Jun 8 2014

It’s Not a Competition


“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…” 2 Timothy 3:16

On our recent adventure to Nevada and Utah Rob overheard a brief conversation between a husband and wife at Cedar Breaks National Monument.  We were all at Sunset Overlook, a truly spectacular location.  The man’s wife after only a few seconds at the overlook let her husband know she was ready to go.  She then tersely added, “I like Bryce Canyon better.”  Rob and I found the woman’s comment both amusing and sad.  Rob said to me, “I didn’t know they were in competition.”

Bryce AmphitheaterI have been to Bryce Canyon a number of times and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.  I guess if I had to choose I would probably agree with the woman that I like Bryce Canyon National Park better than Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the thing is we don’t have to choose.  Can we not appreciate both places for their own unique beauty?  Is it a requirement that we compare everything or rank them?

Thor's Hammer BCSome people do seem to think everything’s a competition. Even the Bible gets caught up in the madness.  I’ve heard people say they prefer the New Testament over the Old Testament or the Gospels over Paul’s epistles.  Again, I understand that we will naturally be drawn to some things over others but that does not mean we are not to pay attention to the things we like less. How foolish it would be for any Christian to read only the Gospels and not the epistles as well.  Or for that matter, only the New Testament.  Sure, we have the right to like some things better than others but when it comes to God’s Books—the Scriptures and Creation—we must learn not to neglect what we don’t like.  It’s all there for a reason.  We cannot begin to understand God if we don’t pay attention to all of His words in both Books.

e_CES0783The woman’s words and actions at Cedar Breaks reminded me of a scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation movie where Chevy Chase’s character pulls up to an overlook in the Grand Canyon, looks at it for about two seconds, nods his head up and down a couple of times and then gets back into the car and drives off.  Surely we can do better than that.  There is so much to learn and discover in God’s Books but we’ll never get much out of either if we don’t slow down and begin to pay more attention to all that is actually there.   No doubt we’ll like some parts more than others but let’s not forget this isn’t a competition and that there’s something important to be learned in all of it.


(I took the top and bottom images at Cedar Breaks National Monument and the two middle ones at Bryce Canyon National Park.)

Dec 14 2011

“Winter Snow”

I have to admit when I heard what the special music was going to be for last Sunday’s service I wondered if it was actually a religious song.  The title of the song was “Winter Snow.”  It sure didn’t sound like a “religious” song but once I heard it sung by one of our youth I realized that my concerns were for aught.  In fact, it turned out that the song was both beautiful and inspirational, with a message most appropriate for an Advent service and for the readers of this blog.

Here are the words to “Winter Snow” as penned by Audrey Assad.  “Could’ve come like a mighty storm with all the strength of a hurricane.  You could’ve come like a forest fire with the power of Heaven in Your flame.  But You came like a winter snow—quiet and soft and slow—falling from the sky in the night to the earth below.  Could’ve swept in like a tidal wave or an ocean to ravish our hearts.  You could have come through like a roaring flood to wipe away the things we’ve scarred.  No, Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning.  No, Your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind.  It was still, it was small, it was hidden.”

I hope you’ll give some thought to these words in the days to come.  As the celebration of Christmas draws near we can find in nature a reminder of the miracle of the Incarnation.  The song writer is correct, Jesus could have come in any number of ways to the earth, but God’s plan was for him to come in a still, small, hidden way—to come “quiet and soft and slow” like a winter snow.

There is so much about Jesus’ coming I find incomprehensible.  Even with all the prophecies of the Old Testament I don’t think anyone could have imagined the Son of God coming as he did.  I am certain not even the prophets themselves could have imagined God becoming one of us “like a winter snow.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a good snow in the coming days (I know, some would consider that unlucky), I hope that you’ll pause to think about this song and the parallels there are between a winter snow and the birth of our Savior.  And whether you experience that snow or not, I hope and pray that in some still, small and hidden way you will experience Emmanuel, God with us, in your own particular way.


(I took the top image at Arches National Park.  The bottom image was taken at Bryce Canyon National Park.)

Dec 13 2009

Joy to the World!

Bryce Canyon 802Today is the third Sunday in Advent and the theme for this particular Sunday each year is joy.  If one will pause to reflect on the meaning of this special season he or she cannot help but experience joy.  It truly is amazing that the One who created the world became part of it as a vulnerable little baby.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  A few verses earlier the Gospel writer says “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (v. 3) 

I think a lot of people fail to understand that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Creator of the world.  Speaking of Jesus the apostle Paul said, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created…” (Colossians 1:15-16) 

Bryce Canyon 959I realize that during this season we usually focus on how God sent His Son into the world to provide for our salvation but we should also note the amazing fact that in that Bethlehem stable the Creator became a part of the world He created.  One of the implications of this for me is that because of the Incarnation we stand on “hallowed ground.”  The world is not just “good” as the author of Genesis reminds us; it is holy too.

One of the most popular Christmas carols is “Joy to the World.”  The song indicates that because Jesus came there is cause to rejoice.  In fact, the song exhorts “heaven and nature” to sing for joy at Christ’s coming.  During my trip this past week to southern Utah there were many times I felt like singing God’s praises for the gift of His Son.  There were even times when I looked at the incredible beauty of Christ’s Creation that it seemed like nature was ready to sing too.  And that is only fitting.  When we remember that Jesus is both the world’s Creator and Savior, why shouldn’t “heaven and nature sing”?


(The pictures above were taken this past week at Bryce Canyon National Park.)