Stairway to Heaven
In my eleven years living in Hawaii, I have hiked many miles into Oahu’s mountains and distant shores. Most locations are tourist traps as well-traveled as Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, but a few are remnants of what the pristine paradise must have looked like before the 1778 Cook arrival. The most difficult to reach, without trails or those that require breaking the laws, are nearly free from the ravages of humans. One such challenge is the Haʻikū Stairs, commonly referred to as “The Stairway to Heaven.” Three thousand steps and a trespassing violation are required to get a high view of the Haʻikū valley and a whole lot of Oahu.
There was little reason for the climb before the US Navy built the stairs to access a radio station. The US Government has blemished Hawaii. Remnants of pillboxes scatter beaches and hillsides. Concrete monoliths are too heavy too expensive to restore. Rusting fences and piers left for the saltwater to claim. Tourists rarely see these blemishes; most are chained to Waikiki Beach or bused are to select locations for a Luau and the photo of a lifetime. To the world, Hawaii is paradise and on the bucket list. Paradise has been fought over long before Cook arrived, hard to say who could be considered natives. Today those who qualify as Native Hawaiian live far from the islands forced to Alaska for better employment and cheaper living.
I have thousands of images of Hawaii, most of Oahu. The key to getting a glimpse of paradise is a very early rise, a treacherous hike in the dark, and the anxious wait for sunrise or set. The beaches are empty, and if you frame the photo just right, one can imagine Hawaii of days passed. I loved those quiet hours where the sounds of the sea crashing on the shores, mourning doves cooing, and the smells of Pikake and Plumeria filled the senses of the Hawaii of long ago. Then as the sun rises higher, the island erupts into the hustle of the day.
The Haʻikū Stairs are not a modern-day tower of Babel built to be a tower that will reach heaven. The Stairway to Heaven is as the Haʻikū stairs narrow and requires a laser focus on God to climb. The climb is a faith-filled effort in Jesus; the fruits of faith and the Jesus seeds we plant mark our journey.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
God is not hanging out in a burning bush on the top of Sinai; God is all around us and easy to find. God is here in North Dakota snow or the white sandy beaches of Hawaii. God does not meet in Davos, Switzerland, to plan the fate of humankind; the plan is in his word. God will reset the world, but not until the great awakening.
This winter has been frigid in the Dakotas. It has been challenging to hike in the deep snow and too dang cold for an older man and his camera to venture out for photos. It has been an out-the-window winter for this senior photographer. My spending time with God has switched from early morning hikes on trails less traveled with a camera to reading and writing these short thoughts to share at 4:00 in the morning. I spent too much time building a new garage this winter, so it has rushed my writing and publishing unedited writing. I would also advise against building in the Dakota winter.
The first sense of spring is happening; the temperatures will be above freezing, and the snow will melt. I am anxious to get out and enjoy some warm coffee and cool weather in anticipation of the sunrise. For me this is a heavenly meditation and prayer time. I hope the creation images I include with my morning thoughts bring you some comfort in the times we all face. We are bombarded with images of war and anger. Please take a moment to look into these images of paradise and be thankful for all we have.
Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. ~ Psalm 147:7
Go out and take a picture at sunrise or set.
I have mentioned that writing is not my expertise or my comfort zone several times. I endeavor to capture some thoughts each morning, but I have no time for rewrites due to my lack of typing skills and poor understanding of grammar and style. When I finally get a chance for an edit read, I see the grammatical faux pas, but the work has been published. I learn and, hopefully, over time, will build my grammar muscles. In the meantime, forgive them or even comment—I am no longer fearful of an honest critique.