EARTH: Encouraged To Fly by Francine Rivers

February 26, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) A red-tailed hawk lives somewhere down in the green space behind our fence. We’d heard the hawk’s piercing cry before but figured it was the scrub jays again, imitating the hawk’s call. That high-pitched screech sends the mourning doves, quail, and songbirds scattering for cover – leaving those jays laughing as they claim our abandoned bird feeder and scarf down the seed. This time, the piercing cries really were from hawks: not one, but three.  Mom’s cry sounded encouraging, mature, and confident; the babies sounded so pathetic, I wanted to weep.  We kept trying to spot them, and then two perched in our [...]

EARTH: Uprooting Sin by Francine Rivers

February 19, 2019

From: Earth Psalms When you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.”  God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15) Where I live, Scotch broom blooms everywhere in spring. It spreads like a low thicket over pastureland, and even burning doesn’t kill it. Scotch broom smells wonderful, but it’s a problem when left to grow at will. Tiny seeds blow hither and yon, and soon there are sprouts along roads, in backyards, and in the “green space” meant only for native plants. If the sprout isn’t removed [...]

EARTH: Seeking The True Light by Francine Rivers

February 12, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12) Every evening, moths gather outside the window of our downstairs family room. They beat against the glass, trying to get to the lamp inside. Sometimes after our dog Sarge has gone out, he stalls at the door, playing with them, and they manage to flitter inside and dash themselves against the light bulb. Remember the bug zappers that were once popular?  The false light attracted moths and insects, electrocuting them when they came close. People can be like moths, going after false light.  The prophet Isaiah begged the [...]

EARTH: The Miracle Of Prayer by Francine Rivers

February 5, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16) Rich used to take customers, friends, and family members salmon fishing in Alaska and British Columbia. Before heading out in a small boat, he and his companion always checked the gear, such as nets, gaff, compass, and map. His most memorable trip was with our eldest son, Trevor.  They were so excited one morning that they jumped right in the boat and headed out.  They fished, mostly catch-and-release, and cruised in and out of dozens of small inlets and bays.  When they were ready to head back toward the lodge where they were staying, a dense fog bank fell upon [...]

EARTH: Unending Faithfulness by Francine Rivers

January 29, 2019

From: Earth Psalms If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. (2 Timothy 2:13) My first of many sightings of storks took place in Segovia, Spain. While others gawked at the Roman aqueduct, I gawked at a muster of white storks (with black wings and red bills and legs) tending their hatchlings in huge nests on the tops of towers and tiled roofs. Four nests on one tower alone, and as many loving couples with young. I longed for binoculars. Storks are reputed to be monogamous (for a season).  Mating pairs return to these high nests year after year, adding to them until they weigh over a thousand pounds.  How would you like that nest on your roof? Storks have a varied diet of frogs, fish, insects, earthworms, and [...]

EARTH: Waiting On God by Francine Rivers

January 22, 2019

From: Earth Psalms God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) We have a dogwood tree in our backyard. A few springs ago, all the others in the neighborhood were blooming in their pink-and-white glory. Mine was still sleeping in the corner with the oak spreading its protective arms over it. I thought the dogwood was dead.  I gave it a closer look and discovered it had new growth coming, the promise of something happening.  I wanted to shake it a little and wake it up.  It worked on a birch tree that Rich got tired of looking at some years ago and tried to pull up with his bare [...]

EARTH: Faithful To The End by Francine Rivers

January 15, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5) Years ago, to celebrate our anniversary, my husband gave me a gold necklace with a pendant: too small golden geese flying side-by-side. The geese represent eternal love. Geese mate for life.  If a goose becomes too old or sick to continue in formation with the rest of the flock, the mate and another goose will fly with the weaker one between them to a place with food and water.  The two will wait and comfort the weaker one until either it is able to [...]

EARTH: Heeding God’s Warnings by Francine Rivers

January 8, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. (Hebrews 3:12-14) One of my favorite state parks in northern California is Goat Rock, which is on the mouth of the Russian River. Our family is familiar with this area because Rick’s mom and dad lived in Jenner, a small hamlet overlooking the river and with views of the coast. If you’ve ever seen the [...]

EARTH: Pruning Brings Growth by Francine Rivers

November 20, 2018

From: Earth Psalms I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mind that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4) In late winter, on a drive through Sonoma County, I’ll see farmworkers pruning fruit trees. A few farms haven’t given out to vineyard and still grow apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums. In winter the view is bleak; we’ll see orchards or barren-looking trees and [...]

EARTH: Staying Close To The Master by Francine Rivers

November 13, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.  Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. (1 Peter 5:2) Both dogs and cats have taught me lessons about faith. A dog loves unconditionally, accepting discipline and holding no resentment.  A dog follows its master and likes to be right at his or her feet.  Our dog Shabah was always where we were.  When we went upstairs to bed, he planted himself right in our doorway.  In the morning, he sat on my feet or Rick’s while we did our devotions together.  He was easily trained because he wanted to please us.  If he needed something, he let us know through his manner and his “puppy dog [...]

NATURE: The World’s Biggest Membrane by Lewis Thomas

November 10, 2018

From The Lives of a Cell Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive.  The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dead as an old bone.  Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising Earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos.  If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land.  If you had been looking for a very long, geologic time, you could have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held afloat by the fire beneath.  It has [...]

EARTH: Godly Protection by Francine Rivers

November 6, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22) While in Spain on a bus tour with Rick’s sister and brother-in-law, we saw umbrella pines lining some major thoroughfares and highways. These roads were first constructed by the efficient Roman Empire, which built almost 250,000 miles of roads throughout areas that are now Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Hence the old saying that all roads lead to Rome – literally true at one point in history! [...]

EARTH: Glorious Creation by Francine Rivers

October 30, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The angel took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone – like jasper as clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10-11) One of the places I would like to visit (again) is Holland. I’ve visited twice, and each time I missed the spring tulip season with the stripes of color filling vast acres of land. The Ottoman Turks were the first to discover wild tulips.  Tulip in Turkish means, “turban,” and these particular turbans were gorgeous.  In the 1550s, an Austrian Hapsburg ambassador to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent in Constantinople stole a few bulbs and sent them [...]

EARTH: Testing The Boundaries by Francine Rivers

October 23, 2018

From: Earth Psalms When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. (Matthew 25:31-33) We’ve seen that scripture often compares the people of God to sheep. But some of those same scripture passages go on to compare people who aren’t following God to goats – and the comparison isn’t flattering. How are goats different from sheep? While sheep graze primarily on grass, goats will eat anything they can find: clothes off a line, dog food (a favorite), toys, grass, vegetables, [...]

EARTH: Following The Good Shepherd by Francine Rivers

October 16, 2018

From: Earth Psalms My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them away from me. (John 10:27-28) In scripture, God often refers to his people as sheep – which made me wonder what attributes I share with the reputedly dumb animal. Sheep are born with the strong instinct to follow other sheep.  Put a bold or curious one out in front and the rest will trail behind.  It’s called “flock mentality.”  All is well as long as the leader isn’t heading for a patch of poisonous weeds or craggy cliffs. Sheep are gregarious.  They stay in a group while grazing and are highly agitated with left alone.  They’re vulnerable too; when on their own, [...]

EARTH: Something Small In God’s Hands by Francine Rivers

October 9, 2018

From: Earth Psalms “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:31-33) Whenever it rains, earthworms come up out of their burrows and squirm above the ground. Usually, I grimace and toss them back into the garden. Remember the old song, “Worms crawl in, worms crawl out”? Worms used to make me think of death and decay. Not anymore. Much to my [...]

EARTH: Slow & Steady Transformation by Francine Rivers

October 2, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18) While on a voyage through the Inside Passage of Alaska a few years ago, we cruised into Tracy Arm, a fjord near Juneau, to see the Sawyer Glaciers. We were fortunate enough to have a balcony, and we sat dressed in bathrobes with steaming cups of coffee as the ship turned around, giving us a phenomenal view. Ice is usually clear or sometimes white, but a glacier has blue within it. Over centuries, feet of snow are packed down year after year. As weight and pressure increase, the dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue, which is what we see. Glaciers move slowly, [...]

EARTH: Responding With Thanks by Francine Rivers

September 25, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) One day, I noticed a battle going on in the skies overhead. Crows were attacking a red-tailed hawk. These weren’t small birds defending a nest; they were like a gang of bullies circling their victim. The hawk didn’t return the attack, though there were several times when it looked like with a swift rollover, he could have grasped one of the smaller birds and had a tasty snack. Instead, the hawk dodged and gave a flap or two of his powerful wings to gain a little more height. In ever-increasing circles the hawk soared higher and higher, until the crows gave up and flew away. Life’s problems can seem [...]

EARTH: Planting Seeds Of Faith by Francine Rivers

September 18, 2018

From: Earth Psalms All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) Our church has few parking spaces, and the fire department has graciously allowed us to use the lot next to their building. As we walk from the lot to church, we pass by a barrel filled with dirt that serves as a planter. There isn’t much in it, other than a few volunteer pansies. Seeds have apparently dropped, because those delicate kitten faces smile up at us from other places along the way, including cracks in the concrete pathway. Pansy comes from the French word, pensée, which means, “thought.”  In the fifteenth century, this little flower was the symbol of [...]

EARTH: Lessons In Risk Taking by Francine Rivers

September 11, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) Our family has had many kinds of pets, and one of the most interesting was a turtle. He lived in an aquarium with nice rocks that he could climb. He ate live fish (which was disturbing to watch) and did not appreciate being handled. If someone picked him up, he would disappear inside his shell. After Rick read an article warning that such turtles carry salmonella, he decided the turtle had to go.  The children and I took a drive out to the coast and stopped in at a ranch reputed to welcome retired horses.  We had seen a large pond with rushes and wild birds (none big enough to carry off a turtle), and we [...]

EARTH: God’s Thoughtful Creation by Francine Rivers

September 4, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and Earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. (Isaiah 45:18) Several years ago, Rick and I took an excursion to see Claude Monet’s famous garden that inspired much of his artwork. Along the way through the rural countryside, we saw numerous thatched roofs, each with a row of irises blooming on the crest. A nice creative, decorative touch, we thought. Then we learned the French discovered long ago that the roots of the iris will interlock, holding the thatch firmly from the top. (How they learned that would make an interesting investigation.) But holding a roof together is not the only benefit the flowers [...]

EARTH: Learning Generosity by Francine Rivers

August 28, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6) Some years ago, we had a huge German Shepherd, Hercules, who was a full 125 pounds of muscle and energy and did not like to share his food. We fed him just outside the sliding-glass door on a large patio step to our deck, and sometimes he would leave a little food in his dish for later. One afternoon, a mouse showed up for dinner. Herk, trapped inside the house and forced to watch this rodent munch on his kibble, went wild. The mouse happily sat in the middle of Herk’s bowl and ate. (I think it had a smirk on its tiny face.) Next meal, Herk ate every piece of kibble and licked the [...]

EARTH: Prayers Like Incense by Francine Rivers

August 21, 2018

From: Earth Psalms When the Lamb took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8) One Sunday in June, after church services, I went by Enchanting Sweet Peas in Sebastopol. It was tucked into a small lot next to Taco Bell – so hidden that even though I lived in Sebastopol, I didn’t know it existed until a friend told me about it. The small farm is open to the public only one day a year. When I arrived, there was already a gathering of people waiting with bated breath for the 11 a.m. opening. Many people come every year to buy seeds for new hybrid colors of sweet peas. [...]

EARTH: Seeking Security by Francine Rivers

August 14, 2018

From: Earth Psalms You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. (Proverbs 3:24-26) A squirrel comes by every now and then. One morning he turned up his nose at the dried corncobs I put out just for him and risked his life checking out the bird feeder, only to find thistle seed. So he jumped back to the deck and began searching for acorns. Unfortunately for him, we had fewer that year. We didn’t want any acorns to sprout in the yard or attract the woodpecker who wanted to drill holes and store them in our walls. So I hired one of our grandsons to [...]

EARTH: An Opportunity For Joy by Francine Rivers

August 7, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing  nothing. (James 1:2-4) We have a lilac bush in our backyard. I planted it ten years ago, and every year I hope to see it filled with clusters of sweet-scented blossoms. Every year I am lucky to find two small clusters on the very top. My grandparents lived in Colorado and had a lilac hedge that filled with purple blossoms.  Rick’s relatives in Sweden had gorgeous lilac bushes with a profusion of clusters.  Why is my lilac [...]

EARTH: Call To Confession by Francine Rivers

July 31, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31) A friend called from Hawaii and told me about an injured seagull she saw on the beach. The poor bird couldn’t walk at all but flutter-hopped in its quest for food. On closer examination, my friend saw that fishing line entangled the bird’s legs, hobbling it. She approached slowly, extending her hand in the hope she could remove the line and do something about the bird’s wounds. Frightened, the gull flew off, legs still hobbled and infected. Sometimes we are like that poor seagull.  We become entangled in bad habits or addictions, in destructive [...]

EARTH: A Light For Our Path by Francine Rivers

July 24, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105) My hometown, Pleasanton, California, used to have a lot of fog. Not a light-misting fog that stretches over the valley like a cloud lake, but a pea soup-thick fog that spreads over roads and makes driving dangerous. The seven-mile stretch home from the movie theater in the neighboring town could feel like a hundred miles. Bright lights only made the fog blind us, and low beams didn’t shine past the front of the car. So we crept along, car door open, following the white lines down the middle of the road. We didn’t want to end up driving over the cliff into the Kaiser gravel pits. Angels must have been watching over us. Angels watched over [...]

EARTH: Water In The Desert by Francine Rivers

July 17, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39) One creature of southwestern Africa is the Stenocara beetle – a little black bug with a grooved, bumpy back. It lives in the Manib Desert, one of the hottest places on Earth, where sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Each day, this small creature climbs a sand dune before dawn and waits for the fog to announce the approaching sunrise. As it waits, tiny droplets of water form on its water-repellent casing. Once the [...]

NATURE: Birds That Are New Yorkers by Donald Culross Peattie

July 14, 2018

From The New York Times Magazine February is a good month in which to make friends with the birds of a great city.  It is often deemed the dullest page in the bright almanac of birds.  For all of nature February is the last, not the second, month of the year.  It is the hour before the dawn when, it is customary to say, nothing of interest happens.  Practically no birds arrive in February on their Spring migrations, and almost none of the Winter visitants depart. Yet where others have long despised to look, be sure that there is at least a grain of gold undiscovered, and sometimes a whole lode.  The spirit of discovery, true scientific discovery, is, after all, not concerned with the rare, but with the tremendous importance of the [...]

EARTH: Community Matters by Francine Rivers

July 10, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Our family lives in the “Redwood Empire” of northern California, within half an hour of Armstrong Woods and two hours from the Avenue of the Giants. I’ve always marveled when standing inside a grove of redwood trees. Though the trees tower hundreds of feet overhead, and some of these trees are so big you can link hands with ten people and still not encircle the base, these giants have a shallow root structure. A good wind would blow one over if it were standing alone like an oak tree on a hillside. But because the [...]