Exploring the Heart of Nature

I was recently reminded of a poem and thought I would share it with you today. It’s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.”

For me this poem speaks to connection. It talks about our connection with the world and nature as well as how small of a part we have in that world. It encourages us to reconnect with the world that we live in: the ground that we walk and build and drive on, the trees and plants that shelter and feed us, and the quiet but true way that nature grows and changes over the years. It also reminds us of what people used to know, that nature is and should be our friend and we should enjoy connecting with it.

When was the last time you really spent time in nature? Maybe you will observe nature explode over the next few weeks from the allergy-free zones of your house or car, but I would encourage you to find time in the next short while to work on reconnecting with nature. People who spend time in nature often have naturally healthier immune systems, lower stress and feel better about themselves and life.  Getting out in nature is also a great way to connect with your neighbors, learn more about your community and meet new people (and dogs!).  What part of nature will you explore this spring?

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Welcoming In Spring Changes

Today it was windy. It was one of those days where you don’t plan a hair style and you certainly don’t wear a hat or scarf because it would be four towns over before you could even think about trying to catch it. I know there’s the old saying about March how it can “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb” or “come in like a lamb and go out like a lion,” while the saying for April is supposed to be “April showers bring May flowers.” So while I’m glad it was a sunny day, it made me think of these sayings as well as one that fit better: the winds of change are coming.

I think we’re at the right time of year to really embrace change. Yes, there are different periods of time during the year that we talk about change more, and one of them is in the spring time with all the exciting new life around us. With this new month we’re also entering the second quarter of 2019, if you can believe the year is moving ahead that quickly. So now is a great time to not only be open to but also excited about changes that could be happening in your life.

Change happens for many different reasons, sometimes because we really encourage it to move forward, other times because we’ve taken actions that have put changes in motion, other times because the world around us is changing and growing, and sometimes there’s no real direction from change other than to see that it’s happening. I’ve been doing some planning and working ahead in anticipation of some things I already know are coming up this month and I’m open to change happening, so we’ll see if that brings along positive changes and improvements.

What about you? Could you use some ‘winds of change’ in your life, relationship or career?

Spring to Life

Today I am thinking spring. I’m thinking all things that come along with spring, from clearing out the clutter and cobwebs of winter to bursts of life to warmer weather and being more active. As I was reading through my Lent devotions for this week and the other regular devotions a couple of verses caught my attention:

Spring will have some dark days:
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4a

Spring is a time to be refreshed:
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” John 4:13-14 NIV

Spring is a time for thrive:
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Spring is a time to celebrate:
“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Spring is a time to search for God (and find Him):
“But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!”” Psalm 70:4

This spring can be whatever you make it out to be. It’s totally up to you. My hope is that you would take inspiration from spring slowly (or quickly) coming to life and you would do a little spring cleaning on your life so that you get rid of the things that are holding you back or down so that you can celebrate, thrive and grow into the person God has created you to be for this season in your life.

An Easter Refresh

One of the things I love about Easter is it’s a reminder of the fresh start that we get with our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent and really see things through, but there’s something almost magical about new things. I’m not a huge fan of having 4 seasons, personally I prefer it to be a bit warmer all year long, but where I live there are 4 seasons, and we get all 4 every year. But as much as I sometimes find the change of seasons to be challenging, there’s something magical about the season of spring. There’s just no way to truly describe the feeling of wonder and excitement that you feel when you see those cherry blossoms begin to appear and little yellow forsythia blossoms appear practically everywhere after months of living in shades of primarily gray, brown and white.

On the first Easter morning all those years ago people woke up feeling disappointed and hurt, until they found the grave empty and learned that Jesus actually did what He said and rose again. His rising means that not only are we given the opportunity of eternal life, but we’ve also got the ability to be forgiven of our past and have a fresh start. Easter is like that big fresh start that appears each spring, but sometimes what you need isn’t that big refresh, but rather a smaller one. One of the things I’ve always been amazed by are morning glories. They flower for a few hours at the beginning of each day in the summer and then they close up. Yes, all the greenery in the summer is amazing, but there’s nothing like waking to find an explosion of color waiting for you on your deck or fence or wherever you have them.

But Easter isn’t the only fresh start we get, it’s not a one-and-done thing. We can have a fresh start any day, at any time. We can choose to sing a new song, have a new conversation, make a new friend, think a new thought or have a new attitude whenever we want or need. But we only get that start if we’re willing to let go of the past and move into the future. That takes a measure of trust in God as well as ourselves, in knowing that He’s got something better for us in the future, and that we can ride out the changes and be strong enough to resist whatever lures our past, recent or distant, may have. What will you do with your fresh start?

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

The Progress of Spring

I’m so excited that spring is officially here! I love seeing all the new life around us and seeing how the world transforms each year in this time. Pablo Neruda said:

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

There is little we can do to make the world do our bidding. We’ve tried to exert some control over our food, over the animals, and over each other, but most things seem to backfire on us. We can try to cut all the flowers, but we won’t stop spring. It continues on with or without our bidding.

In older times most cultures had some rituals they performed during this time to ensure a good harvest and a healthy year of growth and prosperity. We don’t tend to perform these rituals as often anymore, maybe because we see how little control over the things of nature we have.

That said there are things we can do to put the odds in our favor, like learning, communicating and sharing our knowledge and experience with others around the world. We’re not helpless even though we have little to no control over the world around us. But we have to be willing to take action, admit we don’t know everything and fail occasionally (not necessarily in that order).

Our lives continue to march on whether or not we want them to. It’s up to us to decide if we want to march in line, strike our own path or be swept away. Most people choose to be swept away or march in line. It’s easier and doesn’t seem to require as much work or commitment from us. However, we do commit to not taking action and responsibility for our lives in those situations. Only when we chose to strike our own path do we stand a chance of thriving like spring does.

This week I encourage you to shake off the snow and chill of winter and step forward into the power of transformation that spring holds.

The Spring of Eternal Life

This month we’ve been talking about spring and what spring means, and one of the most obvious things it means is new life. There’s a kind of life that we would be remiss if we did not talk about when talking about new life this month: that of eternal life. What happens after death is something that has been pondered since the beginning of time. Each civilization, group of people, culture, part of the world and span of time has their own ideas on what comes next, some that are similar and others that are vastly different. What most people groups can agree on is that there definitely is something “next,” whether it’s reincarnation, the afterlife, purgatory, hell or eternal life, this life isn’t the end.

What is awesome about the Christian belief of Eternal Life is that not only is there something after this life, it’s something better, and that something better is possible because of love. How cool is that?! I mean there’s so much talk about how commercialized love is and how it’s thrown around too much and not truly valued, but if you want proof of value here it is!

As we dive into this Holy Week of 2016 not only is it an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in Jesus and our belief that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life, it’s also an opportunity to share some love with those in our communities and our churches. Easter is one of the biggest attendance days for the Church so not only are the C&E (Christmas and Easter) people present, you’ve got people who have a feeling that they want something more out of their life and figure that because the church will be so crowded they can just slip in unnoticed. As you go to various church activities in the next week I encourage you greet those you don’t recognize. But don’t do it in a way that will embarrass them or make them feel guilty for being there, but to let them know they’re welcome and you’re genuinely glad to see them. If they seem like they want to chat offer to treat them to coffee (no, not the coffee that will be served after the service) and get to know them better. It could be your opportunity to share about the gift of Eternal Life with them.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”  1 John 4:9

Waiting for Spring

Spring always makes me think about hope.  With everything coming to life there’s just something so invigorating to us even though we’re not getting a new set of leaves or flowers. Of course we do have the ability to have “springs” in our live at any point in time we don’t have to wait for the right months to show up like the plants do.  But when you think about hope there’s the other side to consider that we usually don’t think about when talking about hope, that not all of life is hopeful, sometimes it’s just not good or lasting, and eventually death happens.

But the thing I love about hope is that it doesn’t promise perfection, it just promises a better tomorrow.  Maybe that tomorrow does include death which means the suffering will be over.  Maybe that tomorrow includes a new challenge that will finally free you from the frustrations of the past.  Maybe that tomorrow has the break you’ve been waiting for.  Or maybe that tomorrow just includes a friend who will let you cry on their shoulder and be a support to you.

Don’t let your bad or tough day today ruin tomorrow or the rest of your life.  Just as the spring shows up every year, know that things will turn around for you.  You have to be open to moving into that hope though, I know that the negative spiral is more than willing to keep spiraling with you trapped in it.  Will you choose to welcome hope into your life this spring?

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” Robert H. Schuller