Category Archives: Nature

GLEANINGS FROM THE GEESE

2017-04-13 Geese Up State NY

By Fr Stephen Young

There is something so inspiring about the flight of geese as they wind their way across the morning or evening sky.  Even more incredible and captures our imagination is to watch a flock in the field lift off and almost magically move from randomness into a beautiful and coordinated “V” shaped pattern.

Woven into this ancient flight plan is a deep message that reflects the “V”ictorious life promised by God to those who will follow His flight plan as presented through His Son Jesus.  What lessons can we realize from these magnificent creatures?

FACT:  As geese flap their wings, they create an uplift for the birds that follow.  By flying in the “V” formation the whole flock adds 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

LESSON:  People who share a common purpose and direction; who form community, get where they are going quicker and easier.  They lift each other up along the way. Encouragers!!

FACT:  If a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of flying alone.  So it quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

LESSON:  If we have the sense of a goose, we will stay in formation with those committed to the same direction as we are headed.

FACT:  When the lead goose tires, it rotates back in the formation and another takes the point position.

LESSON:  t pays to share leadership and be humble enough to let others take a leadership turn when needed.

FACT:  Geese flying in formation honk to encourage one another and those up front to keep together and keep up the pace. The honking helps keep the pace and momentum.

LESSON:  It is important that we “honk” and that our honking be one of encouragement.

FACT:  When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down other geese drop out of formation to follow it down to help and/or protect it.  They remain until it dies or is able to fly again.

LESSON:  When one of us is down, it’s up to others to stand by us in our time of trouble.

PONDER: Reflect upon these lessons from the Goose.  What scriptures, parables and Biblical precepts are portrayed through their actions?  In Christ and in following in His pattern we do find “V”ictory.

 

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The Animals Will Teach You

Praying mantis
Praying Mantis

By Fr. Stephen Young

There on the low hanging branch of the maple tree, hidden, but not hidden, stood the mantis. Brilliant green and statuesque, it appeared to be caught in deep prayer as it faced into the early morning sun; a mysterious and intriguing expression of God’s beauty.

Then, almost out of nowhere, another praying mantis materialized on the same branch and in a moment they began an ancient courtship ritual.  To be privy to this intimate act of creation was both humbling and even embarrassing.  Like Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the female was overshadowed by the male, the egg within being brought to life by the acceptance of the seed.  Like the Word becoming flesh in Mary, a miracle!!  New Life!  New Birth!

Completed, the gift given, the womb was made alive.  And then came the shock.  A scene too hard to witness, visual words too hard to listen to!!  She who had received the gift proceeded to consume the gift giver; an act of supreme sacrifice, providing the food needed to ensure that the life begun would be the life fulfilled.  Eucharist!!

“………Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you have no life in you.”  John 6:53

“But now ask the animals, and they will teach you;…”   Job 12:7

I Can Only Imagine, Counting the Stars

StarsintheskyArticle by Fr. Leo

Photo by Magellanic Cloud Wikipedia

We recently read in the Bible about God asking Abraham to look up in the night sky and count the stars.  Genesis 15:5-6 – “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.  And he believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  Realizing that Abraham was being asked to use his imagination to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of counting stars, reveals a profound example of what it would look like when Abraham sees the fulfillment of this promise.  God uses the number of seemingly infinite stars to fuel Abraham’s imagination concerning the promises.  We read that it is anything but possible when you are looking through the lens of the facts.  In Genesis 15:7 – “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”  What is so significant about this event that was going to occur through Abraham, was by this time he was up there in years and Sarah his wife, was no spring chicken herself, as well as she was barren, unable to have children.

For Abraham, not having a son meant that his heritage would not go on.  Not having a son was paramount to him revealing a lifetime of unfulfilled desires that were continuously nagging at his heart and staring him in the face were the facts that told him this was IMPOSSIBLE.  Even if it was just for a moment in time, something amazing takes place, a miracle of the heart.  Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

There is an incredible lesson to be learned here, teaching us about how God works in our lives.  We must ask ourselves what was so pleasing to God.   It was this very act of believing before it even happened.  And what does God do?  He accounts it to Abraham as fulfilling the law of righteousness, in turn, making him the father of faith.  Abraham is an example to all those who are in Christ.  We read in the Epistle to the Romans 4:17 – “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.”  A simple law was fulfilled as God was teaching Abraham to use his imagination and not to believe the facts nor depend on excuses like we all do in the face of impossible odds.  Instead, Abraham teaches us to trust God, knowing that His ways are not our ways; with Christ as our foundation and living by faith in Jesus.  We see evident in 2 Corinthians 4:18 – “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  Abraham was learning to do what God is asking each of us to do, which is to exercise our faith with this incredible gift called our imagination that each one of has available to use.  It says in Mark 11:24 – “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that have received them, and ye shall have them.”  Remembering God is fully able to fulfill his promises to us, Jesus reminds us when he says in Luke 12:32 – “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

As we learn to live by faith, Jesus promises us we will never be disappointed, that it is the father’s pleasure to give you and I the kingdom and that His kingdom is built on the foundation of faith.  It is our small measure of faith in action that relies on HIS grace, through the renewing of our minds.  Titus 3:57– “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Quiet Walk On A Father’s Day

By Fr. Stephen Young

The woven voice of God, so full

  Melodious in currents streaming,

    So deep, so sweet, Our voice compared, so incomplete.

      In Sunday praise, to God we reach,

    But the song of wind and warbler,

  The ear of God they do truly meet,

Holy are they, pure and clean.

We gather, seeking a wilderness temple,

  Revealed to all, its veil now opened,

    We priests enjoin the sacrifice,

      Immersed, renewed by the Laver’s water

      Entering now the Presence, God’s sacred Presence.

    Off with shoes!

  Knees to earth,

This is truly Holy ground.

Shekinah Glory, a pollen mist,

  An incense blessing from brother pine,

    Fills the sanctuary in benediction,

      Holy, Holy, Holy; Lord God Almighty!

      Oh Father, seen in winter’s ice,

    Your Son heard in the many waters,

  And Holy Spirit felt through morning mist,

The essence of a triune God.

A rainbow’s promise in color proclaims,

  By red, the Lamb of love was slain,

    By yellow our redemption claimed,

      By blue the Comforter ordained.

      An empty cocoon; an empty tomb,

    The stone rolled back,

  Life from death; Love and hope,

A mystery, a miracle, a resurrection!

My naked feet upon the earth, intrude,

  Foreigners yes, but strangers not,

    From dust, I came,

      And to dust, I shall return.

But till that Day, that glorious day,

  For which all creation waits,

    I will tend the garden precious,

      Walking and talking to the One I know,

        Who loves me so, my Abba Father

On this our Father’s Day. 

Please feel free to share how God has expressed Himself to you through His “Book of Nature” as we walk and talk together in the garden with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, anticipating the coming of Christ and the new heaven and new earth!

A Note From The Wilderness

By Fr. Stephen Young

Six people spent a day immersed in the wilderness. The following is their shared experience:

2017-02-28-08-22-22

There is a rhythm of time found in God’s creation, yet it seems timeless. A frog basks in the sun next to us, a hawk banks close by, each alone but seemingly complete, pictures of order and contentment.Baptized into this rhythm while sitting upon an unhewn stone, this rhythm is sensed best while in solitude.  We are alone but never lonely.

 

So off goes your watch without thinking.

Mounted on your wrist, it now looks silly.

We are operating on God’s time and at His pace.

 There is a feeling of wholeness; eating when hungry, letting go, opening up.

We open up to the font of God’s Presence while being attentive to His prophetic voice.The wilderness teaches in its own time, on its own terms to all who will listen. We are in the wilderness to listen. It feels right to listen and to attend.  It deeply satisfies.  Peace enters.

 Jesus gives all of His creation the promise of contentment found

in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Behold, in the wilderness we are surrounded by such promised contentment.

All of Creation sings praises to its creator, the Father,

which is heard in the roar of the forest, in the rustling wind,

 and in the songs and beauty of every living thing.

Here we sit where God’s visible nature is most intact, unshrouded by human contrivance. Here, we are intimately aware of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Here, the Trinity touches each of us and with all creation together worship God with praise and thanksgiving.

From the beginning of biblical history, the prophets went into the wilderness

to find God and to be filled with His Holy Spirit.

Similarly, we are formed with an empty core need, a deep aching

 which can only be filled by God’s love.

We go into the wilderness to be filled, to be changed, to be home.

God isn’t silent.  His love is always pouring, always shining.  We just do not pay attention.The wilderness transforms us as we open up and expose ourselves to Him. Scripture makes it clear that God is always available.  We aren’t! The wilderness strips away the distractions, and as we open ourselves, we see and listen as God reveals Himself to us.

At first, in the presence of God’s majesty visible in the wilderness,

we are awe-struck, and we feel insignificant before it like a contrite Job.

As we meditate upon being created in His image and likeness, we begin to feel

Significant indeed.

We bear a responsibility to bring others to this gift of a vision of God’s majesty

and to protect the sacred places where such visions of His love are expressed.

In the wilderness, our insignificance dissipates into God’s wholeness, and we wonder why we have stayed away so long, away from the peace that quiets our souls.The wilderness calls us to become humble, and as we die to self, a Christ-like love becomes more imminent.

Surrounding us everywhere in the wilderness is death in life and life in death.

We find green shoots growing out of dead tree trunks

and great trees gashed with rotted heartwood.

It is in this place that our restless egos die

as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew,

redirect and refresh us.

For it is in the wilderness, among the trees, that the breath of God is most felt; a breath that can only be felt and heard in silence. It is the inhale and exhale of Yahweh; death inhaled, life exhaled. Like Jesus on the cross, the tree of life is restored. There the rhythm and nature of the invisible God is made visible.

 

The wilderness awakens in us the need for the Sabbath within us. 

It teaches us the cadence of God.

The purifying experience of immersing ourselves in the wilderness

brings us to a place of obedience,

 It opens a window to the sacred, and we honor the command to

remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

In the wilderness, we learn obedience. We die if we do not obey the laws of the wild, the laws of God written boldly in all creation. So too we die if we do not obey the laws of God, written boldly in Scripture and upon our hearts. A loss of the wilderness in our lives surely will increase ignorance.

Moses learned wisdom in the wilderness, and it is there he learned to trust in God.

We pray for the same wisdom.

 Jesus in the wilderness teaches us to pray.

“I am the way,” He said and we should follow Him.

The transparency of nature gives evidence of the Creator and the example of Christ

leads us there!

The wilderness proclaims the necessity of community and of diversity. We come into the knowledge that we are not the center of the universe. Communion is obvious in the celebration of interrelatedness all around us.  Vibrant community is everywhere. “Love your neighbor as yourself” rings true in our souls.

Awe and inspiration are our response to the wilderness

and reverence for the Father and restraint toward His creation is birthed.

Man-made noise and distractions no longer have appeal here.

 Restraint is love manifest.

We are engulfed in humility.

Like prayer, we cannot explain the power or meaning of the wilderness experience; the healing power of God. Our strongest rhetoric is experience itself: Our message is, “GO!!”

“Go and be healed.”  You will become healers.

“Go and be taught.”  You will become teachers.

“Go and receive prophecy.”  You will become prophets.

“Go and be still” and know that He is God; receive His gift of His Holy Spirit.

As we leave the wilderness and we return to our cities, homes, and jobs, we pray that we may better live and walk by the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

The World full of Distractions

 

noahs-ark-fr-nathanileNoah teaching February 19, 2014This evening we are going to read

Genesis 8:15-22

We are all familiar with the story of Noah, how God used him to deliver a remnant thru the destruction of the flood, brought on by the evil found in the hearts of men. Tonight I want to look at it from the perspective of how it relates to us as brides who have made promises to live vows of spiritual poverty, chastity, and obedience.

We live in a world full of distractions. It is a fast-paced and often chaotic place. Yet, as those who have said to the Lord that we want to separate ourselves from that world and enter into a closer place with Him. The story of Noah has special meaning to us as we live in these times when we realize that we are living in perilous times when signs point toward His return soon, and the world is overwhelmed with violence as it was in the days of Noah. Also, we realize the hour is late for the world as watch right become wrong and wrong become right in the eyes of the world.

First, we see the obedience of Noah as he heard the word of God and acted upon it. We see the poverty in the life of a man who, in acting upon the word of God certainly brought ridicule and hurt to himself and his family, building a boat for a flood when no one understood the concept of the flood. Chastity is evident in the life of Noah as he had lived a life before God in the midst of the sin he was surrounded by.

Tonight we have prepared ourselves to receive from, and minister to, Christ through a period of silence. As I said earlier, we live in a loud, distracting world and so, in order to hear His voice, we must learn to quiet ourselves and shut out the noise around us. Then, having quieted ourselves to hear we too, like Noah, must be willing to obey and act upon what he is calling us to do.

Then what did He do with Noah? He brought him into the ark, the place of safety. He was separated from the world. Are we willing to be separate from the world as God is asking us to. After he had built the ark, Noah had to get into it along with his family and the animals that God sent, he was shut into the ark. Do you think that Ark was a pleasant place? It had to smell. It had to be crowded. But God was working a miracle every moment in that Ark. There is no way they could have air to breathe or food to eat for all those animals plus the people without it. There is no way they could have all been in there and had peace.  When we follow God and allow Him to separate us from the world, He performs miracles in our lives moment by moment.

Then, after more than a year in the ark, and knowing that the land was exposed, he still waited for God’s word to open the door of the ark and come out. He was patient and obedient lest he comes out and sinks in the mud. How often do we find ourselves stuck in the mud in our lives when we are not seeking his direction for the moves in our lives?

Finally, after they finally emerged what did he do? He built an altar, he set up a place to meet God and offered sacrifice to him in. Do we recognize ourselves in Noah tonight or are we caught in the noise of the world, unwilling to enter in and separate ourselves to Him?

Fr. Nathaniel Maynard

 

OPENING THE BOOK OF NATURE

 “Ponderings from Patmos”hugh-taylor-birch-park_0340

Nature is the Father’s most perfect word picture book where the invisible is made visible and the unknowable made knowable.  God makes Himself available through the Book of Nature so clearly that even a child might come to understand who He is.

As the ancients used hieroglyphics to document their story, so to God depicts His story through the pictures and patterns of the created universe.  The very heavens proclaim His glory and make known His message of love and restoration.

In Genesis, when God spoke, His voice, His energy, and life moved over the waters.  It is a strange but compelling visual, as the “deep” already existed at the beginning of the Genesis account.  The invisible power of God moved through the visible element of water, which gave us God’s first-word picture as He began to reveal the most awesome love story ever created.

As a young Christian, at the age of 31, I loved the Word of God and knew faith came by hearing that Word.  No matter how much I studied and listened to the Word being taught, I had come to a real roadblock in my walk with the Lord.  I was at an impasse that seriously affected my understanding of God.  I could not grasp the Trinity.  I prayed.   I studied.   I listened, but my dilemma grew.

Often as a young man, I would journey into the woods or go to the ocean whenever faced with life’s troubling moments.  In those times of doubt and conflict, there were many voices but nothing made sense and the path to clarity was hidden from me.

My spiritual struggle becomes pronounced with no solution in sight.  So on a late April day in the mountains of Vermont, I hiked into a nearby wilderness area seeking that place where I could just ponder the things of God, as Mary had done so long ago.  “How could she be with child not having known a man?”  “How could The Lord thy God be One, but in three persons?”

I sat for the longest time on a rock by the side of the river.  The sun rose above the trees and shone brightly upon me where I rested.  There was still snow on the bank of the stream and ice along the edge of the water, but in the middle, the current was now free-flowing in the warmth of the spring sun.  It was a magical moment as I sat on the edge of time when winter dies, and spring is born. My eyes were overwhelmed by such beauty flooding the windows of my soul!

And then a mystery was revealed to me!  As I studied the small stream with the rays of the sun streaming down, a mist began to rise from the place where the ice remained on the edge of the river.  The voice of God rang in my inner ear as my eyes beheld His revelation being made plain to me by His book of nature!  There, where the water, the ice, and the vapor all assembled, I could now believe that the Lord thy God is one God in three persons and that the one element H2O, is three forms, ice, water, and vapor!!  The Word from Genesis, God’s voice moving over the water; water in the natural, gives testimony to the spiritual nature of God Himself.  Even a child, a child like me, in that moment could understand.

Thus began my introduction to the Book of Nature, God began to confirm His written Word through The Word made visual; the greatest show and tell, presented by the great Teacher Himself.

“Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?”   (St. Augustine of Hippo)

Fr Stephen Young

Listen Carefully

hugh-taylor-birch-park_0320“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”

These words, written by the great author George Washington Carver at the turn of the 20th century, are being rediscovered by a new generation of Christians and those seeking something deeper than the materialistic philosophy of the modern world.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the whole earth, in fact, the whole universe, was seen at that time as a living icon, which reflects the very face and purpose of God.  In no place was His voice more clear and authentic than within His very creation.  The patriarchs, saints, and Jesus himself had a deep understanding of the rich spiritual lessons learned through that still, quiet voice which spoke to their souls within the sacred places of nature.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, humanity’s basic desire is still to know God.  Nature, as a visual and tangible expression of God’s Being, is not only TEACHER and HEALER but also part of the PROPHETIC VISION.  As TEACHER, it manifests love and wisdom, yet while inspiring, it can be stern, just and uncompromising.  As HEALER, it is regenerative and uplifting when entered with respect, humility, reverence and an open heart for God.  As PROPHETIC VISION, it declares the divine reality and eternal power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus the church today, more than ever, cries out to rediscover the mystery of nature’s sacred places. Sacred gardens exist for those who would have the courage to seek them out and those who would be open to receive the loving voice of the Father, whose voice speaks of peace and reconciliation.

“The parallel between nature and scripture is so complete; we must necessarily believe that the person who is asking questions of nature and the person who is asking questions of Scripture are bound to arrive at the same conclusions.”  (St. Origen)

St. Origen, how does one begin to open the “Book of Nature?”  By walking into nature’s library.  Go find a natural place.  Enter in.  Sit and be silent for one hour and in that one hour, the entire collection in God’s heavenly library will be opened up to you offering you a lifetime of exploration and discovery.

Fr. Stephen Young