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Archive for December, 2013

HALF WAY UP

My father once shared with me an account involving two young men, John and Wally. Each year the two young boys eagerly looked forward to the first camping trip of the year. They planned and talked about it for weeks in the spring as the snow on the high mountain north of the valley began to lose its covering of winter snow. They wanted to go up the mountain just as soon as they could. They knew there would still be snow in some of the shady areas but it would be hard and solid enough for them to walk on as they made their way through the tall, dark stands of timber.

So, the day finally came. The two boys were excited. They were finally on their way! Home was left behind as they struck out with their sleeping bags and camping gear over their shoulders and made their way along the narrow dusty road toward the mountain. This part of the hike was easy and after a time they reached the end of the narrow road and began following the winding trail as it moved up the lower portion of the mountain. Even here, the going was easy. It was not too steep and the trail was fairly wide most of the time.

After several hours they reached the “spring.” This was a location well-known by all those familiar with the mountain. Ice-cold water flowed from the ground with a truly mountain-fresh taste to quench the thirst of weary hikers. This was also the place where the hike became more difficult with the trail becoming narrow as well as beginning to climb steeply. It was a tough hike all the way to the top from this point.

John decided that they should spend the night at the “spring.” Wally was for moving on and camping at the summit of the mountain. John liked to think about sleeping where he could be lulled to sleep by the gurgling of the water as it flowed out of the rocks. Wally wanted to sleep where he could see the sun rise over the mountains come morning.

“It’s too windy up there in the morning,” protested John.

“It’s too early to stop here at the spring, Wally countered.

For several minutes they argued over whether or not they should spend the night at the spring or head on up to the top of the mountain. Finally, disagreement won out. Wally said he would go on up and sleep at the top. He would get to see the sun come up in the morning.

John was determined to spend the night sleeping under the tall cedar trees, listening to the water bubbling out of the ground and flowing over the rocks. He wanted to relax next to a campfire before getting a good night’s rest. He would hike to the top of the mountain the following day.

John watched his friend go plodding up the trail with disappointment. He had plenty of time before dark to cook his hamburger and bake his potato in the glowing coals of his small campfire. At dark, he made his bed on a nice level spot where he could lay and watch the embers glowing brightly in the fire. It was peaceful. In fact, it was wonderful! . . . . . But, he missed his friend, Wally.

Time passed. Darkness had enveloped the mountain. John was having difficulty going to sleep. It was too quiet. True, he could hear the gurgle of the flowing water coming out of the rocks, as it had done so for hundreds of years, to wash away down the hill on its path to the distant ocean. The cheerful little fire occasionally made pops and hissing noises. An owl hooted softly in a far-away tree. But there was no voice of a good friend; a friend who was absent and at the top of the hill.

John lay sleepless in his bed for what seemed hours. At last he could stand it no longer. Putting several pieces of wood on the fire to make it blaze brightly so that he would have more light, he got out of his bed, rolled it up, put his cooking gear in his pack, and hefted the load to his shoulders. He then extinguished the fire and, in the dark of the night, started up the trail for the summit.

John knew the trail from his many previous trips up the mountain. He knew that, from this point onward, the route was steep, narrow, and it zigzagged from one side of the slope to the other. This allowed an individual to climb what would have been an almost impossible route had it been a path straight up the mountain’s side. It was dark and he had to be careful to feel his way with his feet as he moved slowly along. He was soon panting from the exertion and he stopped to rest in the darkness among the tall trees.

That was when he heard the sound. From above him on the mountainside he heard a rock dislodged by some living thing. It came crashing down the hill toward him, unseen in the blackness of the night, and went by a short distance from where he stood breathing heavily, his heart pounding. He heard the rock smash into some brush down the mountainside and it became quiet once more.

Was it a deer or an elk that had dislodged the rock? Maybe it was a bear out on a late-night prowl of his mountain domain. Or it could have been any of a number of wild animals John knew inhabited this mountainous country.

His heartbeat had just about returned to normal and he was preparing to continue up the trail when he heard another noise. It was like a rustling of leaves and it was close to him. In fact, it sounded as if something was moving towards him on the trail. The darkness hid whatever it might have been. John’s heartbeat had abruptly begun to increase once more! Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a figure coming down the trail directly towards him.

“Wally!”

“John!”

There, on the steep side of the mountain, two friends scraped out a level spot among the pine needles covering the ground, large enough for their two sleeping bags, lay down and in minutes were sleeping soundly.

Nothing quite compares with true friendship which develops between individuals. Nothing, that is, other than the friendship each of us can experience in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

That friend is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? He will meet you on whatever mountain you may find yourself struggling during this new year ahead, if you will simply ask Him.

Prayer: Father, thank you for being my Friend—a true friend whom I can always count on and trust in. Help me remember that you walk each step of this journey through life close to my side. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Pastor Bill

*This entry was originally published a number of years ago. I came upon it this week and it seemed to be a good one to end the old year and prepare to meet the new one with.

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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A CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT

"Are you serious, Captain?" the lieutenant seated across the desk from me asked, as he looked at the man standing in the office doorway. "You want us to work Christmas Eve? You’re kidding, right?"

The short, stocky man with the graying hair, dressed in a winter sport coat and tie, pushed the glasses up on his nose and simply looked at the three of us who were seated in front of him, a hint of a smile, tugging at the corners of his mouth. This, along with his lack of response, said it all to those of us who knew him well and had worked for him during the past several years. He was, in fact, "asking" us to work on Christmas Eve!

"Is there any reason you would be unable to work?" he asked, as his eyes moved back and forth among the three of us. "Look at it this way," he said, "you three can use the time out on the street. I wouldn’t doubt that you are getting a little rusty spending most of your days behind your desks! And besides, I will be working right along with you!"

His last remark caused the three of us to glance back and forth at each other. "You’re kiddin’ me!" One of the men said. "You would actually go out on the street with us?"

Again, his lack of response to the man’s question, along with that hint of a smile said it all. Say, this was going to be a bit on the unusual side of things!

Christmas Eve had come. The city was crowded with people as they frantically took care of last-minute shopping. The activity involving the police department was at a high level as those employees working during the day looked forward to 5:00 pm, and being able to go home to their families to spend Christmas Eve. Yet, there were those who would have to work; an aspect of a profession knowing no such thing as "time off," whether or not it was Christmas Eve.

Only a few of the employees seem to realize during the afternoon, that several of the staff members in the Patrol Division were missing. But news travelled fast when, at 4:30 in the afternoon, those same staff members walked into the building. Sport coats and ties were gone, having been replaced by dark blue patrol uniforms!

More than a few questioning looks met us as we quickly descended the stairs and walked up to the closed door with the sign on it reading, "PATROL BRIEFING ROOM".

The captain looked quickly at each of us and asked, "Ready?" We nodded and he turned and opened the door, walking into the room where the patrol officers were being briefed by their shift sergeant in preparation for "hitting the streets" for the next 10 hours.

The talking stopped and all eyes in the room were locked on us as we entered and moved to one side, laying our notebooks, coats and other equipment on nearby tables. The captain stepped up next to the shift sergeant, who had become silent, a questioning look on his face. It was clear he was just as much in the dark as the officers seated in front of him. He too, was wondering what was going on.

The captain looked at the questioning eyes and said, "You can all go put your gear away and go home. Go spend Christmas Eve with your families. Merry Christmas!"

For a moment no one moved. "Get moving!" the captain stated, “We are going to cover for you tonight. Like I said, Merry Christmas!"

Seconds later the officers were exiting into the hallway, sounding almost like a bunch of young children as they talked excitedly about this good news—this surprise Christmas "gift", they had just received.

On that night following the birth of our Lord, the shepherds had, no doubt, begun an evening that gave no sign of being any different than others they had spent. But, in a single moment, that all changed.

In Luke 2:10 we read that the angel of the Lord appeared before them said, ". . . . I bring you good news of great joy . . ."

Those shepherd’s lives were changed forever! It is certain that they were never the same following the experiences of that evening.

What better time is there, than during the Christmas Season, to bring "good news of great joy" to someone? Who do you know whose life would never be the same after hearing such news? There are many “shepherds” out on the hillsides of life who have not yet heard, nor have they experienced the joy, of knowing Jesus. Who can you share the Good News with, this Christmas?

Prayer: Lord, I was once like those shepherds. Thank you for people who brought me the “good news of great joy.” Now, Lord, at this Christmas time, show me someone who needs to hear that same news, and give me the courage to share it with them. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

(This story was originally posted on Dec. 24, 2009)

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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