Category: Nature Writings

Eternal Snows and A Sacrifice of Love

Soon after we moved from California to Colorado, we had a blizzard during Easter week—a new experience for me. Pure white snow covered the ground when I wanted spring color to dot the landscape. But during that holy week, the pervasive, gleaming whiteness began taking on significance and speaking to my heart. The words of a familiar, Irish poem came to my mind:

“I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.”
                       ~Joseph Plunkett

As the storm passed and sun shone, the gleaming snow cover became for me a constant reminder of the body of Jesus—his very life—laid down, poured out, for us. As the ground, the trees, even the houses received the crystalline snow driven by the wind, so by faith we can receive Christ’s pure sacrifice, applied to our hearts by the grace of God. This complete, loving, redeeming sacrifice then covers our sins, bringing forgiveness, reconciliation, and the hope of eternal life.

The effects of this “eternal snow” go even farther, however. Today the snow on our yard, trees, and garden has melted and watered the greening grass and the perennials that are waking up for spring. Similarly, the gracious provision of Jesus not only covers us, but seeps into our beings, giving newness of life to our hearts and minds, nourishing our souls, imparting the very character of the One who poured out his life for us.

Now I view the occasional snow during Easter week as a gift from God. Sometimes visual images and metaphors reach into our hearts more effectively than words of reason. Sometimes they help the words of truth get from our minds to our hearts. How thankful I am for these true words:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10)

“I lay down my life…” (John 10:14)

~Catherine Lawton

A Crown of Thorns

CrownOfThorns

Drops of blood or tear drops?

Thoughts for Maundy Thursday

A quote from Scripture:

“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.” (Matthew 27:29)

And a quote from the devotional section of the book, God’s Healing Herbs, by Dennis Ellingson:

We are told that creation itself moans because of the curse put upon us. Everything bears the mark of humankind’s sin. I don’t know how to understand it—but I believe plants, animals, and all of creation respond in some way to the God who made them.

If a thorn bush could think, I wonder how it might have mourned to know that its branches were used to hurt the very One who had made it. If a bush could have shed tears rather than causing blood to be shed, and a bush could choose, I wonder whether the bush would have chosen tears.

Walking~and Loving~the Land (Favorite Photos #2)

Sitting on a bulbus rock above Arava Valley

Judy resting on a rock above Arava Valley

God said to Abraham, “Rise, and walk the land.” (Genesis 13:17)

What better way to become acquainted with the rocks, the dust, the fauna, the flora, the smells, the tastes, the changing colors than to stand in it, walk on it, be sheltered at night by it, rest your body upon it? To let your eyes gaze upon the painted vistas then search for trail signs and footholds to cross a river? To breathe the air upon chilly mountains, over silent deserts, and in redolent valleys?

John and Judy Pex did all this as middle-aged hikers who live in Israel—one as a descendant of Abraham and both as believers in the God of Abraham and his promised seed, Jesus the Messiah.

They walked where Jesus walked and “came away to a quiet place” as he did. They met various people groups who inhabit the land and for whose salvation Jesus gave his life. Judy kept a record of their trek over the 600-mile Israel Trail—what they saw, the people they met, and the insights they received. Then Cladach helped them share this experience with people around the earth through the book, Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel.

In a sense, a travel memoir is a gift to those who would love to go but probably never will. I enjoyed editing and designing this book and experiencing the varied land and people groups along the Israel Trail, vicariously. Here are a few of my favorite photos from Walk the Land by Judith Galblum Pex.

John walking the Carbolet

Nahal Raham, beginning to rain

Mt. Hermon from a ridge above Kiryat Shmona

John and Judy walked the entire Israel Trail from the Egyptian to the Lebanese borders!

Joy in the Journey ~ Favorite Photos #1

sage and deer at fence

Photo © Gayle M. Irwin

Are you experiencing joy, even when your path may lead through trials, disappointments, and losses? This kind of joy is infectious. With this joy you can “brighten the corner where you are.”

As a young teen in my father’s church I remember one old lady who stood in every testimony service to give an account of all her woes. Then in a mournful voice she would conclude, “But the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Although my generation never thought we’d get old, the thought must have crossed my mind: “Is that what I have to look forward to, when I’m a ‘mature saint’?”

Since then I’ve met truly joyful elderly Christians who inspire me to focus on the gifts of each moment and on our abounding hopes for the future. Likewise, I’ve met Christians of all ages with disabilities who focus on their abilities and using with abandon the gifts they have (I had a wheelchair-bound friend who both painted and played basketball). I’ve met young mothers and fathers who have lost babies, or who face the fatality of serious cancers, but focus on unseen hopes, on loving and enjoying loved ones while they have life.

I’ve also witnessed this kind of God-created joy in nature. As children, my sister and I had a little dog named Buster who joyously followed our escapades in the neighborhood and in the vacant lot near the parsonage. Whether we were running, skipping, skating, riding bikes, walking on stilts … Buster was there. But trouble lurked in sticker patches where goatheads pierced his little paws. He never cried or stopped. Just kept running on three legs. More than once I saw him holding up a second paw and running on two legs! We hurried to his rescue and removed the thorn(s). But I do believe that, if he had stickers in three paws, he would have tried his best to hop along on one leg. It wouldn’t have surprised me—much—knowing Buster.

Nature—including our pets—can speak to us about the Creator’s ways and His provisions. We are drawn to nature photos for their calming, inspiring effect. These—and other types of photos—can add zing to blog posts and books. For instance, visual treasures—both of nature and other subjects—reside within many Cladach books.

In the next few weeks I’ll dig for these treasures and share my favorites here.

Today I present two black-and-white photos from Walking In Trust : Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog by Gayle M. Irwin (above and below). These photos show the joy of a dog named Sage as she experienced life and navigated her environment. Blindness didn’t stop her—or her people—from adventures (that you can read about in the book).

Who would think—from these photos—that Sage the Springer Spaniel was totally blind?

Sage inspires us to live fully, this moment, in the joy of the Lord.

Photo © Gayle M. Irwin

Colorado Book Award Finalist Teams Up With Mother on Sheep Book

All We Like Sheep : Lessons from the Sheepfold  Produced with Team Effort

IMG_0644 - 2-Copy

GREELEY, COLO.—Colorado Book Award 2014 finalist Marilyn Bay Wentz, has teamed up with her mother, Mildred Nelson Bay, (both of Eaton, Colorado) to write a series of sheep stories and the lessons both women have learned from their collective seven decades of raising lambs commercially. All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold was released Sept. 15, 2015.

Wentz, a journalist whose first book, Prairie Grace (historical fiction set in 1864 Colorado Territory) was an award finalist, credits her mother as her mentor in both writing and sheep herding. Wentz says, “It was an amazing experience to write this book with my mother, considering her depth of knowledge, her love of both sheep and the Bible, and her gentle humor.”

All-We-Like-SheepAll We Like Sheep, a mix of creative memoir and Bible-centered devotional, was conceived from the heart and experience of this mother-daughter duo. “People see flocks of sheep grazing in the mountains or on the plains but understand little about the joys and trials of herding sheep,” says Bay. “Stories in All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold help the reader understand sleepless nights of lambing, attacks on the ewes by rogue dogs and coyotes, the bond experienced when the lambs respond to the shepherd’s voice, or how sheep protect themselves and ewes always recognize their own lambs.”

All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold closes the experiential gap between those who farm sheep, those who enjoy seeing pastoral scenes of sheep, and those who would like to better understand why the Bible so often mentions sheep (over 500 times).

These women are talented storytellers. Christian readers, especially, will appreciate the spiritual and biblical insights that Wentz and Bay have gleaned from their sheep-herding experiences. Each story/chapter closes with questions ‘to ponder’ and a short prayer. Photos from the sheep farm are sprinkled throughout the book.

Chapter titles include: “Ice Baby,” “A Lamb Called ‘Her’,” “The Little Ewe Who Thought She Could,” “Keep Out the Thief,” “It’s All About the Smell,” “Eternity in Our Hearts.”

Marilyn Bay Wentz grew up on the property her parents still farm northeast of Eaton, then lived in rural Strasburg for nearly two decades. She has written hundreds of news releases and articles for agricultural organizations and other clients. Mildred Nelson Bay and husband, Marvin, have farmed since 1970. She has been active in her local church, AWANA and Gideons, International, and has written articles for regional publications.

Click to learn more about All We Like Sheep, Lessons from the Sheepfold.

 

 

Me? Like a Sheep?

Lamb-2

I hear someone saying, “Lambs are cute and woolly, and all that. But aren’t sheep ‘dumb’ and helpless creatures? I’m not sure I want to be like a sheep.”

In answer, I’ll offer a few snippets of Bible verses:

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

“My sheep hear my voice.”

“Follow me.”

“Like sheep without a shepherd”

“Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

“He leads me beside still waters.”

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

“His rod and staff comfort me.”

“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray.”

“I lay down my life for the sheep.”

“Oh. Well. When He puts it that way … I’ll follow Him like a sheep if that’s what it takes to hear His voice, know His goodness, enjoy those green pastures and still waters, live the life He made possible by laying down His own. … But, what does that mean in real life? for me? How does this sheep thing work?”

I’m glad you asked. God the Father gave us this picture of His sheep in His pastures. He even sent His Son to be the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But He knew it would be hard for us to fathom such love and all the nuances of such a lamb-like life of trust. So He provided human under-shepherds. And He provided some earthy, mucking-in-the-barn and traipsing-in-the-pastures, shepherds of flocks. These people know sheep. They can tell us a lot about those creatures that God says we are like.

“I’ll bet those shepherds could tell some stories! From what the Bible says, sheep can get into a lot of trouble.”

In fact, I have two friends who are shepherds of sheep. Their names are Marilyn and Millie, two women who have raised thousands of lambs and tended flocks on their farms in Colorado. They have given names to many of their lambs and gotten to know their individual sheep quirks and personalities. They’ve nursed sick sheep, bottle-fed orphan lambs, called flocks in from the pasture, protected them from marauding dogs and hungry coyotes. They’ve laughed at sheep antics and cried over their losses and vulnerabilities.

“I’d like to meet those shepherdesses and visit the sheep farm, but I don’t suppose I ever will.”

But you can! Vicariously. Just read Marilyn and Millie’s book of sheep stories. They’ll even help you better understand how to follow the Good Shepherd “like a sheep of His pasture.”

“Great! Where can I get their book?”

Right here:

http://amzn.com/0989101436

And you can find out more here:

http://cladach.com/all-we-like-sheep/

Remember, keep listening for the Shepherd’s voice. You can trust Him implicitly!

Good Friday Poem

April-Snow-on-Bulb

Snow on Good Friday

We grieve when snow falls

on Good Friday eve.

What about the greening,

the beginnings of spring? when

like manna fallen from Heaven—

“My body broken for you” into

flakes and crumbs—

soft, pure-white flesh

spread upon all that lies

both dormant and sprouting,

at morn reflects the rising sun;

except for rockiest places

saturates fallow and seeded,

both broken and wasted ground.

~Catherine Lawton

© 2015, 2018

 

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