Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 17

“A Sign of Life”

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:1-2

Where were you exactly 40 years ago? Today, at 8:32 a.m., 40 years ago, Mt. St. Helens exploded sending ash 80,000 feet into the air. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was accompanied by a rapid series of events. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the volcano’s northern bulge and summit became the largest debris avalanche on earth in recorded history. Ash spewed into the air at over 300 mph. Within a few moments, 1300 feet of the summit had disappeared.

I was a junior in high school when this event occurred. I remember attending church at Kent Lutheran that morning. I did not know that the mountain exploded until I went to work later in the day. I worked at the Woodland Estate Apartment complex. My job involved maintenance and yard work. People kept coming out of their apartments, talking about the explosion. They all said how lucky we were that the ash blew to the east. I’m sure that the people to the east did not feel that way. The ash settled inches thick over most of eastern part of the state. Eventually, no matter where a person lived, that massive blast of ash would touch everyone on the planet.

This ash would touch my dad in an interesting way. During this time, my dad had left parish ministry and worked for an insurance company. He traveled every week throughout the states in the Northwest. A few weeks after the blast, he drove across eastern Washington on I-90. He said the terrain looked like a desert wasteland. Grey ash covered everything. The landscape looked like the moon. After hours of driving through this greyish deathly wasteland, he grew desperate to locate something that resembled life. Mile after mile, all he could see was what looked like the land of the dead. He finally became so desperate that he pulled off the highway and began to march through the ash looking for a sign. He hiked for about 20 minutes before his eye finally snatched a glimpse of something. As he drew closer, there at his feet, a tiny flower had broken through the crust of ground. He witnessed a crack in the grey soil. It was weak and fragile, but there it was. A sign of life. The land surrounding that flower was devoid of life. But the sign was there. A tiniest splash of color against the backdrop of grey. My dad said that he marched back to his car, dusted himself off, and with a renewed sense of joy, drove on to his next appointment. For more life and more color would be coming soon.  

We might be tempted to look around today and see nothing but grey. The landscape around us can look rather bleak. The nightly news reports continue to tell us of growing death totals. Covid19 cases continue to increase around the country. And the unemployment rates are moving into the unimaginable realms. But in the midst of this heavy, ashen reality, there are splashes of color. Life is breaking through, as fragile as it might seem. Love is being spread. Kindness is being paid forward. Compassion is breaking through on crusty hearts. The grey landscape will not last.

There was a bleak landscape surrounding that first Easter morning. But something broke through. New Life. This life was not fragile but rather filled with power. This life was not dull but a splash of light and color that would cover every corner of the globe. May this splash of color break through to your heart today. May there be a renewed sense of joy to carry you to your next appointment.

“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” Isaiah 51:3

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark



Pastor Mark’s March Newsletter Blog

 
 

Pastor Mark’s March Newsletter Blog The Lenten Journey – “Our Path in the Wilderness” A few weeks ago, Travis Kauffman was running in the wilderness. He was running alone in the foothills of the Horsetooth Mountain Park in northern Colorado. He reported that he heard something behind him on the trail. As he turned to investigate, an 80 lb. mountain lion lunged at him. Travis said that he was bitten on the face and wrist, but he was able to fight back. He was able to fight off the mountain lion and eventually suffocate and kill him. Exactly how Travis did so was not immediately clear, but the cat is dead, and the man is recovering in a local hospital. 

1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring (mountain?) lion looking for someone to devour.

Resist him (fight him off), standing firm in the faith…”

News traveled around the globe, retelling Travis’ courageous effort to fight off an attacking lion. St. Peter warns us of another lion that prowls around looking to destroy our hopes and crush our dreams. Jesus faced that lion, the devil, in the wilderness for 40 days before he began his public ministry. He had to stand up to this enemy before he marched to the cross and achieve his ultimate victory over death. As we begin the Lenten Season, March 6 (Ash Wednesday), this 40-day march to Easter is a recognition of the real fight Jesus faced for the faith.

Jesus journeyed through the wilderness,

enduring Satan’s temptations,
and returned to Galilee IN THE POWER of the SPIRIT!
 
Jesus models a journey of faith we all must take into the wilderness as his followers. At some point, we will find ourselves, as Jesus did, in a wilderness, in unfamiliar territory, to face a formidable enemy. The wilderness is not meant to destroy us but rather that we might learn to reject Satan’s lies, resist his temptations, remain in the Truth, and return home – walking in greater power and life in the Holy Spirit. 
 
Daniel, in the Old Testament, faced his own wilderness journey. Staying faithful to God, on his knees in prayer, it led to betrayal, arrest and a sentencing by King Darius. Daniel would be thrown into the den of lions. Daniel faced a formidable enemy in both animal and accusation, yet he rejected the lies, resisted the temptations, remained in the truth and returned home – walking in greater power than he had ever known.
 
If we are to walk through our own wilderness successfully and stand firm in the faith, Jesus and Daniel model for us a standard that will always carry us through. In order for us to reject the lies, resist temptation and remain in the Truth – Jesus relied upon the Word of God.
 
“Jesus said, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone.’‘
It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’

‘It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’   (Luke 4:4,8,12)

Jesus stood his ground and wrestled the animal to the ground and took him out in the strength of God’s living Word. And Daniel, in his deepest time of torment, trusted in the power of his God.

“Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him,because he had trusted in his God.”  (Daniel 6:23)
 

God heard Daniel’s prayers. God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths and preserve his life. On what trail are you running? We are about to run into the Lenten Season – a time and a path that perhaps will lead us into temptation. Be self-controlled and on alert. We have One who will deliver us from evil. The God of our salvation will watch over us as the Good Shepherd watches over his sheep. Take up the tools, seize the weapons that have been given to us – the Word of God: his living, written and spoken Word, the prayer of praise and petition, and child-like trust that will never forsake us. Whatever trail, whether Horsetooth Mountain or into the valley of the shadow of death – fear no evil, the Lion of Judah, runs by our side. He is our protector, He is our provider, He is our salvation! Can you hear Him roar? Thanks be to God!! Pastor Mark