Finding Perspective

There's a special sort of grounding that happens in me when I get out in nature. When I am hiking up a trail, admiring a flower, soaking in wondrous sunshine, dipping my feet in the ocean, or gazing at the stars, I feel like one small part of a story much bigger than me. I sense the connection of the pieces of the ecosystem, and it brings a calming force to my hurried soul. 

In short, I find perspective.

perspective comes when we see our significance and insignificance at the same time.

In nature, both the significance at each tiny piece of a system and the insignificance of our small selves in the midst of grandeur become simultaneously clear. 

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"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" - Psalm 111:10

We often think of the word fear as synonymous with the word terror. Which makes verses like this feel prickly when we come across them in the Scriptures. Sure, God is powerful, but are we really supposed to be terrified of the Lord? Doesn't that contradict the passages about God's love and mercy and grace?

In Hebrew, the mowra' means fear and terror, but that is not the word used in Psalm 111:10. The word used here is yirah, which besides fear, can be translated as awe. 

Some scholars have made an interesting connection between yirah and ra'ah. Though they don't look very similar in their english characters, in Hebrew characters they are almost identical, with the first having the apostrophe like symbol for the y sound at the beginning of it. The largest and most obvious of the characters are the same. 

Ra'ah means to see or perceive. 

Before asking what it means to fear the Lord, perhaps we should ask what we see. When we look at this world, what do we see? When we look at the Scriptures, what do we see? 

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"Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
    and his righteousness endures forever." - Psalm 111:2-3

"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?" - Job 38:4-7

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. - Psalm 139:13-14

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" - Matthew 6:26-27

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Perhaps fear of the Lord is what happens when we look around and see things as they actually are: the wonder of an amazing creation and the Creator who crafted it, the smallness of my own problems in perspective, and yet the promise that the great God of this world cares about even me.


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. 

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.


Numbering Our Days Aright

  Time passes differently while walking about the Alpine cities of Europe.

Sure, everything is different on vacation anyway. No looming deadlines. No daily obligations. No frantic efforts to complete a to-do list. (At least, this is vacation as it should be…)

But even if it wasn’t vacation, my time spent in Europe would have felt different.

For I realized just how small I am.

My eyes were surrounded by buildings erected hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years before I had come to stand in front to them. And behind those, mountains, erected before the foundations of the cities were even laid.

My ears were surrounded with the chatter of languages I did not speak, and could not understand. Person after person had a story I would never know. I may have brushed by people considered very important in their businesses and families and communities, but to me, they were simply one of the crowd.

I was humbled.

If there are so many people around us in the here and now who will never know who we are, is there any chance who we are and what we do will have any sort of lasting impact? Hundreds of years from now, will any of the things that consume our days have made any difference?

We could take that thought in the direction of the teacher in Ecclesiastes, and wonder in despair if everything is meaningless. But that’s not the effect it had on me.

The sights of history and foreignness brought a sense of relief. These things I juggle everyday, that I struggle to keep afloat, that cause me to ache with the tiredness of fear that they might drop, none of them are as important as I make them out to be.

{Deep sigh}

When I read Psalm 90, its words have the same effect. To be honest, it is a psalm with a mixed bag of words, with some verses about wrath and anger I wish weren’t there. But also? It is a Psalm that brings perspective.

I am not that important. Thanks be to God.

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That was my reflection on Psalm 90 (with some pictures from my amazing European vacation this past fall.) Link up with your reflection below. Or come back next week with thoughts on Psalm 91.

Let's not be afraid of ordinary

There is so much pressure these days to be extraordinary.  

Write the blog post that goes viral. Then craft a dinner with flavors and plating that would please the foodies of the world. After that, make sure to decorate in a way that would make every room of your house Pinterest worthy. And when you throw your kid a birthday party, please make sure that every single trinket, food item, and activity revolves around a central theme with all of it perfectly coordinated into a seamless activity.

 

No one can do it. We know that don’t we? No one can be extraordinary all the time. It’s just not possible.

 

Why does being ordinary frighten us so much anyway? What are we afraid will happen if we enjoy days that are simply normal?

 extraordinary eyes

I wonder what would happen if we spent less time trying to do extraordinary things, and more time trying to see with extraordinary eyes. To notice that the same things that feel mundane to me would be unbelievable blessings to someone else.

 

I don’t want to take the ordinary for granted. I want to drink it up like a cool refreshing glass of water.

Five Minute FridayThis post is linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. A weekly prompt with strict instructions: write for 5 minutes and post. No over-editing. No do-overs. An practice of freedom. A way to let go of perfectionism. An exercise for some not often used writing muscles. Read more posts or link up over there. Today’s prompt was: ORDINARY. (Note: I spend only 5 minutes on the writing, but I do take a little extra time to put together the image. I can't help myself.)