Progressive Patterns

Not long ago, I could not see the ridge that towers more than 1000 feet behind our neighborhood. It was cloaked in thick cloudy smoke that obscured color and made our clothes reek of an old campfire. Everything looked gray. Everything smelled gray. But not today! The sky is once again a deep clear blue that almost sparkles in the sunshine. The pines are forest green and the cottonwoods are a fluttery green in the cool breeze. The air smells of life and of yellow blooming sagebrush. The glory is back!

I look west across the hay and potato fields of the Klamath Basin to the Cascades undulating northward towards Crater Lake and beyond. Looking south, Mount Shasta once again gleams bright on the horizon. Hogsback and Mt. Stukel once again have their clarity. The songs of the doves and robins, and the calls of the neigborhood flicker reverberate crystal clear, rather than clawing their way through thick air. The oppressive smoke that shrank the world to a few hundred yards has been lifted like a vail to reveal miles of beauty in every direction. Yes, the glory is back!

Glorious green and blue at White Pass near Glacier Peak, WA

My memory told me that there was a colorful scene here, but memories fade and mental images gray with time. Even though it has been less than three months, daily impressions scrape and sand away at the edifices of the mind. No wonder then that Scripture tells us that no eye has seen or heart conceived what God has prepared for His children. No wonder that the future unknown glories often escape our consciousness when the past blessings are so difficult to remember. Yet, this glorious morning in this glorious valley tells me that there will one day be a morning beyond glorious, beyond comprehension! Standing on the cusp between yesterday's smoke and today's grand, living scenery, I catch a brief glimpse of that transition from this world's dark evil to the bright eternity stretching beyond Christ's coming. Jesus will return to take us back to His glory!

While we do our parts to help Houston, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the islands, we wait for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness, and where there is no more sorrow or pain, and where there will not be a single hiccup in the singing machinery of eternity. There will not be a single cloud on the horizon, not a single plume of smoke signaling imminent inferno.

Until that time, we must solve the problem of keeping memories fresh and future visions clear. How do we overcome the effects of the 9-to-5 grind? How do we offload the burdens that we accept as normal that our couch potato routines dump on us? How do we pierce through the smokey, strobing distractions that modern tech puts in our faces and ears?

Early morning during a ski trip at Jackson Gap near Ashland, OR

You know what I am about to tell you! In this column I have shared many scientific studies and religious quotes testifying to the real benefits of getting out into nature. In spite of its capricious outbreaks, the great outdoors in combination with a Scriptural lifestyle and mindset is probably the single most powerful source of healing on the planet. From Adventist to atheist to Zoroastrian, the invisible Doctor of nature operates on everyone who steps into His clinic.

So what if we were to go for more than just a visit and a checkup? What if we actually enrolled in His lifestyle center for extended therapy? That would take personal healing to a whole new level! Just ask some famous Bible characters.

Moses' face glowed after 40 days in the mountain with God. Elijah found courage to revive Israel after 40 days of walking in God's strength. Jesus overcame the devil after 40 days in the wilderness. The scientific and anecdotal evidence is strong for spending three days in nature. I wonder what would happen if we spent 40 days in creation with a focus on the Creator.

I am not advocating a new magic number or secret shortcut to spiritual perfection. I really don't know if there is a huge difference between 3 days vs 10 days vs 40 days. When time and money permits, I would like to try it myself or hear from someone else who did. I just think there is benefit in raising our sights in what might be possible in our individual walks with God. For sure, there is no magic virtue to be gained.

All the fasting in the world will not take the place of simple trust in the word of God. "Ask," He says, "and ye shall receive." ... You are not called upon to fast forty days. The Lord bore that fast for you in the wilderness of temptation. There would be no virtue in such a fast; but there is virtue in the blood of Christ. {CD 189.1}

Instead of fasting from food, how about from civilization?

40 days in the wilderness is no small task. Making it comfortable and confident enough so that things like bad weather do not become huge distractions is an even bigger task. Before 40 days there are smaller milestones to be achieved, like 40 meals and 40 hours and 40 minutes!

Most of the topics and places in my previous articles are somewhere around the 40 minute and 40 hour (less than 2 days) periods. I would now like to launch a mini-series that takes us toward the 40 meal mark. At 3 or 4 meals per day, this is a time frame of 10 to 13 days—definitely more than a week.

I am not implying that anyone should immediately jump up to this category of experience. In fact, I will share from personal experience that it is not wise to do that! I am also not implying that everyone should become a backpacker or skier. I will just share what has worked for me, then you can apply it to your own inclinations to climb, boat, swim, walk, ride, or sit. The focus is on finding something that gets you away from human distraction, out to creation, and into the Creator.

What I want to do next is take you back to some glorious trips I have been privileged to enjoy in the last year or so. All three took place on the PCT—the Pacific Crest Trail. This is a 2650 mile ribbon of dirt and rock stretching from Mexico (near Campo, CA) to Monument 78 on the border between Washington and Canada. From desert to Sierra to Cascades, from hours to days to months, solo or in a group, this trail is great for newbies and experienced trekkers alike.

Last summer, I hiked with a friend the 108 miles from Stevens Pass around Glacier Peak to Stehekin in Washington. This summer, I parked at Rainy Pass then "bounced" down to Stehekin and then up to the border and back for 162 miles total. This winter, I started an ongoing trip to ski/snowshoe the Oregon section of the PCT. I will share journal entries, memories, and pictures from these journeys, as well as practical tips on equipment, food, and navigating.

A valley that deserves a name near the Canadian border in Washington

Before starting that journey, it might be encouraging to consider David, "the sweet psalmist." He was essentially a backpacking shepherd gone for weeks at a time. His varied experiences resulted in songs that speak to every emotion. As we set out to seek God in new and strange places, we can take comfort that we are following in David's footsteps who himself was following the Master Guide.

Before [David] spread a landscape of rich and varied beauty. The vines, with their clustering fruit, brightened in the sunshine. The forest trees, with their green foliage, swayed in the breeze. He beheld the sun flooding the heavens with light, coming forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. There were the bold summits of the hills reaching toward the sky; in the faraway distance rose the barren cliffs of the mountain wall of Moab; above all spread the tender blue of the overarching heavens. And beyond was God. He could not see Him, but His works were full of His praise. The light of day, gilding forest and mountain, meadow and stream, carried the mind up to behold the Father of lights, the Author of every good and perfect gift. Daily revelations of the character and majesty of his Creator filled the young poet's heart with adoration and rejoicing. In contemplation of God and His works the faculties of David's mind and heart were developing and strengthening for the work of his afterlife. He was daily coming into a more intimate communion with God. His mind was constantly penetrating into new depths for fresh themes to inspire his song and to wake the music of his harp. The rich melody of his voice poured out upon the air, echoed from the hills as if responsive to the rejoicing of the angels' songs in heaven.

Who can measure the results of those years of toil and wandering among the lonely hills? The communion with nature and with God, the care of his flocks, the perils and deliverances, the griefs and joys, of his lowly lot, were not only to mold the character of David and to influence his future life, but through the psalms of Israel's sweet singer they were in all coming ages to kindle love and faith in the hearts of God's people, bringing them nearer to the ever-loving heart of Him in whom all His creatures live.

David, in the beauty and vigor of his young manhood, was preparing to take a high position with the noblest of the earth. His talents, as precious gifts from God, were employed to extol the glory of the divine Giver. His opportunities of contemplation and meditation served to enrich him with that wisdom and piety that made him beloved of God and angels. As he contemplated the perfections of his Creator, clearer conceptions of God opened before his soul. Obscure themes were illuminated, difficulties were made plain, perplexities were harmonized, and each ray of new light called forth fresh bursts of rapture, and sweeter anthems of devotion, to the glory of God and the Redeemer. The love that moved him, the sorrows that beset him, the triumphs that attended him, were all themes for his active thought; and as he beheld the love of God in all the providences of his life, his heart throbbed with more fervent adoration and gratitude, his voice rang out in a richer melody, his harp was swept with more exultant joy; and the shepherd boy proceeded from strength to strength, from knowledge to knowledge; for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. (PP 642)

In more ways than one, there are lots of ups and downs in the wilderness, but they are worth it to gain a closer walk with God. Hopefully this next series inspires a few of us in that direction. My hunch is that this conference holds more hidden psalmists than we realize. We would love to hear of your spiritual and outdoor experiences!

Me with Glacier Peak in the background. It is hard to be unhappy out there!

Stay tuned. The stories begin next week.


by Ed Lyons, 9/29/17