Category Archives: Christian faith

Rocky Mountain Fall Splendor

 

 

Bruce and I got away for a couple of days to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Having lived in Estes Park (gateway to the national park) we knew to expect crowds in town and on the trails. But, due to Covid, the park has instituted a policy where visitors have to register beforehand in order to get into the park. So, hiking the trails above Sprague Lake was a wonderfully private experience for us. I love fall in the Rockies. Just look at those colors.

 

What a joy to walk these trails, to feel the hint of the bracing winds that will soon descend on the mountain valleys and cloak it in deep snows. We surprised a deer grazing just off the trail. And a squirrel examined  us cautiously, scurrying amid the rocks and tree roots to get a better look at us giant humans.

At our campground, we sat by the river and listened to the bull elk bugle nearby.

We enjoyed an early dinner at the Stanley hotel.

Little excursions like this are such a gift from a loving God. He seems to say, “Stop working. Get outside and play for awhile. Breathe the mountain air, savor the fall colors, sniff the aroma of pine and spruce, delight in watching the elk, stretch out your legs and travel my terrain. I made all of this for you to enjoy.”

 

Covid and Workouts and The Grand Tetons

 

Oh my gosh, it’s been months since I’ve posted on my website. It’s not that I’ve been completely silent. I’m still out there on other forums.

I have no excuse. I’m guilty. But I do have sort of an explanation.

First, don’t let anyone tell you Long Covid does not exist. It absolutely does because I’m one of those unfortunates who was struck by this frustrating syndrome.

I had a very mild case of Covid way back in April of 2020. About the time I felt that I’d recovered from the body aches and mild nausea, an annoying cough started. Then my heart rate climbed to the level that leaves one breathless, weak and tired.

I toughed it out for six months. But then the symptoms increased in severity. Just walking from one room to another in my house felt like a marathon.

Finally, in February of 2021, I ended up in the ER, so breathless I feared my heart was failing.

The docs did all the usual things. Turns out my heart’s perfect. The pulmonologist said I had 20 percent greater lung capacity than the average woman—probably from all those years singing.

They send me to a cardiologist for meds to slow my heart rate, but with the admission that they couldn’t determine a cause for my complaints.

As the months passed, I started to see more and more articles about long Covid. The shoe fit.

Still, the condition is so new and bewildering that no one could tell me how to find relief.

So I charted my own course. I resumed singing even though I felt like I was drowning. (If you’ve listened to my scripture songs, that’s me in really bad vocal shape in the midst of long Covid.)  I did tons of breathing exercises. Got on the treadmill and worked up to seven miles a day. This took a few months. I added strength training.

I gotta say, I’ve never felt better. I used to roll my eyes when athletes would tell me how great it felt to push themselves hard during exercise. But I’ve experienced it now.

I wouldn’t advise everyone to do what I’ve done. I don’t have any knee,  hip, foot or joint problems. My sister is trying to get back in shape after shoulder surgery by swimming at her health club.

So, when Bruce and I drove to the Tetons a couple of weeks ago, my goal was to do as many of the trails at the foot of those mountains as we could—if we could find a place to park among all the skads of other visitors to the park!

We did about seven or eight miles a day–nothing huge, but the nice dry mountain air, the sunshine, the scent of pine all felt amazing.

Friends, if you haven’t visited the Grand Tetons, please put this on your bucket list. God didn’t skimp when he pushed those magnificent mountains into the air and chiseled its peaks.

 

You Don’t Need To Survive

Fifteen years ago, in Paradise, CA —yes, that ill-fated town that later suffered a catastrophic fire— I heard a sermon that shocked and challenged me.

It was entitled: “You Don’t Need to Survive.”

The pastor spoke of our need to let everything go in the knowledge that Christ has given all for us, and we have been bought with a price. Christ, having purchased our souls, we should ready ourselves to do the same.

He spoke about missionaries in hostile countries, of lay people and pastors in countries where Christ is the enemy of the government, of businessmen and women working in companies that celebrate the acquisition of wealth even to the extent of disregarding powerless people.

Our pastor said that in the light of all that we have gained through faith in Christ, the loss of our physical lives is virtually nothing in comparison.

“You don’t need to survive” is antithetical to our instinctual drive to survive. Yet, the pastor repeated this phrase over and over within the body of his sermon.

But the survival  instinct, in faith-filled believers, and in extraordinary times, must be subjugated in order to fulfill a higher purpose than mere physical survival.

And when I say that I was shocked at the pastor’s message, it’s not because I had never considered the reality of Christians dying for their faith. It was the phrase: “you don’t need…”

“You don’t need.”

What? Of course I need to survive. I mean, isn’t it the most basic need? It shows itself from the beginning, at a newborn’s first cry, at the sucking of its fist, the startle reflex, the toddler’s first attempt at deceiving its parents to avoid discipline, clinging to Mama at seeing a strange, new face.

Our Creator God put that instinct inside each of us.

But the apostle Paul said: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV)

And the apostle Peter said: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Pet. 4:12)

According to these great apostles, being willing to suffer for identifying with Christ and His Word—even to the point of death— is the mark of the true believer.

Many Christians are aware of how our nation is becoming increasingly hostile toward people of faith. If this trend continues (and I believe it will) how will we as believers navigate this strange new world? Will we simply melt into the new fabric, or will we hold to our integrity and our orthodoxy?

The price may be great. Already, some teachers, professors, and others have lost their jobs for daring to disagree with the present correct stance.

We will all have to determine what is a hill to choose to die on. Will we keep silent when our HR departments instruct us to agree with bad and harmful beliefs?

Will we teachers teach new but false histories, sciences, philosophies, sociologies? Or will it be a personal hill on which to choose our own professional  death?

Will we leave a church that harps on and on about social issues but ignores preaching the soul-saving gospel? Are we willing to leave old friends and fun fellowship for the sake of clinging to right doctrine?

The other day I read an article about the church in China, how the communist government is very concerned by its rapid growth. What to do? I wanted to write a letter to the Chinese government and tell them how to make the church die: “Leave the church alone, give them tax benefits, approve their message, their work. Then watch them, in their newfound freedom, begin to tear each other apart, argue about doctrine, watch churches split, watch its members grow lukewarm and ineffectual in the face of all this luxurious freedom. Sirs, the way to destroy the church is by leaving them alone!”

I predict that, in the coming years, we western believers will face the same kind of snuffing out, disappearing, persecution that our Chinese brothers and sisters face. Are we willing to “not survive?”

Something to think about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9: 24 NIV)

 

 

Embrace Your Elements

We’re in the process of making a transition from the wet, but beautiful northwest  to cold and windy southeast Wyoming.

Each year, in the state of Washington, I geared up (literally) for the onslaught of constant rain and dark during the fall and winter and spring days. It seemed as if as soon as October arrived, so did the gloomy weather.

Now, before the covid lockdowns this wasn’t much of a problem. I’d just load up my backpack with writing supplies and my laptop and head on over to my favorite coffee places. I’d sit by the fire, with my laptop, enjoying its warmth as I occasionally gazed outside to watch the boats glide by in the harbor. 

I found ways to enjoy the rain. And sometimes there’s something kind of romantic and mysterious about the cloudy weather that lends itself to imagining all kinds of potential stories to be stored away for future writing days.

But in Wyoming, dark clouds are rare (yay!) and sunshine is plentiful (big yay), but wind is an almost daily occurrence.

And I don’t mean whimpy wind. I mean WIND. The kind of wind that knocks semis off the interstate, and makes  walking a challenge of strength just to maneuver in a straight line. The kind of wind that screams around building corners and sends clouds of dust powerful and gritty-sharp enough to scalp a hatless man or woman.

I woke up this morning to another windy onslaught and gritted my teeth. Another day of wind? Oh no, God. Please make it stop.

But the wind is not going to stop. This is the way of Wyoming. The high altitude and treeless prairies invite the wind to fill the empty spaces. And the wind obliges, with gusto.

I saw some pronghorn antelope recently. I’m amazed how these creatures survive out in the open range during the cold and wind.

We’re building a nice, big house on acreage where we intend to plant fruit trees and berry bushes and anything else that is able to stay grounded. Everyone around here with land plants wind barriers of bushes and evergreen trees on the north and west of their property to shield their home. Good idea!

So, what’s good about the wind?

  • It cleanses. Not too much air pollution around here!
  • It brings good things like much needed precipitation from the west.
  • It gets my imagination rolling because the wind sounds like music, and music is the brain’s  great motor.
  • It makes me strong. Otherwise I’d blow away!
  • It reminds me of the power of God, and calls me to pray.