Archive for March, 2015

Glory Singing

A New Song, March 31, 2015

“Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:2

“The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Psalm 29:9

Father,

A shout from my heart at dawn,

for Your circuit of glory around earth

each night and morning and in daytime heat.

Last night, the waning moon wouldn’t leave

its place in the eastern sky while

the sunset beamed and turned sleepy. There

the Queen watched King Sun recline.

The Queen is in her chamber this morning and

other heralds trumpet glory’s arrival—

the birds with a brand new song of joy,

the sunrise-illumined purple flowers on the tree

beside me,

the budding, silhouetting, gargantuan tree watching

thin clouds hanging precariously yet singing

resoundly across the horizon,

first yellow, then pink, then yellow

again.

You are speaking and

Your message is  “Glory everywhere!”

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A Hummer

A New Song, March 27, 2015

“…the earth he has given to the sons of man” Psalm 115:16 (again)

 It’s seasonal transition time. After some warm days Walla—the cold chased me inside this morning. Gardeners beware: Freeze warnings this weekend!

Perspective is easy for me to lose and, having already settled into springtime, whining lurks in the shadows. First Corinthians ten reminds me grumbling is idolatry, so I don’t want to visit in that tattered shack.

It is a lovely morning and sunrise. A cherished friend recently sent along an old song, sung by a gravelly voice from yesteryear, Ray Charles. Who doesn’t like, “It’s a Wonderful World”? Hum it with me:

I see trees of green, red roses, too,

I see them bloom, for me and you

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,

Are also on the faces of people going by.

I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”

They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”

I hear babies cryin’. I watch them grow.

They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Today Father, give me a grateful heart for a cold snap this first week of spring—for the earth You gave us and all its seasons, weather, and magnificence. Please don’t let me forget what I hummed this morning: “I see skies of blue, and clouds of white/The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night/And I think to myself/What a wonderful world.”

Thank you friend.

The Gift

A New Song, March 24, 2014

A completely cloudless, crisp spring sunrise found me in Psalm 115, where God said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth! The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man” (Psalm 115:14-15)

Earth is a gift from God. Hmmm, how often do we think of it as disposable, even a necessary evil, or trust in its provisions instead of its Maker? Some even worship “Mother Earth.” But it is gift for God’s glory and our good.

From my porch, the gifts of earth this morning include:

  •  A huge tree, beside the sunrise, raising its winter-long stark arms—now pudding in praise to its Maker. One morning, too soon, thousands of leaves will surprisingly start shouting for joy, waving to Creator Jesus as springtime morning darkness transitions to another unique, summer morning glory;
  • A small, white-flowered tree, perfectly shaped and below the horizon, accenting the joy of new life this spring.

Thank You Father and Son.

So, “May you be blessed by the LORD…” with earth and earth’s gifts this gorgeous spring day!

What are earth’s gifts to you today?

Ordinary Cheesecakes

New Song, March 23, 2015

God’s sunrise today feels like the satisfying, slowly savored first bite of an infamous Cheryl-made cheesecake.

How do you feel about “ordinary”? You know, an ordinary day or life or…sunrise?

God offered an ordinary—not stunning—view of His glory at sunrise today. It is pastel, with brush strokes of yellow and gray-blue brushed across the horizon. It has vapor-thin clouds to frame the sun’s arrival, an early springtime morning of coolness, and the irrepressible, happy reflection of light on the eastside of the trees across the street. Really now, John, how could God’s morning glory ever become ordinary?

I read through Lamentations 3 this morning. It’s gloomy with the consequences of sin, but piercing through with the ordinary grace and love of God toward His followers (even when He chastens us or in our afflictions): “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion [core, “all in all,” “For to me life is Christ”], says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (3:22-24).

Cheryl can make extraordinary cheesecakes in her sleep. It’s as ordinary as waking up. But they are always good (Great!). God faithfully wakes up the sun, cares for earth and us, and lets us peek at His glory every day.

Father, grant that the usual chores and projects and tasks and relationships will reflect Your glory all day today. They are my mission; You are my everything.

A Wild March Morning

New Song, March 20, 2015

“God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.” Job 37:5-6

Lord of creation, I don’t want to forget the wonders of winter on its last day. Contentment comes hard in winter Father. Help me to be satisfied with Your chosen displays of might and beauty and variety—the “great things” of winter, nearly past, and in spring in a few hours.

Readers, thank you for sharing your wintertime delights. We have until 6:45 PM tonight to experience winter. I, too, am ready for springtime, yet the delights of winter have been many. The “fiery coral” sunrises, the smack on the face of a refrigerator outside when opening the door, the “fistfuls of glitter” of innumerable stars on clear nights, the crescent moon smiling in the midst of a sea of heavenly friends, the infinite shapes of snowflakes, glistening ice, and plumply- feathered birds foraging for food will not be forgotten for a long time.

It’s sad winter is often seen as a metaphor for the decline or loss.

A thought: Winter tests our satisfaction with God as He is and in His chosen works; spring is His gift of renewal to tell His story anew and to worship Him with fresh praises.

Friends and family around the country: Thanks for your piercing descriptions of winter gifts (two are quoted above). What closing thought (s) about winter do you have? What are you anticipating with joy about springtime?

One last winter thought:

“All in the wild March-morning I heard the angels call;

It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all;

The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll,

And in the wild March-morning I heard them call my soul.” Tennyson

Fiery Coral

New Song, March 18, 2015

Cheryl teaches me so many things, including a discussion two nights ago about the color spectrum. The talk came after I shared a quote by a friend who described the sunrise as “the fiery coral above the mountain announcing the sun’s journey and the crescent moon glowing in the dark above.” Wow! I’ve been impressed with this last week of winter’s dark, rich pink sunrises, but my friend opened a new world to me. Cheryl noted coral is a pink-orange.

I couldn’t wait for this morning’s exceptional sunrise with all of this in mind, and—with thick clouds everywhere but the horizon—it changed through a plethora of newly discovered oranges and pinks! Sunrises won’t be the same from now on. How brimming with variety and beauty are the Father’s and Son’s glory, lavishly painted on the horizon today. And to think: God’s glory in creation is only a reflection of His essence; the full light would blind us.

Thank you Cheryl, my best friend, and my anonymous, inspirational friend.

Psalm 147 came to mind. “He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth [it’s coming]; he makes grass grow on the hills [our yards are greening up]…the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

Thank You LORD, for the fiery coral again this morning. It’s a whole new song from You again today. May we revere the Son as we fully trust Him, rejoicing and remembering his amazing steadfast love. Pleasing Him today really matters.

Such Music!

A New Song, March 16, 2015

 “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!”

Psalm 148:3-4

God has called the heavens and earth to praise Him and the melody of praise was accompanied by perfect harmony this morning.

The prelude of a clear sky and crisp air—with galaxies and stars all in their places—faded to a stirring sonata of light, wispy clouds, lush pinks and blues, and our old friend: a smiling, quarter moon gazing upon it all.

God is the melody; everything else is harmony. All reminds us of glory.

Such music! Draw “near” (v. 14), and join the celestial choir!

A New Song and an Old Love

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:1-2

God is writing new chapters in our lives all the time.

There is a daily-ness to following Christ. This is especially true in each new season or circumstance of our lives with Him, but it is often, “day to day.”

Getting in tune with the daily-ness of God’s work (s) in our lives seems strange at first until we hear the Psalmist sing it with clear, fresh melodies: “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts…”I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you… Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

The idea of a new song intrigues me. The point in the Psalms is not a new composition (although surrounding verses do imply fresh, active worship with a variety of expressions). The idea is this: God’s involvement in our lives regularly, usually quietly, sometimes spectacularly, and always on a daily basis brings a “fresh outburst of praise to God.” For Israel this “salvation” was vivid in their compact world of enemies, wickedness, and attention-seeking false gods and idols. I wonder: Has anything changed?

While our circumstances may seem the same or boring or insurmountable, we sing “… it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The hymn Day By Day expresses our hearts about our daily need and provision of God:

   Day by day, and with each passing moment,/Strength I find to meet my trials here;/

   Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,/I’ve no cause for worry or for fear./

   He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,/Gives unto each day what He deems best,/

   Lovingly it’s part of pain and pleasure,/Mingling toil with peace and rest.

May I apply this “new song” to a special occasion? This weekend Cheryl and I will celebrate our forty-second wedding anniversary. Cheryl captured my heart in an unstoppable way (it was her smile), waved all common sense, and said, “I do,” Saint Patrick’s Day, 1973. As God has been gracious to offer a lifetime with Cheryl, so she has been generous to give and give as we grow together through the decades.

It is exhilarating to join God in writing new chapters in our marriage. New circumstances provide fresh opportunities to change and serve one another. Each day contributes to our building understanding of each other. Our delight in each other’s presence is increasingly simple and profound. I so enjoy watching young love develop, but—and Cheryl may cut my fingers off for saying this—old love is wonderfully different, creative, safer, and freer than young love.

Each day with Christ—and Cheryl—causes a new song to be written and sung. What double joy!

The Rhea Herald-News

March 11, 2015

Bella and The Birds

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…” Job 38:12

Bella and I watched the sunrise this morning. I haven’t seen either in several days.

I had occasion to travel to Illinois this week, where snow was still piled up alongside the roads while it rained and rained and rained. Traveling back yesterday, I was happily reminded of the birds of winter—again—in two unique occurrences.

I love the vast open farmlands, creeks, and rivers alongside interstate highways. Once, yesterday, about mid-morning behind a huge rest area, innumerable all-white birds gathered around a marshy area, where a river overflowed with melted snow and thawing ice. I marveled they had survived a cold winter. They sang for springtime. The protection and provision of God for creation and me seemed incredibly real.

Then, further down the highway, a monstrous swarm of small, dark birds swooped down upon the highway all around me. I almost ducked below the steering wheel. It was an exhilarating moment, much like when the Spirit of God overwhelms us at special times with great joy with the presence of God.

Now home and relishing clearer skies, Bella joined me on my porch for the first warm sunrise in a long time. Bella is a once-intimidating bulldog, now my friend next door who wagged her tail and jogged over to see me like a long-lost friend (or bone) recovered. I doubt she appreciated the rich pink eastern sky highlighting the clouds, the chirping birds, nor the moon behind my shoulder with racing clouds parading in front of the waning full moon. Every second, everything was changing.

From His command center, the King orders a new day and calls into play all the subjects of creation. Surely, “The morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). I did, too!

On the other hand, I don’t think Bella gave it a lot of notice.

It was so good to be back with familiar friends.

Help me Father to see. Every day is from and about and for You. How great are Your gifts of joy like Bella, the sun and moon, the clouds, winter’s birds, and pink. You are the amazing joy-giver!

The Birds of Winter

[This is a revision and expansion of the previous post, “The Bald Birds of Winter.” I have loved the birds so much I submitted it for my weekly column for the Rhea Herald-News. I would love to hear about your favorite things of winter!]

“Praise the LORD from the earth…fulfilling his word…creeping things and flying birds!”

Psalm 148:7-8, 10

 How do bald birds keep their heads warm in winter? My bald head wants to know.

This year, I have been more immersed into winter than ever before. Surely, the LORD has been generous with vivid reminders of His grace and glory.

One sunrise last week was unique as I viewed it in an unusual setting. My part-time role at a local funeral home gave me the sleepy and cold opportunity to assist with a sunrise graveside service. With the temperature in the teens, I was glad for many layers of clothes, a hat for my bald head, gloves, and for vehicle lights to set up on that dark, breezy, icy, snowy hilltop cemetery. Burr.

And then the sun air-brushed its morning masterpiece. Through the bare trees, all who would look saw creation’s colors on a horizon layered with deep pinks and purples. To me, the time just before the sun actually appears is indescribably beautiful and my favorite—sometimes it is bold; sometimes subtle. It is always promising. After the service, and while our crew waited for the family to say goodbye, I watched winter’s special gift this year: birds.

The birds of winter seem to bounce on the ground continuously and never stand still. Are their feet cold? Vigorously foraging through leaves on the ground, they moved together Friday, clustered close like other cold dependent loved ones around that forested hillside gravesite. (In the shadow of winter’s naked trees snow and ice did not cover the ground.) Robins puffed out their Tennessee orange vests and some cardinals were robed in deep red; all had energy and focus. I imagine with all the elaborate feathers on their chests there are male, bald ones. Even then, the bald birds didn’t seem to care about anything except their assigned call: scratching and eating.

I tasted of God’s pleasure in His birds on that winter morning as they “fulfilled his word” (above). In Psalm 33, by God’s word He made the heavens (v. 6) and earth when “he spoke and came to be” (v. 9). Psalm 103:20 notes the angels “do his word, obeying the voice of his word.” Psalm 147:12-20 adds to the word-command of God that He gives protection, weather, and provision to sustain creation’s creatures. How rich the direct, intentional action of God on the part of the universe, earth, and every living creation!

If winter’s wonderful birds satisfy—fulfill, follow, or obey—the word of God, how much more should we know and follow what He has said to us?

Father, the birds so easily praise You and bring You great pleasure. Why, then, is it so usual for me to waste words and time, and not to obey? Thank You so much for the gift of winter’s feathered delights.

Father, pinch me every day so I will join in with their praise.



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