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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (From, the "Listening Heart" blog.)

Today I have privilege to introduce Deitra Shoemaker.  Deitra has been kind enough to allow me to repost some of her writings.   Deitra is a christian writer who has a blog site called "Listening Heart."  I would encourage you to visit her blog:

I hope you enjoy Deitra's post!  

As I think about the good, the bad and the ugly in my story, I see the good as the blessings of God, the bad as the trials and sufferings I've experienced from those who have sinned against me as well as just because that is how life on this side of eternity. But the ugly . . . the ugly is how I have sinned against others, the parts of me I avoid looking at because, well, they are UGLY! Attached to the ugliness is much shame and condemnation, so not only do I unconsciously avoid going there, I realize that I've buried my uglies deep in my soul. Yet because they are still there, a part of me, the pride part of me, has to prove to myself "I'm really not THAT bad" and so I choose to focus on my goodness and wind up hiding a part of my story that God wants to heal.
So God begins to put his Holy Spirit spotlight on the basement of my soul to focus on my ugly . . . and it hurts and feels so shameful I want to hide even deeper in my darkness. Then by His every so gentle grace, He reminds me, "Confess your sins to one another and be healed." (James 5:16) He offers me healing, NOT condemnation, but mercy. The catch is I have to reveal my ugly to another, risk being vulnerable and rejected, bring the dark into the light, to receive the healing. God in His gentleness reminds me that He allowed His Son to experience and suffer MY shame on the cross so I wouldn't have to. He invites me to confess so I can be healed and free of the condemnation that holds me captive. That what awaits me is not what the Accuser speaks, rejection, but freedom, freedom from my false self which tries to prove I'm okay without God and looks to other 'things' to meet a need that only He can fill. Freedom to live into my true self, that person God originally created me to be in union with Him.

As I confess my sin to another trusted friend who loves me, all of me, the good, the bad and the ugly, I receive the healing that dissolves the shame and bring an overwhelming gratefulness to God for His extravagant love toward this sinner turned saint, not though my efforts but through His amazing grace.

I'm reminded of the story Jesus told about the woman who had been forgiven much, loved much. (Luke 7:47). Because my sins were so great and God freely and joyfully forgave them and me, it makes my love for Him so much greater. The greater the sin, the greater the debt paid and the greater gratitude and love there is in my heart. If my debt was $1000 and He paid it, I would be grateful. But because my debt felt more like $1,000,000, my grateful love reflects that exponentially.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Visit to the Bluff Country

Mississippi Bluff in October

This morning I awoke to the sounds of our cats running around the house playing with each other.  Toby now is smell free from her encounter with the skunk, and has the aroma of Anne’s hair soap.  Kelly, our other cat is starting to gain needed weight since we found her starving to death two weeks ago.  Kelly is adjusting well to the house and is learning about staying off tables and counters. 

Collection of autumn vines near a creek in Winona.
After church today we took a short trip up to the town of Nelson, Wisconsin.  It is located just across the river from Wabasha, Minnesota (Home of Grumpy Old Men.)  The interesting thing about Wabasha is the movie, “Grumpy Old Men.”  If you remember the names of the two gentlemen in the movie, one was called John Gustafson.  He was a retired teacher from Wabasha.  It happens that my father in law is named John Gustafson, and he is a retired professor from Winona State University.  John Gustafson in the movie dated a lady who taught English at Winona State University (Anne Margaret.)  My wife Anne has recently taught English at Winona State University. 

Old barn near Nelson Cheese Factory
If any of you get a chance to visit Wabasha, plan on going across the river to Nelson.  We visit this community every couple of months to eat at the Nelson Cheese Factory.  They make their own cheeses and sell cheese from all over the world at their store.  They also sell wine, ice cream, pizza and usually have a line of people, many from the Twin Cities visiting this little business tucked away among the bluffs.  You will enjoy the drive either down hi way 61 from the north or from the south also along hi way 61.   The store offers several different homemade sandwiches were are very tasty. 

Abby and Will love to eat here as well.  There is outdoor seating for those that like to eat in a more reclusive setting.  There is an old barn nearby that now houses several different cats that visit the tables for scraps that might fall to the ground.  Abby and Will especially like to play with them, but they keep their distance since the kitties are still wild and shy of petting.  John and Marji, Anne’s folks also enjoy eating here with us.  It seems we all have our favorite foods that we come to enjoy when traveling to this quiet scenic restaurant tucked away among the towering bluffs.  You will find an eclectic group of people gathering here from all over the area.  It is not uncommon to motor homes, motorcycles and family cars all gathered together in the parking lot.   

Outside seating at Nelson Cheese Factory
For those that are coming from the south or the west, watch for signs that lead to the little tourist towns of Rushford and Lanesboro.  Those traveling from the west on I-90, you will find the exit just west of the Winona exit that leads to Rushford, Minnesota.  This will take you into the bluff country area that is breath taking to say the least.  There are bed and breakfasts to stay at, a winery (Lanesboro), bike trails along the Root River, a German restaurant (Lanesboro), quant old stores and more.  The scenery is very beautiful as you drive through the area, especially in October.  Don’t forget to take your camera when visiting this area.  It is like going back to a time long forgotten.

Pickwick Mill
The trees are just now starting to show some colors.  I expect them to peak around the first and second weeks of October.  The scenery for those coming from the north, starting at Red Wing is very memorable along hi way 61.  For those coming from the south, starting at La Crescent, Minnesota, (Apple Capital) just off I-90, will begin to see the bluffs towering above you as you drive north.  Exiting I-90 you can travel south to La Crescent and visit their apple stores, etc. or one can get on to hi way 61 from the interstate by turning left to go north heading towards Winona.  Along the way you will have one or two observation sites to take in the Mississippi river view.  About 10 miles south of Winona there is the little town of Pickwick.  The sign on
Abby playing with Nelson's cats.
Hi way 61 will show that it is a left turn that will take you away from the river for approximately 5 miles to the town of Pickwick and the Pickwick flourmill, a very beautiful little village and mill site.  This mill still grinds flour! 

Traveling still further north into Winona, you will see Sugar Loaf Mountain overlooking the town of Winona, Minnesota.  There are two fishing lakes with parks nearby within the community.  One can check out canoes, etc. on the Winona Lake Lodge to explore the beauty of the lake and bluffs.  Winona has two universities, and one can find many hiking paths, fishing, and state and local parks in the area.  There are always community and college events taking place.  From plays to outdoor and athletic events to people walking by the lakes, one never tires of the scenery.  When traveling through the town you will see many grand homes that were built by lumber, railroad and river boat barons of the last century.  These homes have been maintained and will surprise you as to their grandeur and size.  You will also observe the many local shops, bed and breakfast’s, and stores housed in buildings built during Winona’s hay day from the last century.  This part of Minnesota is relatively unknown even to many Minnesotans.  I would encourage you take a weekend and enjoy the area and all it has to offer. 

I would encourage one to go to the individual tourism online sites for each of the communities you plan to visit before taking your trip into the bluff country.    One such site gives you many cities located in Minnesota, “Explore Minnesota.” 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Twilight encounter with a skunk.

Yesterday when getting back from my in-law’s place, I retrieved one of our indoor/outdoor cats from the porch.  Much to my surprise, our kitty had an encounter with an unexpected and uninvited visitor, a skunk!   Unfortunately for Toby our cat, she got what most animals dread, the spray from our stinky friend. 

Not only did Toby get sprayed, our porch and chairs received a healthy dose as well.  Needless to say, we spent many hours into the night cleaning our little kitty from head to tail in the shower.  Anne went online and researched what was the best possible cleaner for skunk smell.  She found several possible avenues to choose from.  What she found to be the old reliable was the use of tomato sauce.  Anne discovered through further reading, that it only masked the smell.  She finally found a cleaner solution that is well used today and that was soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide.  It recommended using rubber gloves, and so I did, the first time through.  The second bottle of hydrogen peroxide I forgot to put my gloves on, don’t anyone forget this vital step.  Your hands will really sting as you apply the solution.  The cleaning method read to avoid the cat’s eyes and consequently we did.  Unfortunately, that little patch of hair was hit the hardest by rosebud, and so the smell remained until I used several applications of hair soap in that area.  It took most of the smell out. 

Pickwick Pond in October
After several late hours of scrubbing in the shower, we had Toby almost completely clean.  I then scrubbed down the shower with a strong bleach cleaner and when that was done, I showered myself.  I next ran the towels and rugs through the laundry twice on the long cycle, and that seemed to take care of any residual odors. 

After cleaning myself up, I noticed scratches here and there on my body that I didn’t have time to observe earlier when holding on to a squirming cat.  After taking care of my cuts, it was time for bed, but first we had to set up the pantry for a temporary room for Toby, overnight.  I wanted to call the vet first thing in the morning to check on current vaccinations, especially the rabies vaccination.  Toby usually climbs into Will’s top bunk, and sleeps with him each night.  That obviously would not do since Toby was an unknown factor at this point.  Toby did not like sleeping alone without the free reign of the house, and all the nighttime windows to perch on.  Later when about to fall asleep, we awoke to a gentle meow sound coming from the pantry, and this led to our other cat (Kelly) meowing out of sympathy for Toby.  Needless to say, it was an interesting night all the way around. 

The next day proved to be a challenge for Anne and myself.  It was difficult to concentrate while we both fought off sleep.  Early in the morning I called the vet and as it turned out, Tobi was current on rabbi shots and so we did not have to go in for her booster shot, which was a relief.  Later, after feeding the kids breakfast, I went outside and used our pressure washer to shampoo and wash our porch, walls, lattice, steps, floor mats and all the furniture on it.  I even took the pressure washer into the meadow nearby and washed the grass, since it too was sprayed by our prolific visitor.  I kept thinking as I cleaned, that our little skunk guest must not have many friends.  It was perhaps the same skunk this past summer that had camped out by our neighbors open window.  The odor was so bad that they could hardly stand the smell that had wafted into their house after that twilight encounter.  I imagine they did not sleep much after the incident.  The next day I noticed our neighbor was digging up parts of his natural state area and putting down grub killer to discourage another visit from the stinky night visitor. 

I remember years ago, my uncle Leroy was leaving his house at night to go to town from his farm.  His eyes had not adjusted to the dark when first stepping outside, and when first noticing his cats coming to him, he thought they were asking for a gentle pet.
October splendor!
Next, Leroy stooped down to stroke one of the cats, and to his surprise, his calico cat jumped in front of him and started snarling at the cat in front of Leroy.  Leroy’s first reaction was to startle, due to this unforeseen reaction from one of his favorite cats.  When my uncle’s eyes had finally adjusted to the darkness, he could see the reason his calico was snarling.  The cat he was about to pet was not a feline, but a skunk.  Needless to say, it would have been a ruined evening for Leroy if his calico had not been so diligent. I don’t have tell anyone that this kitty became very special to my uncle after that evening. 

I am sure that many of you have had encounters with skunks at one time or another in your life.  For myself, it is usually driving by one on the hi-way.  Windows quickly go up and after a mile or two, they go back down again with the fan on full speed.  And so, life goes on!  Toby now smells like Anne’s shampoo, and as I type these thoughts, she is sleeping comfortably on Will’s bed.

Anne's flowers.
Well, have a wonderful weekend, and don’t forget to take time and to smell the roses.  God bless you all!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is the end of the world near? Conclusion

God desires for us to listen to his voice.

As I look outside I see the fall flowers blooming now and they appear to be so beautiful.  The outside temperatures are very cold for this time of year and the contrast between the flowers dotting the hillside along with the cooler temperatures, I imagine are confusing the bees trying to extract nectar from blooming flowers. 

We are now finishing up with the pears and apples today.  Anne and Will have made pear butter and I processed the apples with Will’s help in freezing them into slices for making pies later this winter.  When finishing the apples and pears, we then began to tackle the peppers for freezing them as well.  Anne processed much of the tomatoes that we have grown this year by making tomato soup and then freezing them for meals in the months to come.  Squash will be the next task that we will take on.  We have found that freezing the squash is the easiest way to preserve them for later uses.  It is so much fun in getting ready for winter and in the planning of all the foods that we have worked so hard to prepare. 

God will reveal his way if we seek him.
Last night I was reading from Matthew 24 again while praying for guidance in what I would say today.  I read from other sources that I found concerning the end times as well.  Realizing that it was getting late, I set my materials down and decided to prepare for bed.  Sometimes when wrestling against tiredness and fatigue, it is best to let things lie and continue later when rested again.  I have found that when I get really tired I have a tendency to look at the darker side of things, and I am not able to balance this out with the positive side of the issues facing me.  When reading last night, I felt a little overwhelmed with all the devastation that Jesus was talking about.  I imagine it was quite a shock for Jesus’ disciples as well.  Knowing that their teacher was going to be tortured and later killed, it was perhaps a little much for them to absorb such a horrific site in their minds, of the end times that is.  

When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples with him had a very difficult time staying awake.  I remember the first time I read this scripture, it frustrated me in that the disciples had slumbered just when Jesus needed them the most.  Later, as I grew in maturity, I became more compassionate when reading the passages that told of the sleepy disciples. 

God gives our souls rest.
Often I have observed that when grief is so overwhelming for individuals, our body craves sleep, fatigue takes over and gives that person time to slow down and relax by allowing one to sleep.  This gives our subconscious time to sort out many difficult emotions; as well as working through the hurt by giving our body needed rest. 

Any last minute information briefing from Jesus over his fate did not surprise the disciples.  They knew the tragic news of this much earlier on, and so were, I imagine, dreading what was to come.  Their hearts and minds could not cope with the grief that was heading their way, and so they probably did not sleep for many days before that fateful night at the Garden of Gethsemane.  When the time came for them to be with Jesus praying, they could not handle the overwhelming grief, and so consequently, adding the days before with little sleep, they finally succumbed to their body’s call for rest. 
The mature person is one that plans for many unforeseen circumstances.  I believe that Jesus knew ahead of time that his disciples would not grow until he, the master was gone, and then the Holy Spirit would arrive and be their counselor.  The disciples through many trials and tribulations would have the means to become the mature Christians through their individual walks with the Holy Spirit as their guide. 

God helps us to see his will when we are focused on him alone.
My thoughts now go to when my daughter Abby was learning to ride her bicycle.  She was very much afraid to get on the bike, and so chose to ride on her small scooter instead.  The desire for riding her bike was increased when she saw her brother riding his bicycle, and because she could not keep up with him on her scooter, Abby decided to overcome her fear and try riding her bike.  Abby felt that she was missing out on the fun Will was having.  That was the incentive she needed to overcome her fear of riding her bike.  For Abby, it was not the bike that was the object of her fear, it was the thought of getting hurt.   Eventually, she decided it was an acceptable risk to learn to ride the bicycle.  Abby’s great loneliness was felt in that her brother was leaving her behind.  She wanted to share in his joy, and desired for Will to know her happiness as well.  Will on the other hand was lonely without the ability to play with Abby in sharing a common experience.  This is what makes up a friendship, sharing our hearts one with another.

Though my way seems blocked, God finds a way!
 God has established within us a desire to love and be loved.  He first created this in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  Adam loved God with all his heart and he felt God’s love more than anytime in his life.  When sin sent Adam and Eve from the Garden, not only was a relationship severed, but hearts were broken as well.  God was deeply saddened and I believe he felt that he had lost a good friend, one whom he loved very much.  Both Adam and Eve chose to leave God by their acts of disobedience and betrayal.  One can only imagine what Adam and Eve were feeling when having to leave God’s presence.  A deep love and bond was established between themselves and God, and now that was gone. 

When Jesus came into the world, he was God in the flesh.  God’s desire was that of wanting to re-establish this bond of love between man and himself.  Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins so that we could have that Garden of Eden experience with God again.  In each of our hearts, we have felt a distance between ourselves and God.  Being God’s creation, we have allowed ourselves to be left behind because of our sins and our fears.  God wants to be a part of our lives again, to walk with us and teach us as he did in the Garden of Eden.  In sacrificing God's son Jesus for our sins, we now have the chance to once again walk with him.  Ironically though, in another garden thousands of years later, God’s son would be the one forced to leave at the hands of those that wanted to stop this relationship between God and man from being reestablished.  Ultimately, Satan and his limited vision could not understand that it was in God’s plan to have his only son be the sacrifice for our sins, so that the bridge between himself and man, which was destroyed by sin, could once more be reestablished. 

Jesus nourishs our souls.
Are the end times coming?  It is heading in that direction and I am excited in one respect, that Jesus is coming to reestablish his kingdom here on Earth.  Prophecy says in Ezekiel 39:27-29, Amos 9:13-15, Jer. 30:2, Jer. 33:7 and Ezek. 37:27-29 that when Israel as a country is reestablished, and the temple is rebuilt, that this is the beginning of the end.  Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel and Revelation all point to the signs that we are to look for, that show when the end is near, (signs of the end times.)  Should we fear these things happening?  Only if we have not accepted Jesus into our lives should we then be afraid.  Will Christians face many hardships during the end times, yes they will.  But one thing that we as Christians must do, that is to continue our walk with Jesus. 

When the Israelites were being led to the Promised Land, and were wandering in the desert, God's presence was in the pillar of fire at night and the cloud during the day.  The Israelites knew when to leave when God’s outward manifestation of the pillar of fire or the cloud left.  During their journey to the Promised Land, God’s children, at that time, were given the choice of leaving with God, or going their own way.  They did not know where God was leading them, but they were faced with the decision to follow or stay.  In traveling with God, they had to walk in faith, expecting him to lead them in the direction that would bring them to the Promised Land.  In our relationship today with God, he teaches us through his word as well as by his Holy Spirit. 

I thirst for you Lord!
We are not left in the dark as to God’s plan for our lives.  But, if we just look for outward signs alone, as to where and how God is moving, we can be in the position of guessing and allowing fear to rule over us.  The Israelites in the desert did not have a personal relationship with God as we do today.  Through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice, we can now come to our Lord and experience a close relationship that Adam once had.  We do not need to be left in darkness and fear.  God walks with us if we invite him to be a part of our lives each day. 

Walk with God today, listen to his Holy Spirit and read his word.  Then, you will not have to worry any longer concerning the future, because God is walking beside us, and he will not allow us to stumble or to be left in the dark concerning tomorrow.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is our world coming to an end?

Beautiful Sunrise

This morning Anne and I awoke to a beautiful sunrise.  The red tones were spread across the sky, also in hues of orange, yellow and blue as well.   Recently we moved back upstairs to our main floor bedroom.  Our bed is next to the sliding glass doors by our top deck, which makes it easy to see the wonderful sunrises that are there to greet us.  Soon we will be moving our desk and computer up to our bedroom so that Anne can teach her online classes, and listen to our children’s busy activities.  Another benefit is that Anne will be in direct sunlight again which will brighten her day. 

Abby training Kelly to go through the hoop.
This morning I took our new addition to our family, (Kelly) to our friend Ken Chaffin (veterinarian), who has the Companion Animal Care Clinic.  She will be getting neutered (not tutored) as well as getting all her needed shots.  Kelly came to our doorstep about a week ago, she was skin and bones and her weight was about one half of what it should have been.  Either someone had dropped her off or she wandered away from her home and got lost.  By the looks of her, she had been on her own for quite some time, and now appears to have reached the point of starvation.  After several days of eating healthy kitty food, and being given Revolution for her insides, we now have a cat that is on the road to a healthy lifestyle.  The next step is in introducing our cat Toby to Kelly.  Did I hear someone say, “Good luck!!!”

Today in my daily scripture reading I read from Matthew 24.  Matthew is quoting Jesus who is talking to his disciples about his second coming and the end times.  Jesus’ description of these events is rather unnerving in that he describes the “birth pains” of the end of the earth, as we know it. 

Life gets tangled and confusing without Christ in our lives.
Jesus describes the situation here on earth as being very desperate.  In our world, there will be many people who will promise to save us from our dyer circumstances that we will find ourselves in.  These individuals will claim to be the messiah, and they will appear to have the answers that many desperate people are looking for.   Jesus goes on to talk about the global situation as a world filled with war, and added that there will be the potential of more wars on the horizon.  Jesus must have seen the utter horror on the faces of his followers when describing the future events, and so he comforts his disciples by saying that these things must happen before he arrives to give his chosen people a better world. 

Further on in Jesus’ description to the disciples, he says that there will be earthquakes in various places, and famines as well.  Many Christians believe that we are now seeing the beginnings of the “birth pains” by the present calamities that we as a world, are now facing.  On the other hand, I have often wondered whether this is in fact the beginning of the end times.  We now have the ability to report all of the world’s events through the use of satellites, as well as improved reporting of these occurances as they happen.   Are there in fact more wars and famines than has ever been seen before, or again, is our reporting of these horrific events so much better?  According to Comos, (Issue 20, Apr. 2007) a science magazine, relates how with the ever increasing population, we are having a very difficult time in keeping up with food production.  This does not take in account the added famines that we are having at present.  With a greater population, along with the demands for more land to house the increasing birth rate, we will soon reach a critical point of not having enough tillable land for food production. 

In dying to Christ, we give birth to life.
In the past, this has been a problem for many nations facing starvation.  For instance, after WWI when the Versailles Treaty went into effect, Germany was strapped with paying the war burden for Britain and France, plus trying to feed it’s own people at the same time.  Many historians say this plan of retribution gave rise to the dictator Adolf Hitler who promised the German people, who were desperate for food and shelter, hope.  Later, after guiding Germany into prosperity, Hitler told his people that he was leading Germany into war by invading neighboring countries.  He said that it was necessary for “lebensraum” or, added living space.  His people were running out of room.

When Hitler took over power in Germany, his new policies brought food to the people of his country by expanding production of industry and agricultural.  He also brought back a mighty army that frightened most of the world.  Germans during this time had jobs, and food was plentiful for the table.  Among his early accomplishments, Hitler introduced the people’s car, (Volkswagen) so that even the common worker could afford a car for transportation.  In honor of this accomplishment, the city where the Volkswagen was produced was named after him, Wolfsburg.  Hitler’s nickname was “Wolf.” All these things made many Germans eager to support Hitler since they were coming from a place of such desperation.  By fulfilling the German poeple's many needs early on, it became easy to later lead millions to their deaths.  The Germans, and the rest of the world would reap his satanic virtues with such a force that it would take many years to recover.

There is hope in Christ!
Can this scenario happen again?  In reading from Matthew 24, we see startling comparisons.  War, famine, and desperation were the key ingredients that led to World War II.  Many Christian people before and during WWII felt that Hitler was the Anti-Christ.  As it turns out, he was not.  This raises the question, if he was not the Anti-Christ, then who will the Anti-Christ be?  In reading the Bible’s description of the end times, we can now see many shocking similarities to the 1930s and 1940s. 

In Christ, we bear much fruit.
Due to the Marshall Plan developed by the U.S. after WWII, we were able to assist Germany and Japan into rebuilding their countries.  Unlike after WWI with the Versailles Treaty, vendettas were not used, but instead, we offered a helping hand through money and manpower to these countries in their recovery process.   It appears though that during the end times, no country will come to the aide of desperate non-christians, accept one, and that will be Satan.  Christ says that due to the wickedness in the world, love will grow cold.  Will this then be another sign, that is, the prelude to Satan’s return? Christ speaks more of this as he narrates the events leading up to his second coming in Matthew.

I will continue with this in my next blog post.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Preparing for the Change of Seasons

Since the hummingbird cannot get to the feeder due to the bees, it finds food in Anne's flowers.
Today our family awoke to bright fog encircling our home and the surrounding area.  We now notice that the temperatures are cooling in the mornings and early evenings, another transition to fall. 

Winona in three weeks.
In driving around the area last night, we saw the first signs of fall by noticing the poplar, cottonwood and maple trees, all beginning to turn. 
The birds now are starting to group up, which is another sign of the changing of the seasons.  Out on the golf course, early in the morning I see that the geese are starting to gather in larger groups as well.  They seem to be saying to one another with all their chatter, “fall is here, fall is here, we must get ready, we must get ready!” 

Now with fewer flowers in the area, the hummingbirds are frequenting our two feeders more, and they find themselves competing with the honeybees for the sugar water that we set aside for them.  The bees on the other hand, are claiming the feeders by buzzing after the hummingbirds in a race for what they think is a limited amount of sugar. 

Pears ready to harvest.
Looking up from our porch I see that we now have apples and pears dropping from the trees, and that in it self signals that today is canning and freezing day for them.  The deer are very much like the bees and hummingbirds, all three are eating the dropped pears and apples, and soon they will be pulling them down from our nearby trees.  The crows in our woods are also more active in their search for food lately.  Their young are grown and are now learning to be a part of their larger group (Storytelling of Crows)  In looking up in the sky above me, I see that they are competing with our neighbors, the Red Tailed Hawks for carrion.  Glancing down to the shrubs nearby I notice also the chickadees are chattering more than usual.  They also seemed to be saying that, “We must get the remaining bugs off the trees, winter is coming, winter is coming!” 
In looking down in the grass I see Toby our cat, she sits looking for her friend the chipmunk.  (Chippy) as we call it, has not been around the last several days.  Toby seems to sense me looking at her and she looks up at me, somehow I sense that she too is wondering where her friend is.  I tell her that chippy must be gathering nuts for the long winter ahead and doesn’t have time right now to visit.  She then turns away after my explanation and I can see that she longs for something to chase. 

Competing for food.
Lately we have had a visiting calico cat by our porch and woodpile.  Yesterday Abby looked out the window and could see it perched there looking for mice.  The visitor looked up at us and meowed several times and it seemed to be saying, “Perhaps you might have a morsel of food for a cute kitty like myself?”  We melt and the next thing we know we are laying out food for the stray and it is gone within the hour.  We did this the other day while Toby our cat was outside, and she quickly and cautiously went over to the visiting cats food and devoured it.  Toby seemed to be saying, “This is my food, and so I will eat it, not that interloper!” 

This is another day at the Thurmer house and we love being around nature and all of its splendor and mystery.  Our children are learning to live with nature and in harmony with its diversity.  We feel blessed by God to be able to live alongside his wonderful creation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being an Example for Our Children

When darkness enters our life, we know that God is holding our hand.
This morning I read in the Bible from the book of Matthew, chapter 17.  In the account of Matthew, he records the events of Peter, James and John going with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration. 

God's presence is all around us.
I don’t believe any of the three disciples knew what was going to transpire when first climbing up the mountain.  When Moses and Elijah first appeared, and began talking to Jesus, all three began to shine as bright as the sun, and it startled the apostles.  In Peter’s haste, he tried to interrupt Jesus’ talk with Moses and Elijah.  Peter wanted to tell Jesus that he would build shelters for the three of them.  God then appeared in a cloud and spoke to Peter, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  In the beginning, with Peter’s nervousness he spoke without thinking first, he was too excited to reason things out.  God then gently asked him to be still and listen to Jesus.  God was redirecting Peter’s thoughts to something that was constructive.  Also, God did not leave the disciples alone in their fear, he sent his son to comfort them.  The next thing they experienced, while being fearful, was that of a gentle touch of Jesus’ hand on their shoulders.  Jesus was telling them not to be afraid.  He was expressing his love for them by taking away their fear. They trusted Jesus because each of them knew that he cared for the disciples very much. 

Many times as a principal, I have observed how the experienced teacher works well with their children in their classroom.  At times, I ‘ve seen students coming into a classroom from recess or Physical Education class; they were all excited and restless.  The experienced teacher at that time, instead of telling the class to be quiet,  redirected their students to a focused task right away upon entering the classroom.  This teacher was wise in that she/he was channeling their energy towards a productive task that yielded rewards for the individual student.  On the other hand, the inexperienced teacher tries to quell the student’s excess energy by telling them to be quiet, and eventually raising their voice to the pitch of the students themselves.  When this is done, that teacher has lost control and reverts to ultimatums; this puts the students in an adversarial position with the teacher.  After that, the class activities are carried out with the students in a push-pull relationship with the teacher.  When this occurs, it then becomes difficult, to say the least, in teaching the children the knowledge that the instructor wants to convey.   

He comforts us and gives us hope.
Jesus, instead of telling the disciples to be quiet next time and listen to what was being said, did just the opposite.  He let the disciples know that he cared for them and spoke gently to each of them as a friend.  Jesus was their teacher, and the disciples respected him and felt safe with Jesus.  The disciples knew that Jesus was there to help them to learn more about God.  If Jesus had been angry with his disciples and shouted at them, a wall would have gone up between the disciples and himself.  Jesus knew that in establishing a loving relationship with his disciples, he wanted to form a bond that would help them through the most difficult of circumstances, even when Jesus was gone. 

I have seen many times when children are struggling with their parents and/or teacher and this bond between them is severed, they easily become lost to any direction that is given to them.  In establishing love, it is much more than saying “I love you!”  It is in our actions as well.  As parents, we desire that our children not do things such as smoking, but we must first be the example we want for our children to follow.  Seek God today and ask him to reveal any areas in your life that do not meet with the expectations you have for your children. 

Jesus' gentle touch is near.
Jesus was first a good example to his disciples, and he showed them how much he cared for them by being the model he wanted his disciples to follow.   Jesus always thought of his disciples needs.  In wanting the very best for our children, in every aspect of life, is the essence of being a good parent, and for the teacher as well.   

“Lord, teach me your ways today.  Help me to be the example that you would have me to be for the children in my life.”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Experiencing the joy in the little things around us.

Will and Abby's cousin, Nathaniel.

Today we are back to work, but we are now missing our relatives from Texas who stayed with us last week.  Will and Abby spent a lot of time with their son, Nathaniel who is about 2 years old.  He has such a gentle spirit and Nathaniel is very active.  He hops around and runs on his tiptoes whenever he gets the chance.  When getting up in the morning, we have found it was not uncommon to hear him running across our wooden floor above us, at 6 a.m.  Anne then looks over at me in bed and smiles while saying, “Happy feet!”

Small visitor to Anne's flowers.  I almost did not notice it.
Yesterday afternoon there were many tears shed by the whole family when Stephen, Gayle and Nathaniel left.  Soon after they were gone, we decided to go to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and visit Barnes and Nobles, along with several other stores.   Grandpa and Grandma came with to lessen the loss of family leaving.  My wife Anne, and her siblings were home schooled, and so they have grown very close over the years, which makes it very hard for any of them to be far apart.  It is nice to see this closeness, which was so foreign to me at first. 

Grandpa and Will at Winona Lake Park Car Show

In speaking of a close family, I recall that Anne’s grandfather was a traveling evangelist when Anne was a girl growing up.  Ron (grandpa) would travel from church to church across Canada and the northern U.S. in a S.U.V. with his wife Marge.  Many times during the summer, Ron and Marge would take Anne or another sibling along with them while they traveled.  For Anne, it was a wonderful experience being with them and seeing so much of Canada and the U.S. as a little girl.  She met many Christians while traveling with grandpa and grandma, and she learned to live on very little.  One of her fond memories was sharing a pop with grandpa and grandma.  They had one 12 oz. can between the three of them and Anne thought she was in heaven. 

Mother and two daughters.  Marji, Gayle &Anne
Gayle, playing church organ.
Life can be much like sharing a can of pop, that is, if one looks at the event as special and very precious.

All of us can experience the joy of having, rather than looking at the alternative, that is the limited amount available.  I am very blessed to have a wife that does not look at having more to make her happy.  God has blessed us beyond measure with happiness, and we have never gone wanting.  We live among others with many more possessions than we have, but like Anne, we can know that life is not made up of possessions, it is to be appreciated by being happy with what we have, and not what we do not possess.  I am finding that it is in the simple things of life, that I experience many times the most joy.  Take time today in seeing the joy in little things. 

A man or woman might miss what is at their feet, if they are looking too much into the horizon.  God bless you this day in all the discoveries that you make.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Where is your source of happiness?

The beauty of nature is all around us to enjoy.

Today the Earth is being nourished by the falling rains that are helping the crops during their last days of growth before the fall harvest arrives.  God has made the cycle of life consistent with the needs of nature all around us.  He has made animals to control the growth of other species that could possibly dominate the surrounding areas, and possibly create extinction for many other types of wildlife.  Bugs that sometime are annoying to us,  are held in check by birds, dragonflies, bats and other bugs.  These insects are their food source so that other wildlife can live. Yet, these same bugs clean the forest floor, eat decaying wildlife, and plant materials so that we are not knee deep in refuse all around us.  What a master plan our Savior has for our world that even the smallest animal has a purpose.  The interesting thing to see is that all these species are the happiest when they are carrying out their calling.  Anne and I watch hummingbirds fly around us with acrobatics, flying circles, horseshoe loops, chasing each other in a game of tag, all the while drinking the nectar that the flowers of the field provide.  The hummingbird in turn carry’s the pollen from plant to plant allowing our flowers to generate even more flowers. 

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Many times in life we encounter those who are not happy even when they have what seems to be, everything.  What they possess is never enough; the lust for more draws them on in an impossible attempt to find that elusive bird of happiness.  Jesus tells us that contentment is found in our relationship with him.  He is our creator and he has a plan for us, just as he does for the lowly hummingbird.  Once we find Jesus, he will show us what our purpose is and then we will not need “things” to make us happy.  Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (4:12) that he found peace in whatever circumstance he was in.  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Where is your peace and happiness found?  Is it in things, or is it found in your relationship with the creator of all life?