Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
“You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them.” Deuteronomy 28:39
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm.” Joel 2:25
When I read Bible passages that mention worms, I always think about cuckoos. No, not the kind that pop out of clocks, but the Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoo that are found in the summer across much of the United States. Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos are well known for their appetite for hairy caterpillars, a food that is distasteful to most other birds. During late summer infestations of webworms or tent caterpillars, both these cuckoos are regularly seen feeding on those pests. My first experience with cuckoos was at age ten when I stood with my mother and watched as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo systematically consumed tent caterpillars that had infested our black walnut tree. These cuckoos are common, but not often seen because of their preference for remaining in the heavy foliage of the forest canopy or in tangled undergrowth.
Today’s verses show God’s mercy toward His people. Though the first verse describes devastation brought about by "worms," the second verse promises restoration. The Bible describes God's judgment in the Old Testament, but it also contains the prophetic promise of restoration that comes through His Son. If there are “cankerworms, caterpillars and palmerworms” destroying your life, there is hope of restoration. Just as the cuckoo came to eat the tent caterpillars that were devouring my boyhood walnut tree, God has promised in Malachi 3:11, “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground.”
Father, I thank you for your mercy. As I put my faith in your promises, I trust you to restore what has been taken from me. Amen.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
To the Warbling Vireo
by Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)
Sweet little prattler, whom the morning sun
Found singing, and this livelong summer day
Keeps warbling still: here have I dreamed away
Two bright and happy hours, that passed like one,
Lulled by thy silvery converse, just begun
And never ended. Thou dost preach to me
Sweet patience and her guest, reality,
The sense of days, and weeks, and months that run
Scarce altering in their round of happiness,
And quiet thoughts, and toils that do not kill,
And homely pastimes. Though the old distress
Loom gray above us both at times, ah, still,
Be constant to thy woodland note, sweet bird;
By me at least thou shalt be loved and heard.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
One of the ones that Midas touched,
Who failed to touch us all,
Was that confiding prodigal,
The blissful oriole.
So drunk, he disavows it
With badinage divine;
So dazzling, we mistake him
For an alighting mine.-- Emily Dickinson
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Drunk on sour cherries, the harlequin of birds
Lurches through the branches and lisps in bleared content.
While a Temperance Union Catbird shrieks her words
In a scathing, scolding lecture he's too happy to resent.
--William H. Matchett
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The vulture eats between his meals,
And that's the reason why
He very, very rarely feels
As well as you and I.
His eye is dull, his head is bald,
His neck is growing thinner.
Oh! What a lesson for us all
To only eat at dinner!
-- Hilaire Belloc
Monday, August 24, 2009
Barn Owl, Tyto alba
Sunday, August 23, 2009
One of the most beautiful birds in North America is the male American Goldfinch with its bright yellow body, black cap and black and white wings and tail. Known as “wild canary” or “thistle bird”, the American Goldfinch is a common sight throughout the United States and southern Canada, and is the state bird of Iowa and Washington. The goldfinch is a voracious eater of weed seeds, and its favorite food is thistle seed. Goldfinches readily come to bird feeders for nyjer seed or black oil sunflower seed.
Young goldfinches are not much different from young human babies in that they are not able to eat “solid food” until their digestive systems have matured. The goldfinch parents feed the nestlings by consuming thistle seed themselves and then regurgitating the partially digested seed into the young birds’ mouths. This gruel-like substance is sometimes even called “canary milk.”
The Apostle Paul recognized that the early Christians were not yet mature enough to handle anything but the most elementary spiritual teachings. For that reason he gave them “milk” and not “solid food.” The writer of Hebrews echoes Paul’s frustration by writing in Hebrews 5:12, “though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”
Partially digested thistle seeds may be quite appropriate for young goldfinches, just as spiritual “milk” is quite appropriate for young Christians. However, with maturity there must come a change in diet. Let us move on to maturity.
Lord, I am grateful for your loving, nurturing presence in my life. I long to move on into maturity. Give me grace as I walk the path you have set before me. Amen.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Looking here, looking there.
You lose something?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Robert of Lincoln is gayly drest,
Wearing a bright black wedding-coat;
White are his shoulders and white his crest.
Hear him call his merry note:
Spink, spank, spink.
Look, what a nice coat is mine.
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee
--William Cullen Bryant
Bobolink! Still may thy gladness
Take from me all taints of sadness;
Fill my soul with trust unshaken
In that Being who has taken
Care for every living thing,
In summer, winter, fall, and spring.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
“How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Proverbs 1:22
The Northern Mockingbird may be the most well-known bird in the southern half of the United States. The states of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas have selected the mockingbird as their official state bird. Mockingbirds are quite conspicuous, and if there is one in the neighborhood it will likely make its presence known. They are members of a family of birds known as mimidae, or “mimics.” These birds are some of the best singers in North America, and the mockingbird may be the champion songster of the whole group. Mockingbirds, of course, are named for their habit of mimicking or “mocking” other birds. Its Latin species name, polyglottus, means "many-voiced." In fact, they do not limit their imitations to birds, but are known to imitate barking dogs, rusty door hinges, wind chimes, cell phone rings and other mechanical noises.
Today’s verse speaks of mockers and mockery in the way most of us use those words. Mock means to treat with scorn or derision. In the metaphor of the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom asks the question, “How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Wisdom says to the foolish mocker: “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called…I will mock when calamity overtakes you” (Proverbs 1:23-26). It is unfortunate that today’s beautiful bird, Northern Mockingbird, is saddled with the name “mocker.” Because it has that name it carries with it all the negative connotations from the passage in Proverbs. A more appropriate name might be “imitator bird.” Its Bible verse could be Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” The Bible calls us to be imitators of God and not foolish mockers. Respond to God’s love as the dearly loved child that you are.
God, I want to be an imitator of you. Fill me with your wisdom and your love. Amen.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
I always like to drive on the east side of a sunflower field if possible. The flowers are usually all facing east to catch the morning sun.
As you can see, the commercially grown sunflowers are much larger than the wild type.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
burrow (bur' o) v.
to live or hide in a hole dug in the ground
"They were forced to live in the dry stream beds, among the rocks and in holes in the ground" (Job 30:6).
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
“Every kind of bird, male and female.” Genesis 7:3
We all recognize that males and females are different. Of humans, we say things like, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” and “Vive la difference!” Male and female birds are different, too. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created “Every kind of bird, male and female” (Genesis 7:3). A difference in appearance between males and females is called sexual dimorphism. Few birds exhibit this trait more than the Orchard Oriole. The males are a rich chestnut with black heads, wings and tails; the females are yellow and olive green. My sister, Marlene, and her husband, Hank, discovered this difference in the birds’ appearance a few years ago. My brother-in-law told Marlene that he had seen a new bird in their backyard, and he described it to her. Later, my sister saw a bird with the same habits and general appearance described by her husband, but she told him he had the color all wrong. She said the bird was greenish-yellow; he said the bird was reddish-brown. This went back and forth for a few days, and each thought the other one was crazy. Finally they realized that they were both seeing Orchard Orioles, but that Hank had seen only the male, while Marlene had seen only the female.
Like my sister and brother-in-law arguing about their orioles, we sometimes think men and women are so different that they must be different species altogether. Indeed, the church has often made a major distinction between the roles of men and women within the Body of Christ, sometimes relegating women to the status of “Second-class Christians.” The important thing to remember is that in God’s eyes we are all the same. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). We all easily recognize the differences in people, whether in ethnicity, gender or economic status. What is more difficult is accepting the fact that we are all the same through our unity in Christ Jesus.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
“Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Proverbs 26:7
The Willet is a large, gray sandpiper with a black bill and long, gray legs. They are found on open mudflats in the northern Great Plains and the western Great Basin of North America.
I saw my first two Willets at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. One of them was behaving rather strangely. Through my binoculars I saw the reason: the bird had only one leg. The right leg was just a little stump dangling down an inch or two from its body. The bird stood erect, and appeared to have no trouble bending over to pick up food, or hopping about from place to place. The presence of a second Willet made me wonder if the one-legged Willet had a mate. Even with its obvious disability, the bird might have a promising future. I speculated as to the cause of the handicapped Willet’s misfortune. Had it become entangled in fishing line? Had it narrowly escaped the jaws of a hungry predator? The possible scenarios were endless. I wondered if the bird had learned anything through its ordeal. Was it more careful and more alert than it had been before? Was it more attuned to its surroundings? Though the bird may have done something foolish resulting in the loss of its leg, I suspected its days of being a fool had ended.
Some say that a person is a fool if he repeatedly engages in the same disastrous conduct, but keeps expecting different results. In other words, a fool refuses to learn from his mistakes. In today’s verse a lame leg is compared to a fool who spouts proverbs without really understanding their meaning, and with no desire to conform to their sound advice. Therefore, as our verse says, a proverb coming from such a person’s mouth is useless and has no life. Let us examine ourselves and be certain that we receive God’s Word with wisdom and understanding, and not as fools. Then the words that come from our mouths will be full of life.