Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

We used to sing lots of songs that drew on nature to praise God, much as David did in his psalms. I have been trying to think of modern praise songs that draw on the beauty of nature as the illustration of God’s goodness and power, but haven’t thought of many whose primary metaphor is nature! Some, like Shout to the Lord, use the psalms as a basis for their lyrics and would certainly fall into this category. You probably know many more.

Some great hymns like How Great Thou Art, This Is My Father’s World, For the Beauty of the Earth, All Creatures of Our God and King, Fairest Lord Jesus, The Spacious Firmament, The Heaven’s Declare the Glory of God, even Eternal Father, Strong to Save have been sung by Christians for decades, if not centuries, because the creation was intended to not only show us but to convince us of the divinity of the One Creator God! Science has stolen nature from Christianity in the last hundred years, as if beauty and majesty were an accident.  But you and I don’t believe that. We believe that every single wildflower, every sparrow, every grain of sand on the seashore is the expression of God’s gracious love and of his absolute and ultimate power! Perhaps Christians should reclaim nature for its own hymnody again!

San Juan Mountains

Here in Colorado, the mountains have overwhelmed us. I’ve been thinking today about the song Unto the Hills which has been a favorite of mine for almost my entire life—pretty strange, growing up in the flat plains of Texas, but it’s true!

Here are the words of the song, which, of course, is taken from Psalm 121:

Unto the hills around do I lift up
My longing eyes;
O whence for me shall my salvation come,
From whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
From God the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made.

He will not suffer that thy foot be moved:
Safe shalt thou be.
No careless slumber shall His eyelids close,
Who keepeth thee.
Behold, He sleepeth not, He slumbereth ne’er,
Who keepeth Israel in His holy care.

Jehovah is Himself thy keeper true,
Thy changeless shade;
Jehovah thy defense on thy right hand
Himself hath made.
And thee no sun by day shall ever smite;
No moon shall harm thee in the silent night.

From every evil shall He keep thy soul,
From every sin;
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out,
Thy coming in.
Above thee, watching, He whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, for evermore.

And don’t you love the verses in The Psalms that use the mountains and rivers to express extreme praise for God—like Psalm 98!

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the LORD!

When you visit the Konigsee in Germany, a large alpine lake surrounded by huge mountains, the little electric boat stops in the middle of the lake and one of the crew pulls out a trumpet and begins to play a simple melody—pausing after every phrase for you to hear the mountains echoing every single note of the song—not just once, but several times.  The mountains multiply the music!

I think of this when I think of the mountains singing as the rivers clap their hands. The mountains are multiplying the music of the saints, sending it up to God from the highest places.  And the rivers are clapping their joyful accord! Now that is praise!

We leave Colorado tomorrow and are on the road for a couple of days, so it will be sketchy as to whether I can get online. If not, I will see you again Sunday or Monday and we’ll catch up!

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Sherrylee in the Colorado mountains

Sherrylee and I love the mountains! She grew up in Florida, so she loves to wiggle her toes in the wet sand and to walk the beach. Of course, I grew up in Fort Worth with no water in sight and in an era when good Christians did not go mixed swimming, so I’m just not much of a water person.  And everyone is more aware now of the dangers of too much sun, so Sherry and I don’t really long for beach vacations.

(By the way, I was at a Texas Ranger’s baseball game with a friend who is married to a dermatologist. He kept us in stitches telling us about what pool parties are like for a bunch of dermatologists! Think about it!)

Anyway, so Sherrylee and I almost always choose mountains over beaches, if given a choice. When our dear friend offered us the use of his company’s lake house in Colorado this week, we re-arranged everything to make it happen!  Let me tell you about Pagosa Springs, Colorado!

The city itself is about 7100 feet above sea level. As I sit here by a small little lake, I look out the window to the east and see snow-covered, rugged mountains—part of the San Juan mountain range. Just about ten miles up the road is Wolf Creek Ski area at Wolf Creek Pass. We drove up there yesterday to have a look at the Continental Divide. The lifts were not operating, but the pass was open and so was the Divide, so we stood near the very top of the continent. where the mountains send the rivers in opposite directions.  All the while, I kept thinking how grand it must have been to be an angel and watch God raise these mountains up by His Word! Our God is a Mighty God!

One of the most beautiful surprises of mountains are the beautiful valleys and mountain rivers that produce the breathtaking mountain lakes. You almost always get this 3-fer when you go to the mountains!

At the Continental Divide

The San Juan River runs through Pagosa Springs, but interestingly enough, it is not the most important water in the area. No, the hot, mineral springs are what put this spot on the map.

Pagosa probably comes from a Ute Indian word meaning healing waters. Perhaps as early as 9000 years ago, but certainly 1000 years ago, native Americans discovered the hot water rising from the center of the earth and made this a sacred place of healing.  The Utes and the Navaho Indians seem to have been the most populous tribes in the area in more recent history.

The story is that these two tribes fought over access and rights to the healing waters so often that finally the two tribes decided to settle the matter permanently by having a duel of champions.  The Navaho were bigger, so they really liked this idea. The Utes decided to pull out a secret weapon and asked a white man Colonel Pfeiffer, who had married a Ute woman, to be their champion. He wasn’t a big guy, but he had a big knife—a Bowie knife.

The duel was held a good ways from the springs, apparently not to defile the springs with human rancor. The Navaho brave and the skinny, white man circled and parried, but Colonel Pfeiffer was quicker and killed his opponent. Thereafter, the Navajo never again made any claim to the hot waters of Pagosa.

I’ve been thinking about sending this story to the president to see if it might work in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the other places the U.S. is involved in armed conflict. Perhaps if we just used Bowie knives and sent our champion, we could settle things without so much loss of life—and do it away from all holy places!  What do you think?

One of my favorite books of all time is Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I brought a copy with me to read on this trip. In the very first chapter, Dillard contrasts creeks with mountains:

Valleys, mountains, and lakes near Pagosa Springs

The creeks. . . are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature of perfection.  The mountains . . . are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given. Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

Sherrylee and I love the mountains, the quiet, the coolness, the majesty. I’m pretty sure the River of Life in heaven flowing from the high throne of God is a mountain river!

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Only once on the way to Pagosa Springs did we think we were going to die! From North Richland Hills, Texas to Pagosa Springs, Colorado is approximately 775 miles. Mapquest says it is thirteen hours drive time—and it is every bit of that!

Part one is Hwy 287 which is the highway from Fort Worth to Amarillo through Chillicothe, so if you read yesterday’s blog, you know that this is a stretch of small west Texas farming and ranching towns. Conditions are pretty treacherous right now because there has been no rain since October. The radio evangelist on Sunday morning began the service with a prayer for rain.  We should join him in that prayer.

(By the way, I saw an old Indian sign once that said: Rain dance tonight at the campsite—weather permitting!)

From Amarillo, Tx to Santa Fe, New Mexico changes to interstate highway, much of it 75 mph. Although the flat, dusty fields of west Texas give way to the small canyons and low mesas of western New Mexico there is still nothing to look at! The billboard guiding travelers to Fort Sumner and Billy the Kid’s grave wake you up momentarily—but no time for detours, if we are going to make it to Pagosa Springs today!

We love Santa Fe! A few years ago we had our LST Development Council meeting in Santa Fe and had such an enjoyable time with the old town and the surrounding history! But today we just saw the loop around it and enough adobe houses to wish for another time to come back.

The last 162 miles from Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs on Highway 84 have some breathtaking views. The ascent upwards begins in earnest, first with the low hills and then towards the snow-capped mountains of the Rockies. But it is R-E-M-O-T-E ! It is a stretch of highway that if I had known how uninhabited it was, I would have thought twice about driving it after dark in a car with 145,000 miles on it. I do worry sometimes about having car trouble in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in the middle of no cell phone service—but Sherry laughs at me. She’s not afraid of anything!

Just as we crossed into Colorado about 8:30pm, driving about 60 mph—I don’t usually drive too fast—this huge buck starts across the road right in front of us. Sherry yells and throws her hands straight up—a very unproductive physical response to danger in my opinion! I start to break and swerve at the same time . . .

I’ve got two deer notches on the side of my car already. Once in college I hit a deer on an Arkansas highway, but I won that time and drove away from it. The second time was one night in Mississippi on the way to visit my girlfriend in Florida (Sherrylee). Another small deer ran in front, but this time it went under the wheels of the car and jerked the wheels around so that I lost control of the car and crossed over the highway and went off into the deep ditch on the opposite side of the road. I remember thinking, “Well, this is it!”—but it wasn’t. I wasn’t hurt, just scared, and was able to drive the car out of the ditch. I did have a hole in the radiator, punched by the antlers, I suppose, so I had to have that repaired before I could keep driving.  The thing about hitting deer in the deep South is that there is always someone eager to help you and take that deer home as the reward!

But this buck was twice as big as either of those dead deer—so just as I started to emergency brake and swerve, the smart buck also slammed on his brakes, turned around just on the shoulder of the road and ran back into the woods. We said, “Thank you, Lord!” It was neither our day— nor his!

We pulled into Pagosa Springs about 9:00pm, found the lovely lake house that friends of ours made available to us, unloaded the car, and did what we often do at night—turned on a movie (Notting Hill, if you must know!) and snuggled on the couch to unwind.

Safe travel is not something we take for granted—but something with which God blessed us once again. His guardian angels had to do a little work that we know of—and maybe some we didn’t—but we are thankful for all of it.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Pagosa Springs and the duel that was fought here between the champion of the Ute Indians and the champion of the Navajo.



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