Far Beyond Marvelous

A walk with the camera this afternoon revealed marvelous things. It was not a walk in an exotic place. Our backyard is comfortable, familiar.

On a set timetable my walk was brief. Limiting time outside narrows our ability to see things. Time limits distract us from paying attention.

Yet, any time outside is beneficial. It takes the edges off. Worries shrink. Problems seem solvable. Marvelous things can be seen by distracted eyes. Mine saw three.DSC_0002ed

The sugar maple in our yard signals season change. Maples herald fall, they inspire awe in the process. A Northern Flicker revealed the second marvelous object, Virginia Creeper berries. Stems a deeper red than the most scarlet Maple, the purple berries create a stunning contrast that draws the eye. For number three you have the right to disagree. It was a common house fly. To be specific a cold common house fly, cold enough to allow a camera within a foot of its highly visible perch. This fly will likely not reach its full life span. In two days, the forecast calls for frost. When not annoying me, I find beauty in a single fly.DSC_0009ed

What do we do with marvelous things? We can relish them. Changing leaves bring the reminder of cold to come. We can appreciate them. Marvelous things quiet our souls, and marvelous things are also created to give glory to God. The source of everything marvelous is God. Breathtaking? It’s God. Magnificent, thank God. Spectacular? God.

These three marvelous things of today have long-standing origins. All were planned by God before recorded history. There is no word descriptive enough for that. It is far, far beyond marvelous. These three simple marvels were planned long ago and have occurred with predictable timing every fall season. That kind of dependable only comes from God. For He is faithful. Millennia have passed, and every fall leaves turn color, Virginia Creeper berries turn purple and flies go into slow motion. These marvels happen every fall. In them God shows us His great faithfulness.DSC_0005ed

God is faithful in all things. Isaiah reminds us.  He said, “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.” (Isaiah 25:1)   When God tells us He loves us, it’s true. He tells us Jesus died for our sins. He did. This is the greatest act of faithfulness ever given. This is beyond marvelous.DSC_0007ed

No Place to Hide

We humans think we can hide. We hide in many ways. We buy camouflage. Disguises may work for a time, even a mask. We suppress things we’ve done. We shield the truth fearing it will hurt too much. We swindle our hearts believing we can “hole up” where no one can find us.

Sometimes being in a wild place reminds me of my tendency to want to hide. Perhaps this explains my desire to have a cabin in the center of a large forest. My unspoken desire is to hide.

That’s not bad you say. It is when my motivation is to hide myself from God. And I don’t need a thousand-acre forest to do that.

What is the reason we humans want to hide from God? Sin-you know lies, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, sexual sin, idolatry, coveting our neighbor’s stuff, those things. We hide our sin from each other if we can.

A thousand-acre forest is not big enough to hide from God. No forest, no mask, shield, camouflage, or “holing up” some place can hide us from God. Jeremiah tells us this plainly, “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)

Wait. Why hide from God? Yes, God hates sin. Don’t hide. Tell God.

Tell Him every messed-up detail. We can tell Him all the awful stuff we want to hide. Do you know why? He knows it all anyway. He is everywhere we try to hide, and He waits there for us to tell Him. He loves us. When we confess our sin to Him, He is faithful. He forgives us… Of every sin we seek to hide. Every time, always.

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You can go to the forest to praise Him, not hide.

Value in Stillness

Think with me about being still. If someone asks you to be still, what is your response? Is it stop moving? Still is opposite of move. Does still include speech? Are we still if we talking? Stillness is opposite motion. We’ve established two qualities of stillness. First, still is ending physical movement and second, closing our mouths. This is not an attempt to be unpleasant. We need the plain uncluttered truth about being still. There is a third quality of stillness. To be still is to quiet our thoughts. Our minds are full of thousands of thoughts. What we’ll do next, unfinished tasks, appointments, meetings, kids activities, sports, things we want. You understand. Still our minds, but not empty them. Stillness permits our minds to become focused.

Why be still? Someone asked me recently, why are there animals on earth? One reason, we can learn from them. We have an Eastern Cottontail rabbit in our backyard. It has perfected physical stillness.DSC_0026_1895sig

The Eastern Cottontail teaches us about physical stillness. Being still for a cottontail is essential to life. When most other living things eat you, being invisible in full view equals life. Biologists have discovered that only 20% of eastern cottontail survive their first year of life, that’s 8 in 10. Few cottontails live beyond their first year. Yet being a “freezer” enables a cottontail to live longer. Stillness brings life. 

Another favorite group of “freezers” are woodpeckers. All species are shy. Wary is a superior word. Even the largest, the pileated woodpecker is constantly alert for danger. Birds and mammals model the benefit of being still, without motion. It means life for them.DSC_0056_1864sigDSC_0031_1900sig

In contrast, most humans are constantly on the move. Personal calendars are full. We tell each other we multi-task. Who are we trying to dupe? Our physical bodies are not still. With physical motion our mouths and minds are engaged. Everything is moving. Why is this a problem? Life in our culture is “on the go.” Isn’t this the way to live?

These ideas are not mine. A shepherd, who spent 24/7 with sheep, wrote these words, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 A shepherd’s work was watching, being still. When the shepherd was still, there was time to think. Perhaps shepherds talk to sheep, not regularly. Body still, mind still, mouth closed, what happens?

God speaks. God has put each of us on a life journey. God. I am not the director of my life journey. Debate with me, but respectfully, truthfully, you are not either. Being still in body, mouth and mind brings us to a place where we can listen. It is not mental illness. When we are still God speaks. Invisible, all-powerful, everlasting, all-knowing God can easily speak to the human soul. It is simple, a shepherd directed by God gave us the way to hear God speak. Be still. Sit down, put your lips together, ask God to speak. You’ll be surprised.  You’ll discover where the absolute power is. There is real life in stillness. Need a model? Watch a cottontail.DSC_0007_1886sig

 

Wonder Doubled

Exclamation, we know it as strong feeling. We use a mark to show it! One! is strong. Double that, does this indicate double strong feeling? What is double strong feeling? Perhaps more emotion, more passion? We know strong emotions walk with strong feelings. Perhaps they are the same. Passion found in strong feeling forms a feeling trio.

This is about strong excitement, great enthusiasm, and delight. This is about fervent emotion…doubled. To understand we will use two words: fathom and miracle. Fathom as in understand and comprehend. Miracle, the same as marvel and phenomenon.

You know there are miracles. We can find them in everywhere in nature.DSC_0073_1562sig A sunrise is an obvious place to begin. It is a phenomenon every human can witness daily on clear mornings. Astronauts aboard the International Space station witness nearly 15 sunrises in 24 hours. Because we could witness a sunrise multiple times each week, it does not seem significant. Light 8.3 minutes old streaming to earth from 93,000,000 miles distant is a marvel. Sunlight is radiant heat and bright light. Life giving vitamin D is in sunlight. Sunlight drives the entire earth process of photosynthesis. Our ability to witness a sunrise heralds a daily miracle Honestly, it is a phenomenon beyond human comprehension. This alone is double strong feeling, emotion, and passion.

Only one more example…hearts. One of my favorite birds, the Black-capped Chickadee has an astonishing heart. In daytime activity this tiny feathered dynamo has a heart rate of 2,000 beats per minute. There are three zeros after the 2. Beyond belief, 2,000 beats in 60 quick seconds. During the day it can feed constantly, not at night. How does a tiny bird survive northern climate nights where temperatures often reach -20F  (-28C)? Slow the heart rate…begin a nightly torpor, an overnight hibernation. At night a chickadee is able to slow its heart rate to 500 beats, that’s easy math 75% slower at night. Along with a vastly slower heartrate its body temperature lowers 20 degrees. Take a breath. This is unfathomable it is phenomenal in epic proportion. Make it double emotion. What makes your heart beat?

Now consider this. To put this in proper perspective we must turn to God. We read this in the Bible: “The Word of God is living, and active…”Hebrews 4:12 This truth is the foundation of the two miracles and the phenomenon they bring us, and infinitely more.

Remember what we began with, emotion, miracles, and phenomenon, doubled. In the Living Word of God, the book of Job there are two verses that read exactly the same. Word for word the same, all 12 of them.  12 words are repeated twice, a message doubled. Think about the significance of God repeating himself. Eternal, almighty, all-knowing, everywhere present God intentionally repeats this message of 12 words. Here are the words: “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Two verses, Job 5:9 AND Job 9:10  exactly the same.

When God repeats himself, listen.

Your turn, apply these words to your life now. God performs wonders and miracles, for you and no one can count them. Can you hear God shout? He’s not angry, he loves us . He reminds us twice in a dozen words. What is his greatest wonder, his most profound miracle? Jesus, the one who died for our sins. No human can fathom such love. It is the greatest exclamation the world has ever heard.DSC_0093_1404sig

Striving, Stillness, Peace

Yesterday a wordless reminder was impressed upon me. In words, it is for you today.

Three words focus our attention: striving, still, peace.

The order is important.

First striving. Synonyms for striving are struggling, trying, going all out, and my favorite: pulling out all the stops. When thinking of striving the word struggle seems most appropriate for our lives today. If circumstances and events in life do not cause struggle for us, we are adept at making life a struggle. Another description for striving comes from the term “multi-tasking.” Truthfully, no one can do two things at once. Multi-tasking is striving in disguise. Perhaps we live in the most advanced civilization in world history but we are overwhelmed with striving.

Does it matter?

In our hearts, we all know it does.

The wordless reminder was impressed upon me during a walk in a wild place yesterday. My goal: photograph something wild, exciting, something to cause you to say, “Wow!” Instead, my eyes and ears were met with stillness. Instead of “wow”, peace and quiet were given me. This place was so quiet. It was so still. It was deeply peaceful. The Psalmist reminds us of God’s instructions in Psalm 46:10 these words are written, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”DSC_0012_1536sig

Still. The opposite of striving. What if multi-tasking keeps us from living life well? What if all our striving is misdirected? The wisest man in the world once wrote these words, “What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22

There is a by-product of stillness. Something good and desirable happens when we stop striving. Peace comes. Isaiah the prophet of God wrote these words many centuries ago, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 We strive and struggle to live life, seldom allowing even a spare moment of quietness or stillness. We become focused on earthly life. In stillness we can remember the Creator of all life.

Here are those three words again. Striving, stillness and peace. Consider these words a life course adjustment. These words are for me too.

Enjoy the photos. Take some quiet deep breaths. As you view these pictures from a quiet place, stop rushing, striving. In the stillness know that God loves you. Jesus died for you. You are in the eternal hands of God.

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Which Way?

This may be one of life’s biggest questions. Here it is, “What is the way?” This question comes often, if not daily. Sometimes the question relates to major life decisions; to take a job, leave a job, to buy a home, or sell a home. Sometimes this question relates to interpersonal matters. Should I marry him? Should I divorce or keep trying? Which way? It is an unchanging aspect of life. From the time a child begins making choices to the time a gray head is laid to rest, humans are faced with decisions which begin with, “which way?”

You would be thrilled with me if in the next sentence you were given a formula, which if followed, would always provide the correct answer to “which way?” You know better. Life has taught you that there is no such thing. With a sigh, you resign yourself to living life knowing that in future days you will face the question, “which way?” You know that at least half the time you will choose the wrong way. Possibly some months you will find most of your “way” decisions were wrong.

There is no comfort in this. We often choose the wrong way. We suffer the consequences of our wrong way choices. Our wrong way choices bring pain to self and others. Wrong “way” choices bring regrets. Some of them last a life time. This is the opposite of comfort. It’s heartache.

But. There is a way. For the rest of your life you can walk in this way. You will still make bad choices. You will say wrong things. Mistakes you regret will still occur. However, there is a way. It is not a formula. It is not a 10-step plan to better life. It does not cost you, it is free. If it seems too easy, it’s not. This way cost someone their very life. The blood of this person spilled on the earth. No, making this way was not easy.

Isaiah, the prophet of the Bible wrote about this way. He said, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”  Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) Long ago Isaiah said, “This is the way, walk in it.” Our logical question is, “What is this way you are referring to?”

The wonderful answer is found in the words of Jesus. He is the One who died for the sins of all. His blood was spilled for our sakes. Jesus plainly said, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father (God), except through me.” (John 14:6) The truth is, there is a way, a perfect way.  In all of our lives, there is a way…it’s Jesus. When you turn to the right, seek Jesus. If you turn to the left, seek Jesus. In big decisions, some this week-seek Jesus. Whether your job, personal relationships, or any other thing in life, the way for all of life is Jesus.DSC_0010_007sig

The sun has a “way.” As does the moon. Likewise, a river. Even a train has a way, the tracks. Humans have a perfect “way,” in Jesus. Consider these words what your ears hear behind you: Jesus is the way, walk with Him. When we choose the wrong way, Jesus calls to us, “Follow me.”  No comfort is more real for us today.DSC_0041edsigDSC_0094_028sig