The Testimony of Geese

Lurking” begins in late winter. There is no malice or mischief in this waiting, it is intentional. There is still ice on wetlands. The “lurkers” stand on it. Some late winter days they loiter for hours. As warmer weather approaches and the ice melts from wetland waters, the “lurkers” get serious. No other loiterer is permitted to be in the place the two original “waiters/lurkers” have chosen. These waiters are not employees of a restaurant. They wear feathers. They fly. They honk. Sometimes they perch with webbed feet on the roofs of buildings to keep watch over their wetland turf. The early spring lurkers are Canada Geese (Brantis Canadensis) Imagine a large bird with a long neck and flat, webbed feet on the peak of a roof. But there is no danger, they can fly.DSC_0129_985sig

You may wonder why write about Canada geese in spring-when it’s near the end of fall. Today, the geese provide us with perspective. Winter is coming. These geese live outside 24/7. They have no warm building to escape to. Geese do not possess cupboards filled with food. They do have down feathers that keep them warmer than most of our human constructed warm weather gear. They will face freezing temperatures, snow, even blizzards. They live outside all day, all night in conditions we humans would expire from. They live.DSC_0154_993sig

Now, the rest of the spring story. Before the ice is off the wetland, the pair of Canadas begin nesting. The goose (female) builds the nest. She lines it with down from her own body. The gander(male) becomes his mate’s consistent body-guard. He is a true force.  25-30 days must pass as the female incubates and the male guards. Reading about this miraculous process does not provide the magnitude of effort two birds expend to produce a clutch of 4-6 young. She stays on the nest except for brief periods to get water and enough food to sustain her. My memories include a Canada goose incubating her eggs and observing her with head down and neck stretched over the nest-during a snowstorm. I got cold and went inside. The next morning, with ice covering the wetland she was still there. The gander was still guarding. That day for almost 30 more, they stayed on task. My activities that day after sunset included a warm meal, and a warm bed sheltered from any of the freezing elements both geese were experiencing for the entire night. That’s persistence. That’s unselfishness and dedication. It is self-sacrificing, all for the next generation.DSC_0160_996sig

Now, the perspective we can take from the life of a Canada goose. They never give up. This may sound strange, but they never complain. Cold or wet, comfortable or not geese persist-in every season. Yes, you say-they are geese! But they provide a living example we can learn from.

How are geese able to persevere, in all conditions? It’s mercy. It’s great faithfulness. The living example of the geese for us reveals the mercy and faithfulness of God. As Creator of the geese. God provides everything Canada geese need. Water, food, oxygen, yes-shelter, instincts to nest, fly, protect and stay with the same mate for life, these are evidence of the faithful mercy of God. You know the geese cannot generate any of these things by their own strength.

It is a short step now from the example of the involvement of God with the Canada geese. You and I were made “in the image of God.” Why is that important? Only human beings are given the distinct and separate designation of being “made in God’s image.” No other living things fit this category. Humans were made by God to reflect the character of God. We fail often at this-we are sinners. But God never fails. His faithful love exists each day for the Canada Geese who are facing the extremes of a northern winter. Even greater is the faithful love God offers us. It never ends, never ceases and wonder of wonders, it begins new every morning. Look at the geese and see the great faithfulness of God. Best of all, you and I can do nothing to earn this great love of God, it is not necessary. God loves us first, long before we have any idea we need His love. That’s a miracle.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23DSC_0167_998sig

The Best “Dessert”

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You can have dessert first… it’s the best.

Yesterday we brought up the subject of humans and faith. Candidly we recognized we put our faith in things that are temporary. An easy one is turning water into ice. Our faith is unwavering in the principle that water freezes-every time when the air temperature is below 32 degrees.

We acknowledged that faith in water freezing is faith in something temporary. We had a chance to think about faith in Someone everlasting, eternal. If we are honest, we realized that faith in God is unending, while all the things we put our trust on earth are temporary.

But, yesterday, I forgot something important. In my opinion it’s like saving the best for last, perhaps like dessert. You ask, “how could you?” My response, what do you expect from an imperfect human? Regardless of this, I DID forget the most important fact about faith in God. That is to remind both of us where faith comes from.

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What do you think? What is the source of faith? If we use simple logic (and my logic limit is simple) we conclude there are two answers. We generate faith in God-or-God gives us faith.

Examine these choices with me. If we generate faith in God ourselves, we know immediately there is a problem. For us to trust in God we must not want to be God ourselves. Have you ever gone just one day without trying to be a little god, solving your problems yourself? Sorry, but we are like toddlers in this respect. We daily say to God, “I’ll do it myself!” See the problem? How can we have faith in God if we are trusting ourselves? We cannot generate faith.DSC_0091_917sig

At this point we know the other answer is best. This truth should give us both great peace of mind. God gives us faith. Perhaps you wonder what does it cost? It was costly for Jesus, He painfully died for us on a cross to save us from our sin of making ourselves little Gods. Then He gives us faith-free. True faith is a gift from God. Jesus initiates and perfects our faith. He is our faith champion, and our Savior.

Would you want it any other way? We know our hearts. We’d rather not admit it but our default setting is to be a little god. This news, that Jesus gives us faith is eternally better than dessert.

Faith, it’s eternal dessert, better than all desserts. Served by an eternal loving Father God. It’s not fattening, but it is addicting. If you want more, ask God. He freely gives us faith and then, by his great love, he GROWS our faith. It’s called sanctification, God’s process of making us holy.

Why the photos with these words? They are evidence of God’s love. Examine them, the earth is full of the steadfast love of God-the same God who saves us and gives us faith far greater than all the earthly things we put our faith in. Faith is like the best dessert, but it is eternal, free, and life changing.DSC_0084_912sig

One of a Kind

One of a Kind
One of a kind is something rare and original. In nature, the red breasted nuthatch is one of a kind. It plasters the outside and inside of its entrance hole with very sticky pine resin. If removing pine pitch from anything has been one of your tasks in life, you know how adhesive pine sap is. However, the nesting pair never get sap on themselves, they never perch at the entrance. They fly directly into the hole. Most birds this size fly between 20 and 30 miles per hour. Therefore, direct flight into the hole requires great skill. Certainly, it slows before entering but consider what the red breasted nuthatch needs to do once it has flown inside the hole! This little bird is one of a kind. One of its call is a nasal “yank, yank, yank”, no other bird sounds as though it has a cold. This one of a kind bird is the only known North American nuthatch to have flown across the Atlantic to Europe. The red breasted nuthatch is 11.5 cm long (4.5 inches for Americans)! It is a nature delight to see one of these birds. Yes, one of a kind is a fitting way to describe this bird. Good news, the population of these miracle birds is increasing.

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You are one of a kind. You are the original. There is only one of you. Like the marvelous red breasted nuthatch, you and I are wonderfully made. Of the millions of people in the world, there has never been and never will be another you. In Psalm 139:14 the words fearfully and wonderfully made are used to describe us.
Why would the all-powerful God of the universe fashion each human on earth with exquisite, flawless precision? Why would we be formed with extraordinary body systems which function perfectly for years, and can heal themselves when injury occurs? One simple answer: God loves you. He loves the world. He made each human living, past, present and future. Because He is God and Creator, only He has the infinite capacity to love them all. His love is perfect. Have you felt ordinary today? The truth is, you are one of a kind to Him.

While Chickadees Flew Overhead

A man I respected once explained what goodness is. He said, “Goodness is when everything is just right.” When everything is just right in nature things are beautiful and serene. Experience this once and you will desire the experience again. This kind of goodness we seek.

Where does the goodness and serenity of nature come from? Try this explanation. The peace and serenity humans delight to find in nature comes from the Sovereign presence of God. Can this be the explanation for the bliss humans feel when outside? It not only can, but is the reason we delight in a sunrise or sunset. It’s why we are awed at a rainbow or the mirror images on the surface of an entirely calm lake. It is a distinct pleasure to experience the sovereignty of God.

Sovereign means supreme, absolute, matchless. God is all of this. God is infinitely endlessly more. He is the author of the serenity and peace found in nature. His infinite nature instills an endless fascination and awe in the place beyond the current building you are in. He is the final authority, no one is greater. Because He is Sovereign, his presence is everywhere; especially in nature. It inspires the awe in us. This fact often escapes ultra-busy human beings.

You want this serenity. To understand why and see the sovereign presence of God, take a child outside. The best age is under three. My 20-month granddaughter demonstrated this to me recently. There is a coulee (deep valley) in their backyard. This little girl delights in this place. We sat together on the ground near the top multiple times. She was enchanted with the chickadees flying in the trees overhead. The first time we went I said, “shh,” she became still, reverently still. While I delight in the quietness and beauty of that place, watching my granddaughter enjoy it was a greater delight. It is not an accident, this quiet stillness from a 20-month old. We did this two more times; her response was always quiet, reverent awe. She’s 20 months old! Can you imagine a 20-month old sitting still, for even 2 minutes?

Jeremiah must have sat on the edge of a coulee. He sensed “everything being just right.” He wrote, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

 Just one more truth needs to be expressed here. Sovereign God, Creator of all life and the peace and serenity of nature loves you. Remember, nothing is too hard for Him. Sit in a place where chickadees fly overhead. If possible, take a little child. Know God’s “everything is just right” is for you.DSC_0060_785sig

Prescribed Fire

When fire burns in your life, expect God to be at work purifying your life for His purposes.

Think about fire, like ablaze, flames and conflagration. We do not want to be trapped in fire, but what if fire was good for us?

What is fire? There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical fire is heat and light; and more. It is a chemical reaction and when a fire burns it is called combustion. The chemical reaction is with oxygen and a fuel gas. Not gasoline, but the gas released when fuel is heated above a specific temperature. In the photos, the fuel is a handful of twigs from our lawn. Dry leaves started this fire. When small twigs just above the leaves reached a temperature of 300°F, the heat began to decompose the cellulose material in the wood. As the fire began, smoke formed. Smoke is a blend of the compounds of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. As long as there is fuel and oxygen a fire will continue to burn.DSC_0033sig

The fire in the photos was controlled. It was pleasant and gave off a comfortable heat and an agreeable aroma of wood smoke. Uncontrolled fire is dangerous and causes death and often significant destruction of property. We humans fear fire in an uncontrolled situation. We should.

There is secure kind of fire. A prescribed fire is one recommended by a biologist. Biologists responsible for the health of habitats regularly use prescribed fire to maintain optimal plant growth, return nutrients to soil, minimize the spread of plant species not native to a habitat, and generally improving live in a food web. It seems counterintuitive, but prescribed fire is beneficial. Centuries before settlement and increased populations, fire was a normal and restorative part of forest, and prairie habitats.

Fire has a role in our spiritual lives. It is at times, destructive, but it can also be highly beneficial.  The Bible speaks of fire in both ways: destructive and beneficial. It describes God as “a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29 God uses fire to strengthen us. This is the spiritual fire. Call this fire trial.

No human living enjoys life trials. Yet, God allows us to experience them even suffer in life trials. Why would God do that? Doesn’t the Bible tell us God is love? How can a loving God allow us to suffer trials? They hurt, bring pain, and heartache.

God knows what life trials do for us. Physical fire purifies metal. Fires burns away impurities and leaves pure metal. Earthly trials for humans burn away human impurities: pride, ego, coveting-you know-all of the things we humans do which fail to meet God’s standards. God is the author of earthly trial (fire) He prescribes it. He knows exactly how much fire you can withstand. While the fiery trial rages in your life God is watching. He knows when you can stand no more, He knows when the trial has done its purifying work. Think of it, is there anyone in the universe who knows you better than God the Father? There is no one. Besides this truth, remember another, God loves us. His love is perfect and unchanging.

Are you experiencing a fiery trial? Turn your heart to God. Tell Him about the fire. He is allowing it. Seek His strength. While it may hurt, let the trial (fire) do its work. When God prescribes a fire, He knows what it will do for you. In a fire now? Trust God. He is working the purification of your heart

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it (YOU) shall be clean… Numbers 31:23DSC_0049sig

Hope, Perfect, Everlasting

This week is unlike any other in my memory. It seems the world is falling apart. Appalling human behavior produces fear in our hearts, the world as we know it, appears in shambles. Though difficult to acknowledge, evil activities are daily occurrences in our world.

We search for something to give us hope. In times of trouble we are even frantic for it. Yet even in darkest times, such as this week, there is always hope. In a world that seems chaotic, and hopeless- hope is accessible. Really, hope is always near.

Your skeptical human nature says, “no chance…have you seen what is happening in this world?” Since you are already dubious, here is one more statement to question. The moon, full this week, provides us with concrete evidence that hope is always near. The moon? You are thinking, “this is a reach?!!” Yes, the moon is consistent evidence there is a God, and God’s existence is reason for great hope. The writer of Psalm 89 called the moon a “faithful witness” in describing the authenticity of blessings from God to King David. God’s blessing to David would be as dependable as His faithful witness, the moon.DSC_0012_744sig

The earth’s moon has consistent, predictable phases. They are certain. When the moon is full each month, the human eye cannot miss this lunar witness. Even when the moon wanes and becomes a thin crescent above earth it silently points our hearts to God’s nearness. Imagine, 283,000 miles away from earth, this satellite is a constant reminder that God is present and faithful. Sometimes full, sometimes a curved white splinter.

Do you know one thing seeing the moon could do for you? Provide you with hope, comfort and peace for your fear filled heart. God never fails to keep His promises. He placed a large, daily reminder for all who will look that he never ceases to love and protect…even in great tragedy.

You could shake your fist at God, some do. You could claim He is no God to let such pain and suffering happen or earth. But we do not know the mind of God. He allows evil on earth-for a season. There is another response- you could bow your head and say, “God I will obey you before I understand.”

While you think about that, know this, there are at least two things hope in God will not be. First, hope in God will not be limited. It never runs out, there is no time of day when it is not available. God’s refuge of protection never ceases. Second, putting hope in God will not be limited to certain people. God offers His refuge of love and mercy for everyone-no matter who you are, or what you have done. Jesus even forgave the thief on the cross next to him.

In the book of Romans (15:13) Paul described God as the God of all hope. In this verse Paul also said hope in God will fill us with joy and peace.

Look at the moon, even when it is a crescent. As you gaze remind yourself that God made this beautiful earth satellite and prescribed in advance its precise orbit. Gaze at the moon and in this world filled with evil  be reminded-there is hope for humans in the God of all hope. The Maker of the moon loves you.DSC_0041_746sig

Strength and Confidence

 

Has your day been hectic? Did you try multi-tasking? How did that go? Does hurtling through your day work well? Our culture promotes a go all the time lifestyle. Does it really work?

In 1938 Fredric Wisloff, a pastor, wrote these words, “quietness is strength, hustle and bustle are weakness.” Opposite of what the world tells us, strength is found in quietness. We do not realize it, but one who is continually busy loses strength. It is subtle. Pastor Wisloff went on to write, “much quietness imparts much strength.”

Wisloff got his ideas from Isaiah. Isaiah wrote about strength and confidence. In Isaiah 30:15 we read, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…’” Isaiah combined quietness with confidence in God. Strength comes from confidence in God.DSC_0045_539sig

Determining to be quiet in a world that never stops will not be easy. Humanly speaking, it will be almost impossible. When our confidence is in God, He will provide a quietness to our soul that strengthens. Quietness equals confidence and strength. These are desirable qualities and they originate with God. He gives them when we are quiet. God desires quietness in us. He provides when we ask.

Multi-tasking, and a full schedule set our focus on things that eventually weaken us. Quietness? Well, it is counter-cultural. It is difficult for us to believe that the benefits of quietness outweigh the benefits of a busy hectic life.DSC_0066_550sig

Look outside, search for the quietness found there. Quietness is found in a Monarch on a flower. It’s a Painted Lady sipping nectar from a flower, a forest in sunlight, a glass calm lake, and a lone mushroom on a birch log. In each, there in the quiet strength that God puts in all of nature. Quietness is His gift to frantic humans. It brings confidence and strength. Quietness is my need. What if you were quiet? What might you hear? The offer of confidence and strength is too good to pass.DSC_0024_584sigDSC_0001_719sig