Friday, August 30, 2013
Along the canal, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, August 2013
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12
Paul says that the church is the body of Christ. We make it less so the more we desire to assign greater importance to some and less to others. The voices of children are of equal importance in the body of Christ, for example, yet the church is so much an adult world reflecting adult wants and wisdom. Some might assign greater value to people based upon their years of membership or the size of their donations or how influential their family may be perceived to be and in doing so make that body a caricature and do harm to the call to oneness. When we are willing to help "one of our own" yet cannot conceive of helping a stranger in the same way, does the church become more like the body of Christ or less? Scripture challenges us to question received wisdom and seek instead to follow Jesus who prays that we may be one and he and the Father are one.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Golden Orb Weaver, Long Key Natural Area, Davie, Florida, August 2013
O Most High, when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
As a child,
it was darkness,
lights out, closed door darkness.
And the unknown under the bed and did I leave my closet door ajar
and why does the radiator make that noise?
We grow and our fears change, but not really in their substance.
We fear different darkness and unknowns still haunt us.
And paralysis sometimes lodges in our throats,
leaving us with shorter breaths and silence.
But we are God's and God is faithful.
And in our fear we find the fullness of God's strength
in which to abide, a promise kept,
a hope unyielding.
Wild Coffee, Long Key Natural Area, Davie, Florida, August 2013
You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last
Appointed can mean designated or equipped. I think in our case it means both. God designates and equips us "to bear fruit."
So what does that mean?
And not just any fruit, but good fruit as we we read elsewhere in the gospels. And not just some fruit, but much fruit. And this fruit is not of our own making but comes from our relationship with God in and through Christ Jesus.
If fruit is how God makes Christ known through us, then love is at its heart. Love that bears the unmistakable mark of the love of God for us. Love in abundance, given freely and generously and graciously and compassionately. Love that abhors injustice, serves willingly, and humbly repents of its own shortcomings and brokenness. For that is truly fruit that will last.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Julia Butterfly on Spanish Needle, Treetops Park, Davie, FL, AUG 2013
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
So where is Jesus?
As we follow, if we are following him, let us look with open hearts and see where that following has lead us.
Where are we?
Is there hope there?
Servants seeking to outdo one another in kindness and mercy?
A more passionate and vibrant and humble faith?
A community that embraces an unexpected variety,
of outcasts honored, and the most vulnerable embraced
and the comfortable disquieted,
and all living in the tension of what is and what they are called to be,
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Long Key Natural Area, Davie, FL AUG 2013
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor
Evil destroys us from the inside out. Seeks to hold every good and gracious part of us, mind, body and soul captive. The alternative not only changes us, but becomes a means through which the Spirit gives blessing to the world. Let us cling to the good and love from the depth of all that we are in Christ Jesus.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Spider Lily, Long Key Natural Area, Davie, FL, AUG 2013
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
Where do you see the blessings in your life?
There are the every day things for which we are grateful,
the relationships, the way that the sun lights up the sky at dawn and dusk, the smell of wood warmed in the sun, mown grass, a forest after the rain. And then there are these other moments, rarer still, which for an instant seem to lift the veil of heaven itself, filling one's heart until it seems like it will burst from joy, like every song we've ever loved all at once pouring forth, rejoicing.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Spanish Needle, Long Key Natural Area, Davie, FL, AUG 2013
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In its fullest and best expression, our faith is both individual and communal. Christ called his followers together, prayed for their oneness, and sought again and again to teach them their need to serve one another with a servant's heart. He sent them out two by two. Christ knew how much they needed one another, even when some sought to separate themselves, to consider themselves more important, more worthy of praise and honor. As Christians, we, too, are called to embrace community, as imperfect as it may sometimes be. It is humble and often difficult work, yet our willingness to gather, love, and forgive, witnesses to others (and to one another!) something deep and powerful about the mysterious love of God.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Cassius Blue Butterfly, Long Key Natural Area, Davie, FL AUG 2012
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Martin Luther, in explaining the 8th commandment [Don't bear false witness] once said that we should seek to put the best construction on everything that we hear our neighbor saying. This is very hard work. It is hard because we usually spent no time at all actually listening to what is being said, but rather we invest our ears, our minds and our hearts in trying to come up with a foolproof defense so that we can win the discussion. Get what we want. Move the scales of the relationship further, perhaps, in our favor. When we invest emotionally in a conversation with our anger before we invest with our patience, with our judgment before seeking to put the best construction on what we are hearing, we have failed at the most basic level to love as Christ modeled for us, taught us and calls us to do. We are called to do better.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Dragonfly, Treetops Park, Davie, FL, August 2013
But as for you, return to your God,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.
At the drive through, this happens all of the time: "Excuse me, what did you say?" the attendant is talking to the next person while I am there, money in hand, waiting to pay, and I think that they are talking to me. In that business there is no time to wait or waste. There is no time for idle chit chat or relationship. Faith is about deep trust and such trust declares our relationship with God, a relationship that is not satisfied to leaves us be, but by its very nature changes us, calls us to new lives of love and justice, and leads and encourages us in that change. We do not encounter God and then move on and expect such change to happen and hold. Perhaps, at its heart, waiting upon the Lord is opening ourselves upon to God's presence in our life, in every act, in every relationship, moment by moment. God ministering to us and we giving glory.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Butterfly on Pickerelweed, Treetops Park, Davie, Florida, August 2013
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Often and unexpectedly, they change.
But what if something didn't change?
And what if hope incarnate was that thing?
And what if the very thing that will not change
was the very thing that we need the most;
that to which our heart clings with all of its strength?
If someone saw such a hope in us as gives us life,
would we even hesitate to find the words
to describe the author of the hope;
To share with those we love
and for those for whom we care
the best we have to offer?
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, Long Key Nature Preserve, Davie, FL, AUG 2013
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field
Do our lives reflect our present reality as "Kingdom people?" Even as God in Christ Jesus accepts us as we are (that amazing grace!) the Holy Spirit seeks to work in us change. The more we embody Christ in our life, the more and deeper we can embody Christ in our life so that Christ may been seen in all we say and do, even and perhaps especially, in the witness of our repentance - that is, our turning from our way, and embracing God's way, the way of selfless love, humble serving, and enduring hope. What would we be willing to give up to live more fully as such a people?
Monday, August 19, 2013
Butterflies, Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, AUG 2013
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast
Oh, the stubborn love of God.
In life we we think God's gone missing,
pain, loss, the suffering,
pile up questions, doubts, hostilities,
or that we are too smart
to believe in what the church,
our parents, our Sunday school teachers,
Have told us to be true.
We have learned too much to believe
thinking, and falsely so, that science and faith
are incompatible, at war.
Then life helps us to unlearn.
And in our unlearning we see,
perhaps in ways unexpected,
and always in humility.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Pickerel Weed, Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, Naples, FL, AUG 2013
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
God is biased towards justice.
The outcast, the most vulnerable, the poor, the oppressed,
these find favor with God, who has always stood with them;
Have not God's prophets cried out, accused, called to judgment those responsible? Those who oppress? Those who exploit?
Is not the most profound mark of the early church its embodiment of God's love as those who have give to those in need so that none suffer? So that the household of God more closely reflects the Kingdom to come, heralded by Christ, and thus a Kingdom to which we are called to strive and embody in our present?
Friday, August 16, 2013
Along the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, Naples, FL AUG 2013
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew;
like gentle rain on grass,
like showers on new growth.
For I will proclaim the name of the LORD;
ascribe greatness to our God!
After the rains come, the forests and swamps and scrub prairies,
the limestone karst, and all else where I roam in South Florida become places of wonder and beauty that defy words.
I set my camera down for a moment because either I do not have the skill or it is beyond possible for me to capture the moment and do it justice.
"God is here," dripping leaves proclaim;
And pond apples that shed the water in small drops upon marsh still no more;
bird song returns,
and the deep rumble of pig frogs in chorus.
And the smell of the swamp is unexpectedly fresh.
I breathe it in.
God is here.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Waterlily, Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, August 2013
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
I stare in the mirror and think, "new."
With a few minutes' work my beard is a goatee.
A tweak. A slight change. A refreshing, as it were.
Not the same old face as yesterday.
I walk up the steps and my knees say, "old." You are getting old. Well, older, anyway. The aches. The creaks. The twinges.
Everywhere change is in the air, Paul reminds us of that.
In Christ, we have been made new.
It is the rhythm of our life now:
Being made new in Christ;
Turning away from that which wounds us,
Allowing the Holy Spirit to gather us in,
to reconcile us back,
to be sharers of the great story of our lives
of what God has done for us;
and in sharing to become workers with Christ,
for the healing of the world.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Snake, Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, Naples, FL, AUG 2013
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
I am not an adrenaline junkie who spits in the face of fear to prove to myself that I am fully alive. Those rides at the theme parks that drop you 15 stories straight down, bungy jumping, that sort of thing, just not me. And I doubt God "upholding me" would make the idea of say, sky diving, easier to accomplish. But fear that diminishes our life, that paralyzes us from living and loving in Jesus' name, that binds us instead of freeing us; now that fear needs to hear these words, to experience their ultimate power over such fear. God, declares Isaiah, is for us.
And as the apostle Paul will later go one to say, so who can be against us? "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Monday, August 12, 2013
Blue Heron, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
Nothing is hidden anymore, is it? Buy groceries and read all about the inner workings of your favorite star's family while you wait. Pull up Facebook and people put it all out there - every photo, feeling, preference, like, dislike. With folks putting everything it seems "out there," we still hide. Truly, we do. And deeply. The more public we become, the more deeply we hide parts of ourselves. But there is nothing hidden from God. And such knowledge is not a cause for fear or anxiety, but comfort. Christ died for us while we were still sinners, calls to us as we are, loves us even as God knows the thoughts we fear to be made known, the words we long to take back, the actions we wish to undo. And for this we stand in awe and give thanks.
Dragonfly, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2012
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
As you open your eyes this morning,
is today a gift or burden?
I know this question might be a struggle for some.
People with more questions than answers, for whom each day is filled with decisions that linger, drawing down energy, stoking the fires of anxiety.
Sometimes it is as if one has indeed fallen down the dark rabbit hole from which all joy, promise, and hope cannot even be imagined, let alone real and present.
Psalm 13 begins to capture the heart of those who struggle as they rise:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
God does not gloss over pain, nor ignore our struggle,
nor are cheery words and platitudes the best medicine or any medicine for that matter. We arise, you and I, in a complicated world, into our complicated lives. Yet, even amid the darkness in which we find ourselves from time to time, may such light as God gives so enwrap us that others may see a glint of hope and promise and be themselves encouraged. May every moment witness to us and through us of the glory of the Lord, God's certain promise that God is in all things present with us and for us and always so.
Friday, August 9, 2013
The beginnings of sunset over Hollywood Beach, Florida, July 2013
I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud,
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
She sits, her age weary upon her face,
a lifetime of doubt for a choice made
in the days of her youth,
seeking forgiveness, absolution, assurance.
And I cannot even begin to comprehend the suffering
that carrying such a burden brings
or why this is the moment for her to seek
the freedom that is already hers,
Jesus having declared freedom for the captives,
and life abundant.
Hear again, my friends, the words of Isaiah echoing through the years, through the lives that need mending that you, too, may know them well:
"I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud,
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you."
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Egret, Everglades National Park, July 2013
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
Waiting, of course, does not mean doing nothing.
Waiting, does not even mean waiting.
Not like you and I wait:
A paralyzing wait, waiting for a word, a sign, a direction.
For the goodness of God, in and through Christ Jesus, has broken into this world of ours. And we are not blessed to see it by waiting to see it, but by doing, by living as Kingdom people, living like we believe, we trust; living like we know that such goodness is manifest all around us.
Where have you seen this goodness today?
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
American Alligator, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, July 2013
The clever see danger and hide;
but the simple go on, and suffer for it.
I am not that clever.
I have a cat's curiosity with no lives to spare, but one life to give and sometimes to give it foolishly, and on one or two occasions, stupidly. I suppose some cynicism might help me - I feel it creeping in as I grow older, trying to get a foothold. But somewhere between the two poles of going on and hiding, I imagine most of us dwell, somewhat uncomfortably. We are called to lose our life to save it, to die to ourselves, to live for Christ. And there the path to freedom without fear may be found.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
For whom is God inviting you to pray these words?
Could you imagine simply adding a person's name before each "I" and then praying each day for someone new as you awake and pour your first cup of coffee? (OK, I drink tea, but you get the idea). I think it would change us, offering such a gift of prayer. Would you join me for the next week - and then post your reflection on the experience?
Butterfly, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
We look to another to weigh and measure,
to see if we are at least as good, if not better, we judging freely.
We seek a place in the world without guilt to nag us,
so we can focus on other things more important.
But here is the bitter truth:
our sin is our death, and we sin daily,
and sin is measured neither by degrees,
nor as compared to our neighbor or the newspaper's front page
or the banner headline across the screen.
Leaving self-justfication behind,
the endless work of trying to be good enough and failing,
and miserably so,
humbly we find redemption in being found by God
whose grace is more than sufficient,
God's love filling us, freeing us to love our neighbor,
rather than fixing them somewhere below us.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Blue Heron, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades NAtional Park, July 2013
But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you
We are God's.
Not indifferently or casually,
but as deep as love can be by one who knows our name,
and the inmost fears and the yearnings of our heart.
And so the waters may rise, swirl, flood,
but they will not, cannot overcome
such love as this.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Red-Shouldered Hawk, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor,
you will cry out and not be heard.
Any conversation about the poor today must start in relationship, not from endless repeating of someone else's assumptions, taken as fact. Until we roll up and sleeves and work along side them, leave the comfort of our homes and walk with them, until we bounce their children on our knee and behold within their eyes the dignity granted to all of God's people, we have no claim to make, no judgment to offer, no right to close our eyes and ears and hearts.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
White Peacock Butterfly, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013
"Come," my heart says, "seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, do I seek.
With what do we choose to fill the vision of our days?
What imprints upon our memory?
What sounds become the song within our souls?
These are not idle questions.