Made for Communion

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Cedar Waxwing, bird of community.

It benefits from kinship.

A passerine whose identity is communal.

See one, the flock is near.

Frugivorous, palate for fruit.

Black mask shields the eye,

Cedar Waxwings, made to live,

in concert with others.DSC_0156_1049sig

Humans live in community

in cities, suburbs, and towns.

We benefit from kinship.

We bear one another’s burdens.

Humans, see one, more are near.

Humans-made by God.

Made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

Like Cedar Waxwings,

Crafted by God for communion with God.

Everlasting God, Creator of the Universe,

wants you to walk with him,

talk with him.

He loves you.DSC_0142sig

Following the Ordinances of Heaven

Canada Geese ( Branta canadensis)…Lesser Canada Geese (Branta hutchinsii)

There is nothing common about these magnificent birds. They live from coast to coast & from Mexico to the Arctic. Because they are herbivores, they eat everything green from new wheat to golf course grass. Canadas are very adaptable. They thrive at life. DSC_0062_974sigGiant Canadas are well named as they have wingspans to 6 feet and males may weigh over 23 pounds. Their longevity is another amazing attribute, the average lifespan of a Canada goose is 10-25 years. It is no surprise why their population increases. Examine the photos for an understanding of the word gregarious…Canadas “hang” together. The famous Canada Goose V flying formation allows flocks to fly up to 70% farther than when flying alone. Pilots have reported geese flying at altitudes of 9000 feet, at average speeds of 40-55 miles per hour; they can fly at 70 mph with a tailwind! We know they mate for life. We humans could learn from their example. A male is the gander and a female the goose. DSC_0070sigDowny body feathers keep them warm in below zero temperatures which send us scurrying for heat-indoors. These feathers retain their insulation qualities even after the bird dies. Down is best at keeping humans warm.

DSC_0120sigWhile there may be thousands of them in view, there is nothing common about them. How might we explain the ability of these birds to live almost everywhere on the North American Continent? How are they able to withstand extremes in weather, both heat and cold? Why do they mate for life? Because the Canada Goose does not follow prescribed human directives. There is an unseen power to be found in these birds. Whether there are 1000s honking and splashing in one place or a pair in flight over head careful observation reveals power. Canada Geese follow the script. God gives it to them. In Job 38:33 God asks Job two questions.

1.       Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

2.       Can you establish their rule on earth?

We have libraries full and an internet packed with knowledge about these geese. But Canada Geese act and live the way they do because they know the ordinances of God. His instructions are written in their DNA. They do geese things each day because the rule of God directs them. Refrain from taking them for granted because we see them often. They are completely uncommon.DSC_0086sig

On the “Outskirts”

This word has been on my mind all day: outskirts. Either you are thinking, “get a life,” or you are wondering, “why?” For those who wonder, outskirts is synonymous with fringes, the outer edge of something.

I have found a bird that is definitely on the outskirts.  This is my explanation.

The bird referred to is the emblematic American Robin (Turdus migratorius, (turdidae are the thrush family). It holds an esteemed place for nature watchers. For some it is a herald of warmer days ahead. It has been the subject of songs and poetry. A robin’s song stirs the human heart. Found year around in the United States, Robins also nest in most of Canada. It is estimated that 310 million American Robins live on the North American continent. The estimated population of the United States for 2017 is 324 million. There are almost enough robins for every American to enjoy their own personal robin! The robin is likely at the outskirts of the places where North Americans live, whether it is Mexico, the United States or Canada-there is a robin near you.DSC_0038_843sig

Robins are more than symbols of good weather. They are prolific. A female robin may produce up to 3 broods each year. This is a necessity. The entire population of 310 million turns over within 6 years. Life is short for a robin. In fall, surviving robins gobble enormous amounts of fruit as they prepare for migration. Robins are frugivorous. They eat fruit. Of course, worms are in their diet, but only when in season. John James Audubon praised the robin for skillful nest-building and for nourishing their young “with anxious care” He described the robin pair as “tender parents.”  Such behavior enables the robin population to remain steady, even grow in some areas.

Robins are the birds we are most familiar with. Being an “outskirts” or at the edges, dweller, it is often the robin whose nest or eggs are found by children. The robin is likely the bird most children know because robins live in proximity to humans. Children and adults delight in the sight of two robins in a tug of war contest over a fat spring night crawler. It is equally delightful to watch robins gorge themselves on the fruit of fall. They especially enjoy the small ornamental apples produced by the thousands of flowering crab apple trees planted in many places of the country.DSC_0044_844sig

The robin magnificently represents another use for the word “outskirts”. Have you thought about the magnitude of 310 million robins dying every 6 years? Have you considered how many eggs female robins lay to produce 310 million juvenile robins in 6 years? How many worms and how much fruit do these 310 million eat? How many feathers are on 310 million robins? Yes, the robin is a perfect example of a model for the word “outskirts.”

Here’s what it means. Job is one of my favorite Bible people. While he was explaining to his friends used the word “outskirts” to describe the unfathomable majesty of God. He spoke of “hanging the earth on nothing,” and of “binding water in thick clouds and the clouds do not split open.” He said, “even the pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke.” (Job 26) In conclusion, Job reminds his friends that these things are “but the outskirts of his ways…” The robin is another outskirt example. This bird, a delight to many, is another example of the power and majesty of almighty God. There are many examples of things outside which demonstrate just the “outskirts” of God’s power. What delight there is in being a student of the “outskirts.” What a privilege it is to examine just the edges of the greatness of God!DSC_0051_845sig

One of a Kind

One of a Kind
One of a kind is something rare and original. In nature, the red breasted nuthatch is one of a kind. It plasters the outside and inside of its entrance hole with very sticky pine resin. If removing pine pitch from anything has been one of your tasks in life, you know how adhesive pine sap is. However, the nesting pair never get sap on themselves, they never perch at the entrance. They fly directly into the hole. Most birds this size fly between 20 and 30 miles per hour. Therefore, direct flight into the hole requires great skill. Certainly, it slows before entering but consider what the red breasted nuthatch needs to do once it has flown inside the hole! This little bird is one of a kind. One of its call is a nasal “yank, yank, yank”, no other bird sounds as though it has a cold. This one of a kind bird is the only known North American nuthatch to have flown across the Atlantic to Europe. The red breasted nuthatch is 11.5 cm long (4.5 inches for Americans)! It is a nature delight to see one of these birds. Yes, one of a kind is a fitting way to describe this bird. Good news, the population of these miracle birds is increasing.

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You are one of a kind. You are the original. There is only one of you. Like the marvelous red breasted nuthatch, you and I are wonderfully made. Of the millions of people in the world, there has never been and never will be another you. In Psalm 139:14 the words fearfully and wonderfully made are used to describe us.
Why would the all-powerful God of the universe fashion each human on earth with exquisite, flawless precision? Why would we be formed with extraordinary body systems which function perfectly for years, and can heal themselves when injury occurs? One simple answer: God loves you. He loves the world. He made each human living, past, present and future. Because He is God and Creator, only He has the infinite capacity to love them all. His love is perfect. Have you felt ordinary today? The truth is, you are one of a kind to Him.

This Morning in Aurdal Township

This Morning in Aurdal Township

I saw wonder in blue. It perched to view the world safely from a high wire. Not alone, it was with a group of Bluebirds gathering to migrate. This one may winter in southern Texas. What will those bluebird eyes see?DSC_0091_750sig

I saw gold beauty this morning in Aurdal Township. Aspen leaves shimmered golden in the before noon light. These were small, large aspen trees may reach 80 feet tall and be larger than two feet in diameter. Their leaves quiver in a slight breeze because the stem is at a right angle to the leaf. Fall “aspen gold” draws my eyes again and again.DSC_0080_747sig

 

“Sumac Scarlet” was visible this morning in Aurdal Township. The beautiful, gorgeous, striking red of fall sumac leaves are always eye pleasing. Sumac isn’t just for pleasing humans, 300 species of songbirds include sumac fruit in their diets.DSC_0082_748sig

Wild turkeys were in view, feeding peacefully this morning in Aurdal Township. They walk on the ground to feed. It may have been an entire “family”. The hen lays between 10-15 eggs in spring. My eyes counted 13. They were very aware of me.DSC_0111_754sig

The moon traveled silently above Aurdal Township this morning as it made its regular orbit from east to west. It was 60 % illuminated moving steadily above a wisp of high thin cirrus clouds. Ash yellow leaves reminded me once more, fall has come…to Aurdal township. All of this, and there was much more. Life in abundance on a midweek morning in an area of 35 square miles where 1,450 live. Did anyone else see the wonder and beauty? Some did, most were busy with living life this morning in this small township.DSC_0123_755sig

Could beautiful things such as these be seen in any other place? Certainly, but it is too much for my mind to comprehend. Think of it! The earth is full of both beauty and wonder. The author of Psalm 65 confirmed it,

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalm 65:8) Imagine the whole earth-filled with awe and wonders! With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”) Imagine, we live in a world filled with wonder and awe, all made for us. Why would God create such a world? Love.

The Source of Power

Focus your thoughts on power, as in strength, might and intense energy. It is not about a power that can move massive objects. Still, this is about real power. Power as found in a bird. Weighing between 2 and 6 grams (or about 2-6 raisins), this is one of the smallest of the earth’s birds. Its wingspan is between 3 and a bit more than 4 inches.

DSC_0017_503sigIt is not difficult to justify its power. The Ruby Throated Humming Bird is a medium to long distance migrant. Plainly spoken, this means that Ruby Throats migrate considerable distances. Gradually moving southward as summer wanes, some ravel more than 2,500 miles. They do so on 4-inch wings. With its wings outspread a Ruby Throated Hummingbird would fit in the palm of most adult hands. Then, for added amazement, those wings beat at a rate of 50-55 times-per second and that makes 3,300 times per minute! How might we explain this? Power.

On 4-inch wings Ruby Throated Hummingbirds fly about 25 mph. During spring and fall migrations many fly across the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is 500 miles across north to south this is the shortest distance. It takes the average (if this bird can ever be called average) Hummingbird 18 to 20 hours to fly this distance. This is a truly a supreme marathon. Have you considered how many wing beats that would be?

How does this tiny bird sustain the energy needed for the 500-mile trip? No animal on earth has a faster metabolism than a Ruby Throated Hummingbird. They often eat 1 ½  to 3 times their weight each day. Before migration in the fall Ruby Throats must double their weight. Could a human move with a doubled weight in the same time a hummingbird does? Unlikely. They fly: 3,300 wing beats per minute, with weight doubled-on 4-inch wings. Some spend winter in Panama. Can you feel the power?

Where does this power come from? No, my question asks you to pull on the power cable all the way to the source. Is it the sun? Go further…the Source is God eternal. A little bird weighing less than 7 raisins flying over 2,000 miles in wind and rain evidences real power. Jeremiah said this about power and its source, “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom…for he is the one who formed all things. Jeremiah 15:15, 19 Does a hummingbird give evidence of God and His power? Contemplate the facts.

Soul Restored

At 5:37 my feet were on the floor, my head out of bed. Fishing was first on my morning agenda. My 80 years young fishing accomplice would arrive before 7. There were things to do, a Bible to read, a breakfast to eat and then a boat to hook up for a tow to the lake. My optimism for a good catch was high. A dense fog had developed overnight, there would be low light conditions. This usually means better fishing.

We arrived at the lake minutes later. We were soon on the water headed for our first fishing spot. The reality of how thick the fog was, came moments later when my never fail navigation by sight system failed. In the fog, that was me-physically and mentally. We were already past the channel to the second lake, location of our first fishing spot!

We got our bearings and had a time of quiet but serious fishing on the water. We caught some fish. Something else happened: our souls were refreshed. Hold it! Don’t people go fishing to catch fish? It’s about catching fish, isn’t it?

For me it is. The catch is always a thrill and made better because it’s unexpected.  The meal after is mouth-watering, even healthy! But can fishing be soul refreshing?

Yes. Today it was especially refreshing to my soul. I’ll admit this-without fear of harming my masculinity.DSC_0011_326sig

First, the deep quiet caused by the fog impressed me with my smallness. As the fog “burned” away and sunlight began to overcome the gloom of fog, my eyes could see the details of our surroundings. The blue patches of sky, a herd of cows silhouetted on a hill, the dancing ripples on the water. The effect of the multiple morning bird calls accumulated in my heart. As we fished a sense of wellness came upon me. My friend and I spoke little. There was no need. Occasional glimpses into the clear water reminded me we floated on another world, a watery one. A single loon flew overhead on a mission, a fish meal mission. As we floated near shore, the forest at the edge of the lake contained dark shadows and thousands of shades of mid-summer green. We knew we were experiencing a blessing. And we thought we were on a fish meal mission like the loon.

Briefly this morning my mind went to the phrase in Psalm 23, He leads me beside quiet waters. That happened, this morning. The quiet waters caught the attention of my soul. It was God quieting the waters, He made the fog. He provided a friend to experience this morning with. Then my mind began to reflect on the rest of the first verses of Psalm 23. “I shall not want.” There are many days when wanting things burdens my heart. The quiet waters, the fog, the birds, the companionship of a friend took wanting away. God patiently restored my soul, this morning. I thought it was about fishing. God’s plans are always best and better. The Lord is my Shepherd. This sheep is grateful.

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

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