Friday, July 29, 2016

Who Is My Enemy?

“Have you any idea what’s going on in the world?!”

The older man’s face is red with anger and a look of disgust is evident in his eyes. I recognize the anger. It is the same angst I witness daily whenever I check my Facebook wall.

It is the same anger I have often felt in my own heart.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Fox News. It’s a Bible study.

The young pastor sitting next to me has opened up this can of worms by suggesting that this may be an opportune time to reach the Muslim people for Christ.

The response? People go ballistic.

But I remember a challenging sermon from the book of Jonah. And so I offer...

“The Assyrians in Nineveh were even worse than ISIS, and God loved them enough to send Jonah.”

Now four people start voicing strong opinions against the pastor and me.

They are acting just like Jonah, I think to myself.

But who can blame them? Or Jonah, for that matter? Jonah hated the Assyrians in Nineveh for much the same, justifiable reasons we hate Muslim terrorists today. They were doing very evil things. He hated them so much that he disobeyed God and took flight (or ship) to the farthest city in the known world.

But he didn’t get very far. We all know the story.  

“Jesus says to love our enemies—” I begin.

“So you think we should just let them come over here and bomb innocent people?” The man with the red face is incredulous; he’s shouting, leaning forward in his seat, nearly standing up.

“Those people place NO VALUE on human lives,” an older woman next to him joins in. 
 “They torture innocent women and children. They are killing Christians in the streets—cutting off their heads!”

According to historical records, the Assyrians were feared throughout the world for their brutality and ruthlessness, such as skinning their victims alive and hanging their skins on the walls of conquered cities.

No wonder Jonah tried to run away.

“I’m not saying we should just open our borders and allow dangerous people in,” the pastor replies in a calm voice. “But most of these people have lost everything because they wouldn’t go along with ISIS and are fleeing for their lives. They are the victims of ISIS. And they have nowhere to go. This is the first time in known history when we have a chance to reach these people with the love of Christ.”

I find myself nodding in agreement, but I seem to be the only friendly face in the room.

There’s so much more to say, and my fingers are itching to dig into the Word, my mouth to start quoting verses. But tempers are running hot and fear has replaced truth.

And then I realize why Jesus said we each must lose our life in order to save it.  Because, as long as we care more about our own safety and security than we do about saving the lost, we will never really be His hands and feet on this Earth.

Am I advocating any kind of public policy on this issue? Certainly not! I’m hardly qualified to tell a whole country what to do. All I’m suggesting is that we tap into that source of love and grace that goes beyond all human understanding before we start attaching labels and condemnation to people.

And if our leaders allow some refugees a safe haven in the United States, will the church push them away or will we show them the love of Christ?

What would Jesus do?  

Go and do likewise.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Aravaipa: The Conclusion

Here is the last part of my Aravaipa story. Thanks for reading!

She was taking us to the community center, she said. It was used as an emergency shelter for those who became stranded. She thought there was a phone there with a land line.

The community center (aka emergency shelter) was about seven miles back to Klondyke and turned out to be the one-room schoolhouse that we had passed on the way in. It was no longer used as a school because there were no more children living in Klondyke. 

 The Klondyke Community Center

Our rescuer led us into the building, which was completely empty except for a few broken down desks and a dead bird on the dirty wooden floor. It turned out there was no phone, but our rescuer had Verizon service on her cell and we were able to get a signal and call Eric’s parents. 

“Are they mad?” I asked Eric.  Honestly, I couldn’t imagine them not being mad. 

But Eric smiled and said “No it’s fine. They’re fine.”

So we took our packs out from our rescuer’s truck and waved our goodbyes. She waved back and then backed up right over Dave’s backpack. Eric’s camera was sitting on top of the pack and toppled to the ground on impact. She stopped the truck. Eric was staring at his camera, but didn’t make a move toward it.

“Did I just run over your stuff?” she asked, sticking her head out the window.

“Yeah,” Eric said. “But don’t worry. It’s fine.” 

It turns out his camera was fine. And except for a tire track on Dave’s backpack, it was fine too. 

 Dave and Eric standing next to the run over pack.
So the day turned out to be beautiful and sunny. And I think in the back of our minds we were all wondering if we had made the right decision to not hike the canyon. But I figured it was better not to know and be alive then to know and be dead. We had four hours to kill, so we hung our wet tents over the brick wall outside the school and sat around talking. Although we didn’t get to see the beauty of the canyon we did meet a few nice people, including a large rancher who drove the road grader and stopped to say hello and give us a quick history of the region. 

And while Dave and Eric didn’t capture breathtaking images of the canyon, they did get some nice shots of the town of Klondyke, a visiting praying mantis, and the picturesque mountains that surrounded the region. 

 Taking pictures of a visiting praying mantis

The best part was that Eric’s parents were smiling and in good humor when they arrived with the dogs to pick us up. And so, after cleaning out a new pile of puppy puke from the back seat of Eric’s Jeep, we loaded up and headed home.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Aravaipa: The Adventure Continues...

It was dusk when the road ended at the trail head, and I could barely see the large canyon walls looming just beyond where we parked. The sight was breathtaking—even against the near dark sky, and I couldn’t wait for our hike to begin the following day. Eric’s parents were hoping to get back through the stream crossings before darkness fully set in, so with hearty goodbyes and “see you in a few days at the west end,” they left us standing in the road with our packs and dinner for that evening. 

The trailhead consisted of a gravel parking area, an outhouse, a large map of the canyon, and a podium for signing in. Because there was no picnic table, we set our dinner – fajita fixings that Eric’s mom had lovingly prepared for us—on the podium and proceeded to stuff our mouths as quickly as possible. We were racing the sun and didn’t have time for niceties. 

This is unarguably the worst picture I think I have ever seen of myself. But in the interests of losing any sense of vanity still lingering in my delusional brain ... I decided to post it. Eric, on the other hand, looks just fine.

When finished, we began looking for a place to pitch the tents for the night. I had my eye on a flat grassy area near the outhouse, but this idea didn’t seem to cross the minds of my more hearty male companions. And because I didn’t want to be the bossy female, I kept quiet as they walked toward the canyon. No matter where they looked, however, there didn’t seem to be a suitable place to lay down for the night. Every area was filled with weeds and large rocks. It started to lightly rain and darkness was setting in. Finally I said something.

“You know, there’s a really nice flat grassy spot near the parking area…”

My more hearty companions looked at each other, shrugged, and then started heading back to where we had eaten our dinner. We found the grassy spot and began setting up our tents as the rainfall became stronger. Eric and I worked feverishly to get our tent up before everything in our packs became completely soaked. Why we didn’t put our packs in the outhouse while setting up the tent, I’ll never know. The idea didn’t even cross our minds.

Dave, who had a one-person tent, was on his own… at least until Eric and I could get our tent up. And although it wasn’t perfect, we did manage it fairly quickly before throwing our packs under the rain fly. When we turned our attentions to helping Dave, his tent was still spread out flat on the ground. He was going from one side to the next, adjusting and then readjusting his poles. The problem was that the elastic bands inside his poles had long since lost their elasticity. It had been twenty years since he had used the tent, he explained.

So I stood there, dressed in the manly rain gear I had borrowed from Dave, and asked the last question I’m sure Dave wanted to hear at that moment.

“You didn’t try putting the tent together before the trip?”

Now, to Dave’s credit, he didn’t lash out at me in any way. He only bowed his head and said, "that would have been the smart thing to do."

Between the three of us, we managed to jerry-rig Dave’s tent together in the pouring rain. And just as we finished, the rain let up. Hopefully for the night, I thought.

But that was wishful thinking.


To tell the truth, I was a little nervous about how I would sleep in a tent on the ground. As much as I don’t feel like the fifty-plus years that I am, it had been over twenty years since I had gone camping. But thanks to this trip, I now know exactly how I will sleep in a tent on the ground: not a wink. The blowup pad that I was sleeping on wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t full size, and my legs were resting on the hard ground, lower than the rest of my body. So when I slept on my back it put a painful strain on my lower back. If I turned on my right side, my hip screamed out in pain. When I turned on my left side my shoulder ached. I spent all night going from back to right to left, not finding a comfortable resting spot anywhere.

Now I clearly understand why old people have RVs.

It rained consistently all night. But the sound of the majestic thunder in the distant horizon and the melodic rain patters hitting the tent did nothing to help me sleep. And I think Eric and Dave were having the same problem. I heard Dave get up and walk around a number of times during the night. He’s a diabetic and I found out later, was having blood sugar issues. Eric was shifting around in his sleeping bag probably as much as I was due to a deflating air mat.  

Somewhere in the deep recesses of the evening it finally stopped raining and I decided to take a walk to the outhouse. As I pulled myself out of the tent, I looked up into the night sky and a zillion stars screamed out at me through a break in the clouds. It was breathtaking.

“Eric are you awake? You’ve got to come out and see this!”

Eric popped his head out the tent door and looked up. “Oh nice!” he said. We idled into silence, enjoying the view of the night sky. Then I heard him rummaging around in his pack.
“Hey will you do me a favor?” He turned on his headlamp and pulled out his camera. He wanted to get a picture of the stars, with me in the forefront looking up. How he proposed to do this was for me to shine my headlamp in my face until he told me to shut it off. Then he would do some fancy shutter work and it would be this amazing shot. We tried it several times, but unfortunately all he was able to get was this.

To see all those stars in the heavens like that was magical. It’s hard to believe that stars are that numerous every night and we just can’t see them.

Unfortunately, the break in the rain was only a break. It was like God parted the curtains for just a short span so that we could see His magnificence, and then the curtains closed and it started to rain again. It didn’t let up until mid morning.

But morning did come. And as I lay awake waiting for the rain to stop, I heard the oddest thing. A car drove by. Since I thought we were camping at the end of a remote road, this made no sense. About an hour later, Eric stirred.

“I had a dream that my mom is worried,” he said, yawning and stretching his long arms out of his sleeping bag. 

Now, while this may seem strange coming out of a 45-year-old man, it made perfect sense to me. We decided that it was a sign and that proceeding with the two-day hike through the canyon after it had rained all night would be foolish.

“But we’re stranded. Our phones have no signal. We don’t have a way out,” Eric said, 

I sat up and looked around. “We’re not stranded. We’ll just backpack down the road until someone comes by and gives us a ride. It’ll work out.” 

The rain had stopped, so I pulled myself out of the tent and started putting my boots on. Just then, a pickup truck—probably the same truck I had heard earlier—came into view, heading towards us. I waved and it stopped. Out came a rough-looking woman and two muddy hounds.

“You need a lift?”

I laughed and told her we sure did, but we needed to pack up. Did she mind waiting?

Not at all, she said. She had that easy disposition that comes from working hard on the land. The kind that’s not held to time clocks and schedules. Rescuing stranded backpackers was all in a day’s work. She stood there talking to us about last night’s rain as we dressed and packed up our tents. There had been so much rain, she said, that she had to let her horses out of the barn for fear of flooding. That’s why she had been out that way by the trailhead. She was looking for her horses. 

As she talked, her dogs were tearing in and out of the bushes at breakneck speed, getting muddier and wetter by the second. 

It took us nearly an hour to get our things together, but it didn’t seem to bother her at all. We hefted our packs into the back of her truck and piled into the cab of her pickup with the dogs piling in after us. They romped from lap to lap, muddy water flying everywhere. Our driver didn’t seem to notice and we were so glad for the ride that all we could do was laugh. 

 A muddy hound uses my lap as his perch while we head away from the canyon.

And where was she taking us? Back to the great metropolis of Klondyke...