This is what it is to be loved and to know That the promise was that when everything fell We’d be held. ~Natalie Grant, singer-songwriter
Summer’s seemingly endless “fever heat” has had me caught up in a steamy mire of discontent, but “the glory in the grey” can’t be far away now that August has come to an end. The intense heat and lack of rain will continue to exact suffering a while longer, but soon there will be healing for the land and its inhabitants. Creation doesn’t exist “independently of God” because the Lord doesn’t just “periodically choose to express himself through it.” All of Creation is an ongoing expression of the Almighty as well as a flow of His grace and light. Even under duress, we have been and are still lovingly “held” at the turning of every corner. Rain has been scarce across the entire state, but the thirst of tongues and gardens have been quenched by reservoirs of water. The hum of the bee and the flight of the butterfly have been in short supply, but in food supplies and honey the passion and purpose of their lives can still be tasted. The louder decibels of insect and birdsong have lowered, but ears can yet hear enough of them to warrant singing daily alleluias to the Lord. The few roses that have bloomed soon fry on days too torrid for words, but not before their scents can be discerned, their beauty be admired, and their presence be praised. None of the damage has irrevocably corrupted the divinely-inspired workings of Creation nor has it aborted the continuance of God’s promises.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does. ~Psalm 145:13 ✝
Just breathe His Name. Like the pressure of a child’s hand that calls forth an answering pressure, He will respond and you will feel His presence. Then be silent, let all thoughts float away like clouds, and listen. The word listen is in the word silent, and it is in both activities that we are able to hear His voice.
. . .that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life. . . ~Deuteronomy 30:20
Happy is he who still loves something
he loved in the nursery:
He has not been broken in two by time;
he is not two men, but one,
and he has saved not only his soul but his life.
~G. K. Chesterton
When young children feel “the wild imprint of surprise,” they so easily let go the joy they feel, but by the time they reach adolescence they have usually become reticent to share their feelings and expressions of joyfulness for fear of ridicule by peers. Then as they grow into adulthood, the playgrounds and backyards of their youth are left as far behind as their ability to experience wonder and awe and unbridled joy.
Off and on throughout my life I’d had glimpses of my childhood and the splendor of its days, but it was only after retirement that I realized “that like a forgotten fire, childhood can flare up again.” First I was elated that at last I owned my own time, had the time to belong to myself again, and was able to spend unlimited amounts of time in my little piece of Eden, taking photographs, and pursuing any other desires of my heart. But oh my, how also thrilling it was to find that my inner child was alive and well and that the middle years of my life in which I traversed valleys of brokenness and spiritual darkness had not robbed me of a joyful and thankful heart nor irrevocably “broken me in two!” God is so very good!
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~Isaiah 55:12 ✝
Surely a man needs a closed place wherein he may strike root and, like the seed, become. But also he needs the great Milky Way above him and the vast sea spaces, though neither stars nor ocean serve his daily needs. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . . ~Romans 1:20
Flowers ae beautiful hieroglyphics of nature, with which she indicates how much she love us. ~Wolfgang von Goethe
Christianity sees plants and flowers as created by God to show forth and share with humans the divine goodness, beauty, and truth – the purpose of all Creation. In this flowers may be enjoyed simply and directly in themselves as showing forth God’s goodness and beauty, or, more fully, as archetypes, signatues, symbols, and bearers of legends, mirroring the revealed articles of Christian faith – thereby serving as means for their teaching, recollection, contemplation, and celebration. ~John S. Stokes
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things, let this be known to all the world. ~Isaiah 12:5 ✝
Life consists of wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued by man, its presence refreshes him. . . When I would re-create myself, I enter the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable. . . I enter a sacred place, a Sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow, of Nature. ~Henry D. Thoreau
In his work, THE BOOK OF CREATION, J. Philip Newell reminds his readers that “the Book of Genesis portrays all things as being born out of the wild wind that swept over the face of the waters.” Perhaps that’s why since ancient times there have been woods and rivers, seas and such, that have been considered sacred by holy men. Primordial wilderness places were not only revered but also sought out by these holy men for the purpose of meditation and worship. Thankfully earth is still filled with wild places “not yet subdued by man,” where anyone can see, running free, the divine’s creative forces, forces that refresh the spirit and touch the “marrow” of life. In Thoreau’s “Sanctum sanctorum” the creating voice of God yet reverberates, and an impetus that prevents stagnancy and lack of purpose exists for all in it.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. ~Isaiah 35:1-2 ✝
The zinnias of summer stole the odd moments in the still air, and I spent the warm mornings in admiration of their pensive performance. Dozens of their concentric perfect petals in profound parades of intense hues mocked the drab house and the miniature garden with the winsome white picket. They were sovereignty spoken in unspeakable order at the foot of a Throne. ~Edited excerpt from a poem by Elizabeth Kirkley Best
Like this poet, I have always thought of picket fences as winsome, and this one with the colorful splashes of zinnias spread out around it is especially charming. As I stood taking these photographs, the bright and perky zinnias actually seemed to cool down the torrid heat around me. And in their colorful, unsophisticated simplicity they “stole” a welcome measure of pleasurable “odd moments” from the weighty air of August’s stifling heat.
“They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. . .” Isaiah 49:9b-10 ✝
Have you ever looked at a map of the world? Look at Texas with me just for a second. That picture, with the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast, and the Red River and the Rio Grande. . . As soon as anyone anywhere in the world looks at it, they know what it is. It’s Texas. ~Excerpt from Anonymous Author
The photos make it obvious I am in Texas, but knowing that I’m living anywhere in God’s world is equally as obvious because of the undeniable iconic images of His reality found everywhere in Creation. For example, here as elsewhere, I can see the colors of earth, sky, and flowery faces that tell of His glory and love of beauty. Also the touch of His hands can be felt in the warmth of the sun, and in the changing seasons and periods of resting, His rhythm of life becomes clear. In the great lights of the sky, I can glimpse the shining of His everlasting faithfulness. In the quiet of the night, the stars and the moon that He flung into space speak His name and tell of His mighty power. I can see God’s face in all peoples because we are all made in His image. In the vitality that shines forth in those faces, I can see God’s strength. In the laughter of their voices I become aware of the Lord’s goodness and grace. From the insights of wisdom seekers, I can hear His voice and His truths. In my relationships, His love is made known; in my deepest yearnings, I feel His presence and sense His divine design. In unforeseen moments of wonder, awe, or passion I feel stirrings of His creative spirit. In my soul searching, His nearness is palpable, and in fears that come in the darkness of the night, I encounter His comforting companionship. In my brokeness and suffering His mercy shines through, and when my flesh is wounded and my body bleeds, the face of Jesus who shed His blood for my redemption shines as brightly here as anywhere else on earth.
Wealth and honor come from You; You are ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name. ~1 Chronicles 29:12-13 ✝
So will I build my altars in the fields, And blue sky my fretted dome shall be, And the sweet fragrances that the wild flower yields Shall be the incense I will yield to thee. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Adams, Coleridge, and countless others have thought of the natural world as a temple and of places within Creation as altars in a sanctuary. Another voice adds a similar thought to that throng when in one of his devotionals, Max Lucado tells the reader that “Nature is God’s first missionary. Where there is no Bible there are sparkling stars. Where there are no preachers, there are springtimes. . .If a person has nothing but nature, then nature is enough to reveal something about God.” He also notes that Paul tells us in Scripture that “God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation.” The word “altar” that both Adams and Coleridge used is mentioned well over 300 times in the Bible. Often built of wood or stone, the altar and the area around the altar are thought to be endowed with greater holiness, and the ones that are elevated are considered even more favorable for prayer since they are nearer heaven. And so we bring these pieces of nature’s altars into our gardens not to worship them or any other idol but to revere and be close to the Holy One whose Hands of which they are made. If you look close enough at anything in Creation, God’s autograph is written all over it, and so it keeps us ever mindful of how good He is and how important it is to praise Him for all that He has made and done.
Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. ~Psalm 20:6
The disciples are drawn to the high altars with magnetic certainty, to enter the wilderness and seek, in the primal patterns of nature, a magical union with beauty. . . knowing that a great Presence hovers over the ranges. . . ~Edited excerpt from Ansel Adams
A garden, public or private, large or small, is not made up of just flowers, shrubs, and trees. We who work the soil try to mimic “the primal patterns of nature” by enhancing our own personal garden “temples” with, among other things, elements like water, wood, or stone. In so doing our hope is to create what Adams called a “magical union with beauty.” One way we can accomplish this is by adding portals into our growing sanctuaries that are made of wood, iron, or stone as we do with some of the “pews” we add for resting or surveying purposes. Another way is to add light features like the one in the photo. Water can also be added to the mix by incorporating a pond or a fountain. It really doesn’t take all that much to create a little piece of Eden for feeding the soul.
. . .Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? ~Matthew 23:19 ✝