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Archive for the ‘Nature/Creation’ Category

“… I carried to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had let soften a bit of madeleine. But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening inside me.”

Marcel Proust from In Search of Lost Time

What is it about a scent that can change you from the inside out, taking you to a place in memory, or of a memory never yet experienced?

That is what it was like the first time I inhaled (for great it was) the perfume of the Mock Orange blossoms. Immediately I had to have it, for its scent was too beautiful to deny myself this annually blooming shrub.

That was probably over a dozen years ago.

Since moving from our larger home, on a larger property to a townhouse on a postage stamp sized lot, the thing I have missed most, longed for most frequently, was my mock orange and its springtime blossoms that diffused in the air around, much to my delight.

So, this summer, in the midst of a heat spell, I purchased one, to plant in a pot on my minuscule patio.

I have fed it, watered it and protected it from the heat on the hottest of days. With each act of care, I dreamed of that moment next spring when nature would reward me with delicate white flowers, emitting the dreamiest of fragrances.

Just the other day I noticed something different.

It couldn’t be …

As I moved closer I detected what appeared to be flower buds on the top of the plant.

The plant in my previous garden bloomed annually, every year in mid May, calling my nose to a closer inspection. That was the only time it ever bloomed.

But here, in a pot, on my little patio, the most delightful of gifts was enfolding, blooming right before my eyes, sending its aroma up, into the air, beckoning me to come closer.

And I said thanks.

Thanks, not to this flower, but to its Maker, who knew how to speak love most clearly to the heart of this daughter.

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Nine weeks …

That’s how long we have been waiting.

Nine weeks,

one heat dome (who knew there was such a thing?),

one heat wave,

forest fires,

evacuations,

tinder dry conditions,

crops, plants, trees are singed, dying,

dry.

so, so dry.

We look ahead, listen to the meteorologists,

hoping they will be bearers of good news.

Hoping they will tell us what we want to hear,

what our living things need,

rain.

We bow our heads, lift fists to the heavens,

begging the One who can,

to do it.

To open the skies,

to let down

the renewing,

life-giving,

life-saving,

water from the clouds

in

drips,

falling onto everything,

wetting our world,

nourishing our soil,

extinguishing the flames,

soaking the roots,

soothing our dry, lifeless surroundings.

Renew our earth with life-giving rains,

as your presence in our lives

renews our souls.

Amen

The Breaking of the Drought
by Frederick J. Atwood

Listen!—it rains; it rains!
The prayer of the grass is heard;
The thirsty ground drinks eagerly
As a famished man eats bread.
The moan of the trees is hushed,
And the violets under the banks
Lift up their heads so gratefully,
And smilingly give thanks.

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When one thinks of creative expressionists one does not think of ritual or routine. Impulsivity, openness, flexibility … those are more closely associated descriptors of creatives.

Yet, anyone doing creative work does so with routines that often go unnoticed by the casual observer, whose gaze is focused far more on the creation that the creator.

Maya Angelou would get a hotel room when she was writing. “I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible. Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles.”

George Bernard Shaw had a writing hut constructed on a turntable, so as to follow the suns light as he wrote. It contained a typewrite, heater, food, a bed and a phone in case of emergency. (Roald Dahl and poet Dylan Thomas had writing sheds as well).

Virginia Woolf, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, comic writer Stan Lee and Ernest Hemingway all wrote standing up.

JK Rowling wrote often in cafes.

Ann Voskamp writes in a 10-by10 foot cabin along a cornfield.

Jane Austen was the queen of simplicity, requiring only a desk, paper, quill and ink.

Though not all, it would appear that most of the aforementioned creatives seek or sought quiet, a solitary, silent place

where the audible and visual
noise of the world
could be eclipsed
by the voice inside.

Our human creativity originates in our DNA, for we create from the genetic material that we have inherited, from our Creator (father) God. Our creativity is an expression of his ability, his beauty, that we can be creative within the uniqueness of the creativity he placed within each one of us.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness”
-Genesis 1:26

As his creation, we are image-bearers of the God of creation. Within our creation we bear the image of God the father, but also the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit, for we are made in “our image, our likeness.” So when creativity flows from us our need to be still, be silent makes such sense.

Silence is the catalyst for hearing the Holy Spirit within us. When it is his voice we listen to, we create from the riches of our Creator, from the greatest story ever told.

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer

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It’s early … faint with infrequent songs from the birds.

The sun, though still hidden behind a structure, providing shadowy light.

Dampness … on the chairs, the table, the leaves of the plants and trees, from the early morning rains.

Early Sunday morning.

The Sabbath.

The day of rest.

Since the arrival of the Pandemic, Sundays have been different. Sabbath has been different.

Worship has, largely, not been experienced in church buildings, not with congregations, nor large worship bands, nor communion under one roof. The Sabbath has been Sunday mornings and Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. The Sabbath has been spent on the sofa with a cuppa, a pouch or two and pajamas. It has been spent on hikes in the mountains, over a book on the patio, making a puzzle on the table, listening to a podcast, talking to a long lost friend. Worship has been through the work of the hands of the Creator, in nature, or as we get to know our neighbors, or as we take someone a meal, or send money to an agency who brings His love to others, or share an online worship service with others who would not darken the door of a church.

We are the church.

We carry His message wherever we go.

Worship flows from us … like a the first morning …

the birds. the light. the rains.

All worshipping together …

because they just can’t not worship,

because we just can’t not worship.

Sunday morning has broken,

and just like that first morning, His creation (us included) are worshipping Him.

This is life.

This is Sabbath rest.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
-Eleanor Farjeon

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As I sat outside, feeling the warm sun on my skin, I thought of how this feeling has always made me feel so good, so grounded in the time and space I was in. I then reflected on other constants in my life that have an expected joy response, when I encounter them:

Things I see:

A sunrise or sunset can catch my attention and take me off to a happy place immediately. A hint of one coming might have me angling, walking or driving to position myself for a better view to appreciate the glory of such a sight.

Things I feel:

Rose petals, cat fur, pussy willows. They are all silky soft, lush between my fingers. They create a sense of warmth and pleasure.

Things I hear:

The delight of the dawn chorus of birds can bring a smile to my face like little else. For years in a previous home we would often hear the local coyotes cries at night, though haunting, they also were a reminder that we lived in a world beyond ourselves. And I cannot talk about sounds without mentioning the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore.

Things I smell:

The scent of baking bread, rising from the oven, or lilacs in spring, or, perhaps best of all, in my estimation, the scent of wild roses. In an instant I am a child at my grandmother’s house, carefree and exploring. Salt air … to me that is the smell of growing up on the East Coast and when I arrived and inhale I know I have returned.

Things I taste:

Ah, that smell of the first, fresh coffee of the day. Folger’s had it right, when they said it is the best part of waking up. But, then the enjoyment of taking that first sip, the flavors awakening the taste buds.

Each of these sensory joys have memories connected, encouraging and delightful teleporters to other places and times. They bring a smile to my face, warmth to my heart. They are beyond the mind, the thinking that we humans love to spend our time on, they simply are reactions to stimulus that awaken a joy response.

The Bible uses the power of our senses to communicate His message to us frequently:

Psalm 34:8:
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Matthew 5:13:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

Matthew 13:16:
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

John 20:27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.

Though our minds are fantastic, we were not simply created for what we produce, but we are also natural beings, created in the context of a world of senses. With these senses we can be reminded of joy, of delight and even of worship … not for what awakens our senses, but whom.

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As I walked, I glanced to the empty lot. Dirt and rocks, grass and weeds.

I became alert to the lyrics playing in my headphones,

“in the soil I now surrender, you are breaking new ground”

Then something caught my eye. Color in the middle of the dirt and mess. One solitary poppy, standing straight and tall, like an oasis in the midst of the desert.

The poppy, a symbol of peace, sleep, death. Growing in the midst of land in between what was and what will be.

I’ve walked that in between place, that liminal space. Knowing that what was is gone, what is to come is not yet announced itself.

I feel that with vaccines we are all planted in the dirt between what was and what will be. What is our new normal? Will it resemble our old normal? Do we want it to?

That beautiful flower, standing tall in a vacant place … reminding that life comes from death, that beauty can grow out of dirt and weeds, out of nothing.

“Break new ground. Plant righteousness, and harvest the fruit that your loyalty will produce for me.” It’s time to seek the LORD! When he comes, he will rain righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

surrender

new ground

We are required to surrender our today, to enjoy the fruit of the time to come. Though we humans are usually people of action, this is not a requirement through any effort, other than surrender. I love the Oxford dictionary definition of surrender, “cease resistance … and submit to their authority.” We people aren’t so fond of submitting either! Yet, that is the surrender that God requires. It is what can carry us from what is gone to what is to come.

Through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul.

John Keats

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Are there things in nature that remind you of your childhood?

There are many for me.

Just yesterday the Wonderdog and I took a meander (because that is the speed of this canine buddy of mine of late) in the wooded pathways near our home. The sun was warm and life-giving to my soul, making the speed of the walk redundant, for a slower walk meant more time under the sun, more bird’s songs, more fresh air to fill the lungs.

It is a common occurrence that, when I am out in nature something will remind me of my childhood.

The first reminder of childhood made me smile, wide enough that the person walking towards me, I am certain, thought I was smiling at them. Buttercups. Plentiful and petite, but bright and moving together like waves. Do you like butter? I could hear the voices of the past ask.

Another visual that had me reminiscing were the sun dapples, through a treed area along a stream. Quite truly sun dapples might be the most dreamy of all that nature possesses. I saw them yesterday and immediately saw them again, many years before along a brook while hearing stories of childhood fishing from my dad.

Yet another were the berries on the bushes, from flower to ripened berry. Though these were (I believe) salmon berries, my mind saw raspberries on the vine, reminding me of sunny days with my maternal grandmother, picking berries to fill a bowl, then returning to her home where she whipped up the most delicious pie I ever remember eating.

Finally were the roses. Though planned and purchased by a landscaper and not the wild variety that they remind me of, their scent was just as I remembered. It is truly where ‘rose-scented’ perfume originated. And I was inhaling their scent at my childhood home.

Things in nature so easily bring memories of the past to the surface, for they are always there. These are the warm and fuzzy reminders of good memories.

I love that the Bible also speaks of the value of memories, or remembering.

“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” 2 Peter 1:12-15

Peter is obviously intent on leaving a letter to those who receive his letter, at the time as well as in the future, focusing on the promise of reminders. These promised reminders of the teachings of Christ, the redemption provided, the responsibilities as a follower of Him. These reminders that the Good News would continue after he departed (this life).

What are our reminders? Perhaps they are in the rituals of Christian life, such as prayer, worship, reading of the Word. Perhaps they are in nature, in the guarantee of the sun’s rise, the phases of the moon, the changing of seasons … buttercups moving in the breeze on a sunny, warm day.

I love how Charles Swindoll spoke of this:

“Allow the things familiar to point you to things essential.”

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As we walked along the forest trail it wasn’t the heights of the trees around me, not the brook noisily flowing past, but the moss growing on the trees that captured my attention.

Lush, soft, growing in varying amounts on every tree and stump. It drew one’s eyes to it simply because the rest of the forest, in early spring, was still in it’s winter slumber. Only the emerald green of the moss dotted the landscape with colorful life.

Moss does not harm trees, unless the weight of it, saturated with rainwater grows to the point that the stability of branches is in question. It just simply lives and grows on them, adding mystical appearance.

Moss growing on a tree is an example of commensalism it gets a place to live and grow and the tree neither benefits nor is harmed. Basically, moss is simply a squatter on the tree.

At least that how science would define the relationship.

But, as I walked amid the moss covered forest trees, I saw things differently.

That rich, life-filled moss drew my eyes to the tree that, otherwise, would have blended into the forest of trees. It stuck out, brought joy, delight in the showy example of living brightly in a dark and shady place.

Though the tree is not harmed or benefitted from the moss growing there, I was indeed benefitted.

Sometimes, as a follower of Christ, as one who lives and desires to be light in the dark, be living water amid the murky depths in our world …

it can feel as though we are like moss on a tree …

growing and living,

but never having an impact on our host (the world).

It can seem, perhaps, that we are so busy with our own living, that we don’t bring Jesus to those around us.

As though, like the moss on the tree, we are simply living our life, without any impact for Christ on our surroundings.

Psalm 34:5, a Psalm of David, tells us:

“Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces shall never be ashamed.”

We, who are followers of Christ, have looked on his Crucified self … sacrificed for us, for the world. But we have not only looked, we have accepted that his sacrifice was for our own good. That “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And in seeing the reality of the purpose of his crucifixion, we reflect, or radiate joy that is found only in Him.

This joy that we radiate is not only seen by God, or by his followers, it is also seen by those around us. It is seen by those walking though along beside us,

standing out like moss on the trees in a forest in early spring.

Like that moss, we can have an impact (if we live as followers, growing from the word as our nourishment). Though we are busy we still bring something to the forest in which we live …

we bring beauty

Isaiah 33:17 tells us,

Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will behold a far-distant land.

We reflect this beauty of the King and He in us will allow others to imagine life and eternity with HIm.

All we have to do is bring beauty to our dark and murky world.

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There is simply nothing better, more delightful than when someone lets you know that they are or have been thinking of you. That declaration can keep one going for days and days. There is something almost mystic about it. Possibly the significance of such a statement is because we did nothing to deserve another’s attention. It just happened … as if the stars fell into place, as if God himself whispered your name into the heart of another.

The older I get, the more such happenings I have been the recipient of, the more I am encouraged to do the same … send a note, a card, an email, a text … whatever it takes to communicate that one’s name has been mysteriously on my heart, in my mind and I wanted them to know.

A number of days ago I was feeling in the dumps (as we all do at times … such is part of our human condition). Then I remembered a photo I had taken quickly, but never looked at afterwards. I scrolled through my photos and located the image I remembered being wowed at … the sun was rising from behind the mountains and a beam of light was shining through the clouds. That image had brought a smile when I saw it … that morning, but also this grey day (inside and out).

I remember that day because I remember smiling, then speaking out loud, “thanks God.”

Moments of natural beauty, for me, are like whispers of God, saying,

I am thinking of you

You are on my mind

I am here with you

They are manna from heaven that satiates the hunger pains in my soul.

My phone is full of such photos. Their quality is not great, but they are like the stones that the Israelite tribes gathered from the middle of the Jordan as they passed through the river (Joshua 4:1-7). They carried them to the bank on the other side, leaving them as a reminder to future generations of God’s faithfulness … that God was thinking of them.

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Harrison Lake

There we were, sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake, “this lake is about 60km long and over 900 feet deep (gotta love the normalcy of Canadian mixing and matching of metric and imperial systems in one sentence).”

That’s a big lake.

And. I. felt. so. small.

and it felt so good.

It was like a correction, a righting of a wrong. For, in the vastness of our physical world, I am indeed small … insignificant.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

    the moon and the stars you set in place—

what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

    human beings that you should care for them?

Psalm 8:3-4

I do not just not size up in my physical world, but also in the spiritual world as well. My God is so big (and all of us who grew up going to Sunday School are singing the words, “so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God can not do”). I am so small.

It is good to be reminded of the space I occupy versus the space available. The relative insignificance of me … the great significance of the creator of this world, of me.

Then to remember that he, who is great, sacrificed his best for me. So that I would be his, eternally his. Not because of something I … who am so small … accomplished, but because of what Christ accomplished on my behalf.

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made …

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!

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