Know that as you leave the Chapel grounds this morning and walk across the bridge and go back out into the world that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ goes with each and everyone of you. Let him lead you the quiet places of your heart where he will speak with you. Know that he loves you and listens to you with a gentle understanding, and know that he is with you always, wherever you are, whatever you’re feeling, whatever it is you might be enduring. And may God’s blessing and joy and peace and strength remain within each and every one of you now and always. Amen.
God knows that I can be a slow learner. He knows that I need to be reminded of the simple things just like that silly sheep that needs to be guided back to the stream. That’s what I like most about Robert’s benediction (above)— it reminds me of the simple truth that Jesus is with me always and it’s ok to cross the bridge… but that doesn’t mean that crossing the bridge will be easy. Life transitions and changes always seem to be challenging. However, they offer us a chance to take a second and look in the “rear-view” mirror. There’s something about looking back that allows me to see God’s footsteps more closely and his actions more clearly. In part, I am writing you to tell you that I am crossing a bridge in life. In June, I will be starting a season with the Youth Recovery Center as a therapist (don’t worry! I’ll still be working at the Chapel part-time). However, I also want to share what I am seeing in my rearview mirror as I reflect on the last three years at Snowmass Chapel.
Listen to the kids. I think most of the teachers reading this will know what I mean when I say the kids have as much to teach as they do to learn. When I read about the times that Jesus spent with children I think about how much fun He must have been having with them. One of my responsibilities at the Chapel has been to teach quite a few Sunday school lessons. In teaching these I find that I’m consistently impressed by the depth inside and the wisdom our little ones have. Their honesty and authenticity is continually challenging to me. I love the way children live without having their guards up. They simply are who they are and need not to pretend to be someone else. This has served as an example for me in my walk with Jesus. Thank you children of the Chapel.
Jayla and I hadn’t lived in the Village long before we had heard someone tell us to “trust your edges!” The whole idea of having long skinny things strapped to your feet while flying down the hill without a semblance of stability and trusting the thinnest and smallest part of the ski seemed like nonsense to me. Although it took me a long time to feel the confidence that comes from well-tuned edges, when I did I felt like a whole new world opened up. It’s a little ironic how skis require you to lean in and trust them before they’re really trustworthy. Similarly, I found that the further I lean into Jesus’ embrace, the more security I feel in it. The wisdom found in this silly skiing analogy has pushed me to challenge myself to walk through times that were uncomfortable, but just like trusting edges up on the hill opens up new terrain, trusting God in this way opens up a whole new lens for you to see the world. I challenge you all to trust your edges a little more everyday.
Before I came to the chapel I think most of the so-called communities I had been a member of were built out of common worldviews. What I mean is that those communities were made up of people who all happen to see certain issues the same way or believe certain things were true. One of my favorite things about the Chapel is the different perspectives that make up our community. I now feel like community is richer and much more fulfilling when you have diversity of thought, actions, and life experience. I love that we have seasonal employees that come from everywhere, second home owners that bounce in and encourage us all, and a real diversity of locals who live here. We may not all have exactly the same doctrine or the same political viewpoints but I love coming together and worshiping with you all on a Sunday morning. I’m thankful I’ve been able to be a part of this body with you all and experience the joy of having all the differences in one place worshiping the same Creator.
I think it was my second summer here that a friend of mine asked if I would be willing to help him pack out an elk if he got one during hunting season. He was new to hunting, so I figured it was a low-risk promise to agree. Little did I know, he would get a large mule deer and an elk in the same season… I also didn’t know just how large a fully grown Colorado elk could be! Somewhere between all of the many trips up and down the mountain I started thinking about how special it is to walk beside someone helping them carry a load. I think about when Jesus talked about His yoke being easy and His burden light I think about the grace He offers us and the freedom from the weight of all the ways that we are incomplete and all the ways that I do life halfway. I feel that freedom with you all at the Chapel because I feel free to be authentically myself. At many points you all have helped me carry my burdens and hopefully I have helped you carry a couple myself. However, more importantly I have been reminded by you all and by this community that it’s simply not my job to carry these burdens. Sometimes I need this to be reminded to me daily. I challenge you to ponder the burdens you’re carrying that Jesus says you don’t need to carry. Think about the things that weigh you down that you could be sharing with your Community of Faith. Then maybe try taking something out of your backpack… you’ll like the way it feels.
It’s All About Love. If you spent any time in and around the Chapel you’ve heard about love. You’ve heard about the passage in Matthew 22 that says to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul with all your mind. I hope that if you look closely you’ve seen that love in action. If you’re like me you’ve seen people give up chunks of their life to become Stephen ministers. You’ve seen people give up first tracks on powder days to come greet and welcome others into this community of faith and love. You’ve seen people sit and visit with others not because they have nothing better to do, but because someone else sat and listened to them when they needed it most. You’ve seen people give sacrificially so this Chapel could exist (and so that I had a job where I could focus on students, not funding). You’ve seen people be little Christs to each other. Only God could dream this stuff up. This Great Commandment is so simple that a child can understand it but so challenging that it may take your whole lifetime to pursue it. I don’t know about you all, but a lifetime pursuing what it means to love our God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves, sounds like a life well-lived.
I want to thank you all for being a part of my Snowmass Chapel family. I want to thank you for teaching me all these lessons. I want to thank you for reading my rambling writing, and I want to thank you for loving me as yourself.
The other day Jayla and I decided to go on a bike ride together. As with many husbands in this valley, it has long been a dream of mine for Jayla to fall in love with cycling. So when she seemed excited about going on an afternoon ride I jumped at the opportunity. We talked about it and decided that it would be cool to combine our bike ride with that grocery store run we so desperately needed. I was thinking that to bike with more weight could be hard, but if we didn’t buy too much stuff how hard could it be to bike back from Aspen? About thirty minutes later, with panniers attached, Jayla and I hit the bike path.
Out of the the Chapel, Jayla turned to go down the Brush Creek bike path. In my mind I was thinking, “That’s a little funny. I might have taken the Owl Creek bike path, but it would be fun to go down and take the Rio Grande all the way into town… “ And so I went with it. In what seemed like minutes we were at the junction where if you turn left you go towards the Woody Creek Tavern. To my surprise, Jayla was turning left! After some confused discussion we realized that she and I had been riding towards different destinations this entire time! While I had assumed we were riding towards the City Market in Aspen, she was planning on getting groceries in El Jebel! I knew I had to think about this. Not only would this be a further ride than I was anticipating, but it would be all uphill coming back home. On the other hand, we had daylight, Jayla seemed ready for it, and this was a route that I had never ridden before (famous last words).
I think you already know what we chose to do. I mean, it was a pretty obvious choice to take the path that is further, steeper, and unknown to get your groceries. What wasn’t so obvious to us was that there would be a point where we had to get off the Rio Grande bike path in order to get to Willits (where the City Market is). So after riding past the Woody Creek Tavern and the old trains (that evidently you can live in… very cool), through the canyon, over the huge bridge that you see on Highway 82, right by Basalt High School, and around the fertile landscapes of Emma WE MISSED A TURN. Now, missing a turn is no big deal if you notice. Our real problem was that we were having too much fun (riding downhill) to realize that we were going too far. The next time I thought about turning was conveniently at the next turn. We took it, and I was confused as to why everything looked so familiar. We rode a little further and on our left were these huge fields and stables that looked liked the polo fields that you see going in the backway to Carbondale. I thought, “That’s weird. How many polo fields does this valley really need?” But hey, it’s Aspen so who knows, maybe there’s a lot of polo going on.
We rode a couple minutes further only to realize that those WERE the polo fields going the back way into Carbondale! We were on Catherine Store Road! We went too far! Although it was still pretty funny to us at this point, we also realized that this excursion was taking a fair amount longer than we thought. So we hustled a bit to make up for lost time and we arrived at City Market. By this point I was starting to get pretty hungry and that burger place in Willits was looking amazing. As we were getting off the bikes Jayla looked at me with a concerning smile. She asked, “Did you remember to bring any money?” Oh no, had we really ridden all that way for groceries and not thought to bring our wallets?
By this point I was very hungry (I even went into Whole Foods to see if they had any samples… they didn’t) and feeling out of control. Periodically, I seem to encounter parts of my life that seem out of control. While these can be uncomfortable, or even painful, they do have a way of reminding me that I’m not in control. In fact, the times when I feel like I have everything handled are the times when I minimize what God is doing in my life. I even wonder if God uses the times when I feel small and out of control to show me how big and all powerful He really is. I mean, think about how out of control you might have felt if you were an Israelite following Moses (a leader who doesn’t even like public speaking) with an army behind you running straight towards the Red Sea… Or how Noah must have felt with a huge half built boat, a town full of critics, and no sea… Or how the Apostle Paul must have felt in jail… Or how any of the disciples must have felt when Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” But in each of these examples where people probably felt like their lives were unraveling, God showed up in a powerful way. So the next time you feel like things are going awry look up for second and ask Him if He’s doing something in your life that you just don’t see yet.
P.S. We made it home. Hungry. Tired. Dark. And thankful.
As you all know, the last two years working at the Chapel have given me many opportunities to spend time with kids. Indeed, there have been more than a few weeks where I feel like all I did was spend time with kiddos. This week at the Chapel has been no different. Currently, we are halfway through Vacation Bible School (VBS) and loving every minute of it. VBS is always a highlight of the year for many, but recently I saw something pretty special that I want to share with you. Yesterday we were talking about the great wisdom of Solomon (check out 1 Kings 3 if you want to brush up on the story). We went on to tell them how King Solomon, presumably the wisest man ever, wrote down much of what he learned in the Bible. It was at this point that I saw something in a kid that challenged me personally. As soon as this little guy realized that there was this great source of wisdom to be found within the Bible he started asking me questions. “Where can I find it? How do I know what it all means? What do all these little numbers mean? What is the difference between Ecclesiastes and Proverbs?” And throughout all of these questions (some of which I could answer and some of which I may need to do some further learning myself) I found that I was being challenged by the way this young person was eager to apply the wisdom found in the Bible in his life. Why aren’t I always hungry to open the Bible and make sense of how its teaching applies and changes my life? You know, I think this is one of my favorite things about working with children. Every time I start to think that we at the Chapel are teaching them really well something happens that makes me realize that I am as much the student as they are. In fact, I think God uses younger people and older people to teach each other.
This has been such a valuable experience for me I’ve decided to share it with you. The recipe is simple, combine one part Biblical wisdom with one part interaction with children. So here is your homework: First, find a child in your life to spend time with. Read a book. Go on a walk. Try to find sleeping ants. Anything you like. Secondly, read the following Proverbs one per day until Sunday. When you read them, try to find an example or area within your life that could be changed in some way due to the wisdom found within the Proverb. After all, like my little friend challenged me to consider, we should be thankful and eager that we have a book that gives us all some pretty awesome hints on how to live well in this life.
Thursday Proverb: Proverbs 3:5 —Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding
Friday Proverb: Proverbs 4:23 — Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Saturday Proverb: Proverbs 27:17 — As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Sunday Proverb: Proverbs 15:1 — A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Although it’s snowing as I write this, the last couple weeks have been absolutely beautiful spring weather here in Snowmass Village. The sun has been so consistent and strong that a couple of the trails have gone from being muddy and half snow covered to dry as a bone in a matter of days. Incredible. I think one of the best things about living in an area that has four distinct seasons is that there is always something to look forward to coming around the corner. What am I looking forward to in the upcoming season? Mountain Biking. Everytime someone mentions summer I think about mountain biking. When I think about graduating I think about mountain biking. When I think about things I can do with kids that I can’t now I think about mountain biking. I think I may have some sort of fever…
Anyways, last week I heard that the South Rim trail was not only open for use but was also dry all the way up to the ying-yang. Could this be true? Could there be dry and open mountain biking trails in April? As soon as I heard I knew I would need to conduct a proper investigation myself. So the next day I set off on my dusty bike for the trails.
Within minutes I found myself thinking, “this sure is harder than I remember it to be…” Admittedly, I haven’t had nearly as much cardio in my life during the winter as I did last summer. So it would make sense that this ride would be more challenging now than it had been at the end of the summer— but nothing could have prepared me for how biking in early spring feels in comparison to late summer. You see by the end of last season I had started to not only enjoy the riding itself but also the passing people that came along with it. Even though I could see riders ahead of me on the trail I simply could not catch them. And to wound my pride even further there was this runner who seemed to be catching up behind me as I rode!
So why am I telling you this? Other than the fact that it is funny I have found that our motivations affect our outcomes. The reasons why you do something mean as much as what you are or aren’t doing. You see, most of last summer I went riding because I love it. However, towards the end of last summer I began to get a little faster and started to enjoy passing other people. As my pride grew I think I started riding so that I could pass people. In effect, I had changed from doing something because I loved it to doing something because I was good at it. It’s a small change that creates huge waves in why we do what we do and how much joy we gain from it. Additionally, I had gone from simply enjoying something to needing to compare myself to others to enjoy something.
I think this same bait and switch happens in our spiritual lives all the time. Think about prayer. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve begun to pray more regularly because I’ve seen something in my life that made me realize how much better everything is with Jesus as a close friend. Here, I’m praying simply because I love Jesus and want to know Him better. But somehow this good motivation can be turned into something prideful. Even Jesus warned us against praying for the wrong reasons in Matthew 6 (check it out).
So how do we keep from allowing our pride to creep into our daily lives and change the reasons we are doing what we’re doing? First, I believe we have to let Jesus show us the way. Even in the Matthew 6 passage where Jesus calls out the people praying for the wrong reasons, He goes on to show them how to pray Himself (this is where we get the prayer that we say all the time in church– it starts, “Our Father”). Secondly, we need to help each other stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. Taking all these pressures off ourselves to gives us the ability to let God lead… and He leads to some pretty cool places.
Overwhelmed. I’ve been hearing this word a lot recently.
I hear it on the news. I hear it in music. I hear it in the lift lines. I hear it in the middle school. I hear it in parents. I hear it in the bus. And if I’m honest, I hear it in my own head.
Yes, I think if we are honest with ourselves we all have times (days, weeks, months or even years) where we feel a little overwhelmed. This feeling is so squarely within the range of normal emotions that I think it almost goes without saying that everyone feels it. The question then becomes what can I do about it.
But before we get to that question I figured I needed to have a solid definition of what it really means to be overwhelmed. So I looked up a couple definitions and found one that I think will resonate with you all. It said, “to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as an avalanche.” Now, I know that this is speaking to the more physical sense of the word overwhelmed. However, doesn’t it sometimes feel like life comes in avalanches?
A couple weeks ago I was on top of Buttermilk with a troop of six graders digging in the snow for an avalanche beacon. They were preparing for their 6th grade Outdoor Education Trip (which is a hut trip) and part of their preparation was a lesson in snow science and a chance to simulate searching for an avalanche victim using an avalanche beacon. An avalanche beacon is a device that can both receive and transmit a certain radio frequency. If someone is caught in an avalanche the beacons can be used to search for the victim under the snow. My group (can you tell I’m proud?) was super quick to find the beacon buried in the snow— something that I’m sure the victim would appreciate if there was actually a victim.
This experience made me think about what it would be like to be skiing with a group of friends and then all of a sudden be separated from them by a wall of white snow. I wonder if it’s anything like my spiritual life when I’m cruising along and out of nowhere an avalanche of life hits me and all of a sudden I feel separated from Jesus. Why is it that prayer is the activity that gets pushed to the side when we get busy and overwhelmed? Isn’t prayer the beacon that allows us to talk to Jesus even when life is so overwhelming we feel like we are far from Him? Even Jesus knew that He needed to pray when life became the craziest. In the Gospels, it is common to see Jesus withdraw to a lonely place to pray (Luke 5:16). I figure if Jesus needed to maintain that connection to His Father, then I definitely do!
So next time you find yourself covered up by the aftermath of a life avalanche think about the true priority of prayer. I know it’s easy to focus on all the things that need to be done and the wrongs that need to be righted (because I do that sometimes!) but I think you and I both will be pleasantly surprised at how differently life goes when we pray first.
P.S. If this resonates with you and you would like more thoughts on the topic consider coming to our event entitled “Fear, Anxiety, Shame, and Wellness” this Wednesday evening. Click here for more details.
For those of you whom I forgot to tell, Jayla and I have traveled home for Thanksgiving. It’s our first real trip home for the holidays since living in Colorado. Jayla was laughing at me as we were descending out of the clouds on our approach for landing in Atlanta. Like a little kid, I had my face glued to the window (which was challenging because I wasn’t sitting in the window seat). I couldn’t believe that all the trees still had leaves on them— and all the flat land! The perspective that you gain from above is incredibly captivating. I found myself trying to look and see if I could see any defining features that would point me toward looking home. I was really excited. So much so that I think I might have embarrassed Jayla a bit.
The Aspens are yellow. Morning bike rides are beginning to require gloves. Friends are starting to discuss snow tires. Trails are covered with leaves. The highest mountains around have been dusted with snow. I’ve heard people talking about going on a couple last hikes or mountain bike rides. The Christmas lights around the Chapel seem to want to be turned on more and more.
What is going on? It’s Fall. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I am shocked as to how quickly the seasons change here. Wasn’t it summer yesterday? Why is there frost on the ground in the mornings? All of the changes all around me have been causing me to stop, look around, and think.
Leaves changing in the fall has always fascinated me. Everything smells different… looks different… even the air seems to feel different. Everyone seems to have their eyes glued on the beautiful bands of golden trees that act as huge signposts for the changing of the seasons. Just this past week Jayla and I have passed several people in their cars fully stopped in the middle of the road taking pictures of Aspen trees. I call this awestruck. We are captivated by the beauty around us.
I have had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time with kids in the last few weeks. From Sunday school and Vacation Bible school to Camp SmashBox it seems like there are children absolutely everywhere! Although I’m usually leading or teaching in some form I have been shocked at how much these kids have been teaching me! These are just a few of the lessons the kids of Snowmass Village have taught me.
We are always planting seeds.
After we tell Bible stories at VBS we always try to ask some questions for review. Our group of kids had the jitters this morning and I was sure that a couple of them had not heard the story. After a few easier questions I asked one that I thought would be more challenging. One of the kids in the group that seemed to not be paying attention in the least raised his hand. I picked him, and he let go of a better answer to my question than I could have come up with myself! I thought about this more as VBS went on. When spending time with kids, or praying for others, or even passing someone on a trail with a genuine smile, you are planting seeds. Sometimes you get to see how and when those seeds grow and sometimes you don’t. Either way, know that God works in ALL THINGS for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8.28)
Everything’s better when shared.
Just a few days ago I got the chance to spend the day with 7 of the coolest young guys during Camp Smashbox. We played several awesome games, participated in an olympic running of the torch relay and even had snacks at the famous “Snack Shack.” After lunch there was a little free time and I asked a couple of the guys what they wanted to do. They said, “can we show you something.” I agreed— but I was sure that I had already seen most of what there was to see around Snowmass Chapel (after all, I live here). We walked across the bridge, down and around to a little gap in the brush near the creek. We ducked through the brush and entered a hidden little cove with a surprisingly deep pool within it. No one told me Snowmass Chapel had a swimming pool! My new friends were smiling and pointing at several well placed boards and sticks at the downstream edge of this pool. It looked like a beaver had studied civil engineering and been supplied with lumber. These guys said that they had built this dam last year during camp. I could see the pride they felt with their accomplishment, but I don’t know that they could see the pride I felt because they shared something special with me. I think it was my Dad who told me that the best things in life are those that multiply when shared. Love, joy, (the rest of the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)) and even special spots by the creek all seem to fall into this category.
Sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is sort beads.
Yesterday afternoon my sole task for a couple hours was to write this article. Typically, I sit down and start writing and then re-writing until I have something that might be beneficial to read. Although I tried more than a few times to get started, I couldn’t. You see, there were a ton of awesome kids right outside my window at any given moment. There were crafts to help with and names to memorize but also a mountaineer article to write. About 30 minutes later, I found myself sitting on a sidewalk sorting beads with a new friend because he wanted make a pattern with the dark blues and greens. Although I had other things I needed to do, I felt like the most important task at that time was sorting beads with my buddy. Life is often busy for all of us and I regularly feel like I have thirty things I need to do at once. However, I do think it’s important to occasionally take a few minutes and go sort some beads with those around you. If you think about it, giving people the time of day when they didn’t expect it was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus takes the time to hang out with little children. In doing this, I think He was teaching His disciples a very important lesson about what is really important in life. A lesson that I find myself learning and re-learning all the time at the Chapel.
Recently, I had the opportunity to go backpacking with some of the coolest high school seniors I have ever met. After some travel time getting to Yosemite National Park we began our hike in Tuolumne Meadows. Although all of us are blessed daily with experiencing God’s beautiful creation here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we were all taken aback by the serenity and beauty of this place. Lush green meadows carpeted the valley floor while snow covered ridges funneled us toward the pass we would cross the next day. I am always struck between the dichotomy between packing everything into a car and rushing to a trailhead and the peace of having nothing to do all day except hike. At first, I find myself trying to fill up or change this simplicity. It’s hard to rest in the silence when you’re so accustomed to noise. You might find me whistling, humming, or even just talking more than usual because I’m trying to fill the void. Isn’t it ironic how much we crave peace and quiet but also how it can be almost daunting once you find it? Many of the Pacific Crest Trail hikers we passed on our trip (who had already walked 900 miles by the time we were seeing them) had earbuds in and were listening to music. What is it about us that draws us outside and to the remote places where we can find solitude but also encourages us to build buffers to the very things we are looking for?
In many ways I think we do the same thing in our spiritual lives. Both silence and solitude are disciplines that are difficult to maintain in the day and age in which we live. I know I need (and even crave) daily times of solitude and prayer with my creator but at the same time I put up buffers that get in the way. Sometimes when I’m praying I find myself doing all the talking and none of the listening. Other times I schedule so much activity around this time that I don’t really have a chance to actually have a quiet time. I know that time with God is my sustenance but at the same time I often have amnesia to this fact and build walls in between Him and myself. All of this has brought me to think about Luke 6:12-19. In this passage Jesus went off (to the mountains) by himself to be with God and pray. He’s gearing up for choosing His disciples and launching into ministry with the Sermon on the Mount. The rescue mission from God to all of humanity is a “go”. I like to think He was probably pretty excited at this point but yet he turned first to prayer and time with His father. Jesus’ focus on solitude with and through prayer was extremely challenging to me. If Jesus Himself needed solitude and time set apart with God then how much more do we need those same blessings. One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, points out that Jesus was very intentional in how He moves from solitude to building the community of the disciples to His public ministry. First solitude, then community, then ministry. This is an especially important reminder for us who live fast paced time we call the 21st century. Isn’t it easy to jump directly into community and ministry? With so many buffers to solitude we need to remain intentional in how we root ourselves in prayerful time with Jesus because this is the foundation we stand on when we enter the community and minister through all our individual callings.