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

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Through the Rainbow

I wasn't really this close to a rainbow, although it sure seemed that way when I looked through the camera lens. I zoomed in on this beauty to get a closer look at the colors. It worked. I count six stripes--more than I've ever seen at once in a rainbow.

Most Christians know the rainbow is a sign of God's covenant with mankind that He will never again send a flood to destroy the earth. That doesn't mean great floods won't occur or that humans won't suffer as a result of tsunamis, overflowing rivers and lakes, rising ocean levels or raging hurricanes--just that they won't completely destroy the earth.

We can do that all by ourselves.

We see a lot of rainbows in this part of Alaska. I imagine it has something to do with the mountains all around us and the proximity of the waters of the Cook Inlet and the Pacific ocean beyond, as well as the abundance of rain during the summer.

Seeing one (or better yet, a double one) always brings a smile. It's not just their beauty that stuns me, it's also the way God has chosen to remind us of His promise. He could have used a cloud or a twinkling star, even a thundercloud or flash of lightning. But those would be difficult to detect, frightening, or dangerous. Instead He chose a glorious arch of diaphanous pastel colors against the backdrop of dark clouds, all created by the rays of the sun shining through (and in spite of) those clouds and the rain they've produced. Hard to miss, right? He chose something so beautiful, so overarching and magnificent that all it takes is one glance upward to read His message.

And through those bands of beauty, we can see what lies beyond. In this case, I saw the mountainside, trees, and rocky peaks. Seen at a different angle, I might have seen billboards, a busy street, farmland, or any other vista found on earth. What's important is not what we see beyond the rainbow, but that we can see it.

I read the message this way: "Things have been gloomy recently, but you can get through this by viewing these circumstances through the beauty of My promise to you to whatever lies beyond this hardship--that busy street, that slum, that ocean, or endless prairie, that illness, grief, or adversity in any form--whatever path you have to traverse. See my promise and know that I, your Heavenly Father, am in these trying circumstances with you."

Rainbows. What delicate creations, what unexpected delights. He didn't have to make them for us, you know. What would we have done had we never seen one? Turn to one another and say, "You know what's missing here? A band of pastel, transparent stripes that arch over the landscape when the sun and rainclouds are both in the sky. Yeah, that's what He should have given us."

Of course, you have to be looking up to see one, but then, that's what He intended all along, wasn't it?

See you along the trail...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pretty in pink

There are times when I feel past my prime; when the devil tries to convince me that my days of making a contribution to the world are long gone. My children are grown, I'm retired from my "paying" job, and there are days I'm sure I'll never see my work in print again.

And then I look down--down at the faces of my precious grandchildren, at the pebbles beneath my feet, at the untold number of grains of sand on the beach, and in this case, at the flowing water in which another kind of beauty abounds--sometimes noticed, sometimes not. Nevertheless, it's there. Down there.

I spotted this pink beauty the other day while on a mission to photograph the wildflowers growing along the roadside here on base. Just as I was wrapping up my session, I happened to notice a spot of color in the water of Ship Creek, a stream that flows through the base, through Anchorage and out to the Cook Inlet. Floating on the current and caught against a rock in a small eddy was this lone blossom spending its last days of glory floating in the river.

It reminded me that it's never too late to bloom, that we're never too old to make a contribution, that paying jobs aren't always the most rewarding. Finally, perhaps the assignments we've been given by God can't be accomplished until we've accrued enough knowledge, wisdom, and patience to do the job correctly.

Maybe this flower bloomed unseen alongside hundreds of others and I would never have noticed it in the crowd. It's likely I'm the only human being to have witnessed its voyage down Ship Creek and it's possible that it was merely a coincidence that I spotted it at the exact moment it was trapped in the eddy.

But I don't think so. I think God used this one blossom, this little pink flower spending its last hours on its way to a watery grave, to show me that it's never too late. Never.

See you along the trail...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Life in Alaska brings many surprises. Some are as magnificent as snowcapped mountain peaks, earthquakes, or erupting volcanoes. Others are as common as delicate wildflowers, the sight of a bald eagle high overhead as it loops in lazy circles on invisible wind currents, a mama moose and her babies out for a stroll and a little grass-grazing, or a pair of bull mooses duking it out along side the road.

And then there are the other surprises--the ones you always hope you'll run across, but secretly doubt will ever happen. At least that's the way my daughter, Darice, and I felt a few evenings ago when we drove up the Arctic Valley Road to hunt for a pair of sunglasses I thought I'd dropped earlier in the day while on a ride with a mutual friend, Lisa. I'd emptied my purse and searched Lisa's van twice before deciding I'd dropped them on the mountainside while taking photos. So we climbed into our Explorer and went in search of a $12.00 pair of sunglasses on a remote mountain road. (I'm nothing if not cheap. We probably spent that much in gas just looking for them.)

That's when things changed. While retracing our route up the steep, gravel mountain road, we rounded a curve and ran smack-dab into this black bear cub munching on dandelions alongside the road. We crept up on him slowly (in the car, of course--no getting eaten by irate mama bears for us!), but there was no need for sneaky maneuvers. He was oblivious to most anything but those delicious dandelions.

As we approached him, a pickup sped by us, spitting gravel and dust and no doubt cussing us out for having pulled over to the side of the road. We thought the bear would certainly have bolted, but when the dust settled, he was in the same spot. For the next forty-five minutes, Darice and I took pictures of this little guy as he devoured one after another of the gangly weeds. He looked up once in a while to stare at us, pose for photos, or scan the roadside for his next big bite. We talked to him (turns out he wasn't much of a conversationalist), marveled at his beauty, and thanked God for the opportunity to witness nature at its finest. We may never see him again (although you can bet your bottom dollar we'll look!) and have no idea whether he was orphaned or simply had a very laidback mama who was perhaps napping nearby. At any rate, she never showed up, but then we never got out of the car to bait her, either. No sense in pressing our luck.

Just when I think we've had the most fantastic of all possible experiences up here, God provides another, even more unbelievable one, for us. This was a perfect example of God using the tiniest, most inconsequential of circumstances to lead us to His gifts.

And no, I didn't find my sunglasses on that mountain road. Of course, I didn't give a hoot after having seen what God led us to in our efforts to regain them.

When we drove back into our driveway, Lisa walked over and handed my missing sunglasses to me. They'd been in her van, after all. Thank You, Heavenly Father, for blinding me to their presence so we could run across Your most precious present alongside the road during our search. It's amazing, isn't it, how searches so often end up leading us to Him?

See you along the trail...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking up....

Just when I think God has given us all the beauty and grandeur of winter He could possibly create, He comes up with yet another glorious wonder for us to enjoy.

This picture was taken near Portage Glacier in Alaska on a drive down Turnagain Arm this past weekend. The snow still lies deep upon the mountains in this part of the state (about an hour south of Anchorage). Etched against the clear blue sky, the peaks towered high overhead as I tried to capture each and every sight.

I spotted a shelf of snow and ice at the very top of this peak that juts over the edge in a delicate balancing act. Wind, sun, snow, ice, and cold temperatures have combined to form this incredibly beautiful, yet fragile display of God's love for us. Although the cool, clear air, bright sun, blue skies, towering mountain peaks, and blindingly white snow smoothed like icing over a large, lumpy cake, would surely have sufficed in the beauty department, God gave us one final flourish--sort of the curlicue atop a soft-serve ice cream cone--as yet another reminder that He loves us enough to keep on giving and givng and giving.

I keep reminding myself to look down along the trail to make sure I don't miss some of God's smallest gifts. Once in a while, though, I have to remember to look up.

See you along the trail....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Silent sentinels...

Seeing a bald eagle here in Alaska is nothing unusual (although I never thought I'd hear myself saying something like that). But they seem to thrive up here and watching them drift on the currents overhead is a pastime I will never tire of, nor take for granted. Even for Alaska, though, the sight of two of them on the same branch--standing guard from their lofty perch over the snow-covered land spread beneath them --is probably something I will never again see.

I was fortunate that they sat there long enough for me to situate myself (alongside a well-traveled road here on base) and take several shots of their silent vigil. More and more, I realize that although being on the lookout for wildlife is a big (and necessary) part of actually spotting it, vigilance and a keen eye aren't all that's required. Good fortune (as in "God sends opportunities my way on an incredibly regular basis") factors into the equation, as well.

Thank You, God, for knowing my heart and arranging opportunities for me to see You in action.

See you along the trail...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wonders within wonders

Yesterday was one of those glorious winter days where the skies are blue, the temps are tolerable, and the sun is blinding. I took a walk on base at Cottonwood Park to take a few pictures of the beautiful landscape, then came home and discovered the real gem was right out the back door.

This icicle, caught mid-drip, is reflecting the beauty of the blue sky above it. I didn't see that when I took the shot--it was just a nice piece of ice melting into a pile of snow. But when I took a closer look, I noticed how beautifully even a shrinking icicle on its way to "puddledom" can reflect the beauty God gives us every single day.

Thanks to my brother, Alan, who gave me this fantastic camera, I'm able to take close-ups of the glory that exists all around us. Thanks to our Heavenly Father, I'm finding the delightful surprises hidden inside the beauty of His creation--wonders within wonders.

See you along the trail...

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The bare trees, cloud-covered skies, and healthy icicle crop (not to mention huge mounds of snow and sub-freezing temps) attest that winter still has its icy grip on Anchorage, Alaska.

But not for long. Even when we're engulfed in suffocating clouds, a tiny glimmer from the sun is all it takes to show us that all is indeed well. Winter will pass, clouds will clear, storms will cease, temperatures will rise, trees and flowers and all other vegetation will bud and grow and flourish. Animals will come out of hiding (as will humans) and go about the business of building homes, starting and raising families, working, living, and dying.

Hopefully, somewhere in all that activity there will also be lots of praise and worship and gratefulness to our Heavenly Father for all He does for us during every season of our lives.

See you along the trail...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coming attractions

I was in Florida visiting my dad and his wife. The days were beautiful--warm and breezy, the azure sky filled with unbelievable cloud formations. Everywhere I looked were signs of God's great masterpiece of Creation. Green grass, flowers of every color and description, towering palm trees, ancient oaks with ghostly Spanish moss dripping from their boughs, herons and other water birds, and the ever-present anticipation of a gator or two. (I never did see one, but maybe next time.) Just when I thought the day (and the reminders of His glory were winding down, I walked outside and spotted this sunset over the roof of a nearby house.

It seemed to say, "Not yet, Deb. Just because the sky turns black and the temperatures cool, even though the sun is hiding for the night and my Creation will soon be lit by only the light of the moon and stars--that doesn't mean the signs of my power and love are waning. I'm just displaying them in an even more magnificent way. Use this sunset as a preview of coming attractions."

Thank You, God, and good night.

See you along the trail....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

God's Calling Card

Finding an example of beauty in otherwise mundane surroundings is a favorite pastime of mine. I ran across this leaf print on the paved driveway of my sister and brother-in-law. While they have a perfectly nice driveway, it's not the first place I would think of to look for proof of God's love.

Pickin's had been slim that day. The glorious colors of fall had faded, the trees now bare, their formerly colorful leaves decaying on the ground. The sky was overcast; it was chilly and damp. I'd just about given up finding anything of beauty in such drabness, when there it was, right in front of me. Well, right in front of me at my feet, that is. While I was hanging my head in disappointment that nothing beautiful remained of the autumn, I spotted this etching. It's not a fossil, a prehistoric painting, or anything remotely valuable, aside from the assurance it gives me that God will go to any lengths to provide glimpses of His glory in everything, everywhere. It's simply an outline left by the chemicals in the leaf transferred by decay and water and cold temps, I imagine, to the canvas of mundane pavement beneath my feet.

It struck me (again) how God uses absolutely everything for good, and that includes the fading glory of a leaf that had already brought joy and promise in the spring, lushness and shade over the summer months, and a spectacular display of jewel tones during the fall. Seems to me that's enough to ask of a leaf, but God didn't think so. As a last little reminder that He's in everything we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, He left His calling card. And in so doing, He used even the decay of one of His creations to create something of beauty and uniqueness.

Makes me wonder just how glorious we're going to be when we gather in our new bodies for all eternity. If He did this with a dead leaf and concrete, what do you think He'll do with His very own children, created in His image?

See you along the trail...