Although I have lived in the southwest USA for seven years, I was surprised and spiritually refreshed by some encounters on a recent driving tour with family members.
At Hanging Lake, close to Glenwood Springs west of Denver, the parking lot was full. We circled the lot a couple times waiting and hoping that some hikers would come down and drive away. A jeep ahead of us using the same strategy suddenly waved for us to come forward, and indicated a parking spot that he was holding for himself. We were astonished, and when I asked him, he merely said that he knew we had been there before him. I asked him if he were a Christian, and he laughingly said no. I had to wonder if I as a Christian would have done the same thing……
The hike to Hanging Lake is straight up (almost) through large yellow pines (Pinus Ponderosa). After a mile, the trail rounds a corner at the top and we were confronted by a small aqua-colored lake, fed by a multi-stranded waterfall about fifty feet tall. The water is crystal clear, and contains some trout that must be thinking they are in heaven……as we certainly were. To complete the adventure we tiptoed out into the lake along a pine log resting just above water level. When the log thinned out, I chickened out!
The incredible beauty of this lake spoke to me of God’s creation. Like the bishop in Les Miserables who admired the star constellations from his garden, one can be thankful to God for his gifts despite the pain and disappointments of daily living.
Above the waterfall, we discovered Spouting Rock, where a powerful stream of water gushes out from a hole in the rock about three feet across. A tall high-school girl with long black hair squealed and giggled under the falling water for a few seconds. She told me she played volleyball for her high school, and was searching for a college to attend where she could play. The spout reminded me of Moses in olden times…… when the Hebrews were desperate for water in the Sinai desert, he struck the rock in faith. The gusher of water that appeared miraculously to quench the thirst of a few million Hebrews might have looked like the one we were gazing at.
There exists a healing shrine in New Mexico, which is not well-known outside the state. I had not visited Santuario de Chimayo, a little north of Santa Fe, for twenty years. The inner sanctum of this 200-year-old church is impressive with its ancient but colorful wooden altar. Along with a few other visitors, I knelt on the cement floor to pray for family and friends. A beautiful rose window adorns the upper level at the back of the church. The highlight for me was the small side-chapel where twenty or thirty crutches were hung side-by-side along the walls. However, all the crutches were shiny aluminum whereas I recalled from my previous visit that some crutches were old, black, and grimy. This told me there had been many more healings than the newer crutches testified to. Gazing at the shiny metal tubes arrayed side-by-side, I imagined the phantom owners struggling to the Santuario, their faith lifting at every step. Regular folks from Chicago, or Los Angeles, or Houston. And then seeing, maybe for the first time, the crutches nailed to the wall, and suddenly feeling like they could be healed themselves.
A tiny room the size of a bathroom adjoined the room of crutches, and here was a pothole drilled into the cement floor. The pothole was filled with sand, and a lady from New Orleans was applying the sand to her right knee. She rolled down her pants and left. I scooped up some sand in my hand, and walked to the restroom where I rubbed it into my groin and asked God to heal the arthritis at the top of my right leg. I was recalling the story of the woman who had internal bleeding, but was purposeful and proactive in pushing through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. This was her point of contact and she was rewarded for her gutsy faith. I felt less pain in my groin starting that day. In the week since then I have been touring and hiking actively. Although there is still some pain, in my engineer’s judgement there has been definite improvement. I am grateful to God. In my experience, faith surprises come when we approach God with an open mind and an open heart, like children. When adult judgement or pride prevents us from doing this, it snuffs out faith like blowing out a scented candle.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
“A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark, chapter 5).
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