Savoring Summer #32: Blue Heron

IMG_2253 edit.jpg“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.” (Romans 13:13)

As we celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s thank God for the good leaders through the years who have had the vision to found and guide our country according to what is true and right.  And even when we don’t agree with our governing authorities, it’s good to be reminded that they are ultimately placed there by God, and if only for this reason alone, deserve our respect.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Also remember: it’s easy to criticize leadership, but not so easy to BE in leadership.  The higher up you are, the greater the pressure and heavier the weight of responsibility.  So in addition to honoring and submitting, let’s not forget to do this:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour…” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

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 #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 #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!

On the Next Day of Winter…

IMG_0143 edit.jpgIn some places in the country, I’m seeing pictures of blossoming peach orchards, daffodils and greening grass.  On the first day of spring here, it snowed in the morning—and then a bitter wind spent the rest of the day kicking all that snow up into the air in great billowing clouds, forcing us to plow the driveway due to drifting.  If you live here, too, you’re not surprised or alarmed.  It’s a typical Minnesota weather move.

I made the mistake of announcing that it was the first day of spring to my children.  I meant it tongue in cheek, of course, but later in the day, they informed me that they had packed up all the ski boots and put them away in the basement.  “Whatever for?” I inquired in surprise, because cross country skiing has been something they’ve really enjoyed as recently as the day before.  “Because you said it was spring now, Mom!”  Oops.  So we had a little educational session on equinoxes and lengths of days, but they just looked at me, puzzled, as if to say, “Mom, everyone knows that spring is a temperature, not a day on the calendar.”

I was going to do a post entitled “First Day of Spring”, featuring pussy willows, which appeared during one fleeting warm spell a couple weeks ago.  But when I finally got out to take the pictures, what I got instead was this ironic juxtaposition of seasons.  I may have been taking pictures of pussy willows, but what it really felt like was just the next day of winter.IMG_0157 edit.jpgMuch as we’d sometimes like it to be, spring just isn’t a day on the calendar for us.  It’s no short, sweet announcement.  Instead, it’s a slow thing, that creeps up, teases, eludes.  But still, watching spring unfold, painfully slow but sure, gives me hope—which is something we all need a little bit more of right now.

All over the world, people are facing lockdowns, quarantines, alarming numbers of the ill and the dead mounting, economies teetering in uncertainty.  Everyone’s ready for it to be over with, but at this point it still looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  We cling to the hope that things are going to ease up eventually, but when?  People keep guessing, but the truth is, nobody really knows.  Watching for the end of this thing involves no set date on a calendar, much as we’d like it to.  It’s a whole lot more like living through March in Minnesota: when it feels like it should be the end of a long winter, but sometimes we just keep getting more snowstorms instead.IMG_0140 edit.jpg What we do know, however, is that winter always does end, and spring always does come, because the God who put the seasons into motion has promised that they will remain in steady motion as long as the earth shall endure.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

Sometimes it’s a little sooner, sometimes it’s a little later, but nobody ever wonders if.  Just when.  And the same God who keeps His promise to sustain the rhythm of seasons, has also given us these promises:

“…And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)IMG_0167 edit.jpgRemember: no matter how long this current trouble lasts, He is still in control and present in all these things.  Watch for Him at work, and you will surely see Him. 

Not when the trouble’s gone, but right there in the midst of the turmoil—

like the pussy willows budding resilient in the falling snow…

like the little ducks bravely coming back to paddle along the melting edges of icy creeks…

like the two patient white lumps posted on our frozen lake, splendid swans trumpeting in triumph as they patiently await the thaw.

The New and the Old

IMG_7295 editI always enjoy spending the first few weeks of a new year reflecting back on the old.  I read through the my journals and scroll through the pictures I took, reminding myself of what I’ve learned and experienced over those 365 days.  I note the highlights and the lowlights, what was the same and what was different, what was new and what was old—and this is what I found for 2019:

There were wonderful old things—

Old friends to catch up with…

The faithful, breathtaking repetition of seasons…

Old favorite vacation spots from our childhoods, revisited with our own children…

Time-worn traditions and celebrations honored once again…IMG_7921 editAnd not-so-exciting old things—

The same old piles of dirty dishes every day…

Bigger quantities of the same old cycle of laundry: wash, dry, fold, put away, repeat…

Vehicles aging, old parts needing replaced…

Old habits struggling to be broken…

But in the midst of all the old, the good and the bad, His mercies were new.  Fresh, marvelous and breathtaking every day, breathing life and purpose and wonder into the sameness and drudgery of life.img_3173 editThere were also wonderful new things—

New faces to become friends with…

New recipes tried, new books read…

New ways I was challenged and uplifted spiritually…

A new baby to carry, birth and nurture…IMG_4074 editAnd not so fun new things—

New goodbyes to be said this side of heaven…

New-to-me levels of sickness and health issues, and need for help as I went through them…

New things to forgive and be forgiven for.

But in the midst of all this, the good and the bad, His mercies were old.  Not old and worn out, but old and timeless and sure.  Unchanging, firm, and the same, an untold comfort in the midst of change and uncertainty.IMG_4063 editAnd now I’m three weeks into another new year,

days adding to days without stopping to wait while I reflect,

already colored by the un-calculated quantities of baby spit up on my shirt, giant snow storms and unexpected events.

And I’m here to say that I’m already discovering that the same old story from last year is on repeat in the new:  His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  May you discover the same, in abundance, in the upcoming year!IMG_3148But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

P.S. Featured here are a few odd pictures that I never got around to using from 2019!  Also, I know I’ve been absent from this space for awhile, but I’ve had good reason in the form of one tiny adorable little man who arrived to change the landscape of our family forever in October.  To those of you who have inquired with such kind interest as to the future state of this blog:  Thank you for your patience as I’ve taken a long break from here to focus fully on adjusting to life as a family of six.  Lord willing, I do hope to get back to more writing and photography as this new season permits!  Meanwhile, you’ll find me taking baby portraits and writing in his baby book about first smiles and that time he slept eight hours….

 

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)

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)