Category: Spiritual health

A Word to the Wise–or the Wanna-Be Wise

Years ago, a pastor suggested reading through the Book of Proverbs every month. One chapter per day, 31 chapters in the book, seemed like a reasonable idea. Especially if you’re looking to be wise.

Wisdom isn’t a highly sought after commodity in many circles. People are content to “know enough” to do their jobs, take care of their family and have a good time.

We know I’m a recovering Type A perfectionist, so the thought of NOT being wise rubs me the wrong way. I mean, if it’s as simple as reading a chapter from the Bible every day, why not?

Nothing is ever that simple.

This month, I’m encouraging myself to reinstate this practice that has fallen into a slump lately. After all, there are YouVersion reading plans, so why do the same old, same old? (This month, why not do both? That’s my plan.)

Because God’s Word is a living book. Every month a different verse will stand out or stomp my toes.

I haven’t attained wisdom status yet. (I know that shocks all of you.)

So, I’m sharing the first week of daily reading memes here. Maybe you’re looking for some wisdom in a world gone crazy with blame and accusation. Why not give A Proverb a Day a test drive?

I know I’m a day behind for the week, but bear with me.

Monday: Read Proverbs chapter 2

Tuesday: Read Proverbs chapter 3

Wednesday: Read Proverbs chapter 4

Thursday: Read Proverbs chapter 5

Friday: Read Proverbs chapter 6

Saturday: Read Proverbs chapter 7

Look at that! One week of considering words of wisdom is in the bank. Don’t you feel wiser already?

What is your definition of wisdom? How do you cultivate it in your life?

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Banishing Fear in the New Year

The next time you visit my website to read a new blog, it will be 2017. Which means it’s time for me to think about a new theme to guide my posts and thoughts in the New Year.

Thanks to plenty of reflection (and facing a few scary things), I’ve decided to banish fear in the New Year.

Let’s recap the past few years:

  • Be the change

  • Think Positive

  • An Attitude of Gratitude

D30Those are the themes from 2014 forward. That was the first year I decided that if I had a key thought, it acted like a beacon for me, guiding my writing and decisions.

In truth, these three things have become ingrained in my character. My worldview has been altered by these themes.

Now when I see a problem, I ask myself how I can affect change to help solve it. When something bad happens, I stop myself and search for the positive in the situation.

And rather than opening my mouth to complain, I speak words of thanksgiving. Well, probably not all the time because I’m only human. But most of the time if I start to complain, my gratitude-meter will ask me to check the words before I spew them.

Fear is a bully. The election last month proved this more than anything I’ve experienced recently.

And I don’t like bullies. I advocate for allies to stand up against acts of bullying.

So my theme is going to take on the biggest bully in our world: fear.

New Year New Theme

nofearthemememe

That’s the theme in a nutshell.

It’s inspired by several things.

The first is a verse from the Bible. The man known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” penned these words.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18).

Several years ago the same preacher friend who ingrained “accentuate the positive” into my vocabulary delivered a sermon on this verse.

The essence of his message: fear is the opposite of love.

People want to talk about hate being the opposite of love, but if you look at this verse and consider its truth, can’t you see how fear is the real enemy?

We learn to hate what we fear. But if we could be made perfect in love, there would be no room for fear in our hearts.

And no fear = no hate.

Notice how John the apostle said fear has torment. That’s what I mean when I say fear is a bully. Bullies live to torment those they perceive as weaker than them. Tormenting other people makes them feel powerful, confident, in charge.

In order to chain the bully of fear, I’m going to have to learn how to love more perfectly.

Lion Taming in 2017

The biggest bully in a Christian’s world is our adversary the devil. Yes the one Peter calls a lion in his letter (1 Peter 5:18).

The roaring lion is on the prowl to do more than pick on people. He’s looking for a meal. He wants to devour everyone who claims to follow Christ.

The good news: greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have an advocate, an ally. He stands with me against the hungry lion of fear.

He’s already defeated that lion. And I don’t mean tamed him or caged him. The devil is sentenced to a thousand years chained in the bottomless pit and then an eternity in the lake of fire.

That’s why he’s so hungry now. He knows his time is short. So he plans to step up his game and take out as many unsuspecting sheep as he can.

And I’m no match for him.

But I can defeat fear. Through the love of God.

At this point, I’m planning to post about defeating fear in different areas of life. Each month I’ll address a different area. At the moment the topics are family, career, future, today, tomorrow, friendships, world issues, health and death.

Do you have any other areas where fear corners you? Leave a comment and I’ll see if I can address it in a future post.

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Realizing You’re Already Amazing

A few months before I graduated from college, I met Holley Gerth. Not in person. Through her book, You’re Already Amazing, but it was like we sat down day after day and talked about my dilemma.

You know, what’s going to happen when I finish college. Will I continue working as an educational assistant and pursue my writing dream on the side? Will I jump into a master’s program to become a teacher? Can this fledgling idea for a novel fly into something larger than life?

I had a dream. Since I was old enough to read, I dreamed I would write stories. My words would send people into magical realms like C. S. Lewis did for me. Or these books would comfort others in confusion, as Judy Blume had done for me.

I wrote stories, poems and filled notebooks with my personal struggles. Then I grew up. I really despise those four words. Truly.

Because adult hood is filled with advantages, but often it includes abandoning dreams that fostered a soul through childhood and motivated her during the ugly insecurity of teenager-hood.

I wish I had known Holley Gerth back then.

Let me introduce you to her now, so you don’t have to wonder about finding a purpose or abandoning a dream.

You’re Already Amazing

AlreadyAmazingBookBetween the covers of this book, I met the sweet-spirited counselor, Holley Gerth. She poured a cup of coffee. We sat on her sofa. She talked, and I listened.

Reading this book felt like a conversation. After she shared wisdom and insight, she asked me to delve into my own heart. I spilled ink on the pages.

Her next words responded to that transparency – as if we were sitting across from each other.

This is the best thing about every book from Holley. It feels like a two-way conversation. The probing questions and activities at the end of one chapter open up questions that are answered in the next chapter.

In order to use the new LifeGrowth Guide she’s releasing this month, you should read this book. Each chapter of the new guide tells which chapters from the book correspond to it.

Sure, she has excerpts from the original book in this guide (and plenty of new coaching and counseling), but experiencing the original book helps this guide make more of an impact.

By the time you finish, you’ll have a “mission” statement for your life and an idea how you can start fulfilling it.

It was this statement that assured me of my own path. I worked through her You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream book before I settled on a course of action, but the seed was planted with this book.

Do you feel like you’re standing still in your walk with God? Does each day seem like a duplicate of the one before?

You’re Already Amazing will help you understand why you’re feeling these things. Then it will show you how to move beyond those debilitating emotions.

LifeGrowth Guide

YAA_LifeGrowth_Guide_Cover_1024x1024I jumped at the chance to preview this new guide when Holley offered the opportunity to her blog followers.

I loved the original book, and since I plan Bible studies and retreats for the ladies in my church, I saw this guide as a possibility for either activity.

After reading through this new book, and watching a few of the videos, I’m certain it will uplift women at any stage in their life.

Divided into six sessions, the book works as leader and groupie guide. In fact, it could be used solo, as a woman read through You’re Already Amazing and used the questions and activities in this guide to supplement her journey.

It’s intended to be used with a small group. In fact, it has powerful potential to bind women closer together and encourage them to lift each other up. What better way to carry out Paul’s admonition for the older women to teach the younger (Titus 2:3-5)?

The reading and activities in this guide are meant to be completed before the group session. Each session begins with a short video chat from Holley, which sets the stage and opens the conversation for that chapter. After discussing the questions and helping each other digest the truths, there’s another short clip to end each session.

In the back, there are helpful outlines to be used by group leaders or facilitators.

Perhaps you’d like a more informal group, the guide helps with that aspect. Each chapter includes a hands-on crafty project. A group could gather to watch the short video and then work on that project. Conversations could flow while hands were busy creating.

Amazing Applications

When I finished You’re Already Amazing, three years ago now, I told everyone about how helpful it was.

I’m super excited about the LifeGrowth Guide because it packages my excitement in a format that can help other women.

Let’s face it, some people don’t want to read. They might scan the guide and complete the activities, but they aren’t going to wade through an entire book.

The LifeGrowth Guide could be used by this type of person. It wouldn’t take long before they wanted more of Holley’s wisdom.

My plan for this guide is to use it at the annual ladies’ retreat. I’m going to have to reorganize and condense the lessons, because the sessions really need several days (minimum) between them to complete all the reading and activities.

To get the most from the book, a woman needs to invest time and thought into her answers. Season each page with prayer. Meditate on the deeper queries and return to them the next day.

A two-day retreat doesn’t provide time for all that. But I still think this curriculum will work.

It would certainly work as a weekly or bi-monthly Bible study.

If you had people who really wanted to write a life purpose statement, you could tailor this guide to be used for a one-day seminar. As long as there is ample time for independent thought, three of the sessions could be juxtaposed together and rock a woman’s Saturday.

If your life feels stale or you’re at a cross-roads, you need this book. If you yearn for women to come alongside you, this guide could open the way for that to happen.

Once again, Holley Gerth delivers a piece of her heart to her readers. And she’ll make you realize You’re Already Amazing, too.\

A Couples’ Retreat is NOT the same as a Lovers’ Getaway

February chills us to the bone. If the groundhog sees his shadow, we’re in for another six weeks of winter. I was ready for summer three months ago.

Spending time away from home with your significant other sounds like a cozy arrangement. You can leave behind all the household projects staring you in the face. Staying in a fancy chalet should be a great time.

When I think of spending time away with my husband, I’m thinking about long walks holding hands. Cuddling up together to watch romantic comedies on a tiny screen in our private room.

Sleeping late followed by in-room exercise that’s guaranteed to work up an appetite is on the schedule. Follow this up with breakfast and coffee and sharing a hot shower. Sounds pretty awesome so far, right?

Except – just like last February – my husband and I aren’t vacationing alone. We’re heading over Mt. Hood with five other couples to invest in strengthening our marriage.

Let me tell you, Couples’ Retreat is NOT synonymous with Lovers’ Getaway.

First of all, there will be no private room. We share the three-bedroom chalet with two other couples. One of them we don’t even know that well.

But I feel bad for them because they are young – and have only been married five months. This non-getaway must be cramping their style much more than it is mine.

After breakfasting around the log-cabin-style table, we all prepare to meet the day. First on the schedule is a team-building activity. Team meaning a married couple.

Lunch hits the spot. Who knew Central Oregon could chill a person to the bone in February? Oh, right. Me. I’m the one who reserved this place for the retreat.

On to a communication activity – or three. This is where my nearly-idyllic marriage falls short. Hubby and I have forgotten how to listen to each other. We think we know each other so well that we zone out during conversation.

Now we’re forced to confront these poor habits head-on. And discuss ways to improve our communication skills. I look around the room and wonder how forthright these couples are being in this group setting.

Now it’s time for the retreat to begin. “From ordinary to extraordinary” this presenter has called his four workshop sessions.

If I can’t have a lovers’ getaway, maybe I can learn how to communicate with my husband again. When did I stop listening to him? Sometime during those three years I worked full-time and went to college for the rest of my waking hours.

The retreat ends with a dress-up dinner out at a local restaurant. It’s a six-tuple date.

Maybe not romantic, but we all know marriage is hardly about the romance.

Would you choose a couples’ retreat or a lovers’ getaway? What do you see as the major weakness in your long-term relationship?

It’s all about the Attitude

positive-attitude quotespositive

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the daily memes. They’ll stop soon. There can’t be 365 unique quotes about having a positive attitude.

Life should be an adventure. And as I learned on my biking trip in Hawaii, the key to enjoying an adventure is to have the right attitude.

Some people would say there are only two types of attitudes: positive and negative. Or maybe good and bad. But I think attitudes are colored in shades of gray.

Negative

At the black end of the spectrum is the naysayer. You know who I’m talking about. They just won the lottery – and complain about the amount of taxes they have to pay.

Any normal person takes at least a few minutes to jump around like a maniac, shrieking in delight. But a blackened attitude doesn’t see a good side.

It’s difficult to spend more than a few minutes with this person. Why? You feel like crying. Or strangling them. Or jumping off the nearest cliff.

Or heading back to bed – with earplugs so you don’t have to listen to their downer-isms any longer.

It’s Eeyore, but without the cuteness.

Bad-ish

Thankfully, there aren’t too many people with a full-blown negative attitude. At least not as a permanent fixture in their personality.

We can excuse it when they’ve had a bad day, been fired from their job, wrecked their car or lost someone they loved. If they were all sunshine and roses in those moments, we’d question their mental health.

The type of person that bugs me is the dark gray bad attitude. This is the person who takes it upon themselves to rain on everyone’s happiness.

“I just got a raise.”

“Uncle Sam thanks you for the additional taxes he’s getting,” Says Big Gray. Really? How about a “congratulations” before you burst my joy with your sharp words?

This type of person is worse than Mr. Black because I can’t be myself around them. I’m constantly keeping my excitement about life inside because I don’t want it sullied by their caustic commentary.best-quotes-on-attitude

Average

Somewhere at the mid-scale gray is where most of us reside. We have good days when we can spout appropriately positive remarks upon hearing the good news.

We’re quick to agree with those whose day was less than charming, consoling them with a few black comments of our own. All in the name of being there for them.

Good-ish

There is a silver-hued attitude. We know some people like this. They always have something upbeat to say no matter what the situation.

“I lost my job.”

“That’s terrible, but truthfully, you’ve seemed pretty unhappy with it the past few months anyway. Now you can find something better.” Oh the brilliance of their shiny silver-tongued words.

But do they mean them?

Often, the people who are eternally optimistic make me suspicious. It’s not that I don’t believe you can have a positive outlook all the time (we’ll get to that next), but because sometimes turning the tables on a disaster is the wrong move.

Don’t they care that I lost my job? Their positive spin minimizes my anguish over the bad turn I must endure.

Positive

What on earth does she think a positive attitude looks like, then? If it isn’t the person who always has something nice to say, what else is there?

True empathy.

“We had to put my dog to sleep.”

If you try to put a positive spin on this, you’ll alienate that person. Go ahead. Try it. Give me your positive comment below.

Sometimes no words are the most positive thing you can offer. Sharing their tears and wrapping them up in a hug are great ways to fill the silence.

Seriously.

How is this positive?

When that person thinks back on that difficult time, your kindness will stand out. They might even tell you how much they appreciated that you didn’t try to console them with words.

I’m a writer, but sometimes there are no words that are situation-appropriate.

The person with the crystal-white positive attitude exercises wisdom with their tongue. They have upbeat words when that is what fits the moment. Helpful words flow from their lips when a person spews negativity and there is a positive antidote.

Ms. Positive knows that sometimes a smile, shared tears, or physical comfort is the positive “shot in the arm” to remedy truly heartbroken moments of negativity.

In the end, life is all about the attitude you face it with. Where are you on this scale? Or maybe you see it in black and white. Let’s discuss it.

Keeping up with The Joneses: Not worth the Price

 

American companies bombard us with messages compelling us to buy a new car, a bigger home, sparkling jewelry and fashionable clothes. Even sit-coms of “typical” families show people with incredible homes wearing designer clothing.

Capitalism has become synonymous with commercialism. So much for freedom; life in this “buy more to be better” world becomes a competition. Rather than choosing to save for a vacation or give to charity, this mental terrorism pushes us to spend and overspend.

In her blog, Karen Schelhaas noted: “The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz. Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable. But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.”

Did you notice how buying is like a drug? We get a temporary sense of fulfillment but then we see our neighbor drive up in a 2014 Lexus 400h (my dream car, insert yours to make it more meaningful) and the buzz is gone.

Image courtesy of Edmunds.com

Can we truly blame the media for our compulsion to spend money on things we don’t really need?

I try not to play the blame game. Sure, we can point our fingers at advertisements and materialistic celebrities, but the truth lies in the other direction. Self.

We must take responsibility for our own priorities in life. If money is all-important, we need to ask ourselves why. If public opinion matters more than private contentment, time for self-evaluation is long overdue.

Why do we want a new car when our friends buy one? Why does that million dollar home seem more appealing than the one we live in now? (Ever stop to think what the property tax bill would be on that home? How long would it take to clean such a monster?)

Our focus gets jaded by the constant sensory input from the world around us. We hear the wealthy man is unhappy but we’re sure if we had all that money, we would finally arrive at happiness.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Of course, green grass needs to be mowed more frequently. What’s under the surface? It could be a septic drain field.

Contentment is the key to ignoring the race of one-upmanship defining so much of society. The American Dream defined by having every material possession you can imagine and plenty of money in the bank to assure the same tomorrow translates into a nightmare.

There is never enough stuff. We must seek our peace of mind and definition of success in another venue. I say look inside the house instead of at the driveway and landscaped yard.

Do we have supportive relationships in our home? Open communication and freedom to be who we are with our spouse offers more happiness than any new car we could drive.

Look to our children. Are we nurturing them or driving them to seek contentment in materialism? They see us. They hear our conversations. If renting movies and baking pizza at home on Friday night builds a tradition of togetherness, they will understand family isn’t about how much money we spend.

Life is about relationships. Money will never buy a happy, lasting relationship. What sort of family life resides in that million dollar home? We don’t need to know. What we need to do is find contentment where we live now.

If we can relish life in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with cardboard boxes for chairs while sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we can make it anywhere.

Have contentment. Will travel.

Ladies Retreat

Seven Women in Seaside
Seven Women in Seaside

Last August, I asked the question “what is a retreat?” in hopes of generating a glut of comments on my blog.

I hoped for five. I netted one (which was actually a pingback to my own blog). What did I do wrong?

I think I asked the wrong question. In any case, I decided to share my retreat experiences in this forum one more time (yeah, if you believe this will be the last time, I have some swampland in Columbia County).

It began in May when our small group of women at church decided we didn’t have the manpower woman-power necessary to host the annual state-wide ladies’ retreat at Crystal Springs campground.

It would be nice for our core group of women to spend some quality time together. We talked and shared. One woman notified the campground that we wouldn’t be able to host. Bummer.

Enter my mother. She asked if we thought a Monday through Wednesday early in October would work in our schedules. Sure. Why not?

She called her timeshare reservations department and booked two three-bedroom condos. The next week, she announced to all of us that a place had been secured, these are the dates and we better start planning it.

Sometimes, we need just that sort of foot in our hinder parts to get us started in the right direction.

Image from puzzlepuzzles.com

Bad news for me: Everyone looked at me and asked, “Can you prepare a program?” You see, the whole idea to host the retreat in the first place had been mine.

“Uh, sure,” I respond. Internal conversation: “Please, God, you’ve got to help me with this. I have no clue what we should do.”

God is good. By August, I knew the lessons would be about encouragement and I knew our activity would involve writing cards to each other.

The week before I headed off to Hawaii, I sat down with my Bible, concordance and a spiral notebook and begin outlining the lessons.  I wrote out a proposed schedule for the three days.

You know what happens when you make a plan, right? It’s like a double-dare to the Devil. He jumps in and tries to make a mess of the whole thing.

We got rooms on different floors. The resort is worse than a rat maze without cheese. People over a certain age either don’t carry cell phones or don’t answer the phones they carry (I was going to say perhaps they can’t hear them ring, but I’m probably in enough trouble already).

None of it mattered in the end. The lessons seemed to encourage everyone. (Awesome! Since it was an Encouraging Escapade, anything less would be a bummer.)

Schedules work more as a guideline. All four lessons were shared and the prayer partner rotation eventually made its rounds.

Shopping and beach combing found its way into the mix. Some of us even got to put mud on our faces followed by anti-aging products galore. Ah, youth reclaimed!

In the end, we all decided we wanted a repeat. Well, we wanted all the ladies from our church to join us, so it wouldn’t be an exact duplicate. We felt refreshed (even though we were yawning), relaxed and closer together than ever.

Do you think you can experience the same rejuvenating and uniting effects without leaving home? How can we find a “retreat” amidst the demands of daily life?

Expectations: Friend or Foe?

Vacationers
Vacationers

Soup should be served hot: coffee hotter. Wait staff should smile and serve with friendly deference. Eggs Benedict means rich, yellow liquid from the egg yolk beneath the Hollandaise sauce.

Expectations: we all have them. They color our experiences in every aspect of life.

The problem with expectations is that they have the power to derail our joy when they aren’t met. If we expect to see dolphins on the boat ride, but we only see a manta ray and sea birds, our expectations are dashed, so much surf against the rocks.

Will unmet expectations ruin the day?

Years ago, a woman I worked with traveled to Maui for her daughter’s wedding. When she returned, she bubbled about the sunrise bike ride from the top of the mountain. More recently, people who learned we were traveling to Maui said, “You have to do the sunrise bike ride.”

When asked by my husband what I wanted to do on vacation, I replied, “The sunrise bike ride and sit by the pool.” These desires should be easily met, right?

Wrong.

When the clouds obscured the sunrise and I was tired, cold and frozen, the trip to the top of Haleakala could have been a bust.

I determined to prove a new formula for unmet expectations:
Anticipation + Expectation = Atypical Results

My mother-in-law, a travel mate, said the night before, “I hope it’s everything you hope for.”

What did I hope for? A fantastic view of Maui and heart-pounding thrills from a downhill race.

More than a few breathtaking views punctuated the speedy descent down the mountain (House of the Sun). Sounds like what I hoped for had been achieved.

It didn’t have to be a sunrise view from the summit. I had anticipated thrills and sights. My experience flourished with vistas and whoops.

Perhaps we need to carefully define our expectations. Or maybe it’s best to just sit back and let come what may.

Can you think of a time when unmet expectations dampened an experience? What recommendations do you have for turning our expectations into friends rather than foes?

Discovering the Freedom Trail

Where the Trail Begins
Image from catchthewinds.com

Boston, Massachusetts, city of historic significance, offers a unique perspective on the issue of freedom. Most specifically it speaks to the quest for freedom in the New World.
There is a red brick path that circles for two and one-half miles through the streets of Boston. Strewn along this marked pilgrimage are bronze markers and numerous monuments to the Revolutionary War and our founding fathers. This trek enlightens the seeking soul – or at minimum – educates the enquiring minds who read the words left behind from our forebears.
My husband an I started at the end of the trail. This kept us meeting up with a parade of people who had started their journey  in the Boston Commons.  At least we didn’t get held up by a string of people less motivated to conquer the trail.
The trail ends – thus began for us – at the Bunker Hill monument. How often does a monument mark the site of a battle that was lost? This 221 foot tall obelisk, a shorter version of the Washington Monument, does just that.
It stands atop Breed’s Hill. (I know you’re wondering why it’s the called the Bunker Hill monument – you and millions of other people). This place where revolutionaries lost to troops of superior number and armament holds inspirational value because it proved that the British army wasn’t invincible. After all, it took them three tries and half their men to overrun the fortification.
Freedom has never been free. It demands a ransom paid in blood. Whether the blood of soldiers or the blood of a Savior, freedom’s immense, innate value requires sacrificial lives to acquire.
It would be cheapened if it could be bought with perishable silver or gold.
“If the Son shall make you free; ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
In America, freedom loses its preciousness because the generations that fought to preserve it are passing away. The younger generations despise war and want to barter for freedom some other way.
It can’t be done. Not that anyone should be a warmonger, but as long as men (I mean mankind here; this is not a push for women rulers) rule the world, war will be necessary. Greed for power, wealth or land will drive some men to oppress others and only warfare will release them from these chains.
It may be a warfare fought with marches and protests, speeches from platforms or guns and bombs. People will be called upon to lay down their lives. The price of blood will be paid. Freedom will be won.
Is there another way to teach our children to value freedom so they won’t need to learn its pricelessness through oppression and warfare? When many of them refuse to stand in honor of the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, their patriotism wanes.
On The FreedomTrail, I discovered and rediscovered the names and stories of many patriots, valiant men and women, who forged into the bloody unknown so there would be a country called the United Satates of America. They marched against king and country, an oppressive regime, emboldened by the pursuit of life and liberty to birth a nation now represented by thirteen stripes and 50 stars.
How much does freedom mean to you? Are you willing to pay the ultimate price so those children who refuse to honor Old Glory with twenty-two words spoken as they stand, hands over hearts?

Manmade or Natural?

Trinity Church in Boston, MA

Brick and mortar stands alongside glass and iron in downtown Boston, MA. Bridges and tunnels connect the God-made land to the manmade portion upon which 70 percent of Boston proper sits.
Even among all this manmade fanfare, however, the brilliant portions that stand out are those made by the Creator.
Boston Commons, the oldest national park in America, stretches for acres, green and growing, amidst the assortment of streets and buildings.
Trinity Church reflects in the glass sides of a more modern building, towering above all but the Prudential Tower a few blocks away. Even this old beauty is dwarfed by the marshland, Fens Park, sprawling acres that abut the home of the Boston Red Sox.
The green grass and fluttering leaves surround pools of sparkling water. A natural haven offers relief from the heat reflecting off the iron, glass and cement surrounding it like a conquering army.
More greenbelts sift their fingers through the architectural feats of mankind. As we traveled north from the city toward our hotel, strips of trees stood sentinel over the cement and asphalt thoroughfare.
I wondered at these makeshift forests, small compared to forests near my home in Oregon. Why were they left here? Why had the engineers forfeited that coveted ground to a more natural habitat?
To me, the answer is less important than the ideology these waving trees represent: Man needs the natural resources God gave in the form of trees, plants and waterways.
Sure, trees take the carbon we spew into the air and regurgitate life-giving oxygen. I’m talking about something deeper than that.
Studies show that people who spend time among the trees are healthier and happier. Is it the fresh air? Is it the natural Vitamin D acquired through ingesting sunlight?
I believe a simpler answer exists. God created us to commune with him. Nature declares the glory of God. Thus, when we spend time in a natural environment, serenaded by wind whispering through the leaves and birds chirping from the branches, our soul is nourished.
I’m not trying to be heretical and claim that communing with nature is the same as communing with God. I don’t believe God is in nature. However, we need a place of peace to experience true communion with God. That place – which exists within us – can be more easily accessed when we’re surrounded by the sounds of the Creator instead of the noisy fumes man spits out.
What is your favorite manmade structure? Has it ever helped you find a way to deeper spiritual communion with God?