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A Shirt Named "Joe"

What color is your favorite shirt? My dad has a favorite hiking shirt that’s a rusty orange, but the retailer poetically named the color “Navajo Joe.” Papa finds this so comical that he calls his shirt “Joe.” When he first bought the shirt, he mentioned it often. When the wind picked up, when clouds blocked the sun, or when the evening chill settled into camp, Pa would remark about putting on Joe.
I’ve known several Joes, but a certain Joe stands out—a good friend for many years. Almost every time Pa referred to that shirt, I thought of Joe—so when the shirt was new and Pa spoke of it often, I had many reminders of my friend!

One afternoon in the backcountry, we paused on the trail for Pa to take off Joe. I looked around me at the stunning mountain scenery. Each peak told me that God loves me. My eyes traced a green ridge down to a shining aqua lake. It said the same thing! The sun beamed down my Father’s care, and the birds sang about it. That’s when I realized that God has put more than a thousand reminders of His love into nature—and daily life. If I’m listening, I’ll hear His name continually—much more often than Pa could ever mention Joe!

I’m glad God says “I love you” so often, because I need the reminders. When I take them to heart, I realize I don’t have one good excuse to worry. My Father cares!

Hiking heavenward,

Possible Impossibilities

My introduction to downhill skiing came with a bit of a violent touch. Everything seemed to be going well at first. My instructor had taught me a few basic things about getting around and I’d even descended a gentle slope without any problems. When my lesson ended I met up with my friend. I told her that my lesson went well, although I didn’t mention that I’d never skiied more than 10 feet at a time, had no idea how to turn, and could barely stop. And so she suggested that I get on a real chair lift to ski what she called an easy slope. It sounded a bit scary, but I hadn’t even fallen down yet. The trail was marked green on the map. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, a lot could go wrong. did. As we sat on the chair lift my friend carefully explained how to get off at the top. It sounded like a piece of cake. I just needed to keep my ski tips up until they touched the ground completely, and then lean forward and stand up.

I really did try. When we got to the top I stood up and immediately found myself sprawled on the snow, skis and ski poles flung asunder. My left shoulder and arm seemed to be drastically twisted. I lay there stunned, but without enough sense to let them call the ski patrol to give me a ride down. I figured that now I was up there, I could make it down on my own. Getting up painfully, I collected my belongings and wobbled over to the top of the “easy run”. On the way there, I fell down again, and when I reached the run itself I knew there was no way I was going to attempt it. It looked way too steep for my skill level—and besides, my arm still throbbed. I just knew I would end up in a mangled heap at the bottom, barely holding on to life. So I took off my skis, hiked down the hill, and went right back to the practice slope.

By the end of the day I ventured up to the top again—and this time I made it down a different run on skis! It was even rather fun! And, although my arm hurt for weeks afterward, I wanted to go skiing again. I’ve gone quite a few times since then and while I’m still learning, I’m no longer stuck on the easiest ski runs. In fact, this year I skied down some interesting and challenging terrain. On one of my ski days this past winter, I made my way to the top of that slope I had walked down. My memory of a very steep hill had me feeling quite unsure about it, and I arrived at the top with foreboding. Staring in disbelief, I quickly realized that my “very steep hill” wasn’t steep at all. In fact, it looked more molehill-sized than mountain-sized!

My friends and I laughed about it and my memories of that hill have definitely taken a new turn, but this taught me a lesson that I don’t want to forget. When I’m in the midst of a difficulty in life it can seem too great to bear. But as I practice resting in Christ’s arms and learning lessons in His school, the difficulties that once seemed insurmountable become nothing that He and I can’t handle together. I’m asking Him to teach me not to shirk from mountains, but to lean on Him in every difficulty. He promises that there is grace sufficient for my every need and I know that He keeps His promises.

African Treasures

A number of years ago, our family spent a couple of years on a remote mission station in Zaire, now known as Democratic Republic of Congo. When it came time to return home, we decided to leave most of our goods in Africa. They were hardly worth taking home! However, we had acquired some valuable African curios, including an ancient copper trading piece, some malachite sculptures, and several other rare and exotic items. Carefully wrapping our treasures, we packed them in a 55-gallon drum. Then, to make sure that they wouldn’t be stolen, we welded the barrel shut and added a big lock.

After we returned home, we waited eagerly for the arrival of our valuables. But months passed, and still the drum did not come. We finally realized that we were never going to see it.

Although we were disappointed, we’ve managed just fine without our African treasures. I can’t even remember what they looked like. However, that experience was a very good reminder of how easily we can lose our earthly possessions. No matter how hard we try to secure our valuables, they can still be taken from us. In fact, we can’t be sure of keeping anything on this earth.

Thankfully, I can lay up treasure in Heaven—using God’s fail-safe plan. You can, too. I hope you’ll take the time to learn all about it in this week’s Bible lesson.

Your friend,

Locked Out!

I eased our van onto the road leading to the airport. In a few minutes, I would pick up my friend, Joan. We planned to spend the night in town. The next day, we would do some heavy-duty shopping in preparation for YD Camp.

Everything went as planned. We parked and locked the van, checked into our hotel, and had a lovely evening catching up on each other’s lives. The next morning, we got up early so we could get a jump-start on the shopping list. As we neared the parking lot, I fished in my purse for the car keys, but they weren’t there. My heart gave a lurch. Could I have locked them in the van? I peered through the window, and spied them still in the ignition!

Now what? We had too much to do to wait several hours for a locksmith. Instead, I decided to try to open the door myself. Someone at the hotel gave us a coat hanger. I prayed for God’s help, and then bent the hanger and threaded it through a door frame. After a few false tries, the hooked end caught hold of the lock. A few more seconds, and the door was open!

What a blessing that we hadn’t known about the problem the night before! We would have worried and fretted, and the evening would have been nearly ruined. But when the problem was upon us, God provided the solution—quickly and easily.

A much bigger crisis looms ahead of us. I don’t know exactly what will happen, although I know those last days in this world’s history will not be easy. But I don’t need to worry and fret. Instead, I can leave the future in God’s hands. He’s fully able to take care of me, no matter what!

Your friend,

Neglected Opportunities

Conversation bounced back and forth like a lively game of catch as my friend and I drove through the wide-open farmland of central Oregon. We covered everything from downhill skiing to the wonders of Australia’s outback.  

“Wait, are you sure you don’t need to tank up?” Brittany peered over at my fuel gauge. “That sign said 93 miles to the next fuel station.”  

“We’ll be fine,” I assured her as we left the small town. We had driven this stretch the day before and I was sure I had enough fuel. Besides, I didn’t feel like turning back towards the station.

Uneasiness settled in when traffic slowed to a crawl for construction. Finally, what felt like several hours later, we rolled into the next service station just as the fuel light popped on. As the fuel gurgled into my tank, I wondered why I’d been so foolish. Provision had been made and warnings given; yet I still took an unnecessary risk, far away from home and help. I simply hadn’t anticipated my need!

Sometimes my spiritual needs have suffered from the same neglect. It’s too easy to assume that yesterday’s leftover blessings will get me through today. But God has a better plan: to fill my heart with His strength each day. Then, when the way brings unexpected delays and rough spots, His blessings keep me going!

In His mercy, God makes full provision for my spiritual needs, and provides the warnings. I just have to stop and take time to be filled. From now on, I intend to do just that!

Your friend,