In Awe of God

Recently I reread the words of Psalm 8:4–6 which say:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time you were in awe of something?  Occasionally we’re amazed by someone or something someone says, but often it’s either fairly expected or cool but not a ‘wow’ moment.

I always find autumn and the tree color changes to be one of the more awe inspiring times.  Spring has lots of visual changes but I typically feel more excitement that we’re moving past piles of snow rather than awe over the new life.  But with autumn there are these pops of color that are so vivid and amazing that you just want to stare at them.

One of the other more awe inspiring experiences is when you go to the places that are away from the city lights and you can really see the true power of all the stars in the skies.  Sometimes in the city you’re able to see some stars or the moon will look spectacular, but you don’t really get a good understanding for how many stars are really out there until you’re able to be away from the lights of the city and they’re able to shine.  It’s a truly incredible experience.

One of the other experiences that people say is awe inspiring is witnessing the birth of your child.  There’s something powerful about seeing this little being appear, after 9 months of growth hidden away with only tiny glimpses, with all 10 fingers and toes and looking like a miniature version of their parents or extended family.

There may not be a lot of awe-inspiring moments in our lives, so it’s so important to celebrate and recognize those moments when they happen.  What was your most recent awe-inspiring moment?

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What’s Beautiful Isn’t Always Good

This week I was reading about a project that’s been ongoing for more than a decade to remove a group of dams from a river. The picture that was included was a shot of the river as it goes over the dam (a short one, not like the Hoover Dam or the height of Niagara Falls). It looked peaceful and beautiful and I had a moment of ‘why remove something that’s in working order and looks good’? But then I read into the article and they listed some really good reasons as to why the dams should be removed and the hurt that they’re doing to the river. Yes, dams can serve one or more of several important purposes, but this article was a reminder that along with serving the purpose, sometimes there’s damage that goes along as well, and a choice has to be made as to which is more important.

Which got me thinking about dams and about our lives as well. Often we have to make similar big decisions regarding our lives. Sometimes it’s something you can do for a bit or make a choice without creating a permanent result, but other times it’s a very serious decision to make that regardless of the decision you choose will create an irreversible result. It’s not wrong to make a permanent decision, but it’s a very good idea to really consider things from all angles before committing.

It’s one reason why it’s important to consider multiple possible options before committing to something, regardless of how good it sounds initially.  It’s also a good reminder of how important it is to look below the surface, and that there’s always a second side to the story.  I saw a beautiful dam and waterfall in the article, they saw multiple things that aren’t healthy or could improve both nature and human life.  It’s not that I encourage you to look for the bad, but to look for what’s the best option, and not limit yourself to only considering one.

Reality Reflection: Just a Little Rain

I’m sitting here today contemplating the rain that we’ve had this week and the rain it looks like we’ll be having again shortly, and thinking about those in California and along the whole west coast US that are dealing with scary wildfires. We haven’t had weeks and weeks of rain so I’m not tired of it, and it hasn’t been constant or brutal where I am, so it’s more of the summer rain that you expect and welcome. But there are people on the west coast who are again facing a season of wildfires, people in Hawaii who are still dealing with the volcano eruptions, and people all around the world who are dealing with other fires, droughts and devastation and would enjoy the rain even more than I have been.

I’ve got friends and family in locations where they’ve gotten the brunt of the storms we’ve had this past week and they have friends who have been dealing with flooding. Having been through several flood situations in the past 10 years I’m familiar with it and know it’s scary and heartbreaking. Floods today, even the small ones, make it hard not to think of the Bible story of Noah and the Ark and the flood he dealt with that wiped out the whole world. Thankfully God’s promised not to do that again though.

When there’s a forest fire while there’s initially devastation, there’s also some very healthy growth and rejuvenation that happens after that initial devastation. Floods tend to do the opposite, and instead breed mold and mildew and cause more problems after they’ve receded. It’s amazing that something so life-giving can be so destructive as well. It’s a reminder that sometimes there’s a relatively clear path back to life, but other times we have to be brave and make bigger changes or moves.

There are some pretty important lessons we can learn from nature, what has nature tried to or actually taught you recently?

Partnerships in Creation

Over the past week I’ve been watching a family of bees make a home in the building next to my office window. I’ve worked out of this office for several years and haven’t seen them build here before, but this year they found the spot and decided to build there. They’re very small creatures and have found what looks to me to be a smaller hole to work with, but apparently they can fit quite a few of them in there at one time, so there must be space.

Today as I was watching them get started in the morning for the day’s hunting and building activities and whatever else they do it got me thinking about partnerships, us and nature, and nature and God. One of the things that has been talked about since humans really started growing and building homes is that we’re displacing the animals of nature, some of which have gone extinct as a result. As I’m watching this family of bees work I realized that the animals are doing their best to work with us, but we’re not giving them the same respect.

I get it, it’s not fun to watch the rabbits eat all of your plants, or have the deer run across the road where you’re driving, or have the bears and raccoons get in your garbage, or have the bugs take over spaces where you’re actively living. But I think many of those are signs that we’re not even trying to work with them on letting them have space to exist too.

But this family of bees has been a reminder and a reassurance that God takes care of all of His creatures, big and small. Maybe it’s time that we start working with God on not only how we can help nature thrive while we live where we live, but also work on partnering better with the other people that He’s created and put in our lives. Why fight and have someone be a loser when we can work together and everyone wins?

“”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”” Matthew 6:26

Reality Reflection: Something To Smile About

Some days when the sun comes up we’re not so excited, but today as I watched the sun slowly rise and add light to the land what I was feeling was hope. It helps that yesterday was cloudy and cool, but there’s something special and exciting about summer mornings. Maybe it has to do with old memories of waking up early to drive to the beach and seeing the sun come up as we drove. Or maybe it just has to do with summer mornings being the only mornings that ever make me happy. Some days it feels like we have to focus on finding things to celebrate, but with summer mornings for some reason I’m just excited to start the day.

What about you? What will you find in your journey today that will make you smile? Will it be the discovery of flowers that have bloomed over night for the first time? Will it be the way the sun light hits some raindrops left over from the night before? Will it be that first taste of coffee today? Will it be the joy between your dog and your kids as they play on the grass? Will it be a book you’re finally making time to read? Will it be the cheerful song of a bird? Will it be a special night out with your significant other?

Sometimes at the end of the day it is hard to come up with a list of things we’re thankful for or good things that happened, but if we start the day with the expectation that good things are coming our way, that there will be things to smile about (however small), and that today can be a good day, not only are we more likely to have a better day, we’re more likely to notice those special moments that are meant for us to see.

Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown