Tag Archives: trail

The Ski Hill

Ever find that you get to the point where you just can’t wait for Autumn’s cool temperatures and amazing colors?  That smell in the air that tells you Autumn is here….campfires at night–or in the morning with a cup of steaming coffee….yessir, there’s much to look forward to about Autumn.  This season of brilliant colors that leads into gentle snowfalls as the Christmas season arrives is my favorite time of the year.

Autumn makes me think back to my high school days when I ran Cross Country.  That’s a fall season sport that goes from pre-conditioning in mid-August to Invitationals on the state level in early- to mid-November.  I remember around the end of June thinking that I needed to get out there and start running every day to begin my conditioning for the mid-August Cross Country practices we would be having.  Man, if you didn’t prepare ahead of time for those, your butt got kicked all over the place for a good week.  Really, though, no matter how much you thought you had prepared for those practices, you still got your butt kicked–especially by “The Ski Hill”.

We had a beautiful CC course that took us through 3.1 miles of wooded areas, fields and wide open spaces.  The ominous Ski Hill was encountered deep within the bowels of that mysterious and formidable span of time between the second and third mile known as “The Twilight Zone” of any CC course.  The Ski Hill was encountered just as runners came out of a patch of woods and into a small field where the path curved to the right.  You couldn’t see it right away, but as you started into the field, there it would be, looming ahead, taunting your exhaustion and stretching you beyond what you thought you could do.  It was a decent hill–more steep than long–and just as you got to the top, the path curved to the right again, back into the woods and went right back down a smaller wooded hill.  About fifty yards down the trail, where the CC course trail kept going straight, a path went to the right which took you right back around to the Ski Hill again.  So imagine that mid-August pre-season practice when the coach tells everyone that after their warm-up they will be doing ten Ski Hill loops…and then on to something else.  Yeah…..pure excitement….one big goose bump…..

The only redeeming quality the Ski Hill possessed was the fact that the downhill slope contained a small grove of apple trees where the apples never grew into anything bigger than an oversized golf ball.  These apples in the hands of upperclassmen instantly became the projectiles of choice that would be launched with amazing accuracy at all of the underclassmen on the team.  If the underclassmen came back to the school with red welts all over their backs and legs (they were always running away for some reason), everyone else knew what had happened and what would be done about it (….nothing).

I hate running.  Never liked it.  Yet I ran four years of Cross Country, enduring such atrocities as the Ski Hill loops.  What’s up with that?  I can tell you that I enjoyed the camaraderie and the Fall scenery, but beyond that I have no logical reason to give you for such asinine behavior on my part.  At this point of my life, I suppose that some things just aren’t meant to be explained….

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.

Strengthening Unused Muscles

How are those snowshoes working for you?  They take some getting used to, but I’d say you’re doing quite well.  I’ll bet your legs are feeling sore, though!  You’re probably using muscles you didn’t even know you had….

This trail we’re breaking has some interesting aspects to it.  No one has been here before–especially us, and right now that’s what really matters, doesn’t it?  How many times have we found ourselves facing a situation–quite often because of a decision we’ve made, be it a good one or a bad one–where we know we’ve never been here before, but it’s a necessary place to be in order to get where we’re going?

These kind of places stretch you.  Sometimes so thin you don’t think you can be stretched any further.  Yet what happens?  You find that you’ve still got something left…and so you’re stretched some more.  And you find that when you get to the other side of that difficult time, you’ve become a better person–a better you.  Stronger, a more complete person, a thicker skin, a relatability to others and what they are experiencing, an air about you that says you’ve been through the Refiner’s fire and come out of it on top.

You also find something else has happened.  You’ve been put in a situation that requires you to use “muscles” that you haven’t used in a long time–if ever.  These “muscles” aren’t physical; rather, they are parts of you and your personality that are rarely or never used.  And you find that the situation you are in requires the use of these “muscles”….and this hurts.  Sometimes very intensely!  But you know that already, don’t you?  And this is the most crucial point you could be in.  Because it’s your choice and your choice alone as to what happens next.  You either give up because it hurts too much….or you choose to push through it anyway, continuing to grow and change and become who God wants you to be.

Isn’t it amazing how God does this?  He leaves so much up to us–and quite often, that is a responsibility that we don’t like to accept.  Yet it can be found all through the Bible.

Let me leave you with this (it’s from a picture my wife just shared with me and I want to share it with you):

When God pushes you to the edge, trust Him fully, because only two things can happen:  Either He will catch you when you fall or He will teach you how to fly.

The First Few Miles

So we’re on the trail together!  Most excellent.

How about I go into a little more detail about what we’re doing and where we’re going.  I mentioned before that we’re going to walk in each other’s shoes for a while.  When we do that, we experience life together from a unique perspective.  Walk in my shoes and let me show you some truly amazing things that have happened to me–and still are–things that I believe can help you and strengthen you on your journey.

We’ll definitely laugh together (I’ve got some stories to tell); probably shed a tear or two; be challenged together; and generally have a great time as we head to our destination.

And speaking of our destination…..where we’re going is really going to blow your mind.  You’ll be amazed when we get there!  But it’s going to take a while.  This trail we’re on is a good one–it’s used quite often–but some of the journey could get a little treacherous.  No worries, though!    When you see where we’re going, it’ll be worth it.  And by the way, this isn’t some metaphor for Heaven that I’m speaking of (although, just between you and me, that’s going to be even better than where we’re going!).  Our destination is tangible, we’ve got a lot of miles to cover and a whole lot of fun to be had, so let’s get to it….