Declaring the Glory

IMG_5961.JPGIMG_5939IMG_5962-1.jpgIt was a long, happy weekend of giving thanks.  During family dinner as the silverware clinked on fine china, then again later as wedges of pie were passed, between friends, during joyful church services and into microphones, I heard people express gratefulness for so many beautiful things.

Some were humorously indicative of current life situations, such as…

“Getting 24-hour flu instead of a prolonged cold.”

“All the snow melting so I don’t have to plow.”

“Lefse.”

“Baby sleeping through the night.” 

Others were sweetly tearful, deeply emotional, such as…

“Healing.”

Long lists of volunteer services.

“A phone call from a long lost family member.”

“You.”

After all the feasting and gathering was over, I took an evening walk under leaden skies, picking my way along the the icy ruts of our driveway as I mentally added a few more things to the list, like:

“Cartons of freshly laid brown eggs in my fridge.”

“Homemade brown sugar hazelnut lattes.”

“The sound of little feet pitter-pattering down the hall.”

It was a wonderfully cheering thing to do on an otherwise drab evening.  But then this happened:IMG_5894.JPGIMG_5900.JPG The dim, dreary skies lit unexpectedly up with all this splendor that kept going and going and going and wouldn’t stop.  I paused to notice the first flush of pink, and then stopped to watch in awe as it spread and rippled and flamed across the entire canopy of the heavens curving over my world.  Then the coyotes started to yap far off in the forest, and I thought about the fact that there’s more than one way to make your voice heard.

People say it with words, the animals with their own unique sounds, the sky with color, each one declaring thanks and glory.  Yes, glory!

For the small things, for the large things, in all things.

To God, our Creator, Giver, Sustainer.

Because giving thanks really is just another way of giving glory.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

“All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You.” (Psalm 145:10)

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Winter Fun

IMG_5779-1.jpgRun, slide, repeat.

That’s what I and the otters did last week, I on my skis, they out on the ice, each in our own way celebrating the return of glorious winter to the northwoods.  That early November snow was some of the finest I’ve ever been privileged to make a trail through, and judging from their antics across the lake, perhaps the ice was, too?  Anyway, we certainly seemed to be agreed on the idea that all this cold stuff was meant to be enjoyed!

Then, as the sun lowered on the horizon, they’d run off in a companionable row, as you see them above, straight into their cozy den, and I’d swish my way back to my warm little house to wrap my cold fingers around a hot mug and sip steaming sweetness.  IMG_5812.JPGAh, winter with all your juxtapositions of icy beauty and cozy routines—how glad I and my sleek fun-loving neighbors are to welcome you back!

And speaking of fun, thank you to each one of you who played along in my little guessing game a couple posts back!  In case you forgot or missed the post, I asked people to guess the book of the Bible where the “psalm” I used in the post was found, as well as which photo was taken in the city rather than the country.

The correct answers were: 1) the book of Daniel (2:19-23, if you want to look it up!) and 2) the first photo of bright red snake root vines.  Unfortunately, nobody quite managed to guess both correctly, so I shall have to reserve my promised prizes for a later date!  (So if you’re terribly disappointed about that, I’m sorry, but stay tuned for another chance!)

If nothing else, it was just fun for me to see who actually reads my blog.  And, by the way, that goes for every time someone takes the time to comment, whether here or on Facebook.  It’s a tiny bit of thoughtful encouragement that always makes my day, and I’m grateful!

“A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)

 

Whitetail Buck

IMG_2411.JPGIt should be noted that, since there is no hunting season on shooting photographs, I generally secure my photographic venison on whatever random day of the year and in whatever random location (such as my flower garden) it presents itself.

I actually took this one’s portrait back in July, when his antlers were still velvety knobs—but since it’s Hunting Season, which is as good as a national holiday in this neighborhood, it seemed like an appropriate time to join the fun and talk about the deer I “shot” this year, too.  I suppose that the fellow above would hardly be considered a trophy, but like most hunters, I also find that the bucks are elusive and capturing one, however short his antlers may be, is something worth celebrating.

He was foolish enough to pause before bounding off with a woof, so he is literally my first buck, at least so far as I can tell for sureIMG_2413See?  There he went, after that long curious look, finally deciding to flee the lady with the giant black eye.  He will, however, have to call upon more wariness than that if he doesn’t wish to be caught by his foolish hesitation and end up in small packages in someone’s deep freeze within the next couple weeks!

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

Black and White World

IMG_5685-1.jpgI’ve been seeing this black and white photo challenge happening around social media that sounded like fun.

Seven photos, no people, no explanations, just something from you life, all black and white.  These are the rules.

I suppose I’m kind of breaking one of those rules by saying even this much, but when we woke up to lowering gray skies and the first snowfall of the year, I knew it was time to take a walk and do the challenge myself.

After all, when is it easier to compose black and white photos than when the landscape has already been turned black and white for you?

IMG_5692-1.jpgIMG_5686-1.jpgIMG_5706-1IMG_5711-1.jpgIMG_5723-1IMG_5716-1And speaking of contrasts, here’s verse that contains a truly glorious one:

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Now that’s a black and white picture that takes my breath away.

Fall Color Tour 2017

IMG_5309.JPGSince the leaves are mostly fallen now, I sat down the other day and sorted through all the autumn pictures I’d taken this year.  As I did so, I found it interesting to note the varied locations they were photographed in.  One was from our backyard, another across the front yard.  Some were along familiar trails, others along never-before-hiked trails.  Several were taken deep in the heart of  the Chippewa National Forest.

And then there was that random one taken from the patio of city bistro, along a busy street with multi-storied buildings looming around.  The sheer eccentricity of its location endears it to me in a way the others don’t, a hidden jewel found in a most unlikely location.

That’s kind of how it is with the Psalms.

Just as I generally expect to experience the most stunning autumn color in places like a national forest where trees abound, I naturally turn to the book in the Bible by that title if I’m looking for the most beautiful psalms of praise and comfort.  That makes so much sense, I sometimes forget that there are hidden psalm-like jewels to be found in the other 65 books of the Bible.

But there are, and this week I stumbled upon just such a one, incidentally quite fitting to accompany a post highlighting the changing seasons.  May it turn you heart in gratefulness to the One who orders the changing seasons, just as it did mine!IMG_5062.JPG“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might…
IMG_5335.JPGHe changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings…IMG_5122He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…
IMG_5238He reveals deep and hidden things, he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him…
IMG_5522To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise…
IMG_5125for you have given me wisdom and might.” IMG_4861-01.JPG And now here’s a little challenge for you, just for fun.  Can you guess 1) in what book of the Bible this passage is found (no peeking or Googling, now!), and 2) which photo was the one taken in the city?  I’ll send a free signed 5×7 print of one of my photos to anyone who provides both correct answers!

 

Design

IMG_5091.JPGThe masked faces of the dental surgeon and his assistant seemed to float above me.  She braced my chin; he pushed and pulled.

“That one’s being a little stubborn, huh?” she asked.

“Well, they’re not really designed to come out,” he responded.  “Hand me 105 please.”  He was trying to be discreet, but it wasn’t hard to guess what “105” was code for.  The whine of a tiny saw buzzed inside my mouth, cutting the stubborn tooth in pieces.  I closed my eyes, breathing deeply of the laughing gas that made it all seem like a dream, floating far, far away.

Maybe I wasn’t at the oral surgeon’s office having all four of my wisdom teeth removed, after all.  Maybe I was in the red leather rocking chair at home, dozing off while I nursed my baby.  Wasn’t that the whine of my dad’s saw down in the basement, painstakingly cutting pieces of flooring to fit in the grid of the space he was helping us renovate?

And wasn’t that his voice, using that word “design”?

How would you like to design the cabinet space? 

What design should the ceiling tiles be? 

How would you like to design these shelves?  IMG_5097.JPGI’ve been answering room design questions all summer, so you can hardly blame the word for having a decided ring of familiarity.  It started with how big the room should be, where the walls should go.  It moved on to how many ceiling fixtures there should be, where the light switches should go, how many outlets I wanted.  Then it was questions about door styles, and trim styles, and cabinet styles.  And stain colors, and wood types, and hardware styles.

And finish choices.  Satin, semi-gloss or glossy?

And paint colors.  You want white?  Which white?

And flooring choices.  How durable?  How water-proof?  How smooth?  What color?

And ceiling tiles.  Me:  Seriously?  There are choices of ceiling tiles!?

And so many measurements.  How deep should this shelf be?  How high should the counter top be?

Wait—about those measurements.  I still had to decide about that.

Perhaps I furrowed my brow as this realization floated through my foggy, wandering mind.  “You’re doing just fine,” the surgical assistant reassured me cheerfully.  I acknowledged her kind effort to encourage me with an unintelligible grunt around the apparatus bracing my mouth open in a perpetual yawn.  The unpleasantness of reality seeped in.  That’s right.  I was at the dental office, in a black leather chair, not a red one; not napping in the late afternoon sunshine while snuggling a baby, but beneath the artificial lights of surgeon’s office.  That wasn’t my dad’s saw whining, and it certainly wasn’t cutting anything as pretty as espresso colored flooring in pieces.

My mind sorted through all this, and finally circled back to one positive thought relevant to my current state: the surgeon’s passing comment about design.  I knew from our pre-surgery consult that the root of the stubborn tooth he was currently whittling out was dangerously close to a nerve, and I had received all the disclaimers about worse-case scenarios.  Teeth aren’t designed to come out; nerves aren’t designed to be exposed.  All these bad things could happen.  Et cetera.

But, in that moment, his chance comment brought peace to my heart.  My teeth were designed—and I knew the Designer.   “O Lord, designer of this body, protect that nerve that You created and designed, guide the hands of this surgeon and the blades of his saw.”  Right then, silently praying, I was grateful that I had opted out of general anesthesia in favor of the Novocaine and laughing gas that still left me vaguely conscious of the proceedings.  I had been granted the privilege of acknowledging the Creator whose hands had formed my body in a most unexpected moment.img_5093.jpgTwo weeks later, I sat at a picnic table beneath a canopy of gilded autumn leaves, and took a cautious bite of the bread tucked in next to my bowl of wild rice soup.  Smiling ladies and a few husbands milled through the woods nearby, cocking their heads to admire the dozens of stunning quilts suspended among the graceful white birch trunks, commenting to each other over steaming cups of apple cider.  I chewed slowly, careful of the still tender incisions in the back of my mouth, then swallowed.  And marveled.  After two weeks of smoothies and soup, I was chewing again!

I cannot fully express how satisfying it was to finally be back to productively moving my jaws and swallowing without pain.  While the teeth had not been ultimately designed to come out, God had designed my body to heal.  Can you imagine designing something so stunningly complicated as the human body?  Ha!  Considering the fact that I was feeling mentally taxed after designing one small, simple room in my basement, I guess not!  Certainly that particular design experience had given me a much deeper appreciation for the work of designers, God the Creator most of all.

Thank you, Lord, for your perfect design, I whispered in my heart.

Just then, a lady in a straw hat flashing a ready dimpled smile approached our lunch table.  She handed us tiny slips of yellow paper and pens, and warmly invited, gesturing towards the display of quilts:  “Would you like to vote for the best design?”

There was that word “design” again!

Off we went to wander critically through a maze of color, creativity and splendid design.  Would it be the whimsical bicycle with the Dresden plate wheels and meticulously fussy-cut floral basket?    The mesmerizing log cabin in which squares made of stripes became stripes made of squares?  And did you see that dizzying-ly magnificent portrait of a snowy owl crafted of thousands of tiny squares?IMG_5100IMG_5085-1IMG_5110

I voted for the bicycle on paper.  But in my heart?  The human body—and the One who designed it—won “Best Design”, hands down.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.(Acts 17: 24)

 

An Autumn Hike

 

IMG_5179Where do you look when you are hiking through the autumn forest?

Do you look up at the soaring arms of the great pines raised to the sky in praise?  At the sunlight filtering in soft curtains of light down through the crimson and salmon maples?IMG_5190.JPGDo you look straight ahead, at the path winding mysteriously out of sight and beckoning you on?  At the receding layers of craggy barked tree trunks marching along its edges, with the occasional surprise mushroom accessory?  Or at the jaunty straw hat and satisfyingly fall-ish plaid shirt of a walking companion ahead?IMG_5193Or do you look down?  Down at the dainty trailing vines between the tufts of orange pine needles, and the tidily capped wee mushrooms springing whimsically up along the damp mosses of aging stumps?  At the calico of autumn leaves softly layering over the creeping cedar and wintergreen?IMG_5187While I was hiking with relatives recently, we talked about this, and discovered that our answers differed.  Some in our hiking party were more inclined toward one than the other, therefore each bringing their own unique perspective to the commentary that enlivened our exploration of the forest.

As I was thinking about this the next day, I realized that it was actually a pretty accurate picture of the body of Christ, particularly that living, breathing organism that is the local church body.  We walk the same trail as believers, reading the same Bible, loving the same Savior, but our perspectives can be astonishingly different.

Some are more likely to look ahead, seeing with vision and wisdom.

Some watch the edges and condition of the trail, wary of spiritual pitfalls.

Some are more likely to look up, calling attention to heavenly perspectives when other’s eyes waver toward the earthly.

Some look down, noticing the details that others forget or overlook, like the lonely newcomer or the overflowing garbage can.

IMG_5146 IMG_5181The Bible calls these things gifts, and they are.  Sometimes, though, I think we can lose sight of this in the nitty-gritty of real life.  It can be easy, for instance, to get annoyed with that other person who is always worried about mowing the grass (looking at mushrooms) when you’d rather be discussing the accuracy of the latest Bible translation (looking down the path)—or vice versa.  However the fact is that each perspective is valuable and needed, and they’re all meant to weave together in harmonious balance, not at odds with each other.

Or sometimes, even if we do appreciate the unique contributions of each person, we just forget to say so.  So since I’m being reminded, I’d like to say thank you myself.

Thank you for being you.  Thank you for the very special, irreplaceable gift that your gift is to your brothers and sisters as we walk with Jesus and endeavor to make Him known to the world.

Thank you for the things you do in private, the mundane and not-so-glorious, often unseen and unacknowledged.  Thank you for the things you do in public, against the odds of criticism, embarrassment, and greater scrutiny.  Thank you for speaking out to say the hard things, the kind things, the wise things.   Thank you for the quietness of your inner prayers, wordless hugs, silent generosity.  Thank you for perseverance when you’re misunderstood, for faithfulness when no else is.

And if you’re one of those hiding shyly in the corner, hesitant to use your gift, perhaps afraid to share it because it’s different or less popular than someone else’s, I hope this will be a gentle encouragement to you to be hold back no longer.  Please, in love, let it flow out for the enrichment of the Body of Christ, because it surely will.

We need you!IMG_5205“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If someone’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8)

“And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

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