Nov 12 2014

The Peace of the Forest

_DSC0586In recent days I’ve been reading Jane Goodall’s latest book, Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants.  I have long been an admirer of the work of Jane Goodall.  Her work amongst chimpanzees is legendary.  I was surprised when I learned the subject of her new book was plants.  Still, I knew it would be something I would want to read.

_DSC7876In Seeds of Hope Dr. Goodall writes about her lifelong love for plants.  Botany might not be her primary area of expertise but it is obvious she knows a lot about plants and is enthralled by their diversity and usefulness.  At one point, however, she offers a testimony of how the trees of a particular forest brought emotional and spiritual healing to her following a personal crisis.  She writes, “It was to the forest I went after my second husband, Derek, lost his painful fight with cancer in 1981.  I knew that I would be calmed and find a way to cope with grief, for it is in the forest that I sense most strongly a spiritual power greater than myself.  A power in which I and the forest and the creatures who make their home there ‘live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).  The sorrows and problems of life take their proper place in the grand scheme of things.  Indeed, with reality suspended by the timelessness of the forest world, I gradually came to terms with my loss and discovered that ‘peace that passes all understanding” (Isaiah 26:3).”

_DSC1272Later Goodall shares how the peace of the forest continues to sustain her.  She says, “As I travel around the world, people are always telling me that I have an aura of peace—even when I am surrounded by chaos, by people jostling for signatures, or wanting to ask questions, or worrying about logistics. ‘How can you seem so peaceful?’ they ask.  The answer, I think, is that the peace of the forest has become part of my being.  Indeed, if I close my eyes, I can sometimes transform the noise of loud talking or traffic in the street into the shouting of baboons or chimpanzees, the roaring of the wind through the branches or the waves crashing onto the shore.” 

I can relate to what Jane Goodall writes here.  For many years I, too, have found my greatest peace in the forest.  There’s just something about being amongst trees.  A few days ago a friend and I took a short walk through a forest to photograph a natural arch.  As we walked the trail we talked about the therapeutic benefits of being in the woods.  It seems to have a calming affect for a lot of people.  I have no doubt that this is something God intended.  And like Goodall, I find peace not only in being amongst the trees but also when I pause to reflect on memories of times spent in forests.

_DSC0854It’s interesting how often the Bible talks about trees and how they often fulfill a vital role in the biblical stories.  Trees play an important part in the Creation accounts and the story of the Fall.  In a number of instances God reveals Himself near trees.  Both Abraham and Moses had close encounters with God near trees.  Jesus apparently often sought solace in a grove of olive trees.  And in the end, when John offers a graphic description of heaven, he says “And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2)

I realize that the peace Goodall and I experience in the forests others feel in desert settings, mountains or near rivers, lakes or oceans.  I feel peace in these places too.  Once again, I am convinced that God has designed Creation to give us peace so this is to be expected.  If we want the peace that passes all understanding we will be wise to spend time in the Creation with the Author of Creation and the giver of peace.  We will also be wise to make sure that such places are protected and preserved.  In at least one sense, the peace of the world is dependent on it.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used above on my recent trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)


Mar 16 2014

The LORD Will Provide

_CES2384There is a story recorded in Genesis 22 that has proved bothersome to a lot of people.  This is where we find God telling Abraham to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  If you’re familiar with that story you also know that even though Abraham was willing to go through with the sacrifice out of obedience to God, in the end God tells him not to kill Isaac.  Instead God provided a ram that Abraham sacrificed in Isaac’s place.  Afterwards Abraham referred to the place where this happened as “The LORD Will Provide.”  Needless to say, that’s a pretty strange name for a place but considering what Abraham had just been through we might want to give him a break.  His intentions were good.  He wanted to honor God for providing an alternative sacrifice that allowed him to keep from killing his son.

The name The LORD Will Provide is one that we can all relate to.  It serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people and how God has provided for our needs time and time again.  Simply by the way God put the world together most of our physical needs are met.  The planet gives us the air we need to breathe, temperatures we can withstand, and plenty of food and water.  God has also provided for our spiritual needs, first and foremost through His Son, Jesus Christ.  In him we find forgiveness, love, purpose and meaning.  If we were to rename this planet we live on perhaps there would be no better name than The LORD Will Provide.

_CES3806This morning I was reading  the Psalms when I came across a passage that reminded me of God’s provision.  Psalm 147:8 says God “covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.”   One of God’s provisions for us is rain.  Since I have moved to farm country I have learned just how important rain is to a lot of people around here.  The livelihood of many people depends on God’s provision of rain.  Without it not only does the grass not grow, neither do all the crops that we depend upon for food.

In the very next verse of Psalm 147 we are told that God provides not just for us humans but for the creatures He has made as well.  Verse 8 says, “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”  This verse, for me, points to the greatness and kindness of God.  God is concerned about the cattle in the fields and the young ravens in their nests.  The same thing could be said about all other creatures.  If animals and plants could talk they might likewise call the place where they live The LORD Will Provide.

_CES4350I offer these thoughts to you today in the hope that you might find comfort knowing that our God is in fact the God who will provide.  I offer these thoughts for my own benefit as well.  There are some issues I am dealing with now where I need God’s help desperately.  I, too, need the reminder that God is the God who will provide.  Providing for us is God’s business.  It always has been.  God may not always act exactly how or when we would prefer but in His own time and in His own way He always provides what we need.  That is not just the testimony of Scripture, it is the testimony of all of Creation.

–Chuck

(I took the top picture at Yellowstone NP, the middle one on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the bottom one at El Malpais National Monument.)


Feb 13 2013

Yahweh Yireh

KY-Lake-Cumberland-scenicFor the past few weeks we have been studying the names of God at church on Wednesday nights.  Taking the time to look at the various names and their meaning can be an enlightening adventure.  One of the names for God mentioned in Genesis 22 is Yahweh Yireh, which means “God Will Provide.”  It appears at the end of the story where Abraham almost offers his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.  Not understanding God’s call to sacrifice his son, Abraham nevertheless was intent on being faithful to whatever God asked.  As he prepared to do the unthinkable God told him not to harm Isaac.  We are then told that Abraham looked up and saw a ram nearby caught by its horns in a thicket.  Abraham offered the ram as a sacrifice instead of Isaac.  Verse 14 says, “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.  And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’” 

Although there is much about this story that I do not understand, I feel that the revelation of God’s name as Yahweh Yireh is most significant.  Abraham learned that day that God is the God who provides.  The rest of the Scriptures go on to validate this name.  In a most ironic twist, many years later God would do precisely what He asked Abraham to do, sacrifice His only Son.  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God provided for all the possibility of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.

Tremont-Cascade-640I have experienced God as Yahweh Yireh in many ways throughout my life.  He truly has provided for my needs.  God’s provision is sometimes specific and sometimes general.  As we look at Creation we cannot help but acknowledge that over and over God reveals Himself as Yahweh Yireh.  He has provided everything we need to live and enjoy life.  We live on a planet that provides the air we need to breathe and trees to purify the air.  He has created a world with vast resources for water, food and shelter.  God has provided us, unlike other planets, with a climate that sustains life.  Things like the sun, moon and rain, which we pretty much take for granted, are actually examples of God’s provision for us.

God truly is the “Giver of all good gifts” (James 1:17) and as such deserves our worship and praise, as well as our thanksgiving.  Hopefully we will learn not to take God’s many provisions for granted but will, instead, receive them each day with gratitude and a recognition of the need to be good stewards of all of His gifts.  If you haven’t paused to thank God (Yahweh Yireh) lately for providing for your needs, now would be a great time to do so.

–Chuck

(I took the top picture at Lake Cumberland State Park in Kentucky.  I photographed the bottom scene in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)