I read the entire book of Joshua this week, and I love the way it’s bookended.
It begins with this powerful commission from God directly to Joshua:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)
It ends with Joshua passing a similar commission on to the children of Israel before his death:
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed…
…Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 23:14, 24:14-15)
What a great way to begin and end a ministry!
About the photos: This is the creek that runs into Balls Lake, looking beautiful on a sunny day. The berries were amazingly still clinging from fall, and tiny bit of thin ice at the marshy edges was there to remind us that it’s still EARLY spring. We took a short family hike here one afternoon, and then I joined a group of friends to go around the whole lake later in the week. We had such a great time laughing and visiting as we went, and even spotted three of my old friends, the trumpeter swans (who wouldn’t let us get close). Their distinctive call brings back so many sweet memories!
In other news, my camera battery charger got misplaced, so it’s phone photography for a while until I can find it or replace it!
The last time we took a walk along Gravelly Creek, it was a winter wonderland.
But in the golden hour of this glorious clear spring day, when the last rays of the sunshine were slanting low along the singing water and through the stately cedars, I saw the huckleberry bushes in all their fairytale spring glory for the first time.
Even this tiny spider (normally not one of my favorite creatures!) on her web seemed ethereal and lovely, like gossamer lace amidst a thousand shimmering translucent bells dancing along the shadowed forest floor. Perhaps the fact that the sun pierces here so infrequently was what made it all so magical.
This week I’ve been reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I had a couple thoughts about it.
First, the long lists of laws and sacrifices can seem burdensome (and praise God, those sacrifices are no longer necessary now that we are covered by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus!), however if you were to sit down and read through the current laws of your state or country, you’d likely feel the same way or worse. Like: wow, that’s a lot. How am I supposed to remember all that?! Even the laws strictly concerning driving are overwhelming when you’re trying to take a driver’s test!
But some of those lists of detailed rules were really only there for clarification, and for the benefit of those who would keep the order and judge between cases, the “law enforcement”, if you will. Ultimately, all those laws pointed directly back to the basic principles of the ten commandments, which in turn, as Jesus pointed out, are summed up in two, of which one is ultimately the greatest. So it was really quite simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (and your neighbor as yourself).
Second, the call to holiness is not a burden, it’s an honor. Just read these two parallel passages and think about the language of privilege used in them:
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!
“And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)
I was thinking about this passage in light of being a mother this week, and also with the other children God has placed in my life—my children’s friends, the kids I babysit, the kids we meet at church and community activities and the grocery store.
Would my interaction with any of these little ones change if I was really, truly taking this to heart? Would yours? Something to think about.
About the photos: I’m sorry if how I titled this post made you think you were getting pictures of fish eggs, and now you are disappointed. Perhaps that will happen eventually, but for now, let me introduce those of you who aren’t from southeast Alaska to what is locally known as “fish egg weather”. It is the time of early spring which coincides with the herring spawn, and is known for crazy weather switches all in one day. You know, those rain turns to snow turns to sunshine kind of days. We have morning rainbows, followed by the first flocks of spring robins arriving in mid-morning snowstorms, followed by a beautiful afternoon of sunshine. (That was a true story, by the way.) It’s very confusing, but also very hopeful because it is the Beginning of Spring.
P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”—Albert Einstein
There are some decided advantages to having some firsts in life delayed until you’re well into adulthood. The best part is that for a few fleeting glorious minutes, you can experience a flashback to the sensation of pure childlike wonder. At least that was what it was like for me to fly for the first time at age 35.
If I thought about it too deeply, I would admit that it takes quite a bit of faith and trust to buckle yourself into the narrow seat of a 737, and believe that 130-170,000 pounds of steel, fuel and humans is going lift up into the air and soar to 40,000 feet above the clouds. Before 1903, you would have laughed at me for even suggesting the idea.
Now, as the engines began to roar and we taxied toward the runway, I looked around to see people already calmly reading books, taking naps and playing Scrabble as though what was about to happen was as ordinary an everyday occurrence for them as brushing their teeth and combing their hair. I was not afraid, either, having grown up a hundred years after the Wright brothers, in an era when safe and successful air travel is normalized. But this was still my first time, and what I was experiencing that no one else seemed to be was excitement.
When we rushed forward and the wheels lifted from the pavement, it was every bit as exhilarating as I’d ever imagined. There was a blissfully lightening sensation, as though we’d left our weight down on the ground instead of taking it with us. The sun was just setting, the blue evening clouds lying wispy over the Minneapolis terminal—and suddenly we were rising right through them. One minute we were beneath, for a split second we were passing through them, the next we were above. It was just close enough to dusk that the city lights twinkled just a little and winked at me as they faded out of sight. The sun was setting in a blaze of pink, and then we were chasing it to the west as we rose higher and higher, unwilling to let it go.
For over an hour and a half, I watched that sunset as we throttled through a thinner atmosphere at 500 MPH. It was the longest sunset I have ever watched in my life. Eventually, we started to lose the chase and I saw Venus blink sleepily on just above the final streak of fuchsia, then steadily shine brighter as the night turned from velvet blue to black. The clouds were thick dark cotton below us, but every once in a while, they parted and I caught sight of the miniscule lit grid of a town far, far below.
On ensuing flights over the course of the trip, the wonders only increased. I kept catching my breath, awed by how different and beautiful Earth looked from up so high.
I got to watch the sun rise at 40,000 feet, bathing the tops of the rain clouds a sea of perfect conch shell pink for miles beneath us. The clouds parted and I saw misty fjords, and a sea of snowy peaks. I saw the full moon sinking into the ocean. I saw the fine white line of a road carving the edge of a ridge, and a raft of massive logs that looked like a collection of toothpicks afloat on the sparkling sea. I saw geometric forms of fields, perfect squares and circles.
I saw massive cracks in the ice of great rivers and majestic forests looking like nothing more than a carpet of soft dark moss and billows of snow patterned like waves across the plains. I saw semi trucks moving like ants on freeways that looked like mere threads. I saw the tiniest toy barns that I could only barely identify as red. It was a whole new perspective on this giant spinning ball I call home.
The world in my mind has often tended to look more like the maps in the atlas on our book shelf, with political boundaries neatly surrounding pastel blocks of color. But up there, peering down in wonder out of my tiny window, I was reminded that what I was seeing from my bird’s eye view was a whole lot more accurate to what God sees. He sees the big picture in the actual rich earth toned palette He painted it, how each part fits and flows together seamlessly and meaningfully to create the gorgeous masterpiece ball of Earth.
He sees the pair of swans talking to themselves as they build their nest at the mouth of the unnamed creek that flows into Stone Axe Lake, which flows in Little Sand Lake and out into the Bowstring River, which flows into the Bigfork River, which flows into the Rainy River, which snakes its way all the way up to the Hudson Bay and empties into the Atlantic Ocean, which laps at the edges of Iceland and Florida and South Africa, and makes ice around the shores of Antarctica that melts into the Pacific which crashes its mighty waves against the rocks of Patagonia, kisses the warm shores of Mexico and carries the salmon up the fjords of Prince of Wales Island to spawn in the Thorne River.
He who pinched up the points of the mountain ranges, formed the oceans with the imprint of His thumb, carved the delicate calligraphy of the rivers with His pen, holds this whole spinning magnificent world in His hands. But the best part is that He can see all this in one swift glance, while at the same time, He zooms in and sees the sparrow that falls, and the state of my heart, and yours, and all the hearts of 7.8 billion human beings created in His image and running around like tiny ants on the surface of this globe—and He knows and longs after each one by name.
Up there in that silver plane with the blue stripes on its wings, I felt small in the best way possible, dwarfed by vast magnificence of the world, and in awe that I was of any account at all, let alone beloved by its Creator.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9)
“Give my greetings to Priscaand Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life.” (Romans 16:3-4)
I love how in most cases in this passage, Paul specifically mentions why he’s grateful for each of these friends, or how they have been a blessing to him. In your prayers today, try making a list like this yourself, if you can, of every person from your church! I found this to be such a joyful exercise.
“Thank you for ________; he cheerfully takes out the garbage every week at church. Thank you for ________; she is such a faithful prayer warrior. Thank you for _________; he always encourages me to dig deeper into my Bible. Thank you for __________; she gives so generously…” and so on!
And if there’s someone who you don’t know well enough to mention, take note; it might be time to change that!
P.S. Seethis original postfor 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: Most days we hike to this creek for our daily exercise; most days we pause to skip rocks or watch sticks go in one end of the culvert and come out the other, or, if we’re lucky, spot a sunning turtle.
The first time I clambered beneath the cedars trees along this steep muddy bank, we were eagerly experiencing the sights of our new neighborhood for the very first time. On the recommendation of a dear friend, we drove up through the Bigfork State Forest, on a narrow strip of asphalt hedged by endless miles of black swamp water and stunted spruce. There, tucked away in an obscure little park, we found the Bigfork River rushing it’s way to Canada across a set of Class III-IV rapids. It was not quite Niagara Falls, but it was an exciting stretch of river that we could hear the thunder of before we saw it.
Today, almost exactly six years later, I’m on the same narrow trail, and I find that little has changed since then, as far as the river is concerned. It’s still flowing faithfully. The rocks cradling it show no visible signs of erosion. The tumbling water still curls over that one giant boulder out in the middle in exactly the same way.
The changes that have occurred have been in my own life, and I’ve brought them with me. My firstborn clambers ahead of me on this Sunday afternoon, reaching sweetly back to offer me a hand on the “hard parts”. She’s not strong enough yet to really help, but I pretend to accept her offer anyway, marveling privately at how quickly life flies by. Last time on this trail I was six months pregnant with her, not even a year married. Now she’s out there confidently posing on the lichened rocks while I snap pictures and punctuate my sentences anxiously with “be careful” and “that’s close enough”. My husband is back up the trail, holding the hands of her two little sisters, who we had only dreamed of at that point.
On the other hand, one thing hasn’t changed about me. Apparently, being pregnant, even for the fourth time, still has little bearing on my eagerness to bypass the safely situated visitor’s viewing platforms to get up close to rushing water.
Last time I was here, I saw the elusive woodcock for the first time in my life, exploding up at my feet from what had appeared to be merely a pile of leaves. Today the only wildlife is the bed of fluffy foam caught in an out-of-the-way nook beneath the falls, looking strikingly like the back of a very furry animal as it bobs gently in the current. I smile when my daughter asks worriedly with big eyes: “Mommy, is that a bear?” “Go poke it and see,” I counter slyly. She laughs out loud at herself when she discovers that it’s pure fluff.
As we climb back up the river bank, I note the mosses cropping up lush and verdant at my feet, and the first signs of life at the tips of the tree branches arching over my head. Spring is just waking here, reminding me of a sleepy, groggy two-year-old toddling out to snuggle with me on the couch in the morning, or maybe the four-year-old rolling over in the cocoon of her favorite penguin blanket and blinking sleepily at the morning light coming through her window. Everything still has that just-got-out-of-bed look, still a little rumpled and squinty-eyed.
The most showy are the pussy willows, who have clearly gone from stage 1, silky and pearly gray, to stage 2, fluffy and lemon-lime yellow. Also lovely at the tips of the maple branches exploding into bits of red, more showy up close than from a distance. And then on the forest floor, I see the bravely emerging leaves of hepatica. Leaning down to feel beneath the leaves, I find what I’m looking for at the base of the plant: the downy heads of flower buds just emerging. A couple more days, and there will be wildflowers in the woods.Back up at the picnic area, we shake what mud we can off our shoes and take a last-minute trip to the nearby outhouse where we convince the girls that it’s safe to seat yourself over a deep, dark, echoing hole receding into the unknown depths of the earth. Then we head out down the winding dirt road. Tired little people quickly nod off into belated naps, and the thunder of the falls fades into fiddle music cranked up to keep their parents from following suit on the journey home.
It’s good to know that as my own life shifts and changes, a wild river running north is still there, doing it’s God-ordained thing and fulfilling it’s purpose pretty much the same as always.
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.I 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!The 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. 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)
To the many photos that have been snapped by countless tourists, I will add yet two more. But you know—it’s hard not to agree with them that it’s inspiring to view the humble beginnings of something great.
“Here 1475 feet above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2552 miles to the gulf of Mexico…”“All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7)
We were standing at the edge of a steep bank. Late afternoon sunlight slanted gold through pine branches over our heads, highlighting the moist hummocks of brilliant green moss creeping along the slanting forest floor. Below us, a river, satiated with a deluge of rapidly melting snow, rushed it’s wild, joyful way down to bigger waters. The music of its abundant fullness reminded me of this verse:
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38)
A little river like this, wildly overflowing with springtime run-off, is exactly what I picture a life looking like as the fulfillment this verse. A life so brimful of Christ that it can’t even hold the goodness back—it pours out in utter abandon, literally gushing with the joy of it.
And the good news is: in our case, the source never diminishes like the banks of melting snow eventually will for this little river. The invitation is always open, the supply is endless. The only way we can possibly dry up is if we quit coming and drinking.
And how do you come and drink? It’s simple. Spend as much time as you can with Him. Read His Word. Talk to Him.
“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
May the river of living water that flows from you as a result be one hundred times more wildly beautiful and joyful than this one.
We stood on the dam, peering over the edge. The roar was deafening.
“Dat water is white, Daddy!” our little girl observed.
“Yes, honey. That’s how you know the water is going very fast.”
I was thankful for the tightly secured chain link fencing on both sides of the walkway as she stood at the very edge, surprisingly unafraid, watching in fascination as the water spewed tight through the spillways and churned free into the river below. It was all very exciting, her three-year-old mind oblivious to the warning signs and hazard lights blinking danger all around us. Daddy and mommy were there with her. What did she have to fear?
She didn’t know that white water also meant trouble.I thought about a conversation my husband and I had had earlier in the day, about the trouble in the world and all around us.
Sometimes it can be terribly discouraging, especially when it seems to heap up and come at you from all sides. You can feel like you’re being tossed around as relentlessly as the tight angry waters in one of those spillways, battered hard against the concrete walls, and all you want is the relief of finally being spewed out the other side so you can find some quiet pool downstream where you can rest and breathe again.
It made me tense and weary just to think of it, and I was relieved when we moved off the dam, and onto a tiny winding trail that followed the river’s edge. I liked this better. Here, there were delicate ferns clinging to mossy rock walls, birch trees leaning gracefully over the calmer ripples at the water’s edge and a soft autumn carpet of warm lacy brown oak leaves underfoot. The roar of the dam faded away in the distance, replaced by the gentle sound of water lapping against rocks along the shore and the whispering breeze in the trees. Ah—these were the restful places I had in mind.Or were they?
I stumbled as I clambered down a rocky side path to get a closer look at the pretty little ferns. The thick carpet of oak leaves had been deceptive—what I had thought was solid ground was not.
Was there no escaping trouble? No, I realized, shaking my head over the irony of it as I regained my footing and continued on more cautiously—there really wasn’t. If it wasn’t glaring in your face, it always seemed to be hiding where you least expected it.
This was no secret to Jesus, which is why He once stated to his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” He knew it was not just a possibility or a maybe. It was a certainty. If it wasn’t clear cut persecution, it would be the enemy inside you, that wearying war between the flesh and the spirit. If wasn’t trouble of your own making, it would be trouble of someone else’s making, purposeful or unintentional. If it wasn’t any of these, it would just be the stark reality that we live in a fallen world where there is sickness, and death, and the struggle to survive, and where the sheets we got as a wedding present wear out and rip clean through. (Yep, just this morning.) And then there would be fear, the thing that can get you even when nothing is actually wrong.
So what did He mean when He followed up that statement with this one?
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Obviously He didn’t mean that we’d escape all trouble by following Him. If anything, He warned elsewhere that there would be more if we did. But then I thought back to the beginning of the verse, before He even comments on the certainty of trouble:
“I have told you these things so that in Me you might have peace.”
That phrase “IN ME” jumped out at me, and then it clicked. So the picture of the peace He was talking about was really right back up on that dam. The two of them were back on it now, making their way slowly across the walkway. The small girl in the gray jacket walked calmly next to her daddy between the chain link barriers, the late afternoon sunlight highlighting all the little hairs escaping from her braids. She stopped periodically to look over the edge and ask questions. In the midst of the noise and turbulence, the calm voice of his explanations and the reassurance of his presence were all the security she needed.This was peace.
Not in finding our comfort in our circumstances but finding it in the One who walks beside us. The reality of trouble will never be any greater than the certainty of His presence. It’s as astonishing and simple as that—and my little girl knew it better than I did.
I stepped up onto the walkway myself, and my steps quickened as I hurried to catch up to my family, hardly noticing the white water churning below as my heart flooded with renewed peace and the determination to learn from her example.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)