“Lord, In Your Mercy…” | Blog #20

“Lord, In Your Mercy…” | Blog #20

Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!

A cacophony of birds woke me just before 5:00am this morning. My room at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center overlooks Lake Tahoe. When I got in last night after picking up my friends Rod Stone and Bill Hoyle at the Reno airport, the room was warm and stuffy so I slept with the windows open and the blinds up. It’s daybreak as I look out the window, lights off in the room, watching the pale-yellow creep over the mountains on the calm, clear water of the lake. Lots of birds join to greet the dawn shattering the peace, but also making me grateful to be alive and awake to see the wind driving ripples across the water towards me. Thank you, Lord, for such beauty. Nearly every new moment as the sun illumines more new sights come into view, like seeing the snow on the top of the mountain across the lake.

There is still snow here. Last week my friend Dave Norton sent me a photo of the six inches that fell. It’s gone from the lower elevations, but still is significant enough on the mountain tops that some ski resorts are still running. A couple I met after church yesterday were quick to say that they couldn’t stay for the fellowship hour as the slopes were calling. Squaw Valley (Palisades Tahoe since ‘21), the sight of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is just around the south point of the lake to the west on the California side. A jewel in the Sierra Nevada range, it is the largest skiing center in the region topping out at 9,010 feet and avg. 400 inches of snowfall a year. It’s where the 10th Mountain Division trained in the beginning of WWII and was developed by members of that famed unit after the war, opening in ’49. 

Being in church yesterday was a blessing. The Rev. Jeanie Shaw was a senior my first year at Princeton, but everyone on campus knew her, because of her ebullient and effervescent personality. I can clearly remember her rappelling down the face of Hodge Hall one day during finals, equipped with mountain climbing gear. We hadn’t seen each other since seminary until after the 2010 flood, when she brought a group from her church in Sacramento to do Presbyterian Disaster Assistance work at Westminster. So, knowing I was going to stay the night in the little mountain town of Truckee, I was looking forward to worshipping with her at Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church.

The church is small and nestled into a forest of soaring pine trees. On Pentecost it will celebrate it’s 30th anniversary. Like many churches, it is small; there were maybe 30 congregants with only a few who were younger than me. Still, it was worship. A good sermon (on John 10 about our call to follow Jesus illustrated by examples of how the congregation had supported significant local and foreign mission efforts), and communion. But the highlight for me was the prayers of the people.  Jeanie invited people to offer prayers of intercession concluding with “Lord, in your mercy” after which the congregation would voice, “Hear our prayer.” On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of this practice in Sunday morning worship, since serving a large church makes it nearly impossible it to work at Westminster. But work it did at TLPC!  The woman playing piano who, let’s be generous and only say was no Carol Tate, Polly Brecht, or John Semingson, prayed the grace shown by the congregation for her mistakes in playing would help her be more generous and forgiving of others. Someone else prayed for Ukrainians in conflict, but also for Russian soldiers who do not know why they are fighting. Jeff, sitting behind me, prayed for the African American community in Buffalo, NY devastated by another round of racially motivated gun violence. I prayed for the young people being confirmed at Westminster. “Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer.” Being part of the Body of Christ is both a gift and a responsibility. I left worship with a full heart, grateful for the chance to be part of the body united by prayer and fed at the Table.

After worship I drove the north and east side of the lake to Zephyr Point, this amazingly beautiful Presbyterian Camp (think Montreat) perched on the southeastern bank of the lake. One of the benefits of going to seminary at Princeton was its being a national (international, really) rather than a regional seminary. What that meant was there were many fellow classmates from California and the Pacific Northwest who told the glories of Zephyr Point as a “thin place.” All of which is to say I’ve known of ZP since the early ‘80’s but this is my first chance to visit. The setting is simply stunning. As I write the words of the old hymn, “This is my Father’s World” are singing in my inner ear: 

This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings 
The music of the spheres

This is my father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their maker’s praise

This is my father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet

After checking into the conference center, getting keys for the guys coming in late, and storing my luggage I still had some hours to kill before they arrived, so I headed to Reno to tour the National Automobile Museum. I mean, who knew?! Built from casino owner Bill Harrah’s collection after his death, it is a jewel for any auto enthusiast, especially for those interested in the early development of cars and the fabulous autos of the 30’s. There was also a collection of cars owned by celebrities that had some interesting additions, like Frank Sinatra’s ’61 Ghia and the ’41 “Lana Turner” Chrysler. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours waiting for Rod and Bill’s flight.

All in all, a day that has left me full of gratitude grounded by worship and fed by God’s magnificent creation. “Lord in your mercy … “