Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fickle Weather

Photo by Joshua Thompson
It's supposed to snow again this week, maybe tomorrow. But right now the sun is shining and from inside my window the warm rays feel like Spring is with us. 

The weather changes so quickly, especially as Spring approaches. We'll get ready to believe the warm weather is permanent only to be blasted again with snow and ice. We'll drag our boots and gloves back out of the winter storage box, kicking ourselves for putting them away so quickly. Out will come the window scraper and shovel and we'll put that extra ten minutes back into our morning routine for shoveling and scraping. Here in Minnesota we don't put those things away until May, we don't want to get too hopeful, after all. 

Unpredictable, even nasty weather reminds me of life, don't you think? Just when things are looking up, life blasts us with more cold circumstances or icy feelings of discouragement for no apparent reason.

Nature mimics life's uncertainty, but nature also reminds us of the sure nature of God's character. For we know deep down that Spring will come, then Summer, then Fall again and so on. The seasons continue throughout the ages, just as they always have. Consistent. On this we can rely, just as we can on God's character. This is where we build our bridge spanning the turbulence of life. We stand on Him during the storms that rage like our rock of Gibraltar.

God's character, his goodness, faithfulness, wisdom and sovereignty allow us to trust that He is indeed at work. He will bring us through the storms of life, not only as survivors, but as successful.

Even though the weather patterns change, the seasons remain the same. Take heart. 

Psalm 107:19-32
 "19Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
   20He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
   21Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
   22And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
   23They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
   24These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
   25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
   26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
   27They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
   28Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
   29He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
   30Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
   31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
   32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review - Thin Places

 I don't usually put book reviews here. The Christian Naturalist's purpose is to explore God's character and gain spiritual lessons from nature. Thin Places, A Memoir by Mary DeMuth is a book about discovering God's character and lessons in life's circumstances. So I didn't think you'd mind. I encourage you to look for the book and Mary's other books as well and let me know what you think.

“I, myself, am a thin place.” DeMuth says in the first paragraph. “The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond…I’m broadening the metaphor a bit. Thin places are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are aha moments, beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the heavy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh.” ~opening lines from Thin Places by Mary DeMuth.

From the first pages of the book, DeMuth piques the reader’s longing for the spiritual. She shines a light on our own yearning for the nearness of God’s presence, then proceeds to demonstrate His nearness in the most undesirable circumstances. 

DeMuth lays herself bare on the pages of this 215-page memoir. She is honest, humble and through her vulnerability reveals the love and sovereignty of God that she has discovered over the course of her early life. She shares poems and snippets from her childhood journals and reveals underlying pride and self-deceit common to most of us.

As in the fictional stories she weaves, DeMuth’s writing in Thin Places is earthy and real, even edgy, but always permeated with the light of hope in Christ. She claims to be a storyteller but her stories are not fluffy entertainment, they are powerful stories of God’s redemption, love and hope as is her own story told here in Thin Places: A Memoir.

Describing Thin Places, DeMuth writes, “The end result is story: mine. It’s the story of a little girl who faced sexual abuse, neglect, drug-using parents, fear, death of a parent, and a host of other malevolence. And yet it’s a hope-filled story, where the bright light of God’s climactic redemption outshines the dark places. It’s a story of God’s nearness when I thought I’d nearly lose my mind and will to live. How grateful I am for the beautiful love of Jesus, how dearly He chose frail me to shame the wise. It’s really His story after all.”

I recommend Thin Places for anyone who has experienced troubling circumstances, or just life in this life. May you and I each discover the thin places where God comes near.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Introducing a New Blog

My blog is going through some changes. More specifically it's dividing into two. The Christian Naturalist will continue right here, but I'm adding Foodie For Health to my blogging endeavors.

Foodie For Health will focus on delicious natural foods and will feature a recipe with each post.

The Christian Naturalist will ponder God's amazing creation as a resource for sustaining and enhancing life. We'll look into any area in which natural things in creation can be used for our benefit. Recipes may be included here or may not, but there will always be a link on this page to the Foodie blog and visa versa.

I hope you enjoy the changes and will follow both blogs regularly. I value you opinion and your readership.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hope of Spring

All around is white, but the sky is blue and the sun is still shining at nearly 5pm! The temperature is a decent 22 F. It's just early February but the hope of Spring is in the air. Each week the days will stretch a little bit. The temperature will continue to fluctuate, but at least the amount of daylight will continue to grow and we'll hold on to the assurance that Winter does NOT last forever.

Again nature, specifically the seasons, give such a picture of the spiritual reality. When in our darkest moments in life, the moment you're sure you can't go on unless you can see something to give you hope, the very next moment there's a glimmer of light. A tiny bit more light than you had before, just enough to remind you that the darkness will not--cannot--last forever. Spring is on it's way. Nothing will stop it's coming. No amount of snow, ice or arctic temperatures can deter the coming of Spring.

The darkness does not remain forever.

Take hope in this, fellow journeyman/journeywoman, neither storm nor winter lasts forever. God is in control and He will bring you through the darkness into the light. Sadness, sorrow, grief, discouragement will give way to hope. With God there is always hope. And hope does not disappoint as the Scripture says.

I don't know, maybe I'm in the mood for oranges recently. They seem so sunny, so cheery in the middle of winter. So here's a salad with oranges from Lunds & Byerly's Real Food, Spring 2010 magazine. See Lunds & Byerly's online and go to their "Recipes & Expertise" section for more great recipes like this one.

Orange and Shaved-Fennel Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Cheese Curls

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin in vertical strips
2 large (or 4 small) oranges, peeled, white pith removed, but either in segments or into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fincely chopped fern-like fennel tops
pinch of course salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 ounce wedge Pecorino Romano or Asiago cheese

1. Using a sharp hand-held vegetable slicer or the slicing blade of a food processor, cut the fennel bulb into thin cross-wise slices. There should be about two cups packed. Place the fennel and the onion in a large bowl, cover with water, and add ice cubes. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.

2. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on a large platter or four individual salad plates. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil and top each with a generous grinding of black pepper.

3. Toss the fennel and onions in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, and one tablespoon of the fennel tops. Add a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Mound in the center of the orange slices.

4. To toast walnuts: Add to a small dry skillet and cook over low heat, stirring until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

5. Use a vegetable peeler or cheese plane to cut thin curls of cheese from the wedge and arrange on top of the salad. Sprinkle with walnuts and remaining chopped fennel tops and serve.