A Prayer for Rain

My mind is clouded with smoke.  Embers of sadness pull at me, while the miserably hot, windy days continue to come and go.

Colorado is aflame.

The images of trees exploding instantly into flame haunt me.  Evacuation orders for entire towns make my stomach churn with worry.  And the images of over 250 homeless families, sleeping on makeshift cots, displaced with only ashes remaining of their homes and their entire life’s belongings makes my heart hurt.

Entire tracts of land, mountains and hills left with only a black, ashy scar of what once was.  Trees, grass and wildlife only a distant memory now, something we will not see recover in our lifetimes.

All I can offer is a prayer for rain.  I have no other option but to beg Him to quietly send moisture to fall upon our dry land, calming the smoke, the flames and the hurt.

Dear Lord,

Bless us with some relief from the drought, the fires and the smoke
That threaten these places we love, Oh Lord.
Cover this burning land with a blanket of your clouds,
Releasing raindrops to give life back to this dry land,
Let their cool wetness calm the smoke, the flames and the hurt in our hearts.
Fill our rivers, from trickles to streams again.
Quell the winds, even momentarily, to deflect the flames
To push them back in their tracks, instead of hurtling them forward.
Provide us with tools to put the roar of these fires out.

Bless, Oh Lord, those families who find themselves homeless,
Empty, heartbroken with loss and overwhelmed,
Give them hope that You will provide for them those things they need.
Bless them with sweet memories of their homes and land
And give them a sense of peace and renewal,
To face each new day with strength, courage
And gratitude for even the smallest of blessings along the way.

Watch over those fighting on the front lines,
Bless them with cool relief in the face of a scalding enemy,
Bless them with rest to reinvigorate them to continue fighting,
Bless them with hope that their fight is not in vain,
And as impossible as it may seem, give them faith that it is possible.
Hold them closely and keep them safe, Oh Lord, in their battles.

And with the fast fury of the flames approaching,
Remind us of Your powerful presence, and Your ability to calm them.
With the tall, billowing plumes of smoke,
Remind us of the hope You give us for the future.
With the temporary quieting of hot, unrelenting winds,
Remind us that all things are possible through You.
And with the feeling of overwhelming loss,
Remind us that all things grow again through you, Oh Lord.

When All That Remains is a Memory

Memorial Day weekend.  I expected the tributes to our troops, both current and past, and the deep thankfulness that you cannot help but feel for our hard-earned freedom.  Red, white and blue flags flying, headstones marked with crosses, flowers and tears.  What I didn’t expect, was to find myself contemplating memories on death, loss and the hand-picked timing of certain moments in life.  I found myself grieving, quieted by a once-familiar place, now darkened with long lasting scars, and only the stark skeletons of what once was.

I guess I hadn’t been there since the fire.

Photo courtesy of Drew Smith via www.panoramio.com

Trapper’s Lake and the dirt county road leading to it was a place we frequented growing up.  Pulling a cream and green “Wilderness” camper, loaded down with fishing poles, a hibachi barbecuer, Shasta Cream Soda and large amounts of excitement, our family would find ourselves heading up to go camping almost all summer long.  The little county road seemed to go on forever then, clouds of dry dust following us the last part of the way, surrounded on both sides by mountains, pine trees, quaking aspens and the rare  glimpse of a shimmering, snow-fed creek.

Our weekends were spent hiking under the canopy of pine forests, being swallowed by the sweet scent of pine trees in bloom and fishing in excruciatingly cold, clear volcanic-formed lakes.  We loved this beautiful place that was right in our back yard.

I guess that’s why I found myself grieving so palpably over the weekend.

Photo courtesy of Drew Smith via Panoramio.com

I had no idea that the wildfire that took place nearly ten years ago, would still have as fresh a scar on the land, as if it had just happened a few years ago.  The mountains looked scraped bare, with only dry dirt there where the beautiful pines once stood, where spring rains and winter runoff would have fed the once-dense green brush and undergrowth.  All that remained were skeletons.  Sharp ghosts swaying with the cold wind, hundreds, thousands of other skeletons fallen in shards at their feet in a nasty, tangled mess of a larger-than-life game of Pick-up-Sticks.

Instead of the breeze singing through soft needled branches, the wind screeched and hissed now, whistling through their gnarled bones and around this ghost town of dead trees, their burned forms standing as tombstones for the fallen, now only a memory.

Ten years after the Big Fish fire near Trapper’s Lake

I was out of college, living two hundred miles away, when I first read their words.  A Letter to the Editor published in our little Rio Blanco Herald Times, that would never let me forget.  That would, from that day forward, always cause me to think upon timing, upon moments, and upon God’s big plan.

Dear Editor,

What a sense of loss and despair.  Trappers Lake is a very special place to a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.  While living in the Yampa Valley my family got to know Trappers Lake, to know the meaning of what a special place does to one’s soul.

We moved to Texas seven years ago and my son always asked if we could return to Trappers Lake some day.  I told him “sure and we’ll go there many times together.”  My son died last summer at the age of 21.

My wife and I brought his ashes back to Trappers Lake this summer.   It is his favorite place on Earth and that’s where he should be.

We stayed at Trappers Lake Lodge Resort on this recent trip and made reservations for our return next summer.  Years past we had camped in the campgrounds but enjoyed this stay at the lodge.  Our mind set was not focused on the camping experiences we normally enjoy, rather the personal emotions and continued feeling of loss with our son’s passing.

The experience of placing a loved one into the environment they so love the most for eternal rest is comforting but yet so difficult.  You go through the grieving all over again but it is the same grieving you never stopped experiencing.  The sense of loss is tremendous but you know you are doing the right thing.  With that comes some sense of acceptance.

Our last night at Trappers Lake Lodge Resort was fraught with many sudden awakenings from the lightning and heavy rains.  It was quite eventful that night and we were glad to see some rains returning to the high country.  We got up very early that morning, went down to our canoe on the lake for a short paddle and wet a few flies.  We marveled at the rain-cleared sky, no longer saturated with the Lost Lake fire smoke.  The reflection of the Amphitheater on a still glass lake surface left no doubt our Creator has a plan. 

It mattered not the fish would not rise to our imitations, we were in the presence of an awesome experience and were touched deep in our souls.  One day too we both will return to be with our son in this awesome place crafted by the hand of God.  My wife and I said our last goodbyes to our son and departed this special placed called Trappers Lake.

As we left the lodge we got only a short distance down the road when we saw the smoke from a new fire.  It was nothing large, looked like the smoke billowing from a cabin chimney on an autumn day.  That was Big Fish Canyon and that was Saturday morning the 20th of July.  The morning after the birth of this fire.  How could we know what was to come?  How could we anticipate what we read and hear now about this place so distant yet so close to our hearts?  How could we imagine the destruction to the buildings we had only just left?

We couldn’t, just as we could never have thought we would ever experience the great loss of a child, a son, a friend and companion in all life’s experiences.  What a sense of loss and despair we feel and share with you.

Richard and Cindy Scott

From the Rio Blanco Herald Times, August 29th, 2002

I don’t know them.  But I hope one day to tell them what a profound effect their Letter to the Editor in our local newspaper had on me.  Now, even ten years later, I cannot read their beautifully thought-out words without feeling my chest tighten and my eyes blur with tears.

Photo courtesy of Drew Smith via Panoramio.com

They experienced not only the loss of their son, but then the terrible loss of this place that held so many happy memories.  A place held dear with memories surely of laughter, gentle lapping lake water, cutthroats with their bold red markings darting in the dark shadows of the creek, cool nighttime falling quickly under the shadows of the mountains, the fresh, crisp forest air of evening, and the immense blanket of a million glimmering stars just overhead, feeling close enough to reach out and touch.

I knew about the fire all those years ago, but I hadn’t “felt” it.  I had read about it, I had heard about it, but I hadn’t yet seen it with my own eyes.  And now, all these years later, I finally felt my heart heavy with grief for a place so special, so beautiful.

And this Memorial Day, I remembered the great loss that these strangers felt and must still feel for their son.   God’s hand holding them as He brought them back to this place one last time, only Him knowing that just days after they spent their last night there, it too would be gone, smoldering with only the memory of what once stood.

Questions Without Answers

Where am I going?  Why am I doing this?  What is all this for?  And should I have the answers to these questions?

If you haven’t noticed by my lack of regular posts over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have come upon a complete lack of inspiration.  The weather is nice, my garden is slowly growing, but I’ve found myself unable to find even the smallest, tiniest tidbits of inspiration throughout my days.  Just last night, the town herd of deer even stole my latest bit of inspiration:  the hardy geranium in my concrete planter that had happily covered itself in fuzzy, new leaves.  Overnight, its beautiful leafed shaped was transformed into an unexpected buzz cut.  All that remains are a few nubs of stems, not a leaf in sight.  Forget a tip for that hairdresser!  So even this, my latest hint of inspiration, was chewed off in the middle of the night as I slept.

One of the things that I’ve really learned by muddling my way through creating a blog is that it has caused me to literally slow down, to remember things, to experience things.  A snowflake on my nose, the smell of wet bales of winter hay, even the recent landing of a sparkling jewel of a winged insect upon my arm one warm afternoon.  But lately, it seems I’m struggling for anything worthy of writing about or sharing with others.  What is my goal?  And, do I need a goal?

All it seems I can offer is a life filled with daily struggles, lessons (hopefully learned), cause for laughter here and there and little seeds of inspiration which can be found always, if you just look close enough.

My Dad asked me the question a few weekends ago and it was funny timing, because I had been secretly asking myself the exact same question of myself the week before.  He asked me what I hoped to get out of blogging and writing, or where I hoped it would take me.  The honest truth is:  I don’t know.  But something is encouraging me, leading me to continue on.   It is pulling me along blindly without that final destination on the radar.  So, I’ve offered it up to God.

It reminded me of something I had read that had encouraged my soul a few years ago.  It was a just a short essay written by The Rev. Spencer Carr entitled, “Who is God Calling You to Be?”  I had somewhat grudgingly read through it, not all too inspired by the title or its introduction.  But something urged me on and in the final paragraphs of the essay, I read words that had a really profound effect on my heart.  The author was in his fifties and was questioning his call to pursue ordination into the priesthood at such a late stage in his life.

“Does it really make sense, I asked, for me already in my 50s, to invest the time (and money!) to become a priest?  And the Rev. Canon Bert Womack answered me, ‘As far as we know, God may be calling you to be a priest for just one single task at one particular moment.’  I came to see that if God was calling me to be a priest, it was just as important for me to say yes then as it would be at any other time in my life.”

It caused me to reflect on the concept that our lives may have many significant moments, but our purpose in doing something may just be one moment at one particular time.  All your preparing, all your living, loving and losing may be for just one, singular moment.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Will you be ready for your moment when it comes?  Will you cherish it, realizing that it was what you had been molded for over the course of your entire lifetime?  Or will you discard it as merely circumstantial?

Your job, your volunteer activities, your recreation, your friends, your enemies all may be preparing you, and even if it is just one moment of opportunity, your life brings you to these exact moments.  It has prepared you to change the course of life, either your own or someone else’s.  It is hard to grasp that a lifetime may be all about one moment, one chance, one opportunity.  And doesn’t that give it the mysterious, and very real potential to slip away so easily?  To disappear quickly without a second’s notice.  To never have even realized that it was the moment you were meant for?

So, as I return from a short little writing hiatus, I may not know where this little blog of mine will take me, or what new friends it may connect me to through the world of technology or who’s heart it may touch one morning as the sun rises but I feel something pulling me, encouraging me to continue on.

 

 

 

“When you feel that inner pull – Go for it!  Be the person that God is calling you to be.  And do it with whatever time and strength you may have left in which to live out your calling.”

Who is God calling you to be?  What is He encouraging you to do each day?  We may not understand it now, but we can have faith He is leading us to a series of moments.  Very important moments, big or small as they may be.  Moments that a lifetime has lead us to and prepared us for.  And a chance to do the very special, unique work He has given us to do.

May you feel encouraged, even when the road is winding and the sun’s glimmer fades to empty darkness.  When you question where the next bend will take you, or wonder why and how you ended up on this rocky, uphill path — Never give up, but know that you are quietly being led where you need to go.  It may not be an easy path, but it is the only path.  And to very special, important moments it will lead you.

Searching for Signs of Life

It started with the red wine shoots of peonies, pushing up with Goliath-like strength from below the ground.  Raising whole areas of dirt above them as if doing push ups with the Earth itself.

It was this sudden appearance which led to my daily policing of the walkways through my flower garden.  Scouring, searching for signs of life.  I patrolled carefully and slowly, looking for any hint of green newness sprouting amid the dirt.

Have you ever sought one thing in life, and when looking closer, found something much different?  Sometimes the things we think we are looking for are simply the crumbs along the path leading us to discover things that we could have never expected.

I found my Raspberry Wine Monarda had been growing over the winter, with a much larger footprint in my garden than last summer.  I found myself feeling excited, then worried with its aggression, and thankful I had picked a fairly large area to plant it just a year and a half ago.  If I’m not careful, I may find myself with a flower garden consisting of only bee balm!

A humble daffodil stem suddenly pregnant with the swelling of a flower bud within one of its green leaves.  Then another appeared, then another.  I couldn’t wait for the birth of their yellow, double-ruffled offspring, their due dates surely just days away.

Spikes of purple Siberian iris leaves jut out in a large clump in the middle of my garden. Their sharp-shaped leaves cutting a bold silhouette against the blue spring sky.

Clumps of salvia began stretching their new leaves upward.  Beautiful, new zig-zag edged leaves as if cut out carefully with a pair of pinking shears.  I dreamed of the deep purple depth they add to my garden, their tall spires luring bees nearly all summer.

Like fluffy marshmallows halfway buried within the dirt, I spied the very tops of my Asiatic lilies pushing their air-puffed way out into the sunshine.

Max found my catmint clump sprouting new leaves and without restraint he began rolling, biting, sniffing and scratching at the plant’s brand new growth.  Such is the curious attraction between kitties and catmint.  Without the full dose he’s able to ingest and inhale during the summer months, the new sprouts didn’t sedate him into a sleepy, curled nap.  We’ll save those catmint induced naps for summer’s sluggish afternoons.

Even within the dense remains of last summer’s stems, I saw a brand new green curl of an Echinacea leaf squeezing forth.  I was already dreaming of their happy, summer blooms swaying in my garden with bees humming around them busily.

Around a corner I even saw buds on my Ash Leaf spirea bush.  Sharp, red-edged green leaves uncurling slowly upon branches still grey with winter.

That initial sighting of my first peony pushing up out of the dirt prompted a full-scale search for other signs of life within my garden.  Searching and expecting to find some things, and instead stumbling upon other discoveries seems such a fitting metaphor for the week ahead.  As we begin the final week leading up to glorious Easter, what have you found yourself searching for?

After Jesus’ death upon the cross, followers probably thought the search was over.  Despite taunts from the crowd, there was no visible miraculous rescue from his torturous death upon the cross, no angels swooping him up and into the heavens for all to witness, no ground breaking rumble of thunder to shake him free of the stakes piercing his hands and ankles.  It was all over. Nothing more to hope for.  Even Christ himself cried to God:

  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”      Mark 15:34

However, Mary and Mary Magdalene quietly sought out His fateful tomb three days later to prepare and anoint His body respectfully.  As they must have timidly approached the tomb that morning, with the sun still low and pink the sky, they were expecting to find a tomb blocked by a rock, shrouding the death of their beloved within.  They must have wondered, impossibly, how they would move that giant rock away.

But where they were expecting death, they instead found life.  In the form of a rock moved away, an empty tomb and a risen Christ, they found life that would be everlasting.

So during the upcoming week, may you seek and find new life.  An everlasting life through Christ, who died so that we might be forgiven.  Sacrificed so that we might be saved.  Betrayed, punished, beaten, humiliated, spat upon, taunted, cursed and crowned with thorns so that we might live eternally.  May this week inspire you to seek and find, to hope and believe that life continues, even when it may seem to have ended.

And just like in my little flower garden, may you search and be happily amazed at the life growing both around you and within you.  And may the hope of things to come, ever inspire you to continue seeking, for your reward lies in faith that there is life beyond this earthly garden.

 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Cor. 4:17-18

All But Gone . . .

She walked into the dimly lit sanctuary and felt alone.  Not the kind of alone where no one is around, but the kind of alone where you feel led toward the door, escorted out without so much as a head turning.  A goodbye, without the customary spoken words to mark its end.

Had they done this to her?  Or had she allowed this to happen? Was the sun sinking outside, or was it the sad corners of her mind closing the light without of these stained windows?  She couldn’t be sure, but she felt the dark pangs of dim emptiness surrounding her closer than the wooden pews.

This was hers.  This was home.  This was where emotions rolled out like tears dripping slowly, dramatically from head bowed in confession. This was where joy flew in the air like rice and rose petals, memories of lace-draped happiness gilded with sun’s warm light.   This was where holy water ran in a thin column from heavenly pitcher to newborn forehead, marked as Christ’s own for eternity.  This was where white candles threw their symbolic flickering light upon the walls, urging hearts to do the same in the cold world outside.  This was where friends said farewell, carried upon strong, grieving shoulders before being whisked away in stretched out cars, to be buried beneath the earth for now.

Hellos.  Goodbyes.  And everything in the middle, was here.

Somehow along the way it had changed.  This was no longer hers.   Given up, taken back . . . it was gone.  And she was alone. With nothing more than the blackening colored windows, casting the last of day’s shadows beyond brass crosses and wooden rails.  She wondered if she would feel something as she quietly escaped from the aloneness out the heavy wooden door.  She wondered if the trace memories of friends and family would pull at her as she faded into the outside, urging her to stay.  She wondered if she would miss it as immediately as the door closed definitively behind her, wishing she could have, would have stayed.

And with that, she said goodbye.  If not forever, but for a moment.

Replacement Costs

Yesterday evening I was blessed with a perfect ending.  Just as I turned onto a road leading home  I looked over my shoulder and saw the sun’s last light kissing the tops of distant mountains, white-capped with snow.  The sun’s path beneath the horizon had left a con trail of bright pink radiance in its wake.

Summer sunset glowing just below the mountains.

I frantically searched for a side street where I could stop to document this momentous end to the day.  It was a moment I almost missed.  A moment I could have missed.  By the time I finally found a good stopping place, the pink effervescence had disappeared beneath the faraway peaks.  Only a pink tinged, grey sky remained.  All that endured was faith that the sun would return again tomorrow, and eventually sink below the horizon again.  Another chance at pink perfection is sure to return.

Just like the sunset that is here and then gone in a moment, we too sometimes find ourselves moved quickly out of the past and into a new place.  The bottom line is . . . we are replaceable.  Anyone who tries to tell themselves otherwise is just setting themselves up for disappointment by way of a rude awakening.

We leave, we’re forgotten.  Others leave us, we forget them.  We bow out, we’re replaced.  We watch others bow out, and we replace them.  Life goes on.  Even in death, while there’s a brief moment of grief, we too will be forgotten much too quickly.  Life will go on.  The sun will continue to rise, the world turn and daily work will resume.

Winter sunset, with its pink effervescence.

The cost of replacement can be tricky.  It’s difficult to try and try, to dream and dream, to work and work, when we find one day we are seemingly so easily replaced.  Sometimes it feels that we must not have had the profound effect (make that any effect) that we hoped.  And it can be difficult to watch someone new take on our old tasks, and not only survive . . . but thrive and succeed.  Admit it, we’ve all felt this way at one time or another.

However, just like the sun’s promise to return and set brilliantly again, day after day, there is an advantage to beginnings and endings.  The fact that we are replaceable gives us the opportunity to focus our efforts somewhere else, somewhere new, while knowing that our old tasks have been covered and are being taken care of.  Maybe being replaced is but an opportunity to pursue something new, and God comforts us in showing us that others will take up where we left off.  He is showing us that we are free.  Free to do the work He has given us to do today.  It may be different than what we did yesterday or it may be the same, but in a new capacity or realm.   There is work to do, and maybe He is pointing us, directing us, forcing us into a new direction.  A place where he knows we can be more effective.

It is hard to watch a beautiful sunset fade into nothing more than a memory.  But that sunset will be replaced by another and another, each with its own intrinsic beauty and unique colors.  We can be assured that we will be replaced here and there in our lives too, but the memory of those times we enjoyed can rest sweetly in our hearts as we move on to new chapters.  Surrender your previous responsibilities, and step up to the new.

It’s never too late to start a new beginning.

The Treasure That is Within

It was just a glint in the sunlight.  A sharp reflection you weren’t sure if you had really seen or not.  A shiny glimmer catching your eye, then disappearing again as if a mirage.  Little by little there were more, some shiny, most dulled with layers and layers of earth.  They were there, slowly being exhumed from their places of rest by a backhoe digging the edges of my future home’s foundation.

My "found" glass treasures

As we descended into the hole, lured by the shiny mysteries, we found glass.  Bottles in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and muted colors reminiscent of sea glass.  We had stumbled upon what most at the scene assumed was an old trash site, but to me, we had unearthed a treasure from decades past.

Digging was stopped.

One by one, we hand dug the bottles as if we were scientists unearthing a mammoth skeleton of enormous magnitude.  At this point, my builder probably thought I had gone off the deep end.  Some were broken, with only shards remaining.  Surprisingly, most were intact.  And they were dirty.  Thick clay stuck to the outsides of most of them, and the dirt had even wound its way through their thin necks coating them with a dull, filmy crust inside too.  But I could see beyond the dirt and dusty scum to their polished, shiny forms beneath.  From the glint and shimmer that caught our eyes earlier, I knew I had no choice but to save them.

This little one in the center even had it's cork still intact!

Later I discovered the difficulties of cleaning old glass that had been buried for years and years.  I soaked them.  I swooshed them.  I scrubbed them.  As a last resort, I finally “Fixodent”-ed them after reading an online tip.  The truth was, denture cleaner or not, it just took time.   That dirty film had taken years and years to stick, so I slowly scrubbed, soaked and “Fixodent”-ed each layer off, little by little until my found glass again shimmered and glimmered in the light.

Not all could be removed, but I kind of like it that way.  It reminds me of where those bottles came from.  I like to think that I rescued them from their dark life and did my best to restore them to their original beauty.

Today those bottles have found a most perfect home.  I didn’t realize while my house was being built that my two doors were designed with a skinny transom window above them, making a narrow shelf between my door and the window above.  I knew in an instant what was destined to be there.  Those little windows are the perfect “home” for my unearthed glass treasures to proudly shine in the sunlight again.

Lifted to their perfect home, to glimmer in the sunshine

Like my glass bottles, we all have buried treasures within us that are waiting for the chance to shimmer, glimmer and catch someone’s eye.  Will you be able to shine just enough, at exactly the right moment, to find your way out of the place you have come to rest?  To be hand-picked and lifted from the earth to a new, beautiful and perfect home?  Forget the dull layers that the world has covered you in, you can still shine from underneath.  And there is someone who sees you for your beauty within, dirt or no dirt.   Somebody is willing to scrub those layers off in an instant and reveal the perfect you that He created.

You haven’t been discarded, forgotten or buried underneath heavy pressure from above.  Never forget your treasure that is within.

At just the right moment, you too, can be lifted to a special, new place where the past is erased and all that’s left to do is simply gleam in the sunshine.