Photo Challenge: Slope

Slope, Dry Land Pasture, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/16/12.

One of my first thoughts to this photo challenge was mathematical: slope equals rise over run. My dad – a retired high school math teacher – chose the top picture because it clearly shows a slope of about 30 degrees. I’m definitely my father’s daughter!

Rock, Sagebrush and Tree, Dry Land Pasture, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/16/12.

All three pictures are of Dry Land Pasture in Eastern Montana. It’s pasture, according to Dad, because “there’s grass and they run cows on it.” Dad may have been a math teacher, but he was always glad to help friends out on a ranch: milking a cow if they had to be out of town, branding calves in the spring, haying fields and stacking bales in summer, feeding cattle in the winter.

Dry Land Pasture, Eastern Montana. Photo: TLClark, 8/16/12.

This particular August day Dad and I and one of my nephews were out at the Neumann Ranch to check the garden and to play with our cameras. Glad to have a chance to share a few shots. Thanks, Frank, for the photo challenge!

Revelation: To Encourage

Headstone with Book. Photo: TLClark, 9/2019.

I know there are some beautiful images in the book of Revelation, but I seem to have bought into the idea that the book was written to frighten and condemn. In rereading and reflecting on what is actually written I’ve come away with a new appreciation for this last book in the Christian canon.

John’s revelation is written as a letter to encourage and to challenge other followers of Jesus. The world as he knows it is in shambles. Churches are struggling. Members of the body of Christ are trying to do the right thing but it’s so hard, so confusing. Does it matter? Who cares?

Chapters two and three of Revelation are a series of shorter letters, one each to seven different churches. I was surprised by the notes of encouragement. For example, five of the churches are assured that their patient faithfulness has been noticed and is not in vain.

Ephesus: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance …  I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.” – Rev. 2:2-3

Pergamum: “I know …you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me…” – Rev. 2:13

Thyatira: “I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first.” – Rev. 2:19

Philadelphia: “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” – Rev. 3:8

“Hang in there,” the author is saying. “You’ve got this.”

During a particularly nasty time in one of my pastorates I led a funeral at a local funeral home for someone who was without a faith community. Making small talk after the service, the funeral director turned to me and said “I see the nonsense at the church is causing a few gray hairs.” It was nearly a throw-away comment. But it meant the world to me. Someone who was not in the fray had noticed and was cheering me on.

Whatever your difficult situation, especially one that is not what you wanted or is not what you expected, hang in there. You’ve got this. It will be OK. You’ve been noticed – by colleagues, by friends, by God. Don’t give up. Keep the faith. We’re cheering for you and believe you will make it through.

Photo Challenge: Steep

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park. Photo: TLClark, 10/10/2018

I don’t remember taking family vacations as a kid growing up in eastern Montana. I do remember camping trips – to Medicine Rocks State Park, the Long Pines, the Beartooth Mountains, and Yellowstone National Park.

As a young, single, professional adult working in Helena, Montana, I took a Girl Scout Troop (Juniors) to Yellowstone National Park (with other adults to help drive and supervise).

But as far as I can remember, last fall – when my husband and I were doing a little sight-seeing on our way home from a wedding – was the first time I stopped to see Gibbon Falls.

It is as steep as it looks – straight down on both sides of the Gibbon River! Gibbon Falls itself has a drop of 84 feet (26 m).

Thanks, Frank, for the challenge!

Leaves: First Snow

Crabapple Leaves with Snow. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.

First snowfall of the season in Ankeny, Iowa, October 29, 2019. Pictures of leaves on trees in our yard or the neighbor’s yard taken mid-morning. Most of the snow had melted by Noon.

Leaves with Snow against Sky. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.
Long Pine Needles with Snow. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.
Brown Leaf with Snow. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.
Maple Leaf in Snow. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.
Red Stem of Maple Leaf. Photo: TLClark, 10/19/19.
Neighbor’s Tree. Photo: TLClark, 10/29/19.

Photo Challenge: Coast

Oregon Coast at the Mouth of the Columbia River. Photo: TLClark, 5/12/2010.

The only “coasts” in Iowa are along the boundaries marked by the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. So I took some time to go back through vacation photos to meet the photo challenge of coast.

One of our favorite places to vacation is Astoria, Oregon. It always includes time just watching the waves roll in where the Pacific Ocean meets the mouth of the Columbia River.

Oregon Coast at the Mouth of the Columbia River. Photo: TLClark, 10/13/2011.

The first two photos are looking north toward the state of Washington (which can be seen in the top picture) . The next picture is looking south along the Oregon Coast.

John Watching the Waves, Oregon Coast. Photo: TLClark, 10/13/11.

This last image shows the observation platform from which the other pictures were taken.

Pacific Ocean, NW Oregon Coast. Photo: TLClark, 10/13/11.

Thank-you, Frank, for the challenge!

Revelation: God Is

Headstone Carving – Handshake. Photo: TLClark, 2019.

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from [the one] who is and who was and who is to come …”

Revelation 1:4b (NRSV)

Yes, dear one, there is a God.

Is. Present tense. Now. Today.

Not just today.
But also yesterday.
And tomorrow.

Is. Every today.
Was. Every yesterday.
Is to come. Every tomorrow.

Grace and peace to you from God, the Timeless One.

John, the self-identified author of Revelation, has been exiled to the island of Patmos. The world as he knew it has disappeared. Nothing is as it was. No one knows what is next. There are more questions than answers.

He receives a revelation from God through Jesus. Imaginative, bizarre, and strangely reassuring.

There is a God. In the midst of conflict and chaos, when things have gone from bad to worse, when anxiety creeps in and despair takes over, God is.

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'”

Revelation 1:8 (NRSV)

God, the Timeless One.

Alpha and Omega.
A and Z.
First and Last.
Beginning and End.
(And in-between? In the messy middle?)

All beginnings. All ends.
And all in-betweens.

Before the beginning and after the end.
Definitely in the messy middle.

God is.

“Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come.”

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:8b,11

Revelation: Read Aloud

Headstone with Book. Photo: TLClark, 9/2019.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy,
and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it;
for the time is near.

Revelation 1:3 (NRSV)

The time is always near. There are times when we are just more aware. Aware that life is precious. Aware that things will not stay the same. Aware that some things must end.

The book of Revelation is about end times. At least that’s my first thought when the book is mentioned. Full of weird visions and used by some (to try) to scare folks into heaven, it’s a part of the Bible I generally avoid.

But prompted by a presentation I heard last spring, I re-read the book The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. The chapter “A Story with Dragons: The Book of Revelation” nudged me toward a re-read of Revelation. So far I’ve avoided reading commentaries; that may change.

To add a little discipline to my reading and reflecting, I decided to blog about what caught my attention. I won’t be doing a verse by verse interpretation – that seems tedious to me and would likely be boring for you. At the moment I’m thinking a total of 10 or 12 posts for a book that has 22 chapters.

First observation: Revelation is meant to be read aloud. The words are heard differently when received through our ears rather than our eyes. The text paints some fairly vivid pictures. When I read aloud or am paying attention while another reads aloud, the images have time to develop. I can’t just skip past without nothing more than a glance.

Blessed,” the author says, “blessed is the one who reads aloud … and the one who hears.”

Keeping eyes and ears and heart open with high hopes of encountering the blessing. – Teressa