Saturday, October 29, 2011

Walking the Nature Trails

The path opens to a clearing larger than a football field.  Waist high brome grasses sway slightly in a gentle waltz with the nearly imperceptible breeze.  Nearby branches of the trees merely watch the waltz, too heavily laden with yellow-green hedge apples to dance.  On the far side of the field lies a painter’s palette of trees, just beginning to show their colors—green, yellow, orange, brown, and rust, accented by splashes of bright red sumac and strong, dark, tree trunks.  Wildflowers once stood in this field.  Three and four foot high dried stalks now cover the meadow, their seed heads white and full, ready to release millions of umbrella ribs to flower another field.

Eager to get to the bridge and the swollen stream, I risk a quick crossing of the muddy path.  My right foot sinks three inches into the soft black ooze, but I make it safely to the bridge.  The recent rain has forced the creek out of its bed.  Noisily it rushes through unfamiliar territory, over its former banks and around tree trunks, its strength rippling the mud-brown water, carrying foamy bubbles downstream.  The rushing water rocks the dying trees, tipping them on their sides from the water’s force, but their roots hold firm against its assault.  One tree reaches toward the flood, its green and yellow leaves bending toward the water like a girl bending over to wash her hair. 

A man in a bright orange shirt jogs by on the muddy path, his leashed German shepherd loping at his side.  For a moment, I think how alone and vulnerable I am.  But the rushing water quickly lulls me back to my peaceful reverie.  The surface ripples, like a cat flexing the muscles on its back.  Walking to the far side of the bridge, not watching where I am going, I step in the mud again and my foot slips, nearly dumping me on my backside.  Perhaps it is time to head for home?  Reluctantly, I amble across the bridge, promising myself to return soon.

As I walk home, I realize how seldom I take advantage of these nature walks a mere quarter mile from my home.  The peace, beauty, and serenity of God’s handiwork lie just outside my front door to enjoy whenever I choose.  How seldom I choose! 

Lord, forgive me for those many times that my nearsighted eyes fail to see Your grandeur.  Open my eyes to behold Your glory.

Amos 5:4b “Seek me and live.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Be Nice to Your Brother

When my two oldest grandsons were younger, they loved to torment one another: A poke here, a kick there, and a headlock for good measure. While they spent some time at my house, I had a mantra for them, “Be nice to your brother.” That helped them remember to be kinder… most of the time. Today they’ve outgrown that stage and are very close even though they occasionally give one another an “affectionate” poke or kick.

We adults generally don’t torment one another with kicks, pokes, or headlocks. We use something much more harmful: words. An unkind word here, a sarcastic tone there, and some backbiting gossip for good measure. Sometimes our human nature asserts itself and we just aren’t too nice to one another.

When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about which commandments were the greatest, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37 &38 NIV). I’m sure every one of us is guilty of those verbal pokes and kicks to our neighbors and to our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Fortunately for us, Jesus will forgive us. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  With His assistance we can follow the second greatest commandment and love one another.

Lord, forgive my unkind pokes and teach me how to be nice to my brothers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


None of us likes to be interrupted.  From a young age, we tell our children, “Not now. I’m talking. It’s not polite to interrupt.” Children, of course, are persistent, tapping the parent on the shoulder until the child has Mom or Dad’s full attention. These interruptions try the parents’ patience, but eventually the child learns not to interrupt.

When Jesus walked on this earth, He was the master of interruptions. He saw society shunning the poor and the ill. He interrupted with compassion and healing. He saw people burdened by an oppressive Roman government. He interrupted their oppression with hope. He saw religious leaders consumed with the letter of the endless list of laws. He interrupted legalism with grace. He saw His people burdened with sin and hungry for righteousness. He interrupted their burdens by bearing them on the cross.

Even though Jesus, the man, doesn’t walk this earth today, Jesus, our Savior, continues to interrupt. He’s tapping on our shoulders, trying to get our attention. He wants us to see the needs of the poor, the ill, and the oppressed. He wants us to open our eyes to legalism, and the pressing need for grace. Tap, tap, tap. Will we allow our lives to be interrupted? How and when will we respond to His insistent tapping on our shoulders?

Luke 14:13 "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."