Letters to Our Dear Children #6
Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,
Our family vacation in the summer of 1973 is one of our favorite memories!
Because I had been invited that summer to speak at a Bible camp in North Dakota, we decided to use the trip to the camp as a launching pad for a visit to the fabled national parks in Alberta, Canada, and northern Wyoming. So after a week at camp, we set sail in our badly overloaded old station wagon for Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
I believe I am speaking for our whole family when I say that we were charmed out of our socks by our next fourteen days in those parks. It all began at our first stop in Canada—the fabulous Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Yes, we had already heard about the lake’s incredibly beautiful turquoise color, but to see it glistening before us in the sun with the white-peaked Rockies rising behind it was a truly grand entry-way into our vacation.
After about an hour at the lake, we drove on through the Rocky Mountains towering over us, stopping only for a short climb up onto one of the glaciers near the highway. All four of you kids enjoyed sliding down the snow-covered glacier on your backsides, and then we drove on to our first campsite. We arrived just in time to heat up our stew for dinner and then set up camp for the night.
When we woke up the next morning, there was a giant elk standing just a few yards away outside our tent. He stayed nearby for the next several days, watching us eat and carry on our usual activities. He seemed somehow curious about us. We named him Eldon Elk and kept our distance because we knew he was dangerous, taking pictures of this amazing wild creature, while he added his own special touch to our experience.
We also saw bears and marmots, mountain goats and exotic wild birds, beautiful waterfalls and many miles of delightful trails. We stayed briefly also in Banff and drove through Kootenay National Park. In 50-degree weather, we swam in the hot springs, protected by lifeguards wearing coats. Our longest stay was in Glacier National Park, where we stayed for a full week by a lake near the “Going to the Sun” road. We drove up that famous road and parked at the 6,000-foot level for one of the most memorable hikes in my memory.
I am not at all comfortable with heights. I must confess that I was terrified when we had to walk along a cliff edge holding onto a cable attached to the mountainside and overlooking a 1,000-foot drop. Greg, you flat out scared the daylights out of me because you took that walk so casually, making it look like you were going to fall to your doom at any moment. We all survived, nevertheless, and after walking across a wide glacier, we climbed at last to a spacious cabin. Here we played with semi-tame chipmunks while the attendants fed us a delicious meal of soup and home-made bread way up there on the mountain.
The next day we drove through the Grand Tetons, stopping at Jenny lake for lunch. We spent our fourteenth and last night in Yellowstone Park, taking time the next day to visit Old Faithful and to see the remarkable phenomenon of hot steam coming up through cracks in the earth in surrounding areas. As we were driving out of the park, a herd of more than 150 elk started crossing the road in front of us. Of course, we had to wait because these high-stepping animals had priority over mere automobile traffic. How appropriate that we should have been greeted by Eldon Elk at our first camp and then granted a goodbye from a whole herd of Eldons upon our departure.
So many wonderful experiences on that remarkable vacation! I believe we all share the opinion that God created the Rockies to be a lasting gallery of natural wonders, a truly magnificent revelation of God’s own majestic glory! That fit well with one of our favorite family pastimes—our singing.
While we drove down boring highways by the hour, we loved to sing hymns together. We had memorized enough hymns during family worship that we could do what we called “sing through the alphabet.” This meant that we first sang a hymn that began with the letter “a”, and then a hymn that began with the letter “b”, and so on to the end of the alphabet. We could do this without either the hymnbook or the Psalter.
So our hymn/psalm singing was a delightful way to celebrate what we were experiencing in the “Rockies Gallery.” We could see the trees clapping their hands and hear the mountains singing for joy right while we accompanied this awesome liturgy with our own joyful singing (Isaiah 55:12). We were celebrating the millennium together. Yes, I greatly appreciate my dear Christian friends who do not see this present church age as the millennium, but it is my personal conviction that this is what scripture is teaching and therefore what we should be consciously celebrating.
Mom and I thank the four of you for sharing this millennial experience with us. It is a treasure we continue to cherish into our old age. The exquisite and exciting beauty that fills the natural world is a grand display of God’s own beauty and an awesome expression of God’s amazing love for us. That natural beauty points beyond itself into the infinite beauty of God and His eternal covenant love for all of us right here and into the vast forever just over the hill.
With all our Love,
Dad and Mom Alexander
I believe that N.T. Wright is certainly right (please forgive the pun) when he states emphatically that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”1 This is what we were discovering afresh on our 1973 vacation into the Rockies. Wright goes on to insist that, “Reality as we know it is the result of a creator god bringing into being a world that is other than himself, and yet which is full of his glory.”2 What an absolutely awesome “reality” Wright is celebrating here!
I am using the word “celebrating” here because it seems to be so completely compelling that joyful celebration must characterize our lives before God. While we must sadly acknowledge that the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin brought dreadful misery into all of our lives, we must at the same moment recognize that our almighty God has promised to overcome that misery by His loving grace (Psalm 136). Christians, therefore, see this “grandeur” and “glory” of God coming to beautiful focus in God’s sending of His Son to redeem us from our sin and misery and to lift us into the beauty of eternal communion with Him. We must see this as an ongoing work of the Son’s redeeming us as a present wonder as well as a promised future blessing. This present work of our Savior is characteristic of His millennial reign over us, His privileged children. We should be celebrating now!
We are living in the midst of a miracle right now!!!
Forgive me if it seems like I am yelling at you here. I am insisting so strongly because it seems to me that this wonderful reality of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives right now is so habitually understated and under-appreciated. Surely we should see the fact that Jesus Christ is presently at work in our hearts and lives in the form of a grand miracle taking place right now! Just as the Holy Spirit was at work in the heart and life of the Apostle Peter when Peter was preaching that first Christian sermon on the Day of Pentecost, so is He working in our lives at this very moment in our personal history. This is beautiful beyond words and beyond the capacity of mere nature to adequately emphasize. As beautiful as that vacation was, it was not up to the challenge of showing us the full beauty of this reality.
But just this year I found a great document to support what I am trying to say here. I found Dr. Douglas Kelly’s Systematic Theology II, in which the beauty of God and of our Lord Jesus is frequently emphasized. The sub-title of Kelly’s book is THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST: A TRINITARIAN VISION.3 Then Kelly describes the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in these remarkable words: “It is particularly his coming down to us that accomplished the ultimate restoration of purity and beauty to humanity and the cosmos and which constitutes the great theme of this second volume of Systematic Theology.”4
Again I will ask you to forgive me if I begin to sound like a book salesman, but this volume from Kelly has already become one of the most treasured books in my library. I have now read his 30-page introduction on THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST three times and am sure I will have to come back to it yet again.
And though this letter is getting a bit long, I need to share at least one other quotation, a gem based on the words of the American spiritual giant, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). I believe you will find it worth your while not only to read it but to make it a part of your serious study and reflection:
Roland A. Delattre shows that Edwards’ understanding of beauty requires the love within the Trinity; “Tis peculiar to God that he has beauty within Himself.’ Edwards goes on to note that there needs to be a plurality of persons in God for beauty to exist, for it requires ‘consent’ (or pleasure in the other). Here his reasoning is much like that of Richard of St. Victor, who saw that for love to exist, God had to be more than one person at the same time. In Edwards’ words: ‘One alone cannot be excellent’ or beautiful ‘inasmuch as in such case there can be no consent…. Therefore, if God is excellent, there must be plurality in God; otherwise there can be no consent in Him.’”5
I want to include another quote that Dr. Kelly takes from C.S. Lewis, showing how our Lord will ultimately raise us into the “splendor” of our life with God:
Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invited me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into the splendor which she fitfully reflects.6
FINALLY: I want to close this letter with Kelly’s allusion to another C.S. Lewis suggestion that “God’s beauty consists of the inner relationships of light, life and love within the Trinity.”7 What an unspeakably wonderful prospect awaits us in our eternal communion with our Holy God.
- N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Fortress Press 1992, 97.
- Ibid., 97-98
- Douglas F. Kelly, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, Title page, Christian Focus Pub., 2014
- Ibid., 13
- Ibid., 15
- Ibid., 25
- Ibid., 30
P.S. I want to notify you now that this will be the last letter in this current series. I may take up this letter writing again at a later date, but for the present, I expect to return to an effort to write the book I started working on last year, Discovering