The Best (Or One of the Best) National Parks

Scan 10 2.jpeg           One thing we always had around our house when I was growing up was books. Even when we lived in a tiny four-room apartment above the church (Sunday school rooms on Sunday) we had a room full of books. Most of them were theology books which didn’t much interest (didn’t interest at all) a seven-year-old. But my parents had one book that fascinated me – a book on National Parks.

I knew about National Parks. We had gone to Acadia on our summer vacation, but this book had so many parks and a lot of them looked spectacular: the alligators in the Everglades, Old Faithful at Yellowstone, the mountains at Glacier, the huge trees at Sequoia. But the park that intrigued me the most was White Sands. I loved looking at those mounds of glittery white that looked like snow and I couldn’t imagine what it would look like in real life.

Well, we moved to the Midwest and suddenly we were taking a lot of trips “out west.” We went to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. We saw the redwoods and even stayed at Glacier for a week so dad could go fishing. We almost died when the tour boat crashed on Crater Lake and looked for wildlife as we drove up the roads of Rocky Mountain National Park. One year, coming back from California, we saw the Grand Canyon.

I loved all of it, but I wanted to see White Sands.

We just never got there.

Ken and I got married. We liked to travel. We took our kids to Glacier and Rocky Mountain and Sequoia. We even were able to travel to Lake Louise in Banff, a place my dad always wanted to take my mom (whose name was Louise).  We went to the South and North Dakota Badlands and the Grand Canyon. Ken, who hadn’t traveled that much as a kid, liked taking me places I hadn’t gone to with my parents. So we went to Zion and Arches and Bryce Canyon.

Just not White Sands.

By this time our kids were grown and we had put thousands and thousands of miles on our cars – everywhere from Florida to Maine, from California to Washington.

“Next year,” Ken promised, “Next year let’s go to White Sands.”

So the next year we headed south. We drove through Oklahoma and Texas and finally made it to New Mexico. I could see why we never got there. The park is not exactly right off the highway. We drove and drove.

Scan 2And finally reached the signs for White Sands National Park.

Hmmm … what do you think my reaction was?

A massive letdown?

An “is this all there is?”

Or, “I guess I wasn’t missing anything.”

Actually no. I loved it even more than I thought I would. I could’ve stayed there for hours wandering around. Not that many people were visiting that fall day and we had some spots all to ourselves. I had dreamed about visiting for so long, I felt as if I were in that dream. This was better than I could’ve imagined. I stepped into the landscape I saw in my parent’s book as a seven-year-old.Scan 8 3.jpegScan 8 2.jpeg

Kind of reminds me of God’s promises. We know they’re good. We know what the Bible says about them. We want to depend on them. We have high expectations of what they are.

At least that’s true intellectually. But unfortunately, spiritually and emotionally, we don’t think much about them. We can spout off the verses, (we know them well). Intellectually we know that they’re true, but sometimes spiritually and emotionally, we don’t think much about them or we don’t think about how majestically awesome they are. We take them for granted or get a picture of them in our mind and never waver from that picture.

God promises us grace: Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

God promises us love: I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

God promises strength: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

God promises peace: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

God promises an eternity in heaven:  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

White Sands had been on my mental radar for a long time.  I spent more than forty years imagining the beauty of mounds and mounds of white sand.. The picture in that book was a promise of a beautiful experience. I could’ve looked at those pictures year after year, but truly I wanted to see the real thing. I wanted to see what it really looked like. I wanted to see the sparkling white terrain. I wanted to experience what it would be like to climb those mounds of white sand. I imagined it to be the best of the best.

And it was even better.

We know about God’s promises. We want to be part of them. Yet so often we simply read the words and rattle them off (we’re good at that), and we don’t pay attention to what they’re truly saying. We don’t take them to heart and rest in what God is saying to us.

Truthfully, the promise of White Sands that I saw in those pictures has no comparison to God’s promises (though God did create a beautiful place).

My challenge to you (and to me) is to take God’s promises personally.  To think about what God is really saying.  Instead of taking them for granted, we need to explore the grandeur of what they really are.

We need to take them to heart.

And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1:4)

He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:29-31)

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Believe in God’s promises.
Those pictures in the book of National Parks held promise of something beautiful. In actuality, they showed something better than I could imagine.
God’s promises are like that – better than we ever could imagine.
Rest in those promises.
Rejoice in those promises.
Trust in those promises.
And the next time you’re in New Mexico. stop at White Sands.

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