Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 6

DAY 6: ARCHES

This day was different from all the others. We spent most of the morning in the hotel, relaxing, reading, and writing. After a late Mediterranean lunch at Sultan’s, we did a little shopping and stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Moab, then headed to Arches National Park. They are implementing metered entry to reduce the crowds, and our reservation was for the last entry, at 4:00 p.m.  We got to the gate at around 3:40, and the ranger welcomed us.

Arches has many of the same features of the other parks. The desert terrain has huge red rocks. In this case, they were more solid red color than in the other parks. Some of them look like thin slices if rock, standing straight up. It would seem that the slightest wind could knock them over. There are also walls, narrow passages, a few hoodoos, and windows. but, of course, its main feature are the arches. This park invites one to look through.

There are so many arches that it’s impossible to see all of them in half a day. So we had to pick a few. We first drove about 18 miles to the end of the paved road. From there we walked on a fairly easy packed dirt road, taking in the beautiful scenery. At the end of that short trail is a longer loop, which we didn’t have time to do. 

But we walked part of it, mostly deep sand, to see the Landscape Arch, which is the 3rd longest overall and longest sandstone arch in the world, the sun was shining directly behind it, and it was breathtaking.

From that point we returned to the main path, then took a side loop to see and walk through the Pine Tree Arch…

…then finished the loop with a view of the tunnel arch.

Back on the main path and almost to the parking area was a steep, narrow gap between two walls, so, of course, we had to climb to the top, just for the experience. One feels so small in these surroundings. It’s amazing.

We got back in the car and drove toward the park entrance, making a few more stops along the way. The first one was just a viewpoint if the Scenic Arch.

Then we stopped for another loop, which proved to be much longer and difficult than we had anticipated. The idea was to see the Sand Dune Arch, which is close to the rosd, but there were two others nearby, so we decided to make the loop. At first the path was on hard sand, through a meadow. It seemed easy. Then, as we approached the Broken Arch, it became much more primitive, with cairns showing the way through rocks and sand.

The Broken Arch is huge, and beautiful. To walk through it we had to climb a slick rock.  There was a cairn right in the middle, indicating that the way forward was through the arch.

One of my highlight “Abba hugs” was to see a rock squirrel run up the cairn and sit atop as to declare this was his domain.

Past the Broken Arch, the trail became even more primitive. Climbing rocks and traversing through deep sand in the heat was exhausting.

We finally found the Tapestry Arch, an almost perfect circle with a smaller, less perfect one on either side.

Then, the trail became really confusing. There weren’t enough cairns to guide us. Or maybe we were looking for them in the wrong places. After a bit of wandering, we decided to backtrack. 300 feet later we came back to the loop, and it finally made sense that the lookout for the Tapestry Arch was a short detour from the loop. Carrying the trail map would have been helpful.

Back on the loop, we continued toward the campground, and we found it, but now we couldn’t figure out how the loop continued to take us back toward our parking lot. A nice lady sitting by her camper gave us a trail map, and we figured out that we had to walk through the campground to find the trail head. After a bit of frustration, we found it.

As we were completing the “loop,” we heard a voice: “I’m not a bear.” Then this man came running past us. He looked like he has been raised within the park; he seemed to navigate the terrain as easily as the squirrels and lizards.

We finally completed the loop, then got back on the sandy trail, and reached the entrance to the Sand Dune Arch. From that point, it was just a short walk toward the arch, but it was through very deep sand. I’m glad it wasn’t much longer.

We got back to the car, exhausted, and took time to replenish with lots of water and yogurt. We still had one more stop to make.

By now it was 7:45 p.m. and we wanted to see the Delicate Arch, Utah’s preeminent landmark, before sundown. We had been advised not to try the hike to the arch in the extreme summer heat. And we were too tired for it, anyway. But there’s a much shorter and somewhat simpler trail from which one can see the arch from across a canyon. So that was our choice. We headed to the Lookout section.

For the lookout, there are two options, the lower, which is a mere 200 feet from the parking lot and the upper, which is 0.5 miles with a rather steep climb. Of course, that was our choice. Even though we were tired, we had regained just enough strength for the climb, and reached the top just as the sun was setting.

We hadn’t planned it, but it was pretty awesome to finish our Utah Parks experience by watching the sun set behind the Delicate Arch. 

Back to the car, and now it was almost 9:00. We decided to stay in the park so we could see the night sky without any man-made light to detract from it.  We found “Panorama Point,” with a telescope icon on the map. We thought that would be the ideal place to be, so we drove there, on a high point in the park, and found a series of smooth rock benches laid out perfectly for stargazing.

We shared a bench, head to head, and played John Mark Pantana music on the ear buds as we watched the sky turn darker and stars appear, one by one, until the sky was full of them. The moon was shining brightly, and the temperature was perfect. This was the perfect ending for a most memorable trip.

The end.

Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 5

DAY 5: CANYONLANDS

Before planning this trip, we hadn’t heard of Canyonlands, so we didn’t know what to expect. I only knew of a recommended hike. Based on my maps, I thought we were about 35 minutes from the park. Well, technically, yes, to the edge of the park. However, this one is so vast, that it is divided into 3 districts, and it takes 2:30 to get from the “Island in the Sky” Visitor Center to the one in “The Needles.” The recommendation I had read about was in the Needles district. Later I found out that the hikes in the Island in the Sky district are much easier than the ones in the Needles, but we were pleased with our choice.

We left the hotel in Moab just before 8:00 and arrived at the Visitor Center at around 9:30. The scenery leading to and through the park was very different but just as awesome as the ones we had seen before. If Zion causes on to look up, Bryce Canyon causes one to look down, Capitol Reef causes one to look all around, then Canyon lands causes one to look far and wide.

The terrain is mostly flat, with mesas of a reddish dark brown with lots of vegetation, and tall, red rocks forming hoodoos, arches, and windows blending in with the canyon terrain.

At the Visitor Center, Ranger Robb gave us information and suggestions.  It turns out that the hike we thought we would do is too difficult for amateur hikers like us, so he offered other possibilities, including the 6 mile (round trip) trek to the Chesler Park Viewpoint, from which one has a great view of both the Needles and the canyon.

We followed the paved road until it ended, then another 3 miles on a narrow, winding, dirt road to Elephant Hill, where the trail started. it was just before 10:00 a.m. and the sky was clear.

This was by far the most strenuous path we have taken so far, because of its length, the way it climbs and descends multiple times, and because it is not a maintained path. This one is marked only by occasional cairns along the way.

It felt a little like a cairn scavenger hunt. Mist of the time it was easy to follow the markings, but there were a few spots where we had to stop and look until we finally found which way to go.

The terrain was varied, including makeshift stairs made of stone, slickrock, and soft sand. At times the climbs were steep, at other times we just had to figure out a way to get to the top of the rock ahead to reach the next cairn.

There were two unexpected features that we really liked. One was a very narrow gap between two rock walls. It was only barely wise enough for one of us to pass through. This also provided much needed shade and a cool, refreshing breeze. Nature’s air conditioning is the best!

Another was a very tall rock that provided shade just when we were needing a break.

All through the hike we could see some of the canyon features. From above, the sides of the canyon look pretty solid, but they are not. The best way I can describe it is that the sides of the canyon look like a field mushrooms.

The “lower” part of the canyon is made up of rock formations that are dark on the bottom, like small mesas, with big, light gray flattened boulders on top. They stand side by side leaving only a small gap between them. It’s a unique landscape.

When we finally reached the view point, we felt a great sense of accomplishment. The view of “The Needles” was spectacular.  

It was a little after noon, so we took a short break to replenish with mixed nuts, dried fruits, and a packet of peanut butter that I had picked up from a hotel breakfast a few days before. That gave us all the energy we needed to start the 3-mile return trip.

We reached Elephant Hill again, tired but happy, at almost 2:00 p.m. 

From that point we decided to take the scenic route to the end of the paved road. The size of the canyon is hard to describe. It stretches for miles on every direction. Since we had more time today because we were only returning to Moab, we decided to take one more short hike. This was an easy one, around the potholes. It seems that at other times of the year the potholes on the slick rock are filled with water, so they invite lots of wildlife. However, it is the middle of August, and it is hot and dry. So, there was no water, and no wildlife other than lizards, which had been frequent sightings all the way. This 0.6 mike hike was just what we needed to cool down and help our bodies reconditioned from the earlier trek. By then it was time to head back.

The drive back to Moab was uneventful. It was exciting, however, to see the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop to the Utah mesas.

We reached Moab by 4:00, had an early dinner and dessert, and headed back to the hotel. We relaxed with a short dip in the hot tub and some time by the pool.

End of day 5.

Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 4

DAY 4: CAPITOL REEF

Today we got up at 7:30, got ready, had breakfast, and headed to Capitol Reef National Park. Some people say Capitol Reef is like Zion, without the crowds. In some ways it’s true, because it offers a combination of giant rock formations and abundant vegetation. It is also true that it has fewer visitors. But it is unique in that its campgrounds have orchards, and the valley between the rock formations seems wider.

After a quick stop at the visitor’s center to get a map and directions, we drove to the farthest point on the scenic drive to start our hike.

The way I would describe the rocks we saw along the way is like “Bryce Canyon under construction.” The rocks have the same majestic look and defined towers that could become hoodoos, but they are still very much attached to one another.

Some of them look like castles and fortresses sitting atop a gigantic rock.

Some offer huge walls, and some are layered like a stack of crepes. The scenic drive is about 7 miles of paved road followed by 2.4 miles of unpaved road through what seems to be an old riverbed.

On this part of the drive the road is narrow and at times it is flanked by humongous rock walls. At the end of the dirt road is the parking area for the Golden Throne and Capitol gorge trail heads.

We had read that the Golden Throne trail was highly recommended. it is a 2-mile climb along the ledge of the rocks, ascending 730 feet. It is the most strenuous hike we have done so far, but well worth it. 

It took us about 1:30 to get to the top where one can see the entirety of the Golden Throne rock formation, and an awesome view of the Capitol Gorge.

The path was more treacherous than the others we had taken so far. Here the primitive path went from sand to gravel, to dirt and stones, to flat rock, alternating back and forth.

For most of it there were rocks along the side marking the way, but at times we had to guess and follow the faint footprints of a park ranger who ascended shortly before we did. It was a hot and sunny day, but the path had enough shaded areas and the breeze blowing through the canyon was refreshing enough that we weren’t totally baked.

Reaching the “end of trail” sign was exciting, and the view was phenomenal. 

Then it took us another hour to get back. At one point Kerry asked, “How are you doing?” and it echoed perfectly. We were standing beside a huge wall. I thought Kerry had asked the question to hear the echo, but it was purely accidental. It was one of many “Abbas hugs” we have enjoyed. Along this trail we also saw lizards, chipmunks, many yellow flowers, and one little purple flower, which, of course, delighted my heart.

We got to the parking lot shortly after noon.  There was a covered patio with picnic tables. We had hard boiled eggs and a couple of bananas that we had picked up from the breakfast served at the hotel, so that was our lunch.

After this short break we walked along the Capitol Gorge path for about 30 minutes. This was a walk on an old riverbed flanked by huge rock walls, and additional gorges going off to the sides. My assessment of it was that this is what it must feel like to be a river. At some points the gorge was very deep and narrow. At others it was wider. At some points the bottom was smooth. At others it was covered in smaller rocks, making it much harder to walk on.

We could see the power of the water and how over time it has carved the stone. I could envision the river flowing through the gorge, and waterfalls flowing into it o. The side gorges. It must have been amazingly beautiful when the water level in the area was much higher than it is today

We returned to the parking lot, got in the car, and drove back toward the visitor center, stopping again for a very short stretch and walk between the orchards and the Fremont river. The sound of the water and the green of the grass and trees were refreshing.

We left Capitol Reef at about 2:00, taking another scenic route out if the park.  The road from Torrey to Moab was beautiful in its own way, but nowhere close to the ones we had seen the days before.

There was an expansive desert, very desolate, and mesas, like before, but these were gray and white. I don’t have Anything against gray, per se, but compared to the plum, coral, pink, white and yellow ones we had seen before, these seemed rather dull. the did look like sandcastles, which I found amusing.

We arrived in Moab shortly after 4:00 and checked into our hotel. This will be our final lodging place foe the next 3 nights. In Moab we found a good Mediterranean restaurant, Sultan’s, and a delicious Gelato place. the town of Moab is buzzing with tourists seeking al! types of adventure, and the town seems ready to offer a wide range of it.  For us, we just want to visit two more parks and rest a bit. A little splash in the hotel’s swimming pool and some time in the hot tub were a good refreshing to end day number four.

Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 3

DAY 3: BRYCE CANYON

We started our day a little before 8:00. The weather was a brisk 60oF, which was perfect for the hike we had planned. The Queen’s Garden/Navajo combination loop is the most recommended hike, so of course, that was our choice. This combination starts at Sunrise Point, above the canyon, descends 625 feet, and then climbs back. What is so good about this particular combination loop is the diversity of the 2 legs.

From above, the vast collection of hoodoos, windows, and walls makes it seem like the desert landscape is frozen in time. Of, course, it isn’t. Hiking down Queen’s Garden gives ample evidence of the vibrant life of the canyon.

Lush green forests spread through its bottom. Chipmunks, squirrels, and blue jays scurry gathering nuts, berries, and other delicacies. There is abundant life, and plenty of beauty to behold. The combination of the dry rock formations and the fresh vegetation is delightful.

After about 1.5 miles of descending trails, the loops connect and we chose “the Wall” side of the Navajo loop for our ascent, not knowing what lay ahead. On the Navajo loop the scenery is quite different. There is still some vegetation, but little by little the rocks take precedence.

And then, suddenly, there is “The Wall” – maybe it would be better called in plural form, for we found ourselves in a very narrow gap between two huge rock walls. It’s hard to calculate their size, but the feeling was ominous. The gap was barely wide enough for two people to walk through, and the walls must have been at least 150 feet tall and 150 feet long. After crossing the narrow path, we climbed at least 60 switchback steps and then continued the trail to Sunset Point, at the top.

All of that took a little less than 2 hours. What a way to start the day! We went to the General Store for breakfast, and met the attendant, who happened to be from Littlefield, Texas, and grew up in Pettit, TX – same as Kerry’s father.

The day was still young and there was much more yet to see. Bryce Canyon National Park spans 18 miles, and we had only seen about 4 of them. So, we got in the car and drove to the farthest point. The 18-mile scenic road atop the canyon betrays the beauty that lies beneath.

This winding road is lined with a dense pine forest, narrow to the East, and a sprawling valley to the West.  It is only when one stops at one of the many viewpoints that one can see the vastness of the canyon and beyond it, mikes and miles of valleys, desert, mesas, plateaus, and mountains.

When we got to mile 18, Rainbow Point, we parked and walked to the rim’s overlook to take in more of the fantastic view. We decided we had time and energy for another short hike, so we walked the 1-mile Bristlecone Loop, which offers “bristlecone pines and expansive vistas.” I was surprised to see many blueberry bushes, and pine trees with baby pinecones.

As we drove back toward the park entrance we stopped at a couple more scenic outlooks. The most striking one was Natural Bridge, which is the largest “window,” so close to the road that one can more readily appreciate its beauty and size.

By then it was almost 2:00 p.m. and time to head to our next stop. The 2:30 route from Bryce Canyon to Torrey, was through Scenic Route 12. We had planned on visiting the parks, and had already been impressed by the scenic route leaving Zion, but this was way more than we expected.

The drive through the Dixie National Forest is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever seen. It’s not just that it has beautiful scenery, it’s also that the scenery keeps changing, and every new scene was as beautiful, yet very different from the one before. We saw mesas that were deep red, others that were a combination of red and white, others that were bright white, also forests, and valleys, and canyons, and farmland.

One fun stop on the road was the Kiva Koffeehouse. Apparently, a kiva is a Native American dwelling built underground, where only a trained eye can see it from the surface. Well, this was similar. Our GPS was telling us that we were approaching our destination, but we couldn’t see it. We were in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles from the nearest town, driving through the desert.

Then we saw the sign for the “koffeehouse” and an arrow to an “empty” parking lot. I mean, the parking lot was there, and one other car, but no building.

We parked anyway, and followed the sign downstairs, and suddenly, there it was – a charming semi-circled building with stunning views, beautiful gardens, and great coffee, hot chocolate, and pastries.

After a fun refreshing stop, we continued on this beautiful road and finally reached Torrey around 5:00, checked into our hotel, and went to get something to eat.  We found Rim Rock Patio, a “Spaghetti Western Cafe” that serves delicious pasta and pizza in a lovely patio with picnic tables, horseshoes, corn hole toss, and a live music stage (but there was no live music while we were there). Kerry beat me on a quick game of corn hole toss after dinner, and we returned to the hotel to rest and prepare for the next day.

End of day 3.

Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 2

DAY 2: ZION NATIONAL PARK

We started our day at 7:00 a.m. with breakfast at Oscar’s Cafe, followed by a short shuttle ride to the Visitor’s Center of Zion National Park. Once in the park there is another shuttle that makes 8 stops at the different trail heads. The most recommended hike is “Riverwalk/The Narrows,” which happens to be the northernmost tip of the park. The ride to the “Riverwalk” trail head was stunningly beautiful. The road is through a lush, narrow valley bounded by towering rocks of different colors. There are lots of pine trees, but it’s not just pines. The green of the vegetation blends with the red and white of the rocks, and the blue sky to create a visual feast.

We reached the “Riverwalk” stop and started walking on a nice, paved path bordering the Virgin River.

Rock squirrels scurried before us occasionally, adding diversion along the way. After about 1 mile, the sidewalk ends. A few steps down, and one is at the edge of the Virgin River. But the hike doesn’t end there.

From that point on, it’s a combination of crossing the river, back and forth, to dry land. Most of the time the water is knee-deep, but at some points it can be as high as the waist. Water shoes and a walking stick are very helpful.

Along the way it feels like one is being swallowed by the rock walls arising on each side. Beyond the immediate rocks that provide nice shade one can see more rocks at a distance.

At one of the many bends of the river there is a tall and narrow waterfall.

Apparently one can go for hours on the river. We went for maybe 1 hour and then turned back. There was more we wanted to see.

When we reached the paved path, we sat down for a water break, and a little rock squirrel came to me begging for food. Kerry had some trail mix with nuts that he must have smelled. He was the cutest little thing.

Back on the shuttle, we stopped again at the Lodge, which also happens to be the trail head for the Emerald Pools hike. This one has 3 options: lower, middle, or upper, or a combination of the three. We chose the Upper Pool Loop via the Lower Pool Loop. These are a bit more strenuous, as they have pretty steep climbs and descents.

It was fun to see the river valley below, to walk behind a waterfall, and to see the maturing tadpoles and red dragonflies by the pools.

We ended up connecting with the Middle Pool Loop, and therefore ended up seeing all three, and making the hike a little longer. But it was well worth it.

It was time for lunch, so we took the shuttle back to town, ate at Porter’s (connected to Bumbleberry Gift Shop and Bakery), picked up the car, and headed to Bryce Canyon.

The drive from Springdale to Bryce City was on the scenic route 9 that goes through Zion. The scenery was much more spectacular than we anticipated. Lots of switchbacks and a mile-long tunnel enabled the climb to the top of the rocky mountains. Now we could see the Canyon from above. Then Route 89, also a scenic bypass, took us through parts of the Dixie National forest into Bryce Canyon.

DAY 2 (extra): RED CANYON and BRYCE CANYON PREVIEW

Along the way we passed Red Canyon. The redness of the soil was more intense than we had seen before. I saw a few people climbing one of the rocks and was tempted to stop and do the same, but our better judgment told us we had done enough walking for one day and it would be wiser to let our bodies rest for the next day.

We checked into The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, then went for ice cream at Ruby’s Inn, which is not just an Inn and campground, but also has a replica of an old pioneer town with gift shops, ice cream parlor, and other fun things. Then we went back to the lodge. The benefit of staying at the lodge inside the park was that we were walking distance to the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, from which one can overlook much of the canyon and start several hikes.

A 5-minute walk got us to sunset point. The view was spectacular. (I keep using that word, but there’s no better way to describe it. I could say awesome, amazing, wonderful, stunning… you get the point). After dark it was time to go to sleep.

End of day 2.

Utah Big 5 (plus) Travel Journal – Day 1

Is it possible to visit all of the big 5 national parks in Utah in a week? This is the question that we asked a few months ago. With the help of other travelers, articles, maps, and guides, we decided to make the journey. This is the summary of how it went, both for our remembrance, and hoping that it might help others who are looking to do something similar.

The trip started on a Tuesday, with an afternoon flight from DFW to Las Vegas. We picked up our rental car and found a nice restaurant to start the week on a “High Note.” Table 34 restaurant did not disappoint. The pork chops,mashed potatoes, and asparagus were delicious, as was the Salmon with cauliflower mashed potatoes and steamed spinach. After dinner, we drove through The Strip, then a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up a case of water for the week. On hindsight, sports drinks might have been better, but we have managed quite well with water. Kerry packs an insulated backpack with ice and a few bottles of water, and that has worked out well. But I digress… After dinner and a quick stop, an hour drive to North Shore Inn at Lake Mead for our first night.

DAY 1: VALLEY OF FIRE, NV

According to the website, the park opens at 9:00 a.m. We didn’t realize we could use the self-pay booth to go earlier. With August temperatures in the Nevada desert, starting at 6:00 a.m. would have been much better. We drove into the park around 8:30 a.m.

What struck me the most was the diversity of colors. White sandstone turns red when iron is present, so the landscape is a combination of white, pink, red, gray, and shades in between. It is strikingly beautiful.

We were greeted by a couple of mountains goats gently grazing the sparse bushes nestled between the rocks. Their movement among the rocks makes it easy to see how they were made for this terrain.

The most recommended hikes are closed in the summer due to extreme heat (it was between 100 and 107 while we were there, with blazing sun). But one can drive through the park and venture out on shorter loop hikes with stunning views.

We went to the Fire Canyon/Silica Dome first, and climbed almost to the top of the dome. Along the way we saw a snake and several lizards. Something that stood out to me about the rocks were the protrusions that looked like threads wrapped around them.

Of course, the colors were beautiful, too.

Then we hiked the Rainbow Vista trail. It’s about 1.5 miles. With stops along the way, it took about an hour. The terrain isn’t difficult, but it is almost all deep sand, so it’s tiring. But it is beautiful, too.

The most surprising finds were the many trees and bushes growing in the crevices of the rocks, and the “window” at the end of the trail that overlooks a narrow valley surrounded by multicolored rocks. A nice big rock provided much needed shade on the way back.

We left the park around 11:30 a.m. and started driving toward Utah. We drove through Glendale, Bunkerville, and stopped for lunch at Los Moritas, in Mesquite, NV. Then a short drive through Arizona, to find the most stunning entrance into St. George, UT. It was time for dessert, so we found Snelgrove Ice Cream, a delicious, family-owned parlor started by the current owner’s great-grandfather. She shared with us about the history, told us fun facts about St. George, and recommended Snow Canyon.

DAY 1 (extra): SNOW CANYON, UT

It wasn’t a planned stop, but we were very close, so a quick change of plans got us to a small state park with huge sand dunes and lava formations.

We decided on one more short hike for the day, about 2 miles roundtrip to see the entrance to the lava tunnels. The terrain was very different from our morning hikes, plus overcast skies and a light sprinkle were a welcome refresher on a very hot day.

Finally, around 4:00 p.m. we continued our journey to Springdale, UT, to visit Zion National Park. Upon arrival we checked in at Under the Eaves Inn, the oldest B&B in Springdale. The Inn is a charming old house with small cabins. It is centrally located, with easy access to restaurants. Across the street we ate at MeMe’s Cafe, then headed to bed.

End of day 1.

The Orphan Spirit Is No Respecter of Persons

Doug Wead has researched the lives and families of all the American Presidents and many other national leaders seeking to find a link between the father’s influence and the child that eventually became an American President. At the time of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the last two opponents standing were both men who had barely known their fathers: Barack Obama and John McCain. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton never knew their fathers; those men having died before the sons were born.

The father of Barack Obama left home in 1963, when his son was only two years old. They were separated by continents. Obama was twenty-one years old when he learned by a telephone message that the father he never knew was killed in an automobile accident. History now records Obama serving two consecutive terms as President of the United States. John McCain, historically the only son and grandson of four-star Admirals in the Navy, had a father who was very loving but very busy and mostly absent. In fact, history shows that many fathers of the American presidents died young. And even the ones who lived longer were busy, successful, but absent. George Herbert Walker Bush said of George W., “I was never there. Barbara raised him.” That said, he was one of only two fathers to actually attend their sons’ presidential inaugurations.

What impact would that have had on young men seeking to prove themselves or measure up? The truth is, Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao all fit the pattern of a strong mother attachment and an absent father. What is baffling, outside of an understanding of the orphan spirit, is that it seems to be the template for aggressive and criminal behavior as well as that of highest performers.

America’s prisons are full of young men who love their mothers and don’t know their fathers. Wead concludes, “It seems that both presidents and criminals drink from the same poisonous cup with vastly differing results. It was a strange tonic for good to the achieving presidents and a formula for terrible emotional damage to the criminal.”i

Here is the point: authority figures are not perfect – whether parents, pastors, teachers, or politicians – and Satan uses their imperfections as entry points for an orphan spirit. As we will see in The Abba Factor, the orphan spirit thrives in the highest places of wealth and power and lowest places of poverty. The orphan spirit is no respecter of persons,

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i Doug Wead, The Raising of President and All the Presidents’ Children (Atria Books, 2005). Doug Wead chronicles that many other American Presidents lost their fathers at an early age. James Garfield was one year old when his father died. Andrew Johnson was three, Herbert Hoover six, George Washington eleven, and Thomas Jefferson fourteen. Fully nineteen presidents lost their fathers before they reached age thirty.

 


All Rights Reserved 2018 | Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood

La importancia de la Navidad

¿Por qué celebramos la Navidad? Hay muchos motivos. Indudablemente es un tiempo de alegría, de reflexión, de generosidad, y de amor. Es un tiempo en que nos damos regalos. Es un tiempo para reunirnos con nuestros familiares y amigos – tal vez sea la oportunidad de abrazar a aquellos familiares con quienes solo nos vemos una vez al año. Pero la razón principal (aunque muchos ya no se acuerdan de ello) es que en la Navidad celebramos el nacimiento de Jesús. ¿Qué es lo que la hace tan importante? ¿Por qué celebramos este nacimiento con muchos más bombos y platillos que cualquier otro? Si no entendemos el significado de este evento, jamás podremos realmente comprender la idea de “…en la tierra paz a los que gozan de su buena voluntad.”

El nacimiento de Jesús no fue nada ordinario. No es sólo que nació en un pesebre (aunque eso era inusual). No es sólo que los ángeles cantaron (aunque eso era inusual). No es sólo que había una estrella enorme mostrando el lugar de Su nacimiento (aunque eso era inusual). No es sólo que nació de una virgen (¡aunque eso ciertamente es extraordinario!) La importancia del nacimiento de Jesús es que marca el momento en que Dios tomó forma de ser humano.

Dios, el creador del universo, quien lo sostiene todo con el poder de Su palabra, escogió hacerse uno con Su creación. El Dios infinito y todopoderoso se vistió de carne humana, débil y limitada. En este acto de amor inexplicable, Dios se comprometió eternamente con la causa del ser humano. En Jesús ya no hay separación entre Dios y los hombres. Por el contrario, lo que encontramos es un acto de amor perfecto, desinteresado, infinito, y sobreabundante.

Por mucho tiempo ha habido personas que se cuestionan este misterio de que Jesús sea completamente Dios y completamente hombre. Va más allá del entendimiento humano. Para tratar de conciliar el misterio, generalmente nos enfocamos en un aspecto de la naturaleza de Jesús, dándole menos importancia al otro. Ha habido filósofos, teólogos, y grandes pensadores que lo han hecho por muchos siglos.

Por un lado, algunos ven a Jesús como un gran hombre – un hombre lleno de Dios; un hombre con la valentía de los dioses; un hombre de gran carácter moral; un líder, maestro o guía sin igual; un hombre digno de admiración y respeto; pero a fin de cuentas… sólo un hombre. Pero la Biblia dice claramente que Jesús era (y es) Dios:

Juan 5:18 – [Jesús] llamaba a Dios su propio Padre, con lo que él mismo se hacía igual a Dios.

Jesús sabía perfectamente que Él era Dios. No sólo que Él mismo lo decía, sino que otros dieron fe de lo mismo. Por ejemplo:

Juan 1:1, 14 – En el principio ya existía el Verbo, y el Verbo estaba con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios. … Y el Verbo se hizo hombre y habitó entre nosotros.

Filipenses 2:5-6 – Su a actitud de ustedes debe ser como la de Cristo Jesús, quien, siendo por naturaleza Dios, no consideró el ser igual a Dios como algo a qué aferrarse.

Colosenses 2:9 – Toda la plenitud de la divinidad habita en forma corporal en Cristo.

Por otro lado, algunos (como los Gnósticos), ven a Jesús como Dios, pero se olvidan de Su humanidad. Pero para conocer realmente a Jesús debemos reconocer que Él experimentó todas las limitaciones de los seres humanos. La Biblia dice que Jesús:

· Nació de una mujer, bajo la Ley

· Crecía, se fortalecía, y progresaba en sabiduría

· Era de carne y hueso (con limitaciones de tiempo y espacio)

· Tenía una mente racional

· Experimentaba emociones – tristeza, compasión, rechazo, angustia

· Tuvo hambre y sed

· Necesitaba dormir

· Dependía de Dios y por lo tanto oraba

· Era obediente al Padre (ni auto-suficiente ni independiente)

¿Por qué es esto importante? ¿Qué quiere decir?

Quiere decir que en Jesús tenemos a un Salvador perfecto – uno que se identifica con nuestra debilidad, pero que a la vez es la solución.

· Si estás triste, recuerda que Jesús también lloró – y que Él es tu gozo, quien cambia tu lamento en danza.

· Si estás enfermo, recuerda que Jesús llevó nuestras enfermedades en Su cuerpo – y que Él es tu sanador.

· Si te sientes débil o cansado, recuerda que Jesús también se sintió así – y que Él es tu fortaleza.

· Si te sientes solo, recuerda que Jesús fue traicionado, abandonado y rechazado – y que Él es el amigo que nunca te abandona.

· Si estás ansioso, recuerda que Jesús sudó gotas de sangre – y que Él es tu paz.

· Si estás enfrentando una tentación, recuerda que Jesús también fue tentado – y que Él te da la salida y perdona tus pecados.

· Si tienes necesidad, recuerda que Jesús enfrentó situaciones de escasez – y que Él es tu proveedor.

· Si te sientes lejos de Dios, recuerda que Jesús sintió esa separación cuando colgaba en la cruz – y que Él te quiere mostrar al Padre y reconciliarte con Él.

· Si estás tomando decisiones, recuerda que Jesús sabe lo que es buscar la ayuda del Padre – y que Él es tu sabiduría.

· Si te sientes incapaz para la tarea que tienes por delante, recuerda que Jesús hizo milagros bajo la unción del Espíritu Santo – y que Él te quiere llenar con ese mismo Espíritu Santo para que puedas cumplir con tu llamado.

Porque Jesús nació – completamente Dios y completamente hombre – no hay separación alguna entre Dios y nosotros. Sea lo que sea que estás enfrentando, no tienes que mirar a tus limitaciones humanas. Puedes acudir confiadamente a Dios para recibir misericordia y hallar la gracia que te ayude en el momento que más la necesites. En Jesús tenemos la garantía de que Dios está con nosotros, y Dios está a favor nuestro. Y es por esto que celebramos la Navidad.

Podemos decir, junto con los ángeles: «Gloria a Dios en las alturas, y en la tierra paz a los que gozan de su buena voluntad».

¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!


Dra. Chiqui Polo-Wood | Todos los derechos reservados 2017

What’s the Big Deal with Christmas?

Why do we celebrate Christmas? There are many reasons. It’s a time of goodwill and cheer. It’s a time when we express our love to one another through gifts. It’s a time for families to gather – maybe to spend time with those relatives that we only get to see once a year. But the main reason (which many don’t want to acknowledge) is that at Christmas we celebrate that Jesus was born. Why is that such a big deal? Why is this particular birthday worthy of such celebration? If we misunderstand this event, we will miss out on the true meaning of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

The birth of Jesus was not an ordinary birth. It’s not just that He was born in a manger (though that was unusual). It’s not just that angels were singing (though that was unusual). It’s not just that there was a huge star that pointed the way to His birthplace (though that was unusual). It’s not just that He was born of a virgin (though that was certainly extraordinary). The big deal with Jesus’ birth is that it marked the moment when God took on human form.

God, the creator of the universe, who upholds it by the power of His word, chose to become one with His creation. The infinite, almighty God, took on finite, limited, weak human form. In this unexplainable act of love, God forever committed Himself to the human cause. In Jesus, there is no more separation between God and humans; instead what we find is a perfect, selfless act of infinite, other-centered, overflowing love.

For centuries people have wrestled with the notion of Jesus being fully God and fully man. It defies human comprehension. To reconcile the discomfort, we tend to favor one aspect of Jesus’ being while downplaying the other. Philosophers, theologians, great thinkers, have done this for centuries.

On one hand, some people regard Jesus as a godly man – a man with a full God-awareness; a man with the courage of a god; a man full of God; a man with great moral character; an unparalleled leader, teacher and guide; but still… just a man. But the Bible clearly says that Jesus was (and is) God:

John 5:18 – [Jesus] was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus knew clearly who He was. There was no doubt in Him that He was indeed God. And we also find these in several other places in Scripture (here are just a few):

John 1:1,14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Philippians 2:5-6 – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.

Colossians 2:9 – In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

On the other hand, some people (like the Gnostics) regard Jesus as God, but downplay His humanity. But to really know Jesus, we must remember the human limitations that He experienced when He walked on the earth. The Bible says that Jesus was

· Born of a woman, born under the law

· Grew in wisdom and stature

· Was fully flesh and bones (limited by time and space)

· Had a rational mind

· Experienced emotions – sadness, compassion, rejection, anguish

· He was hungry and thirsty

· He needed sleep

· He depended on God (prayer)

· He displayed obedience to the Father (not self-sufficient, nor independent)

So, what’s the big deal? What does all of that mean?

It means that in Jesus we have the perfect Savior – one who can identify with our frailty, but who at the same time is the solution.

· If you are sorrowful, remember that Jesus wept – and that He is your joy, who turns your mourning into dancing.

· If you are sick, remember that Jesus bore our sicknesses on His body – and that He is your healer.

· If you are weak or tired, remember that Jesus felt likewise – and that He is your strength.

· If you feel lonely, remember that Jesus was abandoned, betrayed and rejected – and that He is an ever-present friend.

· If you are anxious, remember that Jesus sweat drops of blood – and that He is your peace.

· If you are dealing with temptation, remember that Jesus was also tempted – and that He gives you a way out and forgives your sins.

· If you have need, remember that Jesus faced situations where resources were not enough – and that He is your provider.

· If you feel far from God, remember that Jesus felt the same separation when He hung on the cross – and that He wants to show you the Father and reconcile you to Him.

· If you are making decisions, remember that Jesus knows what it means to seek the Father’s counsel – and that He is your wisdom and guide.

· If you feel inadequate for the task ahead, remember that Jesus did supernatural works because He was anointed by the Holy Spirit – and He wants to fill you with the same Holy Spirit so you can do all that you are called to do.

Because Jesus was born – fully God and fully man – there is no separation between God and humanity. No matter what you are facing, you don’t have to look at your human limitation. You can come boldly to God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. In Jesus we have the guarantee that God is with us and for us. And this is why we gladly celebrate Christmas.

We can say, together with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood | All Rights Reserved 2017

The Shack – Why I Recommend the Movie

Many have undertaken to write their own reviews of Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack. Most of the ones we have read are negative – issuing dire warnings against what they perceive to be a heretical, unbiblical story. We see it with different eyes; and though we know we will upset some people by saying so, we want to share a few reasons why we love and recommend both the movie and especially the book. Let us say up front that we are neither providing a thorough review of every theological point in the book; nor writing a response to the accusations of those who oppose the story.[1] We also want to be clear that we are not expecting that you will agree with us (or with the authors of the book). If you have questions about the theology of the book/movie, find answers – informed answers. Then use your discernment and arrive at your own conclusions, but graciously let people think for themselves and have their own opinions.

Overarching Themes

The overarching theme of relationship: This is the story of Mack, a man who, like many of us, has experienced deep trauma and unexplainable pain in his life. Because of his pain, he is distanced from God. But it is also the story of God, who longs for relationship with His children. It is the story of a Father who extends an invitation to Mack to be restored in relationship with Him (an envelope shows up in Mack’s mailbox). Jesus expresses the Father’s heart when He prays “…for those who will believe in me … that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).

The overarching theme of wholeness: This is the story of a broken man who has forgotten how to love. He is so concerned for his own pain that he has turned completely inward in self-protection and self-preservation. But it is the story of God, who reaches out and invites him on a journey of wholeness – where his feelings are validated; his questions are answered; his judgmental attitude is corrected; and his heart gets mended. As a result, Mack is freed from himself and in this newfound wholeness he is free to love extravagantly, to live with gratitude and inexpressible joy. This is what John tells us about the Father’s heart: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). (The word “saved” is translated from the original sōzō (grk), which entails salvation, healing, restoration, preservation, wholeness).

The overarching theme of forgiveness: This is the story of a man whose heart is bound up in unforgiveness. It is eating him up and affecting his whole life. Mack’s life is a picture of the unforgiving servant who is being tormented (Matthew 18:21-25). But it is the story of God, who steps into the picture to help Mack process his pain and to give him the strength to forgive and receive healing. It is a picture of how God can take our brokenness and make something beautiful out of it if we have the courage to trust Him and obey, even when it is painful. In the book version, God says to Mack, “Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation. And sometimes – and this may seem incomprehensible to you right now – that road may even take you to the miracle of fully restored trust.”

Other Salient Themes

Now here are some of my favorite lines/scenes from the book (which are slightly modified in the theatrical version without losing their meaning).

1. God’s Holiness:I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all you can ask or think.” This is consistent with Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” A key aspect of God’s holiness is that He is different from creation; He is beyond the world he created.

2. The Trinity:All love and relationship is possible for you only because it already exists within me within God myself. Love is not the limitation; love is the flying. I am love.” John says it clearly: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:8, 16). The relationality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is foundational to the doctrine of the Trinity.

3. God’s Design for Us:Humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.” The Bible is clear that God has created us, in His image, with a purpose (Genesis 1:26-31). David declares in Psalm 139 that God has intentions for us. God says it of specific people in Isaiah (44:2, 24; 49:5) and Jeremiah (1:5), so it can be inferred that this applies to all of us. Jesus sets us free from our limitations so we can experience abundant life.

4. Good and Evil:You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil in your own terms. That is a hard pill to swallow; choosing only to live in me. To do that you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.” This points to the original sin, where Adam and Eve chose to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:1-7); but God teaches us in Proverbs that the antithesis is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). When we are tempted to think that God is the one causing the evil we see in our world, we do well to listen to Jesus who tells us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) and “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

5. Judgment and Redemption. In the judgment scene “Wisdom” asks Mack to be the judge of the world. In doing so, Wisdom exposes the folly of man in contrast with the heart of God that seeks to redeem and restore all who are lost: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In the movie the Father speaks of an evil man and expresses His desire (but no guarantee) that he be redeemed. This is consistent with Peter’s statement that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The Bible is clear that Jesus’s forgiveness is extended to all humanity; but we have a choice as to receive or reject His gift (John 1:12).

6. Pain and Suffering:Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.” God never promised us a pain-free life. In fact, Jesus says that “In the world you will have tribulation;” but He also promises that amid trials we can take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Many of us can testify that God can (and does) work amazing good from tragedy; but we must not allow that to confuse us. Jesus is very clear when He says that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He shows us that He is the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep; not the thief that comes to do harm. Likewise, Peter shows us who initiates the suffering, and what God does about it: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour … the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:8-10).

7. Fear:Do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?” The most frequent commandment in the Bible is “Fear not.” But this is not a request that we choose not to fear; but an encouragement that we can face whatever trials make come because He is with us. Deuteronomy 31:8 is one of the many instances where God says something to the effect of, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” So, Jesus declares, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is good news.

The conclusion of the matter:

In the words of our dear professor, Dr. Wess Pinkham, The journey toward wholeness starts with a whole relationship with the Heavenly Father, where we see our Heavenly Father as healthy, loving, forgiving, and accepting of who we are right now. An intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father is the only way to be whole.[2] This is what the beautiful story of The Shack depicts. If you insist on knowing God as angry, punishing and judgmental, our advice is that you don’t read the book or watch the movie; it will upset you. But if you are open to seeing what it means to be made whole in the loving arms of the Triune God, you will not be disappointed.

________________

[1] For a thorough response by one of the authors of The Shack see Wayne Jacobsen’s “Who’s Afraid of The Big, Bad Shack?” at http://www.lifestream.org/whos-afraid-big-bad-shack.

For a look at the theological underpinnings of The Shack, see C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (FaithWords, 2012).

[2] Chris Waters and Wess Pinkham. Finding Closure to the Pains from the Past (Lookout Mountain, TN: Journeys to the Heart, Inc., 2006), 18.


Dr. Kerry Wood and Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood | All Rights Reserved 2017