Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Totally Forgiven - Is That How You Think Of Yourself?

by Donna L. Watkins

Have you taken time lately to think about what you think of yourself? What do you tell yourself all day?

View Enlarged Image
Anza-Borrego Springs Desert State Park
Like the Greater Roadrunner below at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, do you just keep running away from your thoughts? You aren't really going anywhere. Thoughts and beliefs will not go away by stuffing them. Renew!

I am a totally forgiven, fully accepted, deeply loved and daily empowered child of God.

Do you think that way? Is this sentence indicative of the way you walk through each day? Do you describe yourself like this? Do you see other Christians like this? If you saw yourself this way, you would be able to see people through love's eyes. If we absorb and know deep in our heart how much God loves us and what His work on the Cross has done for us and what it has made us, we would be able to love others so naturally that we would draw every one around us to Christ.

Instead most of us battle our own day-to-day issues feeling as though we barely stay above water ourselves, without much thought as to how we can bring others into the Kingdom. Yet, this is what we've been commanded to do. The devil can't take your salvation away, but he can sure make you very ineffective as a disciple of Christ.

We need faith in our daily walk. We need our time each day with the Lord to recharge and refill the empty spots that the previous day dug out of us. You have to get enough Word in you to take on the day by force against the powers of darkness. We need to believe and apply the Truths that we are told through God's Word. Simply put, faith is acting as if God is telling the truth in the Bible. Take it and believe it. Don't let the dark doubts invade, inhabit and take over your soul.

Steve Farrar writes, "I need to be reminded of what is true. God's Word gives me a dose of reality. My morning briefing in the Word gives me a perspective that I don't get in the world I need God's commentary on my life every day. A Christian in this society is swimming upstream. Without the constant nutrition of the Word, he will soon tire and be dragged off by the sheer force of the current."

Many people feel condemned when they read the Bible. They seem to find things that stir up thoughts of guilt and not measuring up, but that's not who God is. If you are under the blood of Jesus, you've accepted Christ as your Savior, then God sees you as His child, on your good and bad days. But across it all He sees you with Love! Yes, we need to continue to grow in character and love, but we won't get there if we're always trying to "do better" in our own strength.

Rather than spending time and energy trying to change, we need to concentrate on being filled with God's Spirit. Focus on His love, forgiveness and acceptance and you will be able to love yourself and love others. His love will change your character and actions. You will be filled with His power to overcome any faults and weaknesses you have. You will feel totally forgiven, fully accepted, deeply loved and daily empowered if you meditate on God's Word. We cannot do it on our own strength and were never meant to. Humanly it is impossible to make it through each day with flying colors. The world offers too many stumbling blocks and too many opportunities for anger, disappointment, and depression.

Memorize Scripture. Hide it in your heart like David did so he would not sin against God. When we doubt that God is good, we are following the thoughts the Enemy gives us. It was what he told Eve in the Garden of Eden. All he had to do was make Eve doubt that God was good and it was a downhill slide from there. We can't look at the world around us and the evil that the Devil spreads and have thoughts that God doesn't care about our daily happenings. We can't question why His providential will allows it all .... because we cannot see the good that is going to come out of it for us. We want control and when we don't get things our way, we let go of God's hand in rebellion and disbelief.

Turn around and take God's hand again. He's the only hope for survival. Without Him it is all insanity. We have got to trust that God has our best at heart. Just as we do for our children when they can't see it. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We have free will and we can kick and scream the whole way not allowing or trusting God to manage our lives for the best outcome. It's a bumpy and bleak road, so why not take the highway to peace and joy within. Choose God's way. Memorize His Word about you and trust Him in every situation. Forgive Him for what you've been accusing Him of.

Copyright and Reprint Information
All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins and may not be republished without written permission. You may forward or use this copyrighted article on a website if you include the following credit and an active link back to this site:
© 2000-2007 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website, TheNatureInUs.com, for more articles and free email subscription. Link URL: http://www.thenatureinus.com

Monday, February 26, 2007

Do Lemons, Vinegar and Baking Soda Really Clean?

A british reporter rolls up her sleeves and, with some expert help, puts the theory to the test. A hilarious look at what happens when a green auditor comes to your home with eco-friendly alternatives for all your nasty chemical products.

We are frequently warned about the potential dangers of some of the chemicals used in everday cleaning products. And then there are the worries about the damage they may do to the environment.

All in all, wouldn't it be great to get by without them? And yet a lot of so-called green cleaning products, at least anecdotally, tend not to work that well. Is there a way to clean, and be green, and still get your house gleaming? Find out here

Monday, February 19, 2007

Traveling With Pets

Our Squeek is happier at home than traveling, but many pets would love to get away with their owners. State and local laws vary for pet-friendly lodging, so check out your options ahead of time at these sites:

www.TakeYourPet.com charges a membership fee of $1.95. They offer lodging discounts and have over 20,000 listings of pet-friendly places to stay.

www.TravelPets.com offers a free directory for US and international lodging along with travel tips for traveling with pets.

www.PetsCanStay.com is the national certifying and marketing body that has established the standard for accommodation providers that cater to the pet travel market. Pets Can Stay Travel Services™ is a full service agency that provides direct bookings to Pets Can Stay certified properties across North America at no cost to the traveller. PCS Travel Services is rapidly becoming the agency of choice for pet-toting leisure travellers, and corporate travellers that are loyal to properties that accept pets.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Pets Boost Children's Health

Children who have pet animals at home have stronger immune systems and are less likely to take days off school sick, a study suggests.

Researchers at Warwick University in Coventry found that having a cat or dog exposed children to more infections early in life. However, this exposure boosted their immune systems in the medium term and meant these children attended school more often, on average, than pupils who did not have pets. Read the entire article.

When God Puts You On Hold

by Donna L. Watkins

If you've ever flown, you know that sometimes the airport runways are full and your plane has to circle around the city waiting for instruction from the tower that it's your turn to land. Sometimes, it feels like God is too busy to address our needs and we're in a holding pattern of waiting.

© 2007 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Bluebird
This bluebird in the photo reminds me of me at times when I stretch my neck skyward and say, "Is anybody up there?"

Prayer gets discouraging because instead of hearing and seeing a YES to our prayers, we perceive that God doesn't care because it's not happening the way we're praying. We are fortunate that God doesn't always say "yes" to our prayers. We don't see the future so we can't take the whole picture into consideration when we ask for something.

You wouldn't want that plane to land while the runways were full of other planes. If given a choice, seeing the whole picture down below, you wouldn't want the pilot to demand a spot on the runway by heading in for landing. Planes always carry enough fuel for these holding patterns and we need to carry enough spiritual fuel to carry us through the waiting.

Psalm 27:14: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Verse 13 says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

Trust Him. Have Faith in His providential will for our lives and know that what we cannot see is being seen by the One who knows all. By the One who has our best interests at heart: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

When all seems hopeless and the Heavens seem silent, God is working. He's still thinking about you and working everything out for good.

Have you seemingly prayed 'forever' for a prodigal child, lost husband, more finances, a healthy body, a life partner, or a peaceful environment? Don't give up. Control your thought life. What you sow, you will reap, so don't think negative, hopeless, defeated thoughts. The best way to keep your mind from wandering to dark places, is to memorize the Word.

Here's a good one to begin with:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all my iniquities; who heals all of my diseases; who redeems my life from destruction; who crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies." Psalm 103:1-4

Although it seems long, it's an easy one to memorize since it repeats things and it has a good flow to it. If you replace the negative in your mind with the positive of God's Word, you will go a long way in having the patience to wait. That patience will build other good qualities into your life that you will appreciate in trials and tribulations that we all have and will continue to have.

If you read through this verse and expect all of it to happen as soon as you finish memorizing it, you will be in a negative realm, because the devil will tell you it's not happening in your life, so stop thinking on Scripture and think on reality (which is the evil he creates around us). Don't be swayed or tempted to believe the Enemy instead of God.

As you truly absorb Scripture, it will become part of you and you will become part of what it says. Reading something or quoting it a hundred times won't make it happen in your life. It's not about the little red engine trying to get up the hill saying, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." Thinking right is the first step, but believing is the key. Jesus said it was all about believing and David knew that also in Psalms 119:11: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against thee."

When life puts you on hold, choose what "music" you're going to listen to and what "message" you will hear over and over again. It will define whether you are depressed and hopeless or delighted and hopeful.

Copyright and Reprint Information
All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins and may not be republished without written permission. You may forward or use this copyrighted article on a website if you include the following credit and an active link back to this site:
© 2000-2008 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website, TheNatureInUs.com for more articles and free email subscription.
Link URL: http://www.TheNatureInUs.com

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dark-eyed Juncos

Sometimes it seems like it takes forever to accomplish something you desire. I've been trying to get a good picture of a Dark-eyed Junco for years. They only come here to Central Virginia in the winter time when our yard is covered with fallen leaves. They seem to blend right in and the contrast is awful for photos.

They are so dark that it's hard to get the lighting right to be able to see their eyes. Their cute pink beak is a delight against their slate coloring, but a head with a beak and no eyes looks less than appealing.

We had a recent dusting of snow and it seems to have provided a perfect backdrop for a great shot. I actually have a few good pictures that I like out of 45 that I've taken this winter. The blessings of a digital camera! Some things take awhile, but if they're worth waiting and hoping for, I'm not going to allow myself to get discouraged.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Southern California Nature Preserves

It's been a delightful time with weather being perfect in the high 60's. This photo was taken at the hotel after 20 hours of flying and business meetings, but that didn't hinder my excitement to be in a warm climate in February.

As you can imagine, our itinerary has been filled with birds, critters and flowers. I hope you'll enjoy "joining me" as you view our online photo albums. Block out the cold outside your doors and windows and spend a bit of time in Southern California.

PLEASE add any comments to the photo albums and especially any identification you can give to those critters without names.

Our first wildlife area was the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary which had a wide variety of waterfowl. If you can identify anything, please leave comments. This sanctuary encompasses 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands, half of which are being restored to a natural state. The remaining acres are quality habitat and are not in need of restoration.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve appeared bleak as we approached a seemingly barren habitat, but we left being very excited about seeing an American Kestrel, California Towhee and a California Ground Squirrel. At first we thought we saw prairie dog burrows, but quickly realized the little guy was not a prairie dog.

The California Ground Squirrel may climb into a tree like our squirrels back home, but generally they remain on the ground. They feed primarily on plants which includes seeds, fruits, berries, stems, flowers or bulbs. They can also damage fruit, grain and nut crops. These critters form colonies but tend to be anti-social.

Although there were many burrows in a row along with the one behind this little guy, he stood his ground alone in front of his own burrow. Several animals can occupy one borrow which is from 5 to 200 feet long. Each animal in the burrow has a hole of its own and although another one may be closer if being chased, he will race to his own when alarmed.

Swallow Nests - Mission San Juan Capistrano 2-12A very special place for me was the Mission San Juan Capistrano where the Cliff Swallows return each year on March 19th and depart on October 23rd (that's Randal's birthday). Surrounded by adobe walls, the interior was peaceful and serene with history all around us. The gardens were pretty along with the fountains with fish. I was entertained by a Black Phoebe.

We spent a day in San Diego at Balboa Park visiting the Natural History Museum, viewing a 90 year old fig tree, Palm Canyon Trail, and strolled through the area created for the California Exposition with magnificent buildings and lovely flowers too.

Before heading back to Escondido where we stayed, we visited Seaport Village for the ocean views and lively gulls who don't mind posing for as many photos as anybody wants to take.

We allocated a day for desert habitat and headed out to
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I wanted to see a Roadrunner, Raven and Bighorn Sheep. I got the first two but we never did see any sheep although they reported sightings along with lambs. Did you know that Roadrunners mate for life? We enjoyed quite a few blooms although it was a bit early for Spring especially since rainfall has been low. The bees and butterflies were enjoying the nectar.

We saw a pair of birds snuggled together on a tree, which seemed so appropriate for Valentine's Day. They looked like large house finches as you can see from the photo. I don't know what they are, so let me know if you do.

View more photos of the mystery bird, clicking the double arrow on the right to look at close-up views. You can leave comments/names on any of the photos.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quote: John Sawhill

"For in the end,
our society will be defined not by what we create,

but by what we refuse to destroy."

-- John Sawhill, 2000

Driving With Cats

I've never had a cat that liked riding in the car. I've seen them in cars laying on the back window like they were sunning on the porch. My cats, whether in a carrier or out, must think like men do when they hit the shower. Their voice gets several decimals louder and they vocalize sounds which we call "singing."

There's not much that sets me on edge more than to have a cat wailing on the way to the vet or during a move or flight home. I simply can't concentrate to drive. Many years ago I learned to handle this with an herbal formula, Stress-J, which has calming herbs and in a liquid or capsule. Some pets need a bit more of a knockout and we've seen many do well with Valerian.

Awhile back I had a stray cat that I wanted to neuter and he didn't come around every day, so I had to make the vet appointment and hope that I would have him to go. In the scurry of it all, I forgot I was out of Stress-J , so I decided to use Lavender Essential Oil. It sure works to calm me down. I rubbed some in my hands and headed for the car.

My husband was driving and I was in the back seat with the cat who was already "singing." I opened the cat carrier just enough to let the cat put his head in my hands. In less than a minute he was calm. He just nuzzled into my hands and laid still. I couldn't believe it! He was calm even through the process of checking him in at the vet.

When I went to pick him up the next day they brought him out singing loudly and rather agitated to be in the carrier. I paid the bill quickly and took him out to the car realizing I'd forgotten the Lavender. I get so emotional about stray cats, but I always carry Peppermint Essential Oil in my purse since it has so many uses.

I'd read about a vet putting it on the paws of animals feet to calm them for examination or for thunder phobia. I got the Peppermint Essential Oil from my purse and rubbed some between my palms to do the same thing on the way home. The Peppermint did it! It was so nice to have such a simple easily accessible solution.

Note: Essential Oils may be a problem for cats.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Smart Crows Use Traffic to Break Nuts

This video shows crows deliberately dropping nuts into traffic to crack them in Japan. They even use the crosswalk waiting for the lights to change. Crows are so intelligent! If you have them on your property you already know this. Thanks to Ken Bushell for sending me the You Tube link.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Helping The Chew-A-Holic Dog

by Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Expert

Some dogs just seem addicted to chewing. Everything in the house is considered a chew toy in their mind. A young dog needs to chew on things to help teeth break through the gums. Older dogs need to chew to exercise their jaws, and, well, and if a dog is bored, chewing is just plain fun! Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop your dog’s natural need and desire to chew.

You can, however, redirect his chewing to appropriate items. When your dog begins to chew something inappropriate, trade him for an appropriate toy. He’ll happily trade once he learns he will get something great in return, and you will be able to save many a shoe from destruction. The following are some suggestions for great, safe toys and games for the avid chewer.

1. Meet the KONG: Many people will turn to rawhide bones help satisfy some chewing, but as they disappear quickly, which means all that rawhide is going into your dog’s intestines. Too much rawhide is very hard for a dog to digest and may get clogged up inside them. The best toy around to help with chewing is a KONG. It’s a hard rubber toy shaped like a honeycomb. You can stuff yummy treats inside to help keep the dog chewing and playing longer with the KONG. There are a variety of sizes, so you want to make sure that you get the right one for your dog’s size and strength. Be sure to look for the KONG brand as they are definitely made for the power chewer and are virtually indestructible. They may cost a little more than some of the other toys, but the up front expense is worth it to save all those shoes--and fingers--from getting chewed.

2. Turning your dog into a KONG-a-holic: You can stuff a variety of things into a KONG to make your dog really have to work at it. At first make it simple, mix a little peanut butter with some kibble and stuff it inside, and put a biscuit in the end to start your dog off with an easy treat. After your dog gets the idea, you can layer the items in the KONG by putting some biscuit bits in first, then some canned food mixed with kibble, then pack some peanut butter in and stick a biscuit out of the end. This will keep your dog entertained for a while. When you go away for the day, hide a few KONGS around the house so not only is your dog having fun eating the KONG, but he gets to hunt a little too.

3. Games with the KONG: Once your dog learns how much fun a KONG can be, try putting a rope through the end of the KONG, stuff the KONG, then hang it from a tree in the backyard low enough for the dog to reach it with her mouth. The dog will work hard jumping and running around getting the treats out. After a while, be sure to take it down and allow the dog the reward of finishing the KONG while lying quietly.

4. Cleaning the KONG: One great aspect of the KONG is that it can be put in the dishwasher after each use. Always clean all dog toys periodically, but the KONG needs to be cleaned more often because of the food that my stay stuck on the inside. If you decide to get a KONG, when you go to the store you will be amazed at the many types of KONGS available. The good ol’ honeycomb one is the best for avid chewers. The retrieving toys with ropes are a lot of fun for playing and the rope feels good for teething, but this toy shouldn’t be left with your dog to just chew. The nice thing about the retrieving toys is that you can replace the ropes through the KONG company, so the whole toy doesn’t have to be replaced when the rope wears down.

Always inspect your dog’s toys to be sure they are safe to play with. Throw away worn toys and replace them with new. Keep a toy box of dog toys that you control and take out when you want to play with your dog; this way your dog will not get bored with his toys and will look forward to fun times with you.

Ask Cheryl About Your Pet's Behavior Problem

Cheryl Falkenburry has traveled the world helping people make sense of mind-boggling animal behavior. Working with animal behaviorists in Tucson, Arizona and England, majoring in psychology, and becoming a certified parenting educator prepared Cheryl to teach both humans and animals. Cheryl recognized that the concepts of positive parenting and loving leadership worked whether her clients were parents of human children or furry ones and applies her positive parenting skills to her animal training sessions. She has helped thousands of people develop new and exciting relationships with the animals who share their lives.
Get details on phone and email consultations.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Armor of God

by Donna L. Watkins

(photo story after the article)

Ephesians 6 tells us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Verse 11 says, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

The battles you have with relationships and addictions are not to be dealt with in the flesh. Our flesh is not strong enough to overcome our old nature. Only the Spirit can win the battle of sin. When we want to scream at somebody or we feel compelled to follow the desires of our flesh for bad things, will power is not going to work very long and definitely doesn't work very effectively.

Smith Wigglesworth says, "There is a power in you that is greater than any other power. By the help of the Spirit, may you come into a place of deliverance, a place of holy sanctification, where you dare to stand against the Devil's schemings, drive them back, and cast them out ...... I want God to give you an inward awakening, a revelation of truth within you, an audacity, a flaming indignation against the powers of Satan."

The Bible speaks of this power and Ephesians 6 instructs us how to use it, but do we believe it can work? Do we believe it will work for somebody else but not us? What is your belief about the power of the Devil and your power over the dark spiritual realm? Christ died to give us victory over the Devil and it is our salvation that gives us the power and authority over the works of darkness.

There are battles in the heavenlies and what we struggle with in our flesh is spiritual. Will power and self-control can only go so far since they are of the flesh also, but when we get into the spiritual realm of battle we have all that it takes to gain victory ... if we believe the Truth of His Word.

It's so much easier to relinquish our power to the Enemy and lay down on the battlefield waiting for this life to be over, for the trouble to pass by, or we hope for a miracle. God is still in the business of miracles, but He has instructed us to battle.

Ephesians 6:13 tells us, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." We are not to give up, we are to stand on His Word to accomplish what we cannot.

Verse 16 commands us to "take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. There is all power in The Word if we will choose to believe it. We can't let our mind wonder about with our thoughts or erroneous belief systems on what The Word means. If necessary get down to the Greek and Hebrew of it all and retrain your mind. Church denominations may err in interpretations and we are trained to believe a particular doctrine ... but God tells us to "take up the shield of Faith" and the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."

The Devil wants us to think we are powerless against the evil he dumps into our lives, but we have been promised Joy and Peace and Victory through Christ and the power of God that is now within us. Don't relinquish your position in the Kingdom. Stand tall and might in Spirit and overcome the deeds of the Enemy.


Father, teach me Your Truth. Help me to see my weapons for victory are within me. Retrain and renew my mind from wrong beliefs and fill in my faith where I am weak to stand against the devil's strongholds in my life. I desire to honor You and to be a victorious warrior in this battle for my soul on earth. I want to be an overcomer and glorify Your name and Your power so that others will be drawn to You and saved from the realm of death and destruction. Direct my steps and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

Story of the Photo

A hawk chased this Yellow-billed Cuckoo into our deck door window. The bird landed below our steps and had this spread out presentation which I never have understood. Seems to me it was sending up a prayer for the hawk to choose another meal. It survived. With me on the deck, the hawk was not going to come back. View several cuckoo photos I took until he stood up and flew away. (click double arrows to the right when viewing)

Copyright and Reprint Information
All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins and may not be republished without written permission. You may forward or use this copyrighted article on a website if you include the following credit and an active link back to this site:

© 2000-2007 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author's website, TheNatureInUs.com, for more articles and free email subscription. Link URL: http://www.thenatureinus.com

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Baby Hippo Swept Into Ocean Takes Tortoise As Mother

Owen, a 661 pound, one-year-old hippo, was swept down the Sabaki River, into the ocean and then back to shore when the giant waves struck the Kenyan coast. The dehydrated hippo was found by wildlife rangers and taken to the Haller Park animal facility in the port city of Mombasa. Pining for his lost mother, Owen quickly befriended a giant male Aldabran tortoise named Mzee - Swahili for "old man".

After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. When Owen was released into an enclosure, he lumbered towards a tortoise which has a dark grey colour similar to grown up hippos, and established a strong bond. The pair are inseparable. They swim, eat and sleep together. The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother.

Hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years. The hippo's chances of survival in another herd would be very slim, since a dominant male would have killed him. Officials are hopeful Owen will befriend a female hippo called Cleo, also a resident at Haller Park. See photos of the pair.

Alert! Be sure to click on the link at the bottom for photos a year later. Owen has grown quite a bit since the rescue.

Squirrel With A Hairdo Tail

I've been enjoying the bird bath we put on the porch outside our dining room window. We've been using it as a feeder since we have a heated birdbath on the rail. With the feeder only being a foot from the window, I get a show any time I take my laptop to work in the dining room.

This photo is a squirrel that visited it before I had put food in. Notice the hairdo on the tail? I've never seen anything like that before. It's like he has a ponytail sticking out from his tail. With a close-up shot of it there was an actual growth like a thin twig holding up that chunk of fur. Nature offers some interesting diversions every day.

It's still chilly here in central Virginia but now that it's February I can think about Spring bulbs.

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