A Burn Under Control

Oh, lovely springtime, what is so fair! But…

So many things show up once the snow is gone. We have a lovely, tree-filled yard, which means we need to walk around before mowing the lawn and gather up odd branches the wind has brought down. Some trash often drifts in and catches in the tall grass, too.

A controlled burn can be a very useful tool to clean up all this debris. This spring, however, our RM has put on a burning ban because of dry conditions. We heard in the news a few weeks ago how one town in Sask suffered loss when a “controlled burn” got away and consumed half a dozen homes. (Thankfully most of these were unoccupied.)

Last night when I went out for a walk the air was hazy in spite of a strong wind and I caught a faint whiff of wood smoke. Sure enough, a look online shows a forest fire raging out of control in the northern part of the province. It’s hard to picture any benefit coming from an inferno like that, yet scientists say an old forest needs a good fire. It does for the forest what a clean-up fire does for our yard: gives the land a chance to rid itself of dead wood and breathe again; lets the forest get a new start. Otherwise there comes a time when a forest chokes itself.

Between our yard and our neighbours, there’s an “old” woods. The original trees, planted a hundred years back by the first settlers, are dead and ready to fall down. A lot of new growth has sprung up since, but so many young trees are twisted or crushed when their elders drop thick branches on them. And when those big old trunks hit the earth, it takes many years for them to decompose.

It would be so beneficial if a fire could sweep through and consume all the dead wood, but leave the living. And more importantly, leave our and our neighbours’ homes intact! Since we know that isn’t going to happen, both of us couples hope and pray no lightening strike or careless cigarette starts our woods on fire. There’s so much ready fuel, none of us could control the damage.

The Bible talks a lot about fire, both in a destructive sense, where God destroys the enemy as if by fire, and in a purifying or enlightening sense.

“Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.”
Deuteronomy 4:36

Thoughts of God’s fire tends to scare me, though, because it’s not a thing I can control. I can’t tell him, “Yes, I’d like to get rid of this bit of attitude, burn this fault out of my life, but leave the rest of my habits alone.” He sees all the trash that needs to go, not just the little bit that’s causing me embarrassment. He sees all the dead wood in the heart of the forest, not just the bit I can spot from where I stand.

Though we can’t govern what God’s fire will consume in our lives, the good news is, HE can. He may select trash (like bad attitudes) that needs to burn out of our lives, but our God is merciful. He leaves all the good wood to keep on growing. He may burn the wood, hay, and stubble, but he leaves the silver and gold.

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12: 28-29

In every life some matches will fall. Trials come to those who believe in God and those who don’t, to those who choose to live a Christian life and those who don’t. Living in this world along with other human beings guarantees that flames will pop up from one source or another. Unkind words or discrimination may burn, health or financial woes may flare up.

These troubles aren’t always the result of a direct action on God’s part, sent because we have need of major refinement. But God can use any fire to purify us. If we give our lives into his keeping, He can control any burning so that it doesn’t damage us beyond hope of restoration.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…” Isaiah 43:2-3

Another Poem From My Stash

HOLD STILL

by Margaret Penner Toews

Wee little hummingbird, caught in a wire,
Halt, little bird, or your wings will tire:
In your little-bird-world your plight is dire!
Hold still, wee bird, hold still!

Wee little hummer, don’t flail, don’t fight!
If you’d stop your frenzy you’d be all right.
It’s the flailing that causes your awful plight.
Hold still, little bird, hold still.

Is your wee little scream a little bird-prayer?
How can I tell you, wee bird, I care?
You pause at last and numbly stare.
Don’t be afraid! Hold still.

Spent, despairing, you rest your wing.
I reach. I touch. What a fragile thing,
The delicate body quivering,
A hummingbird, holding still!

In my palm you tarry a little bit,
Then shake, and away like a breath you flit.
I stand astonied at thought of it…
A hummingbird, holding still!

How tiny the feather you left behind!
…And then of a sudden there comes to mind
The truth God wanted for me to find:
“Hold still, my child, hold still.

“Stop your frenzy and rest in Me.
It’s the flailing that hurts you, don’t you see?
Whate’er your predicament, trust in Me.
Hold still, my child, hold still.”

© Margaret Penner Toews
From her book FIRST A FIRE

Margaret’s poetry is delightful reading and she has published several books of poems as well as several books of devotional thoughts. These are available from PrairieView Press and Gospel Publishers.

Masked Warblers and DNA

My husband’s cousin owns a nice bit of farmland right by the Saskatchewan River. He raised cattle, but he and his wife also set up some cabins on their yard and called the place Leaning Tree Guest Ranch. Though they’ve retired now, for years they offered guests a place to stay and enjoy the beauties of nature. One of the things they advertised: because no pesticides had ever been used on the land, this property boasted the largest number of native songbirds in Sask.

One summer my husband and I rented one of their cottages for a few days. In addition to enjoyable visits getting to know our relatives, we spent hours touring the lovely woods. Cousin Paul had made a nice lane right beside the river and kept this trail open for guests to wander.

At some places this lane narrowed down to just a foot path. One morning I was ambling along this path watching the antics of the common yellowthroats, tiny warblers that seemed to decorate the bushes around me like little yellow blossoms. Hyper, curious and cheerful, these cute birds are blessed with distinctive black masks somewhat like a raccoon.

I soon noticed that they were as interested in me as I was in them. They flitted into nearby bushes trying to get a better look at this visitor passing through so I sat down on a fallen log for about fifteen minutes and let them scrutinize me. Soon the branches a few feet away were a-flutter with yellowthroats hopping around seeking better viewing points and holding animated discussions about this odd creature. It’s quite a turn-around for me to be watched by the birds — and really unique to be discussed so openly. Being human — and females are very prone to this — I wondered what they thought of me and how I measured up to others of my species they’d observed.

Thinking of their cute little masks led me to pondering the variation in the warbler genetic pool that produces this unique feature. Some types of warbler have only one yellow spot on the tail while others are totally black and white.

My mind hops over to the marvels of the genetic pool in general. Which leads to some serious questions about the theory of evolution with regard to genetics and DNA.

A Simple-Brained Creature Ponders Evolution

According to the theory of evolution, as we were taught it in school, the earth was sterile. A boiling chunk off the sun and totally dead. The basic elements were present in molten form — guaranteed to kill any living organism. Eventually, they say, this sphere cooled and everything solidified. Except the water. Just why the water didn’t all evaporate into space, how it formed an atmosphere, is a mystery to me, but anyway…

Then one day a cell floating in the ocean came alive. Boink! Hello, world.

I lack faith here. I can hardly comprehend that a tiny pebble, a drop of water, or any other basic element of earth, would suddenly come alive. And not just start breathing air — or filtering oxygen from water — but also have the capability to reproduce! Did it divide? Or did it mate and thus reproduce? Mind-boggling.

Human cells divide all the time, according to the direction of the DNA. Any living cell —even a one-celled life form — must have DNA. So where would the DNA come from?

And then, could this new one-celled being contain in its DNA enough variation to produce a man, a dinosaur, a kangaroo, a mouse, a bird, a butterfly, an octopus, a reptile, a tree, a flower, a melon? According to evolutionists, all these and more eventually evolved from that one cell. I turn this thought over in my mind and come up with another question:

If the DNA to produce such variety were present in this initial one-celled creature, why did it take millions of years (according to the theory) to show up? These days if you have in one couple the DNA for red-hair and black hair, you’ll see this variation in the offspring — and definitely in the grandchildren, where other DNA is mixed in to produce an amazing display.

However, if the DNA to produce all that variation didn’t exist in that first living cell, from where did it come? It must have been added to the mix as time went on — but how? Can DNA that wasn’t initially present in a cell — like the DNA for scales or feathers or fur — somehow come into it from the atmosphere? More mind boggling concepts.

Some talk about genetic mutations and we see this happening today. We see mutations producing dwarfs, albinos, people with a sixth toe, etc. A child may have a harelip just like great-grandpa, but we never see a baby born with a beak, red eyes, a mask, a forked tongue, or talons. The DNA just isn’t there to produce this kind of variation.

According to most religions there is/was a Creator — in English we say “God”; French all him “the Eternal One.” Believers say this Eternal God designed all the creatures of the earth and gave each the particular genetics of their species, with potential for some variation. He also gave every species the ability to reproduce after their kind. And we see that He gave each species a DNA capable of some variation. And He gave them life — because life was his to give.

Now this concept is easy for me to grasp. Nothing mind-boggling here — if we can accept that God always was, even before the earth was.

sometimes it seems the whole theory of evolution is a cloak for “We will not accept that there is a Creator, an Eternal God.” Yet this is a theory its originator, Charles Darwin, tried to play down before he died. He advanced it as a theory, not as an unquestionable truth.

The Partnership

Many years ago a husband and father died, leaving his wife the burden of raising their six children. How could she face the challenge of financial as well as parenting responsibilities?

Placing her dilemma in God’s hands, she carried on, not only parenting their children but adopting twelve others along the way and raising them all to be decent people and good citizens. Someone asked her one day how she managed to keep it all together. She always always appeared so relaxed in spite of her busy life, surviving on a “bare necessities” budget.

“Oh, I’m in a partnership,” she told the questioner. “That keeps me going.”

“Oh, really? What kind of partnership and with who?”

“After my husband died I told the Lord that I’d do the work and He could do the worrying. I haven’t had a worry since.”

Do you have a partnership like that?

I’ve retold this story from one I read in an Our Daily Bread devotional booklet from the ’70s.

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

Wishing You A Blessed Easter

Crosses.jpg

Who Is This?

by William Walsham How
1823 – 1897

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
This the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting
and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
walking sadly life’s hard way,
homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
over sin and Satan’s sway?
This our God, our glorious Saviour,
who above the starry sky
now for us a place prepareth,
where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘Tis our God, who gifts and graces
on his Church now poureth down;
who shall smite in righteous judgement
all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying
while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
numbered with the malefactors,
torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis our God, who ever liveth
‘mid the shining ones on high,
in the glorious golden city,
reigning everlastingly.

Set to music by John Ambrose Lloyd the elder.

These Small Things

By Helen Welshimer
1902–1954; American journalist, writer and poet

He did not have a house where He could go
when it was night; when other men went down
small streets where children watched with eager eyes,
each one assured of shelter in the town,
The Christ sought refuge anywhere at all–
a house, an inn, the roadside, or a stall!

He borrowed the boat in which He rode that day
He talked to throngs along the eastern lake;
it was a rented room to which He called
the chosen twelve the night He bid them break
the loaf with Him, and He rode, unafraid,
another’s colt in that triumph-parade.

A man from Arimathea had a tomb
where Christ was placed when nails had done their deed.
Not ever in the crowded days He knew
did He have coins to satisfy a need.
They should not matter – these small things I crave –
make me forget them, Father, and be brave.