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God’s Direction and Launching a Future Astronaut

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Can we somehow see God’s direction in the course of our lives?  Can His will somehow emerge from a path that seems disjointed and chaotic?  Does God really care about minor details in our lives? Or does He just focus on the “saving faith in Jesus” thing and leave less significant matters in our lives up to random chance?

Sometimes my designs for my life seem to go unheeded by God. With twists and turns I could have never anticipated, events in life swing from propitious to unfavorable and then back again. Life can be weird, sometimes lousy, sometimes wonderful, but rarely predictable. For example, take this story that I’m about to tell you.  It’s really true.  I don’t have enough imagination to make this stuff up!

I am by no means an accomplished photographer, but I love to visit beautiful places and take pictures, especially when getting there involves an epic adventure. My hope is always to bring back both a memorable photo and a story to tell. I’m a thrill seeker in God’s creation.

So, a few years ago when I was visiting the Canadian Rockies, the Crypt Lake Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park was an adventure that I couldn’t pass up.  National Geographic magazine had recently named it as one of the “World’s 20 Most Thrilling Trails.”  Internet research confirmed that this 10.7-mile round trip to Crypt Lake had an abundance of breathtaking geologic features and beautiful scenery.  I couldn’t wait to do this hike!

The hike began with a 15-minute boat ride across Waterton Lake.  The small lakeside town of Waterton is a collection of restaurants and stores catering to park visitors.  It is surrounded by towering mountains.  The colossal but stately Prince of Wales Hotel adds to the idyllic setting.

There were about three dozen hikers on the boat, and they were a friendly group.  We started exchanging stories about our favorite hikes and where we’re from and what we planned to see in the Canadian Rockies.  I always love the opportunities I have in the hiking community to make new friends, share ideas about great places to see, and give credit to the Creator.

Our group disembarked at Crypt trailhead and began hiking the mostly uphill route, each at their own pace.  The trail moved through a dense forest of spruce, lodgepole pine and Douglas fir and came to a mostly tree-blocked view of Twin Falls.  I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get a good view of both the upper and lower falls, but I poked my camera through the branches and did the best I could.  Even so, the sound of the roaring water created a sense of excitement.  We knew it was only a prelude to what lay ahead!

We proceeded up the trail, passing master artistry along the way.  These were not the works of DaVinci, Rembrandt, or Monet, but wildflowers from the hand of God: Cinquefoil, Fireweed, Aspen Fleabane, Blanket Flower, Indian Paintbrush, Knapweed, and Hoary Aster.  I made some new friends from Calgary who pointed out saskatoon berries that we ate along the way.  “Delicious, eh?” they said.  We also found wild strawberries.

Burnt Rock Falls

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As the trail continued to climb above the trees, vistas expanded and Burnt Rock Falls came into view.  An amazing sight!  The waters of Hell Roaring Creek plunged gracefully over the lip of a cliff into a rocky orange canyon fifty feet below.  Off in the distance, we could see Crypt Falls pouring over a steep 800-foot headwall that guarded Crypt Lake.

As I took in one spectacular sight after another on this incredible trail, I thought this must be what heaven is like.  Secular media commonly portrays heaven as a place of endless tedium-- saints strumming harps while perched on ethereal clouds for all eternity. But that is so untrue!  There is no monotony in heaven.  Only hell is monotonous!

The Apostle John had this vision of heaven: “And He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:10-11).  Heaven will have eternal pleasures: “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).  There will be spectacular adventures in heaven-- experiences beyond imagination!

But the most thrilling part of the trail was still ahead of us.  The trail moved across a scree slope and then became a long thin notch in the face of a harrowing cliff.  The brisk pace of our group slowed down to careful baby steps.  I attached my camera to a selfie stick that I held in my right hand to take a movie, while my left hand pressed against the cliff wall for stability. Views of Crypt Falls ahead and the valley floor hundreds of feet below were breathtaking! 

I handed my camera to a hiker behind me for a video of the next part of the journey, my ascent up an 8-foot ladder bolted securely into the face of the cliff.  That was followed by crouching and waddling through an 80-foot tunnel that was only dimly lit by the light seeping in from both ends.  I paused at the end of the tunnel to take pictures of the exhilarating scenery below.

We carefully stepped down from the tunnel to the trail, which was again just a narrow route cut into the side of the steep cliff. But here, there was a cable bolted into the rock wall to hold onto.  I white-knuckled the cable with my left hand while holding my camera with my right hand for a video.  I started up the trail.

And then I fell.

I had lost my grip on the cable.  My feet slipped.  My right hand lunged at the jagged rocks below.  I was bloodied, but thankfully my hand found terra firma rather than thin air. And I was still holding onto my camera.

My friends from Calgary and others gathered around. They pointed to my left knee, where my pants were soaked with blood.  I hadn’t noticed that.  They offered to accompany me back to the boat if I wanted to end my hike right there-- an offer I promptly declined.  I couldn’t stop now, we were just a kilometer from Crypt Lake!  Then they mentioned, “Hey, there’s a couple behind us with medical stuff. They could help you, eh?”

The remaining distance to Crypt Lake was mostly downhill. I was sore, but with no broken bones. Crypt Lake sat in a mountainous amphitheater covered with patches of snow.  It was gorgeous.  Our group gathered around its blue waters on a wide shoreline that was dotted with large rocks and logs to sit on.  We chatted and enjoyed lunch.

I was introduced to the couple with the medical stuff—Jess and Jessie from Edmonton.  I sat on a big rock and propped up my leg.  They washed and bandaged my bloodied right hand and then examined my bloodied left knee.  They looked at each other and announced, “This one’s going to going to need stitches, eh?”

“Yeah, I kind of figured that,” I said.  The gash extended all the way across my kneecap.

Jess and Jessie worked quickly and smoothly as a team, reaching into their bag and using every possible supply you can think of to dress a wound—antiseptic gels, gauze sponges and rolls, medical tape, elastic bandages, and who knows what else.  I had never seen day hikers with so much gear.  I fancied that they could have mummified me if they wanted to!

I was impressed.  I commented as they worked, “You guys are really good.  Are you EMTs?”

“No, we’re not,” they said.

“Well, looks like you really know what you’re doing.  You do some kind of medical work?”

“No.  We work at the Edmonton Sewer Plant.  They train two people at the plant to handle emergency medical situations.  They chose us.”

I looked at their hands to see if they were clean.  They were.  Maybe they were angels?  They finished dressing my knee.  It was a sterile securely wrapped disinfected medical masterpiece.

I expressed my appreciation.  “I’m no expert, but I think you guys have done a really great job. Very professional.  How many times have you given medical assistance like this?”

“Actually, you’re the first one.”

“Oh. Well, I still think you did a really great job.”

“Do you want us to hike back to the boat with you?”

“Yeah, thanks, that’s a good idea.  I’d like to shoot for the 4:00 boat back to Waterton instead of the 5:30 boat.  I need time to get to a doctor for stitches.”

We left picturesque Crypt Lake, reversing our inbound steps past the scene of my mishap, the tunnel, the ladder, the trail along the cliff edge, and Crypt Falls, Burnt Rock Falls, and Twin Falls. I completed the hike with ease.  Along the way, I enjoyed getting to know Jess and Jessie.  They were nice folks.

As we neared the boat, Jessie turned to me and said, “This is going to sound really strange, but I’m glad I was able to treat your injury.”

“Well, I am too.  You did good work."

“No, there’s more to it than that.  I’m applying to enter the Canadian astronaut program. One of the questions on the application is, ‘Have you ever rendered emergency medical assistance?’  Now I can say that I have.”

“Well, I’m not happy about my injury,” I told her.  “But I’m happy if this helps you in some way. I hope this ends up being a blessing to you—and that you get to be an astronaut.”

We made it in time for the 4:00 excursion back to Waterton.  The boat captain told me there was no clinic in Waterton that could stitch up my knee. The nearest hospital was in a small town called Cardston, 45 minutes away.

When I arrived in Cardston I found that there was no doctor on duty.  A doctor on call finally came after a two-hour wait.  I had a few questions for him.

I told him the angelic story about Jess and Jessie’s bandaging.  “How did they do?” I asked.

“Looks good.  They did a nice job.”

I had ambitious plans for more Canadian Rockies hikes. “Can I go hiking with these stitches?”

“Sure.  Go slow at first.  Try not to bump the stitches.”

“How many stitches did I get?”

“Seventeen.”

In the days ahead I went on from Waterton Lakes and hiked spectacular Canadian Rockies trails in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, and Mount Revelstoke National Parks.  The stitches were removed when I got back to Arizona.  A permanent souvenir remains on my left kneecap from that unforgettable day at Crypt Lake.

Does God really care about minor details in our lives? Yes!  I could see His attention to detail in the flowers along the trail. Some would say, “Don’t bother God with the trivial stuff.”  But I call out to God all day long, with all kinds of requests. I’ll let Him sort out the substantive from the trivial in my prayers.

Can we somehow see God’s direction in the course of our lives?  Can His will somehow emerge from a path that seems disjointed and chaotic?  Yes!  The Bible says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Our lives seem crazy only because we lack complete information.  But God in His omniscience directs the intertwined lives of those who love Him in ways that are always good.  Maybe He wanted to make me smarter about walking along cliff edges.  Maybe He wanted to help launch the career of a future astronaut.

Over what may seem chaotic and unpredictable, there’s a sovereign God who lavishes us with His love.  Trust in Him.  Trust in His plan for your life.  His love envelops every hiker, every boat captain, every doctor, every sewer worker/emergency medical technician/astronaut, everyone!