Grandpa Miller always carried a stout walking stick on our hikes. His home, nestled at the head of the hollow and surrounded by hills, offered unlimited hiking options for the adventurous soul. But one fact never changed. Any hike required a steep climb to the ridgeline before the walking became easy. Grandpa usually had a supply of walking sticks leaning against the shed wall, but I never realized the value such a stick affords mature knees and intermittent balance systems.
In my youth I sprinted up and down bleachers, ran across broken terrain in the woods where I was spawned and climbed stairs in both directions while carrying armloads of whatever. Carry a walking stick? Hold the handrail? Those actions would have slowed my progress.
But that was long ago.
Now I have to cut off the thoughts weaving ideas in my mind and remind myself, “These are stairs. Pay attention.” My feet are longer than the width of many stair treads, and I must land my heel in the safe zone close to the riser. The continuous bifocals sitting across my nose won’t allow the eyes to focus on the stairs unless I look straight down. Stir in a dash of unpredictable vertigo, and I am not ashamed to admit I hold hands with the handrail.
We were expecting an honored guest recently. My mom, Mary Nichols, visited to meet her great-granddaughter, Fern. Mom, a young and spry eighty-four, remains a passionate gardener and I expected she would tour my gardens during her visit. I weeded, mulched, and trimmed to prepare the garden beds for maximum visual impact. As I sat by the pond for a rest I studied the three brick steps leading to our patio and added another project. Those steps needed a handrail.
The hardest part of the project was finding enough matching parts at the home centers to create the railing. You’ll find construction details and additional pictures by clicking this link or the picture below:
I chuckled as I read these verses.
So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
Hebrews 12:12-13 NLT
Grandpa understood that his walking stick shifted some of the stresses of hiking away from his knees. The stick, embedded firmly in the dirt, offered an anchor in rugged terrain, and provided a resting spot where he could catch a breath while his grandsons wore themselves out climbing and sliding. Grandpa’s walking stick became part of a favorite hunting story he loved to tell and I loved to hear. Check out Hunting with Grandpa, which is borrowed from my book, The Giving Grandpa.
Karl Marx (the German philosopher, not Groucho’s brother) is credited with the quote, “religion is the opiate of the masses”. Some discount religion as a crutch, a device needed by weak people unable to think individually. There may be some truth in that evaluation if religion is defined as a list of rules one must follow and behaviors one must practice to be accepted.
But Jesus offers us a relationship rather than a religion. John’s Gospel expresses the offer this way:
But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12 NLT
The handrail may help me navigate stairs, but what about the rest of my life? What about when I need guidance with a looming challenge or help with a setback? Nestled in the relationship Jesus desires with us is this promise.
The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23 NLT
Now that is a Help I need wherever I’m walking.