His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I Know He Watches Me

My hands still hold the warmth of the little bird who just drew her last breath. I first noticed her tucked into a little safe spot in the roots of my Brazilian Pepper tree. Fully feathered, I was hoping she was being tended to by her parents who were, no doubt, near by. Excited to see what I thought would be a beautiful time of nature-watching, I poured a cup of tea and settled in near the window to watch the sweet baby bird.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

Hours went by. Mama and Papa bird were nowhere to be seen. Not once had they checked in on baby bird. Intending only to do a welfare check, I went to have a closer look. Baby bird was clearly distressed, with what appeared to be a bulging bubble on one side of her throat. Very carefully, I picked her up and staged her in an area where I frequently saw the birds which I presumed were her parents. Again, I settled in to watch.

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father, but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

Matthew 33:26 ” Observe intently the birds of heaven; they do not sow or reap or store into storehouses, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?”

Sparrows are cheap. Birds are cheap. Recently, we traded oranges and macadamia nuts for 2 dozen fertile eggs, which are currently incubating, and in a week, baby chickens will hatch! Talk about a cheap trade! No matter the monetary value or lack thereof, God knows the comings and goings of each and every bird on earth . . . in great detail! He knows what each bird eats, where they nest, where they roost, and when they die. Not one feather on one bird goes unnoticed by the God of the universe who created them. The 24 eggs in my incubator are currently being cared for and nurtured by THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, and . . . . you may need to sit down for this . . . YOU are worth more than they!

The hairs of your head are numbered, not one falls to the ground without your Father being aware, and causing another to grow in it’s place. He loves YOU with amazing detail!

Baby bird was not doing well, and was growing weaker. I decided to offer a drop of water, which was accepted well; she enjoyed 4-5 drops. Once again spotting the birds I thought were her parents, I placed her where they could easily find her and again, I settled in to watch nature work.

As the sun began to set, I realized her parents were not going to return for her, and she would certainly die during the night. Scooping her up in my hands, I cradled her and gave her my love and my warmth. It was clear she was dying, and I knew I could not let her die alone.

She had worked so hard . . . breaking out of that shell, growing her feathers, leaving the nest, attempting independence, but it was all too much for this little bird and for whatever reason, it was time for her to go. I cupped her in my warm hands, and talked to her and stroked her throat and head until the moment she exhaled her last breath. Then I cried.

I held her little feathered body to my lips and cried because I knew just how deeply the Father loved this little one, and how perfectly He created this little masterpiece.

Isaiah 49:15 “Although a woman can forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the son of her womb, I will not forget you!”

You, my friend are so entirely loved by your Father! He knows and loves everything about you! He created you to be with Him forever! He counts your tears and preserves them in a bottle. He has numbered and loved every hair on your head, no, your entire body!

It is HE who gives you HIS warmth and love and holds you in HIS hands to comfort you.

Some may not understand why I would weep at the passing of the sweet baby bird who I cradled in my hands. I am sorry for those who don’t understand, for they don’t understand the deep, deep love of the Father for His creation. The deep, deep love of the Father for you. For you. YOU.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

Oh how I love to watch the many hummingbirds buzzing around my feeders! Four of the feeders I have on the property are in a small, contained area in the plumeria courtyard, just outside my kitchen windows. Two of the feeders are inches away from a window.  At dusk, the lighting is such that the hummingbirds cannot see me through the window.  I can literally have my nose 8 inches away from the sugar-seeking little hummers, and they have no clue that I am there!

More than a dozen hummers have been at one feeding station at the same time, and for the most part, they get along just fine!  Unlike many hummingbirds, mine seem to respect each other and will even relinquish a coveted spot at the sugar-hole when another hummer comes in for a landing.  I imagine them chatting to each other, “You first!” “No, YOU first!” “After you! I insist!” They are extremely kind to each other.

One hummingbird in particular stands out.  She is not very colorful, and she is smaller than the others.  She is not afraid of me, and will enjoy sugar from the feeder while it is in my hand!  She never grumbles when “her” feeder gets crowded, and happily helicopters near by to make room for someone else to get some sweet nectar.  She is warm, welcoming and hospitable. She’s my favorite. When I grow up, I want to be like her. Goals.

Among the other hummingbirds who grace the grounds of Calmin Cottage is the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, and my beloved Anna Hummingbird.  The Anna is the one I mentioned who is my favorite.  She is sweet, sharing, kind, hospitable, and seems to put the needs of the other hummer’s before her own. She’s like the Mama-hummer, taking care of everyone else! She will readily give her sugar-hole to another hummer without argument.  Sweet Anna loves her sugar-seeking friends with a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. I could watch her all day long!

If only we humans would choose to love like Anna. But no, instead, we often demand our own way. Our love is offered with expectations. “I will love you if . . .” or “I will love you when . . . ”  You can fill in the blanks.  We withhold our love and affection from those who don’t behave how we want them to. We punish them by shooing them away from our sugar-hole.  We respond to those who disappoint us in a punitive manner, intending to hurt them to teach them a lesson.  God is never punitive.  This kind of response is human, to be sure, but God calls us to a higher response.  A response of LOVE. Unconditional love with no expectations or requirements attached. The manner in which my sweet Anna loves.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13   “LOVE suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  But whether (where) there are prophecies, they will fail; whether (where) there are tongues, they will cease; whether (where) there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”

Mark 12: 30-31  “‘And you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. and the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

If my sweet Anna was human, I know that she would exemplify the biblical description of love.  My little Allen hummingbird . . . well . . . not so much.

The Allen is a spectacular hummingbird whose tail and sides are an Autumn-y orange-brown.  It has a green back and crown, and has a red iridescent throat with a white collar.  The Allen is stunning!  I first noticed this particular Allen when it was performing its spectacular U-shaped dive display rising 25 feet up on each side!  After several swings, it spirals 75-100 feet high then dives, making a loud whistling sound at the bottom of the U-turn.  The male tries to impress females with this dramatic display, and the female frightens territorial intruders with the same maneuver.  It is truly amazing to watch, very dramatic, very powerful. Quite self absorbed and demanding his own way, he often finds himself alone, sadly sipping sugar and probably wondering why he has no friends.

My particular Allen perches on a Bird of Paradise leaf near his favorite feeder.  He sits there all day, all puffed up, just waiting for someone to come near. When another hummer comes near, he lashes out, and chases them away.  The only neighborhood bird who can match his bossiness is the oriole. When the oriole comes in for a sugar fix, the Allen stays put, not wanting a fight with the magnificent yellow and black oriole.

There he sits.  All day.  Alone. Maybe not even realizing that the reason he is alone is because he chases everyone away.  Sadly, he may even think he is somehow helping the other hummers to behave appropriately by pointing out their faults to them. He is the only hummer I have witnessed actually open his mouth wide in an aggressive manner at another hummer. Literally dozens of other hummers are enjoying each other’s company and sharing nicely at the other feeders. Not so for the lonely aloof Allen. He is opening his beak and spewing accusations and slurs at anyone who draws near to him.  Sorry, Allen, you’re not much fun to be around.

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Of course, I cannot begin to understand the motive behind the Allen’s behavior, but if he were human, my guess would be it’s all about control. He wants to control who comes and goes, and which hummers get to feed together and which hummers are rejected. He wants to control the feeding times and habits of all the birds because, clearly, he owns the patent on sugar control and others-control.  But not self-control.

Galations 5:22-23 says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” SELF- control.  Not others-control, not spouse-control, not friend-control, not colleague-control.  Get the picture? Once we get a grasp on the SELF-control part, everything else falls into place.

Let go.  Let God.  Be nice.  Be considerate. Love others.  Don’t demand your own way.  Love suffers (is patient) for a long time.  True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on.  That means, don’t be an Allen and chase them away.  Be like the Anna and love them regardless of their differing opinion or way of thinking.

Let’s take a minute to go back and replay some past conversations in our minds.  Replay a recent conversation with your spouse.  A child.  A family member.  A friend.  A co-worker.  Do you like what you hear? Are you OK with that? Did you speak love? Lovingly? Selfishly? Demanding your own way? Consider for a moment all of your current relationships.  Are they filled with conflict? Do you have conflict at home, at work, in your neighborhood, within your extended family, with your friends?  If so, what’s the common denominator? What one thing does all of your conflict have in common?  Is it you? Wouldn’t it be nice if that conflict was gone? Let it go!

We are called to be salt and light to this world, in order to do that, we must represent Jesus well!  To represent Jesus well, we must LOVE God and LOVE others. Listen to the words you use to respond to those who visit your feeder.  How do you sound?  What do you say? Do you sound loving and kind? If not, it’s time for a heart check up. When we speak love, not only do we represent Jesus well, but we have JOY! Our hearts are happy and produce good things!  The words that come out of our mouth indicate what is in our heart.

Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Love does not envy.  If our love is truly directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than allowing it to annoy us.  In fact true love does not seek it’s own way, rather love makes a way for others. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, comfort zones, and so called entitlements for the good of another.

Love is not provoked.  That is, love is not easily angered or overly-sensitive.  When we love without expectation, we are seldom disappointed.  When we love with the requirement of expectations, oh man, what disappointment awaits. Love means being like the Anna, and graciously sharing our sugar-hole with those who God brings into our lives.img_1794

Are you like the Anna? Are you graciously sharing your love,  your time, your gifts and your spot at the sugar-hole? Or are you like the Allen, arrogantly judging and ridiculing those who enter the spaces of your life; allowing the root of bitterness and discontent to take root in your heart?  How do you react to your spouse when they make a decision you don’t agree with?  How do you treat your parents when you don’t see eye to eye? How do you treat your children when they misbehave? How do your treat your adult children when they choose a path of which you disapprove? How do you respond to your friends who don’t agree with your point of view?  Are you going to drive them away like the Allen, aggressively opening wide your beak and spewing ugliness at them? Do you continue to educate others about their many faults, knocking them to the ground with the log in your eye while pointing out the speck in theirs? Or do you speak love and invite them to your table like the Anna?  Just asking.

There may be people who cross our paths whom we would be better off avoiding. Maybe they are abusive, or just mean, and it’s not healthy for us to spend time around them.  That’s OK, we are not required to be BFF’s with everyone.  It’s like this: your neighbor has a dog.  You want to make friends with the dog, so you put your hand over the fence to pet it.  The dog bites you.  You never have to put your hand over that fence again!  BUT, you can’t walk by and kick dirt at the dog, or throw rocks at it.  You can, however, walk away, and never be in contact with that dog again.

Lord, help me to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove as I seek to re-gift the wonderful gift of love you have bestowed upon me. Teach me to be a good steward with such a valuable gift, while still being generous with it.  Help me to see others through the lens of Jesus Christ, not through the lens of my selfish ways.  Forgive me for the times when I have behaved like the Allen hummingbird, and help me to be more like the Anna.  Thanks for putting up with me and my miserable ways.  Without You, I would be doomed to be like the Allen.   I love You and Praise You, my Lord and Savior, my God and Father.

The Love of God in a Sheep’s Pen

Years ago, I heard a story about life and death on a little sheep ranch in Barstow, California. It’s a wonderful story, albeit bittersweet, and although I have not been able to confirm the facts, I want to share the story with you. Grab a cup of something you love, sit down and enjoy.

Once upon a time, on a sheep ranch in Barstow, little lambs were being born. The ewes were sniffing and nudging and cleaning their newborn lambs, and the lambs were awkwardly getting up on their spindly legs and looking for the milk they could smell on their mama’s warm belly. Funny how babies are born with the innate knowledge of who their mama is and instinctively cling to her and suckle from her. As well, a mama recognizes the scent of her own baby the moment he is born.

Rows of pens, each with a ewe and her newborn, were in a covered barn protecting the sheep from the brutal desert sun and the frosty desert mornings. Day by day the baby lambs were getting stronger and bigger and were almost strong enough to venture outside of their sheltered pens and explore the ranch.

The ranch hands were busy checking each pen and assessing whether or not the mama and baby were ready to go outside when they discovered a ewe loudly crying over the still body of her baby lamb. The ranch hand quickly entered the pen and checked the little lamb for signs of life. Sadly, the baby was dead, and could not be revived. The ewe was frantic with grief and inconsolable. The ranch hand gathered the baby up in his arms and removed him from the grieving mama. Her wailing was non stop, and could be heard throughout the ranch.

Several pens down the row, another ranch hand made a similar sad discovery. In the back of the pen lay a shivering, weak and severely dehydrated baby lamb, snuggled into the now cold belly of his dead mama. The ranch hand removed the body of the poor dead mama, and cradled the orphaned lamb in his arms. He took the baby to the nursery and prepared a bottle for him. The little baby was so weak he was not able to suckle more than a drop or two. The ranch hand put the baby in an incubator to get his temperature up to normal hoping that would help the little lamb to be able to take the bottle. If not, the baby would surely die.

This sheep ranch now had a sickly orphan without a mama; and a grieving mama without a baby. Seemed like a perfect match! They needed each other! A plan was formulated to introduce the two and pray for mother nature to work her magic.

Later in the evening, the grieving mama was placed in a neutral pen, one that did not have the scent of any other sheep or animal. There was fresh water and food. This pen was in the 1st class section of the barn, an upgrade from the maternity ward. After she acclimated a bit to her new pen, a ranch hand came in to the pen with her and sat down. In his arms lay the little orphaned lamb. He was getting weaker by the minute, and would not live much longer if this plan didn’t work.

Every ranch hand on the ranch was gathered near by, but out of sight. Watching silently, waiting hopefully, to see if this would be successful. A match made in heaven! The grieving ewe came over to see the baby and sniff him. She sniffed and nudged him right out of the ranch hand’s arms onto the straw floor of the pen! She was frantically checking and sniffing every inch of that little lamb, rolling his tiny body on the straw bed. She was searching for any sign or scent that would identify him as hers. The ranch hand took his queue from the ewe, and quietly and slowly left the pen, leaving them alone, and joined the rest of the staff out of sight. Like children watching for Santa, the staff watched the mama and orphan, hoping and praying for them to bond.

After what seemed like an eternity, the mama lifted her head from sniffing the baby, turned her back on him and walked away. She resumed her despondent wailing by the gate; wanting out, wanting to be away from this strange baby, wanting to find her baby. Her teats were painfully full of milk, and she wanted to nurse her baby.

The staff and ranch hands were baffled! They had been certain their plan would work! Then one seasoned old hand said this: “She doesn’t recognize him. She doesn’t know his scent. She knows the scent of her baby. She won’t be appeased by any other essence other than the one she shares with her baby.” Then he walked away.

When he came back, he was holding the freshly skinned coat of the sweet little dead lamb. Without a word, the seasoned old ranch hand entered the pen and walked straight to the orphaned baby. He placed the coat of the dead lamb on the back of the orphaned lamb and secured it there. He placed the coat, this precious sacrifice, blood-side down on the orphan’s back. Carefully, he picked up the orphan, now covered in the coat of the dead lamb, and placed him under the grieving mama.

Immediately, the mama recognized the scent of her beloved and sniffed and nudged him to her teat where he latched on and enjoyed the life saving milk from his new mama. The ranch hands celebrated with hugs and silent high fives, then quietly left the barn so the new little family could continue to bond.

What a beautiful picture of atonement. At-one-ment. The reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. But why, exactly, do we have to be reconciled to God?

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it resulted in separation of humankind from God. Like the separation of the ewe from her baby.

But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3:16

God allowed His son to die on the cross so that we could “atone” or be made “at one” with Him! Jesus’ death on the cross provided for us His essence, the only essence that God recognizes as His own! He loves us so much that He provided the covering for us, He cloaked us with His own essence through the death and resurrection of His only son! He “at one-ed” us with Him! He loves YOU so much that all you have to do is believe in Him and His son, Jesus Christ, and He will recognize you as HIS! He will call you His own child!

“I am the good shepherd: and I know My sheep, and I am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

“To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” 1 John 1:12

There it is. That’s it. That’s the love of God in a sheep’s pen.

DON’T BE THE FLY!

Sitting in the back yard I noticed something very strange. There was a lizard sitting on a piece of dog poop, seemingly sunning himself. I almost didn’t see him there, lounging on the fecal matter. He was very camouflaged and the only reason I noticed him was that he was doing little lizard push-ups while sunning himself. I watched him for awhile and thought about how dumb he was! In a yard full of grass, sand, rocks, walls to climb, trees to lounge in, he chose to place his little body directly on top of a pile of . . . . well, you get the picture. Why? I asked myself, and, I can’t lie, I might have asked him too, why would a lizard choose to perch himself there, in the absolutely worst part of the yard? Then it happened.

A fly was circling the poop and coming in for a landing. The lizard saw the fly and immediately quit his current set of poo-poo-push-ups. Slowly and deliberately, he lowered himself into the poop making himself virtually invisible to the incoming fly.

The fly never saw what hit him! The lizard’s tongue appeared out of nowhere and snatched the fly right out of the air just inches from his landing spot on the poop. GENIUS! That lizard was genius! He knew that if he waited patiently in an area that would attract his victim, surely his victim would come. He was right, the fly came.

Flies love poop. I don’t know why. But that’s something I want to get to the bottom of (no pun intended.) I mean, you have to agree this is fascinating stuff! The dog poops, the lizard does push-ups on the poop, the fly comes to the poop, the lizard eats the fly. This is repeated until the lizard has a full belly, or until someone picks up the poop.

Poop is definitely NOT a safe place to hang out if you are a fly. Yet they can’t seem to resist it!

Clearly you would never be found sunning on poop, nor would I. But there are other things: people and places; that are potentially dangerous poop piles for us. In fact, co-workers, neighbors, friends and other people with whom we come in contact on a daily basis may lead us to a proverbial pile of poop where satan sits; patiently waiting for us to circle over and come in for a landing.

Make no mistake, if we attempt to land there, he, satan, and/or his minions will strike. satan would like nothing more than to make a meal out of you, a precious child of God – even if it means waiting in a nasty pile of defecated matter for a long period of time. To satan, it is worth the wait, it is worth the stench. The soul of one of God’s children is a great reward for the evil piece of . . . . . well, you get the picture, I do not need to be vulgar, right?

Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who WALKS NOT in the counsel of the ungodly, NOR STANDS in the path of sinners, NOR SITS in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

According to the Nelson Study Bible, the parallelism in this section of scripture speaks of an increasingly deeper involvement with wickedness; “walking beside,” “stand with,” “sitting beside.” When we walk, stand and sit with evil, we will end up in his bed. The contrast is strong, instead of finding enjoyment in walking, standing or sitting with wicked persons, we must find our deep enjoyment in the things of God, particularly the Word of God.

Clearly, we are not to walk, stand or sit anywhere near the the lusts of the world; and most certainly, we should never circle and come in for a landing. Please recognize that the pile in your yard (life) may look and smell much different than dog poop, but the same spiritual danger lurks there. Make no mistake, if you or I choose the poop, the vile lizard from hell will snatch us up and never look back.

1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

James 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Where does satan wait and watch for you? What lures and attracts you? What beckons you to walk, stand and sit with it? What is it? Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? Hatred? Fear? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? Porn? What is it? Is it misuse of social media? Is it an eating disorder or improper view of your self image? What is it? Whatever it is, know this, satan lurks there, in full camo, waiting patiently for you to circle and come in for a landing. But before you can even touch ground, he will devour you, and you will be his.

Don’t be that guy, don’t be the fly! Don’t walk, stand or sit with the enemy. Rather, consider this: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:2-3

SOOOOOOOO much better than being eaten by the poopy-push-up lizard, right?

A true friend will expect godliness from you; no, wait, a true friend will DEMAND godliness from you and settle for nothing less. If you have something or someone in your life who is luring you to a pile of poop, that person is NOT your friend. That person DOES NOT have your best interest at heart. That person is a liar and a fraud, that person is the lizard lying in wait on fecal matter.

If it LOOKS like dog poop, and it SMELLS like dog poop, DON’T TASTE IT; it IS dog poop! Just say “NO!” Don’t walk, stand or sit . . .RUN!

Dear Lord, please help me to recognize the dangerous areas of my life. Help me to identify them and avoid them. Remind me to find my deep enjoyment in the things of You, particularly Your precious Word. Remind me to hide Your Word in my heart, where I can quickly and easily find it when I am faced with raunchy satanic excrement. Please Lord, guard and guide me to be influenced by the Holy Spirit, not the world. Help me to draw near to You, and You to me. I love you!

Disclaimer:
No living creatures were injured or eaten during the writing of this blog. I mean, a fly was eaten during my research, but . . .

I purposely do not capitalize the name of satan, the great deceiver. Not sure why, I guess I feel he just doesn’t deserve the recognition.

HELP! I NEED PANCAKES!

My dogs smell like Maple Syrup. My house smells like Maple Syrup. All. The. Time. If not all the time, at least much of the time. Not that I mind, I LOVE Maple Syrup! Warm Maple Syrup poured over my pancakes makes me happy. Very happy!

For the longest time, we could not figure out why our dogs smelled so delicious! My son finally googled “Why does my dog smell like Maple Syrup?” and got to the bottom of the mystery! A local herb in our yard, known as Pseudognaphalium californicum (Cudweed) was the culprit.

“Pseudognaphalium californicum is an annual or biennial herb growing a branching stem reaching 20 to 80 centimeters in height. Stem branches bear linear to somewhat lance-shaped leaves 2 to 20 centimeters long. The green herbage is glandular and scented. The leaves produce a distinctive aroma like maple syrup. The inflorescence is a wide cluster of flower heads, each enveloped in an involucre of rows of bright white phyllaries.”

Cudweed has a pretty flower, is edible, medicinal and well, smells great! Cudweed is a main food source to the Painted Lady Butterfly as well, and our yard was one of the stops those beauties made on their recent migration! There are so many fabulous things about having Cudweed growing in the yard! What I find interesting, though, is how its fragrance rubs off on my dogs, who come into the house and make me crave pancakes! Recently my Mobile Vet paid a call and said she smelled like Maple Syrup and craved pancakes for the rest of the day after visiting our little cottage!

It’s interesting to me how our surroundings can impact us so. We may actually smell like a specific environment in which we spend time. Many years ago I worked at McDonald’s, and I smelled like greasy fries until my next shower! We absorb what we immerse ourselves in and begin to smell like it, and then we start stinking up those we love, and places we go. I had a friend who drank so much Kombucha Tea, the smell was literally coming out of his pores!

The moral of the story is this: be very careful where you go, be mindful of what you absorb. Be aware of the influence you are having on those you love.  People come to my little cottage and crave pancakes! They feel warm fuzzy’s as they breathe in the wonderful Maple Syrup fragrance, and they want to come back! They tell their friends and family about the little cottage that smells like Maple Syrup!

This is all fine and good, but I want people who come to Calmin Cottage, or otherwise spend time around me to crave Jesus! I want them to feel warm fuzzy’s as they breathe in the wonderful essence of God’s unfathomable love! I want them to tell their friends and family about the little cottage that smells like Jesus! That means I am going to have to walk uprightly, on the paths He puts before me! Paths that take me through fragrant fields of His unconditional love and immeasurable grace! Paths that take me toward Him, soaking up the fragrance of Him, and far away from the vile odors of this world. Paths that lead me to a place where I absorb only Him; to the point of His essence coming out of my pores.

I want to be like the character Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown movies.


But rather than leaving a trail of dirt and dust wherever I go, I want to leave a trail of God’s unending mercy, grace, love and, well . . . maybe a little Maple Syrup.

What is the essence people get from being around you? What are others absorbing as a result of being around you? Are you giving off the the sweet aroma of God’s love? Or are you passing on the pungent smell of hatred, bitterness, arrogance, jealousy, worry or fear? If your essence is not that of the Lord’s, then you are walking on the wrong path.  Any path that leads you away from your Heavenly Father is dangerous indeed.

Proverbs 3:5,6  ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Let God lead you through the sweet and fragrant paths He has intended for you and be blessed!

Can we eat some pancakes now?

appetizing bread breakfast close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Filters and Fig Leaves: I’m a Fake and Your a Phony

Not long ago, I received a “friend request” from an old friend whom I had not seen in years. We had been in contact through social media over the past few years, and I was impressed with how well she had aged. She was aging with grace, to be sure. As a matter of fact, I think the social media images of her are much more attractive than how I remember her from High School! Oh to be like her and get better with age! She invited me to meet her for lunch. I can’t lie, that sounded terrible to me, because she looks 30, and I look, well, I don’t look 30.

I may not be aging as gracefully as she is, however, I have become a near expert at figuring out exactly how to hold my phone camera to take an appropriate selfie! If I hold my arm up this high and take the picture from exactly this angle, with the camera looking down at my face, it hides, or at least somewhat minimizes my pesky double chin. It also seems to thin out my face a little and take some texture off the noticeable crows feet poking out from the corners of my eyes. Then, if I apply certain filters, the puffiness of my old and tired eye lids and the unflattering bags under my eyes seem to miraculously deflate, taking years of wear and tear off my appearance! But alas and alack, it’s all an illusion.

I agreed to meet her for lunch.

When my old friend waved at me from her seat at the table for two in the restaurant where we planned to meet, I didn’t recognize her! At. All.

As I looked at the middle aged woman waving at me, my first thought was “Okay, wow, the lighting must be really bad in here!” I mean, I knew it was her because this lady was wearing a blue floral blouse, exactly like my old friend said she’d be wearing, and of course she was smiling and waving enthusiastically at me! So there’s that, but seriously, had I put the social media image of my friend side by side with the image of the woman at the table, never would I have guessed they were the same person! Never.

Not wanting to call the kettle black, I must confess that my friend was probably thinking the same thing about me! Had I not been wearing the solid fuscia blouse I’d described to her, and entered the restaurant alone, at the agreed upon time, she may not have recognized me either!

She was a fake, and I was a phony, exposed by the noticeable absence of the filters of social media! Each of us had become masters of disguise, master manipulators of our appearance, posting not-exactly-accurate images of the truth.

Not-exactly-accurate” can also be translated . . . LIE.

Of course we all want to represent ourselves the best we can, but, we need to represent ourselves honestly. That’s not to say we can’t take extra measures to look our best, after all, as my pastor once said, “If the barn needs painting, paint it!” So applying some makeup and styling our hair etc. is not bad, in fact, it’s good! It makes us feel better about how we are representing ourselves to the general public and our friends and family, and, well, let’s face it, it makes them feel better too! We should definitely take pride in our physical appearance, but what about our spiritual appearance?

We need to be mindful of the spiritual appearance we are presenting. C.S. Lewis said; “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the out side world.” We must take measures daily to insure that our spiritual appearance is one that will honor God, and draw attention to Him, not us!

If we are covering our sin-appearance with filters, using smoke and mirrors to convince our friends and families that we have achieved a certain level of spirituality, we are in big trouble. We may be fooling them – probably not; we may even be fooling ourselves – not likely; but one thing is for certain, we are NOT fooling God! God is immune to the illusion of filters, and He sees deep down to the depths of our soul. No filter or fig leaf can keep God from seeing the truth.

When we walk in to the throne room of God with a filter of good works, or a fig leaf of kind deeds covering our wickedness, God sees right through. He will look at us and say, “Good job with the works and stuff, but this I have against you . . . you have forgotten your First Love, ME. You’ve made it about appearances. You’re using filters and fig leaves instead of my Word. You’ve made it about YOU, instead of ME.”

Scripture tells us “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). No sin, not even a whispered curse or a fleeting evil thought is hidden from the view of God. In fact, if we realized that God Himself is the only audience for such secret sins, we might be less inclined to hide them under the useless cover of a filter.

When I walked in to the restaurant to meet my old friend, I saw through her filters and she saw through mine. We hugged, and enjoyed lunch together. By the end of our time together, the filters had come off, our wrinkles and crows feet where exposed, and we truly saw each other for the first time in 40 years, no illusions, no filter, no fig leaf.

I must say, she is stunning. As am I.

A Hard Nut to Crack

 

I like to pick our macadamia nuts while they are still on the tree and in the husk. With 14 trees to harvest, we cannot pick them off the trees fast enough, and many fall to the ground. Once on the ground, they are prey to a variety of different bugs, birds and creatures of the night. Macadamia nuts are known for their ridiculously hard shell; they are practically impossible to crack. Several of our good nut crackers have been literally broken in two while unsuccessfully trying to crack a mac nut. With such a hard shell, it amazes me that these bugs, birds and creatures are able to penetrate not only the husk, but the shell, and devour the sweet meaty nut inside.

Tropical nut borers (TNB, yup, it’s a thing!) such as the Koa seedworm lay their eggs on the husks of macadamia nuts. The larvae then bore through the husk and into the heart of the shell where the tender meat is. The site of entry is nearly undetectable, but that little tropical nut borer gets in and wreaks havoc on the sweet, tasty nut inside. The seemingly impenetrable shell is no match for the tiny Koa seedworm.

Many TNB’s such as the Koa seedworm patiently wait on the orchard floor for a nut to fall to the ground, and then they begin the destructive process of boring into the heart of the nut. More than a few times, I have picked up what appeared to be a perfectly healthy macadamia nut, put it in the nut cracker, cracked it open and found a Koa worm nibbling away at the nut; other times, no nut, just the silky web of a tropical nut borer’s nest. Note to self: Never, EVER, eat a mac nut without a thorough visual inspection!

Macadamia nuts are much less likely to fall prey to a TNB when they are on the tree, but even nestled in the branches of the mother tree, they are exposed to fruit rats and crows. Crows pick them and throw them to the ground. Then they break them open with their beaks and eat the meat. The crows also devour our pecans. Fruit rats pick them and take them into the warm engine compartment of my husbands truck to dine on them there. We often find nut shells, along with empty snail shells under the hood of the truck; the aftermath of the predator’s escargot and macadamia nut feast! If I was a fruit rat, I’d definitely want to live at my house! Most people don’t eat as well as the fruit rats of Calmin Cottage!

Like a macadamia nut still on the tree, when we are nestled in the branches of our loving Father’s strong arms, we are in the safest place we can be! But even then, there are those who desire to snatch us away from that place and toss us to the ground. There are proverbial tropical nut borers that want nothing more than to bore straight into our hearts and take residence there. Hatred, bitterness, envy, unforgiveness, betrayal, grief, jealousy, guilt, disappointment, and the list goes on. These TNB’s can destroy us. They can fester and grow in our hearts until they have taken full residence there. Eventually, they  turn our hearts into a nest where the things that want to destroy us can grow; things that steal our joy, our contentment, and even try to steal our soul.

If you are like me, you may have had seasons in your life when one or more of these TNB’s gained access to your heart. On the outside, we may appear to be perfectly healthy and well put together; someone who has a charmed life, perfect family, dream job, dream home, etc. etc. etc. There may be no outward signs of penetration whatsoever. But when we get cracked open, there’s a TNB living comfortably in a silky web, entangling us, destroying the tender meat of our heart.

The bible says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows springs of life.” We must find a way to guard against the devil’s heart-boring seedworms of unforgiveness, grief, hatred, bitterness and all the other literal heart-wrenching emotions, attitudes, actions or habits that gain access to our heart and reside there. We must also recognize that sometimes, sadly, we open the door of our hearts and invite them in.

Macadamia nut farmers can remedy their tropical nut borer problem by purchasing tiny parasitic wasps and releasing them in the orchard. TNB eggs are parasitized by the wasps, and killed before they can hatch. The wasps kill the eggs and larvae before they can bore into the heart of the nut. We, however, can’t just purchase a bunch of parasitic wasps to protect our hearts! So how are we to keep the devil’s heart boring TNB’s from gaining access to our hearts and residing there?

Ephesians 6:11-17 tells us how to protect our hearts from tropical nut borers:
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. And sometimes that sin nature causes us to harbor, well, sinful things in our hearts. So put on the full armor of God! Be battle ready! Recognize when you are allowing the devil’s little TNB access to your heart through your own willful choices. Repent, and ask God to restore you to Him! Keep your heart and mind stayed on Him! It is a very dangerous mistake to acknowledge the Lord and keep our eyes on the devil. Far better to acknowledge the devil while keeping our eyes on Christ. Follow Him so closely that your nose is in His back, and you cannot see to the left or to the right. All you see is Jesus!

Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord, and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me!”

Jesus is in the business of restoration. When we call on Him, He will hear us, forgive us of our sins, cleanse us of the Koa seedworm, or anything else that tries to bore into our hearts. He gives us armor, which is impenetrable. Satan may bark and lunge, but when we’re battle ready, wearing the full armor of God, he cannot penetrate our heart or take residence there.

In God’s full armor, by His strength, we are . . . wait for it . . .  a hard nut to crack!

My Powerful Father, Please strengthen me to rise from my failings, turn from the deceptive voices of those things that bore into my heart, whose promises are impotent and empty. Those feelings and emotions that steal my joy and contentment. Through Your son, and in Your armor, I am surrounded and protected by Your might.