1407. How dear the woods are! You beautiful trees! I love every one of you as a friend. ~Lucy Maud Montgomery

Now we enter the ancient wood.
In what wild forms the gnarled
and mossy boughs are twisted,
what a sensation of sacred repose.
~Henry James Slack

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sanctuary (noun)
1. a place of refuge or safety
2. a nature reserve
3, a holy place; a temple; a church

In ancient cultures, people worshipped the Lord in groves of trees and forests. Is it any wonder? There are churches in this country that were built with glass walls and ceilings in wooded areas. What better sanctuary could there be than under the canopy of trees and the heavens above?

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.” ~Author Unknown

The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. ~Ezekiel 31:4 ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie; collage created by Natalie

1387. In the early Celtic churches, earth, sea, and sky were, rather than enclosed sanctuaries, the temple of God. The high-standing crosses were gathering places. ~J. Philip Newell

The world is holy.
We are holy. All life is holy.
Daily prayers are delivered on the lips
of breaking waves, the whisperings
of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
-Terry Tempest Williams

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The church is not a building, but a body of believers with a specific nature and purpose. These biblical roles or ministries of the church are foundational to it. Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator. We are to praise and glorify God in worship. As such, every Christian needs to be part of regular fellowship and worship. Edification is also a role of the church. It involves edifying believers, but also nurturing, building up or helping believers to mature in Christ.

Evangelism is also a key role of the church. This means reaching out to a lost world with the Good News about Jesus. Since people often have questions or doubts about Christ and Christianity, knowing the truth and being able to defend it is also part of the role of the church. But beyond evangelism in the sense of reaching out with the gospel, the church must also express compassion and mercy tangibly by helping others. In following Christ’s example to love others, the church, too, must seek to make a real difference in the world while not neglecting to share the message of Christ. If a church fails to fulfill any of these key roles – worship, edification, evangelism – then the church is not functioning as God intends. Granted, there are times when churches face challenges and struggles to one degree or another, but a healthy church seeks to overcome such challenges in a way that honors God and His intentions for His church. (This paragraph and the one above it are excerpted from an article by Paul Velarde_)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19-20  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie

1385. The whole fabric of Creation is woven through the thread of God’s light. ~J. Philip Newell

How does one separate
the mystery of God
from the mystery of Creation?
Is the sanctuary of a church
more holy than the sanctuary
of earth, sea, and sky?

One of my fellow bloggers recently posted an article about his faith and churches, and as I read the comments of others about what he said, I was disturbed to see how many had negative feelings like I once did about churches. In my twenties I left the church, but I eventually came to realize it was not God nor a church per se that had let me down and hurt me. For God had not failed to be God nor had Jesus failed to be my Savior; it was the flaws and frailties of humanity that had caused my disillusionment. So I’m going to start a three-part series tomorrow about my take on the church and why I worship in one as often as I can. I pray you will read what I have to say even if you have a low regard for churches and then mull over the points I make. I know I am just another flawed human being who struggles like everyone else to make some kind of sense about this thing called life but now I’m also one who no longer questions God nor His truths. There are those who say that Jesus is a myth or a sort of “urban” legend, but for two thousand years no one has been able to prove that He wasn’t exactly who He said He was and is. I was just a proverbial lost sheep and He pursued me for decades until at last I became silent enough to hear His call and now know Him to be the way, the truth, and the life that will lead me home. And it is my most fervent prayer that you who read my thoughts over the next 3 days will feel a close connection to God and Jesus as well. You are on their radar; I know that for certain.

*Crepuscular rays (also known as sunbeams, sun rays, angel light, or God rays) are atmospheric optics that appear to radiate from a point in the sky…

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. ~Psalm 19:1-2  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage created by Natalie

1349. Before the seed there comes the thought(promise) of bloom. ~Adapted line by E. B. White 

I can hear, underground,
that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it,–
The small water seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet. ~
Theodore Roethke

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The dictionary defines a promise as: 1.) a declaration that something will or will not be done or given and 2.) an express assurance on which expectation is to be based. Therefore, it seems to me that seeds declare and express assurance of what the Lord has done and given, and as such is a promise of what we as His children can expect. For the mention of seeds and their promise is made on the third day of the Genesis story where we can see that plants and trees are manifestations of a sacred and prescribed “seed force.” The roots of this ordained and holy “seed force” reach down into the darkness of the earth’s “concealed depths,” and therein they are sustained by water. That’s why in the Celtic tradition the moisture in earth’s soil is a “symbol of the waters of God that enfold and infuse all things.” Not only that but as J. Philip Newell says, “everything that was born in the great matrix of life is sustained by roots that reach into the deep mystery of God’s life.” In so doing we mortals can see God’s goodness, deeper than any evil, at the inception of Creation and in the heart of all life.

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from my hand into the wind
one clings
as if to say there is in me
something yet to be
~Jeanne Emrich

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Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring. ~William Alexander

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And the sower going forth to sow sets foot into time to come…Like a tree, he has given roots to the earth, and stands free. ~Wendell Berry

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. ~Genesis 1:11-12  ✝

**All photos of seeds and seed pods taken by Natalie; all collages created by Natalie.

1321. Sense your Being, your own presence. That’s a source of joy. That’s the ultimate gratitude. ~Eckhart Tolle

presence

noun pres·ence \ˈpre-zən(t)s\
:  the fact or condition of being present
:  the bearing, carriage, or air of a person;
: the state of being closely focused on the here and now, not distracted by irrelevant thoughts

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A fellow blogger posted the above quote by Tolle yesterday, and since then I’ve been thinking about it and what it means. For me it begs the question as to whether it’s just a matter of being visible and tangible or more than that a matter of reflecting the sacred Image in which we are made. And if it is the latter, what does that reflection look like. I believe it is one where goodness and light are as apparent as physical attributes and personality particulars. For example light can be so prevalent in some, as was so with my father, that there’s a perceivable twinkle in the eyes that warms and begets a very real presence even in photographs. And as for goodness, when present it is like an aura that surrounds and defines a person.

To quote Tolle again, “The answer is, who you are cannot be defined through thinking or mental labels or definitions, because it’s beyond that. It is the very sense of being, or presence, that is there when you become conscious of the present moment.” In the first quote Tolle implores us to be aware of our Being as a source of joy and gratitude. That should occur in every moment if we remain aware of the fact that life is gift and express our gratitude to the Maker of all life for that gift. According to Alan Cohen, “appreciation is the highest from of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.”

So presence it seems to me is an awareness of the sacred ground on which we stand at every moment of our lives, an awareness of the sanctity of all living things, an awareness of the holy air we breathe, an awareness of the holy light that shines on and in everyone, an awareness of intentional and divine creation, and an awareness that He who brought us here saw that all He did and made was good. So when we are asked to sense our own presence we should realize that first and foremost it is “purely and completely evidence of God’s grace” in our lives. Walt Whitman once penned, “we convince by our presence,” and so it is not our face nor our hair nor our size nor any such thing that matters when we talk of presence. It must always be the goodness and light we bring to our “state of being closely focused on the here and now” which is “not distracted by irrelevant thoughts” as Webster so aptly defined it in his dictionary notation above.

God intended Earth.
God intended the waters.
God intended you and me.
We were created in the image 
and
the likeness of God; 
we are holograms, if you will.
So the power, the presence, the energy
is within you and me.
The energy of God, as life,
 is within each of us.
~Mary Manin Morrissey

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. ~Excerpt from Genesis 1:31  ✝

**Image via Pinterest; text on image added by Natalie; special effects on image done on iPiccy

1320. Through all the…

noise and chaos of this world it’s absolutely essential to find a time and place every day to whisper the name Jesus, the name above all names. And then with certainty know that any and all of us, will be heard. Afterwards we must then be still and wait, listen and believe, and before long we’ll find ourselves in and surrounded by the Lord’s Holy presence.

 “Be still, and know that I am God…” ~Excerpt from Psalm 46:10 ✝

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God is always waiting to hear from His children,
And because He wants us to hear His voice,
He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible,
He speaks to us through our thoughts,
He speaks to us through our conversations with others,
He speaks to us through ordinary moments in our lives
He speaks to us through our circumstances,
And so on…

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” ~Hebrews 4:12  ✝

**Image via Pinterest; text box added by Natalie

1274. Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them. ~Idillionare

Everything in this world has a song,
its own tone, its own rhythm, its own music.
Everything has its place and its purpose.
When we are in harmony with our own song,
we are in harmony with the world.
~Julie Parker

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This morning outside I stood
I saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is Holy Now
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand me down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is Holy Now.
Everything, Everything, Everything is Holy Now!
~Holy Now by Peter Mayer

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. ~Psalm 30:4 ✝

**Image via Pinterest