Category Archives: Animal Stories

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.)

 

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.)