Winter Roadtrip 2012 – A spectacular finish

The morning of our last day broke slowly with low dark snow clouds, poor visibility and a fresh five inches of blowing and drifting snow on the road. Following a bright orange state snow plow out of Stanley, ID we were fortunate to make it over the Galena Summit pass (8700 feet) on Hwy 75 as  it twisted its way up and down the mountain sides of the Sawtooth National Forest into Sun Valley. Not an easy road to travel in any condition, it was especially treacherous now. Traffic however was light… 🙂

Sunrise on the road to Sun Valley

We knew the views and the majesty of Sun Valley Idaho must be epic… given the rich ski history and popularity of the area for winter and summer tourism, but we had to take that on faith as our view was confined to a block or two of retro styled retail buildings and trendy condo -ranch estates blanketed with a fresh layer of powdered snow. Perfect for skiers, it was not so great for roadtripping and photography hounds like us. We pulled into a McDonald’s for some fresh coffee and breakfast as we pondered our options for the last day.

Again, Brian smugly and stubbornly insisted it was “up to me bro…since you forced me to make all the decisions last year”… Irritated I didn’t reply, Sipping my marvelously hot coffee and taking large bites out of my breakfast burritos instead. I was frustrated and weary of  the seemingly endless grey sub-atmosphere we had suffered under for most of this trip… I was tired of the cold rain, the damp clinging fog, relentless snow and the ever-present vague but oppressive sense of blah… of no color, of life on dull.

I had really been excited, hopeful this trip would refresh and renew and inspire me and us for the next eleven months of parenting, ministry and work. So far it had revealed some glimpses of encouragement and confirmation, but nothing truly “Epic” or “Awe inspiring”. As I got a refill of my McCafe… I felt like maybe… we should attempt to re-trace our steps today. To link back east and follow a scenic byway on Hwy 20 past Craters of the Moon National Monument and head North on Hwy 93 again back to Montana. It showed on our map that this route would essentially force us to totally retrace our steps back the way we had come the day before. Given the brief glimpses of  Idaho mountain glory we had enjoyed outside of Salmon ID, we were hungry for more.

It would be a LONG haul for sure. It was way back to Sandpoint ID and Spokane WA (where our Southwest flight would leave from) from here, and the obvious route was to drive due north up interstate 84 to Boise and then to Spokane directly and just be done with this trip. Maybe it was time to concede the point that the sunshine was elsewhere for the duration and although not epic, this trip was fun and it’s always great to just spend a week with my best friend and comrade on the road away from the grind of life… but something deeper was nagging at me… at us. Calling to us to risk to dare to believe… to try one more time. So we did.

Heading east on Hwy 20 was like entering the “twilight zone” in black and white… I could almost see Rod Serling waiting on the roadside in the desolate setting, ready to tell us a creepy story while the fog swirled around and hid us from view. CREEPY. Fog was thick, like soup as we drove in several inches of wet and soppy snow that caused our Edge to slip and slide all over the two lane as we headed back into the past.

Twenty minutes into this grand gamble, I felt like an idiot. Here we were driving an extra four hundred miles out of our way on the last day of our “restful roadtrip” in the vain hope to find sunlight where forecasters and common sense could easily explain there “was none” to be found. I muttered under my breath a half serious, half-joking prayer…. “God, it would be nice if you could just part this fog and open up a little patch of blue sky and sunshine for our last day“…

Our Prayer Answered

Within thirty seconds, the most amazing thing happened… it got worse, darker. The fog went from bad, to almost impenetrable. Slowing the car to 25 mph I had to drop the high beams to low to see the road and once again we were totally surrounded by a familiar grey and ghostly world. I muttered something cynical about how “that prayer didn’t get very far“… when Brian eagerly pointed forward through the windshield to a small piece of blue sky starting to grow in the immediate horizon.

NO freaking way! I felt like a 90-year-old Sarah being told she was going to have a baby!

But it was there, clear blue sky and sunshine and it followed us through the entire morning and well into the day! Like a personal escort of good cheer and beauty, the only patch of dry sky and clarity in the entire state it seemed, went ahead of and behind us in a five-mile swath of color and beauty. It followed us up the Craters to Peak Scenic Byway (hwy 20 and 93) and it followed us into Salmon ID (Where Sacajawea was born and Lewis and Clark journeyed) it followed us into Montana and over three mountain passes and into one amazing river valley after another, brushed with ice and sand and snow. It escorted us into pristine alpine forests and air as transparent as crystal,  our roads were somehow kept clear and as we went, it forced back storm after storm from our path all day.

It became like a beacon of courage for us, when after the fifth or sixth super intense snow squall / sleet storm hit us in less than two hours … Brian confidently predicted… “don’t worry bro, this too will soon fade . The sun and clear skies will be back in five minutes, these storms have no power over us today.” (my paraphrase of course:) But it was true, we were repeatedly hit by one intense downpour after another, all as ferocious and dark and oppressive as the previous six days had been, but we pushed on and forward and found the storms bark were much worse than their bite. Each were very brief and weak in their ability to consistently block our blessed path of sunshine and clear skies. With each and ever storm, the sun returned in its fullest intensity within five or ten minutes unphased by the ferocity of the weather around us.

Breaking through the Storm - Hwy 93 in Idaho

Laughing we made our way from one picturesque vista to another, winding our way over the very same territory we had just wandered aimlessly in the day before. God had come through.. God had cleared the way for us, it was obvious that something supernatural was around us and with us as we literally felt like we were crossing the Red Sea or something. It seemed that God had parted the way through the darkness and gloom of our circumstances and brought the light and clarity of God’s presence with us wherever we went.

That’s as beautiful of a picture as I could ever hope to describe…. It bookended our trip in a way that was immensely encouraging and practical. 2012 it seems will be a year of struggle, of going forward through the storms of our lives, persisting when the rain and the clouds and skies won’t part for long periods and seasons of dull will persist. But God has promised, the sunshine is coming and the road although familiar to us, will be seen in a brand new light. We just have to persist in staying on the course we know He’s asked us to travel… that takes faith and conviction and confidence that God is with you, that He will not leave you.

Peace out dear families. Carry on and keep on. God will be there with you, regardless of how it seems, He is right beside you keeping pace in 2012… as you pass each mile marker along the way.

Brad.

“Epiphany”… Rocking Your World in 2012

For Nashville media folks… this blog title would come as a normal “in-box” discovery on a monday morning at the office. After all it would sound like just another artist Press release being blasted out for the world to ignore. IF someone actually read this title, they might wonder if it’s related to some long-lost washed up, one hit wonder – 80’s rock superstar whose delusional comeback tour was about to begin. Well as much as that sounds like fun…we’ll need to move on 🙂

The title “Epiphany… Rocking your World in 2012” is referring actually to an old, old holiday, found on most of our calendars. January 6th in fact, and as such it is the traditional day the church has celebrated “Epiphany”!  Although it’s not a new event, or a high profile one, it is of significance to those who call upon the name of Christ.

However respected or venerated this holiday is… compared to Christmas, New Years, Kwanza, Valentines Day, Presidents Day and the elusive WildCard NFL playoffs… it’s not exactly been hot current events or breaking news. But it is important!

If you’re wondering what I’m even talking about, don’t sweat it… you’re in good company. If your from an older tradition of the Christian faith you probably understand and appreciate already the powerful symbolism and thousands of years of inspiration represented in the name. But I would dare to say that for most of us, “Epiphany” is still a bit foreign.

This last sunday, (Jan 8th, 2012) my pastor, Brian Hardin shared on the concept of “Epiphany” and it sort of rocked my world. I wanted to share it with you to see if might rock yours too 🙂

e·piph·a·ny(-pf-n) / noun . pl. e·piph·a·nies – ( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/epiphany)

1. Epiphany

        a. A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of   Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.
        b. January 6, on which this feast is traditionally observed.
2. Epiphany: A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.
3. Epiphany:
         a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of  something.
         b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization
Epiphany it seems is the moment when we celebrate the recognition of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Sounds a bit scholarly still… let’s translate that a bit more… to paraphrase quote my pastor and DAB founder Brian Hardin. “Epiphany, is the day we realize the baby in the manager on Christmas is the actual and only SON OF GOD.”  That’s a bigger deal than you might think. It means that little one we adore on Christmas is also the young man who grew up a carpenter’s son and chose to die on a Roman cross for crimes he didn’t commit. It means this baby Jesus…the star of Christmas, who just born in a manager and celebrated with endless joy and fanfare each December is the same one who actually created all things, knows all things and loves all things and is keenly and specifically aware of the actual date of our own birth and eventual death. That bouncing baby Jesus is WAY more than just a cute and cuddly iconic symbol of hope and joy and peace. HE IS GOD, THE CREATOR, COME to SAVE CREATION.
 
IF we get this truth from our heads down to our hearts… it will change EVERYTHING in us, about us and around us. It would mean that the words of Jesus are actual truth. It would confirm that the bible is really trustworthy and that the commandments of Christ are actually to be followed as the  “life-giving” words they are promised to be. That’s right… words to LIVE by… not as a cold, dead, legalistic, moral code of conduct that allow us to simply survive yet another year.
 
It would mean that for 2012, we would be consciously putting our faith, our hope and our very lives into the uniquely human and uniquely divine hands of the God of the universe. The King of Kings, the baby that brought us new birth would suddenly become the focal point of each of our days, of the 51 weeks remaining in the year ahead. It would mean that we could “relax” and trust completely in the peace of our promised redemption once and for all for each and every moment this year has yet to reveal.
 
 
 
It would also mean that to follow this Jesus we would need to do what He says. To take the effort to stop and Listen to His voice, and then have the courage to trust and obey His instructions for our lives. To let go of the steering wheel and let someone wiser, someone stronger, someone divine direct our paths. It would be scary and exciting and an exhilarating adventure to let GOD himself be who He claims to be in our lives…
That’s why we call a new insight or revelation an “Epiphany“. Because in grasping an Epiphany we experience a life change, a moment in time when everything becomes different and forever new. A moment like the world had when the son of God Himself chose to visit us, and allow Himself to be wrapped in flesh and become an earthen vessel. At that moment, an unprecedented change in the divine order occurred, an epic shift in the cosmic “status quo” that has not stopped impacting, remaking, re-directing all of life, all of history, all of time, all of culture and all of our faith ever since.
It seems this all might deserve a moment or two of contemplation from us… two thousand years of history notwithstanding… and may this blog serve as some small insight as to why the early Church fathers may have chosen to mark this 6th day of January each year as “sacred” and crucial to the history and substance of the church.It was, it is… it forever will be a cornerstone of our Christian heritage.
 
Oh and now I want to re-phrase that earlier Press release… something like… “EPIPHANY… playing LIVE…Rocking the universe for ALL Eternity”
 
Peace out,
brad.