Springtime in the Rockies

Sun & SnowLiving here in Colorado near the foothills of the beautiful Rocky Mountains and with the breathtaking view of Pikes Peak a daily joy, we also live with the vicissitudes of spring. Vicissitudes: I love that word because it seems to trip off the tongue each spring: alternation between opposite or contrasting things. Yep, that perfectly describes springtime in the Rockies! One day people stroll in shorts and tee shirts. Two days later we huddle in our fluffy padded jackets with muffed ears to protect from stinging, blowing snow. One morning I heard birds almost uproariously singing their spring song. Two days later as I trudged through snow to my car, I heard only an intermittent squeaky peep. I smugly—and unkindly—smirk at newcomers to the area when I see them lined up at Home Depot on a sunny March Saturday buying potted flowers to adorn their yards. Wait. Just wait…

Expecting sunny days to last forever creeps into the marrow of our bones when life is going well. The children are healthy, the marriage strong, no family feuding at the last holiday meal, friends are loyal and—in the words of the poet Robert Browning—God’s in his heaven—All’s right with the world.

But that is simply not the reality of year round living. Just yesterday morning an acquaintance turned the corner toward the church parking lot, expecting to soon sit among friends for worship. Unexpectedly her car and another collided in the intersection and soon police cars, a fire truck and ambulance were on site. Fortunately no one was badly hurt but her “springtime” was rudely interrupted. An aching body and totaled car are reminders that the unanticipated stinging winds of hurt are, quite literally for her, just around the corner.

Christians are not called to live in fear of future storms. Writing to his protégé Timothy, the learned Paul reminds him and us, The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Another translation puts it this way, God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline, abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.

Bad news is sure to come but the writer of psalms gives good advice: (The righteous) will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD. Not just English majors should note that the word “trusting” is in the progressive tense, an ongoing action. Unless trusting is cultivated as a lifestyle, when bad news comes the default reaction will be anything but steadfast. If, as a matter of course, we always look toward and express the negative, when the winds of disappointment or disaster blow into our lives, our reaction could very well be, “I told you it would snow. I warned you about financial collapse. I knew he couldn’t be trusted.”

But the continually trusting-in-God Christian can face bad news with the confidence and hope that we see so clearly in Jesus. He knew Golgotha was coming but he kept healing people. He included Judas in the circle until the very end. He hugged children. He put up with Peter. He was a man of joy. He asks me to trust even when spring looks more like winter.

With God on a Mountain

Have you ever hungered to hear, feel, experience God? Maybe reacted with jealousy or skepticism when others talk about such an intimate relationship with the Heavenly Father? What would it be like to know Him at such a depth that it seemed He was physically beside you? To address Him as “Papa”? It was when Jesus was most physically, emotionally and spiritually vulnerable that he addressed his Father God as “Daddy.” Must I wait for similar circumstances—though never as profound as Jesus’—to know my Father God in the same way?

These thoughts surfaced as I sat in my quiet chair this morning. Life has been “full to the brim” in recent weeks with the necessities of daily living. I have acknowledged God’s presence in a heady, i.e. intellectual, way during these times, but legitimate and worthy responsibilities have made it impossible to linger long with him.

So there I sat, waiting to “experience” God! But no fluffy clouds with angels descending appeared. I heard no hymnal melodies. I felt no tingling of his Spirit uniting with my spirit. Then I re-read the account of God calling Moses into his presence in Exodus 24. Most commentators believe Moses was the author of Exodus so as I meditated on these words, I imagined Moses sitting with a scribe some time after the events occurred. Did he stop his dictation, look at the one bearing a stylus at his side and remark, “You aren’t going to believe what happened then! God spoke to me at Mt. Sinai before, but this time was different. The people promised to obey God after I told them what he wanted, but this time…this time…”

What did Moses remember and record and what was the message for me?

First, God said, “Come up to me on the mountain.” It takes time and effort for me to “come up” to God. It means leaving the valley of the mundane and ordinary. It means leaving others—and the other loud calls on my life. A disciplined effort to leave the people and demands that I think so important

Second, God said, “…stay here…Moses, stay with me here on the mountain. Catch your breath after the climb. I have something important to say to you but you must get your mind in God gear. Stop thinking about the past, even the good past when I met your needs, when I parted a sea, poured water from a rock, sent fresh bread every day in the desert. I have new news for you.” I almost begin to squirm when I sit too long without doing something productive and God says, “Marilyn, just sit with me. Stay with me. What I want to say may take a while.”

Third, after six days of staying, “the Lord called to Moses…” After the climb and the staying, God revealed himself in unimaginable glory and spoke. I didn’t see the shekinah glory this morning as did Moses on Mt. Sinai or as the Israelites did as they wandered. I didn’t see cloud covered angels, hear heavenly melodies or feel tingling in my soul, but as I read several psalms, I was reminded that God is good, forgiving, trustworthy, gracious, sovereign, powerful, and as I meditated (i.e., literally chewed on these characteristics), I “saw” him again. And I was ready to hear him call.

The message wasn’t new or profound. It was much more like, “OK, let’s go on together through the day. I’m with you through all the activities and I just ask that you acknowledge me occasionally through the hours. Remember me. Think of me. I’m here.”

Climbing, staying, listening for the call. When I do my part, God does his. Some days there might be clouds, melodies and spiritual quivers. Other days—like this one—he will just be with me. And that’s enough.

“Everything the Lord Says, We Will Do”?

MosesFrequently it’s what I hear on Sunday morning that triggers thoughts for these Monday musings. And just as often, what I’ve heard during class time or in worship has not been the intended point of the discussion or sermon!

And today’s reflection is no different. Yesterday’s preacher emphasized how we have been called by God to first listen to his voice, then join with others of the Christian body to be distinctive followers in the places where that call takes us. A great sermon with much food for thought.

In the sermon’s introduction, the first few verses of Exodus 24 were read. You probably know the story: God’s children have been rescued from the back- and soul-breaking tyranny of the enemy. They have walked on a river’s dry bed formed just for their escape. Their thirst has been quenched with water from a rock. They have been promised a land to call their own and angels as guides for the journey. They’re just about home free!

Then God calls President Moses up the mountain for a private conversation. Moses meets with God and hears a profound message from the One who has created, sustained and redeemed. While we know some of the details of that conversation, I suspect we don’t know the entire content. Moses comes down from the mountain and calls the people together “and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws.”

Whatever else their reaction, we have this world rocking, football stadium roar: “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Just to make sure we don’t miss the point, the Exodus scribe repeats them later after the people have had even more evidence of their future: “Everything the Lord has said we will do.”

And that’s when I stopped listening to the sermon. And when I started listening to God. How often have I said similar words to God? Maybe it was after a time of silence in my corner when God and I have had intimate moments together, when he has loved me into his warm embrace from which I never want to escape. Or maybe it was after a call he placed on my life that left no room for mishearing. Maybe it was the time I unmistakably heard him say “go” or “do” and my obedience was halting but complete. “Everything you’ve said, Lord, I will do.”

In the hour prior to the sermon, I sat around a table with nine women as we delved ever deeper into the Epistle of James, a letter written by a rabbi-type leader of those early Jewish Christians. In case you’re wondering how to speak, how to treat others, how to plan your life, how to spend your money, how to face trials or how to pray, study this letter! James uses no fluffy language, he leaves no wiggle room on the path of following Christ. One commentator wrote, “James is committed to the formation of the Jewish Christians so they will remain true over the long haul. He is stern but consistent with his call that their conversion to Christ must be reflected in every area of their lives.” (Emphasis my own.)

It didn’t take long for those Exodus hearers of God’s call through Moses to break their solemn promise. Deserts, enemies, thirst, hunger took their toll. What does it take for me to ignore or forget God’s call as described by James? And what is the costly result?

The discussion and the sermon live on…

Living as Easter People

I’m struck with the term “living as Easter people.” First-century Christians and twenty-first century Jesus followers. Those who walk the sorrowing-beyond-comprehension road to the cross, endure the darkness of what I call Silent Saturday(s), and begin joyfully—but with yet unanswered questions—obeying the “go” command of the risen Savior.

Just when I thought our lives were full with an unrepaired (unrepairable??) car, hospitals, doctors, financial challenges and unaccomplished tasks, I received the following email from friends (“Joe and Kathy”) ministering in Europe. With a bit of editing for security reasons and to preserve their identity and that of their friends, here’s the letter. (Underlining is my own emphasis.)

Where do we begin?  Six months ago in a freak windstorm, a 50-foot blue spruce was uprooted in our yard narrowly missing the house but destroying the patio.  

January 19: Flying home from B, Joe left his passport in the plane. While trying to retrieve it, get through security and still catch our connecting flight home to B2, Kathy’s glasses fell off her face. (Unrepairable—new ones a four-week saga—major expense.)

February 13: After ministry trips to S, C and A, we took well-meant advice and decided to stay in S2 for a relaxing weekend to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. After a good night’s rest in our B and B, a shower, some breakfast . . . A phone call . . .

Friends from our small group went over to check on things at our house… “My socks are getting wet!” was their exclamation. A small tube to our water filter (newly replaced ten days before we left and working fine) came apart and flooded our kitchen, dining room, two guest bedrooms and a bath.  They cleaned up the water, we thanked the Lord for friends, and continued with our birthday celebration.

Next morning another phone call informed us that water had dripped through all the floors into the basement rooms, including the garage (Joe’s workshop). Three inches of water is standing in the basement and the ceiling is dripping with water.   

Four weeks later: we have had six dehumidifiers running continuously. We have thrown out stuff, started boxes for a garage sale, had insurance adjustors, painters and floor experts here to give us repair estimates. European walls and ceilings are made of 13-inch clay bricks filled with holes, then poured over with concrete. How much water do you think each of these bricks can hold?? And how long do you think it takes for them to dry out? Answer: 1) Lots of water, 2) weeks and even months.  We just passed the one-month mark.  

Since then our newest fan quit working, the heating element on the dishwasher went out, and Joe’s computer crashed with no access to its data.  Kathy tripped on a step collecting a few bruises and a fat lip.  The thermostat on the furnace quit working, and we have no heat nor hot water and today it is snowing here in B2!

How is this affecting us?  We have been overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed and tired.  Short term we have had to cancel one (ministry) trip to B in order to be present for repairs and work.  It feels like a diversionary tactic of our enemy.  We choose to believe with faith that God is working in these events, in our hearts and in B in our absence.

Pray with us that we can get our two guest rooms back where people can stay and be refreshed. Pray that the basement dries out, we can get tools back in place and working, and create some order out of the chaos. More importantly, we need God’s wisdom to understand His will and discern His voice for all the many decisions, when not everything makes sense.  This has not happened without His knowledge. We desire to walk with Him even in the midst of messes and disruptions and reflect His character to one another and those around us.  We have sensed His presence and been encouraged knowing that you are praying for us, which has prompted us to… “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16 NIV)

In addition to the recital of events, what struck me most was Joe and Kathy’s outward/ upward look: they “choose to believe that God is working in these events”; they want their guest rooms ready for others and their heart’s desire is to walk intimately with the One they trust.

I know this couple. They are not pie-in-the-sky, praise-God-anyway people. We have laughed together and grumbled together. They are real life followers of Jesus who—in the midst of being overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed and tired—just keep following. They sound like Easter people.