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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Snow on Mt. Rainier

Yesterday we spent the day on Mt. Rainier, southeast of Seattle ( It turned out to be a gorgeous day. But the truth is that a good part of it we spent with our heads in the clouds! The climb up this mountain took us into the clouds. There were several feet of snow on the ground. Park rangers informed us that the snow pack is officially still 105 inches, and that virtually all the official park trails are covered in snow. More than half of the national park's roads are still closed due to snow, flooding, landslide, etc. It seems this is a mountain on the move.

I don't know about you, but I've always like mountains. There's something about them that's intriguing and inviting. You just want to go explore them. You don't know what you're looking for and you probably won't know if you found it. But still you go. I think it's a human thing. Driving up the mountain road in anticipation, you get to the top and turn around to come back down again. I expected Mt. Rainier to be like this. It wasn't. In fact, it was completely different than any other mountainous area I've visited.

There was something about Mt. Rainier that seemed different. What was it? Why did it seem that the message was much greater than the medium there? We did some driving and hiked a few miles on a couple of trails. We had lunch at the national park's grill about halfway up, with snow piled more than 10 feet high around the building. There were two things that I noticed though. No, they were not things, they were phenomenon ... with a message. And it was a spiritual message. (Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who sees God in so many ways.)

The first spiritual message was in the cycle of life. We hiked through the woods, across a glacier trail, under massive waterfalls --- and of course across the snow pack (where my son caught me in the face with a massive snowball). The thing I noticed was how God treats creation. He has put every living thing into a cycle of life that doesn't look very attractive to most of us. It's a cycle of life and death ... and life. How's that?

There are Douglas Fir trees all over Mt. Rainier. Many of them are literally hundreds of years old. It would take many people joining hands to encircle their trunks. Several are dead. In fact, many are dead. This isn't bad, mind you. It's that cycle I was talking about. The old tree dies, and darned if we don't see life coming out of its death. Literally new trees will take root and grow off the carcass of the old tree. In one case, we saw a tree that had literally been hollowed out in a fire years ago. There was about two thirds of its trunk shell left standing --- with a brand new tree growing right inside of it --- more than 100 feet tall! So many of us are afraid to die, or at least not anxious to get on with it. I suppose that's natural for all living creation. But the God in us requires that death in order to get to life. How amazing is that! I think the cool part as I see life breathing forth from dead trees is to think about how my own death will usher forth eternal life for me. And I think, "How amazing is that!"

The second phenomenon on Mt. Rainier is the uncertainty of it all. We stood in a high mountain meadow --- and watched warm water bubbling up from the ground. In fact, it was so sulfurous and rich with other minerals that no trees would grow in this meadow. The only thing growing there was some of the nicest skunk cabbage I've ever seen! There were several places where we could see seismic monitors and escape routes for volcanic blasts. There are several glaciers on Mt. Rainier, and we could see the glacial trail --- where the top of the mountain had been destroyed by the glacier --- and ground into rocks as large as small animals --- where a river now runs down the mountain for miles and miles. We could see roads washed out, buildings destroyed, trails lost, an entire campground destroyed --- all from severe flooding and snows --- or seismic activity in our generation.

It seems that those who live around Mt. Rainier are like those who live on the San Andreas Fault ( in California. They know there is a risk of violence from the earth against its inhabitants. And yet the beauty of it all draws them there anyway. I thought about how Mt. St. Helens ( erupted twenty some years ago and obliterated tens of thousands of acres of lush forests and mountain lakes and rivers. I read recently how more than 110,000 acres are springing to life around Mt. St. Helens now. The government decided to leave it untouched so the world could see the volcanic destruction. But nature had another plan. From death comes new life. How amazing is that!

So here I am, resting comfortably from a diverse day on an interesting mountain. God used that day to remind me that His world is just that ... His. I was reminded that He intends it to be tentative. I shouldn't get distracted by the beauty of it ... just enjoy it for the moment and understand that it speaks for Him. Finally, I am reminded of how death brings forth life. And I am thinking, "My God, my Lord, how amazing are You!"

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