Autumn Embers

There’s something about Autumn sunrises that’s truly spectacular. Something that makes peeling off the covers and heading to work in the bitter AM worth it.

When it’s early enough that the sky is still that dark slate color, it’s like God strikes a match and lights a tiny candle in the horizon. For a while, there’s nothing else… just the growing glory in the distance, spreading layers of goldenrod and peach brushstrokes, higher and wider, painting the night away with brave color.

Then it bursts.

When that flame hits the trees, it’s fiery and red and bathing everything, like hot, melted butter. Tree bark is tinted russet, like burnished copper, and the streets have the same reddish glow. You can’t look directly across a field pointed east, but you can see the rays, outstretched like arms across corn fronds and newly-mown grass. It’s all one color–syrupy gold, transforming the tops of harvest’s crackling remains into glowing embers. You can almost breathe the brightness, and it makes you wonder if the sun ever really shone at all the rest of the year.

I always get breathless taking pictures of Autumn colors. Something about the trees shaking off their leaves with every breeze gives me the feeling that the scene is changing every second and might not be exactly the same if I don’t hurry. Every year I feel the pull of summer’s last sigh. The rush when the new air first chills my face. The lonesome honk of the geese, their fleeing forms etched dark against the red sky. That enigmatic tug towards the holidays that no one would trade for the world, even though it makes people rush and scatter like the leaves. It’s inescapable, and every year, I willingly go along.

But part of me doesn’t want it to move so quickly. Autumn feels like the fastest season, and seems to mirror all of life–wind-blown and skittish. Leaves dancing just ahead of you, barely out of your grasp, then collecting for quiet moments of inspection and study on the forest floor. Maybe that’s why I feel more at home here than in than any other season.

Something about the unsteady hush, the held breath, the golden summer slipping into cold sleep in a burst of falling color awakens embers deep inside of me. Extra adrenaline dances in my stomach, and I feel a fresh static in my smile, a knowing that’s both stirring and comforting, like destiny. Because for a few months, nature has finally become as brisk and sharp and multicolored as I am.





Friendship in the Fear


It’s late September in northern Illinois and we are slowly dipping toes into Autumn. A few trees are adding yellow caps and red tassels to their branches, while others are waiting for a real cold snap to signal their surrender.

I recently heard a brief online message by worship leader and songwriter Melissa Helser about the trees and how they lose their leaves and surrender to barrenness for a long, dark season. She talked about how she sat staring at the bare hardwood trees in the dead of winter and God asked her if she ever expected the trees to be nervous about losing their leaves, afraid that they would never bloom again in the spring. Of course she hadn’t. Because the trees instinctively “know” in their roots that spring always comes and they will bloom again in that season.

How much more should we trust the One who created times and seasons and who has made us in His Own Image? This was the point of Melissa’s message…since we have the ability to know God, unlike the trees, shouldn’t we be able to trust Him, wait on Him?

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to remind myself to wait on the Lord. Not just as a spiritual activity but a way of life.

Psalm 25 is one of my favorites and the other day when I was reading, the words stood out to me with fresh truth. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust. Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you will be put to shame….make me to know your paths, O Lord. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation. For you I wait all the day long.”

The first thing that I noticed was that we have to lift up our souls to the Lord. We have to make an effort to place our trust in the Lord, and call to our minds how He has “dealt bountifully with us” in the past (Psalm 116). This is where we’re different from the rest of nature. Nature trusts God by instinct, without even “realizing” it. We can trust God by choice.

I also noticed that no one who puts their trust in Him will be put to shame. So it is only when we are placing our trust in things other than or outside of God that we find ourselves “put to shame”, disappointed, let down.

But the revelation that specifically blessed my heart, the words that spoke to me personally, came from Psalm 25: 12-14.

“Who is the man (or woman) who fears the Lord? He will instruct them in the way they should choose. Their souls shall abide in well-being, and their offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His Covenant.”

I realized that these verses specifically address each of my top fears. That is what is so special about being told to trust God. He isn’t speaking generally. We can trust Him with the tiniest details of our lives because He knows us inside and out. The fear of the Lord is where we find our safety, our identity, our security. The fear of the Lord is when we have such a clear, solid picture of our Lord that we no longer wonder who we are. We start to think of life in terms of God’s thoughts about us, rather than our thoughts about Him, or ourselves.

So back to the specific fears these verses address. And I’m sure these are not entirely unique to me.

  1. I am afraid of being lost. I don’t like not having a plan/purpose and I’m often afraid of losing my way, coming to a crossroads and not knowing which way to go. In response, God says that the one who fears the Lord will be “instructed in the way he/she should choose.”
  2. I’m afraid of being soul-sick. I’m afraid of living depressed or sad, afraid of living with a smile on the outside while carrying around a weight inside. I’m afraid that circumstances will change how I feel and I won’t be able to get the good feeling back. But God’s Word tells me that for the one who fears the Lord, “his soul shall abide in well-being.” That is the meaning of the song “It is Well With My Soul”. It’s referring to a peace that goes beyond circumstances, assuring me that I can be well, no matter what–and not just when I feel well. I can be well, and live there.
  3. My last fear is more of a recent one, growing as I get older and draw closer to the season for having children of my own. I worry about what kind of world I’ll be bringing them into, how to prepare them for what they will encounter. But God says that for those who fear the Lord, “their offspring will inherit the land.” In other words, there is a future for the children of one who finds their security, identity, and safety in the Lord.

I am always amazed at how Scripture speaks directly to our experiences, letting us know that God knows what we face, He understands our fears and is acquainted with the temptations we deal with–and He has provided the way out. “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He makes known to them His Covenant.” God desires relationship with us, for His Truth to make a clear difference in our everyday lives.

The lesson of the leaves and the trees is so much bigger for us…we can be involved in the process of trust and receive His Words as coming from a God who wants friendship with us. When we do this, the Glory and Power He puts inside us is unmatched by anything in this world.