Project 52 #45: Rhythms of Praise

Ocean tides, they rise and fall,

Rolling waves, they know their bounds,

As earth spins round,

In dance with moon,

At the voice of Creator God,

At the voice of our God.

And all the earth, it sings,

All the earth, lifts up its praise,

Glory,

Glory,

Glory to Creator God.

“Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.” (Jeremiah 5:22)

Project 52 #32: Salmon Moon

Here in southeast Alaska, I’m told the Haida call the full moon of August the “Salmon Moon”, and the Tlingit call it “Berries-Ripe-On-Mountain Moon” (Incidentally, the Haida July moon is “Ripe Berry Moon” and the Tlingit July moon is “Salmon Moon”!). Both names certainly make sense! This week, we were blessed with night after night of clear skies to watch the moon rise. The thimbleberries were at their peak of ripeness, and my fingers were bright red by the time I’d picked enough for a batch of jam.

The streams were full of spawning pinks, and with my Alaska fishing license hot off the press (yep, I was cheap and waited until I could pay $5 to fish in Alaska instead of $100!), I landed my very first one. It was a male humpy, past the stage of good eating, and we released him, but it was still a thrill to land my first salmon! Lord willing, it will be the first of many.

We drove down some new forest roads, and hiked down some new trails. Though many of the wilderness places pictured here are without official name, the very last picture is of Hatchery Falls, where we got to see salmon jumping up the falls. It was amazing to see their determination and strength!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

Project 52 #21: A Heart of Worship

“So David went and had the ark of God brought up from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David with rejoicing. When those carrying the ark of the LORD had advanced six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.

And David, wearing a linen ephod, danced with all his might before the LORD, while he and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sounding of the ram’s horn.” (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of worship lately. Perhaps that’s why those aspects of the story of David, sweet psalmist of Israel, have especially stood out to me as I’ve been reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel. David was very human (a fact that the Bible certainly doesn’t gloss over), but in spite of this it is his clear understanding of worship that consistently stands out and seems to mark him as a “man after God’s own heart”.

The definition of “worship” reads: “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. Worship is not necessarily music, or even words. Broadly, worship is simply anything that is deliberately done to bring glory to God. As Paul encourages: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God!” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It kind of seems like you can’t go wrong if your purpose is right.

But interestingly, there’s an incident from David’s life that illustrates that worship is not to be offered carelessly, even if we mean well. Previously to the grand triumphal entry I quoted above, David had made an attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem that didn’t go quite so well.

“And [David] and all his troops set out…to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name—the name of the LORD of Hosts, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on it. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart, bringing with it the ark of God…David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of wood instruments, harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:2-5)

Seems pretty good so far. But then—

“Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen had stumbled. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there beside the ark of God…That day David feared the LORD and asked, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”” (2 Samuel 6:6-7, 9)

David’s intentions were great—but he had hastily overlooked some of the basic rules God had outlined for the transportation of the ark (it was to be carried by hand, not wagon). Uzzah had overlooked them even further, and put out his hand to steady the ark—and was struck dead for his irreverence. As the son of a priest Uzzah should have known better, but it’s also a fact that if the ark had been transported properly, there never would have been occasion for this calamity. Great intentions in worship do not negate God’s laws of order and holiness.

However, within the parameters of God’s law, there is beautiful freedom and flexibility for how we express our worship.

That’s evident in the story above, when on the second (correct and successful!) attempt to bring the ark up to Jerusalem, David, led the procession, dancing with joyful abandon before the Lord. His own wife watched him do this, and despised him for making a fool of himself before his people. It is key to note here that he was not dancing to entertain or impress. He obviously did NOT impress Michal. He wanted the entry of the ark to Jerusalem to be about God, not himself. He could have chosen as king to be dressed in his richest robes, conducting himself with pomp and circumstance, but instead he chose to humble himself to the level of the common people. In response to his wife’s disdain, he replies:

“I was dancing before the LORD, who chose me over your father and all his house when He appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel. I will celebrate before the LORD, and I will humiliate and humble myself even more than this.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22)

At another point in David’s life, he writes: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:15-17) This was a different type of worship—that of contrition, or recognizing his sinfulness in comparison to the awesome perfection and holiness of God—but it was again a position of humility. Interestingly, he went on to say “…THEN You WILL delight in righteous sacrifices, in whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.” (Psalm 51:19) It was not that God didn’t want the sacrifices that He Himself had instituted, but that they were meaningless to Him if they were not offered out of a heart of humility.

Humility,

coupled with awareness of God’s instructions for order and holiness,

is the key to worship that aligns our hearts with God’s.

Project 52 #17: On Salmonberries and Friendship

The forest here is really beginning to burst with color and life, and I am loving watching it all. With so many different and unfamiliar kinds of plants in this wet, coastal climate, it’s like getting to know a new friend.

Already a few favorites are developing, like the lovely and prolific salmonberry bushes. I’ll always remember when we met the salmonberries for the first time last July, on the evening of our arrival in Alaska. It was the girls’ first day to see our new home, and they were full of excitement and curiosity. Before we knew it they were picking salmonberries with the neighbors, giant sparkling jeweled berries that grew wild and free along the streets. We were instantly charmed. You could say we and the salmonberries hit it off right away. We picked more in the next few weeks while the berries were in season and made some treats with them. I might have told you then that I was now familiar with salmonberries.

But then, we watched the autumn frosts touch their leaves, that eventually fell to the ground. We watched the canes dripping bare with November rains, weighed down with December snows and January ice. We waited for spring to slowly, slowly wake them up. One day in March, I overheard one lady exclaim delightedly to another in the store: “I saw the first salmonberry blossom today!” I walked out of that store and promptly went looking until I found a bush along the waterfront, studded with twisted buds on the verge of bursting open. I was surprised and delighted to discover that they were a vivid shade of brilliant pink. Now they are open everywhere, as pictured above, studding the leafing branches with punches of color. It yet remains in the next couple months for us to watch the petals fall and the berries to develop before we come full circle. I realize now that it takes more than a great first impression and having a little fun together to build true familiarity.

Friendship is like that. Even if you hit it off right away, the development of a true, lasting friendship takes time, weathering all the seasons of life, the good and the bad, each shared experience another building block in the process of developing a relationship with anyone. Like the world of nature, friendship is organic. It can’t be forced or rushed, but it can be encouraged and nurtured. And sometimes, something truly beautiful comes of it, the kind of friendship that people write stories about.

The book of Ruth is one of those kind of stories. Ruth starts out the story as a foreign heathen Moabite woman, brought into relationship with Naomi by marriage to her son. The death of Mahlon, their mutual interest, could easily have separated them, but instead drew them closer. By the end of the story, Ruth has become better to Naomi “than seven sons”. These women grieved together, journeyed together, went through hardship together, solved problems together, rejoiced together, and, most importantly, grew in their understanding of and trust in God together—and the result may have been one of the loveliest mother-in-law/daughter-in/law relationships ever recorded.

“Boaz replied, “I have been made fully aware of all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you did not know before.  May the LORD repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a kinsman-redeemer. May his name become famous in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #13: Dark and Light

What I’ve been thinking about this week: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27)

About the photos: I was watching whale spouts and sea otters while I was taking these photographs. None of them came close enough for me to get decent pictures, but it was beautiful to see the ocean alive with marine life while the sun and the rain danced against the backdrop of the mountains.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #9 Snowy Peaks and Hiking Views

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 

Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 

You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 

I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 

You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:3-12)

While it’s important to remember that this is a specific promise to the Israelite people, what I found beautiful about this passage was what it told me about the high value that God places on obedience and following His ways.

This is still true of God, by the way, and we’re not exempt from this principle. We have our own promises of the blessings of obedience. Here’s just one of them:

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

About the photos: Most of our snow at the lower elevations has disappeared—and finally some of the back roads and trails are accessible again! I was so excited about this and the beautiful sunny weather that I hiked two trails this week. You can see part of the town of Thorne Bay in the first overlook photo, and a bird’s eye view of the town of Craig on the other side of the island in the last photo. I was literally looking down at soaring eagles here. Also pictured, a couple of the highest peaks on Prince of Wales where there’s snow year-round!

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!