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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 8:52

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was this past weekend. Did you participate? 

This is a worldwide event that takes place every February. This year's top checklist submissions came in from the United States, India, Canada, Australia, and Spain. Top-ranked by the number of species reported, Brazil came in at 814 species!

You can find this year's photo submissions here: 2018 Contest

Despite the yucky weather, my personal count came in at 14 species. I counted on Friday and Saturday. The weather both days was poor. In fact, on Saturday I counted from my kitchen window!

All but five of these pictures were taken during the count. They are mostly for documentation and some, like the Eastern Bluebird, were taken from several hundred yards away. Please forgive the poor quality.

From left to right, top to bottom:

Gold-fronted Woodpecker
Black-crested Titmouse
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Bluebird
Cedar Waxwing 
Black Vulture 
Lesser Goldfinch
Carolina Wren
White-winged Dove
Carolina Chickadee
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Phoebe

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled week, friends,

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Inspired by . . . Winter's Chill

Nearly every place in the world that experiences winter experiences cold temperatures. Like them or not, the cold does have a purpose.

Cold is a nod to nature to begin a cycle of death that will ultimately lead to new life. [click to tweet]

For some things the death is literal, for others, it is only a period of dormancy. Leaves die and fall to the ground as the trees enter a new cycle of life. Bears and some species of butterflies go dormant, their life cycle suspended in an esoteric sleep.

Mostly, cold is hostile. Inhospitable. Severe.

Yet, the deep coldness of winter is when the harsh pruning of self-examination takes place. The irony is that often our self-examination, while good and necessary, often exposes just how self-absorbed we really are.

We become so fixated on discovering what God wants us to do for Him, or on what we're already doing for God, that we fail to realize we've got things turned around.

Perhaps what is really important is what He is doing in us. [click to tweet]

It's a subtle shift but an important one, I think.

This time of year instead of offering Him our food or our social media time let's offer up OURSELVES.

"Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."

Perhaps He will direct us toward deep self-examination or to giving up a certain luxury or habit. 

But let's allow Him to lead the conversation. Let's allow Him to draw us into Himself. Into His suffering. Into His joy. Into . . .

. . . where ever it is He wishes to lead us.

Let's allow Him to reveal the beauty of His plan. Let's take the time, maybe forty days or so, to sit quietly while He toils in the deep, dormant soil of our souls. Those cold, wintry places.

Then, let us watch in wonder as He sweeps aside the soil and shines His light into the darkness, revealing the growth that has made all things new!


Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 7:52

I heard the freezing rain hit the windows and went to look outside. The boughs of the cedar tree waved back at me as the wind rocked his branches. A flash of white caught my eye. A flock of Killdeer had arrived. The poor dears. Why do they always show up during foul weather, I wondered.

I wish I could talk to them. Wouldn't they like to come in and scoot around where it's warm? Oh, how I would love to fill my home with birds! But they wouldn't understand. Merely opening the door frightens them into flight.

It reminds me a bit of how the Israelites acted when God came down to them. He covered the mountain with His presence and they were terrified! They didn't understand His voice amidst the peals of thunder and bolts of lightning. They were content for Moses to speak to God for them. Then they became content to slaughter animals as a way to atone [pay] for their sins.

But God knew that all of this, the prophets and the sacrifices, were just a shadow, a mere picture of the things to come.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.  (Heb 1:1-2)

God has come down to us in His image. As a baby. Grew into a man and spoke clearly to us in ways we may understand. 
Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:17-18)
He has become the sacrificial lamb. Once for all; paying our debt on the cross.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:11-14)
People respond to this truth in a variety of ways. I hope it brings you joy and gives you a yearning to learn more.

Perhaps the next time you see an animal in danger and you long to be able to speak to them, you'll remember the great lengths and great sacrifice God has made to speak to and save you.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (Joh 3:16-17)

Happy St Valentine's Day,

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I found this sweet little wren's nest when cleaning out some of my birdhouses this past week. There were 6 or 8 eggs in all but only these two remained intact. Getting to this part of the nest wasn't an easy task. I was amazed at how much building material was inside that little birdhouse! The nest was well insulated. It must have taken them days to build. I don't know why the wrens abandoned this nest full of eggs but it makes me sad.

It got me thinking about my life. About some things, bad habits, that I need to abandon and about other, good things, that I never should have stopped doing. There is often a pattern to this behavior. You stop doing the good and the necessary and soon find yourself doing the toxic and needless. [click to tweet]

This cycle looks different for everyone but maybe you can identify with one of these scenarios: You look around at various family members seated in front of the TV with their dinner plate in their laps and wonder when you stopped eating together at the table as a family. You find yourself curled up with a bag of chips, binge-watching Netflix and wonder when you gave up that smoothie and a walk in the park. Or you sit down to breakfast and login to FB instead of reaching for His word.

These are all physical examples but the truth is we can just as easily replace good thinking with toxic thinking. Sometimes it is our bad habits that lead to bad thinking. Like when we begin to justify to ourselves all the things we are doing that we know are wrong. Other times it is our bad thinking that results in the wrong action.

Either way, Paul asks an important question:

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7)
In these verses, Paul is reminding the Galatians that they are free in Christ. They are no longer under the law, in that, following a set of rules is not what saves them. Rather they are saved, once and for all, by the blood of Christ. Even so, in the very next verses, Paul is careful to warn them that in this freedom they must allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit lest they turn their freedom into a license to sin.
What I mean is this: be guided by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your unspiritual nature. (Gal 5:16)
These chapters are a good guide for us when we find ourselves entrenched in bad habits, having forsaken other habits that produce light and life in our lives. It's important to examine how we have arrived at our current situation.

It is our nature to choose the path of least resistance. But that path is rarely the path of life. Rather, it usually leads to destruction. [click to tweet]

We may have to pick a few battles to get back on track. These battles may be with our children, our families, or just with ourselves. Regardless, we need to pick them wisely and pick them well. Always acting in accordance with the word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In all things, remember, the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22)
Friend, even if you're just battling with yourself over some things, remember, be kind. This is not a license to beat ourselves up over our failings but rather an opportunity to admit to God where we've been wrong and seek to bring our thinking and our habits back in line with His word. 

Time and again in scripture we see beautiful examples of how God lavishes His love and blessings upon us when we humbly admit our sin and seek His forgiveness. [click to tweet]

Chances are you've felt the Holy Spirit's nudge. The good news is that His mercy is new every morning. Commit your ways to Him today and enter into the JOY and blessing of the Lord!


Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 6:52

We've been having typical Texas weather. Translation: one day its 80 degrees and the next its 40 degrees.  If you've been around here any length of time, it won't be too hard to figure out which I prefer!

Every two or three days we wake up to a misty morning with plenty of fog lingering in the valley. We haven't had much in the way of real rain. Just a lot of damp days.

The Killdeer seem to enjoy this weather. We have several flocks that come and go. I assume they must be making their rounds to various other ranches and open fields. There are always at least two around and I enjoy watching them.

The description of them on allaboutbirds.org is spot on! 
These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey.
This being chiefly why it is so difficult to get a clear shot of them! They have long, graceful wings and are beautiful in flight.

Admittedly there is not much to photograph this time of year. The Tallow tree is still bedecked in her seed baubles which look pretty against the winter sky.

We had a Super Blue Moon eclipse in this part of the world on January 31st. Did you see it? The lunar event graced our morning sky. Too early for some but here in Texas, the eclipse began at 5:48am so I made the effort to get up a little earlier than usual and was glad I did!

I had taken some shots of the Super Blue Moon the evening before. As you may know, it is called a supermoon because of it's proximity to the earth and a blue moon because it was the second full moon within the same calendar month. 

If you're really interested, earthsky.org is a great resource. This article talks about blue moons and when you can expect the next one.

Unfortunately, the clouds moved in pretty quickly so I was only able to capture the beginning of the eclipse. I missed seeing the rosy glow of the total eclipse caused by refracted light passing through the earth's atmosphere. If you missed it you can find plenty of images here.

Despite the clouds and the cool temperatures, there was something special about being outside in the dark, gazing up at this fixed object in space that we still know so little about. 

There is a peace and humility that comes from recognizing and embracing the truth that we are very small and insignificant, yet we are loved by a God Who is immeasurable and supreme.

What are you seeing through your lens this week?


Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Inspired by . . . Winter's Bite

Jack Frost is visiting again. The air feels like a million tiny pinpricks against my face. Ah, yes, now the wind. It takes pleasure in whipping my hair into my eyes, blinding me. Not a delightful tease like it's sister winds, spring and summer. No, winter's wind carries a kife. And it can cut us deep.

My dad died in the winter. Three years ago. My perpetual calendar will forever be set on February 3rd. We didn't expect to lose him. The days leading up to February 4th were a haze of hospital rooms, rehab centers and, finally, a nursing home where we had hoped . . . 

But that hope was not realized.

Dad could have died amidst the blazing heat of July on a day when the sun shone it's brightest and still, those days would have been winter in my soul.

Winter is not just a season on the calendar. All of you know this. For all of you have, I can type this with 99.9% certainty, experienced a spiritual winter. Feeling numb to the world around you. Feeling the loss of a person, a dream, or perhaps even losing a bit of yourself. Worst of all, feeling separated from God.

A long walk in a seemingly desolate valley.

I say seemingly because it is during this time that God teaches us so much and so tenderly. You see, during much of our desert walk, God carries us. Sadly, we often don't recognize the feeling of His arms around us or the sound of His whisper in our ear. We are too consumed by our pain. Too focused on our feelings. 

Pain and feelings are temporal things. Things of this world. Gradually, if we continue to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the temporal things fade and we will be ready to receive all that He has for us.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2Co 4:16-18)
The bite of the wind and the heaviness of heart that comes this time of year is a reminder of that winter. It's good to remember our valleys. Because, although I didn't know then that God was carrying me through that dark, lonely time, I know it now. And it points me to a future hope, one that is sure.

[H]aving the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe,  (Eph 1:18-19)

If God has taught you something in the valley that you think will benefit others, please share.