I am amazed how few people have ever been to the Steen’s Mountains. There are the Big Indian, Blitzen, and Kiker gorges which are amazingly beautiful. Then there is the East Rim which you drive up to and are at almost 10,000 feet in elevation, and from there you look down into the Alvord Dessert and much of the Southeast corner of Oregon. Looking around at all the rock cliffs you almost always can spot some big horn sheep as a bonus. Because of being camped at 8,000 feet the stars seem triple in number and twice as bright as at home. It is so inspiring to sit in my camp chair at night just looking at the stars. I have meditated on Psalms 8:3-4 often in the evening,”When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” And also Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” I want to know God more and more so I read His Word everyday, I spend time with Him in prayer everyday, and I look at His creation and try to see His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and His divine nature. Up here in the Steen’s is the perfect place to see God through His creation.
One of my activities that increases during times like now when we are camping, and have extra free time is my journaling. I use my journaling as a tool to try and figure out who I am and how I am doing in my character growth as I pursue the character of Jesus. A major character area that I desperately want to grow in is in my level of wisdom. I want to think and choose and act like Jesus would. I have a scales that I can step on, and it tells me how much I weigh. My doctor can do some blood work and measure a number of things that indicate good health or problems in my physical body. I can take a test and my level of intelligence can be determined. Wisdom, how do I measure the amount of wisdom that I have? The New Testament book of James says that if any of us lack wisdom we can ask God and He will give us some. It seems that the lack of wisdom would be universal and the lack of it would go without saying in all of us. I think what I want to know about myself is, “Am I getting wiser as I grow older or am I just staying the same or going backwards?” Proverbs 8:11 says, “For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her,” and verse 17 says, “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.” What would prompt and motivate the diligent pursuit of wisdom in me would be a clear indicator of my level of being a fool. I have a friend who when his kids were young would regularly ask them, “was that a wise thing to do or say”? It would be so cool if God would ask me that question throughout the day, forcing me to think about my decision or words, whether I was acting in wisdom or being a fool. I have started asking myself that question in my daily journaling time. The first area of questioning is everything that I have purchased that day. I can be very impulsive and periodically I will buy something that I later recognize as being really stupid. The second area of evaluation is the words that I have spoken to people, especially spontaneous conversations, I can say some extremely dumb things. My hope is that as I daily review my behavior as being wise or foolish I will learn and grow in wisdom, that is my hope anyway.
I have my favorite spot in camp where I have my chair, and I move it around the clump of quaking aspen trees to keep it in the shade except in the morning and evening when I like to sit in the sun to stay warm. In my chair I read my Bible, I pray through my prayer journal, I read the book I am on now, I work at memorizing Philippians, I write my blog, I think about and write on the syllabus for my new seminar that I am going to teach this January, I work on writing new ministry goals, I read and refine my Leadership Class material, and I write in my journal as I reflect about myself and what I need to work on most in my life in the way of character flaws. I am always taken back by the marked increase in my clarity of thinking, my creative thinking, and my reflective thinking while up here. It seems so much more focused, energized, and undistracted here.
We are camped at 8,000 feet so I am still having some altitude issues, Patty way more than me. The wind is usually blowing some which makes a unique sound through the quaking aspens, and the view from our camp of sage brush and quaking aspen groves is beautiful. We bought this new blow up queen size air mattress and put a 4 inch thick piece of memory foam on top of that, and I have been sleeping like a baby, so nice. Our routine is pretty simple, sleep, eat, hunt, fish, eat, sit in my chair, eat some more, fish some more, take a nap, eat some more, fish some more, hunt, sit in my chair, sleep. I am not doing anything on schedule, or because I am supposed to do it, but we do sleep mostly at night, but beyond that, whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. That is just part of my system of getting ready to go full steam ahead when I get home with goals, to do lists, and constant checking schedule and pace.
Patty has enjoyed camping most of our 50 years of married life. On our first year anniversary I took her on 100 mile canoe trip in Canada and she has been a camping fanatic ever since. What appeals to both of us is the simple life style that camping, at least tent camping represents. We do have the modern convenience of a propane lantern, in fact we have 2 of them, and a propane 2 burner stove. We have a fairly large tent that we can get two lawn chairs in besides our air mattress and sleeping bags, and I do have a propane tent heater if it gets chilly. We walk about 50 yards to the outhouse, but there are no showers, so we do a “spit bath” using handy wipes, daily, and then after 1 week we will drive about 40 miles to a little town called “The Narrows” and pay $7 for a shower and use the laundromat to wash cloths. Worldliness is the number one problem with most Christians in their walk with a God. Christians get lukewarm, fall away, do nothing for the Lord because of worldliness. Worldliness is buying just one more toy, one more convenience to make life more enjoyable, but the problem is it doesn’t, it just takes away your time and your energy, and before you know it you are standing before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ and you have nothing to offer Him as a gift, you have no rewards to take with you into eternity. A simple lifestyle allows you to serve Jesus with all of your heart, soul, and might, and life is so much more uncomplicated. Camping, every time we go camping we think of ways to simplify our lifestyle. Help us Lord to follow through.
I have been planning my and Patty’s camping/hunting trip to the Steen’s Mountains for months. You would think with all the time and thought I would have thought of everything and remembered everything, yep you would have thought. How do you light a lantern or a camp stove? With a match or a lighter, yep forgot those. How do you carry your arrows while hunting? On a bow quiver that fastens neatly to your bow, I own two of them, forgot them both! What do you put your deer or elk in after cleaning them to keep the flies off, a game bag, forgot those as well. There is about a dozen more things we have discovered that we have forgotten on our first day, but a quick trip into Burns solved most of the problems. I did remember my bow and arrows, my deer and elk tags, and Patty!
Yesterday was our 50th wedding anniversary and we had a celebration party at Lake Charles. It was a very blessed time for me for a number of reasons, one was the obvious joy that comes from my wife, Patty, at events like this, a second was the great fellowship with those who came to honor us, but the greatest source of blessing came from my 6 kids that were there and were part of the planned program. Each one of them had a part sharing things about Patty and I as their parents over the years as they grew up. The words that they shared were very honoring of us and it was very nice to hear their memories and impressions of us, but the main source of blessing wasn’t what they said about us, it was the obvious character, maturity, confidence, and wisdom that they each one demonstrated and portrayed as they shared and talked. I was very proud of each one of them, and was so impressed with who each one had become as a person. Afterwards I was chatting with a friend and they commented on what good public speakers each of my kids were, and I agreed, they were indeed. When I was a Junior in High School I was required to give a short speech in one of my classes. Afterwards my teacher was very complimentary about my speech, and said to me, “you should take every opportunity that opens up to you to speak in front of people, there are very few things as powerful as public speaking to develop your confidence, your ability to think on your feet, and your ability to communicate clearly to others.” That advice stuck in my head and over the years I did what she recommended. As we had our 8 kids we made that advice one of our parenting principles, we made them get up in front of people in school, church and other groups, gatherings, and events, and speak at every opportunity that opened up to them. The fruit of that parenting principle was very obvious yesterday. As I teach my Men’s Leadership Class and my Woman’s Leadership Class I share that principle with them often, but still a number of them refuse to get up in front of people and share, the fear factor is to strong. So, in conclusion, to you who are reading this, take advantage of every opportunity to speak in public, pursue growth, and public speaking is a major growth factor.
As we and our kids have been planning our 50th wedding anniversary they get to asking questions about our dating and courtship days. Tonight one of them said, “Mom said that you never proposed”! I thought about it for a minute and admitted that I never did propose. we only dated for about 3 months so things moved fairly fast, and one day we both assumed we were going to get married and started talking like we were. I did buy an engagement ring and presented it to her in the parking lot at Lloyd’s Center where I bought it with Patty helping me pick it out, it cost exactly $100. I don’t remember that I said much, I just handed it to her and she put it on. Probably the most assertive thing I did was when I was walking Patty to an evening babysitting job, the college we were attending was in North Portland and the streets weren’t very safe at night so I walked Patty to wherever she needed to go in the evening, as we were walking a little kid saw us holding hands and asked if we were married and I said yes. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I had great parents, but I didn’t choose them, it just happened, and as I think about Patty and I meeting, dating, and getting married almost every detail just happened without must choosing or acting on my part, I just got swept along in the events. So, I am very much a product of God’s sovereign working in my life, picking my parents, picking my wife, and picking almost every other significant event and choice in my life. I often sit and reflect on the different things in my life that were obviously not a result of anything I might have done, and then I thank the Lord for His wonderful blessings to me over the years.
I do a lot of counseling, teaching, coaching, leading accountability groups, and preaching as a Pastor, that is my job, but more than that it is my calling from God for my life. A major goal of mine is to teach principles of successful living that are found in the Bible, but even more than that is simply to motivate people to obey and live out the principles that I teach. Many people already know in their head many times more principles than they are putting into practice because they don’t have the motivation or the self control to do what is best for themselves and others in their lives. Kids usually don’t have the ability to faithfully do the the best thing and make right choices because they are influenced by their emotions, the pull of immediategratification as apposed to long term success and fulfillment, the pressure of peers and other outside influences in their life, and simply the lack of wisdom to know what is best. We expect that kids will act like kids and that they will usually make poor choices in life, but there comes a point when as the Bible says, we put away childish behavior and start acting mature and grown up. As I over the years have worked with many people attempting to move them to the point of “mature” I have realized and observed that many people have a huge advantage in life in that they were well parented. It obviouslydoesn’tguarantee success, but it is a very real advantage in life to have been taught and coached at a young age to be self controlled, to be a wisdom seeker, and to have the healthy self worth so as not to be constantly making choices to impress others. I was very well parented by a great Dad and Mom, and I thank the Lord almost daily for that huge blessing in my life. I didn’t choose my parents and I obviously didn’t do anything yet to deserve or earn the awesome parents that I had, it just happened by God’s sovereign choice. As I work with adults now who didn’t get all the training and teaching growing up that they needed, especially men, I work hard to get them to be humble enough to admit that, not to feel bitter towards their parents, or to feel like they are stuck and destined to be losers, but to find mentors that can teach, train, and coach them now. There are a lot of older men who are wise, successful in living life, who have strong character, and have the ability to mentor and coach others. This model of the older, mature, and wise mentoring the younger is a major emphasis and teaching of the Bible. The problem is that those who need the coaching are to proud to seek it, and those who have the maturity to give it are to busy or distracted with life to take the time or make the effort to establish a relationship to give it.
Patty and I have a really good marriage, but it hasn’t always been good. How does a marriage become really good? A major key is lots of good teaching on how to have a good marriage. That is something that few married couples do because of the time that it takes and often the money. Patty and I went to the same 5 day seminar every year for over 20 years. It wasn’tprimarily a seminar on marriage, mostly principles on how to have a good relationship with God and others. We went to a variety of marriage workshops and seminars that were offered over the years, and read lots of books.
If someone asked me how to have a great marriage this is what I would say;
1. Go to marriage counseling often. You don’t have to have a major problem to go to counseling, you just want to grow. Counseling almost always results in couples talking about things they normally don’t talk about. JBC has free marriage counseling, and it is very good.
2. Take thetime to go to any and every Christian seminar on marriage and the family offered within driving distance. This would include marriage retreats that your church or other churches in the area offer
3. Read books together on marriage. There are dozens of excellent books available. You can get many books that are audible so you can listen to a book together for 15 minutes once a week and then talk about what you heard. This is a great thing to do when driving together, makes the time go by very rapidly.
4. Establish a relationship with another married couple who are older than you, have a great marriage, and are willing to meet regularly and share principles that have helped them. JBC has a number of older couples who have great marriages who have offered to mentor others who want to grow.
There are way more resources available today than there was when Patty and I got married, but very few married couples take advantage of them because they are to busy. It is sad that so many spend hours watching television and won’t take the time to learn how to have a great marriage.