"We go to church every Sunday, me and the family.
How about you, Don?"
"Nah, I don't need to go to church--" I said matter-of-factly to my friend. "I find God in the woods. We have church out there. Just me and the man upstairs."
We put the rest of our hunting gear into the truck before heading to the gas station.
"We're going to hunt in a different place this year..."
"unbelieveable..." I muttered, looking at the latest price of gas. "I'll pump it."
I got out of the truck and walked around to the pump. Just after I used my credit card, a man approached me. He gently shook my hand and introduced himself as the pastor of a local church, invited me out and handed me a card, and walked away.
My first reaction would have been to toss the card in the trash, but this time for-whatever-reason, I put it in my pocket, and forgot about it.
By the time we got there, it was late afternoon.
"Want to go out for a few hours and check it out?"
"Sure, why not?"
We double-checked our guns, watches and our GPS-enabled satellite phones.
We decided to split up and meet back at the truck in a few hours around sunset.
I walked west into some tall brush, and fought my way through. After what seemed like a mile, it gave way to a meadow where the long grass was already golden brown. The awesome autumn wind was blowing pretty hard, and it was a chilly day.
As I always do in a clearing, I looked up and talked to God for a few minutes.
"It's good to be out here again with You, God. I missed You, Lord. Out here--" I drew in a deep breath, and then exhaled. "Out here I feel like You are right here with me."
Just ahead was a line of trees--some oaks and white pines--the edge of an old forest. Fearlessly I headed into the dark woods, went about 25 feet, stopped, and listened.
Almost immediately, something jumped up and ran away to my left. I love the
challenge of running through the woods: so I ran after it, hopping over a fallen log.
That was a big mistake.
My left foot landed on a rock and I twisted my ankle, and fell down. I can take a lot of pain--that wasn't a problem--so I pulled myself back up, and tried to run again. After a few steps I fell down again, and rolled in pain.
It was pretty bad.
But--I didn't know there was a big hill right there.
Just between two pine trees was an erosion gully that went down a steep hill--at least 50 feet. I bounced all the way down there into a shallow pond, and landed with a splash!
I think I may have injured something else, as I grabbed my left arm in pain. My right leg was hurting, too. Slowly, now wet, I crawled to the side and reached for my satellite phone to call my friend, but I couldn't use it.
I was just in too much pain.
I passed out, with the phone in my hand.
"I found a card in your pocket, and called the pastor. He just happened to be in the same woods we were, and he helped me get you out.
You are lucky."
Pastor Rick spoke with confidence, and with the anointing of God. "As beautiful as this building is, 'the church' is not this building. What makes the church is the people in it! Let's turn to First Corinthians Chapter 12, verses 20-22--
As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (NIV)
"The church is the Lord's body. I am just one part, and each one of you are one part--but we need each other to survive. No one stands alone!
"Don't be lost in the woods by yourself--"
I didn't understand... but as the pastor spoke, I was crying. I walked down to the front and knelt down, and lifted up my hands.
I'll bet they built that church in a meadow, because I looked up and whispered, "I missed You, Lord..."
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