-by Pete Larson – Family Fest Ministries
I’m skiing with some friends in Colorado. It’s mid-afternoon and my legs are on fire. I realize that I probably should have done more quad exercises before I tried to ski three days in a row. I’m at the chairlift waiting for my friends to catch up to me and I’m welcoming the short break.
Other skiers are getting in the queue as I stand off to the side, soaking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains. My earbuds are in and I have the song “Brand New” by Ben Rector cranked. I take in a couple of deep breaths and savor the clean, fresh air.
There’s a tap on my shoulder and turn to see, not my friends, but one of the ski-school instructors in his royal blue jacket and matching ski-pants standing next to me. I reach under my helmet and remove my earbuds. He wonders if I would be willing to help him. He is surrounded by ten beginner students all around the age of five or six.
He explains that he needs some assistance getting his students up to the top of the mountain. After a morning of using the magic carpet on the bunny hill, they were now going to take their first high speed chair-lift ride. The chair is too high for the kids to get on by themselves and they are not tall enough to reach the safety bar once they are on.
I tell him that I’d be happy to help. He selects three kiddos and tells them to get in line with me. We make our way to the front of the line. I situate myself between the two smaller ones. When our turn finally comes, the lift operator slows the lift down and helps lift one of kids up onto the chair. I grab the back of the jackets of the other two and help them to get on before I sit. We are on our way. I reach up and pull down the safety bar. I like the safety bar because it has a footrest that gives my legs a little respite. I look down and notice that none of the skis of the kids comes close to touching the footrest.
As we make our way up the mountain, I can see that they are all a little nervous. I introduce myself to them and ask their names. Ashley is sitting on my left. She has a tiger hat covering her helmet. Kelsey is on my right. Next to her is a Soren. He is holding tight onto the safety bar and never looks down. I find out that Kelsey is from Maine. Ashley is from Indiana. Soren is from Minnesota. I tell him that I’m from Minnesota too and he gives a slight smile. None of kids had met each other before today’s lesson.
As we travel up the mountain, I realize that Soren isn’t in the mood to talk. He just wants to get to the top. Ashley and Kelsey both talk at the same time. Kelsey tells me that she was not happy when they had arrived the day before. They were supposed to get a unit where you could ski right from your front door. Instead, they were given a condo that was two blocks from the ski hill. She doesn’t enjoy walking in ski boots.
Ashley tells me she has an older brother and sister. They are skiing with her parents. She goes on to tell me about her dog Rufus, her cat Withers, and her turtle named Ben.
My mind drifts back to when my kids were about this same age. We too had taken a ski trip to the mountains. I remembered how hard it was to get all the gear together, drive twenty hours through a blizzard, and then try to teach my kids to ski. My brother told me once you should never try to teach your own kids to ski or drive a car. After a morning of frustration, we enrolled them in ski school. Here I sit, fifteen years later, wishing I could go back and do it all again.
As the chair now reaches its highest point, young Kelsey leans up against the safety bar, spreads her arms out wide and exclaims, “Look! I’m a bird!” For the next few minutes she pretends that she is an eagle soaring above the trees.
Ashley points down to the various tracks that the animals have made underneath the chairlift. She wonders if they had been looking for food, or just playing.
I respond to her inquiry and say, “Isn’t it amazing how God created so many animals that leave so many different tracks?”
With that, five-year-old Kelsey turns to me and says “Yeah, well, I don’t believe in no Jewish God!!”
Under my ski mask my jaw drops. Did that just come out of this little girl? I wonder. How in the world did she come up with that?
Before I can respond, Ashley emphatically chimes in. “Well, I believe in God! And I believe in heaven. You know, there is only one God and one heaven. A lot of people don’t believe in God and they don’t believe in heaven. But one day, they will die and they are going to see God. And they are going to look around and notice that there is a heaven.”
Now I’m shaking I’m laughing so hard. I looked at Ashley and say, “Yes, Ashley, I think they will certainly notice that there is a heaven.”
She continues, “Yeah, and when we get to heaven, we get to see Jesus. And I want to see Jesus because he loves me.”
I remember years before, my college theology professor telling me that someone who articulately defends the Christian faith is called an “Apologetic.” I realize that I’m sitting next to the best five-year-old Apologetic ever.
We reach the top of the hill and I raise the safety bar and help them all off of the lift. I wave goodbye as they ski over to the rest of their class.
It occurs to me how much of an influence that we as parents can have on our kids. I’m thankful that Ashley’s parents have shared the truth of God’s love with her. Ashely is absolutely convinced that she is loved by God. Kelsey is not so sure. I’m hoping that Ashley’s words make an impact.
I pop my earbuds back in and now the song “Testify” by Needtobreathe is now playing. I start down the mountain in search of my friends and I think to myself, I sure hope that there are mountains and skiing in Heaven and that I get to ski with my new little friends there!