For this visit, I stayed at the Abbey, which sits high on a hill overlooking the valley below. All I could see for miles were fields, small clusters of homes, and trees that have probably lived two to three times as long as I have. In the Abbey garden, shrubs and flowers were enjoyed by many birds and the occasional rabbit or squirrel. Overall, a very tranquil place ... and a reminder of how big God is. I could only see a portion of His creation and it seemed vast – beyond my comprehension to imagine the whole of the universe. Sometimes I get stuck in my place in the world and become overwhelmed or consumed with the tyranny of the urgent and miss the big picture. But God has it all in hand – the small stuff – the big stuff – just as He had all the elements in mind when He created that beautiful valley in Mt. Angel.
A friend recently reminded me of a verse from Exodus chapter 3. First, a bit of background to the chapter: The Israelites found themselves as slaves in Egypt, under harsh masters. Remembering the roots of their nation, they began crying out to God about their situation. Beginning in verse 7, we read God’s response in a conversation he had with Moses, an Israelite who would ultimately lead the people out of Egypt:
From the vantage point of looking over the valley at the Abbey, cars and houses seemed like toys placed across the landscape. It may have been easy to observe them – to see and hear – but they actually represented individuals and families, each of whom has a personal story. Some family stories are filled with joy, some incredible pain, and many somewhere in-between. While I did not know each story, God does. Part of the way He moves and shows concern is through His calling on individuals lives to reach out and serve. Our vision/desire as a ministry is to do just that and see a message of hope extended to all the people in the vastness of the Central Willamette Valley. For those seeking some hope or answer about their struggle with homosexuality to grasp the enormity of God and His power and the personal, intimate desire He has to relate with us – His personal creation. For those feeling isolated and lost in efforts to relate with friends or family members who have embraced homosexuality to find comfort from our great God. And for churches to wrestle with the incredible potency of the Gospel, and its ability to transform lives. It has the power to extend grace to everyone, even those who find themselves in the midst of extremely difficult issues.
There’s a song by Christy Nockels called “Hosanna.” She writes of a revival occurring in the world – her heart, passion, desire, and vision for it. Part of that is encapsulated in this phrase: “Break my heart for what is Yours.” As I heard it, I thought, “That’s a scary idea … to truly have a heart open to the hurts and pains God sees – it could be overwhelming …” Because as God sees the vast Willamette Valley, He sees and knows the story of each inhabitant – He sees … He hears … and He is concerned …”
Being in a beautiful place on a retreat, it was easy to have a vision for what God can do in our region. It can be harder when I return to day-to-day life, but keeping that in focus is what can accurately shape my understanding of God’s call. I pray you too will embrace God’s call on your life and that the desire expressed in Nichols’ song will be your prayer as well: “Open up my eyes to the things unseen – show me how to love like You have loved me.” And along the way, may you join with others in the vision God has laid before them as well.
originally published July 2008