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One of the Greatest Adventures

By Craig von Buseck Contributing Writer -- "This is one of the greatest adventures of my life!" my 8-year-old daughter said almost breathlessly as we trekked along the narrow ledge of Wintergreen Gorge -- one of Pennsylvania's awe-inspiring canyons.

Carved into the earth underneath the crushing, grinding weight of an ancient glacier, this lush valley is a spectacle of God's creativity and wonder. My breath is taken away when I stand at the base of the 100-foot sheer rock face cliffs, observing aeons of time reflected in the sedimentary layers that flow like tapestry across the canyon walls. I am filled with joy as I follow the delicate artistry of the channels in the bedrock where thousands of years of trickling water have eroded ribbons of limestone in varying shapes and depths. I am taken back to a simpler time of Rockwellian significance as I watch my children frolic beneath a pristine waterfall. I remember my own childhood with sentimental satisfaction as I help my 10-year-old son, David, catch a salamander -- and then I return to my role as a father as I urge him to set it free, because it would be happier here in the gorge.

Whenever we go home to visit my parents I love to hike with my children through this living museum of natural curiosities. Of course, we never return to Virginia without several pounds of souvenir rocks, fossils, and sometimes even the living critters that I couldn't save from David's bug box.

The Apostle Paul spoke of the wonder of nature in Romans chapter one, and how God reveals Himself to mankind through the beauty of the earth.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

My thoughts are always sent heavenward when I experience nature -- especially in places of grandeur like Wintergreen Gorge.

As we hiked along the valley floor we were constantly on the lookout for places to cross the meandering stream. While I was concerned about where I was placing my foot for the next step, working to keep from slipping into "the drink," I was also looking up from time-to-time to see where the best path would be up ahead. I had to be vigilant so that we could continue along our pathway without getting stranded between the steep walls and the flowing creek. On occasion we found ourselves in a place that had no narrow crossing. We had no choice but to gather large boulders and build a bridge to the other side of the waterway.

This constant action of looking down at my feet, and then up again at the trail ahead of me reminded me of the words of King David in the Psalms:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

As Christians, our walk with the Lord is similar to this hike through Wintergreen Gorge. We need God's word for today to shine a light on the footsteps right before us -- these are words of encouragement, comfort, wisdom, and sometimes, immediate direction for our safety, to keep us out of "the drink." But we also need to have God's word to be a light for the path out in front of us. These are words of direction by the Holy Spirit, spoken to our hearts, through the ministry of a trusted godly friend, or even, perhaps, through the utterance of a prophet of God.

As the children and I built one of our stone bridges to get across the deep water I was reminded of a vision the Lord gave me during a time of decision in my life. I was facing some important choices and I felt the Lord leading me to fast and pray. During one of these prayer times I saw a picture in my spirit.

I was standing on the banks of the Niagara River, only a few short feet away from the edge of the falls. Stretched out before me were several large, flat boulders that rose out of the water, creating a dry and relatively safe bridge across. The only difficulty in navigating this bridge was that the rocks were spaced two-to-three feet apart -- just far enough that it required a slight leap to get from one rock to the next. Below me the mighty Niagara raged, lapping up on the sides of the great boulders, and then thundering over the edge, hundreds of feet to the gorge below. I knew in my heart that my task was to get to the other side of the river.

Though I was nervous about the rushing rapids, I was confident enough in my ability to leap from stone to stone. Gathering my courage, I leapt from the bank onto the first boulder, waving my arms as I landed to maintain my balance. The spray of the falls shot up in my face, and the thunder of the torrent rang in my ears, but I was safe for the moment on the first rock. Taking a minute to catch my breath and assess the situation I determined that this would not be as difficult as I had first imagined. Bounding forward I jumped to the next rock, and then to the next.

I was starting to get the hang of this, and suddenly I was feeling more confident than I should have. The pride of my accomplishment was crowding out the wisdom of caution that had earlier reigned in my heart. In that moment I forgot about God's plan in this scenario as I was caught up in the excitement of the "extreme sport" of crossing Niagara Falls.

But at that moment God did something that caught my attention. Just as I was reaching the middle of the river, poised to take my next jump, all of the daylight disappeared and I found myself standing there in the dead of night. I could still feel the spray of the water on my face, and now the roar of the waterfall echoed in my ears. I was overcome with the terror of my perilous circumstance. Suddenly I looked down and noticed that the stone I was standing on was lit, seemingly from within. The light shot up to my knees, and outward to illuminate the water rushing past me in an endless parade.

My thoughts turned to the Lord and I asked, "Father, what are you showing me?"

He spoke gently to my soul, "My child, Jesus Christ is the rock that you are standing on, and the Holy Spirit is giving you the light for the place where you are. As long as you stay in the light, standing on the rock, you will be safe."

"But Lord," I inquired, "You've called me to the other side of the river. How am I going to get across? I can't see your path before me."

Again the Lord spoke into my heart. "Don't move from where you are until I light up the next stone. You can not leap into the darkness, hoping to land on a solid place. If you try to move forward in your own strength you will miss the rock, fall into the river, and be carried over the falls to disaster. In my time I will provide the light for your path."

I stood on that rock for a moment, listening to the torrents of water crashing onto the jagged boulders over the edge of the falls. But inside I finally had peace. I had the word of the Lord.

After a short time the rock in front of me lit up. "Go forward," the Lord spoke into my ear. With an easy leap I jumped onto that solid boulder, well above the raging river. As soon as I had landed safely on this new place the glow from the former stone disappeared, and only the light at my foot remained.

"This will be your life," the Lord declared as the vision dissipated. "You will walk a difficult path. Danger will lap at your feet from beneath you. If you move out in your own strength you will risk being swept over the falls. You must stand on the rock, which is Jesus Christ. You must remain in fellowship with Me, and you must study and meditate on My word. I will provide a lamp for your feet, and a light for your path. Trust me completely, and only move forward when I light up the next stone."

This vision from the Lord has come back to me many times since that day as I have gone to the Lord in prayer for direction in my life -- sometimes seeking a lamp for my foot in a particular day or circumstance, and sometimes desiring a light for my path to receive direction for the future. And God has been faithful to His word:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

In many ways my life has been like our hike through Wintergreen Gorge. I am constantly looking down at my feet, and then up again at the path ahead of me, all the time praying that God will direct my steps. But the Lord has always been faithful to guide me as I wait for His direction, and for His timing.

I agree with my daughter's assessment of the journey, "This is one of the greatest adventures of my life!"

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Craig von BuseckCraig von Buseck is Ministries Director for Send him your e-mail comments.

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