One Pursuit

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

The Sadistic Plan of the Elks, Part 3

(For the first two parts of this story about a night on a solo backpack trip in the Bighorn Range, check out the previous posts on the Adventure Blog.)

Elks. Coyotes. Mystery whiners making laps around my tent. Noisy grass-eaters. And now, rain.  What next?

Never ask, “what next?”.  In my case, “what next” turned out to be fitful dozing punctuated by measured repetition of the sadistic plan of the elks by its many contributors. It also included another trip outside with light to investigate the sounds of the vanishing mystery whiner.  This went on until 4 AM.

I am not sure which woke me up, the hangover-worthy headache or the stomping, rattling, and loud chuffing sounds.  I once again grab the light, and while getting the tent open I can also hear that, once again, the whiner is back.  What the heck!  I finally get my shoes and light into the right places and head out to solve this complicated mystery. The noise is at a new level, with brush breaking, antlers rattling, snorting, and chuffing all happening at once, and on two sides of camp.  I immediately locate four elk just over the rise where my cooking rock is located.  They move off into the trees, making a lot of noise as they do so.  Not very stealthy, it seems to me.

There is still loud crunching and crashing, snorting and chuffing on the other side of my tent, so I get up on a rock where I can see over the crest of the small hill.  Suddenly, silence. All I can find are four deer down at the water’s edge.  How could four deer make such a racket?  I mean, what kind of noise-making tools do deer have with them?  Sticks?  An axe?  A drum set?

The noise starts again, in earnest.  I move further toward the lake, and shine my light into a low thicket.  There is the source of so many of the noises of the night.  A bull moose is in the thicket, finishing strong in his part of the sadistic plan of the elks.  He is pushing the brush with his antlers, stomping on branches, grunting and chuffing like he is angry.  I am hoping his anger remains aimed at the bushes and not the new resident tenting in what must be his favorite meadow.  And when he is not making all this racket, he whines a little with each step. Here at last is the identity of the grunting whiner.  I wondered if he has an injured leg, or if it is just a lot of work to move around with that very large rack of antlers on his head.  Perhaps he has asthma or sciatica or some other issue.  Poor fella.  I hope he dies a slow and painful death.

The elk have moved on, and the deer do so soon after.  I spotlight the moose until he moves off.  Time to retrieve some Tylenol and Advil from the food canister to try to deaden the roaring of the headache and settle the sickening feeling that goes with it.  After downing a pint of water, I crawl back into the tent, hoping that since the hooligans had been identified, the noise would abate.

The coyotes did not see it that way. After listening to them practicing for their glee club concert for a while, I drifted off to sleep somewhere around 5:30 AM.  Coyotes have a knack for waiting until you have drifted off to sleep to start their next song.  For that matter, the elk never really shut up either, but by now I was used to their intermittent attempts at sleep interruption.  At 7:30 am, I finally decided to get up.  After laying in the tent or hiking around my little “Animal Planet” with a flashlight for more than ten hours, I think I got about four hours of good sleep and a few more of fitful dozing.

Elk hunting is very popular in these parts, and I am thinking that perhaps I should take it up myself.  As a matter of revenge.

The Sadistic Plan of the Elks, Part 2

(For the first part of this story about a night on a solo backpack trip in the Bighorn Range, check out the previous post on the Adventure Blog.)

Shortly after this, a new noise, very close to my tent, began to rise in my not-too-conscious state.  It reached the point of recognition, and suddenly I was wide awake. The new aural experience included soft footfalls on the ground combined with short, troubled whines and an occasional grunt.  It is amazing how that combination of sounds, when you are camped alone in the high country, can produce such rapid clarity and alertness out of a state of sleep. As I listened, paging through my records of animal sounds, the closest sound I could find was that of a young bear, uncertain of the human smells but highly interested in the other camp smells.  From my tent, I could see my food canister in the starlight, some 80 feet away.   It was so far unmolested.  I spoke loudly, and the noise seemed to move away to the south. That should scare away whatever it is, I thought. Back to the business at hand, which was getting some well-deserved sleep.

Nope. The grunting whiner returned about an hour later, and I could hear it moving in an arc around my camp.  Again, I spoke, this time as loudly and firmly as I could squeak out without shaking. The whiner answered with two well-spaced, low grunts.  It sounded annoyed. Remembering the picture of the laughing bear describing a human in a sleeping bag as being “like a soft taco,” I grabbed my light and crawled out to meet whatever was out there. When I stood up and looked around, no animal was in sight.  I walked around a little, looking with my light at the perimeter of my camp clearing.  Nothing. Apparently, the role of the whiner in the sadistic plan devised by the hooligan elks was to lure me out of the tent without being seen.  It succeeded in that mission several times during the night.  The ability of this creature to lure me out of the tent and then vanish was remarkable, and a bit unnerving.

My crawling back into the tent was apparently the cue for the elks to begin their horn practice again.  Imagine how relaxing it is trying to sleep with this racket while trying not to imagine what it would be like to be a “soft taco.”

Eventually, I drifted off to fitful sleep again until somewhere around midnight.  That is when the coyotes stepped up for their role in the sadistic plan of the elks.  Their howling began in earnest, filling the alpine valley with echoing sounds incompatible with sleep.  As I lay awake, imagining the deal making that went on between the boogie-woogie bugle elks and the coyote glee club, I became aware of yet another new sound.  It was very close to my tent, and sounded like a large animal eating meadow grass.  Rip, crunch, crunch, chew, chew.  Repeatedly.  I thought about this for a moment, with great intensity I might add, before deciding that most herbivores are not harmful to humans if left alone.  I decided to leave it alone, roll over, and try to sleep.

That is when the rain started.  It lasted about 20 minutes, and it did make the elk shut up.  For a while. How did the sadistic elks talk someone into adding rain?  Elks. Coyotes. A mysterious whiner making laps around my tent. Noisy grass-eaters.  And now, rain.  What next?

Stay tuned for the answer….

The Sadistic Plan of the Elks, Part 1

Apparently, I miscalculated the amount of liquids I needed to drink while hiking six miles at 10,000 feet in elevation.  Some problem with estimating how much liquid I would expirate while gasping and wheezing uphill at that elevation, I suspect.  This miscalculation would come back to haunt me in the middle of night.  It would have to stand in line to haunt me, as a matter of fact.  When it was finally the time for the dehydration to work its magic, it did so in the form of a terrible, sick-to-your-stomach kind of headache that wakes you up and keeps you awake with all kinds of thoughts as to the size of the tumor or severity of the stroke that is causing you this agony.  What else could cause this much pain?  Well, a hangover, I guess.  But there had been no hangover-inducing activity on this trip.

I was camped alone in the Cloud Peak Wilderness on a trek to spend time alone with my God, conversing with Him and deepening my friendship with Him.  I was also out to explore new wilderness, and Wyoming is a beautifully wild place.  It was my hope to summit a few 12,500 to 13,200-foot peaks as well.

When I went to bed, I felt fine.  This would be the sleep of the exhausted tonight.  I was eagerly anticipating a long and serious rest.  Due to a late start – highway construction, repacking the pack for the third time, and other delays – arrival at Lake Helen was at dusk.  This was not my intended destination.  Misty Moon Lake was still another two miles further up the trail.  Being unfamiliar with the area, I did not want to set up camp in total darkness.  Lake Helen it would be. Which was good, as it was a beautiful lake, especially in the waning daylight.  My campsite was high above the lake, with a great view of the lake itself and the ridges behind it.  Normally my camps are hidden in timber, but there were only pockets of timber available, if you can call 12 to 25-foot trees “timber.”  I chose a prominent point so I could enjoy the view.

What I did not realize was that I had chosen what could have been a set for the television show, “Animal Planet.”  I would soon find this out, however, as I finished making, eating, and cleaning up my evening meal after dark.  The animal sounds in the trees around my camp area and across the lake became more and more frequent the darker the night became.  “They will settle down soon.  It is a moonless night, so they will sleep,” I said in my ignorance.  What I did not realize was that they were warming up for what would be an all-night party, the likes of which would rival a frat-boy epic.

Earlier, while getting water from the lake, I spotted four elk feeding on the meadow grass and drinking at the water’s edge.  It seemed they were enjoying the experience, for they trotted back and forth along the shore of the lake, going in and out of the water.  In retrospect, it is more likely they were expressing glee at the thought of the sadistic plans they had in mind for me that evening.

As I was getting ready to hit the sack, the bugle calls of the elk in the lake basin began.  Short, not challenging but more like announcements of their presence, the sounds grew in number as it grew completely dark.  Some were very near my tent, and others across the lake. It was almost like they were saying “Good night, my friends” to each other.  Or perhaps, “Let’s get in position so we can torment this fool with stereophonic brilliance.”  These calls were to continue all night.  Thinking little of it at this point, I crawled into my tent, weary after a long drive and a long uphill hike.  As I drifted off to sleep to the sound of a marching band warming up, I did not realize the long night in store for me.

More to come on this story….

Collect stuff, pay bills, and watch Netflix

The Chronicles of Narnia,” CS Lewis’ allegorical explanation of our life in this world, follows the adventures of four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie.  These four children “accidentally” discover a magical world, the Kingdom of Narnia, and a host of amazing people and creatures who are all laboring under a spell of evil.  As they explore deeper into Narnia, they find that they are royalty in this strange kingdom, a discovery made as they navigate through difficulty, danger, and disaster with the help of Aslan, the Great Lion.  One of the ongoing themes in the stories of Narnia is how ordinary beings come into contact with Aslan, experience great adventure and danger, discover their own vital and honorable callings, and are given prominent roles or positions in the restoration of kingdoms.  This is true not only the four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, but Eustace, Caspian, Cor, the Beavers, the Faun, and a great number of others.

These most famous of children’s stories – which are at least as popular with adults as with children – touch us in a place deep within ourselves.  Why?  Because these stories tell of the created purpose we have as children of our God and King and heirs of His kingdom. We resonate with these stories because they touch us where it matters the most – our sense of calling and purpose as created beings.  The stories reflect what our God intends for each of our individual stories as well.  Down deep, we somehow know we are here for a greater purpose than to collect stuff, pay bills, and watch Netflix until we die.

That we have this calling to something much greater and grander than ourselves is a theme in the Bible as well. Check out Romans 8:14-17: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

As children of God, heirs of His kingdom, and fellow heirs with Jesus His Son, we could not be elevated to a loftier position.  We could not be given a higher rank or identity, nor could we be called to a more honorable or noble purpose.  In one movement of grace, mercy and love, God sweeps aside our former predicament of being enemies at odds with Him, and places us in the most favorable position possible.

Define life by collect stuff, paying bills, and watching Netflix until I die, or find my destiny as an heir of the Kingdom of God?  Easy choice for me.

Change is the Constant

In the last post, I mentioned “some new content features” for the 1 Pursuit endeavor.  Here is what to look for in the expanded format.

The Adventure Blog – This blog will continue to feature posts related to the great adventure of knowing our God in a personal and intimate way.  Stories from my life as well as the lives of others will populate this section of the 1 Pursuit enterprise.  Also look for quotes on the adventure of knowing God, posts from other sources, and even some artwork and occasional humor.

Climb Free – a new blog section will focus on thought leadership-worthy content, from me or from others, along with exposition of important ideas and truths for living.  The focus of this effort is to provide a platform for the deeper thoughts and ideas related to living a God-centered life in this world.  Again, some of the content here may be from or include work from other writers and thinkers, past and present.  The themes will vary month to month.

Perhaps you can tell that adventuring and climbing are significant in my thinking.  This is due to a life lived in the wilderness, exploring, climbing, adventuring, and in general doing things that keep my mom awake at night.  Hey, at least it has been good for her prayer life!  The adventures of my life have been useful to me in understanding the work of our God in all of our lives, including how He calls, equips, challenges and engages us.  Adventures in life often serve to open our eyes and hearts to the greatest and grandest of adventures, know our God intimately and learning to walk in His presence daily.

In many of my posts I will be tapping into my experiences of the adventuring life, along with the experiences of other adventurers I have known and prominent Christian thinkers, to explain and illustrate life and truth. The goal of the 1 Pursuit enterprise is provide challenges to the readers’ faith and thinking, and to encourage them to live the adventure of knowing our God intimately, loving Him wholeheartedly, and walking in close fellowship with Him daily.

Where Did That Guy Go?

Going rogue.

I disappeared.  Gone.  Off the digital grid (not really) for nearly four months.  What happened?  Long story made short, I transitioned from my old work setting (read “quit my job”), and transitioned to my side hustle as my full-time gig.  The transition has been consuming, and has been going on for some time now.  I had to let some things rest for a while until I could get some order back into my world.  Running was one (am running again).  Blogging was another.

The backstory goes like this: my former work was in a healthcare setting, where I was (supposed to be) the training director, responsible for external training for our healthcare partners.  When I assumed that role, the task was to use training to help develop a cross-sector service delivery system for mental health, primary care, and school-based mental health.  And it worked.  We even included law enforcement and corrections, and made great strides in breaking down the walls that created a “siloed system” of health care, and made the new approach operational in a variety of settings.

As time went on, my role as a trainer was reduced as I was moved into more and more administrative duties.  Finally, it became clear that I had accumulated roughly two full-time job descriptions that included training, suicide prevention work, facilities management over four facilities, and fleet management for more than 35 vehicles.  Too much.  There did not seem to be a path to resolving the workload issues, so seven months ago I resigned.  I stayed on for an additional six months part-time to allow for hiring a replacement admin person, all the while ramping up the business.  I have now gone “rogue,” and am out in the cold, career-wise.

It’s kinda cool!  I am liking the transition, and the work is beginning to flow.  I am still eating, and no one is foreclosing on my house.  Yet.  My goal was to start back to blogging in August.  Well, it is August.  I have been designing some new content features for the 1 Pursuit endeavor, and am excited to get back in the saddle. Here we go.

53 Days Changed Everything

Here it is, Good Friday, 2017.  A day of solemn joy.  Solemn as I think of the tremendous price paid by my God to ransom me from a death I deserve. To release me from a bondage to rebellion against Him.  To restore me to fellowship and communion with Himself.

And He paid that price for me, for everyone, when none of us wanted it paid or even thought we needed it paid.

Joy because in paying that price on my behalf, my God has secured my fellowship with Himself, and made it possible for me to experience intimacy with Him now and forever.  With the death of Jesus my hope for the best of all possible lives is secured.  As it is for all who chose to commit to that life.

Good Friday also signals the start, approximately 2000 years ago, of the 53 days that changed everything.  Changed the enemies of our God into potential friends (even though He has always loved humans as His friends).  Changed the old covenant relationship between God and humans into a new covenant relationship of grace based upon pardon.  Changed our understandings of the Kingdom of our God and the way in which our God would save His people.

The first installment of the great change came with the death of our Savior on the cross to redeem humankind from the consequences of their sin and rebellion.  Sin’s penalty was paid.  The power of sin was broken. Atonement was made, bringing us to the intended level of “at-one-ment” with our God. The first day of the 53.

The second installment of the great change came with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  New life is possible because the power of death was broken.  Our God demonstrated His power to save and to restore to life those who respond to Him. New life now and forever is possible.  The third day of the 53.

The third installment of the great change came about 50 days later, on the day of Pentecost. Remember that our God was moving to restore us to an intimacy that would rival the face-to-face relationship humans had with Him before the rebellion.  No one had any clue how magnificent the restoration would turn out to be, although many of the prophets of old wrote about its magnificence.  They did not understand all they wrote, but write it they did in obedience to the prompting of God.

The magnificence of the restoration on day 53 is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ Himself, was given to humans.  Given so that He might actually live within them and restore communion and intimacy to a new and deeper level.  After so many long centuries, a weary race received a refreshing, restoring breath from heaven – the actual, living Spirit of God.  Communion and intimacy are restored in a manner and to a level never dreamed of, much less imagined. Now the dwelling place of God was within humans.

God left the temple at the crucifixion, and the veil was torn in two.  God relocated the temple into humans with the resurrection of Jesus. Sin and death, the two factors keeping us from the presence of our holy and eternal God, were removed.  God entered His new temples, His children and followers.  He succeeded in making His dwelling there among them and, amazingly, within them.  The last day of the 53.

Restoration beyond any human’s wildest dreams. A change that has resounded through history, and will continue to resound for eternity.

If only it resounded in the heart and life of everyone.

The Resurrection of Christ Jesus

“By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.”    – Desiderius Erasmus

Why was the death of Christ Jesus necessary for our salvation?  Understanding the purpose for our salvation is key to answering that question.  As a race of humans we were created by our God to experience close communion and fellowship with Him.  It was His plan that we would enjoy an intimate, face-to-face relationship with Him on earth. In the choices of the original humans, that relationship was rejected.   Humans chose to go their own way apart from their God.  Fellowship was broken.

The great plan put in place by our God in response to our rebellion has been to restore us to communion and fellowship with Himself.  A God of love and mercy would, of course, move to do this.  A God of compassionate grace would, of course, initiate this restoration on behalf of the rebellious ones.

Yet a God of perfect justice and unmarred purity, a God of unstained holiness, would have to completely remove any traces of injustice, impurity, and unholiness from the rebels if there was to be restored communion and fellowship.  Of course.

The penalty for our rebellion is eternal separation from our God.  Spiritual death that produced as its consequence physical death.  The only hope we humans could ever have, stained and impure as we are, is for a substitute to take on our guilt and, most importantly, remove the barrier of our uncleanness.  Absent that substitute, we could never be restored to fellowship.  Perfect justice could not allow it.  Death being the penalty, the substitute had to die for restoration to be possible.

Enter Jesus Christ, the perfect substitutionary sacrifice. Perfect in purity, unstained by sin and guilt, unmarred by rebellion or any impurity.  He alone, perfect God in the form of a human and on behalf of all, could pay the price, remove the barrier, and restore the fellowship.  And that He did, the one for all.  Perfect love kisses the face of perfect justice.  Restoration is offered to all who will have it.

“When God forgives, He at once restores.”  – Theodore Epp

So why was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead necessary?

Restoration.  For restoration of the original, intended relationship to happen, a change in us had to be effected.  Remember, the purpose for our existence is that intimate, face-to-face relationship with our God.  Here and now, on earth.  Our God is restoring the in-the-moment, here and now, intimate, face-to-face relationship; on earth and extending into eternity with Himself.

For that to happen, the power of spiritual death and physical death had to be broken so we could experience intimacy with our God now and forever.  The resurrection is the living, breathing proof of our God’s intention and power to cancel the power death held over us.  Jesus Christ walked out of the tomb and into renewed living, enabling us to walk out of our obligation to die and into restored living and restored intimacy.

The crucifixion removed guilt as our curse, separation as our consequence, and death as our punishment.  These were placed upon our Perfect Substitute, Jesus Christ.  He bore them away from us forever.

The resurrection removes death as the ruling principle in this world, and restored freedom from sin’s control, and fellowship with our God as our new manner of living.  Here, now, and forever.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus also provides the opportunity for the restoration of the intimacy, the face-to-face kind of relationship for which we were created. 

“Jesus Christ became Incarnate for one purpose, to make a way back to God that man might stand before Him as He was created to do, the friend and lover of God Himself.”    – Oswald Chambers

That relationship is made possible in our restored living by the presence of the Spirit of Christ Himself, alive in us.

Stay tuned.

On the Resurrection of Christ Jesus

“Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.”  ― Brooke Foss Westcott

Assuming Brooke Westcott is correct (and he has a very large group of historians and scholars in his camp on this), what difference does the resurrection of Jesus from the dead make for us?

It makes a big difference.  As stated in the last post, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead really happened, it changes everything.  There is a God, and we now know this about Him: “He is intimately concerned with people.  He has power over death, and has love sufficient to ransom all from a hopeless and helpless situation in which all are separated from Him but He is doing amazing things to end that separation.  The Gospel message is, well, the truth.”  Truth.  True for all of us, not just for those who like the idea.

Part of the impact of this truth on us is that we need to respond to it, positively or negatively.  There is no room for neutrality on a message like this one.  It demands a response.  Josh McDowell said it this way: “I am not a Christian because God changed my life; I am a Christian because of my convictions about who Jesus Christ is.”

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we now know that God has a purpose for our living, and that purpose is driven by love, mercy, and grace.  This is not the way God has often been described, for many feel He is angry, or at least ticked off at people.  Looking at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus shatters that idea, for there is nothing in this story if not love, mercy, and grace.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we now know that God has power over our ultimate enemy, death.  If He has power over death, and is offering to use that power for our benefit, that is truly good news for us.  What is not to like about a God who responds to us in love, mercy, and grace, and who uses His great power to benefit His created ones?

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we now see the character of God.  We see power restrained by love and mercy.  We see a grace and patience that tempers perfect justice. We see hope being offered to hopeless humans.  We see a God whose nature seems to be focused on giving life to people, not taking it away.  We see a perfect God who forgives imperfect people, even when they turn away from Him.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can see what God has been up to all along.  He desires to return people to a deep friendship and love relationship with Himself.  He desires to have all who will follow Him experience the joy, peace, power, and purpose of His presence.  He desires to give us life.  Life to the fullest, the life lived in heaven.  Eternal life. Life with Himself.

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” ― N.T. Wright

The raising of Christ Jesus from the dead is the capstone on the life of God lived through Jesus on earth.  A life of self-sacrifice on behalf of us all, including the ultimate sacrifice to bring us back to friendship with God. A life of endless and infallible love.  “Greater love has no one than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.”  Especially those not yet agreeing to the friendship.

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