Wednesday, October 24, 2012

“The Hush, a Can of Beer and an Answered Prayer” by Garris Elkins

I live in an area surrounded by beautiful mountains.  This area used to be part of the old Oregon Territory that was comprised of the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and bits of Montana and Wyoming.  Before statehood, if someone was “going to Oregon”, they would have been defining a very large piece of real estate. The Oregon Territory began to fragment as newly formed states emerged in the region in the 1800’s.

To the west and south of our home are the Siskiyou Mountains.  These mountains straddle the Oregon-California border.  The pioneers called them the Boundary Mountains because they separated the Spanish Empire of Old California from the Oregon Territory.

From time-to-time I like to get out and hike in the Siskiyou Mountains.  On these hikes I am looking for what I call, “The Hush.”  The Hush is a deep pocket of forest where the sounds of civilization cannot reach.  You find these quiet places as you hike along and then all of a sudden the mufflers of silence surround your ears and you are there – in The Hush. 

When I walk into these quiet places I always stop and listen to the nothingness.  These places soften and restore those edgy parts of my life created by the noise of culture.

On one particular hike in late spring I was hiking above Applegate Lake.  The roads were still impassable by the remaining drifts of snow.  Some of these drifts were a few feet deep and getting across them took some effort. 

These drifts lingered into early summer under the shadows cast by tall trees.  Where the sun was able to penetrate the forest, its warmth would melt away the snow revealing fresh moist soil now visible after a long buried winter.

For about an hour, I had been working my way along an abandoned logging road pressing through the drifts of snow.  I had worked up a good sweat.  On these hikes, I go prepared with a backpack containing water, food and some basic survival gear.

As I rounded a bend in the road, I stopped and stood in the bright sunlight. It was almost midday.  The sun was warming the back of my shirt.  I felt really good to simply stand there.  Then I realized I was standing in “The Hush.”  As my body drew in the warmth of the sun through my sweat-laden skin, I also took in the therapeutic blessing that comes from experiencing the absence of sound.  I felt so good to be there and simply be aware of the moment I was experiencing.

I uttered one of those conversational prayers that resemble a continuing fragment of an on-going dialogue with your Maker. Out loud in a resting exhale, I said, “Lord, it sure would be nice to have a cold beer.” To some this might sound like a strange request from a pastor, but I prayed it and that is the fact.

As soon as I voiced my desire, I turned my head and looked at the snow bank ahead of me.  What happened next runs the risk of sounding made up, but you will have to trust me on this one – there in the snow bank was a single, unopened, can of beer.  I thought someone was playing a joke on me until I reached down and realized it was not a piece of litter, but a full can. All I can figure out was that someone had dropped the can last winter and there it stayed until it was uncovered in the melting snow.

As I held the can of beer in my hand, I looked up through the top of the trees and let out a huge laugh that broke the silence of The Hush. I said, “God, you are amazing.”  It was time to eat, so I sat down and pulled out my lunch and popped open the can of beer.  I have eaten in some fine dining establishments in my life, but this was one of the best. I was feeling really thankful.

I have some dear friends that would probably think the devil put the can of beer there in the snow bank to try to entice me to drunkenness.  Since that lunch, I have thought about those dear souls. If they ever bring it up, I would probably say if the devil wanted me drunk he should have left a half case of beer in the snow bank instead of that single can.

As I look back on that moment, I think the can of beer was a gift.  The God we serve is the same God Who turned the water into wine at a wedding 2,000 years ago. He is probably OK with letting one of his sons connect with a cold beer in the snow.

After lunch, I crushed the can and packed it out.  That event happened almost ten years ago and it still amazes me. As the years go by, I find myself more at ease with this Almighty God Who is revealing Himself to me as a Father Who waits in the hushed places to answer my prayers in the most unusual ways.

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