Creations in Stone

Stone RDP.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was STONE
It happens that blogger Keith H posted photos he took while visiting what’s left of the English Castle of Corfe. If you want to see STONE in large quantities, hop over to Keith’s Ramblings and have a look. Not just the castle, but the whole town is well blessed with stone.

As an artist, I’m very fond of drawing and painting stone. Artists as a whole love textures and stone gives us lots of opportunities to paint, carve, and design.

Image by Ulrike Leone — Pixabay

We’re fond of clouds and waves for the same reason: these things offer so many textural possibilities on which we can work out our creative urges. Quilters love finding new patterns; those who work with yarn aren’t content to produce same-old flat fabric, but work in a variety of ribs, knots, cables, shells, fans.

It also happens that on one of our calendars this month there’s a picture taken in the U.S. Grand Canyon. No lack of colourful rock there!

Image from earlofoxford — Pixabay

These stones tell the story of water gushing through that land with tremendous force, carving channels in the rock, creating canyons. As these torrents gouged through the soft stone canyon walls, they made fantastic layered textures before settling into a peaceful river. Today visitors look down at the river snaking among the canyons it created and they marvel at the things water can do.

I’ve held feathers in my hand and studied their complexity of colour and texture; I’ve looked through a wildflower book and marveled at the many leaf and petal shapes and colours. From thorny wild roses to fluffy dandelions and fat, fleshy sedum, I find such variety!

Fur, feathers, scales, limbs, horns, tails…shapes and colours galore decorate our world. All these tell me that our Creator loves textures, too.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11

Monday Musing

Rain. Blessed, Beautiful Rain!

We are getting the precipitation the weatherman has been promising for the past two months. Our rain gauge has registered an inch –2.5 cm– so far and more coming down. Joy, joy! 🙂

I can hear some of you groaning as you read this title, since some places are getting way too much rain, but let’s face it: Earth is not a fair place when it comes to weather. Or resources. Or troubles.

This brings to mind a quote I’ve heard many times through the years: “The Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Do you believe that?

I’m inclined to think the only people who say “God never gives you more than you can handle,” are those who have led fairly peaceful, secure, well financed lives. But tell that to someone who’s just lost their job and is about to lose their home. Or someone like my aunt Sadie who’s lost two sons and a son-in-law in a fiery crash. When her husband committed suicide a year later, I think she had a LOT more than she could handle.

Lately I read a little story: a woman (I’ll call her Dot) who worked very hard at her job and then in her spare hours she did what she could to help her sister and family. When Dot was already at the far end of her handling ability, her sister had some health crisis and needed Dot more than ever. Run ragged now, Dot sighed as she told someone, “They say God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle, but I wish He didn’t have such a good opinion of me!”

Christians often comfort one another with these words, assuming that God tailor-makes every event in our lives. Other folks say, “How can that be? God must be cruel to send some people all the trouble they have.”

A thought occurs to me: If we could always handle all the troubles that come our way, who would ever need God’s help? It’s usually when we realize we’re helpless to deal with the storms of life that we turn to Him. So I think the Lord does allow folks to be overwhelmed by trouble at times, by their own making or circumstances beyond their control, just so they will turn to him and seek his help. He has a strong shoulder we can lean on when we’re weak. He can see things so much more clearly. His gentle voice can guide us around the whirlpools and quicksand that swallow up so many who go it alone.

But I don’t think for a minute that God plans every trouble that comes our way. Our Father in Heaven is not cruel; He doesn’t “send” people murder, mayhem, abuse, famine, accidents, and sickness. Most of these things are caused by other people. We may wish He would reach down and slap someone who’s making the wrong decision or doing a harmful thing, but his warnings are gentle. He doesn’t force anyone to listen, though at times He does put a definite roadblock in someone’s path. Thinking back, we may wish He would have slapped us before we did what we did, but He lets us decide and carry out our plans — then suffer the consequences.

Solomon, with all his wisdom, writes, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11

Rain happens to pour down in some areas — cause flooding even — while other lands cry out for a drop of moisture. Some people live in an area where the only jobs available — coal mining and fishing, for example — put their lives at risk. Some people are genetically disposed to arthritis or diabetes; some are blessed with longevity. Diets and habits put health at risk. When my sister was dealing with lung cancer, she was pragmatic about it. “I’ve smoked since I was a teen. What can I expect?”

My own opinion, after about sixty years of observation, is that God has set this world in motion and the laws of time, genetics, gravity, climate and commerce carry on — unless He directly intervenes. And there are times when God does miraculously intervene in order to look out for his children, or those who look to him for help.

The Bible is full of examples of how Jehovah intervened to save His chosen people, and others, from some trouble. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” I Chronicles 16:9

I also believe that when we are overwhelmed, He invites us to bring our sorrows and troubles to him. He will make a way through the storms of life. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Faith is a Choice

Musings on Easter Morning

This time we call EASTER, or PASQUE (Peace) in Latin countries, and in particular this day, is the main event Christianity hinges on: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Most anyone will say Jesus was a wonderful example by the way He lived, by the things He taught. Philosophers and holy men of all kinds, even atheists quote his words and cite his examples. His death was cruel and needless, the outcome of putrid jealousy. But it’s his rising from the grave that has become the cornerstone of Christianity. This belief/fact has changed the course of our world. Two thousand years later people are still talking about God’s plan and believing it.

I just listened to a church group singing the song,
“Have you found rest and peace within, rolled far away your load of sin?
Stepped from the old life to the new? Tell what the Lord has done for you.”

(From a poem by Lizzie DiArmond)
This is not ancient history. New life through Jesus is a constantly current thing. Today the Lord gives peace and rest within, or so believers claim.

I ponder the questions: Why did God enact such an odd plan to redeem man? Why does man need to be “saved”? Why did Jesus have to die as a sacrifice? Why must a price be paid? Why doesn’t God just take everyone to heaven – or at least the basically good people? “Grading on the curve,” some wise soul has called it. As a human being I’m okay with a few faults.

Why did the divine Creator and Father come up with a scheme human minds can barely grasp, a story people are constantly stumbling over? He could have chosen a simpler way than faith in Jesus? He could just appear to each one of us and set us straight. “Here I am; believe me or else.” As a human being I respect force. A little jolt from above when we say or do the wrong thing might make it easier to know and obey his wishes.

Yet the Eternal, all-wise God says people shall have a free choice; He won’t force us to believe him. He allows that, as we go through life, we’ll get enough prompts that we can each decide to believe or reject his plan. Jesus says, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find.” The choice is ours to seek, to ask, to believe, to reject.

I came across the following old poem by Dora Greenwell (1821-1882) that expresses my musings quite well:

I AM NOT SKILLED TO UNDERSTAND

I am not skilled to understand
what God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
stands One who is my Saviour.

I take Him at his word indeed:
“Christ died for sinners,” this I read
and in my heart I find a need
of Him to be my Saviour.

And was there then no other way
for God to take? I cannot say;
I only bless Him, day by day,
who saved me through my Saviour.

Yes, living, dying, let me bring
my strength, my solace from this spring:
that He who lives to be my King
once died to be my Saviour.

A Sad Day For Us

The loss of a small creature can leave a big hole.

Last Sunday our pastor mention at the start of his sermon that just about any verse of the Bible might generate a long and meaningful sermon. Which made me think of the shortest verse, “Jesus wept,” and how much ink has been expended on those two words.

“Why did Jesus weep,” scholars have asked. He knew He was going to raise Lazarus, so why did He join the mourners in their sorrow? Because that’s what He does, writers claim. He joins us in our sorrow.

There’s sorrow in our house today, as our beautiful, lovable kitten, Tuffy, was killed on the road last night. I’ve been weepy all morning, ever since our neighbour texted that they saw him lying there, because I know how much we will miss his lovable ways. I’m thankful for every day we were able to enjoy him.

About eight months old now, he came to us one night last November, a day after the big snowy weekend we’d had. When I let our other cat out early that morning, a little black nose and two black ears poked out of the cat shelter. Fearless and friendly, this small kitten scooted into the house and made himself to home. He’d obviously been someone’s loved pet, but he couldn’t have just wandered half a kilometer down a country road.

His lively antics and cuddle-ability made our COVID-restricted winter so much brighter. The grandchildren enjoyed his fun nature, too, whenever they came to visit. And once the weather turned warmer, he loved being outside. Though I worried about predators and wondered how much “street-smarts” he had, it would have been cruel to keep him in.

“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This was Job’s answer, after learning how he’d lost so much, including his ten children. He realized that he’d brought nothing into this world; everything he’d gained in life was a gift for him to enjoy while he was here but he could take nothing with him to the grave. Scripture tells us he never accused God or became bitter about his loss.

People do ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Why COVID, why cancer, why this and why that? We’re so inclined to lament the bad and forget all the good. “Why?” is frequently asked, but no answer comes except that this is life on planet Earth. Life is a rainbow: there’s health and sickness, joy and sorrow, winning and losing, life and death. And we cry because we love.

I could ask why God let Tuffy get hit when he was so precious to us? Why did God allow that vehicle to come down our road? (Our gravel country road gets so little traffic, especially now with the restrictions, and Tuffy seemed wary of noisy vehicles. So I rarely worried about the road being a danger.) Why did God allow that driver to get behind the wheel last night?

I could even go back to, “Why did God allow people to invent motors? Just think how many people have lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents.” What with the climate and running out of oil, etc., surely our world would be a better place if we walked or used horses. But the next time I want to go grocery shopping in town, I want the car.

The only answer I get is to enjoy the life we have, the conveniences we have, and take the risks that go along with it. My own life was saved because modern medicine has come up with an effective cure for leukemia. I could – should – ask, “Why do I have it so good?” or “How did God manage to bring Tuffy into our lives so we could enjoy his unique personality during a season when we most needed him?”

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Just think how many sermons and funeral messages have been preached about those few words. And because we know “Jesus wept” together with Mary and Martha about the loss of their brother, we know He sympathizes with us in our sorrows and loss, the huge ones and the little ones. He understands why I’m sad today.

Not Home

papa opens the door
mama peers out the window
not home yet?

This was us last night.
The weather has turned mild and our little Tuffy is discovering delights in the great outdoors. Intrepid adventurer, but does he understand the dangers? Is he wary of swooping owls? Prowling coyotes & foxes? Potential pitfalls in the woods?

I was preparing supper at the Villa when he went out in the afternoon. He hadn’t come back yet when I got home at 9pm. Nor at at 10pm, nor 11pm. I stayed up to read, checking the decks again at midnight. No sign. Checked again at 12:20 — and there he was at the front door, none the worse for the wear. I cuddled him a bit, then I could go to bed and rest in peace. 🙂

He’s off exploring again the morning. The world is such an intriguing place!

Tuffy’s just a kitten — actually almost grown, so about “teenager” stage now. But this episode gave me a tiny taste of the worries parents feel when their young know-it-all, “I can take care of myself” teens stay out until the wee hours. So many evil lurk! So many dangers we’ve sheltered them from, and they have not yet built secure defenses against these!

Last night I found rest in the knowledge that God knows, that He sees every one of his creatures. Even when the little sparrow falls, He sees it, the Bible says. With his help there will be a way through the consequences: this is “the peace that passeth all understanding” that can steady our hearts and minds.

You know you can’t hold teenagers under your wing all the time or they’ll rebel. But how hard must it be to shut the door, go to bed, and trust that whatever happens, you’ll make it through. To trust that if you can’t walk through it your Father will carry you.

Whatever the reason, if you’re stressed about the future and what all might happen, I hope you can find hope in this verse:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

I Peter 5:6-7

The Center Cross

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word for today is BACKBONE

I can think of various examples, but I’ll go with this one:

The cross is the BACKBONE of the Christian faith.

For those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and have accepted his gospel, the cross represents his dying to pay the price for our sins – a price we cannot pay no matter how good we try to be.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The cross represents our “death” to the selfishness inherent in human nature. The selfishness that wants my own way no matter what it costs others, or how I would use them for my own ends.

“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:11

The cross is especially symbolic in that the central beam of the cross points us toward God, lifting us nearer to Him. The crossbeam points us toward our fellow man, encouraging us to reach out to others.

In all the years since Jesus died, the cross has stood and is as effective and liberating today. Those who have embraced it will tell you so.