Archives For Nature

Consider the Stars

Carissa A —  January 5, 2017 — Leave a comment

IMG_7038


“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
and the son of man that You care for him?” –Ps. 8:3-4

I saw more stars than I ever had on a late November night in remote Williams, Arizona.

My brothers and I had slipped outside and shivered under a brilliant night sky glowing in 30 degree air. Gripping mugs of hot chocolate, we traced our initials in the frost on the car and exhaled foggy clouds of breath. We talked, laughed, pointed at the sky.

They soon returned inside to our host’s home––a solitary glow of warmth in a high desert landscape of near desolation. The conversations drifting from inside resonated with the sweet melodies of Christian fellowship.

I stayed and sat under celestial resplendence, vulnerable and coram Deo––before the face of God. I found the constellation Orion and smiled at its familiar form, one I knew from even the minimal scattering of stars in San Diego suburbia. The longer I spent in the darkness of that night, the more stars came to light. The vast sky was a bright reminder of the glory of His limitlessness. I stared at the stars and pondered.

Here, although I was several hundred miles away from home, I couldn’t escape my fears, doubts, heart wounds. These, my Achilles’ heel, lingered like a malignant shadow.

While sitting under this breathtaking view, I wrote this prayer––one I continue to echo for 2017.

God, You are altogether worthy of my trust and my praise. Help me to see my own wretchedness––the ways I seek to dethrone You. You are the Lord of the galaxies and here tonight, witnessing the awe-striking splendor of those galaxies, I bow. I confess. I seek Your face, Lord, rather than demanding Your hand. You are righteous and just in all Your judgements. You do all things well for Your glory and through Your grace. I must cling to truth. I am my own worst enemy. Pride claws at my best motives and I scream in my heart toward image-bearers of you. How can I?

The Lord of the universe––asteroids, black holes, fiery Jupiter, distant Neptune and Andromeda––condescended to minuscule, insignificant Earth. Oh, but Earth is magnificently significant in your gloriously perfect plan of redemption. Fallen man reconciled to his Creator, to live in loving communion with and worship to Him for the rest of his days––and all eternity. Stars sing His praises. And one day, in ultimate perfection with all of God’s redeemed, so shall we. 

Now Lord, quicken my soul to do Your will.

Stars give me perspective, reminding me of my littleness and God’s great magnitude. He is both transcendent and immanent––a mystery more lofty than the knowledge of the universe itself.

“He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    He gives to all of them their names.” –Ps. 147:3-4

How can the One who gives the stars their seemingly immeasurable number be the same Great Healer of wounded human hearts?

Pause and consider the stars. They are but a glimpse into the incomprehensibility of our God’s grandeur.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Traveling Home

Carissa A —  August 8, 2016 — Leave a comment

IMG_4019


I am at home among the trees. In the forest, the air is full of brimming life, and towering pine branches rustle whisperings of majesty. Nature draws me to awe-filled worship of the King, and I often ache to make my home in the woodlands.

I blissfully drive Guinevere, my trusty black Honda Accord, through winding, tree-lined roads, euphoric in the exploration of nature. Yet I must remember even the most scenic views are temporal and mere shadows of the splendor to come – when we arrive home.

Home. 

Where is that elusive idea? I have found homes in treasured people and places alike, but they cannot be the stabilizing anchors of my heart, for they will pass away. But His Word and His truth and His city never pass away.

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

I am an earthly nomad – a sojourner and pilgrim in this world, waiting for the heavenly home where I truly belong. I long for that eternal, heavenly city along with a chorus of blood-bought sinners who have all received undeserved grace upon grace.

Still within the firm grip of time and not yet caught in the unending stream of eternity, we strive and toil in this life. We pursue holiness and faithfulness and yearn for the day when we weary pilgrims reach the Celestial City.

Until the sovereignly ordained moment when I reach my final destination, I will journey through woods and waves. I will seek the One who is worthy to be praised and honored all my days on this earth. I will serve Him with what meager gifts I have, resigned to the perfection of His providence.

I catch glimpses of that kind of tenacious devotion – like a child peeking through her fingers, temporarily blinded at the brilliance of God’s glory. If I’m not rooted in Christ, I’ll wander all over the earth, chased by incessant restlessness, which is why I must be anchored in His word.

I will continue to travel through this swift earthly existence, driving Guinevere beneath star-emblazoned skies, along endless coastal highways and windy, mountainous roads. But my real destination is farther and unseen.

Until. 

The day when I experience sweetest and fullest communion with my Lord and His saints is coming. In that great and final day, I imagine that the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” will sound quite a bit like “Welcome home.”


For more breathtaking shots of Yosemite, watch “Euphoria,” a stunning supercut video from Caleb Arend Films.

Abounding Grace

Carissa A —  July 8, 2016

Yosemite.15


“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

Grace is remarkable to me. It is the rushing power of God’s grace that drives the past, present, and glorious future. His grace sustains every moment of my existence. As the years progress, I view in greater measure the depth of meaning behind my name – Carissa from charis, “grace” in Greek.

He is able to make all grace abound; therefore, He is far above all itself, attesting to God’s infinitude and omnipotence. When we correctly align our doctrine of God with Scripture, we can affirm that yes, it is indeed in His character to make all the possible streams of grace accessible to us in Christ.

This grace is not merely accessible, but abounding, overflowing, and ever-increasing. Our God is outside the limits of confinement and constraint. He obliterates the floodgates of restraint with the truth of His boundless character. As a result, He is more than capable of granting to us all we need “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19)

In Christ, we not only have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), but we have all sufficiency. The ultimate filling of our cavernous and thirsty hearts is possible through the atoning work of Christ alone, and it is complete for “all things at all times”. Since the rich plenitude of this grace has been lavished on us (Eph. 1:7-8), we are able to abound in every good work as God causes all grace to abound to us. We are conduits of His grace to a lost and dying world.

We can trust that God is magnificently almighty in His lovingkindness and accordingly, we are enabled to joyously abound in the work He has called us to. He has provided an abundant reservoir of His mercy stored up for us in the place of well-deserved wrath, even when our circumstances seem to indicate spiritual scarcity. We can find joy in obedience, an overflow from jubilees of praise, and find fullness of satisfaction in Him alone.

He is more than able to meet every need in Himself, for His grace is far greater than the powerful cascades of any and every waterfall on Earth.

The Weight of Joy

Carissa A —  June 11, 2016 — Leave a comment

The Sky


“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” –Psalm 103:11

I like cloudy days. Deep cloud banks hold more weight than airy blue skies, and I feel that weight acutely. I empathize with the sky. The weight of both sorrow and joy.

Did you know joy has weight? I certainly didn’t, until I felt the seemingly insurmountable weight of all else. Trapped beneath a collapsing sky. The clouds that appeared so friendly now threaten to close in, suffocating all thoughts of His steadfast love. But regardless of how I feel, the sky remains intact, and His love is from everlasting to everlasting.

True joy is weighty. It’s not all airy, giddy, and light. Joy is weighty because it cannot – must not – rely on trivial things. These things are fleeting, but true joy is unwavering and rooted in eternity.

“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” –Lamentations 3:41

I attempt to lift my heart to heaven, but I’m left gasping for air with the weight of fear and heartache and lamentations. Tears rise unbidden when anxieties fall heavy. I tremble at the thought of change. Blanketed in melancholy, I experience immense weight, but I know a greater, steadying weight that undergirds and supersedes all.

The thundering of the storm brings to mind the thundering power of my Savior. I am safe and sheltered, guarded in the shadow of His wingsthe sovereignty of His reign. The beauty of a life lived in submission to a loving Heavenly Father is that He holds the future in His hands. He has lavished His torrential grace upon me; He is the God of all renown, and He can be trusted.

Lifting my weary eyes to the sky, I watch radiant rays slanting through slits in ominously thick fog banks. I catch glimpses of glowing heavenlight slipping through the darkness. The heights of hope are undaunted by the density of the dark.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” –Psalm 27:1

This is the weight of joy.

The Under-appreciation of Nature

Carissa A —  November 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

photos-activities-nature-walksI’ve recently returned to a childlike frame of mind in regards to nature. I sometimes feel so inexplicably overwhelmed by the pure beauty of God’s creation that I feel like approaching strangers and marveling, “Dude, can you believe that wind is actually, you know, a thing? Like, you can feel it, but can’t see it?” To which my hapless victim would give me an uneasy smile and maybe offer a gracious, “uh, that’s nice…” before clearing out pronto.

Ways to become more appreciative and aware of the wonders of nature:

Stargaze. Seriously. Go look at the stars tonight. Tilt your head back, wait for your eyes to adjust, and drink it in. Offer up your problems to the celestial bodies and contemplate on how vastly unconcerned they are. Your earthly, world-shattering, human-to-human troubles? It’s fascinating and almost relieving how minuscule your little soul and it’s heartache is in the grand scheme of the universe. Perspective is everything, and you can gain a lot by simply watching the stars and reveling in the goodness of a God who places those stars in the sky each night.

Take a walk in the neighborhood, backyard, or park. Never underestimate the power of a walk outside to calm your worrying and boost your mood. Hikes, too!

Observe wildlife. When I say wildlife, I include the random butterfly landing on a bush in your backyard. The lazy worm squirming on the sidewalk. Open yourself up to the reality that the Earth is teeming with life, both animal and human. And yes, I think there is a distinction.

Visit the ocean. I cannot stress this enough. Living close to the sea is something I took for granted the majority of my life. Don’t wait until I did. Much like stargazing, being in the vicinity of the ocean is soothing and eye-opening. You can lose yourself in the glorious ambiguity of the vastness of the water. There’s nothing quite like a trip to the beach and a dousing in the ocean to clear the mind and cleanse the body. Trust me.

Anne Frank, in her infamous diary, said, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God…As long as this exists, and it certainly will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. Oh, who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of bliss with someone who feels the way I do about it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Nature is extremely underappreciated and sometimes simply observing various aspects of the world is an excellent way to commune with God and gain added perspective on life.