It is a mountain. You can see it from pretty much everywhere around here because of it’s distinctive shape. It’s Cleveland’s version of the Big Chicken. You can also pick it out when you stand on the top of surrounding mountains. It is a landmark. Climbers know it, and have been climbing it for years. So much so that they closed the road to the top…too much traffic. Now there is a two-mile trail that weaves to and fro all the way to the summit. The Army Rangers train on this mountain. They camp out, rappel, and practice for missions in which they will have to face overwhelming obstacles head on. To me, that is the lesson of Yonah.
Saturday my friend Jessica and I took it on as a challenge. We are becoming mountain climbers so it seems. The trail is up the whole way. It starts out wide and open with a gradual, but constant incline. It was a beautiful day, and with numerous water stops, we made our way up. About half way, we took a side trip to watch a climber scaling the rocks. It took us longer to get to the base of the rock face than it took him to climb it. Good thing there were rock recliners there waiting on us. While I was reclined, I looked up and saw a tree wedged in between a rock and a hard place, literally. Once again, nature has me wondering how in the world this was accomplished and how that tree continues to stand tall in the midst of its predicament. As we moved on I jokingly said, “It is the tree that wouldn’t take no for an answer.” However, the thought of that tree stuck with me for the rest of the climb.
That’s how hiking works for me. On the trail, thoughts just pop into my head for me to ponder as I walk, because on the trail, it’s about the journey, not as much the destination. I just love to take it all in. Some people hike to be with other people. I hike to get away from them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having company from time to time. After all, I am a people person. It is just that I can think more clearly out in nature. No distractions, just peace and quiet. I am free…to think…to feel…to commune with God…to listen…to hear.
Some places were steep with loose rocks, not to mention the layer of leaves that keeps treacherous ankle turning secrets hidden from view. If your knee or ankle is weak, it is slow going. This was evidenced by the young dad who flew past us on the steepest place carrying two children…one on his back, and one in his arms. We just looked at each other and thought “man we are old” but we kept going anyway….not taking no for an answer. There are a few places it would have been handy to have a few rock climbing skills, but we eventually made it to the windy summit. It was an accomplishment and it felt like one. The spectacular view was made more so when shared with my long time friend. I couldn’t help but notice, from the top, everything looks so small down below. It feels quite literally like you are on the top of the world. No cares. No worries. No problems. No obstacles.
I am sure that you have obstacles in your life that tower over you like a mountain. It seems that everywhere you look you are in their shadow. There is no escaping the fact that they are there, but that great big mountain in your path can be overcome. Maybe not quickly. Maybe one section at a time, but like the tree on the mountain, you cannot take no for an answer. I wonder if it whined “but there is no dirt here” or “there is no way my roots can grow deep” or “the wind is too strong for me.” Or if instead it did what trees do…overcame the obstacles and grew anyway as it was designed to do. In so doing, it is one of the strongest trees on the mountain and the most recognizable. Determination to stand tall in the midst of the hard places will pay off in strength, and courage. Those two characteristics are of high value anytime the trail gets rough.
Right now, the people in my life are going through some tough stuff. Some have lost loved ones through either death or divorce. Others have wayward children. Some are battling stage 4 cancer, while others have had other types of surgeries. There are financial and job concerns everywhere I look. Family stressors are at an all time high. Friendships are strained as relationships are tested. All of this appears as only the tip of the iceberg if you begin to look nationally or worldwide. We are living in the shadow of a mountain. Our choice is to run away from it or into it. Can we face our obstacles like the tree? Can the mountain become a friend to us? I heard a statement one time that said the obstacles are put in our paths to weed out those who are not determined enough to overcome them. Some will climb, and some will sit and say it cannot be done. I want to stand on top of the mountain and look down on the problems below to see how small they become. I do not want to be a whiner. ( I must admit that is harder than ever at the moment. ) However, I know that it is God who placed me between a rock and a hard place. He has given me what I need to thrive here. I want to learn the lesson of the mountain.

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