trumped the fear that Jeremiah’s sure word of the Lord should have invoked. Matthew Henry again: He thought it would be looked upon as a piece of cowardice to surrender; whereas it would be really an instance of true courage cheerfully to bear a less evil, the mocking of the Jews, for the avoiding of a greater, the ruin of his family and kingdom. 

Alas, when when Zedekiah and his soldiers saw the officials of the kings of Bablyon, with very scary sounding names like Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, and Sar-sekim the Rab-sans, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden…

And, as Jeremiah foretold, it didn’t go well for this fearful man, doing this stupid thing.

But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…and he passed sentence on him.  The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and he slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. (Jeremiah 39:6-7)

The parallel account of Judah’s fall in Chronicles is sadder still. The Chronicler paints a tragic, sweeping picture of Israel’s demise. It’s so sad because the stupidity of trusting man and ignoring God is so stark. Note the contrast: Who has compassion? Who has no compassion? 

The LORD, the God of their fathers sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (Jeremiah 36:15-16)

God, a loving father warning consequences, threatening punishment. Over and over he warned Israel, Zedekiah. Finally, time was up and there was no remedy for his people. Their misplaced fear was their demise.

Therefore he brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed the young men with the sword…and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. (Jeremiah 36:17)

Don’t be stupid! he warns. Don’t fear man; fear your loving Lord.  Did you see the stupidity of ignoring a God who has compassion on his people and trusting- cowtowing- to a king with no compassion?  

The contrast between Zedekiah and David is glaring. Late in his reign, David counted his kingdom. It was a grave mistake and he knew it. Confronted by the prophet Gad with a choice of three punishments his choice was clear:

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress.  Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” (1 Chronicles 21:13)


2. King Saul (1 Samuel 15)

Israel’s first king also had a bad case of misplaced fear. Rather than fear and obey the One who had raised and anointed him to be head of Israel, he feared the people. 

Samuel gave Saul explicit directions.  When you strike Amalek, Samuel had instructed, do not spare them. Devote all they have to destruction.  But Saul and the people spared Agag, their king, and the best of the sheep and cattle-all that was good.  But all that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. (1 Samuel 15:9)

This selective sparing prompted Samuel’s, to obey is better than to sacrifice, rebuke. Sober and grim it ends.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you from being king.

Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:23b-24)

John Piper deals with Saul’s misplaced fear in his sermon, The Pleasure of God in Obedience.

Why did Saul obey the people instead of God? Because he feared the people instead of God. He feared the human consequences of obedience more than he feared the divine consequences of sin. He feared the displeasure of the people more than the displeasure of God. And that is a great insult to God. Samuel had said twice to Saul and the people in 12:14 and 24, “Fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart.” But now the leader himself has feared man and turned away from following God (1 Samuel 15:11).

Oh, for this holy, God-exalting fear!

Not the slavish fear of God that mistrusts him, recoils at his majesty. Perfect love casts that fear out. Not apprehensive fear that the shoe is about to drop; that sickness or sorrow will inevitably overwhelm. Fear not for I am with you. Definitely not fear that His love will fail and run out.

And yes, fearless people do stupid things, too. Just google “stupid stunts.”

But it’s all about WHO you fear. As Jesus sent his sheep out among the world’s wolves, he warned them to be wise. Not to misplace their fear.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 
Matthew 10:28

Fear him, because he loves his own. They will never perish, His sheep, and no one can snatch them out of His hand.
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Right Risky Business: Rabbits, Rodeos and Red Kool-Aid

a) Rabbit,
b) Rodeo,
c) Red Kool-aid, or a
d) Riding without a helmet? 

You know which one just doesn’t belong?

It may have started when I stopped wearing my bike helmet. Or when my shower came while I was on my bike, miles from home.

It wasn’t exactly free-solo climbing or cliff jumping. Still, hearing thunder crack yards away as my calves brushed the metal bike frame wasn’t exactly tame. Whatever the reason, I’ve beeb contemplating RISK a lot lately.

A late summer rodeo might have something to do with my recent risk assessment, too.

Gabe’s premonition came well into our first rodeo. We yahoo’d through bronc riding, tie down roping and breakaway roping. The ladies’ barrel racing was riveting. All an opening act for these last thrilling minutes.

Mom, I think someone’s gonna get hurt in the bull-riding.  Can we go now?

Seven-year old intuition is strong. It should have tipped me off; that it wouldn’t end well.

Bull riders live for the most dangerous 8 seconds. A few die for them.  Each rodeo they don face masks, neck braces and grip the bull rope. Bull riders rush to it. No guts, no glory.

Sure enough, four cowboys in and Gabe proved prophet. A bull rider got hurt. Bull-stomped bad. Show-stopping bad. Cowboy hats shifted from heads to hearts. Cheers hushed to whispers.  Medics and gurney appeared. The chatty announcer went mute.

Do you play it safe? Is your MO to risk or run? What should it be?

If you run from risk, you’re in good company. Especially when it come to love’s liabilities. C. S. Lewis described his own risk tolerance in The Four Loves:

Don’t put all your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of…I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love on makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.  I doubt whether there is anything in my that pleases Him less.  

Risk exists because of ignorance. If the outcome is unknown, it’s a risk. 

Absent omniscience, our lives are risky. Our decision to adopt our family’s first indoor pet is laden with risk. Dinah’s already lunched on a lamp cord. Who knows? Rosewood victrola legs could be next. There’s always the risk of carpet stains and fetid smells.

There’s risk and then there’s risk for the cause of God. Carefree bike rides, indoor pets and bull-riding are one kind.  Red Kool-aid is the other kind.

My friend took a huge risk last week. Quiet, reserved Kelly was convicted. She knew our ladies’ growth group had outgrown its host home. So she crept out of her comfort zone and took a righteous risk. Kelly opened her pristine home to a dozen ladies and their crumb-tracking, juice-toting toddlers. And I do mean pristine.

One tyke had red Kool-aid in his sippy-cup. It leaked. A bright pink spot- a la Cat in the Hat Comes Back– appeared in Kelly’s beige frieze. We froze. Oh that spot! It may never come off. It may not! 

Kelly scrubbed. And scrubbed. The pink spot paled. Then Kelly sighed-and smiled at us. We exhaled. All that was left of the red Kool-aid was a faint rosy splotch.

Risk is right, precisely because it might not turn out. 

If your risk doesn’t turn out, it doesn’t mean you were wrong to risk. That’s why it’s called a risk. If it were a sure thing in the short term it wouldn’t require faith. And without faith it’s impossible to please God. Your guts, God’s glory.

Which means risks taken out of love for God please Him. It also means it’s wrong not to take risks for God. Some of Christ’s harshest words were for the security loving Pharisees. Remember his condemnation for the foolish servant who risked nothing?  He cautiously hid the talents, rather than take a right risk to expand His master’s wealth.

Taking risks for God is right.  Sometimes we see success even in the short-term:

  • Joab’s, Be of good courage, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. (2 Sam 10:12) Israel won. 
  • Esther’s, If I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16) She didn’t.
  • Jonathan’s, Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. (1 Samuel 14:6) He did.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s, God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace…but if not… (Daniel 3:17) Unsinged.
  • Paul’s, For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13)  Imprisoned, not killed. 

God does not promise short-term success when we risk for him. John Piper’s words are sobering:

There is no promise that every effort for the cause of God will succeed, at least not in the short run. John the Baptist risked calling a spade a spade when Herod divorced his wife to take his bother’s wife, Herodias. And John got his head chopped off for it. And he had done right to risk his life for the cause of God. 

Paul was beaten and thrown in jail in Jerusalem and shipped off to Rome and executed there two years later. And he did right to risk his life for the cause of God. 

That was then.  Big old Bible-time risk. How about now? 

My friends can tell you, show you, what risk looks right here, right now. 

It sounds like one friend laying it on the line, with another friend stuck in sin. It sounds like another friend who truthed it in love, urging her friend not to take the worldly way out of financial woes. It sounds like a timid friend breaching a hard subject with her mother-in-law to heal their relationship. And another friend speaking up when he heard water cooler gossip.

It looks like my Gideon friends sharing Bibles with crude college kids. It looks like the colorful time-consuming crafts my friend made for an after-school kids’ club, not knowing if any kids would even come. It looks like my missionary friends flying away to spend two years in a water-logged, malaria-ridden South Sudan refugee camp.

And it definitely looks like Kool-aid stains in Kelly’s carpet.

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Acts 20:24 


Disclaimer: 
It could be a wild ride.  You might want a helmet. 
(See 1 Thess. 5:8 & Eph. 6:17 for the right one for this ride.)  
And, yes, the answer is c) red Kool-aid.  You know why, right?