As If We Could See Forever

New Mexico Clouds

Dear Will:

Earlier this month, my family and I drove to Taos, New Mexico for a little vacation. Although we had read that Taos is a beautiful and interesting place, we weren’t really sure what to expect.

In a word: it was “awesome.” I mean that not in the overused, 21st century version of the word, but in its literal sense—“awesome” as in, “inspiring awe.” I had sort of imagined New Mexico to simply be an extension of Arizona—something like the stretch from Barstow to Vegas. Yuck. And some of it was, to be honest. But as we made the gradual climb to Taos (which sits around 7,000 feet above sea level) we discovered something else altogether.

We went river rafting. We wandered art galleries. We rode horses above 12,000 feet. We hiked down to where the Red River and Rio Grande gorges converge. And we ate a bunch of bizarre and interesting food (for dessert: avocado pie), including the best hamburger I have eaten in my life—bar none. All of which we loved.

But what really took my breath away was the clouds: big, billowy, painted-on-canvas beauties like I had never seen before. Set against a deep blue sky, they seemed to go on forever. We must have taken 100 pictures of them, including at least once when we simply had to stop the car to gawk. The photo above is just one of those shots that doesn’t begin to capture the grandeur we beheld.

I’ve thought about it since and I’ve come up with this theory for why the sky seemed so much bigger in New Mexico than it does here. And I think more than anything it has to do with perspective. As this picture aptly portrays, the elevation of Taos, and the flat, barren landscape to the southwest, provide an unobstructed view of the distant horizon. Add to that clear, unpolluted skies and voilà! you have a scene like the one here.

I suppose that is what God has in mind when He challenges us to rise up from our current circumstances and seek higher ground. And how do we do seek higher ground? We do it by elevating our thoughts, raising our standards, choosing to be with those who make us better and to do those things that bring us closer to God. It seems too obvious to say it, but I must: When we elevate ourselves in that fashion, we begin to appreciate the grandeur of eternity and see things as they really are—and we begin to glimpse our own divine potential.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). True enough, but when we start to emulate Him, in even the smallest degree, it’s as if we could see forever.


Not Quite Ultra Super Cool Deluxe

Dear Will:

Some time before the Christmas holiday Costco started selling this K’NEX contraption called the “Hornet Swarm Dueling Coaster.” Now if you’re unfamiliar with K’NEX, they’re sort of like the Tinker Toys I had as a kid only updated significantly for the 21st century. But you don’t even have to know about Tinker Toys to understand some simple calculations: The Hornet Swarm Dueling Coaster comes with 1,116 separate pieces and requires 104 steps to assemble. Once completed the HSDC stands 3 ½ feet tall.

As a rational adult, you could look at those numbers and come to the clear-headed conclusion that what your eleven-year-old really needs for Christmas is a good book to read. Unfortunately, I did not marry such a person. In fact, the Other Santa in our house thought that what our family wouldn’t be complete without a Dueling Coaster of its own. (“Motor! Sound! 4 cars!”)

What I’m trying to say is that last week Seth and I finally finished assembling the Hornet Swarm. It wasn’t even somewhat kind of slightly easy. (“For ages 9 and up”? I don’t think so.) But we “got ‘er done,” as they say. And even though it does indeed stand nearly four feet tall and now occupies a prominent position in our still-unfurnished dining room, I have to admit: It’s pretty cool.

But still. We fired that sucker up a few times and enjoyed it, but since then if there isn’t some new audience to dazzle with it, it sits unused. Or did. Until yesterday.

You see, yesterday someone’s dad decided that it would be a good idea to reengineer the Hornet Swarm. You know what’s cooler than a Dueling Coaster, don’t you? A Single Coaster with Dueling Tracks, of course! And someone’s dad decided that he could easily enough cross the tracks and thus transform the Hornet Swarm from pretty cool to ultra super cool deluxe.

It seemed so simple. It took a little ingenuity inasmuch as the new design required a few pieces that were not included with the original 1,116. But hey, the box did say “Imagine • Build • Play,” didn’t it? When faced with such a challenge, you find a way is what you do. Because “our” idea was even better than the original.

The trouble was that although we got the tracks to go in the right places, and we only broke one piece in so doing, for some reason the chain that pulls the cars to the top of the coaster was no longer pulling. All we got was a click-click-click that told us the chain was stuck and the motor was straining to pull it along. Pieces started detaching themselves, leaving our enterprising engineers with only one thought: “She’s gonna blow!”

Nuts. It really did seem like a good idea. But ultimately someone’s dad had to admit that there was probably a good reason why the good folks at K’NEX didn’t draw up the HSDC his way. Maybe, he had to admit, the people who designed the thing really knew what they were doing all along.

And so, the lesson: The tragic tale of the Hornet Swarm Single Coaster with Dueling Tracks reminds us that the best way to stay on track is to stick with the plan—or should I say, the Plan—set out by the Master Builder responsible for the design itself. It is, after all, with good reason that God encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Or as the prophet Isaiah once taught: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

To which I might add: As you face the dips and turns and loop-the-loops of life, may you always put your trust in the Master Builder. And when you think you have a better idea, think again.