Tuning up and staying tuned

The often silly world we live in suggests that we stay in tune with nature.   Nature is marvelous and we have a moral obligation to clean up the mess we’ve made and also prevent further losses.

This is a Vancouver Island’s west coast collection of plastic that beach walkers had piled up.  Nature groans beneath the weight of abuse.

I always try to shed light on my pathway.  You already know that I play guitar and like having it in tune and keeping it in tune.  How I wish life was that easy.

The more we tune and tweak the tuning the happier we will be as players and  audience.  But what about keeping my life in tune?  How do I accomplish that?  How do I find the right pitch?  What brings unity and harmony?   I do know what discord sounds like.  I know what sour notes sound like and I’ve struggled to finish a solo part with a broken string dangling from the guitar.   Who hasn’t had a broken heart from time to time? 

There may be one satisfactory answer concerning these questions.  Here it is.  Jesus is like a tuning fork.  He sets the exact frequency for us who are His instruments.  When we tune to Him we are suited for God’s orchestra, as it were.

As the tuning fork is struck it sends forth a measured vibration full of purest sound.  Christ’s perfect pitch can be heard above the noises of our painful world.  Above the mourning and sighing.  Above the sound of gunfire and war.  Above the racket of  progress.  Above spouted angry words or cheering sports fans or human wisdom speeches.  Need I say more?

Above all the noise and clamour comes the true tone of the loving voice of the very Son of God.  We have to listen carefully and become familiar with His voice, but not just His voice, also His message, His calling, His instructions and His freeing comfort and help.

An example of hearing His voice is as follows.  

In the Lord’s prayer, (Matthew 6:12) we read “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”   Can we tune our lives to that?      And it gets plainer than that.  In verses 14 and 15, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.

May the Lord help me and you to obey Jesus even when it is very hard, so that we are walking in step, in tune with Him.

 

Lessons from Winter Snow; Struggle and Beauty

I painted a winter snow scene in an “art” session.  It’s not of any known place but rather an exercise in capturing a season.  Here it is. We may think of the winter of our lives and how our hair turns white.  Maybe the lesson here is, enjoy every day and season the Lord gives us.

Snow is more welcoming to the eye than it is to the back’s struggle. This friend’s house, the trees and the sky speak Winter Snow’s beauty.

Then winter birds that are great to watch, struggle to find an organic feast . Sometimes there is a frenzy of feathered friends vying for the banquet just outside our dining room window.   Sometimes the berries are gone before the snow comes.  The lesson is – set aside some for winter like the ants do.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few glaciers, such as this one in Alaska. I was hoping to see  it calving (a big chuck breaking off) but it didn’t.  This beauty has been around for many repeated snow storms.  Now it struggles.

Okay, one more photo to consider.  One day as my wife and I were walking along the clouds parted and this snow capped mountain appeared.  This reminds me of a deeper lesson of a mountaintop experience I had, when my sins which were red like crimson, were washed away to make my heart as white as snow.  Wow!

The truth of that experience is found in Isaiah 1:18.  “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be like wool..

How fitting that in the middle of our Canadian winter we should celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, whose main purpose was to take away our sins and give us right standing with God.  Father God sent Jesus to earth so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  I believe that, and by faith have received that.  I pray that you too – will have your sins made white as snow.

 

 

The Chicken Or The Egg

Some present this as a tough question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  If you’ve listened to a few of my songs, you’ll know that I believe in creation, so my answer is quick and final.

God created plants and shrubs, trees and vines – some bearing fruit, some not.  He created animals and fish and birds and reptiles and bugs – all with the ability to reproduce their own kind.   The Lord didn’t create a multitude of eggs and seeds, but made complete and carefully designed living things, almost beyond human imagination, that all have seeds and eggs within them. This photo shows just a small example of bird’s nests.   Not only are the nests different, but the eggs are too – which I think is really cool.  Even from this photo it looks like the birds came first, then their array of eggs.

This beautiful duck is a male American Wigeon – if you’d prefer duck eggs.

Have you heard of Charles Spurgeon?  He was a very fine preacher who preached to no less than 10,000,000 people in his 34 years of ministry, in the 1800’s. Part of one of his prayers was as follows;

“Lord, let us live while we live … do not let us always be hampered like poor half-hatched birds within the egg; may we chip the shell today and get out into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  Grant us this, we pray …. “

 This is an American Black Oystercatcher with its black toenails.  It took patience on my part to eventually get this closeup shot.

The wisdom of man and his theories are weak and full of cracks.  In my humble opinion, the cracks are getting wider.  The Lord is above all, in all, holds all things together and has set His plans and His purposes into play.

Let’s take a close look at all the evidence that’s steadily building God’s case.  Now be a good egg and get cracking!

 

Sticks and Stones and Words

Sticks and Stones and Words.

An old saying that holds no merit is,  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”   It’s too bad that this isn’t true.  Just suppose for a moment that all the angry, demeaning and careless words that people spoke against us had no power to hurt us?   That would be very wonderful.

The photo of some small sticks and stones on the beach near our home, are the kind of thing that kids like to collect and play with.  These can be the making of a decorative hanger – all that’s needed is some twine, a glue gun and a little imagination.  I call that low budget fun.

I guess we have all been effected by some harsh words from our teachers, parents, or other so-called experts who thought it not harmful to say things like, “You’ll never amount to anything” or “Why can’t you get good grades like your brother?”  These and words like them are dangerous to good health.   I shudder whenever I hear a parent swearing at their child.  How will that child outgrow the pain and lack of love and respect?

Ah, the Lord never meant for us to behave so poorly.   He knows the power of words, both kind words and hurtful words.  James told us in James 3:9-10, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.   My brothers, this should not be.”   

The Bible has plenty to say about our use of words.                                                     For example, Matthew 12:35-37.  “The good man brings good things out of the good things stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”   (Jesus)

Much to my shame, I used to have a very foul mouth, that might make a pirate blush, then Jesus lifted me out of the pit and set my feet on higher ground, where He instantly took my unclean language away and eventually replaced it with joyful songs, all credit goes to Him!

Oh Happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!!!

Feeding the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish

5,000 is quite the crowd of people to see following the Teacher, clinging to His every word.  And we should add in this fact – that’s how many men were there besides women and children.   I guess we could safely double our number to 10,000.  That brings a funny question to mind.

If you could have been there, who would you rather have been?

Would you like to be one of the common folk who sat on the grass in one of the carefully counted groups of 50, who were waiting to be served the early version of tuna sandwiches – fish and bread?

Would you more likely choose to be 1 of the 12 who knew that all they had to work with was a little boy’s lunch?   That consisted of 5 loaves and 2 fish.  But as a disciple you would experience first hand the power of Christ to do His miraculous math and multiply the supply!

Maybe you’d prefer to be the young one who said “Yes” to Jesus in giving Him all he had to offer?  There was a “Skip the dishes” scenario playing out that left everyone in awe of the Son of God.

Whatever position you chose, there would have been plenty to tell your family and neighbors about that eventful  day.  Plenty of people – plenty of food – plenty of the wonderful power of God on public display.

Feeding 5,000 with lots left over!

I had the great privilege of taking a salmon fishing charter in Alaska. This photo was taken from our fairly small boat, taking us from sunshine into the likely path a heavy rainstorm.   We had fished maybe an hour and caught nothing – but when the rain came, we caught 2 beauties.  That’s just enough to feed 10,000 people! Now if we could only find a few loaves of bread – and one very special Teacher.   It is hard to imagine, but faith is always required when we are involved in walking with the Lord.   Well, as odd as it may sound in our society, keep the faith.   You’ll never regret doing so!     

 

 

The Best sign of Spring

I love spring; I don’t know who doesn’t.

Where we live on Vancouver Island, there are many beautiful signs when spring arrives.  There are flowers that come early like snowdrops and crocuses, and there is a wild flower simply known as Perry-winkle.

I did a painting that denotes spring arriving on Mt Washington, which is not too far from us.   Green grass starts to push through the matted dead grass of winter, while tiny flowers also begin to carpet the ground.

But by far, the best sign of spring, is a spiritual one –    the arrival of the annual celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have our calendars marking out Good Friday, which reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made in dying in our place to pay the penalty of our sins.

In the old order of things, priests would have to kill innocent animals or birds, so that their blood would atone for the people’s sins.  When Christ died, He took upon Himself all the sins of the world, including yours and mine.  His death put an end to the old ways, so that we are cleansed by the power of His blood.

May I encourage you to look into the Bible where each of the 4 gospels record the death of Jesus, and read about it for yourself?   For example, Matthew recalls the arrest and suffering and all that led up to the crucifixion of the Messiah, in chapters 26 – 28.  If you have never read this account – please give it a go!

Jesus Christ, the sinless One, the miracle worker, the friend of sinners, the long awaited Savior of the world, came to this earth to heal the brokenhearted and to set people free from their burdens of sin, guilt and shame.

He invited me to accept His gift of forgiveness, so I repented years ago, and found His amazing grace.  That’s why I write gospel songs and live for Him the best I know how.

For me, spring cannot come along without reflecting on the goodness of God to a wretched man like me!!   May you find His love that’s deeper and wider than the ocean.       Happy Easter!!   Happy Spring!

“Free as a bird?”

It’s a nice old expression, “Free as a bird!” but it may contain a smattering of false hope.  Though I’m not a birder, I enjoy watching a hummingbird or seeing a Scarlet Tanager .  Who doesn’t like watching eagles catching the updraft as they soar heavenward?

This simple photo of shorebirds, has one of my favorite – an oystercatcher which doesn’t actually catch oysters but just has a powerful beak which enables it to open oysters up and enjoy a “high priced” meal for free.

  Of course gulls and crows are scavengers always looking for a free lunch  from a fisherman friend or high tide treasure.

When the herring arrive, thousands of gulls descend for the feast on the herring eggs floating in the sea or that have washed ashore.   It’s also an opportunity to catch and eat some herring.

When the salmon are running, hundreds of eagles follow their watery journey, and gorge on their fresh or rotting once silver bodies as they head to their spawning ground.

I’ve had the real pleasure of taming chickadees to eat from my hand – evening grosbeaks will learn to trust and do the same.  All you need is some sunflower seeds and a rather large amount of patience.

This photo as the others was taken near our home and is a Western Tanager.
Getting back to the freedom statement – Jesus told us in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth  will set you FREE.”    I like that very much, but what is this based on?  We only have to go back one verse to get His drift.  Verse 31 states, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth WILL set you FREE.”

Am I as free as a bird?  I am free from the guilt and shame that came with the sin in my life, because by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead I have been given the gift of eternal life, with sins forgiven.

I am not free to do as I please but I’m free to hold on to His teaching and to do all He asks of me – to love God with all my being, to love my neighbor as myself,  walk by faith, not sight and many other wonderful things.

The fake conductor

The orchestra is highly trained to do their part to play the music only as it is written.   There is no room for improvising because if everyone was  given the freedom to improvise there would be crowded confusion with many played notes colliding and bringing discord.

The conductor is looking at “what is written” and encouraging each section – the woodwinds – the brass – the strings  – percussion and everything else, all the way down to the lowly triangle, to “come in” as required.

I’ve had the great pleasure of attending a few Symphony Orchestra Christmas concerts, where they picked some unsuspecting guest out of the crowd to go up on the stage to take the place of the conductor.

Although it was instantly apparent that the guest conductor had no acquired skills – the moment he or she raised the baton, the orchestra played perfectly!

HOW DID THE ORCHESTRA DO SO WELL?

  1. They ignored “the fake” conductor
  2. They relied on their knowledge and experience
  3. They kept their eyes on the written notes – tapped their toes – listened to the beat of the drums, so that no matter what incorrect moving of hands and arms or baton “the fake” offered – the band played on.

We are to do the same with “the fake conductor” who tries to lead us into temptation, ruin our song or mess with our lives!  He goes by many names.

Now in case you don’t know how to deal with the fake one, in the Book of James, Chapter 4, verse 7, we read  –

Submit therefore to GodResist the devil and he will flee from you.”

WARNING: don’t try resisting the devil until you’ve submitted to God.

See, we are all sinners and need things to be made right before we try any fancy moves in the spiritual realm.    Verse 10 reads, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. ”

When we’ve done that, then we can tell the fake conductor to “Go away” and he will obey!!   I was trying to think of a photo that I could slide into this article to demonstrate “Fake” – well a good example is this photo on my CD jacket where I am wearing my “Genuine fake leather” jacket.       May I never be seen as fake, but I’m not bothered that my leather jacket is.

Meet my best half!

It is with great pleasure that I introduce my “best half“.  My wife, Marie, is a wonderful encouragement and helper and also my best friend.  She plays piano and sings, and we’ve sung a lot of duets over the years – in care homes – at weddings and funerals – church services, and also in prisons.  Marie also does critiquing of my songs which  I value a lot.

I must quickly add that she is very patient with my song-writing.  I can go over a new song  on guitar for an hour without hearing one complaint.  I’m hoping it isn’t just that she’s learned the art of tuning me out!   I’m sure that’s not the case – it must be love!! 

Oh, I almost forgot, you’d like to meet her?  Here we are.

  We’ve both squeaked by the three score and ten mark and are so thankful for our having each other in our senior years.

Perhaps some of you are also meeting me here for the first time – nice to meet you!

We are happy.     The Scriptures talk often about joy and contentment which are  both a vital part of our lives.  We are blessed as the Lord continues to mold us into the people He wants us to be – He is the Potter, we are the clay.  He is the giver of life and we are His glad recipients.

We hope He’s blessing you also!

 

The Scarecrow Effect

I heard the story first, then got to see the scarecrow and take its picture.  So let’s start with the story, shall we?

My brother and his dear wife live on a small acreage where they enjoy nearby hunting and fishing, gathering and burning firewood,  feeding the birds and deer.  It’s a quiet, rather lovely place.  They really like it there!

My brother, Jack, was telling me that they were being bothered by a big dog coming from a home behind their property barking at the squirrels and deer and being a real pain.   Of course it would come down very near their home and not only that but barked both day and night, at anything that moved.

Well, Jack, who is not well known for his artistic ability took two glass eyes normally used in taxidermy work as mountain sheep eyes, cut a face of sorts out of plywood, added a hat and a set of coveralls = one scarecrow.

  This he hung in a tree at the back of his property facing the house where the dog lived.      Later that day, the dog spotted this smiling man who looked straight at him “without blinking!

What struck me so funny was, the big dog barked day and night for 3 days, and finally went back home and stayed there.  Problem solved.

This was pretty effective and no harm was done, but I look at drawing parallels where possible.  There are quite a number of well meaning people who shun the Bible, while honoring idols of all sizes.  That’s a freedom they have, but I found a verse in Jeremiah chapter 10 that I’d like to show you.  It’s verse 5, and goes like this.

“Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried for they cannot walk.  Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”          A scarecrow might put a barking dog to flight but other than that it is useless, having no ability to do anything good or bad, just like the handmade idols.

I hope you enjoyed the little story.