Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stars

There’s no question about it. Tonight was a night worth braving the wind chill below zero. A brilliant moon hung in the clear sky, and a brisk wind stirred up the powdery snow into fanciful sprays. As I stepped out into the open field, the whole world was reduced to black, white and blue grey. Civilization became nothing but a border to the scene, which seemed to be composed mainly of sky, and the field spread like a white tablecloth beneath.

There is a beauty in winter that is lost in the verdant embellishments of the other three seasons. It is beauty borne of utter simplicity, and invigorated by the austerity of wind and ice and snow and cold. It provides a perfect setting for thinking.

I set out into the field, perfectly alone, except for my shadow, traced sharply against the snow. The snow had been chiseled all day by the wind, cut into scalloped ridges that looked like the frozen ripples of a wave, suspended in the act of flooding onto the beach. In other places, dips in the field had collected the powdered snow like fine sand in the wrinkles of a picnic blanket. Restless wind occasionally picked up some of the snow and tossed it a couple yards away, or shooed it along from its resting place, making it slither across the crust.

I had mourned the fact that there was no one to join me on my walk, to share the beauty and the wonder. Yet as my solitary boots crunched and squeaked in the snow, the night, while leaving me utterly alone, seemed to keep me company. Or perhaps more accurately, when the coming of night had stripped away the usual distractions of daylight, I was more ready to sense the presence of the One Who had created all the beauty before me.

I looked up at the stars, and thought of a scene in one of my favorite books, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. A girl, recently bereft of her father, was standing on the widow’s walk with Nat, the main character. Together they looked up at the stars, and he said something like, “Somehow, whenever I look at the stars, they make my problems seem smaller.” And he was right. When I look at the stars, they make my conception of God bigger, and suddenly my problems shrink to infinitesimal size.

I found a crusty patch of snow, and lay down, in order to take in the full scene. There they were, the stars, not very plentiful because of the brilliant moon, but bright and clear nonetheless. How long they have been there, and how much has happened beneath their distant gaze. How many men have looked at those same stars, to navigate their way to distant lands. How many minds have wondered at their magnitude and beauty, when they aimed their telescopes into the darkest corners space, and found the stars looking back at them.

How many people have lain on their backs, just as I was doing, and read in the stars the witness that God is present in the loneliest places. The apostle John must have beheld them from his exile on the island Patmos. Perhaps he wondered whether the God who had made those stars had forgotten about him—and then there came a day when he saw “one like a Son of man…in His right hand He held seven stars.” (Rev. 1:16)

They are the stars that lightened the ways of patient shepherds resting on the hills of Galilee, until the glory of the Lord blasted the starlight into obsolescence while angels announced the Savior’s birth. Perhaps those very stars were waypoints along the way of the Lord Jesus, descending to this earth to be the sacrifice for the sins of the creatures He had made.

These are the very stars that shone over a Middle Eastern desert, on the night when God took a man named Abram outside his tent, and made him look up. “And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:5-6) And for the next decades, as Abraham travelled through the wilderness, perhaps wondering sometimes whether God had forgotten His promise, he must surely have looked up at these very same stars, and found in their steadfast presence the assurance that God had not changed.

A few short years, and each of these men passed on, yet the stars have remained, silent witnesses to the majesty and faithfulness of God. And tonight I lay in the snow and looked up at those same stars, and thought how each one of them has a name, and is led forth by God through pathless space, with changeless precision. (Is. 40:26) His intellect is so vast that He has perfect knowledge of each of the countless stars—and, indeed, of each snowflake that blew against my face. Then I thought of David, the shepherd boy, looked at these stars and wondered, “What is man, that you take thought of Him?” (Ps. 8:4) He went on to exclaim, “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God, how vast is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17,18) Again, in Psalm 40:5, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.” Kind of like the stars. And if each star should stand for one thought that God has had toward me--?

Suddenly, the idea that God has forgotten about me, or about a single one of my needs or desires, seemed ludicrous. If He has thoughts to spare to name the stars, surely He knows about any one desire of my heart, though it seems sometimes to occupy my whole little mind.

I got up and continued my walk. Like the old time sailors, I had gotten my bearings again. Not from the stars, but from the God Who moves the stars. And the winter night was no longer lonely.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter's Victory

Well, winter has finally won the argument! Softly, silently, and swiftly, he rearranged the stage, one snowflake at a time. I sat by the window during my lunch break at work, and watched the mesmerizing cascade. Hard to believe that such a tiny, frail thing as a snowflake could help to effect such a dramatic transformation!

Autumn had not quite given up. Upon the downy puffs of snow, he sent his raindrops, cold and crude, to crush the intricately sculpted snowflakes. The world began to look sodden and miserable. But winter had not given up. He retreated to the corner and ever so slyly, and while autumn was gloating over the mischief he had done, winter reached behind his back and turned down the thermostat. By morning, the rain had become only a dazzling glaze of ice upon the snow, radiant and glinting and making it more glorious than ever.

Today I ventured out on my cross-country skis. I had to break the trail, and my muscles and coordination were both out of practice, so that by the time I turned toward home, I was tired, though exhilarated. Home seemed so far away, across the fields.

Then, high, in the sky, I saw them. A great V-formation of Canadian geese, heading due south. My heart was filled with awe as they pressed on, undaunted by the smallness of their wings and the vastness of the distance they had yet to go, not discouraged by the icy ponds and snowy fields below them. As I thought of the journey they had already made, it seemed that surely, even as I watched, one of them would become exhausted or give up, and flutter to the ground. But no, they kept on, their wings beating, beating, beating, beating. They called encouragement to one another and occasionally changed formation for the sake of variety, perhaps, and rest. Now the leader changed direction slightly, and one whole wing of the formation altered their course to stream along behind him. Farther and farther they traveled, into the clear sky, until the undulations of their file looked like light ripples on the surface of water. Then, they were gone, still flying, still heading south. And I looked back at the farmhouse lights twinkling away across the fields and figured I had enough energy to get there, after all.

The evening was very silent after they had gone, as though the last vestige of the autumn had flown away with them, and there was nothing more to say. Winter is here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Change

"I'm too old for changes," said Bilbo, the famous hobbit, "especially unpleasant ones."

It's a strange, changing time of year. Autumn is gone; the trees are bare, the grass is yellowing, and the air doesn't have that crisp fall smell. Winter is not yet here; the days grow relatively warm when the sun is out, and there is no snow. It's that awkward in-between time, like the pause between two movements in a piano sonata, at a piano recital. Half the audience is inclined to clap, because they think it is the end of the piece, and the more knowledgeable half of the audience hopes desperately that nobody claps, because they know that the young pianist is only collecting himself to play the next movement.

Or, it is like the time between conference sessions, when the speaker who has just finished is exiting, and talking with the next speaker in the hallway. Nobody is really in charge, and the audience stirs restlessly until, to their relief, somebody gets up to inform them of the plan for the next hour.

It's a time of year when the world outdoors is changing rapidly. The other evening, a winter wind came slamming across the fields, knocking me off balance and moving everything that wasn't fastened down. I shuddered, and thrilled at the same time, because the austere winter is such a splendid time of year. Tonight, the wind blew again, but warm and gusty. The other morning, I saw ice on the pond. Today, mud gurgled around my boots. The other night, there were snowflakes on the laundry I had hung out. Today, I didn't hang any laundry out, because of splattering rain. Autumn and winter are having it out with each other just beyond our hearing. And until winter takes charge, we have no choice but to accept the changing moods of the weather.

I was thinking about change today. I thought of the childhood friends from whom I never intended to separate--but somehow, they slipped out of my life, or I out of theirs, until we rediscovered each other on Facebook several weeks ago. I think of the people who are in my life now, the everyday people, who give me their smiles and hugs and greetings. It's hard to believe that someday they, too, might drift out of my life--not because of any kind of clashes, but simply through the changing circumstances of life. Their influence on me, and the love they gave me, will always remain, but my relationship with them may change. And I'll admit I kind of want to agree with Bilbo.

And yet, change comes. And it's a good thing, after all. Burdens become lighter when there is promise of change eventually. Relationships with people, and opportunities to enjoy them, become more precious when you know they'll be gone one day. Earthly things--"stuff"--becomes less important because time and change, if not death, will soon snatch it away from us.

So change comes. And just like the passing seasons, each new change brings its own challenges-- and its own delights. And our chiefest delight is the One Who never changes--the One Who created the magic of changing skies, and changing sunsets, and changing seasons.

No photoshop effects, I promise. :) Aren't God's colors amazing?!





"For I am the LORD, I change not." Malachi 3:6

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Few Pictures

Sorry I haven't been posting on here much lately! The other day I finally managed to get out for a walk and capture a few images of our glorious autumn season!


Now THAT'S orange!


I looked in a puddle...and saw a cloud! Must be analogy there...


Maybe this is stretching it a bit, but I thought it looked as though the light from the setting sun had started the cattails burning...


It was so utterly peaceful beside the pond..the water still, the air quiet, the sun setting silently...


The King's Highway (from Pilgrim's Progress)



More beauty in a mud puddle

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Dusty People


"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host." (Psalm 33:6)

"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."(Genesis 2:7)

The sun and moon and stars, the galaxies, nebulae, black holes and star clusters, all came into existence by a word from God. The fish and bacteria and animals and birds and insects came about by the breath of His mouth.

But then, God wanted to make mankind. It was in His mind to create a being in His own image, who could fellowship with Him and talk with Him and love Him and know Him. This was the creature who was to rule the earth and all the living creatures on it. He was to explore the vastness of the universe and marvel at the God who created it.

More than that, a Lamb had been slain before the foundation of the world. He was not slain for the birds or the fish or the dinosaurs or mammals, nor for the planets and stars. He, the centerpiece of all God's love and delight, had been slain for one creature only, the one which God had not yet made. How would God create this being, who was to possess unimaginable privileges and unmatched capacities among the created things?

Would there be a blinding flash of light which, fading away, would reveal the creature? Would He wave His hand in the thin air, and bring it forth with a great blast of trumpets? Would it emerge from a torrent of mighty water? No, instead He put His finger, figuratively speaking, into a patch of dry ground, wrested some of it from the wind that was even at that moment carrying it away, and formed that bit of dust into the being called Man.

That perspective lends a little more force to Paul's caution in Romans 12:3, "I say to every man among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." Psalm 103:14 reminds us, "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame, He is mindful that we are but dust." Perhaps it would be good for us to remember what the Lord never forgets--we have the distinction of being the only creature in the universe made of...dust.

For our physical bodies, the verdict is, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19). But in the spiritual realm, we read about things like going "from strength to strength" (Psalm 84:7), and being changed "from glory to glory." (2 Corinthians 3:18) It's pretty amazing what God has done with dust. It's even more mind-boggling to think about what He's done and is doing FOR the creatures who are made out of dust. But I wonder if the most incredible thing of all, is what God still plans to do with those bodies of dust, for people who are believers in Christ:

"...So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body....

...For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality."
(1Co 15:42-53)

I'm awfully glad that God remembers I'm only made out of dust, and somehow there is compassion (literally, "feeling-with") in the heart of the Maker of the Universe, for a creature made out of dust. But I'm not going to be dust forever; there's a grand exchange coming!

Pictures





Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a Portion!

"God now brings thee to His dwelling,
Spreads for thee His feast divine,
Bids thee welcome, ever telling
What a portion there is thine."
~J. Denham Smith

I suppose all of us find ourselves, at times, being discontented with our lot in life. No matter how blessed we are, we can always point to something that we don't have, which others are enjoying. Lately I've been thinking about David's words in Psalm 16:5,6.

"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me."

Joshua was told by God, "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great River, the Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory." (Joshua 1:3,4) And, having the outer boundaries of their possession thus delineated, the Israelites started walking.

Perhaps David had been gazing at some of the nice things on the other side of the fence--and then realized that it was time for him to start walking, to find out exactly what was within his portion. The first question, of course, was where the outer bounds of his possession lay. And as he thought about it, he realized that he had been given an inheritance beyond the land allotted to his family in Israel. He remembered a day when he had been hiding for his life in a cave, with no plot of land to call his own safe haven. It was the day when he acknowledged a great discovery, "You are... my portion in the land of the living." (Ps. 142:5)

The Lord as his portion! If Israel, with its millions of people, never succeeded in occupying all the land that God allotted to them, how could David--how could we--ever map out the borderlines of our portion, God Himself?

What exactly lies within the boundaries of our portion? David shares some of his discoveries in Psalm 36. He tells us a little about the terrain. There are mountains, lofty and solid and magnificent,--the very righteousness of God. There are great deeps too, the unsearchable judgments of God, under which our sins have been buried by the work of Jesus Christ. All those billows of judgment rolled over Him, and our sins can never be recovered from that great deep to be laid to our charge.

There's a river too, refreshing and sweet, called "the river of Thy delights". When God is our portion, He bids us to drink of that river--to take great gulps, as though trying to drink the river dry. It's root is at "the fountain of life." The early explorers of America died in their search for the fountain of youth, but the Christian has already found God's fountain, eternal life in knowing Him. (John 17:3) The air within that portion is sweet with God's faithfulness and lovingkindness, which extends all the way to the heavens--and how far is that? I'm not too technical; to me, the heavens are what I can see when I crane my head back as far as possible, and look up. At night, our view extends far into the blackness of space, unimpeded by an atmosphere illuminated by sunshine. When everything is darkest, we see the farthest into the depths of His lovingkindness and faithfulness.

The soil of that great portion, flanking the mountains of righteousness and the deeps of judgments, is love. It is in God's love that we as Christians are rooted and grounded. Moreover, the love of Christ extends past the limits of our discovery, in every direction. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

David acknowledged that there were some things that might be outside of his portion. He saw other men, "whose portion is in this life, and whose belly Thou dost fill with treasure; they are satisfied with children..." But as he began to explore all that had been given him for an inheritance, he came to a great conclusion: "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me." The border lines were laid in just the right places. They weren't traced according to cities and landmarks, like the inheritances of the twelve tribes of Israel. Instead, the map of his portion, and of ours too, consists of a giant perimeter--or is there even a perimeter?-- and inside that vast territory, the word, "God".

We'd better start walking!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Borrowed Words

I found this excerpt in C.H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening the other night, and thought it was worth sharing. Especially because I like having such good company in prescribing a walk as a balm for all woes. :)

"Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide." (Genesis 24:63)

...When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebekah while engaged in private thoughts. Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have innumerable texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching. When the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes on the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, nor so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of the day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field in the evening. But if not, the Lord is in the town, too, and will meet with you in your room or in the crowded street. Let your heart go forth to meet Him.

Just Another Walk

Most people wouldn't consider me very sentimental. I don't mind if my birthday is forgotten, and I'm not one to keep lots of mementos from childhood. But I am sentimental about some things, especially about places that have been meaningful to me.

There were six things left on my to-do list tonight, but I decided that none of them was important enough to keep me indoors on a beautiful evening. So I went for a walk. As I meandered around the farm, I began thinking about the year that I've lived here, and the memories that saturate those fields. Most of the fields have one of my thinking spots, places that I've gone to meditate or pray. And almost every field has been a battleground where some particular victory was won. Many of them are associated in my mind with some verse of Scripture that the Lord sent to me in a time of need.

The first place to which my feet turned was the Psalm 25:12 field, where last summer I spent many evenings praying about the decision whether or not to move up here. So often the Lord drew near to me there, and thrilled my heart with His love and care for me.

From there, I crossed a couple hill pastures, and turned to follow the dusty road out to the orchard. I went by the place where I watched the sun rise one wintry morning, and learned a great lesson about hope, as the sun burst in warm glory upon a frigid landscape.

The orchard was one place where I had cried out, "Why, God!?" about a friend's difficult circumstances--and He answered something along the lines of John 13:7, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter."

A little further on, and I came to the field where I had once lain in the grass and admired the blue sky above, and realized just a bit more, how much I am loved and cared for by my heavenly Father.

I lingered a while in the last field, my steps slowing down as I crossed windrows of hay. I paused and lifted a bunch of hay, damp with dew, but light and soft, to my nose. The dusky, sweet smell that I love so much, filled my nostrils. It was not hard at all to relive a day last summer, when the Lord proved Himself to me in that field, and I gained a new perspective on James 5:17. The grass had lain there in just the same manner on that day, when a friend and I stopped in the midst of morning milking to ask the Lord for a dry day so that we could get the hay in. The God of the universe, the One Who controls the rise and fall of nations, and the movement of the galaxies, had bent down to hear the plea of two young people in manure-spattered clothes, and heard their prayer over the clicking milkers and swishing tails and buzzing flies. He made sure that the downpours went around that field, just close enough for us to see it raining a mile or two away, and we got all the hay in.

As I walked through that field tonight, it really hit me. The Lord Jesus became a curse for me, let His blood stream forth for my sins. Over and over God has proven His love and care for me, even in these very fields--and here I've been so worried that He will overlook some of the needs I think that I have. I've been listening to recordings of Isaiah and Ezekiel lately, and one of the biggest things that struck me is that God CARES intensely about His people, and about their relationship with Him. He eagerly desires that they should know Him, that they should recognize that He alone is God, that they should walk in company with Him. What an amazing thought, that One so high, should care about those who are so insignificant. I could care less what an ant thinks about me. But somehow God is not content until His people recognize Him for Who He is, and rest in trust upon Him. The pleading of His heart toward Israel, as recorded by the prophets, now seemed, in a way to be directed to me. As though God were saying, "Don't you SEE! I'll take care of you! You truly shall not want. I shall freely give you, with Christ, all things! You don't have to worry at all, my child."

Now that place has become my Romans 8:32 field.

It was getting pretty dark as I headed home, crossing through the 1 Corinthians 13 field, where I had meditated on that passage while raking hay, and realized in a new way the pain and joy of loving like the Lord Jesus. I didn't have time to visit the Matthew 11:30 field, or to stop by one of my many favorite haunts, where the hemlock trees shoot so far upward, taking my thoughts toward heaven with them. I did slow down to admire the moon, which was in the process of lifting a gauzy veil of cloud away from it's face. It lay like a radiant opal, set in a mother-of-pearl sky, where it's yellow glow picked up hints of pink and green and blue. The delicate tops of a couple of evergreen trees provided a perfect frame around the whole scene, and I could not help but admire the God Who had given me that special glimpse of beauty.

Last of all, I crossed the field where the Lord had given me definite peace about moving up here. I can't help but be glad for that leading. So many lessons there have been, so many challenges and victories, so many tears and so many smiles. So many memories that will live on long after the farm is gone. It was in that field that the Lord also gave me John 21:16, which paraphrased sounded to me like, "Rachel, do you love Me more than these? More than these fields, more than the thousand things that you love about this place, more than the people who have made it home to you, more than the friends you have made here?"

The answer is yes. But I'm awfully thankful for those things too.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hiking

I love the mountains. The mere sight of them on the horizon, their heads swathed in gauzy turbans of cloud, their bases lost in the valleys, makes me excited. I love looking at them, I love photographing them, but most of all, I love hiking in them.


Last week I got to go for a wonderful hike with my uncle and cousins. We started climbing early in the morning. Sometimes, early mornings are restless times. Gusts of wind chase the mist back and forth, as though the mountain is tossing its bedclothes around, trying to block out the sunlight which insists on disturbing its slumber. One is never quite sure whether the sun or clouds will be victorious. Finally, the conflict is over, and the mountain emerges, sunny and fresh, as though now that it's finally out of bed, it is glad to be awake.

On this particular morning, the mountain had already made up its mind to wear a smile, and the morning was serene and beautiful. In fact, the whole day was bright and warm, a perfect day for hiking. I always love hiking. But this time, I enjoyed it more than usual. It wasn't only because of the great weather, or the fun companionship, or the thrilling route that we chose. Really, it was because of a change in philosophy.


I decided that this time, rather than focusing on going as far or as fast as possible, I would just enjoy each part of our traverse. Rather than pushing to stay in the front of the line, I varied my position, sometimes bringing up the rear, at other times hiking in the middle, sometimes walking alone, sometimes in company of the others. Each variation was enjoyable, and above all, I was free to delight as fully as possible in the gorgeous weather, the strenuous trail, and the pleasant companionship.

While my body concentrated on pushing forward, my mind mused upon life, and how similar it is to hiking. The secret to the Christian life, it seems, lies in the step-by-step living of daily life. We know that we will reach our destination, because the blood of Jesus has assured that. And so, we are free to concentrate on making the most of each day, enjoying all the blessings that come our way. Some parts of the trail are smooth and level, and how we enjoy those parts! In other places, each step is a challenge, but it's also progress, and although we sometimes quail at the steep places ahead, we can look at the mountains that we've already crossed, and know that the next mountain will be overcome in due time, just by putting one foot in front of the other by the strength that God provides.


It's impossible to describe the exhilaration that one experiences when hiking above treeline. The peaks look velvety from a distance, with juniper climbing partway up the ravines, and blending into gray rocks that cover the tops of the mountains. But when you get close to them they are only masses of boulders piled together, formidable and unforgiving. Your lungs and legs cry out in weariness as you approach the next ascent, but little by little, one step at a time, the heights are gained--and when you look behind you, you're startled by the downward sweep of the bony ridge that you've traversed.


Just like my hiking companions and I encouraged and helped one another over the hard places, we get to strengthen our fellow believers. If five hikers reached the end of their trail, but one fell behind and was lost, the whole hike would be a failure. God assures that each of His children will reach the end of their trail with Him in heaven, but some of us get pretty badly bruised along the way and need the support of others in order to finish the journey well. And certainly each of us needs a helping hand or encouraging word at some point along the way.That hike gave me new understanding of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, "We urge you brethren...encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men." I sure am glad for those who apply that verse to me!


Interestingly, after I relinquished my hunger for miles, and decided to simply enjoy the trip regardless of distance, that hike ended up being the longest I've done. We crossed nine out of the ten peaks in that range...and yes, I do want to go back and try for all ten. But whether we accomplish it or not, I think I've learned my lesson: the journey is a whole lot more than simply a route to a destination!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Going-Home Look

My shift was finally over. The double doors of the intensive care unit shut with a click behind me, cutting off the noise of people talking, machines beeping, and monitors alarming. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed jubilantly for the door. A friendly housekeeping employee called goodnight.

"You have the look like you're going home," he said. It was true. My steps were bouncy, my head up, a smile threatening to float to the surface of my face. I laughed and called goodnight back to him.

The main plaza of the hospital was mostly deserted, and so I dared to vent my feelings by whistling the famous melody of Dvorak's New World Symphony, popularly called, "Going Home." What did I care about steps that I had to climb, or about grumpy people in my way, or about raindrops between the hospital and my car? I was going home--and everyone could tell!

Yes, going home. There are few greater privileges than having a wonderful home to which one can't wait to return. But this will only bve my home for a few more years. I'm on my way to my real Home, the one in glory with my Savior. What a home that will be--I can hardly wait!!

And I ask myself, would someone say of my daily life, "You have the look like you're going home"?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why This Waste?

Recently I read the story in Mark 14, of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Although it was worth about ten months' wages, she kept none of it back. Breaking the alabaster vial, that not a drop would be retained, it was poured in an instant upon the Lord's head.

One can imagine the gasps from the other disciples. "Why has this perfume been wasted?!" they exclaimed jealously. "Think how many poor people could have benefited from the price of its sale--and here it is, wasted on one man!"

But how pointedly the Savior rebukes them. "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me." And he tells them that not only will this woman's act of worship be remembered for all eternity, but that wherever the gospel is preached, throughout all the ages of time, it will be remembered. I wonder how they felt when they realized that their foolish valuation of her worship, would be recorded right next to the story of her devotion.

They called it waste. Why wasn't the value of the perfume transposed into good deeds? Jesus said, in effect, "She HAS done a good deed--to Me."

I wonder how often we make such errors. Five missionaries are killed for the sake of Christ in Ecuador--and we hear, "What a waste!" Borden of Yale, one-time millionaire, dies at age 25 in Egypt, where he was studying Arabic in order to preach the gospel to Muslims in China. What a waste! A young, intelligent man refuses a job that would offer him good money and prestige, because it would require too much of his time, time that could be spent in worshipful service to the Lord. Why this waste?! A woman gives up her budding career in order to make a happy home and raise children for the Lord. Why this waste?! Yes, there is much waste among Christians, from the human perspective. Waste of time, waste of life, waste of opportunities for self-advancement, waste of money. But there is another, more subtle, kind of deception into which I find myself falling sometimes.

"Why this waste?" whispers the evil one, when I resolve to take time out from a busy day to worship the Lord and study His Word. "You could be doing some kind of service, you know." "Why this waste?" he says again, when we give up precious day off to remember the Lord weekly. "You know how much you need to be able to sleep in....it would help prepare you to serve the Lord better, of course." "Why this waste?" when believers gather to pray. "Think how much you could get done for the Lord in that time!"

And yet the distinction that the Lord pointed out to the disciples is so clear. It is the "good deed to Me," that is most precious to Him. Worship seems to work itself out in service, but all service is not automatically worship. And it is worship, and enjoyment of our relationship with the Lord, that He most desires.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Lesson Learned

I have a confession to make. I've fallen out of the habit of taking my walks in the fields with the Lord. Weeks of rainy weather might be partly to blame, but it has also seemed as though I just didn't have the time.

Well, last night I had things to work over in my head that sent me up to the high pasture, one of my favorite meditating spots. After spending a while there, I began wandering through the fields, and realized how much I missed it. There is an absolute peace about meadows at dusk, with all the bugs and birds providing background music, and a cool breeze toying with the grass blades. Somehow, the rest, the utter absence of hurry, the quiet calm, seeps into my heated mind, and reminds me that God is not flustered--and why should I be?

This morning when I pulled back my window shade, I saw glorious yellow light spilling across the world, and decided that, long to-do list or not, I was going for a walk. It was such a wonderful way to begin the day! Luscious banks of green, dewy grass rose on either side of the dirt path. Birds sang joyously, and the whole world seemed glad to see the sun.

I headed back out in the late afternoon for a longer walk. The sun was hidden behind sullen clouds, and a restless breeze was gusting. A storm was coming, for sure! I ran this time, right into the wind. Somehow when the wind is at your back, it is more of a nuisance than anything, and the shadow of your own body seems to steal the refreshing coolness from the air you breathe. But when the wind is in your face, whipping every strand of hair back, blowing into your mouth and nose, it is so thoroughly exhilarating! Wind coursed along the long grass, sending it into a marvellous rippling motion that can hardly be described. The blades of grass ran with the wind as far as they could, then bounced up to catch the next gust. Trees tossed fitfully, and transposed the wind into an exciting rushing noise.

It is a good thing when troubles can be blown out of one's heart, by a walk at twilight, or by a run in a windy field. Not because they are small troubles, but because it's impossible to be swallowed up in God's majestic creation without being reminded of His greatness and His nearness. How blessed we are to be able to see Him in the everyday beauty around us.

I'll be taking more walks soon. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pictures!

Sorry that the blog has been rather lacking in the picture department...the rainy weather and a busy schedule haven't been too helpful to my photography efforts. :)

I love the fields...but the woods are pretty too. :) This was taken by the sidewalk at work where I take my lunchtime walks.

Multi-floral rose...it looks nice, it smells nice, but it AIN'T nice, when it's growing in your field! Right, Uncle John?

A "Pastural" Scene


The clouds ARE good for something....

Cows grazing at sunset. This picture is hard to see unless you click on it to see the full version...




Spacious Skies

Good Things

Somebody was whispering…and I was listening.

“Poor thing,” the voice said. “You don’t have things easy. Of course life isn’t hard for you compared to some people, but still…you could have a lot more enjoyment in life if you weren’t so self-sacrificing.”

“Hey, look at that girl,” it said a little later. “What a happy life she has, so many people around to love her and admire her.”

“Dreaming isn’t wrong,” said a voice by my pillow. “Especially when the life you dream about is so good and upright and beautiful. It’s strange that the Lord hasn’t given it to you.”

A strange thing started to happen. As I listened to the voice, and pictured the happy life that I could lead “if only,” I didn’t become happier. Quite the opposite. The greener that the grass looked on the other side of the fence, the yellower it appeared on my side.

That’s when I started meditating on the “good thing” verses. I have found four of them so far.

James 1:17—“Every good thing bestowed…is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
Psalm 16:2—“I said to the Lord, ‘Thou art my Lord; I have no good besides Thee.’”
Psalm 84:11b---“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Psalm 34:10b—“They who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

It’s fascinating how they fall into two pairs. When paraphrased, they read:


Every good thing is from God.
No good thing is apart from God.
AND
God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly.
Those who seek Him get every good thing.

The first two are unconditional; they are about who God is, regardless of our behavior. They seem to depict God as Sovereign, providing good things to all the people in His dominion. Every good thing in this world is from God, no matter who enjoys it. There’s nothing good apart from Him. Those phrases are two different ways of expressing the same simple concept, and yet how often I mistrust that truth! Really, Lord? You mean I’ll never find anything that is genuinely good, apart from You?

The second two verses are conditional. They deal, not with Who God is, but with how He acts. They depict God as Father, blessing individually those who became His children by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 1:12). A good father desires to bless his children to the full extent of his ability. If it were up to him, he would give them a new gift every day when he came home from work. And yet, sometimes he is hindered, not because he is unable to bless them, but because his children are acting in such a way as to prevent him from blessing.

Perhaps it is because they are being disobedient, and if he gave them a gift in their disobedience, he would be reinforcing their bad behavior, which would ultimately lead them away from him and the love that he wants to give them. Sometimes he cannot bless them because they are ungrateful for the love he’s already shown them, and to give them a gift would only spoil them and lead them to feel perpetually discontented. Sometimes he can’t bless them because they never stop long enough to take the blessing, but tear past his outstretched hand, bent on their own mission. Sometimes, he must withhold a blessing for a time, simply because the child isn’t ready for it. They have more to learn, or they need to grow, before they could properly enjoy it. Nobody would think it a good idea to give a brand new car to a child of six.

Aren’t these all reasons that our God might have to withhold good things from us? And yet, these verses emphasize God’s eagerness to shower upon us every blessing that He possesses. His purpose for eternity is that “in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Don’t you think He longs to do that now?

It’s almost as though God has His hand in His pocket, ready to pull out a gift to give His child, and He’s leaning down, watching until the very first moment when His child is ready to get the gift. The instant comes, and, without a second’s delay, the gift is theirs.

Each of the “good thing” verses, is an absolute statement, “Every good thing,” “No good thing,” “Any good thing,” “No good besides Thee.” God gives a “satisfaction guarantee.” Nothing but our own sin and obstinacy, can hinder us, as God’s children, from getting the full dose of His blessing. Sometimes we think that we must plead with God for His blessings. I wonder sometimes if He feels like pleading with us to step into the place where He can give us the blessings that He must otherwise hold back for our own good.

The next time the voice shows up, I’ll have some good ammunition. The motto of the local hardware store is, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” When I’m walking in obedience to the Lord, and that little voice points out to me something "good-looking" that somebody else is enjoying, I can remember the “good things” verses, and hear the Lord saying to me, “If you don’t have it, you wouldn’t want it—it’s not a good thing for you right now, daughter.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is Thy Beloved?

The other night my friend and I were chatting over Skype. If any eavesdropper in cyberspace was listening to our conversation, I wonder what he thought when one of us asked the question, “What is it that you love about God?” We soon came to the conclusion that it was impossible to sum up what it is that we love about our God—how can the infinite God be confined to words on paper?

I continued to think about the question as I got ready for bed. It reminded me of another question, asked so long ago, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women?” (Song of Solomon 5:9) In answer, she tried to describe his person, in language that was figurative of his character. I can think of no better way to describe my God.

What do I love about God? I love His eyes, how they are like a flame of fire1[1], yet wept with the sorrows of men.[2] I love to know that His eyes are upon the righteous[3], and that He sees my every action[4] and yet that He still loves me.

I love how His ears are open to my cry[5], to the faintest sob, the boldest praise, to my very voice, not just to what I say.[6]

I love how my life, when I live in obedience, is a fragrance of Christ to His nostrils.[7] My prayer can be as incense before Him.[8]

I love how His mouth is full of gracious words,[9] and yet how He speaks with authority.[10] How a word from His mouth created the universe[11], and it was His breath that gave life to man[12]. I love how He has the tongue of disciples, knowing how to sustain the weary one with a word.[13] He holds all things together by the word of His power.[14]

I love how the face of the Lord Jesus was set like flint to go to Jerusalem to bear my sin.[15] How He did not hide his face from the spittle of his enemies.[16] And it’s the same face which is like the sun shining in its strength.[17]

I love His shoulders, which bore the cross for me.[18] One day, they shall bear the key of the house of David.[19] And yet, as a shepherd He bears His lambs on His shoulders.[20]

I love His arms. They are strong arms.[21] They are everlasting arms, beneath us in whatever circumstances we are.[22] They are the arms which carry the weakest of His own.[23] They are the arms that embraced the little children.[24]

His fingers wrought the heavens.[25] His hands were pierced with nails for me.[26]
He is beyond the comprehension of the most brilliant mind. And yet God is love, a concept understood by the youngest child. He seems to us a paradox, and yet no aspect of His character is compromised.

Everything about my God is wonderful. Or, as the bride of long ago answered, when she had described her beloved from head to toe, “He is altogether lovely!”



[1] Revelation 1:14
[2] John 11:35
[3] Psalm 34:15
[4] Psalm 139:3
[5] Psalm 34:15
[6] Psalm 116:1
[7] 2 Corinthians 2:15
[8] Psalm 141:2
[9] Luke 4:22
[10] Mark 1:22
[11] Psalm 33:6
[12] Genesis 2:7
[13] Isaiah 50:4
[14] Hebrews 1:3
[15] Isaiah 50:7
[16] Isaiah 50:6
[17] Revelation 1:16
[18] John 19:17
[19] Isaiah 22:22
[20] Luke 15:5
[21] Psalm 89:13
[22] Deuteronomy 33:27
[23] Isaiah 40:11
[24] Mark 9:36
[25] Psalm 8:3
[26] Psalm 22:16

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My First Video Attempt

Well, I haven't tried this video posting thing yet, so here goes!

This is a video taken last year, when I was raking hay...I've talked a bit about haying on the blog here so I thought maybe you'd like more of an idea of what it's like...though the pictures sure don't do it justice. :) They can't capture the satisfaction of organizing a whole field into neat rows, the unique sound of swishing hay as it whirls around under the rake, the wonderful scents coaxed by the hot sun into the warm breeze, the pure satisfaction of being part of a team to get the hay in before sunset.

video






Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wordless Beauty

This is Grammy. She has dementia. Little by little, her brain is betraying her, forgetting how to live life. Words are becoming a mystery, tasks which she used to do so efficiently and easily are now frustrating puzzles.

But there are some things, the meaning of which she remembers. A hug, a kiss, a smile, a mug of hot cocoa, all are things that touch her emotions and make her happy. And beauty. She has a remarkable eye for beauty. Not just the beauty that most of us see, in well-kept gardens and hot-house flowers. No, she sees beauty in grasses, and dandelions, and pieces of foliage, and brings them indoors for us to enjoy by the kitchen window. Below are pictures of some of her bouquets.







Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In a Hurry

The last several days I’ve been privileged to be part of a large gospel effort, focusing largely on door-to-door visiting. The responses have been varied, as usual. Most are polite, many seem disinterested, others are rude, and some are friendly and glad to see us.
“In a hurry,” one man told me when I asked if I could show him a verse from the Bible. He wasn’t the only one; it was a response we had heard several times. It made me think of the hymn,

“Sunk in ruin, sin, and misery,
Bound by Satan’s captive chain,
Guided by his artful treachery,
Hurrying on to endless pain;
My Redeemer, my Redeemer,
Plucked me as a brand from hell.”

Yes, hurrying on, hurtling toward an infinity of suffering and regret, with no time for eternity. The lost are indeed in a hurry.

Is God in a hurry? “The Lord is not slow about His promise…but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God is in no hurry to bring judgment upon sinners. Rather, we read, “Thou art a God ready to pardon.” (Neh. 9:17). It has been said that the only time that the Bible depicts God the Father as being in a hurry, is when the father of the prodigal son ran to meet his repentant boy. So yes, God is eager—perhaps we may even say reverently that He is in a hurry—to forgive.

The lost are hurrying to a Christless eternity of agony. God is hurrying to intercept them with His forgiveness. Have we who call ourselves Christians got any urgency at all about their souls?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

At long last!

Well, I feel like it's been a long time since my last post...hopefully a bunch of pictures at once will make up for it. :)

The Bean Teepee (which is a word I never learned to spell)


Queen of the mountain!

As Seen Through the Iris


"Come Lord Jesus"


The color only God could invent...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pruning

This spring my uncle gave me my first lesson in pruning fruit trees. While I am nowhere close to proficient, the experience gave me a new understanding of Christ’s words, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1,2)

The first lesson I learned is that the one pruning is a visionary; he does not see the twigs that are there, but the branches that they will become. Based on that, he decides what growth to leave, and what to prune out. When the Lord looks at the various parts of our life and our character, He sees how they will develop down the road.

On an apple tree, the desirable boughs are those which grow out horizontally, within easy reach for picking the fruit and into a space where they will receive enough sunlight. The goal of pruning is to maximize the amount of nourishment and sunlight that these branches will receive.

The easiest part of pruning is removing the dead branches; it is very clear that they need to be gone in order to avoid shading the living branches. It is easy to understand why the Lord prunes out certain parts of our lives which He shows us to be sinful, dead works.

But once the dead branches are removed, it becomes a lot harder for me to know what to prune. There are some healthy, vibrant boughs that need to be taken out, because they grow straight up, where their fruit will be out of reach and of no use to anyone. They will only shade the lower branches. Therefore, they are pruned out, though it might seem like a shame. There are things in our lives that might not be bad, just useless, and they take energy that could be put into more profitable things. When our desire is to bear fruit for the Lord, He loves us too well to let us be comfortably distracted into wasting our lives.

It’s even harder to understand why some branches must be removed that grow in the right direction, and seem full of promise for good fruit. But they need to be pruned out because they will crowd out the other fruitful boughs. Our lives can only support a finite number of occupations, even useful ones. Our Husbandman sometimes has to help us focus on the good works that He has given us to do (Eph. 2:10), not all the good things that need to be done.

Yet just as there is a limit to how many fruitful branches a tree can sustain, there is a limit to how many of the undesirable branches can be removed at one time. How wise the Father is, knowing just how much to prune us at a given time. I’m so glad that He is the one who holds the clippers, and that I can trust His all-wise, all-loving hand to make my life more fruitful.

Daybreak

The other night when I was working, I took my break around 4:30 in the morning. As I sat down in my in my usual spot, I looked out the window and was startled to see the horizon brightening. It was that unique blue-green color that is so hard to describe, still very pale and bordered by clouds, but it was bright enough to outline the silhouettes of some giant pine tree tops.


Suddenly there came to my mind the words of H. Suso's beautiful poem, a poem that expresses the way I want to feel about my Savior.


The Night Watch

Oh when shall the fair day break, and the hour of gladness come,
When I to my heart's Beloved, to Thee, O my Lord, go home?
O Lord, the ages are long, and weary my heart for Thee,
For Thee, O my one Beloved, whose Voice shall call for me.
I would see Thee face to face, Thou Light of my weary eyes,
I wait and I watch till morning shall open the gate of the skies;
The morn when I rise aloft, to my one, my only bliss,
To know the smile of Thy welcome, the mystery of Thy kiss.
For here hath my foot no rest, and mine eye sees all things fair
As a dream of a land enchanted, for my heart's love is not there;
And amidst the thronging of men I am lonelier than alone,
For my eye seeketh One I find not, my heart craveth only One.


I lay down for a rest, and when I woke up, the day had come. Just like that morning will come one day. And I won't sleep through it's arrival!





Saturday, May 9, 2009

Just 'cause

A couple more pictures that I liked...



Home Sweet Home :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Morning

Well, my plans to sleep in this morning didn't work out, but it was such a glorious morning that I couldn't be too disappointed. :) Here are a few random pictures from this morning.


Eye spy....

This isn't a great picture artistically, but I love this calf's "Peek-a-boo!" expression as it looked over the back of another calf.