Fawn likes to hike. One of her favorite spots is Runyon Canyon at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Los Angeles where she and her friend Jeannie sometimes climb. One day Fawn mentioned that Jeannie had erected a prayer box at the top of the canyon back a couple of years ago. "But some vandals broke the first one, so she had to replace it. Then they broke that one too," she told me. "But that's ok. It just makes her all the more determined."
I hadn't thought much more about the prayer box until I received the March issue of "Guideposts" a few days ago. A woman from Oklahoma City wrote about a friend telling her of a discovery made by another friend while on a hiking trip in California, a prayer box at the top of Runyon Canyon. The story so inspired the writer that her church decided to craft their own prayer box and set it up at a bus stop not far from the church.
My interest was piqued, so I got on the Internet and googled "Runyon Canyon's prayer box." Several videos popped up. From what I could piece together, Jeannie felt a special closeness to God as she prayed at the top of the canyon after a climb. And it's there that she got the idea to place a simple wooden box at that very location with the words "pray it forward" written on the side. People were invited to write down their prayers and take a moment to pray for others before they headed back down the mountain. Well, the first two boxes were destroyed, but that didn't in any way deter Jeannie. In October of last year, she and a group of 20 or so headed up the trail once again with box number three, this one much larger than the others. Beautifully crafted, it was carried by the gentle builder himself, a giant of a man in a baseball cap and a muscle shirt. She calls him James The video ends with the prayers retrieved from the second broken box being placed into the new one.
The last two videos were shot just a few weeks ago. Jeannie explains in the first that box number three has met the same fate as the first two. But she refuses to be discouraged. "It doesn't put out my fire," she says. "It makes me all the more encouraged to bring something back even better." And that she does, for in the second video yet another group is shown carrying seven fifty-pound bags of cement up the steep trail while several others carry gallons of water. The video concludes as the post is firmly set in its concrete base in preparation for the fourth, and hopefully final prayer box. Its chances are good. James and a fellow by the name of Yosemite Steve have constructed a hundred- pound metal box this time. I have a feeling that James won't get it up the hill by himself. even as big and strong as he is. But that's alright, because this dream of one seems to have caught on and is infecting a lot more people. It somehow seems appropriate that it will take the strong arms and backs of several to carry it up that steep incline and then set it in place. I suspect that those who join in the celebration will be the largest yet.
I love the word perseverance. Jesus tells a story about a farmer who went out to sow his seed. The seed falls in four different places, but it's only "the good soil" that produces "a hundred times more than was sown." When he later explains the meaning of the parable he concludes with this: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
I wonder how much more of the good stuff could happen if we didn't give up because of a little opposition. Vandals smash our box and we throw up our hands and say, "I quit!" And let's face it, people who quit early on rarely inspire. But not only is Jeannie's resolve to keep a prayer box on that mountain inspiring, her attitude of seeing the opposition as an opportunity makes me want to cheer. And perhaps her example will encourage others, including myself, to go all out for the thing worth fighting for.
By the way, in that article I mentioned the writer concludes with this: "People are using it. The prayer box seems to be catching on. From a mountain trail in California to a bus stop in Oklahoma." Wouldn't it be something to see a crop of public prayer boxes springing up all over the place? We just might be amazed at what a little opposition and perseverance can do.