The Finnish sky at three AM.
With the OCE Stockholm, Mariehamn, Helsinki trip finished, I had tagged on a couple of days to spend with my friend, Tiina. Tiina has been a friend and prayer partner for my ministry almost since the beginning. She lives in a town north of Helsinki. She picked me up at the train station, drove me past her apartment building, and took me out of town. Tiina has a cabin by a lake, which is about an hour north of her town. We turned off the highway and drove on a subsidiary road, then turned off that onto a gravel road, where we eventually found Tiina’s cabin.
This was my year to see spring arriving. I saw it first in Cyprus and Malta, then I saw it in Milan, then this week I had seen it arrive in Stockholm, Mariehamn, and Helsinki. Now I am seeing it arrive here at Tiina’s cabin.
The mirror surface of the lake was a wonder.
The cabin is rustic. There is electricity and a faucet. And this, being Finland, there is of course, a sauna. There is no telephone, no internet, no television, and no indoor toilet. I was not surprised about the first three things, but when Tiina said something about the outhouse, I admit that I was taken aback. But the outhouse is not the stinky horror of the summer camps of my youth. Tiina showed me her secret: she keeps a bucket and a child’s beach shovel by the hole. The bucket is filled with leaf litter—you know, the mix of dried leaves and pine needles that you find on the forest floor. She instructed me to just put a shovelful of leaf litter into the hole after using it. Later, with the flashlight she gave me, I looked into the hole and saw that everything falls into another bucket filled with leaf litter. It’s a very clever way to keep the outhouse fresh and stink-free.
We arrived just as the sun was setting—about eleven. The lake, which is only about fifty feet from the cabin, was smooth as glass. Geese flapped by, honking. They found a place to rest for the night on the far shore of the lake. After getting ourselves settled in, we prayed together. Then we prepared for bed, and I slept better than I had in weeks.
Sunrise on the lake.
I woke up with the sun high in the sky, although it was just past seven. The morning was cool, but without even the hint of a breeze. The lake, which had looked like glass at sunset now looked like a mirror. Hundreds of different birds greeted the new day with their own unique songs—a glorious chorus of many diverse voices and songs. A woodpecker tapped out his machine-gun rhythm somewhere nearby. I started the day as I always do with a cup of coffee and my Bible. But God began giving me personal parables in nature all around me. I stepped onto Tiina’s little dock and saw:
- A water-skimmer gliding on the surface of the water made me think of Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52) and nearly passing by the disciples’ boat (verse 48). When you think of it, it was a long way from the mountain top where Jesus spent the night praying and the far side of the lake, where He caught up with the disciples. If He nearly passed them by, could it have been because He was going so fast? That thought and the picture it produced in my mind made me smile.
- A salmon poked its mouth out of the water to eat an insect (not my water-skimmer) from the inverted dinner plate of the water’s surface. Ripples marked the spot, slowly spreading until the original disturbance had reached the other side of the lake. This made me think of those “troublemakers” in the book of Acts, and how the Jews and the Romans tried to silence them—to no avail. The Good News would not be stopped then, and it won’t be stopped now. It will reach the far ends of the earth.
Then I walked back to the door of the cabin to sit and saw:
- An anthill, alive with the bustling comings and goings of its thousands of tiny inhabitants. It made me think of our cities, so busy and seemingly full of life, but the people so desperately needing Jesus.
- A bumblebee flew past me, busily humming at his work. I thought: he’s completely clueless to the fact that aerodynamically speaking, it’s impossible for him to fly. He’s also unaware that he presents a picture of true childlike faith: he never even gave it a thought whether it’s possible to fly or not. He has wings, and that is reason enough for him to believe that he can fly. Maybe he should inform the ostrich, the penguin, and the kiwi.
- Wildflowers celebrating the warming weather like a little child presenting the treasure of a single flower to mom—or in this case, to God.
- Trees stand straight and tall all around the lakeshore: evergreens and newly-budded birch, their young by their side, eager to see what their fathers have seen. Time is slowed as their internal calendars only mark the passing years with a ring encompassing last year’s ring. This made me think of the timelessness of eternity. And actually, it isn’t really timeless, it’s timeful, because eternity will be full of time forever. Never again will we be rushed for time, never again will time run out for us. Those everlasting summer days of childhood will truly be everlasting.
- A cloud the size of a man’s hand appeared (just like in 1 Kings 18:44). As I watched, it doubled in size. I told it to go away and immediately it dissipated and soon disappeared.
Through all these things, I feel Jesus is showing me wonders. The everyday wonders that we take for granted. I love that our Creator enjoys showing and sharing His creation. And even with all the beauty of this place, it doesn’t even come close to His own fantastic beauty and goodness.
I am so grateful that God has set up times and places like Tiina’s cabin, like my time in Turkey (see In the Swing with Jesus). As I follow His leading and go where He sends me, I can trust Him not only for my safety, but also for times of rest. His care for me is real, personal, and great. God is good!