Monday, July 27, 2009


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 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


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 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.
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