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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson


Updated: Aug 30, 2019

Luke’s quoting Lenny Pepperbottom on social media, which tells me two things. 1. He’s alive. And 2. He’s enjoying his summer out in NEATure.

It’s only because of Luke I know anything at all about this YouTube sensation. I know just enough to laugh at Facebook comments from friends. “That’s pretty neat.” And “You can tell by the way that it is.” Of course, it’s not Lenny’s voice I’m recollecting, but my own wacky son’s. (See photo, above.)

He did not get his wit from his mother. (I’m not sure his dad can take credit either.) But one thing this boy and I do have in common is our soul-deep and sincere love of nature. Goodness. Just seeing those photos on Instagram has me longing for my own trip out west.

This morning I’m lingering long on my cherished front porch and I’m soaking in summer. It’s a glorious Saturday, nearly perfection. Low 80’s and sunny, everything green from yesterday’s rain. Blue sky and white clouds. There’s a cardinal singing, and I spot it’s red in my favorite white pine.

There’s a bit of construction going on this weekend behind the houses across the street. They’re turning the old golf course into a nature preserve. Someday when it’s finished there’ll be walking paths meandering through native grasses and natural swampland. (One reason this particular parcel was never ideal for golf.) So I sit here savoring, and as long as I keep my gaze focused forward I can almost imagine my own paradise. Almost, but not quite.

Until last weekend the crowning feature of the yard next to ours was a huge Silver Maple. Home to birds in the summer; glorious riot of red in the fall. It’s gone now. Last Sunday while we swam at my sister’s they hired a crew and took the tree down. It’s been a thorn of contention in my quiet moments with God all week long. Every morning since Sunday, with mug of coffee and basket of bibles, curled up cozy on my favorite porch swing. Just a glance over the railing, and I can’t help my groaning. What were they thinking? That huge silver maple. The one thing of beauty. Whatever possessed them, we’ll never know. Sunday last. They hired a crew and took the tree down.

Uggh. So it isn’t Heaven. Not here, not yet. It’s what my friend Sheryl tells me when I ooh and ahh every time I visit her breathtaking home overlooking the river, nestled out there among all those pines. Wrap-around porches and vast picture windows, and everything about it seems good for the soul. But you know it’s not Heaven. Sheryl reminds me, talking of tree blight and spiders and all assortment of critters. It might hint of paradise, but we’re not there quite yet.

Speaking of Heaven. My friend Angie and I have been reading this book. It’s one her dad’s read and reread to obsession. He’s bought multiple copies and is passing them around. You’ve just got to read this. Angie brings it up over coffee, apologetic. IMAGINE HEAVEN.* It’s about near death experiences. The author, a pastor, has spent decades collecting his stories and drawing conclusions about what it’s like on the other side.

And it’s rather intriguing; we both have to admit it. I’m about halfway through and so far I’d say imagining heaven is a nature-lover’s dream come true. Nearly every person who tells a story describes this beauty. Perfect green grass and fields bursting with color. Towering trees and breathtaking mountains. Crystal clear water, and everything brilliant with unending light. Like the best sunny day only so much better. Better because of the Source of the Light. Which of course is Jesus, and HE is amazing. Like really. Amazing. All of them say so. He’s all Light and Love, eyes bright with compassion. And guess what? They say Jesus has a sense of humor. No kidding. He laughs and He’s funny. How neat is that?

It does make me wonder. It’s like God’s giving us hints about something that’s coming. Laughter and sunshine and birdsong and mountains. You think this is good, just wait ‘til you see…

God’s gift of neature. You can tell by the way that it is (:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him… 1 Corinthians 2:9

*Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future that Awaits You, by John Burke and Don Piper

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