Like a sentinel on watch, it stands high in the sky for all to see during the fourth watch. (3 am to 6 am) After the sun disappears from the earth at the end of the day, it is the first star to appear in the sky. Even though it has two showings, it has been dubbed "The Morning Star" as it shines so brightly at 3 am, the darkest time of the early morning, until the sun rises on the earth.
"The Morning Star" is actually the planet Venus reflecting the light of the Sun. Since its orbital pattern is elongated, there are times when it is closer to the sun than others. We can see Venus where the sun rises in the morning and where it sets in the evening. I read that Venus can be seen in the southeast sky at dawn. During the month of February, I have delighted in rising early to see this bright light expel the darkness around it. The other stars pale in comparison. "The Morning Star" rises higher when the Lord begins to paint red-orange and pink washes over the lightening morning sky. After the Sun rises higher in the sky, "The Morning Star" eventually fades from view.
Is it any wonder that this is one of the names of Jesus? "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) The prophecy of Balaam foretold of this in Numbers 24:17. "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel..." In ancient times, the star was thought of as a harbinger of the sunrise and a signal of the dawn of hope. Was it the Morning Star that led the Magi to the Christ child? I wonder! Wasn't the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a sign of a new day dawning? He is the Light of the World. He says, "...Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John8:12)
Christ's disciple, Peter, was brave enough to lay down his fishing nets to follow "the Star." In his second book, Peter reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to the majesty of Jesus and heard the voice of God say that He loves Jesus and is well-pleased with Him. "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:17-19) The bright "Morning Star" stands ready to set us on a new course. His plans and purposes come with presence and power and lead us into victory against the enemy of our souls.
Darkness would like to overcome us and send us down the wrong path, but God stands by. The Psalmist reminds us: "...even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:11-12) And Zechariah's song after the birth of John the Baptist declares God's purposes in sending Jesus: "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace..." (Luke 1:76-79)
Let the "Morning Star" remind us that Jesus is the light that ushers in a new day. He is our point of reference in the darkness and the one who helps us navigate the storms of life. The disciples learned this when they were attempting to cross Lake Galilee. "Their boat was tossed about by the high winds and heavy seas. During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves!" (Matthew 14:24-25 - TPT) All became calm when He stepped into the boat. The response from the disciples was to worship Him. The bright "Morning Star" should be a reminder for us of the faithfulness of the Lord to bring on a new day. Job 22:26-28 gives advice on how to start the day: "For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to Him, He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you: so light will shine on your ways." (NKJV) We must lift our faces to the Lord, our Bright Morning Star, and walk in the light of His glory on the path that He has already prepared for us.
What a treat I had on Wednesday morning! I always sit on my sofa so that I can look out at our deck and the Sugar Maple that sits in front of it. Because we live in a second-story condo I am privileged to see all the birds that come to rest in the branches of the tree. The Lord knows how much I enjoy His winged creatures, and on this day, He was going to put on an outstanding show for me.
For quite some time, the Maple has hosted the Downy Woodpecker. This particular morning two came to hammer at the dying branches in search of worms. They stayed so long that my guess is that they must have found food. In addition, they were joined by a large, Red-bellied Woodpecker. I have not seen one of these so closely before. It was a thrill for me to watch all three birds at work. The larger woodpecker did not stay long, but the others were joined by two Black-capped Chickadees. They came looking for a drink. Only the very edge of my birdbath provided a small amount of refreshing since most of the water is frozen. But then they made a discovery! The Sugar Maple sits on the south side of our building. As the sun shines on it in the wintertime, the sugary sap begins to run. It seems to be running early this year. So many holes have been tapped into this Maple by the woodpeckers that the sap is dripping out of the branches. The Chickadees clung to the small branches and placed their beaks just below a hole so that they could capture the watery sap.
As all this was going on a flock of robins flew onto the ground below to peck the frozen ground. Two of the birds left the flock and came up to sharpen their beaks on the Maple branches. They do this by moving their heads from side to side. In the process they discovered the potted Japanese Holly I have on our deck. It is loaded with small, round, blue-black berries. Using their just-sharpened beaks, they began to pick the berries off the bush to consume them. If all this was not enough, my final visitors were sparrows who sang me a pretty song.
The Spirit of God always has a lesson for me from nature, and I knew this was the case on Wednesday. Sadly, my Sugar Maple has been slowly dying. My guess is that it was planted improperly some thirty plus years ago. I inspected its roots several years ago and found they are not spreading at the base as they should be. This would indicate that the roots are restricted. The Maple has put up a good fight over the years but appears to only have a few years of life remaining. However, in its dying, this tree is imparting life. It gives the birds a resting place, a branch for sharpening their beaks, food, and sweet water. It stands as a life-giving testimony of imparting life in death.
I am reminded of our Savior, Jesus the Messiah. He came to earth to give all people life through His death. He died on a cross called "a tree." Everyone is welcome to partake of the life He offers through our acknowledgement of what He did for us. Here is what the prophet Isaiah has to say about Him: "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) We have been given so much through the sacrifice of the Lord! The apostle Paul prayed for his brother in the faith, Philemon, this way: "I pray for you that the faith we share may effectively deepen your understanding of every good thing that belongs to you in Christ." (Philemon, Verse 6 - TPT) I pray this for you and that you will remember how my dying tree provides life for the birds who come to it as Christ dying on the "tree" provides life for all of us who believe in Him.
Shepherd and author Phillip Killer gives us insight into the basic tools of the shepherd in the Middle East. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he shares how he used to watch the African herdsmen tending their sheep with only a "long slender stick and a rough knob-kerrie." (A short stick with a knob at the top) Shepherds in the making take immense pride in selecting their first rod and staff. A young sapling is selected to be carved and whittled down. The enlarged base of the sapling is shaped to fit perfectly in its owner's hand.
Phillip Keller says about the rod: "It is an extension of the owner's own right arm. It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation. The rod was what he relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger. And it is, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away." Remember how Moses was called out of shepherding sheep by God to confront Pharaoh? He used his shepherd's rod to demonstrate the power of God. Miracles were manifest not only to convince Pharaoh of God's purpose for His people but also as a tool of reassurance for them. Ultimately, Moses shepherded God's flock out of Egypt.
Psalm 23:4 explains that our Good Shepherd uses His rod and staff to comfort us. Comfort comes as we realize that the rod of God is an extension of the Shepherd. Jesus, our Messiah, the Word of God, is God's rod. Messiah came as the Word of God. This is explained in John 1:1-2 and 14. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us..." As the Rod of God, Jesus is an extension of who God is. This was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. "A shoot (rod) will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him..." (Isaiah 11:1-2)
Based on John 1, Scriptures are God's rod, "an extension of His mind and will and intentions to mortal man," according to Phillip Keller. We are kept in the comfort of the flock of the Lord through the Shepherd's rod. We are disciplined with this same tool. The Word of God should come swiftly to correct us and keep us walking in the right direction. Another interesting use of the Word is referred to in Ezekiel 20:37. "I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." As Keller explains, "A sheep that passed under the rod was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it." Every evening and morning a shepherd counts his sheep, calls them by name, and checks to see that his body is healthy and free from pests. Since the rod is an extension of the Lord, it is always ready to be used as an instrument of protection.
Just as Jesus used the rod of the Word against Satan in the wilderness, we who believe in Jesus Christ have the Word as an extension of our being, ready to use when attacks come from the realm of darkness. The Word is powerful to shape us so that we fit into the hand of the Lord to be used as an instrument of direction and authority. Here is another aspect of the Lord, God's Son, we need to consider. Father God shaped His son to be a rod in His hand. It was necessary for Jesus to become a sacrifice in God's hand so that He could make a way for us. God's Son became the sacrificial Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd.
Is it any wonder that God included shepherds in the story of the birth of Messiah? Like their sheep, they passed under the rod of God. They were recognized and called to participate in the story of the birth of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us all. With His rod, He watches over us, cares for and directs us, and will ultimately bring us safely into our heavenly home. We must remember that we play a part in the story of the Lord as an extension of His hand. Here is a question for us: "What do we have in our hands?" Like the shepherds when they told the story of the birth of Jesus, let us hold onto the Word and make it a priority in our lives so that we can amaze those around us with the truth of the Rod of God.
The Poconos, an upland region of the Allegheny Plateau, was named by the Munsee Indians, a subtribe of the Lenape Indians. Its original name was “Pokawahne,” which means "Creek Between Two Hills," referring to the Delaware River. The land is an optimum habitat for Hemlock trees who thrive in moist soil, shaded areas, and steep gorges and ravines. Cornell University scientists call the Eastern Hemlock the "foundation specie" of the Poconos forest. It grows along with mixed hardwoods like maple and black birch and is considered the cornerstone of the hardwood forests. Because of this, the Hemlock tree is the PA state tree. The dominant Hemlock exerts a major influence on all other living things that share its environment, including plants, animals, birds, and fish. One can smell the fresh, clean air when they are in a forest dominated by this tree. The unique soil and water conditions make a home for native rhododendron, spicebush, viburnum varies, ferns, Mayflower, and the evergreen groundcover called Partridgeberry. Those who study ecosystems in the USA note the many benefits of the Hemlock tree:
1. Giver of aesthetic beauty
2. Contributor to good air quality (Hemlocks filter pollutants by capturing and storing large amounts of
CO2 and releasing O2 into the environment.)
3. Provider of food and habitats for birds and animals
4. Improver of water quality (Shallow roots filter runoff and keep water clean by preventing sedimentation and filtering pollutants. Decomposition of acidic needles changes the makeup of soil and water.)
5. Provider of shade for the streams and aquatic life (Shade keeps the water cooler and more
oxygenated and keeps snow from melting until later in the spring, maintaining cooler temperatures.)
6. Source of shade for native plants
Sadly, our Pennsylvania native tree is under attack from a small, aphid-like insect brought into our country from Asia. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) was discovered in the United States in 1951. By 2002 the HWA had infested Hemlock trees from Georgia to New Hampshire. In 2002 the Hemlocks in the Poconos were showing signs of decline from the HWA infestation. The insects suck the sugar from the veins of the trees so that they are unable to produce new growth. The foliage becomes pale and grey in appearance and eventually dies. Researchers have found that the decline of the Hemlocks cause decomposition of the forest floor. In addition, water temperatures are increasing, allowing algae to grow in the streams. This negatively affects the trout that need clear, cool, unpolluted water to survive.
Last week, as my husband and I walked through the Pocono Mountain area called Dingmans Ferry, God began to show me an analogy between the Church and the Hemlock tree. Just as the Hemlock is the foundation specie of the Pocono forest, the Church should remain the foundation or cornerstone of our nation. That is how the Church was positioned when The United States was established. The roots of the Church are planted in the love of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:17) and must remain here. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that our foundation comes from the Spirit of the Lord that rises from the stump of Jesse. "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord...In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:2, 10)
Like the HWA attacks the Hemlock to keep it from growing, we have an enemy who is attacking the Church to keep Her from growing. The Psalmist asks a question: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) It is true that those with a liberal agenda scheme to destroy the moral foundation of our nation. However, our God is aware of what is happening. He loves justice. He longs "to be gracious to us and to be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress...He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:2, 6) The future of our world is dependent on us (The Church) being salt and light. Our prayers make a difference! As children of God, we should be transforming the environment around us so that we exert a major influence on those who live around us. We are the Foundation for our nation!
From the time that fruit-producing crops are planted, farmers look forward to the harvest. Their desire is to prepare an environment that is ideal for optimum fruit production. This refers to the size, quality, and quantity of the harvest. Honestly, the best farmers do everything they can on earth to prepare the growing area and then look to God in heaven for His blessing on their crops. Our Divine Farmer planted each of us in the environment that is most beneficial to produce fruit. Jesus explains this in John 15. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (Verses 1 and 2)
Remember when the 12 men, one from each tribe of the children of Israel, were sent into the Promised Land? They were to explore Canaan to determine the kind of land that the people lived in. They were to investigate the type of soil that was there--whether fertile or poor. Their final instruction from Moses was this: "Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (Numbers 13:20) Chapter 13 of Numbers describes what the explorers discovered. "When they reached the Valley of Eshkol (meaning cluster), they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs." (Verse 23) Can you imagine the size and quality of the fruit?
What is the Lord looking for from us? He wants a fruitful harvest. Let's look at our position in relationship to Father God and Jesus. Go back to John 15 and see that Jesus is the vine and Father is the vinedresser or tender of the grape vines. We are branches. Grapevine branches are tied to trellises or propped up with sticks in the natural world. The vine branches need a maximum amount of sunshine and good air circulation to produce the maximum amount of fruit. Like the branches on the vine, Jesus props us up when we are having difficulties and sets us in a place where we can take in the maximum amount of Holy Spirit.
What is the fruit that God is looking for and where does it grow? The Lord's fruit grows in our character, and it consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Notice the first fruit on the list. This is key! Without love we are nothing! (1 Corinthians 13:2) As Jesus was talking to His disciples He said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34-35) Notice that the grapes come in a cluster. Isaiah 65:8 has something to say about this: "As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, 'Don't destroy it; there is still a blessing in it'..." Wine is made from multiple clusters of grapes. We need to be connected to one another for successful ministry to the world. It is the new wine that is produced for the harvest of nations.
Here is a key to remember about the fruit harvest. Harvest happens every year. After one harvest there will be another. God looks for many seasons of fruitfulness in our lives. The fruit in our lives is ripened through our relationship with Jesus. As we become more like Him, our fruit gets larger and sweeter and juicier. God uses every season in our lives to increase our fruitfulness. I pray that we "may live a life worthy of the Lord and bless Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10)
"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to plant and a time to uproot." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) Where plants and seeds are concerned, fall is the ideal time to put them into the ground. There are several reasons for this: moderating temperatures, lower humidity, moisture availability, and more time for roots to get established before summer heat causes stress and weeds try to take over. The best way to ensure that grass, shrubs, or trees prosper is to help them build a sturdy and extensive root system. Strong roots enable plants to endure during stressful seasons.
A procedure for helping grass seed to grow healthy root systems is called aeration. In this process, thousands of small plugs of turf and soil are removed from the lawn. If there is a buildup of thatch (a layer of organic debris that accumulates where the stem and root meet) it becomes a barrier to the benefits for a healthy lawn. Aeration reduces thatch and creates a path for water and nutrients. It goes together with over-seeding (the seeding of existing turf areas). The holes in the lawn give seed a place to settle in and protect it from winds that might blow it away or water that might wash it away. It is amazing how lawns are transformed into lush, thick, green carpets after this process is applied.
Galatians 3:29 refers to Believers in Christ Jesus as Abraham's seed. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." As Abraham's seed, we are assured that God will plant us in ideal conditions for our growth and prosperity. He wants us rooted and established in His love. (Ephesians 3:17) Let us look back at God's original plan. Mankind was created with the dust of the ground and the breath of God. (Genesis 2:7) It was in the Garden of Eden that He placed Adam and Eve so that they would have the perfect place to live and grow and prosper in their relationship with the Lord. However, sin entered the picture, and He was forced to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden. As time went on, Scripture tells us that "The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain." (Genesis 6:6) God decided to destroy all of life except for Noah and his family, who were found righteous, and the animals that he gathered. A flood was sent that eradicated every living person, animal, and plant that was not protected in the ark. After the waters receded, a new covenant was made between Noah and God, and Noah was given these instructions: "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." (Genesis 9:1)
From Noah's son Shem came Abram (Genesis 11:10) who would be called Abraham. His line would be the one through which God would make an eternal covenant. God told Abraham, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." (Genesis 22:17-KJV) Nothing would stop the growth of this seed and the manifestation of the promises of God from generation to generation! From Abraham's seed came the Davidic line—the line of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah the prophet declared that God would make an everlasting covenant with His people and that "Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." (Isaiah 61:9 - KJV)
We are the seed of God, blessed to be planted by the Divine Gardener in an environment where we can root and grow in His love. Let us praise Him for the way He nurtures us. May we grow to glorify Him.
"Be joyful at your festival," it says in Deuteronomy 16:14 about the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. How could we not celebrate this festival that is a picture of the Lord sitting at our table of rejoicing with us? Some prefer to say that the Lord will tabernacle or dwell with us. I find the details of all that happens during Sukkot particularly fascinating this year, because it is a Shemitah year—a year of rest. Leviticus 25 shares how God's people are to live during the seventh year. "When you enter the land, I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord," (Verses 2-4) "You may ask, 'What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?' I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Verses 20-21) Here we have God's promise to be faithful to us as we are faithful to His Word.
A report written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in Biblical News on March 16 explains an interesting application of this requirement as it pertains to the Pool of Siloam, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the water libation ceremony (Nisuch Hamayim) performed in the Temples in Israel. The water libation ceremony is part of the oral tradition handed down from Moses. Water was collected daily from the Pool of Siloam in golden vessels and brought to the Temple. This ceremony was one of extraordinary joy as those who escorted the priests to the Pool would sing and play musical instruments. When all the people returned to the Temple, water and wine were poured on the altar as a sacrifice that accompanied their worship of God. When the libation ceremony was repeated by the worshipers every day, the excitement built until the seventh day when the joy and celebration was at its height.
It is significant that Tabernacles is celebrated at the end of the dry season. Israel has no rain for approximately six months. The pouring out of the water on the altar is a significant sacrifice every year. Prayers asking for the rains to come during the next six months are part of the libation ceremony. Those prayers were answered by God in a dramatic way this past year. It is reported that two years ago a contingent of Kohanim (priests), Levites, and Jews descended to the Pool of Siloam in the Old City of Jerusalem to collect water for the libation ceremony. They were shocked that there was barely enough water to fill their golden vessels. The good news is that after six years of drought, God blessed Israel with such an abundant rainy season that the Pool of Siloam is overflowing. The Sea of Galilee was also at its lowest level in many years and has recovered to such an extent that it is within 12 centimeters of being full.
Bountiful crops cannot occur in the sixth year without bountiful amounts of water. Here is where God made good on His promise: "I will send such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Leviticus 25:21) We can count on the faithfulness of God. He is a promise keeper who loves to bless us with "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
God is beyond understanding! He is faithful to His promises and made that clear to His people when He was teaching them not to worry. "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds." (Luke 12:24) Our world is in turmoil with cataclysmic and destructive events, evil agendas to destroy our families and our nation, and increases in sickness and death. Israel is in the thick of a battle for her life, and yet God provided rain for the Pool of Siloam. How much more does He care about us? Be joyful! One of the Hallel Psalms read at the Feast of Tabernacles is Psalm 118. The end of this Psalm is so encouraging: "The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar...Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good; His love endures forever." (Verses 27 and 29)
God speaks to me through His creation. Such was the case this past weekend when we went to visit the Delaware Bay and learned about what is considered one of the top 10 environmental phenomena on the planet. We found an abundance of horseshoe crab shells on a narrow beach at the edge of the Delaware Bay. As I began to research the reason for this, I was treated to information that confirms my faith in a God who cares for every creature He created. "The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountain from His upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of His works. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth...All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time...I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord." (Psalm 104:12-14, 27, 34)
Horseshoe crabs, I read, are older than dinosaurs and one of nature's oldest creatures. Millions of horseshoe crabs migrate from the ocean to the Delaware Bay in the spring. The warm sand that surrounds the shallow waters of the Bay is perfect for incubating the eggs of the females. They come to shore when the moon is full, making the tides high. The males attach themselves to the back of the females who drag them ashore to fertilize the eggs. During each tide cycle the female may lay four to five clutches of eggs or about 100,000 eggs. When the sands are disturbed by the females' repeated trips to the shores, the clutches of eggs are split apart, and millions of eggs are washed into the water. This is the reason for another phenomena at the Delaware Bay.
There is an ecological connection between the horseshoe crabs and migratory shore birds. From the first week of May through the second week of June shorebirds migrate to the Delaware Bay. The Bay is a critical habitat to more than 400 species of birds, and it is estimated that between 425,000 to one million of them converge on this sanctuary yearly. A yearly migration takes place between different regions of South America and the Artic territories where millions of birds breed. The birds only make one major stop to refuel during the middle of their 8,000-mile trip. Their flight burns many calories, so there is a need for them to rebuild their fat reserves. In order to complete their migration, they need to double their weight. Horseshoe crab eggs provide just what the birds need to rebuild their fat reserves. In one day, the eggs help the birds regain four to nine percent of their body weight. It is common to see a huge congregation of birds pecking at the shorelines of the Bay during the full moon when the high waters are awash with horseshoe crab eggs. (Check out this web site for pictures and additional information: Delmph.org/shorebirds)
Isn't it magnificent to know that God cares for every creature on the earth and establishes within them patterns of behavior and cycles of life that bring them the provision they need? The Psalmist describes this in Psalm 145:15-16. "The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Jesus teaches us not to worry about our lives in Matthew 6:25-27. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" We should be inspired by the yearly migration of the horseshoe crabs and birds. Let us remember the words of Jesus during times of difficulty. We are more valuable to Him than the birds and provision is waiting for us.
What a wonderful gift I received this week! My partner in a weekly Bible study gave me a bouquet of lime-green hydrangeas cut from her garden. Hydrangeas are nostalgic flowers for me as they remind me of my grandmother's garden and a picture of me as a girl holding a bouquet of pink and blue hydrangeas.
I noticed that my friend cut the stems of the flowers at a 45-degree angle. This is one of the "tricks of the trade" that florists use to assure that the flower stem has maximum surface area to absorb water. Once a flower cutting is taken from the main plant, it will eventually die. The objective is to make the cut flower last as long as possible. Jesus told His disciples, "If you do not remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown away and withers...If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:6-7) We, like a cut flower, will die if we disconnect from Jesus.
Who doesn't enjoy having a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers in their home? Let's look at some of the other ways in which we can prolong the life of a cut flower, and how our lives in Christ Jesus can be refreshed and sustained. The right tool must be used to cut the stem of a flower. Regular scissors pinch the water channel of the stalk. A sharp knife or pruning shears should be the tool of choice. Also, cutting flowers under a steady flow of water keeps air pockets, that prevent water absorption, from forming. Stems should be plunged into a vase of clear, tepid water immediately after cutting according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He met at Jacob's well that He is "living water." He said, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) We must be sure to drench ourselves in living water daily.
To maintain longevity of cut flowers we must strip all leaves from the bottom part of the stem that would be under the water. Rotten plant material destroys the quality of the water. If the water becomes cloudy it means that bacteria is growing and can clog the stems. A splash of bleach in the water reduces the amount of bacteria in the water. It is also important to avoid placing a vase of flowers near fruit or vegetables since they give off ethylene gas which shortens the life of cut flowers. We too must not give the enemy of our souls access to our lives. We must say with the Psalmist, "But I trust in You, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." (Psalm 31:14-16)
It is helpful to place a small amount of sugar in the water as it feeds the flowers. It is also wise to change and refresh the water every few days. In addition, it is recommended that about one inch of the stem bottom be removed every three or four days. This assures that the water continues to penetrate the stem. Let us remember what it says in Psalm 104:27. "All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time." God is faithful to give us what we need when we need it. The Psalmist said to the Lord, "Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love, and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness." (Psalm 26:2-3)
We must remember that "The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in HIs unfailing love." (Psalm 147:11) In Psalm 91:16 He says of the one who loves Him, "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." The Lord is the one who leads us beside quiet waters and refreshes our souls. (Psalm 23:2-3) When I look at a vase of freshly cut flowers, I think of our God who created them and how they are a testimony to His love and care. Psalm 119:175 comes to mind: “Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me."
We learn from Genesis, Chapter 3, that God had a habit of walking in His garden in the cool of the day. I would imagine that He looked forward to this time of the day more than any other because He could look at the beauty of the garden and "catch up" with Adam and Eve. He must have loved talking with them and learning about their activities of the day. My husband (Jac) and I also delight in walking through our neighborhood during the cool of the day. We talk with one another, speak with our neighbors, and look at the plants that are blooming around us. Our walks are filled with peace.
Last week we had such a treat as we walked down a residential street of townhomes that back up to a wooded area. We, and the man walking in front of us, came upon a young buck standing on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street. The deer seemed calm and unafraid of us. He was so intent on eating a clump of clover growing in the grass strip that he allowed the man to come within two feet of him. As we approached, he pulled up the clump of clover and began chewing it as he calmly walked across the street toward the homes, looking for more clover.
Isn't it fascinating that God gave the deer peace to be in our presence and intelligence to find a plant that is not only tasty but healthy for him as well? Clover is a short-lived herb with fragrant flowers that appear in the late spring. Farmers may plant a crop to feed their livestock because it is high in protein, phosphorus, and calcium. The clover must have been so delicious that the deer thought it was worth taking a chance staying in our presence. Not until he had his treasure in his mouth, did he move on.
Actually, the deer was extremely vulnerable in staying close to us because his velvet antlers were growing. At six months the Whitetail deer grows "buttons" from what is called the pedicle or the frontal bone that protects his skull. The antlers grow from the buttons in the spring and early summer and are covered with an exceptionally fine and soft membrane called velvet. During the growing season, the antlers are high in water and blood content and are easily injured before they harden. Somehow the bucks are aware of their vulnerability during this season. Bruises and cuts to the velvet can impact the formation of the antlers. It is not until the end of summer that the testosterone levels in male deer rise to initiate the hardening of the antlers.
Psalm 91 comes to my mind: "Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High can rest in His shadow." We can say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." (Verse 2) In The Passion Translation, verses 9-11 say, "When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How could evil prevail against us or disease infect us? God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm." Verses 15-16 (TPT) continue to assure us of the Lord's presence and protection: "I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!"
Psalm 42 talks about the deer that pants for streams of water and how our souls thirst for God in the same way. Yet our hope rests in God and His love for us. He is our shield, protector, and peace. Just as our friendly deer felt secure in our presence, we should feel the security of the Lord in whose shadow we dwell.
Joan E. Mathias