Posted by: John Hall | September 17, 2009

Colorado Conflict

I recently read a great book of stories from Mark Jenkins who is an adventurer of the first order.  He makes his living by sticking his neck out (I must add in a calculated and professional way) in a response to his passion for the outdoors.  I’m sharing this because these kinds of stories always fuel a fire in me to get out and have my own adventures.  294My adventures don’t have to be as extreme as climbing Everest, but I do have a passion for the outdoors beyond my backyard.  The challenge I find is to overcome the centrifugal force of life in the city.  Usually it helps to find a partner or get an invitation to join something that is going on, and that’s exactly what happened.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t have any adventures.  In fact this summer has been exceptional.  I spent two months in China and another 20 days driving through Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Oregon, but that was family adventure and Mark’s book made me thirst for risk that was missing in the aforementioned.  So it was with great joy on September 6th, a week after returning from Oregon and in the midst of getting the kids ready for their first day of school, that I got the email that is sparking this blog.  It said:  “John, are you back from China? I want to hear about it, but also need to know if you are in any position to join me, Oogie and a bunch of other WT guides paddle/raft the Colorado.  Oogie asked me a few weeks ago and another guy just dropped out, so they’re looking for another person – YOU!”  If you’re married and you get this kind of email from friends after being away from home for most of the summer you cringe to bring it up with you’re wife right?  Well I cringed and then brought it up and surprisingly I got a positive response, which surprised me because we’re talking about a 14 day trip.  In fact everything seemed to look like it was going to work out for me to go.  But as you can tell it didn’t work out.

September 7th

Three balls got lofted into the air in an interesting juggling act.  Let me introduce them.

The first ball: It occurred to me that I’ve been trying to live a lifestyle that invites God into my decisions and even though I felt good about going that this should also be one of those times where I seek His opinion.  For instance when we considered going to China I asked God if he wanted us to go, His answer was ‘yes’ and things came together on that trip in an amazing way.  I don’t ask begrudgingly, or out of a sense of fear but I ask because I love Him and He loves me and wants the best for me.  He is God after all, and as the bible says He can see the beginning from the end.

The second ball:  I like to ask my wife to seek the Lord also, so that our decisions can be made in unity.  When there is unity in our home there is peace and provision so it’s important to me that Wei hears the Lord.  The tension is that when there is a decision to make I want her to give me an answer immediately, but she doesn’t hear like that and it can take a few days of nail biting to get an answer.

The third ball:  In the mornings I read the bible. The morning after I got the invitation I read Jeremiah 42-44.  In these chapters Judah and Jerusalem have just been wiped out by the Babylonians.  Only a small remnant remain and they don’t know what to do so they go to the prophet Jeremiah and say, “ Whether it (the word from the Lord) is favorable or unfavorable we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you so that it will go well with us for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jer. 42:6-8)  These chapters didn’t speak to me that day so I carried on and prayed that I would hear the Lord about the trip.

September 8th

Ball 1:  I continue to pray without hearing anything specific, but I felt incredible peace about going.  In my mind I can see myself in the majestic scenery of the Grand Canyon that I witnessed in person just a few weeks previously, but this time from the bottom of the canyon.  I start to go over the procedure for loading a raft on an expedition trip and make a list of questions that I need to ask the trip leader.  In the meantime my friend Dave has emailed me a dozen emails with all the correspondence from the members on the trip, including packing lists, and procedures from put in to take-out.  The momentum is building, I can feel it – soon it will be unstoppable!

Ball 2:  Wei hasn’t woken up yet so I can’t really bug her to pray and give me an answer.  Can I?

Ball 3:  I look at the bible reading for today and realize that I made a mistake on what day I was to read Jeremiah 42-44.  It turns out I should read it today, so I read it again.  It still doesn’t speak to me, but I know that when something like this happens that God is probably trying to get my attention.

September 9th

Ball 1:  I’m finally getting to be a little more calm and so in my prayer time there is peace in my mind and I can listen to God without radical fantasies of oaring down the class four maelstrom of Lava Falls.  In the peace I say, “God can I go on this trip?” and I hear “Yes”.  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Ball 2:  I’m leaving Wei alone.  Past experience has taught me the wisdom in this.  That, and she told me to last night.

Ball 3:  I’m on to a different bible reading today, so luckily I can put the two days of Jeremiah 42-44 behind me.

But later that afternoon the convergence begins.  I ask Wei to spend some time with me praying.  She agrees and after awhile I say, “Have you heard anything yet.”  She says, “No nothing clear”  So I say, “Well I find it helpful to ask out loud.”  So she does, and this is what happens – “God, can John go on this trip?”  God says, “Yes, but you’re asking the wrong question.  You should be asking ‘Should John go on this trip’.  So Wei asks, “Should John go on this trip?” And she hears, “No”.  This information gets related to me with a few groans from my side because I realize that I asked “Can I” not “Should I” as well.  Back on my knees I ask again, “Should I go on this trip Father?”  And I hear, “No”, as well.

I have to tell you the confirmation was painful to take.  It was with great regret that I wrote the email declining to participate on this trip.  The words ‘trip of a lifetime’ kept grinding through my mind, but I want to walk this way with God so what can I say.  It was then that I also got the message from Jeremiah.  When we walk with God, and seek to hear from him, we need to bind ourselves to follow through with whatever he speaks whether we like it or not.  The remnant from Jerusalem did not.  In fact they called Jeremiah a liar after he had spent ten days seeking the Lord on their behalf.  The answer from Jeremiah even seemed like a great deal.  He came to the people and said “If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I am grieved over the disaster I have inflicted on you.” (Jer. 42:10)  God was going to give them a sweet deal if they would trust him, but sadly they liked their own plan better and quickly got underway for Egypt, all those long dusty miles away.

It hasn’t been easy getting over my disappointment, to be honest if God hadn’t reinforced Jeremiah 42 to me I probably would have gone, but I’m thankful that he has because I know I want to be in this relationship with Him.  If he taught the lesson there is a purpose.  I also believe that my goal is to be like Christ who only did what he saw His Father doing.  It hurts sometimes but I trust that there are other good things that God has in store for me.  In the meantime there may still be a spot available for a person with rafting experience to enjoy a ‘trip of a lifetime’ down the Colorado.



  1. John, you are a brave persistent man of integrity…and a great writer too!! I loved reading this story, relating well to this journey that we’re on, learning not only to hear His voice but to actually walk in relationship and endeavor to please His heart. It’s not easy but it sure is worth it eh?!

  2. Hi John,

    I am still greatly impacted by this story. I want to be able to respond to God in the same way. Thanks for sharing.

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