“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;
an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
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.”
“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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.