Monday, July 16, 2018

Playing in the parking lot

I spent a wonderful weekend with my college girlfriends, celebrating two new babes on the way and reminiscing about old times.

My best friend told a story about her trip to California a few weeks ago with her husband and her 2-year-old son.

She had bought her son some new sand toys, and they headed to the beach to see the Pacific Ocean for his first time.

When they got the little boy out of the car, he was so excited to use his new toys that he started to dig in the sand in the parking lot. When his parents wanted to head to the beach he said, "No, I'm digging in the sand."

She pointed and told him, "The beach is not here, it's over there. Follow me up the hill and you'll see the whole beach and the ocean. You don't want to play in the parking lot."

But he was having fun there and didn't understand that the beach would be so much better, so he refused to go with his parents.

Finally, they just picked him up and carried him to the beach, where he could dig so much deeper and had so much more fun than in the parking lot.

What a profound metaphor for our walks with Jesus.

How many times have we been content where we are, unable to move, even when we feel God prompting us to go?

"No, it's nice here. I am enjoying myself."

"But my child, I know what's over that next hill. It's wonderful. It's so much better than here. Just follow me."

"I don't want to!"

Sometimes it takes tears. Sometimes it takes God picking us up and forcing us to move. Sometimes we miss out on something that could be so much better because we just didn't want to move.

Is God telling you to leave the parking lot? Does he have something so much better over the next horizon?

Don't be afraid of what you can't see. God sees it all. He knows what he's doing.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Teton vacation: Death Canyon

Our last day of hiking started with a promise.

The place we were entering was called Death Canyon.

However, instead of it looking barren or being so tiring as to kill us, we were hoping the name for it came from the fact that it led up to our goal of Static Peak, where lightning strikes often.

We began with an ascent, followed by a descent down to Phelps Lake.

"We are going to hate going back up this on our way out," Nate commented.

Yet again, this canyon, located in the same area as our other hikes, was completely different. Instead of the evergreen forest of the day before, these evergreen trees seemed to be a part of a rainforest. Everything was damp, and the appearance of ferns made it seem even more exotic.

We were passing through an area of the trail where it opened up to a small meadow, and Nate stopped. His outstretched arm pointed to a dark spot near the trees.

A moose!

And she was nursing her baby. We knew that mama moose are considered dangerous, because they will go to great lengths to protect their calves, so we slowly backed up to keep a good distance between us.

A local couple had come up behind us, and all four of us waited while I took some shots of the moose, with the calf hidden behind her. The mama didn't seem in any rush to leave, and we weren't sure what to do. The local couple had done the Death Canyon hike before, and they said the trail curved past the moose, so we shouldn't have to get too close. We let them go ahead of us along the muddy trail, assuming they knew what they were doing.

The trail did curve, and we continued to follow it. It became steep, a rocky mass switching back and forth through the canyon, along a rushing, powerful waterfall created from all the snow that was still melting from the mountain.

After several miles of uphill, we finally made it to the main part of the canyon. A group of brown signs near a deserted cabin marked out our options. I had hoped we were close to the end at that point, but the sign pointing north read "Static Peak Divide, 4."

Four more miles.

We head into what appeared to be a more deserted trail, with most people continuing on the flat path through the canyon to a lake in the distance. Nate really wanted to attempt to summit Static Peak, and although I wasn't confident in my abilities, I started up the path. He always let me lead on uphill parts, so my shorter legs could set the pace instead of attempting to catch up with his long strides.

We passed an open valley where we lost the trail for a while, because the entire valley was filled with remnants of an avalanche. Two-foot diameter trees snapped like they were twigs. Giant evergreen branches that smelled like Christmas, because they were still freshly downed. Tree trunks strewn about like kindling. Imagine the power of snow that could have taken down such root systems.

Up and up. Up and up. Up and up.

At some point, my legs were so tired I could barely feel them. Even my arms and fingers started to tingle with the altitude and exertion.

Nate had picked a place to eat and rest, to contemplate if I could keep going up to the peak ---- "I don't think I can do it," I said, to which he responded, "That's just because you have that word 'can't' stuck in your head," to which I stubbornly responded, "OK, I'll keep going as far as I can."

However, we weren't even to our lunch spot when yet again, we hit a pass with the dreaded white stuff. It wasn't a lot of snow, and it wasn't even a wide pass, maybe 20 feet across. However, just below it, the canyon went straight downhill. It ended at the mass of broken trees at the bottom, and we knew how they had fared with the tumble downhill. There's no way our bodies would survive such a fall if it did occur.

So, disappointed, we turned back once again.

Another lunch of MREs. A trip back along familiar terrain.

We were just entering a section with boulders along a little stream, when Nate pointed out a marmot that scurried into the bushes along the trail.

"It looks so tired. I wonder if we woke it up," Nate said.

We looked around and started to see other brown masses along the rocks. One marmot was flat on its stomach, head down, eyes slightly open to look at us uncaringly. Another was on its side, obviously enjoying the sunlight that finally shone down, making the rocks shimmer after days of clouds. Another marmot was a few rocks away, sleepily looking at us.

"OK, we definitely woke that one up. Apparently it's marmot nap time," I said, and we laughed at the sight of the adorable animals.

Hours later, far downhill, we were just about back to the point where we had seen the mama moose. We were walking along one of the narrowest parts of the trail where you had to walk through a stream that branched off of the river on the other side of the evergreen trees next to us.

Some people stopped ahead of us, and we soon saw why. A cow and bull moose were walking around at the outlet of the watery trail, obviously agitated that we were blocking the only small path through the canyon.

Nate jumped up on a boulder to the left of the trail and gave me his hand, pulling me quickly up with him. Others started to follow us, and the moose looked on with annoyed eyes and bucked heads.

One man stood to the right of the path, holding a walking stick and looking like he wasn't sure why the moose weren't passing by next to him.

"They have a baby hidden nearby I'm sure," Nate said. "They just wanted to pass through the canyon. If we all get out of their way, they'll be able to pass by."

The other people still along the trail climbed up to the boulder as the bull moose ran from the meadowed area down to the trail.

The cow peaked around at us from behind some bushes, not 20 feet away.

The bull moose ended up going to the river and traipsing through the water, then stood on the other side of the path, pawing at the ground and looking at the cow. Finally, she followed suit.

"This is our chance to get out," Nate said, and we quickly scrambled down the boulder and high-tailed it out of the canyon before the moose came back to find us too close to their baby.

We entered the switchback with an overview of the lake and were in awe of the beauty of it with the sun shining. It had been a cloudy trip, one that kept us from overheating, but the photos weren't quite the same without the brilliant blue sky we knew was somewhere up there.

I clicked one last picture.

However, with the sun, the area where we knew would be humid if it ever warmed up because of all the rainforest-like damp plants, was just as we expected. The air became stifling, and we began the ascent up.

"We knew this was going to be horrible," I said, as we panted in the sunshine and humidity.

Going up after we had already made our main descent was something neither of us wanted to do. But we trekked along, and we made it before making the final descent once again to the car.

We drove out of the park for the last time and said good-bye to the Tetons.

A beautiful, serene place for a relaxing, rejuvenating vacation. And we didn't want to leave.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Teton vacation: Paintbrush Canyon

The third day of vacation, we were up as the numbers on the clock shone 5 a.m.

Nate pulled the Camaro onto the mountain pass that was shrouded in clouds, and we began our ascent. It wasn't long before we spotted something in the distance. It appeared to be a chestnut horse coming out of the woods, and it took me a second to realize that it wasn't a wild horse --- it was a moose!

When Nate had asked me what I wanted to see on vacation, I had asked him the same question back. His response was, "A moose."

We hadn't seen one during our trip to Yellowstone, and I knew that had disappointed him, but here we were, less than 12 hours later, and we had spotted his moose!

The giant creature gangled forward on impossibly long legs and hopped right over the metal railing denoting the side of the roadway.

It was only a few seconds, and it was gone, but we saw a moose!

We continued driving up the mountain, through plenty of fog, until we were high enough that the air cleared. We turned the corner where we knew Jackson Hole would lie, and yet, there was nothing.

Our eyes opened wide, and we both looked at each other with shocked expressions when, instead of a city sprawling in the distance, it appeared that an ocean was filling the plain between the mountains. A dense cloud covered the entire area, blocking out all view of civilization and spread out in a white mass, reflecting like it was waves.

Then road twisted and began its descent, and it wasn't long before we knew for certain that it wasn't an ocean covering the land but indeed clouds. I tried to open my eyes to look for wildlife on the sides of the road --- to even see the sides of the road. However, as Nate drove through the cloud, it was almost impossible to see anything that was around us. It's moments like that I'm glad that we are safely in his capable hands.

The fog began to lift as we descended, and finally broke as we reached an elevation below the cloud. What had gone from a bright sunny day on the top of the mountain turned into a dreary, dark day below the clouds.

But the dreariness didn't stop us. We strapped on our packs and headed on the trail around Leigh Lake to where we would trek into Paintbrush Canyon on our way to Holly Lake. I stopped at an opening in the trees to take a picture of the mountain in the distance reflecting off of the mirror-like water.

That's when we heard a thud next to us.

A walnut had landed on the packed earth, and we looked up into the tree as a squeak resounded. Another thud, and the rustling of leaves and some more squeaks. It was a squirrel, and he was not happy that people had invaded his territory, especially so early in the day. Apparently, he had been enjoying some breakfast when we broke the silence, and he showed us what he thought by grabbing the biggest things he could find around him --- walnuts --- and heaving them down upon us.

"We're leaving, we're leaving you little twerp," I called up to him, as he looked down upon us in disgust.

We walked over a wooden bridge spanning quietly running waters between lakes and started up this new trail, keeping an eye out for a mama moose that a sign warned us was aggressively protecting her baby in the area. We passed one couple, and then no one. Silence. Pure wild.

"It's amazing how just one canyon over, everything can look so different," I said to Nate.

The scenery was completely different from our first day of hiking. We walked along what appeared to simply be an old creek bed, wondering how full of water it got when rains came. Giant evergreen trees emerged from both sides of the path, making us feel so small in such a wild area.

Giant boulders were strewn amidst the trees, remnants of a volcanic eruption hundreds of miles away, thousands of years ago.

We marveled at the place, at the amazing waterfall that was tucked away from everything and everyone else, at the solitude, at the natural beauty, at a world so untouched.

About seven miles in of the eight mile trip to Holly Lake though, we began to see the world get white. Although we were only at about 8,500 feet in elevation and snowpack wasn't supposed to hit until 9,800 feet, this area of the canyon apparently didn't see as much sun as other areas.

The area in front of us was white, and slippery. If you took one wrong step on this packed snow and didn't have something to catch you, you were sliding right down the mountain.

Disappointed, we turned back. We had lunch along a beautiful waterfall as it began to sprinkle rain once more.

Before we left, we stopped at the visitors center. We have a tradition of purchasing only one souvenir when on vacation --- a Christmas tree ornament. That way, we don't waste money on souvenirs, and each year we get to remember our wonderful trips as we decorate the tree.

We found a wooden moose and figured since we had seen a moose that morning, it was OK to buy that ornament.

We were driving home when we confirmed we had made the right decision on the ornament. A truck in front of us put on his hazard lights and began to slow down as a mama moose and a baby decided to make the dreaded highway crossing. The truck beeped his horn, trying to warn other vehicles of their presence and the calf jumped, tripping over its long feet and over the metal railing, tumbling headfirst into the grass on the other side.

It popped up and ran after its mother, acting like its gangly legs hadn't made the crossing more awkward than it had to be.

We smiled at the poor baby moose and at our little wooden ornament that would help us remember it.

But we didn't know that our next day was to bring even better moose moments.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Teton vacation: Yellowstone

When Nate mentioned that the Tetons were so close to Yellowstone National Park that we would be able to pop up there for a day, he wanted to go to the more secluded north side of the park to hike.

My first question was, "Can we see Old Faithful?"

I had never been to Yellowstone before, so of course, the quintessential tourist spot was first on my wish list.

Nate said that Old Faithful was commercialized but he would go with me.

The second day of our vacation, it was supposed to thunderstorm and even snow in the Tetons, so we thought that would be a good day to hit Yellowstone. We ended up sleeping late and lazing around a bit, so we showed up with the majority of the crowds right at noon.

Driving through the west entrance in Montana (check another state off my list), we followed the main road past some great tourist spots. Nate remembered seeing paint pots and the Grand Prismatic Spring when he visited with his family as a teenager, so he thought we should stop by those spots too. They were right on the way to Old Faithful.

On a normal day, the Grand Prismatic Spring is aglow with bright turquoise, vibrant green and metallic yellow colors as it bubbles forth its hot waters.

The thing is, when we went, the temperature was hovering in the 40s. Hot water and cold air makes...steam.

We walked past so many Asian tourists up to the spring, and instead of vibrant colors, we could barely see the people next to us. The entire area was a cloud of steam, to the point that the side of our faces next to the spring were actually wet. Tendrils of my brown hair darkened to almost black, and Nate's hair looked gray on half his head with the beads of water that clung there.

"This isn't what I was hoping to show you," Nate said, and we laughed.

So we moved on.

I was amazed as Nate took a turnoff --- a park so big with an attraction so huge it has an exit ramp? ---- for Old Faithful. We passed shops and restaurants and thousands, I really mean thousands, of people.

After stopping off for a $17 bite --- a wrap and a sandwich, welcome to tourist country --- to eat, we went outside for the approximately 1:45 p.m. eruption of Old Faithful.

As we stood in our rain coats, cold droplets continued to fall. A family group came up next to us as the temperature dropped and one boy said, "I think it's snowing." Some of the raindrops had frozen on their way to the ground.

Old Faithful gurgled as the masses of people watched. I was amazed at the number of people who showed up for a simple geyser eruption. I got my camera ready for the sight.

Then the water started to shoot up into the air.

But we could barely see it.

Again, the heat of the water and the cool of the day made for a majestic sight --- a giant cloud that appeared to be made of erupting water on the side where the wind slightly blew the steam away. I smiled to myself and shook my head.

Not what I expected.

We pushed our way past crowds, and I apologized to Nate for making him wade through all the people just to see Old Faithful again. I knew that was not what he wanted to do, but he let me have my fun.

So we got back in the car and drove north to the Lamar Valley. We stopped off at one overlook to laugh at the sight of all the heated vents in the area. On a normal day, you may not notice all the steam being put off, but on this day, it was obvious every time we passed even the smallest of vents, because the ground puffed white smoke.

We got about a half-hour north and knew we would only have about an hour and a half to hike before we needed to drive the two hours back to our tiny house. However, we ended up hitting an area with road construction.

"It will about 20-25 minutes," the lady with the stop sign said.

"OK. That's fine."

It was only about 10 minutes before cars coming from the opposite direction started to pass us.

"Well that wasn't too bad, only 10 minutes," I commented.

But cars kept coming. And coming. And coming.

It was a solid 25 minutes worth of cars coming from the north, and we were almost going to turn around, when it was finally our turn to move. Nate shifted the low-lying Camaro into drive, and we headed out following a white truck.

It wasn't far before the road in front of us disappeared.

This wasn't road construction. This was road demolition. The Camaro bumped along the rutted path, and Nate gingerly tried to avoid as many potholes as he could. Then we saw the white truck in front of us bump down into a giant puddle, dirty water splashing halfway up its tires. My eyes widened as I tried to figure out how the Camaro was going to make it through.

Nate found some high ground on the edge and plunged past.

By the time we made it through a half hour of off-roading, there was only one car behind us. I have no idea where the lineup of cars decided to turn around, but I'm not surprised they did.

Our time was up. Now have to go around the other side of the park to exit and not hit the road construction again, we had zero time to hike.

We dealt with crowds, people literally parking on the road and rushing out of their vehicles to try to glimpse a grizzly, line-ups of pedestrians standing on the roadway to try to see a black bear and her cubs --- masses of people who didn't care about the fact that these are wild animals and that other people may be trying to drive.

We oggled over the Lamar Valley and were saddened that we didn't have time to explore the majestic beauty on this overlooked side of the park.

Nate had asked me what I really wanted to see at Yellowstone, and I told him a bear. We had passed buffalo, elk, deer, a coyote, and then finally at one of the hold-ups, someone outside the car said, "A black bear is sleeping under a tree."

I got out the binoculars and spotted a black lump under a tree in the distance, wearing what appeared to be a dog collar.

A black bear.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Teton vacation: Cascade Canyon

Blow-dryer-like winds in Vegas.

Red rocks hills in Utah.

Grassy knolls split apart by home-like agricultural fields in Idaho.

The landscape had changed over and over again in the 10-hour trek from where our flight landed in Las Vegas to the small town of Victor, ID, where our tiny house that was our home for a few days sat.

Then it was to be our first day hiking in the Grand Teton Mountains.

We were up early, had a breakfast of Raisin Bran Crunch and coffee created in a tea press because the French press at the tiny house was broken and were in the 2018 Chevy Camaro convertible up the mountain pass.

Up and up we went, and then, around a corner, the scenery dropped off sharply. Below us sat the town of Jackson, WY, otherwise known as Jackson Hole. If you haven't been there, it gets its nickname from that fact that it's literally situated in a hole between mountains. Everything around it rises from a flat plain, not gradually as one would expect but sharply. It's like the land couldn't take being flat one moment longer and just had to shoot upward toward the heavens.

We purchased our park pass in the visitor's center and saw two important notes behind the park ranger at the desk. The white board said, "Snow pack 9,800 feet" and "Bugs are out!"

We had wondered coming up the trip whether our plans would be impacted by snow. Nate had shocked me when about two weeks prior he showed me a blog post that said the mountains still had 4-7 FEET of snow.

The park ranger suggested hitting up Cascade Canyon first, to avoid the places where the snow pack would impede our hiking. Since it was early, there weren't too many people in the Jenny Lake parking lot inside Grand Teton National Park.

It was supposed to rain, so we put on rain gear, strapped on our packs and headed on the trail that began winding around serene Jenny Lake.

I kept fidgeting with my pants, because my upper layer of bright pink waterproof pants were getting bunched with my underlayer of Patagonia hiking pants, both new for this trip as I'm just getting into hiking and have never had appropriate outdoor clothing before.

"Are you OK?"

"Fine," I answered, knowing that if I kept fidgeting that I would just annoy him since we were only 100 yards from the car.

"Is that a woman's 'fine' that doesn't actually mean fine?" he asked.

"Yes. I'm not fine, but I'll deal."

Another couple hundred yards in, we were both starting to sweat, even in 50-degree weather, so we unloaded our layers and figured we would pack them away until it actually started to rain.

The scenery was beautiful. The mountains seemed to rise up from the calm lakes, and the higher you went, the better the view. On this side, the mountain seemed a giant up close, and across the lake, on the other side of the park, the range seemed calm and silent in the hazy morning.

Past a waterfall, over wooden bridges, up a path --- a barricade blocked our way.



How were we supposed to go further if the path to the canyon was closed?

On the sign, the map showed that the shortest route was closed, but a horse path that wound around the other direction would still allow us to access the canyon. So we climbed back down, around and made our way back up.

Through lush greenery, I stopped every so often to just oggle as we made our way through the forest.

"You've got to keep going. I'm getting eaten alive."

I turned around to see Nate swatting mosquitoes from his face. The bugs were indeed out, but like usual, they weren't affecting me. I had felt one mosquito bite me near the temple on the right side of my head and hadn't thought much about it. However, Nate's sweet blood was once again drawing in the blood-suckers, and every time I stopped to admire the scenery, they descended on him en masse.

So we kept climbing and climbing and climbing.

At one point the canyon opened up to a beautiful river, rocky protrusions and the mountains silently roared like giants above us, daring people to take them on or to just sit and enjoy the massive beauty.

As we were walking, we heard this shrieking chirp.

We stopped and looked around, expecting to find some kind of bird watching us. But we didn't see any birds around.

Finally, Nate quietly pointed ahead of him. There, on a rock about 20 yards away, was a little creature. He pointed his head ahead of him and shriek/chirped again.

The little thing looked like a cross between a rabbit, a rat and a little stuffed bear. It was absolutely adorable. However, it was apparently not happy that we were invading its territory and it was bound and determined to let the others nearby know that all was not well.

We found out later the little creature is a pika. It lives in alpine areas, and it's adorable.

We stopped for lunch and then checked the radar, and a thunderstorm was on its way.

Although we had only gone in six miles, and wanted to explore further, we were worried about being so high up with lightning in the area. So, we made the disappointing but safe decision to head back.

Rains came and went, but no thunder reared its ugly head. However, during one downpour, we were shocked as the giant raindrops turned white and became little, hard pieces of sleet pelting us. We laughed at the irony of sleet on our June vacation, and I put up my hands like a child to feel it come down on us through the canopy of trees.

Finally, nearing the Jenny Lake overlook once again, we began to encounter more and more crowds. We were amazed that with severe weather coming in so many people would venture out into dangerous territory.

Families. People who were definitely out-of-shape --- who I had respect for, attempting this terrain --- and senior citizens. We passed by group after group, making our way back to the car.

"Don't you hate it when people come up fast behind you and blow past you?" Nate overheard one man say.

As he passed the old man on the left.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Stop pining after what you don't need

We have a wedding to attend this weekend, and although I expected to be able to wear a spring dress, it doesn't seem like spring has quite hit the Midwest yet.

So that meant that my closet full of strappy dresses suddenly looked a little barren of options. Pair that with a slightly more casual wedding --- my husband is wearing jeans as the best man --- and I am at a bit of a loss of what to wear.

I'm a pretty firm believer that it's better to be a little overdressed than underdressed, but I really only have two nice dresses with any sort of sleeve. Both I have worn many times and to weddings with many of the people that will be at this wedding.

However, we're focusing on saving and have had a few budgetary crunches this month, including having to get our pipes snaked when our kitchen and bathtub refused to drain. So I knew that I needed to select a dress from my own closet.

But I love dresses. I love all kinds of dresses, and anytime we go somewhere, my favorite part is finding a new dress to wear. So I started looking at dresses online, knowing that I wouldn't purchase one but just enjoying looking.

However, the more I looked, the more I thought maybe I could just find a cheap one. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to go even more above our budget than we already are. Maybe it would be OK to splurge.

The more I looked at dresses, the more I wanted one.

I realized that what I was doing was simply tempting myself with something I shouldn't do. I know I can rationalize spending money on a new dress --- we hardly ever buy new clothes --- but it wasn't a priority at the moment, and it certainly wasn't a necessity.

I tried on the dresses in my closet yesterday, and I have a perfectly viable option. It's not new, but I haven't worn it to a wedding in a couple of years, and it still fits me well. It has three-quarter sleeves and I think is a happy medium between dressing nicely and not looking completely overdone.

What we spend our time on often ends up being our priority, it ends up being what we do. What we focus on can make something small seem like something big.

I have found when I focus on not having something, it's all I want. However, when I focus on what we have and what we have prioritized in our lives, I feel so much more satisfied.

It's all what we spend our time on and what we spend time thinking about.

So I'm going to think about how much fun this wedding will be and how much more we will enjoy that $20 somewhere other than on a stupid dress that would get stuck in the back of my closet after I wore it. It's not important, and I'm not going to think about it anymore.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Struggling to live for what so many die for

I finished reading "Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith" and am working on "Defying ISIS," and it's making me realize that church persecution is alive and well in the world today.

With the current political climate, we talk about how Christians are under attack in the United States, and I don't think many of us realize what Christians are going through in other parts of the world. In "Defying ISIS," the author talks to Christian refugees who wonder why Americans aren't standing up for them, why we aren't fighting for them when we know what's going on. Yet, I didn't comprehend what was going on.

Yes, I knew that ISIS was bad, but what they were doing to Christians? The fact that almost 90 percent of Christians in the Middle East have been annihilated or forced to convert? The fact that ISIS fighters are buying and selling Christian women and girls and using them for tortuous lustful acts?

I'm trying to process this information and how we can actually make a difference in that world. What can we do?

But another question popped up. "It has always been a mystery to me why so many Christians in the West struggle to live for what so many Christians in persecuted counties are willing to die for," Johnnie Moore wrote in "Defying ISIS."

I so often think that the goal of being a Christian is to be a role model and to get people to like you, because if they like you, they will want to be like you. If they want to be like you, then maybe they too will want to become a Christian.

In the persecuted world, it's not about living for other people. It's about living, and dying, for Christ. It's all about Jesus. Through persecution, in troublesome times, they will get to talk to people about God. They're not worried whether those people like them. They are worried about what they are doing for God.

Through persecution, the gospel often grows, it said in the book. That seems counterintuitive in the West. It seems if Christians are being persecuted, who would want to become one? But I think it's the example that if people are willing to give up their lives for something, that something is important.

God can work through any situation. I think we need to stop wanting people to like us and wanting to live comfortable lives, thinking that if we're happy and content then that means God is shining down on us.

Almost all of the Apostles were martyred. People hated them. People didn't like them. It was God working through them that brought people to himself, not the fact that people liked the Apostles.

I struggle to read the Bible and to pray, because there are cushier things to do. I want life to be comfortable. Those who know life is not about comfort and who have nothing but faith truly are blessed.

I keep thinking the goal is to get to heaven and to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant." But who am I compared to those who are every day suffering and risking their lives for God? They will surely hear the phrase. I think we have to work ever so much harder to truly become good and faithful servants.

It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to reach heaven. Because us rich men don't have any idea what it is truly like to "live for Christ" and to be willing to die at any moment for him. We struggle to live for what so many are daily giving their lives for.

I think it's time I remember that.