Category Archives: trees

Bursting with praise!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

(Ps 19.1-3)

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good..

(Gen 1.31)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

(Rom 1.20)

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

(Ps 96.10-13)

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

(Isa 55.10-12)

This autumn has been a fitful, boisterous and wet one in my part of the world, with few settled days to enjoy the changing colours of the trees, and a great deal of strong winds and heavy rain. The gales largely stripped the trees of their leaves before the colours had ripened into gold and bronze, and the dark, rainy days have muted the opulent colours of russet bracken and purple brown heather so that they are barely noticeable. But when the sun has made it through the storms, we have rejoiced indeed in the transient glory which is an autumnal palette, and our spirits have been refreshed and nourished by the riches all around.

On such days, I call to mind the wonderful poetry of the psalms and prophets as they speak of how all creation rejoices in the creator and continually praises him whose handiwork they are. It is good for us to join in that song of praise; to put aside all requests and fears; to look away from the brokenness to the beauty, and to allow these things to give our souls ease.

Yes, all these things are transient; but their song is none the less powerful for that. The coming darkness of winter days, the knowledge that trees will soon be bare, and all nature withdraw into herself to wait and prepare for the sure-awakening spring, these things are part of the rich song of worship which accepts the ways God has woven into the world. As a created being, one who knows from whom her identity and worth come, I can also surrender to that providence, and trust the good God who has decreed all that shall be part of my life.

Because I have Christ, I am in tune with creation’s song; I know to whom I owe thanks for all that I see and receive. His purposes for the world and all within it inform my praise, I know that while this world delights me, it is only a taste of the inexpressible joy which awaits…One day, I shall awake in the new earth, in the realm for which I was made, where all sadness and mourning shall have fled away, and where I will walk forever in unshadowed companionship with not only all those who call Christ Lord, but with my Lord himself. All this, I know now, as surely as I know that he will keep me safe until that day. This is reason enough to lift my voice with the trees of the field and the hills around, to glorify the Lord of heaven and lose myself in worship.

Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.

(GW Robinson 1838-1877)

 

Advertisements

I just need to sing!

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.

(Ps 108.1-5)

I admit it is a little foolish to write about singing – I should just go and sing – but I wanted to explore and share a little of what happens to prompt my singing, of why it can be the only right response to what is happening in my life, and thoughts.

Consider the wonder which is a new day. The sun has risen again, all the laws of nature continue to operate , and life is sustained. I have slept – a huge blessing in itself – and am awake. My body continues to function – that is a gift of God, he could have chosen to take me home, but he has granted me this new day in which to live, breathe, see and talk to other people – each one of whom is a unique and precious creation in God’s eyes. The very pattern of the clouds in the sky above the hills is new every morning, never to be repeated. My eyes – a scientific marvel still beyond our full comprehension – register colour, shape, distance and details, so that my mind makes sense of the world around me.

In that world there is so much to touch my heart with wonder, and drive me to my knees in thankfulness to the creator, the original singer of songs. See the delicate details of petals, the brilliance of colour, and beauty of forms; look at the strong silhouettes of the trees – shorn of leaves at this time so that I may glory in the variety of structures, the colours and textures of bark. Listen for the birds in the thickets, or calling overhead as they ride the wind and exalt their maker by their effortless mastery of the air. Watch the tiniest finches throng the bird feeder, with bright colours and quivering alertness to every possible danger – and remember that not one falls to the ground without its maker knowing!

The savour of the simplest of foods, the smell of fresh coffee and superb thirst-quenching power of pure water – a luxury which I take too easily for granted – all should prompt my profound thanks.

All these good things, which I cannot earn, have not deserved, and yet which I receive in such bountiful measure…And somehow, until I have rendered thanks for them, my pleasure is incomplete, lacking. It is in praising my Father, the giver of all good gifts, that I fully realise the riches which I have. And for me, that means singing my thanks, my heart is much too full for mere spoken words to give expression to the joy, the sense of astonished gratitude, which is mine.

I am humbled when I remember that for too many in this world, the physical daily blessings which I receive are unheard of luxuries, but it is good for me to be reminded that my reasons for thankfulness must not depend upon my bodily well-being. If my thankfulness is not ultimately – as the psalmist’s was – for the love and faithfulness of my God, then it is misguided, ungodly and transient.

The God who made this world is good, all the time, and made a world which would speak of his power, beauty, and love. But the gifts themselves are not the ultimate good, God is, and I rejoice most truly when I rejoice in him – his character and his salvation, freely given to me, at great cost to him. This is why singing as part of public worship is so important – it allows us to give expression to our sense of indebtedness, our delight in God, our deep thankfulness for his love, and our awareness of how little we have deserved such goodness.

We are creatures with emotions, and we are made with music in our souls. I believe that we are designed to glorify our God at least in part by expressing our loving response to him in our singing – and that when we do, we are making an acceptable offering to him; a sacrifice of praise.

So next time you have been profoundly moved by your bible reading; by a sermon; by the beauty of a sunset or the laugh of a beloved child, let that gift prompt your praise in music. Join me in being those who sing songs of praise as they walk the hills and beaches; or drive under great trees and by fair fields, and who remember that the God who made all this has loved and saved us, individually for his glory and pleasure!

There’s no hurry..

WordPress has deleted the text for today’s blog, my apologies to all who came looking for it. I cannot locate the lost text, and this is just a paraphrase of it! This text from Isaiah was my starting point.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

(Isaiah 61.1-3)

Think about it, all of us who are so often aware only of our failure to obey and live lives which glorify God as we desire to do…

Here we are described as ‘like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory!’

I don’t know about you, but I don’t often feel much like a great oak, much more like a weedy sapling, with inadequate roots and little strength to hold up against the storms of life. My leaves are few, and there is little sign of fruit.

But it is in the righteousness we have that we are to be like these great trees – and what is the source of our righteousness? Jesus! It is because we have been healed, forgiven, given a purpose and identity in life by him, that we have any righteousness at all.

We are crowned with the beauty of adoption as God’s children, and clothed with the royal robes of Jesus’ perfection, and because of his obedience and sacrifice for us, we have received all we could possibly need.

It is his life in me which grows strong and tall, producing fruit and withstanding the storms. It is his perfection which is the beauty of the mature believer, and the only reason that our lives glorify God.

And it is for this purpose that we have been ‘planted’ by the Lord – wherever we are – so that Christ in us might shine out in all his loveliness and God be given all the glory for what we have become.

Perhaps I might be allowed to read something else into the picture which is not explicitly there – namely that oak trees take a very long time to mature! Our good and loving God knows that our growth to the beauty of full maturity cannot be rushed, and is patient with us – at times a very unpromising bunch of saplings..

One day, someday dear sisters and brothers, we shall indeed be like great oaks, breathtaking in the grandeur and majesty of their form, strong against every blast, and bearing abundant fruit. And like them, we shall glorify our God in everything we are and do. Until that day, we continue to hold fast to Christ as our righteousness, our hope, our very life, so that He might shape nurture us. To him be the glory, and praise, from even the spindliest of his plantings!

Daily blessings

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.

Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes…

(Ps 96.11&12)

I have a great delight in trees, and my family and friends are accustomed to my stopping in the middle of a conversation to point out some particular specimen of notable colour, size or shape. Do you ever stop to consider how wonderful it is that God designed one of our primary sources of oxygen, in this way?! These amazing plants can live for hundreds of years, reach high into the sky, weigh hundreds of tons, and as well as being very efficient in recycling carbon dioxide, they are beautiful! God is such a marvellous designer, never sacrificing the form of his creations to their function, and so often leaving us in awe at the multitude of ways he varies the basic form to produce new patterns and structures! In every way, our trees testify to the greatness of their maker, they give glory to him who imagined and realised them, and continually direct our thoughts to worship and give thanks.

Living in a land where there are four distinct seasons is an extra blessing where appreciation of our trees are concerned! In winter, we can rejoice in the forms and patterns created by bare branches and trunks; in spring, the fresh greens take our breath away, and the delicate new leaves enchant us; in summer, the great heavy canopy of green provides welcome shade – from sun or summer showers! – and then comes autumn, like the triumphant conclusion to a great symphony, as the colours riot across the spectrum and the winds scatter the leaves across the streets and parks to create vast carpets of bronze and gold.

I was privileged recently to spend a day on the hills in Deeside with a friend; it was a perfect day, with not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky, and the sun hot on our backs. We rejoiced in the strength we needed to climb the hills, the eyes which enabled us to see the panorama of hills, the ears to hear the stags rutting across the glen, and thanked God for so many gifts poured into our lives all in one short day. And as we returned to our car, there came what felt like a special extra blessing.. We were standing among tall birches, motionless and silent, reluctant to leave this glory, when there was a slight rustling sound, and a few birch leaves fell around us – flakes of golden bronze, fluttering down gently to our feet. It was like a benediction, like the kiss which a fond parent gives a beloved child at the end of a long happy day, and we were overflowing with quiet joy.

I believe in a God of justice; a God who cannot live with the blight of sin and who will one day wipe it out of his creation for ever, making all things new, so that the little taste of heaven which I had that day will blossom into a whole new life, beautiful beyond my imagination.

I believe that I will have a home in that perfect place not because of my own efforts after holy living, but because in Jesus, I have one who has made me clean, and through whom I have a certain hope of deliverance from death.

I believe that this God, who loves me through Jesus, loves me as a beloved child, knows me intimately and has made me to know and delight in him. He has revealed his love through Jesus, but every day in so many ways, he chooses to give me personal assurances of his love. The trees are one of the ways that I often feel my Father’s loving touch and hear his song of love – but for each of us it will be different! He knows your heart, and knows how to nourish your spirit if you will let him. The words of the blessing spoken by Aaron over the people of Israel tell of God’s face shining upon his children – glowing like that of a loving father who is filled with delight simply in the presence of his own. Let this light and warmth bring great comfort and strength to our own spirits, grounding us securely in our faithful God.

The Lord bless  you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.

(Numbers 6.25)