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What’s wrong with this picture?

The Fire.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? In any campground, USFS or even a private campground, this type of fire is not only NOT permitted, but reveals the foolishness of those making it.   Most ‘normal’ people wouldn’t even think to create such a potential disaster, but then in Alaska, most Alaskans aren’t normal.  And, yes, this was started by Alaskans.  

The actual tree fell during one winter.  The Forest Service – the name implies their job – did nothing to mitigate a potential problem. They cut this very tall tree into two huge pieces rather than bucking it so it could fit in the fire pits and be used as real fire wood.

This year they took a chain saw and mowed down small evergreen trees along the river bank leaving them there as what I call, Fire Fans. Why? Because people do not know that green wood doesn’t burn and these little branches will just produce embers that fly into the air. And, this is the US Forest Service trying to mitigate the forests.  Protect us from forest fires.  I’m sure Smokey the Bear would be a little disconcerted with what we had to deal with.  Yes, he’s in town.

What would you do in this situation? 

My husband called 911 who told him these people weren’t committing a crime!  What were they waiting for?  A forest fire? A fire arm exchange? Assault? We’re not sure what law enforcement up here considers a crime for all of you who watch “Alaska State Troopers.”  Two years ago when some disgruntled campers who squatted on someone else’s camp site left very nasty notes about my husband and stole our gas can that wasn’t considered a crime either.  It was ‘circumstantial.’ Circumstances such as this fire lead to crimes and well, what about Crime Stoppers?

He was also told by the dispatcher that we are in national forest and this fire is the responsibility of the National Forest Service.  However, they have no one working nights.  When do these events happen?  At night. This was 11 p.m. This is our tax dollars at work!

After being told this was no one’s problem and no one would help us, we called our son-in-law who volunteers for the local fire department.  From this day forward, we will call 911 to dispatch the fire department to an out- of-control fire in our campground. Our son-in-law and another firefighter arrived in a truck to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, my husband had taken issues in hand and they had nothing to do. That won’t happen again. We will walk away, let it burn and call the fire department. In any case, if the fire becomes full-fledged, its the Cooper Landing Volunteers who will be first responders any way. They actually care about the well-being of their families, friends, community and homes!

To make the situation even more ridiculous, the dude had an axe and a saw.  When he was ‘caught,’ he began to chop the tree into pieces (though he laid the burning branches on the ground thinking they would just go out).   Now, why not do that FIRST before starting the fire?

What we do with logs like this that keep appearing in camp sites is throw them in Cooper Creek or the Kenai River and rid ourselves of them forever. This will be the fate of this tree today and many others that campers love to put in these fire pits standing up like a beacon for starting a forest fire.

These are all the unbelievable things that we camp hosts find and discuss when we get together. These are the things that make us scratch our heads or do face to hand plants!   My husband went to check another campsite this morning and those campers had left their fire burning!

Our log home in Boulder, Colorado burned to the ground because of a small fire that still had embers.  When the wind picked up, the embers started some brush on fire and eventually, hundreds of people lost their homes, including the one we built with love and passion.   My trailer is now my home and my daughter lives here in her home with her husband and our grandson. An out-of-control- forest fire essentially could destroy both our lives and many other people’s lives we come to know in this beautiful state.

This is a good campfire! Thanks, Chuck!

The Tent.

Not so obvious is the tent is in the woods near the river and not on the tent pad in the camp site.  This is our responsibility as camp hosts/managers to deal with and they did move their tent to where it belonged after shutting down the fire.   There is a sign hanging on the tree that they walked by with their equipment that says, “No Tents Beyond This Point,” but again, Alaskans think the rules aren’t for them.  “We’re locals,” they remind us.  But, they are some of the worst campers we deal with from fires, to scattered toilet paper, to filleting fish on wooden tables in bear country, to leaving coolers out for bears and insisting their dogs can be off-leash because they obey voice commands. Really? An off-the-leash dog running into a bear will bring the bear back to you! Face plant!  

The Not-So-Obvious

The reason my husband found this disaster in the making at 11 p.m. was because these responsible campers had NOT paid for their campsite.  Though they ‘said’ as many do, they were getting around to it. They weren’t. They have 30 minutes to pay and in that 30 minutes they built a fire, set up their tent and went to bed! They wanted to camp free, pitch their tent wherever they pleased and have an out-of-control-fire.  Three strikes and they should be OUT, but we are only allowed to inform campers not enforce any Forest Service rules.

So, why do we do this? Because we love camping (glamping), the outdoors, visiting family, and meeting new people. Because there are so many other campers who obey the rules and don’t act like complete idiots (using the term an Alaskan State Ranger used in a recent conversation). We love meeting the good people, making new friends and enjoying beauty of the Kenai around us. Unfortunately, and it really is unfortunate, there are those few who blow our minds with their stupidity and put us on the front lines of battles with which we have no support from law enforcement. It is very unfortunate that in an area with so many campgrounds, there is no one to make rounds to enforce their own Forest Service rules. So, we will keep plodding on, learning in each situation how to deal with imbecile campers.

Oh, if you happen to be one of those, could you send me a note and explain why you do the things you do, including smearing poop on the walls of the toilets? Thanks.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

The Calm B4 the Kampers

Ready and Waiting …

This may be the last time I actually have time to write about our adventures at Cooper Creek Campground. Why? Because Memorial Day weekend begins the days of reservations. After Memorial Day, June 11 follows as the BIG DAY that brings on summer.

This is the confluence later in the season after the intense combat fishing!

This area of Kenai Peninsula is known for its fishing – salmon and trout. Fishing season opens June 11. From that day until school starts in mid-August followed by a small Labor Day crowd, we are packed solid. During the height of the fishing season, there are no campsites to be found anywhere near the Kenai and Russian Rivers. Those poor souls who didn’t know to make a reservation – both tourists and locals alike – generally find themselves by the side of the road on a pullout if there is room. The locals love to act like the whole reservation process is new even though it has been around for 25 years. Their guilt trips are better than a float trip on the Kenai.

View of Langille Mountain and our Host Site from Site 4

So in these days of calm before the campers, we have enjoyed taking evening walks in a completely empty campground. We always remember we forgot our bear spray at the farthest point where bears tend to hang out (though we have yet to see one in three years). We have had looky-loos on the mountain side checking out the campground, but only one has stayed overnight. On the river side, we have had two to four campers per night.

Site 17 Before Raking

We have also spent our free time getting the campground ready for campers. This means raking dead autumn leaves that have accumulated all winter everywhere. We rake trails to the bathrooms and all of the campsites – our small campground has 28 sites. We rake around the bear boxes, the tables, the fire pits and make the perimeters obvious. We use a blower to remove the leaves from the roadway.

Site 17 After Raking

We also clean. We clean up trash and toilet paper that we know wasn’t left by bears or moose. We clean the toilets. This involves not only wiping the actual toilet, but also wiping everything down from the walls to the door handles and taking a broom and removing all cobwebs. We make sure there are sufficient rolls of toilet paper and trash bags (which people take for their personal use). I also reprint the rocks I use for the door stops. Note: This is NOT the Rocky Mountains so rocks are very difficult to find.

My Hard-working Helper

We also gather all of the tools of the trade from rakes and shovels and trash pickers to supplies of toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners with spray bottles. We keep those in something called a ‘coffin.’

National Forest Campground Signs

We gather the signs for the Self-serve Kiosk that remind campers about wood cutting, bears, stay limits, no ATVs, and keeping their pets on leashes. We hang those when we find out the water has tested ‘potable.’ At that point in time, the campground is no longer free, but $18 per night.

Our Information Kiosk

We also prepare our Kiosk. Over the years we have found that people want to know about Cooper Landing and vicinity. We put signs on our kiosk with information about fishing and rafting to help with RV issues. The spaces left in this year’s Kiosk will have photos of resident wildflowers and berries. (My printer ran out of color ink.)

Our manager drops off our tubs of stuff too. We have Reserved placards, reservation forms and sheets, and pay envelopes for the iron ranger. We have keys for the locks on the toilet paper rolls, keys for the storage closets at the toilets, keys for the iron ranger to pull out the payment envelopes, and a key for the birdhouse where payment for the firewood goes. Yes, we do sell firewood and bundles should arrive any day.

The Paperwork

Today my manager arrived with my DAR or Daily Arrival Report. This lists all of the upcoming reservations. I have to fill out a reservation form for each one to be used as my check-in process. I ask each camper if they are who the reservation says they are, ask where they’re from and take down their license plate number. On my little form, I make notes if they are Locals that I will call if they don’t show up the first night of their reservation as that is part of the process – all sites must be occupied the first night. If they don’t come, I find out if they are coming or if they want to release their site. I write their arrival date and departure and their reservation number on the reservation sheet. After I fill out those forms, I fill out the placards that hang on each site with reservation dates and the name of who reserved the site. Then, I walk around the campground and hang them on the site post.

View from Site 11

This evening as I trekked around the 1/4 mile loop and saw the signs, I realized ‘it’s all going to start this weekend.’ We’re going to meet people from around the world – already we’ve had people here from Australia and Hungary, but for about 8 weeks it will be a never-seeming-to-end process and then it will be over. Just. Like. That.

Stump by Site 9

Tonight I enjoyed the smell of moist, decaying leaves in the air, the quiet and uniqueness of each campsite wondering who will occupy them, and listened to birds singing at 8 p.m.

Moose Tracks – Good Ice Cream Too

I followed the footprints of a moose up the road, said ‘hi’ to Steve or Allen, the resident squirrels, and made note of the tree stump with mushrooms or lichen growing out of it. When the calm ends, these moments won’t return until September when the wild berries ripen and the trees lose the leaves we have to rake in the spring.

Steve or Allen …

The nights will continue to be lighter later – until 1 a.m. – and visits with new campers will last longer into that evening blur. In the morning, the routine of preparing sites for new campers after people leave, cleaning toilets, preparing and printing a daily report of the campers who stayed with us, and saying goodbye to those campers who made our day special will begin again. We will share what we know with newcomers about nearby hikes to see the salmon jump up the river, about the beautiful opportunity they have to float the Kenai and see bald eagles and bears, about fishing regulations, about carrying bear spray on back country hikes, and answer questions about the Rotary Fish Trap by Site 18.

The Rotary Fish Trap

Apart from raising my children, this is the best job I could have ever imagined having. As I write, the evening sun touches the newly-greened trees by our campsite and I know this is truly the calm before the campers.

Sunset 11 p.m.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

Meet Tezzy, the Hedgehog

Tezzy

This is Tezzy.  When we found her she was wet and freezing near Teslin in the Yukon Territory.  We took her in and placed her on our dashboard to warm up and dry. Since that cold and rainy day day, she has been with us wherever we go.

Because of her near-death condition when we found her, she cannot remember anything before coming into our lives.  But since being with us,  she has traveled to many places.  She left the Yukon in the fall, went to British Columbia and Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.   She has traveled the Cassiar Highway and now the Alcan.  She helped us move from our home in Nebraska and was a proficient camp host in Colorado.  She went with us to pick up Sadie in Indiana holding on tightly on the rough roads in Indiana and Illinois, in the wind of Missouri and Kansas and hoping she didn’t fall out in the muddy Mississippi.

Tezzy at Johnson Crossing

Today, on her journey to Alaska with us, she revisited the place where she became lost – Johnson’s Crossing.  As we approached the historic landmark, her excitement grew and she asked that we take some photos of her with the grandiose background of the St. Elias/Wrangell Mountains.  She continues to sit on the dashboard watching the mountain scenery pass by sometimes having to peek through snowflakes or raindrops on the windshield.

She wants you to see all the places she has been and things she has done.  We will see about doing that, but we don’t want her getting lost and feeling alone again.

Swallowed by Overwhelming Depression

“Now if someone has been a cause of pain, it is not I (Sha’ul) whom he has pained, but, in some measure – I don’t want to overstate it – all of you.  For such a person the punishment  already imposed on him by the majority is sufficient, so that now you should do the opposite – forgive him, encourage him, comfort him.  Otherwise such a person might be swallowed up in overwhelming depression.  So I urge you to show that you really do love him” (2 Corinthians 2:5-7). 

Have you ever known someone who has struggled with ‘overwhelming depression?’  Have you ever considered it was caused by a state of pain where there was a lack of forgiveness, encouragement and comfort by those who have hope in Yeshua?

In our world those who are deeply depressed are immediately put on medication because it is believed there is a chemical imbalance in their body.  Of course, medical science can prove this is true, but from where did that imbalance originate?  

Pain

The person who lives with overwhelming depression has caused someone pain whether it’s himself or someone else.  According to Sha’ul, the majority of the Body of Messiah imposes punishment on this person by their actions or non-actions. They allow this person to wallow in their pain without taking the time to really understand what is happening within the spirit and soul of the individual. Few in the Body of Messiah understand the depth of understanding needed apart from just anointing with oil or saying that the doctors know best. Luke was a doctor and from what I read in Scripture, Yeshua never sent anyone to him to be healed. He sent them to the priests to acknowledge that Yeshua healed them.

According to Sha’ul the punishment of those in the congregation through ignorance is not enough. The congregation in Corinth as well as our own congregations are admonished to forgive the person, encourage the person and comfort the person.

“Dear friend, I am praying that everything prosper with you and that you be in good health, as I know you are prospering spiritually” (3 John 2).

A book entitled “A More Excellent Way” written by Henry J. Wright delves into the spiritual roots of disease using the Scriptures along with his medical background.  He suggests that in order to be healthy ‘mind, body, and soul,’ each of us needs to be in right relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves.

Forgiveness

This is ultimately the relationship we have with God.  Through Yeshua’s blood forgiveness of sin comes to each of us as individuals.  Our relationship with God is restored through Yeshua and without him, our relationship with our Creator/Father remains broken and we are complete separated from the love of the One we so desperately need.

“Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him.  Indeed just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

Forgiveness from those with whom we fellowship is important.  It is commanded by Yeshua that we forgive our brothers and sisters in order to receive forgiveness from the Father.  We can’t have one without the other.  Yeshua commands forgiveness for a brother or sister 7 times 70 or until forgiveness brings healing to the individuals.

There is also forgiveness of oneself.  This is often the most difficult area of forgiveness because wounding ourselves through wounding another can be a never-ending road to travel.  Satan always reminds us of our fallen nature and judges us with words like, ’You’re not good enough to be forgiven.  You have to flesh this out!”

Because he is the father of lies, these words from the Adversary are also lies.  Yeshua fleshed everything out for us by dying in our place.  Thus, forgiving ourselves is a huge barrier to being truly set free from overwhelming depression or any other disease because it refutes the accusations of the enemy.

Encouragement

“Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

This is ultimately the relationship with have with others as reflected in the life of Yeshua.  The journey to healing and restoration begins with encouragement in continuing the walk of life as he walked out life.   It is important for someone who struggles with depression and pangs of guilt not to revert into the same emotionally destructive patterns, but to embrace the hope of a full life now, not just in eternity. Encouragement from those in the Body through their own lives living out the teachings of Yeshua become key to complete inner healing and ultimately physical healing.

“Let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you as you teach and counsel each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). 

Our identity can become so wrapped up in the disease of depression that we need to be encouraged to see ourselves as God sees us – whole and healed being transformed into the image of Messiah.  Our identity should never be in the disease, but in Yeshua who took on our pain and suffering so we could be healed and set free from the spiritual root of the disease.

I knew a woman who asked that God put on her the sins of her husband so he could be saved.  God answered this woman’s prayer and He gave her a very rare cancer.  When she told me what she had done, I told her to immediately repent because we, mere jars of clay, are incapable of taking on our own sin let alone those of someone else.  Her cancer did not go away, but she lived years longer than expected and only passed because of something that really had nothing to do with the cancer.  During her last years of life, her faith in God changed dramatically because she repented and found her life in Messiah.

I was also part of a group of people praying for someone who was ill.  Different pray-ers asked God to put the burden of the illness on them!  Again, we can carry the burdens of the one who is ill by taking care of them, but we were not created to carry the illness or diseases of anyone.  That is the reason and purpose for Yeshua’s death. He is the only One who could actually taken on our burdens of illness because He. Is. God. In. The. Flesh.

“In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God.  But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and in fellowship with him, we are healed” Isaiah 53:4-5). 

Job was afflicted with horrible sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  He scratched himself with a piece of pottery and sat in ashes.  He never blamed God for what was happening to him.  He never ‘cursed God and died’ as his wife suggested.  Though there was great discourse between Job and his friends, his righteousness before God had been tested because the Adversary challenged that righteousness and God’s protection.  In the end, Job learned about God’s Sovereignty and his life was restored with greater blessings.

Though disease and working through the trial of disease may be allowed by God to transform us into the image of Messiah through suffering, God does not give us diseases to teach us a lesson or show us the way we are going to die.  One of the names or characteristics of God is the El Rafa or the Healer.  It confounds me as to why a Healer would inflict illness on His people and why so-called redeemed people actually believe such nonsense.  Perhaps the only reason a person has been allowed a disease is because it’s the only way to send a faithful servant to a place where someone needs to hear the message of salvation in Yeshua.

Comfort

Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). 

This is ultimately the relationship we have with ourselves as given to us through the Spirit of God.  At the last Passover as Yeshua spoke of the new covenant instituted by his blood, he promised a Comforter when he ascended to the Father.  The Comforter has the power to overcome sin in our life.  Many of the sins in which we find ourselves entangled are rooted in our weakness as a human being. These sins take root and make us ill. By embracing the power of God in our lives, His very Spirit of Life, we become strengthened to stand against those sins and walk in health.  In this way the Comforter  becomes the ‘medication’ that truly heals the conflict between our spirit and soul and ultimately our bodies.

“May the God of shalom make you completely holy – may your entire spirit, soul and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Henry Wright suggests that depression is caused by a battle between the spirit and the soul.  What exactly does this mean?

First, I believe it means that when we are diagnosed with an illness like depression, we need to stop and look at what is happening spiritually in our lives.  How is what is happening affecting our soul?  What are we embracing in this world that is affecting our soul. Everyone knows the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” but is it?  Is there a battle between what you know is Truth and what your soul and mind are telling you?  We are to have the mind of Messiah and take every thought captive to him not embrace the lies of our enemy!

“For who has known the mind of Adonai?  Who will counsel him? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

In my lifetime, I have know three people to take their lives.  The first was a man I worked with for several years.  I had lost touch with him only to reconnect several months before he made that fateful decision.  Those who lived near him heard him fighting with ‘someone’ the night he died.  He was alone.  I believe his spirit and soul battled the enemy for his life.

The second was a woman who was a believer.  She never gave any sign of depression though after she took her life, it came out she struggled with depression for many years.  Why, as a believer, did she succumb to the lies of the evil one?  What were her last moments like?  Did her spirit and soul lose to the enemy?

The third was a young man I had known since he was born.   As I tried to understand the reasons for such an action,  I just could not fathom making the decision to ‘end it all.’  He had a wife and two very young sons.  Yet, for some reason, he also believed the lies of the evil one who came to steal, kill and destroy his life and his family.  From the evidence surrounding his life and death, there was definitely a battle going on between his spirit and his soul and they lost the battle with the enemy.

The most famous Biblical suicide was Judas.  Once he betrayed Yeshua, he went to the authorities and said, “I sinned in betraying an innocent man to death.”  He, too, had a struggle between his soul and his spirit.  The leaders didn’t care that he had a conscience and so he hurled the pieces of silver into the sanctuary of the Temple and hung himself (Matthew 27:1-10).

Standing Before God

“We have God’s power for demolishing strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  

When I was in Israel I asked a man who claimed to be a cohen how Judaism viewed suicide.  Christianity has so many perspectives from a loss of salvation to it really doesn’t matter how a person dies because he was loved by so many that  he’s in heaven.  No one ever really deals with the consequences of such a decision.  This man said the Scriptures clearly state that we will each stand before God and give an account of our lives.  In Judaism he said it is believed that the one who takes his life will also give an account of his death.  What a burden to carry for the one who commits the murder of himself!  What would it be like to stand before my Creator and Father and explain why I didn’t want His breath of life any longer flowing through my body? 

“It is the Spirit of God that made me, the breath of Shaddai that gives me life” (Job 33:4).  

After considering these verses in Corinthians I began to see another side of the “account of death.” What if those who take their lives stand before God and say, “No one forgave me, no one encouraged me to walk in faith like Yeshua, no one comforted me with the comfort of the Spirit when I struggled?”  What if the Body of Messiah will be accountable for the death of one of those who was struggling with overwhelming depression?  What if the Body of Messiah has lost the ability to use the Scriptures to the full extent teaching forgiveness, encouragement and comfort? What if the Body of Messiah has lost its connection with the Father through His Spirit and their identity with Yeshua?

Sha’ul is clear in 1 Corinthians 11 that those who ‘eat the body and drink the wine’ in an unworthy manner, who don’t recognize the Body of Messiah,  drink judgment upon themselves.  He says that is why there are many who are weak and sick among the congregation.  Could the same be said for those who don’t forgive, encourage and comfort those with overwhelming depression, suffering a battle between the spirit and the soul only to lose to the enemy?

Ultimately the answers to these questions will be answered by our Father in the coming Kingdom or in eternity as I sure don’t have the answers or understand any of this. Until then, as another man considered a believer succumbs to suicide, I wonder what his resurrection moment will be like when he stands before God and must give an account of his life … and death? Will it be about a battle between his soul and spirit that he had no power to overcome – he lacked the power of the Spirit and walked a life of defeat?  Will it be that he just didn’t know and understand that his identity wasn’t in the pain he suffered, it was in Messiah Yeshua who took on the pain so he could be free from his suffering?   Or, will it be that he never had truly accepted the forgiveness offered by God through Messiah’s blood and though he was a good man had a broken, unrestored relationship that will keep him from an eternal Paradise?

Whatever brought him to this decision of death, an account will be given. It will either be a burden on him to explain or a burden on the Body of Messiah.

“If we would examine ourselves …” (1 Corinthians 11:31). 

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

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