Our family was able to escape to the Black Hills for a little getaway in July. Instead of the normal sights and busy tourist traps, we decided to pull a couple ATVs out with us and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We rode through bumpy terrain, trees, and cliffs for two full days. Each of the 200 plus miles ridden was spectacular, but there was one area of trail that left my stomach in knots. The trail itself was not steep, bumpy, or on the side of a cliff. In fact, it was quite the opposite; a nice, gentle, flat, gravel path through the bottom of a canyon. What created the uneasy feeling in my gut were the devastating effects of a tornado that had ripped through the forest about 10 days prior to our adventure. The evergreen canopy which had once dressed the top of the steep canyon walls was now laying on the floor of the canyon. In addition to the splintered trunks left at the top of the walls, thousands of dainty birch trees on the lower slopes were bent on their sides doing everything in their strength to reach for the sun once again.
We wound our way through the shattered canyon and selected a path to take us to an active fire lookout station. The view from the top of the peak is breathtaking and you can see four states in the distance as you scan the terrain. As I was taking in the view I heard a woman’s voice from the fire tower above me ask if I knew what I was looking at. After a short conversation about different landmarks miles away, the forest ranger and I started talking about the tornado that created so much destruction along the trails. She had been at the tower all day observing the storm, but once the wind picked up and there were lightning strikes all around, she headed down the mountain to seek shelter. Thinking about what that must be like up there, higher than the mountain itself, in a small shack built in 1941, I can’t say I blame her!
In the days following the storm, her job from the tower was not only to watch for fire in the distance, she was also the emergency crews “eye in the sky.” She said it was critical for someone to be up there on the peak watching for approaching storms as the crews worked “heads down” in the canyon. Because of the tall canyon walls, one working with their head down (or up for that matter!) would not know what weather was approaching until it was directly overhead, making her job essential for their safety in the event of a severe storm.
Just a few days after the tornado there was another storm and without her in the tower, crews would have been left in great danger. As rain and lightning moved in she reported to crews, “Lightning approaching 8 miles from my location.” As she prepared to move down the mountain to safety, she made the call. “Heads up. Heads up. Move out and seek shelter immediately. Strong thunderstorm approaching 2 miles from my location.” was sent over the radio waves, giving crews ample time to move out of harm’s way.
I found our conversation fascinating and could have listened to her all day, but there were miles of trails to explore. In the days following our trip, I’ve thought about what she shared with me and it has reminded me of the active role the Holy Spirit has in my life. All too often I meander through this life with my head down participating in the things of this world and unaware of what is coming at me, yet the Holy Spirit will send me a warning message, much like the sweet woman at the tower, saying, “Heads up! Pay attention to what Jesus is doing!”
The last several weeks we have been exploring the Holy Spirit with Mike during our Sunday morning worship. As I have done some of my own studying I was reminded in John 16 of Jesus teaching of the Holy Spirit with His disciples. Jesus pointed out to them that after his death they were scared, lost, and “filled with grief.” (vs. 6) Then he shared He would be leaving again, but this time He would send a helper to them. I suppose I was like that in the past. As a child I had grown to know who Jesus was, but when faced with realities of this life, I was scared and full of fear because I felt lost and didn’t have a relationship with Him. Then, one day, I caught a glimpse of Him at work in my life and decided to trust all those words I had heard long ago. Now I live with Him in my heart and His Spirit guiding my steps just as He promised. “13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; he will speak only what He hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
May it be so of each of us as we walk through this journey, with our heads raised, that we may trust the Spirit’s leading each and every moment of our life, sharing His Kingdom with all we encounter along our trail.