Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

Got Squirrels?

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

I just can’t seem to win. It seems we have a continuing wildlife saga in our backyard. I know I have told you about the difficult time I have been having trying to feed the birds in our backyard.  You see my friends the birds left when the food ran out.  It kinda hurt my feelings.  Well, I apologized and went and bought some food and a couple of new feeders and they are slowly coming back! Boy, are they fair weather friends!  But that isn’t the only problem.

I also have squirrel issues.  With winter coming on they are visiting the back yard, the side yard, and every other part of the yard—frequently.  They eat Judy’s flower bulbs, they dig holes everywhere burying nuts for the winter, and then for fun they eat the bird food.  That wouldn’t be a big deal but they want to eat all the bird food—every expensive morsel.  Now there are a couple of options here.  On the one hand we can use some friendly means to dissuade them from visiting—you know, perhaps a 12 gauge shotgun.  The other is to embrace them—remember the Bible says “if you enemy is hungry…feed them.”

Now if the truth were known, I think sometimes (like when they eat her tulip bulbs) Judy would lean toward the 12 gauge…I’m not sure if the intent would be to scare them off or make squirrel stew.  Somehow, though, that just doesn’t seem like the right option. It’s not that I am not that merciful–it’s just that they are so cotton-picking cute and you have to admire their persistence. So, I was prepared to at least help them coexist with us.  And then they ate my bird feeder—literally.

As I said I went to a local store and bought a new finch feeder—the kind that is supposed to discourage anything but a finch from feeding there.  Well, the designers hadn’t taken into account these squirrels.  In one day, they chewed it up, spit it out and consumed the bird food.  I decided it had to be a design flaw so I took it back to the store to see if they would give me a new one—they laughed.

So, why not use the 12 gauge and save the money? Well, first I live in the city limits and they frown on discharging a firearm.  But the truth is they are God’s creation and they have those big brown eyes…the ones that make them look so pitiful…you know, hungry and everything.  As you know, we’ve been learning to “love thy neighborhood” and I suppose that could include squirrels.  We’ve also been learning about how we should “be merciful just like God is merciful.” Do you remember why? “Because He forgives the ungrateful and wicked.” I am certain these squirrels fit both categories.

So, I am working through this.  Tracking with Romans 12, I’m going down the “love thy enemy” checklist. Feeding—check!  Water—Check! Merciful—check! Forgiving—check!  I believe before long the squirrels and I will be best buds.  In fact, maybe this is just practice for loving others who, like the squirrels, are a bit difficult. You see, the scripture isn’t talking about squirrels anyway; it is talking about our family, our friends, our neighbors—and yes, our enemies.  Let me clue you in—loving them is sometimes a whole lot tougher than loving that cute little squirrel.

But do you know what?  We can do it.  Remember that verse in the Bible we all love…the one that says we can do anything with God’s help? Well, it’s time we move from memorizing it and begin applying it.  With His help we can love and care for the most difficult of those who live around us and impact our lives. And do you know what else?  We are never more like Jesus than when we are kind and loving to those who deserve it the least.  I know…I know, we think we are the most like Jesus when we don our Sunday best and head to church.  The truth is we are most like Jesus when we act like Jesus. And, when we truly act like Jesus, all the people around us take notice. They stop “eating our lunch” and begin wanting what we have…Him. Amazing. So, got squirrels?  Just give in and go to the store and buy some corn.  They will still eat your bird food but maybe, just maybe, they’ll be so full of corn they will eat less of the bird food. Got some folks tough to love?  Apply the Word, invite God into the situation and get ready for some work (on your part) and perhaps a miracle (on His part).  Hey, none of us are perfect.  We all have our warts and we all have our weak spots.  Just remember how God goes to great lengths to show you His love every day. He will never grow weary of loving us.  Never has, never will.  When you get all worked up over an overeating squirrel or an unkind or difficult neighbor—just take a break and rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born

“No Trespassing”

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

It was kinda confusing.  A while back I was walking in our neighborhood.  It was early in the morning and the birds were singing, the sun was shining and as Mister Rogers would say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  As I was walking I would look at the different houses and their yards.  I noticed that several, well actually more than several, of the homes had “no trespassing” signs in their yard or stuck on the house. One home had six or seven signs and about a half dozen security cameras.  I think they must have had something really important inside.

I’m not sure what the deal is but probably there is a valid reason. But being from the South, we generally didn’t stick “no trespassing” signs up in our yard.  More than likely we stuck up a “hey, y’all come on in” sign.  Of course, that was several decades ago and maybe now they have some not so friendly signs down South too.  At any rate this is America and you can pretty much put up what you want as long as it isn’t too mean.  But then there was one house that kinda confused me.

As you probably can guess they had a “no trespassing” sign up.  But right next to the “no trespassing” sign they had a big “welcome” sign.  It caused me to wonder. Which one was correct?  I didn’t know if I was welcome to come up on the porch and sit or if I would be shot if I did.  I wasn’t sure so I kept right on walking because I was real sure I didn’t want to find out. Oftentimes we seem to send conflicting messages.

Sometimes I see this is at churches.  There will be a sign on the message board that says “everyone welcome”.  There might even be a parking spot in the parking lot that says, “reserved for guests.”  Sometimes they have people standing at the door to shake your hand when you come in.  But then I wonder, “do they really mean that or are they trying to act nice?”  I mean everyone expects churches to be friendly because Jesus was.  He liked everybody.  I heard a preacher say once that it was pretty amazing that the people who were the least like Jesus were the ones that felt the most comfortable around Him.  It seemed they liked Him and He liked them.

On the other hand, Jesus was always bumping heads with the religious elite.  Theoretically they should have been the most like Him, but they didn’t like Him and I’m not sure He was too fond of them.  Of course, Jesus was always trying to find the best in others but some of those guys in the New Testament were really mean.  I don’t think there was a “welcome” sign on their house for either Jesus or His friends

There was one group they really didn’t like, the tax collectors.  Because tax collectors worked for the Roman government, they were seen as thieves and traitors. But do you know what Jesus did?  Jesus invited a tax collector to be one of them, to be a part of His inner circle.  Can you even imagine that? “Hey Matthew,” Jesus said, “why don’t you come and be a part of our group?”  I bet the religious guys about fainted and so did the rest of Jesus’s followers.  I can just hear them now, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.”  They might have been right, but Jesus was always more concerned for the neighbor than the neighborhood.  He did more than talk about loving people, He really loved people.

When Jesus was explaining to those who followed Him how people would know that they were His friends, do you know what He said?  It wasn’t because they went to church on Sunday.  It wasn’t because they knew all the answers.  And it wasn’t even because they wore the right kind of clothes when they were hanging around Jesus.  Nope.  Jesus said that people would know that we were His friends because of the way we loved—and in particular, the way we loved each other.  Whenever I share about that, it never goes over very well.  The reason is that it is a lot easier to dress right, talk right and go to church than to love someone—particularly someone who is not very lovable.  But that is what He said we should do. There is a secret to loving others. 

We need to remember that when we were not lovable at all, Jesus chose to love us.  And if we will let that roll around in our heads and hearts awhile, I think we will find that loving others is just a little bit easier.  The next time you are all worked up about something, maybe trying to love someone, just get up next to Jesus and sit awhile.  You won’t find a “no trespassing” sign there…just one that says “welcome.”  And you can just sit back and let Him handle whatever you’re stressed about…cause He’s got this.