Turn Your Head Around

Walking in one direction around the lake gave me a singular perspective. The sky was totally overcast as I looked up and onward. A gray haze was settling in not too far above my head. It gave a dreary look to everything in front of me: the lake, the trees, the houses. And the effect on my mood was similar. I felt weighted down, sluggish, gray.

duck circleAs I walked, a group of ducks who were feeding in a tightly moving circle, moved away from me, and I thought, how often that is the case: wild animals fearing humans will seek to get away from them. But personally, I internalized and felt rejected by these ducks.

As I came around the curve of the lake, I looked to see if the mountains too were submerged in gray, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they were not! The sky was clearing from the west and the sun was able to illuminate the mountains beautifully. Above and around me was overcast, but in the distance, was the hope of a beautiful and sunny day.

My spirits were lifted, and my mood changed.   The day took on a forecast of hope and promise.   Miraculously, my outlook had totally improved just by turning my head around! God showed me that there was more to life than what I was choosing to focus on.

How long has it been since you turned your head and looked around? It seems that in the rush of today’s world, we don’t take the time to look around; not to see the beauty, or gain a new perspective. We’re so busy with our nose to the grindstone and our shoulder to the wheel and the weight of the world on our backs; we’re afraid of losing momentum. And yet sometimes, we need those moments to clarify what is around us now. Those adjustments of the neck help us reevaluate our situation or confirm that we are on the right track.

I decided to reverse my direction and cover the same ground, only from a new perspective with the sunny vista before me. There seemed to be more spring in my step as I retraced my path. Meeting up with the group of ducks again, I waited for them to flee from my approach. But they did not. They kept coming towards me, circling in their tight group, and continued by me as if I weren’t even there!

I looked back and saw the ducks; which I had presumed were judging me, were simply following their pattern of feeding: churning up algae to eat by paddling in a circle, moving slowly around the perimeter of the lake. I had mistakenly read something into their behavior that wasn’t there!

How often we do that in life. We allow our mood to be affected by external factors, and then mistakenly interpret the world around us. In doing this, we defeat ourselves!

Don’t allow that to happen!

my-lakeTake a moment to straighten your neck, turn your head and look around you. Take in all 360 degrees plus what is above and beneath you. Allow God to show you what He wants you to see. Ask Him to help you refocus on the hope and future He has for you.

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Casting Down their Golden Crowns

At the end of summer, the bounty of the season becomes plainly visible. Fruit trees are heavy with ripening fruits of all kinds. Vegetables are on their second or third crop. Vines of gourds and squash are laden with maturing produce.

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One of the most dramatic looking plants is the Giant Sunflower. These can grow to be 10-12 feet tall, with thick, bulky stalks and large, broad, flat leaves. Most spectacular, however, is the head of the sunflower. The bright yellow-orange petals stand at attention around a wide dark platform of seeds up to 2 feet across!

The larger these giant heads, the more they weigh. Often, these giant sunflowers will be seen with their heads braced by support poles or with ropes making a sling of sorts to help with the weight. Still, the heavier and more abundant the seeded head, the more it droops. Eventually, it may bend down all the way to the ground, if it doesn’t snap the stalk first.

sunflower-1705178_640Several of these extraordinary flowers grow around a lake nearby. Early on, they overshot many of the other flowers in the bed. By mid-summer, they were towering over everything else, standing alone as giants among the rest. Watching them grow all summer was exciting. But soon it became obvious that the strain of the large showy heads was too much for them.

The sheer weight of the head of the flower began to bend the stalk. The spectacular golden-crowned heads, bowing down reminded me of the lyric in a hymn about the future:

“All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea…

Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea”

from Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber © 1826

What a posture of homage these majestic flowers assume depicting our purpose and privilege on earth is to attain crowns so that we may offer them to Jesus. What a beautiful image, illustrating how one day we will all bow down and lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus: a token of our gratitude for what He has allowed us to experience and produce in our lives.

Rev. 4:10 gives us this: “…the 24 elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne… and cast down their crowns before the throne,” to honor and glorify God.

It is not our purpose to be grandiose and showy, but to honor God with what we are, to worship Him with what He has allowed us to produce. These beautiful colorful flowers will always remind me that what we are given is for God’s glory.

And our posture should mimic nature’s own.

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I feel like a boat…

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Oh Lord

I feel like a boat

heading into a storm

fearful of what lies ahead

yet knowing I was built to withstand exactly this:

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the high winds

the deep swells

the powerful surges of waves

that will crash around me

and wash over me

and test the limits of the strength of my construction.

I know I was made, created, put together by the powerful hands of a carpenter who knew beforehand the purpose of my life, the places I would go, and the perils I would face. Knowing all this, the Carpenter lovingly chose the wood perfectly – to match the force of the stresses that would be brought against it. Because that is the mark of a good and wise carpenter.

And He carefully and meticulously fashioned my shape: my bow, my stern, my hull, masts, even my sails, to create exactly the boat He envisioned.

rough-sea-2624054_640The strength of a boat is only put to the test by the strength of the storms it battles and survives. We never know how strong the wood, the construction is, until it comes through a storm. The strength is there all the time. But the demonstration of that strength, is in the storm.

 

I don’t know my own strength. But my Carpenter knows. He made me. He crafted me. He built strength into me that will only be demonstrated by the storms I weather. So, with confidence, and faith, I will enter the darkness, the winds and waves, the rain and thunder and lightening. And I see my deliverance on the other side. Where the waters are calm. And the winds are favorable. And the sky is blue. And my Carpenter (who is my Creator, my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Lord) stands smiling. Because He knew all along.

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“The Lord is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:2

Will you Amuse or Enthuse?

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It was getting close to the end of Summer, so I was surprised to see a baby duck with its mother on the lake. It was not a tiny duckling, but definitely smaller than most of the others paddling around. Many of the ducks were calmly tipping forward into the water, feeding. And all you could see was their tail feathers sticking up out of the water as their heads reached down underneath to grasp edible delicacies. This baby duck was following suit, except that it would disappear completely under the water, and then come up with a bill full of wet, green, yummy breakfast. It gobbled this down voraciously and made a return dive for more.

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The adult ducks were such a contrast to the little duck enthusiastically diving down, totally immersed in the water. It’s how we sometimes are as Christians.

When we’re new Christians, we are so energetic and enthusiastic! We dive right in to God’s wisdom. We avidly study His Word and apply it to our lives. We submerge ourselves completely in Him and count on Him totally to meet our needs.

But as time goes by, we lose some of that enthusiasm. We get comfortable on the surface of our faith and become satisfied with what we can reach by simply “ducking” our head. At most, we reach for an application of God’s Word in our life by getting half way in, like the duck with half of its body sticking out of the water. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters may not notice either, because they too, are sticking their butts in the air as they comfortably grab what is near the surface.

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What an interesting picture we must present to the world of unbelievers!

 

 

Here we are on our “lake of faith”. Then we duck down momentarily for sustenance and present ourselves, butts up for the world to see! It’s no wonder they pass up our invitation to join us.

But think how they would be drawn to us if they could see us, once again excitedly diving down deep to bring up the bounteous riches of God’s provision, and then feasting on them, with a desire to immerse ourselves again.

Recapture that enthusiasm by renewing your mind daily. Read God’s Word.

Refuel your spirit by thinking on the meaning it has in your life today.

Reach out to seek God’s wisdom and guidance by spending time in prayer.

Re-immerse yourself in His protection and strength to accomplish what He has for you.

I was amused by the adult ducks tipping over, butts sticking up. But I was really drawn to watch and learn from the one who yielded completely to the water for sustenance.

An unbelieving world is watching. What will they see? Will you amuse or enthuse?

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A Kingfisher for the King

While walking around the lake, I am always amazed that God can show me something new; something completely different from what I’ve ever seen or noticed before. His imagination and creativity are endless, and I believe He delights in showing them to us. It is we, who so often don’t take the time to seek Him out. He is always there and ready to share.

river-kingfishers-184261_640There are many birds that live around our little lake. Some come and go with the seasons, some stay all year, and I have pretty much catalogued them. So seeing a Belted Kingfisher was not particularly unusual. It’s a large dark blue bird 12-14 inches tall, with a huge head, white collar, and thick, prominent beak. Many times I have seen them sitting or flying near the water.

Evidently, I had never seen them fishing before. To my surprise, I saw this foot-long bird hovering 20 feet or so above the water, behaving as though it were a tiny hummingbird. It looked very strange as it beat its large wings back and forth so furiously to stay suspended above the water. Then in a flash, it streaked toward the surface and disappeared underneath. Reappearing, it flew to a tree and in moments, took up its position 20 feet above the water again; wings beating furiously to stay in place.

Watching hummingbirds, I’ve marveled at how very fast their tiny wings vibrate to produce the hum and hover state for their tiny bodies.

Their wings are a blur as their bodies seem to move effortlessly; gliding to the nectar feeders and then streaking off with a whir. In contrast, the Kingfisher looks awkward, as though it is straining incredibly to maintain its position in midair before it shoots downward to possess its prey.

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After several tries, the bird surfaced with a large fish and carried it off to enjoy the bounty of its meal.

How amazing that God provides for our needs in such wonderful and creative ways. Each of His creatures fills a niche in this interdependent world. Yet we must each take possession of His provision. The kingfisher must fish. And it is not easy. It takes an incredible expenditure of energy. God makes provision for us to have what we need. But we fuss when it’s not easy for us to recognize it and get it.

Am I willing to beat my wings furiously and exhaust myself completely for God’s best for me? And give Him glory for His perfect provision?

Are we willing to be Kingfishers for the King?