#Wind –friend or foe?

(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

Rogers and Hammerstein, the famous composers of the old time musical, Oklahoma!, immortalized the words, “and watch a hawk making lazy circles in the sky.”  Sitting at my table outside I happened to look up into the blue above me and saw just that. Of course, it could have been a turkey vulture, a little challenging for me to tell at that distance, and naturally it wouldn’t have quite the same poetic ring to it as in the song. Regardless, the beauty of it was mesmerizing.  This bird was expressing part of her innate wiring, and doing it with seemingly effortlessness and grace. 

The other interesting observation in this scenario was that the cloud movement was indicating the wind was decidedly out of the northwest.  The bird, however, was completely unhampered by the direction or the velocity of the airflow, and in fact, when she was apparently done with that particular circumference, commenced heading into a direct headwind! 

Now, granted, I’m a Purdue Boilermaker, but decidedly not from their renown aeronautical engineering department.  Even so, I seem to know that this bird’s impressive flight pattern had something intrinsically to do with the set of her wings, rather than merely the direction and strength of the air current. She has no control over the wind, but full control of her feathers.  She understands and has mastered how to work with the wind, or better, to make the wind work for her.  It is her nature to do so.  And unlike us humans, she doesn’t even know how to complain if the wind seems to be going the wrong way, or how to whine if the wind seems too strong.

We humans, however, are of a higher order.  We are well versed and abundantly proficient in the art of complaining and whining.  And, unfortunately, it is not even an acquired art—it has been hard-wired into our code since, well…since we left the first Garden.  Our original two parents somehow couldn’t see fit to work within God’s set perimeter, even though back then there weren’t even ten commandments, only one: don’t eat from that tree, just that one, only one.  All the plethora of foliage and fruit were available and in abundance and could be enjoyed without restraint, but just not that one.  And we all know the rest.  (Not that I could have done any better.  I probably would have built a tree house up inside of it and invited my husband in for afternoon tea with forbidden-fruit turnovers.)

There’s just something about wanting what we are not supposed to have.  Or are warned against.  Or belongs to someone else.  Or are supposed to wait for in the future.  And we have a penchant for whining when we can’t get it…now.  Consider:

  • That certain house, or car, or job
  • Or maybe retirement!
  • Children, or grandchildren,
  • Or maybe getting the children out of the house!
  • Social reputation, positions and status
  • Or maybe solitude and quiet!
  • Friends and relationships, or even marriage,
  • Or a better, more satisfying, more stable marriage!

According to that same perspective, we complain when the “wind” of our expectations blows in a way that appears contrary to our desires:

  • Economic recession and financial loss
  • Health issues, both personal and with our loved ones
  • Unexpected bills and other un-planned-for responsibilities (children, aging parents, to name a few)
  • Even the so-called “Acts of God” (what a bum rap THAT is!) that leave untold pain and destruction in their wake.

The lists of things we choose to be discontent about are as long as they are differently perceived by each person.  And just when we think we may have conquered one, there are plenty more in the queue waiting to pop up on our emotional screen.  Despite this challenge, God calls us to contentedness, and promises that such a discipline brings great gain. (1)  Linda Dillow, in her wonderful book entitled Be Still My Anxious Heart, writes about acquiring this skill of contentedness in all areas of life, such as employment, relationships, even in our own physical uniqueness.  It takes time, and it takes effort to surrender our “wannabes” to God’s, but both the time and the effort are well worth the end product of contentedness.

However, lest we misunderstand, contentedness and surrender are not equal to resignation.  True heart surrender to our heavenly Father’s plan and purpose—however strange and nonconforming it may be to our own—brings a peace that He really has everything under control, things are progressing according to His design, and since I don’t have to figure it all out (I’ve tried, and it’s painful), I can trust Him to tell me where to step next.  Resignation, on the other hand, is giving up.  Quitting.  Taking my ball and going home.  Instead of peace, I open myself up to bitterness, jealousy, and unforgiveness.  And these guys are very, very dangerous playmates indeed.  They tend to bring more unwanted guests into our lives, and sometimes we might not even be aware of them! (2)

One of these all too familiar hangers-on is stress.  My husband tells me that stress is caused by unmet expectations.  And everything in our modern psychology tells us that we need to decrease our stress.  Logically, then, it would seem to follow that we need to modify our expectations, and learn to use our emotional and mental energy to harness the unexpected, the disappointing, the uncomfortable and downright painful things that life occasions for us.  Thankfully, we have the very best Teacher to help us do just that.  God’s Holy Spirit residing in each believing Christian is available for immediate access. (3) It is in learning to listen for His voice that we can release ourselves from the grip of gripe and the power of self-pity.

In this we place life’s uncontrol-ables, all of them and without reservation, into the capable hands of the One Who controls both the direction and the velocity of the winds of life.  For in truth, only He can teach us to spread our wings… and fly. (4)

  • 1 Timothy 6:6
  • James 3:16
  • Ephesians 3:16; John 14:26
  • Isaiah 41:10

Birds, bats, and…. #angels ?

 

(excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

Martins abound in this place we are visiting, which presumably must be due in part to the martin houses nearby.  I’m not an Audubon, but that would seem to make some sense.  I am also not at home, and boy how I wish I had one of these special bird attractions in my yard, (or in my neighbor’s yard.)  Martins are really neat birds, not the least of which is due to their diet of mosquitoes, one of my arch-enemies.  My skin seems to have a natural affinity for mosquito tastebuds.  My husband says that he doesn’t need insect repellant when he is outside with me since I seem to hog all of these little stinging dive-bombers to myself.  So, naturally I love to see the martins swooping about, feasting themselves on my tormentors. (I like bats for the same reason, although I am less confident that my neighbors would appreciate a bat-house.) 

I have recently learned, however, (and to my disappointment), that mosquitoes actually do not make up a significant portion of the martins’ diet.  Interesting, these urban legends. 

Nevertheless, there is accurate information that purple martins are legitimately drawn to a housing/living environment with certain criteria to meet their specific needs:

  • The martins’ bird house must be high and away from trees and other structures.
  • They eat only flying insects, and they hunt for them at night.
  • Allowing uninvited guests to set up housekeeping will significantly discourage martins from taking up abode.
  • Painting housing white seems to attract martins the best.
  • Due to predators such as squirrels and raccoons, installing a pole guard helps to protect the martins’ nests and the on-going work of, well, being a martin.
  • The martin bride and groom are monogamous, faithful throughout the family process.

So here’s a thought—these beautiful creatures help me to imagine the ongoing relationship between God’s angels and Satan’s demonic forces. The angels are described as those beings which God sends to assist His people.  Demons, we are informed, are angelic unfortunates that lost their foothold in heaven by choosing a leader other than the One Who created them.  Most probably, this is an over-simplification of a deep theological event, but since I am not a trained theologian, it suits me just fine.  I’m not terribly concerned with the particulars, just the consequence and my response to it.

There has been a plethora of creative thinking about angels in the past decade or so, as well as what appears to be an upsurge of interest, secular and otherwise, in the spiritual dimension of our earthbound existence.  However, even our Anglo-ancestors had ideas that did not exactly jive with what the Bible describes as God’s messengers.  C.S. Lewis makes an astute observation in his book, Mere Christianity, that angels have been historically portrayed as nude, fat-bellied rosy-cheeked cherubs that one would want to pat on the head and say “there, there”, rather than the warriors that generally need to start their conversation with humans by saying “fear not!”

And yet angels are just as much an important part of our daily lives as is breathing air; that is, we are not generally aware of their presence, but would most certainly be the worse off without it.  So here’s my take on these wonderful creatures:

  • Angels have their true home on high, away from worldly (and underworldly) structures. They don’t reside here, no more than I live at my jobsite. They “present” themselves before their Creator, and are “presented” to us as a heavenly host, praising God when Jesus made His first appearance.  (1)
  • Since Satan is described as the “prince of the power of the air” (2), which, to a lesser degree, would also indicate the faculties of his evil emissaries, angels must have no gravitational limitations. What we consider flight in our world is merely movement in theirs. And in another and more comforting sense, God’s angels are on the hunt and can see just fine, even in our darkest moments when we cannot see anything clearly at all.  They are described as “encamping around those who revere God”, and as “ministering spirits sent out in the service of those who are to inherit salvation.”(3)
  • Despite their heavenly power, they are not omnipotent like their Creator, and their work can be thwarted and/or delayed when we allow “unsanctified visitors” to take up residence in our lives. (4) The demonic is drawn to our affirmative embraces of jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness and offense. In his book, Victory Over Darkness, author Neil Anderson refers to decisions like these as “sin handles” that give Satan an opportunity to hang on. And Satan does not give up his territory without a struggle.
  • On the positive side, we can make the angels’ job a bit easier with the washing, cleaning process of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the accompanying behavioral decisions. Like the unwelcomed birds that make it harder for the martins to nest, so the unwelcomed attitudes and habits can be scrubbed out and my “house” swept clean. My sanctification is a joint project between myself and God, and I need all the help I can get!  So why make the angels’ job to help me any harder than it already is?  A large part of this washing is available in the form of God Word being continually poured into my life, which means I need to physically pick up the book (or whatever media device is available), and start reading. (5)
  • To follow this idea, I can set up “pole protectors” in my daily life. These come in the form of personal boundaries, such as Dr. Henry Cloud suggests in his book, Changes that Heal. These boundaries help define the use of my time, my relationships, and all of the other resources that Satan would love to define for me.  When I allow my arch enemy to do this, he will undoubtedly try to cheat, steal and destroy the work that God’s holy angels are trying to accomplish for me. (6) Therefore, I am wise to erect the proper “protectors”.
  • By whatever process and historical events, God’s glorious and “chosen” angels are no longer tempted to be unfaithful to Him. (7) Augustine, living and thinking and praying in the 4th and 5th centuries, tried to tackle this issue in one of his many tomes. The practical, bring-it-home-to-me point is that the angels watching and warring over me are faithful to God, without exception, without coercion, and interact with no one’s plan but that of their Creator. I need their faithfulness.

So, as I said, since our out of town visit and my encounter with the purple martins, I have learned that mosquitoes are not necessarily a main staple of their buggie-diet.  No matter.  To me, bugs are bugs, and with the considerable exception of butterflies, I am happy to share my entomological population with ANY avian neighbors lodging nearby. 

And as it is with this wonderful species of bird, so it is with God’s beautiful angels, in that there exists a certain unfounded mythology concerning who they are and what they do.  The evidence about angels that is noteworthy does not have its foundation on anecdotes, Hollywood, novels, or even personal experience.  Our only reliable source of information concerning them and their mission is found in the source document of the Christian faith, the Bible, and where it is silent, we must content ourselves to be likewise.  We are prudent, therefore, to beware of “urban legends” that would try to excite us, causing us to pursue erroneous ends, like buying a martin house, then sitting on my patio without mosquito repellant.  I fancy I would be most uncomfortable the next day.

Maybe I could somehow interest the martin family in a new taste treat…?

 

  • Job 1:6 (Amplified); Luke 2:13-15
  • Ephesians 2:2
  • Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:14 (Amplified)
  • Daniel 10:11-13
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 3:16
  • 1 Peter 5:8
  • 1 Timothy 5:21

 

 

#Birdseed : Feast for the chosen ones…only!

pixabay
pixabay

(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

Earlier this summer I rode my town bike to the nearby feed store to purchase a couple of bags of bulk bird seed, each weighing 50 pounds.  The owners know me, but looked a bit incredulous, (or was it mild amusement?), when they noted that I was toting my wares home in the second-hand child carrier attached to my second-hand Schwinn.  No matter.  Trailing the cumulative 100 pounds was not as significant as unloading it once I arrived home, not wholly unlike the railroad ties from the back of my old Suburban from the year before!

Gratefully, the birdseed is packaged in thick and hearty reinforced bags.  Surely they would be safe from unwelcomed intruders.  But thanks to my naivety, I later discovered one bag that I had left sitting on the driveway stealthily chewed into with some of the contents spilled onto the ground.  Fine.  Not to be outdone by some thieving rodent or squirrel, I loaded the bag (with some effort) into the large plastic trash container on top of the other bag already neatly seated in there.  Of course it didn’t exactly fit, but that didn’t seem to matter since the container’s top had been missing for a long time anyway, being eaten by the garbage truck several years ago.  That should take care of the critters; they wouldn’t go to the trouble of getting at the seed now.

However, ignorance, in this case, was not bliss, but it was messy.  My husband duly informed me that, once again, critters had plundered my stock of feed scattering their leftovers on the garage floor.  Now it was my move again.  Seed sacks repositioned, top removed from some other container down in the basement placed over the seed, hard plastic small (portable) lock-top container fitted into place atop the larger one.  Ha!  Let them try THAT one!

They did.

Fortunately, this time, all they managed before giving up was to chew off the plastic locks, but apparently then decided to chalk this round up in my favor.  They haven’t come back…yet.  It wouldn’t take much inattention on my part, however, for the neighborhood squirrels and/or mice to consider my slack as an engraved invitation to another feast.

Our time and energy are so very much like the precious bird seed, and the demands of our lives are reminiscent of these persistently pesky squirrels.  Without deliberate boundaries, life’s “demands” take on a marauding quality, depleting what we would otherwise have in reserve, rather than preserving that what we have for those with whom we would choose to share it.  The “it” I am referring to is, of course, both our time and our energy.  And time and energy are much in short supply for our relationships with family, spouse, friends, as well as time alone with the Lord Himself Who waits patiently for us each and every day. 

Or again, my pitifully attacked birdseed is like the indescribably valuable spiritual food that God has graciously provides for us.  This expensive and necessary provision must be jealously guarded from the attack of our Enemy, who stands ready at all times to “break in and steal” in the form of busy-ness, or deception, or guilt feelings, or the many other forms of assault in his arsenal, since he is both a thief and a liar.  He does his reconnaissance well, knows his options exhaustively, and can be very, very persistent.  But his tricks are not new, and we are assured by excellent sources that we have more options at our disposal then he does.  Many more.

Both of these potential drains on our resources must be diligently and constantly guarded against.  It is only with God’s wisdom that we should mete out our precious resources of time and energy according to His plan.  It is through diligent use of our time and energy that we prevent the wasting away of our intimacy with our Heavenly Father.  Both can be misused and abused, but only with our consent, whether ignorant or intentional.

Personally, I paid for the birdseed and went to considerable effort to tote it home, so I’d rather use it for my intended purpose.

This ain’t Missouri

IWAA7We are visiting my husband’s family, all of us on the edge of the continent known as the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Only a few rows of houses from the beach, we can hear the roar of the ocean waves and feel the breeze off the Atlantic.  Right now, though, I am on the other side of the house, on the patio (of course) in the morning.  Not much breeze on this side, except for the fan, and the morning dew is so thick that it’s dripping off the roof. 

The view here, on both sides of the house is considerable different from Missouri, definitely “not home”. These are not the same people jogging, walking and riding bikes along the street and sidewalk.  Back home I see Sherry as she strolls up Central Street on her way to work.  Back home I see waving prairie grasses and bison, not cresting waves and beachcombers.  In my county I see bass and catfish and perch jumping out of the lakes, not dolphins arching up from the ocean.  At our local park I see turtles sunning themselves on the logs, instead of jellyfish remains drying up on the white sand.

Then I hear it—the call of the catbird, that unmistakable feline sound, easily identified even by my untrained ear.  And I am reminded that, though I may not be in my familiar territory, God is still here.  And everywhere, His voice is the same, immutable, unmistakable.

We are told that we go through seasons of life, rites of passage, some of which are culturally induced although some are admittedly universal.  Personally, I feel almost that my “seasons” have been more like “spasms”—can anyone relate?  Nevertheless, we move from one set of experiences inexorably into another.  Not only do we have to navigate from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood—emotionally as well as physically—but we also have other times of joy and struggle:

  • School—most of us in the United States have been blessed with the availability of public education, and many of us are still impacted by memories and experiences of those infamous junior high years.
  • Moves—more and more frequently in the past several decades of our society have we seen the increase in the mobility of families. In the past, if you were a military family, that was a given. Now, however, it may seem quite unusual in many places for any child to start kindergarten and graduate from high school in the same place.
  • Relationships—marriage, child-rearing, child-releasing. You just have to “be there” to really understand this one…
  • Collateral damage—it is also becoming somewhat unusual to see family members that all have the same last name. Blended families, whether from death or divorce, bring special challenges all their own.

Certainly there are many, many more examples that could added to this list, times when being resilient and flexible can be most helpful.  While resiliency is an essential quality to cultivate so as to survive and thrive this side of Heaven, true resiliency can only happen when there remains a stable reference point.  Elastic is very resilient, but to retain that characteristic, it must have a place to snap back to.  Flexibility is a good thing, but flexibility cannot even be defined unless there is a starting point from which to measure it.  (At least, that’s what it seems like when my daughters try to teach me some yoga or Palate moves!  Ouch!)

In a world of changes and challenges, of unfamiliar circumstances and scary possibilities, God has said that even though the heavens and the earth pass away, His word would never do so. (1)  He also says that He, as God of the Universe, does not change. (2)  He promises that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (3)  Only with God can we find the perfect interconnection with resiliency and immutability, between flexibility and stability. Only in relationship with Him can we properly define our starting point and make it safely to the end.

Another one of these “seasons” is yet upon me, and although its unrelenting hold has become more gentle, I am aware that the hold of the Father has never changed.  He is aware of this time in my life, anticipated it for me, knew the particulars would be unfamiliar, and sometimes unfriendly, to me.

 And He sent me His catbird to remind me of His unchanging and unfailing presence, no matter where I am on earth, or in life.

  • Luke 21:33
  • Malachi 3:6
  • Hebrews 13:8

(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)