Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Allowing Yourself to Dream

by Donna L. Watkins

Do you allow yourself to dream or have you given up hope? Without hope there is no way to have faith to bring dreams to pass. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." So if there is no hope, we can build no confidence in it for faith to bring it to pass. We need to get things from the mind realm deep within the heart where hope and faith operate. "For with the heart one believes" (Romans 10:10). To believe is faith.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Otter Sculpture - 
Azalea Park, Summerville, SC
We need to put visual images to our God-given dreams. God's Word paints pictures in our imagination so that as we see and hope in them we begin to believe them. We have to believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him and add faith to our hearts, since without it, it is impossible to please our Father (Hebrews 11:6).

Consider Abraham. In Genesis 15, the Word of the Lord comes to Abram in a dream to make a covenant with him. God says, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." Abram doesn't sound very hopeful as he replies, "Oh Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, .... You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." God tells him he is wrong, that his servant will not be his heir and that "no one but your very own issue shall be your heir."

Then God brings him out of the tent and says, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them .... So shall your descendants be." He paints a picture for Abram to hold in his mind so that he can believe in his heart for this seemingly impossible promise. Later in Genesis 22, God tells him that he will make his offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven AND as the sand that is on the seashore. And we know that "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29), so that promise has certainly come to pass.

What do we want to pass down to the generations after us? We can pass down blessings (hope and faith are two good ones), or we can pass down curses. Having no hope or faith to walk in daily would certainly be a curse to ourself and the generations after us. What kind of heritage do we want to establish? We may have all kinds of curses and generational sins in our family tree, but we can place the Cross of Christ between that and our own heritage because Christ's blood shed for us provides us with all spiritual blessings when we come under His covenant in Jesus.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Hop To It by Kim Shaklee
53" bronze Southern Leopard Frog
Azalea Park, Summerville, SC

So, you don't believe what you believe or do is passed into the future generations? Consider Deuteronomy 30:19 where God tells us, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." What we choose affects our children, our children's children and so on.

Do you remember the story of Gehazi, Elisha's servant? Elisha had just healed Naaman of leprosy and refused any and all gifts offered to him by Naaman. After Naaman left, greed entered into Gehazi who now had a chance to choose life or death. Gehazi made the wrong choice by chasing after Naaman with a lie that Elisha had changed his mind and wanted some of the money and clothes for two guests that had just arrived. He received even more than what he requested and returned to lie again to Elisha when questioned about where he had been. The consequences were that Gehazi ended up with leprosy that would affect all of his descendants forever.

We are designed to dream beautiful dreams that will bless us, others and all the generations in our family tree after us. I'm not talking about dreams of being rich, having a mansion filled with all the worldly delights, or being somebody important with a title that commands attention. Matthew 6:33 in basic English says to "let your first care be for His Kingdom and His righteousness; and all these other things will be given to you in addition." Human nature is to slant our mind's focus toward the "all these other things." Tip: If you focus on that part of the verse when you meditate on this, your "first care" is not towards the Kingdom and righteousness.

Consider some of Henry David Thoreau's thoughts on riches, life and dreams:

• "That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."
• "The cost of a thing is the amount, of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
• "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone."
• "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."

If we are amongst the group of people who imagine a life of riches, ease and a multitude of things, the last statement will perplex us greatly. Thoreau says to go confidently in the direction of your dreams and to live the life you imagine .... but then for those who think the grandest dreams are about money and stuff, he finishes the statement by saying that as we simplify our life, the entire universe will be simpler.

Therein is something to ponder, as to what is truly important in this life and what types of dreams we should have. Jesus told us in Luke 12:15 to "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." After the parable of the rich man who built more barns to store up his abundance (think of Scrooge in The Christmas Carol), Jesus says he died and left it all behind. He adds, "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

So, if your dreams tend to focus on only you and you wonder why they are not coming true or your prayers are not being answered, maybe God is keeping you from a worse fate. We need to ask the Lord what He wants our dreams to be since as a Christian we are to have laid our own life down, desiring only to do His will as a disciple of Christ.

What are the dreams of God? That would be a great study for your daily time with God. We are all gifted differently and God created and designed us each on purpose to fulfill the plan He had for our lives before He even created the foundations of this world. Nothing else but that plan will truly fulfill our hearts and souls, and nothing else in the world will produce the true rewards of Heaven that we desire in knowing Him.

What will it cost you to not consider these things? Look again to one of Thoreau's quotes:  "The cost of a thing is the amount, of what I call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."

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Grapes & Weather Cycles

From Creation Moments

Listen to this story.

Genesis 8:22
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

Some people worry about global warming, but if you think about it, we once had an Ice Age and now we don’t … so warming is not new. Other people argue we are merely seeing the normal cycles of heating and cooling.

Now the Pinot Noir grape may help settle this debate. The harvest date for this grape is so closely tied to weather that average annual temperatures can be determined from the date of the harvest. Harvest dates for the grape have been carefully recorded for centuries in Burgundy, France.

These records have harvest dates for every harvest since 1370. Researchers were able to correlate these dates with average annual temperatures. The year 2003 was actually the warmest in over six centuries of data, while the second warmest years were in the 1520s and again in the 1650s. No modern warming cycle has yet lasted as long as those of 350 years ago. The findings also show that there was a long cold period that lasted from the 1750s until the 1970s.

After the Flood, God promised that the seasons, with their seed time and harvest, would not cease while the world is here. However, He did not promise that there wouldn’t be cycles. We can be comforted by the fact that He has promised that the weather will always allow crops to be grown.

Father, I thank You that You provide the weather we need to grow food. Help me to trust always that You will provide. Amen.

Nature, Vol. 432, 18/11/04, pp. 289-290, “Grape ripening as a past climate indicator.”

Visit Creation Moments.

Editor's Note:
An alternative view about global warming.

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Top 10 Plant Picks

Birds and Blooms website offers an area of Top 10 on many plant topics, such as these:

Top 10 Old Fashioned Favorites
Top 10 Groundcovers
Top 10 Foolproof Plants
Top 10 Plants for Clay Soil
Top 10 Plants You Can't Kill
Top 10 Drought Tolerant Plants
Top 10 Berries for Birds
Top 10 Plants for Hummingbirds
Top 10 Butterfly Favorites
Top 10 Flowering Trees
Top 10 Fastest Growing Trees
Top 10 Flowering Shrubs

See the extensive list on the website.

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Train Dog To Keep Insurance Rates Down

Got a dog? Make sure it's sociable and trained or you may be paying higher insurance premiums.

Dog bites accounted for more than a third of all homeowner or renter policy liability claims last year, with an average claim of $24,840, says the Insurance Information Institute.

Most companies will cover dog bites, but one free bite is all you get. After that, your company may charge a higher premium or exclude your dog from coverage. Some firms require a liability waiver or charge more for breeds deemed dangerous such as pit bulls and rottweilers.

So be a responsible owner: Take your dog to obedience school, have it spayed or neutered (unneutered dogs bite more often), and keep an eye on children (the most common victims). If necessary, use a leash or a muzzle.

Joan Rattner Heilman frequently writes for the AARP Bulletin. Information Source.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

J.C. Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC

by Donna L. Watkins

Although I love to look at all kinds of plants and flowers, I don't appreciate non-native plants as much since they don't support the native wildlife that goes with the native plants. God put it all together in the best format and we truly cannot improve upon that. One thing about an arboretum is that it's a great opportunity to see many plants in one place and for that reason we had this stop on our travel itinerary along with free admission.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC
The J.C. Raulston Arboretum is filled with over 5,000 different kinds of plants collected from around the world and on display in ten acres of various beautiful garden settings.

Many rare plants prosper here and some collections are considered among the most comprehensive in the world.

Plants are evaluated for their landscape potential and superior plants are identified and promoted in cooperation with the nursery industry.

This is the sad part, since nurseries should be studying more about the native plants that are self-sustaining. What could be better for landscaping than carefree plants?

The arboretum was named in honor of its late director and founder, Dr. J.C. Raulston, renowned plantsman and professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University.

As we walked around it seemed we were lost amidst the variety of garden designs with ponds, gazebos, quiet place benches, arbors and even a small Japanese garden. View the JC Raulston Arboretum photo album.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education, Raleigh, NC

The Centennial Campus Center is located in the headquarters of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in a "green" building designed to limit environmental impact related to its construction and operation. This sustainable structure is the first of its kind on campus and features

• Daylighting and energy efficiency
• Earth-friendly building materials
• Careful management of water and solid waste
• Environmentally friendly landscaping
• Active rain gardens and detention wetland

The Center's interior displays teach visitors about ecological succession and the role human choices play in shaping nature in the Piedmont. 

We viewed a 20-minute video that showed a timeline of changes in the Piedmont, from natural wildlife areas to suburban sprawl. The history, exhibits, video and outside demonstration areas make the Center a great place for family or homeschool groups.

View photo album of our visit to the Centennial Campus Center.

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Occoneechee State Park, Clarksville, VA

On the peaceful shore of beautiful John H. Kerr Reservoir, more commonly known as Buggs Island Lake, Occoneechee State Park is great for outdoor fun and relaxation.

The park has more than 18 miles of trails that meander through the forest and along the lake’s shore. The park has 800 miles of wooded, cove-studded shoreline.

We visited the park's visitor center to learn about the Native Americans who once lived in the area. The park takes its name from those natives.

We strolled on land that was once part of Occonneechee Plantation, complete with terrace gardens, learning more about the land as it was in the 19th century.

I wrote a lot about the history of the place in the photo album.  View Photo Album of Occoneechee State Park.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Light and Momentary Suffering

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Used With Permission From Heaven, Your Real Home Publisher

The apostle Paul had an eternal perspective when he said, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17) And regarding his own problems, he added, "I consider them rubbish." (Philippians 3:7)

Wait a minute. Did he say, "Troubles, light"? Hardships, rubbish"?

The apostle Peter had this perspective too when he wrote to Christian friends being flogged and beaten. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." (I Peter 1:6)

Rejoice? When you're being thrown to lions? The Christians to whom Peter was writing were suffering horribly under Nero, the roman emperor. Peter expected them to view their problems as lasting a little while? What sort of watch was he using? [Editor's Note: Nero burned Christians on poles to provide light along the path to his palace.]

This kind of nonchalance about gut-wrenching suffering used to drive me crazy. Stuck in a wheelchair and staring out the window over the fields of our farm, I wondered, Lord how in the world can You consider my troubles light and momentary? I will never walk or run again. I will never use my hands; I've got a leaky leg bag; I smell like urine; my back aches; and Im trapped in front of this window. Maybe You see all of this achieving an eternal glory, but all I see is one awful day after the next in this stinking wheelchair!

I did not buy the heavenly point of view. My pain screamed for my undivided attention, insisting, "Forget the future! What's God going to do now?" Time does that. It rivets your attention on temporal things and makes you live in the moment. And suffering doesn't make it any easier. It tightens the screw on the moment, making you anxious to find quick fix-its or escape hatches.

That's what it was like as I pitied myself in my chair. When I read Romans 5:3, "rejoice in our sufferings," my first thought was, Sure God, I'll rejoice the day You get me out of this thing! And if You don't, what's going on? Are You poking fun at my paralysis? Trying to convince me I'm in spiritual denial? That my hurt and pain are imaginary? When it came to my affliction being light and momentary, God was obviously using a different dictionary.

Years later the light dawned. The Lord hadn't used a different lexicon when He picked words like "light and momentary" to define earthly troubles. Even if it meant being sawed asunder, torn apart by lions, or plopped in a wheelchair for life, the Spirit-inspired writers of the Bible simply had a different perspective, an end-of-time view. Tim Stafford says,"This is why Scripture can seem at times so blithely and irritatingly out of touch with reality, brushing past huge philosophical problems and personal agony. But that is just how life is when you are looking from the end. Perspective changes everything. What seems so important at the time has no significance at all."

It's a matter of perspective. What could possibly outweigh the pain of permanent paralysis? The coordinates of the new perspective are found in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Scripture is constantly trying to get us to look at life this way. Our life is but a blip on the eternal screen. Pain will be erased by a greater understanding; it will be eclipsed by a glorious result. Something so superb, so grandiose is going to happen at the world's finale, that it will suffice for every hurt and atone for every heartache. The state of suffering we are in here is necessary to reach the state we want (God wants!) in heaven.

Jesus spent so much energy emphasizing the end-of-time perspective because He had come from heaven, and He knew how wonderful it was. Thus, He was always focusing on end results - the harvest of the crop, the fruit from the tree, the close of the day's labor, the profit from the investment, the house that stands the storm. He knew if we were to rejoice in our suffering, our fascination with the here and now would have to be subdued. How else could He say to those who mourn, "You are blessed"? How else could He tell the persecuted to be happy? How else could He remind His followers facing torture and death to "count it all joy"?

Nothing more radically altered the way I looked at my suffering than leapfrogging to this end-of-time vantage point. Heaven became my greatest hope. In fact, I wondered how other people could possibly face quadriplegia, cancer, or even a death in the family without the hope of heaven. It meant no more wallowing away hours by the farmhouse window, scorning Romans 8:28, and muttering, "How can it say all things fit together into a pattern for good in my life!"

It's all a matter of time. God makes all things beautiful in His time according to Ecclesiastes 3:11. An end-of-time perspective solves the dilemma of Romans 8:28, as well as all the other problems of evil, suffering, and pain.

Pray for a concern you want God to make beautiful in His time. Thank Him in advance for His answer.

© Used With Permission From Heaven, Your Real Home Publisher

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Grow Your Own Seaweed

“Everyone on Earth should have access to enough nutrients,” says Brandenburg, “even when there are one and a half times as many people to feed in 2050.” He wants the coastal waters around river estuaries to be covered with huge seaweed beds. The Dutch government is expected to grant him a license to set up a test location soon.

While soy is a prominent source of protein, it is not an effective one. Eleven pounds (five kilograms) of soy are needed to produce two pounds (a kilo) of meat. So Willem Brandenburg, a researcher affiliated with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, came up with an alternative: the large-scale, sustainable cultivation of seaweed. Not only is seaweed rich in protein, it can reduce our dependence on soy. Read the entire article.

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Top Tips for Birds in Spring

From Birds and Blooms Magazine - Feb/Mar

• Fill feeders daily. Natural food is in shortest supply in early spring, and migration is in full swing.

• Watch for the first birds of spring, including red-winged blackbirds, American robins, phoebes, flickers and tree swallows.

• Put up sugar-water feeders for the first arrivals of hummingbirds, orioles and grosbeaks.

• Water is very popular in spring as migrants pass through. It's a great way to attract new visitors.

• Attract bluebirds with live mealworms. You can buy these online or at pet stores. You can also buy dried mealworms by the container.

• Include suet for quick energy on cold spring mornings.

• Look for waves of warblers, all dressed up in their brilliant breeding plumages.

• Put up new birdhouse and clean those that have been out all winter.

Get More Tips at Birds and Blooms

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Landscaping for Color and Fragrance

From Garden Designers Roundtable Blog

As a landscape designer, many of my clients request a garden full of color and fragrance, a combination of flowering trees, shrubs and perennials that will bloom all season long. But then something weird happens. In the next breath I hear, ‘And I don’t want any of those plants that attract bees’. Huh!?!

From talking with other landscape designers, I’ve found my clients are not particularly unique and educating clients that bees are in fact beneficial is an ongoing issue for many. Here’s a little secret… you want bees in your garden.

Bees are a sign of a healthy garden. But man, do bees have a PR problem. Maybe they need a new agent, perhaps an exciting FB page or a major Twitter campaign. Something, anything, to let gardeners know BEES ARE GOOD. Read the entire article.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Standing In His Name

by Donna L. Watkins

I've been reading a book I read many years ago. A small book with a huge impact, Sit, Walk, Stand written by Watchman Nee, is one of the Christian classics.

© Donna L. Watkins - Canada Goose - Greenwood, SC
It has three chapters each titled with part of the book title. We must learn how to be still and know God, to rest in Him at all times and in all things. This must be our first position in Christ. This has been the hardest one for me. I'm a doer and it's much easier to 'Just do it' than to sit around and talk about it.

Too many times we begin our Christian lives by 'walking' which means getting involved in doing a lot of religious things. If we are not first seated in Him, then He can't work through us with His strength and purposes. We simply become used to doing good things that we are enabled to do by our own strengths and abilities. Good things are not all God things.

We can't afford to live life in our own strength. We wrestle with wickedness every day. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." We are commanded to put on our armor each day for the battle that the devil will throw at us.

We cannot enter into battle without first knowing how to rest in Christ, because our strength is not good enough. Watchman Nee states that "no Christian can hope to enter the warfare of the ages without learning first to rest in Christ and in what He has done, and then, through the strength of the Holy Spirit within, to follow Him in a practical, holy life here on earth. If he is deficient in either of these he will find that all the talk about spiritual warfare remains only talk; he will never know its reality."

Since Adam chose to disobey there has been two thrones at war. We don't wrestle with flesh, but Paul says, "against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12) which means we are at war with the devil himself.

Satan has been seeking to usurp the authority of God since he was thrown down from Heaven. We as Christians are called to make Christ Head over all. He has already won the battle with His death on the cross, but are we standing to uphold that victory in the Earth? From the time one chooses to become spiritual the enemy will launch assaults upon that spiritual realm of our lives. Questions, doubting, confusion are all tactics of the Evil One. Faith doesn't need answers, clarity or full disclosure. Faith rests on God's Truth.

When Paul says, "Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11), the words 'stand against' mean 'hold your ground.' Nee says, "There is precious truth hidden in that command of God. It is not a command to invade a foreign territory. Warfare, in modern parlance, would imply a command to march. Armies march into other countries to occupy and to subdue. God has not told us to do this. We are not to march but to stand. The word 'stand' implies that the ground disputed by the enemy is really His, and therefore ours. We need not struggle to gain a foothold on it."

Nee points out that nearly all the weapons mentioned in Ephesians 6 are defensive. Even the sword can be defensive, as well as offensive. The difference being pointed out is that we are not to be on the offensive against the enemy, but we are to defend the territory/ground that Christ has already won for us. Christ battled the Evil One and won the victory. So we battle Satan only to maintain the ground gained by our Lord.

Watchman Nee says, "We must not ask the Lord to enable us to overcome the enemy, nor even look to Him to overcome, but praise Him because He has already done so; He is Victor. It is all a matter of faith in Him. If we believe the Lord, we shall not pray so much but rther we shall priase Him more. the simpler and clearer our faith in Him, the less we shall pray in such situations and the more we shal praise."

In Christ we are more than conquerers, so you no longer need to hope to overcome, you are already the victor in Christ. We must learn more about the authority we have in the name of Jesus. Nee explains that "God has committed all authority to His Son, so that in the very name itself there is power. But further, we must note in Scripture the recurring expression 'in the name' - that is to say, the use to which the apostles in fact put that name. It is not only that he has such a name, but that we are to use it. In three passages in His last discourse, the Lord Jesus repeats the words 'ask in my name" (see John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23-26). He has placed that authority in our hands for us to use. Not only is it His, but it is 'given among men' (Acts 4:12). If we do not know our part in it we suffer great loss."

How precious that He would entrust to us His name. We must honor and treasure that name and be sure all that we do aligns with the holiness of that name. How careful we must be as to how we use His name. We are to be true representations of Him as we walk through this world. This comes not from our gifts and talents, but from the fruit of resting in Him, in sitting with Him in Heavenly places. Are you resting today? It's been a discipline I've been learning over the past few years and I find that there's always another level to it, so don't stop short of totally becoming one with Him. For a clear revelation of what it means to sit, walk and stand in Christ, I recommend Watchman Nee's book, Sit, Walk, Stand.

How have you learned to sit and be still? For me, it was because of health problems. I had no off button prior to that. Although healing is a Kingdom blessing, I know God uses disease and illness to bring good to our lives by disciplining us with more stillness in the midst of them.

What are your thoughts on this topic? To comment on this article, click the title. You will find the comment section at end of the article on the website.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from The link to use is:

Microwaves, Radiation and Cancer

The writer of this paper is a microwave oven tester who uses a sophisticated Holaday instrument calibrated annually by an EPA laboratory. In all fairness, I must say that microwave ovens test out with less radiation leakage than they used to 10 years ago, but I still must admit that I hate microwave ovens for two reasons at least.

1) It has no place in the American kitchen. Why? In the electromagnetic spectrum there is nothing but a judgmental line of demarcation separating X-rays from microwaves, and like all judgments, there is an enormous difference of opinion among scientists as to really which is which. We all know that our government is very careful about sending inspectors around to check the radiation emissions from x-ray machines located in dentists offices and in hospitals, but no one has ever had a government inspector ring their door bell to check their microwave oven. It is assumed that since it passed the test at the manufacturing plant that no damage will ever happen to it. It is true that there are cheap testers available in stores, but since they are not ever calibrated, they are not to be depended upon. Similar to an x-ray machine, a microwave oven has a tremendous potential for harm if something goes wrong. It belongs, not in a kitchen, but in a laboratory where it is subject to regulation.

It is fairly well known now that for years the Russians bombarded our American embassy with radiation resulting in the expected cancers in our embassy personnel. Could this be an indication of a fact that the Russians have studied this subject of the biological effects of radiation much more than we have or that we are willing to admit officially? It is known that their safety standards are set at least 1,000 times more strict than our own comparable standards for safety.

I am also concerned with the apathetic manner with which microwave ovens are treated in the kitchen. Read the entire article.

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Laser Therapy for Pet Arthritis

Bill Dougherty's trusty 135-pound German shepherd, Rex, has suffered from a limp and joint pain for the past two years. This man's best friend, 70 in dog years, 10 in people years, needed treatment for his arthritic pain.

But rather than opting for traditional pills or surgery, Dougherty tried a new, seemingly magical, laser therapy that the local veterinary clinic, Village Animal Clinic in North Palm Beach, Fla., was offering to arthritic dog and cats.

Dougherty said that Rex's limp and overall activity and happiness improved almost immediately after the first laser treatment. "We used to say that Rex was like the old man on the hill," said Dougherty. "He'd point out the distraction and then the younger ones would go after it. But now, he's back and a part of the gang." Read the entire article.

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Entice Predators to Patrol Your Garden

IT'S EASY TO LOVE BUTTERFLIES. But for many gardeners, attracting these beautiful pollinators is where the infatuation with insects begins and ends. Invite carrion beetles and assassin bugs to a flower border or vegetable patch? Only the intrepid dare go there.

Yet there are good reasons to create a backyard buffet for these and other so-called beneficial insects. They are the tigers and barracudas of the insect world, preying upon many of the organisms that ravage prized garden plants. So many homeowners have pest problems largely because their yards are not inviting to the predators and parasites that in natural ecosystems keep pesky creatures in check. Read the entire article.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Newsletter - 3/15/11

Hello Dear Friends!

With all the excitement of the last issue's mention of our visit of a Bald Eagle in our habitat, there's certainly been nothing that exciting to mention.  It's been cold and rainy until this past weekend, but as soon as it turned warm again with some sun, we headed outdoors.

March 11 - Hellebore in Bloom
We don't rake the leaves in the Fall, but leave them to naturally protect plants, but now's the time to suck them up and chop them for mulching our flower beds and around the bushes.  It's been the best ever mulch from all we've ever used.  I wished we'd known this for our entire gardening time, but we only started doing it 5 years ago and within a couple of years we had oodles of earthworms.  Later I read it's one of the best ways to attract worms.

And if you don't know the benefits of having earthworms providing free fertilizer to your soil, read the post at the link.

The first blooms I've seen in the yard are the Hellebores.  They are such a gorgeous color.  They were given to us by a friend.  They took a couple of years to bloom, but they were surely worth the wait.

Looking Inside the Bloom
Although they are a beautiful flower, as you can see, the bloom hangs downward which keeps them from being showy.  I guess you could call them a humble plant, not lifting its head proudly to the sun.  The inside coloring is so pretty and it's quite interesting how the inner parts of the plant develop.  It begins with a really tight head.

I love the veins in the flower petals since it reminds me of wild orchids in Costa Rica.  The coloring is so "old-fashioned" which does not show up well with my camera since I didn't use a flash.  They are planted on the north side of our home outside the office window where our polk weed will be coming out of the ground soon.  That's one of our very favorite plants, although down south it's considered a weed.  It produces so many berries and we have all kinds of species all over it in the Fall so we have nothing but love for the plant since it's totally carefree too.

Center Maturing Into Seed Pods
The head turns into seeds as the plant matures.  It's so interesting to see the evolve and since they are the first blooms we get, it's like a long lost friend returning every year for a reunion of soul and spirit ... after what we consider a long winter here in Central Virginia.

The bloom actually turns green as the seed pods develop.  It's really odd.  It's like we females that change our entire look with a new hairdo.  View photo of last stage of the plant.

Our winter bird buffet on the front porch has been well visited and there's one little squirrel that has developed a taste for the meal worms we put out for the wrens and bluebirds.

We have plenty of Common Grackles now.  Years ago I thought we might have one dead on our deck, but I was able to hold it and help it back to life and the skies again.  The Grackle Rescue was an awesome experience.

Many folks don't like to have them, but we welcome them since they are temporary visitors.  They will stay and store up for their trip further south.  I've not refilled the suet feeders out back since they can finish one off in a day.  The two hanging under my front porch are too close for comfort for them, so we've had plenty of woodpeckers on those, along with the pine siskins, bluebirds and wrens.

Hope you're seeing exciting things in your own habitat ... let me know what they are!  Share with everybody by leaving a comment below the newsletter on the website.

Love, Hugs and Blessings!

View Posts By Topic

Posts Since The Last Newsletter

How Do You See Yourself?

10 Arguments Against A Vegan Lifestyle

Is Recycling a Waste of Energy?

Monarch Butterflies Use Plant Medicine

Food Waste - 160 Billion Pounds A Year

Choice of Garden Plants Matters to Bird Survival

What Color Was Adam?

Fat Camp for Cats

Being 60, Winter Trims Adventure Possibilities #36 - 41  (DLW)

Previous Posts You May Have Missed

Newsletter - 3/1/11  (DLW)

Coming Out of Egypt  (DLW)

Canine Joint Disease - Does Your Dog Have It?

GreenScaping Our Yards Saves Time and Money

Pray This Prayer of Peace Over Yourself

Scripture Cards - Part Four  (DLW)

Eco-Schools USA

The Great Wind Scam

Great Fun Doing the Backyard Bird Count

Self-Hatred Is Sin

Airships Returning For Transport

Pet Digestive Problems and Bleeding Intestines

146 Dams Threaten Amazon Basin

Newsletter - 2/15/11

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Do You See Yourself?

by Joyce Meyer

Do you like yourself? After years of trying to help people emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially, it was a major breakthrough when I discovered that most people really don’t like themselves. Some of them know it, while others don’t even have a clue that this is probably the root of so many other problems in their lives.

God wants us to have great relationships, but self-rejection and even self-hatred are the roots of many relationship problems. In fact, I’ve found the Bible to be a book about relationships, providing valuable advice about my relationship with God, other people and even myself.

How are the relationships with other people in your life? What about your relationship with God…and even with yourself?

Did it ever occur to you that you have a relationship with yourself? While I’ve never given it much thought, I spend more time with myself than with anyone, and it’s vital to get along well with me. Remember, you are the one person you never get away from.

We all know how agonizing it is to work day after day with someone we don’t get along with, but at least that person doesn’t come home with us at night. We can’t get away from ourselves, not even for one second, so it’s of the utmost importance that we have peace with ourselves.

Many of us fall prey to self-rejection because we feel that nobody really loves us or accepts us. We figure that if nobody else loves us, then why should we love ourselves? Because we think others don’t love us, we feel that we must not be worth loving. But that’s a LIE we’ve believed for way too long!

We should love ourselves—not in a selfish, self-centered way that produces a lifestyle of self-indulgence, but in a balanced, godly way that affirms God’s creation as essentially good and right. We may be flawed by unfortunate experiences we’ve gone through, but that doesn’t mean we’re worthless and good-for-nothing.

We must have the kind of love for ourselves that says, “I know God loves me, so I can love what God chooses to love. I don’t love everything I do, but I accept myself because God accepts me.” We must develop the kind of mature love that says, “I know I need to change, and I want to change. In fact, I believe God is changing me daily, but during this process, I will not reject what God accepts. I’ll accept myself as I am right now, knowing that I will not always remain this way.”

Many times people who reject themselves do so because they can’t see themselves as good, proper, or right. They fail to see themselves the way God sees them—as precious children He dearly loves.

As you begin to see yourself through God’s eyes—someone who’s loved and cherished—your view of yourself will begin to change. You’ll begin to see yourself not as rejected, but as loved and accepted…unique and beautiful in His sight.

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10 Arguments Against A Vegan Lifestyle

There are a whole host of reasons why you should continue to eat meat, dairy, eggs and use products that are derived from, or tested on, animals. Because the arguments that qualify for this list are too numerous to account for fully here, the list in this article has been limited to just ten. Read the entire article.

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Is Recycling a Waste of Energy?

From Hey Mr. Green


"My friend refuses to recycle because he says the amount of energy it requires is enormous and the effect on the planet is negligible. Is he right? If not, how can I convince him to start recycling?" -- George in Santa Monica, California


Tell your friend that recycling does save energy, and lots of it--the equivalent of 10.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year from recycled U.S. municipal waste alone. And we still recycle only about a third of our staggering annual total of 250 million tons of waste, according to the EPA.

The savings do depend on the material. Recycling aluminum cans, for example, saves a high percentage of energy per pound, yet we Americans recycle only about half of our cans.

If your pal claims that recycling has its roots in tree hugger hysteria, point out that U.S. aluminum companies import more than 7 billion used cans per year--90,000 tons--to reduce their energy expenses and other costs. Read the entire article.

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Monarch Butterflies Use Plant Medicine

Humans aren't the only species that finds creative ways to self-medicate, according to a recent study by scientists at Emory University.

Research journal Ecology Letters recently published findings that demonstrate monarch butterflies use certain plants as medication to cure themselves and their offspring of disease.

"We have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva's food plants, can reduce parasite infection in the monarchs," said study leader Jaap de Roode, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University. Read the entire article and watch the video.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Food Waste - 160 Billion Pounds A Year

While food waste is not only an American problem, the country is a leading perpetrator, with a conservative estimate being 160 billion pounds of wasted food a year. This is a real heart throb of mine and I was surprised to find an article in Ode Magazine telling of one Jonathan Bloom who is doing something about it with his new book, American Wasteland, with a subtitle of, How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It).

Scientists determined that American waste at least 40 percent of all edible food raised, grown, bought or sold in the country. Crunching numbers, researchers concluded that 300 million barrels of oil a year - 4 percent of all oil consumed in America - was used to produce and transport food that wasn't eaten.

Food waste accounts for over a quarter of the consumption of freshwater. Another study says that each year more energy is wasted in food discarded by Americans than is extracted from U.S. coastal oil and gas reserves. Read the entire article.

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Choice of Garden Plants Matters to Bird Survival

Doug Tallamy and his wife, Cindy, built their house seven years ago in the middle of 10 acres of former hayfields.

The land was so thick with multiflora rose that they couldn’t walk, so Mr. Tallamy cut paths with hand loppers. They paint on the herbicide, rather than spraying it, because they don’t want to damage the treasures below: under those thorny rose bushes might be seedlings of black oak, Florida dogwood, black gum or arrowwood viburnum.

A meadow cleared of autumn olive can resprout with goldenrod, joe-pye weed, milkweed, black-eyed Susans and many other natives crucial to wildlife.

It’s hard work, but the Tallamys love being outside. And they share a vision, an imperative, really, that Mr. Tallamy lays out in a book, “Bringing Nature Home” (Timber Press, $27.95), published in November.

They are struggling to plant the native species that are needed for insects and animals to flourish. As exotic ornamentals leap the garden fence and out-compete the native plants, many creatures are starving to death because they did not evolve with the exotics and simply can’t eat them. Please read the entire article ....

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What Color Was Adam?

Even within 'the church' there is racism and issues of color. Maybe if we understand more about how God created color, we will see all men as equal.


In western countries, nearly every imaginative painting of Adam and Eve depict two adult Caucasians with fair skin and blue eyes. These images, even used as Bible illustrations, tend to shape the reader's mental image of the first man and woman. The Sunday-school origin of the dark races is often that they were descendants of Adam and Eve who had migrated to a hot climate where the suntan eventually became an inherited characteristic. These images and explanations discredit Christianity.

The true explanation began to be resolved in 1913 when it was shown that human beings carry two genes for color and that each gene consists of "black" or "white" alleles. One allele was received from the mother and the other from the father. The allele is part of the gene, and the gene is part of the DNA – while the DNA resides in the nucleus of every cell in our body.

Our skin color is caused by the pigment melanin, and this is controlled by two pairs of genes that geneticists refer to using the letter designations Aa and Bb, where the capital letter represents dominant genes and the small letters represent recessive genes. A and B, being dominant, produce melanin in good quantity while recessive a and b produce only a minor amount of melanin.

Hence, our coloration depends upon the number of black and white alleles we received from our parents. The color genes express themselves in only one place – specialized skin cells called the melanocytes – that produce granules of melanin that are delivered to neighboring cells.

Eve was made from Adam's rib and was thus a clone of Adam [Genesis 2:21-22]. They would therefore have had identical genes for melanin production. If they were both AABB, they would have been Negroid and produced children of only the darkest of Negroid coloration. If this were the case, the world's population today would be entirely Negro. In fact, only about 10% of the world's population is Negro, so we can be certain that our first parents were not of the AABB combination.

By the same argument, if Adam and Eve had both been aabb, all their children would have been aabb meaning that all their descendants would be the lightest Caucasoid possible – there would be no other colors.

Clearly, this is not the case, so by a process of deduction we can conclude that Adam and Eve were heterozygous, each having two dominant and two recessive genes, AaBb. They would thus have been middle-brown in color and from them, in one generation, the various shades of brown would have been produced.

These color differences were likely amplified following the business at the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9] when the human gene pool was divided. Loss of genetic information in an isolated population is well known and a problem to breeders of pure-bred dogs, horses and other animals.

It seems that one population group that migrated from the Tower of Babel suffered a greater loss of the genetic information required to produce the melanin and became the Caucasians. The bottom line is that Adam was not white or black but a good middle brown.

Reference: Harrub, B. and Bert Thompson. 2003. The Truth About Human Origins. Alabama: Apologetics Press, Inc. Pages 444-445.

Visit for more interesting information.

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Fat Camp for Cats

Obese felines put through exercise regimen to slim down. Treadmills and water exercise ... it's working. View the video.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Being 60, Winter Trims Adventure Possibilities #36-41

by Donna L. Watkins

I love being outdoors, so I generally look for adventures that have something to do with being outside. Since I currently have rheumatoid arthritis, I don't go outdoors unless I have to in winter. So, winter has definitely thinned out the possibilities for adventures during cold weather.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins
Female Pileated Woodpecker at Suet Feeder on Front Porch
Just because it's cold and my outdoor time is limited, doesn't mean that winter is boring. It's a time when I get to read a lot of books that I've wanted to read. Wildlife viewing is at its peak being able to see birds easier in trees and our front porch bird buffet gives me an up close and personal look at so many species of birds.

As you can see we even get the pileated woodpeckers to visit the porch for the suet they love so much. They are 16-19 inches long, so it's quite a show to watch them swing around on the suet feeder only 8 feet from my eyes.

Gathering up my 60 new adventures for my 60th year of life has slowed down, but I'm going to catch up in this post and then Spring will be here with many more.  I already have some new adventures scheduled to begin later in the month.  What are you planning for Springtime?  It's almost here and some days you would think it has arrived.  Dream about a getaway to a natural area and plan on it.  Use to find a place nearby to get outdoors.

©2011 Donna L. Watkins - Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus Michauxii) 
Planted circa 1894 - Historic Rosedale Plantation - Charlotte, NC
#36 of 60 - Our trip to Charlotte, NC, back in November included a visit to Historic Rosedale Plantation which has a Mecklenburg County Treasure Tree.

This Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus Michauxii) was planted circa 1894. It was magnificent to see and chat with and much more "alive" than the historic home nearby, but then I love trees and can't imagine a home setting without them.

The amount of land preserved included a nature walk which we enjoyed and the grounds around the house were lovely with historic gardens and even some ruins.  Read more about our visit to Rosedale Plantation and/or view the photo album.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Dragonfly Pond
Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve
#37 of 60 - Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve was a really cool place to visit in the Charlotte, NC area.  The city really is serious about green space and we took advantage of as much as we could on our visit there.

Reedy Creek has a nature center, lots of trail options and a wonderful place to sit by this peaceful pond along the trail.  Normally I'm not a sit around person when it comes to getting to walk a nature trail, but with the water lapping at our feet, it was rather hard to leave.

Read more about our Reedy Creek visit and/or view the photo album.  I guess I was absorbed in the beauty of it all since I didn't take many photos of this place.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
#38 of 60 - Juvenile Cooper's Hawk - We love getting to see something new in our backyard wildlife habitat since our first choice for entertainment is to be content at home enjoying the antics and character lessons given by the wildlife that visit.

However, it's a bittersweet experience when you see a hawk.  We've had red-shouldered hawks nesting in the woods behind us for the past few years and last Fall a red-shouldered hawk grabbed our biggest Green Frog from the side of the little pond we put in.  It was so sad.  I know they have to eat, but you don't want it to be from those creatures you personally love.

January 15th I saw a juvenile Cooper's Hawk land on our front path near where I put food for the ground-feeding birds.  I got photos of him between the rails of the front porch, but the one shown is from a later visit since it's a much better photo.  Our wildlife friend neighbor who moved to Knoxville in November used to get Cooper's Hawks over at his place, but we never saw one in our yard.  Only the Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered.  So, it's a new adventure but one with mixed feelings.  He's been back too many times and I did find some feathers from a grackles a couple of days ago.

#39 of 60 - After using the same inexpensive binoculars that we had purchased in the early 80's, we decided to invest in a quality pair of Nikon Monarch Binoculars that would certainly last even longer than the ones we had for 30 years.  

It didn't seem like a big deal at the time until they arrived and we began to use them.  It has been a great adventure for sure.  I guess you could liken it to somebody who has poor eyesight and has never had glasses.  When we looked through those lenses we were amazed at the difference.  It was like somebody had turned on the lights and cleaned off the windows.  

We've been very excited to have them.  The best thing is that technically, we got them for free, even though we paid $278 for them.  Does that sound like a riddle?  It's not.  We shop through when ever we can you get a rebate on whatever purchases you make. They also give you $5 for everybody you refer and that's where how most of our money adds up since we aren't big shoppers .... as you can tell by us waiting 30 years for a good pair of binoculars as much as we love birds and nature trails.  Seems silly now.  Visit if you want to know more on the rebates.

Sweet Heart Farm For Sale
#40 of 60 - Do you ever travel a highway numerous times and see a sign that you wonder what it means ... only to keep passing it by and never checking it out?  Well, we did that with a sign on U.S. Highway 15 for Green Springs Historic District.  If this was at the entrance to a small town or something it would make sense, but it's out in rural country.  For Valentine's Day we decided to check it out and in doing so, were surprised at how many 'valentines' the Lord had for us along the way, each one saying to us from Him, "I love you!"

The Green Springs National Historic Landmark District encompasses over 14,000 acres in the piedmont of central Virginia. The homes and farms are a continuum of Virginia rural vernacular architecture, reflective and respectful of their location, preserved in their original context with little alteration. Here the landscape has been enhanced, rather than despoiled, by the presence of civilization. It is privately owned land, includes no public facilities, but is visible from public highways, sitting astride Route 15 in Louisa County, Virginia.  View our Valentine's Day photo album.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Bald Eagle in Front Yard
#41 of 60 - A Bald Eagle in our front yard!  I was excited about doing the annual Great Backyard Bird Count in February and began counting a couple days ahead hoping that on the actual day I would get counts as good as those two days.  On the actual day I designated an hour and counted from indoors and was up to 18 species which was better than the two days before.  My largest count was Pine Siskins with a group of 40 feeding.  I was thrilled.

With 7 minutes left, I thought I'd go out front to see if I could add a larger count to any of the species I'd already seen.  Right away I saw a raptor in the sky and wondered what kind of hawk it was that I was going to get to add to my list.  I raised my binoculars and it was a Bald Eagle.  I ran indoors for my camera just as it decided to land in our yard on a young broken off tree.  He posed while I took photographs and videos, being quite entertained with the crows mobbing and screaming.

As I was filming I heard a red-shouldered hawk with warning calls from across the street as it came in and joined the mob scene.  So, I finished up with two great species to total 20 species in an hour here at Bluebird Cove.  I actually had 21 because I was so overjoyed I didn't even count the crows that had come after the eagle landed.  Wow, Lord!  You really do a great grand finale!

View eagle photos.
View eagle videos.
Continue the adventure with me.

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