Eight Days Until Christmas

Wow!  Time is flying past.  Soon Santa will be flying through the sky in his impossible, magic ride around the world.  And still Christmas will take us back to the birth of a tiny infant, savior of the world.

Courage.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.         II Tim 1:7

When my second son was young he read a story written by a man who lived nearby.  When the man was young he went out hiking one morning without telling anyone just where he was headed.  This happens from time to time in the wild country of Southern Utah, with sometimes tragic results.  He did carry a jug of water and a sandwich.  The day was beautiful; the mountains and canyons were beautiful; the boy was young and strong.

He began to climb the rocky mountain in front of him.  He climbed all morning until he was high on the side of the mountain and had a beautiful view of all the land around him.  He drank his  water and ate his sandwich, resting before starting back down.  He looked down the mountain at the steep and winding route he had taken and thought perhaps he could find a short cut.  Instead of returning the way he had come up he began to head straight down the mountain.  Soon his way was blocked by a sheer drop to a ledge about ten or twelve feet below.  He looked at the ledge and thought if he just dropped down he would be able to make his way to the side and continue down the mountain.  He lowered himself down, holding onto the top edge until his feet were only a couple of feet from the ledge, and then he let go.

When he was actually on the ledge, what had looked like a route down turned out to be too narrow to use.  He walked back and forth, looking up and down for a way to descend.  There was no way off the ledge.  Suddenly he realized he was trapped.  He could no longer reach the safety of the mountainside where he had lowered himself onto the shelf where he now sat.  No one knew where he was.  No one would come looking for him right away.

This was long before the days of cell phones and other communication devices.  The young man was alone.  He sat for a long time, thinking about the mistakes he had made.  Why hadn’t he told his mother where he was going?  As the sun began to move lower in the western sky the youth began to pray.  He prayed for help, for guidance, and for safety.

As he finished his prayer his eyes were drawn to a pine tree, a very tall pine tree about fifteen feet straight out from where he sat and some ways below him.  His mind filled with the idea that he should jump out and into the pine tree.  It would break his fall and allow him to continue on his way.

Fear filled his mind.  Jumping out like that was crazy.  He might miss the pine tree altogether. He was on a narrow ledge.  He would need a running start.  He tried to put the idea from his mind, but it continued to nag at him.  Jump out to the pine.  It is your way to safety.

Finally, he determined that rather than sit on the ledge until he was to weak to act, he would act on the thoughts that filled his mind.  He leaned against the back of the ledge, then pushed off with all the power he could muster in the 3 steps to the edge.  He soared into space and began to fall.  He had jumped far enough; as he fell he tumbled into the branches of the pine tree, the springy branches caught him, then gave way, so that he fell from layer to layer in the tree, managing to hold on and slow his fall as he went down.

When he finally reached the ground his heart was pounding, he was scratched and torn, but he was on solid ground.  No bones were broken, and there was a path that led off the mountain.

When he got home that night he told his family about his experience.  He thought that the idea to jump was a direct answer to prayer.  It was not something he would have done on his own.

God answers our prayers he concluded, if we have the courage to follow Him.  The story made a big impression on my ten year old son.  Perhaps he remembers it today when faced with difficult choices.

We may never be stuck on a mountain.  But we always need the courage to follow Him.

Courage.

A gift for our times.

Merry Christmas!

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About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States"--Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico, Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cochise College in Nogales, Arizona. She and her husband travel extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, and have spent many summers in the remote highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala with their family. Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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