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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

While listening to a radio preacher on the way to work a few weeks ago, he challenged his listeners to take a blank piece of paper and write on it as many single words as they could that come to mind when thinking about God. That evening I sat down in my rocking chair to do just that. Many words came to me. I soon realized that all of the words should be understood to be superlatives. For example, God is not merely knowing but all knowing. The next thought came that any word that was superlative should describe God. Immediately a caution flag arose in my conceptual vision. I should only use words that are either in Scripture or clearly describe ideas in Scripture. It took me about 40 minutes to make the majority of the list below. More words came in subsequent days as I read the Scriptures in my devotions or heard a sermon at church, on the radio, and online. You cannot tell which words were on the first 40-minute list because I decided to alphabetize them for the sake of making a study out of them. I further decided to separate out descriptive words from names of God. I hope that this list is useful to you in your thinking about and meditating on God. There was one difficulty in the exercise. I tried to limit myself to attributes of God’s character and not works He has done. Much of what we know about God through Scripture and the witness of Creation revolves around what God has done. Many of the attributes listed below concern what He does flowing from who He is. It is a fine distinction that I tried to adhere to.

As a suggestion, you might meditate on one word per day, looking up the verses listed. You could also look up cross references in the column of your Bible to find more related verses. As you consider the ideas, praise and thank God for being an excellent being in this area. Consider three things additionally: 1) How does this attribute of God modify or fortify my concept of who God is? 2) How does this concept increase my security in God and confidence for living for Him? 3) How does this idea about God increase my piety, both positively in godly living and negatively in mortifying the flesh and overcoming temptation?

AbleLuke 3:8; Rom 4:21PerfectDeut 32:4; Mt 5:48 
AwesomeDeut 10:17PowerfulPsa 29:4 
BeautifulIsaiah 4:2Pure2Sam 22:27; Psa 19:8; 1Jn3:3 
CaringI Peter 5:7RealDeut 4:35; Isa 44:8, 45:5 
CommunicativeGen 35:13; Ps 50:1Relational1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Jn 1:3 
CompassionateExo 34:6; Deut 4:31ReposedGen 2:1-3; Is 28:12 
CondescendingGen 16:13, 21:15-19; Isa 57:15RighteousDeut 32:4; Psa 116:5; Acts 22:14 
DiscerningPs 138:6; 139:2Self-sufficientPsa 50:10-12 
EternalDt 33:27; Isa 9:6; Jn8:58ShiningEzek 8:2; 1 Jn 2:8; Rev 1:16 
ExaltedJob 36:26; Psa 97:9; Acts 5:31SourceDeut 8:3-9; Heb 5:9; James 1:17 
FaithfulDeut 7:9 ; Isa49:7; I Cor 10:13SovereignPsa 103:19;Dan 4:25,34-35, 5:21 
FamousIsaiah 66:19StrongJob 9:19; 2 Sam 22:33 
ForgivingNum14:18TranscendentI Kings 8:27;Job 37:23;Isa 57:15 
GivingJam 1:17; Dt 8:18; Matt 5:45TrueJer 10:10; Jn 3:33, 17:3; 1 Th 1:9 
GloriousExo 15:11, Psa 29:2,9TrustworthyPsa 22:4-5 
GoodI Chr 16:34; Ez 3:1;Mark 10:18UnsearchableJob 5:9; Rom 11:33 
GraciousNeh 9:17; Psa 103:8WiseRom 11:33, 16:27;1Cor 1:26 
GreatExo 18:11; Deut 5:24,10:17WonderfulIsa 9:6 
HeavyPsalm 32:4, see gloryWorthyPsa 18:3; Rev 4:11, 5:12 
HolyIsa 6:3; Rev 4:8,154WrathfulLev 26:28; Nah 1:2 
HonorableLev10:3; Dt28:58; Jn5:23ZealousJoel 2:18; Zech 1:14-15 
InfinitePs147:5; Eph3:18-19   
Intense (Fierce)Num25:4; Jer30:24; Rev19:15AlmightyGen 17:1; Job 40:2; Rev 1:8 
InvisibleCol1:15; J n1:18AlphaRev 1:8, 21:6, 22:13 
JealousEx20:5; Nah1:2CreatorEccl 12:1; Isa 40:28 
JustDt32:4; Rom3:26ChristActs 10:38; 18:28 
KindPs145:17; Eph1:5FatherPsa 68:5; Jn 8:54; 1 Cor 8:6 
LifeGen2:7; Jn1:414:6; Rev20:4JesusMatt 1:,16,21; Phil 2:10 
LongsufferingEx34:6; 2 Pt3:15JudgeGen 15:14,18:25; Psa 7:11, 75:7 
LovelyPs 84:1, 135:3JustifierIsa 53:11; Rom 3:26,30 
LovingkindnessPs 69:16; Jon4:2KingPsa 47:2,95:3; Mal 1:14;Rev15:3 
MajesticEx15:11; Is33:21LordGen 2:4,15:7; Ex 20:2;Acts 22:8 
MercifulPs 86:15; Jam 5:11OmegaRev 1:8, 21:6, 22:13 
MightyPs50:1; Is9:6PriestZech 6:13;Heb 3:1, 4:14, 5:6, 7:3 
MoralLk23:41; 2Cor5:21; Jam1:13ProphetDeut 18:15,18;Acts 3:13-23,7:37 
OmnipotentJob42:2; Eph1:18-22ProtectorPsa 14:6, 46:1, 146:9 
OmnipresentPsa 139:7-12ProviderPsa 147:8, Eph 3:20 
OmniscientJob34:4,21; Psa 33:13; 1Jn3:20RedeemerJob 19:25 
Patient2 Pt3:9,15; 1 Tim1:16SaviorIsa 43:3,11, 47:4 Jer 50:34 
  SpiritGen1:2;Jn14:16,16:13;Rom8:11 

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I didn’t say etymology because this is not about how a word came to be or changed in form or meaning over time. Instead, this is an anecdote about word usage where the word and its meaning has not changed but the situation referred to has changed. That sounds rather confusing until you hear the story.

Have you ever wondered why the container for beans or corn or soup or tomato paste is called a tin can. The obvious answer is that it is made of tin, or used to be anyway. Preserving food and other substances in cans began in 1810 with the invention of the tin can. By 1813 the first tin can factory was canning food for the military in England (1,2).

Why was tin used? It has a high corrosion resistance and a low toxicity (3). Already by 1818, cans were beginning to be merely tin-plated rather than entirely tin. Today, cans are plastic lined to seal them and prevent corrosion. There was a period of time when BPA’s and other plastics were used that are problematic for health, but that has gone away.

So, steel cans are still called tin cans even though almost no cans were even tin lined after the 1950’s. Though I have wondered about the persistence of this term, tin can, for many years, I regained heightened interest in the subject when I went to recycle metals the other day. Check it out at, “Where do I put steel and other metals?

What word usages can you think of that are leftovers from long gone situations?

  1. https://www.cancentral.com/can-stats/history-of-the-can
  2. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-can-and-can-opener-1991487
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285957383_Corrosion_of_Tin_and_its_Alloys

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Do you cherish quiet, alone time? It can be a great benefit to calm and focus the soul. Don’t push it away with noise of music and voice, dear reader. Lean into contemplative moments of quiet. It will make your time with others more enjoyable and meaningful. I had a short time in the woods to quiet my spirit. Check out my pictures and reflections at Laurel Falls.

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I have most of my life struggled with a sense that maybe God doesn’t care. I know from Scripture, experience with answers to prayer, blessings, and encouragements from numerous people over years of time that He does care, but still, though less now, there is this occasional nagging question in my heart as to whether He cares. I no longer believe that it is a lack of faith, because it is by faith that I quickly dismiss it by replacing it with truth.

You see, I have long known that God is able. Both my study of Scripture and experience of His grace confirm that. Sometimes I am tempted by the thought that He is not willing. Recently, I was again thinking about these things because I am reading “The Glory of Christ” by John Owen wherein he speaks of Christ being willing and able to help us. The word that came to my mind was efficacy. Suddenly it seemed to me that efficacy is the connecting bridge between willing and able. Efficacy, “the ability to produce a desired or intended result”, connects intent and ability. God accomplishes what He intends. He would not accomplish it if He did not intend to do so. When He intends to do so, it is accomplished to the extent that He speaks something into existence which was not. He did so in creation; He does so in salvation.

Also, I have long been amazed by a transcendent God who cares about an insignificant human like me. Only, based on His free sovereign grace, I am not insignificant.

Most efficacious He
Who speaks a thing and it comes to be
With a thought or His hand
It hastens to move or firmly stand

In Him power resides
Infinite, sovereign, above all rides
Yet with kindness and truth
He defends, provides, renews our youth

A picture of His grace
Power condescends for Adam’s race
Willingly was humbled
In flesh and death for us who stumbled

Willing and able He
With the greatest of all need are we
The efficacy is real
How thankful we for this hope and seal

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Some things may best be unsaid, and I certainly don’t say all that I think here, but I am also sine ceres, “without wax” (1). The cracks in my pot show, and I am content for them to show if it brings glory to my gracious God who always causes me to triumph in Christ Jesus so that the knowledge of Him may be in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).

In years past I was chronically depressed. For many of those years I would not even have characterized my condition as such, not knowing what ailed me. I was a believer and follower of Jesus, but did not know joy or peace. My confidence in belonging to Him has grown over the years, but my sanctification has not kept pace. I can relate to Bono of U2 in this (2). Depression and anger no longer control me and are infrequent strangers who pass me by in my travels. One area of particular growth for me is the area of peace. Because of the blood of Christ, I have peace with God (Colossians 1:20, Hebrews 13:20), but I have not always felt that peace. Increasingly I do. A frequent reader of this blog could discern that an area that I long to see growth in is the area of joy. It is after all a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I get joy in little fits and starts, particularly when I am singing hymns about the grace and mercy of my Lord, but it is not the consistent nourishment of my soul.

So, a combination of conviction for sin and the sermon last Sunday precipitated the following verse (3):

Moments of sadness flood over me
Phosphenes of despair fleetingly see
From these vestiges may I be free
Satisfied and joyous in Christ be

I want to hasten to say how thankful that I am for God’s patience, provision, and presence. I am not who I should be, but I am not the man I once was. God is faithful (Philippians 1:6).

  1. https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2008/sine-ceres-without-wax/
  2. http://jonathandodson.org/2006/10/sanctification-bono-barth/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphene The remembrances of past failures probably are the external stimuli that bring about the sensations of despair.

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I have over the years used and shared a metaphor for God’s dealing with me and directing me. For many years I traveled a curvy, steep, two-lane road over the mountains to get to healthcare and hiking and climbing destinations. I have traveled it alone, with my family, with my wife, or with friends in all conditions: snow, blazing heat, intense storm, beautiful Autumn days, full bloom of Spring, wildlife crossing the road, semi’s and cars and motorcycles (1) wrecked, and fog.

This metaphor, I believe, first began to form in my mind when talking to my former landlord about traveling this stretch of pavement. He was a telephone lineman for many years until his retirement. He once told me that he had seen fog so thick on that stretch of road that he actually walked beside his truck with hand on the steering wheel looking down to see the white stripes on the pavement in order to make progress. He was not given to exaggeration or metaphor, but regardless, the image in my mind directed me toward how I would feel many times subsequent in the midst of trying to move from one point to another in my life. As the old hymn says, “God Leads His Dear Children Along” (2), sometimes in the clear blue, sometimes in the dark, and sometimes through deep fog. He makes use of the conditions of our circumstances He has allowed or created for His glory and our good. More specifically, He may be about encouraging our souls in the crisp, new morning or slowing us down to follow closely in the fog. We may only be able to see one dashed line ahead of us on our life’s road, which causes us to pay attention and pray constantly. I have felt as though He has closed in the fog so near at times that I could only see the next step in front of me, and that light only a moment before I took the step. Perhaps He knew I would run ahead and miss the path if given more light, or perhaps He was training me to follow closely, trusting only Him.

As I have shared and contemplated this metaphor, one little detail has not satisfied me. It seems to be a mixed metaphor with vehicle and dashed lines on the one hand and footsteps and path on the other. I may tell someone the fog on the mountain story only to finish with the footsteps along the path. Musing on this discrepancy a few days ago, a more pointed application illumined my understanding. Sometimes I may go at a pace of a car in the fog and others I must pick each step one at a time, not knowing what precipice I may be traversing (3). God chooses the pace by the depth and duration of the fog and roughness of the path. The weather is not the point; following patiently and circumspectly without either running ahead or falling behind is. I long for some clear days, but I cherish the quiet intimacy of the fog.

  1. Not having gained the fame of “The Dragon”, it is nonetheless a draw for motorcyclists who like the challenge of the curvy highlighted by exceptional scenery: NC181.
  2. Colored, underlined script are links, in case you didn’t know. I am reminding myself as I tell you that I should write a blog entry about the circumstances in which I learned and sang that hymn over the years. God is good to direct.
  3. Having read the Chronicles of Narnia to my granddaughter recently, this idea reminds me of the scene when Lucy had seen Aslan in the woods near the precipice’s edge, pleading with his eyes to follow her. Her siblings, save Edmund, and the dwarf voted her down. When their choice failed, Aslan graciously appeared again, and they followed through the dark down a narrow path between cliffs to its base. At the bottom when the sun arose and the fog cleared, one of the siblings, I believe it may have been Edmund, remarked how amazing it was they navigated safely down the path. But, of course, they did, Aslan was leading.

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I previously proclaimed my proclivity for and prowess with lists. You can check that out at Lists.

The other day I stepped up my list using a notch. I now live outside of the town I lived in for 22 years. There and back that is now 50 minutes of driving. There are frequently multiple chores to do when in town. I have recently felt a mild frustration at the inefficiency of getting things done in town, increased by the price of gas. One worried little about either when things were a 3- 5 minute drive from the house. So, I thought, what would be the most efficient route for getting the chores done. I decided to sketch a map, labelling all of the places I needed to go and then mark an order of visiting various venues. It turned out to be a circle. As you can see, I have labelled highway numbers and initials of places to visit.

The oval represents the town, which reminded me of a small developmental art lesson I had one time. An artist had observed many children drawing. In the video children were shown drawing. He points out to the commentator, ‘See, she puts a circle around it.’ Then he explains that at a certain developmental stage, children circle their scribble and call it an object, a person, a thing. Before that they just scribble. After that they are trying to draw an object they hold in their mind.

In the middle of the circuit, we decided that we needed to make an additional stop. I just added it to the circuit without any backtracking or inefficiency. I wondered how few of stops need a map. Is it how many stops I can easily hold in my mind with all of the other details running around in my head and without forgetting a stop? Or is complexity of the route? Or is it the amount time between planning the trip and executing it? Is the number 2 or 3 or 5? Certainly this list of 6 was enough for me to not immediately see the most efficient route without mapping it out.

It saved time, gas, and frustration trying to figure out where I should go next. And given that I don’t just walk or drive a few minutes to this store or that business and come back home, it may become a more regular habit to map-list where to go…”Next!”

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I found the following reflection from 2011 that I never published. It still the way my wife and I do life.

One of the choices our family has made over the years is to live materially conservative lives. Obviously, if a family has financial limitations then their life must be lived frugally to maintain stability. That has been our allotment for which we are thankful to God. As I have said in times past, “Though we don’t always know how, the bills are always paid.” However, it is possible even within this forced frugality framework to choose convenience overr conservation. For instance, three of our babies wore exclusively cloth diapers and the fourth wore them until continuous diaper rash persuaded us otherwise. It began as a clear way to save money but continued as a mindset on how to conserve resources.

          Another attempt at conserving resources is the compost pile. We began our marriage with two gardens and continued maintaining one for most of our first fifteen years of marriage. We miss our gardens but our present plot is very poorly drained with very heavy soil that doesn’t grow garden vegetables well. But even now without a garden we deliver our ‘wet’ garbage to a covered compost bin that is about 3’ x 5’ x 2 ½ ‘ high. The compost pile helps return nutrients to the ground, reduces the number of times a month trash must be delivered by the rural resident to the dump, and reduces the amount of landfill usage.

          For me personally the compost has had another benefit. Though life is busy and I send one of the children out or my wife frequently took it out in times past, I actually enjoy taking out the small bucket full of scraps. In winter I most often carry it out after dark in anything but the hardest rain and never minding the cold. The smell of the air may suggest a coming snow or rain. The wind chills the nose and ears and shoulders and tells of fast changes to warmer or colder. But the best times are the clear, quiet cold nights when the stars are at full brightness. That is a time to reflect on the celestial light peering down through the bare twigs onto the detrital refuse of Earth below, and everything in between- a quiet moment to consider God and His most excellent Creation.

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I had a peculiar feeling today (1). Two people were talking about an animal that had to be put down for attacking the owner and in the past other people. The owner cried during the conversation and the other person empathized and then turned and asked if I had a dog. I do not. Because of a poor experience (2) with a dog as a child, I don’t really enjoy pets that much.

Some people have pet dogs or cats. Some people have pet hamsters or gerbils. Some people have pet fish. Some have pet rocks. Later in the day I received a strange text with a picture (click here). I had a sinking feeling when I saw the picture. I lived under that plant for 22 years. I cleaned up after it. I trimmed it. I looked up at it during various seasons and variable weather. I enjoyed its shade, its shape, and it size. The new owners had ever right to cut it down, but I was still a little upset. It was, as my wife reminded me, the largest tree in the neighborhood, and it was probably 150+ years old. I have long known that I like trees, but today I realized that I must hold some similar emotions to other pet owners of dogs or cats or gerbils. I felt a sense of loss over an old companion. (3) I responded in a quite non-committal way to the text with the picture, “Make a alot of good firewood.”

  1. Let me tell it in the present tense even though a week has slipped away since it happened.
  2. I wasn’t attacked. I just didn’t like the dog because I had to train it and feed it but couldn’t really play with it because it would always run over you when you went into the backyard.
  3. Far older than me, perhaps 120+ years old based on other oak trees of similar girth on which I have counted the rings.

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The atmosphere has always fascinated me. As I sat in the sunshine eating lunch the other day, I noticed the contrast of deep blue to the pine needles of the surrounding pencil straight conifers surrounding the house. A few moments later as I relished my lunch and the opportunity to sit down in the midst of a day of labor, I saw a soaring bird up very high. It appeared black but with no gray wing feathers, which would have identified it has a Turkey Vulture. It could have been a Black Vulture, Golden Eagle, or Raven, though the latter is unlikely that far from the mountains. It wasn’t an Osprey because the wings were too broad. Next I spied a commercial jet very high en route to some far away city. I started. I knew that the deep blue meant low humidity, but here was an airliner with no contrail whatsoever. I made comment to my work partner, and he replied by reminding me we were under a severe fire hazard warning and that Pilot Mountain was even now burning.

For all our efforts to insulate ourselves from the changes and extremes of the atmosphere, we still are waylaid by its sudden and violent outbursts and subtle intensities. Low humidity is certainly the latter of the two, quite enjoyable for the blue skies and warm afternoons but endangering our forests and sometimes homes with the potentialities of dryness.

California is an example where this subtlety all too often becomes an intense extreme. The Chaparral Climate* there is generally dry with rainfall ranging from 10 to 17 inches of rain annually. Most of the moisture falls in the winter, causing the summers to be extremely dry. If that were reversed and the rainfall was in the summer, fires would probably not be a serious problem there. But the shifting ocean current, which is determined by the tilt of the Earth and therefore the Sun exposure, controls when it is wet and dry and there isn’t really a climate with limited rainfall and wet summers. A little less winter moisture than usual and wildfires abound.

I am so thankful for the temperate climate in which I reside. The weather and the woods are most usually friendly with just enough change to draw one’s attention to changing seasons and weather patterns.

Though I bring up these details in retrospect, as I concluded my lunch on that day, I decided to forego the cost/benefit analysis of dry weather and enjoy the day while I labored on. Solomon agreed: “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” Ecclesiastes 5:18

*https://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/chaparral_climate.php

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I am thankful for awareness to perceive the small little wonders that God has placed in my path each day. As Anne of Green Gables said that there is so much “scope for imagination.” But these wonders aren’t pretend. They are real, interesting, and point up. Check out but a few at “Random Wonders“.

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“I am sitting at the Yellow Mountain Gap Shelter [a barn long ago converted for this purpose], having come up the Overmountain Victory Trail along Hampton Creek [on the Tennessee side]. It is my [son’s] 31st birthday… Two deer, probably just having lost their spots recently, hopped around in the meadow above me. Five or six varieties of birds sing and insects buzz beneath a low overcast with a slight breeze carrying occasional sprinkles of rain. Despite the clouds, it is fairly bright, and a profusion of summer wildflowers surround the mowed clearing and adorn the seeps of the forest. The grass is indeed a yellowish green on Yellow Mountain before me and every direction speaks of summer lushness and humidity. I want to praise His holy name and forget none of His benefits, as Psalm 103 says, but I am in need just now of His joy and His guidance. I desire to want Him more than His benefits,” I wrote at the picnic table after a strenuous hike up the ridge for about 3 1/2 miles. I had need of going over the mountain by road to get some things and decided to make use of the outing to get out into the mountains.

This way of getting to Yellow Mountain Gap did not exist 25 years ago when I was asking permission to cross private property, which I was allowed to do on two occasions back then.

If you don’t know the history of this game changer of the American Revolution, then you should check it out. Backwoodsmen streamed across the mountains in search of Major Patrick Ferguson who had threatened them. They caught up with him at King’s Mountain, SC. Reenactors make the trek yearly, stopping at key points to explain the significance of the battle to school children and anyone who will listen. I used to live near Sycamore Shoals and now live near Quaker Meadows, two significant staging and meeting points for the pioneer combatants.

A little more recent cultural icon of the mountain draw, the decaying clapboard house.

The fields get narrower and steeper as you climb up the draw and the gates keep in the wondering cattle on the hillsides.

Multiple tractor tracks, cattle ruts, and trails made the little symbols a guidance comfort for this first time hiker on this particular trail.

It is the season for sweet treats along the trail of which I availed myself.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.) is said to be an invasive, but it is definitely useful to dry up runny sinuses, using the leaf or the flower. I just learned that the reason it is usually found along highways, which are frequently sprayed with herbicides preventing me from collecting it there, is because it needs bare ground for the seeds to germinate.

Though I paralleled Hampton Creek and Left Prong of Hampton Creek, I saw the creek very few times. I was in the fields but it was in the woods in a narrow draw most of the time. I knew it was there because I heard it for all but the last 1/2 mile before the gap.

Further up and further in:

Woods and shade at last:

Literally at field’s edge and overlooking the barbed wire, I saw this beautiful stretch of creek.

There were many beautiful wildflowers, some of which you can see at Hampton Creek Reserve Wildflowers. I did not see one other person in the five hours of hiking. I enjoy conversing with people, even strangers, but I also enjoy time for reflection, prayer, observation, and praise. Frequently I find that strenuous exercise keeps my body occupied so that when I take a few moments of rest my mind and spirit can converse with God better. The surroundings were certainly beautiful in the big and the small. And I was enabled to visit a spot I had not been to for more than 15 years.

You can see Yellow Mountain behind me.

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Sound like a title straight out of a Prohibition movie? Actually today it was a pair of climbs my partner and I did on Table Rock. I trad lead (1) White Lightning. My partner has a 70 meter rope so I did the first two pitches as one. First you go straight up a crack to an overhang and then traverse right to the anchors of another climb. We rappelled down from there and then did North Ridge to the top in one pitch. On this second climb, we climbed with our packs on so that we could walk off the top.

My partner realized just after we left the parking lot that he had forgotten his climbing shoes. So while he went back, I had a few moments to reflect on the surroundings. Sourwood bark has character and so much “scope for imagination”, as Anne of Green Gables would say. The furrows and ridges could be dragon skin or climbing holds or tire tread. What does it remind you of?

And the surrounding woods were lush but open, and even pleasant on this otherwise sultry, July morning.

The first climb that I led was a challenge for me, but the belay station was a big enough ledge for a comfortable look about. It was indeed hazy this day, calling for afternoon thundershowers. The clouds obscured the sun just sufficiently to preclude sunburn or copious sweating.

The view north was the best, straight upstream on Linville Gorge. You can see the river down below and Hawksbill on the right.

Just beyond the anchors this block sits precariously on the ledge. How did it get there? Why hadn’t it tumbled to the ridge below? Why does it continue perched on this slopped ledge? The shadowed left surface seen in the picture seems to be a mirror image of the small roof above. Is it possible that it could have detached from there, fallen about 3 feet and just sat?

It appears as though there is an arch at the left. I leaned out (2) to see, discovering that it is detached from the wall, and therefore, a spire. I may have to climb that one day. You can see here that the cliff line of the opposite side of the Gorge. The next valley behind that is Paddie’s Creek, its far ridge being another place that I like to climb.

My wildman partner smiles for the camera as he belays me to look around. The end of this climb ends at the anchors for the second climb we did, North Ridge. It is definitely on the turning edge of Table Rock’s north end. From where he stands to where I stand allowed me to see around the corner to the southeast pictured in the last scene.

I’m just a tourist taking in the beauty of God’s green earth.

There are two weird effects in the next photo. The blue band is just that, a blue band, that holds my camera around my neck and gets in the way sometimes. The other is the appearance of my partner trotting up the wall as if hardly touching it. I guess the moves were so easy that he did not have to keep three points on.

On the drive out I saw two picture worthy organisms. The first was butterfly weed.

The second was a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus). The other common rattlesnake in these parts is the Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Both suggest a wide berth.

All in all, it was a good day enjoying God’s creation, challenging ourselves in the process, and having good conversation about everything from an upcoming wedding to unsolved math problems and analema- so much scope for imagination.

  1. Trad (traditional) climbing is using gears like nuts and cams to climb from the ground up. Lead climbing is the first person up the pitch (length of a rope) who places gear and climbs above the protection to set the next piece.
  2. tied in, of course

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I recently completed the book, “Visual Theology”, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. I can recommend the book as a good overview of practical theology and encouragement in godly thinking and living. The book has colorful, well explained diagrams, infographics as the author calls them in keeping with the latest buzzword. A friend at church gave me the book because she knew that I like to teach using diagrams. I pursue diagram making to organize, simplify, help memory, and give insight into complex or voluminous concepts. I think my diagrams and tables have insight and are useful, realizing they may not communicate to all minds. A few examples include “Effort and Empowerment“, “Spiritual Growth“, “God’s Word and Community“.

A number of the diagrams in “Visual Theology” are instructive, convicting, and sufficiently deep to draw you into figuring them out. The one I found most useful and convicting was the one on pages 96-97 that is a flowchart about “How to put sin to death” by biblical thought and action. It rightly does not let one get off the hook with excuses. It does this by directing you to see that either you aren’t a Christian, you aren’t believing what God says about His power to overcome sin, or you don’t believe in the seriousness of sin. The flowchart then cycles back around to how to confront these problems.

Also, the summary diagram on pages 104-105 that shows the spiritual disciplines enabling movement from “putting sin to death” to “putting on the new” is beneficial. The color scheme of red to green speaks death to life. I only wished the diagram had started low with “putting…to death” and come up to “putting on…new”, instead of the other way around.

Perhaps the best infographic is the very simple one on page 108, “True Life Change”. It features two arrows cycling around amongst four major spiritual changes continuously going on in the believer’s life: “spiritual awakening”, “true repentance”, “new behavior”, and “receiving forgiveness”.

I am disappointed with the scope and depth of many of the other infographics in the book for three reasons. First of all, as my son-in-law commented after a cursory glance through the book, “It has too many words and not enough diagrams.” After reading the book, I saw the words were indeed good explanations of the points, but they did make the diagrams seem less useful. Perhaps the diagrams should have spoken for themselves and then minimal explanation given for the purpose of preventing misunderstanding.

Secondly, I feel as though several opportunities to deepen the diagrams’ messages by multiple levels interaction between the parts rendered many of the diagrams monochromatic or merely one-dimensional. For example, in the last section on vocation, the authors have a diagram called “The Work Of A Christ Follower” (page 122) that diagrams the three areas of vocation, “being”, “calling”, and “passions”. These are connected by lines to various vocations of the Christian like artist, father, husband, neighbor, athlete, etc. These vocations are placed randomly on a circle around a center circle labeled “You have many vocations”. Why not rather make the center circle say something like “What God has given you to do.” Then each concentric circle could be a priority list of vocations. In my case I would diagram what God has given me to day in this order from the center outward: Christian, husband, father, grandfather, church member, citizen, neighbor, carpenter, rock climber, writer, etc. Then connect the three areas of vocation to these. The only real difference I have made to the diagram is priority ordering the vocations rather than randomly listing them. To me that gives the diagram more depth.

Thirdly, I reflect that many of the infographics were merely pretty bulleted lists. They did not in themselves communicate or extend the concepts they presented. An example of this is the diagram in chapter 5 titled “Doctrine Leads To” on pages 82-83. These words form the center of the circular diagram with the words “Love”, “Humility”, ” Obedience”, ” Unity”, and “Healthy Growth” surrounding the title. On the adjacent page the words are bulleted with explanation. On the pages before and after this diagram explanation is given for how each of these words proceeds from doctrine. The explanation suggests a much more in depth diagram that shows progression.

Following is my attempt at making a diagram that represents the author’s own explanation of the benefits of doctrine in the life of the believer and the church. Notice that “Knowledge”, “Assent”, “Affection”, and “Trust” are not in the above list of items on his diagram. But these words do appear in his explanation and I think are the key to the sequence of changes that begin to take place in the believer that result in actions. Notice also that I do not say that this process is one-dimensional, always following this single pathway. “Doctrine” results in an acceleration of “Growth” in many areas at once. I also began to see that doctrine changed the will which changes the emotions which results in right actions. The penciled in “trust?” and “humility” are suggestions of friends as to possible changes to the diagram. And that is the benefit of more extensive diagrams of ideas: thought, discussion, musing, critical thinking, deepening.

The husband of the lady who gave me the book reflected that the book was “ground-breaking” in the area of communicating theology using graphics, and it would lead others to do more and better efforts at diagramming theology because the idea had been initiated and because we have become such a visual, quick information acquisition society. He urged me to write a follow-up book, which I said I would call “Theology Diagrammed”. The main problems with that are lack of time and a lack of completeness and coherence to the diagrams I have made. But perhaps with time, encouragement, and help, it might happen.

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Snow delayed church today, enabling extended, much needed sleep and more time for personal worship. I frequently recall the phrase “Prophet, Priest, and King”, which pretty much summarizes all that Jesus is to us. But as this thought returned to me as I was reading the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7, I began reflecting on who this King, this Messiah would be, and was, and is. In the next hour I listed and referenced the following names, titles, and functions of our Lord. It is not exhaustive*, but it is glorious.

Messiah shall be…

  • Creator Genesis 1:26, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16
  • Seed of woman Genesis 3:15
  • Seed of Abraham Genesis 12:3, 17:19
  • Prophet Deuteronomy 18:18-19
  • Captain of the host of the Lord Joshua 5:14
  • Holy One of Israel Isaiah 48:17
  • Suffering Servant Isaiah 52:13 – 53:11
  • Root and Branch of David Isaiah 11:1, 53:2; Revelation 22:16
  • Redeemer Job 19:25, Isaiah 54:5
  • Son of Man Daniel 7:13
  • King Daniel 7:14, Isaiah 23:5, Matthew 27:11
  • Messiah the Prince Daniel 9:25
  • Priest and King Zechariah 6:13
  • Son of God Matthew 26:63-64, Luke 22:70, John 1:34, 3:18
  • Word John 1:1
  • I Am John 8:58
  • Savior Matthew 1:21, Luke 2:11
  • Sustainer Colossians 1:17
  • Head of the Church Colossians 1:18
  • Resurrection and Life John 11:25

As a recent documentary my wife and I were watching said, “He is worth it.” Worth what you may say? He is worth giving up all that we desire and pursue, worth pain and persecution, misunderstanding and dismissal, and loss of all for gain of Him. My life doesn’t always reflect that worth in all I do and say and think, but I believe it and am wanting it more as time goes along.

*He is God, The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Alpha and Omega, Lord, Friend, The Lamb, Warrior King, and on and on the Scripture reveals. Extend my list and reference it. It will focus your mind and strengthen your heart.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Milestone

I enjoy the occasional foray into the realm of etymology. Word origin provides insight into the many and varied meanings and connotations of words and metaphors. There is a humorous twist on the origin of the terms mile and milestone. I assumed that since mile is a thoroughly English measurement of distance that the word, though perhaps not the concept, came from bloody ole England. Afterall, the U.S. is the only major country in the world to still be using the English system. But no, when traced back, mile comes from the Latin mil, or one thousand, which is quite base ten, or metric. Milestones then were stone markers called mille passus, meaning one thousand paces (1), along Roman roads. They were first placed every one thousand steps along the Apian Way out of Rome. Even then they would not have actually paced off the distance, but would have used a standard chain or rope length, the stade (eight stades to a mile). (2)

Etymology was only a small part of why I’m writing this blog entry, but it is fascinating. Metaphorically, milestones are visual, emotional, mental, or group markers for significant events or changes. Milestones typically include salvation, graduations from educational institutions, marriage, arrival of children, job changes or promotions, retirement, lifestyle changes, or significant personal goals reached like weight loss or the first marathon. The term can be overused, particularly in the business and education worlds it seems to me, and there is definitely a difference in significance levels from eternal to trivial. Nonetheless, the idea is solid and shows up in Scripture, even promoted by God (Joshua 4:1-7), and used by prophets (I Kings 18:31, I Samuel 7:10-12).

I have been privileged to have many profitable and enjoyable  milestones in my life, and a few significant ones of late. All five of my children are now married and I have just recently retired.

I passed a small milestone in blogging, which I only inadvertently realized while rereading a few blog entries. This very entry is my 500th blog entry. Having written in this blog since July of 2007, it is quite an accomplishment for me to have continued with only a few months in all of that time of not publishing at least one entry. In fact, the average number of blog entries per month over the that period of 13 years has been just over three entries. It causes me to muse upon why I would be so consistent for so long. The obvious answer is a love and a need of the this forum. I need an outlet for my thoughts and love this particular one that is potentially interactive (3). It gives me a voice, an influence, if ever so small, and a sense of not forgetting what experiences and insights God has so graciously given to me, that is, an online journal. It may hopefully be part of my intellectual inheritance to my children and grandchildren.

But a question arose in my mind: Would a milestone be a milestone if we were unaware of it? I don’t think that this is the existentialist argument about a tree falling in the forest (4), because we are talking about a metaphor for the perception rather than a physical mile marker. When I consider this idea, it reveals to me how dull and fickle our perceptions are. They are dull because we do not perceive significant events that have eternal consequences for good or for ill (John 3:7-8), and they are fickle in that we may see them as significant in one situation and for one group or person but not for another or not at another time. What revealing of missed opportunities and privileges may be ours when our lives are reviewed in eternity. I am thankful for God’s grace to test all things by fire and reveal those works which were by and for Him (I Corinthians 3:10-15, 21-13), for I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

So, I conclude this 500th mille passus of sorts with one further testimony to God’s goodness in my life. He has been and will be at work in my life to bring it to a good and completed conclusion (Philippians 1:6), not because I am deserving or always willing or cooperative or able, but because He is good and powerful and has attached me to His riches by His grace. To Him be all praise.

 

1) How our mile got to be such an odd number, 5280 feet, is more complicated, though the origin of the whole measurement seems to have been the Roman’s copying of the distance around a Greek stadium track for running events, and thus the unit stade.

2) I wonder if they had workers who held signs for travelers to avoid collisions in construction zones?

3) Oh, that it were more so, that I had to moderate multiple comments, questions, reprimands, and encouragements on each entry. Alas, life is busy.

4) If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? Being a Christian and a student of Science but not an Existentialist, I would retort that of course it makes a sound. It vibrates air particles, following God’s physical laws.

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The following blog entry was written several months ago, but the mental state of the time, the ambivalence about publishing it, the time constraints to finishing it, and the arrival of better emotions and thoughts prevented me from publishing it until now. Now it is time and it will add some balance and veracity to my blog by telling more about who I am. People enjoy a good story, but how about a melancholy tome? It may be instructive to those who don’t struggle with this problem and encouraging to those who do.

I have been struggling with a touch of depression lately. I purposefully state it that way because it is nothing compared to times past. It will be passing, which I can say with confidence because I know how to get help and from Whom. But is it depression or could it be, particularly since I say passing, discouragement? Or might it be desperation? Now I could refer to the dictionary and sort these out, but I am going to give a personal, experience based definition, which may not ring true for you, or better yet, may ring all too true and give you encouragement and tools for dealing with them or it, as the case may be.* These definitions will by no means be totally devoid of knowledge gained from study.

In my experience, depression is an emotional background noise or foreground roar that is hard to define in terms of its source, and harder still to get rid of. Many people excuse it as a chemical imbalance that is not of the person’s doing. I believe that chemical imbalance is a problem for some people, but even then there are ways out, most of which don’t involve drugs in the long-term.** It is not helpful to dwell on the depression itself, but it is profitable to study your own modus operandi during depression for the purpose of recognizing when there is an onset. You are experiencing one of my quirks of depression by reading this passage. When I am depressed, I get very wordy, verbose, articulate, long-winded, redundant. That is most likely the source at present of my long sentences. Another way I deal with depression is to become very silent, but because I have learned to attack it, I now do the opposite and become verbal. Oh, that is the reason for quirk #1. And here is a help for you, dear friend, if you suffer with depression. Talk yourself out of it, not by any random droning of your voice, but by declaring out loud truth. The form it takes in me most often is singing hymns. So, I knew that I was dealing with mild depression this morning because I felt compelled to sing. The odd thing about my singing is that I can be loud and enthusiastic and crying, either inside or literally, all at the same time. I don’t know if the crying is repentance, thankfulness, remorse, release, or sadness, but I do know that if I sing long enough the cloud dissipates. That occasionally is too much for my wife because she is a stroke victim and the continual sound and language overloads her aphasic processing. If it is a hymn that I know well, whistling works so that I can think about other things or tasks simultaneously, but whistling is particularly problematic for my wife.

Desperation is more easily recognized and pinpointed. I was desperate yesterday because I had so much paperwork to do and a sense that it would never end. Perhaps that was part of what brought on today. Planning ways to lessen the load, spread it out, or see light at the end of the tunnel are ways I usually deal with that short-term irritant. Finding the purpose in the mundane and repetitive and distasteful makes it more palatable. Procrastinating is something we have all done to avoid what we don’t like to do, but it is counterproductive because it just prolongs the mental desperation. Desperation, then, usually comes from a fear, be it fear of purposelessness or fear of harm by whatever traumatic or long-term means (e.g. old age for example).

Discouragement can be short-term or long-term and its source obvious or not. Unfulfilled goals and dreams are the source of most of my discouragement. Inability to do something at a higher level of my own making or meeting someone else’s expectations can weigh heavily on me at times but do not usually cause discouragement. I guess that I understand that despite my attempts to be exceptional in various areas of my life, I am just a “common Joe” with perhaps a little better than average ability. I am profoundly limited in some areas. Failure or rejection are high on the list of what brings discouragement to many people.

In all of these areas, particularly depression, I have several coping mechanisms that are my go to’s. I have already listed 1) identifying when I am depressed by things I do and think when depressed and 2) singing my way out of that mode. For me, and these must be specific for you individually, I 3) rock in a rocking chair and think, 4) write to organize my thoughts and identify how I am feeling, 5) talk it out to others***, 6) walk, 7) do anything active, particularly climb, run, bike, or hike, 8) experience nature, contemplating God’s goodness, and 9) organize and propound truth on any subject, though theological and scientific areas are my most common subjects. What is your coping mechanism? Don’t know? Try one of mine. Experiment with things that are true and good (Philippians 4:8). Make them edifying pursuits, not destructive ones like drugs, alcohol, binge eating, binge videos or computer time, or pornography or illicit sex. Look for a way out, not a way further in.

I have purposely separated my last help for depression, desperation, and discouragement: 10) Spend time in prayer specifically about the source of your feelings, or about the emotion itself in the absence of knowledge of the source. To not just be talking to yourself, several things must be true: 1) You must be a believer in Jesus as your Savior, 2) You should be seeking to be repentant of sin, and 3) You should seek to discover what expectation you have that has not been given you by God and give it up to Him. Frequently either #2 or #3 is the source of the depression. If #1 is true, then you have power given to you by God to repent of sin (I John 1:9) and overcome temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). 4) Persist in prayer until you get past distraction, temptation, doubt, and waiting. Your circumstances may not change, as God sees fit, but your peace and joy can return in the midst of the sorrow.

Life is a journey with a destination rather than a destination only. Therefore, be patient with yourself. Conversely, don’t let yourself off the hook in the sense of ‘oh, everybody does it’. Instead, seek to make progress. Growing requires effort, but in the same way as you can not pull yourself up by your boot straps, you need an outside force, the power of God, to make real and lasting progress. May God enable you with His power to grow and may you find those coping mechanisms that work for you to ease your pain by pointing you to truth.

*Long sentences are so fun to attempt, because they are so easy to get wrong, particularly concerning commas, and therefore challenging. I think mine are right.

**How could I be so unfeeling and arrogant as to suppose I can make declarations about others people’s difficulties? Well, not only because I have studied this issue, but because I have personal experience with serious, dare I say, clinical depression, I am speaking up. You may need drugs to steady the boat, but they are a poor way to propel it forward.

***Thank you for your patience, friends.

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‘For me this place is therapeutic, but I don’t know why exactly’, my partner mused.

Black Fork 1

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Table Mountain Pine

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Clouds cruising over the ridge (Colors were more vivid in person.)

It is the most isolated place in our county, thoroughly quiet and secluded, but opens up on a view of the valley a distance across several miles of woods. It feels like you are alone with God in this small wilderness with time to reflect.

The clouds and low sun made a significant distinction and contrast between the wooded draw and the valley and mountains beyond. We felt set apart. The clouds with evening colors rushed over the ridge like great ships entering harbor and yet there was no wind at the surface. The barren trees lay quietly in their winter snooze. A lone train whistle on the far side of the ridge quietly reported its presence at a far distance in the next valley. It was a time to praise God in prayer and quietly reflect on the peace it brings to the beleaguered mind and heart.

The Table Mountain Pine is not common unless you are on a south facing, shallow soil of a flat cliff top. It’s spiky cones suggest the struggle it has to tolerate the harsh heating and drying conditions where it outcompetes other conifers. My rough fingers, tape, and chalk suggest the cherished struggle I had with rock faces moments before.

It was a good day to climb, a good day to reflect, and a good day to imbibe the tranquil therapeutics. I am so blessed to have this outlet in seasons of stress. The focus and intensity of climbing and the reflection and relaxation of time in the woods and views from the clifftops are a gift.

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Life is good because God is good.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains