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Archive for the ‘Creation’ Category

As autumn sweeps over the valley I call home I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and wonder that in all actuality signals the death of summer and warns us that winter is just around the corner. I am a warm weather lover. I don’t shed my jacket until the air hits at least 75 degrees, 80 is better and 85 is perfect. I want to be out in it, inhaling sunshine. But as soon as that pre-winter chill hits, I’m the sit by the fire and read girl, a quilt over my legs and a hot beverage in my hand.

Still – autumn captures me. I love russet maples. I love the sight of trees that rain down gold and yellow. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and I smile when one lands lightly on my hair or floats past close enough to brush my cheek. Logically I know they are dying. But spiritually, I sense them dancing.

They have accomplished their mission in life, to bud and unfurl and shine lush green, giving shelter to birds and squirrels and frisky house cats. They have dressed the branches in a vibrant veil of life and given the breeze something to tickle. They’ve provided shade for the summer lover, a cool spot to sit and watch bees and butterflies do their thing.

And now that their virile days are over, they don’t go out without making a statement. Oh no – nothing quiet about their golden age. They transform. They get out their catchiest outfits, they wear red, they laugh in rusty tones, they twirl and float and settle soft.
They know the secret. They know that while others might see their purpose at an end, they have much more to offer. Children will love to jump and play in them, friends will enjoy walking through them, couples will grasp hands for warmth and share special moments taking in the beauty they add to the landscape.

Winter will come, snow will cover them until the world forgets they were ever there. But they will still be doing their work, mulching the earth to provide nourishment for the new growth that comes with the spring.

Never forget that like the leaves, God has a purpose and a plan for us at every age. Our mission is to listen, follow His leading, and embrace our value in our current season. Don’t lament the fertile green we once wore when you can dress in a ball gown of autumn colors. Don’t regret the day you find you must rest at the root of the tree when you can treasure the memory of the journey that brought you there and the rich heritage you leave for the new growth that is nourished by it.

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” . Psalm 71:18

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OGIO-motorcycle-rides[1]First motorcycle outing of the year on Saturday and it was glorious. We managed to sandwich the ride in between rainstorms. The sun was out in full force, warming the air to a brisk 50 degrees when we took off. Of course, I had my miracle jacket on high so I was toasty. Bald eagles, deer and mountain sheep were all out in force taking advantage of the weather just like us.

After the long winter break, I kind of have to get back in biker mode and it takes a while. Remembering all the parts and pieces of being comfortable – the silk scarf, the hair pulled back and secured so it doesn’t tangle in the wind, the right gloves for the cool weather, the leathers and of course, the connector cord for my heated jacket.

But the biggest “Oh yeah” for me is the sense of power that radiates from that huge hunk of chrome and metal. The bike roars to life and I find myself grabbing tightly to my guy, taking a big breath and anticipating the soaring sensation that will come as we hit the highway.

And then there’s that lung-filling fresh air after being huddled inside all winter. The great feel of sunshine on my cheeks. Sky so blue it hurts your eyes. And the hope and promise singing from the trees that are covered with spring buds ready to burst into leafy glory. The peach fuzz covering of green on the hills that have been soaking up the rain. The rush of the river pushing at its banks, swollen from the spring thaw.

And so precious, sipping coffee and eating fresh baked pastries with my husband at the old bakery that is a favorite stop of ours. It’s rare, this relaxing, quiet time together – actually having a real conversation, uninterrupted by phones, grandkids, jobs, errands, and the over-zealous dog.

Sometimes I chaff at having to devote every good-weather Saturday to time on the motorcycle. There are many other things I love to do and can only fit into a Saturday. But I have to admit that once we’re on the road, I forget to wish I was elsewhere because I’m so loving being where I am.

Isn’t that just the way in this crazy busy life of ours? Our list is long, our time short. We have to double and triple book to get it all in and half the time we are too exhausted to actually enjoy ourselves. We don’t prioritize according to what we need, we scramble our schedules because of what we want.

Much as I hate to admit it, I need those kicked back Saturdays on the back of the bike, breathing deep, taking in the sights, and being close to my life partner. It brings balance and sanity to my otherwise topsy turvy world.

Life balance is key if we are to negotiate the journey from birth to death with any kind of success and satisfaction. And balance is not what the enemy wants for us. He will always introduce too many choices to keep us from being focused. He will paint unrealistic pictures of the things we desire and then try to convince us we deserve them, we need them, and we should go for them to the detriment of more important, less glittering activities.

Just as that first few minutes on the bike remind me of the power and pure enjoyment I will soon experience, the first few minutes in God’s word reminds of the same thing. His word is rich, bursting with wise instruction, filled with peace and hope. It is solid and sure, and satisfying to my mind, my heart and my soul.

I need those times of breathing deep and drawing close to the One who gives me breath.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Or as the message translation puts it, “I have told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

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Earlier this week I sat in my office looking out at a landscape shrouded in heavy7223162 mist. With fresh snow covering the ground and laying like heavy lace on the trees, I have to say the view was breathtaking. It hadn’t made for a fun drive to work, but it certainly gave a soft, gentle, peaceful presence to the landscape.

The impression a misty view gives is one of perfection – no scars, no sharp edges, no dirt or stains. Unpleasantness is hidden by a gauzy veil. But the truth behind that mist is reality. Once it clears, all of those blemishes will be exposed again.

It’s a good lesson in the struggle we have comparing ourselves to others. People can look flawless – but they never are.  Families can appear to be conflict free.  They seldom are.  Other journeys can look pothole free, but believe me, curves and bumps and roadblocks are part of everyone’s life drive.

God has a specific plan for each and every one of his children, all different and unique. He doesn’t want us to be the image of someone else. That would be like an artist creating works of art that never vary in color, shape or design. Part of our uniqueness comes from the battles we survive and the challenges we overcome.

No offense meant here, but there is a reason antiques are appreciated.  They show wear and tear, host a history of everyday life, and remind us of the passing of time.  It’s no different with God’s children. We are marked by the years and the journey.

I was touched by a point Beth Moore made in the final video our ladies group watched last night in our Esther bible study. Beth pointed out how society tends to look at an elderly woman and say “She was beautiful in her time” but God’s word says “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  In other words, the passing of time and the events that mark that passing are what create the beauty of a life.

Queen Esther’s early life was all about looking good.  She had to catch the eye of the king and the story makes it clear that this took a lot of primping and preening. And it worked. The misty veil of preparation covered every flaw on the outside until she was perfection to the eye.

It took the life events Esther conquered over the years of her reign to bring beauty to the core of who she was.  Her later life was marked by courage and leadership and obedience to the call of God. We admired her in the beginning but we loved and respected her in the end.

Our struggles are not meant to be hidden by a false covering of perfection. They are meant to be honestly shared in an effort to help others travel the same difficult path.  I don’t mean that we have to spill every dirty detail of our failures and poor decisions.  What I do mean is when a young mother is at the end of her patience with fussy toddlers, lack of sleep and a role that she doesn’t feel she can possibly live up to, we can risk sharing the day we locked ourselves in the bathroom and screamed into a towel to keep from harming the child who pushed us over the edge.  When a woman cries out her pain from a marriage that seems doomed to fail, we can admit that the strong partnership we have today saw it’s own seemingly hopeless moments along the way.

No one sees the whole picture of a life from the outside until it’s over and the bits and pieces are remembered and pooled together to make a completed work. The important thing is to remember – we are unique and God has a specific path for us to travel. Some have more hills than others so God gives them more stamina.  Some have deeper valleys, more roadblocks, sharper turns or rougher terrain.  In every situation, God has the roadside assistance ready to respond.

It’s nice to have days when there’s enough mist (or heavy fog for some of us) to cover the blemishes and give us that soft glow of perfection.  I love it when my mascara goes on well, my outfit coordinates beautifully and there’s not a hair out of place. Those days are treasured because they are rare.

But the more precious and meaningful days  are those when someone sees our soul of overcoming struggles which left their mark, of fighting battles that left us scarred but still standing, of meeting challenges that found us exhausted but exultant in our victory.

“He makes everything beautiful in His time” is the promise.  Our prayer every morning should be, “Lord, today lead me down the path that widens the crevice to allow Your light living in me to escape and bring beauty to the world.”

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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Finally, we have our first blanket of snow. Nothing like the huge crippling dumps they’ve been having back East. But enough to cover the bleak brown of frozen earth with a breathtaking mantle of white.

I was out late the night it began snowing, inside and unaware of what Mother Nature was doing. While I shared a bible study lesson with my ladies, she was not so gently sifting the fluffy white stuff down around us. The landscape had changed drastically when we left our study and walking out into it took our breath away – partly because of the great beauty and partly because of the bitter cold wind swirling ice particles around in a high energy ballet.

Driving home was a bit of a challenge but at the same time I had to rejoice in the beauty. When I turned up my long driveway I actually stopped the car for a few minutes. Nothing had traveled the drive since the snow started falling so it was an absolutely perfect diamond studded, blindingly white carpet stretched out before me.

I stopped because I didn’t want to ruin the scene with tire tracks. Eventually I moved on, keeping my eyes on the perfection ahead rather than the ruts left in my wake.

That scene is such a perfect picture of our life in Christ once we’ve accepted His blanket of forgiveness. In the first covering of cleansing we stand in dazzling perfection, every sin covered by the grace of God. But soon something comes along to interrupt that perfection leaving tire tracks. The devil sends someone to drive across our flawless landscape.

We aren’t ruined but we’re changed, not quite as peaceful and perfect.  Before we know it, we’ve become a crisscross of hurts and damage, mistakes, sin and sorrow.  It’s critical that we choose to keep our eyes looking ahead to the vision of dry earth completely transformed by a white gown. Don’t look in the rear view mirror to the blemishes.

The only cure for tire tracks – a new snowfall. With our God there is an endless supply of cleansing – spring, summer, winter and fall. It is suspended there waiting for us to call out. As soon as we do the gates of heaven will burst open and release an abundant supply.

Silent and soft, it’s always in the forecast. The more we need the heavier it falls. It will drift into every scarred and broken crevice, settle in every valley, make the mountaintops more thrilling, fill the empty spaces, hide the ugly places.

It’s God’ forecast of forgiveness.

God’s blizzard of blessing.

God’s amazing Grace.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

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MP900070786[1]Like many other areas this time of year, we are battling wildfires which thrive on vegetation dried out by the hot summer sun. Two large fires, one to the south and one to the north have painted our skies with a hazy smoke cover.

The strong smell of burning timber and the fine film of ash that settles everywhere are clear evidence that those fires continue to rage and a barrage of firefighters fight to save homes and control the burn.

Ash is certainly a symptom of troubled times. The Bible refers to ashes as a symbol of repentance and grief. Men dressed in sackcloth and ashes when crying out to God as an outward sign of their humility and sincerity in their need for mercy.

For the last few evenings I’ve walked out on my deck to watch the sunset. It has been overwhelmingly beautiful, the smoky haze creating vivid reds and pinks as the sun sinks behind the hills.

I am reminded over and over of the phrase “Beauty for Ashes” when evening falls and I’m surrounded by the artistry of God where light through ashes creates a priceless masterpiece.

God always uses the tough and tragic times in our life to move us to a place of beauty if we let Him. Job suffered greatly and was restored to a point far beyond his losses. Moses was exiled from his beloved home only to return as the Deliverer of people. Joseph’s story is a classic tale of beauty for ashes.

The common threads between these stories, and many others, are acceptance, obedience and unwavering faith. God always wants to bring us to a better place but He needs our cooperation.

If the sun refused to shine because the smoke blocked its rays, none of these gorgeous sunsets would occur. If I refuse to trust and do what I am called to do because tears are the order of the day, I will never experience God’s great mercy that picks me up, sets me on my feet again and allows me a vision of my future made more brilliant because it’s been washed by those tears.

I’m thanking Him today for this reminder, handed to me as I stand on my deck on a soft summer evening, watching the miracle of ashes for beauty.

Is 61:3 :…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise  instead of a spirit of despair.”

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Business jetI’ve missed a few weeks of blogging due to travel, both business and pleasure. It has been a whirlwind and I’m like most everyone else, wondering if taking a vacation is really worth it.

Piles on my desk, emails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry to catch up on – you know the routine I’m sure. It’s nice to know you were missed and nice to know your services are appreciated but not so nice to be reminded that just because you stopped coming into the office for three weeks doesn’t mean the work did.

But – what a three weeks it was, the first two spent on our Harley Davidson Ultra Classic traveling with our good friends. I think we saw it all.

I’ve been on the top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, flying along freeways, secondary roads, scenic routes and some not so scenic routes. I saw ancient fossil deposits and Pueblo Indian ruins, high class ski areas and small poverty stricken towns, wildlife and no life.  You name it and I’m pretty sure we saw it.

Our weather was great interrupted now and then by a little rain, a lot of heat and a bit of wind. We traveled in eight different states, stayed in ten different hotels, covered approximately 4,200 miles and laughed a lot.

My return from vacation was quickly followed by a three day business trip to Billings Montana which turned out to be as eventful as my vacation.  My return flights were cancelled shortly after I arrived and my only option was to miss half the conference in order to rebook a flight that would get me home in time for important meetings at the office. But, talk about customer service! My conference host did not want me to miss out so they offered to fly me home on their private jet.

If you’ve never had that experience, which I hadn’t, wow! It’s the only way to fly. No airport crowds, standing in line, taking off your shoes and whatever else might set off the alarm, having your bag searched, waiting to board, squeezing in next to a complete stranger, having to settle for a teenie tiny bag of peanuts and then arriving to stand around and wait for luggage.

I was transported to the airport, dropped off at the private hanger, walked right onto the plane, given a one minute safety briefing by the co-pilot which included pointing out the fully stocked beverage bar and abundant snack supply. I settled into a most comfortable seat, relaxed and experienced the smoothest flight ever.  On arrival at another private hanger I was met and transported to the auto rental counter which was low on cars so I ended up with a brand new, super shiny black Camero to drive myself home.

At the conference I was immersed in the latest information and technology for administering benefits and on the social excursion I experienced a step back in time exploring part of the Lewis and Clark journey. It was a vivid contrast in cultures but a sure reminder that life changes quickly.

The best part of it all – In those miles of travel, through the exposure to the old and the new, in and out of hotels and restaurants, with friends or strangers, seeing glorious panoramas from the top of a mountain or out the window of a jet and miles of changing scenery from the back seat of a motorcycle – in all of those places I was never out of God’s loving care.

One constant, never changing, solid, unshakable presence in the ever changing landscape of life –  my precious Savior. How blessed I am.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

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