Category Archives: Enjoying Nature

DESIGN & ORDER amidst human disorder

 

Newscasts trumpet misery, scandal and chaos. BUT! As I wander down summDSCN5023 (3)er DSCN4962 (2)pathways and drive along our country roads I’m impressed by a recurring theme. Whether it’s the tiniest beetles I find on leaves or the rising of the moon, there is evidence of design–and of the Designer.

DSCN2805 (2)It’s the same when I gaze on the apparently bewildering display of creativity among flowers. Or the astounding intricacy of a snowflake. Or the various plumages of birds or even the blades of grass DSCN5204 (2)in a farmer’s field. Variety but not randomness fills our world with a richness and interest our busy lives usually lead us to ignore.

From sunsets to cloud formations, from eyesight to dandelion fluff all around us throbs the evidence of an omnipotent Creator. “Day after day they pour forth speech.”  Too often our ears throb with a cacophony of artificially generated sounds.

Lord, help us to pause, to look around, and to lift our hearts in worship and praise–and even appeal. DSCN3181 (2)Truly, “this is my Father’s world.” This Father can bring order and redemption to our disordered and broken lives.

January Sunset

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American Dream? – What about the Christian Dream?

We hear a lot about realizing the American dream, a dream which is shared by their Canadian neighbours. This dream involves having the opportunity to succeed; get an education, a good job, a house, money in the bank, being able to travel, live in comfort and security. Besides these, everyone longs for good health and friends. Who can discredit these as desirable goals?

But are these aspirations enough? Jesus promises his disciples abundant life. “I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b, NIV). The New KJV translates
it “have it more abundantly.” What is meant by abundant life?

No matter how close we are to achieving our dreams, we live with uncertainty. We cannot predict our future health, the stability of our jobs, or even the permanence of our relationships. We share common fears and anxieties. Something unpredictable may wait just around the corner.

But in the context of John ten, Jesus explains to his disciples that he is responsible for their care. As their shepherd, He promises to protect them from both a world full of thieves and the uncaring agents of all the institutions that affect our lives. In the Good Shepherd’s hand, what seems to us uncertain about the future is known and determined to work out for our good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbundant life, in Christ, is a life that can be free from anxiety and fear. Jesus urges us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body…but seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:25,33). Peter challenges us to “Cast all your care upon Him who cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

Also in the context of John ten, abundant life is life that is eternal in extent. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave his life for the sheep, securing for us life that continues beyond the grave into eternal bliss. Abundant life includes a home in heaven and a place in the new heavens and the new earth.

Sadly, this abundant life is not for all. Jesus explained, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (10:9). Only those who admit they have been wandering sheep and desire safety in Christ will enter. Only those who believe in Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” and receive him as their Lord and Saviour belong in this place of safety. There is only one door and one good shepherd.

Abundant life is only possible—not by works that we do—but through receiving “the fullness of his grace…one blessing after another” (John 1:16). It is enjoying rich, lavish grace what teaches us we are forgiven and loved (Eph. 1:7,8). It is to know “overflowing joy” (2 Cor. 8:2), peace that passes understanding, the fellowship of the redeemed, answered prayer, spiritual armour to live a victorious life, and so much more.

The promise of abundant life surpasses any democratic dream of success. Once we are in
Christ
, everything is brighter and more hopeful.

Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in ev’ry hue

Christless eyes have never seen;

Lupinsclose(I Am His And He Is Mine, Wade Robinson)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Woodland Therapy?

A recent article in the Globe and Mail confirms the value of forest therapy. Now,Sugar Maple that’s a value I’ve always treasured, but when I express something similar, folks look at me strangely. I can see in their eyes the query, “Are you some kind of weird woodsy throwback? What about all the mosquitoes? Just tell me where to find the nearest Starbucks.” Ah, but wait.

Cassandra Szklarslo writes about “the forest-bathing movement…which is a cornerstone of preventive health care in Japan.” Forest-bathing?? Weird. The article explains that they’re not talking about bathing in water but “immersing SummerWalkEricDukeoneself in the healing properties of trees.…A walk in the woods can be great for boosting your mood.…A burgeoning group of nature enthusiasts say it can do much more—including strengthen immunity, lower blood pressure, increase focus, and ultimately lower health-care costs if done regularly.”

Data collected in Japan and Korea found that “forest-bathers” had an increased number of “immune system cells that combat disease.” “It involves simply walking—quietly, slowly and deliberately—in a forest, and taking in the sounds, DSCN1325scents, colours, forms and general vibe of nature.”

I’ve always loved the outdoors, from the fields near our home to the creek that gurgled through a nearby valley. Probably it was that love that led me to study forestry in my undergraduate years. I’ve never understand why some declare; “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Every tree enthrals me; from the stately umbrella-shaped American Elm to the majestic White Pine.

I’m not surprised by the article. Many people appreciate the natural world. But OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhat deepened my love was an experience with the Creator of that world. In my second year of university, He sent a gospel shaft of conviction into my heart. I became a simple follower of Jesus. It was as if I unexpectedly was fitted with a hearing aid; or as if a light went on in the dark room of my mind. Suddenly it seemed as if “all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres,” for “this is my Father’s world!” “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

As this Psalm reminds us, it’s not just trees that should cause our mouths to drop open in awe and our hearts to sing God’s praises. No, it’s stars and clouds, birds and flowers, the roll of breakers on a beach, the colours of pebbles on a shore, Mute Swansnowflakes and rainbows. It’s more; even the undulation of sand dunes in a desert, the giggle of a child, and the smile of a wrinkled senior. For He made them all.

Oh, I know, there is trash in the ocean and war among nations. We are doing our best to ruin God’s world. But beneath and beyond all that disturbs, if we have redeemed eyes to see, remains the matrix that displays the creativity and artistic genius of Almighty God. This matrix reminds us to breath deeply of God’s love and grace and point people to the beauty intrinsic to the world we live in.
Besides we live in hope! “He will make all things new.” In the meantime, “all the trees of the field will clap their hands” whenever God reclaims territory in our ruined world by the spread of his spiritual kingdom in human hearts. (See Isaiah 55:11,12).

So this summer, let’s take time for a walk in the woods. Then we will return Honey bee on fall mumsrefreshed and more able to practice holy love wherever God places us.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1 and on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Beauty for Ashes

DSCN2359A few weeks ago, I noticed some very tiny flowers in an uncultivated flower bed—weeds, but very pretty. Later in another part of town, I spied a cheerful carpet of mauve flowers on a lawn. Alas, they too were weeds. These tiny flowering weeds got me thinking.

In many ways, the world in which we live is very dark. People are losing hope. An advertisement for a new book professing to solve all human probDSCN2535 (2)lems is a symptom of this malaise. No, it doesn’t ask us to “love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.” Evidently, forgetting the dismal record of the last 200 years, the solution proposed is scientific and biological. Vain hope. But at least its analysis of our condition is relatively accurate. We live in “a world facing complete breakdown from terrorism, refugee crises, corrupted economies, polarized politics, family disintegration, rampant mental illness and ecological devastation.”

DSCN1650No wonder doom and gloom occupy most writers these days. Yes, but what about God? “He makes all things beautiful in his time” (Eccl.3:11). As the One who is altogether lovely, whatever he touches becomes beautiful. David’s longing was “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord…all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). The antidote to ugliness and evil, is God.

Have we failed to notice indications of God’s glory scattered prodigiously throughout the earth? What do I mean? I mean those silent witnesses to the beauty of God and His salvation. Every beautiful thing in creation points to its Creator and whispers, hope. As Isaiah prophecies of Jesus; “The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1,3).

DSCN2541The beauty of a baby’s smile. The fragrance of lilac. The beauty enshrined in a grain of sand or a snowflake. The rainbow reflected from a drop of dew. The infinite shape of clouds. The loveliness and variety of myriads of flowers. The shape of trees. The magnificence of mountains. The splendour of the sea. The magic of sunrise and twilight. What about butterflies and birds; diamonds and dandelions. Lord, the earth is full of your glory!

Have we failed to notice God’s beautifying touch? The refugees who shout hallelujah after being saved by Jesus Christ. The drug addict in Brooklyn totallyRainbow delivered from addiction. The abuser becoming gentle and loving. What about myriads of men and women from every tribe and nation who have seen their fear and despair replaced by joy and peace and hope?

DSCN2373 (2)Oh, yes, the cataclysm produced by the fall of mankind into sin, produced thorns and thistles, hatred and war; and probably mosquitoes, volcanoes, tornadoes and earthquakes. And yet, God has not left us without witness. If we would but look, we would find glimpses of beauty from the hands of the Creator at every turn. And that beauty bears witness to hope in seemingly hopeless situations; hope through bowing in faith to Jesus Christ, the Lord. Then we will revel in beauty and worship God in the “beauty of holiness”.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Gilded morning

 

“When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries;”
Beauty still prevails
Shining above the ugly and the evil
Above a world darkened by hatred and greed
“Yes, wrong will fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will toward men.”
For around this spinning globe millions of little suns reflect the light of the Son upon the blighted lives of the persecuted, the hurting, the despondent, the careless, and the cruel.

DSCN2176 - CopyThese thoughts came to me one morning when I couldn’t sleep beyond 5:30. Instead of tossing and turning, I ventured down to the waterfront to watch the sun rise. I found the ducks and geese already up. As very gently, very slowly rainbow a kaleidoscope of light spread around, my mouth fell open in wonder. Such splendour. Such magnificence. Such pervasive loveliness.

The first words of a hymn came to mind, “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised.” But as the Christmas carol says, wrong seems to prevail.

The night before, as was my wont, I had watched the TV news.DSCN2184 (2) - Copy Such a depressing litany of human depravity and natural catastrophe. Theft. Murder. Road rage. Flooding Internet hacking. Exploitation. Earthquakes. More and more terrorist bombings and threats. Streams of refugees fleeing destruction and death. And through it all an election campaign
that makes one wonder whether sanity has abandoned our friends to the south—not that we in Canada would be much different if subjected to such a system.

BUT! The sunrise reminds us that beauty and goodness and purity still live on our darkened planet.

With the sunrise, I remember that Jesus Christ, the Lord is at work around the world. This sun of righteousness iDSCN2178 - Copys continuing to shed his light through his redeemed children. Little points of reflected light are comforting the bereaved, healing the sick, encouraging the discouraged, sharing good news with the despairing. Establishing schools. Manning
hospitals. Running orphanages. Teaching literacy. Translating the Word of life. Gathering God’s new covenant children. Distributing relief. Sowing seeds of kindness and gentleness and godly purpose. Challenging cruelty.

The sunrise brings a new day. Those who stumbled yesterday, can rise today with hope. DSCN2203 - CopyThose who sinned yesterday may find forgiveness today. There is wisdom for new challenges. There is strength for ongoing trials. There is love for the unlovely. There is a new batch of patience for those who blew it yesterday. There is release for the captives. There is deliverance for the addicted. Anything is possible!

God is the God of new days, of second chances, of grace and mercy and love. Believe it doubting soul!

 

 

Searching for the Unsearchable

Life’s most important goal is to know God. But how? No one has ever seen God. As Paul writes; “To the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).

January SunsetHow then can we know what He is like? In fact, we are told, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How UNSEARCHABLE his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor…For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever!” (Rom. 12:33-36)

Clearly, neither reason nor telescopes nor atomic microscopes can help us find God. He must reveal Himself to us in ways that we can understand. Something like how an Aussie might describe for us a platypus.

Have you ever seen a platypus? No? The dictionary defines it as “a small, aquatic, Moonlit nightegg-laying mammal of Australia and Tasmania, with webbed feet, a tail like a beaver’s and a bill like a duck.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

The dictionary compares a platypus with things with which we’re familiar; eggs, webbed feet, a beaver’s tail and a duck’s bill. This familiarity enables us to visualize this Australian mammal.

In the same way, God has revealed aspects of His character and being by comparison with things in our experience. For example, mountains and stars, towers and shepherds, earthquakes and the sun. Comparisons work well as long as we remember they are limited. The platypus’s bill is not exactly the same as a duck’s bill, nor is God the same as a mountain. Limited though they are, metaphors and similes help us to learn much about God.

DSCN1541How big is God? “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool” (Is. 66:1)? Imagine a being so immense that he sits on a throne set in space and uses earth as his footstool. Astronomers tell us that the observable universe is 91 million light-years across. (A light year is the distance light travels at 186,000 miles per sec in a year. It takes light 8 minutes to travel the 93 million miles from the sun to earth.) As Solomon said, “The heavens even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built”( 1 Kings 8:27)! And yet, although infinite in immensity, as David described in Psalm 139, God is present with His whole being at any point in space. A paradox that sends us to our knees in awe. He right here with me!

How old is God? Consider the ancient mountains; Everest, K2, Rockies, or Alps or even the worn down Canadian Shield. ”Before the mountains were born or youRockies brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you ARE God” (Psalm 90:2) He is before all and will be after all. And yet, there is no becoming with God. Past, present, and future which is so much a part of our lives is meaningless to God who exists in mysterious, everlasting now-ness. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by…[but we are like] the new grass of the morning…by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:4-6)

In subsequent blogs I’ll continue to ponder the awe-inspiring greatness of Almighty God. In the meantime, what can we do but echo the Psalmist; “Praise the Lord…praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (Psalm 150:1,2).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

God’s Autumn Masterpiece

Many in our northern latitudes find autumn their favorite season. For a couple of months the countryside exchanges a large part of its green wardrobe for gowns displaying a profusion of colours.

The countryside is a giant canvas. The Divine Artist is gradually painting it with a subtle shade here and a splash of color there. As the weeks pass, the mural becomes more and more vibrant.

Even plants like the sumac, that some consider a nuisance, get in on the act. As if afraid to be overshadowed by the scarlet frocks that towering maples don later inSumac the season, the sumac heralds its place in this drama by dyeing the fringes of the roads and fields with crimson.

Next come the stalwart ash, first displaying subtle shades of beige and rust before donning brilliant gowns of plum and wine.

The leaves of beech and oak, which often cling to their branches throughout the Trembling Aspenwinter, paint their trees with hues of fawn and brown and taupe that gradually turn to gold.

Part way through this seasonal drama, the Divine Tailor stitches up a gown for the aspens and poplars composed of a dozen shades of yellow–flaxen, lemon, saffron, amber. All in preparation for their autumn dance.

Cobourg ColourMeanwhile the Artist on High has been tinting the maples, most dramatic of the trees, with every colour in His palate from lemon yellow to bright orange and scarlet.

Throughout the fall, pine, cedar and spruce maintain a background of rich green to set off the multi-hued pigments of autumn that wash the fields and woodlands with bright color.

As the season develops, commentators keep us abreast of where and wOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhen to visit our woodlands to catch a glimpse of this yearly display. And so, throughout Eastern North America, city dwellers abandon their grey city haunts to tour the lakes and forests of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ontario, and Quebec.

The wind blows and the leaves begin to fall leaving windrows of fading colour all OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAalong the verges of field and roadway. No human artist can hope to best the skill of the Divine Artist. And this yearly exhibition is free for any to enjoy. No wonder many view autumn as their favorite time of the year.

(Reprint from Oct. 2014 Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )