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, June 29, 2012

Something to Crow About

Visitor to our meadow.
The last several days have brought with it the heat and humidity that is usually found only in July and August.  Living here in Minnesota allows one to be spoiled when we have a Canadian summer, as we call it around here.  That is when the temps. are around 70 degrees (F.) and the humidity is in the 30-40% area.  Oh well, one adjusts to the weather since it cannot be the other way around. 

(Jack Frost) Kids have given him this name.  He
visits us at the feeder by our bedroom deck.
It has been nice outside lately, like this morning when awaking. Our temperatures were around 59 degrees, mostly because we live next to the forest.  The woods act like a natural air conditioner allowing cool area to drop down to lower areas where our house is located.  On the other hand, we have to raise crops in our gardens that must acclimate to the cooler temperatures, and less sunlight due to the trees and 600 plus foot bluffs surrounding our homes.  We do not have the sunlight as much as they that live on the prairie above us have, but most people do not complain due to the tradeoff of cooler mornings and evenings in the summer, and shelter from the snowstorms in the winter. 

Along with the trees and wildflowers comes also the added benefit of the wildlife around our home.  Although the occasional skunk makes an appearance, all in all we have pretty nice animal neighbors.  Once in awhile though, we do get an unexpected guest around our house, or should I say, “on” our house.  When we were building our home, I always had the dream of having a skylight window above my bed.  I wanted to be able to see the stars when lying on my pillow at night.  So, consequently I put a skylight over where Anne and I were to have our bed.  Now I get to watch the stars at night and enjoy the pitter-patter sounds of raindrops above my head as well.  This has brought much enjoyment for me when lying in bed either in the evening, or that of waking up, to see the beautiful blue sky above my head, (with no mosquitoes.) 

A fairy visiting our meadow.
This enjoyment of having the luxury of a skylight is special for me since I grew up in a basement bedroom.  There are not always enjoyable aspects of having a skylight though.  In the winter the snow accumulates on the glass overhead, and so enjoying the view is very minimal.  At other times, there is excess condensation that drips from the glass above; consequently I then have my artificial rainstorm right over my face.  Times like this are a strong message to self to turn on the air conditioning.   Although there are drawbacks at times, overall I cannot complain. 

Making a new friend.
A couple of days ago, I heard the tap, tap, tapping on glass.  It confused me since I thought some child had been left on the deck and was locked out, (like a dad I know of who has a diligent little girl who was taught to lock the sliding glass door when going inside, sometimes forgetting that dad is still sitting on the deck enjoying the sunlight.)  One day I got acquainted with my two year old nephew for over an hour.  He lived next door, and who consequently was supposed to be sleeping, but instead, he thought it wonderful to watch his uncle through his glass deck door.  My nephew thought it great that his uncle would want to spend time with him, making faces as well having his uncle waving his arms that made him look so silly.  I digress; anyway I searched for the tapping sounds and found that they were not coming from our deck doors.  I frantically looked at the living room windows and second level windows and found nothing.  When thinking that I would give up, my children were heard laughing from the vicinity of our bedroom.  I went to investigate the reason for all the joyful banter.  I rushed into the room with both Abby and Will looking up at the skylight watching a very large crow walking across the window, tapping his beak on the glass.  It seems that it chose to eat his bug meal at this spot.  He could now eat, and have a show of humans watching him consume his delicacies at the same time.  I believe this crow was enjoying our company as much as we were his.  The strange thing was, that even after his meal was consumed, he still tapped away on the glass.  I imagine his actions brought a curious reaction from these strange humans that amused him.  That said, the scenario was quite funny.  One more reason I am glad that we put in the skylight.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Call of Nature

Seeing wonders of nature.
The other day our family was out at one of our many parks in the Winona area.  Located in the middle of the park was a beautiful little lake with a walking and bike path surrounding it. We brought the scooters along for the kids to ride with us, while Anne and I walked the paths around the park at the same time.  We had gone around one end of the lake, and then we headed back towards the children’s play area, but the kids wanted to go through the floating walkway in the middle of the swamp first.  While going through the slough area, in the past, we have seen turtles, frogs and various wildlife and fauna that would otherwise have been missed when taking the easier route near the lake.  Did I include mosquitos; they were there as well.
Wishing they had brought swim suits.
We were having so much fun walking with nature that we decided to hike to the other end of the park as well.  When reaching the far side of the lake, Will looked at me and said, “Daddy, I really have to go to the bathroom!”  I knew from experience that when he says that, he was in dyer straits.  In fully understanding the urgency of the situation, I became desperate in wondering how we were going to make it to the bathroom, on the other side of the park in time.  I knew I could not run fast enough on foot with Will, that is while he speeded along with his scooter to the public bathroom, which was about 3/8s of a mile away.  Once in awhile though, inspiration sparks its light on me while in desperate moments.  Anne seemed to know what I was thinking, we both ran up to Abby on her scooter and Anne looked over at her and said, “Daddy needs your scooter sweetheart.  Do you want to walk back with me?”  I didn’t wait for Abby’s response; I just grabbed her scooter and with great effort, caught up with Will already heading to the bathrooms. 

Keeping up!
In looking back, it must have appeared rather strange to bystanders walking by, me buzzing along with one leg pushing a little Barbie scooter, while my other leg was desperately trying to balance my body while traveling at close to what seemed like light speed. In the process while trying to balance myself, I glanced down and the scooter plate sign read:  Do not exceed 50 pounds weight on this scooter.  Boy was I pushing the limits of technology!  I am really not sure how I ended up at the public restroom without crashing into some inanimate object, or bystander watching me speed past them. 
When Will and I arrived at the public restroom, I grabbed Will and Abby’s scooter while saying to Will, “You go into the bathroom, I will hold on to the scooters.”  He looked at me squirming and dancing and said, “Daddy, I want you to come in with me.”  I could see that the bathroom was large and he was nervous about being alone in there.  I didn’t think there would be time for a lengthy dissertation on being brave, so I hurriedly went in with him.  Grabbing the two scooters, I opened the door wildly, all the while having the scooters swinging back and forth out of control.  Upon entering the room, I noticed a gentleman drying his hands.  He looked up and opened his mouth in bewilderment; he then stared down at the two scooters swinging dangerously close to him.  I had not expected to see anyone near the door upon entering the bathroom, so I abruptly stopped and we stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity.  I could just imagine what he might be thinking, “A grown man with a pink and red scooters, not only is he too old to ride these kids toys, this strange person is bringing them into the bathroom as well, what is going on here?”  I had to say, I was rather embarrassed during this very awkward moment.  I then realized that this was not the time to be self-absorbed.  I quickly encouraged Will to find a bathroom stall and he proceeded at a run with his urgent needs. 
 As we were leaving the restroom, I realized my pulse rate was becoming near normal again, and my blood pressure was out of the critical zone at that point.  I then proceeded to assist Will out the door, but not before almost running into another gentleman coming in.  He too stared at the scooters in my hand, and then proceeded quickly on past, hoping I would not talk to him.  I looked back and I could see him surveying the bathroom for tracks on the floor, and possible damage to the rest of the facility before proceeding on to greater things. 

All in all, disaster was averted and though my ego was somewhat bruised, I felt rather good about saving the day for Will.  Children are a treasure, they are found in blue jeans, tee shirts, little dresses and wonder.
Enjoying the wildflowers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Children are always surprising us adults.

Anne left daily fun projects for our children while she was gone.  Will is excited about
his latchhook project.  
Children are always surprising us, and that is not always a bad thing.  Last week while Anne was in Kentucky, both of our children were sitting on either side of me in church.  During the service we have a children’s offering for specific missionaries.  The children are asked to come to the front and put their coins in little tin containers, or piggy banks while the congregation sings a hymn.  Well, this Sunday proved to be a little different, in that I was pressed to get the kids ready for church all by myself, and I forgot to get the missionary offering before we left the house.

When the portion of the service started for the children’s missionary offering to begin, our kids looked at me blankly, and I could see in their expressions, they were wondering where their offering money was.  I shook my shoulders and apologized and told them that I forgot.  Will then sadly looked at me and asked if he could go up front and help the little kids put their offering into the piggy banks.  I told him he could do so, and before I could get Abby to stay, she dutifully tagged along with Will.  There are times when challenging moments come into play in life, and this was going to be one of those instances.  Instead of Will going to the front of the church to help the little kids, he starting asking members of the congregation if they would like to donate money to the missionary offering.  It was during this time that I saw Abby dutifully standing by Will as his support in his new quest.  She did not know what Will was doing, but she was bound to help regardless. 
Abby enjoying swimming with her brother.

Meanwhile, in the back, I was the dad trying desperately to flag his son down, that is, when I noticed what he was doing.  Afterwards in what seemed like an eternity, I got his attention and he came back to the pew, confused as to why he was being recalled.  Half smiling, and half embarrassed, I whispered to him that it was not appropriate to raise an offering that way.  He looked a little confused, so I went on to say to Will that people have to give because they desire to do so, not because someone asks them individually to make an offering.  He then began to understand what I was telling him.  After a few moments my heart began to calm down, and I then patted Will gently on the shoulder, letting him know that I loved him very much.  I marvel in how kids always find a way to surprise one, especially when you least expect it. 

Later, in talking to a friend in the church about the situation that had transpired with Will, I observed her thoughtfully look over where he had been sitting, and she paused in her thought, and then smiled at me.  She then resumed in the conversation with what appeared to be her thinking out loud, “I wonder what kind of man he will turn out to be?”  This very kind lady really has a soft spot in her heart for Will, so I took her comments to be that of a positive nature.  Her words have since made me think of Will’s future as well.

Evening view from our deck.  Missing Anne as I took
time out to relax after the kids were in bed.
This week in church I had the joy of having Anne at my side.  She got back only just yesterday from Kentucky.   I picked her up from the airport in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with the children and I being so exited about her return.  She got to her flight in Louisville, Kentucky airport just minutes before they administered delays.  Many individuals were missing their flights due to security measures being instituted, along with a severe storm that was hitting just after Anne took off with her flight.  God’s hand was answering our prayers that allowed her to get back home safe. 

During the course of the service today, I found myself so happy that my family was all sitting in the pew and that we were all together again.  After a few moments, my thoughts were broken up when a parishioner came by and dropped four dollars in my children’s laps.  Then, before I could fathom what had just transpired, another person walked by and dropped a number of coins in their laps as well.  At that moment I was in total amazement, “What was going on?”  Then more money was handed down from the far side of the pew to our kids, and by then it dawned on me what was happening.  Last week, many of the church’s perishioners saw Will asking for money for the missionary offering, and so they wanted to be sure that he and Abby had money to give to the missionary fund today.  I smiled to myself, and for a moment, it was fun watching Anne being totally confused, (like myself earlier) as to what was transpiring.  I then took time to explain to her what had happened last weekend with Will.  After fathoming our son’s efforts to raise money for this particular missionary, Anne just gently smiled and then softly drew our two children closer to her side.  I sat there in the pew, and accepted how wonderfully God chose to work through a little boy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Unwanted Guest

When looking in on Abby, I noticed that she had taken good care of her babies.  "Having
them near me daddy helps me to go to sleep!"  She will make a wonderful mommy.

Every evening we have a ritual in preparations for getting our son and daughter to bed.  The first thing we do is to get them into pajamas, and then get their teeth brushed.  Next I fill water bottles and it is time for a bedtime story.  Lately we have been reading from the Little House on the Prairie series with Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The children love hearing about her life since she grew up just north of us in the “The Big Woods” as well as near by where I grew up in Southwestern Minnesota in the town of Walnut Groove.

The kids look forward to our story time each evening and that is what encourages them to get ready for bed so quickly.  A couple of days ago, the events of our routine would change though.  While the kids were brushing their teeth, I took the opportunity to start filling the birdfeeders outside our windows, those that are facing our meadow.  I noticed a red-breasted grosbeak was on one of the feeders, and the feed was running low so I used this opportunity to get this chore done.  Each time that I fill the feeders, I have to reach out of the windows and pull them towards me.  This evening though, was going to be no different, but with one exception, I looked over at the other feeder, glanced down at the ground below it and spotted a skunk eating the sunflower seeds that had dropped from the feeder above. 

Our tuxedo cat, Toby.
My first reaction was to jump back since the targeting area on the skunk was facing me.  I quickly cranked the window back in to avoid any bad smells from hitting the window and ricocheting onto me and into the living room.  My mind raced back a few months prior to the time when one of our cats got sprayed, probably by the same skunk.  Anne and I had the dickens of a time cleaning it with soap and hydrogen peroxide, and vigorous showering.  The last thing I wanted to do was to go through a repeat performance, but now it might be with myself instead of the cat. 

During my rapid retreat into the safety of the living room, a thought came to mind as to how I could convince our smelly friend to leave, and perhaps not come back ever again.  I went to the sink where I had a large pot of lukewarm soapy water soaking, (I was trying release some sticky noodles off the pot.)  I reached for it and ran to the window directly over Daisy Mae (what we call the skunk).  I cranked open the window just enough to release several gallons of warm soapy water.  I could hardly hold on to the big pan since I was laughing so hard.  Our home is on a steep sloop and the ground is a good ten feet down from the window.  I figured it would be hard for our little friend to get his/her aiming devise straight up in the air while trying to miss the deluge of soapy water at the same time.  My children were in the background watching the whole scenario (toothbrushes in their mouths) with questions I imagine about my sanity.  After a few seconds I got the courage to look out another window further up from the bath site.  Our unwanted friend was gone and only a pool of suds was left where it had been.  I looked up at my children, and thought at that time, that it was appropriate for an explanation as to their dad’s maniacal behavior.  After explaining as to what had just transpired, I next saw them roll with laughter.  They knew how hard it been for our family the last time we dealt with Daisy Mae (as we call her.)

We get many visitors that pass by our home, (most are welcome) here twins discover Will and Abby's sandpile.
Both our daughter Abby and my wife Anne have had encounters with the skunk before.  Abby was sitting on the porch after supper and Anne was coming back from a walk when she encountered the skunk near our doorstep.  It was almost dark when Anne saw the skunk and almost mistook it for our tuxedo cat.  She was about to approach it, and pet the skunk when she realized the precarious situation she found herself in.  Both wife and skunk retreated full speed in opposite directions.  Abby several days earlier, was sitting on the porch when the skunk came by her.   Our little 6-year-old pumpkin was pretty scared and started to scream.  The skunk hearing Abby screaming retreated into the forest very quickly at that point.  Tonight though, only one thing was running away with great speed, and that was a very clean little skunk, albeit very wet. 

Anne is gone this week grading Advance Placement exams in Kentucky, so when telling her about the incident over the phone, she laughed very heartily over what had just taken place.  Hopefully our little visitor will never return again, unless of course by being cleaned up, it found making friends with other animals much easier now, and of course it wants another bath.  I don’t imagine though that will be the case.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Toothaches and Trusting God

Will is a gentle soul that cares about others when they are hurting.
Last night before going to bed I found myself very tired and ready to hit the hay, just after getting our children in their beds.  I needed to do a number of household chores first though.  Anne is gone all week grading College Advance Placement exams in Kentucky, so I am alone with the kids holding the fort down.  

Towards the end of the evening, our son Will came up to me and mentioned that he had an aching tooth.  (His filling had fallen out a few days before and we are now waiting for his scheduled appointment to get a filling put back in.)  I was very tired and it was late, but I felt so bad for him in his pain.  He had a headache earlier so I gave him ibuprofen and now the acetaminophen was my only option for his toothache.  So, I tried that with some Orajel, and he went back to bed.  A few minutes later, he came back up and said that he was still in great pain.  His tooth was again aching and I could see that he was on the verge of tears (which is unusual for him).   I told him that I had done everything I could think of, and then a thought came to my mind.  I hadn’t prayed with him.  We both then prayed and asked God to relieve him of his pain.  After praying, he went back to bed again, and about 15 minutes later he came back to me and said the pain was much worse.  I thought to myself at that point, “Why Lord did you not heal my son?  He is in such pain.  Was it that I did not have enough faith?  Why Lord?” 

Will enjoying life.
I looked at Will and told him that I didn't  know what else I could do.  I thought maybe I could perhaps find some Orajel that was bought more recently, and that perhaps would work better.  I then looked below the sink, desperate to find a solution to his pain.  While searching, I noticed that my overnight bag for toilet supplies was all wet sitting there under the sink.  After looking up under the sink, I could see that water was dripping from the faucet above.  It was coming at a steady stream.  First I thought, “Great, not this too!”  On top of the leaky sink, I did not find the Orajel, and I was feeling pretty low and desperate.  “Now I have another thing to fix.”  I was not being empathetic to my son’s pain at this point as I should have been.  I looked over at Will and I apologized for my selfishness.  Being Will, he causally said in his soft voice, “That’s ok daddy, I am sorry that you have to fix the sink! I will help you with this.”  This made me think, “How did I get such a wonderful son?  I am surely not deserving of such a boy who is so thoughtful in the midst of so much pain.  At that moment, I was learning from my child about selflessness.  I smiled at him, and then it dawned on me, if it hadn’t been for his continued pain after praying, I would never have noticed the leak under the sink, and that could have cost us a lot in damages to repair.  (Our neighbor just had eight thousand dollars worth of damages in having both a new dishwasher and new refrigerator water dispenser leak while they were on vacation. 

Will and Abby making the most out of a hot day.
After further thought, I came to see that God was allowing the toothache to worsen, even after our prayer, in order for me to find this leak under the sink.  I then started to fix the damaged faucet when Will looked up at me and said, “Daddy, my pain is gone now!”  He had a smile on his face and I could see God’s hand in all that had just transpired.  God wanted me to find the damaged faucet, and by allowing Will’s pain to increase, I then could find the leak under our sink when looking for the Orajel.  He was also teaching me about trust issues with him, and that of letting go, and showing me that sometimes I need to let him take control of the situation.  God is so good and I am very glad that he is so patient with me. 
"I know that it is hot, but do we want to go into an ice cold trout stream?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cat and Mouse, or should I say, chipmunk.

No amount of words can describe this scene.

In many instances around our home, my camera is not to far away from me.  There is always something interesting taking place in one form or another in or around our house, one such occurrence happened yesterday.  It took place by our front garden.  Anne and I were having coffee on the front porch, all the while witnessing a strange event; as we were talking, a chipmunk came running past at full speed.  Soon, our cat Kelly came charging past in hot pursuit.   We then watched the chipmunk run into what I call, our bamboo grass, and then Kelly followed chippy at a full gallop.  After a few moments of thrashing of the grass, the chipmunk came running out at a full run. It spotted our pear tree and ran at lightning speed up the tree and then vanished into the leaves.  It was nowhere to be seen.

Nothing can take the place of passion.
Soon Kelly followed it out of the bamboo grass, frantically looking for it.  When our kitty was about to give up, a leaf came fluttering down by Kelly’s head.  She looked up and spotted the chipmunk hiding way up in the tree.  (In retrospect, I believe the chipmunk clipped the leaf to draw Kelly to its hideout.) Our cat then without hesitation clawed her way up the side of the tree.  The clever chipmunk though, ran down the other side without Kelly noticing it. 

Life at its best!
The odd thing about this whole scenario was that the chipmunk waited at the bottom of the tree for Kelly to spot it, rather than making an easy escape.  Chippy then after accomplishing its task, scurried away into the grass, just narrowly escaping the jaws of Kelly.  I believe our little chipmunk was not afraid of our cat, it wanted to play with the Grim-Reaper and see if it could beat Kelly at her own game.  Later, we watched our kitty hop like a kangaroo through the tall grass looking for chippy, but to no avail, it was not to be. 

All is vanity!  A fuzzed tail on the chase.
Both Anne and I looked at each other, smiled and carried on with our previous discussion.  Another event had taken place that added to our day.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blossoming in Adversity

A flower blooms where the seed has fallen.  To one it is loss, another sees it as gain.

This morning I went out golfing at 6:30 a.m. I noticed that the air was cold and the breeze was brisk as I walked out on the fairway.  The coolness of the temperatures immediately woke me up from my drowsiness. 

This can be a scenic pond to some, for others
it is a water trap on the golf course
Normally I find that it is easy to praise God as I walk alone on the golf course, but today I felt sadness in my heart.  I did not feel like praising him, I wanted to be Eeyore, and to be left alone in my gloomy state.  I then remembered that it was not my place to let myself be self-absorbed and self-centered on my saddened state; I realized that I needed to exercise discipline, and praise God in-spite of my feelings and present circumstances.  I came to see that as I walked along, that I must forget about my “right” to be sad, and to praise God in spite of my disjointed disposition.  Scripture (Rev. 4:11) says that we ought to praise God because he is our creator and deserves our praise.  The Bible does not record within it that praise must be given according to our moods and circumstances.

Each challenge can be seen as an obstacle, or
as an adventure waiting to happen.
I have found that it is easy to give praise when things are going well, but I find it hard to glorify God at times when life is less than enjoyable, that is because of difficulties that I am facing at the time.  When looking back over the years, I have come to realize that I do not know everything, and I never will.  God allows things into my life for a purpose, and not all those things will bring immediate happiness.  This reminds me of giving Abby her nightly medicine.  When taking it, I know that the taste does not determine its benefit for her, if that were the case, then few of us would consume our medicines.  I have come to realize, and I have to remind myself at times like this morning, that God teaches us many things, and all them have a purpose, but we are not always privy to the answers at the time.  Sometimes God never reveals the “whys” to his reasoning’s in a given situation.  It is during those times, like now, that I need to trust him in leading me through the darkness, and belief in him for the right outcome. 

I have come to understand this morning that when praising God, that it was not easy to do.  I had no external reason for the praise, yet I knew that by praising him, I was admitting that God was lord over my life, in spite of my feelings and immediate circumstances.  In thinking further on this as I walked, I realized that God does indeed truly deserve my praises.  It is a sacrifice of praise to give him worship.  As a flower reaches toward the sun, we too were made to worship our creator and seek life.  I found myself reaching out beyond my circumstances and feelings, and trusting God to take care of me.  As I walked further along, my heart began to change and I found the heaviness disappearing from my soul.  Then I knew, all was well!

We are all at different stages in our spiritual growth.  God meets us
where we are at and helps us to bloom.  His grace is sufficient for the day.