Our hike around the gorgeous, glowing rock formations of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah at sunset was breathtaking, but as evening turned into night we held on to each other in the dark finding our way with our cell phone’s flashlight down a dark path toward the North Window. We halted at the base of the staircase where we squinted and leaned in to read the sign pointing us toward a rock staircase for our final ascent to watch the night sky. "This IS the Nomad Quest!" I said. This is what we planned and dreamed about and it’s happening right now. Can you feel it?”
I’d heard it said one should live with one’s eyes always wide open so as to take note of the “moments” --- moments in which one could and should whole-heartedly say, “If this isn't good I don't know what is." We continued each deliberate step on that last hundred feet or so to the huge opening of that grand arch, then found a big boulder shaped like a nest to settle into its residual warmth, and looking up noticed immediately that the big dipper’s handle looked to be snuggled up against the apex of the arch. As we chatted about nothing and everything we noted when we found another satellite orbiting the earth. The view out the backside of the North Window framed the stars in such a rare way it seemed almost magical. The brightest moment came when I saw one shooting star in front of the North Window and another behind it. Over the course of an hour, it was remarkable how far the handle of the big dipper now appeared to be from the arch. It was the first time in our lives that we observed for ourselves the earth's rotation as we watched the big dipper move farther and farther from the arch overhead.
One of the signatures of the handwork of my favorite Artist is the use of rotations or cycles everywhere one looks throughout His creation --- from the planetary cycles to the vast number of biological cycles within our own bodies down to the cellular level. Then there’s the weather cycles, time cycles, agricultural cycles and all the additional cycles in physics, mathematics, electromagnetics and sound waves that God, by His grace, has relieved me of having to even begin to understand (Thank you, Jesus). I like the challenging question some unknown writer has tossed out, “We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?”
After visiting the arches we headed toward Salt Lake City to worship with a congregation in Kaysville, Utah where our dear friend, Kyle Goodwin had preached for a while. He has since moved away, so we instead had the blessing of hearing a very practical sermon by PJ Anderson that we very much appreciated. PJ’s lesson was from the book of Song of Solomon and was a warning against four common things that can disrupt what I call the “cycle of love”, that is found in Ephesians 5 when God through Paul instructs those within marriage to apply a principle that can make our marriage relationships flow like “clockwork” or “a well oiled machine”, one could say. The instructions are cyclical in nature, and could really be put into a flowchart beginning with “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). I know from personal experience that when a husband happily works on understanding to His wife and showing her honor and is sacrificial in his support of her spiritually, emotionally and financially, by the time he finally has a plan of some kind that is not the wife’s first choice, she is, by then, so full of gratitude for all the times he has put her preferences ahead of his own, that she essentially feels buried in “love debt”, that it feels as if what he’s asking of her is the least she can do, and nothing in comparison of how He has “crucified himself”, so to speak, day in and day out. Submission (Ephesians 5:22-24) is no strain when a godly husband has been submitting his will putting his wife’s interests ahead of his own all day every day. If you are a wife who wants to get this cycle in motion in your marriage, your Creator says in 1 Peter 3 that submission, obedience, purity, respect, and a gentle and quiet spirit are the answer. When even one marriage partner consistently uses his or her words and actions to express honor, it often motivates the other to do likewise, and thus the glorious cycle happily spins along.
PJ pointed out four common things in his lesson that can throw a monkey wrench into a relationship. Or, as the Song of Solomon puts it, if our love is like a vineyard in blossom, we must guard it from the proverbial vermin that would ruin its fruitfulness (2:15). The sly destroyers of love included in PJ’s lesson were pride, the breakdown in free flowing, unguarded, open communication, “rivals” that compete for the attention of one’s spouse (such as the overuse or misuse/sinful use of the internet), and investing too little time cultivating the things within the marriage that will make it warm and fulfilling. Such a useful lesson considering how many young families attend this well-rounded congregation.
At lunch afterward, Mark and I talked about all that we appreciated about this congregation. We loved that they worshipped both in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) and noticed the slow, thoughtful way in which they read the section of scripture related to their chosen theme of the year: “Bear one another’s burdens”. We saw this same worshipping in spirit when another brother expressed to God in prayer, ”We give you our hearts” and still another brother expressed their desire to "bring others into relationship with You". I admired their standing to show reverence as they listened to the word of God being read. They had made pretty little laminated cards with photographs that one could leave here or there around the community that had God’s plan of salvation with scriptures referenced. They also created a booklet for each family to take home containing the congregational plan for the year including what the class topics would be week by week, as well as weekly classes were being offer, what the specific reflection themes would be during the year’s Lord Suppers, and one selected Biblical virtue each week to focus on by reading, praying, journaling and considering how best to personally implement the virtue in one’s own life. The quarter’s Bible study class material was prepared, preprinted and comb bound, and they made a printed handout available for new members to help them identify and readily communicate the specific ways they would like to be involved in the work of the local congregation.
After worship I learned that at one point about 11% of the church family at Kaysville had been converted from Mormonism. This is in part, I believe, because they have been honest with themselves about what they are up against locally and have courageously taken a direct approach on their website with a tab on the front page exclusively designated for reaching out to the souls of Mormons they love. I also learned something quite encouraging about this group that takes us ‘full circle’ back to the aforementioned “cycles” God has created that make this world more beautiful. It was really another “love cycle”, this time of the brotherly kind.
I was told that years ago, a small Spanish speaking congregation nearby closed their doors for the last time and the few that remained sold that building, placed their membership at the Kaysville congregation and donated the proceeds of the sold building to the Kaysville congregation who used those funds to pay off their building and since then has chosen to support Spanish speaking congregations in Belize, Venezuela and Columbia. Some of the members at Kaysville even visit those congregations to be of personal encouragement. How beautiful this cycle of love in this, another congregation of God’s people that to the glory of God runs like a well-oiled machine!
Kaysville Church of Christ
490 South Angel Street
Kaysville, UT 84037