The Best sign of Spring

I love spring; I don’t know who doesn’t.

Where we live on Vancouver Island, there are many beautiful signs when spring arrives.  There are flowers that come early like snowdrops and crocuses, and there is a wild flower simply known as Perry-winkle.

I did a painting that denotes spring arriving on Mt Washington, which is not too far from us.   Green grass starts to push through the matted dead grass of winter, while tiny flowers also begin to carpet the ground.

But by far, the best sign of spring, is a spiritual one –    the arrival of the annual celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have our calendars marking out Good Friday, which reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made in dying in our place to pay the penalty of our sins.

In the old order of things, priests would have to kill innocent animals or birds, so that their blood would atone for the people’s sins.  When Christ died, He took upon Himself all the sins of the world, including yours and mine.  His death put an end to the old ways, so that we are cleansed by the power of His blood.

May I encourage you to look into the Bible where each of the 4 gospels record the death of Jesus, and read about it for yourself?   For example, Matthew recalls the arrest and suffering and all that led up to the crucifixion of the Messiah, in chapters 26 – 28.  If you have never read this account – please give it a go!

Jesus Christ, the sinless One, the miracle worker, the friend of sinners, the long awaited Savior of the world, came to this earth to heal the brokenhearted and to set people free from their burdens of sin, guilt and shame.

He invited me to accept His gift of forgiveness, so I repented years ago, and found His amazing grace.  That’s why I write gospel songs and live for Him the best I know how.

For me, spring cannot come along without reflecting on the goodness of God to a wretched man like me!!   May you find His love that’s deeper and wider than the ocean.       Happy Easter!!   Happy Spring!

“Free as a bird?”

It’s a nice old expression, “Free as a bird!” but it may contain a smattering of false hope.  Though I’m not a birder, I enjoy watching a hummingbird or seeing a Scarlet Tanager .  Who doesn’t like watching eagles catching the updraft as they soar heavenward?

This simple photo of shorebirds, has one of my favorite – an oystercatcher which doesn’t actually catch oysters but just has a powerful beak which enables it to open oysters up and enjoy a “high priced” meal for free.

  Of course gulls and crows are scavengers always looking for a free lunch  from a fisherman friend or high tide treasure.

When the herring arrive, thousands of gulls descend for the feast on the herring eggs floating in the sea or that have washed ashore.   It’s also an opportunity to catch and eat some herring.

When the salmon are running, hundreds of eagles follow their watery journey, and gorge on their fresh or rotting once silver bodies as they head to their spawning ground.

I’ve had the real pleasure of taming chickadees to eat from my hand – evening grosbeaks will learn to trust and do the same.  All you need is some sunflower seeds and a rather large amount of patience.

This photo as the others was taken near our home and is a Western Tanager.
Getting back to the freedom statement – Jesus told us in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth  will set you FREE.”    I like that very much, but what is this based on?  We only have to go back one verse to get His drift.  Verse 31 states, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth WILL set you FREE.”

Am I as free as a bird?  I am free from the guilt and shame that came with the sin in my life, because by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead I have been given the gift of eternal life, with sins forgiven.

I am not free to do as I please but I’m free to hold on to His teaching and to do all He asks of me – to love God with all my being, to love my neighbor as myself,  walk by faith, not sight and many other wonderful things.

The fake conductor

The orchestra is highly trained to do their part to play the music only as it is written.   There is no room for improvising because if everyone was  given the freedom to improvise there would be crowded confusion with many played notes colliding and bringing discord.

The conductor is looking at “what is written” and encouraging each section – the woodwinds – the brass – the strings  – percussion and everything else, all the way down to the lowly triangle, to “come in” as required.

I’ve had the great pleasure of attending a few Symphony Orchestra Christmas concerts, where they picked some unsuspecting guest out of the crowd to go up on the stage to take the place of the conductor.

Although it was instantly apparent that the guest conductor had no acquired skills – the moment he or she raised the baton, the orchestra played perfectly!

HOW DID THE ORCHESTRA DO SO WELL?

  1. They ignored “the fake” conductor
  2. They relied on their knowledge and experience
  3. They kept their eyes on the written notes – tapped their toes – listened to the beat of the drums, so that no matter what incorrect moving of hands and arms or baton “the fake” offered – the band played on.

We are to do the same with “the fake conductor” who tries to lead us into temptation, ruin our song or mess with our lives!  He goes by many names.

Now in case you don’t know how to deal with the fake one, in the Book of James, Chapter 4, verse 7, we read  –

Submit therefore to GodResist the devil and he will flee from you.”

WARNING: don’t try resisting the devil until you’ve submitted to God.

See, we are all sinners and need things to be made right before we try any fancy moves in the spiritual realm.    Verse 10 reads, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. ”

When we’ve done that, then we can tell the fake conductor to “Go away” and he will obey!!   I was trying to think of a photo that I could slide into this article to demonstrate “Fake” – well a good example is this photo on my CD jacket where I am wearing my “Genuine fake leather” jacket.       May I never be seen as fake, but I’m not bothered that my leather jacket is.

Meet my best half!

It is with great pleasure that I introduce my “best half“.  My wife, Marie, is a wonderful encouragement and helper and also my best friend.  She plays piano and sings, and we’ve sung a lot of duets over the years – in care homes – at weddings and funerals – church services, and also in prisons.  Marie also does critiquing of my songs which  I value a lot.

I must quickly add that she is very patient with my song-writing.  I can go over a new song  on guitar for an hour without hearing one complaint.  I’m hoping it isn’t just that she’s learned the art of tuning me out!   I’m sure that’s not the case – it must be love!! 

Oh, I almost forgot, you’d like to meet her?  Here we are.

  We’ve both squeaked by the three score and ten mark and are so thankful for our having each other in our senior years.

Perhaps some of you are also meeting me here for the first time – nice to meet you!

We are happy.     The Scriptures talk often about joy and contentment which are  both a vital part of our lives.  We are blessed as the Lord continues to mold us into the people He wants us to be – He is the Potter, we are the clay.  He is the giver of life and we are His glad recipients.

We hope He’s blessing you also!

 

The Scarecrow Effect

I heard the story first, then got to see the scarecrow and take its picture.  So let’s start with the story, shall we?

My brother and his dear wife live on a small acreage where they enjoy nearby hunting and fishing, gathering and burning firewood,  feeding the birds and deer.  It’s a quiet, rather lovely place.  They really like it there!

My brother, Jack, was telling me that they were being bothered by a big dog coming from a home behind their property barking at the squirrels and deer and being a real pain.   Of course it would come down very near their home and not only that but barked both day and night, at anything that moved.

Well, Jack, who is not well known for his artistic ability took two glass eyes normally used in taxidermy work as mountain sheep eyes, cut a face of sorts out of plywood, added a hat and a set of coveralls = one scarecrow.

  This he hung in a tree at the back of his property facing the house where the dog lived.      Later that day, the dog spotted this smiling man who looked straight at him “without blinking!

What struck me so funny was, the big dog barked day and night for 3 days, and finally went back home and stayed there.  Problem solved.

This was pretty effective and no harm was done, but I look at drawing parallels where possible.  There are quite a number of well meaning people who shun the Bible, while honoring idols of all sizes.  That’s a freedom they have, but I found a verse in Jeremiah chapter 10 that I’d like to show you.  It’s verse 5, and goes like this.

“Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried for they cannot walk.  Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”          A scarecrow might put a barking dog to flight but other than that it is useless, having no ability to do anything good or bad, just like the handmade idols.

I hope you enjoyed the little story.

Frog parking only!

When we saw an all inclusive trip to Mexico on for half price, my wife Marie and I decided to take it.  It was our first time there and there were a number of other firsts.

It was the 1st time to swim with sea turtles – to swim in an underground river – to see a Mayan ruin.  It was of course our first experience in a Mexican city, where there is almost endless shopping.  During one of those trips Marie took my picture with a couple of local musicians.

You can see that they are very friendly and very classy.

But one big surprise was that these guys get special parking.    Their parking spaces say, “FROG PARKING ONLY”    and in smaller print is reads, “all others will be toad.”

The little guy in the next photo was hard to spot – he wasn’t standing on the street with his guitar like his bigger cousins.  Tree frogs do well on Vancouver Island and you will often hear then “singing” with their raspy, slightly monotone voices.  That’s how I found this one on a flowering shrub.  Quite photogenic don’t you think?   Whenever I hear such tiny creatures singing it reminds me ……… just like most frogs, God can also give us songs in the night to reduce our stress.  I wouldn’t recommend hiding in the bushes in my back yard – you could get in trouble.  But I do suggest you ask the Lord for His song in the night and sing on!

Things we “otter” do

In chatting with a friend, he told of someone who said “I’ve never had any regrets.”   My friend and I can’t quite agree with that statement – we’ve both been pulled into doing stupid things, saying hurtful things and for sure  neglected to do things we know we should have done.

The things we “otter do” often remain undone, while the very things we hate and promise ourselves we will not do – well, you know, we end up doing those!

We “otter” wear long sleeves when we’re picking wild blackberries – long pants wouldn’t hurt either. I even take along a long-handled hoe to pull the branches down to be within reach.

There are times when common sense somehow slips out the window and that results in having regrets. (by the way the blackberries were excellent this year) This little photo shows just how plump they can be.

This is another photo that I was delighted to get. This otter was with his companions feasting on frogs in a pond behind our home. When he noticed me standing on the bank, he came swimming straight for me to check me out. Good thing I clicked the shutter when I did, because he quickly swam away once he saw my hairy face!              It just proves “you otter keep your camera handy” for you never know when you’ll really need it.

That reminds me that we otter love God and live the life that Jesus says we otter live – for without love we are nothing more than clanging cymbals and noisy gongs – which is not the music I want to make.

 

 

From the Mud to Solid Ground

My journey through life has taken a few corners, crossed a few rivers and gone down into some valleys. The odd mountain-top experience usually didn’t last too long.

I don’t know about you but my life is so much better now than I’d ever planned it to be.  Psalm 40 describes it well, so please allow me to elaborate.

(vs 1) “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,”             He makes the promises – my part is to wait for the right times of fulfillment.

and He turned to me and heard my cry.”  Who am I that the God of all creation should pay any attention to me? But He cares that I have needs and heard my heart’s cry.

(vs 2) “He lifted me out of the pit of despair; out of the mud and the mire.” But how did You lift me, Lord? It was not by a physical means, but by You changing my heart! An inner strength by Your Spirit let me see past my difficulties to Your transforming power and wonderful provision.

He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” This Psalm was written for the “choir director” as words to a song. For me, the solid ground was finding Jesus Christ, who began a new work in me; new direction and purpose, new everything.

(vs 3) “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.” At perhaps the lowest point in my life came a delightful surprise – God gave me “songs in the night” taking me past the pain and suffering to peace and even joy.

Many will see what He has done and be amazed.”             I hope many will see the changes in me and enjoy the bonus songs He’s given me.    It’s a real God thing!

They will put their trust in the Lord.” Oh, that many others would be encouraged to cry out and go through the same process of being pulled out of the mud and mire, just as I have, to then stand on higher ground, and get their own songs as added bonuses!     May it be so.

Scripture quoted from the New Living Translation.