Monday, July 14, 2008

Coming Down From The Mountain

Just back from a week vacation in Western North Carolina -- truly God's country. We have fallen in love with the area and have a rather loose goal of purchasing property there for a retirement home.

We are refreshed from our sojourn into the Smokey Mountains, away from the hubbub of suburban life. We did nothing of significance the entire week which was, after all, the point. It's difficult to re-acclimate to getting up before dawn and eating breakfast before 10am. Or at all, for that matter.

Being a cautious person by nature, I surprised myself by doing a couple of things out of character during our trip. We visited Maggie Valley's Ghost Town in the Sky. Years ago, you could ride the skylift up and down or take the train. Being afraid of heights, I wanted to take the train and was ready to send Craig up on the skylift by himself. But alas, the train and tracks were being repaired. So I closed my eyes a lot, prayed a lot more, and managed to make the ride without embarrassing myself too badly.

We were staying just a few minutes away from the Tuckasegee River and thought it would be fun to take a kayak run. It didn't look all that difficult and the water was fairly shallow -- after all, I could see the rocks above the water in places. Should have been a clue, huh? Never been white-water rafting and had no idea what I was doing. The first set of "rapids" that we hit was the bunny-slope, so a false sense of calm settled in. I had no idea that we would hit increasingly rough rapids every five minutes of the two hour float. Let's just say my prayer life accelerated.

After Craig flipped his duckie, I started thinking that I had this whole thing figured out. I had gotten stuck on a few rocks, but managed to wiggle free without too much effort. Well, it didn't take long for me to meet the "humbling rock". Over and out I went. Immediately I assumed the position that I had been taught in our pre-float instruction: face up, on your back, feet downstream. Grabbing the front of my duckie (I lost the paddle, some nice stranger took pity on me and retrieved it for me), I floated until we cleared the rapids and I could stand up and reboard. Fortunately, nothing was broken. My pride was a little ruffled, however. It just so happens that about a million boy and girl scout troops were on the river at the same time. I didn't see one single kid in the water. They were all safely on their boats. Hmmmmm.

I also discovered another way to increase and enhance my prayer life. We innocently went property-hunting, following directions from a local realtor. It only took one trip up and around the side of a mountain on a rutted path at what I'm sure was a 40% incline. These paths were undoubtedly intended for mules and goats only, certainly not human-occupied SUVs. Then it got worse. We had to turn around at the top of the mountain in the space of a postage stamp, and go back doooooooown. I was praying so loud that I didn't even hear Craig praying out loud. Good thing I didn't hear him or I would have begged to get out and walk down.

But one thing about that top-of-the-mountain experience stands out for me: (as I backed up to the farthest place possible from the shear drop-off) the majestic beauty of the Hand of God. The cool, clear air. The absolute peace and silence, only interrupted by the occasional call of a bird of prey.

We crave spiritual mountain-top experiences. The moments when we feel the power and presence of God so completely that we expect to look up and see Him standing there. The moments when we are left flat on our face before the Creator of the universe, in awe that He would want to be so intimate with a sin-infested sack of dust.

Going up the mountain is fraught with obstacles and full of danger. It takes perseverance and a lot of plain old guts to make the journey up. The enemy doesn't want us to even make it to the top, because he knows it will only strengthen us. But we are rewarded with the Glory of God once we reach the pinnacle.

Coming down off the mountain, leaving behind the glorious visions and impressions, there is reluctance, and joy, in our steps. But we have to come down from the mountain. We are still in this world and must continue our mission to bring Christ to the lost.

Remember how Moses' countenance shone with the Glory of God after He met with the Lord on the mountaintop? But when he came down, it was back to those grumbling, cantankerous Israelites. He couldn't even bask in the heavenly glow very long before the enemy stole his joy.

We must beware when we get to the bottom of the mountain. It's back to the same old enemy, whispering in our ear, placing stumbling blocks in our path, trying to steal our joy. My weapon is to recall the wonderful memories from the top of the mountain and to look forward to the next one with such anticipation and joy that I tune out the static. Those experiences are REAL and only a foretaste of what we'll find in heaven.

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