Saturday, December 31, 2011

The invincible future with Him

I particularly enjoyed the reading from today's (December 31) My Utmost for His Highest  by Oswald Chambers. This writing sets an excellent and wonderful tone for the new year.
"Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.
"God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.
 "As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.
"Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him."
I wish each of us such a future!  Blessings, Eric

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas holds the key

Reuben Job writes, "Christmas holds the key to unlocking the deepest mysteries of our lives: who are we, where did we come from, is there meaning to our lives, and where are we going?  Granted, we focus at this time on the birth of Jesus, on the exchange of gifts and cards, and the place of joy and triumph even when the days are dark and foreboding.  But the enormous truth of Christmas rests in the revelation  of God's self to humankind....When Jesus appears as the revealer of the transcendent Creator God, God becomes near, loving, and approachable.  Now we know that God understands us and that we can begin to understand God.

"The great mystery of God unfolds in the birth, life, and death of Jesus.  Jesus Christ came and was clothed in human flesh to let us know who God is and what God is really like. Now we know who we are--God's beloved children; to whom we belong--our faithful redeemer/savior; and where we are going in our journey of life--to a place prepared for us.  Thus the Christmas story is such good news."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reciprocal love

       God calls us to participate in a reciprocal relationship of love, but too often we are too busy, too "moral" (in our own eyes), too self centered to respond. More than three thousand years ago, when the people of Israel were forming their relationship with him, Yahweh instructed the Israelites to show their love for him by "walking in his ways and holding tight to him." As we know, then and now, we fail in this walk. Yet God never gives up on us. He "delights in showing us unfailing love." 
And so at this time of year, we are again reminded of how much our Creator cares for us.  We could not recognize his love in the abstract, so he came to live with us, to join us on our journey, to listen to our story.  As Henri Nouwen writes, "the God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles, but can always trust that he walks with us."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joyful surprise

On Saturday, I participated in the annual Christmas Market at our local conference center. I have participated since 2003 and sell a variety of my photographic products. Toward the end of the day, a young mother and her five year son came by my display.  The boy could barely see above the table, but he saw a picture I had taken of a dolly varden fish jumping up a rapid.  He held in longingly, hoping his mother would buy it.  However, the fifteen dollar price was more than she wanted to spend.  So, I told she could have it for a dollar. When she paid, and the boy knew it was his, his joyful surprise of a hope fulfilled was an absolute delight to be swept into. He will never remember me, but I do hope he remembers this moment and passes it on to others when he is an adult. And I also hope that he, like each of us, will have  more opportunities to be "surprised by joy."

Certainly, that is one of the messages of the Christmas season: to be surprised by the wonders of joy and love and to share with "even the least of these."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Patient waiting

This week was filled with unexpected encounters--meaningful meetings that interrupted "my" schedule, but were part of "His" plan. I will not go into details, but those unplanned conversations caused me to slow down, to let go of my needs, and to enjoy the opportunity to listen and to counsel.

Henri Nouwen writes, "That is the great conversion of our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return.  Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness.  When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope for peace by a new war, our desire for a stable government by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredom or to strike back in destructive bitterness.  

"But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then fate can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace of joy."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

celebrating new life

At a time when this nation debates whether to say "merry christmas" or happy holidays," banners are already up in China with the words, "Merry Christmas."  And Marshal, our Chinese student, tells us that in Mandarin, Christmas is translated as "holy birth festival." So, China, a nation that does not particular support religion. is willing to use the word Christmas with its religious meaning.  Interesting to say the least.

Regardless of one's religious or non religious beliefs/inclinations, celebrating the birth of Christ does give us the opportunity to consider our lives anew.  God came to earth clothed in human flesh so that we could be clothed in God. What an amazing gift!

I like what Brennan Manning writes: "Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father's love is so extravagant that no evil could possibly resist it."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Musings on life and justice after a week back in the courtroom

I spent last week in the courtroom, filling in for judge who has retired.  It was the most stimulating, rewarding five days I have enjoyed in my twenty eight years of judging. I find there is so much to love about people, and I am deeply saddened to see how far we stray from the love God has placed within us. As I have moved deeper into the human condition through God's Word and prayer, I feel I have gained a deeper insight and compassion for the consequences of our decisions, for good or for bad. And I also realize that if we are not traveling toward God, our road, our lives, are going nowhere. God has given us a clear blue print: there is justice and there is love. The justice that I--or any parent--impose is so limited and flawed. I look forward to the perfect justice God will give us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

the joy of His presence

Dakota, our thirteen year golden retriever, is filled with absolute love for Meg and me; we often comment how we wish we could love the Lord with the same desire that he has for us.  However, he is showing signs of his age.  I worry about the loss his death will create in my life.  So, as he and I were walking up our driveway in Tuesday's afternoon sunlight, I prayed as I watched him moving ahead of me.  I prayed that the Lord prepare me for his death, that I focus on thankfulness for life, not on the pain of grief.  And I also asked the Lord's forgiveness for the ways in which I had taken my own parents' love for granted; not appreciated their many sacrifices for me.

I happened to look up when I finished praying.  Above me, high in the sky, a hawk was flying--a relatively unusual event. As it circled, and rocked in an unusual way, sunlight shone intensely off its body and wings. I felt a moment of conscious unconscious, of being there but not there, and an overwhelming knowledge that the Lord is kind, good, and merciful. (Psalm 116:5) And, of course, whereas signs/miracles are wonderful, I am well aware that I must "live by believing and not by seeing."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grande Ronde Valley Sunrise

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall along the Yellowstone River

Flowing freely from its origin high in Absaroka Range of northwestern Wyoming, the Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 States. It flows through its namesake National Park and after 692 miles, joins the Missouri in North Dakota. The name is derived from the Indian word for the yellow sandstone bluffs that are evident along the lower reaches of the river, not the falls that are in the Park. William Clark was the first white man to explore the river extensively during the Lewis and Clark return expedition.
Meg and I enjoyed the brilliance of the cottonwood trees at their full peak during the last week of October.  Their glow was a special surprise, as we had expected the leaves to be gone this late in the season.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Whose am I?

I remember my college years being asked, and seeking, "who" I was. Supposedly, the answer would give me self esteem when I discovered my "true self".  Well, in the maze of possibilities, I never did find out.  Fortunately, in my mid forties, I reoriented my journey and sought a relationship with, not a religion of, God.  I found out "whose" I was.  I was a child of God. Seeking "who" led me to worship at the idol of me, of my accomplishments, my ego. Knowing "Whose" I was placed me directly in the arms of a loving Savior; one who loves me despite myself and so gives an eternal blessing beyond anything my tiny mind can imagine or comprehend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Hampshire. New England fall colors

Meg and I have enjoyed stretching fall from Oregon to Minnesota/Michigan to New England.  We are somewhat awed by the privilege of having the time and resources to take such a trip.  Since the fall colors of New England are still fresh in my mind, I wanted to post a second set of those pictures before I return to sharing the beauties of northeast Oregon.  So, here are the final pictures of the time back east.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remembering that God loves us

Rueben Job writes, "Leap from doubt to belief and remember that God loves you, delights in you, and yearns for your response of faith in HIm and His Creation."  Too often we judge ourselves harshly, thinking that we do not deserve God's love and forgiveness.  Yet, no matter who we are or what we have done, His love for us is never diminished. He is always there when we turn and return to HIm.