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Archive for the ‘Nature/Creation’ Category

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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The sun is pouring in … bright and warm yet it is still over an hour before my morning alarm.

What a welcomed start to the day.

I sit here and a song plays through my head,

The sun’ll come out
Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!

It is a song that my mind and memory go to … once the clouds have moved apart to remind me that the sun does still indeed exist.

I wish the song would play when it’s still dark and grey and …

It’s been dark and grey here, in the Pacific Northwest. June can be that way here. It is as if nature is giving us that last reminder before July to not complain about the heat. To take joy in the cool, in the pause before the drying comes.

We need these bright and sunny dawns … even if they are soon followed by low cloud cover that blocks the sun’s existence. We need to remember that it is always darkest before dawn.

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It was a most wonderful … wonder-filled way to awaken on a Sunday morning, a number of years back.

SNOW

The winter wonderland outside my windows brightened the sky, every tree touched by it’s blanket.

Though I still struggle referring to a foot of snow as a snowstorm, I have adapted fully to how so little snow can change the plans of a day (thought it is always more wonder-filled when that day is a school day).

Our plans for this Sabbath were unique to begin with.

A 4am hockey game lured me from my bed … at 6am (obviously I am not a true Canadian hockey fan).

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Hubby had this Sunday off, and our plans had been to attend the church our eldest attends.

But …

the snow …

it was so …

so …

alluring …altering.

As fully adjusted Easterners who have become Westerners, we thought it might be best to not leave the safety of our warm home, and warm pajamas.

It drew us to our cozy chairs, with steaming drinks, big quilts, and highlights of the game. A lazy, Sabbath … a day of rest.

Amen

“All day our eyes could find no resting place.
Over a flood of snow sight came back
Empty to the mind. The sun
In a shutter of clouds, light
Staggered down the fall of snow.
All circling surfaces of earth were white.
No shape or shadow moved the flight
Of winter birds. Snow held earth in silence.
We could pick no birdsong from the wind.”
Wendell Berry

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2015/01/img_1811.png

The image, above, tells the story of the Fall of humanity, Christmas and Easter in such a way that I am simply captivated.

Eve and Mary are characters essential to understanding the entrance of sin into the human condition, the coming of the Messiah and the redemption the world.

Eve, the mother of creation, the woman through whom God spread the seed of humankind, the taster of the fruit from the forbidden tree.

Mary, the virgin mother of the Messiah, through her was birthed the saving grace that could erase the the aftertaste of the fruit of the forbidden tree, forever.

They both said yes …

Eve (Genesis 3:6) was offered fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and she took it, because it looked good, and because she desired wisdom.

Mary was not offered the opportunity to accept or reject her virgin conception through the Holy Spirit, for she was chosen (“you are chosen from among many women” v.28) yet she did accept it, whatever it meant (“I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said” v.38).

They both shared their tasks with their significant other …

It is interesting to me that it was not until Adam also ate of the fruit that “then the eyes of both of them were opened” (v.7).

Again a significant other was part of Mary’s story, as Joseph also had a job to do in the story, “and you are to give him the name Jesus” Matthew 1:21.

They both shared with all humanity …

Sadly, Eve’s desire for that lovely-looking fruit that would give her wisdom, only led to the fall of herself, and all who came after her. The seed of sin, through the disobedience of she and Adam, has been birthed in every human since, except …

Jesus. All man, all God, the seed of Salvation of all humanity, birthed into life from the womb of Mary. The seed she carried was the only cure for the genetic predisposition to sin that we all are born with.

They both shared in the gift of life …

“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Though she symbolized the beginnings of human life, she was also a vessel through whom death entered our human experience.

Mary was a vessel as well, and through her son, life eternal was redeemed. She has been called the Ark (vessel) of the New Covenant, for she carried, not the law, but the fulfillment of it.

They shared the serpent …

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). For Eve, the serpent was a tempter, whose lies led her to destruction.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Though the serpent has been biting at our human heels for all time, the fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus, came to crush it’s head and death itself … “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22

They shared maternal heartache …

Eve suffered the heartache of the murder of her one son, at the hands of the other (in a sense, her own sin led his death).

Mary suffered the heartache of the murder of her son, by those he came to save (in a sense, her own obedience led to his death).

They shared something with each other that is shared with us all …

If Eve felt the heavy weight of the sin of the world, it is the weight in Mary’s womb that took it away. In this they, and we are redeemed people.

Merry Christmas to all!

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I saw it, knew it was happening for real, just last week as I was driving home in the early evening.

Summer is fading.

Of course it has been fading since it’s first day in June, but now it is not just the lessening of evening light, but also how the leaves on the trees are looking tired, spent of their life … the sky looks like it’s deep summer blue is fading in the sun … the summer flowers slowing in their budding.

My heart feels heavy as I see these annual changes, heralding the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. I do so love autumn, with it’s cool nights and warm days, it’s colored trees and harvest moon. I love the celebrations in our family of birthdays and anniversaries. I love the renewal of schedules, the opportunities of re-starts and the new experiences to come for those I love.

Yet … my heart feels heavy …

It’s the light, the reduction of light that makes me feel the seasons change … just like I feel them (in a more positive ‘light’) when winter is being traded for spring and the light is increasing, winning the hearts of all who it touches. This is the reality when one is solar powered … and aren’t we all solar powered?

“Let there be light”

The first words of God that are recorded, give us insight into the importance of light, as it was also the first thing God created.

This light is not just the light of the skies, but also the light of the Holy Spirit, living within us. When we say yes to Christ, God gives the command to “let there be light” in our sin-darkened souls, and we illuminate his light to the world.

That is not a light that dims … no matter the season.

“May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out.” 
 J.R.R. Tolkien

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

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