Hiking Fuji!!

We did it!!

We hiked “The Fuj!”

Josh and I headed out on Labor Day (Monday, Sep 5th 2016) and decided that was the day we were going to conquer Mt Fuji! I honestly have to say that I didn’t think it was going to be as tough as it was. I thought “Meh, I’ve hiked mountains before. No big.” but it really did get strenuous towards the summit. There is nothing “technical” so you don’t have to have rock climbing gear, but there are several steep parts where you climb with your hands and feet.

We did some things well, and we made some mistakes… so let me tell you about this crazy experience!

The day before we left, Josh had an early morning. He was up at 4, so he wanted to sleep in a bit. That being said, we left about 7 am and were hiking by about 10-10:15 am. It is a little over an hour drive, and then you take a bus from the parking lot to the top, which is a 45min-1hour bus ride (plus we got lost which you will learn below).

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Here we are at Kawaguchiko Station waiting for our train to Fuji Fifth Station (where most people start hiking from).

Ok, full disclosure time: we drove and drove and drove around looking for the correct parking lot, but couldn’t find it. All of the directions I could find online we really vague and didn’t give gps coordinates. We ended up at a stadium one time, and I had to use their bathroom (which was like one of those unkempt bathrooms you find at national parks). It was a squatty potty and there were about 5 spiders and a live cricket IN the toilet! I get really, really creeped out by crickets… so it didn’t help that he was jumping all around in there! I had to check my pants like 3 times to make sure he didn’t get in them somehow!!

Anyways….

My husband, who is much better at directions than I, figured out that we could catch a bus from Kawaguchiko station, so we drove there, figuring it was our best bet. WARNING: the parking has no set limit for how much you pay, so it will continue to charge you all day, leaving you with a BIG bill you have to pay at the end in EXACT change. Lesson learned. Don’t do what we did. Instead, be smart and park HERE. That is the parking lot we were trying to find. Turns out the bus stops there on its way to the Fifth Station, so Josh dropped a pin for all of you, friends🙂 It costs way, way less (around 1500 yen to park) and is closer to the top, saving you time and money. It costs about 2100 yen (about $20) per person to take the bus round trip.

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Here we are at Fuji Fifth Station! Ready to get our hike on!

It is tradition to buy a wooden hiking stick and have it “stamped” at all the stations on the way to the top. When a station has a stamp, they will hang a poster with the design and price. If you want to get the stamp, you pay between 200 and 500 yen to have them burn the design (or designs, some stations have more than one) into the stick with a hot metal “stamp.” We bought our stick here at Fuji Fifth Station.

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Here is Josh at the official start of the Yoshida Trail! There are several different trails that you can take to the top of Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular, and this is the one Josh and I chose to take. We hiked on a Monday, which meant it was a lot less crowded than if we went over the weekend.

When you hike to the trail head from the Fifth Station, you will go up and down… we though it was so weird that we were going down for awhile! But don’t worry, you are on the right path… you will still get to the top eventually!

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A Torii Gate along the way! If you look closely at our hiking stick, you will see a stamp with a Torii Gate on it that we got at the station you can see behind this gate!

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Lunch break! We had one of my favorite lunches of all time… Whole wheat PB&J sandwiches❤ Look how excited Josh looks!😛

Something I want to remember is that we met a guy from Australia on the bus on the way up, and we ended up hiking the same pace all the way to the top. We would pass him, then he would pass us, and back and forth, all the way to the top! Then he disappeared and we didn’t see him the whole way down. We also met a woman from Singapore who was super fun to talk to. She was staying the night at the 8.5 station, so we had to leave her behind at that point. She suggested going to the Singapore Zoo if you ever go visit. It is apparently the “worlds best rainforest zoo.” Josh and I consider ourselves somewhat of Zoo connoisseurs after all these years, so it is on my bucket list for sure! The first time I came to visit him at the Air Force Academy we went to the Denver Zoo! We were so young!

Here is a picture of what some of the terrain looks like for the first 2/3rd ish of the hike. It’s rocky and foggy with tons of switch backs. And it feels like hiking on the moon.img_2356

Every time Josh and I hike, we say the phrase “No breaks ’till the top!” at least 50 times. It came about one day while hiking in Arkansas, we passed a family with several young kids. Some of them were sitting down on a rock when this little boy came marching up the trail exclaiming “No breaks ’till the top!” #slavedriver

We immediately cracked up laughing, and it has been our go-to phrase ever since. You can imagine how excited I was when I found this sign at a rest station near the top…

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And then here’s Josh…

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#slacker😛

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You can see the fog/cloud in the back ground of this picture. For several miles we were completely damp, with water droplets clinging to all of our little hairs. It was like walking in a mist machine!

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Here is Josh at the last “station” before the top! See the Torii Gate stamp?!

This station was tiny and it was all boarded up. But it was a good place for a few pictures. After this tiny station, you break through the clouds and can see a lot farther!

Here is a map of the hike so you can get an idea! Where we are in the above photos is the 3rd from the top of the right side blue line…

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The right line above is the ascent and the left line is the descent of Yoshida’s (the yellow) trail. The white hut at the bottom is where we started! You can see that once you get to the top, there is a trial that walks around the crater in a circle. It’s important that if you walk that trial, you come back around to the correct descent trial, or you will end up heading down a different part of the mountain! It could be easy to do since there are Four different climbing routes.

The hardest part of the whole hike was after this station (I believe it is called 8th station Tomoekan Hut). The path gets steeper, more rocky, and the air gets thinner. I could feel my heart pounding like crazy!! It was a weird feeling, so periodically we would stop and take some deep breaths to get the oxygen flowing again and let our hearts calm down.

A little while after the hut, it said we had 600 m left to go. I kept saying to Josh, “This is NOT 600 meters!” It felt like a lot longer!

But eventually…

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We made it to the summit!

It was so cold and windy up there, we really didn’t want to stay for more than 10 minutes. So that’s what we did! We walked around a bit, got a stamp, and then headed back down. But the first thing Josh wanted to do once we got up there was this…

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See the crater! It is easy to forget that Fuji is a volcano until you see that! img_1670

Victory!

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Proud of all our stamps!

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Now we keep our stick in our living room. Because I have very little decorating sense, and it make us happy there for now!

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Here’s an up-close view. And look! The Torii Gate made it in this shot!

The dragon stamp is Josh’s second favorite (his first is the one we got at the top, of course), but we almost didn’t get it! We couldn’t find the guy to stamp it, but we kept poking our heads in the hut saying, “Sumimasen!” (meaning “excuse me!”) until we found someone to do the stamp.

The hike up took between 4 and 4.5 hours and the hike down took between 2 and 2.5 hours. You just have to remember to make it back before 8:30 pm when the last bus leaves!

The down trail of the Yoshida route was a really steep grade. We had to serpentine most of the way down to keep from sliding in the loose gravel. I was told by Emily over at myemiline to bring gaiters for around our boots to keep the loose gravel from falling in our shoes. I kept mine in my back pack and put them on at the top, and was SO GLAD I did! Thank you Emily!

She also told us to try and get hiking poles for the way down to take some of the pressure off our knees. We couldn’t get any in time, but we wished we did! It would have helped a lot I’m sure. Josh said he was very glad for that wooden hiking pole on the way down!

And just like that, we crossed ‘Hike Fuji’ off the Japan Bucket List!

Any suggestions for what else should be on our Japan Bucket List?! We love adventures!!!

 

Thanks for hiking with us!❤ Kaci 

Bills.

Today I’m going to tell you about Bills.

We were recommended to go there by the two Australian Photographers over at 37 Frames Photography when we participated in a “Share The Light” photo shoot in Kyoto! I will have to do a blog post about that too, Tracy and Dee at 37 Frames are SO much fun!!! I cannot say enough about how friendly and inviting they are. And their photography is distinctive and breath taking. Check out their blog!

Anyways, Dee and Tracy said we had to visit Bill’s, which is apparently a popular restaurant in Australia that has now spread to Tokyo, Korea, and London as well. Another chef friend of ours said that they have the BEST Almond Milk Chai Latte; she said they make their own almond milk… That’s right, they make their own almond milk for their chai latte. If that doesn’t give you a picture of Bill’s then I don’t know what will!

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Waiting for the Train to Harajuku!

He has two essentials whenever traveling in Japan: Coffee and a big water bottle!

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This is where we waited to get in! It was about a 30 min wait, we went for lunch on a Friday.

We decided to visit their Harajuku location which is in the Tokyo Plaza. They are open 8:00 am – 11:30 pm every day of the week and are positioned right above the Starbucks.

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This is what it looks like from the outside. Bill’s will be up at the top (on the left in this picture). It overlooks that outdoor roof garden you can see. You go through that crazy glass shard escalator to get inside. Those are three words I’ve never thought I would use together “glass shard escalator” ha!

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Josh got the organic eggs and toast

(although he can’t honestly care less if they are organic)

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I got the Corn Fritters with bacon and guacamole! I came in wanting to get the famous ricotta pancakes… but say “bacon and guacamole” and I’m in!

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We each got a drink too, which was pricy. The drinks were very fresh, delicious and strong flavored. I told Josh that when I received my Beet and Fennel smoothie, I felt like I got ripped off because it was so small. But, it turned out to be so concentrated, I was glad it was small!

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I LOVE BEETS!! There, I’ve said it. Am I the only one?!?

Also, beet and fennel is a wonderful combination. Just sayin’.

Josh got the fresh squeezed lemonade which was good (and strong!) also.

So that’s Bill’s! The food was fresh, beautiful, tasty and unique. It was not cheap, but not hugely expensive for Tokyo, maybe about $20 per plate and $7-8 for a drink? I can’t remember exactly, but it’s not super cheap so make sure you bring plenty of Yen, especially if your wanting to get some appetizers and drinks.

And after that, we went to Josh’s dream place…

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Yodobashi Camera!!

We learned about this store from Dee and Tracy also!

dsc_0214How can you say no to that guy?!?! It’s the hardest!!

This is Josh’s absolute favorite camera store. If you go, be sure to bring your Passport and you will get a discount.

And that was our fun Friday at Bill’s! I hope you have a fun date there too!

❤ Kaci

Philipsburg, MT

This summer, my Hubby and I went home for 3 weddings and a baby. I had some time to hang out with my Mom and Dad, and one day we made a trip over to Philipsburg, Montana!

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If you have never been to Philipsburg, let me paint a picture for you…

It’s a really small town with a lot of character that sits at the base of the Back Side of the Discovery Ski Area. Discovery is a favorite ski area among my friends and family. Skiing there is familiar, like being home. So many memories, ‘secret’ runs and trees cloaked in thick white pillows of the most fluffy powder you can imagine.

Ater skiing, you can head over to Philipsburg for a burger and milk shake or some barbecue. Of course, no trip to Philipsburg would be complete without hitting up the Sweet Palace… a huge candy store with tons of vintage candy and a plethora of fudge. Wether it’s winter or summer, Philipsburg is a great place to visit for some amazing food, fun shops and small town Montana charm!

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This is what the main street looks like. And yes, this is basically all of it!

Our first stop was Up ‘N Smoke, of course. It’s our very favorite Barbecue place.

We got the BBQ salad and Ribs this time, but I’ve had the pulled pork baked potato before too, and it never disappoints. Just down the street, about one block over is a brewery that I have heard rave reviews about.

So where’s the next place you have to visit in Philipsburg, Montana? The Sweet Palace of course?!?!

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Let’s be real, this was the main reason for our trip. Mom and I watched a documentary about black licorice one night, and decided we must go check out the selection at the Sweet Palace. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

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This is their licorice wall and a sneaky Mom arm getting some licorice!

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They have spicy licorice, salty licorice, licorice sticks and wheels and buttons and every kind I could imagine. These, Hot Peppered Licorice Fire Trucks were as weird as they sound. The weirdest part was that they were filled with spicy goo. I did, however, like the salty licorice, which Mom and I learned about in our documentary!

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Those “Red and Black Raspberries” candies are Daddy and my favorite! I think they taste like perfume… in a good way.

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These were a random addition and were SO GOOD!! I highly recommend them. The beer flavor Jelly Beans however… not the best impulse buy.

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Here is the shop from the back looking to the front.

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Then we went upstairs and Dad made me take his picture with this frog.

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This is the shop from the top down. That center part is where there are all sorts of chocolate treats, and any kind of chocolate covered nut you can imagine. The front to the right is the cashier and where they make some of the candy in front of you!

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Here I am with my stash!

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And on the way out they give you free “samples” of any one of their fudges your heart desires. I say “samples” because they are quite a good size for fudge!

We went shopping all up and down the streets next. There are several cute shops, and I ended up finally finding a spoon rest that I like from this place…

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Back Creek Pottery had a ton of beautiful pieces I wish I could have taken home! I wasn’t sure much else could survive the flight back to Japan. I talked to the Co-owner and husband to the artist who was working the shop and he said they do custom orders! The shop is located in that cute white building in the background. They are open every day from 11:00-5:00 and will open other times if you call them.

Then on the way back home, Dad suggested we go put our feet in Georgetown lake. Now, I’m not the type to turn down putting my feet in a lake… So that’s what we did.

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The last place we stopped was a freshwater spring between Georgetown and Anaconda, MT to fill up our water bottles before heading home. Oh Montana, how I love you❤

Have you ever been to Philipsburg? I’d love to hear about it! What’s your favorite place to visit there?

❤ Kaci

My Fabric Stash!!

Are you guys ready to see The Goods!?!?!

As promised from my last post, Im going to show you all the fabric I got at Happy Quilts in South Korea!

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There it is, the stash! Each of the large squares is two yards and the small squares on the bottom are fat quarters.

The best part about going to Happy Quilts (besides the discounted price, of course!) was the quality of the fabric…

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Sorry for the blurry photo! Here is my Riley Blake Christmas fat quarter stack!

Aren’t the Reindeer adorable?!❤

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This cost me $25!!

I got several Name-brand quilting cottons such as Kona Cotton and Riley Blake for 1/3rd the price!

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Here is another Christmas collection! I can’t with to get started on my Christmas quilts!!

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And The Grinch of course😉

The owner is such a sweet, sweet man. He lets you pick out an extra 2 yards of fabric for every $100 you spend (and he excepts US currency). He also let us wait for our taxi inside the store (after it closed) because it was raining… intact he was INSISTENT we hang out inside!! Then he gave us each 2 MORE free yards of fabric… just because!

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In the end, I figure I ended up getting around $450 worth of quilting fabric (not to mention thread) for just over $120. Not too shabby!! I should be set for awhile with this stash… I hope!

 So there it is, my fabric stash! I hope you had fun looking at it with me! If you have any questions feel free to write them below!

❤ Kaci

Korea… Fabric Shopping

Hey guys!

I have an exciting post for today!

Recently, I’ve taking up quilting. I have a goal to make a Christmas quilt for every room in our house someday. I’ve learned a few things along the way, #1) It usually turns out different than you imagine (sometimes better). #2) It’s going to take at least 40X as long as you thought it would. #3) Fabric can be expensive!!

So, when some quilter friends of mine invited me to go with them to Korea to shop for deeply discounted fabric, I was IN!

You might be thinking… “Really?!?! All the way to Korea for fabric?!?!” … YES!!

This is why it makes sense… we live in Japan and can catch a free “hop” flight to Korea  once a week. We land in the evening and take off the next morning which gives us about one hour to shop once we land and get a taxi to the Fabric Shop.

This is what the store front looks like…

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The expenses we had were the taxi from the airport to the shop and back and one night hotel (split 3 ways). So we ended up paying about $40-$50 each for this trip. BUT THE FABRIC!!! The fabric is all name brand, and high quality for approximately 1/3 rd the normal price!  That means, if you need $300 worth of fabric, you only pay about $100 for it.

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The shop is called “Happy Quilt” and is located near Osan, South Korea.

GPS Coordinates: 37.020115,127.06462

You can get there by train or by taxi. Because of our time restriction, we took the taxi!

THIS is an AMAZING post with detailed instructions how to get there! Thank you Angela!

After Fabric Shopping, we took to the streets to find dinner!!

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We went to dinner at a Korean BBQ place called Hangari Galbi….

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My shopping companions!

Jaby (left) was the mastermind behind finding Happy Quilts, and Michelle (right) is an AMAZING quilter with a company called Travel and Stitch! Look for her Etsy store coming soon!

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Michelle and I split the Beef Bulgogi and it was good. The best part though, was the Kimchi salad! It was Kimchi dressing over fresh greens, and it was to die for.

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After dinner we went to one of the many, many blanket stores and the girls bought HUGE, soft blankets! When in Korea…. I guess!

The we got some stunning and crazy desserts here..

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Check these out…

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Yes, that is an oreo, chocolate, macaroon shake with a grape on top…. a grape though?!?

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Mine was the brownie parfait… and it was a lot more than I could handle!

WARNING: if it costs over $10, it’s probably made to serve more than one person!!

The table across from us had a ginormous ice-cream sundae (such as the “choco ice”) that they split between two men and one woman… and barely made a dent.

After this, there was nothin’ to do but sleep! And prepare for our early flight home.

Tune in next post to see my FABRIC STASH!!!

❤ Kaci 

Japanese Tea Ceremony, Garden Edition

Happy Tuesday Friends!!

I hope you’ve had a GREAT start to your week so far!

I’m still in Montana visiting family, and soaking up every moment of the USA!! For today though, I wanted to share a sunny day this spring, where my friend Ari and I went to her Grandmother’s friends house for Tea!

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Look at these cuties!! Ari and her sister, Ann-Chan❤

I have briefly written before about the Japanese Tea ceremony. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a couple ceremonies inside a traditional Tea House. This time, however, the tea was served in a quaint Tea Garden…

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We had many, many delicious treats to go with the Matcha Tea…

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Green Tea Mochi

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Black Sesame Cake

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More Mochi Sweets

As I’ve mentioned before, the sweet treats are supposed to cut the bitterness of the Matcha (powdered green) tea.

The ladies performing the ceremony (including our friend’s grandma) were all wearing Kimono, and had beautifully done hair and make-up.

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The woman above was so precise in every movement… every angle, turn, and pour was expertly calculated.

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This was one of my Matcha cups.

At the end, I was gifted two fans – one for Josh and one for me – and some thick, white, paper napkins for serving the Matcha Sweets! I am always humbled by the generosity of the people we have met here. One example is the time I was trying to buy bullet train tickets to Kyoto. I went to the train station and was wandering around, confused, when a Japanese woman came up to me and asked (in perfect English) if I needed help. After explaining my situation, she ended up taking the train with me back the way she came to help me purchase the tickets!

If you are PCSing, moving to or visiting Japan (the mainland at least) – I can tell you that I have felt very, very safe living here over the last year. The only scary part is driving on the narrow roads! Ha ha!

As always, I would love to answer your questions, so be sure to ask them below!

❤ Kaci

Jesus, Like a Plane

I heard a concept relating Christ to an airplane from my friend Jesse several years ago. I can’t remember the exact idea, but here is something inspired by that conversation that came to mind last Sunday at church….

There is an airplane on the tarmac. You can see it. You can examine it – the inside, the outside, the engine. You can learn all about it. You can go up and feel it’s cold steely wings, and rubbery tires. You can even study flight – the physics, the mechanics, the technique. You can watch it fly by as you sit on the ground. You can become and expert in the plane.

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Now, here is a totally different scenario… You walk up to the plane, you get inside, turn it on, taxi down the runway… and you fly.

 

Oh what a different way to experience the plane!

It can be a beautiful thing to admire, an interesting thing to learn about, and a wonderful thing to see in the air, but the true power and purpose of the plane cannot be fully understood until you fly in it.

I would like to propose that to have a plane is like having Christ – you can’t get to heaven without it.

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I would also like to propose that, if I am in the front seat, and Christ is the plane… then the Holy Spirit is that power that makes it fly.

Without the Holy Spirit, the purpose of your life, which God prepared in advance for you to do (1), can never fully be realized.

Yes, you own the plane; yes, it is an amazing and wonderfully complicated thing… but without the POWER… you’re staying on the ground.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all the we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20 -21

What do you think about this analogy? Where does it succeed, and where does it fall short?

 

(1)Ephesians 2:10