I have spent much time admiring the stars and the moon in the darkness. That is perhaps the one thing I miss the most. Nature: the trees, the croaking frogs, the crickets song, the birds twittering overhead, all made up the best part of my days. It is these things that I think heaven will be made of. There is nothing indeed that can be said that exceeds that which is said in the silence of nature. That silence is harmony, peace, existence. Somehow, in contrast, the silence of the computer screen in front of me in an otherwise empty house finds no comparison.
Since is it Friday, and my son doesn't have classes on Fridays, he has been home today. And, my husband is home now from his 2nd shift job, with the Football something, something, 2011 in the game system, with it's repeated theme music. So, no silence today. But, on silent nights, I find myself again walking through the woods, sitting beside the lake, watching turtles drop into the water, and ducks fly overhead; landing in the water. Or, I am laying on my back on the grassy bank beside my house, with my eyes trained on the stars; picking out the constellations by name.
When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance. ~Thomas Merton
As Thomas Merton said, these things in the silence of nature remind us of the universe around us, and by virtue of their existence, God. Somehow, the walls of my silent home block out God. Why is it that I can feel Him closer outside than inside? Somehow, my soul becomes truly silent in the beauty of nature. It is here, in my cluster of books, technology, words... that I can hear God the less.
Autumn is my favorite season, and is upon us. I found this beautiful poem on Kindle reader:
Lo! I am come to autumn, When all the leaves are gold; Grey hairs and
golden leaves cry out The year and I are old.
In youth I sought the prince of men, Captain in cosmic wars, Our Titan,
even the weeds would show Defiant, to the stars.
But now a great thing in the street Seems any human nod, Where shift
in strange democracy The million masks of God.
In youth I sought the golden flower Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn, When all the leaves are gold.
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2004-04-01). The Wild Knight and Other
Poems (pp. 17-18). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
I always thought it poignant how the progression of seasons are drawn in sharp parallel to the seasons of our life. Of all the seasons, I find Autumn the most rich and starkly beautiful. The only thing missing is rain. A soaking rain with leaves plastered around our world randomly makes it seem as a fingerpainted work of art.
Just like the leaves, we are snatched from our spot, tossed to and fro, only to land in some different spot where we lie in repose upon the grass growing beneath us; feeding those who come after with the nutrients of our living. Our dying becomes their life. And, so it is with the circle of life. Then comes Winter, with the bare, naked trees, shaking in the cold December evenings, waiting for some hint of tomorrow.
Yes, Autumn is when all the leaves are gold. We only hope to embrace the changes we face as the turning of a chapter of our lives. For, when God moves you... the page is always turned to something more beautiful! As such, Autumn is like an open doorway into the best the future has to offer. I love the Autumn!
Isaiah 6:13 "But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and
shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when
they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof."
This verse speaks of an oak tree losing its leaves, yet it still has its essence within itself. And, when the Spring comes, the tender shoots spring out of the branches; new leaves which were there all along inside the Oak, and would never have been seen if the old had not fallen away.
In the New King James, it translates the verse to say that the tree is actually chopped down and the tree sprouts anew. But, this is a mistake. It translates the word "matstsebeth" as trunk instead of substance. As you can see, the word means: something stationary, i.e. a monumental stone; also the stock of a tree:--pillar, substance. This refers to that which is of value inside the tree, the seed. Stock means the basic stored life in this verse... like soup stock.
John the Beloved said in 1 John 3:9 "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." This is the same idea, that we have God's seed within us and it will continue to grow.
Don't think that you have been chopped down. No, the leaves are only falling away so that you will see your new beauty just months from now. Let the winds blow. Let the rain fall. The stuff that you are made of will spring forth and you will see a new thing come to pass in your life.
The Great Lakes as seen from NASA's Earth Observatory
The Michigan area as seen from satellite, looks like a painting done in watercolors of pastel, with rich streaks of blue and green that color the Great Lakes. Though this may rival the striking orange of the Autumnal changing leaves around the lakes, the lake blues and greens are a contradiction of conditions.
The blue in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is sediment brought to the surface when strong winds churned the lakes. The winds stir the water, pulling quartz sand and silt from the lake bottom to the surface. The green in Lake Erie and in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay is algae, which builds on the surface when winds are calm.
The photo was taken on October 9, about a week after a cyclone was in the region. That was attributed to the blue sediment churning. Then the duckweed formed in the settling waters afterwards; a series of effects created in flip-flop weather conditions. I can only imagine the beauty that would present itself on the ground, since I've never been that far north.
But he is of one mind, and who can turn him? and what
his soul desires, even that he does. For he performs the thing that is appointed
for me: and many such things are with him. Therefore am I troubled at his
presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. For God makes my heart soft, and
the Almighty troubles me: Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither
has he covered the darkness from my face. Job 23:13-17
This passage is also a contradiction in terms. You have Job's dark rumination that God has all power and can do as He pleases, yet He did not choose to rescue Job from the distress he had to face.
I am sure you have had situations where friends could have come to your rescue and didn't...Human beings. One such situation in my life was during the summer after High School when I didn't have the money for college, and I couldn't find a job. I've written about the experience in a piece on my page Arabian Dreams, and you can get the big picture there. But, when I first told friends in my hometown church I was going to Job Corps, one older friend in particular seemed to have a low opinion of me doing that, saying that I didn't need to do that. College was not a good choice either to the people in my church. He, like my Pastor suggested that I should go to Bible College, which wasn't an option since I had no money, and that would not get me a teaching license. I was called to teach. He owned a small business himself and I had asked him for a job. Of course, it was during the recession of 82, and I didn't understand at the time that the business was not surviving, and he went out of business shortly afterwards. But, in my pinhole view at that moment, he could have helped and didn't, yet he had a negative opinion of my plan to get job training. I just thanked him for his opinion, realizing that he was not a stakeholder in my future, therefore it would be foolish to heed his counsel.
Of course, everything worked out with the path God guided me down. But, I can see here how Job felt in this passage where he says that he is troubled by the knowledge that God did not take him on to heaven before this bad fortune befell him, and neither did God prevent the bad fortune. It seems that Job would have preferred one or the other, either choice would have been preferrable to going through the pain. Yet, the Almighty God allowed His child to suffer through great weakness and calamity.
None of this pondering on Job's part changed the fact that God indeed had a plan from the beginning of the story. The same is obvious through my life. I went to Job Corps for a reason. God led me down the path to His calling. Just as that has been demonstrated, likewise God has led me through this storm. He has the greater good in mind, and this is the road that will get me where I wanted to go. Afterall, look at the beauty of the blues and the greens on the Great Lakes. When you look at the "big picture" you see a mosaic of God's hands.
Los contadores de estrellas
Yo estoy cansado.
Miro esta ciudad
—una ciudad cualquiera--
donde ha veinte años vivo.
Todo está igual.
inútilmente cuenta las estrellas
en el balcón vecino.
Pero él va más deprisa:
no consigo alcanzarle:
Una, dos, tres, cuatro,
No consigo alcanzarle.
Una, dos ...
In this simple poem two people are each counting stars: a 20 something man, and his neighbor boy on a nearby balcony. The boy is counting rapidly, excitedly: one, two three, four, five...
He is listening silently and he hears the boy counting and he tries to
count them too, but can't keep up with the eager child. He counts them slower:
one, two three, four, five...
Why is it that he is counting the stars
slower than the child? The opening line says that he is tired, so he counts the
stars. It is to be inferred that his mind is full: full of other stars from
other years, full of the years that have elapsed and the memories that have
developed under those same stars, and perhaps full of even more marvel at the
splendor that is before him than the mind of the inexperienced child can yet
conceive. (After all, the more you understand about the stars, the more you find
them unbelievable. The more you discover, the less you find we really know.)
He is in no hurry. He gets lost in the splendor. All of this splendor
pushes everything else out of his mind, emptying him of all but the splendor of
God’s handiwork. None of this is stated, yet all of this is evident, even in the
stars. Sometimes the silence speaks so loud.
James 1:17-19 Can you imagine why God wants to give us His gifts? It is unimaginable. But, it is of His own free will. Some will argue about why God does not rid the world of all evil. But, here James takes for granted that God is all good and everything good comes from God. Go ahead and count the gifts of God, if you can. He gives without number.
Here I've translated the poem into a simple English version:
The Star Counters
I look at this city
A city where (probably Madrid, Spain)
I've lived for 20 something years
Everything is the same.
with no reason count the stars
on a neighboring balcony.
I'm also ...
But he goes faster
I can't keep up
One, two, three, four, five...
I'm much slower.
One, two ...
The Hind in High Places is mentioned in 2 Samuel 22:34 and Psalm 18:33, as
well as in Habakkuk 3:19. The hind is a female deer, a doe, and just like in
modern hunts, the doe is not considered fair game by humans. The hart, however,
the buck deer was hunted for food and for his rack. Both the hart and the hind
are harmless and gentle. They are wild and therefore timid. They are beautiful
to spot because of the elegance of their form, and for their surprisingly swift
and graceful motion. Though the hind is not hunted by humans, she is natural
prey for larger animals.
When chiding with Job for his presumption, God asked if he was
intimately acquainted with the seasons of calving for the hinds. Job 39:1. In
the passage in Psalm 29:9 the word calve is translated from the Hebrew word
chewl,” which means literally to writhe and scream in pain. So, as I was
alluding to in the blog titled “Deer, Deer,” this verse is talking about more
than thunder sending a deer into early labor. It is also metaphoric for the
struggles we face in life. Our personal storms or calamities may cause us to
writhe in pain, but we know this schemata is all part of God’s temple, His world
that He has placed us in, our own human nature. And, human nature is itself a
testament to the glory of God. When things go wrong with the human body, it
testifies to the glorious miracle of how God created us. When loved ones die, we
are reminded of the curtain call that is life for humanity. After all, we still
can not alter our own DNA or change our own height, as Jesus said. Matthew 6:27
It can even be said that the Holy Spirit is compared to a hart or hind
in the song of Solomon, in that the Spirit is to be hunted, or can be startled
away in a church service for example if not attended. The worship service is a
sort of Spirit hunt, where we usher in the Spirit of God into the service.
Different things that happen in church can distract from the Spirit. Song of Solomon 2:7 and Song of Solomon 3:5
The hart is often thirsty in the dry Middle Eastern countries. When he
is hunted and searching for water, he will plunge eagerly into a stream to gulp
water. David said in Psalm 42:1-2 that his soul panted after God, like a deer
for water. It is this attitude of the hind and the hart that God seeks in us.
I read a classic allegory when I was 16 named, Hinds feet on High
Places, by Hannah Hurnard that tells of the yearning of God's children to be led
to new heights of love, joy, and victory. Much-Afraid, the main character is on
a spiritual journey through difficult places with her two companions, Sorrow and
Suffering. Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fears as she passes through many
dangers and mounts at last to the High Places. There she gains a new name and
returns to her valley of service, transformed by her union with the loving
Shepherd. It is a beautiful story and not very long. I highly recommend it to
anyone interested in a good fiction Christian devotional book.
Just enjoying the scent of the butterfly attracting Lantana flower shrubs from our new house. They have a scent similar to lilac or lavender, and it lingers in the air after they are plucked. I'm sleepy, but wide awake. Not much to say, just looking forward to getting moved in soon. My hubby is working 7 day weeks and 10 hour shifts, so I miss him. He should be off work anytime now. I will just leave you a picture and a thought. Good night.
Matthew 6:28 And why take you thought for clothing? Consider the lilies of
the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Psalms 29:9 The voice of the LORD makes the hinds to calve, and strips
bare the forests: and in his temple does every one speak of his glory.
This beautiful phrase is a metaphor for a storm and pain. The voice of the Lord is the thunder. The leaves are flying in tumult throughout the forest in the stormy winds. The timid forest folk... the deer...is so afraid in the middle of this raging storm that she is thrown into early labor and brings forth her baby calve, screaming and writhing in pain. Then the storm is still, and all of nature, the Lord's temple, speaks of the glory of God. The loveliness resulting from the deer's pain is a baby deer, and what in the forest could be more lovely than the awkwardness of a fawn, still wet after a stormy birth?
Walking through the woods this evening, I saw a tree that had been knocked over by the tornados. This particular tree was different from all the other "downed trees." It had started a chain reaction. It fell over, knocking over another tree, and that tree knocked over another. The total wreckage of these three trees end-to end was over 20 yards distance. But, looking at the root structure of the middle tree, with the catylist tree trunk lying through it, you could see that those two trees were victims of collateral damage...fallout from one big collapse.
I'm sure we've all suffered collateral damage at some point in our lives, but some can be more devastating than others...and all seem so needless. It seems that God allows such damage to affect our lives, even when we are spared from the storm itself. But, riding by Berry College's old Gate of Opportunity a couple of days ago, seeing again the myriads of trees down, it struck me how odd for nature to attack nature! The wind destroyed the trees...nature was unleashing itself on itself. Such a strange state of affairs. And, God allows it to happen.
Deuteronomy 23:5 "... but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because the LORD your God loved you." We often can not see further than the ground level destruction. We do not see what lies beneath the surface, what lies above in the canopy that is affected by the fall of the tree, or even what lies ahead for the land, beyond these days of wreckage. All we see is the fallen. Geronimo! We would be surprised to see and hear the living in store around the corner, that stems from our collateral damage. The damage is merely nature's way of recreating nature, the blessing from the curse.
These are the same trees, just from a slightly different angle. The first pic shows 4 trees, but the tree in the front to the right had three trunks of its own. The second pic was taken after the recent tornados. It shows only 3 trees, and the three trunk tree is now a two trunk tree. I thought it was such an ugly view when it first happened, and you can see that the tree that fell back in the back is still laying on the ground. All the others were hauled away. Both are sunrises, as you can see. It is still shocking to me to see the missing tree, because it's like a missing person. But, watching the sunrise on May 11th, I realized that the scene has a new beauty.
You see, before the two trees on the left side were side by side, together. They stood as one on the hill beside the water there, and created a unified view at life around the pond. Of those two trees, the one that rises on the right is actually planted to the left. They both lean until they cross each other, much like they are embracing. What shocks me most when I look at the scene now is the fact that the one tree seems to be half gone. Yet, the tree on the front right, the now 2 trunk tree, looks no different really from a glance, and it is actually 1/3 gone. One tree makes all the difference.
I can tell that it is only the fact that I know what it looked like before that bothers me. If I had never seen the pair, I would think, "How beautiful!" But, the more I look at the new scene, the more I realize, that one tree that stands there now seems to have expanded, and fills the space all by itself. It seems like it has spread its arms out to fill up the emptiness. The only empty space is when I look at the trunk. There were two trunks.
Change is like that. What can be so shocking in life, often turns out to have its own beauty...after the storm.
We have a prayer list, whether on paper in our pocket, or tucked in our head for the next traffic light. Remember the honeysuckles? I spoke of them and the fact that I had never prayed for them and that some things we never expect. It is a sad footnote that the things we pray for are often in a limited set. Let's call the things we often pray for, Set P, in the mathematical sense of course. Let's call the things God gives us, Set G. G for Grace of course. Grace is such a broad term that you may have a hard time putting your finger on it, but it can be simply stated as God's favor and compassion; kindness. We translate that as gifts in our own heads of course. But that's ok with God, I am sure. He never complains does He? But, our source of frustration can usually be found in a venn diagram as I've illustrated below.
John 1:3-4 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
We have also spoken of light...and darkness. There are two sides to the battle between light and darkness... before and after the cross. We think of grace as including what God did for us at and since the cross, to save us, because we are saved by grace. But, grace is more than the crosswork of Jesus. Grace began at creation. Through the creative work of God, we are all given life, and sunshine, and a world to enjoy, which is considered common grace, or things provided to us through God's general providence. These are the things we are reminded to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day...common grace. We usually think of redemptive grace during the ceremony of communion, or at the altar. (Incidentally, if you do not believe in creation, skip redemption; it is a package deal. God can not redeeem what was not His to start with, can He? Redeeming is "buying back" what you've lost. We sold ourselves out in the Garden as a race, and individually since birth.)
What is in Set G above? All of nature belongs inside of Grace. Nature is God's grace. The same mind that worked out our salvation for us has been working for us throughout the ages, and heaping lovingkindness on us.
All nature is one big gift of God's providence. The sweet scent of the flowers, the breath of air from the trees, the mountains for climbing and viewing, the beauty and comfort we receive wrapped in the arms of nature are all part of the goodness of God. God gives us this Earth, the sun and stars, to enjoy and to live our life to the fullest. This can be expanded to include all material goods, God and man made. Redemption belongs in Set G. Redemption is given to us to draw us in love to the Savior. With salvation it is made possible for us to experience oneness with the God of the universe, an experience of connection on which all happiness can be built. So, God has given us the world, and He has given us Himself. How much can be left in Set P, that is not part of Set G? Really it only amounts to the particulars. Remember that I said before that I prayed for babies with big brown eyes? That is an example of a particular. What I really wanted to have was people to love and take care of, and to teach and give something of myself. I saw that as obtainable when my baby sister would come get in the bed with me sometimes, and she loved me because I did all of those things for her. She would talk and talk while I tried to stay awake, and I would lay there silently looking into her big brown eyes. So, that is the source of that prayer. God's grace included that this desire I had would be met in this way. And, He threw in the brown eyes for good measure. I guess He knew I would be thankful. He could have chosen to give me what I wanted in a different way. But, I often find that God has included "surprise" gifts in Set G, for which I never asked. Only when we can reach into the larger set can we find all that God has in store for us.
There have been times that I would allow my children to have something, which was not quite as much as they had hoped for; maybe less money, less time, or less things. Or perhaps it was more; more chores or rules than they had hoped at the moment. Sometimes they would seem upset about this arrangement. My answer was usually, "I agreed to this to please you. If you are not pleased with this, then I won't give this either, since that is not going to give me the pleasure of making you happy." Invariably, they suddenly became pleased instantly with what I had agreed. Sadly, even though God has given us much, just like children, we can become discontent and withhold praise that God is due for His greater grace, because of what it does not include.
There is no such thing as Plan B with God. He does have a plan, which he has been working since creation. Those things that seem wrong in your life, those things that are missing in Set P above; those all can be found in the outer part of Set G since they figure into God's grace. This is why God told Apostle Paul that His grace was enough. He did not mean that what He had given was all Paul was getting, in a limiting sense. He meant that Paul needed to reach into the outer part of set G and find what matched this need. Paul was asking for something outside of God's plan, from the outer part of Set P. It is not wrong to ask in prayer many times for things that are on your heart. The point is that continual prayer on a topic will change you. It will change you to the point that you can reach what you are praying for, or to the point that you understand God's grace for your need. All efforts to reach for God are God-inspired and are pleasing to Him. Afterall, no one is motivated to pray for anything by Satan. Satan doesn't want us to pray. God is honored that we bring Him our deepest desires, no matter where they are in the Venn Diagram. Let Him work out what is sufficient for you. If you never ask, you are not giving Him a chance to love you.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
This verse says it simply. But, it doesn't mean that you will receive everything for which you pray. It means that you will find the point where God's grace is enough for you. Do the Math!