Have A Little Faith!

A few weeks ago, friends shared that they hope to travel to Alaska one day. Now I’m not the travel aficionado that my dear husband is. Nonetheless, six years ago, we traveled to Alaska in celebration of a milestone wedding anniversary. That trip evolved into an amazing adventure and I couldn’t help encouraging our friends to visit Alaska as soon as they can. “If there’s time, include a stop at Icy Straight Point,” I told them. “You can go zip riding there!” Our friends didn’t seem particularly interested in that bit of information. As for me, just this mention of my zip riding experience filled me with excitement. Not long after that conversation, I pulled out our Alaska photo album. I wanted to bask a little longer in the wonder I’d found in our Forty-ninth State.

When I opened the album, I recalled my reluctance the morning we left. Though we’d flown long distances before, I’d worried extensively in anticipation of our departure. After the flight, we’d board a cruise ship. This was our first cruise and I had no idea of what to expect. I worried about forgetting our passports. I worried about having packed appropriate clothing and I worried that the weather forecasts might be inaccurate. I worried about our excursions. Would we enjoy them all? I worried about seasickness because I’d never been on a ship before. Most of all, I worried about that first excursion: zip riding from a mountainside over the trees in Icy Straight Point.

I admit that I looked through our album twice that day. Both times, I lingered over a photo we’d purchased after zip riding. I recalled our sons’ amazement that we’d signed up for that adventure. They asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to do this. Our sons know their parents well. Their dad is a great fan of roller coasters and their mom is not. Though Mike enjoys flying anywhere, I don’t. I’m not a fan of heights and this completely out-of-character adventure would take me more than one thousand feet above ground for a mile-long ride. I would travel well above Alaska’s tallest treetops. Still, I felt called to embrace this adventure. When Mike joined our sons in questioning the wisdom of doing so, I assured him that I really, really had to do this.

As I stared at that photo, I remembered those anxious minutes just prior to sailing over those trees. We’d found our places and strapped ourselves into something like adult-sized baby swings. The man who would release us into the air checked every seatbelt. When he was certain that all was well, he announced, “Here you go!” With that, the gates before us dropped and we sailed –No, we sped!- down the mountainside over a forest. I remembered my amazement over just how high we were. I looked over the trees and onto the inlet where our cruise ship rested. I clearly recall letting go of that swing and extending my arms as far as they’d reach. As I stared at that photo, I repeated something similar to what I’d shouted six years earlier, “Thank you, God! Thank you so much! That really was awesome!” That day, I knew that I was nestled in the strongest and gentlest of hands. I’d also shared in one of God’s best kept secrets. I’d discovered why God keeps such diligent watch over Creation. There is nothing more beautiful! I also felt closer to God than ever. Was this the reason I simply had to go zip riding that day?

When I turned to today’s scripture readings, I found a trio of answers to my question. The readings from Habakkuk (1:2-3; 2:2-4), 2 Timothy (1:6-8, 13-14) and Luke (17:5-10) speak of the things which fuel our faith in God. Habakkuk complained that his life and the world around him were complete disasters. God responded by instructing Habakkuk to revisit his dreams because his dreams would be fulfilled. In the letter to Timothy, this young man is encouraged to hold tightly to his faith because he would find God in the end. In the gospel, Jesus summarized everything. He told his friends that faith as tiny as a mustard seed is capable of ordering a tree to uproot itself from the ground and to replant itself in the sea. Jesus explained that having faith doesn’t mean that this life will unfold perfectly. However, Jesus does say that if we have faith we can somehow make things happen the way we’d like them to happen. Having faith means that we do what we do because we truly believe that we can make a difference. Faith assures us that we will find peace and absolute joy with God here and in the hereafter.

You know, I would have missed a life-changing experience if I hadn’t climbed onto that zip rider and opened myself to what God had in store for me. That leap of faith exemplified precisely what God asks of us. God knows better than we do the difficulties of life on this earth. Still, God extends an encouraging hand and urges us on. All the while, God assures us that, when we embrace the moment, the hour, the day and the lifetime that lie before us, God will be with us all the while. This is what faith is all about, even faith as small as a mustard seed!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, God!

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.”

From Psalm 126

While sharing our Alaskan trip photos with a friend, my thoughts returned to that fateful day in our first port, Icy Straight Point. The Hoonah Indians operate the world’s longest ziprider there and I rode it. Throughout the entire ride, I repeated two phrases: “This is awesome!” and “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to do this!” I also smiled the entire time.

Though I have referenced this adventure in other posts, it is likely that I will do so again. You see, this awesome -Yes, I wrote “awesome” again!- adventure will remain with me forever. I simply cannot let go of the amazing view I enjoyed from that vantage point. I also cannot let go of the sense that I rode in the palm of Someone’s hand all the while.

Generous God, my mouth will forever be filled laughter and my tongue with rejoicing with regard to this AWESOME experience. Thank you for this and for all of the blessings with which you touch my life. Even for the blessings which I fail to see at the moment, I thank you!

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In God’s Hands

I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

From Psalm 16

Just prior to leaving for our Alaskan vacation, I caught myself indulging in worries of every kind. I worried about the flights and forgetting our passports. I worried about packing the right clothing for the weather and I worried that the forecasts were inaccurate. I worried that our excursion bookings might be lost. Most of all, I worried about actually participating in the first excursion of our cruise -Zipriding from a mountainside over the trees in Icy Straight Point.

The morning we left home, my suitcase handle broke. I had no choice but to tape it up as there was no time to re-pack. I immediately dismissed the possibility that this could be a bad omen regarding our vacation and I found myself very much at peace as we drove to the airport. The traffic cooperated and we made it in plenty of time to check in and grab a snack before taking off.

Our land tour went well, and we anxiously boarded the ship for more. After a day at sea, we sailed into our first port, Icy Straight Point. As I dressed for our zipriding adventure, I realized I had not worried a bit since we left home. As I considered this completely out-of-character excursion which would take me more than a thousand feet above ground, I looked into the mirror and prayed, “Dear Lord, what was I thinking of when I signed up for this?”

A few hours later, as I sailed over the trees, I couldn’t stop smiling. Over and over again, I shouted, “Thank you, God! Thank you so much! This is awesome!!!” Afterward, as I walked away from the ride, I remembered that I had asked God to bless my husband and me with a good vacation and to be with us all the while. I whispered, “Thank you!” once again, for my prayer had been answered well beyond my expectations.

Caring God, you are with us always and you care for us more deeply than we will ever know. Thank you for expressing your love to my husband and me in the wonder of this much needed vacation. Help us to use our renewed spirits to do the same for all of those you have given us to love.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved