Feb 26 2012

God’s Gift of Courage

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” —Joshua 1:9

Last Sunday afternoon we got the biggest snow we have received thus far this winter—about five inches.  It was a lovely wet snow and gave me an opportunity to photograph some birds.  I have a bird feeder about ten feet from my bedroom door.  When it snows the birds flock to the feeder and I am able to open the door and actually photograph them while I sit on the bed.  For over two hours I snapped picture after picture of cardinals, chickadees, titmice and other species.  With the snow on the tree branches for a background I was able to capture some beautiful images.   The following day the snow was still on the trees so I thought I’d take some more pictures.  As I had the day before, I opened the bedroom door, set up my camera, and prepared to photograph.  An hour later I had yet to take the first image.  I had seen plenty of birds prior to opening the door but none came back to the feeder once I set up.  What happened?  Why such a big change from the day before?

The best I can figure out, the birds did not cooperate with me on the second day because it had quit snowing.  My guess is that during the snow storm the birds threw caution to the wind and didn’t let the funny looking guy sitting on his bed with his camera frighten them.  They were in survival mode and were willing to take risks they would not normally take. Apparently, storms can cause birds to do things they might not otherwise do.

I’ve discovered that the same thing is true for humans.  When storms come–and I am referring here to more than just the atmospheric kind—we, too, sometimes take risks we wouldn’t otherwise.   When our survival is at stake we often find a courage that is not necessarily there day by day.  In tough times we sometimes surprise ourselves and others with what we are able to do.

I’m convinced that the courage to take risks and rise above the storm is something God gives both man and beast (or in this case, birds).  He gives His beloved creatures both the will and the courage to survive.  This is His gift—a wonderful gift indeed!  Storms are a part of life and is good to know that God has equipped us with what we need to address them.   And if, for some reason, our courage still fails us, He is always there to see us through.  That’s just the kind of God He is!


(I took both of these cardinal pictures last Sunday afternoon here at my house.)

Oct 8 2009

Ancient Life

CA Bristlecone-2Right now, I am in Bishop, California, by the Eastern Sierras. Fall color has been poor here so far, unlike Upper Michigan where Chuck is. Often, the aspen can be quite beautiful with yellow color, but not so much this year.

I went up to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the nearby White Mountains today. This is one of my favorite places for a lot of reasons. But mainly, it is being near these amazing bristlecone pines. They grow very slowly up on top of the mountains because of tough conditions, especially a soil based on dolomite rock that keeps a lot of other stuff from growing at all. It can take 50 years for a seedling to reach four feet tall.

These trees are also exceedingly tough. The severe conditions often mean parts of the trees will die over the years, yet they will still keep growing. Now here is the amazing part — these trees are among the oldest in the world and have been documented to have lived as long as 4,000 years. Most of the old, broken down trees have looked like that for centuries and have lived thousands of years.

It is an incredible experience to me to be in the presence of such ancient life. These trees were old when Christ was on our planet! They have outlived governments, nations, and all sorts of things we people would call calamities, yet they keep growing. They live in extremely difficult conditions where it is cold most of the year, winter winds can be brutal, rainfall is limited, soil conditions are marginal, yet they continue to grow and live on.

I find that remarkable. These trees simply “are” and cannot worry about what they are, what they are not, where they live, etc. They worry not. They just do what they do best, survive difficult conditions, and do it better than any other living thing.

When I was in college and got stressed, I would often think about trees. I knew that every spring they would have new leaves, regardless of the Minnesota winters where I lived. In nature, God doesn’t work in short bursts. God works over time and cycles are a consistent part of the world He has created. We may get all upset about something, but most of the time, it will pass, just like winter.

Just like the harsh conditions of a mountain top. A bristlecone isn’t in life to overreact to every little thing that challenges it. It is simply there to survive, to be part of God’s cycles, year after year, just as God is with us forever, not just when a problem comes up. Maybe that is one reason why I like visiting the bristlecones. They represent a sense of constancy that feels close to God.

— Rob