Perspective

A recent storm tore into our neck of the woods, leaving us with drifts of hail, shredded trees, and some damage here and there – and a few clear reminders.
IMG_3165 No. 1 – Gardening and the Black Hills are not companions. If anything, they are indifferent to antagonistic acquaintances. If a late frost doesn’t kill the garden, the drought will. If the drought doesn’t, the grasshoppers will. If the grasshoppers don’t finish it off, the hail will. If the hail doesn’t, an early frost will. This time, it was the hail.IMG_3190No. 2 – A storm that “doesn’t look like much” can still pack a punch. As it rolled in, Mom and I almost took bets on whether or not those clouds contained hail. I would have lost by a long shot. The storm rolled in, spitting little rice-like pellets of ice. A cloud of fog blew in, and the storm intensified, gradually dropping bigger and bigger hailstones, which bounced and leapt in the grass like popcorn. They got larger, sounding like bricks dropping onto the deck, shattering every direction. When the hail finally stopped, it looked as if it had snowed.IMG_3173No. 3 – Those things that we see as “bad” are often accompanied by a blessing. Sure, we got a smashed garden, but we also got almost an inch and a half of rain, between the storm with the hail and a storm the previous day. We are moisture starved here, and that inch and a half will do wonders. We went to check the rain gauge, and the top had shattered off. A well-placed hailstone.IMG_3205No. 4 – No matter how bad things get, there is always someone else who got hit harder. Mom had worked hard on her garden this year, and it was just starting to produce! Some regret is only natural. But one of the nurses at the clinic where I work has a daughter who lives in Houston, and we’ve been getting updates from her on the state of the storm. Meanwhile, we have a lot of haze in the air from wildfires further west. Montana is burning, Texas is underwater, and all we have to complain about is a smashed garden. What storm were we talking about again…? Nothing like perspective.

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Remembering the Past

There was something strangely beautiful about the scattered white headstones lost in the sea of prairie grasses, the rolling hills like rolling waves on an ocean of windswept, time-tarnished gold. It was hauntingly sad, so isolated and wild and completely alone. The date, June 25, 1876, is almost lost in time, but its memory lingers on at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.IMG_0937eIMG_0981eIMG_0932eAlthough our nation has enjoyed periods of relative peace and relative prosperity, that peace and prosperity has not been the usual state of things. A glance back through our history reveals many events most people would rather not talk about, and if one begins to dig even more is unearthed. Time obscures many more event, both the good and the bad, than most of us will ever know about. But we can’t forget, we can’t selectively remember, we can’t pretend that the tragedies didn’t happen, and we can’t erase them. The past is immensely important, not to treasure our hatred and nurse our resentment, but to foster compassion. We need to remember our past, with forgiveness, compassion, and humility.IMG_0957eeIMG_0969eeIMG_0965eeThe Battle of the Little Bighorn was a tragedy. The events surrounding it and the way the U.S. Government treated the Indians and cheated them out of land that was rightfully theirs and guaranteed to them is an ugly, disgraceful blot on our history. The crimes and atrocities committed on both sides are shameful and inhuman, and those who have proper perspective realize that and can acknowledge that. If we try to judge the past by the standards of the present, we’ll only succeed in cultivating and perpetuating hatred. We have to look at the past through the lens of the past, not through a lens of modern-day political correctness or 130-year hindsight. And the Monument succeeds in doing that. I was struck by the level of cross-cultural unity and the way in which all of the fallen were honored, not only the Army or only the Cheyenne and those who fought with them. It is a tribute to the heroism of all the warriors, and a love song to the lives that were lost.
IMG_0961eIMG_0980eThe men who died were warriors. It was their way of life to defend their way of life, whether we look back and judge their way of life as right or wrong. They fought bravely and according to their code of battle. The following quote inscribed on the Indian Memorial is striking:

“It was a terrible battle….a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.” ~Red Feather, Lakota

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Tiny Wonders

On one hand, God gives us majestic miracles, like startling celestial events. On the other hand, He gives us the tiniest of the animal kingdom, creatures so tiny they seem to be in a world apart, even though I can touch them and see them. I watch them and marvel at them, but they seem almost unrelated to my reality, so tiny and delicate and other they are. What a wonderful LORD and Creator, who gave us these little glimpses of a creative power so far beyond anything we can comprehend. The beauty and even comedy of these little flying creatures really is Divine. Who else could think up, create, and sustain such tiny wonders, if not our Creator God?
IMG_2220eIMG_2210eI hear the heart-string-tugging trill of my cat, Ember, and feel her little paws as she walks all over me begging for attention, and I really am drawn in amazement to how great and loving God is. He has power so magnificent that He created this world with a word, the sun and moon and galaxies and stars and gravity and cellular structures and DNA and elephants and humpback whales and the water cycle and the seasons. But He has a love and creativity so gentle that He created the silky fur and warming purr of a cat.IMG_2224eTiny wonders. Tiny gifts. A great God.

Wonders

I have to admit, I didn’t expect the eclipse to be as startlingly beautiful as it was. When Sarah and I were in between Lusk and Douglas, WY, with tepid water in our water bottles and warm air blowing from the vents and sunlight beating in on us as we started to get a little drowsy, I have to admit, I was wondering if it would be worth the hassle of driving all the way to Douglas to see this event.

The eclipse commenced in the heat of the morning. Every few minutes, we looked through our glasses to see the strange sight of the moon slowly overshadowing a growing part of the sun. That was interesting, but it was only beginning. A spectacular drama was in the process of unfolding.

About a half hour before totality, we noticed that the sunlight was indeed dimmer. There was a strange cast over the landscape, almost like a haze, and even though the light was still bright, the intensity had diminished. The air had cooled, and we pulled on sweatshirts. As totality neared, things happened faster – The light changed more rapidly, and we noticed with delight the crescent shapes dancing in the shadows on the ground. The sky continued to grow darker as the moon closed over the sun. From the west, a deep shadow suddenly approached as the eclipse neared completion, spreading ominously until the whole landscape around us was bathed in a strange midday night. Venus appeared, almost straight overhead. A rose-colored curtain hung at the very edges of the horizon. For two minutes, we reveled in twilight, and everything was silent. The graceful moon completely covered our majestic sun, briefly cutting off the vital heat and life-giving light in an amazing display of God’s order over the celestial bodies.IMG_3117The corona around the black of the moon was breathtaking. The sky was deep violet, and the moon was darker than night. The two minutes of totality seemed to last a mere few seconds, and then the sun appeared again, and the nighttime soon warmed to day. Awe-struck, we knew we had witnessed a miracle.

An article in WORLD Magazine explained the phenomenon, that the sun, which is 400 times the size of the moon was at that moment 400 times further away, making this miracle possible. What clear evidence of God’s creative abilities, as THE creative mind, THE Creator of all things! But so many people will have watched this miracle and will have come away from it awe-struck, but with wonder misplaced. So many scientists spend their lives searching out the mysteries of God’s Creation, and somehow never reach the point of being humbled by our lowliness and God’s greatness. Too many people will watch this miracle and attribute it to random chance – But what are the chances logically that this could have happened?

God created a world where many miracles are simply a part of our existence. We need the plants and the trees and the animals and the water cycle and our atmosphere. But we don’t need the eclipse. If I lived my whole life without ever seeing an eclipse, my life wouldn’t materially be changed at all. It doesn’t benefit us in any way, in the way that a rainstorm or the seasonal cycles do. The eclipse is completely unnecessary.

I was reading through the Sherlock Holmes stories over the winter and stumbled across the gem of a quote: “Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from flowers.” I’d say the same holds true in the miracle of the eclipse. It is an extra. God didn’t need to do this for any scientific reason or reason of sustaining life on our beautiful little planet. Why would He, then? Although I hesitate to speculate, I do know that God does that which is for the good of His people and for His glory. I think that God, in His glorious love for us, decided to create a phenomenon simply out of delight, simply because He could and it would dazzle us and glorify Himself.

So wonder at the miracles we see every day, and the more spectacular miracles we are privileged to witness less frequently – And let your awe and your delight be directed where it belongs. Give God the glory, great things He has done!