Bog Walking

IMG_5937 editThey are one of those last American frontiers of wilderness, these mysterious places that have triumphantly resisted many a pioneer effort to tame them.  We drive north, and great stretches of land spiked with the craggy silhouettes of stunted spruce and feathery tamarack are all that meet the eye for miles.  From the speed of the car window, it would seem that these trees are the only fauna that manage to monotonously thrive amidst the swamp grasses.  And inaccessible as they are, it can be a misconception difficult to prove otherwise.IMG_5590 editIMG_5624 edit.jpg IMG_5611 edit.jpgIf you’re fortunate enough to traverse a bog walk, however, you will find out that beneath the feathery tamarack branches there are wonderful, amazing plants that thrive in the water-logged, acidic soil, plants that you will see nowhere else but here.  There are strangely beautiful carnivorous plants…IMG_5635 editIMG_5943 editand rare exotic orchids named after legendary reptiles and dainty foot wear.IMG_5600 edit.jpg IMG_5370 editIMG_5923 edit.jpgThere are humps of moss so lush and thick it looks like shag carpet, and delicate grasses that are growing cotton balls.IMG_5617 edit.jpgThere are cranberries, bunchberries and labrador tea.IMG_5591 edit.jpgIMG_5368 editIMG_5650 edit.jpgThere are secret lakes of unknown depth, and pine cones in purple casings.IMG_5779 editIMG_5934 edit.jpgIt’s a whole new world of wonders, where even the more familiar flowers and berries manage to feel exotic if only for their tenacity to survive and thrive here.IMG_5946 edit.jpgIMG_5659 editAnd who knows what else might lie beyond?  The view a state park board walk lends is only a glimpse into this mysterious damp world of peat moss and uncertain footing.  I like the intrigue of this, imagining the rare orchids hidden away in the vast reaches of the bogs, never to be discovered.

I like to think of the Word of God as something like a bog walk into the otherwise unfathomable mysteries of who God is.  A walkway that doesn’t end like the ones in the parks do, but keeps going, on and on and on, as far as you’re willing to travel, with new and wonderful discoveries around every bend.  It’s an invitation to explore, to understand, to fully appreciate who He really is…not just what He might appear to look like when you’re speeding past a church building along the freeway.

We can have many impressions of and ideas about God.  Perhaps they’re based on how you were raised, or the way a certain church-goer you once knew acted.  They might even be based on what you hear at church or what a good Christian friend of yours says or thinks about Him.  But imagining that you understand God based purely on these “drive-by” experiences of life is like me imagining that a bog is completely boring because the only thing that grows there is weird looking pine trees, based purely on the view from my car window.  For all you know, your personal experiences may have given you a faulty view of what God is like.  At best, it’s only a partial view, just the tiniest incomplete glimpse into a God “who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number” (Job 5:9), who causes the apostle Paul to exclaim: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)

The only way to find out how beautiful He really is?  To get out of the car or off your seat on the sidelines, so to speak, and find out for yourself.  Don’t go slogging through in the hip waders of a self-made path, either, which can leave you lost and sinking fast into the mire of false ideas.  No, take the board walk He built just with you in mind, the one that is solidly built for sure footing, that skillfully curves along to bring you right to the rarest treasures of His wisdom and knowledge.

Read His Word.  Don’t think of it as something you have to do or should do; think of it as a treasure hunt into mysterious and wonderful places, because that’s what it really is.  There is no other way to truly “know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

 

 

Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Morning

img_9137Stopping by the woods on this snowy day did not start out to be quite as idyllic and simple as Robert Frost first painted it to be.

The truck fishtailed the tiniest bit as I gingerly stepped on the brakes, just enough to send my heart into my throat.  A giant yellow semi bore down on me from the north, leaving the truck shuddering in the wake of its pass, and me clutching the steering wheel, as though I might hold the vehicle on the road by the whiteness of my knuckles.  An icy blast of sub zero air blasted my face as I rolled the window down, fogging the camera lens.  Was it worth all this?

But the way the tall smoothly scaled red pine trunks contrasted against the feathery spruce boughs, freshly highlighted in snow, had been catching me eye. Quiet beauty was calling to me from the edges of the road, right there in the midst of my hurry to get down the middle of it to check all the little empty squares on my shopping list in town.  Surely I had a minute or two to spare?

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”
The to-do list and ticking clock of the day nagged, but I pushed it aside.  I would stop, briefly, if only to save myself from driving off the road with all the neck-craning I’d been doing.

And after the roar of the yellow semi subsided, it was true:

“The only other sound’s the sweep, Of easy wind and downy flake…” 

img_9143For a few moments, I was still, and the woods were still.  There was not another car on the road within sight or earshot.  The long list for the day faded away to the back of my mind.  A tiny bit of sunlight twinkled through clouds above, kissing the forest in soft, warm light.  The beauty of creation, which in turn pointed my heart to the beauty of its Creator, steeped into my soul.  And I remembered this story:

“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind:

and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire:

and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

I am told that the term “a still, small voice” falls down somewhat in translation, that the idea is more that of a silence alive with His presence. It’s a truth supported elsewhere in Scripture, too, in other familiar lines such as:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God is not to be found in the rush and busyness and chaos.  God is to be found in the stopping, and in the still and quiet places.  It was true in my soul that morning. It will be true wherever you stop to listen, too.

P.S. Want to read this well-known poem of Robert Frost’s in it’s entirety?  Go here.