I Believe in the Good Things Coming

Matthew 7:9-12 (Jesus speaking)…”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I had returned to the place where my life had been turned by God’s own hand 3 years prior. There I stood in the shadow of Mt. Pisgah in the “big boy” hills of North Carolina as I call them, staring at the mountain I had climbed in an agonizing vertical way. Chanting as I huffed and puffed in near collapse – “Jesus first, Jesus in the middle, Jesus last.” That was a different day, a different purpose, and a rescue of my soul by my creator. I’ve written of this early on in this devotional if you care to seek back, but today, as I stated, was another day. There would be no Mt. Pisgah. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever climb it again….but if I do, it will be with my wife. No, today was something else entirely. But what?

In the shadow of that great mountain stands another grand formation nicknamed – Fryingpan Mountain. And upon it stands an abandoned old ranger station that used to serve as the perfect watch point to spot possible wildfires in the Pisgah Valley below. Today it’s a rusty relic that very much resembles a very large creation of the erector sets I played with as a boy. It’s not exactly a rock solid fortress, but despite the harsh winds and weather it endures, there it still stands waiting to offer an adventurer a view unlike any other he’ll find. It could also offer him an urgent need of a tetanus shot if he’s not careful. I was going there.

The path to the ranger station leads up an old gravel road the ranger trucks would use. It’s about 1 1/2 miles up a much kinder slope than Pisgah, and generally an easy walk. The month of May was closing out but the weather was still quite pleasant, ranging in the upper 50’s on top, to the upper 60’s where I walked on the path. The jacket I was wearing was quickly removed and tied around my waist. I knew I’d need it later. I had my trusty walking stick I named with the creativity of a 5 year old – “Staffy.” I had bought that stick to get me up Pisgah. He and I have seen a lot together…good ol’ Staffy. So we walked and admired. Yellow wildflowers in bloom, smells of this and that, and best of all, only 1 other person that I knew of up there besides me. I had intentionally given him a big headstart so he’d be coming back down when I was going up. I wanted to be alone up there. That planned worked to perfection. As we passed on the road I asked, “Is the view worth it?” He just smiled and said, “Absolutely.” As I turned a bend, I came to an opening that provided a clear look at Pisgah and I was deep in thought about that day. Staring at the big mountain I asked God, “So, what are we talking about today, my Lord?”

Unlike 3 years ago, there was no turmoil in my spirit. God wasn’t yanking me up a mountain by my ears, and the name of my King wasn’t being drill-marched into my worldly existence. Today was a celebration of the good things He had promised and delivered if I’d only listen. I did. He had. Just a few minutes after I asked that question aloud, I came to a gate that blocked off another old ranger road. It, too, was rusted and decaying, and local kids used the metal and wood to spray paint various messages. The first thing I saw was – “Stay Gold” – except the “G” was on a falling piece of wood and separated slightly from the “old” and I thought it read – “Stay Old.” My sense of humor kicked in and I asked God, “Stay old? Is there another option, because I’d like to hear it?” Then I saw the G. Now THAT was pretty cool. I wasn’t the greatest student as a young man by any stretch, but it was never from a lack of intellect, but always from a place of rebellion. The same kind that got me dragged up Pisgah. But I did read a great deal in those days, and one of my all-time favorite books was – “The Outsiders.” “Stay Gold, Ponyboy.” I knew that fictional character personally in many ways and it was a big influence on me. “Ok,” I said to my Lord. “I can see this is going to be a good day.”

With a smile and peaceful feeling I continued my casual march to Fryingpan Tower until it came into full view. Sitting on a clearing atop the mountain was the giant erector set fire station. I get so excited about things like that. I would assume that technically nobody should be allowed on it. My wife is a master in insurance and would have a fit at the liability isssues alone. Who cares.  I’m going up. The only portion boarded up and blocked off is the actual station room itself. You can climb to the very last landing just before it. The view is phenomenal. As good as Pisgah’s with a whole lot less effort. I sat up there as the wind howled and the cool air demanded my jacket I wisely brought, and for a good long bit…I never wanted to leave. It just felt so nice. To be in God’s right graces. All that has transpired in these 3 years. The things I’ve been taught. Shown. Given. Taken. It’s impossible for me to calculate it all. I was just simply thankful sitting there.

Leading up to Pisgah was when I first became aware of the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t getting it. My heart wasn’t right. My actions not in line with the man God needed me to be. God’s patience was wearing thin. As I slept in my office at home where I normally write on the little futon, the Spirit came and there was no joking about it. The message in essence can be summed up by this – “You’re going to change…NOW.” And events unfolded from that point that gave me no option but to adhere or be ruined. When scripture says God is the Father, and he loves us as such, it’s a real thing. My Father was fed up with my side-saddle faith, and wasn’t going to allow me to fall into ruin. My soul is eternally grateful, though the cure was not at all pleasant or easy. Yet, everything I needed to get through was provided…as promised. And there I sat redeemed in the shadow of the mountain where Gary met his Father.

Funny, for the past 2 years the Spirit isn’t speaking to me like it did when I was blindly in trouble and it was sent to rescue. But I do hear from the Spirit, and all it ever says…very clearly…is – “Great things are coming.” I’ve told my wife this many times when it happens, and I’ve told trusted friends the same. “The Spirit keeps telling me that great things are coming. I trust the Spirit.” So after I reluctantly decided to leave my perch on Fryingpan Tower, I made my way all the way back down the rusty old contraption. When I turned around to take one last look up at it, I noticed a written message on a lower rail. It read – “I believe in the good things coming.” Whoa. There’s more of us out there? You bet there are. We know. Do you?

Great things are coming, readers. You can count on it as gold. God the Father is true to His word.
Gary Abernathy

The Act of Obedience

James 1, Verses 22-25: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”

It was June of 2015 and the sweat was pouring from my entire body. Step after step, rock after rock, the incline seemed to only get more steep the higher I climbed. The cigarettes had been sat down for a year and a half never to be touched again, but decades of them saturating my lungs had done their damage…my chest was exploding and I gasped for air. I found myself hugging one of thousands of trees surrounding me as I traversed the narrow pathway towards the summit of Mount Pisgah, NC. This mountain given that name in honor of Moses and his last view before God ended his work. The summit sits at 5,721 feet and I was a few hundred feet short of it.

It had been a very special day already by this point, and dusk was creeping slowly but ever steady. I had started this physical act of obedience towards God by hiking several miles in a mind blowing place called, Graveyard Fields. A valley of trees twisted and thrown by high winds at 5,000 feet, and a landscape that at times resembled a tropical rain forest, and in other areas, the remains of the apocalypse. In between, beauty upon beauty of God’s finest work. There has been very few moments where I have felt as alive as I did at Graveyard Fields. Next, I made my way to a place called the Devil’s Courthouse. The path to the summit was nearly as vertical as Mount Pisgah, and it took a lot of the remaining energy I had to make it. Symbolically, I viewed this as an act of ending my worldly-minded life. Mount Pisgah would be the birth of my new God-centered obedience. My adherence to the words of James quoted above. By the time I had made it back to the parking lot, a storm had come up and I had to retreat to my room at the Pisgah Inn.

It was after 6 pm, I hadn’t eaten dinner (and the Pisgah Inn has one of the best restaurants anywhere in the area), and the storm had left everything wet. I flirted with the idea of waiting until morning to conquer Mount Pisgah, but God led me out the door. Because of the weather, the parking lot was empty in what normally would have been a busy site on a late Spring day. Minus the young couple I would encounter coming back down the mountain at one point, I never saw another soul the entire event. I did however constantly feel like one of the many black bears in the area could pop out on me at any moment, and I had nowhere to run if one did. Strangely, I liked that fact, and I trusted God in how that would go. I heard some wild noises in those woods, but I never saw their sources. With a single bottle of water and adrenaline as the fuel, I made my way. Step after step, rock after rock.

As I hugged that tree and desperately attempted to catch my breath, taken from me by addiction and rebellion, I felt like there was no way I could make that last final push to the top. I was praying nearly continuous all day, and at that moment I was pleading for his help to get me there. The spirit put in my head as clear as day the words, “Jesus First, Jesus in the Middle, Jesus Last.” So I started chanting it. Loudly. If there were any bears around me, I’d like to think they were chanting it too. Every step, every agonizing switchback, every rock to scale…chanting, “Jesus First, Jesus in the Middle, Jesus Last”…as I would dig my wooden staff into the ground and push one more step. I was full of every emotion a human is capable of those last many steps. Everything was pouring out of me both physically and emotionally. Then I saw the steps to the summit.

I was spent. My body collapsed on the wooden platform found on the summit, and I lay flat on my back for a very long time just gasping and wiping the salty sweat out of my eyes…and praying. God taught me a great lesson that day that will live with me eternally. Obey. I am his and my soul he will forever hold without fail. I was at one time that man James warned of that heard the word but failed to act upon it. I believed, but I didn’t want the responsibility that came with my salvation. I ran from it. On this day, God led me to him and my spirit was transformed. I’ve changed in so many ways since that moment and the transformation continues. It’s difficult. It’s scary. It places me in uncomfortable positions when the world wants the old me and can’t find him. It’s everything I thought it would be and ran from – and I don’t regret a second of it.

Billy Graham, a man I admire and study intently, once said…”I have never known a man who received Christ and ever regretted it.” I testify to that truth. Chains really do break…setting free really does happen. Have you experienced it? He is waiting for you. Go.

Gary Abernathy