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Another Birthday.  Another 14er.

Dear Friends of Vital Signs Ministries,                                    July 2017

28.jpgI thought last year’s climb of Colorado’s Mt. Bierstadt (14,065 ft.) on my 65th birthday was the most daunting and difficult physical test I had ever experienced.  But, as my younger brother Ric observed (and he’s no stranger to climbing 14ers himself), “Forget what the trail guides say, the hardest mountain is always the one you’re climbing right now!”  That was certainly the case for me when on July 5th I attempted to reach the summit of Mt. Quandary (14,265). It’s just a bit southwest of Breckenridge.  For despite the fact that I’ve kept up a rigorous walking regimen (561.7 miles so far this year), that climb proved incredibly tough, stretching to the limit my strength, my stamina, and my mental resolve.  By the gracious permission and provision of God, however, I did make it.  Another birthday – another 14er.  Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful gift and I promise to diligently apply the lessons you taught me on that mountain.

I05.jpg print 3 photos from the trip here – me at the summit, Claire with North Star Mountain in the background (both quite lovely sights!), and Claire and I down in Breckenridge. If you’re interested in more photos and a few details of the adventure, you can check out the post I put on Vital Signs Blog.

What else does July hold for us?  Well, Colorado actually bookends the month for in addition to the couple of days we took for Mt. Quandary, we have another couple 07.jpgof days at the end of July down in Colorado Springs where, for the first time after many years, we will participate in the international G.K. Chesterton Conference. 

But in between, July is well packed with activity right here: the regular 12 “When Swing Was King” shows in senior care facilities; several times of prayer and pro-life witness at the Planned Parenthood abortion business; hosting our quarterly letter-writing event; distribution of our quarterly “WSWK” newsletter; a family gathering in Lincoln; conducting a Sunday School class and preaching a sermon for Lighthouse Baptist Church; more in our summer series of C.S. Lewis events; a couple of special history talks I’m giving at senior facilities; the regular correspondence; writing for Vital Signs Blog; intercession; discipleship; Claire’s involvement with her Mitford Mornings and the “Sentence Sermon” project; my 3 times weekly iron-sharpening meetings; Claire’s work on the website and a spreadsheet to better organize the “WSWK” programs; our ongoing hospitality ministries; and so on.

And, of course, there’s the lawn, housework (including more “lightening the load” work), our book club, other reading, my walking regimen, and a couple of church activities.

It will be a full month, that’s for sure.  But, if I ever start feeling overwhelmed, I’m pretty sure the Lord will whisper, “Remember, I got you to the top of that mountain and back.  Stay the course I set for you, travel it in the Spirit, and I’ll see you through!”  Amen.

Until next month’s letter I leave you with one brief commentary written a few days after I began to recover from the taxing trek up Mt. Quandary. It’s a consideration of one of those lessons I mentioned earlier.

Notice nature.  Yes, all creation is scarred; it’s perfection spoiled by the judgment on Satan and then on Adam’s sin.  Indeed, the whole creation is groaning under the weight of that curse as it anxiously awaits the purification it will undergo when the Lord returns.  (Check out Romans 8:18-23 for more on that event.)  Nevertheless, even in its present state, nature communicates to man some of the glory, beauty, wisdom, power, and sovereignty of the holy God.  Psalm 19 sings of this as do such other Scriptures as Psalm 8:1, Isaiah 6:3, and Romans 1:20. 

Hiking up Mt. Quandary last week, my senses (and my heart) were almost overwhelmed with God’s splendor – the grand angular cut of the mountains; the spectacular, panoramic views; the colors and scents; the wildlife; the dance of light and shadow; and much more. It was a magnificent, exhilarating, and dramatically memorable experience to be so immersed in God’s creative beauty.

But what moral lesson does God have for me to take away from the mountaintop? It is simply this – I must learn to notice nature wherever I am and appreciate the Creator’s voice within. 

I must take the time to see above my routine to the clouds, the roll of the land, the swaying of trees, the intricate patterns of the flowers, the power of the storm. Taking a vacation to a particularly scenic place like Colorado is terrific. Soak it all up. But even in my daily life, I need to notice the world God has created -- a picnic in the park, taking my walk, sipping tea from my porch.

One of our friends, Marjorie Winter, is a dear saint in her 90s who is nearly housebound nowadays. Sometimes she pines for the beauty of the Rocky Mountains where she served many years as a missionary and teacher. But she doesn’t just live with memories of nature’s beauty. No, she takes time to look around the farmland that surrounds her, and the cows on the pastured hills, and the clouds, and even the calendar photos and postcards with which she decorates her kitchen. And, of course, she longs for the superlative beauty awaiting her in the New Earth. She sets a very good example for me…and you too.  So notice nature. Let the voice of God speak to your soul.  Appreciate His gift to us of the physical world. And let the beauty of His creation remind you of the even more glorious, more charming, more awe-inspiring world that is in every Christian’s future.