“The Check Up From The Neck Up”

As I looked at some old vacation photographs, I was reminded of how hot it was that week, even for the Great Smoky Mountains. I had on shorts in the picture, and with my skinny legs, that was a rare occurrence!

In the photo, some of us were sitting on a concrete bench, trying to catch our breath on our way up to Clingmans’ Dome, the highest point in the Smokies. There’s a 16-mile drive through the forest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Newfound Gap, then another seven miles to the Dome. The temperature from the Gap to the Dome usually drops about 20 to 30 degrees, but on that blistering July day, the heat seemed to actually rise. And not until we reached the Dome parking area were we made aware of the quarter-mile uphill walk to the observation tower—at a 45-degree angle!

The Check Up

It was then that God decided to give me a check up from the neck up, a real-time life lesson. We were about halfway up the trail, and boy, was I complaining! “This is a National Park; surely they have the money to install some easier way to get up this hill!” I griped. “I don’t understand why they don’t have a tram to shuttle people up and down this mountain. At the very least they might offer golf carts for fat people like me. I’d be happy to pay for a ride to the top!”

Then God stepped in.

It came from behind us. Someone was laughing. No, two people were laughing, and they were laughing hysterically!

What in the name of pinecones could be so funny on this mountain? I wondered. Nothing about this was funny to me. And not only were they laughing, they were making all kinds of strange noises! Squeaking sounds, like wheels turning; and stomping sounds, like a soldier marching in combat boots.

Loving Every Minute

I turned around just in time to see a tall, lanky country boy taking long strides and almost running up the path in a pair of cowboy boots! He was pushing a wheelchair and laughing at his wife, who was having the ride of her life as they headed for the Dome.

“Excuse me sir, excuse me Ma’am,” I heard him say politely, “We’re coming through.” Then she laughed even harder.

I might add that she was no frail little thing, either, so his work was cut out for him—and he was loving every minute of it! She laughed, and he laughed, as they headed for the top of the world.

Looking for a Hole

At first, everyone on the path stood there, shocked; then they began to laugh and rejoice with the couple. I laughed a little, too—then looked for a hole to climb into and hide!

How many people around us heard me griping and complaining? I wondered. And what do I really have to nitpick over? My wife is healthy and walking by my side.

Why wasn’t he complaining? Maybe because they were too busy enjoying life to concern themselves with unimportant things. Maybe they were too much in love with each other that day to be thinking about anything else.

Perhaps that the man got up every day, looked at her, and said, “Thank God you’re alive!”

Perhaps she answered, “Thank God that I have you!” and they both laughed.


“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8.


Pastor Hal Steenson


“Press G9 For Prayer”

Mollie and I were on vacation in the Great Smokey Mountains and we had just eaten a wonderful lunch that included a lot of onions and garlic. I needed some breath mints so I headed for the third floor of our hotel and located the snack machine. There on the bottom row was just what I needed, peppermint Lifesavers, eighty cents. The snack machine had a dollar bill changer so I pulled out a buck and carefully noted the correct number to push—I have been known to push the wrong buttons and end up with a little box of ,  or lip-balm. There was the number I needed right next to the price, G9.

Now you have to understand how my mind works, I store things that I really don’t want or need to store but I do it automatically and systematically. For me, the G stood for God and the 9 represented the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, no problem. I put in the dollar, I heard the change clink in the tray and I pushed G9 and nothing happened. I pushed G9 again and pressed the coin return several times without any results. So, what did I do? I did what anyone else would have done; I put in another dollar. However, this time the malfunctioning mint machine (by now it had sound effects and was talking and laughing at me) not only denied me of my mints; it also kept my twenty cents change. I was mad at the machine so (After being shaken a little by this irate guest,) I was about to head for the lobby.

That’s when I noticed the little sign on the snack machine stating that the hotel management was not liable or at fault for any monies lost in the vending machines and that I would have to report it to  “Joe from Kokomo!” Phooey! As I slowly walked back to my room in an garlic cloud, I pondered with a much higher intelligence than the menacing machine that the G must not have stood for God and the 9 had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. (I Think)

It was during that short walk however, that I learned a goodly and godly life lesson. That life lesson was that sometimes we treat God like I treated that vending machine.

1. We locate what we want from God by looking through the window of   His Word.

2. We find a Scripture number verse to back us up (G9).

3. Then we put our prayer into the little prayer slot and press G9.

4. Next, we are unable to accept or explain the reasons why nothing happens and our G9 prayers aren’t answered.

5. We are mad at the management because our prayers weren’t answered but we failed to read the little sign, “Management is not responsible for unanswered prayer, and the problem is never with God.”

God is not a prayer “Vending” machine and there are no G9 prayers. God is Love and He is patiently waiting to answer our prayers, but not because of any buttons we push but because … The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

  Pastor Hal Steenson