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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Furry Friends

Pretty much each day we throw out food scraps in the preparation of our meals.  These then go out into the meadow where deer, squirrels, chipmunks and a sundry of other animals gather to feast on these items of interest.  It is what I call the “Starving Time” for the deer where little remains of the forest vegetation, that is for them to eat at this time of the winter.  So, leaving scraps for them is important.  My thoughts go back to the time I was cross-country skiing in a state park near New Ulm, Minnesota.  My memories still haunt me when seeing dying deer being hauled away from the park by state employees.  Sadness filled my heart when seeing that nothing could be done for them at that time, and so now we do our part in helping the animals during this most difficult time of winter.

It is not unusual to have more than birds gathering at our window feeders each day, especially now when the forest pickings are rare.  More times than I want to think about, squirrels are jumping from the woodpile, and then to the electric box, and from there to the tube bird feeder.  I have written this before in previous posts about how their attempts are varied in leaping the distance to the feeder.  Roughly half the time they make it, while the other attempts are not so successful.  Even as I am writing now, Abby is in the background yelling, “The superhero is flying through the air once again!”  Abby is bouncing up and down telling me how when the squirrel saw her, it leaped into the air and flew to the ground in a giant jump, leaving the tube feeder to bang against the window with a thump.  I now have to remind Abby that others are still sleeping and that her excitement needs to be curbed, so that others can rest longer.  She has given this particular squirrel the name, “Scrat” after the one in Ice Age the movie. 

Lately, we have had red, black and grey squirrels making the jump to the feeder.  Yesterday I was about to scare a grey squirrel from the tube feeder when another black squirrel came flying through the air knocking the grey head over heals in the other direction.  The black not noticing me, started to feast on the seeds when all of a sudden it looked up staring intently at me, it expression was so funny, it seemed to be saying, “What are you looking at?”  I then opened the window and it very reluctantly left its prize to join the other squirrels on the ground. 

While writing this post Scrat jumped to the feeder.
I have tried this last week in dissuading the squirrels to leave the tube feeder alone by moving it twice, that is, further away from their launch point on the side of the house.  This has yielded little results.  These tenacious little fur balls have still made the leap to the feeder.  In the beginning, they missed quite frequently, and it was amusing to see them summersault through the void, grasping at only air, but this did not deter them in the least.  At one point, “Scrat” tried to climb the glass in the attempt of shimming to its left, all the while trying to get closer to the feeder.  This too ended in failure as the sounds of claws screeching like fingers on a chalk board made their way into abyss below.  It was quite amusing though watching this experiment in futility, claws flailing at the glass, and the desperate expression on the squirrel’s face, all the time seeing in it’s eyes, the fact that it was resigning itself to the under-region once more.  In other attempts, we watched the squirrels try to climb the wood siding, scratching helplessly at the frozen smooth wooden boards.  We would listen as the scratches would begin slowly, and then in a panic of flailing noises, we next would hear a thump, now knowing that it landed on the ground disappointed that it had another failure to its attempts. 
As we watched Scrat, the black squirrel here, leaped to feeder
 causing Scrat to go flying.

Yesterday, I thought of putting honey in the tray where the successful squirrels sat as they ravaged the bird feeder.  I thought this would be a humane way of dissuading them from revisiting a site that had become very sticky to them all of a sudden.  I imagined individual squirrels later asking their mates to extract the honey in places that only another squirrel could reach.  This theory of mine only proved a failure as well.  By the end of the day, the honey was completely gone, and I realized that they must really like this gooey substance.  The only consolation is that they might be asking me for our cat’s hairball medication soon. 

All in all, they are tenacious little creatures.  Perhaps this though is well deserved rewards for their prize, (getting the bird feed) since they offer our family a great form of amusement.  The birds on the other hand might look at this whole scenario in quite a different light.  For myself, I imagine other forest animals watching through the trees, and seeing what is transpiring between the squirrels and myself as an amusing form of futility, on both our parts.  Come to think of it, with us leaving the forest animals food, they might look at both the squirrels and myself as something wonderful, “Dinner and a Show!”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our Feathered Friends

Golf Finch waiting to its turn for the feeder.

During the past month of January and the beginning of February, the weather here in Minnesota has been quite unusual.  We normally have temperatures in the low teens and many times below zero.  This winter though we have had weather that has stretched from well below zero one week, to that of rain and lightening in the next.  Weather patterns have been unusual to say the least.  Last night as I was about to go to sleep, I could hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on the skylight above my bed.  The normal high for February at this time is around 30 degrees during the daylight hours and below freezing at night, so to hear rain late in the evening is a little unnerving.  On top of this, a friend from Wyoming said that the spring robins started to arrive.  She was worried that they would have nothing to eat this early in the year.  Someone commented with jest that they would have to eat frozen worms!  I do understand that global warming has changed our weather in that the poles are starting to melt, which in turn might begin to drastically change the weather throughout the planet.  This is a concern to be sure.

This week Anne is off work with Educational Testing Service, of which she does online.  It has been refreshing to have her with the kids and I during the day.  I see a more relaxed wife with having the time to enjoy her children and myself.  As for my day, homeschooling has been less stressed while we spend more time with Anne.  I have especially enjoyed sitting around early in the morning having coffee with Anne. 

Cardinals enjoying seeds on the ground.
Anne and I have spent more time talking while watching the wildlife outside our windows.  The different species of birds are coming to our feeders now, and they don’t seem to mind each other while they eat the sunflower seeds.  During the spring mating season, well that is another scenario though.  Each of the different types of birds fight within their species for territory and the mate of their choice.  This is more evident with the cardinals than any other species of birds.  They will have two to four litters (clutches) during the spring and summer months.  Tolerating each other at the bird feeder can be very interesting to watch sometimes as they chirp and fluff their feathers out, all the while trying to vie for their place at the feeder.  Since we have the feeders full of sunflower seeds most of the time, they never lack for food and consequently their mortality rate is low.  Because we provide a plentiful food source, we have an overabundance of songbirds in the trees around our home, which makes for a beautiful cacoffeny of chirps and calls that resound throughout the woods. 

Hummingbirds love Anne's flowers.
One of the most enjoyable sights for us is the hummingbirds that arrive in late May to early June.  They bring with them the energy of song and life as they flit back and forth from flower to feeder, and back to Anne’s flowers again.  Their little high resounding chirps remind me of Woodstock the yellow finch in the “Peanuts” movies.  They dance back and forth in the air, sometimes in a horseshoe shape pattern that creates a sound that resembles a little motor speeding up and slowing down.  Many times they fly up to us, and then chirp away in a greeting of delight, only to see them the next moment flying off to play tag one with the other.  It is not unusual to see one hummingbird on the feeder while another hummingbird buzzing by bumps it off its perch.  They then begin the game of tag with both flying back and forth chasing each other all the while sending high chirps out as they seem to fly at the speed of light.  Our family gets excited thinking about these little creatures coming back in the spring.  God has blessed us with feathered friends that bring so much life and joy to our family.  We very much anticipate their arrival each year. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Squirrels and Their Friends

"You would not happen to have a little morsel of something to eat would you?"

Recently here in Minnesota we have had a lot of snow.  In our state it is safe to say that the weather changes on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.  This last week and up to the present, the weather has gone from below freezing (and below zero) to that of rain.  The mix of weather always makes for an interesting week, never boring.  Living in Winona, here in the Mississippi River Valley, we have bluffs that rise to over 600’ and that alone can make for an interesting drive to the grocery store. 

Bonking Heads  "I thought I hit something hard!"
One of the more likeable things about the weather though, is how the animals around our home cope with the changes that Mother Nature makes.  Lately we have had a whole family of little red squirrels outside of our house.  Being that they are red makes them rare in this area.  Most of the squirrels are either black or grey.  Growing up though in south western Minnesota, we had many red squirrels.  Competition for territory I understand is fierce for the little creatures.  The grey is winning out in many areas, and the red squirrel consequently is dying out.  Well, that is not the case around here though.  A couple of years ago a red showed up in our meadow, and we fed it the scraps from our table, and that of the fallen sunflower seeds from our bird feeders.  Consequently, the red squirrel is about a third bigger than the greys, and twice as big as the black squirrels.  It has found no rival for gathering food, but it chooses to live in harmony with the other squirrels.

This last summer was very bountiful in the harvest of nuts, and our food scraps.  We now look out our windows and see four little red squirrels running around the meadow.  A couple of them live in our woodpile, and the others come from the forest to forage near our home.  Having had a lot of snow recently has proven for them to be a challenge though.  The little reds haven’t the height to clear the snow as the grownups do in jumping from drift to drift.  The little ones have found another method that seems to work just as well though.  They borrow through the snow like moles in the ground.  Yesterday my 10-year-old son asked me to come to the window, he said, “ Dad, look at all the paths cut through the snow that the squirrels have made!”  It looked like miniature hi-ways in the snow.  We both laughed at the scene and thought it quite amusing.  Later, I noticed a little red squirrel actually cutting a path from the woodpile to the plum tree.  It then would climb the tree, look around, and then jump down and run through its new road back to the woodpile again.  I watched it do that several times in a row.  In observing the unbelievable, I laughed out loud as I watched its tail twitch back and forth very rapidly on the tree limb, it seemed very proud of its accomplishments. 

"Ha ha!  This time I made it!"
Watching the little red squirrels can be very amusing, but seeing a squirrel jump from the wood pile several feet from the house to a 3” electrical box on the side of our home, and then to the tube bird feeder is another story in itself though.  It managed to jump the 6 feet up to the feeder, and then hang on to it about ½ half the time.   During its other attempts, well lets say that it gives us entertainment in watching it go sailing past our window, doing a summersault to the ground 10’ below.  Though rarely daunted with its task, many times it tries again and again.  The birds in the trees though do not find it as amusing as they chirp excitedly, scolding their new found competition. 

Our home finds much enjoyment in watching the animals from the forest when they come around.  Each has a unique character all its own.  It is not unusual for instance, to find a possum stopping by at times.  Though it does give one quite a start to step out the door and look into the eyes of a giant white rat starring back at you.  At other times, it is not uncommon to hear a scream coming from the doorway. I then realize that our white possum has accomplished its task, that is, scaring one of the two ladies in the house.  Fortunately for us, it is more afraid of humans than the other way around.  At times it seems to relish that of frightening either Anne or Abby, and then it scurries away to its safe haven.  My in-laws next door, see the possum go by their deck a number of times in the evening.  Their security lights come on, and once in awhile it stops to look in on them.  Interesting scenario though, watching a cat on one side of the glass, and the possum on the other, both in a stare down.  And so it goes, man living along side that of nature.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Choosing to Walk By Faith

In the book of Judges Chapter 6, of the Old Testament, it talks about how the Midianites were ravaging the land of Israel by taking all the crops that the Israelites had harvested.  It appears that they did not care in what shape they left the land after stealing the Israelites grain.  Most of the Israelites had to harvest in secret and hide their grain in places that Midianites would not find. 

Israel during this time period had forgotten about God.  They worshiped a false god, Baal.  One day while threshing the grain, an angel appeared to a man named Gideon.  God told Gideon (through an angel) that he would lead his people against the Midianites.”  Gideon’s response was unexpected, or at least to me the reader. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?  Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?  But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”  At this point the reader can see that God was being very patient with Gideon.  Gideon failed to understand that because his people choose to leave God, it forced God to let them go their own way.  Gideon also failed to see his own responsibility in following the Lord as well.   When a person, or a nation chooses to close its doors on God, they do so at their own peril.  One person once told me, “God is a perfect gentleman, he never goes where he is not invited.”  When we keep God out of our lives, he chooses to stay on the other side of the door of our hearts. 

God was very patient with Gideon and his lack of faith; that is in his absence of trust that God was indeed calling him to lead Israel.  Gideon further put God to the test by asking Him to put dew on the fleece one day, and then on the ground the next as a sign that God was indeed calling him to lead Israel’s army.  Gideon could still not figure out why God chose him since he was the least in his family, and his family was the least in all his tribe.  Gideon in the beginning was more fearful of what men would do to him, rather than believing that God would or could protect him.  This was evident when the angel of Lord told Gideon to tear down the alter of Baal and to erect an alter to God.  Gideon obeyed, but did so at night so that no one knew who had done it.  Once again, God was patient with him. 

In Revelation 3:13 God’s Spirit is speaking to the church of Laodicea.  He is admonishing them for not listening to him.  God is telling them that they are relying on their own wealth rather than on Him.  They had forgotten about God and had become lukewarm in their service to him.  In spite of their straying from God, he told them that he still loved them and because of that, he felt free to rebuke and discipline them.  One of the things that many people don’t realize is that in verse 20, God is speaking to the Christians of Laodicea, and not to the non-Christians.  “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”  God was calling them to listen to his voice, and by telling them that he waits patiently by the door to their hearts.  He knocks quietly, waiting for his children to ask him into their lives.

The question is this, are the things in our lives keeping us from hearing God, who is knocking at our door?  Like Gideon in the beginning of his walk with God, are we too so afraid that we want God to prove himself to us before we listen to him, and then decide to walk out in faith?  Are we placing God in a position to constantly show his hand to us before we act?

In our walk of faith, God is asking us to listen to his voice and to open up our hearts to him so that he can work within our lives.  It may mean to take action, but in doing so, we must act out of faith.  Faith requires us to pray, listen to his voice, and read his word, but it also requires us to move out in trusting God to lead us in the direction he would have us to go.  Brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain found that his faith was challenged in many ways by God.  He thought that he was a man of great faith; that is until he met Christians from behind the Iron Curtain.  They were Christ’s followers who listened to the Holy Spirit, they read God’s word faithfully, and acted upon God’s leading, trusting God to guide them in all their decisions.  Brother Andrew realized that he himself was like what the Apostle Paul described as, “a Christian still on milk, rather than on meat!”

Like the Christians behind the Iron Curtain, our paths too should be prepared by faith in action.  In many cases, faith might be that God desires you to ask him for guidance, and then move out in faith, faith that he will lead you in the right direction as you venture out.  The direction to God’s leading may not be mapped out all at once; it may require you to look for his signposts along the way. Faith says, “Lord close the doors that you do not want me to go into, and please open the doors that you have set before me.”This then is the walk of faith, trusting God to guide your decisions as you go.