Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paint Squirrels and Other Hiking Lessons

God has been slowly and thoroughly peeling away the calluses off of my heart built up from disappointment, discouragement, failed relationships...you name it.

During my hikes over the past few weekends, I've been I've worked up a sweat, had tears fall like rain, felt the sun on my face when I stop and look up to praise and worship Him.

At Lake D’Arbonne, there are hiking trails – plural. The one I choose is the white one. I lace up my sneakers, plug in my ear buds to Pandora’s Christian rock, stretch, and with my room key in my left hand and my iphone in my right, I descend the nearest hill from cabin 15 that heads towards the water. The dock would be my respite for my evening meditation I decided, and I turned left to follow the trail.

If you have never been to a state park in Louisiana, the trails are marked with arrow signs. If you follow the arrows of your trail, theoretically, you should make a loop from to end where you begin. Several years ago, Lori, daddy and I took the kids on a hike in a state park and instead of signs they painted a rectangle on tree trunks. Lori told the kids, “Hey, look they have paint squirrels here!” One of the kids asked, “What are paint squirrels?” Lori answered, “Paint squirrels lick the tree bark. There is something in their saliva that leaves that stain on the tree trunk.” From that point on, the kids were looking for where the paint squirrels had been. No, our children have no chance of being “normal,” but they will know how to look for the signs! 

As I was praising and worshipping God, I noticed these signs. In my Spirit it was if He was saying, I'm always here pointing the way if you will only move forward. The white signs a symbol of moving toward holiness. The red sign, a sign of warning. The green sign, a sign of growth.

Occasionally on the hike, there are benches. Isaiah 40:30-31, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Everyone needs to rest sometime, especially when you are in your 40s and are out of shape. He invites us to rest in Him. Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Sitting and meditating on his Word, allowing His Word to wash over me was healing.

The great thing about hiking is there is beauty in nature all around if we will only take the time, and sometimes there is the unexpected. May sound a little odd, but I talked to God as if He was sitting in the chair. If Dirty Harry can talk to an empty Obama chair, I figure I can talk to God who is actually there and not seen. Truth be known, I hadn't really been telling Him a whole lot lately. I hadn't really told anyone anything that was going on in my head. But I did today. It is so cathartic to just say it all out loud, to be real honest and tell everything, to unload or unburden. Holding stuff in is not healthy. I know this, but it didn't stop me from holding it all in.

The things is we are never really alone. Nothing is new under the sun or under the Son. What is important to remember is that there are those who have been on this path before you, and there will be people on this path after you. Some choose to traverse their life with Jesus Christ in a different way. For example, according to these signs, some will ride their bikes, while others may walk with a dog. Just because someone walks the pathway along Jesus Christ differently is not for you to judge. Some may be missionaries. Some may have tattoos. Some may have piercings. Some may be ill. Some may be lonely. The point is that they are on the path with Jesus. Don’t get distracted by how someone else’s hike is or is not going. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Confession, I had gotten distracted.

Then there are times along these trails that we may become perplexed and not understand the purpose like this picture with three docks all jutting towards each other but never meeting. Kind of reminds me of the cancer journey…the patient sees the cancer from one point of view, the spouse sees it from another, and the kids or other loved ones see it from yet another. Yet they are all looking at cancer but from their own path and perspectives.

Something I appreciate is the fact that along the way there are places to discard that which is dead -- casting off your burden. Throwing it in the pile to be burned and remembered no more. Who doesn’t have rubbish to discard? Who isn’t dragging something behind them that they keep picking up over and over again after God has told you to lay it down. Hello?! Can I get a witness or is it just me? The only way to lay something down and leave it is to set fire to that baby. You can’t pick up ash! God can though, and not only can God pick up ash but when God picks up ash, He exchanges it for beauty (Isaiah 61:3). Lay it down, discard that sucker and SET IT ON FIRE!

So, are you ready to go on your own nature hike yet? Are you ready to meet Him face to face and let Him work on peeling away the calluses off your heart? I promise it’s worth the climb.

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