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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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Hands Lifted High?

Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. Psalm 88:9

A twelve-year old friend joined me Saturday for a night of worshipAn hour in, Ally leaned over in the pew and whispered,

Should I lift my hands, too?

Great question, Ally. 

How would you have answered Ally? Do you lift your hands in worship? Should you?

No Gift More Urgent 

I stretch our my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.  Psalm 143:6-7

June is my Psalms month.

Bible read-throughs always land me here mid-year. Their a staple year round, but in June I bathe in them. I read a handful when I rise. Sarah McCracken’s soul-folk and Sons of Korah’s acoustic-emotive versions of them, and Wendell Kimbrough‘s celtic remix fills my playlist by day.

When the sun sets, I rendezvous with Lewis’ Reflections on the PsalmsThis bit is from the chapter called “The Fair Beauty of the Lord.” 

The old poets do not seem to think they are meritorious or pious for having such [appetites for God] nor, on the other hand, that they are privileged in being given the grace to have them…It has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical, desire. It is gay and jocund. They are glad and rejoice (9:2). Their fingers itch for the harp (43:4), for the lute and the harp-wake up, lute and harp!-(57:9); let’s have a song, bring the tambourine, bring the “merry harp with the lute,” we’re going to sing merrily and make a cheerful noise (81:1-2). Noise, you may well say. Mere music is not enough. Let everyone…clap their hands. (47:1). Let us have clashing cymbals, not only well tuned, but loud, and dances too (150:5). 

There in the Psalms, I find an experience fully God-centered, asking God no gift more urgently than his presence, the gift of Himself, joyous to the highest degree, and unmistakably real. What I see (so to speak) in the faces of these old poets tells me more about the God whom they and we adore. (Reflections on the Psalms, pp. 157-158)

Those who look to the Lord are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame. And David danced before the LORD with all his might. But we get stuck in ourselves. Self-awareness hinders.

Our Struggle With Self-Awareness

Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Christ, turn to Him at once and ask Him to establish rest. Take every element of disintegration as something to wrestle against, and not to suffer. Say, “Lord, prove Thy consciousness in me,” and self-consciousness will go and he will be all in all. -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, 8/20

A few days that night of worship, I ran across this panel discussion. It was recorded at the 2008 Desiring God National Conference. Words and worship were the focus.

Bob Kauflin, songwriter and producer at Sovereign Grace Music answered this one:

Bob, do you want to follow up on that at all with regard to the aspect of using your body in worship? Lots of people find the idea of raising their hands when they’re singing to be very uncomfortable. I think we touched on that briefly, but do you want to say anything more about that? 

Kauflin: I think we begin with what God desires and how God desires to be praised and what pleases him. I was having a conversation with Mark Dever, the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Mark is not the most physically expressive guy in corporate worship, and yet he is a man of God, theologically brilliant, loves the gospel, loves the church. 

I said, “Mark, what about this? What if I were to ask you, ‘If there is any physical action in Scripture that God says pleases him – raising hands, kneeling, dancing, bowing – that you’ve never done, wouldn’t it be a good question to ask why not?’” He said, “Yeah, that’s a good question.” 

I think many of us struggle with this self-awareness as though everybody in the room is really looking at us. It’s crazy. But that’s the human heart. That’s the desire for our own glory and our own praise. I think it’s good just to acknowledge it as sin and confess it and say, “Well, Jesus, that’s why you died. You died because I love my own glory. Even now I’m supposed to be praising you. All I can think about is if anybody’s looking at me, and I can’t shake it. Thank you for dying for this sin.” 

Then I think of “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” by Thomas Chalmers, the idea of directing your love somewhere else rather than to yourself. The thing that’s been most helpful for me is just to think about the words we’re singing…When I am thinking about how great the Savior is and what he did for me and how glorious God the Father is and how the Father has sent his Spirit through the Son to live in me, I just have to respond some way… It’s often just lifting my hands, saying, “Thank you” or “I need you.” 

My third thought is I want to do with my body whatever makes Jesus Christ look glorious. If people observe me, I want them to be able to say he knows a great Savior — not an okay Savior, not an average Savior, not a Savior that you can kind of take or leave. I want them to be able to tell from my countenance. Psalm 34:5: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” I want them to know from my body that this is what I was created for — to bring him glory. 

What can people tell about your God from the way you worship Him? Does He look glorious? Do you raise your hands? Should you?

*      *      *      *      * 
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Father is seeking true worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

The Puritans can teach us a lot on how to worship this way- with heart and mind, in spirit and truth. They knew that the Spirit moves in step with the word and so their worship wasn’t haphazard. I don’t know if they raised their hands or not.

But I do know that they prepared for public worship. During the week, in private and in family circles, they fixed their minds on God’s glorious truths. Then Sunday, they sang in the assembly. They worshiped. They adored their Lord and pitched all affections on him.

That is why, 350 years ago Puritan Stephen Charnock could describe worship this way, as,

An act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of his majesty…It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverences his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraces his goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object, and pitches all his affections upon him. (Works, I, 298)

However that looks.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 

Psalm 63:3-4

If you struggle with self-awareness, this Tim Hawkin’s sketch may or may not be for you. If you do watch it, you’ll at least learn some proper terms. 
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Maui Surf & Draw-Near Fear

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!

Psalm 31:19

There’s fear and then there’s fear.

Mom learned to swim when I did. She was in her thirty-one. I was six. Great was my puzzlement when I spotted my strong, capable mom clinging to the edge of the pool, face hovering over the surface of the shallow. Oh sure, I had butterflies when I first flopped off the high dive. But Mom–she was afraid to splash her face.

I learned more about the irrational fear since our mother-daughter lessons at the YWCA. Like how her own mother was terrified by water. Grandma wouldn’t even take her shoes off at the beach, if she’d even consent to go. Mom described how fear nearly came between her and Dad. Early in their courting, Dad took her to Mill Pond. It was all she could do to wade in to her ankles.

A little boogie boarding incident in Maui comes to mind, too. We’re not thrill seekers, not daredevils, Jim and I. We couldn’t surf to save our lives. But the allure of a white sand beach on a sunny Saturday morning is stronger than a Siren’s song.

Maui’s Ho’okipa Beach Park is world renown for surfing. We’d stowed the boogie boards from our condo closets and voila! It just so happened that some family friends were picnicking on the white sand beach. And that’s how we Wisconsinites got a free surfing lesson in the mighty Pacific.

So, tether your strap to your wrist first. Then lie down with your belly on the board and then paddle out where the waves are breaking. Once you find the wave you want to ride, kick and paddle hard ahead of it, until you catch the wave!  

Oh, and if you get stuck under one, don’t panic. Just hold your breath and you’ll come out of it. Just keep your wrist strap on, whatever happens. 

Fear of wave power had us tethered up before we were off the beach. Then we flopped ourselves down on the squat, foam boards and paddled out. With fearful trembling, and joyful hope, behind our surfer-dude guide.

Here are four key questions and answers about draw-near fear: 

1. What is the right fear of God?

A loving, drawing reverence you feel in the presence of great power. Right fear draws us near God. Wrong fear drives us from Him. It’s plunging into the Maui’s north shore well-instructed, tethered to your board. It’s not a paralyzing dread that keeps your face out of the YWCA pool.

It’s walking near the big loping dog that’s running at you, barking. It’s not high-tailing it away from the beast, chirping, Go home, go home, go home. I know. I tried it and the German Shepherd had my hamstring for lunch. I was afraid to get close.

Now I’m afraid not to. I don’t run from big dogs anymore. I still fear them running at me. But my fear holds me fast;  it doesn’t scare me away.

John Piper explains how this right fear of God draws us near Him:

If you are running from God because you are afraid of him, then you are not yet as afraid as you ought to be. In fact, your very flight is a mockery of God, presuming to think that you could outrun this German shepherd. If you really fear him and love your own life, stop running, turn around, and hug his neck for dear life, and he will lick your face. 

The fear of the Lord is fear of fleeing out of his fellowship into the way of sin. Therefore the fear of the Lord is full of peace and security and hope. It keeps us near to the merciful heart of God, our fortress, our refuge, our sanctuary, our shield, our sun. Isaiah 8:13 says, “The Lord of Hosts, . . . let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, and he will become a sanctuary.A proper fear of the Lord keeps us under the shadow of his wings where we need not be afraid.

It’s true for big dogs and big waves.  How much more with Almighty God!


2. What benefits come to those who fear the LORD?

Big, bountiful blessings.  Here are ten to whet your appetite for this blessed fear:

  1. God will confide in him. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Ps. 25:14
  2. God will instruct him. Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. Ps. 25:12
  3. God will watch over him. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Ps. 34:7
  4. God will have compassion on him. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; Ps. 103:1
  5. God will give him wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Prov. 1:7, Prov. 10:27, 14:25
  6. God will keep him safe from snares.  The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. Prov. 14:27
  7. God will grant him prosperity. Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. Prov. 22:4
  8. God will endorse her praise. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fearthe Lord is to be praised. Prov. 31:30
  9. God will hear him. Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. Mal. 3:16
  10. God will be his sure foundation. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Is 33:6

3. Can this draw-near fear be learned?

Yes.

4. How?

By knowing God better. By reading his Word. And obeying.
Deuteronomy 4:10 says,

Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth and that they may teach their children so.

And Deuteronomy 17:19 says,

And [the king] shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and doing them.

Jim chuckles, shakes his head whenever he recounts our Maui adventure.

Barnies on foamies were we. He-atop the Pipeline; I-beneath-inside the monster wave

Inside I held my breath, lungs beginning the burn; the strap still secure around my wrist. Finally, I burst into glorious light. And then my eyes set on Jim; gripping his board, and craning. What a grin, then, when our eyes met.

And we coasted in together onto white sand beach.

Such abundant goodness.