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Lesson #521

July 18, 2012 | Caitlin Newell

A fantastic thing has been happening on the mountain lately - it’s called “warmth.” And it melts snow. And we all like it a lot.

Sunlight and 70 degree days can do a lot for a person who is accustomed to snow, rain, fog, and sweaters. For me specifically, it has sunburned me, made me sweat, forced me into t-shirts, given me much happiness, and challenged me not to nap during the off hours.

Hot sunny days along Westside Road.
It has also meant that the campgrounds are full and ready for us to worship on Sundays!  So for the past couple weeks, we have been able to get out to Ohanapecosh and Cougar Rock campgrounds on Sundays for worship services, and we have led worship for nearly 100 people already. 

It’s been great for us as a team to get out and into the campgrounds. Talking with people who wake up and make the effort to come listen and sing with us is really encouraging. The Ohanapecosh site is a large and beautiful amphitheater, surrounded by tall pines. A wooden sign advertises the church service at 9 on Sunday mornings, so we felt right at home. Cougar Rock is a smaller location, but still beautiful.

It’s always cool to watch how God works. One Sunday’s sermon at Ohanapecosh was about the unexpectedness of each new day that we cannot prepare for, but must rely on God for strength for. As it happens, a lady in the “congregation” had just had one of these unexpected things happen to her the night before, after getting a phone call from a relative, and was hurting and needing to be reminded that we do not live on our strength alone, but through the strength of God. It was humbling for us to see how God works, and encouraging for her to be served in that manner. One of many cool things to come, I’m sure.

It’s been amazing how fast time has gone here. Because the seasons move from winter straight to summer, It feels like I have been here for about 6 months. I’ve watched it snow, rain, and get hot. It astounds me that about 5 days after snow will melt from a section, flowers are blooming. Literally. Days after, there is a patch of wildflowers. There is no spring here.

Besides the long awaited wildflowers, the weather has brought a massive and never-ending crowd of people, as well. They fill the parking lot by 10:45 in the morning, take every bench and chair outside, and probably eat more ice cream than all of the 5 year olds in Texas. I’ve been a tourist before, so the flock of people is a sight I’ve seen before. But it doesn’t mean I don’t avoid it.

These crowds also mean that work has escalated in the hectic pace it will stay until our departure. The front desk is swamped with questions and check-ins, the cafe with hungry visitors, the lobby with tired hikers, the gift shop with wide-eyed children, and the dining room with tables upon tables of empty stomachs. It’s insane. But it provides for a fast working shift, interesting stories, and more opportunity for great conversations.

In all of this, I have been trying to figure out just what God is trying to teach me on the daily. I realized quickly on that it wasn’t that I was going to learn one, big lesson this summer - everything I was walking into was learning. And the thing with these lessons is that while I may be shown the lesson, I have to put the effort in to practice it and learn it. Just like a student sitting at the desk, being shown graphs and calculations - how do you know if learning has taken place unless the content is tested? I can act like I’m listening pretty well - we all can. But I can’t fake a test. I either know it or I don’t.

The mental knowledge that God tests those he loves, that our faith must be of more worth than gold, that trials build strength, and strength, duration, and duration, faith to fight the good fight - I’m being asked to show how much I have truly learned of it. The test includes a lot of things. Patience with guests and coworkers. Loving others when I’m tired or sad or frustrated. Speaking kindly. Showing respect. Thinking of worthy things. Honoring God with my time. It’s like I’m taking the final. “The SAT of Christianity.”

It even rhymes.

Enjoying the fireworks of Seattle!
I think the lesson that has been on my heart most recently deals with the heart. The idea has been brought up to me several times lately that some decisions are not so black and white as I or others may like to think they are. That situations require the person to not simply evaluate the decision, but to evaluate the reason behind the decision. I could be making a perfectly, logically sound decision, but I could be doing it with selfish ambition, or in an attempt to hurt someone. It could even be a justifiable action - but what of my heart? Is my heart reflecting Christ? Is my spirit acting on the Power given from above that resides within it? 

God is after my heart. He’s not after a list of right and wrong decisions that I’ve made over my whole life. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” I think this also means that, without going to God or living through the Holy Spirit, I simply don’t look at the condition of my heart. It isn’t me that looks at it - it’s God. And he is always looking. Scary, yet hopeful, because he so badly wants to heal and help us mature. 

So I have been challenged: that while working, how is my heart about my duties. That while serving, how is my heart towards those I serve. That while speaking, how is my heart toward both the people I am conversing with, and the subject matter over which we are conversing. How is my heart? Is it making selfless decisions? Is it uplifting others? 

How is my heart?

Lesson number 521 of today.

"It was especially neat to begin developing an eye for analogies and concrete images in creation, tying observations in with our relationship with God and seeing that there are, in effect, ...parables' all around us of God's care and the gospel."
– Jonathan, Calvin Theological Seminary 2011

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