by Wynne Gillis | May 23, 2023
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Jeremiah 29:11-14 The Message
I still remember my last final exam.
Understand: I dreaded finals so much that for many years after college I’d have this nightmare that I was about to take one and for some reason hadn’t attended the class. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, cursing myself. So you’d think I’d have been overjoyed to finish that final.
But when I handed in the last blue book and walked out of the last classroom, I felt a surprising wave of sorrow.
Then I walked into my dorm to find an underclassman moving her things out for the summer. “Good-bye,” she said, hesitant and suddenly awkward, “have a nice life.”
The wave rolled over me again, hard, leaving me staggering and breathless. The tectonic plates beneath my life were shifting; I hadn’t realized it before. I would never be a kid, a student again. That part of my life was over for good. And the future? Only the vaguest idea.
Now it’s happened again.
Our youngest grandson just graduated from high school. Yes, we still have a granddaughter in school, but she’s in Boise and in seventh grade—many long miles away and many years to graduation. We are done with the local school experience. No more shivering through fall soccer games. No more basketball tournaments. No more concerts, plays, grandparents’ days.
The last local bird has fledged. Like all fledglings, he will hang around the nest for a while. But his life has changed dramatically and so will ours.
Like that day long ago, I feel sad, excited, and a little scared. What does the future hold for us all? I don’t know any more than I did back then.
But I do know Who holds that future: the same One Who held my past. The One Who saw me safely through all the trials and struggles that came later, Who gave me a life far better than I could imagine.
I lost my last grandparent when I was younger than this grandson. They didn’t live to see my life unfold; I won’t live to see his.
But we all follow the same God Who has made us these wonderful promises…and He doesn’t change or lie. That we can count on.
FATHER GOD: Thank You for Your precious promise of hope and a future. Help us rely on that, no matter what. Amen.
To be published In “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” May 28, 2023.
by Wynne Gillis | Mar 29, 2023
(Jesus said) “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.” John 11:25,26 The Message
My heart is heavy this morning. The darkness and sorrow of Holy Week has come early this year. There are never the right words to explain the slaughter of innocents, like the victims of the shooting in Nashville. There aren’t now… except that we have an enemy whose job is to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) and he just did it again. But, thank God, there’s more to the story.
There was for Lazarus.
You remember (John 11:1-44.) It was reported to Jesus that His dear friend Lazarus was seriously ill. Instead of rushing to the bedside and healing him, He waited inexplicably until Lazarus had died and was buried four days. Max Lucado, in his book “In the Footsteps of the Savior,” reveals something I’ve never seen before. When Lazarus’ sister Martha came out to meet Jesus, she was angry.
“She’d hoped Jesus would show up to heal Lazarus. He didn’t. Then she’d hoped he’d show up to bury Lazarus. He didn’t. By the time he made it to Bethany, Lazarus was four-days buried, and Martha was wondering what kind of friend Jesus was.
’Lord, if you had been here,’ she confronts, ‘my brother would not have died.’
There is hurt in those words. Hurt and disappointment. The one man who could have made a difference didn’t, and Martha wants to know why.”
You wonder if it’s okay to question, even be mad at God? Here’s your answer.
Notice Jesus’ response. He did not explain His absence or defend it. He was “troubled in spirit” (vs. 33) even “deeply angry” (The Message)—not at the sisters, but at the evil forces who brought such suffering to people He loved. His heart of compassion felt their sorrow. How do we know? Because He wept. (vs. 35)
As He weeps with us today. We have a God Who grieves for us and with us.
Even more amazing: we have a God Who does something about our grief. Lazarus walks out of his grave. Resurrected. Jesus’ triumphant promise to Martha was enacted before her eyes. As He was about to do for all of them, for all of us, for all believers to the “end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Let’s walk together into Holy Week and allow that sight, that blessed hope to lift our hearts and renew our faith.
LORD JESUS: You are the Resurrection, the Life that conquers death forever. Help us to know and believe that. Amen.
To be published “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” Sunday April 2, 2023.
by Wynne Gillis | Feb 6, 2023
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us.”) Matthew 1:23 NIV
I write on the third week of Advent. By the time you read this, we will be in the fourth. Christmas is ever so close…and I have never been so unprepared! It’s enough to make a (barely reformed) control freak feel the rise of her old enemy: panic.
The to-do lists whirled around my head like autumn leaves in a windstorm as I wondered: what was I thinking when I scheduled two back-to-back trips at the beginning of the Advent season? How in the world can I get everything done and what will happen if I don’t? Then I heard the hiss of the Old Snake:
“Where is your so-called faith, your joy in the Lord? Fine one you are to be writing about believing in God! Why don’t you just give up?”
Until I remembered: No one at the first Christmas was prepared, either. Every woman knows If Mary realized she was about to deliver the Baby in a cold, dirty stable far from home and help, she would never have made that fateful trip to Bethlehem, census or not. Yet they went ahead…and wonders happened.
God had His own ideas. He wanted Mary and Joseph to learn trust, to know they could rely on Him when all human plans went awry. He wanted them to know loved them and He was with them.
As He is with me. And you. The less prepared we are, the more we can open our eyes and see what He is doing, the difference His faithfulness makes. We go ahead and wonders happen.
When I quit worrying I could see His hand, over and over: from friends and family to complete strangers who stepped forward to do what we needed just when we needed it. We went ahead and wonders happened.
They still are happening.
So if you feel as unprepared and unready as I did, don’t panic. The end of our rope is where God does His best (and most obvious) work. Go ahead and watch wonders happen.
God—the creator and sustainer of the far-flung universe—has come to our obscure planet sharing life with us, helping us. That’s His Christmas gift, given for now and all eternity.
My prayer can only echo Max Lucado’s:
“Gracious Father, the wonder of the good news of Jesus’ coming as a baby never grows old. And it never will throughout eternity. You were the God of the impossible then and now. May your word be powerful with in me, giving me strength to believe great things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” December 18, 2022.
by Wynne Gillis | Feb 6, 2023
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever. Psalms 136:1 RSV
This month’s PBS schedule features a show honoring the 50th anniversary of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.”
That song! How the memories flood in…
In the winter of 1973, we were living in western Pennsylvania. My husband had finished his graduate degree at University of Montana but there were no jobs here. So there we sat in the fogs and the wind of Lake Erie while I ached for the country we’d left behind.
I first heard the song on a TV special, playing in the background while Denver rode a horse on a highcountry trail, cloud shadows moving across the mountains behind him.
“He was born in the summer of his 27th year,” he sang. “Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before…”
I thought, ‘He gets it!’
Me–I was 22. We were on our honeymoon, driving across the plains of eastern Wyoming when everything west of the Mississippi was two-lane road. We topped a little rise and there, filling the horizon with their snow-topped majesty, were the Big Horn Mountains. I got out of the car and jumped up and down on the roadside, yelling, “Look at that! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in all your life?”
I know I never had. By 1973, there was no rest in my bones until I got back to the mountains I’d fallen in love with.
That song caught my feelings, my longing so well that it became my anthem, my validation, my song of exile. I remember hearing it on the radio while I was driving and having to pull over because I was crying too hard to see.
Small wonder, then, that we moved back here a short five years later and have lived here ever since.
Like Denver, (we) “left yesterday behind (us)…” Moving here, we changed our lives, our future, the whole trajectory of our family. We’d both come from east-coast families with old roots that go back to the first settlements of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. But that was over. Our sons grew up here, married Montana girls, raised and are raising their own children here. And we have “found the key to every door.”
Was it easy, or quick? Oh my, no. The struggle to remain and thrive is one we share with everyone who comes to this country. But was it worth the effort, the tears, the sleepless nights? Oh my, yes.
In His mercy, God granted my dream. And when I hear that song, I remember.
FATHER GOD: You were—and are–indeed, good to me. I’m so grateful. Amen.
First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” February 5, 2023.
by Wynne Gillis | Oct 27, 2022
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. Psalms 31:15 NIV
Everyone who’s been to the Park has their share of “foolish tourist stories.”
One of my favorites wasn’t in Yellowstone but in Glacier 60 years ago. Two irritating preteen boys in our campground were busy amusing themselves by throwing an axe at every tree within range. Fortunately, their strength was as weak as their father’s discipline; the trees survived without serious damage. Then they found a new game. At the end of our campground loop was one of those old culvert-style bear traps, baited with a big piece of meat at the far end. The boys began throwing rocks at the bait, leaning into the trap waist-deep in their fruitless attempts to hit it–apparently unaware they could have triggered a door capable of containing hundreds of pounds of angry bear–or slicing up a foolish boy in one blow.
I got a new perspective recently, though, when I read “Yellowstone Ranger” by Jerry Mernin, a man who was in the thick of things during those bear-fraught summers of the 60’s and 70’s.
Mernin recounted following a 600-pound grizzly one night until it came within 10 yards of a wall tent while its occupants were sitting inside, playing cards. There was a chihuahua-sized dog tied outside, yapping and yapping, until the bear finally had enough, walked up and stood nose to nose with the now-terrified (and quiet!) dog. Then, for reasons known only to the bear, it simply walked away. Mernin heard the people inside the tent attribute the silence to the toughness of the dog–while he was praying no one would stick their head out and discover what really happened.
And I, who’ve spent many a night in the mountains in a tent, found myself wondering how many times a bear had walked by our camp while we slept on, unaware. Or why that culvert trap was in our campground in the first place. I realized it wasn’t routine, as I had always assumed–not baited and ready, like that. There must have been a bear in camp…
And yes–more than one foolish tourist in the picture.
We escaped damage, injury and even death all those years by the mercy of God and the wild creatures, not by our own expertise or cleverness. In this season of thankfulness, I’m moved to thank God for all the disasters that didn’t happen—the few we knew about, the many more we didn’t.
I recognize anew that our times are, indeed, in His hands. What can I do but trust and thank Him for His loving protection?
First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” October 23, 2022.