..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

For the Beauty of the Earth

 For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

hill and vale, and tree and flower,  sun and moon, and stars of light;

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 For the joy of ear and eye, for the  heart and mind's delight,

for the mystic harmony, linking sense to sound and sight;

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

. For the joy of human love,  brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth and friends above,  for all gentle thoughts and mild;

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore  lifteth holy hands above,

offering up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love;

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,  to the world so freely given,

for that great, great love of thine,  peace on earth, and joy in heaven:

Lord of all, to thee we raise  this our hymn of grateful praise.

Hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth

Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint
Music: Conrad Kocher;
photo taken in Gould, CO

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Solitude Sweetened"

Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

If God gives Christ, what can he withhold?

Are believers in the valley of tears? Is their dwelling place Bochim and Baca? Well, God's mercy outstretches all their misery! Promises of grace dispel the mental gloom, and bear away the ponderous loads of grief! The soft handkerchief of love wipes off the furrowing tear! An inspired penman begins the glorious sentence with an unanswerable question. "If God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up to the death for us all, how shall he not also with him give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) Comfort, then; you sons of sorrow; comfort, my soul! There is more in this verse than can be comprehended! And there is more love in the heart of God, than any language, or idiom of speech, can convey to finite creatures!

If, for my sake, he has given his Son, what will he withhold in all the creation? Is his creation—the breath of his mouth—better to him than his eternal, co-eternal Son? Is the work of his hands dearer to him than his well-beloved bosom Son? And has he given him to the die for you—and then will he deny you any necessity? No! He who feeds the soul with heavenly manna—will support the body with daily bread! He who gives drink out of the wells of salvation—will not fail to afford a cup of cold water! He who has provided a robe of righteousness, to cover the shame of my sin—will also give wool in the cold season. He who furnishes my inner man with all the armor of God, will put a covering on my head in the day of battle and war. (At this time the Author had a view of entering into the navy, being time of war, as he did some time after.) He who, in the counsel of peace, from eternity, secured my peace, will also shine upon my path, and decree what shall come to pass. He who has written my name among the living in Jerusalem, will also preserve, (this my faith pleads and expects,) my character, that I shall not shame what I profess in the world. He who has destroyed spiritual death, will also for me unsting natural death, and spoil the grave of its victory!

Again, how can it be possible that God should give his Son, himself, his all—and yet deny me any good thing? Will not he who is to crown me with glory above—strengthen me with grace below? Will he not bless me with peace of mind—who is to be my peace forever? Triumph, O my faith! all things are Christ's, and Christ is God's! And God, Christ, and all things, are yours! Time is his, and in it I have my years numbered! The air is his, and in it I breathe! The world is his—and on it I dwell; its fullness is his—and I am fed! Grace is his—and in it I stand! Faith is his gift—and by it I overcome the world! Tribulations are from him—and in them I glory! Perfection is his—and towards it I press! Death is his—and by it I arrive at home! Heaven is his—and there is my mansion! Eternity is his, and there is my treasure and glory forevermore!

--taken from Grace Gems (http://www.gracegems.org/)
photo taken in Gould, Colorado

Friday, December 23, 2011

Characters in the Christmas Story: The Shepherds

An integral part of the Christmas story are the shepherds. But if you or I  were going to write
this story, you probably wouldn't think to add the shepherds in. God did. Have you ever
wondered why God chose to send the angelic envoy to simple shepherds in a field to tell them
about Jesus' birth?

It would seem like if someone like God were going to announce that His Son had been born He
would have invited the religious bigwigs to a press conference, or call a UN meeting,
or call everyone to Camp David or something.  Thank God there is no one like God!
You've got to love Him, you've got to fall down and absolutely love Him that He decided to
tell a bunch of humble shepherds that the King of the Universe had just been
born in a stable and was now laying in an animal's feed trough in the backside of
some hotel's barn. Maybe they, in their simply humility, would be the ones most
likely to believe Him! For it showed God's humility in how He sent Jesus, so
of course He would first tell the humble of heart and life.

The Shepherds, and there is nothing told to us about them--not their names or their
political or religious views or anything--were simply out doing their job in the fields
outside Bethlehem when an angel appears to them with the Glory of God flashing
all around. The text says, with a penchant for understatement, that "they were
terribly afraid." I'll say! The angel tells them the Messiah has just been born and
that they will know it is Him when they find him wrapped in "swaddling" clothes
laying amongst the horse and cow feed.  Now if this had been a modern story,  the
shepherds would have had to worry that someone had laced their shepherd-ale with
mind-bending drugs. Especially when from behind the one angel, a whole army of
angels appears, praising God and glorifying Him. But this is first century
Bethlehem and God is at work.

So when the angels take off back to heaven the shepherds are now WIDE
awake, and I mean WIDE awake, and, despite their duty to their flock, they
have to go look for the baby.  They must have looked at each other
and said, "What in the world just happened?" But God had chosen them
wisely, as God always does, and off they go and sure enough,
find Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger. Oh, my Lord!

Joseph probably tried to shew them away to give Mary some semblance
of privacy and dignity, but Mary must have said, "No, Joseph, let them
in, its OK" because of course, God had made a wise choice in Mary . Its
not like ANY of them are going to get any sleep and she wants to hear
their story.  And little baby Jesus, with his eyes still dripping with the
beauty of Heaven, looks sweetly up at them.

And what are those swaddling clothes anyway? Did they know? I looked into
it and they used to, and sometimes still do, wrap babies up tight with swaddling
clothes to keep them secure and from moving too much. You have to imagine
what Mary was thinking. "It's my duty to keep Him safe and clean and
I'm not going to let any part of Him touch that dirty manger that some
donkey may have licked." I know that if it were me I'd be so scared that I'd
drop the Baby or that He would roll out of the manger or something on the
first night and the whole plan of God would get disrupted.

On the other hand, she might also be afraid that maybe He might suddenly
go from being a baby to morphing into full blown God. It's not like she
had all the details. She had to have a lot of questions and fears.
On the one hand the swaddling clothes fulfilled what God had said, and
also, in those times, show that the baby is loved and wanted and
has a Father (cp Ezekiel 16:1-5)  but the behind-the-scenes punch line that
God probably shares with Mary is Him teasing her for thinking :
"Better to wrap Him up tight, Don't take any chances."
So He put it in Scripture and shares a  laugh with her each year when
the Christmas story is told, the kind of laugh that two people share when
they have gone through something great together.

As much as Mary wanted to keep all of this on the QT, God was a really
good PR man, thinking WAY outside the box, but in such a perfect way.
And now here are the shepherds with their story and Mary just kept
shaking her head as if trying to wake up from a dream
and saying, "Tell me again what happened in the field?"  Soon,
the shepherds had told just about everyone whether they cared
to hear or not.

Yet the shepherds had good hearts, and glorified and praised God for
all they had seen and heard. They were simple men who must have
just walked along quietly with God, doing their job. (Shepherds have
a lot of time to pray you know). . Its these kind of people that
Jesus came to and comes to now. "Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God." And see God they did.

I love that God thought way of the box in every way, and in those
deep and dreamless streets, the Everlasting Light, came into
our world, and changed all our lives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Characters in the Christmas Story: Elizabeth

After his encounter with the angel Gabriel, Zacharias goes quickly to his house in enforced silence.
No doubt he had a lot to think about. Just as Gabriel said, Elizabeth, Zacharias' wife, becomes
pregnant, and no doubt she had a lot to think about also! You see, even when we love God
very much, and have walked with Him a long time--even or especially when He does not seem to
answer our prayer, there are deep things going on in our hearts. God is doing a deep
work and when we are deeply shaken much of what we have thought in the deepest,
most private parts of our hearts rises to the surface.

I think it is because we so want God to be all that we need Him to be that disappointment
can come when our human expectations are not met. Then, when God shows Himself
to be faithful, we have a whiplash of counter emotions of greatly varied sorts!
Do  you know what? God is bigger than our expectations of Him and "what we
need Him to be."  He is Who He is and often we need time to sit with that truth.

Just as Zacharias must sit and ponder in silence, so must Elizabeth .
She goes into seclusion for  five months. I don't blame her. All those people
who, over the  years,  must have given her a million "spiritual" reasons why
she didnt have a baby, and a multitude of sad suggestions on what that meant
about her, no doubt, would be showing up on her door to find out what happened
and to view an old woman who has gotten pregnant..  Gossip is so horrible.

Elizabeth shows her wisdom and fear of God, and we can see a glimpse
of why God chose her. You see, Elizabeth and Zacharias, Anna and Simeon,
Joseph and Mary are those that held the torch of the testimony for
their generation.  They are "old-school" believers--tried and true--not
giving into the depravity of the times; battered down but not hopeless;
weary but not apostate.  They have kept the faith! No easy task!

Meanwhile, Gabriel is about to visit Mary. Elizabeth stays in seclusion
for five months (Luke 1:24) and in the sixth month Gabriel visit Mary and tells
her she is to have Jesus, but also tells her that Elizabeth is six months
pregnant. Mary goes quickly to visit Elizabeth.  What a wonderful
provision for both of them as I am sure no one in the world would understand
what they were going through and Mary would soon be glad
to flee a lot of hostility and gossip also. This is no small blessing
for them both.  I am sure they prayed and talked
deep into the nights of the wondrous and puzzling thing that was
unfolding in and to them. Even as Mary arrived and greeted
Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies
how blessed Mary is and how blessed is Jesus within her.
Even the in-utero John the Baptist jumps for joy (Luke 1:41,42)!
This is, indeed, an amazing story!

Elizabeth is a woman of faith, and like Hannah, has received her
promise from the Lord. Both give their miracles babies over
to the special service of God.  No doubt she did not live to see John
the Baptist grow older (and this probably saved her much grief)
but she did get to exult in the amazing grace of God her Savior.

Elizabeth worships the God Who Hears and Knows and
meanwhile, the young John, grows within her in an atmosphere
of praise and worship. God miraculously takes away her
reproach (Luke 1:25) and her neighbors show her mercy
and rejoice with her (1:58). Sometimes things happen not because
we have sinned, says Jesus, but so that the works of God can be
manifested in us. (John 9:2 &3)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Characters in the Christmas Story: Zacharias--On Believing God

I was just reading over the Christmas story recorded in Matthew and Luke's Gospels
and have been reflecting on each character. I am going to write something on
each of the characters and today, to start, I am choosing Zacharias, the father of  John
the Baptist, because it's really here that the whole thing begins. Here is the story:

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

Zacharias was not a bad man. Let's keep in mind from the beginning that he is introduced here,
along with his wife Elizabeth, as righteous and walking blamelessly before God. He was a priest
and was faithful in his administrations. He knew God--to a degree. He didn't know when the
Messiah would come--he didn't even know, and probably had long since stopped
hoping, when, or dear God, if,  his own child would come along.  He had prayed
for a son to come, prayed long and hard, and now he was old and it looked like God
had ignored him. He still performed his duties, because you don't serve God for what
He can give you, but I wonder what he was thinking inside and where his heart had gotten to.

When Elizabeth passed menopause, you had to wonder what happened to
their hopes for a child, and with that, their ability to trust God wholeheartedly.
They both had served God as well as they knew how, and yet, what got lost?
What hadn't they understood? What they DID understand is that they had
received no child. You can imagine what the equivalent of Job's comforter's
in the community must have said to Elizabeth and him: cold things, harsh things,
well-meaning advice, subtle judgments, silent things never spoken but easily read
on the faces of those looking on. "You know, if you had really been holy
you would have a child." Awful. Just awful. But they kept praying. Or at
this point, perhaps simply crying in a heavenly direction.

So it had finally fallen by lot for Zacharias to offer the incense in the Holy
Place, and believe me, you do have to be careful there,  so on top of
being nervous about doing it right, an unexpected angel appears to him
with an incredible announcement: You are going to have a son!

Now all Zacharias had to do, really, was just nod his head, and get safely
out of there. But his doubts, and all that had troubled him formed themselves
into words that rushed out of his mouth before he could stop himself.
He asked the angel, "But how can I know for sure? You surely know
that we are too old and all our hopes have drained out over the passing years?" 

Gabriel does not coddle him with sympathy but rebukes him and strikes
him speechless until the prophecy is fulfilled and the promised son is born
and brought to the Temple. If this seems harsh, perhaps we have something
to learn, for God always acts to help bring us to a better place.

Zacharias is the priest,  he needs to speak for God, not to engender doubt.
If he comes out of their speaking doubtfully, it will not help the community,
or Elizabeth, his wife. If he lets his broken heart, and the up- to- this- hour
wrestling with the apparent silence of God speak, then his testimony may
fall into infamy.  Like Jacob, he wrestles with an angel and loses
his natural function.

In the ensuing silence of nine months he has time to think about it. Think
about whether he believes God. Think about his calling to the
community, and his place as priest in it. God holds the leaders to
higher standards and  Gabriel announces that the Word of the Lord
is going to be fulfilled whether he understands, believes or
accepts it. Sovereign acts of God are like that.

What we still need to see is how much God is honoring Zacharias. He is answering
his prayer because he IS a righteous man, and because God thinks he is the best
choice for the daunting task of raising John the Baptist! Now think about it,
youth would have been on their side as far as sitting up caring for a crying baby,
but wisdom gained over a lifetime might be better attributes for raising
the young prophet--as long as that lifetime hadn't hardened his heart..

God was giving him some silence to think about it all and to get ready.
The strain of life can, for a season,  take its toll, but if God sends a
wake up call, we still have a chance  get back on the path. Zacharias'
life was a long obedience, he had layed the groundwork by being faithful,
but he was dangerously close to becoming hard-hearted and unbelieving.

We walk by faith and not sight.  Zacharias had to walk according
to the pattern God provided and being in God's presence carried
a certain danger with it. The text hints that the people praying outside
where getting worried about Zacharias. Old Zach just got a "yellow card":
he is not out of the game, He just needs to sit on the sidelines and think
about his behaviour. 

Zacharias' job as priest was to burn incense--which speaks of an
unreserved offering of our will to God and of the spirit of trusting prayer
in God .  Zacharias as he functioned  in the priestly  roll of incense bringer
represents Christ as our intercessor: ever sure of the Father's love and concern
for His Own. God heard Zacharias' prayers just as He would hear Christ's.
So there was no room for signs or doubts. Zacharias just needed the
nine months to get on page with that. Here is spirit of a "just man being
made perfect."  Thank God that He comes to us, see our hearts,
and gives us exactly what we need. May we learn that sitting in
silence before Him is a great gift that gets us ready.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wait with blazing desire, deep humility, and much eagerness!

Wait with blazing desire, deep humility, and much eagerness. If you learn to wait, you'll surely receive our King, who comes to us humble and meek, and seated on a donkey. O endless love! You confound human pride. We see You, the King of kings, approaching humbly, seated on a beast, disgracefully rejected. Let those who seek worldly honor and glory think on this and blush for shame.

- Catherine of Siena, Letters

leaves floating in stream, Wilmington, Delaware

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Our Eyes Often Miss

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see. ~Dorothea Lange

Oh Lord, help us to see what is hidden in plain sight. Help us to look, and search out.
Heal our shortsightedness, Expand our spiritual vision. We cannot see without You!

photo of young moose taken in Gould, Colorado

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rest Assured in God

You may rest assured that God will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. It is when we are powerless that God does all, and thereby manifests His power and goodness in a striking manner.

- John Baptist de La Salle

photo taken in the Yorkshire countryside, UK

Saturday, December 03, 2011

May I enter Him as my Refuge;
Build on Him as my Foundation;
Walk in Him as my Way;
Follow Him as my Guide;
Conform to Him as my Example;
Receive His Instruction as My Prophet;
Rely on His Intercession as my High Priest;
Obey Him as My King...

(prayer taken from The Valley of Vision,
A Collection of Puritan Prayers)

photo taken near Glencoe, Scotland

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that

Thou mayest enter in.

... St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions
photo taken near Loch Ness, Scotland

Friday, November 25, 2011


Life is a journey, often a short one, and always uncertain.

But there is another journey.

The believer is traveling through a waste howling wilderness, to another and a glorious region,
where ineffable delight and happiness await us.

The road is narrow, the entrance strait, so strait that thousands miss it and perish in the
wilderness. But true believers, under the teaching and convoy of the Holy Spirit, find it
and walk in it.

The King, in His infinite love and compassion, has made a hedge about them, separating
and defending them from the many beasts of prey that lurk around them; and although
they hear their howlings and behold their threatenings, they are safe from their power.

But their strongest foe is within themselves; a heart deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked. From this there is no escape but by constant watchfulness, and
earnest cries to their best Friend and Guide for protection.

Were it not for this faithful Guide, how often, discouraged by reason of the way,
would they turn back!

But He....

watches over them by night and by day,

strengthens them when weak,

upholds them when falling,

encourages them when cast down,

defends them when attacked,

provides for them when in need,

leads them by living streams, and

causes them there to lie down in pleasant

pastures, and on sunny banks.

And as they advance they obtain brighter views of the good land they are nearing, and
they long to see the King in His beauty, and the land that is yet very far off, and to meet
those that have already arrived on that happy shore.

taken from
Grace Gems
photo taken near Glencoe, Scotland

Monday, November 21, 2011

Be My Journey and my Far Destination!

Great Light, Mover of all that is moving and at rest, be my Journey and my far Destination, be my Want and my Fulfilling, be my Sowing and my Reaping, be my glad Song and my stark Silence. Be my Sword and my strong Shield,be my Lantern and my dark Night, be my everlasting Strength and my piteous Weakness. Be my Greeting and my parting Prayer, be my bright Vision and my Blindness, be my Joy and my sharp Grief, be my sad Death and my sure Resurrection.

--Stephen Lawhead, Merlin
taken from the Celtic Daily Prayer Book,
Northumbria Community, November 20

photo taken in Ambleside, UK

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gathering Strength from Distress

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow”--Thomas Paine

photo taken at sunset,  Winterthur, Delaware

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lessons from the Birch Trees

Stand tall.
Stand in your place.
Lean over to help your neighbor.
Grow together.
Stand near to the Rock.
Enjoy the Son.

photo taken in Russell, MA

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Savior Will Let Me In

The mistakes of my life have been many,

The sins of my heart have been more,
and I scarce can see for weeping,

But I’ll knock at the open door

I know I am weak and sinful,
it comes to me more and more;
But when the dear Savior shall bid me come in,
I’ll enter the open door.

I am lowest of those who love Him,
I am weakest of those who pray;
But I come as He has bidden,
And He will not say me nay.

My mistakes His free grace will cover,
My sins He will wash away,
And the feet that can shrink and falter
Shall walk thro’ the gates of day.

The mistakes of my life have been many,
And my spirit is sick with sin,
And I scarce can see for weeping,

But the Savior will let me in.

--Hymn by Urania Bailey, 1871

photo taken in Westfield, MA

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Following Christ into the Wilderness

"If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road,

I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all"

 - David Livingstone

photo taken in White Sands, New Mexico

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Have Chosen You in the Furnace of Affliction

Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.

Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

(Isaiah 48:10-12)

photo taken in Granville, MA

Friday, October 07, 2011

Discerning the Signs of the Times

When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be
foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring: O hyprocrites, you can discern the face of
the sky, but can you not discern the signs of the times?

Matthew 16: 2-4

I was running after an incredible sunset but could not get beyond the row of trees to capture it straight-on.
I looked back and caught these incredible clouds reflecting the sunset. Beautiful and eerie.  Notice in the left cloud, if you look closely,  a little man is resting lazily on his elbow, reclining, not discerning the "signs of the times." :)

photo taken in Feeding Hills, MA

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Our Lives Matter

The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others.

--Henry Ward Beecher

photo taken in Mount Pleasant, PA

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pray for Young People

There is a rising generation in this country who do not know God because of a general decay of true religion.

--Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence

I wonder where that leaves us more than 200 years later?

photo taken in Mt. Pleasant, PA

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

God Often Casts Us Into Crucibles

It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God
often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from
the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple
life's unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious.

Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him."


photo taken in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ignoring the Caution Tape

The last hurricane brought a tree limb down to rest on our power and utility lines. Thankfully, they did not
break under the weight, but they did slowly, inch by inch, take out our neighbor's cable and phone lines.
Despite a predicted long wait, the electric crew came quite rapidly : all seven of them and 4
trucks! They taped off the whole area, including over an adjacent  public sidewalk, with yellow
caution tape. They put yellow tape on the downed cable and phone lines. They cut off the offending
limb and drove off leaving my front yard looking like a war zone of  tree carnage.

Over the next few days we had a lot of lookers, and people passing by  made a wide path around
"whatever happened in that yard."  I learned a lot about people in my neighborhood.
Well, its hard to tell exactly what is now fixed as there is still one line down, kind
of hanging limply across the sidewalk. I suspect its an old fashioned telephone landline and
since these days that is kind of antiquated technology,  maybe its just not necessary for our
neighbors to get it fixed. I don't know.

What I want to write about is the caution tape. At first, people really obeyed it, and
walked onto the street to avoid the area. But between this and that,
part of the tape kind of lost it's way, and with it, lost it's authority, and I noticed that
people started to just walk under the downed line, the first time a little gingerly,
and then, with a "whatever" attitude as they walked down the street with their
DD coffee or cell phone or dog or what have you. I now do it myself.

The scary lesson is this: Is this how moral conscience gets hardened?
Is this how we become deaf to the leading of the Spirit? Is this how we
enter into dangerous or temptation laden situations when we know that God
has roped them off  for good reason?

At first we steer clear, then it becomes too much work to walk around
them, then we lose our fear, then we think we are safe and can handle
it when maybe the wire is still live and we are not safe at all. And maybe
we haven't radically cut off the offending limb that started the whole
situation, as Jesus told us to do, in  order to make it into the Kingdom,
even if we limp in?. (Mark 9::43)

Who are we to judge whether we can ignore what has been
already deemed as someplace to tread carefully? A phone line can
still give a small jolt but an overhead suburban power line can fry me
a thousand times over. I can't really tell the difference because
I'm not trained in that area. So are you willing to take a
chance based on your level of spiritual knowledge? That
would be about like playing Russian Roulette with your soul.
 "If I have spoken to you of earthly things and you didn't get it, then how
can I speak of heavenly ones?" Jesus said to Nicodemus,
(of whom He thought should have known better.) (John 3:12).

God has given us the Holy Spirit to warn us, to guide is
in the safe way, to show us when to "go home by another
way." (Matthew 2:16-18).  But are we listening, and more
importantly, do we CONTINUE to listen? We can start out well,
but our enemy would be just as happy to kill us on
round 18 as he would on round 1.

I've started to look around for caution tape in my life.
Hoping that I'm not knee deep in spiritually broken
electrical wire. You might want to take a look
around yourself. There have been a lot of storms,
of every sort, of late. Don't be foolish. Take care.

I would cautiously hasten to say that, past how
this applies to all of us,  this is a  specific
message to someone out there. If you've
gotten a caution from the Lord, but are still
thinking of proceeding with your course
of action: DON'T.  If you wanted a sign
Here it is:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

For Americans on 9/11

I been scared and battered.

My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
Tried to make me--
Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--

But I don't care!

I'm still here!

--Langston Hughes

Thank God we are still here...

Lord, have mercy, on us who are here.

photo taken in the beautiful American Rockies.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


This is an incredible time-lapse of clouds by David Lopez. It is incredible and moving!
God's world is amazing! Wow!

El Cielo de Canarias / Canary sky - Tenerife from Daniel López on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Even the silence of God gives me strength....

...even the silence of God gives me strength

--mattie stepanik, "reflections of a peacemaker: a portrait
through heartsongs", age 13 when he died

photo taken at Talcott Mountain State Park, Avon, CT

Monday, August 29, 2011

Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.

- John Piper

photo taken in Garden of the Gods
Colorado Springs, Colorado
(as always, thanks for driving, Tara!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, the

sturdiest trees are found.” -Hudson Taylor.

photo taken near the Continental Divide, Colorado

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spiritual Friendship

Let this law, therefore, be held in respect among friends, namely, they expend themselves and
their goods for one another in such a way that he who gives preserves a cheerful aspect,
and that he who receives does not lose confidence. When Boaz observed the poverty
of Ruth, the Moabite, he spoke to her as she was gathering ears of corn behind his
reapers, consoled her and invited her to the table of his servants, and sparing in kindly
fashion her embarrassment, he ordered his reapers to leave ears of corn even
purposely so that she might collect them without shame. In the same way we ought
the more adroitly seek out the needs of our friends, anticipate their requests
by good services, and observe such demeanor in our giving that the recipient,
rather than the giver, appears to be bestowing the favor."

--Aelred of Rievaulx, "Spiritual Friendship" --

Aelred of Rievaulx was born in 1110 in Northumbria, UK. He became the
abbott of  the famed Cistercian Rievaulx Monastery in Yorkshire. His work on 
Spiritual Friendship is a classic. Rievaulx was dissolved by Henry the 8th
in the 1538. It's ruins still stand.

photo taken in Abergavenny, Wales

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just When God's Ready.....

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."-- Ansel Adams

photo taken near Gould, Colorado

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

--He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother-
B Russell & B.Scott

photo taken in Lincolnville, Maine

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Ability to Be Faithful

Not everyone possesses boundless energy or a conspicuous talent. We are not
equally blessed with great intellect or physical beauty or emotional strength. But we have
all been given the same ability to be faithful.

--Gigi Graham Tchividjian

photo of Mariah, my foster dog, who is blessed with boundless energy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gazing on God

Constantly practice the habit of inwardly gazing upon God. You know that something inside your heart sees God.

Even when you are compelled to withdraw your conscious attention in order to engage in earthly affairs, there is within you a secret communion always going on.

- A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), "The Pursuit of God"

photo taken in Northampton, MA

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Stout Heart

Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing

heart to bear the burdens of others. Give me a believing heart to

cast all burdens upon Thee, O Lord.

- John Baillie (1886-1960) & Donald M. Baillie (1887-1954), "A

Diary of Private Prayer"

photo taken near Rand, Colorado.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Asked about my theology, I take the Bible and speak with all my soul. I believe everything written in this book. Asked to state my confession of faith. I refer them to the 'Apostles Creed'. My model of prayer is the Lord's Prayer, my rules of living the 'Ten Commandments.' But what will the sophisticated people of the world say to that? Perhaps they smile at the childish old man. But I have found Christ and he is everything to me. My whole life has been a pilgrim journey. Nowhere have I found an abiding city. But now my heavenly fatherland, to whose threshold my leader, my light, my savior has lead me, looms up before me. For me the thing necessary is to forget what is behind and to hasten toward the prize of the heavenly call of God." - John Comenius (1650 Moravian Bishop)

photo taken on the Rand Cutoff Road, near Gould, CO

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

--Chris Tomlin "Indescribable"

photo taken on the Rand Cutoff Road, Gould, Colorado

Thursday, July 07, 2011

May the fiery and sweet strength of Thy love, I pray Thee, O my
Lord, absorb my soul, and make all things under heaven as nothing
unto me, that for the love of Thy love I may die, as Thou didst
deign to die for love of mine. Amen.

--. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), 

photo taken in Feeding Hills, MA

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

     "It gives me a deep comforting sense that
"things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."”

--Helen Keller
photo taken in Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from."-- C.S. Lewis, "Til We All
Have Faces"

photo taken in Gould, Colorado

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it."

--C. S. Lewis --The Case for Christianity

photo taken in Gould, Colorado at sunset

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Revealing Our True Character

The stresses of high-altitude climbing reveal your true character; they unmask who you really are. You no longer have all the social graces to hide behind, to play roles. You are the essence of what you are." David Breashears (High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places)

This isnt just about physical high altitudes. The higher we climb toward God, the more who we really are is unmasked, the more our true essence is revealed

photo taken near Gould, Colorado

Monday, June 13, 2011

More Than What Is In Books

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” --George Washington Carver

photo taken near Gould, Colorado

Thursday, June 09, 2011


"It is the glory of God to conceal a ...uh, well, a baby moose: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter."
Proverbs 25:2.

I've been away for awhile...out "somewhere they can't find me" :) --deep in Colorado
moose country....this little guy was my first siting....his momma calling to him
not to look but he still did, what a cutie....I'll be posting some wonderful photos
from this expedition....but do be thinking of this great truth: it is the glory of God
to conceal a matter, and it is our honor to seek God, Who, often remains mostly
hidden in the heavenly bushes, watching us with great compassion. 

Being in nature is a restorative process, for we must slow down, listen, watch, be, all very quietly. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding from above. (Proverbs 9:10).  The best things in life....require us to seek.
 photo taken in Gould, Colorado

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Fenelon on Unloading Your Heart to God

Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its
pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles,
that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober
them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him
your dislikes, that He may help you conquer them; talk to Him of
your temptations, that He may shield you from them: show Him the
wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your
indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your
instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how
vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to
yourself and others.
- Francois Fenelon

photo of Zoomer looking out the window on a very bright day! kind of like sitting in God's Presence.

Monday, March 21, 2011

For Peace Comes Dropping Slow....

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

--W.B. Yeats--the Lake Isle of Innisfree

On this cold, snowy day in a New England that, is really taunting
us with the hope of spring then cruelly dashing our hopes, I found
this lovely poem by W.B.Yeats that matched my longing and what
I have been meditating upon.

Thank God that we can pray in all conditions and that God
accepts prayers from harried, hurried hearts as well as peaceful
ones but what I want to address is the place of praying from
a deeply peaceful heart: one of life's richest pleasures.

Yeats describes his longing to go to his little lakeside
cabin and so, he "shall have some peace there, for peace
comes dropping slow."  Indeed!

There is a certain gift of peace that God gives to us
when we are in over our heads and know that our
help comes from God alone. This is a precious
gift. But there is also a peace that we cultivate
in our hearts in order to hear the gentle and
sweet voice of God in every nuance.  This
peace is something we apply ourselves to, cultivate,
nurture, even sacrifice for: it is deep inner peace
and calm and Yeats speaks the truth when he
says it "comes dropping slowly."

My Lent has been a feeble and often failed
attempt to put myself aside and seek God but
what I do know is that I know I was heading for
that deep peace, that totally tranquil place within,
that cannot be come to overnight, cannot be
rushed,  and which has no earthly substitute.

I remember my country childhood, of a completely
different era, one where there was long and deep
lakes of quietude where all one heard for hours was
the sounds of robins, sparrows, peepers and crickets and the soft rustle
of willow and pine trees. Even as a child it is those
moments I remember most vividly and cherish most
deeply.  No one had yet told me the right words about
God  but I felt Him still, before I was formally introduced.

Our lives our so hurried, so rushed, and there is that
primitive if not biblical urge that calls us to slow down
into peace and which we ignore at our very peril. There are
some things that cannot be heard until we are absolutely
quiet inside. There are some truths that won't come to
us until silence reigns in our inner man and the Voice
of our Beloved can speak without the voices of a
million lesser things, madmen all,  interrupting. 

This, if you hadn't noticed, takes a long time. It is not a meander on
a country road, not knowing where you are going
that takes you there, but a deliberate determination
to come to quiet. The irony is that we cannot quiet
ourselves completely, we can only go so far and
the rest, as always and in all things, is grace.
It is worth, without a doubt, every minute.

Let us walk down the road toward that quiet
cabin in our hearts, so that "peace can drop upon
us slow," and there wait for our Lord to speak
in the "heart's deep core" 
If we can accomplish that this Lent, we will
have done well.

photo taken near Jacksonville, Vermont

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spiritual Examen: Is My Love Sincere?

I plead with you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God,
to present all your faculties to Him as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him.
This with you will be an act of reasonable worship ...Let love be without
hypocrisy....(Romans 12:1 & 9a)
We have begun to look at Romans 12 as a guide to measuring
whether our worship is more than just flowery words expressed
toward God or whether our lives are, as Paul writes, full of
"reasonable, spiritual worship" ("λογικην λατρειαν").

He gives us a list by which to measure love in the community of
faith. This concept is in parallel with the book of James' struggle to balance
faith and works. Our spiritual works are a true form of worship.
They prove it is more than lofty praise words or ecstatic feelings,
but this kind of worship brings the kingdom of God to this earth.

First on the the list is the call to love. "Let love be without
"ἀνυπόκριτος"--unfeigned, without hypocrisy, --not
"alpha pretended" -- as the two words that make up this
word anypokritos come from two words "alpha and
hupokrinomai" --a sort of "Number One Faker."  The love
we are called to is genuine, unfeigned, unhypocritical, sincere.
Nothing in it is play acting. I am not pretending to love,
 I am genuinely loving.

Dear ones, we must ask ourselves today, "How much of my
love is pretending and play acting?"  When we say we love
God and man, is agape love, God's love, what is coming
forth? Or is our love some kind of whitewash, something
said to placate another, to deceive them, to pacify or
manipulate them?  These are tough questions but we
must look at our love.

No doubt you can sense when you are not being
loved even when the words are all right. The country
music business makes its bread and butter off of
such ideas. But we are often slow to see that
our love--given and received, is not love at all
according to God's kind of love. His is not an
emotional, convenient love. He does not pretend
to love while secretly despising, even hating us.
His is not love that gives with a hook in it, or
spouts high sounding platitudes to cover up
a cold and careless heart! His love does not
cover His true feelings!

God's love is sincere and unfeigned. He lives
out His love by remaining faithful to us, by
taking care of us even when we do not take
care of ourselves or others; by giving us what
we need and not what we demand.

The first act of worship is love: love full
of the deeds of a good life, love that
comes in tired after a full day of giving
itself for others.

Are we loving, or are we only pretending to
love? God knows, and we know, too, if we
sit with ourselves and allow this point of examen
to shine its light on our hearts.

Better to have a small bit of genuine love, than
to gush forth barrels of  "love" that have no substance.
Only those who dwell much with God have
that genuine, godly love to give. 

Therefore, dwell much with God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We all adore God in different ways
but can join together in one symphony of praise...

photo taken in Northampton, MA

Monday, March 14, 2011

One Grand Providence

God's care is more evident in some instances of [His providence]
than in others to the dim and often bewildered vision of humanity.
Upon such instances we seize and call them providences. It is well
that we can; but it would be gloriously better if we could believe
that the whole matter is one grand providence.

- George MacDonald (1824-1905), "Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

Photo: inside an orchid, Northampton, MA

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Garden of Kindness

"Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
 Kind deeds are the fruits,
 Take care of your garden
 And keep out the weeds,
 Fill it with sunshine
Kind words and kind deeds”

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

photo taken in Northampton, MA

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to Encourage Spiritual Hunger in Others!

"'A man can not lead others where he is not willing to go himself.
Therefore, beware of the prayerless church leader who no longer
readily admits his own need for more of the person and power of
Jesus Christ. Only a seeking, praying heart can truly encourage
spiritual HUNGER in others!' - David Smithers."

photo taken in Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spiritual Examen: Is My Worship Reasonable and Spiritual? Part 1

I plead with you therefore, brethren, by the compassionsof God, to present
all your faculties to Him as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him.
This with you will be an act of reasonable worship. 2 And do not follow the
customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your
minds, so that you may learn by experience what God's will is--that will
which is good and beautiful and perfect.... (Romans 12: 1-3, Weymouth translation)

There is so much that is discussed about "worship" that relates to style and form, that often,
the true heart of worship,or its lack, is not talked about or understood. When we think
of "worship" we often think of what happens during a "worship" service in our particular
church. Some churchs are liturgical, some are charismatic, some are seeker--friendly, other
are hell-fire and brimstone (not so common today). In the charismatic/ pentecostal world it
would appear that not a lot of people have a clear understanding of the nature and purpose of worship.
Somtimes churches differ in their style of worship music but this is not the main issue.
Often, people say things, "Oh, wasn't the worship good this morning at church."  Or,
"I could really feel the presence of God."  But this is not really a biblical understanding
or accurate judge of what is "good" worship. 

The apostle Paul uses the words "λογικην λατρειαν"-- logiken latreain" (reasonable,
spiritual worship). It is whole-bodied and whole minded: rational and reasonable.
Reasonable worship is what is proper to give to God (which by our measure might
be unreasonably extravagant!). It is not just worship words, or felt experience, but
the whole of our life presented to God. What would hold more worth for "worthship":
for someone to say, "I love you" with great sentimentality, or for someone to actually
wholeheartedly walk in agape love every minute of every day ?

There is an aspect to worship that we miss at our own peril and which robs God
of what is due Him: not giving God the discipline of a carefully reasoned
offering of our ENTIRE life. This is not something that you can come to accurately without
a carefully reasoned inventory, ( i.e. a spiritual examen that brings us to the action of extreme
worship.)  I must become a living sacrifice offered to God: a conscious decision to
put every detail of my very  life on the altar, something not possible or reasonable
under the Old Covenant.

When we appeal to only the experiential in worship, without reason and discipline
backed up with a fully-converted life, then we soon will end up being steered by
personal agendas, power plays, human whim, cultural preferences, or doctrines
of demons.

In the article, Conformation or Transformation: Toward Reclaiming Meaningful Distinctives in Evangelical Worship Practice    Linda Schwartz writes,

"The New Testament call to identification in the Cross and to abundant
—not easy—life based on kingdom values, is being silenced by worship
practice which refuses to acknowledge the cost of discipleship. Worship
services approximate forms of entertainment that are designed to elicit
only passive response rather than active engagement from participants.
People have been lulled into checking their brains at the door...

It is disturbing, therefore, that evangelicals place so much stock in the
emotional experience or realm of feelings: this is the one area of human
nature that evangelicalism has traditionally regarded as an appropriate
response mechanism; and, for many, it has become an exclusive outlet,
the single gauge by which the validity of faith is measured. In fact,
‘gut feeling’ or the realm of emotion also internalizes and projects
 erogenous emotions, as well as feelings of misery, aggressiveness, and
 guilt; and these often become confused with appropriate spiritual behaviour.
When human feeling or emotion is compartmentalized from cerebral or
sentient experience, the worshipper is no longer able to engage in a balanced
or fully human response to worship.

Reasonable, spiritual worship is the whole of one's life, working in Godly harmony, and  lived
out of  Kingdom values, offered to God. The apostle Paul then proceeds to give us a spiritual
examen that will help us move toward such worship. We will discuss that tomorrow. :)