Faith cannot be fueled by emotions. Just like a marriage has ups & downs, our spiritual journey is not all mountaintops. Trust God anyway.
We’ve been in southern Utah about two months now, and although we’re learning our way around and getting into some scheduling routines, there are times when the majesty of God’s creation makes me feel as awe-inspired as it did when I first arrived in town for my job interview last spring. Routines are fine, and staying on schedule is great, but it’s easy to get caught in the daily grind and lose sight of the wonders that God has placed around us.
As we were driving into town the other day, the sun illuminated one of the mountains in such a way that it practically glowed in vibrant colors. Trying to explain it won’t do it justice, but it was remarkable. The rocky parts were a pallet of such rich browns and reds that Sherwin-Williams would be jealous. The forested areas were a blend of dark and bright greens. It was glorious.
I pointed out the view to the kids, and we all oohed and ahhed over it. We talked about how lovely it is here, yet sometimes we just go about our day and don’t pay much attention to it. One of the younger ones commented, “Yeah, sometimes I just get used to seeing it.”
The psalmist reminded us to keep God’s majesty in the forefront of our minds, and to share his wonders with others as a testimony of his goodness: “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds” Psalm 145:4-6 (NIV).
It has barely been two months, yet we have to remind ourselves to look around and admire what God has done. May we be more mindful of God’s majesty, not only his creation, but also his many wonderful blessings in our lives.
Sometimes we pray for God to move mountains in our lives, but then complain about the rocks falling around us. He’s at work; trust him.
A couple of times in the book of Matthew, Jesus used a mountain as an illustration for his disciples’ faith. In chapter 17:20, he says that with a small dose of faith, you can instruct a mountain to move from one place to another. Later in chapter 21:21, he makes a similar reference to telling a mountain to throw itself into the ocean. Whenever I’ve heard sermons on these verses, the gist is always about trusting the Lord and putting our faith in him.
That’s all well and good, but now that I am surrounded by mountains everywhere I turn, I have a greater appreciation for just how much effort it would take to relocate one of those enormous piles of rock. I realized that mountains can be moved by one of three ways: explosion, erosion, and effort.
Driving through a mountain is a beautiful experience, but sometimes I wonder how much TNT went into blowing a hole into the mountain in order to build a road. When God does a mountain-moving work in our lives, it can feel chaotic and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it seems downright explosive, as we are compelled to make serious and swift changes to correct sin in our lives.
On other occasions, God’s handiwork is slow and deliberate, like the way wind and water carve their way through rock formations. Similarly, our old self erodes away as we grow closer to Christ. I think this might be what Paul meant in Philippians 2:12-13 when he talked about “working out” our salvation. Our decision to follow Jesus is a one-time deal, but becoming more and more like him takes the rest of our lives.
Lastly, it seems like sometimes when we ask God to move mountains in our lives, he hands us a pickaxe and says to get to work! Moving mountains can require a lot of effort on our part. Yes, God is almighty, and yes, he could make the mountain move effortlessly, but the learning experience and character building is for our benefit when we get our hands dirty with work.
Matthew 17:20 tells us to have faith even as small as a mustard seed, and God can move mountains for us. What does that verse mean to you?
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was traveling to higher places (literally, the altitude is 5,800′) for a job interview. Some exciting things have transpired since then, but I needed to wait until I got my ducks in a row and had a chance to inform the need-to-know individuals (like all of the grandparents). Now that they are in the know, I will share with you that I will be joining the political science faculty at Southern Utah University, starting this fall!
Cedar City is a very kid-friendly town with a surprising number of recreational things to do indoors and out. It is a tremendous career opportunity for me, and the boys are ecstatic about living near snowy mountains. I will be teaching classes in the MPA (Master of Public Administration) program, as well as standard political science courses.
There are umpteen bazillion things that I need to do in the very near future, not the least of which include cleaning/purging/organizing and a few minor touch-ups around my house, so that I can put it on the market asap. My realtor is coming over next week, and the house isn’t fit for dinner company right now, much less a tour. We’ll get there, though. I am tasking the older two with making an inventory of larger-than-a-box items, such as furniture, appliances, electronics, instruments, etc., so that we can determine what is worth moving vs. giving away or selling. The younger ones are tasked with purging their stuffy-stuff collections and making piles to give and/or throw away. I used a tub of Play-Doh as an example: if it can be purchased at the dollar store, then it probably isn’t worth packing and transporting. I’ve also instructed everyone to set aside a couple of weeks’ worth of clothes and bag up the rest to save for next school year and/or hand-me-downs (the older 3) or give away (the younger 2). That’s something that I try to do every summer, anyway, but some years seem to work better than others.
I’ve been going through bookshelves and filling boxes to donate to the church library or exchange for credit at the used bookstore in town. (That may sound counter-intuitive, but if I get one new book by exchanging a couple of old books, then I’m still down by one book, right?? 🙂 ) As we get better organized, I’m going to set aside things in one room for a give-away to friends and family: books, DVDs, furniture that we won’t be moving, etc. Maybe I’ll even bribe some girlfriends to help me clean by offering to pay them in wine. Hey, it’s less fragile stuff to pack! 😉 Besides, Utah is one of those peculiar states that regulates alcohol coming across the state line. The more we drink before I go, the less complicated it’ll be. Hmm, then again, I could just put all the kids in one room and turn the basement into a wine cellar. Heehee, I’m kidding.
Maybe just part of the basement. 😉
Q: What do these pictures have in common with each other?
A: Not a darn thing.
Actually, I guess that’s not completely accurate. The images above have one thing potentially in common: me.
In the case of the football stadium screen shot, my window of opportunity to renew my season tickets at the brand-new stadium occurred this morning at 10:06am. I had to log on within a two-minute timeframe to select my seats, and since season ticket allotments are already sold out, you could run the risk of losing your seats entirely if you don’t renew during your appointed time.
It’s very exciting, seeing as I’ve been at this university for 10 years, and for most of that time, you could hardly give away tickets to watch the Bears play football, much less sell them. But now, everyone is counting down the days until football season begins! (Even those who don’t care about football are pumped up, because school spirit has never been stronger.)
So, I eagerly logged on and bought my tickets. The catch-22 is that there’s a chance I might not be able to use them, which brings us to the landscape photo. (For my Texas friends: those bumpy things in the background are called mountains.) 🙂
The photo above is a street-view screenshot from Google Maps, which I linked to a breathtaking photo tour of Cedar Breaks National Monument. There are places of such beauty like this on Earth where I think that sometimes God must lean back and smile as he says to himself, “Wow, I’m good.”
The reason I shared that photo is because I’m heading that direction next week for a job interview! I’ll share more details if it actually comes through, but this is a follow-up to a Skype interview that we had last month. It’s for a faculty position and seems right up my alley, in terms of my preparedness and the direction I’d like to see my career go. I like what I’ve learned about the university; the public schools in the area sound good; property taxes are about 4-5 times less than what I’m currently paying; we’re supposed to hit the 90s this weekend, whereas it’s still in the 60s & 70s there … the “pros” list goes on & on.
There are “cons,” as well, and I haven’t overlooked them. The football tickets are a bit tongue-in-cheek, because if it really came down to it, then I could sell them. Besides, the Bears are playing so well now, odds are good that several of the games will be televised beyond just our local region. More important “cons” include leaving family, friends, church, and the sheer logistics of relocating. But, those aren’t insurmountable obstacles, and I’m hopeful that my path will be pretty clear in the coming weeks.
I hesitated to share anything here about the interview, but several of you have been so faithful to pray with and for me over the years, and I would appreciate your prayers for this season of my life, as well.
On the bright side, if the job doesn’t work out, I still have football to look forward to. 🙂