Seeing God in the Green

I look over my computer and out my window and see green.  Last week, from the same window, I viewed two moose eating some of that green."

Psalm 36:5-7a (NIV)
5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
The 11th century BC lyrical king of Israel used the image of nature to attempt to describe God's love, glory and power.  While David was certainly not a pantheist [one who believes that God is resident (contained) in nature], he knew God as the Creator of nature.  Therefore, David could see God's thumbprint all over the scene.

Here in Alaska, the snow machines rest as the ATVs emerge; the skis (except those on the feet of the brave few water skiing) lean behind doors until snow falls again.  Summer, while not here to stay, is here!  We notice and celebrate the beauties of the earth which David pointed to in his lyrical praise to God.
Love reaching to the heavens
Faithfulness to the skies
Righteousness is like the highest mountains
Justice like the great deep
David saw God's masterpiece when his eyes met creation; what do you see?

Do you see . . .
            Majestic Mountains?
            Lush Forests?
            Deep Canyons?
            Rushing Rivers?
            Quiet Creeks?
            Flat-horizon sunrises/sets?
            Foam-topped waves?

We are blessed to live in places full of beauty.  According to the Scriptures, followers of Christ are to do all things as to glorify Him.  That being the case, we who believe and live in the 49th State recognize that our enjoyment of the Alaskan summer should glorify God. 

Do so where you live.

Some believers in God proclaim that they don't need church
because they can worship God best outside.  God calls His followers to be the Church and, therefore, that reasoning is inadequate.  Those that hold that view do, however, have one thing right.  We can worship God outside.  As you go outside, take Him with you wherever you go.  Glorify God with your summer.


If you travel internationally (or to Flint, Michigan), locals and/or friends looking out for your welfare advise against drinking the water.  Grab a bottle of Spring Water, boil out the “bugs,” or just drink Coke (Dr. Pepper for me).

Water.  Don’t drink!

As we prepared to immerse a new believer this coming Sunday, we noticed that the water in the “tub” (although clean) was far less than translucent.  When I looked at the water, I thought of the appropriate imagery.  The Apostle Paul said . . .

'Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’  Acts 22:16b (NIV)

and wrote,

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV)

Water.  Wash!

I have yet to baptize Shultz’s Pig-Pen; but every time I baptize a person, he or she comes to the water acknowledging that there was (and continues to be) “dirt” in his or her life. 

In November of 1959, Pig-Pen took a bath.  After toweling and dressing, Pig-Pen went outside and immediately returned to his usual state of filth-filled existence.


Why is it that we attract or, more accurately, are attracted to dirt?  I don’t mean our fun making mud pies and off-road 4x4 play.  It’s no wonder why Jesus teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from evil.” 

  Biting the pleasing-to-the-eye fruit

  Clicking on websites

  Glances turning to stares

  Gossiping the “I can’t believe what so and so did”
  Laughing at the “fall” of one who “had it coming”

  Pride in a perfectly timed “awesome comeback” to another’s comment

We all need a good bath – make that several baths. 

Thankfully, God provides the Living Water and the soap.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.                  1 John 1:9 (NIV)

Water.  Let it flow!

We will flip the switch from “Drain” to “On” and the baptistery will once again be full of water, clean water.  The water will be ready for the next believer who confesses “Jesus is Lord” and cover him or her thus symbolizing a great transition that occurred.

Water.  Dive in!


Greeted Like A King

Each Thursday I read a book either to my youngest son’s 4th/5th combo class or the class of the former third grade teacher of two of my three children.  Currently I am reading Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawntreader to the former and Burgess’ Old Mother West Wind to the latter.  In both classes the children are glad to see me (and my wife when she reads).


Perhaps because in the case of the third graders, I am saving (or at least delaying) them from math.  Or, maybe because they prefer anything to “real school.”  I think that there is another and more widely held reason.  Kids love stories.  Don’t we all?!

Stories draw their minds into imagining sea serpents, Dufflepuds, enchanted books, a mighty ship, a courageous (and talking) mouse - Three Cheers for Reepicheep! - , Peter Rabbit hopping, Johnny Chuck digging, Ol’ Mistah Buzzard soaring so high that the sun scalds his head (Now we know why those carrion creatures are bald!), and Hooty the Owl taunting the crow who, while quite able to trouble others, can’t take it.

Jesus loved story.

Jesus knew and used the power of story to teach about the kingdom of God, the centrality of love, as well as to gently (sometimes, not so much), yet ever so effectively, rebuke heresy and hypocrisy. Think:
The Good Samaritan
The Prodigal Son
The Sower and the seeds
The camel and needle
The house on sand
The Thief in the night
The Vine and the branches

I venture that regardless of the amount of time your eyes spend reading the Bible, you are familiar with most if not all of those stories that the Master Storyteller told.  Why?  Because good stories get repeated, retold, and therefore we remember them.  Sometimes I can quote the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) in order.  On good days I can repeat the Beatitudes.  My record for quoting Jesus’ great example prayer, spotty.  I always tell the above stories correctly.  I emphasize “always.”  I also emphasize “tell.”

The great thing about stories is that they are told.  Not quoted.  In ninth grade, after much mumbling, grumbling, and a couple of melt downs, I stood in front of my English teacher’s desk and rattled off 100 lines of Romeo and Juliet – something to do with Queen Mab and silver spoons.  Mrs. Banks proved to me I could do that; and for that, I am grateful.  While I can’t now quote even one complete verse of Shakespeare’s masterful work of literature, I can tell you the story (at least my version) of the tragedy of the young lovers - Boy, weren’t they fools?  I digress.

Last week as I walked into their classroom at 12:20 pm on Thursday, somewhere around thirty 3rd graders cheered and greeted me like a king.

They were really cheering for story.

Count For Plenty

"If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty."  Matthew 23:12 (The Message)
Several years ago, during a rather difficult time in my life, I shared my thoughts and frustrations with a friend who cared enough to listen.  I communicated to him my concern with the fact that others were attempting to make me fit into a mold for which my shape would not fit.  Think square peg, round hole.  Andy looked at me and said, "Mark, just be yourself."  I'm sure my friend said more and that the other words were helpful; however, those brief four words set in motion my journey of self-discovery and healing.

A few days ago, as I read through Matthew 23, the memory of that conversation with Andy boarded my train of thoughts.  I am thankful for those years-old words that remain accessible when their recall proves helpful.  Do you relate?

A key part of Living the Ordinary is the courage to be yourself, to be "content to simply be yourself." 

The translators of the NIV Bible phrase verse 12 as . . . "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Do "humble themselves" and "simply be yourself" communicate the same message?  It seems to me that they do.  They do when the true meaning of humbling oneself wins out over the all-too-common misconception.  For many, the act of humbling equates to groveling in a sheepish manner or a faked mental lessening of self -- a pretending to be less. 

Webster's does well in defining the word humble - "having or showing a consciousness of one's shortcomings."

(Go to and locate Brian Crane's 3/30/16 Pickles strip for a rather funny commentary on the "you can do anything" mantra.")

Ordinary people have shortcomings and recognize that due to some of them, the achieving in all areas of life is an impossibility.  At the same time, we recognize that achieving in many areas is not only possible but also worthy of pursuit.  Humility allows for concentrated effort on achievable goals.  Humility leaves the other goals to those equipped to reach them and congratulates those who do.

Humble yourself and "your life will county for plenty."