”O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1)
In late July/early August, we were in the Rocky Mountain National Park for a family reunion, an area of creation that shouts the power and glory of God. We were surrounded by beauty and holy fear – driving up Trail Ridge Road was not a pleasant experience, but when we got to the top and I relaxed and got my heart rate back to normal, I sat there and watched a herd of Elk nearby and there was snow and mountains and valleys and upper lakes and lower lakes and sunlight casting shadows off the mountains and flowers growing up there where the air and soil is thin, and the air is cool. And everything shouted, “Glory”.
On the way down the mountain, driving next to the mountain rather than next to the cliff, I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. “I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; The moon shines full at His command and all the stars obey.” (Hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748)
After that terrifying and awesome and beautiful trip up and down Trail Ridge Road, my nephews Matt and Josh determined that they would climb Longs Peak on Monday – a 14,259 ft. mountain. The notices about this climb stated that hikers needed to be in good shape and have several other qualifications that nobody in our group had. And I knew that there were places on that climb where a small mistake could easily spell death. I hear that an average of one death per year happens on Longs Peak. I thought Matt and Josh would be fine. But then their dad, my oldest brother, determined he would go too. I thought he was crazy. He is almost 63 years old, has diabetes and is just an ordinary, out-of-shape person like me. But it was a lifelong dream for him to climb Longs Peak. I told him it would be safer to climb it in the new heavens and the new earth. He didn’t listen. So I worried about David until he got back. But then my daughter, Rachel, announced she was going. She wouldn’t be dissuaded either, but I comforted myself with the idea that maybe Rachel and David would get ½ way and be overcome with wisdom and turn around and come back. I was wrong.
Meanwhile Tom and I took a shorter hike – 8.4 miles (vs. the 16 mile hike Rachel was on). The first 3.7 miles were the same as the others – they however left at 3am; Tom and I left at 8am. We met a woman on the trail on her way back from the Peak. I told her about our relatives making the same hike. Then I asked her just how narrow “the narrows” were. She smiled slightly and said, “I’ll let your daughter tell you about it when she gets back.” I was not comforted.
Rachel and company were just 400 vertical feet short of the peak when they were turned back by thunder, thus not quite reaching the frightening narrows. Not knowing what they were doing, Tom and I continued on our more modest trip. Insane and exhausting, our destination took us relatively close to the sheer 2500 foot cliff of Longs Peak. Everywhere we turned – Everything we saw –it all shouted “GLORY”. “God is great. God is glorious.”
The thunder was not, however, a pleasant sound up on the mountain. Being on a mountain during a lightening storm is not a good idea. We never saw lightening, however, we just heard lightning’s voice, so with plodding, careful haste we began the trip back to the base.
Later Rachel assured me that there were only four times on the climb where she was really afraid.
Again, quoting Isaac Watts, “There’s not a plant or flower below but makes Thy glories known; And clouds arise and tempests blow by order from Thy throne. While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care, and everywhere that man can be, Thou, God, art present there.” (Isaac Watts, Hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”)
Those mountains are so well established. So firm. So strong. So unmovable. So terrible. So beautiful. So permanent. And yet, so new, So recent.
Moses wrote, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2)