Monday, July 19, 2010

A hummingbird's heart

Hummingbird hearts beat 1,260 to 1,400 times per minute or average 23 beats per second. Their wings beat 55 to 75 times per second, creating the famous humming noise. They live an average of three years. Some migrate thousands of miles in a single season, following the blooming plants. They need to eat (flower nectar and tiny insects) about every ten minutes to maintain their metabolism. They can’t walk or hop, but they can hover. Their two-inch-wide nests are made of plant down, spider webs, and stray bits of fluff.

“My” green and tan hummingbirds love blue sage and lavender spikes, ripe black mulberries, and pink orchid trees. They’re boldly curious little beasts, hovering close and checking me out as I water the plants or read in my garden nook. They perch in the trees, do aerobatics, and buzz the dog’s head. When they scold my cats for just existing, their chirps can be heard many meters away. The tiny ones peer in the kitchen window as I’m preparing a meal. When the young hummer is temporarily abandoned in the orchid tree, she chitters for her parents for ten minutes before she’s hungry enough to seek and sip her own nectar (which was why she was “abandoned” in the first place).

Hummingbirds are so inoffensive--and beloved--that when they get into a house through an open window or door, we try everything to lure them back outside. When a hummer came into my kitchen through a door but kept butting the window looking for a way out, I put the cats behind a door, and tried luring it with a big red advertisement. No luck. So I went outside, took off the screen, and gently and slowly opened the window. Still the bird wouldn't go out the open side. So I slowly and quietly shooed it toward the open air and it flew away like a lightning bolt.

I was researching 17th-century New England for a book I'm writing, and came across this description of a hummingbird. The writer, William Wood, published his 1634 book on natural history for the English Puritan emigrants. Hummingbirds were unknown in the Old World, so this was a new species to them.
The Humbird is one of the wonders of the Countrey, being no bigger than a Hornet, yet hath all the demensions of a Bird, as bill, and wings, with quills, spiderlike legges, small clawes: For colour, she is as glorious as the Raine-bow; as she flies, she makes a little humming noise like a Humble-bee: wherefore shee is called the Humbird.

Like many other species, the hummingbird is not mentioned in the Bible, which is admittedly not a scientific nature handbook. They are native to the Americas, not to the Bible lands. Would it be a stretch to liken our desire for a relationship with the Lord, to a hummingbird’s heart? Imagine that with every heartbeat (and at 23 beats per second it’s humming, too), you would “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

Perhaps this hum is an example of having a song in your heart. A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song. Proverbs 15:15 MSG

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greater love hath no dog

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:13-14
This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17

When I was five, my parents adopted a miniature poodle from the Humane Society shelter. We named her Gypsy. She was gunmetal gray, with soft, wavy hair—not curly, like a poodle. Sometimes, her hair grew out all shaggy, as you see in the photo.

Although only about 25 pounds, Gypsy was a giant in spirit. She knew about 70 phrases and commands, learned with graham cracker treats. She came along on every vacation between Phoenix and northern Minnesota, where my grandparents lived. Gypsy would stick her head out the window and her pink tongue would fly in the Rambler’s slipstream. When we arrived at the lake cabin in Minnesota, Gypsy snuffled around the lake shore while we frolicked in the water.

My teenage cousin Debbie had a similar hairstyle and coloring to my mom. When Debbie flew by the dock on water skis and released the tow rope, Gypsy thought Debbie was Mom, and Mom seemed to be drowning. Gypsy, at full tilt, launched herself from the dock and paddled to Debbie to save her life. When Debbie turned around to swim back in, Gypsy discovered her mistake, gave up on the rescue, and headed back to shore, but her long fur dragged her down in the water. My dad ended up rescuing the struggling dog. Thirty years later, we still laugh at the memory.

Another time, my family was playing on a hand-pulled mono-rail car, crossing the Verde River in Arizona. My younger brother shouted with laughter, and that was enough for the mighty poodle to launch from our elderly friend’s care, diving into the swift river to save us. Again, Gypsy had to be rescued from her heroic mission.

God gave us domestic animals for love, companionship, to assist us in many ways, and to teach us lessons about our relationship with and obedience to our Master. The prophet Nathan used a pet ewe to teach David about his sin (2 Samuel 12). Many faithful animals love their masters more than their own lives, and their obedience is legendary.

Praise God for His wisdom and His gift of pets to brighten our lives and teach us about love, tenderness, obedience, and loyalty.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Citizens of a kingdom

The kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 NIV

Jan and Dorothy, nurses, have dual Canadian-American citizenship. Antoinette, from the Azores Islands, is a resident alien in America. Steve, a New Zealander, was adopted by Arizona’s Pima Indian tribe, then moved back Down Under. Cordell is “Jamerican,” a Jamaican-born, naturalized American. Lance, from Australia, recently was sworn into American citizenship. Ana Maria, from Ecuador, is a health educator in a jail system. One of her sons is in pastoral training. Darwin, from Missouri, sat in a Niagara Falls Canadian-side restaurant, looking at the American shore. “Across that river lies freedom,” he declared melodramatically. The server was not amused.

My friends are from all over the world. And the best friends of all don’t even belong to this world! We are aliens. We’re not green and tentacled, but we don’t fit in with most other earthlings. We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not a pie-in-the-sky futuristic kingdom that we’ll see shortly after Jesus’ Second Coming. It’s now, and it’s been here since we accepted salvation or “got saved.” We may choke on smog, see cigarette butts and homeless people in the gutter, and hear of oppression everywhere on the globe. But we Christians are, at this moment, living in the Kingdom. It’s both current reality and future promise.

We who live in democratized countries don’t usually understand the distinction between a reign and a realm. The reign is a time and place of government rule. But the realm is the territory or sphere of influence. And because the Kingdom of Heaven is in our hearts, and our Monarch is Jesus, He is our King now as well as after His advent.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within [among] you.” Luke 17:20-21 NIV

American Independence Day is always a fun holiday. It lacks the pressures of Thanksgiving or Christmas; there’s no need to use the day for chores or a dental appointment. On the plus side, you get the day off work, there are fireworks, picnics, swimming, parades, news stories about heroes, and sales. At church this week, we sing “America the Beautiful,” and “Faith of Our Fathers.” Flags and bunting are everywhere. We dress in national colors.

My favorite Independence Days were ones spent in Washington, DC, with the symphony orchestra playing and the shells bursting over the Washington Monument; and at Lake Powell, Arizona, where we swam and boated, watched a parade, met Navajo code talkers, and saw fireworks from a sandstone mesa. I once spent July 4 at the British Museum in London, where I wore my colors and was wished well by a tour guide!

Patriotism means supporting our government and armed forces, waving the flag, cheering for our country in sports, and having the “correct” political beliefs. Are we true patriots for doing these acts, or are there other ways of expressing love and honor for our country?

What about obeying the laws, including speed limits and zoning ordinances? Do we hire and pay people under the table to avoid taxes? Do we lie on tax forms? Do we study the voter information and the news reports and vote for issues, moral principles, and qualified people, or do we vote a party ticket? (Do we vote at all?) People offered their lives for these liberties we sometimes discount, and for the lifestyle we believe is our right.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 NIV

It’s been said that you are your true self when no one is looking. Are you a patriot? Are you a “doer” or just a talker? Wave your flag with pride, but follow it up with a life worthy of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.


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