Can’t see the forest for the leaves

look straight up 2

photo taken: Sunday, May 20th, 1:55pm

I realize that I misquoted this statement, but it fits better with this image.  It was, and still remains a mystery to me why so many people look out, or down, but never look up when walking through a forest.  The path may be dangerously steep or rocky, so yes you have to look where you’re going, I get that.  No mistake at all that the forest is filled with all different species of trees which are glorious all on their own, but together in the mix of trees, one could even call it magnificent.  But just once when you look up into the canopy… at the tops of the trees where the sun shines through… well most people never do see this image.

These leaves were a good 5 to 10 feet above my head, so the tops of the trees overhead had to be 75-100 feet above, or more.

Our eyes seldom focus on the far things, but rather on the things right in front of us.  These bright green leaves might represent our current circumstances, good or bad.  The tree tops might represent our future, sometimes obscured except for an occasional glimpse of what might be.   And the brightness of an overcast sky in the distance having no clarity at all, represents a hazy, gauze-like, white cotton heavenly, but unknowable, eternity.

I don’t want to miss any of it.  I want to capture everything in this life which God meant for me to experience, understand, and know.  So while I’m focused on the now, I live in the hope of seeing the tops of the trees before my life is over. Then, in the end, to go into that bright light, to be at home with the Lord.

Right now, I continue to look up, because I want to be ready.

Job 35:5   Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you.

What’s wrong with this picture?

whats wrong with this picture

photo taken May 25th, 2018, 4:12pm

We had stopped at this location to see a frozen lake and landscape on our way to Banff.  It was majestic as far as the eye could see, the mountains, the ice cap, the beautiful blue sky, and this lake that until now was frozen solid and had just begun to melt.

When into the frame stepped this young man with a paddle board… hmmm.  Now I’m not one to judge, but it did cause me to contemplate, “What is he thinking?”  Surely he is not going to plunge himself, on purpose, into this ice cold water, then paddle board around for the afternoon… is he?  I don’t know how this story ended.  It was time to load the bus, and go on to the next site on the list.  So, we never saw him go in, only his intention to do so.

The action of the young man weighed on me as I consider life around me today.  I don’t know what causes some people to just “jump” into an irrational pattern of behavior.  I don’t understand how this action would even be a consideration.  Maybe it is as simple as this young man considers himself to be a “paddle-boarder.”  So in all kinds of weather, regardless of hot or cold, he goes paddle boarding.  I guess I could accept that.

I also know that it might be how people look at me.  I consider myself to be a person of faith, long-time pastor/teacher.  So whether in adversity, or peace; when I’m sick or when I’m healthy; whether I have little, or a lot… my thoughts turn to scripture and its applications for life today.  It’s who I am.

What came oozing out of this young man’s veins was, “I need to go paddle boarding,” it’s who he is.

What comes oozing out of you on a daily basis?  And does the world around you always understand why it does?

There is one sure-fire way to determine people of faith in the chaos of the world today.  When it’s freezing spiritually, or when it’s beautiful spiritually, the person of faith is seen this way: they are … loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and in control of themselves.   How do I know this?  Read Galatians 5:22-23.

The world in chaos and darkness will look at you the same way I looked at this young man… and they won’t understand it.  But make no mistake, God’s Holy Spirit will use you in these actions to make a difference in your world.  So let the “fruit” of God’s Spirit inside you work through you today.

 

 

It’s Not Easy

not easy

taken: Johnston Canyon, Alberta Canada, May 26th, 11:31 a.m.

Walking this path to the waterfalls in Johnston Canyon was a fast 20 minute hike, so we chose to let younger legs pass us by as we just took our time listening to the sounds of the forest and the river below.  In one incredible moment, there was a single ray of light that lit up this lone aspen tree in the forest, and I knew what it meant when Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” [Matthew 5:14]

What we are designed to do is reflect God’s image to the dark world around us, because He lives inside us.

What we are supposed to do is speak God’s truth to an unbelieving world which is filled with hate, anger, fear, and judgment… and speak this truth in love.

What we are supposed to BE… is holy, set apart for God’s own purposes, just like this lone aspen in the middle of the forest.

In the chaos of life surrounding you today, if you are in Christ, be “The light of the world.”

It’s not easy…

Can You Imagine?

Center of Attention small

Thursday, May 24, 1:18 p.m., Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada.

And the thought that came to mind was, “Heavenly!”

These two read chairs, sitting next to the lake just behind the Fairmont Lodge, were so inviting.  In the cool mountain air, with just a hint of breeze, I was thinking how nice it would be to just sit and talk.

This led me to folks who’ve gone on before me to heaven, and how one day maybe I’ll get to sit beside them in some idyllic setting such as this, and just catch up.  I’d like to sit with my mother again like this and just talk like I did when I came home from college.

Then, I thought of my dad, struggling with the mysterious illness we call Alzheimer’s disease.  I don’t remember many times when my dad and I just sat and talked.  We played golf, we played card games at family times like Christmas or Thanksgiving.  But there weren’t that many times when we would just sit and talk.  Now, I wish he could remember me, and we could just sit and talk.

Inevitably, these thoughts today brought me to the idea of one day just sitting and talking with Jesus.  How marvelous that will be!  But wait…

I know it seems like prayer is a more formal exercise often only emphasized in church worship or at Bible studies, but doesn’t the Bible actually teach us that prayer is simply having a conversation with God?  In fact on this day we celebrate as Father’s Day, what could please him more than if we simply pulled up two chairs together (wherever you are today), and just took the time to have a conversation with the Creator of the universe, our Heavenly Father?  The Apostle Peter said it this way… 1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

No More Thirst

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Here I stood, listening to the roar of the mighty Athabasca Falls, taking in the stunning view of sunlight as it lit up the mist, while my heart inside my head repeated over and over and over, “My God, How Great Thou Art!”

The stone monument nearby read:

Since the last in a dynasty of glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, The Athabasca River has battled a trembling earth.  Abandoned channels, potholes and deep canyons in some of the hardest rock in Jasper National Park mark the ancient battle lines.  Today, the battle continues upstream at the 25-metre falls.  This trail offers a 20-minute visit to one battleground in a land of many.  It is a dangerous please so please stay behind the guard rails.

This image taken May 25th, at 10:15 a.m., captures the spirit of this monument completely.  The power of the water running over these giant stones was intense.  It was easy to believe the story of the river in battle with a trembling earth.

It also brought instantly to my mind the eternal battle being waged around the world for the hearts and minds of those far from God.  In one crystal clear image I was drawn to the words of Jesus as He sat teaching during the Feast of Booths (see John 7).  What stunned those great teachers in the temple was His ability to speak so clearly, communicate so effectively, with authority and influence, because Jesus had received no formal training like they had.

Think of the stubbornness born out of rote ritual and legalistic thinking as the stones of the mountain, and the words of Jesus spoken in love as the river water doing battle against the walls of human thinking.  These water falls, to my mind, are these words of Jesus to the Pharisees that day, and yes to all the world, to every person alive today:

John 7:37-38
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Today as you read these words, as you view this image, trust in Jesus to quench the thirst in your heart for meaning, purpose, and life.  Only Jesus has the power to give eternal life.

 

 

One Way

One Way small

On Sunday, May 27th, at 8:34 a.m., I was remembering all that we read about the discovery of Lake Louise by the first settlers, and the small hamlet named for this nearby lake.  It was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria… yes “that” Queen Victoria.

This view is pretty much due west from our room, and overnight most of the ice that covered over half the lake had melted.  There was almost no breeze at all and the lake took on a perfect mirror reflection of the mountains and sky above.

While standing in awe of the view, I wondered about the pioneers who might have witnessed this view decades ago, and if they needed direction, it was easy enough to see.  Right in the middle of the photo, where the lake meets the closest mountain on the left, the snowy mirror reflection made a perfect arrow pointing west.

Here’s a closer view.

One Way 2 small

As I reflected on these images this morning, I was reminded that God does these kinds of things on purpose.  When the way to turn is obscured by difficult circumstances, when life seems pointless or dreary, God can reveal a path to wellness, wholeness, and healing… if we just know where to look, and follow the path revealed.  That’s why Jesus came.  It is … who He is.

John 14:6, Jesus said…
“I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Follow the signs, follow the arrows, and turn your eyes upon Jesus today.

Faith

People talk about faith a lot.  Especially people of faith.  True Christ-followers understand the concept of faith better than anyone else, yet find it difficult at times to exercise that faith in certain situations.  James said it would happen [James 1:2-3].

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Recently I had the chance to exercise my faith in a real life experience, and I gained some valuable insight into the concept of faith.  Here is a little history of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:

In 1888, George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and land developer, arrived in the young city of Vancouver in Canada. Mackay purchased 6,000 acres of dense forest on either side of Capilano River and built a cabin on the very edge of the canyon wall. In 1889 he suspended a footbridge made of hemp rope and cedar planks across the canyon with the help of August Jack Khahtsahlano and a team of horses who swam the ropes across the river. The ropes were then pulled up the other side and anchored to huge buried cedar logs.

for more information click here.

bridge small

This 153 yard bridge took me to the other side of the river, where we walked on other bridges up into the tops of the trees and looked down at the river flowing below.   I’m not a big fan of suspension bridges, holding at any given point more than one hundred people going back and forth.  The only bad thing about going all the way over to the other side… you have to cross the bridge again to come back.

Placing my faith in the cabling, wood, and design of this bridge was very challenging for me.

I suspect that for people far from God, who always want to believe they can handle everything on their own, they might have some difficulty believing Jesus really is the only BRIDGE worth taking.  They probably doubt His ability to be the Savior He claims to be.  They dispute His authority and claim to be the ONLY means (way, truth, life) of right relationship with God.

Nevertheless, it is true.

What it takes to act on this truth… is to take a step of faith into Jesus.

Hebrews helps us here [11:1]:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

If I wanted to see the river from the tops of the trees… there was only one way to get there… stepping out in faith.

If you want to know the joy of eternal life with the Creator of the Universe, there is only one way to get there… taking that step of faith into Jesus.

Juxtapose

Now this is a great word.

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to do a bucket-list vacation.  We flew to Seattle to catch a train called The Rocky Mountaineer which took us north and east across the Canadian Rocky Mountains to Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper National Park, Banff, Lake Louise, and finally ending our trip in Calgary.  Then after 10 days of exploring places we’d never seen, and likely never see again, we flew back home to Texas.

We saw lots of wildlife, including bears, elk, eagles, ospreys, big horn sheep, and rowdy Australians.  We made many new friends from all over the world, and enjoyed the scenery of God’s creative genius as we listened to story after story of how that part of the world was discovered and conquered by men and women pioneering previously uncharted territory.

One of my favorite experiences on the trip was seeing Mt. Robson, the most prominent mountain in North America’s Rocky Mountain range, and the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, at 12,972 feet.  When traveling through this area, this peak is only visible a few days of the year.  As you can see, we were one of the lucky and privileged to have this great view from our train.

Mount Robson

Juxtaposed within minutes of passing this spectacular view on the left of the train, was this incredible water falls image on the right, demonstrating where all that snow and ice end up.

Water Falls from the Train 1

What is amazing to me is not that I was able to capture these images from a moving train, but that I was given the great privilege of seeing both.  All along the way on this trip, I was constantly reminded of how small I am, and how large God’s creation is.  And it caused me to whisper, almost constantly…

For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all Gods.

~Psalm 97:9

 

Juxtapose