We’re still here in West Virginia; and it has been raining all day. We spent much of our time today in the main lobby of the hotel and I have been thinking about the first time I ever visited the state as a destination. It was back in my early twenties when I was a broker in the wood products business. One of the mills that I dealt with was in Elkins, WV. I remember driving through the most beautiful countryside, through the “hollers” and it was raining like crazy outside. I never saw such amazing scenery in the midst of the worst poverty I have ever witnessed firsthand. Shoeless children, lots of them, running up and down dirt driveways and ravines; dressed in clothing, if you can call it that, that most folks wouldn’t use for rags. I am sure that showers were a luxury and dental hygiene was almost non-existant.
It appeared to me than many of the men were coal miners; rather uneducated and without much expectation out of life. Their families were huge – many with more than 10 kids – and I could only imagine what it was like to live in those conditions. Those who didn’t work in the mines happened to work in the various wood mills around the area. Either as sawyers in a lumber mill; or the most skilled craftsmen worked on equipment that was used to create what we called “dimension” stock. That is, higher end wooden parts that were used for assembly in larger units.
I distinctly remember the trip with a business associate of mine. It took a long time to drive all the way to Elkins from the far northwestern suburbs of Chicago. As I recall, and I know we did not take the most direct route, we were in the car 14 hours or so. When we arrived, there was mud everywhere and a little dinky fleabag motel that we checked into. I was glad that Janet wasn’t with me.
The next morning we ate at a little local diner that served us some of the worst food I have ever had. Several things about that trip are indelibly etched in my mind – the unfathomable poverty, the human condition of most of the people and the unspeakable beauty of the land. In fact, Janet will tell you to this day that I still believe that West Virginia is the most beautiful state I have ever seen.
I have been back a number of times since, although never to Elkins. Time, and business, moved on. But every time I drive through this state, I am reminded of its magnificence. Of course, I have changed quite a bit since those days. I am far more concerned with people who are hurting and with God’s plan for justice in the world. Janet and I are far more active in the church than we used to be; and we have been more exposed to those people throughout the world who have a right to expect more. And we are in a better position to help.
It is interesting for me to engage the people who work here at the resort. Many of them have never left White Sulphur Springs and they lead something of a tough life. Yes, they have work – but they are surrounded by many people who make much more each year than they can hope to make in their lives. Yet, for the most part, they seem happy and satisfied; in part because they realize the blessing that they have to live in a place like this.
Now mind you, I don’t include us in that category – but it is something to watch the class distinctions at work. For example, last evening Janet and I were waiting to get into our casual dining restaurant and I happened to wander past the men’s shop. I saw a nice sport coat, not spectacular mind you, but it was nothing I would want for myself. Good thing – because then I saw the price – $3995. It just blows my mind that there is such wealth in the country; or that people would actually spend $5995 for a complete suit with slacks….. Many of the folks here do special things but Janet and I spent most of the day reading and talking, enjoying each other’s company – and looking out at the beautiful landscape.
There is some truth to the saying that the best things in life are free. As far as we can see in every direction, there are mountains and forests, streams and valleys. When Janet and I hold hands and go for a walk, all is right with the world. And while the resort, called “America’s Resort” is something spectacular, it pales in comparison to God’s creation. And while the Justice Family Group may now own the Greenbrier, God is the one who really owns it all.
The verse tonight is from the Psalms. A reminder of the omnipotence, the complete power, of God. For we are reminded that God tells us, in Psalm 50:9-12, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” Wow – I guess that says it all.
My encouragement tonight is that no matter how successful you may think you are, God really does own it all – and that’s great news for us. Nature was here before we arrived and will be here long after we are gone. God wants the best for us and we are stewards of all that has been entrusted to our care, and that includes the environment and nature. None of us will ever be able to create a sunset, or a rainbow, or a mountain range, or a stream filled with trout, but God can; and has. My prayer is that each time you look out at a wonderful scene that takes your breathe away, you will remember the love of God and how all this has been created for us – and it’s free… Have a great day in the Lord – creator of heaven and earth….