On Eagles’ Wings

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I, like many people, am fascinated with eagles. Especially bald eagles. They are majestic and beautiful in flight. I have been blessed to see them a number of times in the wild. A friend once lead my wife and me by canoe to a nest on the Manistee River. We got to see a pair in their mating ritual flight, circling gracefully about each other high in a clear blue sky. Getting closer and closer, they reached out and touched their talons together even clasping each other’s feet briefly as they fell through the air.

Recently, I read an article that amazed me even more. Mother eagles have a unique way of teaching their young to fly. Mom flaps her wings until a young eaglet falls out of the nest. She watches then swoops down and catches it on the back of her wings and carries it up to the nest. The process is repeated until the youngster gets the idea and soars on its own.

In the Bible God reminds the Israelites through Mosses that this is the way He has lovingly watched and carried them, “on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4) during their journey through the desert. It was an analogy they would have understood, likely having seen that behavior from eagles they had observed on their travels through the wilderness.

It’s a beautiful example that can still inspire us today.

“Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over young, so He spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on His wings.”

Deuteronomy 32:11

Looking to the Heavens

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I am always amazed when looking at a clear night sky. It makes me feel small to realize that I am just one speck on one tiny planet in one large galaxy among a huge sea of millions of  galaxies in a vast, limitless space.

I have observed it from my yard, from campgrounds and mountains and marveled at the haze of the Milky Way, holding more stars and galaxies than can be counted. I have read and heard theories from the Big Bang to evolution. Yet, when I gaze at the heavens, I have a sense of the presence of God the Creator.

Did the writers of the Bible know something that many scientists are just beginning to recognize–intelligent design?

My Old Testament History professor, Dr. Gustav Jenninga, served on several archeological digs in the Holy Land. He noted that for most of their early history, the Israelites were wanderers, farmers and shepherds who spent a great deal of time outdoors. They had time to observe the movement of the stars. They were constantly aware of the wonders of God’s creation. They witnessed miracles in their forty-year odyssey in the desert.

It does seem that there is a higher percentage of believers among country people even today. Maybe it’s easier for us than for those in the cities who can only see the steel and concrete of man-made objects.

Give it a try. Get out to a State or National Park, a seashore, the Great Plains or a mountain meadow and “Look to the Heavens.”

“Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these (the stars)? He who brings out their host by number, calling them by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.”  Isaiah 40:26 (ESV)

The Whale Guy

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I am fascinated by whales. During my one visit to Hawai, I was amazed to see a group (pod) of them swim by as I stood on the balcony of my hotel room.

That makes me think of Jonah. You know, the whale guy in the Bible. As the story goes, God told him to go to the wicked city of Nineveh, tell them to clean up their act and follow God. Jonah didn’t want to and got on a boat going the opposite direction. During a storm he got swallowed by whale (“great fish”). Realizing God was serious about this, Jonah went and did what he was told (after being coughed out by the whale). As a result, the people repented and the city was saved.

Jump ahead to today. As I was watching the Smithsonian channel, I saw an interesting new twist to the story. Isis terrorists, wanting to show their disrespect to the Jewish community, blew up a monument of Jonah in that city. About the time they were laughing and high-fiving each other, it was discovered that the explosion had opened up a web of ancient tunnels with many artifacts that verified Jonah’s existence and his accomplishments there.

It is interesting that so many times when sceptics declare there is no evidence that a biblical city or character existed, some archeologists (or bumbling terrorists) discover that the Bible was right again.

I was also amused when the narrator suggested that Jonah of the whale story and the prophet of Ninnivah were separated by three hundred years obviously making the whale story a myth.

That theory doesn’t threaten my faith in the accuracy of the Bible. After all, we are dealing with God who could create several trillion galaxies out of empty space and, in the pure atmosphere of a new earth,  make some people live hundreds of years, even bring the dead back to life. He would surely have no problem in making a whale do a “slight-of-fin” trick with a runaway prophet.

Another article stated that in the early days of whaling, a sailor was indeed swallowed by a whale and later rescued alive.  Just give it time, and someone will discover that it all worked out and the Bible is right again.

“Salvation is of the Lord.” Jonah 2:9 (KJV)

 

The Name

Yellow flower israel field.

It was a beautiful morning. The night’s chill warming away with the rising of the sun  over the Judean hills. A myriad of birds sang their awakening songs. Flowers sprinkled the edges of the path.

But the young woman trudging up the road noticed none of these. She was absorbed in her own sorrow. Grief was her only companion. If possible her broken heart was shattered more with the discovery that the tomb was empty. She could not even pay her respects to the dear man who had given her unconditional love and hope for a bright future.

So gripped by her pain, she hardly noticed the man, apparently the gardener, behind  her who asked her why she was crying. Then it happened. She recognized the voice that whispered one word, one name.

“Mary.”

It was Him, Jesus! The moment he spoke her name, Mary Magdalene’s world changed forever. Her worst day, now bloomed anew with hope, and everything was all right.

I cannot fully imagine what that moment was like. But when I recently read again that familiar passage from the Bible, it struck me. That moment was monumental. It must have been breathtaking. It was darkness turned to light. Grief to delight. Death to new life.

The closest I can get to that experience is when I was a little boy. In the dark, lonely and afraid it only took my father’s voice and one word. “Danny.” Then I knew I was safe and loved and everything was all right.

Jesus still pursues us with love, whispering our names. Sometimes we don’t respond because of the distractions of life or pain or unhealthy temptations.

But for those  who hear and turn and see the One who loves us unconditionally, discover a new day and hope that will last forever. When we hear Jesus whisper our names, we know we are safe and everything is all right.

“…thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

“Jesus said, to her, “Mary”.

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means, “Teacher”).     –John 20: 15-16 (NIV)

The Artistry of Birds

Nature Feeder Bird Bird Feeder Golden Finch

I enjoy watching birds come to the feeder outside our picture window. They seem to enjoy their free meal. In a single morning I can see brown sparrows, gold finches,  black and white chickadees, gray titmice, and nuthatches that can hang upside down from the post. Sometimes there are colorful blue jays and bright red cardinals that stand out like lightbulbs against dark trees in winter.

All this color and variety suggests intelligent design to me–an artist who loves color and variety and enjoys sharing it with us. After all, from evolution, wouldn’t a motley brown sparrow be the most practical way to go? It is a successful survivor, cammoflaged to hide in almost any background. But color and variety are beautiful and interesting.

Of all the blackbirds from crows to ravens, why put a bright red shoulder patch on a redwing blackbird–a whimsical bit of variety that just looks good? Some scientist may suggest an evolutional point. But take it all together and it just looks beautiful and gives us humans joy and a lift to our days like a painting from a great artist.

The Bible tells us that everything that God created is of value, all people, all living things, even the lowly sparrow. You are especially valuable to God the Creator-artist.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God… Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

 

Blue Snow

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Sometimes, after a fresh snow, there is a magic time just before sunrise. The hour before the sun appears over the horizon, the snow looks blue. It is beautiful in a soft solemn way. It is an interesting time to take a walk outside. There is a sense of mystery as the trees are still dark in shadow. And a slight feeling of danger follows the walker. In my area one can still hear the eerie howls of coyotes or the haunting hoot of a great horned owl. A friend reported seeing a mountain lion in his woods, probably migrated down from Canada through Michigan.

It is like a symbol of our world. We live between the darkness and the light. There are predators out there from thieves to terrorists. Yet, much of the world is beautiful thanks to the creative light and grace of God.

What I like about the hour of blue snow is that the darkness is moving away and the light is growing. Soon the sun will be up, dusting the snow with a rosy pink that builds until the meadow becomes a field of sparkling diamonds under the powerful brilliance of the sun.

God, through His word, has shown that, though we presently live in mixed darkness and light, the Son is coming. We will know true peace, and joy, safety and love in the light of His forever day.

“But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”  Proverbs 4:18 (KJV)

The Manger Under the Tree

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For some years it has been a custom in our home to place a small Nativity scene at the base of the Christmas tree. There it reminds us of that special gift sent to earth on the first Noel.

As I look into that tiny manger with the Christ Child warmed in the soft glow of the tree lights, I am continually amazed by all that it symbolizes. Embodied in one small baby is the wonder, and glory and mystery of the universe.

Here was a king born in a barn, attended by sheepherders. A Godly being willing to experience all the temptation and feelings of humanity except for hate. A man of paradox, master and servant in one. One man who truly lived a sinless life, yet was a compassionate friend to thieves and prostitutes. Love and goodness so radiated from him that a hardened Roman soldier, looking up at him on the cross, remarked in awed wonder, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Mark,15: 39)

With a handful of the most unlikely heroes, he changed the face of the world forever. He instituted the concept of respect for women and children and for the helpless and homeless. He is the hallmark of our highest dreams and most noble aspirations. Court systems have based laws of fairness and justice on his teachings. Time is measured from his birth.

His influence is apparent in the greatest historical documents, insuring the rights and dignity of mankind. His handwriting is on the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

The religious leaders, gurus, and would-be gods of history lie in dusty graves. Yet, in fulfillment of an eternal promise, his tomb alone remains empty.

All the raging armies, learned theories, religious hypocrisies, and scoffing derision of two thousand years have not been able to diminish his light. His spirit moves on about the world, offering hope to the hopeless and healing to the hurting.

In the power of his name, miracles still happen. Drug addicts and alcoholics turn away from their addictions. Vile and hateful men become loving and kind. People who have fallen in the dust of the world rise up and walk!

This unique, wonderful, mysterious being has changed lives. He has changed mine. And my world is brighter in His light. Now, as I peer through the glowing lights of Christmas, awed wonder, along with that Roman soldier two thousand years ago, compels me to say, “Truly, this is the Son of God.”

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12)

Trials and Blessings

canoe two men, morning

A few weeks ago I took my grandson canoeing and fishing on a secluded lake. It was fun.  However, we did not catch a fish. We didn’t even get a nibble. I reminded him of the old saying, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”

Later we came across another fisherman. When asked if he had any luck, he answered that he had only caught one small bluegill. He added, “You know, a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”

It seems that every fisherman knows that phrase.

Life is a combination of trials and blessings. We don’t always catch the fish, get the promotion, or get everything we want at Christmas, etc. Yet, God brings us many blessing if we take the time to notice. We have life. We have hope–even hope of eternity. Children laughing, sunshine, birds singing, the capacity for love are all blessings we sometimes take for granted.

Catching fish is fine, but it does not compare with spending time with my grandson. That’s priceless. That’s a blessing.

Have you noticed a blessing today you didn’t think of before?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17 (ESV)

 

Dangerous Animals

moose

A few times I have encountered animals in the wild that are potentially dangerous. It’s exciting. It makes the wilderness more intriguing to know that there are still scary creatures as our pioneer ancestors faced…as long as we are really safe.

I just missed stepping on a copperhead snake one time in a local state part. Another time, my little daughter and I were watching loons on a wilderness lake when she said, “I hope we see a bear, Dad.” I hoped we wouldn’t. However, we did see one cross the road when we were safely encased in our car, making us both happy.

I once took two of my nephews camping at Isle Royal National Park, a beautiful island in Lake Superior.  While hiking, we saw a magnificent bull moose in a pond along the trail. We watched, mesmerized, as this thousand + pound creature dredged up aquatic plants from the water. Raising his massive rack of antlers, dripping water by the bucket full, he glanced our way.

Suddenly, he decided to go somewhere else and marched up the bank in our direction. (Where does a 1,000 pound bull moose walk? Anywhere he wants too.)

I stepped behind a tree, as I thought I had instructed the boys to do. Moose have poor eyesight and will usually walk on by if you are fairly well hidden and don’t move. When I looked around tree, to my horror, the boys were standing out in the open gazing in amazement as the huge beast walked right by them!

Fortunately, during the summer before the rutting season, moose are pretty easygoing. The animal paid them no attention as he walked on.

The point is that one needs to be alert and take precautions when in wild country. Animals usually don’t plan on attacking people. (Except cougars and grizzly bears) They just react to what they perceive as threats as they too live among dangerous animals that would attack them or their young. Unlike some humans that specifically plan robbery, murder, and terrorism. Throw in a few politicians.

There is a threat, however, that is so quiet, sly, and insidious that it attacks us before we realize it. It is all around us. It has destroyed men, women, kids and whole families. It is temptation.

Jesus warned us about it often in the Bible, not to spoil our fun or freedom but to save our lives. At first temptation to do wrong may look attractive and the danger is alluring, when we assume we can control it. One experiment with illegal drugs, a brief, or one time affair, a quick look at pornography may not seem too dangerous. Add prejudice, judging others, hatred, gossip… the list goes on and on. It’s like the light touch of a fly’s wing against the spider’s web.

The way of dealing with dangerous animals in the wild also applies to dealing with temptation in our daily lives. Don’t get close, move away, and when necessary…Run!

“Do not let your heart turn to her (temptation’s) ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down, her slain are a mighty throng. (Proverbs 7:25-26)

 

 

 

 

Flag Waving and Fact Checking

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I love my country. It’s a great country. Some one said that a good way to check the quality of a country is to see how many people are trying to get into it and how many are trying to get out of it.

One of the strengths of America is that it is a two party system. One of the weaknesses of America is that it is a two party system.  It works when the best leaders of both parties share their ideas, sincerely trying to do what their employers, the American citizens,  actually want. The problem comes when a party focuses more on winning, power, and personal agendas than what is good for the country.

I have many friends who are Republicans and many friends who are Democrats. They’re good people. They care about what is right. Several of us attend the same church together. We get along very well.

In light of recent partisan fighting, maybe it is time we consider focusing on the candidate in the next election rather than on the party. What is your candidate or the other candidate really doing? Does he or she vote the way you believe is right and on what you believe is important? Remember, this is a country, “For the people and by the people.” We are supposed to be in charge. But we can’t if we don’t find the facts and get involved.

Voting records of the candidates are available on the internet–be careful, some sites are biased, so check several. I found the 2018 Voter Guide from ADVANCEAMERICA.COM to be especially interesting in its approach.  The guide focuses on how candidates have voted regarding six specific choices affecting churches and the liberties of Christians. You might give it try and see what you think.

Maybe we could even get back to those days when, as one senator mentioned, he used to go out for lunch with his friend, a senator from the other party. What a radical idea!

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18 NKJV).