"The LORD will always guide you and provide good things to eat when you are in the desert. He will make you healthy. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water or like a stream that never runs dry." Isaiah 58:10-12

30 June 2009

Freedom is not Free

"Freedom is Not Free." I heard this saying months ago when my mother gave me a blanket that she'd gotten from somewhere (mayber the Vietnam Veterans group?) that she thought my cat Tobias might like to use as a bed.

Despite the manner in which the idea came to me, it has continued to be extremely thought-provoking, especially in this time of the war in Iraq and the various smaller conflicts that are raging around the world.

I think it's also appropriate that I recently completed reading "No Atheists in Foxholes: Reflections and Prayers from the Front," by Patrick McLaughlin. The author is a Navy chaplain who served for three years as the pastor at Camp David and then did two tours of duty in Iraq. His book - which consists of short stories recounting experiences and things that God taught him, as well as prayers that he wrote while in Iraq - really made me think.

While I do recognize that my freedom here in America was earned by the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of our ancestors, how often do I really stop to think about the sacrifices still being made by our men and women in the armed forces today?

As we approach Independence Day, I am reminded of the need for me to not only thank our soldiers for the many sacrifices they make, but also to consistently pray for their mental and physical health, courage, wisdom and safe return home to their families.

29 June 2009

On Hornets, Spiders and Other Things That Crawl or Fly in the Dark

In my last post I was waxing eloquent (or trying to) on the theme of protecting the creatures in our neighborhoods. I want to mention here that there are a couple of exceptions that I make to that protection policy. Namely, these are critters that have a direct possibility/probability of causing physical harm to me or my cat companions.

This past weekend a couple of wonderful friends from my lifegroup at church came over to help me convert a border of cinder blocks around my well housing and herb garden into a much nicer looking wall. The unknown individual who originally placed the blocks had laid them on their sides so that the holes were on top and made convenient depositories for leaves, dirt and debris, as well as homes for a host of small, creepy-crawly critters.

Our first task in creating the wall was to clean out all of the accumulated debris and critters in the holes, before we could fill them with cement and lay the paving stones on top. Now, I had previously seen a variety of creatures in that spot and was especially concerned about the 4-5 black widow spiders I had found. I didn't want to be working in the herb garden and have an unpleasant surprise meeting with one of those!

Well, as we began to clean out holes and move stones we began to find more and more spiders. We found at least four helpful wolf spiders and let them go their way (after all, they eat unpleasant critters like cockroaches). We got a nasty shock, though when we started finding the black widows. All totalled, by the time the project was finished, we had found and killed at least 20 black widows in a 4' x 15' space! The largest we found had a thorax nearly as big as a dime!

While I DO believe in taking care of all of God's creatures and I'm sure that He had a reason for creating black widows, I must say that I had absolutely NO problem with dispatching those in my herb garden!

All of God's Creatures in the Garden

One of the greatest blessings and challenges that God gives us is, I believe, the animals who share our lives and our world. This includes every creature from the dolphins and octopi that live our oceans to the snakes and raccoons in the forest to the cats, dogs, hamsters and fish that live in our homes. Sometimes I think that we spend too much time thinking about ourselves and not enough time thanking God for the creatures He gave us as companions in our world.

When we do think about the animals, it's usually on a global "Save the Whales" scale, rather than a local "save the turtles in our woods" scale. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the large-scale campaigns to protect the various species of the world. I also think, however, that we need to remember to be thankful for and protect the creatures that live in our own communities, near and in our homes.

One of my feline companions, Tobias, reminds me of this on a daily basis. One of his favorite activities to do upon first waking up in the morning is to sit on the head of my bed and watch the animals in our backyard and garden. He is the one that first alerted me to the fact that we have not only songbirds and squirrels that visit, but also a family of rabbits, chipmunks and even some mice. We don't often see the chipmunks or mice, but he and I enjoy sitting on the bed and watching the rabbits have their breakfast or supper. More than one friend has asked me why I don't try to kill the rabbits or at least chase them away.

My answer is twofold: First, I have too much fun watching them, marvelling at their beauty and laughing at their antics. Two, why should I chase them away when God put plenty of grass and other plants in my yard for all of us to share?