Taking a closer look at God's gifts...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Doing our part...

The brilliant, ever-changing panorama of fall colors is a spectacle most of us anticipate every year. While autumn takes on different aspects in various regions and climates of the world, changing colors and cooler temperatures both play big parts in its beauty and universal appeal. Nothing says summer is waning and nature's rest period (a.k.a. winter) is on its way like crisp mornings, chilly evenings, shorter days, and billions of leaves morphing from the fresh greens of June, July, and August to the jewel-toned hues of September and October. Despite its relative brevity--especially when compared to the long and often dreary days of the winter months it inevitably heralds--it's hard to find anyone who dislikes autumn and its glorious display of God's touch.

I am often distracted, however, by the vast displays of colorful vistas--the reds, yellows, oranges, and deep browns of hardwood forests--and forget that the larger picture is comprised of individual leaves. While the effect is breathtaking, the fact remains that without billions of single leaves doing their duty by obeying nature's instructions and maturing, the cumulative and spectacular effect would not occur.

The same can be said of Christians. If each of us does our job of maturing in our walk with the Lord, the collective effect will be nothing short of magnificent.

See you along the trail...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Birch Bunny rodeo...

Ever wish you had this much energy? I know I do. Our bunny, Birch, loves to do his "happy hops" when he's out and about. I call it the bunny rodeo.

For the most part, Birch enjoys being holed up in his cage, safe and snuggled in his hay (or lying in his litter box). On occasion, though, his mommy, Darice, insists he come out for some exercise. At first he objects, scuttling to a corner of his cage under a shelf. Once we nab him, however, and he realizes he has a large, fenced-in area in the family room in which to cavort, he takes full advantage of it. It's good for him to run and jump, dashing from one side of the large enclosure to another and his mom knows this, even if Birch objects as only bunnies can--by stomping his back feet to display his displeasure.  (This is the best-cared-for rabbit in the world, by the way, with his own penned area that Mommy puts up and takes down on a regular basis.)

It doesn't take long before he remembers that he loves getting out and forgets all about being in his comfort zone. He jumps and twists, leaps and dashes, runs like mad and turns on a dime. He lets us know when he's bored by pulling at the carpet. In the rabbit world, that's a definite no-no. He might ingest a piece of carpet which would cause him (and Mommy) no end of grief, so the minute he starts to exhibit BBB (bad bunny behavior), back into the cage he goes.

I'm a lot like Birch. I like to inhabit my own safe little world and hesitate to take chances, explore beyond what I know (at least by myself), or exercise, for that matter. But God knows better and oftentimes I'm plucked, squirming and squealing, from my safe habitat and forced to take a chance or two. And like Birch, I inevitably remember that I love exploring new ideas, meeting new people, seeing and doing and reading and writing those things I don't usually think of or spend my time doing. Like Mommy with Birch, God knows what's best for me.

I should mention that I do draw the line between Birch and me when it comes to a couple of basic things. For one thing, I seldom sleep in the bathroom, and for another, I couldn't hop that high if a pack of coyotes were nipping at my heels. (I do stomp around once in a while, though.)

See you along the trail...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Buggy beauty...

Bugs are not my favorite of God's creations. While they serve a valued purpose, they are (for the most part), a creepy lot and I could do without running into any of them on a regular basis. But even the uglier things in this world have a certain beauty attached to them, if in no other way than in the intricacies of their design. No, this bee isn't as cuddly as a caterpillar or as delicate and friendly as a butterfly, but he (she?) is:  
1. colorful,
2. well designed,
3. industrious,
4. big-eyed,
5. long-legged,
6. gets the job done,
7. no doubt dislikes us about as much as we do him/her, and finally,
8. has the good sense to hang around beautiful, fragrant flowers. 

Maybe God thought we'd disturb bees and keep them from doing their all-important jobs if He made them cute and cuddly. Maybe He gave them stingers for the sole purpose of making sure we kept our hands off them and let them get on with the job He assigned them to do, i.e., pollinate, proliferate many species, and in some cases, make honey.

Come to think of it, even we humans aren't all that gorgeous all the time. Maybe bees view us (with those enormous buggy eyes of theirs) with a shudder and comment to one another that they hate it when we get in the way by hanging around their workplace, cutting down their flowers and swatting at them and just plain buzzing around them annoyingly.

I guess it's all a matter of point of view.

See you along the trail...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Silver lining...

If you look closely at this photo, you can see a fish or two--silver salmon, to be exact. While they were easy to spot in the stream in person, on film they take on a shimmery, almost Monet-like quality. At first glance, I was disappointed in the picture, but upon further reflection, I decided that seeing them this way makes me appreciate their beauty all the more.

Fish in a stream aren't the only things in nature that can be looked at in more than one way. We all know what a difference it can make when scenery is viewed at sunset as opposed to sundown, in bright sunlight or shrouded in fog, snow-covered, frozen in ice, clothed in brilliant hues, or barren and devoid of any external or superfluous trappings. (I know I look a lot better in soft lights than I do in the harsh sunlight--or, Heaven forbid, first thing in the morning.) 

Just taking a closer look, via my zoom lens, at the same fish (or one who looks remarkably like him) in this second photo gives me a greater appreciation of his coloring and the intricacies with which God created him. Sometimes, all it takes is a second look at something we've seen a hundred times before to remind us that there is beauty in all that God gave us. It might require more than the cursory glance; we might even have to dig a little to find it. And granted, I wouldn't want to cuddle with this fish, but he's still a shiny reminder that our Heavenly Father took great care in all that He created.

To make him (or her) all the more amazing, he and his co-swimmers were doing their darndest to climb a ladder, spawn, and then die--all in the name of continuing the species. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to on the chance he'll make it without getting caught by a fisherman or snagged by a hungry bear. But over and over again, we witnessed their heroic leaps to reach their final destination. Death was inevitable, but life would be the ultimate outcome. Isn't that part of the beauty of God's plan? This slippery guy, in his own slick, silvery way, is a reminder that even though the journey inevitably ends in death, life will result. Talk about a silver lining! Sound familiar?

See you along the trail...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Land of blue ice...

Water. Earth's most abundant resource. Pretty basic, wouldn't you say? Perhaps even mundane.
But add some cold temps, glacial waters, a few thousand years, some global warming (or seasonal thawing, depending on how you look at it) and ordinary water turns into an extraordinary jigsaw of geometric delight.

This photo was taken from a boat near Portage Glacier in Alaska. Granted, not everyone has a chance to get up close and personal with a glacier, but even when you do (and I've been fortunate to be able to visit several in the two years I've been in
Alaska), it's too easy to be dumbstruck by the enormity of the glacier itself. But if you can drag your eyes from the breathtaking sight of a huge mass of blue ice snaking its way between the mountains, dragging trees and boulders, earth and anything else in its path right along with it, then there are other beauties to be examined and enjoyed and overcome by.

Miracles wrapped in wonder and tied with delight--that's what awaits us when we carefully unwrap the gifts scattered throughout the earth by our Heavenly Father.

See you along the trail...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

God's fingerprint

God's fingerprint can be found on all beauty, both man-made and natural. Whether He uses mankind to create architectural wonders or to produce art, music and literature, or chooses the humble bumblebee to pollinate the flowers that make us smile and the fields of crops that feed the souls and stomachs of the world; whether He trusts the chattering squirrels with planting mighty forests one sapling at a time or employs the moon-driven ocean tides and relentless river currents to sculpt the continents and carve great canyons--it's all at His pleasure and in His good time.
It's up to us to seek out and appreciate the many glorious wonders He's placed along our paths. It's not always easy to see the beauty--sometimes it's tucked away in the not-so-pretty aspects of life here on earth. But it's there. And He knows it's there and He knows He put it there for our pleasure.

God wants us to know it's there, to seek it out, to acknowledge the beauty, to worship Him for His love and glory and splendor and power, to enjoy the gifts He's so graciously given us. There are bits of beauty everywhere we look. Let's not let these tiny miracles go unnoticed and unappreciated. Won't you take a closer look?

See you along the trail...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hidden treasure

I love to find beauty in unexpected places. This shot, taken in Denali National Park, is particularly special to me for that very reason. You had to look carefully for not only the rock (a quartz of some kind, I would guess), but the tiny flowers that adorn its borders were also difficult to see unless you were looking.

This makes me wonder what beauty lies beneath the dirt, under the paths we walk each day, hidden from our view simply because nature has taken its course and deposited layers of soil and rock and decayed plant life upon it.

It has been said that we see what we set out to see. While I'm not blind to the ugliness that abounds in this world, I do find myself purposely looking for unexpected beauty because that's what I want to see. I can't ignore the blight of sin and garbage and pain; to do so would be to turn a blind eye to those who are hurting or to the world we're destroying. But I can make it a point to unearth the hidden beauty in nature and in all of us, if for no other reason than to remember that God loves us enough to often plant this beauty in places we don't expect to find it. It's rather like finding a twenty-dollar bill in the pocket of a skirt you haven't worn in eight years. The skirt might be ugly, but there's still beauty to be found in its depths!

See you along the trail...

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's the little things...

It's the little things that make life worthwhile and when you get right down to it, everything--big, little, or in-between--begins with something small. It may end up being big, but at the innermost core of everything lies a tiny miracle of creation.

Not everything that God has created for us is aesthetically pleasing, of course. Take the mosquito or the maggot, the hyena, every last snake in the world (same for spiders), the homely catfish, or any other example of creepy, crawly, slimy, or otherwise unappetizing lifeform. But at the center, at the very beginning of every creature, plant, or substance is a work of art. And all art holds its own beauty.

But you know what they say--art exists in the eye of the beholder. Beholding the art, really seeing it, has to happen before you can appreciate it. Art can't exist if it isn't beheld. And you can't appreciate what God has given you if you don't know it exists.

It's my hope that this blog will help you do just that. Every inch of this planet is covered with a beauty of one kind or another. We may have covered it up or shoved it aside or defaced it in ways that only human beings can devise, but it's there, nonetheless. And it's just waiting to be discovered.

Let's take a closer look at the path God has prepared for us.

See you along the trail...