• Jim Farrell

A Good Message from the Badlands

The Badlands at Sunset

Vast prairie lands

Herd of 1000 bison lives in the Badlands

Have the Badlands of South Dakota been wrongly named? Both the Lakota and early French trappers, in their respective languages, called the area “bad lands.” They would be correct I suppose if you think only in terms of the ragged, vegetation-less, rocky, dry, steep-sloped mountains of what is now called Badlands National Park. The mountains rise and fall around prairie and grasslands (nearly 60 species) that together amount to 240,000 acres. Today, it is all home to bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, black-footed ferret, pronghorn, coyote, snakes, birds, spiders, butterflies, frogs, and stinging insects. I suppose as regards all of that you could rightly say there is “bad” about the Badlands. The harsh and inhospitable conditions at just about any time of the year make life and travel there incredibly challenging.

The ragged peaks behind the yellow mounds

But they are nevertheless magnificent in color, shape, and expansiveness. They declare the glory of God in splendid ways that perhaps we don’t always think about because, well, we haven’t seen this kind of landscape every day. As one who came from central Pennsylvania, my sight line on any given day, in any compass direction generally met with a rolling hill or mountain. This territory screams expansiveness like you don’t usually see! The vastness is overwhelming. In the Badlands one can feel much in awe but also very small.

Can you find me?

Take a close look at the picture Kathy took of me standing amidst a section of the grasslands of the Badlands. Can you see me? I’m there! My hands are raised. If you can, enlarge the picture with your fingers and I will appear. Talk about feeling quite small! And I walked such a short distance to get to where I’m standing. Look past me. The prairie seemingly goes on and on to the horizon.

Another good message from the Badlands is not only that they wondrously and uniquely declare the glory of God, but they also serve as a reminder that little ole you and me are known by God in life’s expansiveness. I am known by the Creator God, as is every blade of the grasslands, every critter, every peak and valley of the Badlands. Me and my being—my everyday life, is not lost on the Creator God amidst the vastness of geography, people, time, or happenings. God knows me! Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways (Psalm 139:1-3). God, you know when I stand amidst the vastness of the prairies of the Badlands!

As time passes and events unfold in a whirlwind sometimes, it is easy to feel quite small, to think of ourselves as forgotten little specks amidst the vastness of it all. And when life presses against us via any number of people or things, we may be inclined to see all of it as quite harsh and inhospitable, and sometimes it is. But the Creator God knows you, the circumstances, and your need. Even if you fail to cry out to Him, God knows!

Jesus said, Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Sunset sky at Pinnacle Overlook

Whatever “Badlands” you may be traversing, or in whatever ways you are thinking you are pretty anonymous to the Creator in the larger scheme of things, the experience—even the harsh ones can declare God’s glory. And since your hairs have been counted, be assured that God sees, knows, and is presiding over you in and through the “Badlands.”

Blooming in the harshness of the Badlands

See the picture with the little blooming flower? The surrounding conditions are Badlands-tough—the earth is dry and the sun is hot—conditions are oppressive for blooming. Nevertheless, there it is, gloriously flowering, because the Creator put it there and because the Creator provides! God has done and still does the same for you, forever! Thanks be to God!

Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea A great High Priest whose name is love Who ever lives and pleads for me My name is graven on His hands My name is written on His heart I know that while in heav'n He stands No tongue can bid me thence depart No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair And tells me of the guilt within Upward I look and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin Because the sinless Savior died My sinful soul is counted free For God the Just is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me To look on Him and pardon me

(“Before the Throne of God Above” – Keith and Krystan Getty)

…and the journey continues, Pastor Jim

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