Thursday, October 30, 2008

What A Glorious Day!

Linda and I are enjoying a short (2 night) getaway at LifeWay's Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center near Asheville, NC. The stay was last year's Christmas gift from Jay and Michelle and the boys. I first thought, "When am I going to be able to use this?" Two short term Mission Trips to the Philippines, a scheduled revival, SBC and West Virginia Convention meetings, the Building Bridges Conference, Upward Basketball and Soccer seasons, and some other obligations this year made it hard to plan to get away, much less, actually do it!

It is hard for a pastor to get away, although it is really important for him to do so. It is for anyone, and pastors are certainly no different. Unfortunately, we are always "on call", and even with associates, deacons, and other helpers, there are times when the pastor just needs to be there. Ministry responsibilities abound, and although we all know we can't "do it all" we seem to try. In extolling the virtues of time of retreat, a wise man once said, "If you don't take time to come apart, you are almost assured of COMING APART! Jay and Michelle understood that, and that is what prompted them to give us the thoughtful gift.

With the year quickly coming to a close, and the tremendous end of the year rush coming up in November and December it appeared that if we were going to use that gift this year, we'd better get to it by the end of October! While it is only going to be two nights, I have already enjoyed the little trip thus far.

The drive down US Route 23 from Ashland to Asheville was most pleasant. The five hour journey was uneventful, and rather peaceful. While there was plenty of traffic (and lots of coal trucks) it still was not nearly as congested as arteries like I -75 , I-40, and I-81 usually are. Linda drove the entire way and that suits me fine. I was able to snooze most of the way from Louisa, KY to Pikeville, and I caught a few more winks as we crossed the southwestern corner of Virginia.

The most impressive part of the journey was the beautiful scenery. The colors of the foliage were absolutely breathtaking. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue, marred only by the crisscrossing contrails left by jet engines 30,000 feet (or so) above the glorious arrayed mountains. I have had numerous opportunities to fly over this countryside myself. I could not help but think of the hundreds of people riding in those pressurized tubes that only appeared as a pinprick at the beginning of each contrail. I'm sure that for the most part, they were completely oblivious to the thousands of us who were hardly visible to them as we traversed the ribbon of highway so far below. I know their view of the earth from that altitude is magnificent, but I'll wager it was not nearly as spectacular as was ours from ground level.

The multicolored mountains, touched by the Master's hand and His palate at Big Stone Gap, Virginia, would have rivaled the most aesthetic scenery anywhere on the planet. It has been my privilege to fly across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean a number of times. I have seen beautiful tropical islands, with volcanoes and sandy beaches. I have marveled at the sheer beauty of the mountains surrounding the harbor in Hong Kong. The amber waves of grain from the plains of the "breadbasket of America" are beautiful, indeed and are the inspiration of song. As are the glaciers and snow capped mountain peaks. There are tropical rain forests and deserts of dry, burning sand. The earth has canyons, and gorges, and lakes, and fjords whose beauty are awe inspiring. But I would not have traded any of those sites today, for the experience of driving along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When I survey the glory of all the scenic topography of planet earth, I cannot help but to intone those familiar words, "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art. How great thou art!"

The Psalmist must have felt those same stirrings in his heart when he penned the 104th division of the Hymn book of Israel:

"Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. 2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. 9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. 10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. 13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; 17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. 18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies. 19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. 21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. 22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. 23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. 24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. 27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth." (KJV)"

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