Life and Death

As most of you know my wife is in sales and we traveled this week to a show in St. George, Utah. We decided to take a couple of days of vacation and travel around the area. I have previously
been in Northern Utah and we have actually travelled interstate 15 from Los Angeles to the junction with I-70 mid-state in Utah. But this was our first chance to travel the state parks and towns around the area of southern Utah and northern Arizona. If you are ever vacationing in this area, Kolob Canyon and Zion National Park is a must see. It is a beautiful encounter with winding canyons, a cool mountain stream and natural habitat. There is a lot to learn about and experience.

Because we had a rental car this week it was easy for us to drive and so we made the 140 mile each way trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The drive alone was worth the three and a half hours. Switchback mountain roads, buttes, mountains, valleys, meadows, and forest…all before you get to the Grand Canyon itself. It is visually stunning and we took a lot of pictures to say the least. I want to share one of them with you and hopefully I can get it to upload as part of this post.

Well hopefully you will be able to see the image if you click the link above. If not, let me describe. Crossing the valley between St. George and the Grand Canyon we drove into the forest north of the rim. Evidently there had been a forest fire in this area and this is one of many trees that suffered the ravages of the event. From some angles the tree looks okay on the outside but then you get around to a different side of it and you discover that it is hollow and burned out. I was taken by the contradiction and reminded of our current message series.

People around us are good at hiding things. Call it part of human nature or a learned skill, we put up facades to mask what is really inside or not inside. I have a deep concern for people who are a part of God’s faith community. The invitation is to be a people of substance. It can be very tempting to appear to be a Christian but be hollow on the inside. The path of least resistance is the shallow Christian formation that leaves you spiritually incomplete.

And when trouble comes, the fires of life can quickly consume what little faith is there. The substance of our Christian understanding and our belief is quickly licked away by the flames of life. I am thoroughly convinced that God wants us to be able to withstand the ravaging wildfires of our everyday existence. But we cannot do it on our own.

In the forest they do maintenance to try and minimize the damage of a fire. They routinely clear brush, fallen trees and dead standing trees. They create fire lines to limit the spread of a fire and they post warnings for campers regarding the use of open flames. They also watch diligently for any signs of a fire starting so they can quickly get it put out to minimize the damage. The same is true for our faith walk. There is maintenance that has to be done to deepen our faith: reading of scripture, prayer, meditation, fasting, and community just to name a few. There are things we need to avoid like sins that we continue to give into that tear down our defenses, that weaken our resolve and faith. And when trouble comes we need to run to the shelter of our faith community instead of the middle of the fire because in community we have people who will stand with us to battle the situation.

I know that God does not want us to be empty on the inside – a facade does no one any good. The interesting thing about a fake front – it is thin and easy to break down. Because there is no solid structure to it, it will eventually come crashing down. Do some fire prevention – spend time with God each day so that you will be more than a hollow shell; you will be a solid tree that can withstand anything this world challenges you with.

As Smokey the Bear says, “You can prevent forest fires!”

Blessings for the journey.

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About Jim Hoffman

Pastor, teacher, leader, novice blogger, wanna be author and Christian conversationalist. Passionate about environmental architecture - creating spaces where people can foster new or growing relationships with each other and God. Currently leads a faith community on Ward Parkway in Kansas City and happily married to Margaret. Blessed with four adult children and two grandsons.
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