Sunday, November 16, 2014

Story Time

Way back when I worked at a summer camp. I spent something like seven or eight summers there, and the last couple I spent as the high adventure director. I was also one of the the Protestant chaplains for a time. I heard a sermon at a youth retreat in college, and brought it to the camp one Sunday, as it applied really well at the camp.

The Non-Denominational Chapel, called Inspiration Point, sat atop a hill in the middle of a "Y" shaped valley in the center of the camp. From Inspiration Point, the views were pretty spectacular, and all the split-log pews faced east to Roosevelt's Peak. The peak rose about 1700 feet above the camp, and was visible from anywhere you could find a clearing in the pines. Climbing to the peak involved climbing those 1700 feet in just over two miles, which began on a low angle uphill, and gradually led to a 90 foot near vertical climb to the top. At the top, 40 years worth of names of previous visitors were carved in the rocks, high above the tree line of the Mogollon Rim. From the Peak, you could see for miles in all directions; even as far as Four Peaks, about eight miles to the south. The most unique thing about the trail to Roosevelts Peak, was that it was the only trail you could not hike without a staff guide. I'm sure you've guessed that I ended up being that guide.

Hiking the peak involved taking three well- marked, commonly used trails that intersected on their way up the peak, and a fourth hidden trail that started behind a thicket of manzanita trees, and led up the final leg. Many years ago, once you passed the thicket, and you knew where to look, there was a trail sign that simply said the word "TRAIL" with an arrow pointing up on either side. The markings were carved into a pine board, painted red, and left to the elements for years.

So, now that you have an idea of what this all looked like, you get to read a ten-year-later paraphrase of my lesson from Inspiration Point.

Welcome to Inspiration Point, and Sunday morning services here at Camp Geronimo. My name is Jesse and I am one of the chaplains here, as well as the Spade Ranch Director. I work primarily with the older guys, and we learn rock climbing, horseback riding, rifle shooting, trail maintenance, and a lot of other activities. Now one of the most exciting things about my job here, is that I get to lead the weekly hike up Miller's Trail to Roosevelt's Peak. That's Roosevelt's Peak behind me, and it's about 1500 feet above us here on Inspiration Point. 

Now looking back over the many groups I've take up to Roosevelt's Peak, I've come to notice that most people fall into three categories. It's interesting to see that we tend to fall into the same three categories as believers.

The first group, are those who hear stories of the hike, of the strenuous task of it, and just decide to admire it from afar. These are the people who decide on their own, without even trying, that they don't have what it takes to even start the journey. These are the guys who are content to sit back and wait, and might even joke about trying to spot you with Binoculars when you reach the top. They either have better things to do, or just lack the ambition to move forward in the first place. We're going to call these the Quitters.

Now moving past the quitters, we come to those who are willing to head out, up the trail, and watch as it moves from flat, to gentle slope, to switchbacks. After about an hour of this, and about a thousand feet above the quitters, there is a beautiful clearing in the middle of the line where the pines stop and the high desert scrub begins. Way up on the side of the Rim, there is this rock outcropping, that is just about perfect bench height on the uphill side of the trail. This is where we come to our second group of people. These guys have just lugged up the trail, they've crossed three of our marked trails now, and are just about to be led to the beginning of an unmarked trail that leads straight up. The rock bench is cool in the morning, and sitting down and taking off a heavy daypack provides them with a cool breeze across their sweat-damp backs. This is where some of the groups is always ready to sit, and wait for the rest to finish the hike and come back for them. This group, we'll call the Campers. The campers feel like they've made their effort, but now that they've achieved something, they're content.

The Campers are contrasted by the final group. The group that won't stop for anything. This is the group that, although they can feel the trail getting steeper, they are willing to go for the top, no matter what. This group, we usually have to warn at this point, because they are going to cross the line from hiking to scrambling, and then again from scrambling to climbing. And in such, they are called the Climbers. The climbers are ready to cling to the side of the short ridge, dodging the 2 surprise cactus (the true desert dwellers say the multiple of cactus as cactus, not cacti. We're not sorry for it either.) hiding right where a perfect handhold should be, and turning straight up to climb a rough natural ladder of rock the final 60 feet to the peak. 

This is our final resting place every week, a place where those who are willing to keep going, to make the climb, are rewarded with views that far exceed those from here, on Inspiration point, and even those from the rock bench halfway up the Peak. 

And as spectacular as those views are, as great the reward, we have to take the opportunity to reflect on what the similarities are to our Christian Lives. 

We have all known someone that fit into each of these categories, and probably, have fit into each one ourselves. I know what it's like to be the Quitter. To be perfectly content with the title of Christian, to watch the others from afar, and even admire their tenacity. To be ok with doing nothing, and to call it a walk of faith. 

I also know what it's like to be the Camper. To step forward a bit, to make some movement towards the goal, to find a place that is comfortable, a new level of faith but still a level of comfort, and to sit there. To camp out half way between being an active Christian, and a quitter.

The real goal, however is to be the Climber. Not to simply be willing to keep going if the trail becomes harder, but to keep going when we are far beyond our comfort zone. This isn't an easy task, or an easy place to be. It's the willingness to be there that makes it an adventure, and not just a daunting task. 

That's my hope and prayer for you this week; that you would take that next step forward, both in your personal growth, and in your faith. Keep moving. Keep climbing.

Now, I don't remember how I ended the lesson all those years ago, and the notes are long since gone, but that's my prayer for us as we move forward in this journey to adoption. We've already passed on being Quitters. We took a big step forward in even considering this adoption in this time frame. We've also moved past a comfortable camping spot or two on our way. I can't tell you how many times we have already come to a place that would have been an easy place to stop and say "well, we tried, and look how far we got."

I pray that we would be Climbers. That we would be willing to continue down this road, no matter the challenges; that we would be up for anything that brought us closer to God, and closer to this little one.

It's not a perfect analogy, and so few of mine are. Thank you for your words of encouragement, your love, and your prayers as we move forward.

Your excitement is contagious, your words are encouragement, your love is felt.

I hope that when all is said and done, that we can say we did everything we could.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;  -2 Timothy 4:7

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