Thursday, November 29, 2012

Little Things?

It's amazing what little things can block my view of Jesus.

Not to long ago, while I was in the middle of a sewing project, my machine broke. Ugh! It wasn't anything serious, but I wasn't smart enough to fix it. I was pretty disappointed, as I wanted to complete that project within a certain time frame. The only avenue of getting it fixed, it seemed, was taking it to Springfield, and that looked impossible. I went to bed in a bad mood that night. 

Over the next few days as I mused over these things, it came to my mind that perhaps I should be thankful that my machine was out of order. My, was that hard to swallow!

Stepping back, this is what I see now: 
I had been so caught up in my sewing project that it became more important to me than anything else, even Jesus. It was exciting, and turning my attention to spiritual things was not easy to do. If my sewing machine hadn't broken, I would have continued drifting farther and farther from the One who loves me, and become more and more caught up in physical things. What a thought!

Several days later, when I had given up all thought of finishing my sewing project in my time frame, I decided to run out to my sewing room and have another look at my machine. To my surprise, after adjusting a few screws, I found myself sewing away! My God is a merciful God!
Through these events, I learned a valuable lesson. 

No matter how innocent and harmless an activity may seem, if I find myself getting a foggy view of my Savior  while participating in it, it is not innocent at all! Can I call something innocent which robs me? Robs me of light, joy, and peace? Can I call something harmless which harms my relationship with Jesus? Not at all!

Dear friend, keep your eyes on Jesus. Let nothing stand in His way!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Perfect Spring Evening...

“I have never seen so many frogs in my life!”  “There are so many hopping around I can’t possibly scoop them all up!” “Woops, lost that one!” “I want earplugs!!!” These statements, along with spring peeper music loud enough to make you plug your ears, are what you would have encountered had you joined us on a rowdy adventure a few weeks ago.
It was one of those evenings in March that seemed like the very essence of spring. The sun was quietly sinking behind the dark silhouetted oak trees on the horizon, sending silky soft streams of cherry and ginger tinted light into the evening air, and gently touching the undersides of the towering piles of clouds with a flushed pink. To my right stretched a vast expanse of emerald green grass, dotted with cows of all colors grazing freely and lowing softly. Between the clouds a sapphire sky was peeking out with glee on its face, happy to help compose an evening as beautiful as this one. 
On the side of the road on which I stood dwelt an insignificant little ditch, full of muddy brown water and slimy water creatures. On the far edge of this ditch, under the bedraggled tufts of grass growing there, was a little spring peeper frog. In the gathering gloom he would have been well hidden, but his happy little song gave him away. I squatted there and watched him put his whole body into singing. Every breath was used to produce one clear, shrill note. Truly, here was a lesson in devotion! Not one little rest did he take, for he understood that singing was his responsibility, and he was determined to do his very best.
My reverie was soon broken, however, by an excited shout from one of my cousins, “Quick, open the can! I have five frogs in my hand and they are jumping out!” I stood to see my grandma cautiously opening the lid to a large can containing oodles of frogs. As Isaiah carefully stuffed his contribution in, the rest of us exhorted him to hurry, as our catches were escaping too. Someone noticed that a little frog had escaped onto the road and scooped him up. This commotion was simply because we wanted some of these little frogs in the cow pond close to our house, but I am sure it did not appear that way. You see, my Mother, Aunt Melanie, cousins Isaiah and Elijah and I were all running along the humble ditch collecting handful after handful of frogs and dumping them in the partially-water-filled-mostly-frog-filled can.
This madness went on for quite some time, and before we were done my Grandma had walked the short distance to the house, thinking her ears might explode from all the noise. Finally the rest of us realized that we could stay up all night catching frogs if we were not careful, so we too walked home. 
Of course, it would never do catch so many frogs and not count them, so someone filled a huge glass jar half full of water and and got out a pad of paper. First, everyone made a guess on how many frogs there were, ranging from 64 to 368. Then, one by one we dropped those little froggies into the jar. Plop…Plop…Plop…Plop…it seemed to go on forever.  My Aunt Melanie patiently sat and tallied all the plops, until at last every frog was in the jar. Several did escape during the transfer, but we did our best to catch them all. That poor jar was quite a sight, filled with hundreds of screaming, jumping, little frogs, clinging to it’s sides and trying push their way out of it’s narrow opening. 
After the count, we carried that jar to our pond, and tried to dump those frogs out. Unfortunately, some of them didn’t understand that they needed to crawl out of the jars top, and it took many successive washing to get every one out. 
Oh, I didn’t tell you how many frogs we caught yet, did I? Sorry. We caught 234.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Here are some pictures of our donkeys for you, Savannah!
Millie (Mildred) and Billy (Hillbilly)

Billy Boy at 1 year and 6 months

Willie (William)

I'm offended!

And I will bite you!

Oh, sorry.
Mr. Kochin

Sir Tucky

The rascal!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fossa of Madagascar

           A slender-bodied, quizzical-looking creature, slinking along the forest floor; bounding through tree tops at an amazing rate (so fast that scientists have a hard time observing it); almost flying after lemurs and birds…This is the Fossa of Madagascar.

The largest carnivore (meat eater) in Madagascar, the Fossa is truly a one-of-a-kind predator. The tail is almost as long as the elongated, muscular body and provides balance when jumping through tree tops.  A surprisingly short snout and small head add a curious look to this animal.  The fur is very short and reddish to golden brown in color. And the extra small ears might make you think you are looking at a weasel. Though similar in appearance to a feline (for their body shape and face), monkey (for their long, long tail and agility in trees), and weasels (look at those little round ears!) they are actually related to mongooses and civets. Male Fossas usually weigh from 13 to 22 pounds and measure 31 inches long. Females are somewhat smaller, weighing 11 to 15 pounds and measuring 27 inches long.

 This unique species has some more interesting features, including semi-retractable claws (You know how a cat can pull in its claws? Fossas can only pull them in part of the way), and flexible wrists, which make it a lot easier to climb down a tree head-first. They are comfortable running along the ground like a bear, however.

Another interesting feature is the laughing, grunting sounds that they make when they are happy. Fossas also chirp and purr.

Fossas are usually forest dwellers, sometimes living in deciduous forests, sometimes in rainforests, and occasionally in spiny forests. They hunt by day or night. They can fly through the treetops like monkeys, and often do their hunting there. Lemurs make up more than 50% of the diet of forest dwelling animals, but insects, crabs, reptiles, birds (including ground birds), and rodents may all become prey. Fossas are the only predator in Madagascar able to prey on adult lemurs. The largest of these lemurs can be up to 90% of the Fossas weight.  They ambush their prey, pouncing on it with their front feet and killing it like a cat would.
            One to six (typically two to four) blind and toothless baby Fossas, called pups, are born after 3 months in the womb. The mother will make a den underground, in a rock crevice, hollow tree, or old termite mound just before the pups are born. They usually weigh from 3 to 3 ½ oz.  They are very dependent on their mother at first, drinking her milk for food, and depending on her for protection and shelter. Their eyes open after 15 to 25 days, and they will be weaned after 4½ months. Fossa pups are very slow to develop, and will not leave their den until they are four months of age. They will stay with their mother for up to a year. Fossas are solitary creatures, and after the pups leave home they will scent mark an area to be their home. The size of the area will vary according to the amount of prey in that climate. They will usually stay there, sleeping in a different place every night, though it is known that they can travel up to 16 miles a day. These pups will keep growing until they are two years old, and when they are four years old they will start their own family.  
            Fossas live only in Madagascar. Though you can find a few in nearly every forest, they are rare. In 2,000, there were less than 2,500, and their numbers today are unknown. Fossa habitat destruction plays a major role in the decline of their numbers. Fossas also occasionally kill chickens, and so locals kill them. Sometimes they have to compete with introduced animals, such as civets, for their food. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is He important to you?
When we are buffeted about,
With trials and hardships sore,
We know we could not live without Him,
We feel our need for Him more and more.
But what of the lulls in the storm?
Do you love Him with all that you are?
Do you die to yourself every morn?
Does this peace your relationship mar?

When the sea is as soft a shadow,
And as still as a marble floor,
And the sun seems to shine as bright as
A ray from heavens open door;
Then what is the song of your heart?
Is Jesus the love of your life?
Do you feel from Him far apart?
Do you feel need for Him in your life?

By Emerald Dew

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Shoebill
Let’s peek for a moment into the life of an extraordinary bird. We will fix our eyes on a papyrus marsh in eastern Africa, and specifically on a female Shoebill who lives there alone (these birds are solitary creatures). She is about 4 ½ ft tall, weighs around 12 lbs, and is slate grey all over. There are feathers sticking out of the back of her head that lend to the image of an unruly cowlick. Her legs rather resemble a heron’s legs, and in some ways she looks like a stork, or a pelican. And then, of course, there is that impossible bill, a massive thing,  being 9 inches long and 4 inches broad (can you see why they call them Shoebills?), with a vicious hook on the end. This bird is an interesting sight, don’t you think?
 Since Shoebills are nocturnal, her days are spent sleeping. Come evening, however, our Shoebill is standing motionless, tucked away in the reeds, waiting for an African Lungfish (her favorite food) to swim by. She is not exactly graceful as she attacks and grapples it, but then again, that’s not the point. The point is to swallow the fish, which is something her clog of a bill can certainly accomplish. A few other things on the menu for our lady are baby crocodiles, rats, waterfowl, other fish, frogs and other amphibians, small turtles, and water snakes.

There is no specific season when Mrs. Shoebill will lay her eggs, but she will probably wait until the onset of the dry season, when the nest is less likely to be flooded. Anyway, about once a year, 1 to 3 eggs will be laid on a flat nest of sticks in the swamp grass, and after about one month the babies will hatch. Amazingly, they will not be able to stand up until they are 2 ½ months old! I suppose those spindly legs take awhile to develop. They will not be able to hunt for themselves until they are 3 ½ months old.

It is thought that there are 5,000 to 8,000 Shoebills in the world today, living in swamps and wetlands from Sudan and western Ethiopia all the way down to Zambia. The main threat to this species is destruction of habitat, illegal hunting and trapping, and the drying up of the marshes where they live.

                 Oh, and one more thing: Did you know that mother Shoebills will sometimes fill their bill with water and pour it over their overheated nestlings?

Friday, January 6, 2012


What mammal chews holes in trees and pulls out grubs to eat with its long middle finger?
Sounds similar to a Woodpecker, you say? True, both creatures extract insects from trees and eat them, but this animal is not a Woodpecker, for, Wondernose, birds don’t chew. No, it is a mammal. And it does not only eat grubs, either. This little lemur is an omnivore (meaning it eats animal and vegetable matter), feasting on fruit, nectar, seeds, small animals, and, obviously, grubs. Since they have a taste for cultivated fruits they are sometimes treated as pests. This little creature is nocturnal or a night creature, by the way. He spends all day sleeping in a cozy nest of sticks high in a tree. Now you are really curious, aren’t you? A mammal that chews holes in trees and sleeps all day?
Our mystery primate lives only in Madagascar and a few surrounding islands. It hangs out in forests, both deciduous and tropical. And you haven’t even heard half of the story yet, Wondernose, for I haven’t told you how he looks! He is almost frightening, with his leathery, bat-like ears, extremely long and thin fingers, big, yellow eyes, rodent like face and huge, bushy tail. The third finger is so skinny that it appears to be skin and bone, with no flesh! Their thick coat is anywhere from gray to brown, and has a grizzled look, due to white-tipped guard hairs. Their body is about one foot long, and the tail more than doubles their body length, ranging from 17 to 20 in!
I suppose I should describe in more detail how they go about extracting grubs from trees, Wondernose, as you probably want to know. First, he taps around on the tree with his fingers and listens with his big ears, to see if he can find a cavity in the tree where a grub is hiding. When he is sure he has found one, he bites into the tree with his teeth until there is a hole big enough for his finger to go into. Then he reaches in with his skin-and-bone finger, hooks his nail into the grub, pulls it out and eats it. It’s that easy (for him, I mean). His long fingers with bear-like nails are also used for scraping the meat out of coconuts and other fruits.
Females do not have a specific season when they give birth, and sometimes wait 3 years between babies. When they do decide to have children they only have one at a time. The little one stays in the nest for 2 months before it ventures out to explore the world. Once they grow up they do not live with any other of their kind, as they are solitary creatures.
I have told you a lot about our mystery creature, but most likely you have no idea what it is called, as you may never have heard of him before. His name is supposed to sound like natives of Madagascar in distress. Wondernose, what would you think if a spooky looking creature came and stole some coconuts you were growing? And suppose this largest of all nocturnal primates was considered an ill omen in your tribe. What would you do? You would probably scream “Aye aye!”  And so this mammal was named the Aye-Aye (the name could also have something to do with the fact that sometimes Aye-Ayes make a sound similar to aye aye). And so now you know all I can tell you about the bizarre Aye-Aye. Why don’t you see if your friends can guess what mammal chews holes in trees and looks like a cross between a bat and a rat?

Note: Wondernose is the title of a series of stories in Nature Friend Magazine, and I wrote this article to submit to them, hence all the references to Wondernose.