Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611

Lessons For Ladies
This Series was taught by Mrs. James Modlish

Lesson Thirty Two

Lessons From The Land
Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me unto the land of righteousness.

Introduction: As I walk around this new land of ours in the foothills of the Spanish Peaks of Colorado, I am struck by the education nature provides in a variety of areas. Often, we seem to think greater learning is to be attained in books or institutions when the most valuable guidance is more likely to be found in God’s creation.

To this end, I have attempted to open my mind and heart to what God has to say to me through the “terra firma.” We are firmly convinced that God gave us this land, that He has a purpose in placing us here, and His plan is apparent. I walk these acres and listen for the lessons and so far, this is what I have learned:

1. Beauty often comes from the prickly:

The land of southeastern Colorado is dotted with yucca and various forms of cactus. At first glance they seem formidable (which they are) and somewhat unattractive. They are prolific and cause you to watch your step. I have had the unfortunate luck to be “stabbed” by the thorns of a prickly pear, and the resulting pain can last for hours. Recently, when walking on our property with my granddaughters, Madelyn, being the adventurous one, trotted along unhindered by any concern over what might be just at her feet. Molly, on the other hand, served as the “town crier” as she would periodically exclaim, “Cactus…cow patty!” We felt very safe!

But there is an upside to all the “prickliness.” In a spring when an inordinate amount of rain falls, these succulents bloom in unprecedented glory. The prickly pear will sport yellow flowers that are nearly transparent in their delicacy. The yucca become burdened down with stacks of blooms which burst open almost overnight. The walking stick cactus becomes loaded with red flowers which stand in stark contrast to the pale green plant itself. The potential beauty of these unfriendly creations is surprising and unexpected. In addition to the contribution they make physically to the desert terrain, the barrel cactus can be a welcome sight to one lost in the wilderness as it can yield from one quart to a gallon of slightly bitter water when cut open and squeezed.

Life’s Lesson
Our walk in life is often dotted with prickly pear situations, people and circumstances. Like the cacti, these can cover the terrain of our lives until we feel like we are being assaulted wherever we step. But like the desert, our lives can bloom again and often do through the sticky situations. As Joseph said to his brothers: “but as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph knew that the journey through the desert, both literally and figuratively, was the path on which God placed him to fulfill His purpose. And so it was, that at the end of the trail, there were blossoms and beauty and the fulfillment of walking in God’s will. Well-watered, the desert will bloom, and your life, watered with the Word of God, will do the same regardless of the circumstances. With what will you water your desert?
From now on, I will study the cactus and wait for the blossoms.

2. Satan is always busy:

Some weeks ago on his way home, my husband was driving down one of the backroads which lead to our location. Suddenly, a figure of some animal raced across the road in front of him. Although seeing animal with just a fleeting glance, it was fairly easy to identify it as a cougar. We have been told by the “locals” that an old cat roams these hills, but if this one was elderly, he moved with remarkable speed. However, the “land lesson” comes from the next observation. From the opposite side of the road where the cougar originated and into which he disappeared, a pair of terrified and highly motivated coyotes burst from the brush and sped in the opposite direction! Unwilling to be the cat’s next meal, they were high-tailing it anywhere!

Life’s lesson
I Peter 5:8 reminds us to “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Note that Peter tells us the devil doesn’t just want to detract you; he wants to devour you. Now the clearest meaning of the word devours is…to make you disappear. Even though you may be saved and free from the condemnation and reality of hell, Satan would gain great satisfaction from making you, as a Christian, as non-consequential and ineffective as he can; in other words, his aim is to make it as if you don’t even exist. And he can do it in the subtlest of ways. R. Spencer Stanhope created a painting entitled “Eve” in which Satan is quietly whispering in Eve’s ear, and as she contemplates the sin he is introducing, the background of the work shows the devil’s tail as it is wrapped around a branch with the intention of shaking it and dropping the forbidden fruit into the hand of Eve, a hand opened and ready to receive it. Make yourself available and God’s enemy is very much able to accommodate you. We should take a lesson from those poor coyotes; when the devil shows up, run with all your might in the opposite direction!

3. Sing your own song:

We were delighted one June to be serenaded by a mocking bird, a species we thought only lived in the southern United States; we have since discovered that there is also a northern mockingbird. This little guy was diligent in letting everyone within earshot hear his entire repertoire. And believe me, he has a bevy of songs, albeit imitations of whatever he’s heard…hawk, cricket, bluebird, chipmunk, owl and sparrow, to name a few. At one sitting we identified eleven different species he was copying…hence, the name ‘mockingbird.’ And that got me to thinking…does the mockingbird have his own song?

Going to the internet,
I found these facts:

Mockingbirds are loud, persistent singers who perform long songs which are imitations of other birds, insects, etc. They have a preference for high places—the better to be heard. The mockingbird can only reproduce short sounds, not complex ones and will increase its “program” by acquiring new sounds. John van der Linden, the author of Eastern Birding Central FAQ, states that up to 50% of the emails he receives have to do with how to deal with annoying mockingbirds. We never found our friend to be annoying, but then we weren’t hearing from him at 4:00 a.m.!

Life’s Lesson
To want pattern ourselves after another is a temptation all of us succumb to at one time or another. And there is nothing inherently wrong with using a worthy individual as a role model. The folly comes in attempting to make ourselves into that person; this is especially tempting for young people. Psalm 139:14 reminds us: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Each of us is designed to serve our Creator in our own special way. Now, if we spend our lives in a vain attempt to be an imitation of another, we are no better than that silly mockingbird, running out a whole frustrating show of someone else’s songs and looking for a high place to sing them.

I once heard a wise person tell a group of women that when you criticize your appearance, your abilities, etc., you are in effect criticizing the One who made you…that’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? And when you attempt to mold yourself into another person’s pattern, you may be guilty of what is described in II Corinthians 10:12…”but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.”

4. Watch where you step!

One of the unfortunate aspects of life in this area is the occasional encounter with a rattlesnake. One such critter met his demise when he made the unwise choice of sunning himself by our well-head, and another went to “snake heaven” when my husband nearly stepped on him outside our son-in-law’s shop. Needless to say, these incidents have severely curtailed my strolls around our property in the summer months, but my husband assures me that, properly armed, I will be just fine!

Life’s Lesson
All of us are on our own personal journey which consists of one step after another. Just as a stroll through the woods or the desert requires a measure of alertness, so the walk of life necessitates a sharp eye lest you step where you shouldn’t.

When we speak in terms of steps, it’s usually in reference to places we go. And the Bible tells us that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23 Thusly, the only way to accurately ascertain the path God is ordering is to follow the admonition is Psalm 119:133 in which the psalmist entreats God to “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” The inference in both these verses is that unless we take heed to God’s Word and His leading, we will be in danger of a catastrophic misstep. How many of us have been embarrassed by a stumble or a fall that was the direct result of not looking where we were going? Mistakes remind you to pay attention. Remember David’s words: “….there is but a step between me and death.” I Samuel 20:3 There are snakes out there…watch your step and carry your Sword.

5. The quiet is audible:

An art gallery once offered a prize for the best painting on “Peace.” Many artists submitted scenes of peace and tranquility. The top prize went to a painting of a giant waterfall with a tree hanging over the furious waters. Partly covered by the leaves of the tree was a little bird resting in a nest. Peace is not the absence of storms, but tranquility amidst the storms.

Have you ever been someplace where the stillness can almost have a sound of its own? Out here where we live each homesite is a minimum of 35 acres, resulting in neighbors you can sometimes see from your property, but you never hear. The nighttime is especially quiet with the stillness only broken by singing crickets or a howling coyote. Often, after spending time in the hustle and bustle of the city, the solitude and peacefulness of the country is a genuine blessing.

Life’s Lesson
I wouldn’t say that God has never spoken to me in the midst of a horn-blaring traffic jam, but more often than not, I hear Him in the stillness when there is no competition from the world. This reminds me of Elijah’s discussion with God in I Kings 19:9-12 and his distress at the behavior of the Israelites and God’s seeming indifference. To make His point to Elijah, God demonstrated His strength in the great and strong wind, in the violent earthquake, and then in the consuming fire. But when it was time to speak to the prophet, God used a “still small voice.”

How often do we await God’s voice in anticipation of some spectacular show of His might and power? And yet, He speaks the loudest and the clearest when He employs the still small voice. Think about it….you don’t have to use all your hearing ability and your concentration when another is speaking at maximum volume. But when the voice is soft, your full attention is demanded. I am reminded of the story of the pastor who was in a hurry to write a sermon, knowing it would be a weak one without much preparation. When a wind blew his sermon notes out the window, the one who found them read this note in the margin of the page: “Weak point here…yell extra loud!”
I am glad I have a place to listen for the still small voice of God…and hopefully, He won’t have to yell!

6. Nothing stays the same…but God:

There is no doubt that it isn’t easy to see changes in topography, especially here in the high desert of southern Colorado. The Spanish Peaks look the same as they did in pictures of long ago; the bluffs and rock formations have had the same configuration for decades. My brother-in-law, John Gonacha, was raised in this area, and even though he hasn’t lived here for many years, he still has an affinity for the region. He recently related an incident to us in which he and his brother were exploring the hills near here as children, and in an effort to establish his mark on the land forever, he carved his name and the date, February 25, 1935, on a rock outcropping. You can guess the next part…he wanted to know if we had seen it! Now, there are probably a bazillion rock outcroppings around here, but whenever the opportunity arises, we look! Someday he promises to come down and help with the search even though he’s 86! There is certainly a possibility that the signature is still there, but given the harsh elements of this climate, it’s unlikely. Just as the once thriving nearby mining town of Ideal is now reduced to skeleton buildings, and just as the Silver Spurs ranch is dotted with modern homes rather than one ranch house, nothing stays the same. Take a look in the mirror to verify that! I recognize classmates from my childhood because they now look like their mothers!

Life’s Lesson
I have lived long enough now to know that change, although often uncomfortable or even painful, is not all bad, especially if the impetus is God. The scenery I look at each day is a great picture of the contrast between stability and change, and it reminds me of the principle that God set forth in His Word: “For I am the Lord, I change not: therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6 Even though I may fluctuate and re-mold myself in a myriad of conformations, and though I may be as James says “double-minded and unstable in all my ways,” God remains the same, changing not, with variableness. And for that we would stand up and shout, “Praise God,” for our very salvation, our eternal destiny is dependent upon His unwavering, unchanging character and His everlasting promise.

7. The plan of salvation is illustrated in creation:

Since we were children growing up in Colorado, our favorite mountain range out of the dozens in this state are the Sangre de Cristos. Their expanse and majesty are spectacular, and I am always astounded by their beauty as we round the bend near Westcliffe and are face to face with their breath-taking presence. Covered with snow much of the year, they rival the Alps in elevation and sheer grandeur. To me, they are the essence of Colorado.

Life’s Lesson
When the Spanish conquistadors first came to this land, they were obviously as overwhelmed by this mountain range as we are today. But they observed a creation of nature that led to the name of this Colorado jewel. Noticing that under certain conditions, the rising sun could cause the mountains to appear to be a reddish color, the explorers gave them an appropriate and though provoking name…Sangre de Cristos or the “blood of Christ.” Not only is the name beautiful with the lyrical sound of the Spanish language, it is also beautiful in the message it conveys. A range of mountains stands in tribute to the sacrifice of God’s Son for our sins…and even non-believers speak of it when they speak of the Sangres. Did Jesus not tell us of this in Luke 19:40 when He said, “I tell you that if these (the disciples) should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” To create the world, God only spoke the words and it happened; to save our souls, He had to give His Son to die.

The Sangre de Cristos in their own way “cry out” the message of salvation.

If the Lord permits, we will spend many good years here in the land where we began our life’s journey; following His lead, we will use our remaining days to serve in whatever manner He dictates. And I am confident that many more lessons will come from the land.

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