Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Fully Aware

Because I have spent so much time outside this past year, I have gotten very aware of my surroundings. I am always looking for birds, insects, spiders, clouds . . . whatever the day may bring. 

I have also been attending virtually a birding festival: For the Love of Birds Festival.  There are three days of "bird sits."  I have watched one of them so far.  The focus was on being fully aware of your surroundings, the sights, the sounds, the colors, etc and looking all around you. 

I eat my meals outside whenever I can. Yesterday, I sat down to eat my lunch and watch my birds.  As I was surveying the sky around me, I saw something very interesting. It was a swarm of tiny white insects.  The night before I had seen something similar above my head near the pond. Those had been brown and I knew they were gnats, also called midges.  Today, these were white and glistened in the sun.  My camera was ready, but I was doubtful I would get pictures. How was my camera going to focus on something so tiny? But, I have learned to be disciplined with my photography.  Take the shot regardless and hope.   Checking the screen, I had something in some of the shots.  When I magnified some of them in the camera, I became even more hopeful. So I kept adjusting the amount of zoom and hoping it would focus and I took a number of shots.  Once again I checked my images. There were some that WERE picking up detail, enough to see it was definitely small winged insects, most likely midges. 

So . . . When I came in and looked on the computer, yes, I had something. Probably not enough to identify to species level, but enough to post a few places and get some ideas.  The first place I went was to the Facebook page: Entomology.  I got confirmation that yes, these are Chironomidae, midges.  And I learned that this was a mating swarm that occurs in warm sunlight. OK, it was bright sunlight today, but not so warm.  They will also move to be above your head, called hilltopping, which indeed they were doing about 8-10 feet above me.  The midges from the night before had also done that but close to me. 

This was the most detailed image I got.  Beautiful, dainty, and amazing.  These were high enough above me that if I had not been in the habit of being observant, I might have missed them. And my practice of attempting to capture what I see with the camera gave me something new to marvel.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Meditation: Life's Blinders

I go outside almost every day to spend time in nature and spend time soaking in my surroundings, reading Bible, praying, meditating, and observing the nature (usually birds) around me.  This morning was cold.  

While it was in the 50's, I knew I needed more than just my wool sweater, so I grabbed this jacket with hood, and I immediately put the hood over my head to conserve body heat. 

I immediately discovered that it was strongly affecting my peripheral vision.  I could not detect the movement or moving shadows that help me notice the birds around me and above me.  Even pulling it back a little still left me without the full range of vision I am accustomed to.  I knew I was missing things. I was not getting the full view of the world around me this morning. It bothered me. 

As is often the case, my mind immediately thought about how this applies to other parts of my life.  We all have things that are "blinders," that hinder us from seeing the full picture in our world.  

The first thing that came to my mind was news sources.  It is so easy to read our daily news sources that support our own political beliefs.  But, that may blind us in seeing why other people see things differently. It may also prevent us from seeing important news that our favorite sources may not report. I have worked over the last several years to have a Facebook feed that does show me news articles both from "main stream media,"  from more liberal news pages, and from conservative news sources.  I also look at Facebook pages from Christian newspapers, Christian writers, and my Christian friends.

What else can we have blind spots about?  

We can be blind about our personal strengths and weaknesses.  Throughout my life it has been easy for me to dwell on my weaknesses and my failures without giving equal time for my strengths and my victories.  

We can be blind about sins in our life.  We all have the things that we know that we need to do better in our walk with God.  But, I suspect that we also all have sin in our hearts that are hidden from our own sight.  The pschological concept of the Johari Window (https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/johari-window-we-dont-know-what-we-dont-know/) has 4 "windows."

1. Known to self

2. Known to others

3. Not know to self

4. Not known to others

Conclusion: My time spent outdoors in observation, reflection, and meditation helps me be more aware of some of these things.  My time reading inspirational and scientific things to develop understanding of how my intellectual and spiritual self works also helps me be less blind. My time on Facebook where I truly look at what other people think and why, where I read news articles that both support my beliefs and but also look at news that may not support my belief.  I have to be careful to study and discern whether the news sources I read accurately portray what is going on in the world around me so I can reduce my blind spots.  This is very difficult right now.  It is why I read my news from a wide variety of sources.  It is why I analyze my news sources here: https://www.adfontesmedia.com  This is their methodology and why I trust their analysis:  https://www.adfontesmedia.com/how-ad-fontes-ranks-news-sources/

What blindspots are there in your life? 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Be Still and Know I am God . . . Nature Meditations

 In today's modern world, we are always "busy."  Productivity is highly valued.  Sitting quietly and seemingly doing nothing can feel like a waste of time.  

From scripture:

Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Nehemiah 8:11 "Be still for this is a holy day."

Psalm 37:7 "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him."

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

The dictionary definition of still is "deep silence and calm." Another dictionary adds the word "tranquil." Other definitions:  "Not moving or in motion.  Free from disturbance, agitation, or commotion."

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the concept of "forest bathing."  No . . . this is NOT taking a bath in the forest, rather it is a methodology of being still and fully aware of your surroundings. It is a process of slowing down and becoming emersed in God's natural environment.  It is taking time to tune in to the smells, textures, tastes and sounds around us. Nature sounds, the scents of the flowers, the sight of sunlight hitting the hillsides, the fresh smell of rain, and the sounds of morning birdsong affect our body in positive ways. They comfort us and reduce our stress and our worries.  For me, it gives me a sense of joy.  It also helps us relax. More importantly it helps us to think more clearly. Time spent emerged in the  nature that God created restores our inner tranquility, gives us energy, washes our weariness away, and rejuvenates us for our other daiy tasks.  

I also find that when I take the time to do this type of meditation, that I often receive life lessons from the experience, insight that is very useful. 

I will be doing a series of posts with some examples. 

For today, I encourage you to find a place near you to go spend time outside.  It could be your backyard, it could be your local park.  Perhaps there is a creek or river near you.  The first time you do this it may seem difficult, but practice doing this.  Once you have found your place, sit or stand quietly for 10 or 15 minutes.  Notice what is around you. Notice the breeze on your face, the clouds moving above you, the water ripples, the textures, the natural sounds around you, and any scent on the air.  Resist thinking about all the things that you need to do or the problems that you will face later in the day.  Keep your mind centered on the nature around you.  It may be difficult for you at first.  I believe that this is a mental and spiritual discipline that will be very rewarding for you as you practice it. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Interesting Ruby -Throated Hummingbird with Orange Gorget

A few days ago I noticed this unusual hummingbird visiting my feeders.  The common hummer at my house is the black chinned hummingbird, but this is definitely NOT a black chinned.  The next most common one is ruby throated.  As I rummaged through my bird apps and web photos of ruby throated, I uploaded to iNaturalist and someone confirmed it as Ruby throated.  

But this is SUCH a different color than what I expect from a ruby throat. So I sent photos to an expert comparing several hummingbirds that have been at my feeder this summer. He asked for more photos.  

The fork tail is an indicator for ruby throated as opposed to broad-tailed which would be rare bird for my location. 

I am currently trying to use the internet to learn more about my interesting hummer.  


Friday, March 27, 2020

Praying for COVID-19

Long ago I learned a concept of praying the scriptures.  In times of stress I find the Psalms to be meaningful.  I have also experienced when reading one of the One Year Bibles that has a Psalm and a Proverb reading every day, that many times the reading for the day has words of encouragement that are especially relevant for what I am experiencing.

My reading today was Psalm 69.

I also write my prayers during my morning time.  My prayer for today, using Psalm 69:

Dear God,

Save me for the virus seems to be approaching.

All around we seem to be sinking in the mire of infection.  As a nation we have not found a foothold.  We are approaching deep water with overwhelming floods of sick people.  Our medical personnel are crying for help.

It seems that we have people trying to destroy us with lies.

Father, you know how foolish we are.  We can not hide our sins from you.

Father I keep praying to you to have mercy on us.

Please answer our prayers with your sure salvation from this disease.

Rescue us from the mire of this infection.  Let the measures we are attempting keep us from seeking further.

Pull us from these deep waters.  As individuals, don’t let this viral flood overwhelm us or deep waters swallow us, or the pit of death devour us.

Answer these prayers, Lord, for I know your unfailing love is wonderful.

Take care of us, for I know your mercy is plentiful.

Come and redeem us, free us from this virus.

In Jesus name,

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thinking about how to deal with this difficult time

It feels like things have changed in a heartbeat.  From an active life where I was always on the go, I am now choosing to stay at home for an indefinite period of time.  I am a realist, I think this time of social distancing will be measured in months, not weeks.  From regular contact with my grandson, I may not see him in person for months.

But I believe that God had done some preparation for me.  Back in January I got back into a morning time with God pattern.  This time of Bible study, reflection, journaling, coffee and breakfast help me start my day with the reminder that in the midst of the unknown, the chaos of an unfathomable disease, the drastic changes to every day living, the separation from vital social interaction and the monetary uncertainties, that God IS still in control. In so very many places, the Bible says "Do not be afraid."  "Do not be anxious."

So my game plan is to look outside every day for something joyful and blessed.  It is spring in Central Texas. The flowers are beginning their glorious bloom.  We had blessed rain yesterday.  The butterflies and birds are going about their daily activities.

I will also be working at home on projects that have been neglected such as going through my photographs and making submissions, writing articles and making submissions, go through the house and trying to get rid of 30 some odd years of accumulated belongings.

 Please join me in finding positive ways to spend your time during this unexpected change in our lives.  Be mindful of the beauty that surrounds you.  While you can't ignore the bad news, the number of  cases that will surely rise catastrophically, the difficulties in getting your needed supplies, you can make choices to direct your focus on what is GOOD around you.  You can be grateful for what you have rather than focusing on what you have not right now.

And please, don't forget to spend time meditating with the God of creation.  For me, it will be His peace that passeth understanding that will help me weather the trials that are coming our way.

Grace and peace to you!  May you find a special blessing every day to give you hope during this dark time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

God’s Glory

In my Bible reading yesterday, I read about the glory of God filling the Tabernacle. I wondered what that would have been like to experience first hand.  I tried to imagine what that meant, because I don’t think that I see and experience the glory of God in the same way today.

So I went and looked up the word: glory.

From Merriam Webster’s online dictionary:  

Definition of glory 
 1a : praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent : RENOWN
b : worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving giving glory to God
2a : something that secures praise or renown the glory of a brilliant career b : a distinguished quality or asset The glory of the city is its Gothic cathedral.
3a : a state of great gratification or exaltation When she's acting she's in her glory. b : a height of prosperity or achievement ancient Rome in its glory
4a(1) : great beauty and splendor : MAGNIFICENCE … the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome. — E. A. Poe
(2) : something marked by beauty or resplendence a perfect glory of a day b : the splendor and beatific happiness of heaven broadly : ETERNITY
5 : a ring or spot of light: such as a : AUREOLE
b : a halo appearing around the shadow of an object

I think the Israelites experienced God’s great beauty, splendor, and resplendence as well as his distinguishing qualities  in such a way that led them to worshipful praise, honor and thanksgiving.

I am not sure even after thinking about it that I can really grasp what it would be like to experience the glory of God the way the Israelites did.

I think in today’s world, believers know that God is always with them, but we don’t always see it as clearly as described in Exodus.  We don’t necessarily experience His glory in our daily lives as the Israelites did as they saw the cloud surrounding the Tabernacle during the day and the pillar of fire at night.  How would it change our lives if we mediated on God’s glory, his incredible power, and sought His glory on a daily basis.  Would it change how we treat the people around us?  Would it change how we viewed the divisions, the hatred, the animosity that surrounds us in the difficult times we are experiencing?  In the search for God’s glory and in the search for what God’s view would be, would it change our hearts, words, and actions?

As for me, I am hoping I can put thinking about God’s glory into my daily thoughts about God and my relationship with him.