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Category Archives: The Word

What God says about us.

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The Real Reason For Clouds

We stop, we stare, we click, we share. Facebook is filled with sunset pictures. There are even facebook pages that are solely dedicated to facebook sunset photos. The Wonderful World of Sunsets, one of dozens of “sunset only” facebook sites, has over 360,000 followers. Weird, but mildly impressive. So why are people so strangely drawn to an event that happens everywhere in the world at the end of every single day?

Well of course it’s because we love the colors, movement, and surprises–it’s art in real time. No two are alike so each sunset is literally a once in a lifetime event. (No one has ever said, “Oh, I’ve seen that one already.”) And even the act of looking up draws us out of our earthbound experience into something bigger and more beautiful.

sunset-1

Fernandina water front.

For me, sunsets are a great excuse to sit and rest during a hike. “Oooh! Look Tom, the sun is setting. Let’s stop here and watch for a couple of hours.” And maybe I’m dim witted but this was the first year that I noticed something wonderful about sunsets: No one takes pictures of sunsets on clear sunny days. It takes a relatively cloudy evening to deliver a proper sunset. And a truly menacing sky will produce the most spectacular palette. If there are no clouds, there is nothing to reflect the sun light. As the angle of the sun’s rays lower in the sky, the clouds mirror the light. They are transformed from their gray and gloomy appearance to a brilliant infinitely dynamic likeness of the sun itself.  From the sun’s point of view, there is no such thing as a dark cloud.

Perhaps this is the true reason for clouds and for the inexhaustible number of sunset photos. We expected a storm but the sun changed it into a light show. Our forecast for gloomy gray skies is surprised by the sun’s persistent presence right up until the last bit of daylight yields to the night.

When you snap your next sunset selfie, remember that Jesus’ persistent love is illuminating the gloom in your life. Remember that every day holds a new surprise of joy and mercy. And from His perspective, all that would cloud your life looks like art in motion when exposed to His brilliant presence.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim to work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

Enjoy your weekly hike.

sunset-2

Same scene, minutes later. See what I mean?

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Thistledown

thistleWestern Pennsylvania fields are full of them right now—those downy little fluffs of white that float along in the breeze. When we were kids we’d catch them, make a wish, then blow them heavenward in hopes that our wish would come true. What I didn’t know then was that these “wishes” came from the thistle plant.

Thistles start out as prickly little landmines for barefooted children. (Scotland adopted this plant as their national emblem apparently because once, in the dead of night, some clumsy barefooted invading Norseman stepped on it, swore quite loudly, and alerted the entire Scottish army that they were under attack. Norsemen later began wearing shoes whilst attacking Scotland.) Thistles grow a cluster of slender thorny stalks with equally nasty leaves and later produce the iconic regal purple flower out of a pear shaped green base. Almost immediately after it blooms, the plant starts to die. Its leaves and stalk turn a gnarly brown and as the dying plant dries up, birds ravage the flower yanking out the featherlike thistle down to find seeds.

If I’m honest, my life feels like that sometimes. I’m prickly, sour, and resistant with brief moments of beauty. And I have a pear shaped base. Life is hard and there are too many annoyances that peck and pester and try to pull away all that seems precious. But how wonderful to think that every thistle holds a thousand wishes! Your life, your marriage, your job, and your journey may look half dead. You might be a dried up mess of thorns, but you too hold a thousand promises. Only after hardships do we bear real fruit, only in death does the thistle share all that was waiting inside.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25thistle 3

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in The Hikes, The Word

 

Who Wrote This Map Anyway?

vacation shots 2011 035Going “off trail” hasn’t ever really gone well for us. There was that one time when faded blazes and disappearing paths tempted us to rely on our own sense of direction. After walking for miles blindly following a map, we stopped and agreed, “This can’t be right!” “Who wrote this map anyway?” Trusting our keen “inner hiker” instincts, we set off in a direction that seemed shorter, or smoother, or just better. Yeah. After an hour or so, we saw the sign. Yes, Dolly Sods was a World War II testing site. And going “off trail” there has some interesting consequences.

When lost in life’s most challenging seasons, CS Lewis reminds us to continue following the path: “Was the map wrong? Maps can be wrong, but the other explanation is more often true.”  Just as most computer problems occur between the keyboard and the chair, many of life’s challenges happen when we stop looking at the signs. Maps and trail signs are very useful things.

The great thing about being a Christian is the map. The rules for the journey are all laid out in the Bible. God told us what we needed to know, we just need to trust it. The trail includes some dry miserable stretches that we didn’t expect. The challenges that we thought the map would help us avoid may in fact be the scenic attractions and destination points along the way. If we go off trail, we will never fully know that deep, tired satisfied feeling that “I made it!”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

So what are the signs? Start reading the Bible and you’ll find that sometimes the warnings and markers are glaringly obvious. One of God’s most grand and obvious signs to us is marriage.  It is His way of saying, “I love you. I will never stop loving you. I’m your husband, you are my bride.” Whether you are married or not, let this “map” of relationship, commitment, covenant, and joy really sink in. God said “I do” to you! Imagine it! You are eternally His! Have you been faithfully following His trail?

This week’s hike was at McConnell’s Mill’s Hell’s Hollow Trail. Icy and muddy but the “signs” that Spring has come were everywhere: robins, singing cardinals, and green grass peaking through the snow!

 

 
 

I’m In!

Want to know the secret to a joyful marriage?  Two words.  “I’m in.”

Just before walking down the aisle 27 years ago, my mom (who you already know gave only the wisest of counsel) asked me a strange question.  I mean, I was already poured into the white gown.  The worship team music was already playing the latest Sandi Patti tune.  Tom was somewhere in the building sweating through his rented tuxedo.  And she asked me, “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Geez mom, …duh.  Mom continued, “Well if he really loves you, then I have one piece of advice:  Never say no to him.

Wait. Wha….? There was very little time to argue this point.  My dad had his elbow poised and ready to escort me to the “have and to hold from this day forward” moment I’d looked forward to since age 4.  I remember looking at Tom on the way down the aisle thinking, “Really?  Never?” mr mrs

Of course at the time I thought she was making some reference to the bedroom.  But (and many of you are not going to like this) I have found that in pretty much every situation, saying “no” has never gotten me anywhere.  Marriage works far better when you say yes.

Saying “yes” to Tom is so, well… Biblical. Look at Ephesians 5:21-33. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” If someone loves you that much, you’d be a fool to say no.  If you are truly “one flesh” then saying no to your spouse is like saying no to yourself.  “Wives, respect your husbands.”  Mostly that means letting him take the lead.  Wives, let your husband lead and then respect his opinion enough to follow.  You’ll put a huge silly smile on his face…and isn’t that what you really wanted…to make someone you love happy?

This advice isn’t for everyone.  We don’t say “yes” to abuse, harm, or immorality.  This is why my mom qualified the advice with “Do you know for sure that Tom loves you?”  Without her husband’s love, a wife won’t want to say “yes” to much of anything.

Marriage isn’t a competitive sport.  I think that’s why hiking together is so natural.  No one is trying to win an argument.  No one has to be “right”.  Just follow the trail.  (If you get lost, blame it on the map.)  So next time your husband says “Let’s go look at power tools we can’t afford!” or “I’d like a Whopper for dinner, how about you?” remember to smile and force out the two words that will work like magic: “I’m in!”

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Lessons from the Trail, The Word

 

Good Lovin’

mcconnells mill March 2011 019I love this version of the familiar 1 Corinthians 13 passage.  This is verses 4-10 in the Message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in The Word

 

Becoming One

 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  Genesis 2:24

See also Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:8 and Ephesians 5:31. Maybe the Message Bible says it best as it translates 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 “There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.”

Becoming “one flesh” is more than skin on skin. It takes an intentional ongoing commitment. We must spend time and energy becoming one emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. At Heritage Point, the two trees grew on the rock ledge, and as they grew they became one. Different, yet knitted together, they could face the wind, snow, and the challenges of the elements. As two trees standing as one, they were stronger than as one lone tree.

This business of becoming one is of great importance to God. His message is in the design. We are made for intimacy.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in The Word