Our home TV has been down off the wall as we’ve been doing some painting and things around the house. This week it was hung back up. We got it all plugged in and the cables hooked together, but the screen just flashed, “Connection Error.” My husband, Adam, (your handsome, bearded, weekly Sunday morning sound technician) jiggled some wires, reworked a few things, and tried again. Still, the handy dandy diagnostic on the screen let us know what our problem was… “Connection Error.”
Adam called the cable company. They asked him some questions, worked through our issues (the TV ones at least), and when he hung up the phone our TV was back up and running with a simple modem reset. We were connected!
If only it were that easy for people. Jiggle a few wires, rework a few things, make a phone call, and wa-la: connection.
Or maybe it is that easy for people?
I have been giving quite a bit of brain and prayer power toward visioning for the future of the Children, Youth and Families department of Snowmass Chapel. My vision keeps coming back to one thing. What I want more than anything for our Chapel kids and parents and heck, really everyone in the whole world, is a life full of DEEP AND MEANINGFUL CONNECTION. I want our people to be totally plugged into the power source – Jesus – without any outages or connection errors, and then I want our people to be totally plugged into one another. I want connection.
Last week my four year old son was trying to understand the concept of what is living and what is not living. He started asking questions.
“Are the trees living, momma?”
“Are the rocks living, momma?”
“Is our house living, momma?”
“Is our church living, momma?”
Yes, little Zig-man, our church is living! Our church is not a building but a group of people who love God and WHO LOVE YOU. Our church is alive. Our church is connected.
I think we are most successful teaching kids about God’s magnificent love for them by allowing them to feel and experience the church’s magnificent love for them. Our kids need belonging. Our kids need connection. We all do. “Church,” and I’m talking ’bout the people, not the building, provide just that.
As I plan for the future of our youth department at Snowmass Chapel, I will continue to program things like the hut trip, family church, Lake Powell, VBS, and Smashbox because these are the types of things that jiggle the wires, reset the modem, and deepen CONNECTION.
I laugh as I type this and my computer goes haywire. The internet is down (“not connected”), but it’s “connecting in 1 second” and also gives me the option to “try now.” I hope we all choose to “try now” too. 😉
Stay plugged in friends.
With the massive snowpack and predicted runoff, we might just be able to have campfires this summer. Whether or not you are a camper, many of us have memories of sitting around a fire talking with friends and family, looking up at the stars, and perhaps even roasting marshmallows. Whether lightly toasted or fully roasted, they certainly are a tasty treat.
In the 1960’s, a Stanford University professor conducted experiments which explored how long children could delay gratification with marshmallows. Basically, children were put in a room with a marshmallow. They were told they could eat the marshmallow immediately or, if they waited 15 minutes, they would be given two marshmallows. Some kids waited, others satisfied their marshmallow cravings immediately.
I am not sure how I would do as a child were this experiment conducted now in 2019. After years of being surrounded by technology in which everything is instantaneous, I’m afraid I might be the kid that eats the one marshmallow instead of waiting 15 minutes for two.
The other day I had to make a trip to Denver on I-70. Little did I know the highway would close in the midst of the drive for a few hours. Regina and two of our children were with me. At first I was frustrated, tried to connect to the Colorado road condition website on my phone, and allowed my mind to be filled with thoughts that were anything but peace inducing. Fortunately, after a bit of time, my focus shifted to my family in the car and we talked. Too bad that had not been my first reaction to the traffic stoppage.
Interruptions, delays, lines, wait times, learning to be patient, and letting go of the need to have everything on demand can be an incredible gift. For it is in such places, I believe, we not only have the space to connect with those around us and ourselves in a meaningful way, but we also have the chance to encounter God. All relationships demand something our instantaneously gratifying world cannot provide, and that is space for things to graciously unfold and time.
I pray we each will learn to see moments in which we do not have control over timing to be gifts we can choose to embrace or not.
I got my first bike when I seven. It was a green Schwinn with silver baskets over the back tire and a bell on the front handlebar. I had to stand up when I rode it because I couldn’t yet reach the pedals but my parents assured me I would grow into it, and I guess to prove that I could ride it despite its size, we immediately ventured out on a 13-mile ride over shoulderless backcountry roads in the July heat to the next town over. Happy Birthday!
My next bike was purchased in middle school with my own hard-earned babysitting money. A blue Nishiki road bike with curled drop handlebars (so grown-up!). I loved that bike and rode it until someone cut through the lock as it sat perched outside my dorm the first week of college. It would take me years to replace it.
My husband, Tim, and I moved to Aspen the week we got married so for a wedding present, he got us matching Specialized mountain bikes. We were so cool. Our 21 year-old daughter now uses mine as a “townie” and I made her promise to love it like I do.
In my 30’s I bought a Broncos-orange Trek road bike and did my first – and only — triathlon with it. I got a speedometer and got “fitted” at a shop in Montana because that’s a thing people do when they are super serious road bike athletes like I am.
Then a few years ago a little thing called full suspension rocked my world and brought me back to the joy of mountain biking; I can still hear my own laughter echoing off the red sandstone walls around Moab as I bounced around the trails on my new wheels.
Looking back on it, I realize that some of my favorite most joy-filled times have been on a bike. I can think of dozens and dozens and dozens of these moments – from childhood rides to the ice cream store to the little thrill at catching air as I hop over the teensiest baby jump on a single-track dirt trail. There is just something about cruising on a bike with the wind in my face, and the right amount of speed (not too much, thank you) to feel like I’m flying, knowing all the hard climbs are behind me, that makes me feel such JOY.
So, let me introduce you to my new bike: SHE’S THE CUTEST THING EVER. Sassy like a little VW Bug. Classy like an old Aston Martin convertible. She’s a Scandinavian-designed “city bike” which just sounds adorable doesn’t it? And the best part: she’s electric, with a boost like the after-burner on an F16. I commute back and forth to work, to the park, to the gym. And you guys – I GO SO FAST. If you see a blur go by as you drive around Snowmass Village: it’s me! As I pedal up the hillsides, I wave to all the construction crews and the mamas pushing their strollers, like, “Don’t mind me while I just bike up this mountain WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT.” I’m in love.
Everywhere I go people want to test my e-bike out and not one person can ride it without shrieking like a seven-year-old girl when the boost kicks in. They all come back with huge smiles on their faces and I get the reward of knowing my bike left them all a little happier.
Here’s the thing about riding a bicycle. Never do you feel more in the moment than when you’re in the saddle. Riding a bike is equal parts attentiveness and unfettered joy. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are capable of being present to joy and practicing it! The more you have the more you get.
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament encourages us all in our joy: “I commend the enjoyment of life because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil…” Basically, God loves you and wants you to be happy, the end.
Author Will Bowen, who started a movement called “A Complaint-Free World,” writes that our perspective is a delusion, “so choose the delusion that brings you the only thing that matters – choose to be happy.” And it’s a lot easier to choose happiness when you cultivate experiences that bring you joy, so that in your moments of hard work and challenge you remember how awesome life is.
With enough practice, happiness will be as easy as riding a bike.
As a human being, knowing what your life is about and what your goals are is fundamental for success, as defined in a broad spectrum of ways. The same of course can be said for any organization, including communities of faith.
At the Chapel, as many of you have heard repeatedly, we take Jesus’ great commandment seriously. Jesus said loving God and loving others is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. In fact he said love is central to what it means to follow him. Inherent in all of this is the necessity of learning to love ourselves as God does.
The fundamental purpose, or mission of the Chapel, is to love God, love people and to love ourselves. Matthew 22:34-40.
Related to our purpose is our vision, or what our goals are and where we are headed. Through a lot of work with many people, including our Board, we have a new vision statement for the Chapel. It is as follows.
To be the most thriving, healing, advocating, affirming, mold-breaking, outward-reaching, worshipping, life-changing, high impact, loving network of Jesus followers possible.
To help flesh this out, here is a brief breakdown of what is meant by each word.
Thriving. Full of Spirit-filled energy, a community growing in all ways. Think of a plant bursting through the soil into a robust life.
Healing. Healing is embraced and the norm at Snowmass Chapel, not an exception, and certainly nothing that warrants shame. We ensure there are programs, people, and practices in place to help those who need healing in mind, body, and spirit.
Advocating. We advocate for the resolution of tough issues facing this valley and beyond. Advocacy is one of the means through which we demonstrate God’s love in action.
Affirming. Every person. Always. For who God made them to be. Discrimination is not consistent with the core of the Gospel, which is love.
Mold-breaking. We try new things and do old things in new ways. Change is continual and if we want to be faithful to our mission, we must continue to evolve.
Outward-reaching. We are hopeful Easter people taking action in a world that sometimes feels like the hopelessness of Good Friday.
Worshipping. We live each day with loving intention and a focus upon Christ. We gather as a community of faith to worship God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. We put Christ first.
Life-changing/High-impact. Through our relationship with Christ and friendships in our community, all people at the Chapel will understand and be transformed by God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
Loving network of Jesus followers possible. As people of the Chapel, our lives are interconnected, a network. We are not bricks and mortar, we are people in relationship with each other. It is Jesus we follow, Jesus’ love we act upon, and we seek to achieve our vision to the greatest extent possible.
Over the months ahead, we will continue to speak of our mission and vision and how to put it all into action in a variety of settings through varied means. We are planning steps we will take to act on our mission and vision.
One immediate step we are taking this summer is to start small groups, the goal of which is to deepen our relationships with Christ and with each other. Small groups will meet 2-3 times per year for six weeks and we hope you will take part in a group to help us extend that vision!
We invite each of you to join us in praying for the Chapel: that we will continue to be led by Christ, and that we will be faithful in striving to meet our mission and vision. We are so blessed that you are part of what we call “Snowmass Chapel.”
Happy Mother’s Day:
I thank God for mothers past and present this day and not only this day, but each and every day.
With few exceptions, most mothers I have known in life are incredibly committed to the health, joy, and growth of their children. And most mothers I know struggle with feelings of inadequacy in raising their children. My hunch is that most moms do a much better job mothering than they give themselves credit for. So as we celebrate Mother’s Day later this week, I’d like to remind mothers everywhere just how wonderful they are and to thank them.
Having lost my mom last year, I also want to acknowledge that for those of of missing our mom’s, Mother’s Day can feel especially poignant and I pray for all of us who feel the absence of our moms.
I have shared the following prayer before, but I find it to be powerful. I invite you to join me in praying this prayer this week.
God our Creator, we pray:
for new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility;
for expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
for those who are tired, stressed or depressed;
for those who struggle to balance the tasks of work and family;
for those who are unable to feed their children due to poverty;
for those whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities;
for those who have children they do not want;
for those who raise children on their own;
for those who have lost a child;
for those who care for the children of others;
for those whose children have left home;
and for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender,
and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good,
living not for themselves alone, but for God and for others.
First, I want to thank the entire Chapel family for being my family for the last four years. I’ve met many people who have moved to the valley (and elsewhere) who describe a period of time where they felt out of place or simply just “new”. This wasn’t the case for Jayla and I in Snowmass Village. From the minute we pulled up to the fire station and struggled to find this elusive “bridge” that we would cross so many times in the coming years, we felt like family. You all invited us to dinner, gave us furniture, and welcomed us into your lives. Sharing life with you has taught me many lessons and I think this was the first one: when Jayla and I stumbled into Snowmass Village you all choose to love us and welcome us before you even knew us. The more I have listened to Robert and Charla preach and the more I have watched you all care for one another the more I have come to feel and know that this is the way that Jesus loves us. He loves before we know Him. He loves before we settle in His community. He loves us first without conditions and without the pretext of reciprocity. I believe this is where we build community. When we welcome, love, and care for people before we know if they are going to welcome, love and care for us (haha, or before we know if they are a local or a visitor!). Thank you for teaching me about community by letting us be in your community.
I had been in Snowmass Village a couple days before I heard of the infamous 8th grade outdoor ed trip. This rite of passage is a backpacking trip leading from many trailheads on this side of the Elk Range to a sacred piece of land close to Marble. Now, I mentioned that I heard of 8th grade ODE but that doesn’t quite explain it. As my new friends were explaining what the trip entailed I was also being asked to join as a chaperone. I remember thinking to myself, “Is this some sort of joke— I mean really, what kind of community has a public school that takes a week off every year to turn itself into a outdoor education guide service?” As you well know, I had a lot to learn about how special this community really is. As I was struggling up West Maroon Pass with all my new young friends I remember witnessing the incredible magnitude that is the Colorado backcountry. You all know what I’m talking about… that moment where the beauty around is so new and so stunning that you at once feel incredibly small but somehow not so small because you are connected to something so big. I at once felt fairly weak and insignificant but also so good because in some way I was related to that hugeness we all call “the view”. The views, whether from the top of the Elk Camp lift in Snowmass, or from the back porch of the Chapel during the balloon festival have become a regular and needed reminder of my place alongside God. Alone, I am nothing special. I’m not as smart as the kids who rock Aspen High School (every single one of you amazes me…). I’m not as good a skiier as any middle schooler I’ve taken out on the hill. And many of the 90 year old people in this town would beat me to the top of any hill on a bike. However, when I stop long enough to view my significance through the lens as someone who is related to the same guy who built everything that is wonderful I feel pretty good about my place in this world. We are all Children of the King and His Kingdom is wonderful. Thank you for helping me learn that my true value comes more from who I am and who cares for me, than what I do well on my own.
I consider you all family. Thank you for all the ways that you have supported and loved Jayla and I. We will miss you. Until next time!
Whether it is the loss of a life long partner, the despair of a teenage child, the anxiety of tenuous employment, loneliness or simply the pressures of day to day living, the chances and changes of living challenge us all.
It is my prayer that we will be sustained and encouraged by Easter.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 28 we find, “After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look in the tomb…an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow…The angel spoke to the women. ‘You must not be afraid,’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised…’”
The words, “he has been raised,” are, perhaps, the greatest words in Scripture, for it is through these words that we learn God has power over everything, even death itself.
If God can transform death into eternal life, then there is nothing on this earth which God cannot overcome and transform in our lives. When the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone that first Easter morning, despair was transformed into hope and doubt into trust.
It is my prayer that we will each receive the gift of trust and hope this Easter. Trust that God is in charge regardless of how outward circumstances appear and hope that God can mold any situation into His purposes for our lives.
The fundamental reason I get up every morning is Easter and it is through Easter that you and I can be assured that God is in charge of everything, no matter what. Fear not, my friends, for He has been raised. Happy Easter!
Perhaps you will think that I have lost my ever-loving mind when I tell you that I tend to believe that I will be more connected to other people if I can demonstrate my perfection. My fashionable clothes, my picture-ready hair, my sculpted body, my fancy home and car, my carefully practiced music, etc. I am convinced that people will especially want to be my friend when they hear my flawlessly reasoned arguments – about how I am right and wise and everybody else is wrong and short-sighted. My life and I in it are the absolute pink of perfection – don’t you want to be around me and be my friend? (I can already sense your sympathy for my husband!)
It must be some kind of insanity that moves me to such thoughts, because nobody is looking for a friend who outshines them at all times and in all ways. I remember looking at one of my friends in junior high and wondering why he was so popular when he never combed his hair. Please keep in mind that this was in the 80’s when nobody left home without big hair-do’s requiring every hair to be meticulously arranged and held in place with clouds of ozone-depleting hairspray! I think that this was the beginning of an epiphany for me.
You may know or remember Daniel Barnes who ran our sound prior to Adam Gilbert. Daniel is now in college, and one of his professors gave him an assignment to get the answers to a series of questions without looking them up online and without other people looking up the answers for him. So he asked his friends for help. Before long, he had long-lost relatives knocking on doors of previously unknown neighbors in order to find answers to bizarre, obscure questions for Daniel’s professor. He got the answers he needed, but more importantly, he got an answer that he wasn’t seeking. He may have believed that knowing things is powerful, but what he learned is that not knowing things is also powerful. It led to new friendships and stronger bonds. I’ve never met this professor, but I think I want to sit at her/his feet and learn.
Then there are those moments when we watch a performer, and they forget the words to their song, or an athlete who falls, or an actor whose prop fails. Suddenly everybody is pulling for them and feeling empathy for them. Nobody wants to screw up in front of other people, but sometimes those moments are the ones we remember the best and that teach us the most.
So here is the big reveal. I have come to suspect that we don’t connect when we compete for flawless perfection. In fact, sometimes I think it is exactly this drive for perfection that separates us. We connect over our shortcomings, weaknesses, and brokenness. We bond through our authenticity and vulnerability. The most ego-driven people are not usually the most lovable, but rather, the ones who can admit that they were wrong. Why is connection important? Because I believe that when we connect with people in deep and meaningful ways, we come to love them. When we love people, we are more likely to treat them as Jesus taught us. Maybe for Lent I will try giving up some ego?
Jesus was clear. His message straightforward. His piercing insight unending. Sadly, tragically and unbelievably, in the two thousand years since he rose from the dead, layer upon layer of messaging, hierarchies, the unquenchable desire for power and control, politics, certitude, physical and organizational structures, fear, oppression, exclusion, egos, rules, clergy, liturgical practices and personal preferences have subdued and complicated what Jesus said life is all about to the point that it is now nearly unrecognizable in many communities of faith. Too often, communities of faith often alienate, harm, and drive humankind away from the reason we are alive to begin with.
Jesus said everything, no exceptions, is about love. Jesus did not say, “Love, and” or “Love, but.” He simply spoke of love, with no add-ons, no addendums and no additions that get us off the hook. Our work, the decisions we make, the manner in which we conduct ourselves and treat all people, the relationships we enjoy, the activities we undertake, our faith life, the standards and views we hold, can be infused with and based upon the kind of love Jesus spoke about, or not.
God is love. This is what Jesus taught and how he lived and, more often than not, the religious people around him could neither tolerate nor accept this message. Jesus was killed by the most religious around him because love meant letting go of power, control, self, opinions and ego. Jesus never said the love he spoke of was meant for only certain domains of life. Rather the love imperative of which he spoke applied not only to religious leaders, but to all people in every dimension of life.
Loving God, loving others, loving ourselves is the simplest yet most astonishingly difficult choice we are given. Love is the most demanding path. What is heartbreaking to me is that love, by many, is no longer considered to be the center of what it means to follow Jesus. Love is often relegated to the back seat superseded by religious leaders who speak far more of judgement, exclusion, hell, salvation, who is in and who is out, political alignment and engagement, condemnation of other religious traditions, hostility toward those on the margins and just about anything that has nothing to do with the love of which Jesus taught.
Others now understandably reject religion saying that some of what has gone terribly awry in history is due to religion. This statement is not only correct, but a profound reflection of Christians who have distanced themselves from Jesus’ simple and clear statement that the purpose of everything is love.
Near the end of his life, Jesus said to those around him, “Love as I have loved you.” He did not say convert, save, change, challenge, condemn, judge, protect maintain, eliminate, or detail a long list of rules. He simply said, “Love as I have loved you.”
At the Chapel we have been working and will continue to work, however imperfectly, to take Jesus’ love imperative seriously. Some have challenged us for it. Others have left. Some have said, “Sure, love, but….” Others have concluded I don’t take the Bible seriously. Some have joined us in doing everything we can to be a different kind of community of faith in which love is first and love is last, period.
I take Jesus at his word. Loving God, loving others and loving ourselves is the reason for life and why the Chapel exists. It is our mission. It is the point. It is what we are about. And it is such love and Jesus’ resurrection that ignited the world 2000 years ago before all the stuff that exists today got in the way.
All of this leads me to sharing what I believe is the most important question in life. That question is, “What does love require of me?” I believe we are compelled to ask this question throughout each day, wherever we find ourselves, in whatever setting. When we ask this question continually and act upon our answers, we will find ourselves moving closer and closer to Jesus and toward ushering in the kind of world God envisions.
The other day my wife Regina and I got in line at the Village Express chair lift at Snowmass. It was one of those glorious bluebird Colorado days. To my delight, when we got on the lift, four children, roughly ages 7-10, sat next to us, per the request of their instructor who was one chair ahead. As we rode along I found out the kids were from Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and Florida and here on spring break with their parents. Needless to say they were cute as buttons as the saying goes.
After passing the mid station I asked them what the name of their instructor was. One little boy said, “Her name is Rosa.” “What is her last name?” I asked. A third grade girl said, “It must be Parks.” I then asked, “Have any of you heard the name Rosa Parks before?” Two children said, “yes”. I asked, “Can you tell us about Rosa Parks?”
One of the children replied, “Yes, one day a long time ago she got on a bus.” “Really” I said. I followed up with, “Did anything happen on the bus?” “Yes, she got arrested”, said one little one. “That must have been very hard. Do any of you know why she was arrested?” I asked. Without a one second pause another child replied, “Because of congregation.” “Congregation”? I asked. “Yes, congregation.” Needless to say, Regina and I nearly fell off the chair lift with joyful laughter.
While there is much that is serious, devastating, and tragic happening every day in the world, I believe God invites us in the midst of it all to find joy, laughter, levity, happiness, and gratitude, among other things. In our journey in faith, I believe one of the saddest things that can happen is that we lose sight of what is good, right, pleasing, uplifting, wonderful, and even silly. Laughter is God-given, as is joy.
Perhaps an invitation for all of us this Lenten season is to balance out our attention to everything that is amiss with an intentional focus on all that is delightful and extraordinarily right, like the small children on the Village Express.
Yes, Muslims, Jews and Christians face hatred and violence. Yes there are all the woes out there we are compelled to address and respond to through action. But the flip side is happening every second all around and, I believe, God invites us to joyfully savor and share all that is as it should be. My hunch is that our national hero Ms. Parks, despite having suffered from segregation, would delight in young children speaking of congregation.