Category Archives: Animal Stories

Under His Wings

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.

Refrain:
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)

  1. 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.

    • Refrain:
      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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).

 

Take Courage!!

In a contest between white-tailed deer and Canada geese over owning the waterfront, who do you think would win? I mean, if you think about it, deer weigh up to 100-150 pounds and are 4′ high at the shoulder. Geese weigh in at a hefty 8± pounds  and aren’t as tall as a deer’s leg. So, I was more than a little surprised the other morning at what happened when three deer encountered three families of geese in our front yard! The mother doe paused briefly before scampering across the waterfront and into the brush on the other side, but the twin yearlings—a male and a female, were quite intimidated. They froze in place until the geese rallied all their forces (which only included 6 adults and a dozen goslings). When the gang was all there, the show of force was enough to frighten the deer into turning tail and running back into the woods! The geese really couldn’t have done any serious harm to the deer, but deer are also quite defenseless. Nevertheless, the courage and protective instincts of the geese paid off, and they were able to continue grazing with their goslings.

This incident made me think about a message I heard recently on courage, which Merriam Webster defines as the “mental or moral strength to venture, perseveres, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” We are encouraged to be courageous many times in the Bible, and although it says in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” the fact is that Satan is an imposter. Jesus is not “like” a lion, He is a lion,the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), and He tells us to fear no one but God: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  I applaud the geese, who led their vulnerable little ones in a confrontation with foes much larger than they were. Let’s stand our ground and be courageous rather than feeling intimidated by what cannot ultimate destroy our souls!

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Born In China

Probably everybody who watches videos has already seen the captivating co-production between Disneynature and Shanghia Media Group entitled Born in China, but just in case you missed it (like I did, until on a recent trip),

Description: Cinematographer Justin Maguire filming golden snub-nosed monkeys.

I want to recommend it as a wonderfully warm and intimate, G-rated documentary that looks into the lives of several mothers and their cubs who were all born and bred in China…but whose stories are also an allegory for our own. The movie features four families in particular and their struggles to survive and thrive through the mysterious circle of life we all experience.

Born in China stars a giant panda bear, Ya Ya, and her little cub, Mei Mei. Mother pandas live in relative seclusion with their cubs for two years and develop incredibly tender, strong bonds with them, so I’m sure everyone sensed the anguish in Ya Ya’s heart as this helicopter-mom panda struggled to let her precious daughter become independent.  The second star is  a little golden monkey named Tao Tao, who is expected to be independent after the birth of his little sister…but before he’s really ready!  Tao Tao struggles to find himself, ends up joining “The Lost Boys” (a group of young male monkeys), and has to make some pretty tough decisions about whether or not he’s going to be a follower or a leader.            Ah, the difficulties of adolescence…and haven’t we all been there?!

               The third star is Dawa, a memerizingly beautiful snow leopard  who lives in the remote mountains of Tibet at altitudes of 14-16,000 feet, where very few animals can survive.  Dawa births twin cubs and has to grapple with trying to provide food for three in a desperate struggle against hardship and poverty. Sound familiar? Interwoven into the fabric of the story are scenes showcasing a herd of mountain antelope known as Chiru, who live on the Tibetan plateau. They are a “near threatened” species and represent the embodiment of all animal life that exists in the wilds of China (and the world).  And, last (but in some ways most rather than least) are cinemagic images of the magnificent red-crested cranes, perhaps the most spiritual animals in Chinese mythology. Roy Conli, the producer, pointed out in an interview that the director, Lu Chuan is one of China’s best: “His work has really been ground breaking…Great story sensibility; great love for his country…He was able to capture something that no westerner could do…We see a part of China so unique and beautiful that it will make people want to travel there.” So true! I’ve been there a couple of times, but I’m still daydreaming about visiting again!

Conli also said (and he almost seemed to have a catch in his voice, as if his comment was truly heart felt),”We have to let go of our kids and let them grow up.” As a mother with grown children who are winging their own ways through the world now, I found the movie profoundly moving! So, whether young or old, an adolescent trying to find your way, in the midst of rearing your own brood, or a member of the older generation learning to let go,  Born in China has some lessons for each of us! I hope you will watch it if you haven’t already. I know you’ll be blessed if you do! Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in… To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth…Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Excerpts from Isaiah 40:21-31).

(All photos from or about Born in China.)

How Would You Like a Beautiful Mink Coat?

We have an adorable little mink who’s taken up residence at our cottage, and I love to see him skittering everywhere, but he hardly ever stops long enough for me to take a clear photo. I always admire his gorgeous fur coat!Do you have a favorite place to shop for clothes? Mine is Goodwill. Oh, I do shop sometimes in other stores, particularly if we’re traveling where the prices are great and the styles unique, but for every day staples, I’d rather let someone else pay 10 times as much to wear their new outfit a few times before getting tired of it. Usually nothing I buy costs more than $3.50, and sometimes the item still has tags on it. Pretty hard to beat! My all-time favorite purchase from a second-hand shop was a lovely fur coat, which did cost more than $3.50 but less than $100. I just looked online at Sax Fifth Avenue, where they’ll give you a mink coat if you’ll give them $10,141.00, so I figured I got mine at a 99% discount. All winter long, our mink runs across the waterfront and dives into a hole under our dock, where I suppose he’s ice fishing, but this morning he was out enjoying the early spring sunshine, so he spent a few extra minutes on top of the dock.I remembered my son Joel telling me at the breakfast table that he’s reading a new book called Being a Beast by Charles Foster—a veterinary surgeon, London barrister and teacher of medical law and ethics at the University of Oxford.  In trying to understand what it feels like to be a beast, Foster attempted living like various animals, and his book relates what he’s learned from this unique experiment.  I’d probably never spend weeks underground eating earthworms the way Charles Foster did, but I can definitely identify with how lovely it would be to have a warm fur coat, especially if you’re going to jump into ice cold water!As humans, I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand what it’s like to be a beast…or to be God, for that matter! We’re greatly limited by our intellectual capacities. We don’t know much about communicating with animals or God! However, unlike animals, God has given us a revelation about himself in the  Bible. If we want to know more about God, we can start by reading his book! Right at the beginning of the Bible, we learn that humans chose to disobey God and tried to cut off communication by hiding. But guess what? Instead of getting angry, God loved them and made provisions for them: Beautiful fur coats!  Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). In the New Testament, we learn that God still loves us—every one of his created human beings! God longs to communicate with us and is still providing for us: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).                            That’s not exactly a beautiful mink coat, but it’s even better!   Not just a covering for our skin, but a covering for our sin! Will you accept it?I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).

See It, Touch It, Hold It…Including Snappy the Alligator?!

During the first Christmas my oldest was able to toddle around, he kept asking for permission to “see” then “touch” then “hold” the Christmas ornaments. Unfortunately, he was too young to hold an ornament for very long before it would fall, and if I wasn’t right there to catch the bulb, it would break.

So, in our home, the line went, “See it? Hold it? Touch it? Break it!”
But, don’t we all love to get our hands on things we’re curious about?I think we all have a fascination with holding things that fill us with awe—whether it’s a shiny Christmas ornament or an exotic living creature. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what can be touched and what to avoid! In Tunisia, the zookeeper seemed fearless and knew just how to hold a scorpion while the scorpion held on tight to a pack of cigarettes, but none of us dared try! He also knew how to handle a deadly sidewinder… but nobody wanted to try that one, either! Of course, some critters seem more cuddly,
and those we’d like to touch as well as see. In fact, when it comes to camels, I like to ride them too! A well trained camel can take you for a pleasant ride down the streets in India. A well-trained elephant will let you pet him in the jungles of Nepal, or let you go for a ride (only with his mahout aboard, however!) Baby elephants are something else, though!  They’re 250-pound characters who love to push you around if they can!!I only dared touch this little playmate while he was distracted by someone else! Many creatures look almost irresistibly cuddly, like these monkeys,  but monkeys are pickpockets with nasty bites, so I’ve been trained to keep my distance lest I lose my camera…or worse! Over the years, I’ve been able to see and hold many different creatures,  but on our trip through the Panama Canal,
I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy.  Snappy has been handled by this park ranger since his birth,
and he’s quite friendly…as long as you don’t put your face next to his mouth.

Alligators have a brain about as big as a pea, so most of what they do is instinctive. Nevertheless, we were back in America, so I figured they wouldn’t let us hold him unless it was relatively safe, and when they asked who would like to hold Snappy, I volunteered. Yes, being in America, they made it quite safe! Although the ranger hadn’t forewarned us, he put a big strap around Snappy’s mouth to keep him quiet. He was totally docile and let me hold him by his soft underbelly. Holding living creatures touches something deep inside me…a trust given to me to hold without hurting…not to break…and hopefully not to get hurt either. As we go through life, I hope we continue learning what is safe and what is not…       and just how close we can get to others without asking for trouble!    But I hope we keep exploring and trying to connect,  not only with critters,  but with people! There’s a huge world out there full of people who’ve never heard the good news that Jesus came to set us free from sin and give us eternal life!                       Can we hold them so gently that we don’t hurt them?

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

Rise Up, My Love (265): Like a Lamb

Song of Solomon 8:5 “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.” Although The Song of Solomon—like all Scripture—is dealing ultimately with pictures of Christ and our relationship with him, still the settings are also based on the reality of our physical universe and played out in the actions and relationships between people. In this passage, it is the bridegroom speaking, and it is he who says, “I raised thee up under the apple tree.”  What does he mean? The verse goes on to elaborate that the “apple tree” was where the bride was brought forth by her mother, and the clarification is repeated twice, so that there can be no doubt about what he is saying. He is declaring that he raised up his bride under the same “apple tree” where his wife was brought forth by her mother. There are two wonderful lessons I have gleaned from this verse. The first is that the husband “brought up” his wife, and the second is that he carried out this development process in the same protective environment where she had experienced her early training.   Stop and let that first thought sink in for a moment!…   In this day and age of women’s “liberation” and “equal rights,” do men really think about “bringing up” their wives? Do women even want such parental nurturing from their husbands? It is not uncommon to hear a woman intimate that her husband is less controlled and mature than her children. Is that true? Is it common? I don’t know…nor do I know what men may say about their wives’ maturity level!  This I do know…that in the Song of Songs, the bridegroom—setting the example for husbands through all the generations to come—exclaims (and I think there must have been a twinge of pride in his voice) that his beloved came up from the wilderness leaning on the man she loved, and that this wonderful man (he, himself!) had “raised her up” under the same sheltering influences as were tenderly provided at the time of her birth. What touching imagery!  What wife would not thrill to be nurtured along in her growth by such a gentle “husbandman?” It reminds me of Uriah’s amazing love and devotion for his wife, Bathsheba, as portrayed by Nathan, the prophet, in his rebuke to King David. Nathan likened Uriah’s relationship with Bathsheba as the love of a man for a lamb that he had made into a pet: “But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had brought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter” (2 Samuel 12:3).   Imagine treating your wife with such tenderness: “bringing her up” and “nourishing her” so that as a couple you “grow up together” with each other and your children…loving her so much that you allow her to “eat your meat” (enjoy whatever you are taking in to feed yourself—physically, spiritually, or emotionally) and “drink from your cup”(have what she wants of all that you would use to nourish yourself…in the spiritual realm, meditate on the fact that Jesus offers us to take freely of the bread of his life and the cup of his body for our nourishment!). Do you allow your wife to “lie in your bosom”…not only in the physical sense for sexual gratification, but in the emotional sense that means so much to a woman…welcoming her into the most intimate areas of your life so that she can truly know you—heart and soul? Do you allow your wife to lie in your bosom…not simply for sexual gratification, but so that she can feel as safe and secure as a daughter resting in the protective arms of her father?   Wow! Wouldn’t you love to have a husband like that? The bridegroom continued to nurture his wife in her development with the tenderness of a mother, similar to the testimony of Paul towards his spiritual children in I Thessalonians 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.” What an inspiring example for husbands! (And, of course, the best example of all is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who is also our Good Shepherd!)

 

 

(Photo notes if anyone is curious: The lovely photos of sheep are from a spring stroll my husband and I took with our two youngest sons called the “Cotswold Ramble” in England a few years ago. The apple blossoms are from our lane here at Tanglewood Cottage last spring. My youngest son made the beautiful loaf of braided bread last weekend.)

 

Are You Sitting on the Fence?

baboons-along-chapmans-highway-south-africa“Stop! Please!” Everybody wanted our bus driver to pull over so we could take photos of a troop of baboons traveling down the road beside us in South Africa.baboon-mothers-and-babies-along-the-side-of-the-road-in-south-africaWe were totally charmed by the mother baboons with their playful babies climbing all over them, but our guide was more enamored with four baboons who were perched on top of the fence poles, something he’d never seen before.baboons-on-posts-at-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserve Apparently the fence was to protect the wildlife in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve and give them a safe place of refuge. However, the curious baboons preferred roaming everywhere, despite the dangers on the highway, and four of them appeared to be contemplating whether or not to return home or just sit and survey the landscape. I wondered what they were thinking. Were they looking for predators, or trying to decide if they really wanted to go back inside the fence? baboon-contemplating-the-cape-of-good-hope-nature-preserve-south-africaHere it is January 3, 2017, and I find myself sitting on the fence, so to speak, contemplating the landscape. I still haven’t finished working out my New Year’s Resolution Reclamation Act. I’m pretty sure there’s a certain fear of failure. I may not be on the lookout for whatever harasses baboons, but I’m definitely thinking about how to negotiate all the challenges I see in front of me. baboon-sitting-on-highway-in-union-of-south-africa     Nevertheless, I’m quite sure sitting in the middle of the road isn’t safe, baboon-on-a-post-in-south-africa-oct-28-16                          and sitting on the fence will get me nowhere fast, mother-baboon-and-baby-on-chapman-highway-south-africaso I’m going to get back inside my wildlife refuge and take up the challenges God has for me there. How about you? Ready for the challenges of 2017?  chapmans-peak-drive-south-africaGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…atlantic-coast-south-of-cape-town-south-africaBe still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-2,10-11). chapmans-peak-drive-cape-town-s-a-atlantic-coast(All photos were taken along Chapman’s Peak Drive, south of Cape Town, South Africa, on our recent tour.)