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Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

That scrumptious Sunday dinner was beginning to wind down. My brother and I ate rapidly because our afternoon was just getting started. We were headed for the hills—okay, how about the “woods.” That’s what we called it when we went to the mountains east of our little town. And we were on a mission! Well, kind of like a mission. You see, our family was heading into the woods with our old Chevrolet truck to get trees. Now, I should probably tell you, that truck was quite the thing. It was old. How old? It was old enough that it had a small hole in the center of the front bumper. Some of you already know what that was for, don’t you? Sure, it was for the crank. But some of you are thinking: “Crank? What’s a crank? Isn’t that the old guy that lives next door to Grandma and Grandpa?”

Well, stick with me a bit. First off, cars and trucks weren’t quite as dependable at that time as they are now—and that included the batteries. Trucks, and even cars during those days, usually had a crank that was carried along, often under the seat. You didn’t start that truck by simply inserting the key into the ignition and turning it. In fact, I don’t know that this old truck even had a key. Nor was there even a button on the dash like Popular Mechanics magazine may have been talking about at that time that all the really “modern” vehicles had. No, what we called the “starter” was on the floor. Sure it was. You got into the truck, turned a switch on the dashboard to the “ON” position, and then you took your foot and pushed on the starter, which was located on the floor. It took a pretty good hard push, too, before you would hear and feel the starter begin to turn, and therefore the engine would begin to turn over. And if the charge in the battery was weak and didn’t have a good charge? Hey, that’s where you got the old crank out, put the end of it through the bumper and felt your way along with it till it engaged the hole in the wheel on the front of the engine made for it, and then you put your muscle into it—and I mean put your muscle into it—throwing your weight into turning the crank and starting the old truck. And I should tell you that we used that crank quite a bit, too, from what I remember.

By the way, as I think back on that old truck it reminds me of the turn signal. And it did have one. Pretty modern and “up town,” right? Well, hardly. It was a long piece of metal, shaped kind of like an arrow someone would point with, and it hung from the corner of the cab, on the outside, behind the driver’s head. Sure, some of you folks know just what I am talking about. You can remember reaching up over your head next to the door and pulling on the cable, or chain to make that signal move so that people behind you knew which direction you were about to turn. If any of you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ask your Grandma or Grandpa, or maybe your Mom or Dad. See if they can’t describe it to you.

Say, here I go again, getting way off track. Anyway, we were headed for the woods on a mission of sorts. A mission to get Christmas trees—lots of trees. Christmas trees for nearly everyone in our extended family, or so it seemed. And we were going to get tall trees, short trees, and trees in between!

This had become an annual event in our family. I had concluded that there must be very few trees fit to serve as a Christmas tree in the state of California. I had determined that fact because most of the trees we were cutting were for relatives and friends who lived in Southern California. For a little more than a dollar or two each, my parents would wrap freshly cut white fir trees securely in burlap bags (gunny sacks to my brother and me), attach mailing labels on the outside, and they would be hauled to the railroad stop in town where they would be shipped out along with all the other items the Postal Service was handling. When the relatives received the trees they would unwrap them, shake them a little bit to allow the branches to fold back out, and before long have one of the best looking Christmas trees on the block decorated cheerfully in their living room. They always seemed to appreciate the trees.

But that Sunday afternoon trip was more than just getting the relatives a Christmas tree. We always found one for our own family, too. My Mom and Dad, with plenty of helpful advice from my brother and me, would search through the forest until we found a tree that we knew would be just right for our living room. It had to be tall and bushy. In fact, we usually had to cut a portion off the bottom to get it into our living room, and sometimes even a piece off the top so a star could be placed at the very top of the tree right against the ceiling. We liked big Christmas trees!

While my parents were looking for trees for the relatives, cutting them and dragging them to the truck, my brother and I would be scouting around for our own trees. You see, each year when we went on this tree-cutting trip we found our own trees which went in our bedroom. Since we were each determined to have our very own tree, and we slept in the same room, our bedroom had two trees each Christmas. Each was decorated in a wild sort of way and even had lights on them, as I remember. Now, these trees we picked for ourselves were never more than 2-3 feet tall. We liked them a little on the small side so we could get both of them in the room, for one thing.

It seemed like it was no time at all before the old truck was loaded with trees and it was time to head back to town, driving a bit slower as we bounced over the rough mountain roads, getting home just about the time the late winter sun was sinking below the horizon. We “men” unloaded the trees, standing them up in a corner of the yard alongside the house. They were going to be making some folks mighty happy before long. Mom stoked up the two wood stoves in the house and before long we were pulling off our mittens, stocking caps, boots and heavy clothing we had been wearing to keep the winter chill away. And then, before we headed out the door for church once again, it was time for hot chocolate. And it wasn’t the “instant” kind, you understand. They did not have instant hot chocolate in those days, as far as I can remember. It took time to heat and prepare but hey, was it ever good—lip-smacking good! And then, like I said, it was off to church again. We had church on Sunday nights in that little town—hard wooden benches and all. But those church benches being hard didn’t stop two young boys from catching some much deserved rest after a hard day getting the Christmas trees in.

You know, those trees no doubt helped some of our friends and relatives have a happier Christmas. But have you ever thought of trees being “happy”? In Psalm 96 beginning with verse 11, we find these word: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.”

Almost sounds as if creation was getting ready for Christmas!

Prayer: Father, help us to see a fresh, new reason for praise as we look at creation all about us. You have blessed us with so much and yet we often fail to really see it and understand all that You have done for us. Thank you, Father. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Here in the Pacific Northwest we know about huckleberries, don’t we? They are those little, scrumptious, dark blue tongue-tantalizers which some people have a seemingly insatiable appetite for. If we happen to be out in the mountains when the huckleberries are “on,“ we may find ourselves stopping to pick them straight off the bush and popping them into our mouths. Oh, my but they taste fantastic! It is kind of like trout cooked over an open fire next to a mountain stream only minutes after they have been caught.

 

Yet, there are folks who don’t have huckleberries growing anywhere nearby and the only way they are able to experience anything close to that delicate taste is to purchase a small jar of huckleberry preserves in a gift shop (with a price so high they have to use a credit card to make the purchase!), or if they happen to dine at an elegant restaurant they might find the dessert menu including genuine huckleberry pie. Hey! You simply can’t beat a warm piece of huckleberry pie with a scoop of ice cream on top!

 

But there is something else associated with huckleberries—hard work. It can take a long time to fill a gallon bucket with those taste-teasers, let me tell you! Yet, when all is said and done and that piece of pie is setting in front of you, the hard work is forgotten. All you know is that your mouth is watering and the sharp scent of hot huckleberry pie is just about to overcome you. It is time to enjoy!

 

Ah, but what is all this talk of huckleberries? I am reminded of the goodness of God, demonstrated in the manner in which He takes care of us. In fact, we who have the privilege of living in this area of our nation are blessed with an abundance of the Creator’s beauty surrounding us—and that includes good things like huckleberries! In one of the Psalms the writer stated, “Better is one day in your courts that a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked . . . No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:10-11)

 

Hmmm. “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” How is your walk with God? I hope you are enjoying the good things He has for you.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for exquisite beauty of your creation that is all about us. Thank you for the reality of the “good things” you have prepared for each of us. Help me never to take for granted all that you have made for us, and all that you do for us. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

 

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Crrrraaaaccck! My head jerked up off the pillow and my eyes snapped open as the tiny, glassed-in room was suddenly filled with a blinding light and an ear-shattering explosion of sound, followed by a deep rumble that lasted for several long seconds. Moments later, my heartbeat barely beginning to slow, it happened again. By now I and my friend were wide awake. Say, now. This was supposed to be a quiet, restful and relaxing time! What happened?

 

As I groped around in the darkness attempting to locate my flashlight so I could check the time, my friend made the profoundly brilliant statement, “Lightning!” It was 3:00 AM and the two of us were both sitting up in our sleeping bags as we looked out the windows of the old Forest Service fire lookout tower in which we were sleeping. Our eyes would just begin to adjust to the blackness of the night when there would be another blinding flash, illuminating everything about us for an instant before we were plunged into the inky darkness again. After several such cycles I agreed with my “enlightened,“ partner that it was, indeed, lightning, and I lay back down, pulled the sleeping bag over my head, and attempted to return to sleep.

 

Daybreak the following morning brought an absolutely exquisite sunrise. It appeared as if God had arisen early to paint the sky with just the perfect colors, designs and images. No human could ever hope to match the scenes with which God gifted us that morning. But it was only the beginning. The following night I awakened to a stillness which seemed to envelope the old lookout. I got out of the sleeping bag and, being careful not to disturb my friend, went outside onto the narrow walkway which surrounded the tower. There was not a single man-made source of light to be seen anywhere As I looked I realized there was no moon on this night. But the sky was filled with an awesome array of stars which we rarely get to see living in “civilization.” As I stared into the Heavens I could not help but marvel at a sky, once again filled with the splendor of our Creator.

 

Folks, I must tell you that when I pause to watch a sunset or sunrise, when I walk the shores of an ocean staring out at the horizon, when I witness the violence of a mountain storm, or when I hold a tiny newborn baby—I think of God! “Big bang,” theory? Sure, it’s true. As long as we recognize the fingerprint of God, the Creator, in every part of it!

 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” BANG!

 

Blessings to each of you in Christ‘s name.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the exquisite beauty of your creation. What a gift you have given us! Cause me to appreciate–truly appreciate–what you have provided us. In you Son’s Name we pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.


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GIDAP!

Psalm 119:105

“Gidap! Hey, you! Gidap!”

That is what you are supposed to say to get a horse moving, isn’t it? But this old brown mare did not seem to understand the same kind of language I had heard cowboys in old black and white western movies use as I was growing up. This horse must not have been trained right!

“C’mon! Gidap!” I tried again. This time I slapped the sides of my boots against the animal. Its response was to turn its head and give me what appeared to be an obviously “insolent” look as I heard the “swish, swish” of its tail behind me. It blinked its eyes slowly, stomped a front foot against the ground several times, and turned away from me.

“Say, now. This could get embarrassing! What was the matter with this old horse?”

I looked up the steep trail ahead of me, observing the backs of the two men who were with me as they reached a point in the path where they would soon disappear from sight. As I watched, the man nearest me, who was wearing a black western hat, stopped and turned to look at me. He put his hand next to his mouth and called out, “Are you coming? What’s the matter?”

Trying to sound as confident as I could, I yelled back, “No problem. I’ll catch up in a minute,” adding under my breath, “If this goofy horse will start minding its master! It apparently does not understand who is in charge, here.”

As I looked back up the trail I saw the two men disappear from sight around the first turn.

“C’mon, you horse! Gidap! Gidap! What’s the matter with you? Man, oh man, what are they teachin’ horses these days, anyway?”

This time I not only slapped my boots against the horse’s flanks but I began lurching up and down in the saddle and slapping the reins back and forth over her neck in hopes that the animal would get the message. No such luck! I had never seen a horse like this!

Of course, I had to admit that I did not have a great deal of experience with horses. I did have one stand painfully on my foot when I was about 10 years old. Horses can weigh quite a bit, you know. It hurt! I could not get that horse to move on that occasion, either!

Well, something was going to have to happen, and in a hurry! The two men who were on foot ahead of me were bound to stop for a breather and when I failed to come along one of them was sure to come back down the trail to see what was holding me up. That could be more than a little embarrassing! I would probably be hearing about it all week long. Yes, at least for a week!

The three of us had been chosen to go into a rugged mountainous area to clear fallen trees and brush from a network of forest trails. We had a mule—and yes, it was a stubborn one—to carry all the food and camping gear we would need for the week. We also had been given this old brown mare to ride. But there were three of us! That meant taking turns. I had been selected for the first stint at riding this old horse and now, here I sat, unable to get her to move. The mule, tied by a short length of rope to the saddle of the mare, stood looking at me, its ears twitching, almost seeming to have a smile on its face!

“Hey, you comin’ with us or not?”

“Oh, boy. I’m done for now,” I thought as I looked up to see the orange shirt of one of the men coming down the trail towards me.

“What’s the matter? Did you tell her to G-O?” he asked, spelling the word out.

“What?” I asked.

Bob smiled as he said, “You have to tell her what you want her to do. It’s either G-O or S-T-O-P.”

“You mean all I have to do is say, ‘Go’?

I had no sooner gotten that little two-letter word out of my mouth than the horse lurched forward, nearly throwing me out of the saddle, and started moving up the trail.

We certainly find life to be difficult at times, and that includes what might seem to be some of the simpler things related to walking through life as a Christian. Yet, if we are careful to spend time in God’s Word we will begin to understand that it contains within its covers an abundance of instruction and teaching for life. In Psalm 119:105 we are told “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”


You know something? That is absolutely true! You may be familiar with the acronym for the word “Bible—Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I like that.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the in-depth instructions for life you offer each of us in your Word. Cause me to have an insatiable desire for all you offer me within its pages. In your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Proverbs 3:5-6

“Where are you headed?” the husky, bearded man asked as we stood gazing out over the magnificent vista all about us. We were on a small promontory which allowed us to view the rugged mountainous country surrounding us. This time of year, late summer, there were only a few spots where snow still remained, but as we looked we could see that for some of these high peaks to be completely rid of snow was probably rare.

After my son-in-law and I told the man about the small mountain lake we were planning on hiking to he asked, “How are you going to get to it?”


“On the trail, I imagine,” I replied.

At this the man asked if we had ever been to this particular high-mountain lake. When I replied that it had probably been 25 years or more since I had visited this jewel nestled in the rugged mountains we were in, he began to shake his head. “I don’t think you want to take the trail that is shown on the maps,” he said. “If you do, I expect you will regret it! Let me offer you a suggestion.”


For the next several minutes the man told us how the trail into the lake, which was difficult even when it had been maintained properly, was not almost impassable. There were no longer any signs leading to where it began. If you found it you could expect a miserable time as you slipped and skidded, many times on parts of your anatomy other than just your feet, as brush slapped you in the face and water from a small creek, which ran down the trail for most of the distance to the lake, insured that you were completely drenched by the time you arrived at your goal. Following the trail back out was next to impossible.

Our new-found friend then assured us that there was, in fact, another way. It was a far better way. It might not seem so at first, but it was the only route a sensible person would follow once they became aware of it.

Several hours later my son-in-law and I stood at the edge of this beautiful lake, truly a work of art by the hand of God . . . . . . but we did not appear to be! A work of art by the hand of God, I mean.

We were wet and sweaty, mud covered a good portion of our clothing, and red welts from the slap of branches against our arms and faces showed clearly. And we had come to a conclusion. That man was right! That so-called “trail” was not the way to travel! It was not the best route to follow!

Some hours later, with the afternoon sun beginning to drop towards the horizon to the west, we determined we had rested enough that we would attempt to find our way out of this secluded and beautiful spot. The man had told us that if we would simply to into the tall timber on the east side of the lake and begin watching carefully, we should be able to spot a tiny piece of yellow tape tied to a tree branch. When we found that first one we could look ahead of us and we could see another one. By following eh pieces of tape, we would be led out of this rugged country and back to the road where our vehicle was parked.

And he was correct! The hike out, though it was a little further in distance, took far less time and we were in much better physical shape that we had been after that downhill “slide” into the lake which had appeared so easy!

In the Bible, in Proverbs 3:5-6, we find the words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


The “trail” has been marked out well for us! Which path will you choose?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me remember that you have marked out a “trail” for me to follow which is the only safe way for me to travel. Remind me it has been marked out well—the signposts are in your Word. Thank you for this map for my life’s journey. In your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Have a blessed day in Christ.

Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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KEEP THE GLORY DOWN

1 Chronicles 29:11

I was still struggling up that steep, narrow and rocky trail. I finally realized that I was nearing the top of this high, rocky ridge. The realization seemed to infuse me with a new burst of energy and my pace quickened ever so slightly. I wanted to see what was over the top. I had almost arrived!

Suddenly, I found myself walking onto a portion of trail that was nearly level. All that remained between me and the top of the ridge was a jumble of huge boulders and rocks, some of them the size of small houses. The trail wound between several of them and I suddenly stepped out onto a small, rocky shelf. Before me, across a landscape of mountain meadows, cliffs, streams, small lakes and scattered snowfields stood the mountain! It thrust its jagged ramparts into the heights as if it were making a statement to all that dared come close that they must heed its warning . . . . . approach with care!

 

I can’t begin to describe the emotion that flooded through me as I settled back on a shelf of rock next to the trail and attempted to take in the awesome beauty and quiet power that lay before me. It was a sight that I could not gather in the small lens of my camera. The panorama was so huge even the brush of the artist would not be able to capture its tremendous dimensions while standing this close.

 

A strong breeze, coming from the direction of the mountain, began to cool me and my breathing began to slow to something near normal as my gaze took in the extravagant beauty that filled my sight. Wildflowers painted the multi-shades of green meadows and steep mountainsides with their splendid beauty. Sunlight flickered from waterfalls here and there across the canyons. It was as if God’s glory had reached down and touched the earth at this point, filling it with a beauty, power and awesomeness that could not be matched by any work of man. It seemed as if the glory of God had reached down to earth, right at this very point, and I found myself the recipient of His great majesty.

 

In 1 Chronicles 29:11 we find the words, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.”

 

On that summer afternoon, as I sat gazing at the splendor of creation surrounding me, I felt as if I was seated in a great church—a great sanctuary which God, Himself, had designed. Oh, I must tell you that it was an awesome experience.

 

But, had I given into the temptation to quit, to give up, and turned around and gone back down the mountain trail . . . . I would have missed. I would have missed it all. In fact, I would never have known just how much I had missed!

 

And, too, I am reminded of the occasions when I have been seated, or standing, within the wood and stone sanctuaries built by the hand of men, sanctuaries dedicated to God, and I have experienced His glory. Psalm 26:8 tells us, “I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.”


Ah, yes, Lord, “I love the house where you live, . . .” You and I do not need to struggle to the rocky heights to experience God’s glory. We can find it right where we live—in the very midst of our daily lives, if we will simply step out of the “hurry” of things, quiet our souls, and invite Him—no, plead with Him, to bring the glory down! Won’t you do that? Right now!

 

Prayer: God of all creation, I invite you to touch my heart with your Glory. Cause me to become quiet, still, patient and expectant as I wait here before you. I invite your Glory to reach into the depths of my soul. Here I am, Lord, waiting now. In your Son’s Name I make my request. Amen.

 

May the peace and joy of Christ be your companion today.

 

Pastor Bill


Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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“Where are you headed?” the husky, bearded man asked as we stood gazing out over the magnificent vista all around us.

We were standing on a small promontory which allowed us to view the rugged mountainous country all around us. This time of year, late summer, there were only a few spots where snow still remained, but as we looked we could see that, for some of these high peaks, to be completely rid of snow was probably rare.

After my son-in-law and I told the man the small mountain lake we were planning on hiking to he asked, “How are you going to get to it?”

“On the trail, I imagine,” I replied.

At this the man asked if I had ever been back into this lake. When I replied that it had probably been 25 years or more he began to shake his head. “I don’t think you want to take the trail that is shown on the maps.” he said. “If you do, I think you will be sorry! Let me offer you a suggestion.”

For the next several minutes the man told us how the trail into the lake, which was difficult even when it had been maintained well, was now almost impassable. There were no longer any signs leading a person to where it began and if you found it you could expect a miserable time as you slipped and skidded, many times on other parts of your anatomy than just your feet, as brush slapped you in the face and water from a creek, which ran down the trail for most of the distance to the lake, insured you were completely soaked by the time you arrived. Following the trail back out was next to impossible! The man then assured us that there was, in fact, another way. It was a far better way. It might not seem to be at first, but it was the only route a sensible person would follow once they heard of it.

Several hours later my son-in-law and I stood at the edge of this beautiful lake, truly a work of art by the hand of God. But we did not appear to be! We were wet and sweaty, mud covered a good portion of our clothing, and red marks from the slap of branches against our arms and face showed clearly. And we had reached a unanimous decision. That man was right! That “trail” was not the way to travel!

Later, with the afternoon sun beginning to drop towards the horizon, we determined we had rested enough that we would see if we could find our way out of this secluded spot. The man had told us that if we would simply go into the tall timber on the east side of the lake and begin to zigzag back and forth beneath the trees, we should be able to spot a tiny piece of yellow tape which had been tied to a tree. When we found that first one we could look ahead of us and we should be able to see another one. By following the pieces of tape, which marked out a trail unknown to many people, we would be led out of the rugged country in which the lake rested and find ourselves in a short time, high on a ridge top near where our pickup was parked. And he was correct! The hike out, though it was a little further in distance, took much less time and we were in much better physical shape than we had been after that downhill “slide” into the lake which appeared so easy!

In the Bible, in the Book of Proverbs 3:5-6, we find the words, “Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The trail has been marked out well for us! Which path will you choose?

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SILENCE

SILENCE

I was seated out on the back deck of our home, early in the summer, having a real difficult time concentrating on things related to all the work that I needed to get done. I wasn’t being too successful.

I have learned over the years that for me to be most effective in getting prepared for each Sunday I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of life around home, and get away where it is quiet. I have found it beneficial to get out into God’s creation and kind of power down, allowing myself to turn away from the many distractions found at home where the phone seems to clamor for attention far too often and the doorbell rings with a regular frequency.

Where do I get away to? Sometimes I simply grab my baseball cap, a travel cup filled with coffee, and head out of town walking along the railroad tracks. Oh, an occasional car or pickup may go by on the gravel road across the tracks from me, but most the time I am alone, but for God and his creation around me. I am walking in country where the coyote thinks he’s king and where the deer have a fantastic time feeding in the farmer’s fields around me. It is normally quiet except for an occasional jet plane going overhead far above me or, sometimes, a train that passes by.

On other occasions I will jump into the car and drive about 30 minutes to a lake where I have a spot where I can sit and think and allow the pace of life to slow down. Again, I am in a place where there are few other people, it is quiet, and it becomes a time of reflection and restoration for me.

Sometimes I drive 6-7 miles out of town and out into the midst of the farming country around our community. There are several hilltops that I have found where I can see for miles in every direction. Again, I find myself surrounded by quietness and the beauty of God’s creation.

But there are other occasions I have learned when it is good to get away from people—at least most people. This can be during times of high stress or deep crisis. Sometimes it can be good to be with other folks during such a time—but usually only if everyone is keeping their mouths shut—keeping quiet.

One of my favorite portions of Scripture is the last chapter of the Book of John, in the New Testament. It is a story literally saturated with deep meaning and life lessons for us.

Jesus had died a horrible death on the cross and the lives of his disciples had been thrown into absolute chaos and confusion. Things simply had not gone according to their expectations. The disciples knew that Jesus had come back from death—they had each seen Him on at least a couple of occasions. But they must still have been filled with questions. What did their future hold? What was ahead for them?

In John 21 we find the a group of 7 men who had been followers of Jesus—men who had been the very closes of those who walked in His footsteps, and they are hanging out down at the beach, probably feeling just a bit sorry for themselves and wondering what their future held. It was getting on toward evening and suddenly Peter says, “I’m going fishing. Anyone wanna’ come with me?”

In moments the entire group of seven men gets their gear and climb into the boat and they are on their way, no doubt headed for a spot on the lake where they had caught fish before. They fished and fished, hour after long hour. Nothing. They were using nets and they did not even get a small one to throw back. They just flat were not catching anything.

I can’t help but think there must have been some grumbling at the outset as the night grew darker and the hours dragged by. It probably began to cool off quite a bit and those guys may have had to deal with a rain shower or two. But no fish. They no doubt cast the net off one side of the boat and then the other. Nothing seemed to work. Nothing.

I wonder what kind of thoughts must have been running through their heads as that night wore on. Maybe they became quieter. Maybe they began to take longer periods where they rested, not worrying so much about catching fish as they did just resting—and thinking. Thinking about all that had happened and what might lie ahead.

Yes, I would expect these men grew quieter as the night wore on. They were probably lost in their own thoughts with only the sound of an occasional fish jumping, or the cry of a bird, to interrupt their thoughts.

You know something? Many people find silence uncomfortable. We are so used to sound—to noise. Like the noise of the television. We cannot escape the incessant ringing of someone’s cell phone. We live in a world and a society where mechanical or electronic-generated sound is all around us. And when we suddenly find ourselves in a location where it has become quiet—really quiet—we often become uncomfortable. It is not unusual for us to want to hear noise, or even create or make noise, to fill such silence. We can find ourselves feeling a bit awkward and uneasy. Such silence may feel somewhat painful or even embarrassing. We just don’t know what to do with it.

And yet, it is in those times of quiet—those times of silence—when we often find that we are able to become quiet inside. It is during such times that God—our Heavenly Father—can begin to speak to us and we can actually hear Him!

Earlier this year I happened to be watching a movie—that in itself is unusual for me as I find it hard to sit still for so long. But this was a good movie and it held my attention. At one point during the movie a Navaho Indian woman made a statement to a relative—a relative accustomed to the business and the hustle and bustle of city life. She said, “Do not try to fill the silence.”

Hmm. Say, I have to tell you that her remark caught my attention. “Do not try to fill the silence.” I have thought of that statement many times over the recent weeks. It made me wonder how many times I might have missed the voice of God speaking to me because I tried to fill the silence. How many occasions have there been when I simply did not experience the joy of listening to my Heavenly Father because I was too uncomfortable with the silence around me? I have wondered—what have I missed that God wanted me to hear—but I was too concerned with filling the silence.

The Old Testament book of Lamentations is not one that we often turn to for encouragement and yet, every single book, chapter, verse and word in the Bible has value—real value. In Lamentations 3:28, in the paraphrase The Message, we find these words:

28When life is heavy and hard to take,

go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

29Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:

Wait for hope to appear.

Don’t always try to fill the silence, but listen for the voice of God speaking to you. And I am convinced He will.


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THE STORM

I was seated on a narrow walkway outside the small, 14 x 14 foot room that was the limited space inside the window enclosed fire lookout tower. The sun had finally descended below the horizon to the west and I was now staring into the distance to the east, watching the cloaks of darkness settle down upon the earth. This was our second night staying in the fire lookout. The appearance of the sky indicated that we would probably be unable to see the large moon during the coming night. Towering clouds surrounded us and as I watched I observed the first display of lightening, far to the south. In fact, it was at such a distance that I was unable to hear any thunder following the flash of light.

My thoughts were going a multitude of directions as I enjoyed the quiet, hearing only the occasional sound of a bird, the chatter of a squirrel, or the subdued conversation of my grandsons from inside the lookout. What an awesome scene of God’s creation all about me! I could see no man made light anywhere I was looking at the present. In the direction I was facing all I could see were the dark shapes of rugged mountains, the clouds and the increasing flashes of light to the south from the approaching thunder storm.

Suddenly, I heard a low, far off rumble. Aha! The storm clouds with their accompanying flashes of lightening must be moving closer. I could hear it now. When the next flash occurred I began counting the seconds until I heard the rumble that followed. It was still a long way off and now it was well past my bedtime.

I got out of my chair and walked to the other side of the lookout and stepped into the tiny living space. The three grandsons were already in their sleeping bags and my son was about to do the same. In minutes I had joined them and I lay looking out through the windows all around me. Flashes of lightening continued to move towards us from the south. I was unable to view the scene for long as sleep soon overcame me.

Crash! Wow! It seemed as if in the same instant I was wide awake, the inside of the lookout ablaze with bright light, and a crash and roar of thunder that was absolutely awesome! That storm had finally arrived. Within seconds there was another flash of light, a loud almost instantaneous crash and a long deep throaty rumble of thunder. Say, I can’t see how those grand kids could be sleeping though this. My son was awake and made a comment about the storm. I was thinking about our proximity to all the wild activity taking place outside the windows while hoping that this tiny building had an excellent system of lightening rods attached to it.

Over the course of the next several minutes there was one loud flash of light and crash of thunder after another. The storm seemed to be all around us. Sleep was gone. I felt as if I should cover my head with the sleeping bag but even then the bright light and thunder would make itself known. This display of nature’s power continued for several minutes and then I began to hear another sound. Oh, boy! Now we were going to catch it. Rain!

Did we ever, and did it ever! It rained, and hard. I began to wonder if the windows were tight enough to keep the deluge of water out as sheets of rain blasted the sides of the little cubicle we were in. And the rain continued as the storm seemed to enjoy leashing its power against our mountaintop bedroom. This was something else, let me tell you!

It seemed as if the storm battered us for a long period of time but, before I knew it, I was awakening again. This time it was not light and sound that awakened me. Morning was not far off. I peeked out of my sleeping bag and could see that it was beginning to get light in the east. Storm clouds still surrounded us but it appeared the lightning and thunder were far off to the north of us. The rain had stopped and we were still dry. I climbed out of the sleeping bag and realized that, even for late July, there was a real chill in the air. I stepped out onto the walkway of the lookout and breathed in air that was fresh, cleansed by the rain, and flavored with the scent of the trees and wildflowers growing at this high elevation. What a morning! And once more I marveled at all that God had created for me to enjoy.

I am reminded that, as Christians, we go through periods of time in our lives when we feel as if we are in the very midst of the wildest and harshest of “storms.” Most of the time we observe them from a distance, but there are those occasions when we are in the very midst of them. It also seems as if we are experiencing what some have called the “dark night of the soul.” We wish it would end. We want out of the storm. We want the night to end and the light of morning to bring us hope for a new day.

Well, hang on brother; don’t give up sister. Dawn will come. Sure! In Psalms 107, begining in verses 29 and 28, we are told that “He stilled the storm to a whisper; . . . . . They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” (NIV)

So remember, night will end and the storm will pass. Dawn is just ahead!

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There is nothing, for me at least, that can match the experience of being out in the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest enjoying the utter and absolute magnificance of God’s created world all about me. Far away from nearly anything man-made, it provides me with the opportunity to remember how powerful and awesome, how mighty the Creator of the universe really is.

I was seated outside a tiny 14 foot square Forest Service fire lookout in a rugged area of the Boise National Forest, gazing far into the distance, the only sound the voices of my grandsons in the background, the sound of a chipmunk chattering, and the occasional cries and calls of birds around me. The sun had been dropping towards the horizon back of me and as it descended further towards the west the deep canyons below be became darker. Even though the mountain tops and high ridges were still bathed in a soft and muted sunlight, that brightness had long been gone from the canyon depths around me.

I then remembered that, not long after the sun had stolen its light from this corner of the earth I presently occupied, a nearly full moon would be chasing it up over the horizon to the east and this mountaintop sanctuary would once again be saturated in light–a subdued, yet beautiful light in its own right. And by the time the moon was descending towards the western horizon a scant few hours from now, it would already be getting light in the east as the sun prepared for one more day of blessing God’s Creation with its warmth and light.

Except for the depths of those canyons around me. The amount of direct sunlight they received was limited. The amount of light provided for the moon was even less. So much of a 24-hour period in the bottom of those canyons were times of little light.

You know something? It reminds me of our journey through life with God. I realize we can’t always be on the mountain top. There are those occasions where, as we move forward in our walk with Him, where we find we have to cross through some valleys that are pretty deep and dark. But, if we are always on the move, if we are always looking up, if we refuse to stop or to turn back, the mountain top will always be there ahead of us, beckoning us forward, urging us towards that Light.

Friends, let’s not loiter in the valley. Let’s keep moving towards the mountain top. We can live with the hope that God will walk with us through the deep canyons and valleys, but it is on the mountaintop where we can truly behold His Glory. Keep climbing!

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