"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

October 29, 2014


This week I have an example in mind, and honestly, I have about 3-4 completely different directions I can go with this. So stayed tuned for the next couple weeks or so and you can see how my mind can take one topic and randomly run down many separate trails..... sometimes, seemingly all at once.... I'm just talented like that.... or something.....!

A couple weeks ago, Jon and I took a mini-vacation, that was basically a relaxing road trip. We had one reservation and one destination in mind when we left home, but other than that, were open to doing whatever we saw that caught our interest. Upon reaching our planned destination, it ended up being rainy and crowded, so we only stayed a couple hours, then decided to go elsewhere. Jon told me that he was stressed from work and tired of making decisions, so whatever I chose to do was fine with him. I looked at a map and saw that we were only about an hour and a half from Cumberland Gap, which sits on the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. We were in Tennessee at the time. I had heard of the Cumberland Gap, but really had no idea what it was, so decided we should go check it out.

Upon reaching the last town before entering the Cumberland Gap National Park, I was driving and we had both been enjoying the beautiful scenery. As we entered the town, we both caught a glimpse of a big red sign that said something about tunnel regulations. What?! Were we going to go through a tunnel? Sure enough, the Cumberland Gap Tunnel goes through the mountain and the Tennessee state line is at one of the entrances and the Kentucky state line is at the other.

Now comes the history lesson and some background:

In a nutshell, the Cumberland Gap is a narrow opening through the Cumberland Mountains (which are a ridge within the Appalachian Mountains) that was a key passageway through the lower central Appalachians, and was an important part of the Wilderness Road. It had long been used by the Indians, but was brought to the attention of settlers in 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker, who was a Virginia doctor and explorer. This path was explored by a team of frontiersmen, led by Daniel Boone, making it accessible to pioneers who used it to journey into the western frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee.

There was 2.6 mile road that was formed in 1916 and modernized in the 1960's. However, it had become obvious that the 2.6 mile crossing was becoming a death trap. It was nicknamed "Massacre Mountain", due to the number of motorist that were killed along it. The road was never intended for the amount of traffic that was using it. Therefore, in 1956 a study was conducted for the next decade that recommended a tunnel to improve the roadway without damaging the scenic and historical significance of the Cumberland Gap

In 1979, geologists examined and identified the rock on the surface of the mountain. Next, a 2,000-feet long small-diameter core hole was drilled to provide even more geologic details. Afterwards, a pilot tunnel, 10-feet high, 10-feet wide, and 4100-feet long was excavated. This revealed characteristics of the mountain that would pose challenges to the project.

The battle to improve the deadly crossing, however, dragged on for two decades; basically due to battles raging in Congress over the appropriation funding, followed by a funding freeze. Finally, it became part of a highway budget and both Tennessee and Kentucky committed at least $2-million to operate and maintain the finished tunnels.

In June of 1991, construction began on the tunnel project. By this time, the 2-lane route over the gap was carrying twice as much traffic as it was designed to handle, and had an accident rate six times higher than on similar federal highways.

First, they blasted the northbound tunnel. Excavation then began on the main tunnel tubes, on-going from both sides of the mountain. They met with many obstacles while doing this excavation and construction; and encountered many surprises. While constructing a drainage system for the huge caverns that lie just outside of the tunnel walls, workers discovered that one of the caves had become clogged with rock. The blockage forced water to blow out a small chunk of the northbound tunnel. The discovery of numerous caves, some of which were only big enough for a slim worker with no hardhat and belt to fit through, slowed down the project.

The tunnels, each carrying two-lanes of traffic, were bored through 4600-feet of solid rock. Since the mountain releases 450 gallons of water every minute (no, that's not a typo), thick PVC liners were put around the tunnels to ensure that the bores stay dry.

On July 9, 1992, the two sides of the tunnel met in precise alignment in the center. A ceremony was held October 18, 1996 that celebrated the opening of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

I know that was a lot of background and history, but I wanted to lay the groundwork that explained what went into the building of these tunnels.

Representatives from Tennessee and Kentucky didn't just wake up one morning and decide that they needed to build a tunnel through the mountain because the highway had become too dangerous. There were years of preparation that first had to take place. Geologists had to do a study to see if this project was even feasible. Then it took many years for the funding to be approved and the go-ahead to be given. During that time, there were many lives lost because of the dangerous 2-lane highway that went across the top of the Cumberland Mountain. I'm sure officials from both states were frustrated, because their hands were tied and there was nothing they could do at that point to fix the problem. Once the project began, it took a few years for it to be finished so that cars could safely use the tunnels.

After the tunnels were opened, they took up all the old asphalt of the old highway and renamed it the Wilderness Road to honor the original trail, leaving it pretty much in the same condition as it was when it was used by the frontiersmen and pioneers.

Life often takes us in different directions from time to time, which involves change. Sometimes those changes occur quickly, and sometimes it takes many years. At first, we may mourn the passing of the old ways, thinking that we're losing a piece of our history and who we are, when in fact, God is preparing something better for where we are in each stage of our life.

I'm sure that the first time the Cumberland Gap road was turned from a dirt trail/road into a paved highway, there were those who mourned the "new-fangled" way of doing things. They may have grown up using those old trails to cross the mountain, their parents and grandparents had used those old trails, and now they thought that these outsiders, who didn't care about the history of that trail, were coming in and trying to update it and make it fancy so that a bunch of tourists could invade their mountain.

Then I'm sure there were those who lived in the area and grew up with those paved highways who fought tooth and nail against the building of the tunnels through the mountain. They didn't want their familiar road that followed the route that their ancestors had taken over the top of the mountain to be torn out. "If that road was good enough for Daniel Boone, then it's good enough for us today!"

Sound familiar?? I've heard similar comments about the King James Version of the Bible: "If it was good enough for Paul (or Peter or anyone else in the Bible), then it's good enough for me!" Sorry, but Paul and the disciples (or Jesus) didn't read the King James Version of the Bible. I'm not here to argue one version of the Bible over the other, but to point out that we don't like change. We don't like different and new. We don't like God ruffling our feathers and shaking us out of our comfort zone. We want everything to always stay the same, without any deviations or changes.

Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of God doing something new and different in my life, without first giving me all the details. I would rather know why He's wanting me to do it.... what the outcome will be.... exactly what's going to happen during the process... how long it will take.... But God rarely works that way.

Look at the life of Abraham. First of all, God said to Abraham, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) That would have been a hard one for me. In 2003, I felt strongly impressed that I was to quit the job that I'd had in banking for over 13 years. I didn't know what to do or where to go, and my sister and brother-in-law asked me to move in with them in Oklahoma for a while. Even though I was moving in with family, it was a tough transition for me. I was leaving a job where I was making decent money and had a leadership position; I was leaving all my friends and relatives who I had known and lived around for all or most of my life; I was leaving my church; I was leaving my home -- and it was a little scary..... actually, it was a lot scary.

I've heard people say, "You will know if you're in God's will because everything will go perfectly and smoothly." That's not usually true, and not biblical, that I can find.

Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife, twice, because he was worried that she would be taken from him. When God promised him a son, he had to wait for almost 25 years or so for the birth of Isaac to occur. Then when Isaac was a young boy, God tested Abraham's faith. God told him, "Take your son, your only son -- yes, Isaac, whom you love so much -- and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you." (Genesis 22:2 NLT) What?! He had waited for 25 years for this promised son, and now God was asking him to sacrifice him? That didn't make sense. Yet, Abraham obeyed, and God spared Isaac's life and sent a ram instead for Abraham to use as a burnt offering.

Yes, God blessed Abraham and he was very wealthy and had a lot of servants and land and livestock. But Abraham's life wasn't without struggle, waiting, and testing. Perhaps those things were what made his relationship with God as strong as it was and why God blessed him so abundantly. He walked in obedience to God, even when it didn't make sense or he didn't know exactly what God was doing or where God was taking him.

When the engineers and building crew were working on the Cumberland Gap tunnels and ran into the caves that were inside the mountain and ran into dealing with the 450 gallons of water that would drain into the tunnels per minute and all the other various obstacles, they didn't give up and say, "Well, it wasn't meant to be! We'll just give up and quit. We'll just keep using those dangerous roads and hope for the best."

Yet that's the mentality we often have. When we don't understand why things are happening in our lives, or we have to wait for long periods of time when we really just want to get it done and move on, or we run into obstacles that are tough to deal with and have to be repaired and fixed -- we often want to give up. We think perhaps we didn't hear God correctly or get angry, frustrated, or upset that He's allowing us to go through difficulties when we thought He'd make the path smooth and easy. Sometimes we choose to forget it and go back to the old road; the old life. Even though that life may have been where God wanted us at one time, and it accomplished what He previously wanted to do in our lives, and it was peaceful and good and brought a lot of joy into our lives in the past - if it's not where we're supposed to be now, then it may put us on a path to danger and perhaps even spiritual death.

When Jon and I were standing in the Cumberland National Park at Pinnacle Peak, it was foggy and misting rain and we couldn't see as much as we would have liked. We were told by the Park Rangers that on a clear day you can see both the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. We didn't see a whole lot. But occasionally the fog would clear away in areas for brief periods of time and we could see different areas for a few minutes. On one such time, we could see in the distance the highway that went into the tunnel; which from our viewpoint looked like it was going into the side of the mountain. Had we not just been on that particular road, we wouldn't have realized where it went.

There are several comparisons that can be made here, and you can draw your own conclusion. A couple that come to my mind are: Sometimes we don't see the road that God is taking us on until the timing is right and He clears away the obstacles (the fog) that blocks our view. When His timing is perfect, then God will reveal that path we should take and make the way clear before us. That doesn't mean we'll see the entire road at one time, but we'll see where we're supposed to be and head the right way.

When I started driving through the tunnel (it's almost a mile long), we couldn't see all the way through to the other side. Even though there were lights inside and all the vehicles had their headlights on, we could only see a few yards in front of us. Jon and I had never been on that road, so the tunnel had came up unexpectedly. We had no idea how long it was or where we'd be when we came out on the other side. But once we got inside the tunnel, we had to keep going forward until we reached the other end. Had I gotten scared or decided I didn't want to be inside the tunnel, I would have caused a major accident and endangered not only our lives, but the lives of those in the other vehicles behind us. I couldn't jerked the car in reverse and try to back out the way we'd came in; nor could I stop and let Jon drive. There were only the two lanes going through each tunnel, with no shoulders on the sides. If we decide we don't like where God is taking us and try to turn around or back up or stop in the middle of the road, we end up not only hurting ourselves but also can hurt others. It affects not only ourselves, but others as well, whether we want or mean for that to happen or not.

Also, not everyone's journey will be the same. When the fog cleared and Jon and I got a glimpse of the highway heading into the side of the mountain, we knew that it was the tunnel that we had driven through. We recognized it because we'd just been down that road. Even though we couldn't (obviously) see inside the tunnel, we knew that there was a road on the other side of the mountain and that cars entering the tunnel would come out on the other side. Depending on which direction they were driving, they would enter or leave in either Tennessee or Kentucky. We were familiar with what was there because it's something we'd been through. People who entered the Cumberland Gap National Park through the Virginia entrance and had never been to the park wouldn't have had any idea that road went through a mountain tunnel. They may have got a glimpse of it through the fog and thought it wound around through the mountain or curved back into the town. But Jon and I had experienced it.

Until we go through an experience, we don't know what it's like. We can guess or make assumptions, but we truly don't know. Until you've lost a parent or a spouse or a child, then you may have sympathy for those who do, but you really can't relate and have empathy for them. Until you've dealt with cancer or had a family member who has, then you can't truly understand. Until you've had a family member who has suffered with Alzheimer's, you don't have a firm grasp on what it's really like, for the one who has the disease as well as the family. Until you've had a house fire or your home has been burglarized, you can't know what it feels like to lose everything you own or the feeling of violation that a stranger invaded your home and touched your personal belongings. You can feel sorry for those who go through these various situations, you can lend support and encouragement, but you can't truly share their feelings and understand exactly what it's like. Not everyone will go through the same experiences in life. But when we've been down a road and through a tunnel of despair and loss and hardship, whatever that may be, then we know what that road looks like when we see others going down it. Even though those going through the situations may not feel it or realize it at the time that they're in the middle of their tunnel, we know that there will be an end to it and that the road comes out on the other side. It won't look like it did from the side they entered it, but that doesn't mean it will necessarily be worse; it's just going to be different.


Imagine if you wanted to give your kids a special treat, and take them to Disney World. But you want to make the trip a surprise and an adventure, so don't tell them where you're headed. You might expect them to be glad and excited the whole way. But when they don't know where they're going, most kids will be fussy, complain, and constantly ask why they have to be stuck in a car so much. And of course, they will need to stop at a bathroom 5 minutes after any stop. No matter how many times you might tell them, "Just trust me, you'll be glad we went", they will continue to doubt you and be a royal pain. They may complain about every restaurant you go to, every motel you stop at, the boring drive, hours stuck in the car, and the lame games you want to play or songs you want to sing. And just imagine if you get a flat tire, or the air conditioning fails!

God has put us on a journey, too. We know where we are headed is eternity in paradise with God. But we still complain about the journey. "This route is too hard." "I didn't know it would be this long." "But my friends don't have to go through this." True, it's hard to get through tough situations day to day. And it's really tough when they last for years. But we know our destination.


Brownie Stew

1 lb. Hamburger

1 can Vegetable Soup

1/4 onion, chopped

1 can Chili Beans

Brown hamburger and chopped onion together; drain. Add soup and chili beans. Heat together. Serve over Frito chips. Put grated cheese on top.


I would just like to use this space this week to ask for your prayers for a particular request:

Jon and I attend Praise Assembly of God Deaf Church, which my sister, Janie, pastors. Circumstances have recently changed and the church feels that it is time to move out on their own and have their own building. For the past thirty years, the church has shared a building with another A/G church, which has worked out great. But the hearing church has been growing the past couple of years and needs the space that the deaf church is occupying; and the deaf church feels that God is directing them to leave their nest and find their own building where they can expand their ministries and offer more support to the deaf community. Currently, the deaf church is a small congregation and funds are somewhat limited. Although a church can know that God is leading them into new territory, it can sometimes be a little scary to step out in faith. But the pastor, board, and members of the deaf church are also excited about the possibilities of what God is going to do and have a spirit of great expectation. Please pray that God will lead us to the right location, the right building, and will work out all the details for this move. Pray that this will be a positive change for both the church and the deaf community. This is something that Jimmy envisioned for many years for the deaf church, and I know that he would be rejoicing that it is finally coming to pass. Also, pray for God's blessings upon the hearing church as their ministries continues to expand and grow.


It's nothing against you to fall down flat. But to lie there -- that's a disgrace. - Edmund Vance Cooke


We love you!

Loretta & Jon