Category Archives: Animal Stories

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.)

 

Rewriting Stories: Jungle Book

jungle-book-coverHave you seen Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book? How did you like it?  jungle-book-2I’d definitely recommend it, and I especially loved their fantastic graphics.
The world of reality and imagination are merging at an incredible pace!

jungle-book-3Although I appreciated the advances in sophisticated graphic design techniques, the movie was a little disappointing to me. It was scarier and less humorous than Disney’s original cartoon classic…more tension; less relaxation and fun. jungle-book-cartoon-versionAdmittedly, I own a copy of Disney’s original version, and we’ve watched it so often as a family (kids and now grand kids) that we know all the songs by heart and use classic lines to pepper our family’s own peculiar inside-joke culture. baloo-and-mowgli-singing-in-disneys-jungle-bookSo, I guess I’m not surprised that the new version is a bit of a let down. Who can forget all the good song and dance routines, and who will never miss them?  🙂

mowgli-1895-illustration-by-j-lockwood-kipling-father-of-rudyard-kiplingHowever, I was doing okay until the ending. What? No romantic “happily ever after”? In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli enters the village, is adopted by a human family, marries, and has a son of his own, which is portended in Disney’s original cartoon version. The thought of Mowgli spending his life in the jungle is simply unacceptable to me! I want all my endings to be happy, and “happy” usually ends with wedding bells and a “happily ever after.”

Thankfully, my comfort isn’t riding on how accurately Disney portrays Kipling’s book, but my comfort is riding on how accurately churches portray the end of the Christian story. The Bible is clear that there will be a happily ever after ending for all who believe and come to the Lamb of God. If you go to a church where they’ve rewritten the ending to the story of life, I hope you’re not content. Find a church where the story of man’s need for redemption and the marriage supper of the Lamb is still told!   summer-sun-and-cloudsThen a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.‘”
(Revelation 19:5-9, NIV)

 

Racing Extinction or Promoting Life

9                    Despite Racing Extinction being dubbed a “thriller” by some, Racing_Extinction_posterI think of it more as an electrifying documentary about the vicious and inexcusable exploitation of animals around the world that is resulting in a massive number of God’s two million+ beautiful species going extinct at an estimated rate of 150-200 (up to 2,000) per day, which many scientists believe is as much as 1000 times the natural rate and will be cataclysmic for our planet. 10Racing Extinction is a visually breathtaking and emotionally heartbreaking look at the cruel disregard for animal life in the mad rush for money and pleasure. louieLouie Psihoyos, a Greek American photographer and film director, has created a powerful documentary with enough incriminating evidence to convince anyone with a shred of humanity left that we need to do something to change our own habits and tastes in order to save our planet…literally! And, this isn’t just a money-making deal for Louie. 12On the day he was planning to accept an Academy Award for his documentary, The Cove, Louie instead went on an undercover mission to expose the (illegal) sale of whale meat at a restaurant in America. 6Racing Extinction shows several horrifying videos of undercover investigations of the shark fin and manta gill trade, and several of those who are risking their lives in this quest were choking back tears as they discussed the merciless killing of animals for delicacies or supposed medicines. 2In addition to the movie, activists have begun the campaign “Start with One Thing” to encourage people to change their habits. 1For those of us who aren’t in to eating Shark Fin Soup, there is one obvious way we can contribute: simply by eating a little less beef, which is hugely expensive to raise (in the global economy of resources). Fish Manta rayThat will be a tough one for me, because I love beef, but I’m going to try to do so, and I read that Americans are generally overfed, so it will probably be good for me as well as for the planet. After all, we’re all in this together!4And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God has given us sovereignty over the earth, but I believe his intention is for us to care for our world as good stewards, the way a kind and merciful king would oversee his dominion.

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner?

Dan and Brianna celebrating birthdayOne of our sons just moved back to GR and took a new job! Want to guess which one? It can’t be Daniel, because he and Brianna already live here. In fact, Brianna and Alan share a birthday, so last Sunday we had a birthday party together: Brianna’s 33 and Alan’s 66, making her exactly half Alan’s age! Ducklings swimming near shoreThat was super fun…although they might not have been quite so thrilled when I pointed out that they’ve now lived one-third and two-thirds of a century of excellence (respectively). I guess they’re no longer spring ducklings…

Gosling pecking in grassHow time flies!!  DeerTo make it a little harder to guess who’s coming for dinner tonight Geese and goslings near shore(and hopefully more fun), Geese and GoslingsI thought I’d add a few pictures of who’s already been coming over to eat Wood duckat our house every day. Racoon in cherry treeRaccy Coon and family come pretty much every dayRacoon eating cherries from tree…although they tend to come for an early-morning breakfast Racoon eating an unripe cherryand prefer fish for dinner (which we’re having tonight). Geese and goslings on shoreBrunch guests include the gaggling geese Geese and goslingsand their gangly goslings, Ducklings on the lawnalthough the ducklings seem to prefer late afternoon luncheons on the lawn.  Hairy Woodpecker on logThe woodpecker’s speciale is grubs ala log, Robin feeding babies in nestand the  the baby robins are very partial to worms ala mom, Robin in cherry treealthough both their parents love cherries! Robin eating a cherryIn fact, I’d say our black cherry tree has by far the favorite feasting fare Squirrel in treeat the moment, Squirrel harvesting cherriesand the squirrels, Robin in cherry treebirds, Chipmunk eating cherry in treeand chipmunks strip it bare before the cherries have a chance to really ripen.   😦 Grackle eating cherriesSo, it’s not like we don’t have lots of company for dinner, Chipmunk eating a cherrybut tonight is going to be very special, Alan Joel and Kathi in Italybecause Joel will be dining at our dinner table! Joel playing with Jon's kidsHe finished all his coursework for his PhD, and—enterprising soul that he is—

Joel walking with Jon's family on lanehe’s moved home from Boston and accepted a job working as an assistant editor at Kregel Publications, the oldest of four Dutch Christian publishing houses based here in Grand Rapids. Visiting Italy       Their office is just a few miles from our house, and he could bike it, 2009 Honda Fit     although he just bought a sporty Honda Fit last night, so he’s ready to travel!Joel out for SUP rideAt first Alan and I were appalled to think he’d leave his full-ride scholarship to take a job, but he can actually write his dissertation in GR if he wants, Joel with his nephewand he pointed out that most publishing companies require three years of experience before they’ll consider you, so we all feel this job is a special blessing and gift from God. Kayaking on LakeNow, instead of sirens and helicopter sounds at night, he’ll have to get used to geese and our frog chorus. Thank you, Lord!  Mourning Doves in treeGive praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
” (Psalm 105:1-3, NIV)

(PS—Just in case any of you are wondering, Joel is still single; all the pictures of Joel are with friends and family.)

 

Our Quiet Winter Guest

garden-room-2015-winter-copyOur garden room brings a bit of summer into our home even in the winter, but this past winter I discovered we had a quiet little guest who’d taken up residence with us! MandevillaI have no idea how he managed to find his way in, but perhaps he was happily residing in our mandevilla and caught a ride when I brought it in for the winter. Winter HomeHowever he arrived, I never noticed him until snows had covered the ground and it seemed inhospitable to take him outdoors, although I worried that he might not find enough to eat. Frog sleeping on an orchidHowever, every once in a while I would see him hopping across the floor, climbing up a window, or happily curled up, sleeping on a plant, and so I guessed he was managing okay and perhaps even helping me keep down the mealy bug population. Toad in gardenAt any rate, I finally found him again this spring one rainy day and  took him outside to enjoy the bliss of a warm, wet world among the violets and lilies of the valleys unfurling in our garden, and he hopped away, seemingly no worse for the wear and ready to enjoy springtime.Frog on orchid I was relieved that he’d survived, but almost a little sorry to see him go, since although I was concerned about his welfare, I found myself looking forward to seeing him on occasion and always hoped he’d be comfortable enough in his unusual winter retreat.Mandevilla in rainI think animals and flowers are happiest outside in the fresh air and sunshine… and probably people are too, but I’m so thankful for my home as a safe shelter for  sleeping at night and a warm, dry protection against inclement weather! Toad in garden 2And, I was very glad to have been able to provide a little haven for our quiet little guest last winter! May he live to be 100.  🙂

“He prayeth best, who loveth best;
All things great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us;
He made and loveth all.”
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

“He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.”
(Mrs. Cecil Alexander’s Hymns for Little Children, 1848)

Coyote Hills Regional Park in Spring: Vibrant with Poppies, Rocks, Planes, and Turkeys

Coyote Hills Regional Park PoppiesIf you’ve ever wondered why the golden poppy is California’s state flower, Golden poppies. Coyote Hills Regional Parktry visiting the Golden State in spring! Coyote Hills Regional Park Amid the poppiesWhile on a tour to see our numerous West Coast rels
(which included the families of 2 sons and 3 siblings), Coyote Hills Regional ParkAaron took us with his crew for a hike near
San Francisco in the East Bay’s Coyote Hills Regional Park, Spring Wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional Parka vast stretch (978 acres) of marshlands and rolling green hills that are carpeted Poppies in March at Coyote Hills Regional Parkwith flowers—most gloriously poppies—in early spring. Boardwalk through marsh in Coyote Hills Regional ParkIt’s been so rainy this year that part of the boardwalk through the marsh Alemeda Creek Ponding Areawas submerged by overflow from Alameda Creek, Wetlands in Coyote Hills Regional Parkso we had to retrace our steps along the Muskrat Trail. Gorgeous wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional ParkHowever, the hills were phenomenal! Coyote Hills Regional Park poppies bloomingThe bedrock of Coyote Hills is part of the Franciscan Formation, Greenstone and chert outcroppings at Coyote Hills Regional Parkand half of that is composed of sheared greenstone,
which varies in color from shades of green to even reds and yellows. Franciscan Formation. Coyote Hills Regional ParkWhere the rocks have not been weathered, there are some stunning outcroppings with vibrantly colored veins of recrystalized red and yellow chert (jasper). Wildflowers and vibrant rock formations. Coyote Hills Regional ParkAt the top of one hill, the rocks had some strikingly blue coloring so beautiful Greenstone in Coyote Hills Regional Park that I feared people might think I was just “turning up the color” on my photos! Hiking in Coyote Hills Regional ParkFrom the tops of the Red Hill Trail, you can also catch vistas of San Francisco, Evaporation Ponds in Coyote Hills Regional Parkand the southwestern side of Coyote Hills is bordered by tidal mud flats that have been landscaped to create evaporation ponds for salt water from the Pacific. Radio-operated airplane pilots at Coyote Hills Regional ParkThis area is also popular with radio-controlled airplane operators, Coyote Hills Regional Park Oops. Shouldn't pick the flowers!and on the balmy day of our visit (Oops! It’s pretty, but don’t pick the flowers!), Radio-control airplane operatorone friendly pilot shared some of his expertise and delight in flying with us. Climbing the Trail in Coyote Hills Regional ParkThe only downside of this perfectly good day for UP Testy Tom Turkey in Coyote Hills Regional Parkwas a close encounter with an IFO…an identifiable flying object
which turned out to be a testy tom turkey. 16 Turkeys in our fieldWe have a flock of about 2 dozen turkeys in our Michigan woodsy backyard,
but they shun humans and won’t pose for close up photo ops, Turkeys 2 Coyote Hills Regional Parkso I was delighted that these turkeys seemed more than happy to accommodate… Turkeys by the Red Hill Trail in Coyote Hills Regional Parkuntil I realized the hens were simply feeling secure Tom Turkey at Coyote Hills Regional Park 2because their gorgeous but irascible tom guarded his harem Tom Turkey defending harem in Coyote Hills Regional Parkby  aggressively accosting interlopers, Coyote Hills Regional Park 2including my small partners Poppies in Coyote Hills Regional Parkwho—if a bit taller—were not nearly so wide! Green hills carpeted with wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional ParkAnd so, I would advise prospective hikers to expect a fabulous day at the park, Testy Tom Turkey in Coyote Hills Regional Parkbut beware the jabberturk, my son! Tired boy after big day of hiking“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety”
(Psalm 4:8).Little Boy Shoes after big day of hiking

 

 

 

Where in the World Did Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Come From?

Rudolph the Red-nosed ReindeerThat’s easy, the North Pole, right? That was good enough for me as an 8-year-old, but after spending a night at Weber’s Inn last weekend where the big celebrity has been hanging out, I decided to do a more thorough background check, and I found a story with a very happy ending that I thought you might enjoy hearing too. The story of Rudolph’s rise to fame from undersized misfit to hero was first created back in 1939 as a Christmas advertising promo for Montgomery Ward by a young man named Robert L. May. May was only 34 at the time and had a darling little 4-year-old daughter…but he also had a wife who was terminally ill with cancer. His Rudolph story was an immediate hit, and Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies that season and 6 million copies by the end of World War 2. The prospects for the copyright license were huge, but because Robert had written it as a paid employee, he had no legal right to any of the royalties for his creation. This was particularly awful, because Robert’s wife had died from cancer during this time and he was totally overwhelmed by medical debts. Thankfully, in 1947 May approached the CEO of Montgomery Ward, Sewell Avery, who must have had a lot of Christmas Spirit in his heart that year, because he turned the copyright over to Robert May, who went from pauper to prince as a result. The legend of Rudolph gained a permanent place in pop culture when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote a song and lyrics about Rudolph which was picked up and popularized by Gene Autry in 1949. Over the next years, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” became a perennial favorite and one of the best-selling secular Christmas songs of all time, second only to “White Christmas.” So, even though Rudolph is really from Chicago, I think he’s got an ice palace up in penguin country now. However, if you want to have your picture taken with him or get his autograph between now and Christmas Eve, try Weber’s Inn! On the other hand, if you want a very shiny nose and to be a hero, I’d try the Moses Method instead: Hang out with God!  🙂

 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.” (Exodus 34:29-30)