Lesson from Nature: The Invitation to Savor

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

There’s always an empty chair, waiting for you, inviting you to savor God’s presence.

We often settle into our routines and drive right by, perhaps glancing at the view but not seeing the chair with our name on it for that moment. We miss out.

We long for time in that chair, a moment to breathe and look around at the beauty and feel the breeze. Yet, sometimes, we don’t get the time we need…the time God extends to us…because we rush by. We don’t accept the invitation. We either ignore it or reject it. And we miss out.

God misses us, too.

Sure, He is always present, so in a sense, He can’t miss us because He’s with us. But haven’t you ever missed someone while sitting beside or across from him or her? When someone isn’t fully present when you’re together, it’s as if you’re not really together. It’s that way with God. Just because He’s with us doesn’t mean we’re with Him.

Maybe you don’t believe God is calling you to sit and savor right now. But maybe you need to open your ears and eyes. Take a breath. Wait a moment. Listen. Watch. Pay attention. If you’ve gotten used to ignoring or refusing God’s invitation, it’s not quite as easy to hear.

I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.  (Psalm 85:8)

 

Lesson from Nature: Help or Harm?

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©PurePurpose.org

The holes were huge. This was no normal woodpecker. It had to be a mammoth woodpecker on steroids. Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Actually, I did a bit of googling and am pretty sure the holes were created by pileated woodpeckers. Who knew a woodpecker could be so large?! According to Wikipedia, “Adults are 40 to 49 cm (16 to 19 in) long, span 66 to 75 cm (26 to 30 in) across the wings and weigh 250 to 400 g (8.8 to 14.1 oz), with an average weight of 300 g (11 oz). Each wing measures 21.4 to 25.3 cm (8.4 to 10.0 in), the tail measures 14 to 17.4 cm (5.5 to 6.9 in), the bill is 4.1–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) and the tarsus measures 3.1–3.8 cm (1.2–1.5 in).”

How does a woodpecker that has a beak with a pretty small tip make that kind of a hole?

One peck at a time.

We can do a lot of damage, one peck at a time. We can also make huge strides, one peck at a time. We need to know which we are doing…destroying or constructing…because sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference.

Is the woodpecker harming the tree, or is it creating a place to live? Yes. Both.

What are you doing with the choices you’re making on a daily basis?

Think about the things you do over and over. What is that repetition accomplishing? Is it something helpful or harmful? Is it helpful for you but harmful to others, or vice versa? Don’t convince yourself that you can’t accomplish much, either harm or help, with the small, insignificant choices you’re making. It doesn’t take long for a series of small, insignificant choices to have big, significant results.

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Lesson from Nature: Two Paths

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©PurePurpose.org

Look closely. There are two paths. I recently wrote a post, Choices are Not All Cut-and-Dried, about facing the pros and cons of two paths. Some choices are more obvious.

Following the well-worn path would have taken me into water and mud. The path to the right of the tree was on slightly higher ground. It was obviously not the established path. It was simply the way several people had tried to avoid the water that naturally flowed along the path after heavy rains. Because of the choices of people ahead of me, I had an option that seemed obvious to me…more obvious than it probably seemed to them. Their willingness to try something cleared the way for me.

Following others doesn’t always work out well, but sometimes, it does. I don’t even know who I was following. I don’t know how much time had passed since the first person took the alternate route. I don’t know how many people it took to wear the path in the grass. All I know is…I had an excellent option ahead of me because of them.

Had the path led me into a snake pit or bear’s den, over a cliff, or into the lake, the people before me wouldn’t have left me with a good option. Every option that looks good isn’t good. But this one worked out, and it made me consider,

What if someone is following every step I take? Am I establishing a trail I would want others to follow?

I’m not talking about creating safe trails for everyone, trails that eliminate every risk and adventure. In fact, we couldn’t, even if we tried. What I am suggesting is simply considering where we’re walking, not just for ourselves but for others. Shouldn’t we know how to choose a path well in order to lead well?

Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Lesson from Nature: Beautiful Obstacles

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©PurePurpose.org

Sometimes the view is beautiful, but for some reason, it’s not quite right.

As we drove through the hills of Door County, we saw many gorgeous views, but we couldn’t get a clear, unobstructed view. Something always seemed to be in the way: a car, sign, mailbox, telephone pole, person, and so on. I snapped this photo, because despite the obstacles, I wanted to capture a glimpse of the quilt of colors among the treetops. As I later went through the photos I had taken throughout the day, I paused at this one and thought, “All those obstacles actually make the photo more real.”

Isn’t that the way with life? We don’t want the obstacles. We get annoyed with them. We ignore opportunities in order to avoid the obstacles. But they’re actually part of the reality of life. They make each snapshot of our lives more true, more rich, more colorful. Our lives aren’t edited movies. Sure, we have many choices along the way, but living by faith isn’t living by control. It’s living God’s way. And to be honest,

I’d rather have the obstacles He knows will make my life beautiful His way than create a fake picture-perfect life of my own.

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

 

Lesson from Nature: Broken, Changed, but the Same

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©PurePurpose.org

Just because we’re broken doesn’t mean, at the core, we are not the same person. We don’t lose everything when we lose something. We can change our location, experience, or relationship status without changing what we truly are…our purpose. We can change on the outside without changing our identity.

A rock, broken from another rock, is still a rock.

You will not remain the same in every way throughout your life. God wants to transform you. However, He knows all the details…every single moment, emotion, experience, sigh, tear, smile, hurt, joy, struggle, fear, thought, attitude. Everything. He knows you, because He created you. And He didn’t just create you as a baby, send you one your way through life, and hope for the best. He created you as a person He purposed to live on this earth in this time. His purpose for you isn’t a one-time big thing you’ll do at some point. It’s every breath you take, every choice you make. You’ll mess up. You’ll choose wrong. You’ll turn away from Him. You’ll try to change your identity and claim you’re someone else besides who He created you to be. You’ll try to take the credit for your life and accomplishments. You’ll dwell on your mistakes, blame yourself, and get stuck because you don’t see hope for moving forward.

But that’s not what God intends. He created you, and He transforms you.

Are you letting Him do the work He needs to do to fulfill His purpose for you, even if it means being broken in the process?

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

Lesson from Nature: The Twist of Life and Death

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©PurePurpose.org

Sometimes, the twists we create with others’ lives can be catastrophic. We end up squeezing the life out of each other, because we just don’t have enough life to give. Our unhealthy boundaries aren’t so much about the closeness of the relationship but about what we do with that relationship.

Other times, the closeness creates a beauty that would never have been possible on our own. We give each other strength, support, and nourishment. We’re vulnerable, because we have exposed ourselves to others. We invite them into our lives in ways that cannot be fully revoked. We give a piece of ourselves that we can never completely recover. That’s frightening. It can turn out badly.

But it can also be beautiful.

God intends for us to rely on and commit to each other. Most of all, He invites us to rely on and commit to Him. He gives us a piece of Himself. He became vulnerable first, when He gave His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us, taking all the junk of our lives into the pit of death, then overcoming that death, leaving it behind. It seems like a twisted way to get to us, but it’s the way He chose.

Because God loves us. He loves you.

Loving Him isn’t easy. It requires vulnerability and humility. It requires twisting your life with His so intricately that you no longer know where One stops and the other starts. But He’s worth it. And He knows you’re worth it, too.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)

Lesson from Nature: Erosion

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©PurePurpose.org

Water is beautiful, powerful, refreshing, and dangerous. So are many other things. Because of the positive aspects of something, we can easily disregard the negative impact it can have on our lives over time. We might not notice the impact because it’s happening under the surface, changing us from the inside out, creating a shell of what we once were.

All the while, we have protection. We just need to see our need for it.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

Looking at the armor doesn’t help. Knowing it exists doesn’t help. We can know the available precautions that might protect us from the erosion of our heart, mind, and soul, but until we take those precautions, they do us little good. Armor is intended to wear. Otherwise, it is empty, lifeless, and useless.

What erosion is going on in your life right now?

Pay attention, and do something about it.

What piece of armor might you be missing?

Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.
 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Ephesians 5:14-17)