Venturing West: Wildlife

IMG_4168I think what makes the sweeping landscapes of the west the most compelling is that moment when you walk down the winding path from the scenic overlook into the heart of the rugged hills—and find that the valleys are teeming with life.

You find that the lonely plains are not so very lonely after all, but bursting instead with the spring trills of meadowlarks on fence posts and the clucking of brilliant shy pheasants.  IMG_3800A coyote comes out of nowhere, and a prairie dog town bursts into whistles of warning as the sentinels stand motionless, upright and vigilant at the entrances to their burrows.IMG_4037IMG_4052 A pompous tom turkey proudly fans his splendid tail out, dragging wings dramatically along the ground.  A big-eared mule doe lifts her head, whisking her flag tail nervously at the sight of us.  Is there a tiny fawn hiding in that thicket behind her?IMG_4189IMG_3919Wild mares sniff the air cautiously while tiny colts rest peacefully amidst the sage brush.  IMG_4152.JPGIMG_4161Along a bare windswept ridge, a herd of bison move as one together.  One gaunt cow grazes greedily without looking up, as her wee calf wobbles along in front of her, still a little unsteady on his feet.IMG_4121IMG_4158And on and on it went.

Needless to say, we were in awe at the incredible beauty and variety in this world of animals so different from those native to our own neighborhood.  In fact, we saw such an amazing assortment of wildlife in such a short period of time, it kind of felt like some grand orchestral rendition of “All Creatures of Our God and King” should have been playing as the soundtrack of our trip—or at least this Psalm:

“Praise the Lord from the earth, ye…beasts, and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl…Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:7, 10, 13)

And just imagine—someday we’re actually going to hear these creatures, along with thousands of others, voice their praise to their Creator:

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:13)

IMG_4193The thought of that absolutely gives me goosebumps.

 

Venturing West: The Long View

IMG_4130For all the outdoor beauty we enjoy here in Minnesota, I must admit that there is one thing we’re a little short on, and that’s the long view.  I do love all our trees, but thanks to those thick forests the places where you can stand and see for miles are somewhat few and far between.  Which is why, when I travel to places like North Dakota and Montana as we had the opportunity to do this last month, I can hardly get enough of those endless scenic vistas.  I love to see the beautiful, raw curves and contours of the land, love to see distant hills fading away in shades of blue and purple to the horizon, love the way those vistas kindle my imagination with the possibilities of what may lie even further beyond.

It’s in moments like those that I sometimes find myself wishing that life itself was a little more like standing on the edge of a continual scenic vista and not quite so much like plugging along through the thick forest with no idea what’s around the next bend.  You know, being able to see into the future and knowing the purpose and end result of things instead of always wondering.  Have you ever wished for that, too?

In some ways, that’s just how it is to be human.  We aren’t all-knowing or all-seeing like God is.  That’s why we have to trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding, because He’s the only one who can see the long view.  That necessary dependence is part of the beauty of our relationship with Him.

Yet recently I happened upon a passage in His Word that, interestingly, does promise a certain amount of special vision for the righteous.  In this particularly beautiful chapter in Isaiah, “sinners in Zion” and “the godless” are terrified after hearing of God’s promised judgement and ask:

“Who among us can live with the consuming fire?  Who among us can live with continual burning?”  (“burning” being a picture of the judgement that is prophesied to come)IMG_4067And God answers with that beautiful balance of justice and mercy befitting His character: “‘He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity…IMG_4221.JPG
…he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe…IMG_3959.JPG
…he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil…IMG_3965…he will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock…IMG_4178IMG_4194.JPG…his bread will be given him, his water will be sure…

IMG_4171…your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will behold a far-distant land.'”  (Isaiah 33:14-17)

That last little line is my very favorite part.  Isn’t it beautiful?  To those who walk according to His ways, He does give, among many other wonderful gifts, without negating our need to walk in faith, a glimpse of that long view and those distant horizons, or, as another translation puts it “the land that stretches afar”.

He’s not talking about physical scenic vistas here, breathtaking as those are.  I don’t even think He’s necessarily talking about knowing the future.  Instead, He’s promising the righteous spiritual eyes to see above and beyond the figurative forests humankind stumbles through, and to see instead His ways and His will—and ultimately, to see to the farthest horizon where the glory of eternity with Him awaits.  To see things from His perspective.IMG_4125It’s like being given a pair of God-shaped binoculars.  And, really, can you think of anything more breathtaking?

P.S. Yes, this trip out west is the reason you haven’t heard from me here in a while—but my camera was busy while we were away.  Stay tuned for more soon!