Mon-freakin-tana! Part I Peril

WARNING: The picture is my non subtle way of warning you that there are potty mouth words in this. I am just preparing you for my next post, which will contain even pottier mouth words in it. Lucky for you, you are about to enter into my brain, so this is exactly how I feel, and as a writer/blogger/communicator/whatever this is... I feel I must be transparent and refrain from hiding any of those corners from you. If potty mouth words bother you, just replace them in your head with the word "unicorn."  Or don't read any further. Love. And I know all of you cuss, at least in your head. Even my 3 year old Godson does. He's literally an angel. He probably copied me though...yeah actually I'm positive I slipped an F bomb in front of him once. Sorry Staci :)

There is nothing more manly than being a Cowboy. Yeah, I can’t think of one thing. When I was 5 years old, I was convinced, and had fully decided that a Cowboy life was the life for me. And so, with my cowboy boots on, my dollar store cowboy hat and plastic click action Gun Pistols in hand, I embarked on the long and arduous journey from a suburb slicker, to a wild wild west, gun slinging, horse ridin’, lady savin’, tobacco spittin, lone rangin’ outlaw. Then I watched the power rangers and my dreams totally shifted. Dammit. Although I never did fully transform myself into a badass cowboy, there, deep in the depths of my soul, a cowboy I was, and a cowboy I would always be. Last month, my wife and I went to visit our best friends on their epicly beautiful family ranch along the Yellowstone River, and all of my 5 year old self dreams became a reality. And with that, I said vamoose to my Nikes and Golf hat, and threw on a nice cowboy hat, a thick flannel, some blue jeans, slung a 22 around my back and ventured off into the wild wild west. Beyond my 5 year old self getting a go at my dreams, from shooting gofers, to mowing a big ass lawn on a john deer rider with my shirt off, and cowboy hat on, or drinking coffee black…beyond all of that…this trip was quite renewing for my wife and I. Firstly, nothing cures the soul more than time with Charlie, Thomas, and their adults (our best friends, Chip and Staci). I can't imagine our lives without those incredible humans. Additionally, we celebrated Staci's birthday in the Yellowstone and saw a freakin' wolf hunting some big ass bison. 

Since January of 2015, we have been in a deep deep grind, giving all of our hearts and souls to the cause we were committed to. I was getting my Masters of Business Administration while Assistant Coaching the Track and Field TEAM at the University, and in order for us to pay the bills (I’m not sure how this institution thought I would be able to work enough to eat while being a student and coach??? Thank God I am married, and Good luck to the next dude), my wife sacrificed these past two and a half years to work jobs that were not necessarily her passion. And she did them damn well. I have been applying for jobs since I started this MBA program and have not had a single hit. Automated email after automated email of “unfortunately we have moved on to better candidates”. The good ol catch 22 “you need more experience”. How the shit am I supposed to get that coveted piece of shit experience!? GAAAAAAHHHHHRGGHGHH. :) And so, after giving my everything into this school and TEAM for 2 and a half years, after my duties had concluded…my wife and I felt like we were completely blindsided. Like we had been sprinting full force ahead for 2 and a half years, and then all this sudden off the side of a cliff we went. We felt like we were free falling, very uncertain if our parachutes would open, or if we even had a parachute at all. We felt sick to our stomachs for a while, if I am honest. I felt very weak and uncertain of all that I had learned. The enemy had a hold of us, at least for those painful moments.

At the same time, our lease had ended at the house we were renting, and with no job leads, and no clear direction, we were for a moment homeless. My beautiful mother kindly opened her mountain condo to us. A small, 400 square foot piece of paradise, that looks out into nothing but mountains, covered in evergreen, and a beautiful lake to top it all off. We hesitated to make the move up there, as for one, it is very small, and two we felt we might feel too isolated in this vulnerable state we were in. And because of those things, well…up we went. On the day of the move, after we had stored most of our things away, my wife told me the deeper she voyaged into the swerving mountain roads, the more peace fell upon her, until she reached the top of the mountain, where our humble mountain abode lay, there she found complete peace. Which has significant meaning that my mom helped me understand, which I will get to shortly (kinda shortly). The smallness allowed us to let go of “things”, all the small shits we had accumulated over the last two years, only the essentials we needed. It allowed us to unplug, as there is barely service up there (mostly just for us because we have shit sprint wireless), we cancelled our Netflix, and bought a couple books. The isolation only challenged and encouraged us to lean on each other, to put our dumb phones down, and talk to each other about how we were feeling. To approach the uncomfortable feelings that we were experiencing. And we couldn’t help but wonder in awe of God’s massive plan and provision, with the mountains he had created as our back drop.

During this very uncomfortable time, where we felt sick to our stomachs, where we felt weak, and where we felt completely high and dry... through the books we were reading, our time alone with God in this mountain home, and this beautiful trip to Montana, God provided for us a deep sense of peace and an array of hope.

There is just something about them mountains! These massive glorious creations. They are magnetic to the human race….we are pulled to them. Yes, they are very nice to look at because of their epic magnificence. But we are pulled INTO them. There seems to be this innate need to approach them….to enter in to the depths of them. You can’t tell me that you have never felt that dire need to go have a date with mother nature?!? (or is that just me?). The thing about these gorgeous looking monsters…these beasts, is that they are relentless. They are perilous. They are fuckin scary! They eat people, they swallow them up for breakfast, lunch and Dinner and fuckin dessert. But we must…just go! We must enter them…the magnetic attraction does not fail to pull us towards these dangerous daunting, but magnificent towering masses of land.

Back to the now very conveniently shaped story of my wife driving up into the mountains. We were afraid, sick to our stomachs, we were scared. And moving to the top of a mountain seemed like a risky move, isolating ourselves with all these feelings and emotions. But as she entered into the mysterious presence that is the mountains, peace fell upon her. Peace. The deeper she voyaged, the more peace filled her soul. It was uncomfortable entering those jagged mountains, and undoubtedly scary, but the peace was undeniable, and uncontrollable. The peace, my friends, is in the peril. “The mountains shall bring peace to the people…” Psalm 72:3. It is in the most challenging, daunting, beastly parts of our lives, where we find peace. So we must enter into them.

 View from the ranch. All pictures I used my iPhone and SnapSeed to edit. 

View from the ranch. All pictures I used my iPhone and SnapSeed to edit. 

But, society gives us a very poison recipe and insidious idea that “happiness” is found in effortlessness, in complete comfort, in the accumulation of things…but society’s happiness is all defined on what you can achieve and do on your own. To hide and ignore the uncomfortable things, to avoid them, just to reach the closest short term feel good high. To value the material, and make all our decisions based off those shit values. There is no fruit there. Eventually, those values fail us, and we find ourselves insolvent. Even if we have all the things...we feel empty. We are not created to do this life alone or to live an “easy” life. We are created to be in communion with our creator. Our sculptor. Our author. We are created to live a life way beyond ourselves…beyond our comfort, and our “happiness”. We can choose to seek “happiness” for ourselves, and live a very empty and dry life, or we can choose to seek our creator, and live a life with a peace and joy that transcends our wildest fathoms.

But that involves pain, discomfort, risks, uncertainty…it involves boldly entering into the scary mountains of our lives, and facing all the perils. Just like my wife found peace at the deepest part of the mountain, so do we find peace in the scariest, messiest, and most uncomfortable and painful parts of our lives. That is where all the growth is. “Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Hebrews 5:3-5 To avoid the tempestuous circumstances is to sacrifice the incredible potential the Lord has for us.

On the ranch in Montana, I went on a run, and as we all very well know, running sucks ass. It’s painful, and you just want to quit and die the entire time…at least the way I run, just relentlessly like I am punishing myself. I had run out away from the river house, which conveniently is also running away from the mountains (aka I was running away from my problems)…but then I had to turn around, and run back. There was a stupid head wind…so now I was firstly running, which sucks, added to it, an asshole head wind…straight towards the mountains….these beautiful snow-capped, jagged fortresses of mother nature. The head wind combined with my relentless running style had me dying….I was ready to quit…I was headed towards the mountains and I wanted to stop…but as I was deciding to quit, low and freakin behold, I hear a powerful swooping sound, and above me, there a massive golden eagle soar. Firstly, Freedom!!!!! God bless Merica. The lord empowered me and spoke to me clearly right then and there. The mountains are where I have you, son…and I am with you through it all. Run boldly and relentlessly towards them, for I am your strength. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

The lord is our author, our perfector and our sculptor. He is masterfully carving away at our character to be closer and closer to the indescribable sculptures that we are. It is painful yes, each time our sculptor puts His hands to the chisel, as a part of us falls off…but we must keep pressing forward through that pain, as soon we will be more magnificent than the statue of David. Just as a Mountain is breathtakingly stunning, and an undeniable vivid experience of our Creator, just as it is a magnetic source to our souls…so can your life be…Your life can be a vivid experience of our creator, it can be a breathtaking and stunning testimony of God’s power and creation…but you must embrace the “scary” things…that is what makes Mountains so incredible…the danger, the mystery…but the undeniable beauty.

"How the heck am I supposed to cope with all of my gnarly problems?" One doesn’t just say, “Oh look at all of that dangerous scary shit, lets blindly walk into it!” "How can we get to the point where we can freely enter into the peril? And then some how gain good things from it, you crazy bat?" GREAT question. I'm still processing that, obviously, but this is what has been revealed to me so far:

You must die…fully die to your old point of view, your old, tiny selfish perspectives. You don’t have the eyes to see the massive picture on your own. You must recognize and take ownership of your smallness. Remember how my wife metaphorically but also literally found peace driving into the literal mountains? It was because my wife and I had realized that we WERE extremely weak, that we were able to head into the mountain, into the perilous mountain and find peace, because it is only in our weaknesses that we can fully rely on God…we are made strong by recognizing how weak we truly are on our own. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

When I lived in South Africa, the enemy was constantly after me. It was a fuckin war zone. Many a day…I felt attacked…and many days I felt defeated. But I experienced something incredible because of all that shit. I was at this really awesome church called GodFirst, and I had developed some strong relationships with many of the rad people there. At the end of the service, there was an opportunity to go up for prayer, and the Lord made it pretty damn clear that I should go up there. I asked my buddy Keegan to pray for me, and I asked him to pray that I could finish the year off strong…I think because I realized that I was weak. Keegs prayed for the holy spirit to enter into me…immediately, as he prayed those words, although my eyes were closed, I physically felt like I was 10 feet tall, and just as immediately, the Lord explained to me that the feeling I had is what King David felt when He was fighting Goliath. David didn’t fight with his tiny human perspective…he would have been slaughtered…David knew on his own he could not accomplish this task, David Knew God had more. David relied on the spirit, and that is the strength that defeated Goliath.

It is the same spirit that was in Jonathan as he boldly attacked the outpost of philistines on the top of the mountains, with just his armor bearer and one sword. With a false sense of strength, Jonathan and his armor bearer would have been decapitated by those philies! Do not look at the mountains of your life with your small vision. The fear will crush you. 

We must realize and embrace our weakness, we must rely on the holy spirit for our strength. Only then can we have the capacity to find peace in the peril. God is lovingly with us in ALL of our moments. He is holding our hand. That means that where He has you is because He loves you. The author and perfector of our faith. Where He has you is absolutely perfect. There is no darkness with God, so run boldly into the storm my friends.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

1 John 1:5God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.

                No darkness at all, despite the darkest of circumstances you are in. God is still light.

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield-for all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? Is it God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:30-32

Perfection is in the Peril! Peace! Literal and like "Peace out dude" peace. 

Shannon WinantComment