The Signs: Do you have any Time? Who me?


There we are. Lost in the woods in pitch darkness, the moon hidden by a thick canopy of leaves overhead, and to make matters worse, we are being followed by ferocious wolves and angry black bears. How did we end up in this mess?

That's a good question, one that I'm still trying to find the answer for! But let me tell you about that fateful day last summer in Washington State...

The morning had been totally uneventful. My boys and I had spent it beach combing. I had never seen so many huge oyster shells in one spot! It was impossible to walk without stepping on one! The afternoon promised to be more exciting! We were headed for a hike up Green Mountain with some dear friends.

I still don't know why it was my younger son and I who were heading up the expedition through the tall grasses and into the woods. We had no idea where this mountain was even located! I wasn't worried, however. I was sure the trail would be adequately marked.

Likely that was our first step into tragedy . . .

Before we had gone very far, my son and I found ourselves deep in conversation. We discussed everything from our recent ventures into Alaska to our upcoming trip to Kingdom Bound to our plans for the future. It is true that our trek through the woods was unexpectedly long, but with such a great hiking partner, time flew by like Superman.

Then we came to a fork in the trail. Should we go right or left? We turned to ask our guide, only to discover that we were alone! Where were the other five hikers? Had our deep discussions scared them off?

We started to call through the woods, but our cries fell on deafened trees and the only response was the echo of our own voices. And the voices of a few birds crying out in shock! It was quite fun, actually!

"Oh well, let's go on anyway!" suggested my son.

Sounded like a good plan to me, but I couldn't help voice the question: "Which way?"

It appeared that one of the paths led down the hill, while the other climbed upward. We decided the upward path must be the one climbing Green Mountain, and my son placed an arrow made out of dead, finger-like branches on the path to indicate to those following us which path we had chosen (If they followed us!). Then we set out!

The climb was steep, but our mutual jokes sustained us. Amazing what a joke can do!

Then my son asked a funny question: "Why are there hardly any trees? Isn't this mountain called 'Green'?"

Was that a joke, or what?

And when we finally arrived at the top, we were even more surprised. The trees had all been logged, and the beautiful ocean view that had been promised to us by the hiking guide was nowhere to be seen! In fact, the surroundings were almost surreal and nightmarish! We were totally out of place! What had we gotten ourselves into?

"They should rename this mountain Brown Mountain!" remarked my son as I took a few pictures and we prepared to head back down. That's when we noticed the sign: "No trespassing! All trespassers will be shot on sight!" (or did I imagine that last part?)

My son and I stared at each other. Had we missed the real path?

We passed the fork in the trail, and my son's sign was totally undisturbed. Had the rest of our party not even come this way? Where had they gone wrong?

As we retraced our steps through the woods, we noticed several more of these signs. Why hadn't we seen them the first time through? Had we been so deep in conversation that we hadn't noticed the signs along the way?

The sun had begun its decent behind the tall trees by now, and I imagined it being pitch-black and moonless. Our pace quickened. We didn't want to be pursued by angry loggers! And even less, by drooling wolves, territorial black bears, or even worse, men with shotguns (this is where the wolves and the bears fit in the story!)

And then, quite a ways farther down the trail, we heard a very welcome sound: Familiar voices! Coming down a DIFFERENT mountain! Sure enough, we met up with the rest of our hiking group just as they descended the REAL Green Mountain! You can imagine the relief that flooded my veins. Suddenly the sun popped back out from behind the trees! Oh, the power of imagination when you think you are lost!

That's when we noticed the sign. The large one pointing to the broad, well-indicated trail leading up Green Mountain. We hadn't even seen this fork in the trail! The rest of the group had, though. They had been following the signs!

That's when my son and I decided that the excellent company we had enjoyed on our trek was far more important than the actual climb up Green Mountain! In fact, we determined that this little jaunt together was a highlight of our whole western trip. (Just imagine the money I could have saved if I had realized that earlier!)

The time we spend with our families is more important than filling our days with activities, no matter how fun they may be. Although they do add flavor, the activity isn't really important at all! "There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up." (1 Cor 4:15 The Message)

The same is true with God. He doesn't delight in the myriad of busybody activities we may do in "His" name. What's more important to Him is our time spent with Him! The following text tells it all:

"When you come before me, who ever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that - all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship? Quit your worship charades. I can't stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings - meetings, meetings, meetings - I can't stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You've worn me out! I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I'll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I'll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you've been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don't have to look at them any longer." (Isa 1:12-16 The Message)

A personal relationship is what is important! We wouldn't really like hearing God address us on judgment day with the following words: "'Sorry, you're not on my guest list.' You'll protest, 'But we've known you all our lives!' Only to be interrupted with his abrupt, 'Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don't know the first thing about me.'" (Luke 13:25-27 The Message)

But what about the signs mentioned in our story? What lesson can we learn from them?

Good reminder! God's warning signs are even more perilous than the ones my son and I missed! The missed signs state something like this: "Ignore your family and sooner or later you will face the consequences!" Any time spend with our sons, daughters and spouse is like gold invested with the highest returns possible.

The same is true with quality time spend with God! "Keep your eyes open for GOD, watch for his works; Be alert for signs of his presence." (Ps 105:4 The Message)

How will you spend your majority of your time in the future?

"Do you have five minutes for me dad, pleasssssse!"

"In a moment. After I go skydiving."

"Hey! That sounds fun! Can I come?"

"Maybe next time!"

"Will that time ever come?"

P.S. Maybe it is time to let loose some imaginary slobbering wolves and irritated black bears in pitch-black conditions. Wouldn't that be an ideal place to spend quality time with your dad?

Rob Chaffart

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