This summer intentionally develop the habit of taking the first fifteen minutes of the day to look, observe, and go to the place of being astonished and filled with the wonder of God.
Here’s my story about the reason for the challenge: Years ago, when the world was flat and everything was black and white, I had a Saturday off from working and nursing school responsibilities. Since I’m a list maker, I wanted to complete some tasks and check them off. Homework was at the top of the list. If, I had extra time, I wanted to visit a relatively new bookstore I had heard about, Powell’s bookstore. It’s now a historical icon and incredible to visit. Yep, time is elusive.
But. My friends pressured me to go for a day hike on Mount Hood. Ever since I can remember, which is apparently a good amount of time, the mount has been a recognizable symbol of Oregon, the highest peak in our beloved state, home to twelve glaciers, five rivers, and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world. It’s actually a dormant volcano. The last recorded activity occurred shortly before Lewis and Clark came across the trail in 1805. I loved Mount Hood, I just didn’t want to spend time on it.
I’m not that outdoorsy; my idea of a wonderful Pacific Northwest Saturday afternoon is the same now as it was then: to sit in a bookstore with a cup of coffee, reading a good book while it’s drizzling rain outside. I went with a not-so-great attitude. I’m sure I was a ton of fun as I recounted my list of to-do’s, stressing my close friends out, who had the same to-do list. Our first stop was Timberline Lodge, built during the depression era and dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt. The architectural beauty of the lodge and the breathtaking view shifted my attitude. The atmosphere was completely different than my normal-every-day atmosphere, enabling me to see more than my little world.
I began to feel grateful and glad I had not succumbed to the pressure of my to-do list. My attitude continued to shift as we headed across the highway and made our way up the mountain for about two miles. We would’ve needed climbing gear to go up further, so, we found a spot and sat in our 1970’s cut-offs, tee-shirts, and sandals, worshipping while some of my friends played their guitars. The sky was clear, patches of snow spotted the landscape with a myriad of wildflowers, and wind songs echoed through the trees as the wind blew over us.
I let go of the weight of the stuff of life as holy awe lifted my soul. The view confirmed the power and presence of God. We worshipped, read the Bible, and prayed. An indescribable wonder of who God is came over me, I wanted to stay on the mountain and keep the purity of my new perspective.
The reality is that it requires intention and energy to fight against the routine of life, the pressures, and even the darkness of the world from being all-consuming. There are days that it doesn’t seem possible to gain a fresh and holy perspective; however, when the extra effort is made, when energy is given to move up the mountain that has become an obstacle, there is an astonishing realization of the presence and power of God. I think it’s why I resonate with the ancient prophet, Habakkuk. He’s not really a person we talk about but it’s pretty amazing how his attitude of life changed when his perspective shifted from the impending circumstances to God. The book of Habakkuk is rarely discussed, hidden like a seldom read book in an old bookstore on a lower shelf around the corner and down the hall in the Old Testament between the old books, Nahum and Zephaniah.
Habakkuk’s story is essentially made up of two conversations with God and a song. The prophet is overwhelmed with the vision of what’s next for the people who’ve turned their hearts away from God. He sees evil on assignment through the Babylonian kingdom, who would be taking over the nations, destroying anything and everything. In fact the ultimate destruction occurred shortly after Habakkuk’s book had been written, around 586 B.C., the date etched into Jewish history as 9-11 is for US history. It’s too much for Habakkuk who asks God:
“How long, oh LORD, will I call for help?” (Habakkuk 1:2, NLT).
I understand—the pressure of what is ahead can be overwhelming at times. When Lucy Mae died on March 04, 2012, everything seemed too hard. It was unbearable watching my daughter, Tiffany, and her husband grieve for their daughter, my granddaughter. The future seemed like a blank dark wall. One of my friends told me about a mutual friend who could not see how Tiffany would ever regain hope or joy. My friend said, “Watch and see it happen. It’s not about the tragedy but about God.”
And, God has brought back hope, which is the ability to see that God is the God of more.
It’s why I love God’s response:
Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days–you would not believe if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NLT).
The lesson that I learned long ago on Mount Hood—was relatively pain-free and, yet, life-impacting–there’s always more to be seen when we make the effort to look, to observe, to be astonished and to wonder in the presence and power of God. The most difficult component of it all is to let go of the pressures and choose to engage with the wonder of the life God graciously gives. It’s a climb to the top but in the end, it’s what Habakkuk discovered.
He did what God asked, taking time to look for God’s answer:
“I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint.”
God responded and said to be sure and write it down and tell about the message which underlined Habakkuk’s story:
“Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely not be delayed.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, NLT)
Habakkuk was able to let go of the mountainous dark obstacles ahead of him:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty . . .”(Habakkuk 3:17, NLT,)
And, he chose to have joy despite the overwhelming power of darkness:
“ . . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.”
And, he went to the heights with a vision that God is the God of more, enabled through the power of God:
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19 is my scripture for 2014. It’s loaded with life principles, making it clear that vision is crucial to our story . . . the story God is writing on our behalf . . . the story that is astonishing and filled with wonder when we look beyond the circumstances and see God.
My attitude shifts when I head into worship, when I read the pages of God’s Word, and when I pray. I regain perspective, seeing the God of more. It’s as if I am on Mount Hood all over again.
FYI: I will be posting a series of devotions this week directed to developing a vision that God is the God of more, taking the time and effort to be astonished, living with the attitude of wonder as we take the first fifteen minutes of the day to worship, meditate, and pray. Of course, we need more time along the way—the first fifteen is a challenge to develop the habit to begin with God.
I hope you can make it to South Salem Nazarene Church for the second message, which will come from the book of Jonah in the series, “What’s Your Story?” Sunday, July 20 at 10:45 AM South Salem Nazarene Church 1661 Boone Rd SE Salem, OR 97306
(Written by Kerrie Carlisle Palmer © 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)