Monday, April 30, 2007

A Little Squirrely

We have a gourmet squirrel in the back yard.
At least, that's what we thought.
We've watched him, these early spring days, as he dances out to the farthest, featheriest edges of the branches on the big maple, then leans out, reaching for the smallest branches, grasping them delicately, bending them up to his sharp teeth. He nibbles the seeds, bites off the branch and drops it to the ground.
We've never seen a squirrel do this before - although surely other squirrels do - and we thought he was just particularly discriminating.
This afternoon, though, we realized he is collecting those branches from the ground, then taking them higher into the tree for a nest.
Who knew?
Maybe this doesn't mean anything other than a bit of diversion and entertainment for us as we drink our morning coffee.
Or maybe it's a good chance to meditate on God's JIT (Just-In-Time) policies. The squirrel needs seeds and branches, and at the exact time he needs them, God provides them. As far as we can see, the squirrel doesn't have any Maalox, so he must not worry about the seed-and-branch supply. He just takes himself to the place where the seeds and branches are supposed to be, and there they are.
The squirrel does his part; God does His part; everyone is happy.
It's fun, though, to see a squirrel who does his part with such panache, and to glimpse God at work in His leaf, seed, and nest factory, otherwise known as our backyard.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Little Things . . .

It's easy to be thankful on a day like this: blue sky, gentle breeze, warm air. It's so nice outside, it's easy to see why calves and lambs kick up their heels.
The first time I saw a calf kick up its heels was out on the farm where your dad grew up. Your grandma and I were sitting in the dining nook of the kitchen, drinking tea, enjoying the view out the window toward the barn. Beyond the barn was a pasture where cows and their calves were munching away at bright-green new grass. Suddenly one of the calves started running around; every once in awhile it would kind of buck and throw its back legs into the air, kicking up its heels. His enthusiasm was contagious; before long all the calves were kicking up their heels as the cows watched, munching away!
I was awed and delighted, all at the same time, and the look on my face made grandma laugh. I felt like such a city kid!
Thank God for calves and lambs and little things!
But how about those days that, one way or another, are colored grey? It might be the weather that does it, or it might be our mood, or circumstance. Whatever the cause, it can be hard to "give thanks in all things."
This spiritual discipline can be difficult to practice, but it begins with little things, the things we might take for granted - hot water for a shower or a cup of tea; gloves to wear when we go outside on a cold day; even calves kicking up their heels! When we make an effort to notice little things with gratitude, God will honor the effort by opening our eyes to the larger things in our lives for which we can be thankful, even if the weather, our mood, or circumstance seems bleak.
Kick up your heels with thanksgiving!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I've Been Reading . . .

One of the best things about spring is the way the garden wakes up.
The tulips in our back yard are beginning to open, just as the daffodils take their final bows. Bluebells, lily of the valley, hostas - they wait in the wings, and I wait for them.
I've been reading a small book, The Fragrance of God, by Vigen Guroian. Guroian describes the way working in his garden draws him closer to God. He writes, "God has filled the whole of Creation with signs of his existence, signs that our senses can apprehend and that our minds can translate into knowledge of him."
Gardens are not just about flowers, though. Guroian describes the way his Irish setter, Scarlett enjoyed being in the garden with him as he worked: "I believe that, despite what some people may conclude about canine sensibility, Scarlett loved beauty also. I believe that love moved her to linger in the garden, to chase after the butterflies, and to consume beauty when she caught it."
In our garden, a variety of blooms invite finches, robins, and all kinds of birds who trill and sing for admission; the butterfly comes looking for a place to rest, and passers-by linger a bit, enjoying the color, the way sunlight plays across the tulips. We watch as rabbits sit quietly among new growth, taking a quick nibble now and then. We hold our breath as the garden empties when a hawk perches in the big tree at the back of the yard.
Our garden is nothing spectacular; it needs weeding and rearranging. Somehow, though, despite all the work that needs to be done, this garden offers both refuge and delight to all kinds of creatures, including me.
Now that spring is here, I'm excited to go play in the dirt, to dig, to weed, to sweat, to plant, to breathe in the fragrance of God.

The Fragrance of God, by Vigen Guroian, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, copyright 2006

Monday, April 16, 2007

Welcome . . .

Packing lunches can be a chore: who gets peanut butter with jelly, and who wants just jelly? Who wants chips, and who wants sprouts? (I don't think any of our kids ever wanted sprouts!) Even though my lunch-packing days are mostly over, I still wake up some mornings wondering if I remembered to get grapes, or if I have change for milk money.
The one thing that made lunch-packing fun - at least for me - was the notes I tucked into those lunches. They were usually short, sometimes written on a napkin or the back of a form-letter from the junk mail recycling bin. "Hope that math test goes well" they would say, or "Just wanted you to know you are in my prayers today."
Sometimes they would simply remind one of the kids that "I'll have fresh cookies for you after school today."
It wasn't so much what the notes said in words as the message they carried: I sure love you. I'm thinking of you. I hope your day is going well. You're in my prayers. I'll be glad to see you when you get home.
Notes from home - something to remind you that you are loved, that someone cares how things are going for you, that someone is looking forward to seeing you.
Welcome to notes from home.