Category Archives: Meditations and reflections

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

Deep in the Heart of Kauai

mountains-in-kauaiDeep within Kauai’s mountainous heartland lies Mt. Wai’ale’ale,
which means “rippling water.” mt-waialeale-waterfallsWith an elevation of 5,148 ft. and an average of 452+ inches of rain every year, mt-waialeale-wettest-spot-on-earthMt. Wai’ale’ale’s summit is considered one of the rainiest spots on earth, mt-waialeale-waterfalls-kauai-aerial-viewand its “Wall of Tears” is filled with waterfalls gushing-waterfalls-kauaistreaming down its face. green-mountain-slopes-kauaiFrom a distance you can’t see the waterfalls. secret-manawaiopuna-falls-on-kauaiYou have to come closer and look carefully. manawaiopuna-falls-jurassic-park-waterfall-kauaiThis area is so wild and remote that it was used in filming Jurassic Parkrugged-mountain-peaks-in-kauaiMy husband didn’t want to go on the helicopter ride lush-foliage-in-kauais-interior-hawaiibecause sudden drops narrow-valley-on-kauai-blue-hawaiian-helicopter-rideand sharp turns in narrow spaces make him motion sick, waterfalls-in-the-interior-of-kauaibut I was totally enthralled the entire time. na-pali-coast-from-the-air-kauaiI’ll always remember my wondrous flight into the heart of Kauai, rugged-valleys-in-kauai-helicopter-tourand how much it made me think of flying into the heart of God. jagged-mountains-along-na-pali-coast-kauaiGod’s heart is deep, rugged, and privately owned, just like Kauai’s mountains. na-pali-coast-kauai-blue-hawaiian-helicopter-rideHis heart is inaccessible except by permission of the Holy Spirit,
who is able to guide us in. mt-waialeale-waterfalls-kauaiWithin God’s heart is a “Wall of Tears”
weeping for mankind to choose to love Him. spectacular-waterfalls-in-kauaiDo you realize that God’s ultimate sacrifice of love is in allowing us
to choose good or evil, to reject Him or love Him…
and then loving us so much that He sent His Son to redeem us?mt-waialeale-fallsIf God forced us to obey Him…forced Himself on us, He’d be a rapist, not a lover. waterfalls-in-kauaiDo you wonder why there’s sin in the world? Because we choose sin over God. secret-manawaiopuna-falls-on-kauai-2Still, God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to save us from sin
and transform us into children of light and love. blue-hawaiian-helicopterHave you allowed the Holy Spirit to transport you into the heart of God? manawaiopuna-falls-kauaiHave you marveled at his love and experienced drinking from His Living Water?rugged-mountains-along-na-pali-coast-hawaii In not, can I encourage you to come into His heart today?close-up-of-mt-waialeale-waterfalls-kauai-from-helicopter“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,
how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. (
Romans 8:31-33)na-pali-coast-on-way-to-hanalei-kauai

 

A Few of My Favorite Birds (35): Africa’s Golden “Cape Weaver” Birds

ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-hanging-upside-downWhile visiting North Uthungulu in South Africa, tourist-shopping-center-in-north-uthunguluwe stopped at a strip mall (aka little souvenir location built for tourists). hovels-by-road-in-north-uthunguluI usually tried to buy something home-in-north-uthungulu to help support the local artisans, cape-weaver-weaving-his-nestbut this time I was so taken by the birds that I could hardly take my eyes off them long enough to look for soaps, candles, or glassware! cape-weaver-bird-weaving-with-his-beak-using-grassA really squawky colony of brilliantly arrayed Cape weaver birds
were busily making nests in a tree along the path, brilliantly-colored-cape-weaver-bird-south-africaand they immediately captured my attention, cape-weaver-bird-south-africabecause I’d never seen anything quite like them before. cape-weaver-bird-s-a-11-2-16In fact, there are weaver birds in some tropical areas of Asia and Australia,
but weaver birds are most common in sub-Saharan Africa, colony-of-cape-weaver-birdswhere they tend to live in colonies of 2-20 gregarious (though fiercely territorial) males and how-many-ever females they attract. ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-in-tree Male Cape weavers (Ploceus capensis) are about 7 inches long,
have long, conical bills (good for weaving and for sucking nectar).intricate-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdThe males are especially colorful during the long mating season,
which lasts from June to February and peaks during the rainy season. cape-weaver-bird-in-treeDuring the mating season, Cape weaver males are decked out
with golden underparts and orange faces, olive-drab-back-of-weaver-birdsalthough their heads and back are more olive drab in coloring
(which is also the year-round color of females and young chicks.) cape-weaver-making-nestThese talented guys weave intricate, kidney-shaped nests
out of grass, reeds, and leafy fibers to attract prospective mates. kidney-bean-shaped-cape-weaver-bird-nestTheir nests have small, downward-facing entrances and are fully waterproof. cape-weaver-bird-in-nestInterested females test the construction quality by tugging at the interior walls, and if a nest makes the young lady feel snug and secure, father-cape-weaver-bird-helps-feed-youngshe’ll adopt it for the season, mating with her benefactor. colony-of-cape-weaver-birds-north-uthungulu-south-africaUnlike most birds, Cape weavers are polygynous, and one male may build
and therefore entice up to seven mates during any one season. cape-weaver-bird-with-nestEach female spends a couple of weeks brooding her clutch of 2-5 eggs.
She stays the first few nights with the chicks after they hatch, unused-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdbut then she roosts close by in one of the unused nests. cape-weaver-birds-south-africaAlthough the females initially care for the chicks, ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-making-nestas they get older, the males help out with their own chicks,
which must keep them extremely busy for awhile! empty-nest-of-african-cape-weaver-bird-11-2-16Happily, in about 17 days the fledglings are big enough to find their own suppers of seeds, fruit, nectar, unsuspecting small spiders, and insects,
and the parents become empty nesters.

Are you an empty nester? Do you have a home? Keeping up a home seems like a never-ending job to me. Have you considered Jesus, who worked constantly—much harder than the energetic weaver birds—to prepare spiritual homes for “whosoever will”? Still, despite his tireless work, he never had a nest of his own, because He was too busy helping others!

The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head
(Luke 9:56, 58).

(If you want to hear what Cape Weaver birds sound like, this is from YouTube):

 

Reflections On The Devil’s Pool: Did The Devil Make Me Do It?

victoria-falls-from-zimbabwe-national-parkAs one who taught life saving and served as a water safety instructor for ten years,  and as one who swims around our little lake most days during the summers, I thought we’d do okay at the Devil’s Pool. team-on-livingstone-island-preparing-for-devils-poolAlan wasn’t going to go at all, but he did sign up at the last minute—mostly in hopes of keeping me from drowning, I think. We did survive, but after thinking it over, I personally feel that the adrenaline rush and excitement wasn’t worth the risk to life, limb, and health. Here are my reasons:

view-of-hippos-on-zambezi-river-from-royal-livingstone-hotel-zambia1. We had to swim in the Zambezi River,
where I’d seen hippos and crocodiles upstream.warning-about-the-danger-of-the-devils-pool-zambia2. Even though there had been a twenty-year drought and we visited just before the rainy season began, there were all kinds of safety issues. zambezi-river-on-way-to-devils-pool-victoria-falls3. There was a definite current to negotiate. rocky-path-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls4. We had to walk on somewhat slippery rocks to reach the river. starting-across-the-zambezi-river-to-livingstone-island5. We had to feel our way over slippery rocks under the water
for part of the time. swimming-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls6. We also had to swim upstream (up river) for a short distance.sitting-atop-victoria-falls-zambia 7. Logs or other debris could have hit us at any time. basking-in-the-devils-pool8. Fish nibbled at our feet and made us all jumpy. current-in-the-devils-pool-zambia9. One false move could have sent one of us over the edge. top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-devils-pool10. The rock ledge, though sturdy, will doubtless one day give way. devils-poo-victoria-fallsMay it not happen when anybody’s nearby!
(That was the #1 reason our tour guide didn’t want to try it.)

basking-in-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls11. Last, but perhaps most importantly (and I didn’t know this until we were having dinner  a week ago with some friends who do medical mission work in Africa), the Zambezi River is known to have a strain of parasitic Schistosomiasis which is a common in Sub-saharan Africa and can be lethal if not treated. There are some 200 million people affected world wide, half of whom live in Africa. Since learning this, I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for testing.  So, to answer my question: Did the Devil Make Me Do It? No. I chose to do it. Was it a wise choice? I don’t think so. Would I do it again? No. Did I pray about it? Yes. Why didn’t God tell me not to go? I’m not sure. I think sometimes God allows us to do things that aren’t wise, just like a parent allows his child to do things that the parent knows are risky. I do believe in God’s divine will (which cannot be altered) and His permissive will (which allows us freedom of choice). I prayed and didn’t get a clear “No,” so I went. And, as with all unwise decisions, there may be consequences I didn’t consider when I made my choice. In future, I think I want a clear “Yes” before making decisions, not just a “You may!”

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12)

What’s Under the Mantle of White?

img_7265It’s snowing and 8° here in Michigan this morning.snowy-lake The sky looks almost foggy,img_7263 and everything is wrapped in a mantle of white as luxurious as ermine fur! img_7262Don’t you love how snow softens lines and covers over the deadness and defects img_7273of our landscapes after the cold has killed off everything green? img_7272-2It occurs to me that it’s almost impossible to guess what’s under the soft, glistening mounds of white unless you know the landscape well.
img_7270For instance, wouldn’t it be impossible to know what’s under the white mounds of snow in the preceding photos grill-buried-under-snowunless you’re able to back up and see the bigger picture?  (Outdoor grill)snowy-stack-of-wood(Not a bed, but a stack of firewood!) img_8471Makes me think of God, who covers over our sins with his grace and makes us clean, not only on the outside but on the inside too! (Kayak on our dock.) overturned-row-boat Thank you, Father, for a new year and the chance to be renewed again!  picnic-table-covered-in-snowPurge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow
” (Psalm 51:7).  huge-snowy-doghouseWhoever covers an offense seeks love” (Proverbs 17:9).

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.)

 

Happy Dawn of 2017!

sunrise-from-the-air-22Can you believe it’s the dawn of a new year?  sunrise-from-the-airWhen Alan and I were kids (back in the dark ages), sunrise-from-the-air-2neither of us got past imagining how old we’d be in 2000. sunrise-from-the-air-3We’d be 50…pretty much ancient! sunrise-from-the-air-4If “three score and ten” expresses a natural life time, sunrise-from-the-air-5then in just three more years we’ll be in to overtime. sunrise-from-the-air-6Yikes! sunrise-from-the-air-7Is it only the people who haven’t figured out how to finish the game by 70 sunrise-from-the-air-8who have to play extra innings? sunrise-from-the-air-9On the way home from a recent trip to visit family in Florida, sunrise-from-the-air-14I watched in wonder as our plane skimmed above the clouds sunrise-from-the-air-1while the sun rose with unusual splendor. sunrise-from-the-air-27Often, my flight path takes me above the clouds, but for whatever reason, sunrise-from-the-air-10this flight sailed between the layers of clouds, sunrise-from-the-air-30and I was also heading northwest, sunrise-from-the-air-11so the sunrise lasted much longer than usual. sunrise-from-the-air-12I think it was a combination of elevation, direction, and clouds sunrise-from-the-air-13that made the sunrise so splendid: sunrise-from-the-air-28rising, heading home, sunrise-from-the-air-15peering through the ever shifting clouds that obscured the sun sunrise-from-the-air-23but made every appearance all the more glorious and captivating… sunrise-from-the-air-25Isn’t that just how life is? sunrise-from-the-air-19It’s the struggle to rise, sunrise-from-the-air-26to journey home, sunrise-from-the-air-29and to deal with the clouds of life sunrise-from-the-air-16that makes every appearance of the Son so precious to us. pastel-sunrise-over-cloudsAs we begin this new year, may we experience a fresh Sonrise in our souls…sunrise-from-the-air-18one that lasts a long time, sunrise-from-the-air-24totally captivates us, sunrise-from-the-air-21and causes us to stand in awe of our glorious God.  sunrise-from-the-air-17He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap:
he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
sunrise-from-the-air-20Let all the earth fear the Lord:
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him
” (Psalm 33:7-9).