Christ is Risen!
He is Risen, Indeed!
We had gorgeous Easter morning sunrise and 10 AM worship services at CEH. In lieu of trying to recap our journey together and the message of the Empty Tomb, I wanted to share this wonderful story I received in the mail last week. I could not write anything more promising or affirming than my new (and old) friend Suzie Brane shared with this congregation! Her story is a testament to how sincerely each of you take our mission statement of being a welcoming congregation with “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Arms.” The story made me laugh and cry and remember how grateful I am to serve you. Enjoy!
Susie Mim Bud
Bud Crawford, Mim Heistermann, Pastor Paula, and Suzie Brane
This story is about the amazing way that God continues to weave threads of the past and present to reach down into the deepest part of our soul to surprise and remind us that he is constantly at work on the tapestry of our lives…
It started on a Wednesday at the top of the Winter Park & Mary Jane Ski Area, just inside Lunch Rock Café. We pulled up with our chips and sandwiches to share a large round table with skiers Bud (age 83) and Jan, his younger sister by ten years. Delightful back & forth table conversation led to the pinpointing of our lodging for the month of March in The Highlands, just outside of Tabernash, CO. This promptly motivated Bud to tell us about his church located just across the road from our mountainside neighborhood. He spoke with contagious enthusiasm about his beloved church, and their amazing Pastor-Paula. Pure inspiration sat right beside me at the top of that mountain. I could feel it.
We told Bud we would certainly look for him on the approaching Sunday when we arrived at Eternal Hills Presbyterian Church. He told us to be sure and get “up close” and personal on Sunday as his eyes were growing old & weary at face recognition. The challenge of macular degeneration was clearly not causing him to “wave the white flag” at life as he set sail to conquer the slopes for the rest of the afternoon. In that small space of time I was more than drenched by his zest for life.
As we pulled in the parking lot on Sunday it began to snow. It felt good to be at church. The snow seemed to confirm the perfect beauty of this outdoor sanctuary, even if only sitting in the parking lot. After grabbing everything they had to offer on the back table we carefully chose our pew, not too close to the front, as is our usual cautious way. Immediately I loved the entire Lenten theme of journeying to Jerusalem as I thumbed through the literature.
The first Sunday of Lent, the children and some adults, including myself, received compasses as a symbol to “stay the course” on this sometimes unpredictable roadmap of life, and to count on Jesus as the ultimate GPS in all situations. Pastor Paula’s poignant review of our previously missed Sunday drew me in even deeper as the service continued to make direct contact with my heart. It was as if each word, prayer, & song was directly intended as a personal message to me alone. So I leaned in even more…
Today, the 2nd Sunday of Lent, focused on navigating the wilderness–another instant connection to my spiritual & emotional trigger buttons. I have known the wilderness. The “object talk” with the kids included all kinds of walking sticks, and how they support us along the road of life…especially when the way is rugged and unpredictable. I am now more than fully engaged as I ponder the “walking stick” moments in my own journey, and those
people who held me up, and encouraged me when days were dark. The guest speaker then spoke of his “wilderness experience” as he found himself in one of the Twin Towers on nine-eleven. It was a moving & powerful testimony unlike anything I’ve heard. I could have gone home at this point, my cup more than overflowing. But God was not done with me yet.
Following the service Judy, my new friend from “Passing of the Peace,” insisted on an introduction to Pastor Paula. That conversation quickly spiraled into a “connect the dots” of monumental proportion. Paula grew up in Wichita, and in my neighborhood of College Hill. From there we discovered we had both attended Grace Presbyterian. Next came my parents Mim & Kieth—and of course she knew them, because everyone knows my mom! But what really grabbed my heart and stirred my soul was that she knew my brother, Hans. Paula knew him. She loved him. She knew exactly where she was the day he died, and spoke of the rainbow she saw as a sign that he was in good hands. Somehow this little piece of my “frozen in time brother” erupted like a storm in my heart. I too, remembered driving frantically through a heavy rainstorm and the miraculous parting of heavy sheets of rain to be at his side. I thought of that ornery-freckled red head boy that I loved so much–and I missed him instantly. Caught in a gust of forgotten memories because no one has spoken my brother’s name with that kind of passion for nearly thirty years, I cried. My heart broke wide open at the unexpected surprise of it, and in that moment I was consumed by waves of tears, love, and memories. Oh love that will not let us go…
The wilderness of where we’ve been, and where we’re going is sometimes a daunting voyage. But as we put our trust in this GPS-Jesus, it does indeed; make all the difference in the world. We will not be lost. It is everything, this Jesus–everything.
So thank you 83-year-old Bud & amazing Pastor Paula. Thank you Susan & Judy–and the entire family of Eternal Hills Church. You handed me a compass, walking stick, and a drink of much needed living water to continue the journey. It was exactly what I needed. I am once again amazed and inspired by our good-good Father who brings us these unexpected gifts if we will but watch for them.
Blessings to you, my mountain church family-! God’s hand has been at work through YOU-! Until next time—peace & the love of our Savior to all.