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Hope on the Ski Trail: Tuning in to God's Presence

It was February 1998, the first time I rode the ski lift to the summit of Bretton Woods and saw the mountain, Mt. Washington, 6,288 feet tall, the tallest in the eastern United States. As I skied down the Sawyer's Swoop trail, I was enraptured by the fantasy that my trail would lead me down one mountain and up that venerable peak.

That was twenty years ago. On January 18, 2018 the opportunity to repeat that moment emerged. I sat on the lift and rose over 1,200 feet in altitude over snow covered trails with the hope that the mountain would once again be there. When I turned to the left off the lift, just as I had done twenty years before, I looked out to the horizon. But there was no mountain. Rather a cloud had descended over the peak and it was invisible to see. It was deflating but the mountain trail was there, so down the trail I skied. At the bottom I heard two other skiers conversing. The sun is expected to come out; the clouds will lift and the mountain, the objective of my journey, will appear soon.

I took the lift up a second time, this time with less anticipation and more attention given to the trail itself. It was bordered by a collage of silver and green. The leaf-less hardwood trees were coated in a sparkling icy glaze on which two inches of snow had fallen the night before. Immersed between them at a ratio of about ten to one were tall evergreen trees, covered with some snow but maintaining their color. It was a picture of a Kincade painted winter scene.

I thought to myself "What an artistic masterpiece I am experiencing. Our God was not simply a creator of the laws of the universe. He saw to it that these laws could lead to the beauty which I was privileged to see".

Soon after I reached the top, I turned to my left and, once again, there was no mountain. It didn't seem to matter so much this time. Down the trail I went and about halfway down, in the corner of my eye, I saw a line of about seven children, skiing to my left, following their adult leader down the trail in a sweeping "S" like motion. I stopped to observe them. So young and such good skiers I thought to myself.

After they passed by I looked up and there I saw it. It was not the cloud-covered mountain on my right, which I had been hoping to see. Rather it was on my left. A much smaller edifice, nearly perfectly egg shaped. Since it was perhaps half the elevation of Mt. Washington, its foliage covered the entire mountain and, upon close observation, it was the same silver and green collage I had seen on my voyage up the lift a few minutes before.

Suddenly the passage from Psalms chapter 121: 1-2 came to mind "I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth".

It became clear. We see God's presence not necessarily in the grandeur of the tall mountain but in the beauty of the small hill. To see it, I had to have someone, in this case the line of children, draw my attention away from the expectation of the magnificent to the humbleness of God's simple beauty in the silver and green foliage. So this is truly what hope is ... tuning into God's presence. A peace came across my mind as down the trail I skied, singing the Andy Williams song "Born free, as free as the wind blows; as free as the grass grows; born free to follow your heart. Live free and beauty surrounds you; the world still astounds you; each time you look at a star."

Yes, there were several more trips up that lift and several times I turned to only see the cloud covered mountain. The sun never came out that day but the last time, when I skied that trail, as the sky was darkening, I was singing a different song in my mind and my heart. It was "Praise him, praise the Lord our God. Listen to him, his message is filled with truth; follow him in everything we say and do."

So where do we find God? Is it on the mountain, the hill or along the ski trail? I learned today it is in humble artistry of God's creation that He is most evident. And it is there that we truly find Hope.

I Want to be Empowered as a Youth Leader

More resources for Christian Youth Workers and thoughts about the New Year can be found at: New Years Resolutions and Hope for 2018

> The Mountain? The Hill? The Ski Trail? Where are you God?