Category Archives: Critters

The Birthday Club Strikes Again

Happy Spring to you!! We celebrated spring and Cindi’s birthday yesterday, which was so much fun that I wanted to share right away in case any of you living in the GR area might be interested in going to the Sugarbush Festival at Blandford Nature Center tomorrow (March 24, 2018) where they’ll be making maple syrup, etc! Also, this coming week would be an ideal time to take your kids
to the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI, during spring break because they have all sorts of babies being birthed,  and if you show up at feeding time,  they may even let you give the baby goats a bottle of warm milk!  (This may depend on how many children come.)  Of course, being our Birthday Club, we stopped at Sandy’s Donut House  for some of their famous donuts,  and we took a lunch break at El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant,  where they spontaneously blessed us with some festive fried ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday” when they found out we were celebrating Cindi’s birthday.  If you go to the Sugarbush Festival tomorrow,  dress warmly, because it’s only supposed to be a high of 39°F,  but there are lots of things to see outside and some lovely nature walks.  Also,  think about stopping at Sandy’s for a donut on your way, or maybe serving pancakes and syrup at home first, because there isn’t a pancake breakfast there. However, they did let us taste the syrup,
and you’ll be able to buy some yummy maple syrup cotton candy or other treats! If you decide to go the Critter House,  I’d recommend going in the next few weeks while the mothers are birthing,  and call ahead to see what time the next feeding will be.  Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little warm milk on,
because even kids will be kids…but it’s well worth the spilled milk! I’d never in all my years fed a baby goat before, and it was so much fun!One of the things I love best about our Birthday Club (and about life), is that we’re never too old to try new things, experience new joys and find new beauties. Are you trying new adventures? Keep exploring! The world is full of good things!

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).

He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

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).

A Crab in the Hand is Actually Safer Than Two in the Sand

We spent a few days with my son Michael’s family at Cocoa Beach not long ago. It was warm enough to swim, which we all did,  and surf (which only Michael and Grace did),  but we also spent a lot of time walking and playing along the seashore.The kids collected sea shells and took turns burying each other in the sand…pretending to be mermaids!  While Mom and Dad went for a long jaunt down the beach,there was some serious sand castle building going on with Nana,and the girls made a race car to take their little brothers for a ride.

For whatever reason (perhaps our deep-seated fascination with living things), I think the highlight of the day was chasing sand crabs, who like to hide themselves in little holes near the high tide edge of the shore. Michael is an expert at catching them, and the kids are always enthralled to see him work with such energy and focus until he finally manages to capture a little creature. The kids are fascinated, but Michael always protects the sand crab so he isn’t hurt by curious little hands, and I’m touched that the crab backs up against Michael’s hand, sensing that he’s “safe” there…which he is! I thought about how the little crab wanted to be free and tried so hard to hide, although he really was completely safe with Michael and eventually relaxed and “hid” in the shelter of his hands. Actually, as long as he was with Michael, he was doubtless even safer than off on his own trying to escape the shore birds and dodge the incoming tide, but Michael knew the crab would rather be free, and so he let him go, and away he scurried, back to his cave in the sand. I’m like that little crab! People are like little crabs. We want to be free to run and play, but we also have to run from trouble and spend way too much time in dark, dank caves! When the Master finds us and tucks us into his hand, we can try to run away, but we’re really much better off recognizing that we’re safe with him. We can back right up against his big hand and rest, sheltered in the shadow of his care.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-29).

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).

Hurricane Harvey: A Truly Epic Storm

A blog follower from India asked what’s happening with the rain in America, so I thought maybe this would be a good day to share what’s going on with Hurricane Harvey. So far, it’s the biggest rainstorm in continental U.S. history, and it’s still raining, so we have no clue what’s yet to come. Hurricane Harvey started as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 13, 2017, made landfall on August 26 at Rockport, Texas as a Class 4 hurricane, went back out to sea and has returned again this morning. Hurricane Harvey has unleashed over 50 inches of rain east of Houston, and it’s still raining this morning.  The record so far is 51.9 inches near Mont Belvieu, TX  (40 miles east of Houston). The downpour also caused one key reservoir to spill over, which has led to the largest flood in Houston’s history. Although isolated areas of Hawaii have had more rain, the overall effect of Harvey has had no rivals in American history, dropping about 3 feet of rain over most of the Houston region—some estimated 9 trillion gallons of water!— which affects more than five million people. According to the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin, the probability for such a storm is about one per thousand years! Last Sunday morning, the National Weather Service tweeted: “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

One problem that’s gaining attention concerns the wildlife, which are swirling in the floods. There are hundreds of thousands of American alligators in Texas (some seen have been up to 8 feet long), 23 species of snakes (all of which can swim, but only 5 of which are poisonous), and billions of invasive fire ants (who are the ultimate survivors, because they band together by the thousands to produce massive flotillas up to several feet across). In addition, there are all the usual wildlife common throughout America, such as deer and coons, that haven’t been able to flag down a Noah’s ark for rescue and are trying to find safety. For example, under the Waugh Bridge near downtown Houston, a colony of 300,000 free-tailed bats have lost their home in the surging waters.

Of course, the most pressing issue is saving human lives. Fire fighters from around the country are arriving to help, and even civilians who own pleasure boats are coming to aid in the rescue efforts. I saw an interview of one man who said “I got tired of watching it from the comfort of my own home” and decided to help. He had rescued over 2 dozen victims last night and this morning. The death toll has confirmed 30 dead, but untold numbers are missing. One center was trying to prepare dry clothing and food for 5,000, but so far over 8,600 have come for help.

In the midst of all the horror and grief, there have been some bright spots. Several news reporters pointed out that people were responding with compassion towards everyone…regardless of race…no questions asked about creed! One man pointed out that the heart of America doesn’t come out “when there are pitched political shows, we see the heart and the true nature of our country when you have a tragedy strike like this. Everybody wants to help.” Praise God for that mercy!

However, the tragedy is still very much in the making. Harvey’s path inland is producing some bleak predictions for Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and even into the Ohio River Valley. Please stay tuned, and thank you to all who are helping and praying. The estimates of economic damages are up to 50+ billion dollars, and I’ve noticed that charities such as Samaritan’s Purse are accepting gifts as they try to respond to the crisis.

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

 

A Whale Tale from Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

whale-tail-by-michaelLast week I shared 20+ of my favorite photos from the Na Pali Coast, but today
I want to share my whale tale (although this tail was taken by my son, Mike). scanning-the-sea-for-whales-na-pali-coast-kauai       Every time we go to Hawaii, I scan the sea for signs of whales, adventure-rafting-na-pali-coast-kauai     and I’ve always wanted to go whale watching, quiet-na-pali-coast-kauaibecause from the shoreline, the whales are usually way out in the distance
and all you can see is s puff of spray to let you know they’re there.sailboats-heading-to-na-pali-coast-kauaiWhile on the Blue Dolphin Charter tour up Kauai’s Na Pali coast,
we saw tons of whales. beach-along-na-pali-coast-kauaiLiterally! humpback-whale-starts-to-dive-napali-coast-kauaiWell, we saw 12-20, but an adult whale is 39-52 feet long and weighs about 79,000 pounds, so each whale we saw was up to 40 tons of whale, right?  🙂  na-pali-coastline-and-mountainsOur captain pointed out that the humpback whales in the Pacific
are really Hawaiian citizens, na-pali-coast-jagged-mountains-kauaisince they give birth here and just migrate north
(about 8,000 miles to Alaska or other Arctic waters) for the summers. magnificent-na-pali-coast-kauaiAfter the mother gives birth, she feeds her calf milk,
and he can gain up to 150-180 pounds each day. sun-streaming-down-on-na-palis-rugged-coast-kauaiI can’t even imagine that much growth, can you? adventure-boat-plying-waters-along-na-pali-coastAlthough boats aren’t allowed to come within 130 yards of a whale, looking-south-along-na-pali-coast-kauaiwhales aren’t held to the same high standard,
and if they want to come close to explore, they will. mother-and-calf-whales-emerging-next-to-our-blue-dolphin-ii-charterOn our trip, a whale and her calf surfaced within 15 yards of our boat (closest siting the Blue Dolphin II had seen all year). whale-diving-napali-coast-kauaiOf course, it all happened so fast that it was hard to get in position and focused at the right place and the right moment, whale-surfacing-na-pali-coast-hawaiibut I was able to snap a few photos before they breached and dived. whale-submerging-hawaiis-na-pali-coastI’ve had a lot of fun thinking about spiritual parallels since.

                                                 Here are a few thoughts:humpback-whale-by-blue-dolphin-charter-catamaran-kauai*Jesus came to earth (“Alaska’s frozen shores”…no offense, Alaskans. Alaska is also beautiful, just like this earth, but it’s cold compared to Hawaii!), but He was from heaven (Hawaiian/heavenly citizenship) and returned to heaven. Believers also have a heavenly citizenship due to our spiritual birth and will join him in heaven again. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV).  mother-and-baby-humpback-whales-kauai*Jesus was the ultimate whale calf. He knew the scripture. He not only absorbed the scripture, He was the Word made flesh. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father),  full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).whale-in-pacific-ocean-kauais-napali-coast*We can become spiritual giants  (like the humpback whales) too, if we’ll only drink in the Word. Humpbacks grow for 10 years. Have you stopped feeding on the Word? We can grow our entire lives if we will! “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm  92:14).  whale-blowing-blue-dolphin-charters*Just like the whales in the sea, Jesus is always there whether or not He’s obvious. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).  whale-tail-blue-dolphin-charter-catamaran-napali-coastjpg*We strain our eyes to catch a glimpse, but we don’t often see Him close up! “Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:7-9). humpback-whale-emerges-right-by-our-ship-kauai*But, sometimes He appears right beside us, and when He does, what a thrill! Those wonderful spiritual experiences remain with us throughout our lives. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17).end-of-napali-coast

 

 

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.)