Finally !

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Finally, we saw our first Cardinal make it to the bird feeder which contains a seed mix specifically for Cardinals and other songbirds. We have had a variety of small songbirds, constant visitations by several Blue Jays, and various neighborhood squirrels. They eat the most and have become emboldened with each visit to the feeder. The photo quality of this male Cardinal is not very good as he wouldn’t stay still and I couldn’t focus in time for a better image…they are very shy. The female was close by, but she didn’t come to the feeder. We have a pair of Morning Doves who have been getting closer and closer to the seeds each day. Yesterday, one of them finally made the plunge. Beautiful.

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As I witness these birds and squirrels move toward the feeder bowl, I see how much they are like people. Some are very bold and some very timid, while most are somewhere in between. And some, like our Robins, don’t like seed at all, but prefer worms and grubs. The Robins remind me of many folks who simply enjoy what they are used to rather than look for something more exotic.

There is an adage which states that, “Variety is the spice of life”. For many this is true, and yet for some the same routine, the same surroundings, the same friends, and games, etc. brings them just as much satisfaction.  Another adage states, “To each his own”, which opens up all sorts of options to living. Both adages have a certain degree of relevance, and both can be viewed as either favorable or not. It all depends on one’s outlook about life.

What lies beyond your front door depends on the scenery and your season of life. When young, the world is your domain, and while older the front lawn may be just as dynamic. This is a personal observation and is not a universal truth. For me, I derive satisfaction from both worlds. How about you?

Sky Torch

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Rather large for the Olympic Torch, and too small to actually hold the Sun, but here it is. A large water tower adjacent to a run of high voltage transmission lines. The cloud cover blanketed the sky, except for an area which allowed the sun’s brilliance to shine through.

Timing and location are critical to so many things in life including photography. Once I saw the morning glow from a totally different perspective, I drove to a spot that I was familiar with and waited for the sun to travel along its early morning path. This was the result.

I posted this photo a few years ago and came across it again while searching for another image. It was taken during this time of year and it just drew me in. I hope you like it.

Almost

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This photograph is of Thursday morning’s sunrise. Or, should I say attempted sunrise? Shortly after I took a series of photos within a five minute period, the sun didn’t shine through the clouds the rest of the day.

However, I was hoping for a breakthrough of sorts as it has been rather dreary of late.

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For this photo, I zoomed in a bit closer. I liked the thin clouds intruding ever-so-faintly in front of the emerging sun…gentle waves of ethereal vapor.

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As can be seen, sunlight had no chance of illuminating our region…it seemed to simply fade away. We almost had a sunny day. We almost were warmed by the sun’s rays. We almost enjoyed the pleasantness which seems to attach itself to sunshine.

Almost can be encouraging or discouraging depending on perspective. In this case, I almost did not get the opportunity to view this short-lived image or shoot it with my Canon, but I did. I’ll take that as encouragement every time!

To Everything There is a Season

To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn

And a time to every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, and a time to reap

A time to kill, and a time to heal

A time to laugh, and a time to weep

To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn

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Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons; amongst the greatest is the change in tree and shrub foliage. I love greens all summer long, and hate to see them turn to browns and greys in the winter, but before this occurs we are treated with a spectacle of color painted by nature herself. Consider the variety of vegetation coupled with an inexhaustible array of colors that man can mimic, but never duplicate in such exquisite beauty.

The words above are from a song made famous by a rock group called The Byrds in 1965. The lyrics are from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Pete Seeger, a singer-songwriter took these words and crafted this song which became an anti-Vietnam War song. The last verse says that peace is never too late.

It becomes obvious to me that these words are timeless in their meaning and interpretations according to the era they are read and pondered. We know not what is in store for any of us…only One has such knowledge. We can plan and prepare, discuss and implement, but we never really control most of the outcomes of our lives. Some will disagree, of course, and that’s okay. Each of us views life from different lenses. My perspective comes from several sources: my own experiences and seeing those of others, plus my reference point concerning all things-God.

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Change starts one leaf at a time, and before you know it, the whole tree is ablaze in color! May this season of your life be full of growth, peace and an abundance of blessings.

Where Did The Wonder Go?

I wish I could take credit for the title and idea, but that honor goes to my pastor Nathan Miller who preached a superb message about losing the wonder, the awe about God as we age. For those who are interested, he referenced Mathew 13: 53-58   which is a short excerpt in the Bible where Jesus is preaching in his hometown. All who heard marveled at Jesus’ command of scripture, but they rejected him because he grew up among them and was familiar to them, therefore not accepting his message or ministry. In the end, Jesus said that a prophet is not honored in his home town. Of course, he was much more than a prophet which increased their rejection of the message, and ultimately him. I felt a tinge of remorse as I realized I often regard Christ through too familiar eyes.

Please hang with me as I share some thoughts about life using this theme. As much as this message applied to people’s relationship to God, it also applies to so many other critical aspects about our daily lives. Wonder can be defined as “a feeling of surprise mingled with  admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable“. The photos I will be sharing are of Elliot, my grandson, who is full of wonder. These images are cell phone shots taken impromptu, but I believe they get the point across as you watch Elliot in fullness of wonder. And yes, I don’t mind sharing him with you!

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It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. I know that is harsh and not always the case, but there is a ring of truth to this statement. Familiarity also results in boredom and a withdrawal from what we once cherished. This is probably the most common result and occurs over time. It is seldom intentional. In fact, we don’t usually know we have reached this stage until we are either confronted by someone who remarks about our adjusted position about something or someone, or we have an epiphany of sorts and realize that what used to excite and engage us does so no longer. However, there is hope!

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Wonder is a beautiful thing! Whether we are experiencing something for the fist time or the hundredth, when we capture the essence of what it is that thrills us we become filled with awe and joy. The key in keeping ourselves from falling out of this mindset is rather simple, yet in reality so difficult to maintain.

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To view life through the eyes of a child is one such key to maintaining wonder for the sublime which surrounds us each day. I am not speaking of what some consider to be a foolish Pollyanna who blindly sees life through rose colored glasses. I am speaking of the Pollyanna who believes that good things will happen rather than bad, and remains optimistic even during adversity. To wake up each day with the expectation to simply enjoy each encounter and experience is a good start. Elliot is quite adept at this. I didn’t say perfect, though!

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Ah, but there is a battle raging all around us, as well as inside of us. There are so many enemies which seek to rob us of our joy and the wonder of life which God has so graciously given us. We fight pain and fatigue, money worries and relationship hassles, poor health and fear of death. Negativity and chaos bombards us from every outlet possible: social media, politics, war news, seeing poor sportsmanship, experiencing greed and corruption, and on and on. It seems for every positive there are three negatives. However, that is not reality, but what we are lead to believe is our reality. We must change our perspective and rise above the debris which has caused us to become bored and afraid. Circumstances may not change, but our mind and hearts can.

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We must strive to rid ourselves of cynicism, malice, bigotry, inflated egos, fear, exaggerated regrets, unrealistic expectations, and all that is unhealthy to our souls (it’s not the same for all of us-only you know what stirs your soul). Perspective is borne from hope and appreciation for what is rather than what we want. There is nothing wrong with desiring more or better things in our lives as long as we are balanced in seeking such. Wonder is not easy to maintain because life can be cruel and very hard at times. But, anything worthwhile takes effort. Personally, I want to expend my efforts as Elliot does. I want to train my mind to view each day as a gift just waiting to be opened! Yes, I am an adult and have adult responsibilities which I take seriously, but that shouldn’t prevent me from having the heart of a child. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these“.

 

 

Success: One More Definition

“Success is achieving my full potential while fully surrendering to God”.     J.B. Wood

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When I came across this quote, I was taken back by its simplicity, and at the same time, its profoundness. Hence, I decided to share it. I realized that this quote relates to the first success quote I shared in my previous post. That definition by Whit Hobbs is about excitement, confidence and the joy of being enthralled with something you love to do, and do well. The first part of this definition concerning achieving one’s full potential corresponds well to what Whit described.

It is the second part of J.B.’s definition which makes me pause. I believe his statement is biblical, and is also necessary for God’s people to grow in their faith. But, the term ‘surrender’ doesn’t sit well with most of us. Don’t we equate surrendering with defeat, weakness, loss of power, and the removal of one’s personal rights and privileges? That form of surrender is anathema to our survival instinct and sense of well-being.

Of course, God quite often puts a different spin on many ideas and principles we are familiar with. When Jesus walked among us, he turned the culture upside down by making proclamations which were often difficult to comprehend or were in conflict with current thought and practices. As an example, he said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. Taken at face value, most of us know intuitively-and by experience-that this imperative is impossible for man to achieve. Ultimately, he was implying that we should strive to be perfect by following his lead and seeking his help. Perfection comes later.

Hence, we come to the meaning of surrender as Wood used it. His intent is positive rather than negative. To surrender to God is to place one’s self directly under the power and influence of an entity far greater than mere man. God is nothing less than the Creator of the universe, as well as our personal friend if we chose to accept him as such. Anyone who can create an atom or cause an embryo to be formed in a womb must, by deduction, be able to govern all things far better than even the wisest of mankind could ever do. Where God is infinite in all things, man is finite. He is superior while we are inferior. Nevertheless, we struggle not only with this concept of surrender and putting it into practice, but also with the very concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

If we believe that achieving our full potential leads to a form of success, then we are on our way to something good. If we realize this potential while submitting and surrendering to God, we will achieve something even better than good…something  extraordinary. I have been trying to meld the two together most of my life, and still struggle with both parts of Wood’s statement. However, I am not without hope. I am not alone.

 

 

Expanding My View

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Ever wonder if you have viewed life through too narrow a lens? Ever felt like you missed something significant because you were rushing to get somewhere ‘important’ while something beautiful was just around the bend? Does the “Life is passing me by” cliche seem familiar? I’ve felt like that and missed significance, but I’ve also learned to slow down to see what’s over the next hill or beyond the horizon-and I’m glad I did.

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Expanding my view is how I describe living more in the moment. The opposite is life in the fast lane (guaranteed to blow your mind as one band described it). Expansion requires discipline and developing a ‘new’ set of eyes, but it is worth the effort. Clearer vision results in seeing something that was there all along, but has been often overlooked. Once I expanded my view the scene I was looking at takes on a whole new perspective. I begin to grasp the beauty of each sunset and marvel at the complexity of God’s creation. Sipping coffee with a friend takes on a deeper meaning. Watching a bird build a nest becomes fascinating. As I begin to comprehend this dynamic, I begin to flourish within myself…at least that is how it seems…and I like that feeling.