Small graces on a cloudy day

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[I’d planned to post this last Friday, but the weekend got a little…much.]

It’s Thanksgiving.

I’m not cooking, but I’m helping with some of the periphery tasks like vacuuming and preparing to seat 18 people.

Kim and Aria are in the kitchen, laughing, creating cuisine, and producing the most exquisite aromas. Aria is wearing an apron bought for me as a joke that will not go away.

I went on a hike up Two Bears, one of our local trails, a ten minute drive for a pretty intense short hike (1.3 miles up with 950 feet elevation gained). There are some good puff and pant stretches on this hike–it serves as an excellent measure for my current cardio–and it provides a gorgeous view of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, the Columbia River in between, and all the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you can see…okay, not forever, but a long way.*

Today wasn’t clear. It was partly cloudy. I’d hoped to hike in the bright sunshine, but by the time I got my behind out and going, I was starting the hike in shadows and the sun was almost out of sight…about 2:40 PM. Short days in the Pacific Northwest. Gotta love ’em.

I hiked fairly hard (for this version of me) and my cardio is definitely improving, meaning I was gasping less and didn’t have to psyche myself into pushing through. I saw about forty other hikers, only three of whom were gringos. Everyone else was hispanic, and I kept debating in my head whether to greet them in English or bust out my not-exactly-fluent Spanish. I hate the thought of coming across as posturing (“Look at me, I speak Spanish!”), but for a couple of hikers to whom I offered a few encouraging pleasantries, their eyes told me I was not speaking intelligibly to them. Or maybe they just thought I was weird; we have to allow for that. But everyone responded and almost all were friendly. A few were struggling.

When I reached the second to last major stretch (locals will recognize this) I regained the sunshine. I had ascended enough that the sun still peaked out from behind the hills whereas, from the perspective of lower down, it had already set. It’s not freezing in Wenatchee yet, but I’ve just–finally–readapted from becoming cold-blooded as an adaptation to seven years in Nicaragua. The sun felt glorious. It warmed me well beyond skin temperature. Blessed me, even.

The view from the top of Two Bears always spurs me to pray. Maybe God’s Spirit always uses that view to remind me. I don’t claim to know how it works; I just know it happens every single time. I’m looking over our whole city and I want to pray for us.

Today, in that moment, in sunshine, it struck me that I don’t pray the same way anymore. This is hard to put into words. I believe in God. I know Jesus. We hang. I know God loves us and I am utterly certain I live by grace. But many things I believed before I no longer believe. And in that moment of looking and praying, it struck me: I used to ask God for things that I now would not want to happen.

So I prayed, and as I turned and started the quick-but-cautious shuffle over the loose rock of the first slope from the peak, from the Two Bears turned to stone by the Coyote in the Wenatchi’s tribal tale, it struck me that grace is being able to pray, knowing that I’ve been wrong about what I’ve asked before and may be wrong again today. Or tomorrow. I’ve struggled and struggled with how a segment of the church continues to support leaders who, to me, appear antithetical to the teaching and character of Jesus. I’ve anguished over why, for example, some seem to oppose the opposition to racism. Yeah, that’s a troubling double negative, when you unwind it.

As I trotted down the hill, I suddenly wondered if God’s answer to wrong prayers has brought me here. I mean, I was asking for people to have their eyes opened and instead God opened mine. That’s a beautiful grace on a cloudy day.

I realize

I know

I am VERY AWARE

that my current views on those who identify as LGBTQ+ have caused some to discount anything I say about God, grace, or love. No, that isn’t too harsh an assessment; I know because I did the same when I held the diametrically opposite belief. Thus, I am acutely conscious that some have read or heard statements from me supporting our trans son and clicked me “off,” literally or figuratively, perhaps grieved my having lost my way and wandered from truth, and they likely prayed for my repentance and return to the faith. They may be praying that still.

And, of course, I think they’re wrong. Just as now I think I was wrong when I thought the exact things they do now.

But what if God has grace for all of us?

What if God is answering those prayers, in ways we can’t see or possibly even imagine. Ephesians 20-21 tells us God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. We imagine that means God can do even more of the stuff we ask for than we’re asking.

But we’re not very imaginative, are we?

Here’s the capper: God is able to do this through the Holy Spirit’s power at work within us.

The passage states:

“Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.”

God is doing far more than we grasp, more than we dream or hope, through working within us.

Disagreeing with people is hard. Disagreeing over life and death issues is awful.** Disagreeing over life and death issues when we think we’re all praying to the same God and being led by the same Spirit is…

Enough to cause some people to give up their faith. Enough to cause some to decide God must hate “those people” on the wrong side.

The “wrong side” is, of course, the opposite side from ours.

And yet. The sun shone on the top of the mountain. “Two Bears” is the Wenatchi’s name for this spot, later renamed “Saddle Rock,” but now being called Two Bears again because “We are unable to remedy the past if we do not know the history. Knowledge is powerful!” (quoted from “We Are Still Here“)

Every time I go up and pray in that spot, I’m standing on a spot that symbolizes an injustice*** against a people. I didn’t know that. I do now.

Is it really surprising that God would move in me (“by his power at work within us”) to pray on that ground?

Is it really a small grace that we can learn, change, grow?

No. It’s a greater grace.

Confession: I often feel anger for people who claim to speak for God but speak hatred for the people I love. I know they call it something different than hatred. I called it something different before, too.

But somehow, I believe–I still believe–that God has grace for all of us. I can’t explain that. But that’s okay. Even if it’s beyond what I can imagine, it’s still well within God’s love for us.

*Wish I could tell you how far. I tried to look it up but couldn’t find a satisfactory answer. Anyone know?

**It’s awful for me. I’m aware that some people enjoy disagreements, even severe ones. I also used to enjoy disagreements, much more than I do now. I think that’s God’s work in me.

*** “But its original Two Bears name is overshadowed by another: Saddle Rock. This name is derived from the title once given to it by white settlers — one that originally included a Native slur that, after a protest, has since been removed from official documentation about the site. The settlers thought the twin peaks looked like a horse’s saddle. It’s the name now found all over hiking maps and descriptions of trails around the area.” Quoted from “In Wenatchee, A Wenatchi Designer Has A Plan To Buy Back Native Lands

“The Wenatchi Tribal members are the original people of this land. They called this home. After 150 years of failed attempts to regain the treaty rights promised to them by the United States Government, the Wenatchi people of the Colville Indian Reservation, are now taking their case to the public for support. The land is full of nutrients for growing crops as well as the Icicle River is their fishing ground. The Wenatchi Tribe lost their fishing rights for 50+ years. They were able to regain their rights in 2010. There are many treaties that were signed and not upheld.” from We Are Still Here

5 thoughts on “Small graces on a cloudy day

  1. Emery Rockwell

    Thank you for taking me up Two Bears again. I was with you every step of the way. I remember. We did it one time years ago. That last stretch is a killer.
    I think you should never hesitate to speak Spanish to anyone you think would understand.
    I needed your reminder that grace is about being able to pray. And if you get it wrong, His grace allows for that.
    Then the part about how God answers my prayers by working thru me. That seems heavy sometimes. Like right now sometimes. Anyway, I’m gonna pray about it. Thank you for the read.

  2. Jennifer Roach

    Hi Mike. My unorthodox savage friend. I am sitting at the airport on an early Monday morning cotemplating some tough life events that are occurring in and around my circle of family and friends. I was drawn to read this article and it gave me a great remainder that God is with us …always. Thanks for your honesty, transparency and vulnerability when you write. I love that you don’t have all the answers to any subject you write about…questions are more enlightening I think, than the written word always being about the author’s version of truth. Thanks for being you.

    • Thanks, dear friend. The whole point is to encourage the people I love. I’m very glad and grateful to have accomoplished that. Praying for your swirling cirlces now, JRo. God is with us.
      Thanks for the best nicknames!

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