May 18 2016

Careless in the Care of God

_DSC5775In Eugene Peterson’s amazing translation/paraphrase of the Bible, called The Message, Matthew 6:26 reads “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.  And you count for more to him than birds.”  Ken Gire once wrote a wonderful response to this.  He said: “’Careless in the care of God.’  And why shouldn’t they be?  For their food, He provides insects in the air, seeds on the ground.  For their search for food, He provides eyes that are keen, wings that are swift.  For their drinking, He provides poolings of rainwater.  For their bathing, He provides puddles.  For their survival, He provides migratory instincts to take them to warmer climates.  For their flight, He provides bones that are porous and lightweight.  For their warmth, He provides feathers.  For their dryness, He provides a water-resistant coating.  For their rest, He provides warm updrafts so they can glide through the air.  For their journey, He provides the company of other travelers.  For their return, He provides the companionship of a mate.  For their safety, He provides a perch in branches far from the reach of predators.  For their nest, He provides twigs.  And for every newborn beak, He provides enough worms so that they can grow up to leave the nest and continue the cycle of life.  It’s no wonder they’re so free from the cares of this world.  The wonder is, if we count more to Him than birds, why aren’t we?”

_DSC5759When I read these words earlier this morning I have to admit I was convicted. Lately I’ve been worried about a lot of things and the word “careless” would definitely not describe me at this point in my life.  Jesus’ instructions to “look at the birds” was one of his ways of trying to get his followers not to worry so much.  He encouraged them to look around and pay close attention to the birds and the wildflowers that grew nearby.  Both, he said,  serve as reminders that God takes care of them and provides what they need.  Jesus then informed these followers that God cares even more for them and they shouldn’t worry, for if God meets the needs of the birds and flowers God will assuredly meet their needs as well.

_DSC3499I love the way Ken Gire lays out for us the many ways God provides for the birds. He lists so many ways and I’m sure others could be added to his list.  Surely the recognition that God goes out of His way to care for the birds ought to be enough to make us pause when anxious thoughts come our way.  Hopefully it will help me worry a whole lot less and move me to the point where I am “careless in the care of God.”

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown above at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.)


Sep 12 2012

Keep Looking

Every Sunday I have the privilege of doing a “children’s sermon” before the kids go to “children’s church.”  I love this part of the service because I absolutely love the children in our church.  Right now the children are learning about the life of Moses.  This past Sunday it was my responsibility to tell them about God speaking to Moses at the burning bush and how God called him to go rescue the Hebrews from Egypt. (See Exodus 3)  I used my brief time with the kids to tell them that Moses had failed miserably earlier in his life—actually killing an Egyptian—but God did not hold his past against him and still wanted to use him in His service.  This is certainly an important lesson; it is crucial that we all understand that our pasts do not have to limit our service of God now or in the future.

Another lesson I could have just as well emphasized is how the story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush is a reminder that God is not limited in the least in how or where He can speak to us.  A few days ago I came across the following tale in Ken Gire’s book, Windows of the Soul“The story is told of a pagan who asked a rabbi, ‘Why did God speak to Moses from the thornbush?’ For the pagan thought God should have spoken instead in a peal of thunder or on the peak of some majestic mountain.  The rabbi answered, ‘To teach you that there is no place on earth where God’s glory is not, not even in a humble thornbush.’”   Actually it is quite interesting to remember how many different ways God spoke in the Scriptures.  One of my favorites is through Balaam’s donkey.  (See Numbers 22:30) When we recall these, why would we conclude that God does not still have an endless supply of ways He can speak or reach out to us?

Gire encourages us not only to remember that God has a variety of ways to speak to us but also to be on the lookout for these.  He says, “If we are to see the divine artist’s soul mediated through the lesser things of flesh and blood, field and stream, flute and drum, we must look for windows in places we are unaccustomed to looking.”  He indicates that we must pay more attention to our surroundings and “go on looking until we see something sacred…”

You already know that I believe that one of the places that God consistently makes Himself known to us is through His Creation.  The “divine artist’s soul” is undoubtedly manifested there.  Seeing God in Creation, however, does not always come easy.  It takes time, patience, and diligence.  I would add that a humble and prayerful spirit is also necessary.  Not all of God’s revelations are as noticeable or dramatic as a burning bush, so be on the lookout and keep looking until you “see something sacred.”

–Chuck

(I photographed the trees in the top image on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain.  I took the bottom image at Breaks Interstate Park not far from my home in Pikeville, KY.)


Aug 29 2012

Giving Nature a Second Look

Today I want to share with you some thoughts from two writers separated by many centuries.  Ken Gire is a contemporary writer that I greatly admire.  His book, Windows of the Soul, is one of my all-time favorites. In this book he explores the many different ways God speaks to us today and he identifies these avenues as “windows of the soul.”  In the opening chapter of this book he writes: “We must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears, for the sounds are sometimes faint and the sights sometimes far away.  We must be aware, at all times and in all places, because windows are everywhere, and at any time we may find one.  Or one may find us.”

Gire goes on to explain that “windows of the soul is a way of seeing that begins with respect.”  To this he adds, “The way we show respect is to give it a second look, a look not of the eyes but of the heart.  But so often we don’t give something a second look because we don’t think there is anything there to see.  To respect something is to understand that there is something there to see, that it is not all surface, that something lies beneath the surface, something that has the power to change the way we think or feel, something that may prove so profound a revelation as to change not only how we look at our lives but how we live them.”

Gire’s words deserve our attention.  He’s right; there truly are many “windows of the soul” available to us and we must make sure that we take advantage of them.  One of the windows he discusses at the end of his book is nature.  He realizes, like many who have gone before him, that Creation itself is a window of the soul.

Writing over eight hundred years before Gire, Bonaventure noted how important it is that we pay close attention to nature.  He said, “All the creatures of this tangible world lead the soul of the wise and contemplative person to the eternal God, since they are his shadows, echoes and pictures…  They are set before us for the sake of our knowing God, and are divinely given signs.  For every creature is by its very nature a kind of portrayal and likeness of that eternal Wisdom.”

Like Ken Gire, Bonaventure recognized that when people look at the things around them they do not always see all that is there to be seen.  For him it is “the wise and contemplative person” who is able to discern God’s Presence in Creation.  How does one become such a person?  By practicing the respect Gire writes about, by giving Creation a second look realizing that in it we do, indeed, find a window of the soul that reveals to us our God and Savior.  I truly believe that when we give nature a second look we actually do find “something that has the power to change the way we think or feel” and something that will alter “not only how we look at our lives but how we live them.”  With that in mind, wouldn’t you agree that nature does, in fact, deserve a second look?

–Chuck

(I photographed the marmot at Olympic National Park, the black snake in my yard, and the elk doe at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky.)


May 4 2011

Echoes and Sign Language

One of my favorite inspirational books is Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul: Experiencing God in New Ways.  I was looking at this book earlier today and came across a passage I had forgotten about that I’d like to share with you.  In a chapter called “Opening the Window” Gire pens the following words:

“Like rain and snow, the word of God permeates the earth.  To say God’s word can be found only in certain places, like the Bible, for example, is to say, in effect, that rain water can be found only in lakes where it is most visible.  But everywhere we look there are traces of His word.  In the circumstances of our lives.  In every nook of humanity and every crannied flower of creation.”

Gire goes on to make an excellent case for looking for God in Creation.  He says, “If God created the world with words that went forth from His mouth, words like ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,’ it follows that the sun and moon and stars are echoes of those words and that something of the divine mind and its purposes can be understood by studying them.  If we look with the right eyes, listen with the right ears, we will understand the natural creation as a form of sign language through which God expresses Himself.”

I like the idea of seeing in the world around me “echoes” of God’s words spoken when He created the universe.  Genesis 1-2 makes it clear that God spoke the world into being.  Those words continue to echo throughout Creation and we have the wonderful privilege of listening to and seeing the result of His spoken word.

I also like Gire’s analogy of God’s revelation through Creation being like “sign language.”  My wife, Bonita, happens to know sign language quite well.  She is a wonderful and gifted interpreter.  Through her hands she can translate what others are saying but in order to receive the message being interpreted one must know sign language.  I confess that I do not know sign language but if I took the time to study it I could learn to listen to what Bonita is saying with her hands and motions.

When it comes to interpreting God’s “sign language” in Creation we must also study the language and become familiar with the signs.  The Bible will help us do this but it will also be necessary to study natural history books and field guides.  We will have to work hard to develop our observational skills and spiritual sensitivities.  That may sound like a lot of trouble but when the end result is the ability to experience God more fully I cannot help but believe that the effort will be well worth it.

–Chuck

(The two images above were taken last spring while visiting Joshua Tree National Park with my blogging partner and friend, Rob Sheppard.)