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Category Archives: The Hikes

Places we’ve walked and hiked.

Reunion Warning

Reunion Warning

So we had a reunion of my 1970’s-era Church youth group and the leaders who served there. It was a full 40 years since we had last met to worship together in the front of the sanctuary. The memories of mission trips, retreats, and life transforming moments all came flooding back. And I learned a few things that are best passed along both as a cautionary tale and as encouragement to call an old friend.

Three things I learned at my youth group reunion:

  1. Photos have improved dramatically. If there is an evolution of photography, the 70’s certainly was the lowest point in the journey. Even tintypes had more clarity than the reddish tinged blurry snapshots and Polaroid images of our Afros and bell-bottoms. The film packs with 12 exposures assured a sparse photo album with very weak content.

  2. 60 is not the new 30. It’s not.

  3. People really don’t change. Each of us had grown up (mostly) and each had grown older (as we sat down to dinner, my husband asked when the youth group was going to show up) but the person was the same. We are who we are. We are still who we were. Even after all the years of school, and careers, and kids, and heartache, and celebration, the precious inner person, who was only briefly a teenager, was all still intact. And I love those people! It was the re-connection with the sacred essence of unique person-hood that was irresistible.

The notion that God knows the true me and loves me anyway is still “blowing my mind” (that was a clear 70’s reference, just go with it). In King David’s words, “It’s too wonderful.” He wraps it up in Psalm 139:

God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!

… Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.                   Psalm 139, The Message

Each of us from the moment of conception is a unique person whom God loves and for whom Christ died. We have a purpose, a plan, and a destiny that only we can fulfill. 40 years has a way of revealing the awesome truth that we can be loved for who we are and that the changes and challenges of life never mar the image of God infused in each of us.

Call an old friend and enjoy the weekly hike.

youth-group-shot

Then. I’m front row, furthest left.

youth-group-reunion-group-shot

Now. I’m in the back.

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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in The Hikes

 
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The Real Reason For Clouds

We stop, we stare, we click, we share. Facebook is filled with sunset pictures. There are even facebook pages that are solely dedicated to facebook sunset photos. The Wonderful World of Sunsets, one of dozens of “sunset only” facebook sites, has over 360,000 followers. Weird, but mildly impressive. So why are people so strangely drawn to an event that happens everywhere in the world at the end of every single day?

Well of course it’s because we love the colors, movement, and surprises–it’s art in real time. No two are alike so each sunset is literally a once in a lifetime event. (No one has ever said, “Oh, I’ve seen that one already.”) And even the act of looking up draws us out of our earthbound experience into something bigger and more beautiful.

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Fernandina water front.

For me, sunsets are a great excuse to sit and rest during a hike. “Oooh! Look Tom, the sun is setting. Let’s stop here and watch for a couple of hours.” And maybe I’m dim witted but this was the first year that I noticed something wonderful about sunsets: No one takes pictures of sunsets on clear sunny days. It takes a relatively cloudy evening to deliver a proper sunset. And a truly menacing sky will produce the most spectacular palette. If there are no clouds, there is nothing to reflect the sun light. As the angle of the sun’s rays lower in the sky, the clouds mirror the light. They are transformed from their gray and gloomy appearance to a brilliant infinitely dynamic likeness of the sun itself.  From the sun’s point of view, there is no such thing as a dark cloud.

Perhaps this is the true reason for clouds and for the inexhaustible number of sunset photos. We expected a storm but the sun changed it into a light show. Our forecast for gloomy gray skies is surprised by the sun’s persistent presence right up until the last bit of daylight yields to the night.

When you snap your next sunset selfie, remember that Jesus’ persistent love is illuminating the gloom in your life. Remember that every day holds a new surprise of joy and mercy. And from His perspective, all that would cloud your life looks like art in motion when exposed to His brilliant presence.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim to work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

Enjoy your weekly hike.

sunset-2

Same scene, minutes later. See what I mean?

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Peace in a Facelift

Well the feminists must be so proud. Caitlyn Jenner has just reduced the female gender to a sexy cover shoot for Vanity Fair. So much more than a “man in a dress,” Caitlyn now conforms to today’s rigid idealized version of what it means to be a woman. Caitlyn is free, rich, thin, hot, and will never even need an abortion. Turns out the ideal woman is a man.

The trans and pan gendered community is aglow but I’m not sure why. The bar has been raised. Those determined to switch teams will be forever compared to a man with infinite wealth, a bevy of stylists and surgeons, and closets full of designer clothing.

And the media is august. With their help and guidance, we’ve evolved into a truly accepting society. Rather than rewarding virtue, achievement, and hard work, we’ve been inspired to embrace a world where anyone with his own reality show can find happiness, get a clean slate, and set an example for young people everywhere. Makes me all misty inside.

Bruce Jenner can do as he pleases as long as it makes him, er, her happy. It’s a free country…for now. And as a Christian, I am required to say nice things about people I don’t agree with. (We mustn’t be perceived as the harsh, unloving, gender police, right?) But if I am silent, I advance the myth that peace can be found in a facelift. I simply don’t agree that an outward change will make a lasting impact any more than buying a new purse will solve my financial problems. You can dress up in a pale blue frock and matching hat and strike a pose saying, “Call me Elizabeth,” but that doesn’t make you the Queen of England. Whether we are born male or female, we all have a need for a lasting peace, a rescuer, a friend, a savior. Bruce Jenner’s “God-shaped need” is far more than a need for gender identity and will not be fulfilled by Caitlyn’s appearance. This is the true lesson of the week: “You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again,” “…and not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (From John 3:7 and 1 Peter 1:23)

Call me Elizabeth.

Call me Elizabeth. Well, actually this IS Queen Elizabeth!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in The Hikes

 

Golfing: Naked and Unashamed

“A good walk spoiled.”  “Being in love with a woman who hates your guts.”  “Men in ugly pants walking.”

Ahhh, the links.

Tom is unsuccessfully going through golf withdrawal. There is no 12 step program for this. So last night, as a really super fun alternative to an evening hike, Tom suggested we play the 9-hole “executive course” at a nearby torture facility golf course. And because it is heartbreaking to watch him progress through the five stages of grief, my answer was “I’m in!” So off we drove with wildly inflated expectations.

My cute green “Ping” logo golf bag was stuffed with an assortment of clubs that have not seen daylight for 3 full years (minus the putter which I believe is wrapped around a tree somewhere in South Georgia). It was a beautiful evening, green and sunny. Birds were singing in the balmy breezes. The fairways were lush and wide. What’s not to love about golf? I teed up at the bright red ladies markers, took a mighty swing and allowed my fairway wood to do it’s magic. Then I walked to where the ball had rolled, about 17 feet in front of me, and took another whack at it. Only rolling 7 or 8 feet this time, I was already looking back wistfully at the parking lot. Only 8.75 holes to go.

Between the 3rd and 4th hole, my full inadequacy was completely exposed.  I told Tom that no other human being on the planet would ever be allowed to watch me play golf. My disastrously uncoordinated swing and total failure as an athlete was reserved for his eyes only. In front of Tom, and Tom alone, I can be completely vulnerable, naked and unashamed. What a lucky guy!

golfing-couple-argyle-and-plaidI have told thousands of teenagers that the greatest thing about a healthy marriage is that you are able to spend the rest of your life with someone who really knows you and likes you anyway. Genesis 2:25 states this same amazing fact about Adam and Eve. (Golf came a bit later, and swearing emerged only minutes afterward.) In marriage, the goal is to be fully known, to love fully and be fully loved.  Once again, God is giving us a taste of His own overwhelming and unending acceptance. Because of His great love for us, and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We can live our lives completely open to Him, naked and not ashamed, because of that great love.

Whether or not you are married, be sure to occasionally do things that expose your vulnerability. Be silly, let people see your weaknesses. And I hope you find authentic God filled relationships with people who really know you and love you anyway.

Enjoy your weekly hike.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2015 in The Hikes

 

The Call of Nature

outhouseIt is simple, primitive, and essential. It’s a wooden box with a latch. It’s a deep (I hope) hole. It’s equipped with TP and antibacterial gel, except when it isn’t. In summer, it’s a 95 degree Petri dish for bacteria and home to any number of insect larva. In winter, it’s a sub zero cryogenic chamber with a toilet seat. It is much maligned and known by an assortment of indelicate names. We fear it, we hate it, we need it.

Tom and I hiked at Laurel Summit yesterday, and because I knew that I had 5 miles of gorgeous scenery in front of me, I first headed toward the snow covered “necessary room.” Funny thing, I noticed that more tracks led to “hers” than led to “his.” Go figure. The door stubbornly gave way to the fresh 6 inches of powder from the night before. The “skylight,” which is an imaginative name for Plexiglas thrown over the hole in the ceiling, was also blocked by the 14 inches of snow on the roof. So I inched to the Siberian metal seat under the cover of darkness. Walt Disney could have stood right beside me in his frozen state and I would have never known.

The outhouse is a not-so-subtle reminder of the differences in the sexes. (Apparently transgender people have to squat in the snow because there’s only two choices in the park.) These differences (even the plumbing!) are part of the plan, God’s perfect design. The bright yellow paint signaling “men” and “women” is a sign that everything is as it should be. We are made for a purpose and our gender has something to do with that. While so much of the world is trying to sand down the differences, Christians have something to embrace here. We know the Author, we know His Story. We know that in male-ness and female-ness, God wants to show us something about Himself. We are created, male and female, in His image. Designed to be different, designed to be diverse, designed to be one.

So next time nature calls, rejoice in the differences and be thankful that there’s a “loo” on the trail.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in The Hikes

 

Looking Down and Looking Up

bittersweetUnless we’re hiking on dry pavement, I almost always have my eyes on the path right in front of me. Rocks, tree roots, steep slippery banks, and poison ivy are constant hazards. And I’m old…I could fracture a hip or something. But thank goodness for small distractions that draw my eyes up and away from the ground! An owl in flight, a purple sunset, bright green leaves against and even brighter blue sky are the sights that literally stop me in my tracks and take my breath away. (And, if I’m honest, sometimes I just need an excuse to take a break!) Looking down keeps me safe on the hike, but looking up makes the hike worthwhile.

I’m learning the balance: when to keep walking and when to look up. The clues are on the ground. Yesterday after almost a mile of looking down at dark brown frozen mud, I spotted some tiny yellow-orange bits, like little misplaced sea shells. Bittersweet. Time to stop and look up. And there it was, a big mess of tangled twisted vines loaded down with the red-orange berries wrapped in the yellowish husks. They’re even prettier with a fresh frosting of snow. What a gift! I would have missed it completely if I hadn’t seen the signs. What we see on the ground tells us about what’s overhead.

I often hike through my day to day routine without stopping to look up. Plodding forward, I just keep looking down at the trials and stresses until some emergency forces me to seek God’s help. But if I were to look more closely, I’d find He has been filling my path with signs of His handiwork that is right over my head. There is joy, comfort, kindness, and peace in the little delights and distractions of this journey. A kind word, a great song, the smell of fresh coffee, comfy slippers…sometimes these are carefully placed gifts to make you stop and breathe it all in. And those moments along the path make it all worthwhile.

Keep hiking, but don’t forget to stop and look up.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Hikes

 

Fear Not

holy familyAs I listen to the familiar Christmas story this year, two words stand out like never before. Fear Not. Before Zechariah hears, “Your prayer is answered,” before Mary hears, “You have found favor with God,” before Joseph hears, “You shall call His Name Jesus,” and before the Shepherds hear, “Good News of Great Joy!”, they first are visited by angels and encouraged to “Fear Not!”

An angel must be an awesome sight. And the message they brought certainly rocked the world of all involved–a baby changes everything. But everything about the Christmas story should evoke some level of awe or fear: God incarnate. God putting on flesh and invading time and space. God entering a virgin’s womb to begin His earthly life as human–just as we do…two cells, then an embryo, then a fetus, and then a baby. This alone should shake-up our souls. Yet we are told to Fear Not.

At Women’s Choice Network where I work, our clients understand fear. Before we share the good news (sometimes perceived as bad news) that, “Your pregnancy test is positive,” we must first remind them to Fear Not. There is a way, there is help, there is a comfort. His Name Is Jesus.

Tom and I may face many fears in 2015. Our list probably looks much like yours: Financial cliffs, ISIS, Ebola, random violence, Middle East instability, depression, failure, etc. But before God reveals His plan, the Prince of Peace first says, “Fear Not.” We who know Jesus can understand this peace. We know that it’s all really true. We know how the story ends. There is Resurrection, there is victory. The baby is born to become our Savior, our Suffering Servant, our Salvation. Love conquers fear and death! Good News indeed!

As you hike through this Christmas season, keep your eyes fixed on the Good News and Fear Not!joseph and mary

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in The Hikes