In the recorded history of man, I believe ravens and doves were the first birds mentioned by name. In the Biblical account of Genesis chapter 8, Noah released a dove to see if it would find dry land. Doves are still with us today, and there are a number of species resident in different regions of the world. Some of the different breeds are so similar that, at a glance, they may appear to be the same. Where I grew up the Mourning Dove was the commonly seen dove, so when I see one now, that is usually my default identification. In fact, I had tentatively identified each of the birds below as such, and it wasn’t until I was post-processing the images in Lightroom that I recognized that they were all different.
Each of these birds has the same general coloration, but also each has very distinctive identification marks. I have not studied doves in detail, but I have noticed that they are normally pacifistic, in nature. Maybe this is why doves are often seen as symbols of peace. Again, the Bible paints them as gentle, attractive animals with highly regarded characteristics.
Today, on Easter Sunday, we Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Prince of Peace, our Savior, Jesus Christ. As the Biblical account of His life affirms, He was and is peace-loving, while at the same time He despises sin. Very shortly after He was raised from death, He spoke to the disciples, saying; “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20). There is a lot in this Scripture, and most Christians know it as the Great Commission. However, there is also a promise of assurance in His words for us. Jesus knew that there is a lot of danger when sending people across the country to evangelize and share His truth. While they wouldn’t necessarily be protected from harm and humiliation, having the knowledge that the presence of the Holy Spirit would be with them would allow them to tackle enormous challenges, perform astonishing miracles, and reside with Him when their time on Earth was done. As the dove has been with us throughout the age of mankind, the spirit of Jesus Christ is with us, and will be with us, for eternity. That same hope in the living Christ that fueled the fire in the souls of His early disciples, can fuel our hearts and souls also. The words of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s hymn states this message very well:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
- As yet they did not know the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)
- It Is Finished! (seashoremary.wordpress.com)
- Because He Lives (faithfulnibbles.wordpress.com)
- Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (bummyla.wordpress.com)
- Day Ninety Five ~ Dove Love (mytown365.wordpress.com)
It looks like I have to quit denying that Spring is really here early this year, because it is hard to argue with the arrival of our normal harbingers of the season. This weekend brought us the first pair of Mountain Bluebirds and a solo Robin. Each spring I generally try to photograph the new arrivals, so I reviewed the date stamps on my images of these birds over the past three years, and it looks like they are a full month ahead of schedule.
The quality of the bluebird images isn’t the greatest, but there will be plenty of better opportunities later in the Spring, after they have settled in and aren’t so skittish. If the normal pattern of arrivals holds true, the American Goldfinches and Western Tanagers will be along within a month. Although this happens every year, it is always exciting to see them come back, as they announce the season of renewal. Watching the dormant trees fill with leaves, seeing the dry grass become overtaken by new growth and interspersed with wildflowers, welcoming the offspring of livestock and wildlife; all are amazing and refreshing to the soul.
There is another, and more important, renewal that we can experience any time of the year. That is the new life which is created when we put our faith, trust and obedience in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are instructed in 2 Cornithians 5:7; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Sure, we may look the same and our voice will sound the same, but we become a new being spiritually, with a new, eternal future in His kingdom. And the same way that Springtime often urges us toward hopefulness and anticipation, following Christ yields a new outlook on life built on the promises and love of God, the Creator.
- mountain bluebirds, great grey owls and king eiders (fareandfeather.wordpress.com)
- The Stone That Became a Mountain (thekingspresence.wordpress.com)
- It’s Opening Day! (howtospyonbirds.wordpress.com)
With all the wind we’ve been having here in the north country, it is a good thing our snowfall is well below normal. The combination of normal snowfall and the winds of recent weeks would have resulted in spectacular drifting, which I am happy to not experience! Late yesterday afteroon I was on the outskirts of Billings and the wind was doing a pretty good job of keeping things stirred up in the valley. As I was driving in a westerly direction, I looked to the southwest of the Yellowstone Valley and saw that the wind was whipping up a lot of snow over the top of the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains. I felt the wind was a little too nasty to set up my tripod, so I hand-held the camera to get several exposures to merge for an HDR capture. As I was essentially shooting into the setting sun, an HDR composition allowed me to get an image that is close to what the scene actually looked like.
Like the wind, the presence of the Holy Spirit is invisible. A person cannot see it move or work. However, one can see the effect of what the Spirit does. One can see how it acts on things—just as the wind stirs up the settled snow. One cannot see the wind, but everyone has seen how it makes tree leaves and the branches sway or dust kick up from a dirt road. Often we see the impact of the wind, but not the wind itself. It is the same with the Spirit. The Spirit moves, and we then see the impact in people’s lives. People act and a work gets done. What we see is not the Spirit itself, but the Spirit’s fruit.
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
- Enjoy the Beauty of God’s Creation.. (snowwhitedove.wordpress.com)
“Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” Luke 8:25b
Along with cooler temperatures, fall weather often brings with it plenty of wind and rain. While this season is one of my favorite times of year, there are times when I wish I had the ability to alter the weather. But, alas, that is one of many things well beyond my control. For Jesus Christ, calming a storm while at sea was a simple matter of scolding the weather and the storm ceased and the sea calmed! I don’t know about you, but the fact that I have my faith in The Creator with that kind of power is very comforting. With the turbulent state of affairs in the world today, knowing that He is in control is very reassuring. It isn’t that I simply ignore what is happening around me, but I acknowledge that when things get to a certain point, He will step in and make His will happen. In the meanwhile, I can impact the people and circumstances I interact with, as He directs my path. But mostly, I pray that more will make the decision to be followers of Christ.
Speaking of calm seas, earlier this month I took a short cruise from Long Beach, CA to Ensenada, Mexico. The ocean was pretty calm during most of the trip, making the passage very pleasant. While I am glad I had the opportunity to be on the cruise, I learned that this is something I don’t need to do again anytime soon. While the Carnival Paradise is a very large vessel, I found it to be very confining by the end of the second day on board. Perhaps if I was the kind of person that would have been entertained by the bars, dance floors or casino, I would have enjoyed the experience more. However, none of those venues hold much appeal for me. On the positive side, I did enjoy being out in the sea air, and found solace in sitting outside on the upper decks in the evenings (while everyone else was enjoying the more social aspects of the voyage) very peaceful and relaxing. There were a limited number of photo opportunities that I was able to take advantage of throughout the journey. Click on the pictures below to see them in a larger format.
- The Dynamics of Faith and Receiving from God (pjcockrell.wordpress.com)
- The Perfect Christian (5ptsalt.com)
“The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” Psalms 10:4
I guess I should have joined Facebook sooner. If I had, perhaps I would have learned more life application skills that would have really simplified my life. Unfortunately, I am not an early-adopter. It is more my style to let other people work out the kinks on new technology and “advances” in general. So I drug my feet for several years before finally succumbing to Facebook. Even then, I did it more to find out what all the hubbub was about, than anything. After several months of lurking and accepting a few friend requests, I was near the point of pulling the plug on the whole thing. But then, it happened. I was reading through a series of comments about depression as a factor in suicides (pretty exciting topic, huh?) when I encountered a revelation, of sorts…
“We don’t need god anymore. We now know enough about the human body and mind to have a basic idea about the mechanisms of mental illness including depression to understand it sufficiently. Not perfect knowledge, of course, but enough to know there’s no need for a god to explain it. Further, we don’t need to make up fictional father figures to feel love. We have the capacity for love already inside us. We know that part of the human imperfection is that we lose track of that capacity.”
Wow! I actually had to read it several times to really take it in. If this is really true, then I have been wasting a lot of time in church, at Sunday School, praying and witnessing to other people. Oh, and the time this sinner spends confessing to God, now that really adds up over the years. Assuming that I am lucky enough to live another 20 years, one full year will be wasted in all these activities that are apparently useless. Of course, adopting this new worldview will mean that I will need to depend on the “smart people” who have all this wonderful knowledge, and having a little luck will be essential. Maybe I should buy a rabbit’s foot to keep on my key chain as a constant reminder of how important luck will be to me? And the smart people are going to be awful important, so maybe we ought to consider building some shrines to honor them?
And that mushy “love” topic? This new learning seems like the ultimate freedom! Over the years there have been a lot people who I don’t really like, but I’ve prayed for them, taught them and helped them in various ways. Erroneously, I thought I was sharing God’s love with them, but if there is no God, I must have been wasting my time. Whew, that’s going to be load off my plate! If I feel like loving someone, I will; if not, I won’t give it another thought because I must simply not have the capacity for it within me.
Oh, this would be the easy way out. At a glance it looks pretty tempting to adopt this worldview…but at what cost? What meaning would life have if there is no God? How would I navigate through life without the One who is always there for me? There would be nothing to look forward to in the afterlife, and I’ve been planning on lodging in His mansion.
On second thought, I don’t think I will adopt this worldview. After nearly 50 years of experience, I am convinced that there is a God and that I need Him. The Bible is the document guiding my life, but even without it I would know He is there. I talk to Him often and He answers. He has protected me through times when I didn’t deserve it and in places I shouldn’t have survived. He loves me and shows me how to love others, not because of any great knowledge I’ve accumulated or deeds I’ve accomplished, but because I do my best to trust and obey Him. He is sufficient for me.
“…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” 2 Cor 3:17
Tomorrow we will be celebrating 235 years of liberty in the United States. While this truly is an exciting cause for joy, a celebration of liberty, that is Christian liberty, is available to everyone. Because Jesus Christ came to this earth to be a sacrifice for us, he offers us an opportunity to be liberated from our sins, escape the penalty of our sins, prevent our sinful nature from running our lives, and to not fear death. He takes your place and offers you His robe of righteousness in exchange for your belief in the Gospel, becoming Christ’s disciple, renounce Satan, and be devoted to Jesus Christ as your prophet, priest and king. You can achieve true liberty by giving yourself up to Him, through whom you can do all things. He will supply you with everything, if only you give your all to Him. It doesn’t matter where you live, how wealthy you are, or how sinful your life has been! Liberty awaits, if you will have faith and invite the Spirit of the Lord into your heart.
“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)
Of the many photographic goals I have set for myself, near the top of the list was to capture an image of a Cedar Waxwing. Until now, I had only seen pictures of this incredibly beautiful bird. Virtually every image I have seen seemed so perfect that the bird almost looks fake. In my mind I couldn’t really believe that, if and when I ever saw one of these creatures, it would look so perfect. In a way I suppose I thought that when I actually saw a Cedar Waxwing it would almost be like finally seeing a movie that everyone raves about – but when you watch it, you are disappointed because it didn’t meet your expectations. Well, two days ago while in Ferndale, Washington and with no expectation to see any birds of unique significance, I finally saw several of these birds and got some images that actually exceeded my expectations. Because I needed to catch a plane, I didn’t have very much time to spend taking pictures, otherwise I would have been there for hours!
The images I captured were truly a prize to me, as they represent yet another outstanding masterpiece from God, the Creator. But this prize is temporal and lacks true significance when compared with the ultimate prize Paul refers to in Philippians 3:14. Eternal life in Heaven with Christ is indeed the ultimate prize that Christians anticipate. There can be no earthly prize that compares to what awaits us in Heaven. And I believe that regardless of our expectations, they will be far surpassed when we get there. To be there, with Him and all His glory will surely be an awesome prize to cherish and enjoy for life everafter.