This weekend we honor the high school seniors who have been part of Snowmass Chapel for many years. They have literally grown up before our very eyes. It’s a bittersweet time of year, to be sure, because while this is a new beginning for our high school (and college) graduates, it also means the end of some pretty precious times.
Anna, Elizabeth, Anita and Ashlyn (girls rock!): We have watched you as fresh-faced preschool children dancing and singing so earnestly it made our hearts hurt. As toothless elementary schoolers, you plopped down on the altar steps for a kids’ sermon, hoping you wouldn’t be called on, but knowing if you were, you could say something silly and make the Pastor laugh as only he can. We have seen you as self-conscious middle school students working through what it means to live a life of faith, in a sometimes faithless world. Now here you are standing before us as…well, simply spectacular human beings.
You have grown up here, on the stories of God. Hoping to teach you something, we have learned from you in the process. You’re sometimes too good for us, you old souls. You say things that astound us and make us wonder who’s leading who. Lucky us.
We have prayed for you more than you know, and trust me when I tell you, it worked. Trust me again when I tell you we will never stop. We give thanks for you, for all that you are and all that you will become.
We hope the stories you learned here will sustain you, encourage you, and inspire you to do things you never thought possible. We hope you see your own bright light reflected in the stories of grace and truth and wonder, and when you can’t (or won’t) see it, we pray you will remember the very light of the world. Let God guide you when you think you don’t know the way.
We pray that you remember this place – this House – with joy in your hearts, because we believe there’s no better story on earth than God so loved the world. We want you to find that joy in some other awesome place (but not too awesome). Remember the way Jesus lived, because it will make the world a better place, which would make Jesus happy. It will also make your mamas cry with pride that they raised you to be servants after Jesus’ own heart.
We love you – no, we cherish you. Now go rock that college world!
Watermelons. Mangos. Papayas. Avocados. Cantaloupes. Casabas. These are just a few of my favorite things.
Growing up in El Paso we had easy access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. As a child long ago I remember being in Juarez, Mexico, just a few miles from where we were living at the time. In those days it was more than safe to cross the border.
During warm summer months, street vendors sold all kinds of items, many in moveable carts filled with blocks of ice. On a hot summer day, one street vendor was selling chilled fresh mangos. I’d not had one before. I told the man I’d like one and he handed it to me. Little did I know he handed it to me so that he could retrieve something with which to peel the fruit
While mango skin may look appealing, I’d advise against eating it. It’s just about as bad as munching on avocado or papaya skin.
The other day I pulled a mango out of our refrigerator and proceeded to peel it. It was simply delicious and as I was eating it, I could nearly taste what I did so many years ago when I first bit into mango skin on the streets of Juarez.
Over all these years, had I not been willing to taste what is beyond the skin of a mango, I would have missed out on this delightful fruit.
What a great reminder that just as we cannot judge a book by its cover, we cannot judge a fruit by its skin. Perhaps with all the mudslinging going on at a national level, we should pause for a moment and reflect upon what God has to teach us through all the delicious things God has created. How can we really know anything about another without taking the time to see what is on the inside?
Love and prayers
I need help. I am literally a crazy person. In less than 30 days my youngest child will graduate high school, my oldest will graduate college and head to flight training in the U.S. Air Force, and my middle son will embark on a year of studying abroad.
So why…why I ask you…would any sane person start looking through old home videos, adorable toddler pics, and a journal full of precious things her kids said when they were still so cute you could eat them up? This is not something I recommend. When your son is embarking on a career as a fighter pilot, the sound of his then-four year-old voice is enough to send any mom and dad over the edge.
But this is exactly what I did last night. I unearthed an old journal filled with quips and quotes out of the mouths of my babes, and my daughter and I had tears streaming down our faces as we laughed at the silly, poignant, loving, laugh-out-loud funny things they all said as kids. Priceless.
After an hour I said, “OK, enough, go do homework.” But she begged for more. We kept reading. We were caught up in the memories of a pretty awesome childhood (because why would I record the fights and squabbles, and hormone-fueled petulance that would soon follow?), and to be honest, it was way more fun for her than studying for the IB Physics exam. I get it.
We need to be reminded of who we are sometimes. It’s all too easy to think who and what we are now is all we have ever been. There are plenty of bumps and bruises and broken hearts in life; so much so that it’s hard to conjure up that sweet-faced self we used to be. But each of us was once a chubby-cheeked little thing who cuddled with mom and danced in the living room and made our parents SO HAPPY. We may not remember these moments — or even believe they existed sometimes — yet they did.
And if that’s not enough, hear this: throughout the scriptures you are continually reminded who you are. You are children of the most high God.
You were knit together in your mother’s womb.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
You were skillfully created.
You are precious.
You are known.
I’m so happy I jotted down those treasured moments with my three kids all those years ago. But if you don’t have your mom’s journal, nor your every move documented on social media, or you’ve been through so many bumps in the road that your brain is a little fuzzy on the whole “precious child” thing, don’t you dare fret. You have the one reminder you will ever need: you have the word of God himself saying, “I have called you by name. You are mine.”
Charla Belinski is the Assistant Pastor and Director of Children, Youth and Families at Snowmass Chapel.
Have you seen the new exhibit at the Pitkin County Library? It’s not fiction. It’s not rare books. It’s not teen fantasy. It’s a family of great horned owls perched high in a pine tree outside the library. A hand-made sign marks the best viewing spot and even offers the librarians’ help in finding the owls!
For the past week or so my husband, Richard, and I have been going out after dinner to see what’s going on with the owl family. From time to time we see the large, handsome male owl perched high in a tree watching over his family. He comes and goes, likely bringing food to her. But ALWAYS, there is Mom, sitting on the nest for she-doesn’t-know-how-long keeping those eggs warm. Day and night she’s there. Through all our recent snow storms, she’s been there. Keeping those eggs warm.
As I hear the hail rapping against my windows, I think of the owl. Keeping those eggs warm. One can’t help but be impressed by her tenacity and patience. She doesn’t know the outcome. How many more days? How many will live? Are there predators around? Yet she sits. Keeping those eggs warm.
Jesus spoke often about patience and its decisive role in our walk with God. He says, in Luke21:19, “By your patience you will gain your souls.” (NKJV) Not by good deeds alone, not by courage, not even by studying Scripture. By patience. It occurs to me that that may be because so many other attributes are required for patience. It takes courage. It takes faith. It takes love. It takes wisdom. Perhaps that is why Jesus says we can “bear fruit with patient endurance.” (Luke 8:15 NRSV)
The fact that the owl mother can’t know the outcome of her vigil brings to mind another aspect of our walk with God. We must wait for God’s timing in all things and “let patience have her perfect work.” (James 1:4 KJV) Isaiah says “Those that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NRSV) Today, it is almost counter-cultural to wait. But that is what God requires of us. Waiting for His perfect work.
So, do stop by the library and visit with the mother owl. She’ll be there. Keeping those eggs warm.
The very essence of God is love. We learn this in scripture and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Because God is love, our living God is one of change. I cannot find one story in scripture in which God says to a person, “You have it all down. There is no more room for growth and nothing left to learn.”
God wants more for each of us as we journey through life and He loves us too much to let us stay just as we are in every way. While sometimes difficult, painful, and confusing, God invites us into changes that will lead to a clearer sense of purpose, greater joy, peace, healing, and a life that increasingly becomes about loving God, others, and ourselves.
There are countless examples of God changing people from the inside out in scripture. You might even say that the Old and New Testaments are about how God changes people in every conceivable way.
For example, God changed Paul as described in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9. God transformed Paul from a self-righteous, overly certain, angry, militant enforcer to a man that spread the love and forgiveness of Jesus across the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was no less than a 180 degree turn around.
God changed Peter as described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Peter’s life was about running a fishing business. Jesus asked Peter to follow him. Over the subsequent months, Peter’s priorities, values, world-view, purpose, and self-definition fundamentally shifted.
God changed Mary Magdalene. She lived a life of utter torment and despair until Jesus radically altered her by liberating her from destroying spirits within. God changed Rahab. She made a living selling her body to men until God intervened and gave her a new calling in life.
While God does respond to prayer and helps us with the changes we desire, what is good news is that God often changes people who are not asking for anything or seeking any change. Sometimes God overrides our plans and our ways of seeing and doing things.
God also changes people we think will never change. The story of Paul is a great example as we can be certain that few expected Paul would ever be different than the vicious man he was.
God is a God who interrupts us sometimes and often life’s inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events can be God’s way of moving us toward some needed change. If you look at the stories of transformation in scripture, it is evident that change is an ongoing process as God continually works through us.
The Good News in all of this is that God does, can, and will change us. For those of us who know we don’t have it all down and understand we need some changes in various areas of life, this indeed is very Good News.
I invite you this week to explore needed changes in your life. To ask questions such as, “If I am honest with myself, I know I need God’s help to change…” Or, “What changes have I been resisting and why?” Or, “How do I need God to break into my life?” Or, “What might all the interruptions in my plans lately be telling me?”
Whatever questions you take the time to explore, know that God loves you and that God is acting in our lives even when we don’t sense His presence.
Love and prayers