Posts Tagged ‘Colorado

28
Oct
20

Standing Guard

I may have mentioned this before, but here in the northern Colorado part of the U.S., we are dealing with some pretty nasty forest fires at the moment. No one is quite sure how they started, but they have been fueled by high winds, dry conditions, and acres and acres of trees that were killed several years ago by the Japanese borer beetle. 

The fire closest to us – called the Cameron Peak Fire – has now attained the status of the largest forest fire in Colorado history. 

Even though the eastern edge of the fire is less than 10 miles away from us, Joan and I feel pretty safe. There is a 7500-foot mountain and a six-mile-long reservoir between us and the fire. That, plus God’s decision to dump about 20 inches of snow on the fire over the weekend helps us avoid pushing the panic button just yet.

As we have watched the heroic actions of both the volunteer and professional firefighters, we have seen them employ a tactic that seems particularly relevant for all of us… especially during this fraught time of politics, pandemic, and paranoia.

As they attempt to limit the spread of the fire – and protect homes – those firefighters strive to create a perimeter of safety. This can be accomplished by either removing trees (a.k.a., “fuel”), digging a trench, or even doing some kind of controlled pre-burning of patches of vegetation. 

Sometimes high winds foil their plans by carrying burning embers across those perimeters, but by and large it is an effective strategy for minimizing destruction.

And I don’t know about you, but lately I have been feeling the need to build some kind of “perimeter of safety” around my spirit to protect it from flames of an entirely different kind; 

  • … the flames of despair,
  • … the flames of hatred,
  • … the flames of bitterness,
  • … the flames of resentment,
  • … the flames of arrogance.

I look out and see them there… crackling and sparking in the pages of the newspaper, glowing in the posts and comments on social media, and popping and smoking in TV commercials and news stories. When I get too close, I can almost feel the edges of my soul starting to curl up as their heat intensifies. 

I am not an advocate of diving into the bunker and ignoring everything that is going on in the world. But I do believe we need to take great care when it comes to the matter of how those events – and their interpretations – affect our spirits. Just like with these forest fires, we can’t expect to keep dancing around the edge of the flames and not get burnt. 

King Solomon offers us this wise “fire protection” guidance in the book of Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NRSV).

Jesus – at the most dangerous point in his earthly life – knew the importance of guarding his spirit with some kind of perimeter of safety. And he knew exactly how to build it, too. If ever there was a moment to give in to fear, anger, or despair, the moment before his arrest surely was that moment. 

And so, what did he do? Just before he was arrested by the Roman guards, tried for blasphemy, and executed, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We know he prayed until he sweat drops of blood. We know he prayed for God’s will to ultimately be done… even if it did not necessarily sync with Jesus’ human will.

But he might also have prayed the words of Psalm 121 and said: I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NRSV). 

The point is: JESUS PRAYED. He connected and communicated with God. He put his immediate dilemma into the perspective of eternity. He found a strong, godly refuge in the midst of the roaring flames. 

And even though his body was eventually consumed by that great inferno, his spirit remained intact and unscathed.

And I am guessing that today he would probably advise us to follow him and do the same.

Abundant blessings;

14
Oct
20

The Last Hurrah

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1, NRSV)

Seldom has there been a more oft-repeated, self-evident phrase than the one I am about to utter. Despite that, I press on…

“FALL IS MY FAVORITE SEASON!”

If it were not for the fact that our Fort Collins, CO sky is currently filled with smoke and ash particulates from a very nearby wildfire, Joan and I would be outside all day every day drinking in the autumnal splendor.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are just a few examples of some of God’s best handiwork:

As we were out walking with the dogs and admiring the brilliant splashes of color the other day, I wondered if there were perhaps an Abiding Truth or Profound Life Lesson lurking there among the red and gold leaves.

And lo and behold, it didn’t take long at all to find one.

Isn’t it interesting, I thought, that trees wait until the very last moment of their seasonal “lives” to put on their brightest, most brilliant displays? As we all know, in a few short weeks, all of those gorgeous leaves will be lying on our lawns, choking our grass, and demanding to be swept up and discarded.

Just in time for the icy cold “death” of winter to descend.

And yet, through the intricate genius of our Creator, the last hurrah of these trees’ lives is their best. Their closing act is when they pull out all the stops… bursting forth with beauty… showering blessings on all those who chance into their orbit.

Is it possible that this just might be a lesson for we humans who happen to be enjoying the autumn of our earthly lives? Might we also be designed to make our last act our best act?

Just something to ponder…

Abundant blessings;

24
Sep
20

The Right Question…

Since we now live in a new state, Joan and I recently decided to do a little exploring.

We drove to the southwestern part of Colorado and set ourselves up in the lovely little town of Ridgway. We highly recommend it, in case you are ever looking for a picturesque, unspoiled, little mountain getaway town. 

On our third day there we asked our GPS, “How far is it to Telluride?” We had heard great things about the town of Telluride and wanted to drive over and do a little exploring.

Our GPS quite accurately told us it was 15 miles from Ridgway to Telluride…

… as the crow flies, that is.

We discovered that if you happen to be a human instead of a crow, limited to traveling in a car across paved roads – as we were – there is a completely different answer to the question, “How far is Telluride?”

That answer is thirty-nine miles

That trivial little exercise caused me to wonder; could we be in the midst of one of those times when some of us are not asking the right question?

With a major political election looming on the immediate horizon, the question seems obvious; Trump or Biden? Democrat or Republican? Liberal or conservative? 

Pick your side. Make your speech. Cast your ballot.

But what if those are not really the right questions at all?

What if the right (better) questions are somehow deeper… more fundamental and essential? And what if these better questions concern the kind of people you and I will BE from here on out instead of which political horse we choose to hitch our wagon(s) to?

Make no mistake… I am watching the current political hullabaloo like a hawk. At times it is more entertaining than an NFL game. At other times, it is more frightening than a Stephen King novel. And I definitely do have a favorite in this race.

But the more I watch this show and the more blood that is spilled, the more discouraged I get about the real benefits of ANY potential outcome. 

We can change the political circumstances in which we live. But until we fundamentally change the people we are – the way we think, the way we interact with one another, and the way we live our lives – neither of these would-be political messiahs is really going to make much difference at all.

I propose that a better question for us each to ask ourselves today might be this one: what kind of edges will my life have from here on out?

What I mean by that is…

  • Will the edges of my life be made up of a hard, impenetrable shell? Will I pour all of my energy into fortifying myself against anything that might penetrate and possibly harm me? Will I “batten down the hatches” and look upon anything unfamiliar as a dangerous threat? Will I echo Simon and Garfunkel as they sang, “I am a rock… I am an island”?
  • Or will my edges be soft and vulnerable? Will they be easily punctured by the voice, the views, or the needs of another? Will I/we dare to open ourselves to the stranger? Will I/we dare to occasionally say to someone, “I don’t know. I might be wrong about that. Let me think about it”? Will we be humble and open to the needs of our neighbors?

The temptation in unsettling, uncertain, anxious times is to try and build as strong a wall as we possibly can. To seek safety. To armor-plate the edges of our lives.

And yet, as natural an instinct as shell-building seems to be, it is the polar opposite of the model of Christlikeness. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28, NRSV).

And the writer of 1 Peter said, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NRSV).

Yes, it is a vitally important time in our political life as a country. But I hope we can each find a way to look past the noise and smoke, ask the right question…

… and then perform our civic duty accordingly.

Abundant blessings;




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