Tag Archives: connect

Nature-al Harmony

One of my favorite things to do in the forests of Montana is nothing; I just sit, watch, look, and listen. I notice how chipmunks dismantle evergreen cones to gather the nutritious seeds. The little harvesters will bury those seeds and forget where some got buried. However, from those overlooked caches new trees will grow. The chipmunks get food, and the trees’ seeds get planted.

Copyright Mike L. Raether

The trees are pillars of life in the forest, providing platforms of nesting sites when alive and hollows for cavity nesting birds when dead. As I sit, I listen to the birds rather than watch them, as I’ve come to recognize many just by their songs.  

The amazing interconnectivity of living things! Although this interconnectivity was noted as early as the Fourth Century, it wasn’t recognized as a science until about middle of the 20th Century—and then the new science got a name: Ecology.

Ecology celebrates the harmony of nature. In the forested mountains in Western Montana, Lodgepole pine springs up first after forest fires; they even need fire, as their cones can only be unlocked by wildfire. Although lodgepole occupies many different niches in the forest, it has a life expectancy of only 100 years or so, and is then replaced by other kinds of trees. Western larch occupies ridges and north facing slopes, as they need more moisture than is typically found on south facing grades. However, ponderosa pine prefers south slopes, as it likes the hot, dry conditions usually found there. Aspen prefer deep draws where there is abundant moisture. Cottonwood takes the moistest niche of all: River banks. Some organisms take this a step further: they form mutually beneficial relationships, like the example of evergreens and chipmunks above. Each gets something for their cooperation even though they’re often very different from each other.

Don’t you love it when everybody wins? Lodgepole don’t fight with ponderosa and aspen don’t fight with cottonwood. They each have their niches. Nature usually cooperates with nature. But humans, who are considered the most intelligent creatures on earth, too often bicker, fight, and sometimes even destroy other humans. Maybe we aren’t so smart after all. What if we invested our energy in finding ways to get along instead of trying to exterminate one another? What if we just agree to disagree and leave it there? I think the devil gets a good laugh when we try to rip out each other’s necks.

I’m a conservative but I have many progressive friends. On some issues we’re never going to agree, but we don’t divide on those issues. We might discuss them, even have polite disagreements, but then we part as friends. If we only hang with those who are like us, what does that say about us?

I don’t advocate being phony. As Charles Caleb Colton once noted, “Neutrality is no favorite with Providence, for we are so formed that it is scarcely possible for us to stand neutral in our hearts.” Know what you believe and why you believe, but be gracious.

I want to advocate replacing hate with love. And by “love” I don’t mean the warm fuzzies; I mean the kind of love that values others above self. Here’s a look at this kind of love:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV).

Your thoughts, pro or con? All perspectives are welcome. 

You can comment, send me an e-mail, or even subscribe.

If You’re Not Like Me, You Suck

He gave me that classic “deer in the headlights” look.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Florin (IMG_4419.JPG) and Creative Commons

My comment had been unpretentious, or so I thought: “What a sad and boring world it would be if we all looked the same, talked the same, dressed the same,  thought the same; shared the same opinions and likes and dislikes.” He didn’t say a word, but the look on his face spoke clearly –

“I think the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was just like me.”

This is Inauguration Week. On Friday, Trump becomes the president of the United States of America. And the United States of America have never been so ununited. Those on the left are especially unhappy. The tolerant left is no longer so tolerant. Apparently their tolerance only extends toward those who look the same, talk the same, think the same, and share the same opinions as them.

But wait: it’s not just those on the left who are intolerant.  Some on the right are just as critical and judgmental toward those who are different than them.

I was listening to a conservative talk radio program last week. The guest host was busy castigating an American couple for spending thousands of dollars on vet bills to nurse their pup back to health when they could have, in his opinion, better spent their money on helping rescue dogs find homes. The host was really big into rescue dogs, and in his view the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was like him.

About a year ago a relative gave me a book and asked my opinion. What he really wanted was an endorsement of his opinion. But when I gave him my opinion, which differed from his, his head exploded.

There is the division even in our Christian churches. I once attended a church where they worshipped with upraised hands. I wasn’t comfortable raising my hands, so I didn’t. The hand-raisers looked at me like I had a big ugly growth in the center of my forehead. I then tried a church where only a few people raised their hands. Those who didn’t raise their hands looked at those who did like they had cholera.

I dare you: reach out and become a friend to someone who is different than you. Risk engagement with others who may be different than you socially, politically, culturally, or economically. Why should you take my dare? Because this world would not be a better place if everyone was just like you.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can post a comment right here online, send me an email and more –  

 

With God in the Wilderness

I hate leashing my dog. However, there are places where Sophie must be leashed to be legal. At such times I’m compelled to obey the leash laws, but I don’t have to like it. Sophie and me like it best when we can retreat to the wilderness and run free, Sophie chasing squirrels and never catching them while I chase the grin on my face.

Road to Somewhere

I think dogs were meant to run free, but you can’t just turn ’em loose and expect them to behave. It takes a lot of training before a dog can be trusted to heel, sit, stay, come, and all that. In the beginning, all that training requires leash time. It has taken a long time, but Sophie now knows her commands by voice, hand, and whistle. Only as the pup matures, can she be trusted.

I think it’s the same way with Christian men. In the beginning of our relationship with God, like a pup, God has to keep us on a leash. We have to show that we can be trusted with our freedom before God turns us loose.

In the beginning of my relationship with Sophie we spent a lot of  time together. As a consequence, she learned to trust me and I learned to trust her. It’s the same way between God and people: it takes a lot of time spent with God in order for the relationship to bloom.

I believe the best place to spend time with God is the wilderness.

Now, a wilderness can be a literal wilderness complete with bears, bugs, lions, wolves and such. But “wilderness” can also be a metaphor for very hard places such as loneliness, depression, divorce or the death of a loved one. Or it could be the wilderness of incarceration, rejection by friends or family or tribe.

What about you? Do you find yourself in the wilderness? Take heart, the wilderness is a good place to be. Not necessarily because it’s a fun place to be. A bump in the night is still a bump in the night. But God is there. And spending time with God in the wilderness seems like His main method for developing maturity. Consider these examples –

  • Jacob: His name means, “supplanter,” a fitting name for a man who tricked his older brother Esau out of his birthright. As you can imagine, when Esau discovered his bother’s treachery, he wanted to slit Jacob’s throat. Jacob fled his homeland and lived for many years in the land of Haran, hundreds of miles to the north. It was in the land of Haran that God matured Jacob, and finally Jacob returned home and made peace with his brother Esau.
  • Moses: Moses killed a man and fled for his life to a wilderness region the  Bible calls, “the backside of the desert.” (KJV). After spending about 40 years in the wilderness, God had matured him to the point where He could use him to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery.
  • David: As a mere teen David received God’s anointing as Israel’s next king, but he wasn’t ready to take the throne. He spend many years far from his homeland in the wilderness before God was ready to take him off the leash.
  • Paul the Apostle: Once an avowed enemy of the Christians of the first century A.D., Paul was converted to Christianity while traveling to Damascus, where he intended to have the Christians living there arrested for heresy. Paul was destined to be the greatest church planter ever known.  But before God turned Paul loose, He prepared him for a number of years in the wilderness of Arabia.
  • And finally, there’s the example of Jesus: Right after His baptism, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that “…Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil.” (NASU). Jesus spend 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, being tempered by the temptations of the devil in order to prepare Him for the greatest task this world has ever known.

Do you find yourself in a wilderness at the moment? Tell us about it. You can never tell who might be help by hearing your story.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

 

 

Got Hope?

So we had this election… And ever since, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions and attitudes of my progressive friends. The light finally went on as I listened to Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah earlier this month.

"'The Scream" by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.
“‘The Scream” by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Oprah asked Ms. Obama how she was feeling about the Trump election. Michelle responded, “…see, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And there it is. Despair is in the air. Some of my progressive friends, especially those those who are dependent on the government fear that their entitlements will go away, particularly such things as Social Security and Medicare. Other progressives are afraid that their pet agendas will be a negatively impacted.

Some have said, “C’mon, it was only an election !” But to those on the left, it was much more than an election. It was an assault on their hope. As Michelle said later in the same interview, “Hope is a necessary concept.” True dat. And when people lose hope, they’re flooded by despair.

As the Bible says in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision [hope], the people perish…” (KJV). Or as Peterson’s paraphrase has it, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…”*

I don’t know if Trump will be a good president or not. But I’m not too concerned about this as I don’t place my hope in government; my hope is in Jesus Christ. I know God is at work, and that He’s got this.

This isn’t the time to gloat, especially if we’re Christians. This is the time to reach out to those who are in despair and seek to understand the situation from their perspective. To do this, we must first be willing to listen. As David Bohm observed, “…communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.”

Once others see that you’re sincerely interested in what interests them, you may find that others are interested in what interests you. And they might even give you an opportunity to tell them of the great hope that is in you: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

What I Learned from a Dandelion Seed

Courtesy Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166
Courtesy Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166

A dandelion seed floated past my window today, riding happily on random puffs of air. I started thinking (always hard for me, and usually dangerous):

The drifting dandelion seed had no idea where it was going or how long it would take to get there. Would it land on a bit of bare earth here in Montana or would it be wafted halfway around the world?  But it didn’t seem to matter to the dandelion seed. It was committed to the journey, however near  or far.

I was reminded of my journey through life. I’ve made plans about going here or there, but in the end, like that dandelion seed, all I’ve ever really done is react. The winds of life take me where they will, and I can only ride the wind.

Oh, but I forget: I can do more than just react. I can trust God. He knows the end of my journey and He will plant me just where He wants me, in His time and in His way.

I can trust God because I’ve come to know Him through His Son Jesus. Through Jesus Christ, I’ve come to know God as trustworthy. I’ve come to know Him as loving. I’ve come to know Him as kind,  that He is “…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7, NASU). And I’ve come to know Him as my Great Friend.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

The Disconnection Connection

Ward Creek Trail
Ward Creek Trail – Time to Think

 

 

“How do you stand it?”

The question was posed by our youngest son. After being on his own for a while, he’d stopped by for a visit. The TV was off, the radio was silenced and the stereo was resting. The only sound was the methodic ticking of a clock. 

•Again the question came: “It’s so quiet here. How do you stand it?”

I remembered this incident recently when I read about a study done by the University of Virginia and reported in the July 4, 2014 edition of Science magazine. Study subjects consisting of a broad span of ages ages were asked to spend six to 15 minutes by themselves without any external stimuli – no computer, cell phone, music, TV, magazines or books to entertain them; nothing to write with or on. Instead, they were told to occupy themselves with their thoughts – in other words, disconnect from the external world and connect with the internal world.

Most of the people who participated in the study didn’t like the experience. The researchers are not yet sure why, although they have some theories. One of their theories is that the human mind is designed to focus on the external world and when those external stimuli are removed the mind becomes uncomfortable.

•I have my own theory.

As a culture, I think we’re overstimulated. So much so that being alone with our thoughts is almost torture.

I find this hard to understand. I love to get away by myself to a quiet place and have time just to think. In fact, I deliberately create such times. I find them restful and refreshing. Life make sense again as take time to sort things out. As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables, “there are many mouths that speak, and but few heads that think.”

Consider my dog. The pasture grass behind my house is taller than she is. As she romps around in the tall grass, I can only tell where she is by the rusting movements. After a few moments of this, she realizes she’s lost track of me. She leaps above the grass, looks around and finds me. Satisfied, she drops back down in the grass and resumes finding bugs are whatever it was she was doing.

I believe we must do the same. As we rustle through the tall grass of life, we need to take some time out to stick our heads above the mess and get our bearings. In other words, take time to think. Disconnect in order to connect.

What about you? Do you like being alone? Are you comfortable with disconnecting? Why or why not? What refreshes you? We’re all different. What recharges your batteries? I have a friend who recharges by being around lots of people. That works for him. Let us know what you think!

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Slow Down and Live

By Mike Raether

Busyness is thief, a villain that saps our strength and robs us of life.

Although it’s true that a busy life is a purposeful life, we can get so busy with life that we forget to live. Especially if our lives include serving others in some way.

Copyright iStock_000010703250
Copyright iStock_000010703250

A few years ago, this got my attention like a flashing blue light in the rear view mirror. I was leading a small country church at the time. You’d think that shepherding a rural church would yield a relaxed lifestyle, but forget it. In a small church you wear a lot of hats. I was so busy running here and there that I rarely took time to slow down, rest up and simply live. I was flaming out fast, until the morning that I got up, looked at my schedule, and just about threw up. At that moment I seemed to hear the voice of God, “Come away to a lonely place by yourself and rest awhile.”

Me and My Old Hiking Buddy
Me and My Old Hiking Buddy

That did it. Although I felt a little guilty with so many places to be and so many people to see, I cleared my calendar, fired up my old pickup, let the dog jump in beside me and headed for the hills. We hiked up into two mountain lakes that day and I returned home physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed and spiritually rejuvenated. Ever since, I’ve made it a priority to set aside one day each week for personal renewal. Although this blots a valuable day off my schedule, I find I’m able to accomplish more and better work for others in the time that remains. And just as important, the quality of my own life has catapulted.

How about you? When was the last time you took some time for yourself? You might think it’s selfish. But I don’t care if you’re a busy mom, a dad, an executive, a teacher, a writer, a pastor, or a little league coach: if you don’t take time to fill the glass, you won’t have anything to pour out to refresh the lives of others.

The “to do” list will always have more on it than you can do. Dirty dishes will always pile up in the sink, work will always be there, and the lawn will always need mowing again. Forget about it for a while. Give yourself permission to slow down, rest up, and live.

So what is it that fills your tank? Go do it. Take a hike, read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, go to a ball game, whatever. How about a day off? As Dr. Laura Schlessinger would say, “Go do the right thing.” It’s the right thing for others, and it’s the right thing for you. Slow down, rest up, and LIVE.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –