Thursday, April 21, 2016

Socks & Sandals, So?
By Pastor Steve Hughes
Chapter from “Mother Earth is a Bitch and She Will Kill You.”

     The apostle James had just been executed by the sword for his faith by order of the religious and political leaders.  Peter was arrested, thrown in prison and expected the same fate.  People in the church prayed for him.
      From the Biblical book of Acts, chapter twelve:   An Angel of the Lord appeared in Peter’s cell.  The angel tapped Peter on the side to wake him up.  The angel said, “Quick!  Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.  Then the angel said, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.”  And he did.  “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
    Now that was different, not the outcome expected.
     Have you ever been at a place in your faith where something was nagging at you?  You were simply following what you had seen others you trusted do and/or believe.  However, you were hoping and thinking there had to be an alternative, another way of looking at and doing this thing called faith and following Jesus.   But what would that be, how would others react, and how would this impact you and others.
     Let’s talk about wearing sandals with socks.  Yep, proceed with the old man jokes now.  However, before you cast judgement based solely on fashion sense, let’s consider some real life practical applications of hiking on a trail with socks and sandals.
     Back in the 1970’s, when I began backpacking, the standard footwear was all leather heavy boots.  A leather boot was great if you were hiking on a wet and muddy trail, traversing a talus slope, or going off trail through brush.  I remember owning a pair of all leather hiking boots that served me well for years.  I even had one pair resoled.  Using all leather boots I backpacked and hiked through the North Cascades, Yellowstone, Glacier, Big Bend, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Sierra and Yosemite.
     After hiking all day in a leather boot your feet could be hurting.  Possibly sore toes, warm spots, or blisters.  Also, tired feet and legs from lugging around a few extra pounds on your feet.  Consider this, in most national parks the trails are well maintained and have a nice open path.  Why the need for your foot to be encased in a leather boot that may give you blisters?  Welcome the introduction by a company in Colorado of a hiking sandal with a rugged hiking sole in 1989. 
      I’m biased of course, but the Sierra are a hiker’s heaven.  The best place I’ve experienced for hiking and backpacking during the summer.  Your feet experience nice maintained trails, very little rain, except for the occasional monsoonal thunderstorm, with generally dry ground and granite slabs to walk across.  Why wear a boot?  Let your feet breathe and not be concerned with blisters or sore feet!  Wear hiking socks with a hiking sandal.
     I’m not sure of exactly what year but, soon after moving to Yosemite, I began backpacking and guiding trips using a hiking sandal and hiking socks for footwear.  I indeed received some strange looks from other hikers and skepticism from those I guided through the Sierra.  I enjoyed hiking comfortably through meadows and over mountain passes with my sandals.  As a wilderness guide for “weekend” hikers, I became an expert at applying moleskin to prevent blisters or draining and bandaging large blisters.  At times I would carry an extra pair of sandals on the trail to give to a client to hike in whose blisters had become unmanageable.
     When buying a new pair of boots here are a few tips to help you avoid blisters.  First, buy the right size of boot for your feet.  Too tight a boot leads to pressure points and blisters.  Too loose and the back and forth motion will develop a blister.  Try the boots on with the socks you will hike in.  Do not lace up your boots too tight.  You can adjust your shoe lace pattern to take pressure off a certain area of your feet.  Wear wool/synthetic blend hiking socks, no cotton!  You can wear a liner sock made of polypropylene to reduce friction and reduce blisters. Break in your boots by wearing them for a couple of weeks before you hit the trail.  You can take all these precautions and more, and you might still develop blisters. 
     What’s an alternative to wearing boots, applying moleskin, and having painful blisters?  Socks and Sandals Yo!  Over the years I have met and read about other wilderness guides and park rangers who have also adopted the socks and sandals method of hiking.  There are some drawbacks.  Occasionally a small rock or debris gets between your foot and sandal which must be dislodged.  Your feet get extremely dusty and dirty as trail dirt passes through your sock.  Of course it’s hard kicking steps up a snowfield with sandals on, which I have done.  If I know I’m hiking a long section through talus, snow, wet or muddy conditions, I will hike in a boot or hiking shoe.  But otherwise, the payoff of hiking in socks and sandals is well worth some of the occasional downsides. 
     When it comes to faith and belief, following are a few situations that may relate to you, and possibly socks and sandals.  Is there a certain alternative Christian belief that you would never consider?  Have you ever been critical of other Christians who hold a different belief, style of worship, or lifestyle in following Christ from yours?  Are you willing to recognize the goodness of God that comes to someone whose belief and faith in Christ differs from yours?  Are you at least willing to explore an alternative way of belief in and following Christ? 
     When you meet a hiker with socks and sandals, find camaraderie in being together in the midst of God’s creation and being on a journey that involves path finding, discovery, overcoming obstacles, fellowship, and joy in experiencing the beauty and power of God.  May we have that same desire and pray for one another in the wilderness of the real world of our everyday lives.

     “Get up and put on your socks and sandals!”  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

“Where Are My Car Keys!!!?”
Not something you want to hear yourself say at a remote trail head.

“Be careful how you live…Don’t act thoughtlessly.” from Paul, early missionary for Jesus Christ, Letter to the Early Christians in the First Churches

     Reflect.  Think about a moment when immediately you are aware that you have seriously screwed up!  You realize a decision you made, or failed to make, has now come back to impact you with all the painful and annoying consequences that it brings.  The “what if” and “how stupid can I be” cycle begins.
     An important life lesson has just been learned, hopefully.  Take a deep breath.  Ask God to quiet your soul and allow her Spirit to give you calm and clear thinking.  Let God help you respond and not react.  After you have dealt with the immediate situation, reflect on what can help prevent or mitigate this scenario in the future.  Debrief.
     Real life.  In the wilderness simple actions, seemingly inconsequential decisions or choices, can indeed lead to a profound impact on you and others.  During the winter months I would teach a backpacking course for students at California Baptist University.  Some years I taught the class at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California, east of San Diego.  The park is the second largest state park in the United States covering 600,000 acres of desert, mountains, and valleys.  One great feature of the park are natural water oases.  These springs of life support beautiful native California palms, desert bighorn sheep, and thirsty backpackers.  It is a beautiful natural environment with great contrasts in color, texture, and life forms. 
     Backpacking tip.  When you are leaving the trailhead there is a simple task you need to make sure happens before you leave your car.  Place your car keys in a secure place in your backpack.  Attached the keys to an internal clip, in a zippered pocket, or in the bottom of a small pocket that you will not be accessing much during your trip.  Always make sure your keys are where they should be every time you leave a backcountry camp.  It would suck big time if you have to hike back to search for your keys.  In addition to this, always tell a friend and show them where you have stored your keys.  If you become incapacitated-unresponsive, they will need to know where your keys are at. 
     A trail story.  Teaching one of my backpacking classes at Anza-Borrego, I instructed my students to place their car keys in a secure place.  For some reason, one of the students decided to place her keys in one of the small paper bags that I had provided each student for trash.  At our backcountry designated campsite there was a metal fire ring.  At night we would burn our environmentally safe trash in the fire pit so we did not have to carry it out.  Do you get where this is leading? 
     We arrive back at our trailhead and our cars to end the backpacking course.  It is very isolated parking area at the end of a very long and bumpy dirt road.  Cell phone service was not yet available and we were miles from the nearest pay phone.  The students begin to unload their backpacks and gear my program has provided them.  I begin loading the gear into my vehicle.  At this point I hear a student exclaim in the desert dusk, “Where are my car keys!?”   After searching her pack and carefully looking over all the ground around us, the keys are not here.  We determined she probably threw her car keys in the paper bag, along with some trash, into the fire pit miles and miles back at our campsite.  A few other students had rode up with her and she was their ride back.   The other students, with keys for their cars, drove back to civilization and called Triple A to come provide a new key for her car.  We waited in the dark desert night for a few hours. Thankfully, we had enough water and warm clothing to wait in the desert darkness.  I can’t remember exactly, but I’m sure we enjoyed the extra time together talking and enjoying the quiet of the desert.  I had a nine hour drive back to Yosemite, but now I planned to find a motel.
     In the big picture of life, this was really a minor inconvenience.  However, what if this student was the only one at the trailhead, with no other cars available.  It would have been a very long and tiring walk for miles to get to a road with some traffic to wave someone down for assistance.  If there had been a medical emergency, it could have been a dangerous life threatening moment.  In this instance, this student’s failure to think and act responsibly by properly storing her car keys inconvenienced others and cost her financially.
     At times our lives are impacted by external forces and choices made by others that we have no control over.  These can be natural events, hence “Mother Earth is a bitch” and there are harmful and evil people in the world.  When the hurricane does come ashore or the “big one” shakes our city, do we have emergency supplies?  Do we have a plan and network to help others and find support as well?  Concerning personal relationships, have you ever had a boss from hell or a family member that continually makes harmful decisions?  What can you do?  We can choose how we are prepared to mitigate and address these negative forces beyond our control. 
     There are, of course, life moments when our situation is the result of our own doing.  Have you avoided a trip ending blister on the trail, focusing on the beauty of God around you, because you took the time to break in your boots before you hit the trail?  Did you wind up shivering in a cold rain underneath a tree because you failed to bring rain gear on a hike because that morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky?
      There are many factors that form the construct from which we make a decision or develop the principles that guide our practices and choices in life.  What has influenced and currently guides your choices? 
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”  Quote, Letter from Paul to the churches.

     God desires for you to make choices that are positive and beneficial for you.  God promises to help you in your responsibilities and actions that have an effect on the lives of others.  That does not mean those choices will lead to a life without struggle.  On the contrary, God requires of us discipline, commitment, sacrifice, and courage as we face the everyday life challenges that come our way. 
     The simple daily actions and habits you and I live out provide a visible actuation of our principles and priorities in life.  Our seemingly routine daily choices have a profound impact in our life and the life of others.  What are some daily life choices for you?  Some that might resonate with you are: 
  •         Did you choose to pray with your spouse and/or kids tonight? 
  •      When you saw that cute girl or guy walking down the street, did you redirect your eyes forward? 
  •      Were your words towards your loved one today affirming? 
  •      How did you deal with your difficult co-worker today? 
  •      Did you take the time to write a note of thanks or encouragement to a co-worker or friend?
  •      Have you paused and allowed God’s Spirit to lead and guide you. 
  •      Where are you on modeling and teaching your child to be a polite, caring, and responsible adult?
  •      Have you followed through on praying for and caring for your neighbor? 

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.   
Make the most of every opportunity… 
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 
Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Quote, Letter from Paul to the churches.

Your daily choices in allowing the Spirit of God in your life will lead to the goodness of God in your life and in the lives of others now and in the coming days, months and years.

“Hey, here are my keys!”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Leave a Gallon of Water Next to Your Car

Leave a Gallon of Water Next to Your Car

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
     What are you willing to risk for the betterment of your life?  What commitment are you willing to make for the well-being of your loved one?  What are you willing to give up for the benefit of a stranger?  How one answers these questions can determine where you are now on your life journey and how your life has impacted others.
     When have you ever been really thirsty, without having access to any water at all?  When have you ever not eaten, had real hunger pains, with no way to obtain any food?  When have you been so cold or so hot, you were in fear for your life?  Have you ever been dependent on a stranger, someone unknown to you, to care for you in a life threatening situation?  If you have truly been in any one of these life situations, it was a life marker, changing how you think and act, a moment that has shaped who you are as a person.
     Using your imagination and/or life experiences, place yourself into the following life scenario.  To put it bluntly, your life sucks!  There is a struggle that relentlessly wears on you.  There is a foundational life need, not a want; that you are unsure you will have tomorrow and for the days following, for you and others you care for.
     There is relief from this need and uncertainty.  There is opportunity, there is hope.  You have heard of it, others have experienced it, or you may have had it before, but now have lost it.  What thoughts go through your head in this untenable situation?  What emotions are you having to deal with?  How do you plan for the next day?  What are your thoughts about what the future holds for you and yours?
     To elaborate on your scenario, you live in a community where your personal safety is never assured.  Corruption permeates your local government.  Violence is used for community control by powerful criminal organizations.  If you associate with or become known by certain people, it could be disastrous for you and your family’s financial and physical well-being.  For families and individuals from Mexico, Central America, and other countries this is the reality of their life.
     If you want to begin a contentious partisan squabble, mention illegal immigration.  That said, the focus here is the betterment of the lives of human beings that we share the earth with; Individuals who like us breathe the same air we do, bleed just like we do, and have families and friends who love one another. 
     Concerning immigration to the United States, it is a moving and honorable experience to attend, as I have, a naturalization ceremony where legal immigrants become citizens of the United States!  These people have chosen to study and learn about the historical and constitutional foundations that make one proud to be an American citizen!  Many others choose for various personal reasons to illegally enter the United States.  This puts them in very dangerous situations such as trusting uncaring coyotes to deliver them across the border.  After crossing over they live in an underground culture without having the legal protections and advantages of legal citizenship.  People illegally residing in the United States are not true immigrants, but unassimilated migrants, not fully able to participate in and pursue the American dream.  Clearly immigration legislation and resources need to be addressed so more people can legally begin the process of becoming United States citizens.

Matthew 25:34-40
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 
I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me.
I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?
Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?
Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

     The deserts, rugged terrain, and Rio Grande River of the southern border with Mexico is a very dangerous environment.  It is estimated that up to several hundred illegal migrants die each year due to heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia.  All are human beings, God’s creation that he loves and cares for.  Several community groups have instituted programs to deposit gallon water containers on public lands alongside the border.  The Border Patrol is instituting a new program placing rescue beacons for illegal migrants.  When in distress they can signal Border Patrol agents to come and rescue them from the life threatening condition they are in. 
     Years ago I lived and taught public school in the mountains and deserts of west Texas near the Rio Grande and border with Mexico.  Friends and I would go hiking often in the national parks there, sometimes in remote areas.  It was common local knowledge that when you go hiking, you would take a gallon of water and place it next to your locked vehicle.  Why?  It would hopefully keep an illegal migrant from breaking into your vehicle and potentially save the life of someone who may literally be dying of thirst. 
      This is the humane thing to do, right?  Of course.   What about the larger scope of the entirety of this person’s life?  A gallon of water may save this person’s life, but what about the reasons that have lead this beloved one of God to be in the desert risking their life?  The water will keep him or her alive that day, but what of tomorrow, their future?
    Concerning the problem of the homeless, now and then you hear of a community group handing out blankets or individuals who spend a night out on the street to show affinity and awareness of people who are homeless.  This is symbolism over substance.  You may have helped a homeless young adult stay warm that night, but most likely they will use the blanket to barter for some marijuana.  Many Americans, like I have done, soothe their social conscience by scheduling no more than a one-time volunteer opportunity on their calendar or donating ten dollars to a cause on a GoFundMe site; And of course the great opportunity for posting a selfie while serving humanity. 
    Jesus calls us to rescue, personally get involved, and help the Samaritan on the side of the road, which can be the Mexican citizen wandering through the American desert.  The Holy Spirit calls on the churches to welcome the “Gentiles”, someone unfamiliar with Christian community and help them assimilate and become part of the church family.  God calls on the church to provide volunteers to teach legal immigrants English as a second language and assist immigrants through the naturalization process towards citizenship. 
     Faith in Christ, following Jesus, being part of the tribe of Jesus, is never posed by Jesus as “following the crowd” or following an illegal, irresponsible, or dishonorable path.  There are definite risks and dangers for Christ followers around the world.  However, martyrdom, death and persecution, is not something you choose to pursue, it is imposed upon you.  Jesus calls us to a faith where daily we understand our need for Jesus to save us from ourselves and to seek out and serve those in need, whatever their situation.  This Christ following life involves commitment, risks, and an investment of who we are and what we do.
Mark 8:34
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.   If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
    So where are you on this journey?  Are you in a place of seeking meaning, purpose, and to better your relationship with God?  Are you an unassimilated migrant in the spiritual realm?  Then I encourage you to ask a Christ follower to help you on this journey that will dialogue and discuss with you the questions and information you are seeking.  Are you a Christian seeking a more purposeful relationship with God and opportunities to serve those around you?  Then pray for direction, patience, and God’s help for the commitment and courage it will take to pursue and live in that place of service.  Life is more than leaving a gallon of water next to your car.
John 4:14 
Jesus said, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. 
It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dump All Your Crap in a Pile
Wilderness Journey
You have a backpacking trip planned with a group!  What will you pack?  Frisbee, hammock, camera tripod?  Remember that everything you choose must be personally carried by you.  Every ounce, that adds up to pounds, must be carried by your back and feet up the trail.  As you choose your items, ask yourself “Is this absolutely essential?” 
Exodus 16:16-18
“These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs.  Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.”  “When they measured it out, everyone had just enough.
…Each family had just what it needed.”

In the wilderness ministry I directed, we would send the members of an upcoming backpacking group a list of what to bring, that included what not to bring.  When the group arrived at the trailhead, we would ask each participant, one at a time with a few of my staff people, to dump everything they had brought for the trip into a pile on a tarp.  The size of the pile of each participant’s stuff would depend on their backpacking experience and their willingness to follow our advice on “the what to bring” list.  My staff and I would then go through each individual’s pile and sort out what they needed from what they did not need for the next several days on the trail.  Following are some of the items we would place in a separate pile to be stored back in their vehicles or sent back home:  deodorant, large tubes of toothpaste, six packs of soda, a change of clothes for every day, knife (on the “not to bring” list), bags of chips (impractical and we provide the food stored in bear resistant canisters), an axe, full size pillow, etc.  After separating what is needed from what is not needed, with some of the hikers being a little unhappy, we would show them how to pack their backpack, distributing the weight properly, ease of use and protection from rain.  Now this person and their personal items were ready for the journey that was ahead of them.  We saved them from expending extra energy in the days ahead and taught them that they could indeed survive as a human being without a cell phone, a microwave, soda, or potato chips. 
On a day hike or an overnight hike it’s important to carry the ten essentials for your safety and well-being.  Following is a list from “The Mountaineers” an outdoors educational group based in Seattle, Washington.
Ten Essential Systems
Navigation (map & compass)
Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
First-aid supplies
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water or filtering device)
Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube/garbage bag)

Life Journey
What for you is important in life?  What are the essentials for you in this life God has given you?  How short or long would your list be?  Would it include or exclude knowing God, financial wealth, or making sure each of your kids are involved in sports, music, art, and other improvement activities every day of the week? 
I have worked on a family ranch, been to graduate school, worked in fast food and in a factory, taught inner city public school, and worked for a couple of bosses from Hell.  I get it when there are days or weeks you are simply exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally.  At the end of the day, at the end of it all, what is important?  What are a couple of goals, principles, you desire in life for you and for those you love?
God wants to be and promises to be with you on your life journey.  I would ask you to symbolically dump everything you do in a week on a tarp.  What would God leave, take out, or add to your tarp to ensure you were carrying and focusing on only the life essentials?  A word of caution here.  Just as in backpacking you can carry the essentials, focus on what is actually needed for your journey, but that does not ensure a trouble free and completely enjoyable trip.  Stuff happens, that’s the world we live in.  Sadly, some people treat you like horse-poo and people we love die.  Sorry, no more existential or ethical philosophy than that.
Look at the long game.  The infant you hold in your arms.  What kind of moral, loving, and spiritually wise human being do you want your son or daughter to be in 18 years?  How would your co-workers, neighbors, and the barista at your coffee shop describe you as a person?  This week how have you bettered the life of another human being, a person God loves and Christ died for, through your creative talents, your skills as a professional, your hard work, or through a loving and caring spirit? 
If you make it on your journey long enough to qualify for senior discounts, what will you see behind you?  What do you desire for tomorrow morning, the next evening, and the future ahead of you?  Go ahead, gather your life and dump it before God.  Pray for God to speak and show you what’s important in your life to focus on.  Trust God and ask for help to toss aside the activities and behaviors and other extra weight that is pressing you down on the journey God has for you. 
Understand as well, that just as in backpacking, there are different types of environments and different seasons of life that requires you to focus more on one life essential than you would on others.
As on any journey you need and look for times of reflection and restoration.
               Take a step forward and may you seek and know God’s goodness on the path ahead.

Luke 10:41-42
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Freakin’ Boy Scouts
Matthew 10:16
Jesus said to his disciples: "Stay alert.  This is hazardous work I'm assigning you.  You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves.  Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove."

        What is a sign that spring has arrived?  Melting snow and mud season?  Wildflowers?  How about a Boy Scout Troop needing a rescue from the backcountry?  It is a sure sign of spring when you hear a news report that a Boy Scout troop has needed a rescue from the backcountry.  
     Could these seasonally recurring rescue episodes be averted?  Yes.  Following are some standard principles of wilderness trip planning and preparation that can eliminate or reduce the need for these annual Boy Scout rescue attempts. 
     To start, how about checking the weather forecast?  If there is the threat of inclement weather you either reschedule your trip, adjust your trip, and go out with the appropriate gear.  Because of "summit fever" combined with the difficulty of scheduling a date for your trip and not wanting to disappoint your participants, a trip leader will push ahead with their plans and then expose the group to conditions that they are not ready for.  
     Let's look at a couple of ways to be prepared.  How about when it rains?  How do you keep the gear in your pack from getting soaked?  The best way is to have a separate pack cover to keep your entire pack.  If just wear a large poncho it will not fully cover the pack.  In camp, you do not have space to bring your pack into a tent with you to keep it dry. A pack cover will keep it dry outside.  
      Another example of being prepared is bringing the right type of tent.  You need a backcountry or backpacking tent, not a camping tent.  A backpacking tent should have a fly that covers all the walls of the tent down to just a few inches from the ground.  Your tent should have a ground cloth or footprint that fits underneath the floor of the tent.  It should be waterproof and then not extend past the floor of the tent.  If the footprint is exposed outside the floor of the tent, rain will fall on it and cause the tent floor and anything laying on it to become wet.  Your backcountry tent should have a vestibule as well, a part of the tent fly, that creates a little porch area on the front of your tent.  Underneath the vestibule you can place your footwear and other items to stay dry and help keep dirt out of your tent.  
     You may have been already thinking already, what about the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared".  In a wilderness environment your level or preparedness will determine the experience you will have.  Being prepared and having experience in numerous situations will give you confidence and skills in helping you and others have a positive and safe experience in the wilderness.  
     Jesus as a leader was preparing his "scouts", the twelve disciples and many others to live in a new world, a wilderness that was unknown to them.  What did Jesus do?  In reading parts of the New Testament, Matthew chapter 10 and other passages you discover the following principles.  Jesus had a specific objective or outcome to focus on.  He gave daily or precise instructions on how to achieve the objective, including a list of what was needed or not needed for the task at hand.  Jesus warned of potential real life problems and how to address those.  Clear explanations were given on the causality and effect of certain effects.  
     Many wander into the wilderness only thinking of wildflowers and beautiful sunsets.  You can enjoy the rewards of your wilderness experience more if you are prepared for the weather and other challenges.  On our journey with Jesus through the wilderness of this life, it will benefit us to be an attentive student, a disciplined learner, and to continue to grow in the knowledge and wisdom that God can provide us.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You’re standing at the light rail station waiting to complete the second leg of your commute.  Your mind is already scrolling through your “to do list” and thinking “How am I ever going to get caught up?”  It is a morning where your nexus of children are experiencing a meltdown with a lost shoe, tears over a missing homework assignment, and disengaged frustration from your oldest realizing they will be late to school one more time.  You think in a nanosecond, scanning over this scene, “I’m an intelligent organized adult.  How did I let this happen?”
You’re hiking in an open alpine meadow.  Lightning begins to strike the ridges around you.  The beautiful mountain setting has now been transformed into a place where your thoughts are of survival, not of inspiring peaks and vistas.  What should you do now?
               The choices you make to survive a weekend lightning storm may say much about how you survive your Monday to Friday.  As beautiful as the mountains are, you cannot escape the reality that Mother Earth is a bitch and she will kill you if given the opportunity.  There are all sorts of seemingly simple decisions and actions one can make in the wilderness that can lead to discomfort, injury, illness, and possibly kill you.  Making informed decisions, following set principles, and practicing disciplined behaviors will enable you to survive and even thrive in the wilderness!  These may include learning about weather patterns, doing daily cardio workouts, learning form experts, and knowing how to properly utilize your wilderness gear.
What is your Monday to Friday wilderness challenge?  Possibly parenting an ADHD child, communicating with a boss from Hell, feeling emotionally disconnected from your spouse/partner?  Whatever challenge we have, we can choose to just push through, give up, ignore or make the deliberate choice to seek what is the better short and long term decision. 
Our life, each day, is a gift from God and an invitation.  God gives us an opportunity every day to love and care for others by loving and caring for ourselves as well.  What is something in your life right now where God desires to guide you with His Spirit and provide help through the care and knowledge of others? 

Monday to Friday, make a choice.  Enjoy the sunrise, sing along in your car, find patience, be kind, learn and grow, and love always.  Saturday and Sunday, do the same, but go hike on a trail somewhere!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Earth, God, Me and You
Compiled by Pastor Steve Hughes
(Selected & Paraphrased Verses; Psalm 104, 1 Samuel 16:13, Isaiah 45:12, Romans 1:20)
Lord my God, how great you are!
Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens
for your tent and ours.
You placed the world on its foundation.
Majestic mountains rose and valleys grew 
in the places you decreed.

You clothed the earth with water.
You send rain on the mountains 
from your heavenly home,
You make springs pour water into streams 
that gush down from the mountains.
They provide water for all the animals and your people.

    You cause grass to grow for the livestock.
You fill the earth with fruit and plants for people to use.
You allow people to produce food from the earth—
    wine to make them glad, olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.
High in the mountains live the wild goats,
    and the rocks are their refuge from danger.
    and you renew the face of the earth.
    The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
    I will praise my God to my last breath!

The trees that the Lord planted are well cared for.
Birds sing among the branches.
You made the moon to mark the seasons
and the sun knows when to set.
You send the darkness, and it becomes night,
when forest animals come out.
Then the young lions roar
stalking the food provided by God.

I am the one who made the earth and created you
and the people who live on earth.
For ever since the world was created, 
people have seen the earth and sky.
Through everything God made, 
they can clearly see his invisible qualities
—his eternal power and divine nature.
Praise the Lord, who has not withheld 
His kindness and faithfulness.

The winds are your messengers God.
The Spirit of God enters like a rush of wind,
refreshing and empowering our lives.
    In wisdom you have made us all.  We all depend on you.
When you give us your breath, life is created,
May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, 
for I rejoice in the Lord.