FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: As many of you know, Marilyn and I spent a week in the Smoky Mountains at the end of August and upon our return I was asked the same question over and over again by some of you. And that question was, “How was your vacation?” My standard response was, “It was great!” And for the most part it was. However, we did have one major hiccup that I haven’t told many people about, so I thought I would do that in this newsletter article.
We arrived at our cabin late on a Sunday evening and planned to hike every day we were there. On Monday we hiked just over 8 miles and on Tuesday we did a shorter but very difficult hike that was just over 6 ½ miles. Then on Wednesday our goal was to go to an area of the Smokies called Cades Cove, which is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places we have ever been. There’s an 11-mile loop road that goes through this area that once served as the dwelling place for a number of families. Some of the original homes and churches along with their cemeteries are still there. Visitors can travel the loop road in their vehicle or they can rent a bicycle or they can walk it. Marilyn and I have done all three at different times over the years, and this time we planned to walk it. On Wednesdays they forbid all vehicular traffic on the road until 10 o’clock to make it easier for bikers and walkers.
So we got up way before sunrise, ate our traditional vacation breakfast of Krispy Kreme donuts, and began the nearly hour-long drive to Cades Cove. We took a road that seemed like it had an endless number of twists and turns and ups and downs. And with it being pitch dark, it was not easy driving to say the least. Well, as I was driving (and I’ve never had this happen before when I was driving), I noticed my stomach getting a little queasy. Now some of you are probably thinking that it was due to the 2 Krispy Kreme donuts I’d had before we left, but I knew exactly what it was because I’ve experienced it so many times before. It was motion sickness. I used to get that a lot when I was a little boy and I’ve never outgrown it. I’ve gotten it on rides at amusement parks. I’ve gotten it twice while deep-sea fishing. I’ve gotten it when riding in the back seat of a car on real curvy roads. Over the years I’ve learned my limitations, which is one reason why I’m sure I’ll never go on a cruise. Let’s just say it doesn’t take much to have those overwhelming feelings of nausea attack me. But like I said, it’s never happened when I was in the driver’s seat. But it happened that morning on the way to Cades Cove. And when we finally got off that twisty-turny road, I pulled off at a gas station and told Marilyn what was going on. So we sat there for a while, hoping the waves of nausea would pass, but they didn’t. So finally we decided to abort our hike that day and head back to our cabin. I laid back in my seat while Marilyn drove, even though she’d never driven on roads like that before. And bless her heart, she tried to make it as smooth a ride as possible for me, but finally my stomach decided it had had enough. Thankfully we had a plastic bag in the car because I needed it five times before we made it back to our cabin. Later in the day we had tickets to see a magic show in Pigeon Forge and though we made it into town, we had to turn around with me now lying in the back seat feeling worse than ever. And when we got back to our cabin…well, let’s just say that I added a couple more times to what I had done earlier that morning.
Now most of you know me pretty well, so you know that I’m always looking for some spiritual lesson in things that happen to me. And it wasn’t difficult to find it here. First of all, let’s talk about the road we were traveling with its twists and turns, its ups and downs. How often don’t our lives resemble that road? Things can be sailing along smoothly for us one day, only to have the bottom fall out of our lives the next day. This happened to a family from St. Peter recently. I did their mother’s funeral 20 years ago while serving the vacancy there. During that time I became very close to her husband who had a very difficult time adjusting to his wife’s death. Well, he had attended the Prairie Days Picnic in St. Peter that day. When he got home, he parked his car in his garage and walked out into the yard to look at his zucchini plants and just like that he fell over and died. His daughter found him the next morning still out in the yard. And I found myself doing his funeral a few days later while their pastor was on vacation.
The twists and turns of life can come in so many different forms, not just with the unexpected loss of a loved one, but the loss of a job, a potentially life threatening illness, family problems, etc. They can leave us feeling absolutely helpless, just like I felt when my motion sickness overtook me. And they can also leave us feeling in desperate need of a rescuer – one who can get us to a safe place. In my case that rescuer was my dear, sweet, precious wife. Were it not for her, I don’t know how I would have ever made it back to our cabin where I could just lie down and get over the nausea that was taking its toll on me. And were it not for another dear, sweet, precious Rescuer by the name of Jesus there would be no way that we could ever navigate our way through our difficult times. There would be no way that we could ever be rescued from all the heartaches and hurts, all the pains and pitfalls that are so much a part of living in this broken, sin-cursed world.
One thing I had forgotten about Marilyn was the trouble she has when someone has to do what I had to do in the car on the way back to our cabin that morning. So she had to hold herself together. She had to keep herself under control lest she do the same thing and render herself incapable of helping me. And bless her heart, that’s exactly what she did.
In a very similar way, the rescue that Jesus had planned for us since the beginning of time would not come easily for him. There would be many who would oppose him, some who would mock him, others who would curse him, in spite of the fact that He had come to be their Rescuer, as well as the Rescuer of all mankind. There would be those who would secretly plot his death and who would bring that plan to fulfillment on a dark Friday nearly 2000 years ago, the day that we call Good Friday. And when the sun rose just a few days later, it revealed a rolled away gravestone, an empty tomb, grave clothes that were no longer needed, and ultimately our heaven-sent Rescuer who defeated our greatest enemies: sin, Satan, death, and hell. And because of that completed rescue mission, we who believe and trust in Him as our one and only Savior from sin, our one and only hope of salvation, can look forward to the day when He will take us to the safest place of all, a place where there will be no more sorrow, no more sickness (including motion sickness J), no more pain, and no more death. And for that, we will forever sing His praises and rejoice in His glorious and awesome presence forever and ever!
I once was sick, but now I’m well,