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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Feeding Frenzy

IMG_4931.JPGLately there’s been a lot of extra activity around my flower pots and garden.  Maybe it’s because they all know that cold weather is right around the corner, and aren’t lulled into complacency by the recent heat wave like the rest of us.  At any rate, the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees have been busier among my flowers than they’ve been all summer.  In fact, they’ve been so absorbed in the accumulation of nectar and pollen that they’ve hardly seemed to mind when I came by with my camera.

Is this what it’s like to hunger and thirst, as the Scripture says, after God and His righteousness?  IMG_4908.JPG“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:2)
IMG_4936-1.jpg IMG_4957.JPG“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
IMG_4958.JPG“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
IMG_4897
“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

I want to be like these little creatures.

Not lulled into complacency by the fleeting comforts that surround me.  Not distracted by those who stand at the sidelines looking on.  Free of the fear of what others may think.  So utterly consumed with the desire to know God and His righteousness, that all else fades away in my pursuit to know and be filled.IMG_5073-1.jpgTo drink to the fill and be completely satisfied, as He promises.

How about you?

Rowan Tree

IMG_6336.JPG Orange has been one of my favorite colors for a long time.  It’s an accent color used quite sparingly in nature, though—and that’s why I was so pleased to find a rowan tree growing in our own backyard. It’s lacy pinnate fronds are ever graceful and attractive in their own right, but the fruit clumps that ripen to a vibrant orange in late summer are certainly my favorite feature.

The first year we lived here, I thought I was being clever, and tucked bunches of them into a fall wreath I had made of dried flowers and grasses for some instant, non-artificial pops of color.  It really did look lovely on our front door!  By the next day, however, the berries were completely gone and my wreath was in shambles.

Lesson learned: never hang bird food on your front door unless that’s what it’s intended for.  Now I just leave them on the tree and sit back and watch the clumps of orange berries disappear into the bellies of happy little birds fueling up for their upcoming journey south.

That’s what they were created for, after all.

“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:29-30)

Chipping Sparrow

IMG_0928I almost missed him there on the ground.  Amidst the bark and leaves, the neutral shades of his feathers had blended in so well I literally almost stepped on him.  Then, when I did notice him just in time, I wondered if something was wrong with him.  Surely he would have flown away sooner otherwise?  But I think he wanted his picture taken.  I got within three inches with my camera before he finally took flight.  Lucky for me, he seemed quite unafraid of the big black lens!

Sparrows are good to think about, especially when you’re feeling down, or overwhelmed, or forgotten.  They are, as I found, the sort of creature one can almost step on if you’re not paying attention.  Small, unassuming, modestly attired.  Even in song, they attract little attention to themselves.  Which is why this verse is so significant:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father…So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “ (Matthew 10:29, 31)

If He sees even the sparrows, you can rest assured that He sees, remembers and cares for you.  So whatever your lot may be right now, take heart, dear friend!

The Colors of Summer

IMG_4098-1.jpgWhether the calendar says so or not, the last day of August always seems like the last day of summer to me—and seeing that always makes me kind of sad.  Nothing against fall or even the coming winter, mind you.  I truly love the changing seasons.  It’s just that summer in Minnesota is somehow just a little briefer than the other seasons, and I never quite manage to get in all the swimming and fresh peaches on ice cream that I want to before it’s time to pull out the sweaters and hot cocoa again.

As sort of a solace for this, I decided to look back over my photos from the summer months to remind myself of what we did do—and in the process, I found a rainbow.  See if you can see it, too!IMG_2193.JPGIMG_3463.JPGIMG_1792.JPGRed is for ripe wild strawberries discovered along fence rows, sweet and warm with sunshine…

and roses outside of bakeries that smell of gingerbread

and poppies along the chicken coop.

IMG_4030.JPG img_2209.jpgIMG_3892Orange is for a monarch butterfly, minutes old, clinging trustingly to my wide-eyed daughter’s finger…

and the one weed in my yard that I don’t mind…

and flower arrangements in my mother-in-law’s bathroom.

IMG_1811.JPGIMG_3920.JPGimg_9624.jpgYellow is for the elegant beards of irises…

and the freckled faces of the lilies along the porch…

and the not-quite-so showy roadside weeds that nevertheless delight the avid, amateur flower-pickers in my family.IMG_2944-1IMG_2226IMG_4721.JPGGreen is for sun-dappled woodland ferns…

and black-eyed Susans not quite open…

and water droplets on nasturtium leaves.IMG_1629.JPGIMG_4065-1IMG_2420.JPGBlue is for swan families floating on riffles of water…

and plump round berries the color of the sky going plink-plunk in pails…

and bobolinks singing on telephone wires against the morning sky.IMG_4096IMG_2882IMG_2300.JPGPurple is for brilliant masses of fireweed…

and stormy skies at sunset…

and blue flags along the creek.

“You [O Lord] have established all the boundaries of the earth;  You have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

Vacation Vignettes: Peninsula

IMG_3667.JPGWe chose a destination on the map, a place with a name hard to wrap our tongues around, that neither of us had ever been to before.  We took an entire day and took our sweet, winding, whimsical time and way to get there.  We found places we’d spotted on maps and in brochures.  We found things that no map or brochure can point you to, small and not-so-small details that delighted and surprised us. It was the perfect juxtaposition of the expected and the unexpected, a true adventure. And so, as the grand finale to this little series of vacation photographs, come have a little glimpse of the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula with us.IMG_3680IMG_3551.JPGWe took the roads labeled “scenic” and “shoreline” as much as possible, for obvious reasons.  It’s the same great lake whose waves we’ve seen pounding the shore of our own home state, but it was no less breathtaking here!IMG_3467We peeked hopefully beneath the leaves of these thimbleberry bushes, and were mocked with loads of not-quite-ripe berries.  So we bought thimbleberry jam instead at…IMG_3474.JPG…a fairy-tale bakery that smelled of gingerbread, surrounded by magnificent fragrant rose bushes.  I never thought I’d meet a bakery that smelled as good outside as it did inside, but I was wrong.  The fact that the delicious muffins we also secured here were baked by kind bearded monks in long black robes only added to its charm.IMG_3497We climbed a red wrought iron staircase, which wound tightly to the top of…IMG_3505IMG_3528…a perfectly picturesque lighthouse with a shiny red tin roof.IMG_3651IMG_3663 IMG_3607We picked wildflowers, ate the most delicious fresh lake trout right in view of the great lake it was caught in. and explored a historic fort.   IMG_3698.JPGIMG_3709-1.jpgAnd then, as a fitting finale to the day, we drove right to the top of Brockway Mountain to see for miles in every direction, and join other happy people who were also taking time out of their busy schedules to watch the sun as it slipped like a giant copper penny into the lake spread out below us.  IMG_3714.JPGAnd then that magnificent sunset chased us all the way down the long road home.  The tired little people nodded off to sleep in the back seat, cheeks rosy with sunshine and sticky from after-dinner mints, and the great dark dusk engulfed the rugged shape of the peninsula as it rose to meet the twilight sky behind us, as the music played, softly and fittingly:

“Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above…” (Irving Berlin)

 

 

 

 

Vacation Vignettes: Mountain

IMG_3083It took six hours of driving to get there.

Six hours in a truck with no air conditioning on an 80+ degree day (nothing a few rolled down windows couldn’t cure).

Six hours of “I Spy” scavenger hunts with melting M&Ms doled for prizes (a distraction tactic for restless little travelers that worked marvelously).

Six hours of this question from a certain small person in the back seat:

“Is that a mountain?” 

“No, not yet,” we’d patiently reply.  “After we get there, we’ll take you to see a mountain.”

Six hours of that question, over and over again, of every slight protrusion in the landscape.  And we smiled every time, because it was far too endearing to be annoying.  By the time the day of the promised outing arrived, I think we were looking forward to it almost as much as she was!  IMG_3136.JPGThe bad news, however, is that when we arrived at the much-anticipated first scenic viewpoint, all we could see was white.

Where were the mountains?  Completely obscured by a smothering blanket of heavy fog, that’s where.  Anti-climactic would be an understatement.

So, what’s a parent to do to save such a day?  Well, you find the shortest trail to the highest point in the area, get out of the vehicle and start climbing.IMG_3152IMG_3155.JPGIMG_3165-1.jpg IMG_3228IMG_3258IMG_3192-1IMG_3087Because sometimes, you just need to go higher and then everything becomes clear.

In those days, Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated as apostles.” (Luke 6:11-13)