Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Nature In Us Newsletter - 1/15/15

  The Nature In Us Newsletter - 1/15/15 
  by Donna L. Watkins  

"I do not worship matter.  I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter ... Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with His grace and power.  Through it my salvation has come to me."
 -- John of Damascus, On the Divine Images 1:16

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Pine Siskin Eating Thistle
More Pine Siskin Photos
Hello Dear Friends!

Birds - You might miss seeing a new bird in your habitat if you have Pine Siskins visiting.  They are so close in size and coloring of finches that you can miss it.

Pine Siskins can travel in large flocks though and if you have thistle (niger) seed out in those hanging socks, or in a pie plate with a rock as we do on the covered porch, you'll be sure to attract them.  Plus it's one food that the squirrels don't bother. They'll eat millet and hulled sunflower seeds but thistle is their gourmet delight.

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American Goldfinches at Feeder
More American Goldfinch Photos
Pine Siskins and Goldfinches often flock together so you have to look closely to see the difference since the Goldfinches are no longer gold in winter.  The trick to the ID is to look for the sparrow streaks on the breast, the goldfinch-colored wings and the finch-like size and shape, all wrapped up in one small bird.  Add a sharp pointed bill and a bit of yellow on the wing and tail markings (best seen when they fly) and you'll soon instinctively know the difference.

They are winter warriors and store more winter fat than the close relatives.  Another blessing they have from the Creator is that on frigid winter nights their metabolic rate is 40% higher than average songbirds their size.

The flock of Mourning Doves we had for a short time seem to have dispersed. Not all Mourning Doves migrate if there is enough food in an area.  Even ones in Canada remain if they are sustained by feeders.  They usually migrate over land but on rare occasions have been seen flying over the Gulf of Mexico.  Fall migration occurs from September to November, so these were definitely a bit late being near the end of December.  They migrate during the day in flocks and at low altitudes.  I guess they can see the food sources that way.

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Acorn Woodpecker in Santa Rosa Plateau Reserve
Album of Santa Rosa Plateau Reserve - Calif.
If you live in the southwestern states or along the west coast, you may be used to seeing Acorn Woodpeckers.  We don't get them here and from what I've been reading I should be pretty happy about that since they cache holes in trees to store acorns.  The only problem is that they sometimes use houses if the area doesn't have the preferred and necessary habitat for storage. 

Tips to discourage these woodpeckers from coming back to drill on the house include filling in and painting over the holes they've made, hanging up something that will make noise when it blows in the breeze, or hanging up long strips of aluminum foil.

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Tree Full of Cached Acorns in Balboa Park
Album of Balboa Park in San Diego, CA

A company called Bird-X sells several products designed to scare birds away from spots like this.  They also have products to control animal, rodent and insect problems.

In February, the Great Backyard Bird Count is scheduled for February 13-16 this year.  The program was launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.  This was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the 4-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. Participate this year.  It's a lot of fun.  You tally the numbers and types of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count.  If you’re new to the count, visit this Get Started area of the website.

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Bee on Hosta Flower at Edith J. Carrier
 Arboretum and Gardens
View Album of Edith J. Carrier
Arboretum & Gardens
Gardens - January and February are the hardest months to be without the view of flowers.  Here in Central Virginia nothing is left other than the evergreen bushes and trees.  Not to belittle how much they do for the eyes during a time when all the hardwood trees are bare.

I'd like to fly away to a botanical garden in Florida.  What a lovely time that would be, but not a likely jaunt.  So, my second option is to visit gardens I've been to and have photo albums of.  A virtual garden visit is better than no garden visit.  It does cheer the dreary and rainy days of winter.

Here's a list of garden photo albums if or for when you're in the mood for dreaming of summer:

Brookgreen Gardens - Murrells Inlet, SC
Botanical Garden and Scarecrow Trail - Huntsville, AL
State Botanical Garden of Georgia - Athens, GA
JC Ralston Arboretum - Raleigh, NC
Duke Gardens - Summer - Durham, NC
Duke Gardens - Autumn - Durham, NC
Cypress Gardens - Moncks Corner, SC
Daniel Stowe Gardens - Belmont, NC
North Carolina Botanical Garden - Chapel Hill, NC
Maymont Estate Gardens - Richmond, VA
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens - Richmond, VA

Spiritual Musings - I was studying Romans 6:23 with a new insight and understanding I've gained over the years, but was thinking about how I used to think on this verse, "For the WAGES of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Many years back I used to think that God would punish me for sins and that I had no right to answered prayer since He looked away from me ... in other words basically stopped loving me when I sinned.

Jesus died for the "sins of the world."  1 John 2:2 says, "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  The definition of the word 'propitiation' is this:  "Propitiation, also called expiation, is the act of appeasing or making well disposed a deity, thus incurring divine favor to avoid divine retribution." (Source: Wiki)

Christ died so that we would be able to appease a holy God.  God Himself gave Himself to die for us because He was the only sinless one to be able to take the sins of the world upon Him.  Since sin came into the world by one man, the only way to take it out of the world was through a man.

So if God punishes us or stops loving us for our sins, then it nullifies the sacrifice of Jesus.  It would be like double jeopardy.  God warns us about sin because sin destroys us and brings pain into our life!  Sin is not a list of things that can turn God against us.  Every moment of our life we're in sin since Jesus counted our thoughts as heavily as the actual act (Matt. 5:27-28).

The Bible also says that anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).  So anytime we are anxious we sin.  Nobody stands in faith 24/7 his entire life.  There is no way we could have a relationship with God at all if it was based on us not sinning.

I like the illustration Jim Richards gives about this:  "When a manufacturer puts a warning on a product that says it will be fatal if swallowed, it does not mean that the manufacturer will kill us if we eat it. It means that the product has the power within itself to be fatal. God warned us about the effects of sin because He loves us. God doesn’t hurt us because we sin, sin hurts us."

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Mockingbird in Holly Tree
View Album of Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
View More Mockingbird Photos
It's the natural law of sowing and reaping.  Galatians 6:7-8 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature FROM THAT NATURE will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Notice it says "FROM THAT NATURE" he will reap destruction.  It doesn't say from God.  If you plant wheat, you will get food.  If you plant sin, you will reap pain and destruction.  It's our choice what we plant in the soil of our lives. I need to base my beliefs about who I am and what I can do on what the Word of God says.  My own opinions, and those derived from wrong teaching before we added discernment to our Bible study, shouldn't direct our lives.

What God says is what we should be living by.  It's worth studying to "show ourself approved" on this topic and any other.  I'm incredibly amazed at how many Scriptures I had logged away without thought or study on them. With online Greek and Hebrew concordances, we have no excuse to not study the Scriptures for ourself.

It seems that most preachers preach about God through the way they see Him. If their heart was broken from an event in their lives and they see God as not having come through for them, then they will preach God with that facet applied to Him.  We are the sum total of all that we believe in our hearts, which is why God told us to renew our minds and take thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (in other words, make your thoughts line up with the Word of God).

If we think God is out to get us, we won't be able to believe God is for us.  However, there are many Christians that don't let what the Bible says change their opinion, and that's a sad state of affairs.  When you try to live life without the instruction manual that you're given on how to live it abundantly and fully, then we will break down in many areas of our lives.  God's way is the only way that works because He designed it all.

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Sculpture: Brothers (Civil War)
View Album of Richmond's Capitol Square
Travel Virginia - We're only 90 minutes from downtown Richmond so it's a nice town to do day trips.  Since it's cold here in Virginia, I wanted to do something indoors.  So, we visited The Center for Architecture which is housed in a beautiful Tudor-Revival home built in 1916-1919.  If you didn't see the house photos with the link in the last newsletter, here's the link to the beginning of the album:  View "The House That Branch Built" Photos.

At the end of the house photos, there are photos of the 2014 annual exhibition of award-winning architectural work from the mid-Atlantic region.  These were the finest examples of architecture, interior design and preservation projects.  It was pretty interesting to see what architectural styles are winning awards these days.  View 2014 Architectural Awards Photos.

The home is on Monument Avenue which has a lot of historic homes, so I took photos of some of the surrounding homes and Jefferson Davis monument.  View Monument Avenue Photos.

Benjamin Feeding Squirrel From a Lid
We also visited Capitol Square that same day since Richmond is the capital of Virginia.  We used to stop there when we drove from Alabama to Pennsylvania to visit my family just to feed the squirrels and pigeons since they were very tame. It was a big delight to me and our son, Benjamin.  Randal simply enjoyed our joy. My great grandfather used to take me to a park that was two blocks away from our home and we did the same thing there sitting on park benches.

Capitol Square had monuments and was surrounded by other beautiful buildings that were interesting and the Governor's Mansion is on the square also.  It was a rather chilly day so we were happy when we got inside the capitol building for our walk-through tour.  View Capitol Square and Capital Building Photos.

Closing Thoughts - What awesome promises are given to us when we ponder, meditate and/or focus on God's Word.  What we focus on is magnified.  If we focus on God's promises about situations, we can see Him magnified and our problem growing smaller.

"My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.  Don’t lose sight of them.  Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body."  Proverbs 4:20-22 (NLT)

When we focus on the problem for hours and then spend a few minutes in prayer about it, which one do you think will dominate your life?  Faith is trusting that God will fulfill all of His Word.  We have to "only believe" as Jesus said to receive.  The word 'receive' in Greek means "to reach out and take hold of."  So our faith (trusting and reaching) is what brings the promises to pass.

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Donna at Monticello
 Home of Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, VA
View Photos of Monticello
Until next time ..... 

May God Increase Your Blessings Daily,


P.S. Anything in here that might help somebody you know?
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Copyright and Reprint Information - All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins, but may be used with proper credit and link back to the website, Articles written by Donna L. Watkins may also be reprinted with proper credit and link back to the website,

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