Trails-less Traveled 4

View from a lookout on State Brook Mountain, looking toward Good Luck Mountain.

Destination: State Brook Mountain
ADK Location: Ferris Lake Wild Forest
Roundtrip Mileage: 7 miles
Elevation: 2550 ft.  
Elevation gain: 850 ft.

On my bushwhack down from Good Luck Cliffs on November 12, 2020, I took note of the mountain due north of my path. Since I had not hiked the Dexter Lake Trail, snowmobile trail S81, from the trail register leading to Good Luck Cliffs, I had never noticed this beautiful looking mountain. From the north shoulder of Good Luck Cliffs, State Brook Mountain looks huge, and imposing; for good reason, it is. While referred to as a “low peak,” it has its challenges, many dangers, along with its beauty.

Heading down the Dexter and Dry Lake Trail, snowmobile trail S81.

From the trail register, at the junction of the trails for Good Luck Cliffs and Dexter and Dry Lake trails, I turned west down the Dexter Trail, S81, to the bridge .3 of a mile down trail. This is the same bridge where I had ended my Good Luck Cliff bushwhack. The bridge would be the known landmark that I would use to plan the bushwhack up State Brook Mountain. From that location I would take a north westerly track, following my bearing, to the summit of the mountain.

Now on the bushwhack, heading down to State Brook, and beginning to get a view of State Brook Mountain.
Crossing State Brook.

I had measured the bushwhack to the summit as .8 of a mile, as a straight shot; then I would descend heading due west for one mile to rejoin the trail. The mileage up, of course, did not account for avoidance of obstacles, and detours to see rock faces, etc. From both the map, and my visual observations while on the north shoulder of Good Luck Cliffs, I knew the ascent would have some steep sections, but what was obscured from view was the very prominent rock faces, ledges and outcroppings. The contour lines on the map indicated some very steeps sections, so I planned my trek to pass between them as much as possible.

A rock section at the base of the rock face above, behind the trees.

While not a popular hiking destination, State Brook Mountain is seeing more traffic from rock climbers. Several times I departed my planned path to take a look at some of the rock faces, and sections that would require rock climbing skills to ascend. While I did find a chimney that a hiker could climb up, on this day I was solo, so I opted to not take the risk. That being said, I can see why rock climbers like this little mountain.

One of several small waterfalls; not the best example, I uploaded the wrong picture.

State Brook Mountain has some wonderful features to take in while hiking. Not only the impressive rock formations, but also a brook coming down a steep section creating several beautiful small waterfalls.

From a small lookout just off the summit of State Brook Mountain you can see the backside of Good Luck Cliffs, center of picture.

After doing some exploring, I headed up to the summit. It is a surprisingly steep mountain with nearly 850ft. of elevation gain, from State Brook to the summit of State Brook Mountain. The summit is wooded, with a boulder nearby, but otherwise just woods. I spent a few minutes looking around, and then decided to head to my next destination, Dry Lake. I reset my compass with my next bearing, and began to descend. Unfortunately, a slight navigational error – as I walked, not on the compass – put me on the cliffs that form the summit, with drops of 30′ or more feet in some spots. Rather than take the time to figure out how to get to the spot I originally intended, I hiked back to the summit, and back the way I came. This proved to be quicker. Once I began my descent, I got back on course to Dry Lake. This added a few tenths of a mile, but not at all concerning. About a mile later I was back on the Dexter Lake Trail, S81, about .5 from the bridge where I began my bushwhack, and about .5 from Dry Lake, exactly where I had planned to rejoin the trail.

Dry Lake is a very nice spot. I sat by the frozen water, and had a drink and a snack for about 20 minutes before deciding to head back to the trailhead. There were a lot of things to think and pray about on this journey. It seems that day by day many of us are facing greater challenges. At times, it can seem that we are set adrift, rudderless, windless with no way to find safe harbor. Yet, during times like these that we walk by faith, and not by sight. Remembering that we are resting, even in the challenge, in the One who delivered our soul.

It is a hike like this one, on and off trail, wooded and open, that remind me that at times the way is obvious; while at other times, I have to trust in the power that I cannot see to lead the way – in orienteering terms, magnetic north. The Lord has given us the map, His Word, and He has placed in us the compass, the Holy Spirit, and with these two, no matter what lay before us, in Him we will reach the destination.

Be well, and happy hiking!

One Master

The Song of the Mountains – Verse 44  

A Crescendo. 

Yeshua/Jesus has asked us where our treasure is, what sort of treasure it is, and He has instructed us regarding how that treasure causes us to experience the world around us. He now brings this section of the Sermon on the Mount to a crescendo – causing us to ask ourselves, “just who are we serving?”

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick by one and look down on the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). 

The underlying meaning of this verse speaks to an ethic of worship – who are we serving, who are we trusting, and at who’s command do we respond? 

No other.

If you recall the language of the second commandment, “You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, the Lord you God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my commandments” (Ex. 20:3-6). 

The second commandment directs the people of God to exclusive worship, based upon His act of salvation referenced in the first commandment. Still, the allure of money, possessions, and the power it seems to bring is always tempting. 

The wallet. 

John Wesley famously remarked that the last part of a person to be converted is his wallet. I can attest from many years of preaching, that few things that I have taught on, in dozens of congregations, causes people to shift in their seats like the mention of money. It might surprise you to learn that regarding the subject of faith, the Apostolic Scriptures has about 500 verses. On the subject of prayer, also, about 500 verses. On the subject of money, however, we find an astounding 2,350 verses, approximately 29% of the Apostolic Scriptures. 

Why would this be? For many of us, money is intimately connected to our understanding of survival, of comfort, and is a direct representation of the fruit of our labor. Keeping all this in mind, unfortunately, we can see that our faith and our finances are closely linked together – undoubtedly warring in our heart. Paul warns us that, “The Love of money is a root for all kinds of evil.” Therefore, money can, if we are not cautious, harden our hearts to the needs of others.

What Yeshua taught. 

Yeshua often spoke of money, and its various applications, in the form of parables. He spoke of investments (Matt. 13:44-45), of savings (Matt. 13:52), of debt (Matt. 18:23-35), of earning wages (Matt. 20:1-16), of capital and interest (Matt. 25:14-30), money lending (Lk. 7:41-43), of inheritance (Lk. 15:11-32), and of the contrast between the rich and poor (Lk. 16:19-31). 

As I have addressed in previous articles on the Sermon on the Mount, earthly treasure does influence how we see and experience this world; and as we walk this life in faith with Messiah, we must be cautious to yield ourselves to the Lord God, and not to the powerful influence of money. 

Life lesson.

On my first trip to Kenya, East Africa, I became aware of a need of particular importance. My host was speaking to a gentleman that I had traveled with about a situation regarding a young man was now orphaned, and the primary provider for his four (4) younger siblings. The family had been fishermen on Lake Victoria, and both of this young man’s parents died within weeks of each other. “Steven,” who had wanted to become a teacher, then took on the burden of the family business, but was soon overwhelmed by it and he turned to drugs and alcohol. 

Having reached the bottom, he had heard of my friend Pastor Peter, who frequently took in orphans, and walked the fifty (50) miles to his house barefoot. After a time, Peter found a sponsor so that he could go to a local teachers college, and I enter the picture after the boy finished his first year, and lost his sponsor.

I had spent a considerable amount of time with “Steven,” and after I learned of his situation I pledged that I would find the money for his second year of college.  

As the Lord would have it, I was preaching at a conference on the compound of the school he attended for a week. I had met the overseer of the school and went to speak with him. He informed me that “Steven” could not return until his fee was paid, but when I guaranteed it, he admitted him marked paid in full – the money was quickly dispatched after I returned home, as my home congregation sponsored the remainder of his education.

“Steven” finished school, found a work-study position to finish a third year qualification to be licensed to teach in any Kenyan school; and when I returned in 2014, he immediately found me and before anything else, brought me to his apartment to introduce me to his wife (he married a young widow with a small daughter), and his new baby. “Steven” not only supported his wife and children, but he paid the school fees for all of his siblings. 

With a little generosity of spirit, lives were changed and bettered. 

Dear reader, individually we are not called to change the world, that is the position of Messiah, but we are called to share joyfully of what we have – and this is not limited to money – and we do this because we love the Lord more than our earthly treasures.

The longer we live in this life of faith, the more that we discover that money makes the same exclusive demands as the Lord; but while one takes of us, the other gives to us. The Lord loves a cheerful giver – one giving freely – because it is a demonstration, of not only our love for our fellow man, but also our love for Him.

Be well. Shalom.  

Idioms, O Idioms!

The Song of the Mountains – Verse 43

Flashlights.

Have you ever had occasion when you needed a flashlight to see in the dark, only to find that the batteries were dead, leaving you to fumble around in the dark to find what you need or make your way? It is an unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous experience for sure. What causes the flashlight to work is that internal charge, its power-supply, the batteries. When the batteries are full, the flashlight gives off a bright light; but as they drain, the light begins to darken until its dead.

The lesson. 

In Matthew 6:22-23 Yeshua/Jesus teaches, “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” 

These verses are often approached from an esoteric perspective. Drawing on some hidden meaning of light, darkness, eye and lamp. What does Yeshua mean by “light” and “darkness,” “eye” and “lamp”? I submit that there is nothing inherently esoteric about these verses at all. Their meaning is rather simple, and the lesson flows in perfect harmony with the context of what Yeshua has been speaking about.

Context.

In the past two articles on the Sermon on the Mount, we have been corrected regarding what we treasure, and upon what we rest our hearts – as what we treasure will be the position from which we experience this life. Then, in the verse that follows our present subject, Matthew 6:24, Yeshua tells us that we cannot serve two masters: we cannot serve both God and money

The question we need to ask is this, “How do we demonstrate the location of our treasure? How do we demonstrate that we serve the Lord alone? Yeshua provides the answer, yet He does so in a way that is rather unusual to us, but well known to His audience.

Idioms. 

Yeshua uses two rather well known Hebraic idioms. Every language has idiomatic expressions, which do not often translate well into other languages. In English more than I have space to list, but as examples: “kick the bucket,” “when pigs fly,” “hit the books,” “hit the sack,” “go cold turkey,” “on the ball,” “under the weather,” etc. 

If you speak English, specifically American English, you know what these expressions mean; the imagery, however, created by these expressions is rather confusing to non-American English speakers. One idiomatic expression that I like comes from the Luo Language spoken in the lake district of Kenya, it’s the name for Kale, “sua wiki,” which means “push the week,” meaning in English terms, “I’m broke but this green stuff will get me through the week.” Yeshua is using well-known Hebraic idioms.

The eye doctor. 

The “good eye” in first-century Jewish culture meant to be content and generous; conversely, the “bad eye” meant to be discontented and stingy. 

If we are full of treasure that has been laid up and secured for us in heaven, we are content, generous, selfless and care for the condition of others. If we only care about earthly treasures, we will be discontent, stingy, selfish, and not care for the well-being of others. 

Yeshua is speaking to our inward condition, and how it affects our relation to, and outlook on the world around us. The contextual flow of Matthew 6:19-24 can be paraphrased something like this:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth that time degrades or thieves steal. Be open handed, trusting in God, thereby laying up treasure in His heavenly depository. It is that treasure that is of real value, and infinite worth. Heavenly treasure allows your eyes to see well beyond natural sight, to the infinite worth of those around you. Earthly treasure closes your eyes as you begin to focus on the glitter of this world, not recognizing the encroaching darkness. In a daze you sleepwalk through life. Serving money, a slave to the very thing you believe you control. Lulled to sleep, the darkness deepens until the light overcomes your darkness.   

We can be abundantly blessed in this life, and never bless others. This is darkness.

We can be abundantly blessed in this life, and share that blessing with others. This is light.

So where is it? Your treasure? 

Messiah has said where our treasure is, there our heart will be. He then inquires as to our generosity – the way in which we “love our neighbor as ourselves.” This section of the Sermon on the Mount will come to a conclusion when Messiah asks us where our allegiance is: with the God’s Kingdom? Or with money? 

Dear reader, I pray that we are walking in His light, and not in the darkness of fear. 

Shalom. Be well.