Steps

Far below me on the canyon floor–well, more specifically, one of the many levels of the canyon floor–a round, muddy, teal-blue pool caught the five tiny rays that reached down to it, winking and twinkling them back to the sun on its barely-stirred ripples. Ivory walls rose straight up from this pool, circling up and up with tiny ridges as though bored out by a giant drill bit.

If I had dared to look behind me I would have seen a gap in this pale, circular, bored-out wall–a fluid, graceful crack that extended down and down and around until it was a pencil line indicating the canyon’s mouth.

I kept my eyes locked straight ahead.

My knuckles rose white from the brown, wrinkled skin that clothed them, eight bumps all in a row, like tiny snow-covered peaks against a rough brown desert. I clung with both hands to the cable ladder. “Yes, Jesus. I trust you to protect me,” I whispered, then heaved myself and my wobbling pack up another rung.

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The cable trembled. Water dripped from my clothes, making the metal rungs slippery. Now and again a blast of wind shivered down the canyon, making the hairs raise on my arms. I dislodged a small rock and it scudded straight down to the rock ledge forty feet below me, then down farther still to plunk into the deep teal pool.

Inside my mind, a steady voice cheered me on–was it mine, or the Holy Spirit’s, or both?

Big breath. Another step. Keep your heart strong.

Don’t allow yourself to think about falling.

Focus on what is true. Place your foot. Move your hands. Up you go-one step closer to the sky!

See, he has provided firm footing for you.

Yes, he will provide a firm place for your feet again.

Take another step.

It was scary, but again, your feet are firmly planted. Just like he promised!

One step at a time. It’s a little easier now. You can feel the wind growing stronger. You are almost on the next level of the canyon!

At last, I muscled my pack and body over the top of the ladder and stood upright on the solid ground. I gasped, stretched my twitching leg muscles, then laughed! We did it!

From this small ledge of rock, I now gazed down the canyon, far along the fluid, graceful crack that extended down and down and around until it was a pencil line indicating the canyon’s mouth. What a great view!

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“You and I, Jesus. We have climbed all this! Time for a celebration!”

Facing north again, I see my next adventure, a narrow ledge jutting out from the cliff, offering just inches of trail above another long, narrow pool. At the end of the ledge, the blazes stagger straight up the cliff.

Time to kick it, mountain-goat style!

One step at a time. One adventure at a time. Keep following the blazed route.

Off we went.

An important lesson that I have learned while trekking over 200 miles of the Negev Desert, is that you will always be surprised by what is around the next bend. Study the route, the map and the elevation profile as you will, you will still be surprised.

A flat, easy day of road walking may turn into twelve hours of slow mud-slogging, kicking inches of clay off your boots just to gain three more inches of clay the next minute.

A quick downhill jog may become a cautious crab-crawl down a 40% grade, as you brace your trekking poles among rolling pebbles, trying not to start a rock slide.

You may need to swim through water of unknown depths.

I’ve learned, no matter how surprising the trail is, I still prefer to follow the blazes. During over two hundred miles of adventurous travel, we saw only one injured hiker-someone who had chose their own path. “It looked like a better way, but it was treacherous. Very scary,” said the wounded one. Blood oozed from a battered knee, and caked darkly in the creases.

Do not leave the blazed route, even if you cannot see your next step.

Ask for direction, then walk. You’ll hear the same steady voice.

See, there is a foothold here.

You cannot see the metal rungs as you lower yourself straight off the lip of the crater, but, yes, good, your feet have just found them.

Yes, here is the next toehold.

Walking in heaven-destiny is very like walking an adventurous trail. It’s scary and unpredictable. Thrilling. Sometimes there is deep pain. Sometimes there is incredible joy.

Sometimes you can see the way.

Often you see only a drop-off, and an arrow pointing straight down. Will you lower yourself into the unknown, and trust?

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When you know you are where you are supposed to be, you can rest assured that right now, right this moment, there is a firm foothold for you to step on. Right now, you have what you need.

We were promised provision for now. For this step.

Right now, HE WILL PROVIDE.

Stay on the blazed route. It is narrow, and scary, but it is maintained by the Creator himself! The blazed route leads higher, to some great views!

Ask, then move.

Boldly move. One step at a time.

 

BONUS!

Here is actual footage of me tottering, praying and laughing my way along part of the trail. What could you accomplish if your greatest fear was gone? Comment below!


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The Original Plan

“I want to stick with the original plan, you know?”

Melita’s mouth was half open, but I kept talking. “The only problem is, no one told me what the original plan was in the first place.”

She laughed. “I wondered what you were going to say. Yeah. That’s true.”

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We were 9,000 kilometers from home, 10 miles from the nearest town, trudging through lime-green peach orchards on the fringes of the Judean wilderness. We’d traveled the entire length of the Negev Desert and emerged into a world full of contrasts. Placid herds of sheep grazing the rolling, rock-strewn pastures, verdant fields of green waving gently in the breeze, crimson poppies glistening under a golden sun. College students lounging in the grass 10 feet apart from each-other. Scolding voices asking, “Why aren’t you at home? Don’t you know what is going on in the world?” Red alerts on the bus schedule. Sharp cries of parents as children race out of villages to ask us, “Corona? Corona?”

Darkness had fallen long before we drug our dusty bodies onto a porch on the fringes of a small village. “Come in, come in,” Matthew and his wife invited. “What are you going to do? Fly home, or stay? Here, have a shower.” I shuffled through my drybag of clothes. Dirty, dirty, dirty. I was wearing my cleanest clothes, having expected today to be laundry day. A shower felt nice anyway. Over plates of curry and rice, Matthew’s wife was honest with us. “We had to take time and think through hosting you two. Everyone is so fearful, but that’s not the best way. The reality is so different than what people are afraid of. You’ve been in the desert, for crying out loud. That’s got to be the safest place to be.”

Muted squalls arose from the next room. “You have a baby?” Melita asked. “Yes, he is 7 months old.” The two-and-a-half-year-old ate pie with us and cried when it was time to go to bed.

10 hours later, two disheveled hikers stood on the porch once more, stuffing drybags into dirty packs at a rapid rate of speed. A little boy offered us cookies sadly, having looked forward to a day of playing with these new tall friends. A brave mother and father waved goodbye as we trotted down the drive to catch the only morning bus.

I sat alone on a garden retaining wall by the Ben Gurion train station later that day, trying to hide the 73 mosquito bites on my battered feet from curious eyes as I munched down my three cucumbers in the least barbaric way possible. As I sat, I thought of this brave mother and father.

Power, love and a sound mind. That is what they had lived out. In front of their tiny children. In front of their fear-filled village. In front of two strangers. In front of God.

Heroes don’t always know the earth-picture of their own original plan. But they always know the heaven-attributes of their own original plan.

Power has no space for fear.

Love has no space for discouragement.

A sound mind has no space for second-guessing.

Stick with the original plan, brave heart!! It’s all written out for you, but not in earth language.

 

I’m mature……RACOON!!!!!

One day not so long ago, I received a call from one of my best buddies, who happens to live in the valley right below me. She called to tell me about a creepy raccoon that was parading about on their property at all unrighteous hours of the day.

I mean, it LOOKED innocent enough.

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But raccoons are nocturnal. And they don’t just parade around in front of people and dogs without a second thought…

At least not in my area. It was rabid, I was certain. When I heard that my friend’s neighbor had found the raccoon dead inside her chicken coop (umm, how’s that for weird?) my suspicions were cemented in my mind as truth. A plague of rabies was sweeping our town.

Immediately, every furry creature I saw was a slobbering, blood-thirsty crazy thing.

Despite this fact, my friend and I decided to take an evening stroll down a backroad one gorgeous spring night. We chilled in the pool for a little, and somehow got on the subject of maturity. A person we had both heard recently had said that “A young person does not reach full personal maturity until they reach 25 years of age, sometimes even later.” We both violently disagreed. What right did this person have to toss all teens and young adults in the ‘Pampered American Brat’ boat? Some kids successfully navigate harder issues at 14 and 15 years of age than most adults have to face in their lives! The statement was very unfair, we both agreed, and highly resented it.

We, of all people, had definitely reached full maturity long before we reached this projected age! That agreed upon, we jumped out of the pool, took to the open road and turned our minds toward other things.

We hadn’t gotten very far on our quest of solving the world’s problems when my friend yelped, “Look! A raccoon!”

I turned just in time to see a furry body hop freakishly towards us for a few paces, and then dart into the weeds beside the road.

Time.

Stood.

Still.

For just a second.

And then we both burst into action. There is no time to lose when a 11-inch furry creature threatens your walking safety. “Maybe we should just keep going.” my friend said calmly. “NO! Grab a stick!” I commanded as I dove into the plethora of poison ivy along the side of the road. I emerged instantaneously with two moldy logs, and thrust one towards my friend.

Unfortunately, it fell into about 6 pieces before she could even fully grab it.

My log, however, was hefty enough to hold threateningly in front of me like a proverbial jousting lance. I staunchly dared that unseen raccoon to come closer as my friend and I inched away.

Unfortunately, while inching away, we were also inching away from home. And it was getting dark.

“Maybe we should just have someone from my house come pick us up.”, my friend suggested.

“No way! –Well… ok.”

And so, two mature adults waited nervously by the side of the road while the sun dropped lower and lower below the horizon, and scanned the forest leaves for those blood-shot, crazy eyes that were undoubtedly waiting for us to let down our guard.

Finally, a well-known blue van pulled up and we tossed our protective moldy log into the forest and dove into the van’s safe recesses. And immediately began to howl with laughter. It was all just SO bloomin’ ironic.

I shook my head at myself in pity.

Was this Kara–the same Kara who had just scoffed at the implication that maturity does not blossom until 25–now guilty of calling her friend’s mother to save her from a furry animal? Was this the same Kara who slept under the stars, hiked in the dark, and spent two seasons leading wilderness trips so unsure of her stick-wielding skills that she had to flee the scene even though the supposed enemy was nowhere in sight? It was so plumb ridiculous. We all just sat in that van and laughed. When we got back to my friend’s house, we told the neighbor (who was also present during our previous maturity debate) the story and she laughed too.

We still laugh about it now. And yes, you’ve guessed the brutal truth.

I still have a fear of possibly-rabid creatures. Aaaagh! Does that mean my maturity is forever at stake?

What is your definition of ‘mature’? Do you pin an age on it? When was the last time your foot took an unwanted trip into your mouth? Let me know in the comments below!!