Magnify

Do you ever wake up on a rainy morning and say to yourself, “I just need to go for a walk!”?

Peony crowned with raindrops

Yesterday was one of those days for me, so I donned my raincoat, grabbed my trusty umbrella (to protect my camera), and took off to see what I could see!

Orange Bearded Iris in Rain

It was as I thought—absolutely beautiful!

Peony buds in the rain

The amazing beauty of springtime
is always exhilarating and glorious, isn’t it?!

Purple Bearded Iris

First I walked along the lane to check out the woods and swamp.

Wood ducks in a swamp

At first, I didn’t see anything of particular interest, but then I saw a movement in the distance. It wasn’t until I was able to zoom in with my camera that I got a clear picture: a pair of wood ducks resting on a log, trying to negotiate the rain. They kept shaking their wings, and I smiled, thinking about the saying that something is as insignificant as “water off a duck’s back.” Not if you’re a duck! They worked hard to shake all the rain off their feathers!

Montmoreceny cherries starting to ripen in rain

I’ve been meditating my way through the Book of Psalms in the mornings lately (and I most highly recommend Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David for eloquent insights on the these comforting scriptures)! We need a lot of life’s drenching rains to grow spiritually. Bless God for rain; without it we would all die!

Wild roses blooming on our lane

That morning, I was meditating on Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” I feel like just one little wild rose, but one blossom in the midst of a cluster of wild roses can still attract attention . . . and may any attention we attract always magnify our wondrous creator, who has “made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

Water droplets falling off lily pad leaves

I thought about how much more we can see when something is magnified. Without my camera, and it’s wonderful capacity for magnifying life, I would have known it was raining, but I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the distant pair of wood ducks or seen the tiny droplets of water dripping off the edge of the lily pads. May those of us who know God be like magnifying lenses for those who don’t.

Honeysuckle

Although I could smell the heady sweetness of honeysuckle, without magnification, I couldn’t really appreciate how beautiful it is. As we meditate on God’s beauty and draw near to him, may we share that sweetness with those around us!

Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly called Russian olive, silver berry, oleaster,
Persian olive or wild olive

We have lots of Russian olives in bloom along our lane, but how could I explain to you how joyous they look without magnification?

Highbush Cranberry blossoms

We can’t “magnify the Lord” in the sense of making him anything greater than he is, because he is the Creator who holds the universe in his hands! He is already higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas . . . crowned with beauty and glory!

Mock orange budding in the rain

But, as we draw near to him and begin to appreciate his beauty, we are filled with such awe that we want to share what we’ve experienced with others, just like I love sharing my experiences with you!

Daisy

With magnification, even the common experiences of life become uncommon . . . like the daily miracles we may fail to notice—the breathe of life, color, water . . .

Nightshade

Only through the magnification of God’s Word do we learn to understand that not everything which is beautiful to look is also safe to eat. Some things are really bejeweled poison! “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21).

Waterlily bud in the rain

Only with magnification can we see the tiny details, like the minuscule fly resting on the lily. (Can you see it?) “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Can you think of anywhere outside scripture where we are given so many insights about the “little” details of righteousness?

Tiny clover blossoms and a tiny slug

I realized that magnification makes me aware of the fragility of life. How easily I might have stepped on these delicate clovers growing in the middle of the road! Even more surprising, there was a miniature slug sitting in the middle of one of them, which I really did not see until I studied the photo later! Whom might we harm because they’re in the middle of our road?? Ever read the children’s book, Horton Hears a Who?

Robin Hood Roses in rain, out of focus!

Finally, I realized that the most powerful camera in the world (which I certainly don’t own . . . but for the sake of argument), with the best magnification potential in the world, would be absolutely useless if it isn’t focused properly! If we don’t learn how to use the Bible (the world’s most powerful tool for revealing and magnifying God) to focus others on the magnificence of God, we won’t have anything worth sharing with others! Instead, we’ll be much more likely to confuse or frustrate them.

Robin Hood Roses in the rain

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)

Contrasting Two Groups of Rebels

Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!

If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.

In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”

Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.

Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.

Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.

These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture. Wiki. Public Domain

In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.

I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!

Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.

What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

Alligator Waiter

Chef Specials
 
What’s for lunch today?
Want some alligator bites,
Or shall I bite you?

Any time we get within driving distance of Ponce Inlet on Florida’s Atlantic Seaboard, our car just seems to take us there! The inlet is protected from the Atlantic’s prevailing winds, so the sun always seems especially warm in spring, and the birds are just as interested in us as we are them.

We often stop for lunch at Salty’s Hidden Treasure Restaurant, where the food and ambience are unparalleled and the fish on your plate was caught that morning.

This particular day, we planned to order sandwiches, but a waitress came by with a plate of “alligator bites” (“cajun wild gator tail” the menu explained) that she would give us for half price if we wanted them because she had misunderstood the order from another table, and they would otherwise go to waste.

Yes! We were game to try. Better to lunch on alligator than have alligator lunch on us, we figured! 🙂 It was fun to try something new, even if (like rattle snake and most exotic meats) they did taste strangely like chicken (haven’t you noticed too?)!

BTW, have you ever tasted the bread of life and the water of life? They don’t taste like chicken McNuggets, but I guarantee you’ll be back for more once you savor some. Jesus himself is the spiritual “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) and offers us the “Water of Life” (Revelation 21:6). If you want to grow spiritually, take Him in through meditating on the Bible. Jesus doesn’t bite you, He feeds you!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
(Psalm 34:8)

Daffodil Melodies

Are you longing for warmer weather? In the “North Country” (of Michigan, where I live), it seems impossible to keep from longing for spring, but once the flowers begin to bloom, I really hope for a looong season of cool weather to maximize the beauty of spring’s magnificent flowing robes of color. We named our home Tanglewood Cottage, but if it had a second appellation, I’d be tempted to call it Daffodil Cottage! 🙂 Since the deer and various rodents have devoured the leaves and bulbs of almost all our flowers except daffodils (which contain the toxins lycorine and calcium oxalate crystals), over the past 25 years, I’ve planted so many daffodils, and they’ve multiplied so well, that sometimes over 1,000 yellow blossoms edge our woods.

The Music of the Daffodils

Springtime’s chorus line
Dressed in frilly, golden gowns,
Trumpeting God’s grace.
Quite the Eye Candy!

Sunshine daffodils,
Who even notices our
Rusty propane tank?

Natural beauty always inspires me, and I love how something bright and beautiful can draw our eyes to focus so much on what is lovely that what is ugly recedes from our view and thoughts. Our old propane tank suffers from rust and mold, which is particularly unsightly during late fall and early spring, when there is neither snow nor shrubbery to conceal it. However, when the daffodils begin to bloom, it ceases to strike me as such an eye soar because I stop noticing it! Yes, I should probably scrub and paint it every year, but once the summer foliage fills out, I forget all about it again and tackle other projects instead.

I have some distinct similarities to my old propane tank. When I get a good look at myself in the mirror, I am especially distressed by all the “rust” of age and the speckles and spots on my face. I guess I should paint my face to conceal the aging better, but usually I look up at Jesus, notice His exquisite beauty, and forget all about my human imperfections. I don’t want to be like the careless person who looks in the mirror and then doesn’t do anything about her appearance, but I do find consolation in concentrating on the unfading beauty of our eternal God!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).


What is It? Whodunit?

I look up in awe!
This looks more like Star Wars than
A hotel lobby.

While in Atlanta, where Alan attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, we were treated to this stunning view that seemed more like a set for a sci-fi movie than the atrium of a hotel. I marveled at its beauty and thought to myself, “Whoever did this deserves some type of architectural award!” Indeed, the designer is none other than John C. Portman Jr. who died at 93 in 2017.

Atlanta was his hometown, and the street right outside this hotel—Atlanta Marriott Marquis—bears Portman’s name! Furthermore, I’ve seen his buildings (and photographed them) all over the world, from San Diego’s Bayfront to Beijing’s Yintai Center and Shanghai’s Tomorrow Square. Even Detroit’s Ren Cen (whose central tower held the title of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013), where Alan and I used to watch the Grand Prix races out the window from our friend George’s law office, was built by this man!

I marveled both at Portman’s prestigious career and at my own ignorance. He has built some of the most creative architectural masterpieces of my time, and I have been astounded by their beauty, but I never stopped to figure out who designed them, nor did I put two and two together to formulate a simple question: Phenomenal designs . . . do you suppose the same person designed this one too?!

How about you? Have you marveled at the beauty of our world—from the majestic mountains to the tiny, fragrant flowers—and felt overwhelmed by the creative genius without ever asking who the creative Genius is?

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrew 11:3,6).

By Faith
(Stuart Townend)

By faith, we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design;
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.

By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.

By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.

First Bouquet of Spring

In fall we plant bulbs;
In spring God gives us bouquets
That say, “I love you!”

My youngest son and I had a standing game for many years: Who could find the first crocuses each spring? (They are the first flowers to bloom around our home.) Although we’ve planted many crocuses over the years, between the ground squirrels, deer, and construction projects, I take each blossom as a treasured gift, recognizing that I can plant and wish, but only God can take dry, brown bulbs, nurture them into life, and allow them to grow safely into a riot of color and beauty! What a gift we enjoy in the resurrection of life—without, and within!

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

I Believe in Miracles
(—John W. Peterson)

“Creation shows the power of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

Chorus:

“I believe in miracles, I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod;
I believe in miracles, for I believe in God!

“I cannot doubt the work of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

“The love of God! O pow’r divine!
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary.”