When God Is Big And We Are Small: The Journey Continues . . . .

The old adage, “Hindsight is 20/20”, is certainly true when it comes to the way God works in our lives.  When my husband and I took off on our camping adventure seven weeks ago, we felt like a couple of kids cutting school.  For years we had talked about taking off to explore the places we never got to because of time constraints.  With my husband’s retirement, we realized that the time had finally come.  With our new smallish camper in tow, we were as giddy as newlyweds out on a lark.  Little did we know how God would deepen our faith through seemingly unrelated lessons.

In my last post I wrote about the tragic deaths of two young men in our church. Killed in separate accidents in the same week, we struggled to comprehend the reality that Josh and Heath were suddenly gone.  Three thousand miles from home, our “lark” quickly become despair. But God gently ministered to us in the enormity of the California redwoods through Psalm 46,  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts . . . .”

Where verses 1-6 spoke to the immediacy of our pain, it is verse 10 that continues to direct our steps:

Be still and KNOW that I am God.”

As the incomprehensible assailed us, Psalm 46 became a blanket that enfolded us with these tender assurances:

“Hush. Stop striving to understand what is far larger than you can comprehend.
Hush . . . be still.  KNOW that I am with you and in the coming days will carry you.
This isn’t the end of the story.
Hush . . . you must trust Me in this.”  

Reminders of lost loved ones suddenly taken . . . .
Reminders of lost loved ones suddenly taken . . . .

Looking back, we can see how God had been preparing us weeks before in our travels.  We had noticed them before we left–little “shrines” along roadways marking where someone was killed in an accident.  Typically a simple cross with a name on it; at other times flowers, teddy bears, and other personal reminders are placed as a memorial.  Our awareness grew as we traveled through Montana, where the State marks every life lost on its roads with a small white cross.  We began watching for them as we drove and were stunned when more than one cross marked a scene.  In this age of “political correctness” we wondered how long the practice of using a “religious” symbol would be allowed to continue. Looking back, it was then that what had been “a lark” became a journey within a journey.  It was as if the roads we traveled on, “scenic” or ordinary, became grim reminders of loss.

When we received the news about Josh and then Heath, we remembered those crosses. They were with us, full of life one moment . . . and then suddenly . . . they were gone.

So what does it mean, to “be still and know that God is God”,
when we are stung by such painful loss?
For us, the biggest thing has been to remember that God is Big and we are small.  

To be still and know is a call to humility.  James 4 speaks to the battle that is on-going in our hearts, especially when life hits hard:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and
purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Grieve, mourn and wail.
Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

(Verses 6-10)

"Be still and KNOW . . . ."
“Be still and KNOW . . . .”

Since leaving Montana, we’ve driven through eleven more states.   In that time God’s incomprehensible enormity has been demonstrated in countless ways.  The day after receiving the devastating news, we watched whales basking in God’s Provision off Patrick’s Point and then appreciated the solitude of three days camping in the Avenue of the Redwoods–where God was indeed big and we . . . were tenderly cared for.  After that, visits with long missed family and friends ministered greatly to our hearts.

In the weeks since, we have learned that when life hits hard, it is tempting to doubt God’s goodness. But when we entertain those doubts, the world around us dims as we distance ourselves from Him.  Yet it has been through those struggles, that we have gratefully embraced the Shining Hope of the Gospel, as the Cross speaks:

Death, Loss and Eternal Darkness
for those outside of Christ,
but
Redemption, Hope and Life Eternal
for those who are in Christ.

Today, we continue to mourn the loss of two very special men along with family and friends.  But we have learned to give thanks to God:

  • For His faithfulness in loving us–even in our doubts.
  • For ministering to us–as we have been privileged to witness the enormity and ever-changing diversity of His Creation.
  • For Josh and Heath’s lives–and the assurance that they are safe with Him . . . .

When God is BIG and we are small,
doubt recedes as we find HOPE and SHELTER in HIM.
Giving thanks!

All to His Glory!

A Journey Within A Journey . . . .

It was a dream come true for us–embarking on this journey to explore the places we never made it to in our previous travels.  We purchased a smallish camper with a comfortable bed and just enough amenities to make it work for us.  In four weeks, we’ve traveled through over 5,000 miles of diverse, often spellbinding beauty.  We’ve learned to laugh at ourselves and “Hilda” (our GPS) when a wrong turn is taken and she “recalculates” our next move.  Best of all, we have started to become adept at enjoying what I like to call, “The quiet of now . . . .”  In short, my husband and I have slowly been uncovering the sweet loveliness of growing old together.

DSC01485
We beheld the Creator over His creation . . . .

Then less than a week ago, we were hit hard by the news that Josh, a young man in our church, was killed in a motorcycle accident.  We ached with Josh’s family and friends as we remembered the shock of losing my husband’s younger brother 45 years ago.  Vern was 19. There were no skid marks made by his motorcycle at the scene–indicating Vern didn’t see the car that made the sharp U-turn from the curb as he rode down the street.   We still wonder, “What would Vern have done with his life, if the guy had made his turn even a minute later?”  There’s no making sense of such tragedy.

We learned about the accident when we were headed toward the mountain that looms above all else in the Seattle/Tacoma area–Mount Rainier.  We stopped by the side of the road to process the news–the physical distance between us and home felt like a chasm.  Yet, as we began to lift up Josh’s family and friends suffering the shocking pain of his loss, the distance all but vanished from our minds.

After entering the national park, we began our upward ascent.  We stopped at one of those information kiosks–you know, those places that orient the public to things to look for in the area.  We were stunned when we read: “Considered one of the most dangerous active volcanos in the world, Mount Rainier has been the source of numerous mudflows, covering large portions of the Puget Sound lowlands.”  As we looked around we realized that the trunks of huge trees, broken off like mere toothpicks, served as evidence of those “numerous mudflows.”  Though acutely aware of the fragility of life at that moment, we continued upward, entering what became for us, holy ground.  With every bend we climbed, God allowed us to look with awe at the dangerous yet breathtaking enormity of Mount Rainier.  When we drove as high as we could go, we could see the turquoise of several glaciers above us.  As hundreds of people milled around like ants on a hill, our smallness and the enormity of our Creator registered powerfully.  That was the beginning of our journey within a journey . . . .

Two days ago, my husband looked at me in confused disbelief after reading a text message–death had struck again. It was Heath, the son of our closest friends.  We considered Heath one of our own.  Thoughtful, funny, smart–outspoken when it came to his faith in Christ–Heath was a big guy with an even bigger heart.  It had been a thrill to join in the celebration, the day Heath married Amy (another one of our own.)  Our daughters were in their wedding.  Over the years God blessed them with two wonderful kids.  What a delight it has been to watch their children and our grandchildren become friends, enjoying the wonders of life together.  We never dreamt all that would be shattered . . . that Heath and Amy will not grow old together.

Comfort waits in the shelter of His Hands.
Comfort waits in the shelter of His Hands.

After receiving the horrible news, we found ourselves off-the-grid, camping in the redwoods of Del Norte Coast State Park in California.  God ministered to us there as  we were awed by the enormity of the trees.  We set up our camper quickly in our need to take advantage of the remaining daylight.  As we hiked, we were grateful to blend into the lush landscape of giant ferns and other forest greenery amongst the redwoods.  However, we soon noticed a troubling pattern that amplified our grief.  It seemed as if everywhere we turned there was a giant stump of an ancient redwood–obviously cut down in its prime.  Each stump was surrounded by a circle of good-sized redwoods that grew directly from the base of the giant–like a fairy ring of mushrooms paying homage to the one that had been cut down.  When we found one of the ancient giants on our trail, standing freely on its own–I fell against it gladly.  It was there that God’s comfort–bigger than the sky yet tender to my soul spoke,

“Be still and KNOW that I AM GOD.”
 
Psalm 46:10

Feeling worn to the bone as we returned to our campsite, we welcomed the clear direction of our loving Shepherd as we found rest in the shelter of His Provision.

There is more to share of our journey within a journey that I will write about in my next post.  Still shattered as sorrow-filled tears continue to well to up without notice, we have taken a break from our traveling.  It is tempting to wallow in despair over the tragic losses that will continue to be suffered for a long time to come.  Last evening, this reminder from I Peter helped to quiet my heart:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ . . . .
For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field,
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.'”
I Peter 1:18, 19a, 24-25

How are we to get through the tragedy and heartache of life
that leaves us raging inwardly, yet feeling numb in our grief?  

It is not about what we do; it is about where we turn.

TO BE STILL BEFORE GOD: IS TO REMEMBER OUR HOPE OF HEAVEN,WON FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS.

(THE HOPE THAT IS NOW A REALITY FOR JOSH AND HEATH BY FAITH.)

TO KNOW GOD: IS TO HONOR HIM AS THE GREAT “I AM”–AS HE TENDERLY QUIETS OUR BROKEN HEARTS . . . LIKE NOTHING LESS CAN.

All to His Glory.