A Ride from Death to Life

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Last week I peddled my mountain bike up a chert strewn, sandy trail into mountains that resembled barren mounds some demon had impaled with burnt toothpicks.  It was the first time I had ventured into the area know as the Hayman Burn, which, in 2002, was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, turning the mountains southwest of Denver and northwest of Colorado Springs into smoke and ash.
Eerie does not describe the feeling that settled on me as I wended my way through both standing and fallen charred pines.  Not one left living.  The silence fearful.  The seared landscape marred the Colorado blue sky as they met above the burnt tree-tops in an ashy gray blend.  My breath came hard and dry as I pushed through the dust.
I mourned.
These were the mountains I had roamed and fished and explored as a child and young man.  Dee Dee’s parents owned a cabin near there that burned in a 1965 fire but was spared, barely, in this fire.  My novel is set in these mountains.  The fire blistered not just 215 miles of forest and 135 homes, but also memories and possibilities, each charred acre holding stories of the past and lost hopes for the future.
Now all ash.
Then I noticed something.  Splashes of gold.  Along the almost invisible creek, trickling life through death, and in odd places off in the distance, young groves of aspen–the replacement forest–had sprung up.  Made up of only a dozen or fewer trees in each grove and only standing head high, they shouted hope.
The Hayman Fire was set by a troubled woman who, it seems, was trying to torch her own demons and instead released them on the people and wildlife of the Front Range.
This seems to be the way life is.  Most, if not all, tragedy has a human source.  “We have met the enemy.  And he us,” said Walt Kelly in his “Pogo” comic strip.
And it’s not just the landscape or our enemies we scorch.  In his brilliant short-story Every Little Hurricane, Sherman Alexie describes a fight between two American Indian brothers “slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love.  Strangers would never want to hurt each other that badly.”
So it is.  Human history is littered with pain, hate, hurt.  A ride through this landscape is drear.
Then I noticed something.
Splashes of golden grace.  Along the way, life trickling through death, and in odd places off in the distance, someone forgives a grievance, another delivers a kiss, a baby laughs, an old woman closes her eyes to begin the journey home, a young couple turn their love into a vow, a man tosses a dollar to another holding a cardboard sign, a Democrat eats with a Republican, friends weep together, enemies call a cease-fire, a parent thanks a teacher, two children laugh and squeal as they trundle down the slide together, a teenager holds the door for a stranger, brothers lower their fists.
These little things shout hope also.  These little things are the seeds of salvation.  Because mere humans cannot destroy forever what God has eternally created.  Just as those aspens are rooted in God’s ever-life-producing soil, though burnt, we too, when rooted in God and his gift of grace in Christ, can spring back to life from the soil of charred lives.
I zipped back down the trail on my bike breathing easier and filled with a melancholy hope.  In the midst of this scarred landscape is a golden place called grace, where heaven, blue and clear and  descending meets the burnt tree-tops of our lives.  Look up!

0 thoughts on “A Ride from Death to Life”

  1. Georgie-ann

    Alongside a highway that runs between our town and the next, between two distant exits — visible but unreachable, untouchable — has lain a spot of utter destruction that has endured for what seems like “forever”. “Ugh, here we are again,” I would always think in passing, almost automatically wishing to avert my eyes,… each time vaguely wondering if it had burned long ago, or if it had by some strange natural happenstance become just too swampy to support the normal life forms of the local area,… certainly it was a contrasting blight on the otherwise flourishing landscape,… Decades have passed, and only in the last one have signs of life restoring itself, normalizing, become apparent from the roadside, to the passing eye,… At long last, “spring” seems to be coming back into this dead zone,… resurrection,… hope and relief,… and one day it will be all but forgotten,… once again unnoticeable/unnoticed, and indistinguishable from its neighboring surroundings,… the vague questions will remain forever unanswered,… did this happen because of one careless cigarette tossed out during a dry spell?,… a drought and an unthinking smoker?,… back to human responsibility,… I have always liked “Smokey the Bear” and his simple and “to the point” message,… “only YOU can prevent forest fires!”
    Truth is truth. With God’s help, we can do better. But not only do we have to “want” to do better, we also have to slow down, “take stock”, and seriously ask for His help. Many humans are already very “damaged” on their “invisible” insides, as a result of many things, including many forces beyond their personal and immediate control,… influences that go back for maybe decades in families, or even centuries in so-called “civilizations”, (or to the Fall!),… and it is easy enough for “us” to perpetuate the damage,… that seems to come automatically,… “we” project blame outwardly (from our own inner guilt, frustrations, failed expectations, disappointments, and shortcomings), exchange hatred for love, and then attempt to annihilate “that enemy” that “rocks our boat”/is disturbing our “peace”,… but it doesn’t work,… it will never work that way,…
    Turn to God,… let Him begin repairing the inner damage,… it is a lifelong process, but there are great benefits and rewards all along the way,… with our eyes and hearts focused on our True Healer, the True Lover of our souls, we can also experience the resurrection of a personal springtime within,… and the world will become “a better place” in which to dwell,…
    Jonah 3:8 “But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”
    Luke 1:16 “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

  2. Georgie-ann

    It is so interesting that many of the “dramas” of our lives can almost be understood as parables,… or along the lines of the classic fairy tales,… as a movement from “death” into Life. Within our own selves (and lives) lie the possibilities of finding “evil” influences that obstruct our very own ways,… and a “well-intentioned/(good) but rather helpless person” in great need of being recognized and rescued/(saved) from the pushy effects of this evil,… and the necessary intervention and help of a brave and charming prince, (a King’s blessed son!), to exert a strong and willful force of redemption, clarification and purification/(rescue), on behalf of this “needy” (and confused) inherited situated,…
    A single individual’s earthly spiritual and psychological plight is difficult enough to imagine and live out,… but multiplying this by the multitudes of fractured individuals roaming around and interacting with one another, then the whole thing becomes very complicated indeed in “the big picture”,…
    Just like with a knotted-up ball of yarn, we can’t really see clearly to the end from the beginning of the unwinding procedure,… but if we gently begin by untangling (freeing up) one “loose end” at a time — usually starting with the most obvious and available — not only can we begin to see and understand better, but we can also begin to make better order, simplify the issues, and ultimately be in a position to become co-creators with the “good forces” who have done so well in rescuing and redeeming us,… and, in so doing, we may very well become a “masterpiece” (of sorts), ourselves,…
    Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

  3. Georgie-ann

    Philippians 3:12-14 [Paul: Pressing Toward the Goal]
    12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    I think one of our biggest difficulties in setting aside the hindrances that we are basically born with (or that “come naturally” or that we become accustomed to early in life — in ourselves and in others), is that we only know what we have so far experienced or “tasted” in life. We don’t know what “freedom from sin” even feels like or tastes like or looks like, because we’re all stuck here together in this same “leaky boat”, doing and experiencing the same types of things, all of the time. We may hear about a difference that God “could” make in our lives, but until and unless we get a taste or an experience of what that might actually be like, until we let God intervene, until we seriously begin to look away from our “normal” to find that “something else”, we’re flat out “pretty clueless”, and very prone to think that what we are and have and do right now is “it”,… it’s just the way life is, and the way we all are,…
    It’s hard for us to notice that we’re mostly inclined to find fault with others and our circumstances, more so than ourselves,… our own negative states are something we feel more justified in having and feeling, but those of others are caught in the headlights of blame, fault-finding and criticism,… thus, we are destined to find much discomfort, problems and conflicts, as we bump into each other daily,…
    Interestingly, both Jesus and the New Testament teachers make many references to the character and quality and underlying motives of our human connections and relationships,… particularly with regard to love, hatred, fear, anger, etc,… (the mote in the eye, the love for the brethren, perfect love, etc,…)
    Without God’s “spiritual intervention” to “free us” on the inside, so that we’re not just compelled to interact as another frustrated “accident waiting to happen”, we are often drawn into one conflict or problem after another,… If we insist on holding onto the “snake” (the magnetically strong negative aspect of things), it will probably end up biting us eventually,… But if we find our own (God-given) strength and peace inside, we can begin to “let go” of tangling with many of the outer resentments and issues, and our life can begin to have a new and better perspective that will come from the “freedom from the compulsive constraints of sin” on humankind,…
    Consider this Proverb:
    Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
    Freedom to “not interact/(react)” is a great freedom indeed!
    I was thinking the other day about being “believers”,… do we believe in God?,… His Word?,… many worldly people seem to be unsure about these things, or sure in the negative,… But a lot of the teaching in the Bible also concerns the effects of the enemy of our soul, satan, who is also God’s enemy and Christ’s killer,… without him, we have no Christian drama,… of course, we don’t want to magnify or glorify “his lowliness” by speaking of him unduly, but certainly God spoke clearly about him,… perhaps we need to understand better some of the ways he manages to slip himself into our psyches and lives — unnoticed/hiding/and just too doggone familiar — keeping us bound up and running around in unproductive circles, that we don’t seem to be able to understand or escape from,…
    I know Christians who are “not sure” if there is a real devil,… They believe “in God”, and “maybe” all the things in the Bible about Jesus are true, but they’re not sure they can really believe in the devil,… my question about this is: if this is so, how can we then call ourselves true believers?,… do we wear some accustomed “blinders” that need to come off, so we will then be able to see spiritually more clearly? As a believer, I expect to take everything that God has written to us very seriously,…

  5. Georgie-ann

    Of such as this is our “commonly shared” human condition:
    1 John 4:20 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
    Matthew 7:3-5
    3 “And why do you look at the speck (KJV, “mote”) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will SEE CLEARLY to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
    Matthew 5:22-24
    22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. … . 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
    Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    Matthew 18:21,22
    21 “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’
    22 “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”
    Human lives without God can be train wrecks waiting to happen,… the power and momentum of the ingrained negativity can be difficult to avoid or handle,… Christians are “naturally” affected by these things too,… but we do have faith, hope and blessings in God, on our side, to help us,…
    Colossians 3:3 “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
    1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
    Scripture points to a very different mode and model of “being” from the corruption of the world,…
    1 Peter 3:4 ” … let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
    Matthew 5:8 “Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!”
    Matthew 5:9 “Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!”
    Matthew 13:16 “But blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear.”
    We all have a lot to learn that they didn’t teach us about in school!
    Matthew 19:26 “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
    Christians needn’t be overly discouraged when “things look very bad, are contentious or in an upheaval”,… troubles of this sort are never pleasant, but through prayer and holding on in truth and faith and love, God is able to ultimately turn things around and bring us to greater victories,… Whether He lifts us up higher or guides us into deeper waters of wisdom and understanding, He preserves our soul, and He always “does everything things well.”
    Mark 7:37 “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. … .'”
    Becoming “clued in” about the things that challenge us in this earthly realm is just simply necessary and realistic wisdom,… but deliberately turning our focus and attention toward the saving and delivering praises of the majesty of our God, looking unto Him, we will find help and our way of escape,…
    1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

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