September 28, 2008

Psalm 8

Saturday morning, I woke up, went to Walmart and picked up the new Coldplay cd. I loaded it into the disc player and headed out.

How do you explain sorrow or define exhilaration. Endless words can be used, but in the end only an experience of the emotions will lend understanding. I will use the best words I have, but even as I write, I know they will be insufficient to describe the sights, sounds, thoughts, and feelings I experienced.

The hillsides are a riot of color. Green, orange, yellow, and red explode like fireworks all around. The blue sky yields to lazy clouds that become heavy with moisture. A single cloud fills and falls to the earth. Like dark angry fingers, the cloud unfolds visibly dropping its rain precisely in one spot.

Huge rock croppings push upward from the earth, laughing at gravity’s pull. They stand like sentries forever guarding the ancient secrets that propelled them up out of the ground. With each bend in the road, I have to will myself to breath so stunned am I by the beauty of what I am seeing. Words like: spectacular, incredible, indescribable all come to mind. I am thrilled to be alive.

Suddenly I am in the southwest. I know I didn’t sleep, but with the blink of an eye it is as if I have woken up in a different place. The soil has become red and the aspens have been replaced with low standing cedars who seem crouched against the ground, prepared for an onslaught of wind and snow. I turn off onto an unpaved road that will consume the next 35 miles of my trek.

Just as quickly as it came, the red rock of the desert west is gone. Instead the hills are littered with the black rock of magma spit forth from generations gone by. Entering into the canyon, I find myself paralleling the Colorado River. The river is in a hurry, anxious to reach its destination before the snow and ice slow its progress. In wonder, I examine the walls of this place and consider the painful work the river has completed to burrow itself so deeply into this place.

As I continue on my journey, the scene shifts again and again. The immeasurable display of God’s creativity stuns me mile by mile. In literally thousands of spots along the way, I could have simply stopped and spent the rest of the day doing nothing more than contemplating the colors, the rocks, the ravines, the river, . . .

Like the swiftly changing scenery, I find my mood has changed. Imperceptibly, I have gone from exhilaration to sorrow. I am a spectator to forces and power that are beyond my imagination, much less my control. My insignificance is being illustrated out of every window. I am hemmed in by credible evidence that my movement through the canyon means nothing to the mountain, to the river, or to the sky.

In the face of all this, I ask the Lord, “And who am I that you are mindful of me?”

As soon as I arrived in Aspen, I found myself standing outside of a little church whose Mass was about to begin. I went in and sat in the back as the Father preached: “Get over it, it’s not about you, it’s about Jesus.”

September 27, 2008


Well, it’s the weekend. Although this is a “working weekend,” I have decided to set off for some time alone. I left Estes Park today and traveled over the Fall River Road to the western side of the park. It was slow going on the dirt road (that is closed in the winter – which begins sometime in the next week or two up here!). To say that it was beautiful is an understatement. In addition to the always present evidence of God’s imagination, the road was also a not too subtle reminder of my mortality. To say the road is slightly treacherous is to say that sticking your finger in the light socket is mildly stimulating.

I did manage to get out and hike around a bit in the upper areas of the park. It felt good to stretch my legs and I even managed to walk through little pockets of snow. For my non-Texas friends, that’s a big deal. The closest we get to snow in September is a blizzard from the DQ.

I stopped for lunch in Granby a place where Lee Brookman and I once took a helicopter ride during our summer of fun following high school graduation. The sign advertised a number of dinning options including German, American, and Mexican. Inside I found a husband and wife team whose thick German accent led me to a Brat, Sauerkraut, and some potatoes. Over a great lunch I opened up my map to select my final destination for the day.

A beautiful drive ensued and I found myself in Steamboat Springs. I found a quite place to stay that met all of my requirements: a balcony with a view, internet access, and CNN on which to watch the debate. I spent a great night with one eye on the debate and one eye watching a gorgeous sunset. I’m off now for another day of sight seeing and sermon writing. I think I’ll head south and look for a good place to watch the trees and work on plans for next year’s sermon calendar. Along the way, church, know that I am praying for you and miss you a lot.

September 25, 2008

I quit. No, I don't. Yes, I do. No, I don't.

I decided this morning to go on a little hike. I set out from the cabin and headed up the “hill.” Just a little one mile jaunt to get the blood pumping. One mile above the cabin is a sign that offers you two different hikes. One is 2.5 miles, the other 2.2 miles. I looked at the sun, considered the photo quality for going each of the two directions and set off for the 2.5 mile hike.

I was headed to Deer Mountain Summit. The first part of the trip was great. I was laughing, taking pictures, and generally amusing myself as I went along. I was hiking down a ridgeline for a while with spectacular views to both my left and right. Here’s one of my self portraits – the rest are on facebook.

About an hour and half into my hike, I started thinking that I was never going to make the summit. I had set a two hour limit for the outbound leg of the journey, not wanting to hike for more than four hours. This was the point where the trail really began to ascend. I was on a series of cutbacks that were leading steadily upward.

With fifteen minutes left on my two hour deadline, I started really praying. I was thinking how great a sermon illustration this would make. You know, I was tired – at the end of my strength, wanting to quit and turn around, but no I pressed on and look how great it all turned out. Each step I took was starting to be painful. I was experiencing “jelly legs.” That’s the technical climbing term, I think.

As the two hour deadline came and went, I was starting to resign myself to having to turn back before reaching the summit. I couldn’t tell if I was close or not. I was really wishing that there would just be some sort of sign – something to let me know I was still on the right track – and preferably that I was almost there! I started looking around for a place to lay down. I figured I should rest for a little bit and then start back down the mountain. As I kept going forward, I began to think this might turn out to be an entirely different kind of sermon illustration.

I was becoming genuinely concerned that the moral of this hike when told on Sunday would not be about perseverance and trust, rather about vanity and pride. Twice I quit and turned around. I never took a single step, but spun the rest of the way around and kept going. Once, I think I even spoke out loud, “I quit.” “No, not yet.” The really disturbing part about all this was knowing that as tired as I was, as weak as my legs felt, as low as my water was running – I was only halfway through the hike. Every step forward at that point was worth two steps because of the return.

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen the sign. Maybe I would have gone on indefinitely. Maybe I would have turned around pretty soon. I know that I should have turned back well earlier. So, at the summit (and halfway point), I had hiked about 3 miles and ascended right at 2000 feet (from 8200 to 10200 feet)!

Still, the summit was spectacular and after spending forty five minutes up top, the two and half hours back down the mountain just breezed by . . .

September 24, 2008

In Estes Park

I haven't written on the old blog for quite a while. The truth is, I have been in my bunker - hunkering down and weathering storm after storm and I just didn't feel like sharing.

After not even 24 hours away, I find myself emerging once again. It is truly lovely here in Estes Park, Colorado. I am here on my annual sermon preparation retreat. By the time I come home, I will have every sermon title and scripture selected for the entire 2009 calendar year. Along the way, I fully expect to be inspired by God's creation (and have a little fun!).

Oh faithful (and neglected) blog readers, have cheer. I am on line again and will keep you posted on my latest adventure.