The Nuthatch is No Chicken Little

nuhatchI don’t have any hills in my yard, but I do hear the sound of music. My feathered friends have begun their annual return, and they’re filling the air with their joyful melodies. As they arrive, they’re met by the faithful chickadees and nuthatches who have fed on sunflower seeds and weathered the winter.

If, as some say, the chickadees and nuthatches are deficient in color, they are more than proficient in conversation. The chickadee is reported to have a vocabulary of around 50 distinct sounds including phrases, like “danger!” “feed me!” or “I’m single!”

As the chickadee is busy chattering, the nuthatch listens intently; verifies the message; and, if necessary, acts as a watchman on the wall and sounds a predator is present alarm. While the nuthatch is no Chicken Little,  Eric Greene, an ecologist at the University of Montana, lightheartedly says the bird will “retweet” valid warnings to his neighbors.

The importance of conversations cannot be overstated, and ours ought to be more than idle chatter. Jesus said a person will be either justified or condemned by the words they speak (Matthew 12:27).  Our conversation should be more than great swelling words of emptiness (2 Peter 2:18), or persuasive words of deception (Colossians 2:8).

How can we fine-tune our vocabulary, so our conversation is pleasing to God? We can start with a prayer of David: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

A Unique Creation

cattleSince I live in the land of bluestem grass, it’s a common sight to see cattle grazing in pastures.  More than a few steers are apt to stick their heads through a barbed wire fence to eat the grass that’s almost beyond their reach. This tendency gave birth to the cliché: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. 

The old cliché is the life philosophy of some people.  They’re not content with what God has given them, so they keep searching for that elusive something that is just beyond their grasp.

God is not a God of mass production, and you were not manufactured on a soulless assembly line by a heartless God. You are a unique creation; the handiwork of God; designed for a specific purpose; and, blessed with the appropriate amount of grace to accomplish the mission to which you’ve been called.

You are the apple of God’s eyes, and He has blessed you with gifts that “vary depending on the grace poured out on each of us, so it’s important to exercise the gifts you’ve been given (Romans 12:6).”

As you look forward to the week ahead, frame it within the truth of 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that, in all things and at all times, having all you need, you may overflow in every kind of good work.”

Fowled Communication

woodpeckerAbout this time each year, I start looking forward to the return of the brightly colored yellow finches that will gorge themselves at my birdfeeders. They will be joined by other guests, Blue Jays, Robins, and Redheaded woodpeckers.

To be honest, today is the first day I’ve thought about the woodpeckers; and, I can thank the internet for that. While I was checking my news feed on Twitter, I read a story about some acorn woodpeckers.

Audubon’s field guide for birds, describes these birds as a “clown-faced… western woodpecker with a complicated social structure, living in small colonies. Best known for its habit of hoarding acorns.”

According to National Geographic, some of these clown-faced little devils had stashed some 300 pounds of acorns in a wireless antenna in California. Jim Greer, spokesman for AT&T, commented on the situation: “Moisture and sheer volume caused the microwave signal to finally give out. As soon as the acorns were released, the signal came right back on.”

A single acorn did not render the antenna inoperative; however, it was the first step towards an impaired signal. As the acorns accumulated, eventually the signal between the antenna and the customers went silent.

In this instance acorns are like sin, the power of one might not be noticed; however, when they accumulate, they can be detrimental.  The prophet Isaiah knew this to be true, and he said: “Your sinful acts have alienated you from your God; your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers (Isaiah 59:2).”

The answer to the dilemma is to dump the acorns. This is accomplished through confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).”

The Measly and the Mighty

NOSELESSIn Psalm 135, a vivid contrast is painted in broad strokes that compares the almighty and robust God of King David to the puny and powerless idols of the Canaanites. The Psalmist describes the inept and impotent gods: They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

A recent viewing of some photography reminded me of this Psalm. The photographer had captured the image of some artifacts that portrayed their gods with smashed ears and crushed noses. I wondered if these ancient scars were the work of vandals or mischievous imps.

After reading Julia Wolkoff’s article on the subject, I found my answer: The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.

By smashing the ears and crushing the noses of these images, the perpetrator thought he was castrating the idol and nullifying its power.

My worship and prayer aren’t focused on a toothless god who can be rendered impotent by the hand of man; my devotion is to the Omnipotent God who is great, above all gods, and the One who does whatever He pleases.

The God who is the focus of my attention is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Focused or Fretful

headcaseIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiousness?

In anxious moments, I’ve found comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.

Here’s a simple truth: The mind that’s not staying on God, is straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments faith and smothers the fires of fretfulness.

To “stay” your mind on God, I suggest that you begin by:

  • Focusing on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claiming the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believing God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Getting a grip on life: For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

Think about it: When God is holding your right hand, you never have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Phil 4

Death by Hash Brown

hbrownAs I was leaving the coffee shop this morning, I looked to my right to see if it was ok to cross the parking lot.  Since the car at the drive-up window was stopped, I felt I could safely walk to my truck.

As I took my third step, I heard the roar of an engine, looked to my right again, and I took a quick step back. Instead of looking where he was going, the driver was stuffing a saliva-inducing hash brown in his mouth; with a river of drool dripping from his chin, and his eyes focused on the sack in his lap, he was the typical distracted driver.

This near-miss reminded me that if we are going to get where we’re going, it helps to look at the road ahead, stay focused on our goals, and live a disciplined life.

With this in mind, I think we can benefit from some specific looks:

  • A Look of Devotion—Psalm 5:3: My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.
  • A Look of Expectation–Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season.
  • A Look of Empathy—Matthew 9:36: When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
  • A Look of Righteousness—2 Timothy 2:22: Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
  • A Look of Excellence—2 Peter 1:5-7: Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
  • A Look of Gratitude—I Thessalonians 5:18: In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you

To finish life’s race,  we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith (Hebrews 12:3, Phillips).

Who is Watching?

surveillance-signs-y4397371-80618-l11955-lg (1)Have you ever had that feeling that you’re being watched? It may be more than just a feeling. Comparitech, a company that is known for its, Thousands of hours of in-depth tech research, has discovered, the world’s most-surveilled cities.

After studying the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, the researchers at Comparitech have discovered the top 20 cities in the world that are the most surveilled. Of the cities that made the top 10, all of them were in China except London and Atlanta.

The proponents of CCTV cameras say they are excellent tools to help prevent crime and to monitor the flow of traffic. There are many, however, who see a sinister use of this technology. Specifically, the detractors are concerned with the development of facial recognition and the prying eyes of big government: Will the use of this technology make for a safer society at the expense of individual liberties?

While big government might abuse and misuse this technology, it’s much different with our Big God. Solomon said the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3, NKJV).

When God sees the evil and the good in the world, we need to remember that His justice is balanced by His love, mercy, and grace. In Genesis 6:5, the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually; however, three verse later, we see that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

What does God see when He observes your life? May it be a life of justice, kindness, and humility (Micah 6:8).

Rhinos, Albinos, and Tanzania

mount kAs I usually do of the morning, I stopped by McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. As I was leaving, I saw a young father with his children—Isaac of the clan McNary.

We chatted a few moments about his good work in addressing the needs of the hungry. Part of his ministry with the Outreach Program is to minister to the hungry at home and abroad—even to faraway places like Tanzania.

When he reminded  me of the work in Tanzania, it stimulated a neuron or two in my brain and retrieved the memory of a post I made a few years ago; I’ve updated it below:

Most of us have only seen pictures of Tanzania, and its colorful landscape that includesrhino the majestic peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Ruaha National Park which is home to over 10,000 elephants and 430 species of birds. Among the many different animals that are found in Tanzania, one of the best known and most endangered is the black rhino.

While the plight of the black rhino is a concern, even more, worrisome is the warped and wicked mistreatment of the Albinos.  In Tanzania, albinos represent one in every 1429 births, and the innocent children among this number live in constant fear.  They live with the terror of knowing that some people want to harvest their body parts.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has reported that the adherents of witchcraft place a high value on albino body parts.  Because some villagers believe albinos have magical powers, they hunt them and harvest parts of their bodies.

The National Geographic commented on this gruesome practice, saying:  “Some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children.  The use of children is likely linked to the pursuit of innocence, which, it is believed, enhances the potency of the witchcraft ritual.”

As I think of these brutalized children, I’m reminded that Jesus loves all of God’s children whether they are red, yellow, black or white. And, He loves the albinos of Tanzania every bit as much as He loves you.

Remember When

rememberThe older I get, the more often I ask, or I am asked the question: Don’t you remember how it used to be?

This question was repeated several times this morning in a conversation, and it reminded me of a tender scene in The Lion King when Mufasa challenges Simba: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, there are times we need to remember who we are—We are children of the King. This is not some simple mantra to be repeated; it is a truth full of practical applications when, like Simba, you lose your way.

When you truly realize you are a child of the King, you can:

  • Worry less by spending more time in prayer as you turn your problems over to God.
  • Stand tall when you feel like you are in over your head; God is in it with you.
  • Remember that God is bigger than any of your problems.
  • Be certain that you will never be so lost that you can’t be found.
  • Be assured that when you feel like no one likes you, God still loves you.

As a child of the King, God speaks to you and says: I will hold your right hand: Fear not, I will help you.