Savoring Summer #41: Beach Harebell

IMG_2033 edit“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)

Looking back over what I read this week—and over ALL the last six weeks!—this comforting statement of victory seems like a good way to sum it all up.

Stand fast in all these things, persevere, endure with joy…because we know that in the end, truth will triumph, and Christ will reign victorious!

AMEN!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

And, as promised, here’s another “bonus post” for you, featuring photos from our trip to the Black Hills last fall!

Savoring Summer #38: Quadruplets

IMG_2627 edit.jpg“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in prayers to God on my behalf.” (Romans 15:30)

Is there an any more beautiful thing than when the body of Christ, one in spirit, strives together in prayer for one another?  Today, I want you to know that I am praying for you who will read this, that “the God of peace be with all of you.” (Romans 15:33)  

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: You knew the resident swans were going to make their annual appearance on the blog at some point, didn’t you?  I know you can’t quite see them all here, but there are four cygnets this year!

Savoring Summer #30: Freshwater Clam

IMG_2248 edit.jpg“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

But oh, but how this “age” (or “world” or “pattern/standard of this world” in other translations) we live in begs for us to conform, and how quickly and easily our minds are clouded by its alluring priorities, causes, and agendas!

Something that stood out to me in this verse that hadn’t really before:  it suggests that perhaps the first step to understanding the will of God—something many, many people desire—is to check on your conformity versus transformity status.  Hmmm…

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #26: Muskrat

IMG_1988 edit“Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches. But if you do boast—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.” (Romans 11:17-18)

When I read this, I remember my grandpa doing an actual grafting demonstration in the church basement one Sunday evening to help us visualize what verses like this meant in the Bible.  He and my grandma were both passionate about praying for “the cultivated olive tree”, God’s chosen people, humbly and gratefully recognizing them as “the root”.

It’s a sweet memory of him, and the memory was a good reminder to me today to pray for the Jewish people (may they finally recognize Jesus as their true Messiah!) and, as the psalmist exhorts, the peace of Jerusalem!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

IMG_1980 editAbout the photo:  When you discover a muskrat sharing your swimming space, you either panic or count it as the highlight of your day.  We chose the latter!

Savoring Summer #21: Field of Flowers

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Memory verse: “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The third step on the Romans Road is the solution to the problem.

P.S. See this post if you’re unfamiliar with the Romans Road!  Also, see this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

About the photo: I have never seen the fields near our house as completely covered in flowers as they are this year—and other people are saying it, too, so I know I’m not imagining it.

Savoring Summer #17: Clear Lake

IMG_1661 edit“For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:22-25)

Isn’t it nice to know that even the great Apostle Paul found himself caught in the war between the flesh and the Spirit?  That all of us, from the so-called greatest to the so-called smallest, struggle and fail in our humanity?  But even better to know that victory can be ours, not by our own striving, but through the power of Jesus Christ which is freely and equally available to all.

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

Savoring Summer #9: Noma Lake

IMG_1375 edit“[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise

but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,

because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do.(Romans 4:20-21)

Are there any of God’s promises that you have a hard time being “fully convinced” that He is really able to do?

Maybe it’s that one where He told you that He will save you by His mercy instead of your good works or behavior?  Or maybe it’s the one where He promises to never leave you or forsake you?  Or that one about how He will provide for your needs?

Let’s face it:  We like to cling to the tangible—what makes sense and what we can DO.  He often asks us to cling to the intangible—the supernatural, that only HE can do.  There’s no way around the fact that this takes a whole lot of faith.

Abraham was asked to believe the promise of an heir when he was too old, and descendants like the sand of the seashore before he even had one son, and the Messiah to come through his line, the last two which he would never see fulfilled in his lifetime.  He literally had to die still believing in the unknown.

But he did—and “it was credited to him for righteousness.” (4:22)  The only thing more amazing than this verse is the next: “Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (4:23-24)

The next time you are tempted to doubt the promises of God, remember that when you choose to take God according to His Word, no matter how crazy it might seem, He esteems your faith so highly that He does the same amazing thing for you as He did for Abraham: credits it to you for righteousness.

Wow.

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!

 

Savoring Summer #5: Liquid Birdsong

IMG_0919 edit“What then? If some were unfaithful, will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?  Absolutely not!  Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar…” (Romans 3:3-4)

Have you ever had someone use the excuse on you that they won’t become a Christian because they knew a Christian who was a hypocrite and it turned them off to Christianity?  God forbid that we who claim to follow Christ would turn people away from Him by our actions, and I believe we will be held accountable for it if we do—but the fact remains that Christians are human, and they do sin and fail sometimes.  So, keep this verse in your back pocket for the next time that excuse comes up.

Truth: the unfaithfulness of one of His followers does not disprove His faithfulness!

P.S. See this original post for info about this photo challenge and more about this reading plan I’m using this summer for the book of Romans (and I’d love to have you join in!)!  Also, if you’re reading along, feel free to share your own thoughts from today’s passage in the comments!

About the photo: Anyone else love the song of the red-winged blackbirds as much as I do?  It’s one of my top-favorite things to look forward to each spring!

South Dakota Adventure: Seeing It Through Their Eyes

IMG_7164 editWe’d seen them before, my husband and I.  The weird eroded shapes of the badlands.  Four massive solemn faces carved into a granite mountainside.  A herd of buffalo calmly holding up traffic.  Bighorn sheep leaping effortlessly up the faces of seemingly sheer precipices.  But oddly, seeing them for the second time seemed more meaningful to me than the first—and it was all because of three little people strapped in the back seats behind us.IMG_6733 editIMG_7518 editIMG_7806 edit

IMG_7533 editNow, don’t get me wrong.  Traveling with small children can indeed sometimes feel like one endless string of potty and snack breaks.  Some of the finer details of travel are inevitably lost on them.  Their favorite restaurant of the trip was the one that offered a package of goldfish crackers as a side on the kids’ menu instead of the one where they got to sample real rattlesnake sausage.  At the rock shop they were more interested in the cheap mood ring display than the gorgeous native rose quartz.  Sometimes dad and mom’s idea of a “fun” hike turned out more like a rather painful lesson in perseverance.  Or there was that time when we were driving through a magnificent canyon for the first time, and all they could comment on was, “Look!  There’s a blue truck!”

But the real reason we chose to travel with children was summed up in that moment when we first rounded a curve to see Mount Rushmore in the distance.  The collective childish gasp of amazement from the back seat made every tedious hour across the endless plains worthwhile.  The three-year-old was as enthralled as the seven-year-old, and spent the rest of our vacation scaling every rock in sight to pose and claim that she was now “George Lincoln”.IMG_7016 editIMG_6995 editIt was for them that we drove the wildlife loop at Custer State Park three times, just to hear them ooh and aah at the sight of several hundred bison moving down a valley en masse and squeal when the wild burros came lipping at our windows in hopes of handouts.  It was to laugh aloud every time the three-year-old shouted, “I see a cantaloupe!  I see a cantaloupe!” (any guesses what she was referring to?  Clue: it wasn’t fruit.).  It was to share their thrill each time a prairie dog popped up out of his hole and listen to them laugh with delight to see the young bighorn sheep leaping as confidently along the mountain crags as their parents.

We had seen it all before, but there was something wonderful about experiencing it anew through their eyes.IMG_7584 edit.jpgIMG_7578 edit.jpgIMG_6951 editIMG_6968 edit.jpgIMG_7838 editIMG_7452 edit.jpgIMG_7471 edit.jpgIMG_7854 editThe wonder continued when we visited the world’s largest collection of live reptiles.  We watched our littlest girl’s eye’s practically pop out of her head at the sight of a massive anaconda.  We looked together for loose tiny geckos running around in the conservatory, and gasped with them to find an (uncontained!) snake hanging in a tree over our heads.  We felt their excitement as they got to pet baby alligators and giant tortoises.  We laughed with them at the parrot who could meow like a kitten.

And I thought to myself: Wow! This place is way more fun than I remember as a teenager.  Had it changed that much?  No.  It was just me that had changed.  I was seeing the same blue frogs and cobras, but this time as a mother through the eyes of my children—and that made all the difference.IMG_7180 editIMG_6894 editIMG_6930 editIMG_7091 editOn this trip, I though a lot about what Jesus meant when He said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

There’s more than one aspect to “becoming like children”, but I think most of it can be summed up with the word simplicity.   And I don’t mean simple as in “dumb”; I mean simplicity in the sense of pure and uncomplicated. 

Simplicity in faith. 

Simplicity in love. 

Simplicity in obedience.

Simplicity in wonder.

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Forget Not His Benefits

IMG_5257 editSometimes, when you’re sick in bed, watching the world go by without you outside your window, it’s good to do something other than focus on how sore your throat happens to be.  Or maybe, for you, it’s more like sick in heart and focusing on how deep your hurts happen to be.  Either way, they can end up feeling pretty similar: discouraging.

I’ve found myself in both shoes at various times in my life, but for the past couple weeks, it happened to be in the physical realm, when my body decided to ignore all the items on my to-do list and important things I had on my schedule and sent me to bed instead with barely a voice to ask for a drink of water.  This was not in the plans, not to mention how many well-laid plans it managed to throw awry.

These are the times, I’ve found, when it’s time for a good dose of Psalm 103 right along with all the Vitamin C:

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (vs. 2)

It’s called turning my focus from all the things I’m missing out on to the gifts I have been given, which are many but too easily forgotten in the trouble of the moment.  Sometimes I think that’s one of the main reasons I even take pictures: so I can look at them later, remember, and be thankful.  That’s also one of the main reasons I keep a journal.  I think everyone should have some tangible way of remembering the little and big things God has given them, even if it’s just a running list on the counter.  Because we are oh, so prone to forget, but what incredible healing and uplifting there can be in the remembering!

So from my sick chair one afternoon, I scrolled through my photo files for the months of June and July, and remembered some of His benefits.

I remembered how we held our breath, waiting for the strawberry blossoms to turn to tiny nuggets of red sweetness in the canopy of the field grasses,

and how the butterflies danced amidst the short-lived lilacs, then moved to the field flowers.IMG_5210 edit.jpgIMG_5199 edit.jpg IMG_5768 editIMG_5809 editI remembered exhilarating cannonballs into cold lake water on a sultry day (or timid tiptoes in, as the personality went),

how we welcomed the first clouds of dragonflies zooming in to bring welcome relief from too many mosquitoes,

that day we swam with turtles.IMG_5726 editIMG_5702 editIMG_5887 editI remembered the spotted fawns trailing their mamas, stopping to stare wide-eyed at us from the edges of the forest,

watching from a respectful distance as a brave mama turtle left her eggs to the fates of nature,

that morning we got fresh doughnuts from a bakery and stopped to watch goose families paddling down a winding green river.IMG_5360 editIMG_5339 editIMG_5279 edit.jpgI remembered how the wild roses bent along the lake edge to almost touch the lapping waves,

the day I sat on a lake shore in a gentle rain of mayflies and thought how wonderful it was to be covered in bugs that didn’t bite you,

the day I and a three-year-old chased a brown-eyed cottontail through the field grass.IMG_5751 edit.jpgIMG_5559 edit.jpgIMG_5676 editI remembered the fish we saw, and the fish we caught,

the evening we celebrated our first summer birthday girl,

and waking up in the middle of the night to hear the loons yodeling and see the fireflies dancing outside my window like a thousand elusive stars.IMG_5763 editIMG_5457 edit.jpgIMG_6022 editI remembered eating ice cream in a shop that smelled of vanilla and waffles,

tiny birds carefully held by a small girl with a hole in her smile,

the way dandelions gone to seed look in the sunshine.IMG_5389 edit.jpgIMG_6062 edit.jpgIMG_5271 edit.jpgI remembered climbing among quiet pools and granite boulders along the Bigfork River,

the day we finally found the robin’s nest’,

and watching the full moon rise up over the flower garden.IMG_5851 edit.jpgIMG_6124 editIMG_6118 edit.jpgAnd, as is often the case, it was easy to go on from there and remember the things I didn’t have photographs of, like…

healthy baby kicks in my womb,

soothing tea with honey,

and my husband and dear friends who washed my dishes, cared for my children, and brought me food and medicine while I was down.

And you know what?  I wasn’t healed when I was done.  I was coughing as much as ever.  But in my soul, there had been a healing shift from the mentality of “poor me” to “wow, look at all my blessings”—and sometimes, I think we actually need that kind of healing more.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; all that is within me, bless His holy name…

He who forgives all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion,

who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103: 1, 3-5)