Tag Archives: elk

Seen Any Burning Bushes Lately?

By Eugene C. Scott

The desert had grown comfortable for Moses. After forty years of caring for Jethro’s sheep, he knew every bush and watering hole as well as he knew the seams and stitches of his old camel-hair robe. When he first arrived in Midian, a fugitive from Egypt and God, wariness was a way of life. He noticed all–the cool slant of the sun in the morning, the twitch of a conies’ ear as he approached an oasis, the heat waves drawing alluring pictures in the midday heat. His nerves jumped at each breath of wind or bleat of sheep. And always he wondered if he had run far enough from Egypt and feared he could never run far enough from God.

Today, however, Moses drowsed as he followed his flock across the desert. His sandals scuffed a rhythm on the hard, dry desert floor. Horeb, the mountain of God, towered in the distance, its long shadow touching the noses of his lead sheep. But Moses noticed not. He had grown comfortable. So it is he walked an hour or more without perceiving the bright light that flickered at the base of Horeb. In the early days Moses would have seen it afar and worried if it were the glint of an enemies’ weapon. Today he shuffled almost upon it before the fire registered. And he only looked up because his flock veered off to the right of the burning bush.

Moses stopped and planted his staff in the dirt between his feet. He sheep continued ontheir well-worn route. Moses rubbed his old eyes and wondered how this bush came to burn. Then slowly he realized the bush was aflame but it did not burn–no crumbling branches, no ember, no ash. “Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.’” Exodus 3:1-4

Amazing what God resorts to to get our attention. Remember the one time you knew the correct answer to your math teacher’s question and you waved your arm until your biceps muscle seized and your arm plummeted to your desk like a dead weight? And your math teacher never noticed. She called on the kid sleeping and drooling on his desk next to you. I wonder if God feels like that? He burns bushes, throws lightning bolts, and generally makes a nuisance of himself, waving his arms around like an eager fourth grader, and we never notice.

I have a friend who, when he is out in the woods, always sees a deer or elk or coyote or grouse or rabbit or something. I can hike a trail for hours and never see a blessed thing. But then Jay joins me and suddenly the hills are alive. I once asked him if he attracted all these animals by wearing a special scent or failing to shower. He simply smiled and pointed out a six point bull elk watering fifty yards off the trail. Some people are just tuned in.

Jay loves the wilderness so much he becomes a part of it. He has trained himself to notice things most of us ignore. Dead tree branches transfigure into the rack of a buck standing behind a tree, and a flickering, golden oak leaf is really a doe perking her ear at a strange noise. Jay doesn’t miss much.

I’m sure by now you get the point. Most of us are like Moses almost missing God in a burning bush. We might even be worse than Moses and walk right by the durned thing. And the tragedy is God only occasionally speaks through burning bushes. The rest of the time his subtle voice is in the flick of a leaf or the blink of an eye. We rush down the trail of life claiming it leads through a barren wilderness, while God is dropping hints of his love and presence at every turn. Stop, look, listen. God is there.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Contrary to popular belief that verse does not advocate blind faith. It commends “the ancients” for hearing God’s voice and seeing his hand in everyday life. They trusted God in the supernatural world because they walked with him in the natural world. We can be certain of what we do not see only if we open our eyes to what God has put before us.

“When the Lord saw that [Moses] had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’

“And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’” But of course God knew where Moses was. Moses was really saying, “I’m here; I’m listening now; speak, my God.”

Life often grows comfortable–we habituate to its wonders. We drive the same route to work. And glaze-eyed notice nothing.  What must God do to get us to say, “I’m here; I’m listening now; speak, my God.”? Usually it’s something that burns like fire.

Eugene often misses God and good things right in front of him. Fortunately God is patient with him and keeps trying. Eugene also co-pastors The Neighborhood Church.


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Elk and Epiphanies: Standing in the Face of God

I heard him bugling and crashing down the mountain. Not coming fast—but furious. Long gaps of silence separated the crashing of rocks and breaking of branches. The dark firs across the ravine deepened those silences and covered each crash or responding bugle in mystery. I hunkered behind a low fence of junipers while my partner wailed and whistled out cow calls and bull bugles. Then he appeared, half a football field away, jet-black, covered brow tine to butt in mud. My entire frame went cold. He stood in defiance of everything and anything. From behind me, my partner bugled and the bull stretched out his neck and trumpeted back, cracking the air. Then he thrashed a small Douglas fir, dismembering it with his deadly antlers. I trembled on my haunches.

Another bugle from my partner called the elk down into the ravine separating us. A hoof clicked on a rock and it rattled down the steep bank. Water splashed. He was coming. I tried to ready myself. Silence. A dead aspen near my juniper blind quaked. My breath caught; my muscles tightened. His head popped out from around the bush and I came face to face with a five-by-five bull elk. I had never been so close to such a massive, wild, beautiful, dangerous animal in my life. Time stopped. There was nothing else in the world save that bull elk.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezekiel 1:1-3:15

Hebrews 3:1-19

Psalm 104:1-23

Proverbs 26:24-26

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A mere three yards distant, the bull elk’s gaze fell on me like the eye of God. His nostrils flared and saliva frothed from his mouth. His breath escaped in lusty chunks. I watched his left eye tremble with fury and lust. I had seen how he had destroyed that douglas fir. What could one swipe of his bone-hard rack do to me? I tried not to lock eyes with him, not to challenge him. Would he see my hands quivering or hear my heart thundering?

My partner bugled again. The bull flicked his eyes beyond me and suddenly backed out of sight. I took a deep breath and slowly turned to follow him. I snapped a stick under my knee. He was gone.

Later that night, drifting off to sleep, the bull crashed into my mind and sent my heart racing again and again. His mighty presence lived in my dreams.

That’s when I pictured God. How much more wild and powerful is God? I wondered. Is it courage or ignorance that compels us to drawn near to God? Do we actually believe we can stand tall in the face of pure Power, pure Love, pure Holiness?

Ezekiel, that rasty Old Testament prophet, could answer those questions. He fell face down after he saw a vision of God. Ezekiel tells us he was “overwhelmed.”

Was my encounter with one of God’s most magnificent creatures even a glimpse of what Ezekiel encountered? I think not. Yet my close encounter with that bull was a holy moment and almost too much for me. Waves of awe washed over me for days each time I closed my eyes and imagined that startling creature. It woke in me an intense desire to know better our remarkably creative God—to encounter Christ with nothing in between, no camouflage, no scent blocker, no avenue of escape. No matter the danger.

When is it you feel closest to God? When has God broken into your world? God often uses nature to direct our minds and hearts toward him. David sang, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” But not all of us live near an elk herd or seascape that evokes worship and praise. Nor are all of us moved by such things. Unfortunately, in our modern well-lit world, many of us can’t even see the star flung sky God hung above us to call our hearts back home. Nor are all of us ignorant or courageous enough to seek out such encounters.

God, however, seeks such moments with us. “Stand up on your feet and I will speak to you,” God tells Ezekiel. God is a pursuer of those he loves, you and me. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to get our attention. From the midst of a windstorm, strange, four-faced creatures, spinning wheels, and flashing lightning God says to Ezekiel, “Listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

God has something for each of us. But he is fearsome. We cannot long stand in his unadorned presence. And we need what God offers. But we are disobedient. We run away, hide, stop our ears, close our mouths and eyes and then complain God is far away.

When that bull elk stood within touching distance of me, instinct told me to bolt. I remained on my knees. That may be a good pose to hold when confronted with our wild, fierce God. I did not bag that elk. But I did not go away from that awesome experience empty-handed. So too with God. If we stand and listen to him, we will not remain empty hearted.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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