Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
– 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (the Message)
“When most people consider following Christ, they think of words like obedience, service, and ministry.
“Me? I think of adventure! As I look at the stories of the Bible as well as my own experience, my conclusion is that a life given to God is one filled with thrills – thrills that fulfill.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the path God leads us down will necessarily be safe or comfortable…”
– Lee Strobel, Today’s Moment of Truth
First, the hat. This was my Volks Marche hat. At first, I didn’t have one. As I walked along the trail one day, a friendly German, who immediately figured us out as Americans, tried his English skills. I told him that I needed a good hat. He said not to get the classic green hat. That was for tourists. You’ll blend in if you get a grey hat that is made of unbleached wool. Thus, I got this one. There is only one Volks Marche pin on the hat. The others are pins to commemorate visits to various places in Germany. If you haven’t guessed, the featured adventure today is a Volks Marche, when I actually wore this hat.
I’d like to thank Lee Strobel for using the Message for the above scripture for this reading in his book, since it had the word ‘adventure’ in it. Lee Strobel followed the quote above in telling a story from Mark Mittelberg, his co-author, who had an adventure on a mountain trail. He also talked about the Apostle Paul’s adventures and how God used Joseph in Egypt, an adventure, of sorts. Whether God leads us to the adventure or circumstances place us in the situation, a journey of faith is rarely a simple stroll with calm skies.
Thinking of a simple stroll with calm skies, my wife, son (only one at the time), and I went on a Volks Marche just north of Pforzheim, Germany. It was winter, but the skies were clear and we would have only worn a light jacket, if we had stayed in Karlsruhe that day. It was only a thirty-minute drive. What could go wrong?
A little geography lesson may be needed with the ‘what could go wrong’ question. Karlsruhe is on the banks of the Rhein river, in a wide fertile valley. It is not uncommon to have warm air move north out of Italy, through the passes of the Swiss Alps, and then down into the valley. The Black Forest is just a stone’s throw from Karlsruhe in the hills above the bluff that guards the eastern side of the valley. With the higher elevation of the Black Forest, these warm winds are funneled toward the Rhein valley.
To be on the safe side, we packed our heavy coats, put on our hiking boots, and we were off.
Pforzheim is the first big town on the Autobahn from Karlsruhe to Stuttgart, and is on the northern edge of the Black Forest. It was an easy drive, but the weather was a little cooler upon our arrival. We went with the heavy coats. We grabbed our son and the umbrella stroller, got our tickets that needed to be stamped along the route and we were off. They had a seven-kilometer route and a twelve-kilometer route that day (about 4.3 and 7.5 miles). We chose the shorter route. One of the helpers spoke in broken English that the umbrella stroller might not do us much good. We asked why. He said the German word for ‘snow.’
Snow?! Snow?! It wasn’t snowing. The sun was shining. What was this guy talking about? If snow was coming in, it couldn’t be that much, and we were walking the shorter route. We set off, blissfully ignorant and unprepared for our day’s adventure.
When the trail reached the top of the first hill, the snow started coming down as the clouds rolled in quickly. The trail opened on one side to a farmer’s field, and that was where the wind came from. It suddenly became bitter cold. We took turns pushing the stroller along a paved path. We picked up our pace hoping that the stamping station would have shelter. Most of the time, it was a card table and a couple of chairs, but could you expect a worker to sit outside in this wind?
Finally, we saw a small house in the distance. We nearly ran, but we had the stroller to contend with. There was only an inch of snow that had accumulated, so it was a very brisk walk. The house was not only open, it was our stamping location. The helpers guided us to a back corner. My wife’s language skills are excellent. What she couldn’t handle, the local Germans filled in with their broken English. We were offered a cup of something to drink. I accepted the nonalcoholic cold beverage, but my wife wanted to try the Gluehwein, a warm German mulled wine. She offered me a sip, but she drank the rest with gusto. There was a lot of gusto in this small, one-room house. There was a warm fire, and many had abandoned the Volks Marche in favor of drinking warm wine, singing drinking songs, and staying warm. We stayed to sing along, but only for two or three songs.
When we left the little house, there was about four inches of snow everywhere. It became impossible to push the stroller, since the snow was above the wheels. Now we were over two miles from the starting point and we had two burdens to carry, our two-year-old and the stroller.
I was in relatively good shape. I was a Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. I had to be in good shape. I feared that my wife wouldn’t be able to keep up, but about thirty minutes later, as we walked through a forest that blocked most of the wind, my wife took the lead. She would say, “Let’s go, go, go!” She was dragging me along with her. She made a game of it, with each of us grabbing one boy arm and swinging him over the snow, which was up over six inches by now. Our son didn’t like snow that much in those days.
Of course, my wife had downed a large cup of warm German antifreeze, known as Gluehwein. She was well fueled for the weather. Don’t worry, I drove home.
When we got back to the starting point (finishing line) to turn in our tickets, they awarded us the medallion for the longer route. By now there was over eight inches of snow on the ground. They said that anyone that finished in that blizzard deserved the best that they had to offer. We got our participation books stamped and we were off on a harrowing journey back home. Driving through narrow roads in the hills with a dense snow pack on the roads and zero visibility was something that a poor farm boy from Mississippi had never done before. This became our second adventure of the day.
I was reminded of my wife’s encouragement to ‘go, go, go’ this morning. The weather is so cold. I thought of when we get tempted to skip church. It’s my wife who says, “Go, go, go.” Sure, she is the extrovert and wants to see other people, but I know how important it is to go to church and Sunday school. In church, we worship and praise God. In Sunday school, we learn from the Bible, but we also learn from each other as we discuss the subject matter.
This Sunday is supposed to be warmer, but only in the afternoon. We’ll be leaving the house with single digit temperatures. If we were in Germany, they’d be reporting negative numbers (as measured on the Celsius scale). That just makes you feel colder when you see negative numbers, like it is right now outside.
My wife has already picked out what she wants to wear. She’s ready to ‘go, go, go.’ She is a great cheerleader. She is a great leader, for that matter.
God cheers us on also. In His quiet voice, He encourages us, but sometimes we don’t hear. We have too much noise and activity. For me, that’s when he sends the bunny with the drum to get me moving.
The next step in the adventure awaits. If you think this one is going to be tough, be sure to have your cheerleader friend along, whether that is a spouse or friend, or could it be God, whispering in your ear, “Go. Go. Go.”