One More Stop in Vermont




In the midst of so many beautiful memories and places in Vermont, we went on several other adventures to take in the sunlit colonnades of various colors and types of trees. Each adventure had its own qualities to discover and delight in.


img_3526The locals encouraged us to drive up to Smuggler’s Notch a short distance north of Stowe. The geographic value of this is that it is a mountain pass that separates Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in the Green Mountains, from Spruce Peak and the Sterling Range. The elevation tops out at 2,170 feet (a height that seems small compared to the peaks and passes of the Rocky Mountains). Even so, the trip there slowly takes you along curves as it climbs and before long you find yourself in the midst of twists and turns that become switchbacks with room for only one car on the curve itself.



Heightened awareness is required as the road nearly becomes a trail and you discover cars pulled off along the side of the road. There are really no true parking spots except in one small lot that is packed with vehicles and a large school bus! Any potential place to allow the passengers to get out and hike around through the trees and rocks near the top are sought out and used along the road with precious little room for cars continuing on the img_3528road to squeeze through.



The history of the Notch is intriguing. It got its name (Smuggler’s Notch) as a result of the decision on the part of President Thomas Jefferson to prevent involvement in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1807, the Embargo Act was passed and forbid American trade with Great Britain and Canada. This caused hardship for the Vermonters who found these two countries to be convenient trading partners.


As a result, many chose to continue carrying goods and herding livestock through the Notch. Later in U.S. history, fugitive slaves used the Notch as an escape route to Canada prior to and during the U.S. Civil War. Then in 1922, the road through the Notch served img_3563another purpose when liquor was smuggled into the United States from Canada during prohibition. (Today the drive to Canada is less than two hours from the Notch so it is easy to understand why Vermonters used it to connect with their northern neighbors.) Then finally, Smuggler’s Notch State Park was created near the Notch by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.



For those who love good stories, the trip up to Smuggler’s Notch not only affords beauty, but also stirs the imagination about the way the notch was used over the course of history.


If you can find a safe place to park your vehicle to explore the area, it is well worth the time. You will also want to try the hike to Bingham Falls along the way. The trek to the falls is not for toddlers or perhaps those who have difficulty walking, but it is a fairly easy hike for others. In the fall season, the water is not as abundant and the falls are not as full of rushing water as can be seen during spring and earlier in the summer, but long before you catch a glimpse of them you can hear them rushing over the rocks.



You can easily find a variety of trails to hike with varying degrees of difficulty throughout the area. If you are unsure of trying any of them, be sure to check out the Stowe Recreational Path that runs for 12 miles and provides easy walking and great views in and around the Stowe area. You can hop on at any number of places and enjoy the beauty of the foliage, the stream that runs through and adjacent to it, footbridges, and corn mazes. There will be park benches to sit a spell and enjoy the view and in a few places picnic benches as well.





Romans 1:20 ESV


“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, ‘have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,’ in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”



October Morning in Vermont




I have no doubt that October comes everywhere and it is beautiful when it comes, but I am persuaded that when it comes in Vermont it simply explodes in full bloom splashing gold, orange, yellow, and red across the canvas of the Green Mountains. The gurgling streams serenade a response to the symphony cascading from the trees above as the sun shines down brightly from the cloudless azure skies.


img_3470During morning walks and hikes where the sunlight filters through the painted leaves, everything within me is drawn to praise the One who created all that surrounds me. Each season displays something unique and wondrous about Him, but in autumn it is such a glorious showy display. Over and over again Isaiah 55:12 resounds within me:


Isaiah 55:12 New International Version (NIV)

You will go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills

will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field

will clap their hands.



People come from everywhere for this grand display in the midst of small towns and villages scattered across the mountains of Vermont. Some gaze from the vantage point of the interstate highways that give panoramic views of mountains that look like paint pots of color. The view goes on mile after mile while your eyes eagerly race ahead to take in the vista at each turn to take and the veritable feast of beauty unfolds before your eyes.


But to get a more intimate view, you need to leave the interstate and search out the two img_3527lane roads like Vermont routes 100 and 108 that meander through the scene between walls of color made brighter by the sunlight filtering through them.



That will let you see the red barns tucked here and there in fields carved out of small lush valleys. It will let you catch sight of the beautiful tall white spires of churches dotting the landscape and it will also invite you to taste the season. As cider mills, maple syrup farms, and the wonderful Cabot white cheddar cheese stores offer their harvest for sample and sale along the country roads, you will not be able to resist a cup of hot apple cider along with a warm apple cider doughnut.




You’ll be reminded that maple syrup comes from these stunning sugar maple trees awash in their bright red leaves rather than from the bottle you pick up at your local grocery. Those who harvest the sap and boil it to create the syrup will acquaint you with the grades, colors, and uses of the sap made into such a delicious syrup. Each grade and type has a special purpose and no matter whether it is the first and best light colored liquid that goes for the highest price or the darkest amber of the last liquid drawn off and used for cooking, it is all good.


Walking along these colorful paths in Vermont will most of all take you back to the Creator because His creation declares His glory at every turn. Your heart and spirit are quieted in His presence as your feet walk along streams, follow footpaths down wooded trails, and climb the pathways to waterfalls.


Your heart is also awakened to praise that He too uses every thing, every season for His glory and our good.


No matter how dark the moment may seem, He is present in it with us and His light will lead us home.






What’s Love Got To Do With It?



In 1984 Tina Turner recorded the song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, and it soon reached the top of the music charts in the U.S. The lyrics of the pop hit linked the word ‘love’ as being only a “physical, second hand emotion” and added “who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”.


Somehow it seems for too many of us, we made the decision the lyrics were right and it was better to close off our hearts to prevent them from being broken or broken again. Long before a first opposite sex relationship, many of us had already experienced our hearts being broken when the love we hoped for never happened or was shattered by neglect or abuse. As life went along, more experiences happened that convinced some of us to build the walls around our hearts even higher.


But there was a problem.


We were designed and created by a loving God who placed within us a capacity for and a desire for love that is as essential to us as breathing.


The design was first for our relationship with Him since we were created in His likeness. It was also designed to share and experience with others. The absence of it and the accompanying emptiness was a pain we did not tolerate well, so we looked for other things to fill it or blunt the pain. Those choices ultimately led us in paths that took us into greater difficulty.


I love the words J. Kevin Butcher used to describe that in Choose and Choose Again:


In days gone by, industrial site cleanup experts tried to deal with toxic water waste by putting dangerous chemicals and materials in steel drums and burying them deep beneath the surface of the ground. That was fine until twenty or thirty years down the road when the drums began to leak and spilled the deadly waste into the ground water, poisoning everyone and everything within its reach. The same is true for our pain. We might be able to store it away or hide it in a secret place in our hearts for a while. But eventually our hearts begin to leak, and our un-grieved pain and loss spills out into our lives and relationships, poisoning everyone and everything that matters to us. And that pain continues to poison us—and the shaming voices attached to the pain continue to shout—until the wound is grieved, lamented, and released into the hands of a caring, healing God.”


 Too often we have believed the lie that God could not possibly love us when we have messed up yet again and we move away from Him rather than toward Him because we fear He may reject us. Sometimes that happens even though we know in our heads what the Word says about His love for us. Our hearts have sometimes been so closed off for so long we don’t even recognize it as the central issue.


I love what John Eldredge writes about that in Waking the Dead:


 “Without your heart you cannot hope to find God, for the heart is his dwelling place. If you ignore your heart, it’s like looking for him everywhere but home.”


 Because He is love and He resides in our hearts, love has everything to do with it!!! It is that very love we have turned aside from or never risked pursuing that is there to walk with us into the shattered places of our lives and heart to bring the healing we need. It is only when we risk doing that and turn toward Him and choose Him or choose Him again that we can begin to experience His love. And that is what equips us to be able to love others.


We need to confront the fear of God’s rejection of us when we turn toward Him. Unless we do, it will push us farther and farther away from Him.


J. Kevin Butcher describes what we need to understand about turning toward Him:


We run toward the kind of love that always comes for us because we know that kind of love is to at long last be secure enough to begin the healing process…”


 Jesus would have us set aside the superficial and too often fake love of the songs that we hear on our devices that can never satisfy us or fill our hearts to overflowing no matter how perfect they sound. His love is so much beyond our imaginations to even fathom, but He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” as the psalmist writes.


When we experience His love beyond believing it, everything changes.


“If we fall in love with Jesus, not only will nothing on this earth attract us, nothing on this earth will intimidate us.” (Ken Gire)


 What’s love got to do with it?




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Choose And Choose Again




From the beginning of time God has been reaching out in love to show us the truth about who He is. Again and again He seeks to confirm His amazing love for us, but time and again we struggle to believe it is really true. We receive messages from so many sources that can persuade us to question and doubt it is true for us. And sometimes it can be easier to believe it for someone else than for ourselves.


Those messages meant to keep us from the truth are often so powerful that we still hear them after we have first come to know Jesus as our Savior. We are saved by grace, but can quickly fall into believing and living as though now we must add performance to that in order to still be loved by the Lord. That belief can come from things we heard in our home growing up and even from some well-meaning brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.


In J. Kevin Butcher’s book, Choose and Choose Again, we hear the stories of many who struggle with believing the Lord loves them because they have not attained the standard they believe the Lord desires of them to be worthy of His love and attention. Many of the stories come from people who have discovered Hope Community Church in Detroit where the author is the lead pastor.


Hope Community is located in a tough neighborhood in Detroit that includes persons from every kind of racial, economic, and educational background. They have been drawn into this unique body of Christ out of their emptiness to pursue healing through the love of Jesus by way of a pastor and pastoral team who are vessels of that love and openly acknowledge they are still in the process of healing and embracing His love also.


The stories from this non-traditional body of believers are powerful and emotionally impactful. The author shares some of his own struggles and provokes the readers to look at whether they know the Lord’s love or have experienced it. There is a difference.


The reader is reminded of the spiritual battle that we find ourselves in the midst of, but often fail to recognize or remember:


Remember, we really do have a spiritual enemy, and he is really trying to kill us. And his main strategy is simply to convince us that we’re dirt, that we’re not enough, that we’re losers—that we’re unloved.”


 Choose and Choose Again also includes glimpses of the theological study of the author that help to adjust some of our erroneous beliefs about what scripture tells us about God’s love for us, even after we have failed Him. The parable of the Prodigal Son speaks into our hopeless view of our situations as the author’s words urge us to know our Father is waiting for us as well and has never stopped loving us.


Over and over again the book urges us to choose the Lord and His love again and again until it has produced deeper healing in our hearts and turned us away from the things we looked to for love or relief from pain that never satisfied us. The author also charges the body of Christ and our churches to account for whether or not we reflect Jesus or are only mouthing empty words.


God didn’t send Jesus to create religious clubs where it’s all about a nice worship experience or well-spoken sermons or even cultural comfort. He sent Jesus to miraculously reconcile us first to God and then to one another so that we could live in miraculously reconciled communities demonstrating to the world that miraculous, healed, restored relationships are possible in him!”


 This book will both encourage and challenge you in your walk with the Lord as you look more closely at what is active and alive in your life with Christ. It will also look honestly at what makes “good church” and how too often our churches wound or add to the wounds of those who enter its doors.


The theme that resonates page by page from Choose and Choose Again is this:

“Only love heals hate. Only love heals apathy. Only love heals the pain that divides. And there’s only one love strong enough to heal like that: the love of God in Jesus Christ.”


 To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.







“It Wasn’t Me!”




How often have we heard those words?  That answer.  Countless times. You may have been the one asking the question of one of your children, students, or teammates. Even a spouse could have said it! If you’re honest, if I’m honest, you and I have said it as well.


It’s the answer to a question about something that isn’t in the right place or something that’s missing or something that is damaged or broken. It’s the answer as well for something that has been forgotten, left undone, done in the wrong way at the wrong time.


One of my favorite recent questions where that answer was used is:


“Who put the jar of pickles in the freezer?”


Yes, it had been a crazy day when that happened, but even so, some things don’t have an explanation.


We humans have been using that answer since the Garden of Eden. When asked about a responsibility that we have been given, not done or done differently than asked, we really prefer to assign the mistake to someone or something else. It is built into our DNA after that fruit-eating afternoon in Eden.


We don’t like to admit we failed, goofed up, forgot, let someone down, or made the wrong choice about almost anything. How little we understood that it wasn’t the fruit’s fault. (Ask my children and grandchildren about the time I said, “It wasn’t the doggone plum’s fault!”)


It wasn’t really the serpent’s fault back in the Garden either. Sure, he was guilty of tempting Adam and Eve, but he didn’t make them eat that delicious looking fruit. They chose! Ever since then, we have been trying to squirm out of owning the truth that we have made the choice (or failed to make the choice) that brings that answer to our lips (“It wasn’t me!”). At the core of us, we hate our fallibility so we try to deny or hide it.


Many of the times we use that answer it is really for something small, almost insignificant, and occasionally we don’t even recall what we were asked to do or that we absentmindedly did or forgot.


It’s obvious we are not so unlike our original parents, Adam and Eve. It is also clear none of us are so much different than the original disciples. Perhaps it isn’t just about owning our mistakes, but fearing we will lose love when we let someone down or disappoint them. Our answer then is to dodge, excuse, or lie. Isn’t that what caused Adam and Eve to try to hide?


When Morpheus gives Neo a choice between the red pill and the blue pill in “The Matrix”, Neo has the choice to see how far the rabbit hole goes or to stay just as he is. He cannot really blame his choice on someone else. It is his. Morpheus makes that clear and so does the Oracle later.


God gave us the gift of choice. The gift seems to be a mixed bag for us. We love it, but we also often want to run from making a choice that might be hard. We also may run from accepting the responsibility for a choice we did or did not make.


Whatever choice we make, God honors that choice.


Our choices lead us forward day-by-day. They both shape and show our character. God wants us to choose Him, choose His love, His grace, His forgiveness, and more, but He doesn’t demand it.


Love doesn’t come to anyone when it is demanded.


He has already chosen us. Our response to that choice is our choice to make. If we don’t choose Him the first time He calls us, He will honor that choice but also try again to reach us at another time and place. He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him, but if we don’t ever choose Him then at some point that open door to Him will close.


I so often hear that it isn’t fair that God would judge those who have not accepted Him if He is so loving. The question is sometimes asked why He would allow any to perish. Such a question reflects a distortion of reality. By failing to choose the Lord and accept Him, we really judge ourselves because the standard has already been set. We will not be able to say, “It wasn’t me.”


The choice to not choose Him results in us being responsible for the judgment that then comes. We made the choice. It was us.