Category Archives: Nature

the heavens declare the glory of God

Tall, Dark, and Handsome… Moose!

Bruce and I did another hike last week. We hadn’t been to the Indian Peaks Wilderness since last summer.

We figured, if we don’t go now the weather will change and prevent us from hiking our favorite trail around Long Lake for another year.

The place is about ten thousand feet above sea level.

We got there just before seven AM to ensure a parking space. It was cold—about 34 degrees—but after the sun rose above the mountains the temperature promised to rise into the sixties.

On the trail, we saw a man standing very still, shading his eyes. We greeted him as we passed and he whispered that a bull moose was just then moving across a field on the other side of the river.

Sure enough, there he was, walking nonchalantly through the tall grasses and shrubs, tall, dark brown, and magnificent.

Moose are not beautiful. But their sheer size and rarity make them a prized sighting.

After the moose disappeared from our sight, Bruce and I continued on our hike, hoping we’d sight the animal again. Or even see another moose.

Just a couple of years earlier we’d nearly run into four young bulls on this trail. They’d been as startled as we were and had moved off quickly.

But our hopes of more moose sightings were dashed when several parties of noisy hikers came through and passed us. Most of them were college age, more interested in talking than seeing. More interested in getting there fast.

They were talking so noisily that I’m sure they missed the stellar jay up in the spruce, the squirrel chattering a warning at our presence, the sound of the wind through the trees, and the distant roar of the river before it emptied into Long Lake.

Perhaps to the college hikers, the purpose of hiking is simply aerobic exercise.

But to me, a hike surrounded by such unparalleled beauty demands quiet. Awestruck reverence.

Not reverence for the creation. But for the One Who created it.

For the One Who can make an enormous moose, fit it with dense fir to withstand the bone-freezing winters, give it a funny mouth able to dredge out succulent plants at the bottom of shallow lakes, give it long, long legs able to carry the beast over the mountains and into ever new territories in the Rocky Mountains.

This magnificent creature, and the land that supports it demands our quiet admiration.

Hike softly, people. Stop often to admire the little things and the big things. Keep your eyes peeled for birds and animals. Take a deep breath and try to identify all the plants that constitute the aggregate of mountain scent.

Hush! Save your talking for the coffee bars and the mall.

“Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied his ropes? I gave him the wasteland as his home, the salt flats as his habitat. He laughs at the commotion in the town; he does not hear a driver’s shout. He ranges the hills for his pasture, and searches for any green thing.” (Job 39: 5-8 NIV Bible)


Those are MY Strawberries!

This summer season, my strawberry patch put out tons of flowers which would eventually become strawberries.

I watered the plants and watched the flowers fall off to expose small buds. In another week I saw that the buds had turned into small, green berries. Yay! In another couple of weeks we’d have luscious read berries.

Then the berries turned red. I checked them once each day to determine when they’d be ripe enough to harvest. Kept watering the plants and pulling up weeds that tried to crowd out the strawberry plants.

Finally the day arrived that some of the strawberries became ripe enough to pick. But I discovered to my chagrin that another creature also wanted my ripe strawberries: the robins.

While I sat on my back deck enjoying the cool evenings, here came the female robin. She’d land on the fence and turn her head from side to side to scope out the most delectable berries, and to  watch me. The she’d swoop down and try to peck off a berry. I ran toward my strawberry patch, yelling and waving my arms to drive her off.

This happened each evening. Sometimes the male robin would try to get at the strawberries. He was less frightened of me and took longer to drive off. Also, he was persistent, coming back every two or three minutes to try again.

In the end, I did get to enjoy most of the ripe strawberries. But the robins—when I wasn’t looking—also got their share, darn them!



All Bluff?

We used to live in Paradise , California. It’s a beautiful place in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, about an hour north  of Sacramento.

Since the climate there is very warm during the summers and we were surrounded by canyons and forests, we shared our property with many strange critters.

Bears and mountain lions  and coyotes invaded the residential areas at night so it wasn’t a good idea to take an evening stroll by yourself.

My daughter was in elementary school at the time and she loved to hunt and catch the small lizards that sunbathed on the backyard fence.

But there was one type of lizard she avoided: the alligator lizard.

This is a fearsome little creature, about a foot long, quick-moving, territorial and aggressive.

One of them came after me when I was taking a walk in my neighborhood. Mouth gaping wide, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth, the thing rushed me and sent me scurrying for safety fifty yards up the road.

I don’t know if the lizard was really going to sink its teeth into my tender toes, or if it was just bluffing.

Would you have waited to see?

Bluffs are all around us, in the animal kingdom, in relationships with people, in international relations.

If I’d had solid boots on, I probably would have stood my ground with the alligator lizard.

But the little creature saw that my sandalled feet were vulnerable.

I hope we, as a country, learn that it is not good to present ourselves as vulnerable. I hope we “put on our boots” so the alligator lizards of the world don’t decide to take a bite!

“Discretion will protect you and knowledge will guard you.” (Proverbs 2:11 NIV Bible)










Notice Me!

During our many hikes in the mountains, my husband and I have come unawares upon snakes, bears, moose, elk, deer, beavers, snowshoe hairs, pine martens.

It’s rare for us to see them before they see us. Most of the time they’re already moving away into thicker vegetation.

My son encountered a female grizzly bear up in Denali National Park. She sized him up and dismissed him with a snort.

Animals survive for the most part by not being noticed. Because there’s always something bigger and nastier on the prowl, most animals will avoid notice if at all possible.

Humans are not like that. We survive by being noticed. Just think about how you feel when you first visit a church. Most people will form a negative or positive judgment about the church based on if someone noticed them and gave them some attention. (I know that I die a little inside when I attend a new organization and am ignored.)

God made us that way. It’s not a bad thing. We’re supposed to crave each others love and attention. Just as the apostle Paul said, “…so in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Eph. 4:25 NIV Bible)

If you are a believer and are not part of a Body, know that this is rarely Christ’s intent for you. He wants you to be part of a worshiping and serving body. You may have been hurt by someone at church and have withdrawn in anger or fear.

But your emotional—indeed, ultimately, your physical—survival depends on:

  • Noticing and being noticed. Loving and being loved. Helping and being helped.
  • Finding significance by using your gifts for others.
  • Worshiping together with the knowledge that you are part of the Bride of Christ.
  • Joining with others to do good works which might be impossible by yourself.

We were made for togetherness.

Don’t hunker down and hide like the bunnies on your lawn! Join a loving body of believers and grow your relationships.

“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…”  (Acts 2:46 NIV Bible)


More Than We Could Chew

Years ago, when I was about 11, our family took a vacation to the Grand Canyon. There was a canyon trail that went all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We kids decided that we’d hike about halfway and then turn back. It shouldn’t take us more than a couple of hours. We thought.

We’d been warned that the hike was strenuous and to take it easy. But as we merrily skipped down those steep switchbacks, we exclaimed, “I don’t know what those rangers were talking about. This isn’t hard at all.”

We had broad-brimmed hats on and carried canteens filled to the brim with water. We had everything we needed for a quick hike down and back again.

After about an hour, the oldest brother said, “I think it’s about time we turned around.”

“Okay,” we happily answered. We started uphill.

It was very hot that day, probably close to 100 degrees. But you know how kids are. They really don’t notice the heat…at least for a while.

After about three switchbacks, we youngest kids started huffing. The trail was steep. Why hadn’t we noticed that when we were going downhill?

We began taking long pulls from our canteens, stopping frequently to catch our breaths.

It took us more than twice the time to get back to the top of the trail. Long before we reached the trail head, our water had run out. Man, were we ever glad to get back into shade at the trail information center.

The lesson from that trail hike stayed with me: know your own personal limits and plan accordingly.

It’s true for most things in life. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Of course, sometimes the Lord prods us to do a work that seems bigger than we feel we can take on.

But in most cases, assess your strengths, your interests, your experience, your spiritual maturity.

Ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Do I have the time to invest in this activity?
  2. What is the learning curve?
  3. Do I have the physical and emotional energy, not just to start but to finish well?
  4. How will this affect my family?
  5. What is my motivation for taking on this new work?

It’s always wise to consider the entire “trail” before embarking, not just the first few steps.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28 NIV Bible)