We are all in some form of quarantine or social distancing situation, so we should have more time to do all those things we have been meaning to do, right? In an ideal world, maybe, but as we all know and are experiencing, this is not an ideal world. Things change at the drop of a hat, illnesses spread, and if we don’t have the news channel on, someone is texting us the latest bad news.
But, being stuck at home doesn’t have to be the same as being “stuck”. Creatively, I have had boundaries pushed and pressed all in ways that are making me grow as an artist and communicator I am sure. Galleries are moving to online gallery openings, studios are offering conference video classes or online material, and several sources are giving out daily prompts to keep hands and minds busy.
I am going to dare you for a moment to not be busy.
Yesterday, Shane and I listened to our church service in our hammock, then continued to rest for about an hour, which was really hard for me to do. I have so many online things and videos I need to record, I have been missing the gym, and I actually have been doing very little felting, but that break was good. A christian music group posted a picture this morning on Instagram a note on their thoughts for another week of the same thing. They urged the viewers to be still in this season, to receive God’s presence as sabbath for our souls, and to quiet our bored, overactive, and frustrated minds.
Psalm 19:14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer
I am back to a busy Monday; yes, even though I am not going into the dance studio where I teach, I will be welcoming dozens and dozens of kids into my home through online classes. I have been editing lesson plans, going over what went well last week and what to add this week. I have been listening to recital music, trying to figure out how to teach these last few counts over a video for various dances. Through all the business, I think back to yesterday, listening to praise music in the hammock, and am thankful we took the time to sabbath in the sunshine.
When I do write a blogpost, it is generally about something that has touched my life or is a little personal revelation that I feel I need to share. I suppose that can be an excuse as to why I don’t write consistently. That’s right, I called it an excuse. I could, and often say, I should write more, but I find I write in spurts of truth. Little showers of ideas come down and I have to write fast before they dry up. That’s not to say I only get ideas, experience things, or discover truths once every two or three months, but this is one outlet of many, and when I feel like I need to plug into this outlet is when a post is produced. Other than that, it is my art that gets poured into, or it is my personal journal, or even a sketch pad, or it is personal letters being written or read.
I received a letter recently that encouraged me in the same way that the imagery of the regal moth I wrote about in my last post did. The writer affirmed and encouraged me with prayer that the seeds I’m sowing will find fertile soil.
These words of encouragement brought to mind a verse in Isaiah and I scrambled to look up the words that echoed in my head which were something like:
“If the word goes out, it won’t come back empty, but will accomplish something.”
But when I looked it up using my cellphone, it pulled up the verse that precedes the exact verse I was looking for, so all together I read:
Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Rain and snow.
All these little ideas and thoughts tied together. From the moth weathering the storm in the earth to seeds being sown and finding fertile soil. I had to smile. All the time we get hung up on big signs coming from our big God, but if we only train our eyes to look for big signs, we will miss the little ones that still shout out loud God is here and God is listening.
The regal or royal walnut moth is one of the largest moths around my area. They are a gorgeous vibrant orange with a muted brown almost grey with cream highlights. These striking colors are just one part of what makes them so interesting. After all, these moths begin as a giant caterpillar, green and almost frightening. They have large horns that look menacing and if you find one, if you handle it, it may thrash it’s bulging body in attempts to scare you. In all reality, the regal moth’s caterpillar form, the hickory horned devil, is a docile, chubby green caterpillar that means no harm.
These caterpillars can be as big as an average hotdog and you may find it on the ground rather than on a branch because of its peculiar life cycle. The hickory horned devil does something a little different compared to most caterpillars seeing that it doesn’t spin a cocoon that we naturally relate to most moths. Instead, the little devil makes his way down from shade trees and burrows in the ground, choosing the earth to make his transformation into the beautiful regal moth.
Maybe it is strange that I would be writing about an insect in the dead of winter, but right now is when the transformation is taking place. The sun is shining less and snow blankets the earth in its sheet of white, but underneath all of that, down in the dormant earth, a small creature is being transformed into something beautiful. The change is happening now, even through all this wind and ice.
Maybe you are in your winter in life. You just don’t see a change happening, all you see is cold, unforgiving harsh weather patterns. But, change can happen in the wait. Maybe you are watching someone else weather the cold storms and you can’t understand why they are not changing the way you think they should, maybe the change is happening underneath, deep down, where you just can’t see it yet.
I pray that this moth is a reminder for you this weekend, whether you are waiting out your own winter storm or watching someone you love weather their own, God made it possible for a green, horned slow moving caterpillar find it in themselves to dig deep and wait it out just to reemerge a beautiful moth. So if God has a plan for a caterpillar, He certainly has a plan for you.
Being in nature is a way that Shane and I find God’s glory. It is no replacement for the unity we can find in a church, small group, or concert setting, but for us, it is a way to find “our Jesus” like I suggested in the last post. What is so extra wonderful to me is that as we stare in wonder at wandering waterfalls, I know that Shane and I are thankful to the same creator, the one and only creator, God.
As good as all the food was on Shane’s birthday getaway, I do have to rave a little about the amazing place we were at, Hocking Hills, Ohio. We arrived on a Friday after a stop at Cabela’s and only did one small hike, if you could even call it that, that evening. We thought we could hit the waterfall labelled “Cedar Falls” before the weather turned, but only made it down the meandering steps down the steep hill to a rock wall and lazy stream before we decided we should turn back. That rock wall alone was amazing and left me wondering how it would sound if it sung out praises.
If you get a chance to visit this place, let me tell you something that I only learned in hind site: the steps leading down from the parking lot were created by an artist! Akio Hizume designed these nearly 100 steps that lead you to the path below based on the Fibonacci sequence and one dimensional Penrose lattice. Shane and I remarked on the stairs while we were there and their spacing, which now in hind site is funny, because the artist purposely spaced them so you would have to change your leading foot as you walked.
Had we known how close the falls were, I am certain we could’ve reached them that evening, but instead we parked at the Cedar Falls parking area and viewed them the next day. They were part one to a long hike we planned out that included seeing the Old Man’s Cave and Lower Falls.
To best describe our hike, we went in then out to the Cedar Falls location, and continued past the artist stairs and around a bend to head on our way to the Old Man’s Cave. Visually on a map, this seemed like an easy hike, and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of good information in the pamphlets we received from the visitor center on what the hike was actually like. Right off the bat, we hit a little scramble that the dogs enjoyed, we could’ve crossed the shallow stream and avoided it, but we didn’t need to.
By the time we reached the lower falls, we were passing people headed in the opposite direction asking how much further they needed to go to hit Cedar Falls, some with exasperated looks, and I don’t blame them. That particular path had quite a few ups and downs, narrow points, and was no easy walk in the park. This was fine for Shane and I and the puppy, but we both were aware of how much Jagger might be aching by the end of the day, and as it was, by the time we hit the lower falls, he kept laying down any time he could.
We debated at this point the best way to continue with more stairs to the right of us, should we turn back now or continue on? We decided to at least make it to the Old Man’s Cave, and took the stairs to do so, which weren’t all that bad. People of all ages were doing the stairs after all, so Jagger did well.
Reaching the very busy Old Man’s Cave, we again stopped and debated, giving Jagger time to lay down, where to go. The was always the opportunity to go back the way we came, but to be honest, that wasn’t an easy hike and we weren’t sure how well the old man, Jagger, would do. We decided to go on towards the ‘A’ frame bridge that crossed the gorge and to take the Gorge Overlook Trail back to Cedar Falls. Knowing that over look meant it would be over the bumpy terrain we just hiked through, I said to Shane it would probably be similar to that hike we did in Ricketts Glen, where after fallowing the water and seeing falls, it traced the top of the gorge and was an easy walk through tall trees. Fortunately for Jagger, that is exactly what this trail turned out to be. It was funny because all along the way we passed people who we had passed at the bottom headed in the opposite direction, we would all give a smile knowing we had all reached our destination and were on the homestretch of our own hikes.
We got to pass over the breast of the dam that hold back the waters to Rose Lake. This was one of a few metal grated bridges that made Grizz a little nervous.
Finally we made it made it to a bridge that crossed over to a very small parking lot. We recognized the lot from our drive in, and though it wasn’t our lot, with the grey skies, we thought it would just be quicker to cross here and walk up the road a short distance to where we started. Before we did though, we stopped on a lovely rock bench to reflect, and actually got some cute shots of all of us together; proof that I was indeed on this trip!
Surprisingly enough, that is the only hiking we did while at Hocking Hills. We agreed we could definitely explore more, because we missed the famous Ash Cave and didn’t even see the Upper Falls that were above the Old Man’s Cave. Unfortunately, I have more pictures of my dogs and man then of the sites because I didn’t have a lens on my camera that allowed for wide angle shots, but was more appropriate for portraits and low light, but I am okay with that. You can look up picture after picture that people took of these places online, and they are all great, but what mattered more to me was who I got to spend the time with, so that is what I captured.
If you plan to go to Hocking Hills for a quick weekend here is a list of tips to make the trip go a little smoother:
Print maps of hikes offline, they are a little more detailed than ones we received in the park
Remember, waterfalls don’t happen with out elevation, you are in a gorge, there are scrambles and stairs that the maps don’t go into detail about
The primitive camping is great and spread out, their normal campsites were a little more crowded but you have electricity and are close to a bathhouse, and in the summer time, a swimming pool
Wear good shoes, Shane and I are all about our Keen sandals, but were grateful we had on our hiking shoes for the hike we took
Give yourself time for these hikes to stop and wonder, the map may say a half an hour or hour, but if you are stopping to play fetch it takes longer!
Mark Hall wrote a great book that I got at the 2017 Creation Festival called “Your Own Jesus”, and I am finally picking up speed and finishing it. Okay, so I am halfway through, not near the end, but that is further than I was in 2017. Everything he wrote is hitting me at just the right moment taking the time to dive into it now though.
This year at Creation, I saw such an exciting preacher, and I was so moved, I thought, how do I hang onto this fire when I leave? I do not want to leave it at this festival. I need to be living this, because other people need to be feeling this, and if I am the only one they run into who knows this great feeling, well then I better be on fire still, overflowing and ready to tell them why I feel so good. So when my husband said he wanted to study Revelation then invited me to listen to the audio book I got for him about it on a long car drive, I said okay. Then, I signed up for an online Bible study that wrapped up in the last full week in September. I just ordered myself a book by the same writer who wrote the Bible study I was a part of to continue this growth, to keep this fire lit, because as Mark Hall says in his book, we have to do things to keep that feeling awake outside of a concert.
In a concert, we can ride on the emotions of the music and those around us, and then he said sometimes by the time we get to the parking lot, the feeling is fading. We experience what he calls “Big Group Jesus”, but we never experience our own Jesus. I sort of had this understanding when walking out of Creation, but it is so encouraging to read it from his perspective with his clever labels attached to these feelings.
If you feel like you’ve just been taking part in “Big Group Jesus”, then I invite you to check out Romans 12 that reminds us that we are a living sacrifice and by offering ourselves, we worship God.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
When we are surrounded by dim lighting, beautiful music, hands raised, it feels good, and it is good to worship like that with others; to find our own Jesus, we have to be willing to give ourselves up outside of the sanctuary, concert hall, or music festival. This can make us uncomfortable to think of giving up our own time, after all, so often in this hectic world, every second is precious.
But what if before you had breakfast, you read a devotional? It by no means is this kind of fasting we read about in Daniel where for three weeks he ate no “choice” food and it isn’t like Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights, but it is a start in saying, “My day starts out withyou, God, what do you want to fill me up with?” Or maybe an easy way to start to hand over your time is using commute time for prayer and worship.
If you are looking for ways to be a blazing fire, then I suggest reading “Your Own Jesus”. Or maybe your fire is completely out, and you are just looking for a spark again, I still suggest that book. But, I also invite you to pray and ask God to show you where you can give time to him so that you can discover this worship outside of Sundays or a concert. He wants our hearts, but at the end of the day, it is up to us to give them because we have free will. Music helps me dance into a better place, spirit, or mood so often, so I will leave you with this tune about shining like heaven on earth!
I have been doing the online Bible study “Defiant Joy” by Candace Payne and doing the YouTube live videos on Monday nights with Mandisa, the singer. The online study began August 13 and will end September 24. It has been joyful for certain, but it has been thought provoking too. Yes, I could be doing this study by myself, and you could too, especially if you missed the window of dates it was offered online. But, I encourage you to do it with your ladies class, study group, or friends because just a little bit of discussion over things that are in the study guide make them become more real when talking or listening to other people.
I had one of these “more real” moments last night when we were discussing the homework, or “funwork” as Candace refers to it in the study guide. One of the things you could do was simply write down big hopes or dreams in the space provided because last week was about hope and how it is the anchor of joy. Mandisa asked for people to share their hopes and dreams if they did that section, and in the live comments feed became a blur with people writing down trips they wanted to take, places they wanted to see, things they wanted to do and things like that. A few people shared hopes they had written that had already come true with in that week, like hoping their house would sell and it did.
I sheepishly wrote, “I did write down hopes and dreams, but sometimes I get worried that if I get hung up on my hopes and dreams, that I won’t follow God’s will. Anyone else?”
No one in the comments whizzing by really answered me, but Mandisa spoke wisdom that was a direct answer and it gave me a whole new perspective on my hopes and dreams. I’m not sure how it even started, because I don’t think she read my comment out loud or anything, but she said the verse that said God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight in him.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart
The big thing was if you take delight in the Lord, or if you are seeking first the kingdom of God, another verse someone brought up quickly in the comments, your hopes and dreams can become your reality. It is so simple, yet so profound, that if we are putting God first, then our hopes will line up with God because we are desiring what God desires. Why had I never thought of it that way?
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
She probably didn’t linger too long on that point, but it was long enough that I could just breath this sigh of relief. My hopes and dreams may not come to fruition in the way that I picture them today, in this very moment, but I shouldn’t be afraid to dream them. Right about then, someone brought up the song “Dream Small”, which is now echoing in my ears, so I’m going to share it here:
As I reevaluate my hopes and dreams and I can say with confidence, “None of these are against God’s kingdom, they are good things, and I am trying to figure out this life and what God intends, desires, and has planned already.” This is where free will comes in, and this is a turn the discussion didn’t take last night. The great part is, being part of the group chat and this discussion got me thinking of free will after realizing that beautiful truth about God fulfilling desires.
I have a lot of big hopes and dreams, but I know not all of them can happen all at once. Since I am chasing the kingdom of God, should a door open, it is up to me to choose whether or not to go through. God may open several doors, and I might have to figure out what my greatest desire is. Or God might make one door really big and obvious, but it will still be up to me to go through or not. That, to me, is kind of cool that we are given those choices.
It is like when someone hires me to do their graduation photo’s for them. I know they will want portraits and some unique shots. Then I get to know them a little, and I take pictures or give up ideas that line up with their hobbies or personalities, things they hadn’t thought of.
I actually just hired an artist to create a logo for me and my sculpture work. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and the message I wanted to get across. In the end, she is the one who is creating the work. Just like I am the one who takes the photographs during a senior shoot and edits them later.
In either case, if the client decided to micro manage, you can bet it would probably hinder the artists abilities. If I had a teen telling me exactly the pictures they wanted, and never took my advice of trying a new angle, or letting me add a vignette to the photo, sure, they would get what they want, but they would miss out on even more options and ideas that would still have them at the center of it. If I micro managed the artist creating my logo, I might never get to see it with the options of different fonts or colors that ultimately might look better than what I had in mind. My idea would still be center, but it would be lacking the options and talent of the graphic designer whose specialty is to create something like that.
If I try to micro manage God, because I am so set on my hopes and dreams, then I might miss out on doors he is opening for me because I have tunnel vision on the wall I have to knock down instead. It becomes a delicate balance of hoping and dreaming and keeping my eyes open for all the options God, the greatest artist of all, wants to give me as I am chasing after the kingdom.
And by the way, here is a preview of my logo. What do you all think?
I was blessed to have the time to have a husband who was willing to stay home with our dogs and enjoy the whole week of Creation Northeast. If you have never heard of creation before, it is a christian music festival that begins Wednesday night and goes worshipping, praising, and teaching through to Saturday night. It was their 40th year anniversary, which brought many speakers to note the importance of that number in the Bible, and how they viewed it as a turning point for even bigger and better years to come. It was neat to be there for that special occasion, but 40th year or not, it was refreshing to be there for all of the speakers and singers I got to hear. I have wanted to go for the entirety of the festival for a long time, and finally got to.
So many wonderful things were unexpectedly revealed to me or convictions were just lovingly reinforced. From tables selling shirts that read “Worthy” to speakers getting to the nitty gritty of what I claim to believe, to singers pouring out their heart, it is hard to walk away from such an event saying, “I got nothing.” Instead, I feel fueled up and ready to take on what ever life throws at me after spending time fellowshipping with like-minded people. As if to reinforce that, a few times speakers or singers briefly mentioned the importance of fellowship, highlighting the ultimate example of fellowship as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and it was so good to hear and be reminded that I am not alone in this walk, even though I spent time there alone after my friend left, and even though the mounting antagonism against people who believe strongly in something through the media.
One stand there had beautiful wooden signs with scripture on them, engraved in, dotted with color. They were beautiful. Sitting in front of the signs were a few boxes of little Jenga sized blocks that, on each side, had a little truth from God’s word. I snapped a picture of them with the adolescent treatment center my childhood church goes to in mind, what a great trinket we could give the girls if they would be allowed to have them. I sent the picture off to the woman who goes every week and she thought unfortunately with everything that has been going on their lately, they may not allow them to be given to the girls. Despite that news, I offered perhaps a lesson plan could be done around them instead, to which she responded, “Great!” and a thumbs up emoji.
So I created a coloring sheet with the four truths that were coupled with scripture from the blocks and created a lesson plan to tie them together.
I began with the Matthew 21 story of Jesus and the fig tree and how when Jesus and his disciples approached the fig tree, all leafy and green, yet it had no fruit that Jesus said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And right then, the tree withered up and was dead. I asked if any one of them ever had a house plant, because I have, and no matter how hard I try, I tend to always kill them! But it is a slow, sad process of yellow leafs appearing, then a few leafs falling off, and it takes a while, but eventually the plant dies, but not the fig tree, this whole tree died right away. As some continued to color, one read the verses from Matthew:
Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Faith will bring victory, and we could see that very plainly when Jesus commanded the fig tree to no longer bear fruit. This became possible because Jesus’ father is God, the creator of all things, the king of all things. Then I had someone else read the next verse, and someone eagerly read the Psalms:
Pslam 103:19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
He isn’t like a king, a mayor, a president who is human. A man running for office might make a promise before he gets into that seat of power, and he might not always follow through, because he is human, he is flawed. But God is perfect, and God is king over everything, so his promises will come true. Promises like we find in Deuteronomy where he says he will never leave you nor forsake you, or like ones in Isaiah where those who hope in him will rise up on wings like eagles because God’s promises are still true.
With that truth from the little wooden block and their coloring sheet being said, I then read a version of the Corinthians verse I found in the New Living Translation, because some versions weren’t easy to understand.
2 Corinthians 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”
With these amazing promises you would think it would be easy to follow what the Bible says, but the ways of the world are painted as so much easier or more fun. Take for example, staying up late Saturday night at a party, doing things you shouldn’t verses waking up early Sunday to go to church. Or maybe it seems easier to make fun of the new or different girl, or it is at least easier to say nothing.
Someone who knows this all to well is someone named Zach Williams. I asked the girls to raise their hands if they knew who Zach Williams was. Those who weren’t zeroed in on their coloring sheet looked at me like they wanted to say they knew, but as they thought of names, they really didn’t. I revealed to them, one of their favorite songs to sing, Chainbreaker, is by Zach Williams; the eyes I could see lit up.
I gave a brief rundown of Zach’s personal testimony that I had gotten to hear last summer at one of his concerts. Zach’s story begins with despite growing up in a christian household, one where he knew the truths on the girl’s coloring sheets, Zach still fell in with the wrong crowd. Once in college, he began his music career, which landed him a spot as a singer in a rock band. From the outside, he looked successful, touring in Europe with his band, but everything you would think that comes with being in a rock band like drugs and alcohol followed. He was unhappy and his marriage was falling apart when one day he heard a song by Big Daddy Weave, a christian group, on the radio and right then and there as he puts it, “God showed me a glimpse of what my life could be like, if I would turn from my sin and follow him.” So he did, he quit that band and made things better with his wife, and since things were going so well, he thought the music chapter in his life was over, but he was wrong! As soon as he started to follow God’s calling and write christian lyrics, God opened door after door for him!
One of his songs is titled “Fear is a Liar” and I told the girls we were going to listen to it as soon as someone read the John verse.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The devil wants us to think his way is easier, more fun, or what other people are doing, but he knows no truth. Jesus, the son of the King of Kings, the king who created everything is the one who said that truth. I emphasized, every time Zach Williams says fear, he is referring to the devil, because the devil creates fear, while God provides a perfect love that casts out all fear.
I didn’t even see Zach Williams this year at Creation, but the little blocks I found there were just the perfect thing to bring back and share with those girls who need to know love. You never know what you will find at Creation, but there is always something encouraging, something enlightening, and something dare I say beautiful.
By the way, if you want to print the coloring sheet, please do! If you fold it in half, then in half again, you can create a rectangle log that you can tape together and let it set up so you can be reminded of a promise from God’s word. You can turn it to one that speaks to you, or maybe turn it day by day, what ever works for you!
I flew into the rest of my weekend after I wrote my last post. I literally flew off of my longboard, onto the hard pavement, hitting first my knee, followed by a slide on my right side. The flying on the longboard stands out less against the memory of falling and sliding. I stood up quickly, annoyed I skinned my left tricep very much, and then I looked at my knee. I shudder at the picture that comes up in my mind.
Shane was still at work, that was why I decided, after accomplishing my list of things to do, that I would ride my longboard. It was the first time I had gotten it out since last summer, and some pride in me said that I could indeed ride it to Rin’s house and back before Shane got home before our date. I had not considered the hill before her home, and there I met the pavement with a leap and a tumble. It was fortunately on this hill where a neighbors house is situated and this neighbor happened to be sitting on her porch with a biker who had been peddling by and took a break. So two angels, one a nurse, and the other ready and willing to take orders and help out, happened to be right on the scene and knew what to do till Shane’s dad arrived to drive me to the hospital.
So now, here I am, my right leg wrapped and velcroed into a brace propped up on a camp stool while I sit in a camp chair on our back porch.
I can tell you exactly what got me into this situation, but it is still aggravating to think of how hurt my knee is. I shouldn’t bend it for two weeks due to the huge gash full of seven stitches and twenty-seven staples. Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still? Alas, I can count it a blessing it wasn’t worse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to sit still. As Rin put it, there must be some reason God wanted you to rest.
Her comment made me look into verses about rest, because I have been doing a lot of that. I enjoy doing it on my back porch the most because I see our Orchard Oriole families, we have two, the yellow warblers, hummingbirds, cat birds, mocking birds, bluejays, countless red wing black birds and robins, and of course my little phoebe whose nest is just over my shoulder. It really has been a joy to just observe God’s nature, and on a morning like this morning where I was calling in a gobbler, interact with it despite my limitations.
This certain, classic Psalm stood out to me though, because of the non-passive word, make.He makes me lie down in green pastures. Why would God make me lie down when I have so much to do and I have this break before teaching summer workshops? Though I believe in signs, I am not sure a very obvious one is about to literally be written in the sky answering my question as to why right now must I rest. I just have to sit, be patient, and keep my eyes open and alert like I do when looking for all my different birds.
Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”
Ironic I would’ve just ordered the book, and got about the day before my accident, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. Again, I am not unaware of what got me into this situation, and I am thankful it isn’t worse, but the why right now at the beginning of my summer has echoed in my head. This book draws stories and examples from far worse accidents that have happened in christians lives, and dares to ask why. It doesn’t skim over the question of, “Why, God?” with verses like Romans 8:28 where it says all things work together for good. Dr James Dobson really pulls out good examples of people in the Bible with big why’s, and verses besides Romans 8:28.
One verse the book brought up felt appropriate to my injury, as our nurse neighbor, gingerly, yet assertively held my knee together with a motherly touch. Then again, when my mom drove down on Monday and kept me company and helped around the house while I was confined mainly to the couch.
Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you: and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
As I continue to watch the birds and finish some lyric videos for mu mom’s vacation Bible school, I actually want to leave some pictures of a bird that I can’t seem to identify. So for all you bird watchers out there, help me out, this grey bird has no other markings besides a light belly and red skin around its eye and a curved bill. I am in western Pennsylvania, so a curved bill thrasher doesn’t make sense, but that is what it reminds me of.
Today is a fragile one, one where the right word, the right song brings trembling hands and a tear. Alas, I am one for routine, after bird watching and trying out my new camera taking shots of fluttering wings early in the morning, I went into my Friday routine. This includes a Tai Chi class, then stopping at the grocery store for lunch meat for the fresh bagels I get at my final stop at our local bakery where they had birthday cake biscotti’s today.
On the way to the gym for the Tai Chi class, I got some sweet texts from loving aunts, and coupled with the new album I was singing out loud, the tears came. I pulled it together for the Tai Chi class, but during the morning energy flow, the moves we did that reflected bird movements again made my eyes glassy. It just made my morning go full circle, the peaceful bird watching, the reading about Abraham and Isaac and the faithful in Hebrews, and with the praise songs from the new Rend Collective album I have been enjoying, I just felt I was being reminded there are blessings, always blessings, all around.
Blessings in our lives are sometimes like birds. We can hear their song, but we can’t always see them. It can be frustrating, straining your eyes, looking at a tree, knowing there is a bird chirping a melodic song in there somewhere, but we just can’t see, so we stop looking. Other times, birds come flitting into view, bright and beautiful, we see it, but it flies off before we are done looking. In both cases, we almost resent the fact that we didn’t see the bird more or closer; we over look the little bit of blessing we did receive.
Sometimes we forget, if we really want to see that rare bird, sometimes we have to sit still, be patient and wait. Even then, if we don’t have the right tools, like a lens that can zoom or binoculars, we still aren’t going to see it clearly. A bird isn’t going to just land in your lap because you want it to.
I have been especially enjoying capturing shots of dozens of types of birds this spring because I got a 75-300 mm lens this spring. Finally yesterday, I attached it to my new body I also got, but only charged for the first time yesterday. So, with my Canon EOS 80D and new zoom lens, I was capturing some really good pictures of birds. In this post, I will just be including photos I got today and last night, but with that same lens and older body, I got some okay photos of even more types of birds.
As I mentioned before, I have really been enjoying the new Rend Collective album, so I couldn’t end this post with out including a song that really applies to today. There are so many little blessings flying and flitting around me, I can’t deny that life is beautiful and up from the ash, up fro the dust, God can recreate us and I will rejoice in the sunshine and the sorrow, and oh, my soul can rejoice.
Looking back through verses that I have posted in more recent entries caused me to pause and re-read them in the style of my last post. I replaced law from this Psalm and inserted Jesus, and it made me smile.
Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love Jesus! He is my meditation all the day. 98 Jesus makes me wiser than my enemies, for he is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Jesus is my meditation.
He reached out to everyone, he loved everyone. He was a great teacher. Wouldn’t it make sense that if we are living with Jesus on our minds all the time, we would act differently to everyone around us? After all, those who look to him are radiant, because he is a light, and their faces shall never be ashamed according to Psalms 34. This leaves me beaming.
Looking to him, meditating on him and being left radiant also left me curious as to how many times the word light appears in the Bible. According to the Christian Bible Reference website, it varies a little based on version, but in the King James Version, light is mentioned 177 times in the Old Testament and 93 in the New Testament. Meanwhile, the Knowing Jesus website has 440 instances in the thesaurus where the word light shows up in the Bible. Either one of the websites counts are impressive and is proof that the idea of light is important.
So many verses express how, once knowing Jesus, you have light. Once believing in Jesus, Christians are described as the salt and light. The description of a man being foolish to hide a lit lamp under a bushel is a popular parable of Jesus. This idea of light makes me think of a child playing with a flashlight, even when their hand is squeezed over the lens, and orange glow creeps out from between fingers. To really hide the light, you have to turn it off or completely turn it inwards, utterly blocking the light.
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
And yet, despite what that verse says, we do stay in darkness much of the time, don’t we? We hide our light, we keep it pressed close and inward so we can go out and no one will notice, for fear of actually having to discuss what we believe. We take out our flashlights and wave them like lighters at a concert in praise on Sundays, we feed the flame during the pastors message, but then we tuck it away again as soon as we leave the church parking lot. How many people know what light we have, does it creep out from between our fingers as we others politely enough? Or is it all together absent when the waitress gets our order wrong, the car mechanic lists off ten more things that are wrong with your car that you didn’t expect, or a friend comes to us crying asking why?
It can feel safer or easier to just ignore the light, to just hide it. Especially if you have gotten close to the brink or given up all together on the supposed “how-to” manual. After all, if you don’t even see results and you feel the pain that the world brings, what is the point of having the light? You might as well tuck it away until the occasional Sunday or holiday and live like the rest of the struggling world.
But, if you have the light, we are not like the rest of the world. We should know what true love is and want to share it. Think about a couple that just started dating, they can’t stop talking about the other person, they blush when they come up, and they make changes to their calendar just to see more of that person. A newly engaged couple is always happy to show off the ring and talk about plans for the big day. That other person is their life, and they would do anything for them. I can’t sum up any better how that sort of relationship should exist between us and the Light and how it should radiate out of us to affect others beyond this verse from John:
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If you are feeling like giving up, if you feel like it is easier to hide your light, if you feel like this “how-to” manual left out a few pages and isn’t fixing your problems, please don’t forget, you know what real love is and it comes from the Light. Life can get exhausting, confusing, and it can down right hurt, but Jesus’ arms are outstretched and he says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I have to include this song from Tauren Wells because it is a beautiful reminder not to give up.
Standing in your ruins feels a lot like the end
So used to losing, you’re afraid to try again
Right now all you see are ashes
Where there was a flame
The truth is that you’re not forgotten
‘Cause Grace knows your name