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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

“Look at the birds … Consider the lilies of the field…” Matthew 6:26 &28

They were strutting their stuff; seriously, all seven of them, decked out to the nines, whooping and hollering at anything that remotely resembled a female. When the sunlight hit them just right they lit up in an explosion of iridescent colors, yet they were oblivious to just how spectacular they looked. Their tiny brains cooked on an overdose of springtime testosterone these seven boys put on the full show to garner an invite from our lone goose and three old chickens, which were glad for the fence separating them from this gang of juvenile toms. They strutted, they gobbled, they inflated their flaming red necks, they fanned out their magnificent tail feathers like big bouquets, they dropped their wings to the ground and danced in circles and figure eights trying to outdo their buddy next to him. It was quite the show, but it obviously did not impress the hens and goose, which only aided their efforts until in utter consternation and frustration over how anyone could resist such an exquisite display of masculinity and wooing, and so they decided to pack it in and move on. That’s when we saw her emerging from behind the woodpile, one solitary, plain clothed, smallish, wild turkey hen. I am not sure if she looked scared or if she was smiling over the fact that these boys were like putty in her hands, that she had the power to keep them dancing for the rest of spring. I do know that wherever she went they followed, trying to impress that girl, to make her chose just him. Susie and I were quite entertained by this impromptu morning turkey ruckus.

Of course, I could also tell you about the stellar jay and its hidden shades of blue covering its back, which only become visible when the light hits just right. Or I could tell you about our walk at Salt Point and its sandstone scar that has been the battlefield between the ocean and the continent for eons and in all of its rawness holds fascinating beauty. We could go out after church this weekend and try to discover as many different flowers dressed in timeless high-end fashion, I am sure it would take us more than the afternoon.

I understand why some say they don’t need church to be close to God, God does tell about himself through his creation, and he speaks and teaches us through it as well. He also speaks through his church in ways that nature can’t, it is not one or the other, but we are poorer if don’t pay attention to both. But that’s not my point for this pastor’s note. I wanted to remind you that God speaks to us, teaches us, and reminds us of important things (and often in connection with praying and reading Scripture, the Bible). Springtime seems to just want to grab our hands and pull us outside to look, to listen, to be captivated, to have the sunlight hit just right to reveal flashes of God that leave us breathless and in awe.

I remember sitting out on the tiny balcony of my brother’s apartment in the middle of Stuttgart. Like a good Swabian he and his wife had things growing on the balcony, but looking up swallows were giving an awesome areal show. For us living in Don Pedro, that seems rather ordinary, but God can speak through those swallows, a lizard on a rock, a gourd in the desert, a sparrow in the street, an eagle in the sky, a lily by the roadside, and turkeys at breakfast.

And what about those turkeys? They made me think about what a turkey I can be, that my base instincts are corrupted by sin and can have me act like a fool or hurtful and then excuse it a normal. I thought about #Me Too looking at that little hen who was being pestered and pressured by those seven males and that surely we can do better. I thought about how much thought God put into the plumage of a turkey, they really are a sight in full regalia. I was reminded that God wants me to dress in Christlikeness, reflect the beauty of Christ, from early morning till night, and for this entire season we call life.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Fine Lines

When I expected good, then evil came; When I waited for light, then darkness came. Job 30:26 (NASB)

Isn’t calamity reserved for the wicked? Isn’t disaster supposed to strike those who do wrong? Job 31:3 (MSG)

We needed rain, which is nothing abnormal here in dry Don Pedro. So, the forecast of a wet week was a blessing, the snow piling up in the high country a huge relief for what had been an abysmal rainy season ushering us straight into another drought. The rains of the week before and of Tuesday and Wednesday were a delight to farmers, ranchers, residents, and water managers. Then came Thursday.

After a night of normal rain playing its rhythmic tune on our bedroom window the morning and early afternoon turned into a deluge, lighting up the radar map in red and purple. Water was everywhere, culverts turned into water-cannons, ditches filled and ran over everywhere, small ponds formed wherever there was a drain, creeks swelled into torrents, small bridges collapsed, roads gave way, low lying houses became victims, and blessing quickly turned into a catastrophe.

We live nearer to catastrophe than we think. Drought and deluge separated by just a few days. Not enough, enough, and too much separated by spaces smaller than the stones of Machu Picchu. Rejoicing, panic, and despair within arms lengths. Peace, unrest, and war separated by just a few decisions. Prosperity, barely paying the bills, and poverty living next to each other on the same street. Political stability, chaos, and tyranny determined by a handful. Health, sickness, and death mere microscopic distances apart.

It is frightening to have so little control, to be so exposed to the power of nature, so vulnerable to the unseen, so subject to the unplanned, so depended on good decisions of others, so unable to guard against it all. It also reveals how dependent we are on grace and mercy of God, without whom nature, mankind’s depravity, and our mortality would ultimately harm and destroy us all.

It is astounding how quickly clouds unleashed can humble us, isn’t it? Our hubris, most of the time, is blind to the fine lines, to our frailty, our smallness, our need for God to pour out grace and mercy even more than we need for the sun to rise. Our hubris is also quick to indict God, to drag him into court for not doing more, for not holding everything and everyone in check from crossing the lines that divide blessing from disaster, the just from the unjust, good from evil, life from death. But he is not obligated, he does he deserve our scorn in distress any more than our ignoring him and ungratefulness when all is well. I suppose those are fine lines too, the line between godlessness, idolatry, and the fear and worship of God.

We won’t forget the deluge of March 22, 2018, especially those who suffered loss and harm, but we will not long live out of an awareness of the fine lines and how dependent we are on the goodness, mercy, and grace of God, not just now, but for all of life and eternity; but we should.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This is also a great opportunity for each one of us to help his/her neighbor, and be a tangible extension of the love, goodness, and grace of God.

 

 

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Springtime, wake up time for rodents, ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and bugs. I know, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, 9:15 am to be exact. But the above-mentioned critters don’t give a hoot about official anything, nor do they respect boundaries, comfort, property rights, or someone else’s hard work. They do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want.  They come by stealth, mass invasion, through the air, underground, at high noon, twilight, and under the cover of night. Relentless I tell you, destructive, unapologetic, and even dangerous.

I want them gone, out of my yard, away from my home, gone. If you want them, if your heart has a soft-spot for them, you can have them, the whole lot. A spider on my bedroom ceiling is not going to get the chance to play cat burglar and lower its multi-eyed self down on my bed in the middle of the night; it is going to get “splat!” The ground squirrels, wood-rats, mice, gophers, moles, voles will not encounter kind mercy; they will be trapped, shot, and poisoned when possible. The wasp eying my steak in its shifty flight will be permanently uninvited. The ants trying to homestead around 10417 Blanchard Road will meet the full brunt of available extermination methods. Not a single mosquito, kissing bug, beg bug, or termite will be tolerated, be invited to take a little sip or take a small bite, nor be merely trapped and released. Flies will be met by swatters, fly-papers, scented traps, and available chemicals; they will never receive permission for fly or stopovers.

Striking, isn’t it, how the first paragraph above could easily describe wicked men and women, mankind in unrestrained sinfulness, and how the second paragraph could easily portray the harsh and merciless measures and attitudes mankind has used against each other.  Is it right to hate wickedness, to yearn for and work toward a world without it? Absolutely, but we have to be careful not to act wicked our own self. Keeping critters and pests out of my house is different from stomping on them when I go on a hike. I can put up screens and seal cracks before getting out the swatter or setting deadly traps.

Of course, there is also the matter of worth. There is no question that even the life of the ground squirrel living under our playhouse and undermining the old trees in my backyard is amazing, regardless of it shamelessly mocking me this morning. However, there is a difference between all men being created equal and in the image of God, and all life being created equal. The first is true the second is unsustainable. So who gets to assign worth? God does, and has, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV). I hope you notice that different worth does not mean God doesn’t care about all of his creation, in fact not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from God or is forgotten by God (Matthew 20:29; Luke 12:6-7). Obviously, for God, there is no tension counting a person as more valuable than a bird. For us, however, there is great tension in managing God’s creation responsibly, daily living and survival, and our own sinfulness.

I imagine that God is vastly more disturbed about the wickedness of mankind, one person treating another, valuing another like a rodent, like a pest than you and I are about actual rodents and pests. God could have responded to our wickedness without mercy but instead, he both reaffirmed our value and his great love for every man and every woman in the cross of Christ. Because of his great mercy and love he “is not slow in keeping his promise (of final judgment and justice on all wickedness), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, parenthesis mine). We, the church, followers of Christ, worshippers of the one living God should do no less, at home, in our communities, our countries, our politics, our policies, and our attitudes.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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What the hail!

What the hail! That was some wild weather outburst this past Tuesday, paintball sized hail with the occasional clunker, warnings of funnel clouds with two actually touching down, everything turning icy white in a matter of minutes, a continual roar augmented with flashes of lightning and thunder. You definitely didn’t want to be out there, the thing to do was to run for cover. The oak trees with their fresh green leaves didn’t have that option and had their canopies shredded, leaving a carpet of leave bits, pollen pods, and twig fragments below them.

We are tempted to think of weather, of nature, as being completely arbitrary, but like all things they are subject to the power, will, and purposes of God, of Christ. God is more than merely human attempts to explain the inexplicable, he really is Lord of all, the Sovereign over all creation, the visible and invisible.

Isn’t it amazing how big and powerful we can feel when the there is just a gentle cooling breeze while the sun is shining? It is easy to be the master of your own destiny in fair and favorable weather, when life is good, when things pan out as planned, when there are lots of opportunities, when our health is good, when things are peaceful and prosperous. It takes just one dark cloud packed with power immensely greater than our own to remind us how little we actually control, how small we are, how dependent we are on the goodwill, the mercy, and the compassion of the one whom not only the clouds must obey, but who, by a command from his lips, spoke the entire universe into being.

We are fortunate when an impressive hailstorm is a mere reminder for us to look up and acknowledge God. Sometimes the unleashing of natures might and fury is much more than that, a very act of the judgment of God, the very hand of God working against us. This troubles the modern mind, this higher accountability, this being tied to spiritual, to moral and ethical standards not our own, this having to bow to the one who commands “the wind and the sea” (Mark 4:41). It is easier to settle for a world that is arbitrary, merely controlled by impersonal forces of nature, that leaves us accountable to none but ourselves, that is nothing more than a crapshoot of chance, and has no need to look deeper, to ask about the will of God.

The truth of the word of God, the written revelation of God, the Scriptures, the Bible stands in stark contrast to the modern mindset and all those who have and would deny the existence of God. God used hail to humble Pharaoh (Exodus 9:18-33), he defeated the Amorites with hail (Joshua 10:11), he summoned the wind to catch up with runaway Jonah (Jonah 1:1-17), he directed swarms of locust (Exodus 10:12-19; Joel 1:1-2-), he unleashed natures forces against Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:16-33, 11:23-29), he darkened the sky when Jesus died (Matthew 27:45). These and more were not coincidences but serve as clear examples and reminders of both the power and sovereignty of God.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. Psalm 19:1-2 (adapted from NLT)

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! Psalm 95:6-7 (NLT)

Next time you see dark clouds gather on the horizon, do more than run for cover, be reminded of God, of Christ, and bow, and worship.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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