Living in God’s Country

Two campers with gear hiking through Bear Moun...

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With a title like the one that I have chosen, I might just be leading you astray… a least a little bit.  Maybe not.  Your thoughts on what God’s country is could very well be what I am thinking about right now.  Likewise, they could be very different.  But even so, I still understand why you would think that.

Many people in the United States, especially during the first half of the month of July, refer to the whole country as God’s country.  There is a feeling of patriotism, loyalty, and superiority that bring along an attitude of this land being divinely set apart to be a land above all others.  For other people, those feelings of patriotism and superiority last all year long.

I’m not saying that people feeling that way are wrong.  In fact, I share in those feelings.  But that is not what I am focusing my topic on today.

I have travelled all over the United States.  In pretty much every place I have been I have met people that love their hometown (or some location not far from their hometown) so much that they refer to it as God’s country.  I take that back.  Even on my trips to southern California or the New York City area there has been someone that has referred another area of the state as God’s country because it is so beautiful.  They don’t say it about anywhere in SoCal or NYC, but I have heard it said about the upstate areas of those two states.

Montana is where I hear it the most.  And I think I have to agree more with those folks than with others.  Have you been to Montana?  Specifically, have you been in the western half of Montana?  That is some great looking real estate.  Let me clarify… If you like wide open places with mountains and valleys and a cowboy feel to them, Montana has some great looking real estate.

But so do Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada… all for the same reasons.

If you have been to Hawaii, you might think of it as God’s country.  Well, maybe if you worship the Sun god, or the Sea god.  Maybe it is because you are a guy and worship the Hawaiian Tropic goddesses.  But I won’t count Hawaii right now (even though I have been to Maui and thought it was beautiful) because it isn’t part of the 48 contiguous states.  And for the same reason, Alaska isn’t included.  If someone wants to send me on an all-expense paid trip to Alaska so that I can experience the state, I will be glad to add it to my list.

I live in Utah.  I have lived in Utah my whole life, minus two years that I lived in Brazil, and 18 months that I lived in Houston, Texas.  Tomorrow I will be going on a backpacking trip in some of Utah’s mountains.  I will be going camping in God’s country.

I enjoy the mountains.  If I could buy one, build a cabin and live there for the rest of my life, I would be in heaven… or at least a little closer than the rest of you (hello, the elevation difference alone put’s me closer to heaven). For me, camping in the mountains is the most enjoyable way for me to enjoy all of God’s earthly creations.  There is flora and fauna (I still remember the term from my 4th grade Utah History class), there is clean air, and other than the sounds of nature, there is quiet.  To me, this is the place where I can feel more at one with God, where I am more in tune with Him, where I can feel more of His influence and watchful eye.

From a religious point of view, mountains are sacred ground to me.  And they must be sacred to God too because of how much he used them while interacting with man.  For example, Moses went up onto a mountain and received the Ten Commandments.  Abraham was told to go up onto the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Mountains were an integral part of religious teachings as shown in the Old Testament.

I will be going on this hike with five other adults and six teenage boys.  My son is one of them.  The fact that there are teenage boys coming along may cause it to not be as serene as it could have been, but this campout is for them.  They will get to experience something that not many teenagers get to experience.  It will be good for them.  It will be good for me to be with them.

If you don’t have mountains near where you live, find a place where you can experience the tranquility that the back country wilderness can give you.  Spend some time and rid yourself of stresses that come from life.  Try to become a little more attached to nature.  Get yourself away to your own version of “God’s country”.  It will do you some good.  And if you want to load a fifty pound pack on your back, camp out for four days, and do it with a teenage boy, you will get an even different point of view about life.  I just hope it is a good one.  As for me, I will enjoy this opportunity.  And when I get back, I may just write a travelogue and let you know what you missed… or have to look forward to.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

Giving thanks for…

It’s Thanksgiving 2010. This year I am spending it in Montana at my wife’s sisters house with our families. Their mom, dad, grandma, and youngest sister also came to share in the festivities.

This is a different experience for me. Normally I only come to the farm in Montana for the 4th of July holiday. It makes a great family vacation that the kids love to take in the summer. Riding horses, four-wheelers, tractors, mosquitos (yes they are that big…and if you are too heavy, they will gang up to help out), and playing in the pond with the trout. Yep, it is summer camp without the expense and with relatives. The only thing that makes it better is having fireworks…because nothing is illegal in Montana. I am thankful that my family has those opportunities.

So this year instead of going to my wife’s parent’s house in Meridian, Idaho, we chose to come to Montana. The trip was going to start out on Tuesday afternoon. It is normally about a 7.5 hour drive. Well, my daughter made the girls basketball team at her high school and the first game was scheduled for Tuesday night, so we postponed the trip for a day. (By the way, I am thankful that my daughter made the team, especially after she dislocated her knee after only a few minutes of stretches on the first day of tryouts.)

Tuesday came and with it a blizzard…one that was supposed to be so bad that the ballgame was cancelled for the safety of the visiting team that had to travel. We checked the weather conditions for our route of travel and found out that the road we needed to take was closed for the main stretch that didn’t have any alternatives. The areas that were still open were covered in snow and ice. We were supposed to be on the road at 6:00 am the next morning and suddenly it looked like we weren’t even going to be able to make the journey. We decided to wait until the morning and see if there were any improvements.

I figured there would be no point in getting up as early as we had planned. After all, how much work would be done on the roads during the middle of the night? 7:30 am came around and the roads were open with a lot of caution warnings. We got all packed up and were on the road by 10:30 am. At that time we figured we would be at the house in time for dinner.

Just before 8:00 pm we arrived. Yes, our journey took us an extra couple of hours and in some ways we were lucky it was that short. I have never driven on worse roads. I take that back, I have…but I didn’t have any passengers, I wasn’t married or a parent and definitely didn’t feel responsible for any other lives. This trip, however, was definitely different as I was now responsible for six other lives inside my vehicle, and wanting to make sure that we stayed safe and they all got to live long lives. I am very thankful that we traveled in safety and arrived without incident. We hardly even slid on the ice patches. The only problem with the trip is that I got a major case of TB…and no, not tuberculosis. My dad would especially appreciate it as he didn’t have much of a gluteal muscle to provide padding when he sat.

It was nice to relax the rest of the evening inside the warm house. I was definitely thankful that we had shelter…it was forecast to get below 0 degrees overnight with the wind chill factor supposedly getting to -30 degrees. I don’t know if it really got that cold because I was inside and I slept really well.

Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day, and the kids were raring to go. Remember, we are used to riding horses and four-wheelers when we come here. Add in snow with that fun. Plus, everyone was hoping that the pond was frozen over so that we could ice skate. However, using four-wheelers on the pond while pulling a sled would be even more fun. Unfortunately the ice wasn’t thick enough, but the hay field still had plenty of snow. I was thankful for that.

All of this is fine and dandy, and I am definitely blessed to be able to have such fun times, but an added measure of gratitude came after I came in the house from riding four-wheelers and got on the internet to read some news stories from around the world.

I have much to be thankful for. I don’t have to go through the ordeal of being adrift in the ocean for 50 days like three teenagers (two 14 year olds and a 15 year old) were in the South Pacific. They survived off raw fish, a bird they caught, and rain water (sea water when it didn’t rain). Their families figured they were gone for good and had already held memorial services for them. Imagine the gratitude they all feel…and I feel it for them.

I don’t have to go through the ordeal of being stuck in my bathroom for three weeks like the lady in England. No, she wasn’t stuck on the toilet. I think that would have made it worse. The door handle somehow broke and she was not able to get the door open. And there was no window in the bathroom. She survived and was found. She got out of the bathroom and had to recover in a hospital, but she is grateful. I am glad for her too.

I don’t have to feel sadness at this time for the loss of an infant child due to a rare disease like a friend of my wife’s family. I am grateful for that and even more grateful that this little child is still saved in the love and grace of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This Thanksgiving Day I am blessed. I have a meal to eat until I am sick and for that one reason I am probably richer than at least half of the world population. I have family to be with, unlike many who will spend the day alone. I am in a warm house, which many people can only wish for…today and many more still to come.

And for all of you that have a chance to read this, I am thankful that you have that opportunity. Hopefully you are thankful too, because how many more people don’t have computers, don’t even have access to the internet or can’t read?

We are all blessed to different degrees and we are all probably thankful to different degrees. I hope we are thankful. If you can’t find reason to be, start counting your blessings. List them one by one. Start with life. The turkey on the table doesn’t even get to count that one.

Just another view from a Palmtree.