Tag Archives: Michigan

If You Seek…

12 Oct

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I’m in Michigan, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to be clear, for vacation in the town in which I grew up.

The Michigan Motto is: If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you. (Or for you Latin buffs: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice.)

The wording is a little outdated, and doesn’t have that marketing ring to it (so now there is also “Pure Michigan”), but it really is the heart of this state.

First a geography lesson. Most people think of Michigan as the mitten part surrounded by the Great Lakes. That is only half of the state and where trolls live (because they are under the bridge – check out the Three Billy Goats Gruff.) The better half is farther north, connected to the mitten by the Mackinaw Bridge. While I obviously favor the Upper Peninsula, or da U.P., and I am a Yooper, both peninsulas are really beautiful. Everyone reading this post should come and see for yourself!

Now, back to the motto. The state is gorgeous, but sometimes, only if you seek beauty. Even the urban sprawl is usually near water where sunsets and deep blue reflections can transform crumbling industrial sites into pretty vistas. Looking for beauty is also important for those of us who have lived in places surrounded by natural wonders, because always having access can dim the view and numb the soul to how glorious the scenery is. Being back in my hometown after 30 years I see it all with fresh eyes and can’t get enough. That wasn’t always the case when I lived here, though.

Even this morning I overheard a conversation in the hardware between a tourist and a resident:

“Last night we just sat on the beach and watched the sun set into the hills.”
“You know, I need to do that more often. I just get so busy, I forget to take the time time do that.”

It’s easy for me to see God here. In the boundless deep blue of the lake, in the unending glory of golden and crimson foliage, in the chatter of aspen leaves to the wind. Everywhere I look. Everything I hear. I see and hear Him.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13. This prophecy is written to Jewish exiles in Babylon, but the Scriptural principle is throughout the Bible – when we look for God, we find him; when we listen for his voice, we hear him.

And when we see and hear him, we can’t help but adore him, worship him, and fall on our knees in awe and wonder.

In nature, it’s easy for me to worship him at every new panorama. But he is no less present in my current suburban home than he is here. If I seek him, I will find him. And when I find him I will bow in worship.

———-

Photo: Sunrise over the bay in Grand Marais, Michigan at the mouth of Carpenter Creek taken two days ago.

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Deeper Still

26 May

[H]e saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  Luke 5:2-5

All week I have heard the same phrase as I have prayed and read the Word: go deeper.

That is what my soul longs for, but I have to be transparently honest.  I don’t know how.

I’ve been asking Him all week to show me how to go so deep into Him that I disappear.

—————

We crept along slowly the the brush, hoping to avoid notice, past the “No Trespassing” sign with our two young sons in tow.

“Isn’t this illegal, Dad?”   “I’m scared.”

“It’s OK.  Your mom and I did this lots of times when we were in college.”

Out on the wooden dock and in full view of the shore, we hustled inside the cavernous ore dock stained iron-ore red.  Once accustomed to the murky shadows our eyes followed the concrete frame up through the rail track 40-50 feet above our heads.

Trains rode out to the end, every car heaped with iron ore pellets that sprinkled down into the water as the cars slowly jostled into place.  There were no trains today, but plenty of pellets filled grooves and corners.  Inside the dock the water was deep black and still – seeming almost solid, and every sound bounced around like the pellets that fell from little hands scooping up the reddish marbles.  The echoes from each pellet, then handfuls tossed into the water wells, were melodious and pattering, coming from every direction surrounding us like the reverberating laughter from our sons.

We went back to shore the way we had gone out – into the sunshine and across the wooden dock.  Our pockets were heavy with iron treasure that was way more fun to throw into the water than keep.  Unlike the pools inside, the water outside the ore dock was transparent– all the way to the sandy bottom.  I caught myself as vertigo spun me.  The weathered timber felt like the edge of a roof above a sandy lawn 20 feet below.

I told my mind that if I fell in I would float and that the 50-degree water temperature of Lake Superior would shock any dizziness left after falling in.  But I don’t think my heart heard my head.  Holding an upright piling, I leaned over a little and tossed in two pellets and watched them quickly descend to the lake bottom.  The last few feet they almost disappeared until I saw the mini-explosion as one, then the other buried themselves in the sand.

My imagination tossed my body into the water like a pellet.  There I was, under the water– completely immersed and free-floating, totally covered with water and outside the pull of gravity.  I wasn’t actually in the water, but the experience was very real.  I knew God was using the water to get my attention, and I started recalling instances in Scripture that God used water to make a point– baptism, parting of the Red Sea, walking on water….

I wrote the following song distilling some of my thoughts from that day.

Immersed

1.  Your well is deep; my heart is dry; 
Your love abounds, and so I cry 
Lord, help me fall down out of view, 
Completely lost, and covered in Your love,
     immersed beyond myself in You.

2.  Wash over me, O Flood so deep; 
My tears are hidden as I weep 
Within the boundless well of You, 
Completely lost, and covered in Your love,
     immersed beyond myself in You.

(c) 1999 Cathy Howie  #119  7/17/99

—————
So, I’ve been thinking about this song and the experience that triggered it.

My spiritual growth has hills, mountains, valleys, and plateaus.  The day on the ore dock was the beginning of an upward burst.  That is what I have been searching for this week.

I think perhaps Luke 5:2-6 is God’s answer for how to both begin an upward growth spurt and to go deeper still with Him.

…when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

1. Do the foolish, difficult, and questionable when He asks.  (The disciples had already tried fishing that part of the lake all night.  Going back out was extra work after working more than a full shift.  People on shore would have thought they were daft.)

2. Put out into the deep – where there is risk and faith is required.  (Being in deep water when everyone was exhausted was risky.  Also, morning would bring a land breeze, pushing them further out and requiring much human effort to get back to their port.)

3. There is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus, learning and studying.  And there is also a time to get to work.  (Jesus had finished teaching and told them to go catch fish.)

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  Luke 5:6-11 (My underscore.)

4. For Peter obedience+faith risk+work=knowing Jesus and following Him.

I’m still chewing on this, but I already feel the water covering me as I float in Him.

READY FOR SUNDAY

Preparation before Sunday fills my heart-reserve so the well I draw from is deep.  Studying and learning is a large part of the filling.  But Sunday I lead others in worship – I am doing/working.  Am I working out of a deep or shallow well?

What am I doing (both in corporately worshiping God and at other times) that requires a faith risk?

I am humbled (again) and super-encouraged (again) that when I ask to go deeper, He answers.

Completely lost, covered in Your love, immersed beyond myself in You.

———————————————————————————————————

The brush has been cleared and the train trestle dismantled, but this spring we found the lower ore dock in Marquette, Michigan still standing.  The wooden dock behind the picnic table is where the water was (still is?  we couldn’t get close this time) so clear.  Several dozen troughs on the sides of the concrete dock would lower into the holds of ore ships as train cars emptied their pellets with a loud whoosh and cloud of red dust.  Inside the dark center, the floor is just narrow octagonal walkways around open water.  There is talk of doing something with the structure.  I hope someone will.

But mostly, I would just like to take a walk inside again!

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