Lessons from the Mountains

 

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I’m from Michigan so I don’t get to enjoy mountains very often; so when I had the opportunity to go on Ride the Rockies this year I was extremely eager and excited.  Seeing the Rocky Mountains on a bicycle is my idea of FUN!  It might not be for everyone, but we often move too quickly in life to get the full benefit of the scenery around us.  Riding a bicycle slows me down enough to enjoy sights that I might otherwise miss.  Riding in the Rockies is both arduous and amazing.  I asked God to show me things while I rode and he did not disappoint.  Let me share a few of the truths God showed me:

1. God is Full of Power and Imagination – The Lord of Glories is an amazing creator.  At each turn and at every elevation there was another breathtaking sight.  My smart phone is filled to overflowing with pictures that cannot do the actual scene justice.  I cannot tell you how many times I said “Look over there!” because in every direction there was another wonder of God’s creative genius.  I truly felt sorry for the atheist in those moments because they have NO ONE to thank for the beauty and majesty of all the panoramic spectacles I saw. And here is the BEST part. The Creator of all the incredible landscapes I took into my eye-gate is my Father. And since He is capable of creating such impressive backdrops and since He can sustain it all by the word of His power; He is completely capable of taking care of me and the problems I have to deal with in this life!

2. Climbing is Tough But It is Worth It – I like doing things that very few people in life will ever choose to tackle. I don’t just like to do what everyone else is doing. Give me a challenge…tell me I can’t do something…those are the things that I want to attempt – that’s at least one of the reasons that I wanted to ride the Rocky Mountains. I have never been at high elevation, but from my first training ride in the mountains I knew that I wasn’t in Michigan any more. Getting oxygen to your lungs is like sucking a thick milkshake through a small straw. On the fifth day of my ride we were scheduled to ride over three mountain passes – Battle Mountain Pass, Tennessee Pass, and Fremont Pass. I have to be honest, that day kicked my backside. There were quite a few people who didn’t make it because it proved to be too difficult. For those of us that made each mountain pass there was a lot of hoot-and-hollering, high fives, and picture-taking. Each mountain pass was worth the climb, but none of them were easy.   Making spiritual progress is a lot like climbing mountain passes.  Jesus even told us that it would be tough; and maybe that is why so many choose to stop short of greater heights.  The path of least resistance is more comfortable, but it also lacks the grandeur and fulfillment of the mountain top.   As the hymn writer put it…

Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear, we’re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair; but Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away, all tears forever over in God’s eternal day. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; one glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase, so bravely run the race till we see Christ.

3.  There Are Always Things That Deter Us From Climbing Higher – Ride The Rockies was trying something on the first day of the ride that they had never attempted before. Right out of the gate they wanted the riders to travel 90 miles with over 10,000 ft of gain.  It was the most difficult first day in the 29 year existence of RTR. Now the day started off really nice – the sun was shining – it was about 45 degrees out and before noon it got up to about 65 degrees. But after we left Central City things started to take a turn for the worst. The first thing is that out of Central City the grade changed from 7% to 15% – it was an “Oh my word!” moment for me! Then as we started the 25 mile climb up to Berthoud Pass the weather started changing. We could see a storm cell approaching and no one was quite sure if it would hit us…it did. First came a few sprinkles and then came the cloud to ground lightning. The lightening was close and powerful. There was so much electricity in the air that the hair on my arms started to stand up. I was unsure what to do so I kept riding; but I tried to find tall people to ride next to. Then came the hail – small at first, but the size of the hail grew until they were about grape size in proportion. They felt really good hitting your face! We took cover for a while at a school until the hail stopped, then we kept riding.   On the back side of the storm the air turned cold, and by the time we reached Empire, about half way up the pass, it was about 35 degrees and rainy. Most people, some struggling with hypothermia, stopped there. So many people stopped there, in fact, that there was a two-hour wait to be bused down from the mountain. We decided after some deliberation to press on toward the top. That is when the rain turned to snow. It was light at first – the kind that is fun to watch as it falls; but then it turned heavy. By the time we got to Berthoud Falls, approximately five miles from the top, more people were calling it quits. The air was cold and the snow was heavy – we decided to press on to the top. I cannot even begin to tell you how miserable those last five miles were. We could barely see; our hands were frozen in the now 25 degree temps; and our legs were aching. But at nearly 7:00 PM – 11 hours after we had started in Boulder, CO we reached Berthoud Pass. We were the last two people to make it.  As I reflected on this difficult day God reminded me that there will always be things that will try to keep us from climbing higher in our spiritual life.  Paul said Galatians 6:9 – And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  He said this because he knew that there would be plenty of things that would make us want to quit – to say “That’s far enough!” I’m going to stop right here.  By God’s grace, let’s keep climbing!  I don’t want to give the Devil the satisfaction of seeing me stop before the REAL finish.  Let us say with the apostle Paul “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Grumpy Old Men

oldmenThe America Dream goes something like this: Find a way to do better than your parents did financially, either by getting an education that helps you land the job of your dreams, or pursue something that you are good at and receive significant remuneration for your efforts; all with the end game of collecting enough money so that you can retire to a life of ease, so that you can do more golfing, fishing, gardening, traveling, etc.  If that is the American Dream, I don’t want any part of it.

God did not create us or redeem us to pursue a life of ease and retirement.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we should prepare for the time when we allow the younger generation to do more of their part and involve themselves in a greater way; and I think a good 401k or Roth IRA should be a part of good financial planning, but not so that we can retire to cruises, golf courses and lazy boy chairs.

No place in the Bible does it indicate that at a certain age we can use the excuse “Well, I’m retired.” or “Let somebody younger do it.”  I love to travel, play golf and take a good nap in my lazy boy; but I am not looking forward to doing more of it when I am retired.  On the contrary, I am looking forward to doing more for the Lord in my retirement years.  I am sure that there will be some things that I cannot do when I get older (I suppose that comes with the territory); but I flat-out refuse to sit and watch the advancement of the God’s kingdom from the sidelines.  Let these hands stay dirty for the Lord until he calls me home because I want to go with my boots on!

I was at a government meeting several months ago where I saw in the back corner several retired men.  Each one of them had a complaint.  Each one of them wore a scowl.  They were the quintessential group of what grumpy old men look like.  They had reduced themselves to complaining about things in this life that matter very little, like yelling over and over again “You kids stay off my lawn!”  I absolutely refuse to turn into that kind bitter, grumpy, small, retired man.  I want my retirement to be my welcome home party into the presence of my Savior.  Until then I want to stay full of joy, passion, spiritual hunger, adventure, delight, eagerness, service, activity and love for my Lord.  I hope that you will join me in this pursuit.  God knows we don’t need any more grumpy old men!