Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Get to know the person who made our world.

Morning mist surrounds our land.
Today upon waking, I noticed that the mist shrouded the land around our home.  This is typical for this time of year in the Mississippi valley here in southeast Minnesota.  Early in the morning my wife Anne and I usually sit on the porch and enjoy our coffee before the kids get up.  Our cat Toby usually follows us out where she waits for chipmunks to scurry by. 

This morning I got up a little earlier than Anne and I found myself watching nature along with our cat Toby.  Though our intentions seemed to be similar in appearance, they were much different from one another. 

Mama wren watches me intently.
When observing the beauty of nature around me, my eyes were drawn to the wren house that we attached to the pear tree limb.  I silently watched the male wren bringing food back to the attentive mother who was covering her young in the birdhouse.  She was dutifully looking after her babies, while daddy was out searching for grubs, insects and worms to feed his hungry family.  As I watched the interaction of the two birds taking place, I could see the mother wren watching me through the opening in the birdhouse.  Our exchange of glances was intermittent, and while she was cautiously observing me, a thought entered my mind.  How many times do we in a similar vein, live like this little wren?  The fearful little bird is afraid of me and watches for any move that I might make that could possibly bring harm to her babies and to herself. 

Our growing pear tree.
This little creature neither knows nor cares, that my little daughter painstakingly put so much time into painting the birdhouse so it was just right.  It wasn’t aware that we chose the perfect branch to hang its home in the tree.  Nor does it realize how we anticipated its arrival to the house that Abby prepared for it.  It isn’t aware of the time that my son Will and I spent in planting the tree, with the hope that one day we could watch these birds with delight in making their home here. 

In looking at our little wrens and comparing them to myself, it is somewhat sobering for me, to say the least, in realizing how I sometimes take for granted the home that God has created for me.  He painstakingly knew exactly what I needed and what I would like.  He chose the exact location for me to live in, even before I was born.  God knew exactly what would make me happy and so he made my world for me to enjoy and to live a full life.  And yet, sometimes like the wren, we take for granted the person who made this wonderful world that we live in.  Many of us, like myself, at times do not take care of this world as we should, and we become fearful of a creator that wants only for us to enjoy the wonders he has made for our benefit.  We, at times do not recognize that it was our Lord who made this home just for us, and who wants us to know the person who made our special dwelling place that we live in.  God desires for us to be thankful for this wonderful gift he has given to us, and he longs to receive our appreciation from us, that is in worshiping our creator with a thankful heart. 

Our pear tree is now about 35 feet tall.
Unlike the relationship that I have with the wren, God wants us to know him and trust his presence in our lives.  He desires for his children to see all that he has made and appreciate the beauty of his land.  When Adam and Eve were first in the Garden of Eden, God asked Adam to name all the things that he had created for Adam.  God then let Adam know that it was all for him and his mate.  By having Adam name God’s creation, I imagine he wanted Adam to feel a part of the things that were created, and also to feel a sense of ownership.  The same can be said of a child who earned the money to buy his car versus the one who was given the vehicle as a gift.  I noticed this as a teacher and principle when looking into the school parking lot at times.  Children, who had to save money by working hard for their car, usually took care of the vehicle better because they invested more of themselves into getting their car.  We too have a place in the world that God has created for us.  He desires that we do our part to make this world a little better.  God helps us to see the value of the place where we live by helping us to understand the creator who made it.  This in itself takes a concerted effort into getting to know our Lord, but like any relationship, it must have time and effort put into or it will never develop.  Take time today to pray, listen to God and be open to his will in your life.  Ask him what you can do to help this wonderful world that he has given to us.  Be prepared for his answer.

Psalm’s 138:8  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. . .”   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Choosing to see the lighter side. (Our wonderful geese!)

Early morning fog shrouds the forest and trees with a blanket of mist.
This morning I arose before sunrise and looked out my windows to see the area covered in a thick blanket of midst.  Stepping outside was not unlike a slow bath of water encircling me; unfortunately I had just taken a shower though.  A few minutes later, I went out on the golf course and found myself within seconds, drenched in dew and perspiration. 

As I traveled around the golf course early this morning, I came upon a Canada goose that was injured; it had a broken leg.  Unfortunately, it will soon fall prey to the mink or other local predators in the area.  This made me feel sad over its inevitable fate.  God creates a way for all of His creation to survive, and sometimes that means the loss of one animal to the fate of another. 
Sunrise breakfast.  Doe and twin fawns eating an early
morning meal under our plum tree.

Our local geese population has increased quite a bit in the area over the last 20 years.  One person was given a task of goose relocation into our area and that fell to my uncle.  He was a game warden in charge of southeast Minnesota at one time.  He once told me that many people in Rochester and Winona, Minnesota either hated him or loved him due to the implantation of the geese into the communities.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had started with a few geese and now it has grown to very large numbers of geese within the cities themselves.  Since both communities have lakes within city limits, the geese thrive in these locations.  Unfortunately, the geese do become prey to mink, coyotes, and fox, as well as other predators such as golfers with lousy aims, like myself. 

Abby dressed in her Williamsburg outfit, ready for church.
The other day when I was golfing, I hit a grounder that skipped across the pond on the golf course.  The ball unfortunately hit an adult goose, but did not injure it.  It was quiet upset with me for taking it out of its tranquil state.  The whole incident reminded me once when I was golfing in the country near Milford, Iowa.  I accidently hit a goose with one of my golf balls.  (The golf course surrounds a slough, which is in the middle of the course.)  The goose I accidently hit felt quite indignant about the whole incident as it shuffled its tail feathers on the ground heading back to the slough.  I am sure it wished it could have rubbed its bruised area with its beak, if it could have reached the distressed area.  My cousin was standing next to me watching the incident unfold at the moment I accidently bumped the goose with my ball. (Geese have thick down that protects them from injuries.)  He found the whole thing quite amusing, as did I.  He told me that another golfer lost his golf ball to a goose in the same area earlier that day.  It appeared that the goose was hit by the golfer’s ball, and what happened next surprised everyone present.  The goose picked up the golfer’s ball and carried it over to its nest.  When my cousin told me of the funny incident, all I could think of was a very devout goose still sitting on it’s nest several months later, with snow drifts encircling it, wondering why that stubborn egg had not hatched yet.  Obviously, the mother goose would have to regretfully abandon the egg when the weather started to turn cold, and its migration instinct took over.  But, never the less, the thought still makes me chuckle when I occasionally think of that day.

Swallowtail butterfly drinking water from our driveway.
I believe that God created animals not only for our livelihood, but also for our amusement at times as well.  I also have to remind myself sometimes that I can choose to see the humor in events throughout the day, if my eyes are focused on seeing the lighter side of things.   Have a great day!    

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Children bring to us laughter and joy.

Recently at church we had a very curious event take place.   Our son did something that perplexed us both for a short time.  There is a part of the service where children in the church bring their pennies up to the front and put them into piggy banks lined up on a table.  The money that is generated is given to the poor.  The children feel very proud that they are giving to a cause that is helping people in the community.  During this time several children were talking and getting very excited about putting their pennies into the individual piggy banks.  While the children were up front, I was helping usher in the back of the church while Anne was leading our congregation in music.  When she was not standing in front of the pulpit singing, Anne was sitting next to our pastor. 

Abby playing very intently.
The next thing that happened, caught us both off-guard.  The children standing near the piggy banks were talking to our son Will.  Instead of them putting their pennies in the individual banks, they started to hand them to Will first and then he gave them back to the other children, but not before looking the pennies over very intently first.   As moments transpired, one by one the children went back to their seats while Will remained up front.  Next, our son started checking his own pennies before putting them into the piggy banks.  At that moment, I stopped what I was doing in the back and curiously watched him.   The whole event that should have taken only until the end of the church offertory, lasted two more songs into the service. 

During that time when Will was up front inspecting the coins, the pastor noticed our little son doing his thing.  During a lull in the service when I and another gentleman were bringing the offering up to the front of the church, our pastor whispered over to Anne, “I see your son is a coin collector!”  Anne looked over and noticed Will still up front checking each coin before inserting them into the piggy banks.  Anne blushed a little, and then decided to smile at our little boy taking his work so seriously.  She then answered our minister’s question, “Yes pastor, he is a coin collector.”

Anne leading music.
The event was not over at that point though.  Will finally finished putting in the pennies and then proceeded to head back to grandpa and grandma’s pew, or so I thought.  He stopped by a very kind gentleman and started to have a conversation with him instead.  I could see that Will was handing him something, but I could not see what it was that was being exchanged.  Later, I spoke with Anne who had a better view than I did.  I asked her if she knew what had happened between the gentleman and Will.  She laughed, and then told me that the nice man gave our son a bag of pennies on Will’s journey to the front of the church.  He wanted Will to put  the coins in for him.  Our son was very happy to oblige him at that point.  Later, on Will’s return, he brought back several coins and gave them back to this gentleman.  Will told him that they were worth more than a penny apiece and that he should keep them.

Church Service
Needless to say, it was an interesting service.  Will was thinking that he was doing a very noble thing in checking the other children’s pennies.  As it turned out, fortunately Will found no coin worth more than a penny apiece in their offerings.  If he had, I am sure he would have taken the pennies back to each parent and informed them of their value. 

Wild turkey visiting our sandbox.
Later, we spoke with Will about the meaning of giving to the poor, and why it is so important to honor Jesus with a part of our bounty that he has given to us.  We added in our discussion with him that perhaps another time would be more appropriate to inspect coins.  As far as what to do with giving the pennies back to the gentleman in the pew, we left that for the angels to decide.  I do believe though that there was much joy and laughter in heaven when our son was carrying out his very devout mission of kindness.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about innocence. Conclusion

Even in our darkest hour, he is there.

Thomas felt such a peace that he could not find words to describe what he had experienced.  It did not matter though, he just knew what was inside him at that moment and he wanted to feel that way forever.  He looked around and saw many people crowding around the Galilean, but for that brief moment, this man and Thomas were alone together.  He seemed so much like his father, but there was something even so much greater about him than any man that he met before. 

The beauty of summer.
Thomas looked up again and there was another person pulling on the Galilean’s arm wanting him to see his friend standing nearby.  This other man he could see was blind.  His eyes were glazed over with what looked like a milky coating.  Next, the Galilean reached down and picked up what looked like dirt and he spit in it.  He then began to rub the dirt into his hand.  What happened after that puzzled Thomas, the Galilean took the pasty mud and began gently rubbing it against the man’s eyes.  He then asked for someone to give him some water.  He took a cup and poured the water over the man’s eyes.  He then asked the man if he could see.  The man responded by saying that the men around him looked like tree stumps.  The Galilean then rubbed more mud on the man’s eyes and again rinsed it off.  The man began to smile and say that he could now see everyone.  It was strange to Thomas because he saw the man jumping up and down, waving his arms all around and shouting, “I can see, I can see, I can SEE!”  Thomas looked over at the Galilean and he was smiling, but he was not looking at this man, but rather, he was looking straight at Thomas.  It made him feel such warmth and peace to have this stranger smiling at him.  “What was it that made him so different than any person that he had ever met before?”

Just then, Thomas looked over the Galilean’s shoulder and saw several men arguing with one another.  From what he could hear, they were trying to convince each other that they themselves were greater than the person standing before them.  Thomas heard one man say, “But I am the one that he loves!”  Yet another nearby said, “No one else got out of the boat, you were all too afraid!”  And yet another responded, “Yes, but did you have the faith to stay afloat?”  Each in turn said that they would sit beside the one called “Jesus” in the next kingdom.  This confused Thomas as to why they argued and he did not know whom this man Jesus was.

My good friend Gerry and my son, Will.
Thomas looked over to where the Galilean stood and he was gone.  He looked for him in the crowd, but he had disappeared.  Just then Thomas felt a hand on his shoulder, he looked up and it was the Galilean.  He then felt this strange peace and Thomas knew that all was well once more.  The Galilean then gently led him towards the men that were arguing.  Before entering into their discussion, the Galilean stopped and sat down on a large rock.  Thomas turned and saw the Galilean beckoning for him to come near him once more.  Thomas did as he was asked and he stood nearby the Galilean with this man putting his right hand on Thomas’ shoulder once more.  Then Thomas saw him looking over at the men arguing and he began to speak to them.

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

The Galilean spoke for a few minutes more to his followers and to the crowd, all the while sitting next to Thomas.  When he was done speaking, he stopped and turned to Thomas to talk with him once more. 

Abby's flower cookie.
“Thomas, my name is Jesus.  I am so glad to meet you!  Do not fear what you do not know, for I will be with you always.  Though you are little, one day you will grow into a man who will do great things for me.  Now it is time that you were with your father and mother.”

Thomas turned and looked up and saw his father standing behind him, and beside his father was Thomas’ mother smiling and beaming with joy.  Thomas could only think now of his father and so he rushed as quickly as his legs could carry him into his father’s arms.  He buried his head deeply into his daddy’s shoulder as his father picked him up and swung him around and around.

“Father, I have missed you so much!”

“I too have missed you as well my son.”

Just then both Thomas’ parents looked over to the Galilean named Jesus.  Jesus was looking on, watching with a smile on his face.

Anne's gladiolas
“You are a good man John and you have a wonderful family.  I have taught you much and now you must teach your family those things that you have learned from me.  You must also be a beacon for your community.  They hunger for the light of salvation and you will hold my light for those who are lost.  John, many hunger to hear my words, but cannot.  You will be my voice, but you must first listen to the words of the counselor of whom I will soon send into the world.  He will guide you in all that you do and say.” 

Jesus now looks over to Thomas’ mother.

“Sarah, you are a good mother and wife.  Do not fear when John is away, I am with you always and you too will soon have the counselor that I will send into the world.  He will comfort you and give you peace when you are alone and afraid.  Turn to me and I will not abandon you, for I am the good shepherd and I will never leave my sheep.  Man will one day understand through me that ‘all’ are equal in the eyes of God and have equal worth, men and women alike.” 

Jesus now looks over to Thomas.

“Thomas, keep what is in your heart and do not lose the gentleness you have.  Look to others and see their needs, and ask me and I will show you what to do.”

The crowd seemed to close in on the place between Jesus and Thomas’ family so that they could not see him any longer.  And with that, Thomas’ father, John, turned and began to lead his happy family homeward.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eye on a Sparrow: Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about inn...

Eye on a Sparrow: Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about inn...: "The journey was long and Thomas and his mother had to make numerous stops along the way. They were traveling with a caravan that was headin..."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about innocence. (Part 3)

The journey was long and Thomas and his mother had to make numerous stops along the way.  They were traveling with a caravan that was heading to Jerusalem, this was done so that those traveling in numbers would be safe from highwaymen who might rob and steal from weary travelers like themselves. 

After journeying throughout the day, the caravan was nearing Jerusalem.  They could see the Temple towering over the buildings in the great city.  Thomas stopped to see the magnificent sight.  His mother came up behind him and whispered in his ear.

“Thomas, we are almost there, we must continue so that we can reach your father before nightfall.  It will be the Passover soon and we must not be caught traveling at that time.  Now we must hurry to catch up with the caravan.”

“Yes mother, I will hurry.”

Thomas was smiling at his mother as he answered her and she knew the reason why he was so happy.  Thomas would finally see his father after such a long absence.  Thomas’ mother knew that her husband and son were very close with one another.  His father was teaching Thomas the trade of being a carpenter.  Each day Thomas would walk in the door and tell his mother what his father had taught him that day.  She could tell by the smile on her son’s face that he loved his father more than anything.  She smiled to herself due to the joy that was overflowing within her heart at this moment and at this time, life could not have been any better than it was today. 

As the caravan entered into the valley near Jerusalem, crowds began to gather near the road that was overlooking a distant hill.  Looking up near the top of the hill, she could see the figure of a man talking to a huge crowd of people.  There were so many that neither Thomas nor his mother could count the numbers gathered there.  Thomas’s mother was wondering how she would find her husband with so many people in one place. 

At that moment, Thomas’ mother looked to her right and could see the caravan she and her son had traveled in was veering off to the right, heading into Jerusalem, and leaving several others including Thomas and her by the roadside.  She looked at her son and gently held his hand and took the donkey with their supplies with the other hand.

“Son, we must head into the crowd in order to find your father.  It might be very congested with people, so stay near and do not wander away.”

“Yes mother, I will stay close by.”

As Thomas and his mother slowly climbed the towering hill it became increasingly harder to press into the crowd.  Then Thomas’ mother thought of something. 

“Thomas, if we let our donkey lead the way, it will have better fortune in parting the crowds because of its size.”

“Ok mother, I will stay close behind you.”

As the donkey parted the crowd, many gazed at Thomas and his mother.  It was unusual to see a woman traveling alone without her husband at her side.  To see a little boy trailing behind her made the scene even more bizarre to them.  Finally, when nearing the top of the hill, they could hear the person who was speaking to the crowd.  Both Thomas and his mother observed that it was the Galilean himself who was addressing the throngs of people before them.  Still Thomas’ mother pressed on to near the point where he stood.  She was tired, but was also filled with joy in the anticipation of meeting her husband after so many days without him.  Finally she found Thomas and herself standing unexpectantly before this man from Galilee.   They now could hear all that he was saying to those near him. 

Slowly, Thomas looked around and could see many people intently listening to this man.  He saw those who were sick, lame, blind, and even those that seemed to be not in their present minds.  They were all waiting their turn to see this stranger.  Thomas wondered what this Galilean could do for all these people who were hurting so.  He became overwhelmed with sadness at seeing so many with all their needs.  Thomas thought to himself, “How could anyone help all these hurting people?”  Then he slowly turned and he saw a man running through the crowd yelling at the top of his lungs, “I can see, I can see!”   Thomas looked up at the stranger as he ran past.  This man was crying as he ran by.  This confused Thomas, “If he could see, why then was he crying so?”

At that moment, Thomas realized that he was separated from his mother and he became afraid.  “Where had she gone?”  Thomas desperately looked around for her and the donkey.  The crowd was pressing forward toward the Galilean and he found himself moving with them.  Finally Thomas found himself standing before the Galilean himself.  Thomas’ fear at that point seemed to dissolve upon looking into his eyes.  The Galilean smiled down at him and Thomas knew in his heart that all would be well.  He could not explain it, but he knew that he had nothing to fear anymore.  Thomas found himself smiling back at this kind man.  He could tell that the Galilean was gentle of heart and that he liked children. Thomas also knew that somehow things would work out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about innocence. (Part 2)

When Thomas got home, the thought still lingered in his mind of what Mary had said to him.  He brought in the water to the kitchen and saw his mother preparing the evening meal. 
 “Mother, may I ask you a question?”
 “Yes son, what is it?”
Visitor to Anne's Honeysuckle.
 “I was just talking to Mary my friend.  She is so kind to me and I really like being with her.  She does not treat me as a little boy when I am with her.  But something Mary said, confused me.  She said to me, ‘You are kind and always treat me as an equal even though I am a girl.’  What did she mean by that?”
 “Thomas, sit down please.  Have you noticed that when we go out into the market, that I speak only to the person selling me his produce?  I do not talk to anyone else, it is forbidden for me to do so.”
 “You talk to father all the time, why is it any different when we are away from our home?”
 “Your father treats me as an equal, but when we go into the public, neither of us are allowed to speak to one another, unless it is an emergency.  Our customs forbid this from taking place.  There is an unwritten saying among our people, ‘It is a man’s world.’  We as females are not allowed to speak in public because it is set down by our elders that we must be servants to our husbands, and respectful to other men by not speaking to them.”
Anne's Gladiolas
“Then why is that, I heard father saying that this Galilean speaks to women in public and they to him.  Is he not breaking our customs by doing this?”
 “Yes I suppose he is breaking our customs.  Your father also said that some of these women were non-Jews.  In their cultures, women are allowed to speak more freely and can address men in public places.”

“If it is so for these non-Jews, then why is it not ok for you and other ladies to do the same?”
 “My son, even if I decided to break the rules and speak to your father in public, we would be forbidden to buy and sell.  Our neighbors and priests would shun us and we could not survive without friends, food and water.  Though it might not seem right, it is our customs, and they are what we must bare in order to remain here in our community.”
A visitor to our feeder. (Gold Finch)
 “It seems not very fair mother, I wish I could change it.”
 “Thank you son.  I believe that God made each of us equal in his eyes, but we must wait for our Lord to help us to see this truth.  In time it will change my son.”
 “I love you mother.”
 “I love you as well my precious son.  Now go and clean up for supper.”
 “Yes mother.”
Mother and child.
 In the morning both Thomas and his mother went through the routines of breakfast and packing rather hurriedly.  Nothing was said, but their smiles revealed the anticipated excitement of seeing Thomas’ father once again.     

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about innocence. (Part 1)


Matthew 18 The heart of a child, a story about innocence.  (Part 1)

“Thomas, have you got your clothes ready for tomorrow?”
“Yes mother, I have, they are laying on my bed.”
“Good, then we will be ready for our journey tomorrow so we can leave early.”
“Mother, tell me again why we are leaving so early in the morning.”
“Son, we are going to be with your father who has been following a man throughout the countryside.  He is a Galilean and I am told he is well known throughout the land.  I understand that he will be in Jerusalem tomorrow and so we will meet your father there.  If we leave early, we can see your father before the Galilean enters Jerusalem.”
“Does father know that we are coming?”
“Yes my son, he does.  Jonas our neighbor stopped by yesterday when coming from your father.  Your father asked Jonas if we would bring him some food.  Now run along child and bring me some water, I must have it for supper tonight.”
“Yes mother.  Is it alright that I play with James next door after I have retrieved the water?”
“Yes son, now away with you.”

Great grandma Marji
Thomas’ mother smiles at him as she sees her son retreating into the distance.  A little later, Thomas is heading to the community well when he spots a friend, Mary who is going the same direction, also caring a water jug.

“Mary, may I walk with you, I am heading to the well too?”
“Oh hi Thomas, why certainly, I would love the company.”
“Mary, I know that you are 3 whole years older than me.  Most children who are 11 would not talk to one my age.  I would like to thank you for not ignoring me.  I know that I am only 8 years old, but I am growing up quickly.”
“Oh Thomas, you are such a kind boy, I would not ignore you for anything.  How are your mother and father doing?”
“Mother is faring well, she asked me to fetch water for supper tonight.”

Thomas smiles as he squints into the sun looking up at Mary.

“How then is your father doing?”
“He, he is doing well I guess.”

Cousin Eric
Thomas is looking down now at the ground while Mary is trying to look into his eyes.

“Thomas, are you all right?”
“Yes I am fine.”

Mary puts her finger under Thomas’ chin to lift his head, so she can smile into Thomas’ gaze.

“What is the matter Thomas?”

Mary smiles again and this brings a grin to Thomas’ face.  He quickly looks down again and Mary can see that sadness is in his heart once more.

“I miss my father.  He has been gone now for many days.  I heard mother crying last night and so I tiptoed to the living room and saw her sitting on the floor by the outside doorway.  She was weeping and I felt so helpless to do anything about it, so I went back to my room.”
“Do you suppose she cries because she misses your father?”
“Yes, I am sure of it.  Two days ago mother asked me to be the man of the house until my father comes home.”

Grandma Marji and Abby
Thomas has now a determined look upon his face realizing the responsibility that comes with the position of a man.  He collects himself and resumes walking with Mary.  Then sadness returns to Thomas’ face once again as he thinks of his father.

“Mary, I was feeling a little sad because I missed my father and I told mother about it.  She then said that he would be coming home soon.  Mother said that father and his friends are nearing Jerusalem and that means that we will see him soon.  Mother then touched my cheek and asked if I could be strong like father.  I smiled then and said that I would.  But, I miss my dad so and mother does as well.”

Mary reaches over and gives Thomas a hug.

“Thomas, it will be ok, I am sure your father will be home anytime now.”
“Mary, we are going to see him tomorrow.  Mother and I are going to carry food to him.”
“That is wonderful Thomas, I imagine you are very excited to see your father?”
“Yes, it has been almost a month since mother and I have talked to him. “

Thomas stops and looks up at Mary.

“Mary, thank you for taking time to talk to me.  I was feeling rather sad until now, you have cheered me up.”

Mother and Son
Mary reaches over and puts her hand on Thomas’ shoulder.

“You are my friend Thomas.  It is no trouble at all.  I really like you my friend.  You are kind and always treat me as an equal even though I am a girl.”

Thomas was puzzled over Mary’s last statement and decided to ask his mother about that later.  Now he was determined to enjoy talking to Mary as they continued to the well.

To be continued!

Friends and Family:  If you like reading the historical fiction stories that I have written about the lives of real people and events in the Bible, please let me know and I would love to continue writing more.  You can either email me or put something in the comments section of my blog.  Have a great week!  Augie  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

God's Creatures Great and Small (Fawns)

Yesterday was exciting in that we, as a family, got a chance to see two sets of baby deer.  In the morning a mother deer (doe) brought by her twins for us to see.  She was so proud of them and a little nervous as well.  They traveled by our living room windows and front porch.  I grabbed my camera and went on to the porch and after several minutes, when the mama deer realized I would not harm her little ones, looked away and went back to eating.  The twins looked to their mother whether to be alarmed or not, and seeing her graze contentedly, knew everything was ok. 

In the afternoon Abby excitedly yelled, “ A deer, a deer!”  We went to the window and saw another mama deer bringing her baby by to show off.  These are the same mama deer that were born near our house last year and before, and they know that we will not harm them, nor get to close.  Once in awhile a mother deer will let her yearling follow her for about a year and when it gets close to the mating season, (if it is a male) it will shoo the baby away.  This is God’s way of insuring that their line is not weakened by inbreeding. 

Each fall the bucks (males) follow prospective doe’s and it is not unusual to see several female deer gathering in a group, followed by a buck that is watching over them.  The bucks are solitary creatures until mating season, that is when does allow them to get close.  After the mating season is over, it is not unusual to see them all gather in herds during the hardest parts of the winter.  I have seen several hundred gather at Kilen Woods State Park near where I grew up in Jackson, Minnesota.  While cross- country skiing with my friends, it was not unusual to see them grouping in large herds for protection and warmth. 

Usually during the months of January and February are the hardest times for deer.  I call it the “starving times” since so many have a difficult time finding enough food to survive.  I have seen them strip bark from vines and trees to gather nutrients in their search for food.  Several times I have wanted to clear vines from our meadow, but have been stopped by the thought that these same pesky vines offer sustenance for the deer during the (starving) months of January and February.  Not only do these vines offer food during the hard winters, they also encircle certain places in the meadow for the mother deer.  She finds that it is a safe place to have her young.  When I was living in New Ulm, Minnesota, while cross-country skiing in their state park, during one winter, I observed state trucks coming into the park to hall the weak and dying deer away to be exterminated.  There was not enough food for them due to the heavy snowfall, and so consequently, many died that winter.

God has prepared his creatures with natural defenses that allow for their survival.  With deer, when they are young, (fawns) have no scent on their body.  This is so that preditors cannot find them.  Mother deer only briefly spend time with them to feed them and then leave them alone again.  Since the mother’s scent would pass on to the baby if the doe spent too much time with the bambi, she leaves the baby alone most of the time.  With camouflage that God has given the babies by their white spots and having no natural scent, they are virtually invisible to the world.  One day when I was spraying for weeds in the meadow, I almost stepped on a baby deer.  Just before my foot touched it’s skin, it jumped up and ran a couple of steps.  Steps mind you that were very wobbly.  I could quickly see that it was brand new and it’s mama must have been out in the woods feeding.  So I quickly retreated and left it alone before a nervous doe found me to close to her baby. 
Just a note:  If you encounter a baby deer, leave it quickly.  If the mother is nearby, which in many cases they are, the doe will protect it’s young if they see you as a threat.  Doe’s might not have horns, but they do have very sharp hooves and will not hesitate to use them if they see you as a threat to their young fawns.  While hunting in the winter back on the prairie, near my home town of Jackson, I came across ice that deer had chipped out with their sharp hooves.  The ice was chipped down to over six inches in depth by using their hooves to search for water to drink.  So, do not spend anytime near a baby deer, their mama is usually close by. 

We noticed one of the doe’s staying near our meadow grazing a lot this spring.  Because of this pattern of hovering around one area, we knew that she had a young one nearby, and so we told our children not to get to close to the mama deer, or it’s baby during this time. 

After several weeks of growth and development, the fawn gathers it’s strength and soon the mother sees that it is strong enough to be able to follow her when she feeds.  The excursions gradually get longer and longer as the baby deer builds up its strength.  During this time, the fawn is slowly weaned off of it’s mother’s milk and the baby begins to eats grass like it mother.  I have seen a mother deer outside my living room window gently bumping the baby with her leg, when she figured junior either had enough milk or it was time to eat more and drink less. 

Deer are so wonderful to watch, God has given them speed and grace.  They truly are one of his most beautiful creatures.  Even if you do not have deer in your neighborhood, take time to notice God's many creatures that surround your home.  They will bring so much joy to your world.  The more that we learn from them by watching and observing these wonderful creations, the more we see how they also fit into God's master plan.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Which group are you in?

When Jesus walked the Earth around 2000 years ago, large crowds followed him.  Many came to Jesus because they wanted to be healed of a sickness, and others wanted to hear what this man had to say.  If Jesus had not raised the dead, healed the sick, made the blind to see and lame to walk, would he have had as many people following him?  I would guess that he would not have had as many followers.  Some were looking for healing of some sort while others were curious as to who this man was with his claims that he was the Son of God. 

The outward signs manifested by Jesus in using his power were alluring to many, because they had great needs.  When those needs were satisfied, some quickly forgot about the healer and the message he had to say.  They went about their ways and did not bother to come back and thank him for such a great service done for them.  In Luke 17:19 we read about the ten lepers who cried to Jesus at a distance for healing.  They could not get close to him for it was forbidden of lepers to be near those who were well because they might have contaminated the healthy.  If the lepers had violated this, then the crowds probably would have thrown rocks and stones at them or worse.  During this time period, lepers were confined to what some called leper colonies.  These colonies were away from the main roads and cities so there would be less chance of the lepers infecting those that were well.  Family and friends would lay food out for them at a distance and the lepers would later retrieve that food put before them after the family members were gone. 

Will found the dragonfly's wings on side of the road.
(Again in Luke 17:19) Jesus healed many individuals of their illnesses, but it was impossible for lepers in that day to get close enough to touch Jesus’ cloak or even to speak to him as the other sick had done.  In this one instance, Jesus heard the ten lepers at a far distance hollering at him.  They begged for mercy to be made well and that’s what he did, he healed them.  In the events recorded in Luke, only one man returned to give thanks and praise to Jesus.  Jesus brought this to the attention of the crowd, that this one man was a foreigner and not a Jew, a Samaritan.  The disappointment of Jesus was evident, and to the crowd some perhaps were ashamed since it was the other nine who were Jews.  The nine lepers who were God’s chosen elect, (Jews) should have recognized Jesus and honored him for what he had done and who he was. 

Earlier I spoke of the crowd and why perhaps some of them followed Jesus, some for healing and for others, to watch Jesus manifest his powers.  Others that came to Jesus though were hungry, not in the sense of bodily hunger, but spiritual.  They were the ones that did not need to see or hear about Jesus’ great powers in order to believe and follow him.  Like the ten lepers and of those nine that did not return, I imagine there were many others that were more concerned about their own health and once healed, forgot who it was that healed them.  Their concerns only went as far as their own needs and nothing more.  Their lives were wrapped up in themselves and they could not be bothered with a conscious. 

Wild daisies that Abby asked me to photograph while
going for a walk with her last night.
If you had lived during the time that Jesus walked the Earth, which crowd do you think you would have been in?  It is easy for us to say that we would have been like the one leper that returned and, we would have followed Jesus for his teachings.  Again, it is easy for us to say what we would have done, that is to follow after Jesus.

Perhaps a realistic perspective would be to look at our lives today.  Think of the time that you spend in prayer each day.  Does it consist of more than talking to God at the dinner table when saying grace?  Do we address him only when we have great needs, and perhaps go another way when things are going well?  How much time do we talk to Jesus at work or during our leisure periods? 
Do we want to know him more by reading his word each day?  Do we ask for God’s grace in dealing with our family, fellow workers or for that matter, those that offend us or hurt us?  If you can answer yes to all of the above, then I am sure you would have been in the crowd that followed Jesus because you believed he was the Son of God, and that you desired to follow him because you wanted to get to know him better and he you.  You would have followed him because you recognized your sinfulness and knew that only the man before you could release you of this unbearable existence. 

Playing house at the Menard's Park yesterday.
Many times while teaching history, I have heard students say, “If I had lived in that time, I would have done it differently!”  But, would we have?  We have to examine ourselves honestly and look at our lives today and compare it to those people that walked with Jesus.  Which group would you fall into?  If it is not the group that you want, then perhaps a change is in order.  If you cannot find the strength to make the changes, ask Jesus and he will give you that strength.  If you lack the desire, ask Jesus for it and he will give it to you. 

In order for our walk to be inline with that of the Savior, we need to follow him with our complete being, not leaving any part of our life vacant without him.  When Christ addressed the Christians at Laodicea, he said, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in. . .”  (Rev. 3:20)
Jesus was addressing Christians, he wanted them to listen to him and learn from him.  He did not break down their door, he gently knocked.  He waits for us to open the door to our hearts, so that we can give to him those things that keep us from knowing him better, and walking with him in every aspect of our lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Faith of a Woman

Faith of a Woman (Matthew 15:21-28)
My wife Anne.

This morning I was reading about the faith of a particular woman, she was not Jewish, she was called a Canaanite by the Jews of Jesus' era. (There was no region called Canaan during Jesus’ time in this area, it is believed though that the Phoenicians were called Canaanites. The apostle Mark said this lady was a Greek who was born in the region of Phoenicia.)  

A (Greek) woman came to Jesus desiring to have her daughter healed from demon possession.  Jesus spoke to her and said that he was sent only to the Jews.  He said this rather bluntly to her as almost to discourage her from asking any further.  His statement seemed unlike our perception of Jesus in that he asked the Canaanite woman if he should throw the children’s bread to the dogs?  This woman’s faith in Jesus’ abilities and her desire to get her daughter healed was strong though, and she would not be deterred.  Even before this, she encountered her first obstacle, that is, of the disciples trying to discourage her.  They told Jesus that she was "continually pestering them."  What faith this woman had in enduring all these obstacles.  I imagine not only the disciples gave her a hard time but the Jewish crowd as well.  She was not a Jew and in those days, most Jews did not talk to Gentiles, much less a woman.  In Jesus’ time, women were considered second-class citizens that were to be totally submissive to men and their will.  In John 4:27 Jesus is found by his disciples talking to a woman (Samaritan, no less) at a public well.  Even among Jesus’ disciples they could not believe that he would address a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman.  

Great Grandma Marji
In getting back to our Greek (Canaanite) mother, after she had made it through all these obstacles, the Greek woman finally meets Jesus, and still with Jesus' obstructive statements, she is not deterred.   We now know that Jesus came also for the Gentiles (us) so why did he say these things to her?  In Matthew 15:24 Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  His mission was to first reach as many Jews that would hear his word.  In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the gospel was sent first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.

In getting back to the Greek (Canaanite) woman once again, what faith she had, to get as far as she did.  Putting up with the abuses along the way and yet if this is not enough, when reaching Jesus, yet another road block was put before her, and that was from the person she knew could heal her daughter.  Jesus was not worried at all what the other Jewish followers were thinking, or that of his disciples for that matter.  He was not the person that went with the crowd to please everyone, nor was he concerned about the crowd’s anger toward him for even talking to a non-Jew.  So, then why do you suppose Jesus spoke to her as he did?  In Matthew 8:5 a Centurion (Roman soldier in charge of 100 men) asked Jesus to heal his servant.  He also was not Jewish and yet Christ said that this man had more faith than anyone he had met in all Israel.  Jesus healed this man’s servant due to his faith and yet he did not deter this man as a he did the Canaanite woman, one must again ask, why? 

Will, Aunt Gayle, and Great Grandma.
Both individuals, the Canaanite woman and the soldier were not Jewish, both possessed faith beyond those in the land.  So why did Jesus make it harder for this woman to have her daughter healed?  In 1 Chronicles 28:9 says that God searches the heart and understands the motives behind the thoughts.   We may never know why Jesus said what he said to this lady.  Perhaps though, it might have something to do with her position in society.  She was a Greek, and many of them considered themselves in the world to be superior to the Jews and all others.  The Greeks as a race of people had at one time been in the place of Rome, master of the world, in power.  Now during Jesus day, even the Romans knew that the Greeks were their fore-bearers, much like the British are to us here in the United States.  They as Greeks held much status in the Roman world.  Now for this Greek woman to take the abuse that she did from the Jews in trying to reach Jesus, it was obvious that her love for her daughter would know no bounds in helping her child to be healed.  Jesus was not into status like the Greeks and Jews of his time, it meant nothing to him.  The Greeks claimed their previous glory where as many Jews claimed their heritage from Abraham as being the elect, and better than those around them.  Jesus knew that all of mankind was created by his Father and if a person’s heart was searching for their savior, then he would reach out and meet them in the place were they were at, because he first searches for us.  Romans 8:27  ". . . And he who searches our hearts. . ."

Our daughter, Abby.
Perhaps this Greek woman was being tested.  The heritage that she was born with, the prominence in society that she held, and belief that Greeks were superior to the Jews, perhaps needed to be finally washed away from her soul.  Would she let go of this place she held for herself in her heart, for the sake of another?  She placed her life and that of her daughter’s into the hands of this man from Galilee.  The Greek woman through her desperation was able to see that nothing in this world was worth keeping, not even status.  It was her love for her daughter that helped her to see this and a mother’s need to give her all for her child.  It was in perhaps her willingness to forsake all that brought her to Jesus, and with this, she became humble and contrite.  Perhaps then it was Jesus, who was testing her?  Would she be deterred from the man that had healed so many?  Was she able to give up all that she held dear before her and see that it is nothing?  In humbling herself, she knelt before Jesus.  In this act alone she was admitting publically that this man before her was greater than she herself, otherwise she would have remained standing.  In response to Jesus’ question, she answered, “Even the dogs eat scraps from the master’s table.”  Matthew 15:27 

Abby with mommy and
cousin Emily.
Perhaps there was some looking on seeing her kneel before Jesus saying to themselves, “A proud Greek finally brought low before a Jew, serves her right.  Now she knows that we are the chosen and she is not as special as she claims as a Greek.”

Or perchance, there were those looking on seeing the whole scene unfold before them and saying to themselves, “If she as a Greek is willing to give up her position in society and bow low and humble herself before this man, then is it my place to condemn her?  Should I as a Jew search my own conscious and see what is holding me back?  Do I falsely hold on to my position of prominence and look down on others?  Is this what is keeping me from knowing God?  It appears that if this Galilean is from God, then he does not care what race I am, or what place I hold in society.  This man Jesus seems to look at the heart.  Is my heart right with God?”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our Furry Neighbors

Toby waiting for Chippy

Today our family awoke to rain falling and the sounds of silence coming from the forest nearby.  Normally, the birds are singing and very busily flying back and forth gathering food for their newborns, but this morning they were allowed to sleep in.  For many of them they are brooding their second batch of babies for the summer season.  Looking out and seeing a fluffed up baby catbird sitting on the garden fence is not unusual at all.  The baby catbird looked like someone had taken a hair dryer to it and left without grooming it at all.  At those times it is easy to see a mommy or daddy catbird flying frantically back and forth protecting their baby from harm.  The uptight parents make me think of birds that have had too much caffeine, as well as their baby having a bad hair day.

Yesterday we had a baby female cardinal come to our feeder.  Normally cardinals look so majestic with their pretty crown of pointed feathers on their heads.  This baby appeared to have a bad Mohawk.  I informed Anne about the baby cardinal and she came over to see for herself, she laughed for a moment and then went, “Ohhhh.”  At that moment I made my crazy baby voice as I was walking past Anne, “I know that I look pretty wild right now, but I am soon going to grow up and look just like my mommy!”  Anne looked over at me and gently laughed shaking her head as she left the room.  I could only imagine what she was thinking at that moment.  Perhaps it was, “Got to love that man as strange as he is!” 

Woodchuck visiting in the Spring.  "I like Anne's flowers too"
Yesterday our cat Toby perched herself on the bottom step and waited for her little friend the chipmunk.  I have to admit they have a very strange relationship that I cannot figure out.  Toby waits for the chipmunk to go by and then she pounces at “chippy” but narrowly misses each time.  This sometimes can go on for a good half hour.  The chipmunk runs under the porch and then comes out on the other side and repeats the event all over again.  Sometimes Anne and I will watch chippy come from the other direction, which will throw Toby off.  Yet this animal of fur and fluff must have a death wish sense of humor.   It will run wide and almost flaunt itself in front of Toby.  During one of those particular performances, Toby got the chipmunk’s tail, but chippy narrowly escaped once more.  We both heard squeals coming from the excited chipmunk, as it must have thought about a life ending experience.  A couple of days ago chippy came around the corner of the step and stood up and just stared intently at me.  Who knew what the little fellow was thinking at that moment, but at that instant, it sensed someone else staring at it.  It slowly turned its head to it’s left and there was Toby crouched and ready to pounce.  The chipmunk jumped in air and sprinted with all its might, narrowly escaping another encounter with the Grim Reaper.  Both Anne and I laughed heartily over the experience. 

Winter Cardinal waiting for his turn at our feeder
One day last week we had an unwanted visitor, (a skunk.)   It came near our woodpile which was not to far from our porch.  During this time Abby was sitting on a deck chair playing with her dolls.  She spotted the skunk through a lattice wall covered with thick vines.  I imagine the skunk could not see her at the time, but instead experienced a scream that made it think twice about expecting friendly hospitality at our house.   I was sitting at the kitchen table visiting with Anne’s folks when I heard Abby screaming and I ran full speed toward her.  When I got to Abby she was shaking in fear.  Our poor little button had never had an encounter with a skunk before and hopefully it will be her last.  For the skunk, I don’t believe it will make any inquiries for food at house again.

Fall visitor near our living room window.
Yesterday my friendly neighbor was complaining to me that he had a visitor outside their bedroom window and it decided to rest there for a while.  (I believe it was the same skunk that visited our home.)  By the time my neighbor got his window closed he suffered a life altering experience.  The smell so permeated his house that he and his poor wife could not sleep at all.  They had to close the windows and in that act alone, it left them with an enclosed house full of smells that was as intense as being next to the skunk itself.  The next day after the offense, my tired neighbor found out why the skunk was paying him a visit.  It had been digging for grubs and slugs nearby.  Oh what joys there are to live next to the forest. 

Coyote, early Spring visitor.
The day after Abby’s encounter with flower (I named the skunk) I reconnoitered out on our porch by looking out through the door window before venturing outside.  I didn’t see flower there, but what I did see made me laugh.  I saw our little chipmunk standing on the step where Toby normally perches.  Chippy appeared to be looking back and forth on the porch for her toxic friend, Toby.  I believe with all my heart that God created animals with a sense of humor and fear (flower), or at least he gave it to the critters around our house.