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Out Our Way: Sometimes you just have to look – Phil. 4:4-7


October 18, 2019

Out our way, the scenery can be incredible. I have mentioned the pity I feel for folks who don't see it even when it's all around them. Many of us recall that ridiculous tourism slogan Helena tried a few years ago: "There's Nothing Here," It was meant to make people aware that the "nothing" of the Big Open is the everything of the region. But like so many tourists zooming down the highway intent on getting to the other side of the Divide where the tourists and non-Montanans out number the native Montanans, they actually believe there is "nothing" here. 

Granted, no Starbucks, huge shopping malls, large cities and rich folk mansions; just farms, ranches, small town, and miles of the Big Open. Charlie helped open my eyes to the reality of the "nothing" being filed with everything. In the article written about Charlie in the Havre paper as we celebrate his being inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in February, I recall that Charlie made a point of herding cows from horseback instead of a quad - those four-wheel scooters many ranchers have come to use. Aside from the fact they can't go some places a cow and thus a horse can go, they are also noisy, smelly, and not always dependable.

For Charlie, riding fence, checking cattle and doing roundups meant horses and so that is how we did it. And that is how he opened my eyes to the Big Open where I might have only seen the "big nothing" the tourists too often see. You can't smell the sage from a car on the highway, and you probably can't hear the meadowlarks from a loud and noisy quad. But you can do both from a good horse. It is slower going, but you also get a feel for the land and all of nature surrounding you. You have the chance to become part of the Big Open instead of just passing through.

Down on the main trails and in the arroyos, it is easy to feel closed in and cut off. Working cattle, especially if you ride drag, can be dull and often dusty work. Watching for those lunkhead heifers and young steers that decide to bolt and make you chase them through the thorns and over rocky ground and up steep ridges where even the most surefooted horse can lose its balance and roll on you can be pretty intense and frustrating work. Maybe that is why, from time to time, Charlie would call me to come on up to the top of the ridge and just sit and look. The breeze, the smells, the sounds, and maybe above all, the sights open you up to the Big Open. It refreshes the soul - gives you perspective - and encourages you to go back down and continue the drive.

Consider the Apostle Paul, a man who traveled much of his life once he became an apostle. He had no "home" to speak of, and yet when he looked around, he found he was always home. He certainly knew discouragement. Not only did he face great hardships traveling throughout much of the Roman world, but he also faced persecution, arrests, beatings, and attempts on his life from his fellow Jews as well as pagans. And, perhaps worst of all, he had to deal with fellow believers in the Church who quickly sought power rather than service and twisted the Gospel to their own uses. Petty feuds threatened to split the fledgling Church - Read both books of Corinthians. Yet even in chains preparing for his death by the Romans, Paul writes with joy, for he was still surrounded by the Kingdom of God. He had learned to "stop and look" and come to know even when he felt most alone and empty, Christ was there.

That is easier said than done, for I have often felt that emptiness and despair, and wondered where was Christ. But bit by bit, it seems I get to "ridin' up the ridge" to get a bigger view and start to see that in the midst of what some call "nothing" can be found "everything." 

Read Paul's words of faith and comfort in his letter to the Church in Philippi in eastern Macedonia. Though by this time Paul was in chains, he writes with joy and confidence. He is well aware that his enemies, both Jew and Gentile seek his death, as Nero succeeded in doing in 64 AD; he knows that the Church is in constant turmoil as false leaders and factions sprung up threatening to undo his labors for Christ as they strive to use the Name of Christ for their own purposes rather than the Kingdom's.

Yet, in the midst of all this, read Paul's words of assurance. "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"

Paul, even in chains, continued to serve the Lord through his letters - and what is clear is that he saw beyond the gloom that surrounded him. The "tourist" on the highway and the "tourist" in the Church may conclude "there is nothing there," for they have not really paid much attention to what is all around them. Sometimes, you just have to look.


Brother John Bruington


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