The Beech Tree

It was an adventurous ride through the woods to the beech tree. Never before had I ridden to the beech tree. I had always walked, or run. But on a special Saturday in September during this year’s Knight reunion my clever and inventive nephews took Charles and me over the hills and through the woods–all the way to the beech tree. Oaky Dover, Nathan Knight (who is deployed now by National Guard to Mexico) and Mitch Harper (married to my niece Evelyn) are determined that Pinedale be enjoyed by our burgeoning family, even those of us who are disabled. Charlie, my brother, has been a great leader as these young people have formed and executed their ideas. For months they have engineered and cut this ATV trail through the forest.

I gripped the handhold and was glad for the seatbelt in the compact and open-sided ATV. I wasn’t at all afraid of Oaky’s very skillful driving. All the same, one can’t be too careful. I didn’t like to think of myself dumped out on a rock or a big tree root. Soon, though, my nervousness turned to awe and glee as we rocked and spun through the woods. At times I wasn’t sure where I was, the forest had changed so much, then I would recognize some landmark. The trail is beautifully engineered to be safe and allow us to see parts of Pinedale we haven’t seen in years. I was wondering where exactly I was when suddenly there we were right by the beech tree.

To me as a young girl with nine siblings, four of whom were close playmates, the beech tree was one of many favorite places to play. It was downstream from Indian Spring, a nice wide clear spring dug out at the bottom of a bluff by Indians a hundred years before. It wasn’t far from our cabin school house, just a quick run, easy to reach for a break between history, geography, and literature. Even then the beech tree seemed both stout and lofty. Its gray bark was like a clear slate, perfect for carving initials.

Though homeschooled, we used the Habersham County curriculum for much of our studies. Every year it was very exciting to go to the Board of Education in town to exchange our old books for new ones on our grade level. Our parents threatened us with severe consequences if we wrote anything or made any markings in our books. The books should be nice and unmarked for the next students. I rather enjoyed finding names and squiggles in my books, a sign that someone else had struggled through the War of the Roses. But, at least for the most part, we adhered to the “no scribble” law. Still, there was something in one’s being that simply requires making a mark.

So if not in a book, then what about the beech tree? Brothers were good carvers and they always had a pocket knife handy. So there are more boys’ initials (and sometimes girlfriends!) than sisters. But it would be hard to prove since, as the tree grew bigger and taller, the carvings became knotty and all but unrecognizable. I could see HBK for Hamilton Brantley Knight, a list of single initials, probably for Pat, Brantley, Virginia, John, and Brenda. The names Grahams, carved in 1978, and above it, Dovers are still quite clear. My sister, Suzanne, and I, with our husbands and children, added those names when we stopped at the beech tree on memorable hikes through the woods.

But fond memories of the beech tree to which, until now, I had always walked or run, didn’t stop at carvings on the trunk. The tree, still so sturdy and healthy, stands on the brink of Indian Brook. Often there we played in and out of the brook according to the weather. In the summertime we caught water lizards and let them slither through our fingers back into the cold water. We dried our feet on soft green moss growing like a carpet near the tree. We hid behind the tree and booed our playmates when they came looking for us. At times I sat by the tree just thinking.

One of my favorite woods games was the one where “It” agreed to be blindfolded, then was led in a circuitous route to some nearby spot. “It,” thoroughly disoriented by the time we stopped, might not even know east from west, especially if the guides chose to spin “It” around. You could only depend on your senses–sounds, smells, and touch. If taken to the beech tree it was easy to be a winner. You could feel the nubby initials on the trunk, hear the chuckling stream, and even smell the damp moss.

At this recent visit I was not blindfolded but still had been somewhat confused on the ride through familiar places, now so different. But I almost cried with joy when we parked right beside the old beech tree. After a good time hunting old initials, observing a cozy camp enjoyed by our young folks, and taking pictures, we started back. We rode by the little cabin school, dilapidated but still standing. We crossed Ramble Brook, spun up Tulip Hill for a quick view of the cemetery and the wonderful new structure another blessed nephew, architect Joe Knight, is building, then back down through what was Apple Bars, across Sand Flat, past the new pond nestled amongst trees, and up the hill to the house.

I am so thankful for those good times when we were growing up and life was so simple. I’m also thankful for family members who take such time now and spend much energy and expertise making these old haunts available to young and old. And, of course, I’m thankful for the old beech tree!

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A Way Out

Every few weeks our turtle, specifically our tortoise, comes to visit. Sometimes we know he’s around because we hear him rustling in the border grass. Sometimes, as it was last week, he shows up in the carport wanting a supper of cat food. Although turtle experts say cat food is not generally good for them, there’s no way with his eating apparatus that this fellow will consume a harmful amount of it. We enjoy watching him turn his head this way and that to get a nibble in his funny mouth.

We named him Red because of an identifying mark we painted on his back. I understand turtles can live to a very old age, maybe 80 like me! So far we know Red is at least six years old. Unlike some turtles I’ve known, Red is very sociable. He doesn’t hide his head; he investigates, sets those claws on the floor and moves about, opens his eyes to see all that he can see. Reminds me of us visiting in a foreign land wanting to take in all the sights.

We like to set him on the porch and talk to him as he scratches around with those sharp claws, approaching our feet without fear, nosing against strange shapes like a flower stand base. We put a nibble of cat food on the floor for him which he seems thoroughly to enjoy. After a while, though, he’s ready to go home (in some cool declevity under an azalea bush, probably) so he starts circling the perimeters to find a way out. When the children are here, they are very loath to let him go, then burst into competition over who will set him free.

This time was a little different. The children weren’t here. We have a new screen that opens with a gentle push and snaps back in place with magnets. It’s very good for people with walkers! We wanted to see if Red could find his way out through this new option.

He circled the porch pausing often to try a little push against the hard wood with, of course, no results. Each time he arrived at the new curtain-like screen we cheered for him to push through. A couple of times he even stopped right at the loose opening and all but stuck his blunt head through. But then he plodded on around his circle. At one impenetrable corner of the porch he worked so hard trying to get out that he turned himself over on his back and Charles had to set him back on his feet.

Charles finally had mercy on him and carried him outside to head home.

Somehow Red’s efforts made me think about how a person can hut in all the wrong places for a way out of trouble, a way to peace and happiness. We may even find the right opening, as Red found the screen, and still not recognize it. We exhaust ourselves hunting the way out when all the time it’s right there in front of us. We may push so hard we even turn ourselves upside down when all the time the door to light and freedom is waiting for us. The only door to freedom is Jesus Christ. If we submit to Him, the Master will lift us in His gentle hands and set us on the path to peace and our eternal home.

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South Georgia Autumn

If I didn’t know it otherwise, I’d surely know it was autumn when Steve and Sharon Wooten put their pumpkins out. They live on a big curve between Cairo and Thomasville and have a very visible nice big yard. Every fall they make a marvelous display of pumpkins arranged in bountiful piles, some in old pickup trucks, some on the ground, pumpkins everywhere!

Yes, it’s autumn in south Georgia! We don’t experience the dramatic seasonal changes as our northern neighbors do, but it’s unquestionably autumn all the same.

Even in south Georgia some deciduous trees are taking on hues of gold, crimson, and pomegranate. We have a five-year-old ghinko tree that is coming into its own this fall displaying beautiful gold fan shaped leaves. The Indonesian cherry tree is not satisfied with only one color, so puts forth varying shades of pomegranate, gold, and almost red amongst green leaves still hanging on. Later the Japanese maples will become our brightest trees as they turn to their luscious red.

Along the roadways goldenrods brighten the landscape. You may hate goldenrods for the allergy reaction they and the accompanying ragweed cause. But you have to admit they are beautiful. Just enjoy them outside. Don’t put them on your dining table as a centerpiece. On a country ride you may see fields of white cotton, a cloud of dust surrounding moving machinery as farmers harvest peanuts, and huge round bales of hay spaced so neatly in plowed fields like so many loaves of bread set out to cool. Chrysanthemums make splashes of color on porches and patios–gold and rusty red are my favorites, and I do love the scent also!

The children are trying to decide what they want to be for Halloween. Charli thinks she’ll be an angel, maybe even have wings. Kaison is considering being some demon-like character with a bloody knife. I told him please not to play with the devil’s tools. When he began drawing a picture of a monster I said why not draw a person dressed in the armor of God. We looked up Ephesians 6:14-17 and he followed my suggestion. Painstakingly, piece by piece, he added armor to his picture of a boy: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, etc. Later, I was cooking when Kaison ambled into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. I told him I was making deviled eggs. “Nana!” he exclaimed, “you said not to play with the devil’s tools.”

Political signs are planted on many street corners and country crossings. Charles not only puts the signs out (with some difficulty since often the ground is incredibly hard) but goes back regularly to see if they’re still there. If one has been removed he replaces it. I used to be so bored by politics. Now I know elections are of utmost importance and political news and analyses no longer put me to sleep (most of the time!). We are subject to losing our freedom of speech, our parental rights, our security, our freedom of religion, even our right to life. We must be informed and we must vote!

The scents of autumn are enticing and invigorating: apples stewing, cotton candy at the fair, barbecue at a family gathering, disturbed chrysanthemums, freshly raked leaves, pumpkin spice cappuccino at the coffee shop, crayons and pencil erasers, and huge pots of boiled peanuts steaming at open markets.

The moon rides high. I hear in the distance the drumbeats of our Syrupmaker band performing at a Friday night football game. As Canada geese fly over I thank the Lord for the change of seasons, for pumpkins on the doorstep, for colored leaves, for little boys with rich wisdom, for wonderful blue October sky, and for one last lonely blue bloom on the hydrangea bush.

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In Ian’s Wake

My heart aches for the folks in SW Florida. As I watch the scenes of devastation and rescues, the inundated houses, the toppled and crippled boats, I put myself in the shoes of those who are suffering. What would it be like to evacuate with quickly chosen belongings and then return to a pile of rubble? What would it be like to ride out the storm and end up clinging to the rafters in your attic? Or to be in your car when it became submerged up to the windows? Or to learn your family members were killed in the storm?

I watch men helping a family out of a rescue boat–an older woman who had to be carried to solid ground, a young woman wading in water around her ankles carrying her baby wrapped in a blanket. There’s an elderly man carried to safety over the shoulders of a journalist. And then a distraught woman wandering in water and debris where her house used to be. A reporter questioned her about what she was doing. She said she was hunting anything, just anything, to remind her of her precious husband who died two months ago.

Rescuers are still searching for people trapped in places where only boats or helicopters can go. I saw some people being lifted in a basket under a helicopter. Firemen, police, Coast Guard, National Guard and all are hunting for the bodies of those who didn’t survive. At this writing the number is about 25 but expected to rise.

And now Ian has blown on up to South Carolina as a category 1, not nearly as bad as the category 4 that hit Ft. Myers area but very damaging all the same.

We watch the storm, and effects of, on the screen and feel such gratitude that our loved ones are safe. But we have this enormous ache for those who were not safe, who lost home and business and even family. We feel an overwhelming desire to help in some way. But most of us can’t go, wouldn’t be of any help if we did! We pray for the mother with her baby, we pray for the widow hunting her husband’s personal things, we pray for the persons in the attic trying to escape the flood. Yet, still, I think the Lord plants in us a huge desire to do more.

What can we do?

We like to give to Samaritan’s Purse because we know, without a shadow of doubt, the responders will be faithful in their compassion, will share the gospel, and will use the funds they received very wisely where it is most needed.

Join us in giving! Go to Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief. You can use your credit card to make a donation in mere minutes. You may never know until heaven how much your dollars meant but you can be assured they will be priceless! What a great investment!

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Sweet Potato Saga

Remember the sweet potato vines I wrote about a few weeks ago? All summer we’ve watched them with great interest. Charles has faithfully watered them and they have flourished beautifully. They have snaked out on the lawn, climbed a nearby pine tree, and sent graceful shoots out into the nandina bushes, not to mention completely covering the big old rusty saw blade. Charles, seeing their energy, said maybe they weren’t sweet potatoes. Maybe they were cudzu!

We both wondered what was going on under the vines. Were there any potatoes down there? It was so quiet. No sounds of activity, just a few more inches of silent growth every day.

Last week Charles and Kaison decided to dig up one hill and see what was there. It was a challenge even to figure out the center of each hill, so thick with vines they were. But they found one and dug up several potatoes, one of which was the biggest sweet potato I’ve ever seen. It took two hours at 425 to bake the thing! But it was wonderfully tasty. Now we knew they were ready. It was time to unearth the whole patch and see how many potatoes the six plants produced.

As Charles pulled the vines out of the bushes, unwound them from the bird house post and the pine tree, we were amazed and amused at the length of them. Charles was curious enough to fetch a measuring tape and measured one vine to be 23 feet long. How did they achieve such length? How did they have the ability to wind around a bird house post, a pine tree? How did they ever even get started from that tiny plant?

Underneath those lush vines Charles found thirty-six sweet potatoes of various sizes from very small rat size (they look like rats with a long tail!) to huge like an odd-shaped pumpkin. They’re all that beautiful pink color even with soil clinging to them. I had a ringside seat (a lawn chair!) to watch the show. I thought how pleased and utterly amused Charles’s farmer dad would be to see us having such a party over a few sweet potatoes.

I like to think these sweet potatoes developing so quietly and with such strength and vigor are just one sign among billions and trillions that God is at work when we can’t see and can’t hear. If He created these lush vines that “knew” how to lace themselves all about and these marvelous bumpy red potatoes hidden from view while they grew, I am assured He’s watching over each of us even when He seems to be asleep, even when we are asleep!

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalms 121:3-4

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The Dogs Next Door

The sudden rain sounds like a waterfall. Thick curtains of reeds along the driveway sway in the wind like giant green ocean waves. The driveway has turned into a fast-moving river. And the dogs are barking.

Soon after we moved to our present house we learned that several German shepherds lived next door. They considered they owned our place since it had stood empty for years. So anytime we walked into the front yard they barked ferociously. We talked to them and made friends, to a degree, through the fence. But still they barked. Were they just saying hello? Somehow it sounded more like, Leave this property, you are trespassing!

As time went on, we realized these dogs, sometimes one, sometimes two or three, barked at the sound of sirens, at every hint of rain, thunder or not. A lightning storm threw them into an uproar of baying like so many coyotes. Our bedroom windows weren’t far from the dogs with their tremendous capacity for volume and prolonged disturbance. I prayed they would learn to be quiet.

I loved our new house but I really didn’t like the almost perpetual sound of heavy deep-voiced German shepherds. The barking didn’t bother Charles. After all, he had lived with barking dogs at the animal hospital for fifty years. It was normal background music to him when the dogs tuned up at the sound of a garbage truck or even airplanes.

You’re probably thinking there’s some dramatic end to this story. But the change has been gradual. The dogs still bark but I’ve become accustomed to them. When I hear them in the middle of the night I wonder if a possum wandered through or if they feel a storm coming. When they’re quiet I know all is well. Sometimes I smile at their playful yipping as they run about in their generous yard.

Right now the sky is brightening. The reeds are shedding silver drops. And the dogs are still barking. My prayer was answered, not by the dogs learning to be quiet, but by a change in my own attitude toward them. Their ears must hurt painfully when the high squeal of screaming sirens reaches them. Instead of groaning when I hear them tune up, I say “Bless their hearts!”

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Out of the Shadow of 9/11: a book review

My sister-in-law, Revonda Barwick, gave me this autographed copy of “Out of the Shadow of 9/11” last year. She had heard Christina Ray Stanton speak and knew I’d like her book. I’ve read it twice and both times was horrified, saddened, and very, very blessed. I know you would also be blessed by this account. It is told from a different angle than most you will have heard. It is a story of the transformation of this young couple who found a different life after 9/11.

Christina Ray Stanton was there. Not in the towers but very close by. She and her husband of only eighteen months lived in a high rise apartment building just six blocks from the World Trade Center. They slept late that morning in their apartment on the 24h floor. Christina remembers her husband, Brian, shaking her awake with the awful news that a bomb must have gone off in the North Tower. They both ran to their terrace directly facing the World Trade Center. She describes the smoke as so thick and black and reaching so high into the sky, it just couldn’t be real.

But it was real. From their terrace they watched, running back and forth to the living room to check the television news. It wasn’t a bomb, Katie Couric reported. It was a plane. A plane? How could a small plane have caused so much damage? About then Christina looked over her shoulder and saw a huge jet flying so low she could almost see passengers in the windows. It dodged between skyscrapers like a hawk, then aimed its nose at the South Tower. The impact threw Christina and Brian into their living room on their backs. When Christina first became aware she felt a heavy weight on her chest. It was their dog, Gaby, a Boston terrier shaking with fear.

This was the beginning of a long and treacherous journey for Christina and Brian and their dog, Gaby, as they walked and ran away from the towers seeking safety. She describes scenes of crowds of other terrified folks trying to escape, not knowing which way to go; the enormous number of sirens and flashing lights as first responders rushed to the scene; then the unbelievable horror when first one, then the other, tower imploded. Their clothes, hair, and skin were suddenly covered with a disgusting thick film of yellow dust. Everyone was covered–the trees, the buildings, and Gaby, too.

The two were stunned and sobered by the thought that they could easily have been in the World Trade Center that day. Brian was having frequent interviews seeking a job in the Financial District. He wanted to be rich and successful. Christina was auditioning every chance she got for a role in a Broadway play. In the meantime she worked as a tour guide for NYC. She could have been showing a group the World Trade Center, maybe even at the top. The fact that it could have been them made them face the reality of how fragile life is. Later they were to learn that one of Brian’s close friends, a fraternity brother from Clemson University, was in one of the towers that day and was killed.

Their escape route finally took them aboard a boat headed for the New Jersey shore. There they encountered stares and disbelief that anyone would be out walking barefoot in a flimsy gown with no bra. Some folks were positively rude as if the couple and their dog were aliens from Mars or had contracted a horrible disease. Others were unbelievably kind like the lady who realized their dire need and invited them up to her bathroom. They were finally able to use a borrowed cell phone from another kind person so they could let their families know they were safe.

Christina, who has trouble verbalizing the horrors of that day and ensuing homeless days, has now written a compelling account because, she says, We must never forget. She draws the reader to experience stark, breathtaking scenes as she remembers realizing she in her hurry hadn’t put her shoes on. She was dressed only in a flimsy nightgown with no bra, no identification, and no money. Brian had remembered his wallet and credit card and shoes with socks (Christina wore his socks for miles across railroad tracks and all.)

As bad as those first few days were, there was much more to come, both bad and good. There were some very kind people along the way. Christina’s friend Sarah took them in to her small apartment for several days. A perfect stranger who, having fled the city herself, allowed Brian and Christina to stay in her studio apartment rent free.

They finally were allowed back in their apartment and began the overwhelming job of cleaning up the thick dust and debris. There were even snippets of paper from World Trade Center offices blown into their living room through the terrace doors which, in their panic, they’d forgotten to close. For weeks the dust kept accumulating.

Other challenges included getting Gaby to a veterinarian because he wouldn’t eat, was throwing up, and scratching his eyes. That’s when they learned that one of the many components of the horrible dust was ground glass which had injured Gaby’s eyes and her stomach. And then there was the vet’s bill of $517.

Their budget was stretched to the max since now neither of them had a job. Against Brian’s wishes Christina sought help at the Redeemer, a Presbyterian church a friend of hers attended. That contact turned out to be God’s avenue for giving this couple, not just material help, but spiritual and mental help as well.

The weeks of PTSD and searching for jobs, were a learning process for which now Christina and Brian are grateful. They both now have jobs at Redeemer, Brian as a financial advisor, Christina as director of short term missions. Christina’s passion now, instead of aspiring to Broadway fame, is to lead and/or send missions teams around the world with the Good News.

In her epilogue Christina writes: “The lives Brian and I have built since 9/11 are in many ways like the memorial, which is beautiful and meaningful, even though it looks nothing like the towers it replaced.”

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Monopoly

I love to play games with my grandchildren. I can no longer play badminton, croquet, or corn hole. But I can enjoy inside games. Last summer Charli came over to join Mattie and me at playing Author cards and a “quick” game of Monopoly that lasted three days (off and on!). Remembering how fun that game of Monopoly was Charli and Kaison talked me into pulling out the ancient game again this year.

We set the game up on a card table that was out of the way so we could play for an hour or two a day. Each afternoon we vied to see what properties we could buy, who would land on those properties or even go to jail.

You learn a lot about people playing board games. I’ve been very interested in the actions and reactions of these kids as we circle the Monopoly board.

I’m a very cautious Monopoly player myself, holding back from spending too much, trying to avoid bankruptcy (at least early on!). Charli, on the other hand, is not even satisfied with houses on her property. She buys hotels and often bargains with other players to get their property and truly form a monopoly. But she’s not without compassion when someone lands on her street and suddenly owes a huge rental fee. She is always ready with negotiable options.

Kaison is so quick in math making change without a problem. He, like me, is somewhat cautious about buying, loves to see his stacks of money pile up. He has a real sense of order so often goes to the banker (Charli) requesting change for a $100 or $50 so he will have cash in every denomination.

I was surprised at their reactions when I landed on Kaison’s or Charli’s places. They eyed my puny stacks of money and either gave me a great discount or even paid my debt for me. Kaison, particularly, would say, “I feel bad for you, Nana.” I laughed and told them it was just a game, that they didn’t need to worry. By about the third day I was wishing I could go bankrupt!

In other words, we didn’t play “hard” Monopoly where if an owner doesn’t notice someone lighting on his property until after the next dice is thrown the renter doesn’t have to pay. The fun, to them, was in the act of paying and being paid. They not only watched their own properties with eagle eyes, but spotted for other players as well. I did notice that Charli, when faced with a huge rental fee, counted and recounted her steps, sure that she might not really be on Park Place.

Landing on luxury tax immediately eats up your “pass go” salary. Landing in jail brings out groans even though a player can accrue some real benefits from being out of commission, collecting rent and not paying for any. If Kaison had a “Get out of jail free” card when I landed in jail he would have it no other way than that I should use it.

We finally decided it was time to count up and fold up. That turned out to be a real exercise in math since some had mortgaged property. You can imagine who won–Charli, the aggressive one!

Tearing up our “village” was a little like taking down a tent at the end of a jolly, adventurous camping week. The hub that held us together was gone. All the chatter, arguing about nonessentials like how much your mortgage is and trying to talk yourself out of jail, as are the anticipation of catching a fellow player on your railroad or drawing a really good community service card. It was time to face some real life challenges like buying groceries, studying for exams, and interacting with friends in new grades.

The Monopoly game is neatly back in its ragged old box, a box that represents laughter and groans of generations of players for about forty-five years. Like the tent at the end of a camping trip, it’s folded away in a closet until another time.

The chatter of youthful voices clings to the rooms as I lean back for a much-needed snooze.

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Remembering Rainbows

We had a delicious grilled tilapia dinner at Rock Bottom in Cairo one Friday night. It was cozy and friendly inside, a nice escape from the shower that had come up so suddenly. When we walked out of the restaurant the sun was shining again and there before us above the parked cars, stores and utility poles was an entire rainbow stretching from horizon to horizon. We watched it for a long time, several minutes, then chose a way home that would give us more views. We talked about other spectacular rainbows we had enjoyed.

I guess the most amazing rainbow we ever saw was one that, like this one, was an entire bow, but unlike this one, the “pot of gold” ends touched down on rugged western mountains. As we drove across the tumbleweed scattered desert we felt as if we could keep driving and melt right into the splendid bands of pink, lavender, green, red, blue. We both gasped at the sheer beauty and worshipped God right there in the car.

We saw several rainbows in the spray from gigantic, roaring Niagara Falls. We realized why it is known for its rainbows. When we donned raincoats and took a ride in Maid of the Mist tour boat we entered heavy spray from the falls and felt surrounded by rainbows.

One day on a country road we saw a double rainbow, the only one I think we’ve ever seen. Children spraying water from a garden hose delight in “making” rainbows. I love to see the rainbows splashed on the floor from a prism I have hanging in my office window.

Rainbows–scientifically, spectrum separated producing different wave lengths, each reflected at a different angle. The definition escapes me when I try to explain it. But spiritually–now that I can remember! God set the first rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that never again would He flood the whole earth from Asia to Europe to Africa to Americas and Australia.

Remembering rainbows also reminds me of other promises God has made, such as: He will never leave me (Matthew 28:20); He will give me perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3); He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19); He will be there for me when I’m afraid (Psalms 56:3); He will give me an abundant life (John 10:10) and eternal life (John 3:16); His words will never pass away (Mark 13:31). And hundreds more! Thousands more!

May you see a rainbow this very day! Enjoy the array of colors, the arch of the bow even if you can only see a piece of it, and feel a sense of awe. God still uses rainbows to remind us of His promises. And–which is more–He keeps His promises!

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Wild Life

I’ve seen a black bear on the side of the road in the Smokies and a moose grazing in a watery ditch in Ontario. I’ve seen tiny picas, like chipmunks, scurrying amongst rocks on Lassen Mountain, California, and amazing sea lions on the rocky shore of Oregon. As incredible as those wild creatures were, the wild life in our own yards is really so very interesting. It’s so much fun to visit a zoo or a wildlife park and see elephants, tigers, giraffes and rhinoceros. And, yes, I would love to go on an African safari. But the wildlife we encounter near, or even at, our own back door can be quite startling.

Charles had told me there was a possum in the shed. But I’d forgotten about it. I used the last of foil on a roll and needed more. Charles would have some in his shed kitchen. I dashed across the yard, opened the squeaky door, and pulled out a cabinet drawer. There sat a mama opossum with babies. She was as surprised as I was. She didn’t have time to play dead so she opened her pointed mouth and hissed. When I recovered from the shock, I simply closed the drawer. If she wanted to live in a cabinet drawer, then why not? The foil was in the next drawer which I opened very cautiously as if there might be another family on that lower story.

There are so many amazing creatures everywhere we go. An opossum in a drawer; a chameleon skittering across our daughter’s bedroom ceiling, adept as could be, upside down; a quail mama with four or five chicks following her across our side yard; a cute little fox with ears alert staring back at me from a thicket; a butterfly air dancing; a cardinal on a fence post; a snake crossing our driveway from a bank of reeds; two precious spotted fawns we inherited because a policeman confiscated them from an illegal owner and then didn’t know what to do but to bring them to the veterinarian. One day years ago when Charles Douglas lived with us our cat, Sassy, came proudly up to the door carrying a baby rabbit in her mouth. Charles D carefully rescued the bunny, who was unscratched and alive, and took it down to a nearby woodsy place where, hopefully, it might survive. We have a friendly turtle that comes to our back door on occasion and enjoys a taste of cat food, even visits us on the back porch. A tiny brown toad the size of a baby’s fist sat on our doorstep expectantly last night. And the list goes on.

Not to forget that abandoned baby squirrel in our garage which Charli claimed and so lovingly nursed.

Recently, while he was digging soil out of a flower pot, Charles came upon a small rubbery white lump. Curious, he pried it open. Out popped a miniscule lizard perfectly formed, though not alive. We began wondering how many eggs a lizard may lay and if they scatter them in various places. He said the baby was so tiny but exactly like those who hang around our porch climbing the screens and posing like model dinosaurs on leaves and window sills.

The creatures God has made of all sizes, shapes, colors, and habits are a marvelous testimony to His splendrous creativity. Each creature is made with a purpose, though we may never understand what that purpose is. I think I could do without mosquitos, fire ants, gnats, lovebugs–and snakes! But God knows best. Each creature is placed in the habitat and with instincts that it needs, polar bears and penguins on ice, monkeys where bananas grow. Each has exactly the right equipment for their intended occupation, a woodpecker with a strong drill of a beak, squirrels with springs in their nimble legs, and hummingbirds with helicopter wings for hovering.

Our great grandchildren have a favorite book titled “All God’s Critters Have a Place in the Choir” by Bill Staines with pictures by Margot Zemach. Our sixth grader still loves to pull that worn and ragged book out on occasion and read it with wonderful rhythm and pizazz. But we all know the refrain of the poem by heart: “All God’s critters got a place in the choir; Some sing low, some sing higher; Some sing out loud on the telephone wire; And some just clap their hands–or paws–or anything they got.”

So many strange creatures in our own backyard. Makes for a Wild Life! But the strangest of all? Humans! As the psalmist said, I will praise thee; for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14a

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