Don’t shake my hand, least not today; just leave the bill on in my front door. Don’t talk to me or look my way; let’s stay apart at the grocery store.
Though birds of a feather, we can’t flock together Lest we spread our COVID in this warm spring weather.
So, keep hunkered down and isolace. Let’s stay at home, sheltered in place.
For this sad state I have no words ‘Cept: “Social distancing’s for the birds!”
“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2).
*Credits—The lovely picture of the gulls on their nest is a photo I took from a little museum at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, but I am sorry to say I do not know who took the original. The rest are mine: from 1) Marquette, MI, 2) Bay Lake in Disney World, and 3) seagulls lined up for the ferry to Mackinac Island, MI (Well, maybe lined up, but you can see that only the last one is socially distancing himself properly! 🙂 )
“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question” (—Harun Yahya). Does that speak to you? It made me smile, because I love to fly almost anywhere on earth when given the opportunity, so I must be more like the migratory birds!
Still, there’s no place like home, and there’s definitely a special place in my heart for the hardy feathered friends who keep company year-round in Michigan.*
Among homebody birds, woodpeckers stand out as some of the most colorful and constant fellows feasting at our feeders, particularly during the winter months when bugs are harder to come by!
There are three types of woodpeckers that are on our daily dining plan: hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, and red-bellied woodpeckers. All three are brightly robed in rich black and whites (some with red highlights).
For some reason, it took me a while to distinguish between red-bellied woodpeckers and flickers, although they’re quite different!
Hairy and downy woodpeckers—on the other hand—are almost identical in markings, so they’d be very hard to distinguish unless you remember that hairy woodpeckers are roughly twice as big.
Also, hairy woodpeckers have proportionately larger beaks: The beaks on hairy woodpeckers are approximately as long as their heads!
Finally, downy woodpeckers have black spots on their white, inner tail feathers,
whereas hairy woodpeckers do not.
The males of both species have a flashy red patch behind their heads to catch the eyes of their missus, which they apparently do with great regularity, because both types of woodpeckers number in the millions in America and are not in any danger of extinction as of now!
Other unique characteristics of hairy woodpeckers include the little tufts of wispy, brownish feathers right above their nostrils, which I’ve read helps protect them from inhaling wood dust. (Isn’t God a brilliant designer?)
They also have fluffy feathers (which I’m guessing is how they got their name), so they look very soft! Although they are one of the largest birds that frequent our feeder—up to 10 inches in length and up to a 15-inch wingspan—they really only weigh about 3 ounces . . . so that’s a lot of fluff!!
The hairy woodpeckers that come to my feeder (which is just three feet in front of me through a window as I type) are quite used to me, but they are fairly photophobic, so as soon as my big black camera peaks above the edge of my computer, they usually take flight. Therefore, although I’ve been trying to take family portraits of them for years, I have hundreds of bad shots and only a few dozen good ones! This makes me think of some of my kids, who are great companions but don’t appreciate my posting photos of them online! 🙂
Seriously, in trying to characterize birds, I found it hard to think of just what it is about hairy woodpeckers that make them special to me, and I decided that it’s their constancy. They come to the feeder every day of every season. I often assume that the birds who come to my feeder from year to year are the offspring of earlier generations of birds, but I recently discovered that hairy woodpeckers can live many years! (One of the oldest made it to almost 16.)
So, I decided to label them as my BFF birds: As we say in America— “Best Friends Forever!” I mean really, how many of your best friends come over morning, noon, and night just to hang out with you? 🙂
“Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off” Proverbs 27:10.
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24; speaking ultimately of Jesus, our true Best Friend FOREVER!!)
(*Hairy woodpeckers are common throughout the deciduous forests in the Northern Hemisphere, the Caribbean Islands, and as far south as Central America.)
Having just returned from a cruise along the Amazon, I can’t think of a more appropriate topic than considering birds, since we must have seen many dozens of the more than 1,300 species of birds that make their home in the rain forests of the Amazon. (One in every three species in the world exists in Amazonia!)
There were times as we cruised along in a smaller boat close to the shoreline that the cacophony of bird sounds emanating from the jungle reminded me of the aviary of the John Ball Zoo (our local zoo) when the budgies were almost out-of-control noisy!
If you know me, you know I love birds, and one of my daily pleasures is watching them come to the bird feeder that’s just three feet in front of my nose as I type!
At any rate, I do think about birds pretty much every day. BUT, what is that our Lord wants us to learn from considering the birds?
Let’s start with the Brazilian toco toucan. His uniquely large schnoz, which can be half the size of his entire body length, is specially designed of light bone struts filled with a spongy keratin tissue that makes it exceedingly light and strong. The toucan’s beak is useful for grabbing fruit, reaching deep into the interior of holes, intimidating the competition, and is a wonderfully efficient thermoregulator—just perfect for the tropical areas where he lives.
Consider the Amazon parrot, arrayed in gorgeous green and yellow feathers with brown underparts. Talk about perfect camouflage!
Consider the flamingo, with her amazingly long neck and legs, just perfect for wading. Consider her uniquely designed bill, which is used upside down and is especially adapted for filtering the mud and silt from the tasty tiny shrimp and algae that she loves to eat!
Consider the harpy eagle—largest and most powerful raptor in the Amazon and top of the food chain, routinely carrying off monkeys and sloths for dinner. Wings, talons, razor-sharp beak and piercing eyes that sent chills through me!
Consider the smallest birds of the tropical rain forests—beautiful hummingbirds! So tiny they’re hard to spot, and so fast they’re almost impossible to capture on camera . . . or probably for dinner, too! Notice how perfectly color-coordinated they are as well!
Consider the humble saffron finch, which is tiny and vulnerable but nevertheless thrives without even having to build a nest! These unassuming little birds nest in holes that other birds have built and abandoned.
Consider the scarlet ibis—adorned as brilliantly as a fire siren. Her beauty makes her a perfect target, but the powers that be have made her a protected species the world around! Both God and man watch out for her!
Well, I could go on and on sharing about the fascinating birds we saw in Brazil!
The songs and calls, the size and gorgeous colors, the similarities and differences from North American birds. Everywhere we wandered, birds appeared and serenaded (or scolded) us!
As I “considered the birds,” I realized that what Jesus taught about them is absolutely true! God has created each bird with the unique qualities that it needs to survive and thrive. Survival skills come as standard equipment, and birds never seem to worry about the future!
They aren’t busy planting and sowing and sweating whether or not it’s going to rain so they can reap a harvest.
Birds live one day at a time, focused on the present moment. Sure, they work tirelessly to provide a living for themselves and their little ones, but they don’t worry about tomorrow, and God does provide for them: “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” (Psalm 147:9).
No matter if we’re at the top or bottom of the food chain in this world, God loves us and tells us to trust Him with our future. He makes sure the birds of the air have food, and He will help us find the provisions we need too.
I’m going to take my inspiration from the swallows at Iguazu National Park, who build their nests behind the torrential waterfalls.
Rather than worry about tomorrow, let’s live under the rainbow of God’s protective care. Sure it’s scary having to dart back and forth through the downpours of life to find food every day, but God will provide, and we’ll get through! God loves us even more than He loves the beautiful birds that He’s created, and He will take care of us too! He wants us to relax and trust Him with our future! “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (Psalm 84:3).
Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 6:26 “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?”
One of the curious surprises of this summer has been watching four families of Canada geese rearing their families on our lake. In this first photo (if you can see well enough), you’ll notice one goose out in front with four other families coming along behind. One couple has five goslings; one pair has four goslings, and two pairs each have three goslings. I don’t know the facts, but they get along so well and travel as a group, so in my imagination, they are one big family.
The fascinating thing to me is that the family of geese are exactly representative of our four oldest children, all of whom live out of town, but all of whom are (or will be) visiting us this summer. One couple has 5, one couple has 4, and two couples each have 3 children. If I imagine Alan out in front, as the old patriarch, these geese are the perfect picture of our family!! It seems too exact to be coincidental, and so I watch them with even more interest than I might normally, wondering just what lessons the Lord might teach me.
This is the first year in my memory that we have had so many Canada geese. For years, a pair of mute swans reigned supreme. They looked absolutely peaceful and regal, but in fact they were territorially challenged and wouldn’t share the lake with the geese, routinely driving them away as effectively as they could.
After twenty years of monarchy, the swans have died (I think), and none of their cygnets have come back with new mates, so the Canada geese are now free to claim summer campsites wherever they please on the lake. Similarly, here at Tanglewood Cottage, we’ve already had the pleasure of a visit from Aaron, his wife, and their four sons, so we’re off and running!
Our second son, Michael, and his family of five will be visiting too, and when they come, the house will ring with the voices of merry children . . . not unlike the sometimes boisterous calls of the geese on our lake!
Our third son’s family of three will be visiting too, so you can imagine the joyous chaos!
Our daughter, with her family of three, will visit a bit later, so we won’t be able to enjoy them all at exactly the same time, but we will definitely be experiencing a lot of action between now and the end of summer!
Favorite activities include swimming,
boating, campfires, fishing off the dock,
and exploring in the woods.
And, of course, a lot of good eating!
We’ll be exhausted by the time they leave,
but also completely disconsolate that they have to go!
If you have grandchildren, I’m sure you know what I mean! I used to feel like swarm of locusts or a tornado blowing through our parents’ homes when our seven kids were little and we visited. Still, Alan’s mother would write soon to say she hadn’t had the heart to wipe off the tiny fingerprints from her windows just yet. 🙂
I think with all the company, I may not be a very good correspondent blogger until the flocks have come and gone, but I’ll be treasuring up good memories to share, and I hope you’ll be storing up happy times . . . perhaps with your families too!
Enjoy these precious times with loved ones! If you’re young, help your parents, will you? If you’re old (like me), remember that children are of infinitely greater value than any material possession.
Whether you’re the grandparent, parent, or part of the youngest generation, let’s all pray for each other, determine to love each other no matter what, and take pleasure in all the chaotic ups and downs of sharing real life together!
I think time passes more quickly than we realize, and the time to love and invest in our kids is now. Today. This summer! This year. Life is fleeting, and before we know it, our kids will grow up and move away . . . or our grandchildren will grow up and not be able to visit because they have summer jobs.
I am so excited to have all four families coming to visit us this summer, and if I am very, very blessed, perhaps Alan and I will live long enough to have them all come again! But, if not, I want to make the most of every moment of this summer, and I hope you will too! God bless you!
“How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
Do you have an adversary? Somebody who opposes you at every turn? You may not have a true enemy (although around the world, I know many who do), but I think all of us can think of someone who tends to oppose us on a consistent basis.
If there were someone in my life who fit that description, I would not post a photo of them or tell their story at any rate, so I’ll use the Canada geese, who’ve been driving us nuts by gobbling up all our grass seed, the deer, who like to devour our flowers, the squirrels, who hang upside down from our bird feeder in order to steal the birds’ food, and the birds, who strip our cherry trees before the fruit has a chance to ripen, leaving the ground littered with merely pecked-at fruit!
These are not serious offenders compared to what humans do to one another, but I think they will suffice as gentle illustrations for what Jesus wants us to understand.
Both Matthew and Luke recount the same command, which puzzled me for many years. Matthew 5:25-26 states, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” This message is repeated in Luke 12:58-59, “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.“
For years I was stumped by this, thinking that we should never back down from a fight. I mean, aren’t we supposed to stand against sin and evil? This thinking was reinforced by such verses as, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Ah, the pride of youth!
The verses in today’s meditation are pointing out the likelihood of each of us to be wrong! Jesus didn’t say to give in to evil (which we are taught to stand against), but to learn how to compromise with our “adversaries” . . . those whose views oppose ours.
In the case of our geese, they leave droppings everywhere and are busy eating up all the fresh grass seed, which we just planted now that most of the construction is complete. My contention is that my grandchildren are coming, and I would like them to be able to play in grass rather than slip and slide in muddy goose droppings!
Their contention is that they have a big family to rear, and I usually don’t complain about their pecking through our grass, who why should I complain now? Mother Goose says I’ve stopped being a very nice neighbor.
If we were taken to the Great Judge, who do you think would win the case? I’m not sure. Feeding your family is more important than having a grassy yard, but on the other hand, if the geese would eat elsewhere this summer (and there are plenty of lawns around our lake), they would be rewarded by abundant grass for pecking next year, so perhaps the judge would rule in favor of our being able to shoo them off! Besides, there is such a thing as private property . . . but, Canada geese are protected by law too. So . . .?? If I had everybody vote, I’ll bet there would be people on both sides of the issue!
So it is with all of life. Each of us has a different sets of needs and wants, and all of us tend to see “our side” of issues as having more value and weight. But, God wants us to learn how to figure out a compromise that meets the needs of all parties concerned!
And, to prod us in the direction of love and understanding, he warns us that things can get really ugly if we don’t figure things out on our own. If we fail to work things out, we might end up on the wrong side of the verdict, and once an issue goes before the court, even though we feel dead sure that we are right, the judge might decide we’re dead wrong. We might end up in a lot of trouble for a long time. And, once you’re in jail, it becomes a bit of a moot issue whether or not your behavior was justified. The bigger issue is that you are no longer able to live your life freely .
The first Queen Elizabeth of England (who was later crowned queen in 1559), while in prison lamented that she wished she could trade places with the milk maid outside her prison walls just so she could be free again. So, it’s not simply about being “right,” it’s about learning how to live with those around you, how to love others too (not just yourself), and how to live in harmony with others as much as is possible. Humility, not pride, should reign supreme in our hearts!
“Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9).
This is the time of year when everything bursts into glorious song and bloom!
Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.
The rebirth of life in springtime is both majestic and mysterious!
It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently for water to open up.
And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!
Robins are busy rearing their broods,
and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak) come to our feeder every day!
This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!
Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.
This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!
Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests dotted with tiny woodland anemones
and later covered with bright bluebells!
Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills covered with bright orange poppies,
and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!
Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!
How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).
“There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).
“For the Beauty of the Earth” (—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)
1 For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies.
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.
2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]
3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]
4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]
(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)
There are three families of geese that have been camping out at Tanglewood Cottage this summer, and as you might guess, there are pros and cons to this situation.However, today I want to mention one of the sweet pros, which is that Canada geese are great parents and keep watchful eyes on their goslings. Whether their little ones are snuggled under their wings or resting beside them in the shade, I have never (and I mean never) seen the parents neglect their young. They are ever watchful, and ever concerned. They paddle all over the lake, but they stop by every morning for some breakfast …and for some lunch…and for some dinner…rain or shine! On warm afternoons, they love to rest in the shade, and since I’m usually writing at my desk each afternoon, a couple of my favorite songs keep singing in my mind. The songs are about God, who is better than the best of all earthly parents, and the words so comforting that I want to share them with you:
“Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 17:8)
Under His Wings
(William O. Cushing, 1896, public domain)
Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.
Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.
God Leads Us Along
(George A. Young, 1903, Public Domain)
In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.
Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).
A pair of robins built a nest on the drain pipe under the eve right outside the window of our “tea room,” where we always eat in the summer. It’s been a special delight to watch them rearing their broods of chicks. The first of this summer’s batch fledged
while my son Joel and I were eating breakfast last week, but one chick fell so fast I feared for the his life, although he must have done fine because there was no sign of the chick dead or alive on the ground. Then, several nights later, I dreamed that I saw a mother and baby robin together silhouetted in the sun, and I woke up with the distinct sense
that the last two robins would fledge that day. I’m one of those people who seem to carry on a continual conversation with God, and such premonitions are rare but not totally unusual, so I decided that I would keep a very close eye on the two babies all day. Just as the sun was coming up, the first baby took flight,and I really believe the Lord gave me the dream so I wouldn’t miss the spectacle! The last chick wasn’t at all sure about taking off. He perched on the edge of the nest, surveying possible flight paths. It was definitely a long way to the ground from his secure nest! On the other hand there were lots of trees and bushes not too far away…About then Mom came by with a big, fat, juicy worm and Dad stopped in to give junior a little pep talk. Dad hopped into the nest and gave junior a little push toward the edge. Baby was feeling a little ambivalent but took a few tentative steps out of the nest. The world was looking bright and beautiful, but the nest was looking very comfy…In fact, he thought it looked safer to have one foot in the nest and one foot out.In fact, after due consideration, the nest looked definitely safer than the world, so the fledgling perched on the edge of the nest and started praying
(or sleeping, I couldn’t tell which). 🙂 In a while, Mother Robin returned to talk things over with her fledgling again just as it was time for Joel and me to eat breakfast, so I had to give up watching.We didn’t get to see the baby’s first flight, but while we were eating, we caught sight of the fledgling in the tree just outside our window! He had made a successful first flight, and his parents hadn’t lost track of him.In moments one of them was by the chick’s side with a yummy snack! In no time at all, the fledgling would be following his parents,
winging his way through the woodland world.
It’s graduation time as well as spring time, and I know several couples who have refused to let their kids come back home after their graduation (except to vacation). Some of these kids are flying, but some are really struggling financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Personally, my parents never “kicked” me out; they let me feel like their home was also my home until I married, which I thought was just perfect. I’ve always wanted my own children to feel the same sense of love and security.
My mother’s youngest brother (70 years ago) brought his bride home to the farm, where the couple lived throughout their lives, eventually caring for Grandma until she died. Alan had two uncles who never married and lived on their home farm throughout their lives too, eventually caring for Alan’s grandma until she died. What is it it about current American cultural expectations that make us think adult offspring shouldn’t enjoy the fellowship and security of family until they personally feel a compelling reason to leave?
If you’re an unmarried young adult with parents who are still happy to have you at home, please feel perfect liberty to remain with them until you personally want to leave. Don’t let social pressure drive you away from family! In the Old Testament, everybody lived in family groups!
Also, if you have adult sons or daughters who would enjoy living with you, why not let them? Share the wealth, share the expenses, share the work load, and also share the warmth and community that God intends for all humans to enjoy! Let’s parent like our heavenly Father, who never leaves us nor forsakes us!
“He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:10-13).
Although I’ve seen these very large and impressive birds
roaming Kensington Park near Detroit and along Michigan highways —as well as sauntering through quiet parks in Florida— I’d never seen a pair of sandhill cranes at Tanglewood Cottage until yesterday!
Having just parted with my son Jonathan’s family, who’d been visiting with us off and on for a couple of weeks, I was feeling a bit lonely, so having some new visitors come up my driveway was most welcome. (We have a whole flock of turkeys who are already a part of the neighborhood, but I wanted this photo to illustrate how much taller the cranes are.) If you’ve not met any sandhill cranes yet, you’re in for a treat, because they’re very large, peaceable, and beautiful! For Michigan, I believe they are the biggest birds around, standing up to four feet tall, weighing 9 (females) to 10 pounds (males) and enjoying a 5.5-7.5 foot wing span! I think the pair who visited today may have claimed some water front property, because they joined us while Alan and I were out for our nightly swim around the lake. (Photographer alert: Never go anywhere without a camera! 😦 ) From a distance, we thought they were a pair of swans, but up close, they are really brownish grey. They have very long, grey necks, red foreheads, white cheeks, long, black beaks and brownish bodies. Once you’ve seen one, they’re easy to remember and petty hard to forget! They don’t have webbed feet, but they have extremely long legs and toes, and we were surprised how fast they could swim…always away from us! When they got close to our end of the lake, three families of geese came out with their little ones as a flotilla to “defend” their territory (our waterfront), but although the cranes were larger, they politely headed back to the far end of the lake, so they must not be very aggressive. Our swans used to intimidate the geese, but I think if the sandhill cranes stay, the other waterfowl will have nothing to fear. I watched them happily as they meandered all over our property and sauntered down our lane. In fact, I was so pleased that I invited them to stay…and I hope they do! It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I realized that I’m more charitable toward the cranes than I am my neighbors. Because we live in a fenced and gated property (built by order of the police because our German shepherd once bit a stranger), I don’t think I’d be “delighted” to have a strange couple walking all over our property as if deciding whether or not they wanted to take up residence with us. Could I possibly trust birds more than people…or am I just more selfish than I realize? I’m afraid, some of both. I need to work on loving my neighbors more! “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
While Alan attended the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists meeting in Honolulu recently, I spent my days writing, and from our balcony, I could see three snowy white pigeons far below, roosting in the park just across from Waikiki Beach. They rose and dived with grace and apparent ease, flitting and fluttering on the breezes. I watched them soar joyously in the bright morning sunshine and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fly like a bird?!” In Hawaii, it’s warm and humid, so people practically live outside. They also keep their doors open as much as possible, and we were no exception. The sliding glass doors on our balcony were open almost all the time, bringing in balmy air until our entire hotel room felt like a bit of private, outdoor paradise…literally 50° warmer than the freezing air had been in Michigan when we left! Having a six-hour EST (Eastern Standard Time) advantage, we woke up well before sunrise every morning and sipped tea while enjoying leisurely devotional times together. After prayer and Bible reading, we enjoyed breakfast. Most mornings it was granola and bananas, but this particular morning we had garnered some legendary malasadas (Portuguese, custard-filled donuts) from Honolulu’s most famous bakery: Leonard’s. We relished the rosy sunrise, and then Alan began washing up before leaving for his conference. I made a cup of Jasmine tea in preparation for settling down to write. To my delight and surprise, I found that not only had I been admiring the birds, they had apparently been admiring us too…or at least our breakfasts! Apparently a crumb or two had fallen under the table, which one pigeon quickly devoured, and another pigeon came inside to check us out!
I wonder, do pigeons watch humans and think about they way we sit down with apparent ease and feast on a lovely breakfast just the way I admire their ability to flutter on the breezes? It’s all too natural to see and long for the advantages of others while not considering the difficulties of their lives. The pigeons on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach scavenge hard to find enough to eat, and they coo contentedly when they discover a few drops of fresh water in the cracks of sidewalks! Is it possible they say to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to eat like a human?!” It’s perfectly normal to notice and admire what others do well—great writers, artists, scientists, orators, doctors, lawyers…Indian chiefs. Do you find yourself admiring some wonderful ability that another person possesses? I certainly do. And yet, would I really like to be the person I admire? My guess is that if I knew everything about that person, the difficulties in his life and the challenges he faces, I would be content to be myself. On the other hand, if we admire someone else enough, perhaps it will motivate us to work harder to become the best we can be! What do you think? Ready to be content, or are you ready to make the sacrifices to be something more? I gather from the scripture that God wants us to be content with the outward circumstances which are beyond our control: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11), but I think He wants us never to be content with where we are spiritually: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14, emphasis mine).