Along The Journey

So, we’re on our way north…..

The weather today feels like it!  It’s been pretty warm lately, but some very cool weather has moved in–only for a day or two though.  Might want your jacket on today.  Got mine on and a cuppa coffee in my hand.  I love this kind of  weather!

I wanted to share something humorous with you today, but I felt I was to go in a different direction.  You know how we’ve talked about God-given Dreams and the pursuit of them?  Here’s some food for thought to add to what we’ve already talked about.  And just a reminder, I realize that you might believe differently about the God of the Bible than I do, but just try this on for size and tell me what you think (isn’t it worth stretching your beliefs if it means the possibility of finding the reality of something better?)

God has given me a huge Dream.  He has shown me where I and my family are going, but not how we’re going to get there.  Just the way God likes it!  Why?  Because it puts us very much in a state of dependence on Him.  Trust.  Not in logic or reason–there’s a place for that, but not at the expense of Faith–but rather in God Himself and His ability and willingness to come through.  Again and again.  And every time that He does, it becomes easier to trust Him and what He is doing.

I’ve got some things going on in my life right now that quite frankly should have me stressing out.  But I have found that the more I choose to trust the God of the Bible, the easier it is to do so.  I have started doing this just like anyone else would:  tripping myself up a lot at first, but the more I have put this into practice, the easier I find it is to not think things and to just trust Him.  Period.  Not easy, but worth doing.  It sure makes life more simple with far less worry going on (also the way He likes it).  I’m not an expert at this–not by a long shot–but I’m well on my way.  And hopefully experiencing that walk with your company, which means you have chosen to do the same on this journey with me.  Very exciting!

I am also finding that the more I do this, the happier I am and the more I enjoy my life…right now.  It’s no wonder our enemy tries so hard to get us in that dark place and keep us there (remember that talk too?).  Oh, how much faster God’s plan comes to pass when we trust Him, not let our joy be affected and become stronger in every way through the whole process.  Satan realizes he’s wasting his time and moves on to somebody else who will cave under his pressure (he’s under a budget, you know, with limited resources; God…well, God has unlimited….everything).

Remember, you have the freedom to believe whatever you want to believe about this stuff.  But which way of believing is ultimately more productive and beneficial for you?  Jesus is very real–whether you want to believe it or not–and He loves you so much that He gave you the freedom to choose to accept Him or reject Him as your Savior.  Pretty simple.  But a choice with absolutely huge and incomprehensible ramifications.  So choose wisely, my friend…..

Max

You’ve heard about Major already.  Quite a character.  But so was an English Springer we had whose name was Max (not the English Springer from the camping story–this is well after that incident).

We got Max somewhere around my Freshman/Sophomore years of high school.  My Dad and I drove down to South Carolina where a family friend had bred his English Springer and had a puppy for us to get.  I held him in my lap all the way back up to Michigan.  We grew quite attached on that drive back.  So how does such a cute, submissive little puppy grow into….Max?

The older Max got, the more stubborn he became.  We lived in the country (as you already know), so when he had to go outside, we just let him out the door and came back to let him in around 10 minutes later.  And that’s where his stubbornness really showed.  Especially in the winter!  I’d be standing there in my pajamas, holding the door open for him to come in, my extremities turning white from frostbite, and he’d just stand there looking at me, suddenly unable to comprehend the English language.  And if I started out the door after him, he’d just romp out into the yard a little further and turn around to see what I’m going to do about what he just did.  Since I could no longer feel my fingers or toes anyway, I would sometimes try to coax him in with a treat….or a stern voice….or sobbing….fact is, he came in when he was good and ready to and as far as he was concerned, I wasn’t about to change that.

I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed a game he liked to play in the house with my younger brother.  We’d be wrestling (this got Max riled up sufficiently) which would inevitably end up with my brother pinned to the living room floor, arms defenseless at his sides, while I poked my finger through the gap between his neck and the carpet.  This got Max’s attention fast, which always resulted in a slobbery effort on Max’s part to get that wiggling finger, no matter how much tickling and barking he had to do at my brother’s neck, regardless of which direction my brother would turn his head.  It was a fun time!  Until my brother got to be big enough and tall enough that I couldn’t pin him to the living room floor anymore.  Ruined everything at that point…

But my fondest memory of Max is at the family cabin at Paradise Lake.  We were up with my Aunt & Uncle’s family, all of us (but Max) down by the beach.  The cabins on that stretch of the lake are up on a bluff that overlooks that beautiful place.  It requires a pretty long staircase for most of those cabins for a way to get down to the shoreline.  But what dog likes to take steps when he can launch himself down the hill with no barrier between him and the water?

So my brother goes up to the cabin for something and calls down to my Dad, asking if Max can come down.  We all turn around to watch as my Dad gives the ok, because we all know Max’s aversion to the staircase.  (Watching a dog barreling down a hillside, barely able to control his speed as he jets toward the water, is always worth watching.)  Well this time, there were more of us sprawled out along the beachfront than he was used to.  His normal line of trajectory was suddenly compromised, but it was too late to change it.  The point of impact of least resistance was going to be a 10-inch gap between my lawn chair and the one next to me that my Uncle was in.  The realization of all of this is flashing acrossed Max’s face as he nears the bottom of the hill at full speed.  As he realizes his predicament, his eyes get real big, and then they become mere slits as he readies and commits himself to that gap between our chairs (all this happening in a matter of seconds).  He was a white and brown streak as he flew right between our lawn chairs, the lake suddenly becoming his parachute as he hits the water in an explosion of spray.  He’s frolicking around in the water, grateful to still be alive, a huge smile on his face as he laps at the water.  Quite a few moments passed before anyone could say anything because it took that long to catch a breath from all of us laughing so hard.

Many years have come and gone since then, but we all still remember the day that Max went through the “eye of the needle” and lived to tell about it.

The Jetta

Got a quick story for you….

I’m pretty sure it was my Junior year of high school.  Me and my best friend back then whose name was Rick were going to hang out with another friend of ours from school–Mike–whose parents owned a Volkswagen Jetta.

Mike loved to drive.  In a way that was….”parent-challenged”.  And Rick and I didn’t mind.  Especially since it wasn’t a car that belonged to either one of us.

I had been with Mike before in a car and knew what to expect, so Rick was in the passenger seat–strapped in–and I was in the middle of the back seat–strapped in.  I had the middle seatbelt around my waist; the left-hand seatbelt crossing me and attached to the right-hand seatbelt receiver by my right hip; and the right-hand seatbelt crossing me the other way and attached to the left-hand receiver by my left hip.  Did I mention I also had a handle above the inside of both back doors to hold on to?  I wasn’t going anywhere.  And as it turned out…I needed those handles.

We were cruising through the east side of town down a road with two lanes on each side.  As we were waiting at a traffic light, the guy next to us revved his engine as he glanced over at our Jetta.  Mike looked at us, started to smile and revved his engine in return.  Rick and I looked at each other with a “Is he really gonna do this???” expression on our faces and braced ourselves for a whole new meaning to the words “going for a drive”.

As soon as that light turned green, we were weaving through 35mph traffic at a good 50-60mph.  At one time, Mike and the other driver had lost each other, then found each other, then lost each other once again….all the while weaving in and out of traffic.  It was like the Toy Story movie when Woody lights the rocket on Buzz’s back and his lips are flapping in the wind as he tries to hold onto the racecar with all his might.  Mike’s adrenaline was ramped up so high that by the second time he had lost the other driver, he screeched into a grocery store parking lot and came to an abrupt halt–hyperventilating with exhilaration (Rick and I were hyperventilating for other reasons).

Remember those handles I told you were above the back doors?  I think I made my own finger grooves in them.  And Rick–well, remember the nickname given to those big handles in the dashboard that were positioned in front of the passenger seat?  The “Oh, _ _ _ _!!!” handle?  Before we took this leisurely drive with that nice gentleman in the other car, he had no handle in front of his passenger seat.  When we were done, he had made one.  I can tell you this, though:  I didn’t budge an inch that whole ride!

Camping….The Boy Scout Way

How about Boy Scout camping?

Got some memories there, too. Learned a lot about roughing it that way, which I always liked (but don’t do now). We built some pretty cool things–an obstacle course, big tri-pods and a ten-foot high platform over our campsite trail, to name a few–using rope, knots and tree limbs.

I would have to say, though, that my fondest memory of Boy Scout camping would be the summer leading into my Senior year of high school. Our troop master took about 5 of us older scouts 3 hours up into the northeastern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula for a “survival weekend”.  He drove us up to one of the national forests up there that had numerous trails in it and had us draw straws. Why? We were to be dropped off at different trail heads–by ourselves–and hike 5 minutes or so into the trail and “set up camp”. Of course, this being a survival weekend, all we had was our sleeping bag wrapped in plastic (if we chose to bring one) and whatever we brought with us in our backpacks (if we chose to bring one of those, too). No tent, no food, just live off the land as best we could from Friday night to Sunday morning.

So it was my turn for drop-off (#3 straw, I believe).  Dusk was beginning to settle in as I hoisted my backpack on and began hiking into my trail. Let me tell you something: To say that I was praying a lot is an understatement of the highest order.  A 17 year-old kid 3 hours away from home being dropped off alone literally out in the middle of nowhere to hike into an unknown trail as darkness is closing in….yup….definitely an understatement. Oh, I had a map, but that’s like putting a man in a sinking rowboat and telling him to bail it out with a coffee cup. Not much of a comfort. But God’s presence always is. And as I hiked into this trail, praying and looking for a place to lay out my sleeping bag for the night, I began to hear the gentle sound of water flowing. At the same time that I heard this, I could see a big stand of tall pine trees coming up around the bend in the trail ahead. As I rounded that bend and entered the stand of pines, I suddenly found myself walking into a northern Michigan oasis.  As I looked around, I realized that I was standing on an extremely thick carpet of soft pine needles. The trees were so tall that the branches didn’t start for a good 10 feet up.  Because of that, I could see through the trees to a small river that had a gentle rapids flowing through it. It was so peaceful! God’s presence was certainly felt that night.  Falling asleep to the gentle sound of the river and a light breeze blowing through the treetops above me was something I will never forget.

I fully believe God orchestrated that whole event…just for me. He knew which straw that trail would be. Sure, I’m the one who chose it, but that’s what’s sweet about following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. After a while, you get to know His voice pretty good and can tell when He’s prompting you in a certain direction–especially when you’re trusting Him to do so.

So, once again in my life, God showed Himself faithful.

Camping

Camping.

Ever done it?  I know–for some families, it’s just not for them.  But for others–like my parents and brother growing up and my own now–there are lots of fond memories that revolve around this pastime.

Like the family slide my Mom has of me and my brother standing next to my Granny and Grandpa by the pop-up camper we had.  They decided to join us for camping that weekend and cut it short–something to do with my brother and I peeing through our sleeping bags that first night.  Apparently the smell of what we did was bad enough to drive them out.  I don’t remember this one, but I’ve heard the story and seen the picture that proves it happened.

Then there was the time we camped at a campground in northern Michigan about an hour south of Mackinaw City (Grayling/Gaylord area, if you’re familiar with it).  I don’t know if my Dad knew about it at the time, but there was a military base of some kind fairly close to the campground.  So all night long we heard the rat-tat-tat and boom-boom of small-arms-fire and cannons going off.  That trip got cut short, too.

Might have been the same trip, but I also remember a dog a few campers down barking all…night…..long.  My Dad was not a happy camper.

What about pudgy pies?  You know what I’m talking about….cast iron pie-makers where you butter the outside of two pieces of bread, put your ingredients for the pie on one side, close it up and set it in the coals of your campfire?  We were camping in the upper peninsula of Michigan when I was a teenager.  We went out and picked a whole mess of wild blueberries one morning.  When we came back, we found some sugar and made wild blueberry pudgy pies for lunch.  That’s all we had for lunch that day, and it was one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.

My most vivid memory of campground camping has to be when our dog fell out of the camper bed–literally.  The pop-up we had at the time had bungee cords that kept the canvas attached to the outside of the bed frames.  The bungee cords had lost some of their spring and had become loose in places.  At the time we had an English Springer Spaniel that slept with Mom and Dad.  One morning, as I was beginning to stir, I heard a commotion on the other side of the camper.  I glanced over just in time to see our dog roll over my Dad…and right out of the camper.  I don’t think  I ever saw my Dad move as fast as he did then.  It didn’t take him long to work through that sleepy haze of being forced awake by something urgent as he proceeded to stumble out of the bed, out the camper and around to where she was–dazed and confused, but alright.  He carried her back into the camper and we fussed over her as any good dog owner would.  Needless to say, we didn’t get back to sleep.

Join up with me again and I’ll tell you about something unforgettable that happened to me out in the middle of a forest in northern Michigan….