BY JOYCE PELLETIER
I so appreciated Jordan’s reflection recently about his first hike on the West Coast, on such a high mountain last week. More than 20 years ago, Maurice and I made a quest to make two hikes that one summer. The goal was 2 but we ended up doing 4. I don’t know what we were thinking. However, we made them.
The first was quite painful, climbing up Camels Hump, but it was also invigorating. It was a clear day and you could see for miles. The next one was Mt Abraham in Bristol, which was cloudy all the way, and even though we didn’t have the vista, it was amazing to be on top. Hiking down was chatting with our friends about God and so many things about the hike.
The third was the summit of Mt Mansfield and that was a clear day as well. It was an easier hike but you still have to maintain your balance to stay safe. Our son, Joe, was with us and I had wanted to make it across to the end of the very top, as I’d never been there. We were two-thirds of the way when I said I had enough and wanted to quit. Joe reminded me of my goal. We rested for a while and kept
going. When we arrived I had a sense of euphoria. The vista was amazing. We sat and had our lunch as we watched a glider make it’s pass atop of all of us on top.
The last hike was Mt Philo. Now that appears to be the shortest and easiest hike. Well, yes it was short, but steep and we felt the pain from that one more than any of the others. The weather was clear.
The lessons from that summer were not so much as bragging rights, but more of taking each step along the way, one at a time. We can only go one step at a time. We had to stop along the way for a rest, but we made it. I stopped hiking that one summer. My body went into rebellion. I will never be sorry for any of those hikes. There were so many lessons with each step.
On the middle of a high (or low) mountain, the vistas were amazing. On the first one, we had several friends from the church we were attending. We prayed on top, thanking God for getting us safely. We had an exchange student from UVM with us and she had been to Disney in Florida and brought along one of those molded chocolates of Mickey Mouse. She wanted to share it with the 7 of us as a victory.
This was a lesson that God celebrates with us our victories. He also celebrates with us when we accomplish our goals, but also when the goals are not achieved (but tremendous lessons learned through those goals), He leads us through and then celebrates with us as we learn to trust Him to carry us.
It’s not about winning, in the sense of a gold medal. It’s about the one who gets us to our destination. As a believer, we are called to live a life as Jesus promises to be challenging, yet filled with amazing grace and unending love and support. No matter what He knows will happen, we don’t know what it all means, however, we do know we can trust Him. You see He knows, yet we have to remember to trust Him in all things.
In our Grounded sermon series, our iConnect group found the whole book convicting. Amazingly, we learned from Eph 1:5 that we are chosen to be a ‘child of God.’ He predestined us to share in His Kingdom. We are called to be thankful, even in the middle of one crisis or challenge after another. We don’t have to despair and lose heart. Why would our God want to continue to live with us, especially since
we all fall short of the glory of God? However, He is always ready to forgive. No greater love can we experience than this. He gives us grace to forgive ourselves. His grace so eloquently gives us strength to face whatever challenge is before us.
In Eph 1:15-23 we learned to be faithful with gratitude in prayer. For without God, we are nothing. As we walked through His Word, every step is a continuous invitation to trust Him in all things. Even if we have to go through the same circumstances 20 times until we learn to thank Him in all things.
I have read Ephesians many times, but now this series on being Grounded has helped me to see it all more clearly. This series has brought me to a different reasoning. He suggests ever so dearly that because we are not our own, we need to remember, we don’t travel this world alone. We don’t have to rely on our own strength because if we don’t rely on God, we fail to see the wonder of His existence. If we don’t embrace that grace filled with love from our Father, we trip and fall again and again. Even though answers don’t come as fast as we would like, the temptation is to feel sorry for ourselves.
We have to remind ourselves in Proverbs 4:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path!”
When God convicts us of our sin, He does it in the manner of us coming to grips of it. He enables us to rise above the sin to reach for His hand and He does so with the intention of getting us to admit it, then that opens the door to have Him get us through that door of healing. We admit our wrong, ask for forgiveness, and receive grace and His promise to be there to get through the process of starting anew. We can’t do it without Him.
Like hiking, we set our goals, make the effort to achieve them, yet when we get weary along the way, become tempted to take the easy road, we do not walk this journey alone. God is always there to pick us up, and carry us over the crevices so that we arrive safely. The climb down from the tops are so much more daunting because you don’t see the branches we hang onto. We see the deep ravines below
us and realize that if we don’t pay close attention to each step, we could fall to our deaths. At the same time it’s a greater time to realize that our safety net is God. What more can I say?
BY MARY SPENCE
I have a favorite coffee cup. I got it from a potter in North Carolina when we were on vacation there with our family. It looks like sand with the surf rolling up on it. It's big and the perfect shape to fit my hands on a cold morning, when full of hot coffee. I absolutely love that mug. I paid $40 for it! Yes $40; for one coffee mug. Every time I used it I could almost feel the warm seaside sun on my face and the ocean wind blowing through my hair. But guess what? It's broken. Chipped in one of its trips through the dishwasher. Please don't tell my artist daughter that I put pottery through the dishwasher. I know, I deserved it. But anyway...I do not love that mug any less for its imperfection. It still fits perfectly in my hand when it's full of hot coffee. I still smile every time I use it, thinking about the memories of frolicking in the ocean surf with my grandchildren.
God is a lot like that. He knows we are cracked, chipped and broken. But He still loves us. In fact, He takes those broken things in us, and uses them to help others who are walking through similar challenges. In my own life I lived through a lot of broken relationships, had many hurts inflicted on me by others, and learned over the last 50 years to put up walls around my heart to protect myself. Walls to keep those who would harm me at arms length. But God needed me to break down those walls and let people in so He could use me as He planned for my life. I had to "unbecome" the person I had grown into, to become who God needed me to be. And I learned that He uses us even with our chips, cracks and dents. Maybe even because of them I guess. I believe that each time He holds us in His hands like my beloved coffee cup, He smiles. It doesn't fix that we are imperfect or blemished, or stubborn or plagued by sin. He loves us.
Remember Ephesians 1:4-6? "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves".
He loves us so much He made a plan from the beginning in the Garden to be reconciled to us by allowing His son to be crucified for our sin. He created us and knew us before we were born in our mother's womb and there is no sin so large that we can cause separation from our God. So rest assured, my friends, that God loves your cracks and dents. Even if you can no longer hold coffee. There is a place for you. And you are valuable to Him. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for us. You knew us before we even existed and loved us enough to design a way for us to be in relationship with You. Thank you for your grace and your mercy. Nothing we have done in our past is too great for us to bring to you and be forgiven. Please continue to help us repair our broken places and move out of our comfort zone to be who you have designed us to be; living and serving you as you have planned. In your precious son's name. Amen