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 #7: Spruce Tips

IMG_1279 editMemory verse: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

I memorized the “Romans Road” as a child, but I’m looking forward to reviewing it this summer while teaching it to my kids!  If you are unfamiliar with the Romans Road, it’s merely the fancy name for a set of verses strictly from within this book of the Bible that clearly lays out the path to salvation.  It’s such a good group of verses to have memorized for that day when someone asks you how they can become a Christ-follower, and you don’t have a Bible in your hand.  If you have the Romans Road in your head and on the tip of your tongue, you have all the tools you need to confidently tell someone the simple and beautiful way to Jesus straight from the Bible.

Recognizing our sin is the first step on the road to finding a Savior.

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:  Did you know you can eat spruce tips, the pale green new baby growths that pop out on the branches in late spring/early summer?  Here’s an informative article if you’d like to learn more about them!  I picked these after photographing them during an evening walk, and I’m in the process of making them into an infused oil for a special recipe or two.  It’s been a fun project, but edible or not, the verdict is still out on whether we actually like spruce tips.  I’ll let you know what we think after we try it!

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!

Savoring Summer #3: Laying Eggs

IMG_1274 edit“Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse.  For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.”  (Romans 2:1)

This call to humility versus hypocrisy was so good today.  Always examine your own heart before daring to condemn another’s.  YES!

BUT—don’t take it out of context!  Read the whole previous passage before you start quoting it to prove a point.  The word “therefore” is key here.  In the context, this is a verse about sin versus righteousness.

It’s not a verse to be applied to mere “disagreements”.  For instance, this is not a verse about wearing masks versus not wearing masks in a pandemic—but there are other verses for that topic coming later—so stay tuned!

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: I’m a little disappointed that this mama painted turtle ultimately decided that my flower garden was NOT the best place to deposit her precious eggs—but she dug a pretty deep hole before she came to that conclusion!

 

Savoring Summer #2: Sweet Resting Place

dragonfly on lilac“For [God’s] invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made.  As a result, people are without excuse. “ (Romans 1:20)

Every vein in those delicate wings,

every sweetly fragranced four petaled blossom clustered on that lilac,

every ray of that sunlight sparkling down on them,

bears the unmistakable signature of Creator God.

I love that all of mankind, the world over, can see Him this way, without anyone saying one word.

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!

Borrowed

IMG_0495.JPGMeet my borrowed kayak!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was the day it got dropped off in my yard.  I’ve been dreaming for a long time of being able to experiment with the versatility of a kayak, both for personal recreation (a vessel I could handle all on my own!) and the new world of photographic opportunity it would open up for me (high stealth waterfowl photography, coming right up).

But, of course, the catch is that it’s borrowed, so it comes with a time limit.  To make things even more interesting, I don’t actually know what the time limit is.  I have a few educated guesses as to when it’s owners are going to decide that they want it back, but I really don’t know.  It could be in my yard for as little as a couple weeks.  It could be in my yard for the rest of the summer.

One morning though, a week or so after it arrived, I woke up to the fact that it was still just sitting in my yard.  Wait a minute!  Time was ticking, but I hadn’t even used it!  How silly would it be, after all the excited intentions I’d voiced, to sheepishly admit to the owners when they came to get it that the only water that had touched it while it was in my possession was raindrops from a summer storm?  They would be quite justified in questioning the worthwhile-ness of the effort it took for them to transport it to me.

So, on a quiet Sunday as a hazy afternoon was fading into evening, I hauled it to the water and gave it a go.IMG_0519.JPGIMG_0565.JPGI slipped along past the water lilies, and brushed gently through the wild rice.  The water was like glass except for the artful zigzags of water bugs.  The mosquitoes stayed away, and I could hear a blue heron croaking in the distance.  Water dripped down to my elbows as I dipped the paddle up and down, and for a few minutes, the looming to-do list for the upcoming weeks faded away to the back of my mind.

It was every bit as peaceful and relaxing as I’d imagined; how glad I was that I hadn’t missed the opportunity!IMG_0542IMG_0549The quiet of the water was a peaceful place for thinking, and as I floated airily along in my orange pod, it occurred to me that the gift of life is a lot like a borrowed kayak.

I’ve heard people who were healed from cancer or survived a terrible accident call their life thereafter “borrowed time”.  They realize that they could/should have died, and whatever time they get after that feels like a precious gift.  They go on to live with much greater intention and with much deeper gratefulness for every breath they take.

Here’s the truth, though: Those survivors have had the advantage of a wake-up call to bring them to their senses, but you and I should be living with the exact same amount of appreciation and urgency as they are.  We’re really all living on “borrowed time”.  God gave us life, but none of us came into this world with an automatic 100% guaranteed Will-Live-To-Ripe-Old-Age warranty built in.

That truth can be a little unsettling, but living in denial of it never helped anybody.  Better to embrace the exciting part, that we’re all given the exact same chance to make what we can of our limited time of unknown duration—and we get to choose!  We can “leave it sitting idly in the yard”, or “take it to water and go somewhere with it”.  We can fill our hours with good intentions or we can buckle on a life jacket and start paddling those intentions into reality.  We can waste opportunities, or we can embrace them for their full potential.IMG_0571 My encouragement for the day?  If there’s a kayak sitting neglected in your yard, go use it.  It’s good for the soul.  And if your life feels a bit like a neglected kayak, go use that, too.  Spend it well–and when time is up and it’s time to give an account, you’ll have no regrets.

And that’s really good for the soul.

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:

“As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.”

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12)

 

Milkweed

IMG_0171.JPGWe paused on our evening walk by a stand of sturdy broad-leafed plants, with their rounded flower heads bursting demurely into dusty pink.  It’s a habit formed in kindergarten for both of us, this annual foray into a milkweed patch.  After years of monarch caterpillar awareness,  we “knew” that it was just that time of summer that there should be some caterpillars in that milkweed, somewhere.  And we needed to say hello, show them to our girls, maybe remind them that there’s a nice little flower garden full of butterfly-friendly flowers in front of our house that they’re welcome to visit when they’re grown up.

But where were they?IMG_0168It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, peering under leaves, along stems—and it was a credit to surprisingly clever camouflage that we had almost given up when we finally spotted one.  But then it was like our eyes adjusted and we suddenly saw them everywhere!  Some tiny, some large, dressed in yellow, black and white stripes, far too busy eating to notice they’d been discovered by friendly nature enthusiasts.  Did you know that a Monarch caterpillar is capable of eating an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes?  Pretty amazing mouth-work for such a tiny creature!IMG_0160IMG_0169A few weeks later, walking past the same stand of milkweed, I witnessed a delicate orange and black butterfly flitting from flower to flower, graciously sipping nectar, and I found myself marveling anew at the beauty of God’s design for sustainability in creation.

The plant gives of itself so the caterpillar may eat.  The caterpillar, nurtured exclusively by milkweed, becomes a butterfly.  The butterfly, fresh out of its gold-flecked chrysalis pauses to pollinate the flowers of its benefactor, therefore ensuring that it will bear seed to produce…

more plants,

for more caterpillars,

for more butterflies,

for more seed next year.

IMG_0461.JPGAnd while we’re marveling over Monarch butterflies, let’s not forget how those gorgeously designed wings covered in tiny delicate scales will carry this creature 2,500 miles to Mexico come fall, to spend a warm winter on the exact same few trees its ancestors have spent winters on for ages before, and then all the way back again in the spring to lay the eggs that will become that next generation of caterpillars—because there isn’t any milkweed in Mexico!

There’s so much to marvel at in just this one amazing life cycle in nature!  Truly:

“…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

On the Twelth Day of Summer…

 

…my camera gave to me,

Twelve suns a-setting.

It seemed fitting to end this project with the best kind of ending a summer day could wish for, which is, of course, a glorious sunset.

Sometimes I caught reflections; once I caught a pulse of lightening in a rising thundercloud (can you spot it?).

Some were snapped at the last minute, quickly, while swatting mosquitoes; others were taken at leisure on nice evening walks down gravel roads while savoring soft evening breezes.

Sometimes the entire sky was ablaze with color; once, between storms, there was barely any color to speak of.

But the most memorable one was from the time I went sunset chasing while on my way home from a long day in town.  (That’s like storm chasing, with considerably less risk involved.)  I took off down never-before-explored roads with no other goal than to find the perfect vista—and upon finding it, was surprised to meet up with other sunset-chasers.

We were all ordinary people heading home at the end of a long, busy day, who had mutually caught a glimpse of something splendid happening through the trees.  Each one of us had swerved impulsively off the highway, out of the stream of steady traffic, and chased the sinking copper orb down a tiny dirt road to this quiet little spot.  We got out of our cars, adjusted our respective phones and cameras, nodded companionably to each other.  One girl noted to me, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”-–but that was about all that was said, and that was about all that needed to be said.

I loved the fact that though we were complete strangers to each other, we were, for a few breathtaking sunset moments, bound together by a common love of everyday beauty.  I don’t know if each of us was also thinking the same thing, but I like to hope so, because for me it was something like this:

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!  From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:2-3)IMG_9668

 

 

On the Eleventh Day of Summer…

IMG_9493.JPG…my camera gave to me,

Eleven butterflies a-sipping.

A tiny parable for you:

“Come with me!” called one butterfly to another as she floated past on the soft breezes of a bright June day.

“Where to?” the other asked from her perch on a clover bud, “Why should I leave this perfectly good flower?”

“Because I want to take you to the most wonderful flowers I’ve ever had the pleasure of landing on,” she replied joyfully.  “They’re like big round tables spread with the finest lace tablecloth, with room for the largest of nectar-sipping parties.  The nectar served is the sweetest for miles—and it’s free for the taking!”

She believed her friend, and followed, and having reached the patch of cow parsnip and finding everything just a wonderful as she had been told, never once regretted the clover bud left behind.

And, so it is for us, when we take God at His Word, and forsake what does not satisfy for that which eternally does.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:1-3)

“Jesus…cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink... (John 7:37-38)

“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

 

 

 

On the Tenth Day of Summer…

IMG_9715-1.jpg…my camera gave to me,

Ten grasses a-flowering.

Grass is to the earth like hair is to a human.

We pluck it out here; groom it carefully over there.

We chop it off here; let it go long and admire the affects over there.

We like it soft and lush; don’t like it coarse and sparse.

We wish it would grow here; don’t like that it grows there.

It’s healthiness is directly linked to the water and kind of nutrients it’s been fed.

We take it for granted until it’s thinning, or gone—and only then do we realize how valuable it actually was.

When I was thinking about the things that are quintessential to summer for this project, I knew that grass needed to be featured at some point.   It’s one of those humble, hardworking, common plants that gets trod on and passed by every day without much thought on our part, paling in the limelight of showier, more popular plant relatives—but for once I’d like to change that.  While you’re out stopping to smell the roses, why not stop to notice the grass, too?  I mean, look at all those pretty little pink stamens on that timothy grass!  There’s a world of underappreciated variety awaiting your delight.

And while you’re at it, why not take the time to think of something (or someone!) else in your life that you might be taking for granted—and pause for a minute to express true appreciation and gratefulness?

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)