Mind Mountains

By: Ben Behnen

Mind Mountains PicAbout a week ago, I had a conversation with my parents over the phone. I was recently accepted into the marriage and family therapy program at St. Mary’s University, and I wanted to settle with my mom and dad that this was the right choice. The conversation began delightfully because my parents are the sweetest and silliest. Soon enough, however, we got down to business. They started asking questions about what my schedule would look like, when I would have to start making payments, how much those payments would be etc.

My head started to ache and race as I realized that I had no idea the answer to most of these crucial questions. I became defensive and shut down inside, to no fault of my parents. They were just looking out for my best interest. However, I felt really inadequate, really small and incapable.

After I hung up, my thoughts started to race faster and I could feel anxiety building up inside me. It got to a point where I knew I had to go for a walk and get some air. I talked to God about it and that helped some. But for the rest of the week these thoughts loomed large, like mountains I’m trying to climb over or push away.

Recently I have been learning just how prominent these “mind mountains” have been in my thought life. For a long while it seems like I’ve been surrounded by them – whether it’s worries about grad school, or if I’m doing this Christianity thing right, or if I’ll ever find that special someone. These formidable, scary thoughts form this mountain range in my head, and it always seems like I have to tackle at least one (usually multiple) of them right now. And I can’t. I just don’t have all the answers or even know where to start. But I still feel like I have to do something about them, so I’ll ruminate over and over about them.

After a long week of this worrying cycle, the glorious weekend showed up with beautiful weather. I thought it might be nice to watch the sunset, so I stuffed my hammock and a blanket in a backpack and drove to the superb lakeside view on campus. I found a friendly pair of evergreens, strung up my hammock, and sunk in. I probably got there about an hour before the sun would fully set, and felt a little restless. I checked my phone a couple times but thankfully it died on me. Eventually I decided to just sit and watch.

I sat and watched for that full hour. I saw muskrats swim calmly on by the shore. I heard birds cut through the cool evening air. I smelled the damp freshness of the lake. And when the heart of the night emerged, when the soft, heavenly pink toward the west mingled with the deep blue of the north, a thought slipped into my mind: maybe all of this is good?

And with that thought, it was as if my soul heaved a deep sigh.

I don’t know how to handle these mountains of mine. I don’t have the strength to move them or the know-how to scale them. Regardless of what I’m capable of, though, these are good. These mountains – scary and daunting and insurmountable as they may be – they are good.

I think they are good because God formed them. And I think they are good because God led me up the one I’m standing on now. I look back and realize the mountain range is only in front of me. Behind me is this rich view of a million miles travelled with my God. Sometimes I forget we’ve been going at this for quite some time now. Nevertheless, he’s sure to remind me and he’s sure to point out all the little good things he’s done.

So if all that has been is good, why not all that will be? I may get scared and confused and lost, but I’d like to think at the end, when I’ve worried my last, God will look me in the eye and point behind me. And there we’ll just sit and watch. For an hour, maybe two. Maybe the time won’t matter at that point. And we’ll look over this great mountain range and everything will seem so small, so good.

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Rise Above

By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

Rise AboveRancor. Distrust. Prejudice. Irritation. Antagonism. Fear.

Seem slightly familiar? Our present era of political rancor, racial distrust, and prejudiced religion leaves us weary and confused.  I believe we’re all pretty tired of the irritation, antagonism, and fear we see and feel each day.

Our collective experience, however, is nothing new. Humanity’s seen it all before. In fact, as we embark on our Christian Holy Week, it’s strikingly similar to the situation Jesus faced as he stepped into Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s religious and political climate was a tinderbox of tension. The Roman authorities were exasperated trying to the keep the Jews from upsetting the peace.  The Religious Elites (known as the Sanhedrin, Sadducees, and Pharisees) played a continual cat-and-mouse game to protect their national, religious and personal interests. The Zealots were hoping to ignite a civil war that could create enough chaos to reestablish their long-lost political and theological power.

It took Jesus less than a week to light this tinderbox on fire.  Never one to be a “people pleaser,” he openly mocked the pride of the religious elites, ignored the power-play of the Zealots, and expressed his personal superiority over the power of Rome.

We know how the story ends. In choosing not to choose sides, he opted instead for his own demise. As he willingly, thoughtfully and compassionately laid down his life, Jesus publicly exposed the deep darkness lurking inside human nature.  He was lifted up on the cross to show humanity that he is the only one who can rise above the hatred, hypocrisy and selfishness of our egocentric ways.

Intriguingly, only one man seemed able to grasp what was happening in real time. As Jesus exhaled his final breath, a gristled military Captain gasped in astonishment,

“Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

For this one week, let’s put aside our smug sense of moral superiority and marvel at the only man in human history that truly rose above it all. Join us on Friday evening at 7pm as we contemplate the depth of Jesus’ love. Come back again at 9am on Easter Sunday for a joy-filled breakfast and then engage in heart-felt worship at 10am as we celebrate the only man who can truly save us from our sins.

Rancor, distrust and prejudice will not soon go away. Yet through Jesus, we can learn how to rise above it all and live with greater love, hope and faith.