Saturday, March 30, 2013

Immanuel: God with us, always present

I know God is transcendent, lifted high above and beyond anything I can possible imagine. Yet, as promised in Isaiah and made visible in Jesus Christ, He is with each of us NOW, here, in every breath we take, every beat of our heart, in every molecule that is us. We can "kill" Him with our words and actions, we ignore Him as we decide what is "ours" and what is "His," yet He never leaves us. He died for us out of His incredible desire and love for us.  He rose again so that we would know He will never abandoned us and can follow Him into life eternal!.

"Let me never be tempted to think that my sins are too great to be forgiven, too abominable to be touched by your mercy.  Let me never run away from you but return again and again, asking you to be my Lord, my Shepherd, and my refuge."  Henri Nouwen

Strawberry Mt, John Day, OR

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sage Grouse and the French Glen Hotel

Located at the western edge of the Steens Mt, French Glen and its hotel are a historic link to the vast cattle ranching operations that occurred in Oregon in the late 1800's.  The hotel is owned by Oregon Parks, and run by John Ross, a private concessionaire.  The rooms are comfortable, and John has hosted and cooked at the Hotel since 1989. Meg and I always enjoying staying in this family friendly venue, and using it as a staging point to explore the area, and to watch the sage grouse strut.  We arise at 5:30 AM to make sure we reach the "lek" before daybreak.  Here is the Wikipedia description of this annual spring mating ritual.

This display is a delight to observe.  Besides the incredible chest puffing and tail display, the sound of air being compressed in the males chest creates a unique thumping sound.  Enjoy the pictures.  They are worth clicking on to enlarge.

"Sage Grouse are notable for their elaborate courtship rituals. Each spring males congregate in leks and perform a "strutting display". Groups of females observe these displays and select the most attractive males to mate with. The dominate male located in the center of the lek typically copulates with around 80% of the females on the lek. Males perform in leks for several hours in the early morning and evening during the spring months. Lek generally occur in open areas adjacent to dense sagebrush stands, and the same lekking ground may be used by grouse for decades."

Snow geese, Sandhill Cranes and the Malheur Bird Refuge

Located in Harney County in the southeastern part of Oregon, the Malheur Bird Refuge is a vibrant and delightful place to bird anytime of year.  In late winter and early spring, snow geese fill the skies and fields outside of Burns, the county seat. Elegant sandhill cranes also move around in this area. The refuge itself was established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt to prevent the near extinction of egrets, grebes, herons, and similar birds that were being decimated for their plumes. Now, its more than
187, 000 acres offer superb bird and wildlife viewing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Source of our Joy

I often return to this wonderful statement by Henri Nouwen for reassurance when I get frustrated with the state of the world or the state of my life:

"Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world.  It does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives.  Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. Jesus says it loudly and clearly: 'In the world you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world.'

"The surprise is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected.  No, the real surprise is that God's light is more real than all the darkness, that God's truth is more powerful than all human lies, that God's love is stronger than death."  Henri Nouwen

Romans 8: 31: What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Powder River

Ladd Marsh

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ladd Marsh

When the Grande Ronde Valley in northeastern Oregon was first settled in the late 1800's, the valley was a wet land oasis, filled with all species of birds.  As more settlers arrived and farming expanded, the wetlands were drained creating an exceptionally fertile valley. Now, over the last forty years, land acquisitions have allowed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to create Ladd Marsh, more than 6000 acres of wetlands, five miles from La Grande.  In cooperation with the City of La Grande, treated waste water flows into this area, benefitting both the birds and the citizens of La Grande. Tundra swans, many species of geese and ducks migrate through here in the spring.  Some stay and nest along with sandhill cranes and many species of shore birds. In addition to the open water and wetlands, the property contains scrub shrub, wet meadow, prairie grassland, and conifer habitat which attract a wide range of song birds as well. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We are safe in His Embrace

Unlike our peers and acquaintances, God never rejects us. Despite our sins that separate us from Him, despite our attempts to avoid HIm or escape  HIm, He seeks us, follows us, calls us, even pursues us. He is indeed the Good Shepherd who continually loves and wants and finds us, His lost sheep. Finally we learn we are safe within His embrace.

"I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139:7 - 9

Van Patten Butte, Anthony Lake, NE Oregon

Ohope Beach, North Island, NZ

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sunset and snow

As winter draws to a close here in northeast Oregon, I enjoyed an opportunity at our local ski area in the Elkhorn Mountains to enjoy some snow scenes.  The evening before, La Grande had been blessed with a most incredible sunset.  These scenes are a reminder of the intense beauty that surrounds us if we are able to make time to see.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

God's grace embraces our questions as well as our answers

"Our questions and questing are crucial, because they can help us live into the answer of the furture. I am certain of one thing: the love that is God is at the heart of the answer, just as it is at the heart of each moment--past, present, and future. Faith today, tomorrow and always seeks to live, to love, and to be fully loved...It chooses to embrace hope and to be embraced by hope, even when overwhelmed by despair; it seeks life even in the face of death....For God's grace embraces our questions as well as our answers and our blindness as well as our vision, just as the sun shines steadily through the night, waiting to illumine the sky at dawn."  Jean M Blomquist,  Wrestling till Dawn

How blessed we are to be able to always pull God's love tightly around us, particularly in long dark nights when worries try to take over before the dawn.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"That is why we never give up..."

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."            2 Corinthians 4:16

I have enjoyed an excellent start to my seventieth decade. I enjoyed spending a couple days building my igloo, as well as helping the Scouts build their own snow caves.  The preparation culminated with spending twenty four hours in a snow storm, sleeping in our shelters and then competing with other Scouts on the "Klondike trail."

I sometimes think about the old phrase "quit while you are ahead."  Our spiritual and physical journey, however, is never done.  If we decide to quit or even take it too easy, we miss so much of the life around us that never ceases to shape, mould, and deepen us in the love God has shown us through His Son and His Creation. It is exciting to realize how much we all still have to learn!

Anthony Lake

Three Sisters Beach