One of the great gifts of summer in this valley is the visitors! People seem to come out of the woodwork to spend time in this glorious place. Case in point – my cousin and his family came through last week as part of a family road trip of western national parks.
With his many successes, flourishing family and big physical presence, my cousin could seem intimidating to some. BUT, as so often happens in families, when I am with him I am instantly transported back to childhood summers on our grandfather’s farm. Together, we swung on the creaking porch swing, jumped off piles of hay bales, played Pick-Up-Stiks on the front porch and yes, we memorized Bible verses together. It was the simple stuff of Norman Rockwell and it built an enduring bond of love between us. In his company, I felt at home, known and comforted by that familiarity. It occurred to me: this is how God sees me and every one of us – as our undefended, true selves – not as we may sometimes present ourselves to the world. What a loving and healing gift to be known and accepted for who we really are!
If it can be healing to be with someone who has known us for a few decades, can you imagine the healing power of our relationship with God who knows and has known us for eternity? Wow! Jeremiah 1:5A comes to mind – “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you…” And, in Luke 12:7 Jesus says, amazingly, “The hairs on your head are counted.” What incredible intimacy those verses imply! Can we really even fathom being known in such detail and forever?
Science has repeatedly shown that loneliness is detrimental to our health and longevity. (Click on this link for more about Dr. Cacioppo’s research on this subject.) We are wired to thrive on connection – knowing each other and being known makes us healthy, mentally and physically. No wonder Jesus, the embodiment of God, healed by his very presence. He knows not only our changeable personality and circumstances but our eternal soul. And He loves that soul. Profoundly. Just because we are of God.
But wait a minute… that can also be a scary thing – to be known so thoroughly. Some may even be afraid of God for that reason – if God really knows me surely he would reject me, the thinking goes. But this is God, the father of the prodigal son. This is Jesus, who said quite directly, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)
As we make our way through the ups and downs, the apparent gains and losses of this life, it is comforting and therefore healing to keep in mind that our eternal soul is always known and profoundly loved. This intimate, loving relationship with God is our eternal, safe home. It will outlast and, ultimately, heal everything.
Summer is here and the flowers on the hillsides of Aspen and Snowmass are in full bloom.
Last week the kids and I trekked a sweet path behind Clark’s market. We stumbled upon a wooden staircase that was surrounded by purple and yellow flowers. We made it to the top and once we got past the dusty peak, we descended onto a trail encased by bushes and shrubs. Every once in a while the dense folliage opened up to small meadows of vibrant flowers that seemed to be doused with fluttering butterflies.
How many butterflies could we count? We couldn’t, there were so many!
Grandma told the kids that some people think of butterflies as special spirits who are with us. They liked this concept and continued our hike in awe of the wonders of our earth and mesmerized by the thought of the spirits beyond.
The very next day a butterfly kit we had ordered from Amazon arrived in the mail. A netted cage was included along with a small container of live caterpillars that were no bigger than the width of my pinky nail. The caterpillars seemed lethargic after their bumpy ride to our home. We weren’t sure they were going to survive. But slowly, as they gobbled up the muck at the bottom of their container, which looked like peanut butter but much less appetizing, the caterpillars began to grow. Each day they doubled in size. In their tiny plastic container they crawled around and ate and ate and after 7 days, one by one, they climbed to the lid of their habitat. We watched as, little caterpillar foot by little caterpillar foot, each one slowly released their grasp until their world was turned upside down and they were just barely hanging on. Currently they are chrysalises, attached and asleep. Our family waits in anticipation for the beauty we expect to emerge at the end of this cycle.
I just love the deeply simple metaphors that nature gifts us. Here are the profound spiritual truths that these tiny creatures are teaching our family as we watch a transformation take place:
- Baby caterpillars (at least these ones) start off kinda ugly.
- You have-ta start somewhere, and that might mean crawling around in the muck for a while.
- You need to feed yourself to grow.
- As you grow, you’ll climb to new hieghts.
- To be transformed, you have to be willing to let go, little foot by little foot.
- Once you let go, your world will be turned upside down.
- Those watching the transformation take place will be awe-struck and inspired. It is very cool to witness!
- When you emerge from the transformation process, you’ll be more beautiful than you ever thought possible.
- Once you have your wings, you’ll see the world with a whole new perspective.
- True freedom comes only after all these other steps are complete.
I am just as in awe as my little children watching this whole cycle unfold. But, the truth is, if we look close these kinds of transformations are happening all around us in the human world too!
Have you ever watched a caterpillar go through it’s process? What stage do you find yourself in right this minute? What areas of your life would you like to see transformed? Do you believe God has a plan for you, to make you STUNNING, AWE-INSPIRING, and NEW? Do you think the caterpillar ever mistake its stages and think that it is in its final stage, when it is actually just entering another transformation?
Just some food for thought, and I hope it tastes better than the sticky goo those caterpillars are eating. :o)
It may only be June 14 but we are happily ensconced in summertime around here! I finally spotted the elusive Snowmass Village moose and her babies last night – what a treat to see them galloping across the greens on their way to the golf course pond.
A few familiar faces have already arrived in Snowmass for the summer and were somewhat surprised by our beautiful June weather – not the usual cool with bouts of rain, but rather temps in the 80’s, a rainbow of wild flowers, and abundant blue skies.
If you are reading this from parts unknown, we look forward to welcoming you back to Snowmass Chapel soon! Your mountains are calling….
Camp SMashBox began this week and with it the joyful shouts and songs of kids (human ice cream sundaes, anyone?). This is our 7th season of Camp SMashBox at Snowmass Chapel and this summer we will welcome 400+ young campers throughout the five weeks of camp. And – this is HUGE – our very own Jenna (who started with us as a high school counselor 7 years ago) is opening a Camp SMashBox in Grand Junction in July!
Truly, it’s hard not to appreciate the enthusiasm and natural joy that accompanies almost anything children do at SMashBox. We are blessed by the talents of Kara & Adam Gilbert who founded the camp while working here as youth leaders, and by the amazing college and high school crew who lead each day’s chaos. And while the kids think it’s all about play, at the heart of what they do is a desire to love kids and staff and to communicate, “You are special. You are valuable. You serve a purpose. You matter.”
Now if that isn’t a ministry based on Christ’s love, I don’t know what is.
I’ve been reading the wonderful little book, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. He contends that the awesome love of God has been hidden from us by churches, parents, pastors and life itself, which would have us believe only in a God of holiness, justice and wrath, rather than in God’s furious love of us. He writes:
We must go into a desert of some kind (your backyard will do) and come to a personal experience of the awesome love of God. Then we will nod in knowing agreement with that gifted English mystic Julian of Norwich, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to love gladly because of the knowledge of God’s love.”
So we have taken to the backyard here at Snowmass Chapel, and will mightily endeavor to give kids an experience of the awesome love of God. Served with a heaping pile of chocolate sauce. Which I think is just SMarvelous.
What do your prayers reveal about your relationship with God? I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some moments of real surprise in my prayer life. Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar to you?
“Dear God, please be with my friend, Shirley. She’s going in for surgery on Tuesday at 2 PM MST and I’m asking You to please guide the doctor’s and nurse’s hands. Grant her Thy strength as she recovers and give her the peace that passeth understanding. May her insurance company be pleasant to deal with and please give her family patience and helpfulness as she recuperates. We come together to ask this in Thy name, because Matthew 18:19 clearly says, ‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’ and I know that Thou wilt honor Thy Word. In the powerful and effective name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.”
I began to notice that my prayers assume that…
- God doesn’t know about my friend Shirley or her surgery, so at least one function of my prayer is to raise God’s awareness.
- God only speaketh, understandeth, and respondeth to King James’ English.
- God needs a high degree of supervision – if I don’t give God detailed instructions, my prayer might lead to some very unintended consequences. Explanations need to be literal and precise and avoid anything that might be misconstrued, require interpretation, or lead to independent thinking on God’s part.
- God’s arm needs to be twisted before anything good will happen. God needs to be reminded about what the Bible says in case God was thinking about not following my detailed instructions.
- Prayers are a bit like a magic spell. You have to perform your incantations – I mean prayers – with the proper form or nothing will happen – or worse – the prayer could backfire!
Sometimes when I stop and listen to myself, I’m amazed at all of the things that my prayers reveal about my view of God. I see evidence of belief in a God who is angry, vengeful, capricious, mischievous, reluctant, recalcitrant, and probably worse. So how would I pray if I really believed that God already knows what I need and loves me and is working all things together for good?
Let me start by saying that I don’t like the idea of ending prayers to God. If God is available for us to talk to, why would we EVER want to cut off communication? Start your prayer to God, but don’t shut the door of communication with an “Amen” of dismissal – leave the door open. You never know when you need to hear from God. It’s okay if you are talking with other people. Let God be part of that too. Remain available.
A big part of this life seems to be about trust. Lots of things happen to us every day that unsettle and scare us. When we respond with fear and when we get defensive and when we counter-attack, we reveal our belief in a powerless god. What if we really believed in a God who is the Creator of the Universe with limitless resources and creativity? What would it be like if we had a different response to big scary things? What if we just tapped into our open link with the Creator of the Universe and said, “This thing just happened and it scares me, but I know you’ve got this – is there anything I can to help? How can I cooperate with your plan for this situation?” And then we trust and listen.
Some of us are probably still holding on to the idea that we need to have a relationship with God – not because God is the most interesting being in the universe, and worth the relationship – but because God is our ticket to heaven. I challenge myself (and you) to consider what it means to have an open link to a Being who is loving, available, helpful, creative, powerful, relational, and knowledgeable. I don’t know if our prayers change God, but I’m pretty sure that prayer has the potential to change us – and what a privilege that is!