The Hope of Renewal

Warm sunshine beckoned to me today, after what seems like weeks and weeks of chilly, rainy weather. I picked up my camera—a DSLR Canon Rebel T5 that I need to teach my amateur photographer self more about using—and enjoyed a short hike along a river’s edge.

moss on a tree trunk

river seen through a hole in a log

forested riverbanks

When I hike, I like to look around me, try to really see what I’m passing by. I always marvel at what God has made, at what beauty this creation has—and what we see is creation in bondage. God’s word tells us that

creation was subjected to frustration … in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22, NIV).

Can you imagine what creation will look like when it is free from the bondage of sin?

bud on a tree

blossoms on a treemossy tree trunk in front of a river

As I looked at the trees today—especially those that towered above the rest and reached high into the sky—two fanciful thoughts came to me. (I’m not normally prone to fanciful thoughts, so indulge me for a moment.) First, the leaves at the top branches looked like feathers from where I was, feathers caressing the sky. Second—and my favorite thought—I wondered if, perhaps, trees grow tall into the sky hoping to reach back into heaven, to grow a bit closer to their creator. There is nothing biblical about that thought, but the great thing is that our creator has also given us imaginations. I don’t think he minds when we imagine trees reaching out to their creator when he himself told us that if we don’t praise him, the rocks will do it (Luke 19:40).

graffiti on a sanitation cover in a foresta bruised reed he will not breakdandelion puff-ball

The beauty of God’s creation, even in its state of decay and bondage, is that it can still testify to us about him, about who our creator is (Romans 1:20). I saw the reeds* depicted above and the following verse came to mind:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. (Isaiah 42:3-4, NIV)

The creator establishes beauty, cares for it tenderly, and will restore it in the end. All we need to do is look around us to see the evidence of this hope. I am so grateful for this world we live in, broken though it is.


*Forgive me if this isn’t a reed—I’m no botanist, but I do see beauty in even the broken things!

April, Au Naturel

One of my favorite things to do is to get out into God’s creation, go for a long walk or hike, and take my camera along. I was able to do that today for the first time this year and thought I’d share some of my favorite photos from today. I’m not a professional, but I thoroughly enjoy using my camera.

This first one is different from the rest, but I am just in love with it—a beaver’s dam. It was just picturesque.

It’s different from the photos I normally take because I don’t do many landscapes. For some reason—perhaps stemming from my love of antiques—I like to take pictures of old, broken down remnants of the past or close-up photos of nature (even dead nature), like in the series of photos below. (And if anyone knows what the item in this first photo was at one point, I’d love to know!)

I was also working on another challenge from Jenny Randle’s Courageous Creative (I mentioned it in yesterday’s blog, too), this time to take a photo representing 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Honestly, I didn’t find anything on this particular trail that just struck me as the this is it image I had to capture, but I did appreciate being able to think about what that would be—for me, perhaps a mushroom (growing out of the decay of something old—and because for some reason I am obsessed with taking pictures of them, although I know nothing about them and don’t eat them); a caterpillar’s cocoon or a butterfly; etc. The closest I got was this, a photo of the same plant with both an old, dead limb and new growth:

But I chose this one to put the verse on instead—an old tree limb with fresh moss, and in the unfocused background a vibrant, green plant: new growth:

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

I think both of these depict us—Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus—as we are in this world: the dead part is still there, still visible, still a very real part of our lives. But the new growth is also evident and it is the part of us that is alive, vibrant.

Hunting for just the right photo made me think of how we must die to ourselves to truly follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-25), and all around me was dead vegetation that was giving way to new life, or trees that were reawakening after the sleep of winter, the shedding of their old, dead leaves. In Christians, this is the sanctification process—and I am so grateful that God strips away what is old and dead and gives us this new life, makes (and is making) us more alive than ever before.

Front Porch Musings

This morning, in the pre-dawn hour, I sat on my front porch and looked and listened and wrote. I had a purpose, I had my coffee, and I had my phone’s flashlight to see my notebook when I needed it. My purpose was to complete a challenge in creativity by observing the creativity of the Creator. And when I was done? My soul could not help but to respond in worship, in song. (I’m hoping I didn’t wake my neighbor up.)

The challenge was from day two of Courageous Creative, a study I’m doing with a small group through my church. (For me, this is the continuation of a journey I started a year ago—that’s for another post, another time though.) The challenge was to go somewhere, observe God’s creation, and write using action verbs about what God has done in his acts as the Creator. I read the challenge last night and decided to wait for my favorite time of day and not to go far—my front porch was all I needed. And I bent the guidelines, using the action verbs for God’s creation as well as for him.

God met me there on my front porch, and it set the tone for the entire day: All day songs of his praise have been bursting from my heart, my lips. I’ll share what I wrote with you, and I would love it if you took up the challenge and shared it with me. This post won’t have any photos (it was too dark!), but so much imagery. I hope you enjoy God’s creation as it was this morning through my eyes, my words.

5:43 a.m.

The cool spring breeze
blows strands of hair against my cheek
gently tickling my neck

Rain drops fall singly, together
interrupting the joyful chaos of the birds’ morning song
(but not quite)
(they sing on through the rain)

A single cloud reflects light
but other clouds are there
now pouring out their offerings on the earth—
or are they crying?
Crying in bursts and fits
now sobbing,
soon slowing
washing—
trying to wash the earth clean before the new day begins.

The birds sing on
trying to awaken the dawn

The earth soaks in rain
yields its fresh, earthy scent
(smells like worms)

The moon is behind the clouds
bright
smiling with its half face
poking through the holes in the clouds
and pointing the way to the sunrise yet to come.
It is what gives the single cloud(s) its brilliance.
The cloud tried to steal the moon’s light
masking it as its own
but could not compare to the moon
(which does not compare to the sun).

Tree limbs stand stark against the grey
grey of the morning
grey before blue
the Herald
Light is coming.

Lightning plays hide and seek
just out of the corner of my eye
fairy-like, it makes me wonder
was it there, or was it my imagination?

The world outside my door is ALIVE.

The grey gives up the sky
but clings to the clouds
as the earth turns its face toward the sun
(or is it turning its back on the night?)

Myarrow
my dog, my companion
wonders at the early excursion
sniffs the air for remnants of the breakfast
I forgot to share
shakes the lingering raindrops
from her ears

An insect
a speck of black against the bluing sky
flits into and out of my sight
the coffee is warm in my mouth, my throat
and lightning still flirts with my vision
(there? or not? hiding just out of sight?)

Lord, you have done all of this
and it is good.
A hint of orange kisses the horizon
caresses the earth as I retreat
to awaken my sleeping children.

But first, a song bursts forth from my lips,
my heart.