And God Made the Beasts of the Earth

Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”  And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.  Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.  And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1: 20-25 NASB).

As I age, I have a greater appreciation for all forms of life.  I am most aware of “critters” in the springtime when birds are building nests and snakes and lizards are warming themselves in the sun.

WoodpeckerFeedingYoung I saw a woodpecker feeding its young through a hole in a dead pine tree the other day.  I even caught the event on video.  The baby birds appeared to be quite large.  I guess they left the nest soon after I taped them.  I haven’t seen them since.  Many birds visit the birdfeeder on my windowsill.  Even woodpeckers visit the birdfeeder if peanuts are part of the mix.  Cardinals, finches, and chickadees come to the birdfeeder every day.  But occasionally an unwelcomed guest successfully raids the birdfeeder, which is two-stories up from the ground.

squirrelinvasioncopperhead

A few weeks ago, I practically stumbled upon a copperhead.  It was stretched out on the walkway several feet from where I stood. The copperhead froze.  So did I.  When afraid, copperheads don’t run away.  They keep still and blend in with the environment.  Their light brown and coppery skin enables them to camouflage among leaves and pine needles.  In fact, their colors are so neutral that copperheads can be hard to spot even on sidewalks and patios.  I’ve have more than one close encounter with copperheads but always came to a screeching halt in time to avoid trouble.

Copperhead venom is rarely fatal to humans and pets.  My cat Pickles was bitten by a poisonous snake–most likely a copperhead–several years ago.  I didn’t see the snake but saw the fang marks embedded in the cat’s paw.  No doubt the cat was playing with the snake.  PicklesonCouchThe cat became sick instantly, exhibiting all the symptoms of a venomous snake bite.  I took him to a late-night emergency veterinary hospital where  he was treated symptomatically (no anti-venom).  I was amazed to find the cat looking and acting normal the next day.

Most bites occur when someone steps on a copperhead by mistake or when he tries to kill the snake.  The best thing to do is walk away, and you’ll probably never see the snake again–especially if you live in or near the woods.  Copperheads want to avoid people just at much as people want to avoid them.  (Check out snake removal or a critter control  company if you need snake or other wildlife removal from your home or property.)   Copperheads are good in that they eat vermin.  untitledBlack racer snacks are even better because not only do they eat rodents but sometimes copperheads.

I encountered a couple of black snakes copulating the other day.  (I don’t know if they were black racers or black ratsnakes.)  When I first saw their intertwined bodies, I thought they were fighting, but the impression was short-lived.  I stayed away knowing that black snake mating rituals mean fewer mice in the future.

King David often referred to animals in the Psalms.  One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 42.  It begins like this:  As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for you, the living God.  When can I go and worship in your presence (verses 1-2, GNT).  Many believe that David wrote some of his Psalms at Ein Gedi, David’s stronghold when King Saul was pursing him to harm him.  Ein Gedi is known for its ibex, waterfall, caves, and rock badgers.

rockBadger
Rock Badger at Ein Gedi, Israel

 

 

 

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Remembering Mother

MomandMeorLinda Sunday was my first Mother’s Day without my mother, who passed away last year. The sorrow I feel is inexpressible.  My mother was the most beautiful, the most talented, and the most intriguing woman I’ve ever known.

She suffered many loses.  Most of her siblings died relatively young.  Her father died in his forties and her mother in her sixties. She was intensely passionate about the people she loved,  including those who had passed on, but she kept her feelings in check.

Mom expressed her feelings through art, music, and poetry–and excelled in all three.  solitudepicShe started drawing late in life, sketching  landscapes, people, and still life.   Her painting “Solitude” won first place in a contest in Richmond, Virginia.

No one could play the piano like my mother.  She had music in her bones.  Mom’s “jazzy” style came through in almost every composition–with the exception of hymns.  She played them with reverence but also with lots of energy.  Playing hymns came natural to my mother because she was a Methodist’s preacher’s wife.

PianoBanjoI’m glad that I taped her playing “Alabama Jubilee,” “Frankie and Johnnie,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Faith of Our Faiths,” “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” Mozart’s “Sonata No. 16 in C Major,” and “He Ransomed Me” (a hymn that she wrote in 2000).  Often  I would interrupt her, and ask her what key she was playing in.  She enjoyed taking a single song and playing it in every key. Sometimes she played by hear; sometimes by reading music.

My dad, Rev. Dr. Eugene B. Wright, passed away eight years before she did.  He played the banjo.  I loved watching them play music together. They were a team.  Mom helped him in the ministry and somehow found time to teach elementary school and later became a real estate broker.

In the last year of her life, Mother played “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” time and again.  She often alluded to dying.  She knew lots of scripture.  Even in her late 90s, she was quoting the Bible.  Her favorite verse was, “For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4: 14, Holy Bible).

My mother was fiercely independent, but December 1, 2015, she had a stroke that left the right side of her body paralyzed.  The day she was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, she was helpless.  Her right arm and leg were useless.  She looked at me with tear-filled eyes that haunt me to this day.  I think it was the first– and only time–that I saw my mother cry.  She died a week later.

Mom is in heaven.  She saw Jesus a few days before she passed away.  This life on earth is indeed “a vapor,” but for those in Christ, death is beginning of life eternal with the Lord.  I am confident that I will see her again. “In the sweet by and by we will meet on that beautiful shore.”

MomMeLinda
Mom, me (the baby), and my sister Linda

 

Mother’s Day: May 8, 2016

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: (Psalm 127: 3-5a;)

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  Her children rise up and call her blessed (Proverbs 31: 10, 28a;).

Honor they father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20: 12).

Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with  promise; (Ephesians 6: 2).

Azealea

Happy Mother’s Day!

*All scriptures are from the Holy Bible.

FAITH AND WORKS

I remember a controversy years ago sparked by the notion that the apostle Paul and James, who wrote the Book of James, disagreed on the issue of faith and works.  The controversy went something like this:  Paul taught salvation by faith alone and James taught that faith without works is dead.

To understand the connection between faith and works, the verses must be put in context.  Actually, Paul agreed with James that faith without works is dead.  He simply worded it differently.  “For you are saved by grace through faith.  And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God: it is not from works, so that not anyone could boast.  For we are His workmanship, as we have been created in Messiah Y’shua [Christ Jesus] for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them, the good works” (Ephesians 2: 8-10, One New Man Bible).

The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22) and good works go hand and hand.  They are the by-products of a circumcised heart.  What kind of good works?  Scripture is very specific.  In Acts 4: 32-35, we see the new believers sharing and helping the needy among them (Acts 4: 32-35).  Likewise, in I Corinthians 16: 1-4, Paul asks for an offering to help the believers in Jerusalem.  Helping fellow Jew and Gentile believers in the Messiah is a priority in local congregations and beyond.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, God commands us to help the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, and the oppressed.  Consider the following verses:

See that justice is done–help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows (Isaiah 1: 17, GNT).

Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows (Jeremiah 7: 6a, GNT).

Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless (Psalm 82: 3, GNT).

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge (Deuteronomy 24: 17).  When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time.  Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 24: 20, NIV).

MountofBeatitudes
Mount of Beatitudes

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to give to the needy but give without fanfare. “When you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6: 3-4, NIV).

Opportunities to do good works are limitless.  Many churches have a benevolence fund to help people within the congregation.  Some churches are set up to provide food and/or clothes to the needy in local communities.

On a international scale, organizations like Compassion International provide children and orphans with food, clothing, and other necessities while sharing the gospel.  You can sponsor a child or send aid for disaster relief through Compassion.  Orphan Voice, another Christian-based organization, provides care for orphans at risk in Asia.

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, He taught us not only how to help our neighbor but who our neighbor is (Luke 10: 25-37).

By putting feet to our faith, we become ambassadors for Christ and demonstrate the Gospel.

 

 

 

 

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