|Angel's Rest, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon|
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Family and Friends
I've been to a lot of places in the United States. Obviously I'm biased, but I seriously think there's not a more beautifully diverse place than the Northwest. Both states have mountains above 10,000 ft, long stretches of ocean (with free parking... sometimes parking on the beach itself) with plenty of surf spots, majestic pine forests as far as the eye can see, great rivers, sounds, and bays, and high desert plains. The only thing I think is missing is a tropical rain forest. No, the drizzle we get for about 6-8 months isn't "tropical."
The picture above is a glorious view from Angel's Rest, a popular bluff many locals hike to get a 270-degree view from east to west in the Columbia River Gorge. It's also a challenging switchback-laden ascent for novices. If you're not prepared or in decent shape, it will whip you all 1,584 ft of elevation. This is one of MANY fantastic hikes in the Gorge, and it's not the only location to find good hikes. They're all over the place.
The last time I was at Angel's Rest was summer of 2013. I was leading a group of high school students and adult leaders. An older, kids-in-college couple in our group were especially for a treat... of sorts. Both of them have knee issues on top of other things, and Angel's Rest isn't exactly nice when it comes to knees. The great news is that both of them made it to the bluff! I loved encouraging them all the way up. It was a huge blessing to me (since they were my responsibility) but I loved the relief they got from accomplishing a seemingly impossible task.
I just read a couple of chapters from "The Art of Pastoring" by David Hansen. Hansen is an avid fisherman in Montana on top of his pastoring duties. I'll spare you the details, but he accounts a time he went hiking in the summer, and it went wrong quick. It started raining. Sideways. The worst. He and his buddy were in shorts and T-shirt, and they quickly got hypothermia. By grace the sun came out to save them, but Hansen accounted how he had a temptation moment, or what he called, a "Stone to Bread" moment.
He's referring to when Jesus is in the wilderness at the start of his ministry and the devil tries to tempt Jesus. What a fool. But the Son of Man was actually a man, and he was tempted. In fact, he fasted for 40 days! Instead of giving in, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8, "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Amen.
As I've gone through Proverbs, I've wondered how I could gain all of this wisdom and righteousness and cast off wickedness and folly. How do I make myself more like Jesus?
In vocational ministry, as Hansen addresses, those who pursue that life will go through the wilderness. It's not a high-paying job, despite what Joel Olsteen says. Hansen was saying he's never encountered a pastor who missed their pastoring job, all that it entails, when they've moved on to something more lucrative. When we're pastors, the grass is greener on the other side FOR SURE.
Then I saw this verse in Proverbs 21:12 - "The Righteous One takes not of the house of the wicked and brings the wicked to ruin."
This whole chapter is another contrast between Righteousness/Wickedness - Wisdom/Folly literature. All kinds of great observations about our world. But verse 21 throws in something important: God sustains, even in our greatest weakness. He is the personification of Righteous. He is the Wise One. And He is good.
Are you in a wilderness? Is there a "Stone to Bread" temptation being dangled in front of you? What's on the other side that's so alluring?
For those of you in the wilderness... keep going. Jesus will sustain you. Hang on every one of His words. For they give life.