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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Texas Trip

Taken just before leaving for Texas.  Notice that the sap is starting to run.
Today we are visiting Anne’s sister Gayle in Brownsville, Texas.  Everyone is looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine.  Today though, the weather was very rainy and the temperatures struggled to reach 60 degrees.  In spite of the weather, Will and Abby had fun playing in Stephen and Gayle’s home.  Abby is finally not the smallest cousin, Nathanial is.  Abby had fun today, running around pretending to be mama with her 2-year-old cousin, Nathanial. 

Abby and Will at the Texas rest stop.  "Look
Anne, even the Texans celebrate our North Star."
"Don't let any Texans hear you say that my dear!"
Upon our arrival at the (national chain) motel where we were staying we would experience several different occurrences that were out of the normal for us.   It was interesting in that our Internet went down upon arriving.  Anne and I were told by some around us, that it was the wind that caused the problem.  We were hoping that our service would be restored today.  In talking to maintenance, they said there was a fire last week just above our room, and the water damage done from the fire truck was causing havoc on the cable system, this left us with a very unsettled feeling.  Anne teaches at several online colleges and we need good Internet service so she can teach her classes.  Later that night our concerns took flight, and we heard fire alarms going off in our motel around 1 a.m.  Evidently, someone had pulled the alarm, whether by mistake or on purpose, we were never to find out.  Fortunately, our van was next to the fire exit and we were able to get into it and escape the rain. In spite of the problems, it has been nice to meet new people and be with Anne’s family. 

Cousin Nathaniel and Abby playing on the computer.
During our struggles with not having Internet use, I met the head of maintenance.  Joe was his name, and he was very helpful and kind.  As I talked with Joe, we shared with him that we were from Minnesota.  He told me that he had lived and worked in St. James, Minnesota a few years earlier.  Joe said that because of family health problems here in Brownsville, he felt the need to be close to them here in Texas.  I told him that I was the principal at the Middle School in St. James a few years ago.  As it turned out, he lived there around the same time that I did.  All in all, Joe was a very kind man who was very helpful when assisting us in getting our TV working and our bed moved in our room.  The people here are very kind and Mexican food is very good.  Also, eating my brother-in-law’s cuisine is the highlight of the trip today.  I have to say that he is a very good cook, and Gayle, his wife, made us feel very welcome.

Uncle Stephen and Will play Civilization on the computer.
Will, Abby, and Anne at the Alamo.
When driving to Texas, it was interesting to note the change of seasons as we traveled further and further south.  It was as if we were traveling ahead in time.  The grass started to get greener and the buds came out on the trees.  I also noticed the animal species on the side of the road was changing as well.  Yesterday when about 100 miles from Brownsville, I noticed a dead wild pig lying on the side of the road.  Skunks were in abundance as well, though judging by their smell, it was hard to know if they were dead or not.  Down here it is not uncommon to see Armadillos walking across the roads and sidewalks as well.  Being this is the wet season, their Resaca’s are full of water.  It is not uncommon for people living near them to keep their pets on leashes due to alligators in the Resaca’s.  Life here is very different for us, but it is not dull by any means.  We have found that the people here are very friendly and helpful.  People are very courteous and thoughtful.  A Hispanic man came into the restaurant with his wife, at the time he arrived, I was throwing away our table waste by the door; this gentleman opened the garbage door for me while his kind wife waited for him nearby.  This man wore a Vietnam veteran hat and I could see that he was very proud of his time in the military.  I noticed in the different restaurants we attended that many Hispanic families truly cherish their children.  They laugh with them and include the children (no matter there size) in all their conversations.  My father in law said that when he lived and taught here in the area, it was not uncommon for a business deal between executives to be based first in getting to know one another and their families first, before concluding a deal.  This was considered more important than the business transaction itself.  I was impressed by this way of doing business.  Over all, I am learning the remarkable ways of a culture much different than my own, and that is very good. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

His Still Gentle Voice

Abby mini-golfing at Lark Toys near Wabasha, Mn.
Tonight when I had just got the children ready for bed, my little 6-year-old daughter came up to Anne and myself with a big smile on her face.  “Daddy and Mommy, I told William that my heart was sad, and he said that I needed to ask God into my heart and to ask him to forgive me of my sins.  We prayed and now my heart is not sad anymore.” 

Anne looks over at me after Abby had left and shared that Abby had talked to her the other night about a sad heart.  This made me think recently of when Abby had also addressed me with the same concern, just before going to bed.  At that time, I remember I had reminded her of the many fun things that we did during the day, and that she should not feel sad, but happy.  As parents, we had individually examined the possible reasons for her sadness and were a little perplexed.  Her life each day was filled with joy in the things that she said and did.  She expressed little unhappiness during these events in her active world.  I remember telling her that being tired at the end of the day sometimes made me sad, and that was a sign that I needed sleep.  I also related that upon waking in the morning I was much happier. 

Blowing bubbles.
Abby would sing and run about with such a joy within her, that it perplexed us as to why she would come and share with us that she was sad.  As her parents, it did not occur to us that it was a deep-seated need, on her part to ask God to fill her heart with love and forgiveness.  Anne said, “ It took God using our son to help Abby in finding her way out of her sadness.”  She was right in her thoughts of course.  For myself, I was thinking that Abby had no reason for being unhappy.  It did not occur to me to pray with her and ask for God’s leading concerning this issue.  It was out of the mouth and faith of a 9-year-old boy that taught his parents, that Christ does in fact have the answers to all of our needs. 

As adults, we are constantly bombarded with decisions that we must make for our children throughout each day.  I know that God has given us fine minds to reason out the logical course that we must take, that is, in making many of these choices for our children, and for ourselves.  But, the balance though is shadowy at times in knowing when to give the decision over to God for him to make, or us to make those choices ourselves.  

Will quietly observing the rapid waters going by.
I am just now beginning to see that this balance should not be that difficult, all it means is that we must learn to have listening hearts.  Elijah, a great prophet, was hiding out in a mountain because he possessed great fear of those that desired to kill him.  It was then that God commanded Elijah to come out of the cave, as he was about to pass by.  In the following events that were to take place, Elijah learned how to listen to God, even when being in great distress.  What happened next revealed to Elijah that he needed to find God not in outer circumstances, but with a listening heart.  A powerful wind had passed by Elijah, and then there was a great earthquake that followed.  When these things had transpired, there began a raging fire that followed.  (Now if I were Elijah during those moments, I would most certainly have developed very weak knees and my hair probably would have turned white with horror.)  Yet the Bible goes on to relate that God was not in any of them.  When, I imagine Elijah’s heart had calmed down, he was then able to hear a gentle whisper, and he knew that it was the voice of God speaking to him.  (1 Kings 19:11 &13)
Gentle Mountain Bluebird in the strong wind.

Do we let the events of the day block out God’s voice speaking to us?  We need to find a hiding place and listen to God’s still voice.  Jesus stands at the door of our hearts through out the day, and he gently knocks and waits for us to let him in.  (Rev. 3:20) He wants to be involved in our day, in all things that are important to each of us.  He desires to be a part of each of our lives and the decisions that we make through out the day.  We need to take time, be still, and listen for his voice.  He patiently waits for each of us to hear his voice.

Abby playing hero coming to the rescue.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Squirrels and God's Plan For Us

Today the sun rose and the sky was clear all day.  Living in Minnesota, we have around 40% of the winter days shrouded in clouds.  Although the cloudy days usually bring the warmer weather, they sometimes bring with them a sort of mental and emotional depression over extended periods of time.  I believe the clinical terminology is “Seasonal Depression.”  I recall telling Anne this morning on the way to church, “I would rather have cold weather with sunshine, than cloudy days with warmer weather. 

Winter not only brings the cold and snow, it also brings with it other challenges that are to be expected for those living in the North Country.  One look at our roads tells us that the cold temperatures take a toll on them as well.  As the asphalt cools and freezes, and then it contracts, cracks appear where they are separated into sections.  When the cracks form, they allow moisture to seep in, and eventually the water freezes and causes the road surface to push apart even more.  Living in the Mississippi River Valley, we constantly drive by large and steep cliffs that have warning signs of falling rocks overhead.  There again, the water does its work by separating large chunks of stone that eventually break loose and tumble down the hillside, sometimes even on to the roads.  This usually occurs most frequently in the early spring, when there are extreme temperature differences during the day and night.  I have seen boulders the size of cars laying near the edge of the road that have broken loose.  I recall the day I swerved to miss a basketball size rock on the road that had fallen from a 300-foot cliff. 

Now, I have mentioned some of the darker sides of winter, but there is a brighter aspect to it as well.  During the winter, the soil gets a chance to rest, sleep and replenish itself.  The upper surface freezes, but lower in the earth, it stays around 54 degrees, pretty much all year long.  Animals that hibernate, many times dig down to these levels to keep warm, and they are given a chance to rest during the harshest periods of winter.  God has designed their bodies in such a  way that they can automatically lower their internal thermostats, which means that they consume less energy for survival. 

Some species sleep throughout the winter, while others like the squirrel and chipmunk awaken on warmer winter days to harvest the food caches that they have put away.  The squirrels many times bury their nuts just below the surface of the ground, and when a winter thaw arrives, they dig with delight in the attempt to find the nuts that they buried.  They usually find enough to survive, but as in all things, God allows for a balance of nature to exist.  The squirrel is born with a poor memory.  They cannot remember where they have buried all their nuts.  The unique result is, these lost nuts in turn allow for a new tree to sprout in the spring, courtesy of the squirrels in the area.  The new trees eventually produce more nuts at a later time in their growth, this in turn provides the food for generations of squirrels to come.  And so, as I have said, in God’s plan they are fed, but some would call it a poor design (forgetting) in their makeup.  But to our eternal father, (God) this path allows for the survival of a species.  The delicate balance is maintained, and the food supplied allows for life to take place even in the harshest of climates.

This little squirrel not only provides for itself, by having a poor memory, it gives life to many forest animals as well.  For instance, the deer harvest the acorn in the early fall.  It is one of their most favorite foods.  It has an abundance of energy within each acorn that provides for the fat buildup that is needed for the long winter ahead.  As one learns more about nature, we can see how God’s master plan is revealed.  Like that of our wildlife, God too has a plan for each of us.  He desires to take care and provide for us the needed things in life that will make us contented and happy.  This is not always, what we think is the key to that formula. 

I encourage you to seek God today, and ask him what his plan is for you.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for each of us, a plan that will prosper and not harm us, a plan to give us hope and a future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kelly, Our Furry Friend

Kelly, nothing more can be said.  The picture says it all.

During our evening meal (supper) we have Anne’s folks over at times, and we enjoy the varied topics of conversation that we have during the course of the evening meals.  The issues we discuss vary from new dresses to that of our current political climate.  It is not unusual during these conversations to have our two cats (Toby & Kelly) move in and out between our legs during the course of the meal.  As a cat, Toby is not really interested in the conversations as much as she is in what we are eating, especially when we are enjoying food such as fish.  Kelly, our youngest cat, is a calico and has been known to have very queer habits.  For instance, during the meal, Kelly likes to jump up on the back of the cloth chairs that are already occupied.  She lies on the top of the chair and watches each of us eating with great interest.  It almost seems that she is following each word that we discuss with one another.  When someone else strikes up a new topic, Kelly jumps down and leaps on to the back of that person’s chair and seems to listen with great interest.

 I remember reading about James Herriot’s cat that liked to visit different social events.  It would perch on a shelf, chair, or table and watch people interacting.  At irregular times it would take off from the Herriot’s residence and disappear for several hours, or days at a time leaving its owners wondering where it had gone.  I believe Herriot called it, “The Cat About Town.”  This story is a favorite of my children.  Like James Herriot’s cat, Kelly likes to be around people, whether it be with our family or with others in the neighborhood.  Kelly makes her rounds when the weather is fair, but she seems to stay near the house when it is cold and snowing.   Both cats came to us as strays, as with many stray cats, they chose their owners and not the other way around.  Consequently both Kelly and Toby are indoor/outdoor cats. 

Will putting a new Lego together.
We have a meadow that has many mice and chipmunks for them to catch, and they consistently show their prowess by dropping their prey off at Anne’s feet, while we are having morning coffee together on the porch.  Sometimes to Anne’s chagrin, the critters that are caught by our cats are still alive, and at times, they think that Anne’s legs are sent by providence for them to climb.  During these moments when watching this take place, I am amazed at how fast Anne can move.  Her legs quickly retract into her soft cushioned chair, all the while there are two befuddled and confused creatures looking at her from the floor, the mouse and the cat.

Abby got her new Laura Ingall's dress.
Kelly, most days will find a comfortable lap wherever she can.  It is not unusual to see her lying on Anne near her neck; that is while Anne is typing away on the couch, preparing her online college classes that she teaches.  When Kelly is not with Anne, she can be found with Will, our 9 year old son or our 6-year-old daughter, Abby.  At times, it is not unusual to see Kelly literally hanging over Will’s shoulder as he walks by.  Kelly finds that our children are an unlimited source of entertainment.  It is not unusual to discover when Anne and I are going to bed, a rattling sound coming from the downstairs’ steps.  I listen as I hear a Lego sliding across the living room and then tapping down each step on their way to the bottom.  I get up and turn on the lights and see that Kelly is half way down the steps, batting with her paws a single Lego piece of Wills.  At times, I have seen Will putting together a new Lego toy, and both he and I have been astounded at how fast Kelly can be.  She jumps on the table, grabs a Lego and quickly runs away, with a young boy usually in hot pursuit.  I joke with Will telling him that Kelly enjoys the Legos as much as he does.  During those times though, Will finds little solace in my humor.  All in all Will is very patient with his little kitty.  He runs the steps and usually catches up to Kelly before the piece is lost forever in some unknown corner of the middle level.   

It seems that most evenings both of our cats come alive when the lights are turned out.  They wrestle and run after each other, attacking one another in mock battles, that is until one claw or tooth finds its way through their thick fur.  A meow or hiss is given and then the playing continues.  At other times they sound like two miniature horses trotting across our hard wood floors chasing each other.  During much of the day though, we can find each of them grooming themselves or just sleeping.  It is during those times, one of us picks them up and decides the weather is too nice to let pass and puts the felines outside to enjoy the sun.  They give a meow of protest, but when getting outdoors, they discover what they have been missing. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Life Near the Woods

Cardinal waiting his turn for the feeder.

Life Near the Woods

It is very interesting when you get a first hand chance to see the varied wildlife living near our home.  They come out of the woods at different times, and always seem to surprise us in one way or the other.  Just last week we had around 18 wild turkeys strutting around our house, rutting up the ground near our bird feeders, looking for dropped sunflowers seeds.  That is, when they are not flying into the trees, escaping the coyotes who are jumping from the woods looking for a not so holiday feast of turkey.

Wild turkeys coming for a visit.
Cardinals are beautiful birds that arrive at our feeders throughout the day.  In watching them, it is interesting to note that they rotate the sunflower seeds in their beaks, and crack them by forcing down on the sides of the seeds (weakest area.)  It is done very swiftly and neatly.  Though the cardinals are neat when eating, the sparrows on the hand, that come to our feeders, peck away with their beaks, spraying the seeds in every direction.  The difference between the two bird species is interesting to say the least.  Cardinals usually come one at a time, with their mates and other family members waiting their turn for the feeder, by perching on a nearby tree.  If one cardinal takes too long at the table, another will fly next to the gluttoness bird, and force him to take flight to the nearby trees to await his/her turn for another time at the feeder.  On the other hand, the sparrows arrive in packs and decimate the seeds, causing them to fly in every direction; hence we have a number of seeds to feed the squirrels, chipmunks and wild turkeys on the ground.  Both the cardinal and sparrow offer much enjoyment by watching them eat with excitement and apparent joy. 

Morning Dove
Sometimes we have observed strange occurrences with our feathered friends.  It is quite unusual to see different species of birds, all together, at our feeders at one time.  When this happens, everything from the Tufted Tit Mouse, Downey Woodpeckers, Morning Doves, Blue Jay, as well as Nut Hatches to Sparrows and Cardinals are seen, all vying for a place at our feeder.  We then know that a storm is fast approaching and snow will soon arrive.  These birds are given by God, some 6th sense in knowing that with the storm soon arriving; they must build up their fat reserves.  They do this by vigorously eating the sunflower seeds, so that they can huddle down in their nests, and thus being safe, until the storm passes. 

Coyote on the hunt.
This storm phenomenon can also be observed with the deer as well.  They are seen at times eating near our house, digging through snow-covered grass, stripping the bark from the nearby vines, as well as from young trees.  The heavier snowstorms find them huddled down in our thickets, under the cover of thick vine growth or under trees that offer cover such as the pine tree, that have heavy bows sheltering them from the snow.   The male deer (bucks) seem to find protection in high ground that offers them visibility in seeing predators from a great distance.  They know the direction of the wind, and so find cover that offers them visibility to see downwind, while at the same time, their keen sense of smell offers them protection from the upwind direction.  This ability has often foiled attempts by hunters in trying sneak up on them, due to the fact that the hunter’s cologne, aftershave, and/or deodorant has given them away long before they ever get near their prey.  On the other hand, the doe (female) protects itself by gathering in groups.  They lie together and that alone offers them protection by sheer numbers when huddled together. 

God has created such a diverse world of wildlife; it is beyond words in describing his wisdom, when observing his creatures all around us.

Thursday, February 2, 2012



I recall reading about an event that took place shortly after Teddy Roosevelt finished his term as president.  Teddy was coming back from hunting in Africa.  He was bringing back many animals that he had shot to give to science and our museums.  Teddy wanted the people of the United States to enjoy the fast disappearing species from the wilds of Africa by observing them in our museums.  Teddy was a conservationist and he realized that our world was quickly changing.  He wanted people to realize the beauty of their surroundings and the need to be caretakers of it.  It was a noble cause that he ventured out to do.  As many already know, Teddy Roosevelt was a man who, as president started the National Park system.  He wanted to protect our nature by preserving it here in the United States so that all could enjoy its beauty for generations to come. 

Cousin Eric and Abby enjoying the new snow.
When Teddy was entering New York harbor after his long journey overseas, he was met by a throng of reporters and dignitaries.  The wharf was crowded with many people anxious to see what he was bringing back to America, and to praise him for his service to our country.  But, during the ship’s approach to the harbor, there was a quiet couple that stood at the railing of the same ship Teddy was sailing on, watching all that was taking place.  They quietly observed all that was taking place as the ship entered the harbor with New York’s huge skyline in distance.  Just like Teddy Roosevelt, it was very impressive to see.  The wife of this couple happened at that time to look over at her husband.  She wanted to gauge his perspective over all that was taking place.  She noticed that he had a somewhat sad look to his gaze.  When walking down the gangplank after all the reporters and Teddy Roosevelt were gone, the lonely couple noticed that there was no one at the pier to greet them.  They then quietly started toward their destination all while listening to the loneliness of the washing waters against the shoreline.  At that point the wife stopped the husband and looked into his eyes, “What is wrong my husband?”  He looked into the distance with saddened eyes that now were old, while his face reflected all the years of his service to mankind.  “I am downhearted because as you can see, there is no one to greet us.  We have been missionaries all our lives in Africa serving to help mankind.  I look at our president receiving all this fanfare for being over there for only a short time, and yet look, we do not have even one person here to greet us.  There is no one here saying to us, ‘Well done, thank you for all your years of service.’”  The wife holds her husband’s hands, looks into his eyes with a smile.  “My husband, that is because we are not home yet!”

Will and Eric
Though perhaps your acts of love and kindness may never gain the recognition of the public’s eye, one person is watching you with loving eyes.  He will one day say to you as you enter his kingdom, “Well done my good and faithful servant!”   (Mathew 25:23)