Brilliant sunshine behind title: The Sun's Consistency

 

This morning, as I watched the sun rise, I marvelled at the consistency of it. The sun rises every single morning at the exact right time and the exact right place. I am never filled with anxiety that today it might not rise.  It consistently rises every single morning.

Of course, there are days when we cannot see it rise. Perhaps thick clouds or fog hide it, but I don’t become worried. I know it is still there. I will see it once the air clears.

At other times, while the sun is visible, it looks different. Smoke causes it to appear red, or smog in a big city dulls its gleam. Alternatively, a thin cloud may block half its light. Even then I know the sun itself has not changed, rather something has gotten between myself and the sun causing the difference in appearance.

Some might argue against the sun’s consistency by noting how it changes through the seasons each year. Indeed, living in Canada, I feel these changes keenly. In June the sun is up from roughly 5:30am-10:00pm, while in December I only see the sun from about 8:30am-4:30pm. That’s a difference of more than 8 hours of sunlight per day!

Added to that, the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. In the summer, the sun barely shines inside our window during the afternoon, but in the winter the sunlight reaches more than 12 feet through that very same window. Also, the spot on the horizon where the sun rises and then where it sets, shifts dramatically through the seasons.

Still, I call the sun consistent. Why? Because it is predictable. A quick Google search can reveal the exact time the sun will rise and set on Aug. 8, 2043. That’s how predictable the sun is. Scientists can predict its timing years in advance.

Thinking about the sun, got me thinking about God. God is consistent in that He is always with me and He always keeps His promises.

As Hosea 6:3 tells us, “[God’s] appearance is as sure as the dawn.” (CSB)

I may not know His timing or what He is doing, but He is always with His people. As Scripture says: “He Himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b CSB)

Sometimes my view of God is hindered, whether by storm clouds, or the hustle and bustle of life, or by my desire for other things. Yet even in those times I know, and must trust that God is still there, just as He has promised. He will never leave me.

Sometimes the sun is too bright. It makes it hard to see my computer screen, or I may want to rest in the dark. I can go inside where the windows only let in a limited amount of sunlight. Or I can go into my basement, in a room without windows, and hide from the light.

It’s different with God. I can try to hide, thus cutting off many of the blessings that come from walking closely with Him. However, I can never vanish from His sight. He sees everything I do. I can hide nothing from Him. (Psalm 139)

One final thought came to me as I watched the sun rise. I recalled the story, in 2 Kings 20:8-11, when God caused the shadow of the sun to go backwards rather than forwards. What a wonderful reminder to me that God has power even over the consistency of the sun.

I am incredibly grateful to serve a God whom I can depend on. He is faithful. I can trust Him.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  (Heb. 10:23 NKJV)

Brown grass and an empty pond

 

I followed the familiar path, thankful for a chance to get outside. The air had a chill, but only the smallest patches of snow lay where the sun could not find them hidden beneath the shadows. Otherwise, the ground was dry.

In fact, everything was dry. The grass was brown and the trees stood bare. The leaves, the trees had dropped, crunched under my feet. There was little colour anywhere beyond brown, brown, and more brown.

I stepped through the fence and swept fallen leaves off the bench before sitting on it. I stared at the pond in front of me. It was empty. There was no water.

Our summer had been longer and more dry than most years. The pond that typically had at least a little water all year round – indeed, sometimes enough to skate on in the winter – now lay empty.

It was more than that, though. This fall, not only had the pond become empty, but the typically impassable gooey mud of the pond bed had dried out to the extent that the property owner was able to drive heavy machinery through the pond. I could still see the thick tread marks.

The heavy machinery had been used to push dirt around. A large mound lay to the side. Much of the pond bed was now raw exposed dirt.

Yet, as I sat there, I was not displeased at the sight of thick tread marks and mounds of dirt because I knew the purpose.

The property owner had dug the pond deeper. Why? To increase its capacity. When the winter snow melts and spring rains come, the pond will be able to hold even more water than before. This will make it less likely to dry out when the following summer turns to autumn.

This deepening of the pond bed was something the property owner could only do during the rare times when the pond dried up. Not only did the pond need to be empty for such work to be done, but the mud at the bottom of it needed to dry for long enough to support the weight of the heavy machinery without causing it to sink and get stuck.

I leaned back on the bench listening to the occasional bird call in the otherwise silent afternoon.

Surely there was something to be learned from this pond, a lesson I could learn.

A sober thought came to me.

It is only when I am empty that God can do the work of increasing capacity in me.

True, there are many ways God works in my life.

While the property owner could trim the bushes around the edge of the pond, or add stones to the path leading to it while it was full, there are some kinds of work he could not do until the pond was beyond empty.

Likewise, God can work in my life in many ways, but some kinds of deepening can only be done when I am empty – empty of myself.

So what is it that the Lord wants to increase my capacity for? Some things, such as His love, His joy, and abundant life, He wants to give everyone who believes. Not a problem-free life, but a life marked with the inexpressible joy and peace that only comes from Him.

In John 10:10b, Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (CSB)

Other translations say, “have it to the full.” (NIV2011)

Paul prayed that God would enable the Ephesians to “know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 CSB)

Next time I am feeling empty and surrounded by the browns of a winter not even brightened with snow, I hope I will remember not to panic. Instead, I ought to seek God and trust that this is the time when He can do His work of increasing capacity in me for more of Him.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 CSB)

Watering can behind title: You Don't Know What I'm Doing

 

A while back, I decided to do an experiment. With COVID-19 concerns circling around, I figured it would be nice to have a homegrown supply of fresh lettuce so that, if we did get quarantined, we could still have fresh vegetables to eat along with our non-perishable pantry items.

With this in mind, and since it was too cold to plant outside where I live, I found a planter, filled it with dirt, and planted some lettuce seeds.

For the following weeks, I kept an eye on the plants as I watered them. Sure enough, the seedlings came up, though not all of them. I’d known some of the seeds might not come up, so I wasn’t entirely surprised.

I kept watering and observing the plants as they sat in my kitchen window. A few weeks after the seedlings sprouted, however, I began to suspect a problem. They weren’t getting enough sun.

Once I realized this and began moving the planter to various windows throughout the day or leaving it outside when the afternoons were warm enough, the lettuce began to grow strong.

I tell you all this to set the backdrop of what I really want to focus on.

Because some of the seeds hadn’t sprouted, the planter had sections of dirt that were bare and not growing anything. I wanted to change that.

Having realized that the lettuce needed more sunlight than the window provided, I decided to plant something else in those empty spaces.

Radishes, I thought. They grow easily and quickly. Therefore, I found a few radish seeds and hid them in the dirt where nothing was growing.

A couple of days later, as I went to water the lettuce, I poured the water where the lettuce plants needed it, then I poured water on those blank empty spaces of dirt.

In my head (I don’t think I said it out loud, though I may have) I told the lettuce plants, “You don’t know what I’m doing, but I do.”

It seems like a silly statement, especially when addressed to plants. Yet, when I think about it, I believe I can learn something from it.

From the lettuce’s perspective, I’d just given them the water they needed. Then, for no apparent reason, I poured water where no visible plant was growing.

It’ll probably be a few more days until the radishes show their heads. Until then the lettuce will continue to wonder why I would water the lifeless dirt rather than just watering the plants.

I wonder how often God has used me to water what to me appeared to be empty lifeless dirt?

It could be a random conversation I had with someone at the bus stop, or a smile I gave the woman who was clearly having a hard day. Perhaps it’s even a Facebook post with a Bible verse. I don’t know.

Some of these moments seem small and insignificant to me. Some of them feel random and impulsive, but maybe, just maybe, God is using those moments to water the unseen seeds that will begin to sprout one day.

I might wonder at what God is doing, and why He pours the perfectly good water on the lifeless dirt. It might appear to be a waste, but with God, nothing is wasted.

God knows what He is doing.

My job is to trust and keep following Him.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 CSB

An eagle soaring behind title: The Eagle's Rest

Camp. I love being involved in helping put on summer camp. Still, there are days when exhaustion tries to kick in.

Have you ever volunteered at a summer camp or helped run a VBS? If your answer is yes, then you probably understand.

This past summer, it was on one of those tired mornings that I found a moment to slip away for a bit of quiet by myself before the busyness of the day began.

I made my way down a familiar trail through the quiet woods. A bird chirped overhead and a squirrel chattered.

I stepped out onto the rocky beach that lined the little river. The sky was clear blue with a few white clouds. There was a fresh morning chill in the air that I knew would fade quickly once the sun peeked over the treetops.

Finding a large rock, I pulled out my Bible and notebook. I only had a few minutes, but I was unlikely to find time for personal Bible reading later in the day.

I opened to the Psalms and began to read.

Suddenly I looked up. I blinked and looked again. It was unmistakable. A bald eagle came gliding along the river valley.

I watched its apparently effortless flying as it soared along. Then it shifted course and landed on the tip of a tree along the river.

I sat amazed watching it. In all my years of being at this campsite, including many mornings of slipping down to this very beach, I had never seen a bald eagle there.

After a minute or so, the eagle gracefully returned to the air and glided down the valley and out of sight.

I couldn’t help but smile at having witnessed such an event. Of course, my mind at once went to a very familiar passage: Isaiah 40:30-31.

“Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV 2011)

I know there are pastors and others who have gone deep into eagle’s behaviours and what these verses mean. I am not an expert on eagles, so I cannot rightly do the same, but I do know what I observed that morning and how fitting it was for me that day.

The eagle’s soaring looked effortless. It was graceful. It was calm and collected. God can give me strength to be like that, even in the midst of the busyness of camp.

At the same time, the eagle did pause for a moment. Likewise, if I want that strength, there must be moments of pause – moments of reminding myself where my hope is.

Is my hope truly in God? Or am I hoping in something else? Perhaps my hope is in the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Perhaps my hope is in my finances. Perhaps my hope is in my health.

Like the bald eagle I saw that morning, I must pause and turn my focus to the Lord. He will renew my strength when my hope is in the right place.

If you are feeling weary and tired today, I encourage you to take a moment to pause and turn to the Lord in prayer, then read through the passage again, but this time start at Isaiah 40:28. (Here’s a link if you need it.)

How wonderful to be reminded that God does not grow weary or tired no matter how tired I get!

Today, may I place my hope securely in the Lord, for He will renew my strength.

Want more Encouraging Christian blog posts? Then you might like S. J. Little’s other posts including:

A Moose standing on a road

 

Encounter With The Moose Who Wouldn’t Leave 

About a year ago, as I was driving back from a visit to the country, I enjoyed the warmth in the air and the fresh greenness of the trees.

I was on a winding country road just wide enough for two vehicles.

As I wound my way past open fields and wooded patches, I came to the top of a hill.

Suddenly, I hit the brakes hard. My wheels skidded on the loose gravel.

There, in front of me, standing in the dead centre of the road was a moose.

The moose stared at me. I was grateful to have stopped so far back. It had no antlers, but, boy, was it big!

I assumed the moose would soon move on, but it didn’t.

At length, the moose turned, though it didn’t leave the road. It looked at the fence to the right of the road.

It took me a moment to notice movement on the other side of the barbed wire fence.

First I thought “coyote”, but that wasn’t right. Soon I realized it was a baby moose.

Gradually the mother moose wandered down the road ahead of me, keeping one eye on the young moose on the other side of the fence, and one eye on me.

I trailed her down the hill at a distance. She was still mostly on the road, and, being in a small car, I didn’t try to pass her. We always talk about the dangers of a mother bear with her cubs nearby. Would a mother moose be dangerously protective of her little one? I didn’t want to find out.

Once or twice, the young moose tried sticking his head through the barbed wire, but pulled back. It seemed he was stuck. I wished I could do something to help, but was pretty sure the mother wouldn’t be pleased.

At the bottom of the hill, the fence continued straight while the road curved away. The mother took a few steps off the road following the fence.

Was this my chance to pass?

I relaxed the brake enough to roll forward slowly, very slowly.

The mother moved back into the middle of the road. I was still stuck.

Then suddenly, movement caught my eye. The little moose climbed through the fence and hurried to join his mother on the road.

Quickly, I switched into reverse to give them some extra space.

When I stopped again, I watched intently. The young moose was so little beside his enormous mother!

They crossed the road happily.Moose - Mother followed by baby

At the other side of the road, there was another barbed wire fence.

The mother stepped over the fence without the slightest hesitation.

The little one wasn’t so sure.

As the mother walked back up the hill on the far side of the fence, the little one followed along my side of the fence.

With my window still open from earlier, I could hear the little one’s bleating as he passed me. I could nearly have mistaken the sound for a low bird’s chirp. He was so small, very much a baby. He wanted to be with his mother on the other side of the fence, but it was challenging to get through the fence.

As I drove away, I wasn’t worried about the little one. He had gotten through the first fence. Once he got up enough determination, he would get through the second one too.

That mother of his, she wasn’t going to leave him. She would continue to wait patiently for him to finally decide to climb through the fence just as she’d done with the first fence.

God Won’t Leave His Own

What a privilege it was for me to witness that scene. Yet it wasn’t an accident. Indeed, there is a lesson there for me to learn. As I drove home, the image burned in my mind.

I am like that little moose. God is like the mother moose.

Sometimes God leads me through obstacles, such as fences. Those fences can be taller than me and have sharp barbs on them. There may be no way around them, and they may seem impassable.

God, however, has a goal in mind. He steps across the barrier and says, “Come.”

Like the little moose, I might try to stick my head through a few times, but pull back. I might try to follow the fence to the left or right, but I won’t get anywhere.

Thankfully God waits patiently, like the mother moose, with a fierce protective love. A love that, though it could let me stay where I am, wants to lead me further to something more wonderful.

Surely that little moose felt intimidated by the fence. Surely his pleading with his mother included “Come back,” and “I can’t do this.”

At last, the little one wanted to get through desperately enough that he did it.

Thankfully God can do more than the mother. While the mother moose could do nothing more than wait and watch for her little one to cross the fence, God can, and will help us cross it.

Still, we have to want it enough.

Once the little one had made it past the first fence, the mother led him to another fence to cross. Yet throughout the process, she never left him.

God will never leave us, no matter what seemingly impassable obstacle He asks us to climb through. Beyond that, He will give us the courage we need to follow Him through it.

We see an example of this when God sent Joshua and the Israelites up to conquer the new land. They had to move forward against very intimidating enemies, but God was with them and helped. As He said to Joshua,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

Today, may I take courage and trust God as I follow where He leads me.