Castles and Cats

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A few years ago my husband and I visited Wales with our youngest daughter. We rented a flat, sight unseen, through the internet. After arriving in Conway by train we found our way to the flat and unlocked the door with the key that had been sent to us. We unpacked, bought some groceries at the market and settled in for a few days.

The location was perfect. We could walk anywhere we wanted and we could see the castle from some of the rear windows. We went to bed expecting to explore as much as we could in the morning.

I woke in the middle of the night to hear my husband yelling.

Get off of me!

My bleary eyes quickly focused on a big cat resting on his chest. My husband threw it onto the floor, but it jumped right back on the bed.

He picked the cat up and put it outside on the street. We went back to bed a little shaken, but unharmed. A few minutes later the cat was back.

What in the world…do they give cats their own keys in Wales? My husband put him outside again and this time he shut our bedroom door as well. We slept through the rest of the night without incident.

Imagine our surprise when we opened our bedroom door in the morning to see the cat, again. She came in and swiftly jumped on the bed, like she belonged there. We were puzzled by her presence. We thought maybe the owners had a cat they failed to tell us about. A kind of spy to make sure we didn’t do damage to their property. We tolerated her, wondering if we should feed her? We didn’t.

When we left to explore for the day, we put her out and carefully locked the door behind us…again.

We explored the castle, did some shopping, ate lunch did more shopping and came home tired.

The cat was there to greet us…inside the flat.

That’s when we noticed the back door had a “cat door” built into it. It didn’t matter how many times we put the cat out and locked the door. The cat would continue to come back in.

I tried contacting the owner, asking her if they had a cat. She didn’t get back to me until after we had left Conway. She informed us that they did not have a cat, and she hoped we hadn’t let a wild cat into the flat. (There seem to be several in this town.) She was more than a little angry.

Her response puzzled me. You can say you don’t want cats, but if you have a cat door they are going to find their way in. That’s like leaving a trail of cheese into your house and then being surprised when mice show up.

I know there are lessons to be learned from all of this. I will let you jump to your own conclusions… excuse me while I seal up some cat doors.

Walking Through the Woods on a Winter Day

This week my granddaughter and I were scheduled to go on a field trip in the woods.

It has been bitterly cold here. I wasn’t excited about going.

I was unsure the road would be plowed where we were supposed to meet.

Thankfully when we got up the sun was shining and the weather was milder. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

A few of the pictures have comments under them or things to look for.

Can you see the squirrel nest in the top of the tree?
What kind of animals do you think are hiding/living in the underbrush?
Bur Oak Tree over 200 years old
Can you find the hornet’s nest?
Best two hours we spent all week.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:7-10

All Glory, Laud and Honor

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This Latin hymn was written by Theodulph of Orleans in A.D. 820. It was translated into English by John Mason Neale in the 1800s. The tune was written by Melchior Teschner about 1613. The tune is called St. Theodulph.

Theodulph was born in Spain. He was part of Charlemagne’s court and became a trusted theological adviser. When Charlemagne’s son, Louis the I, became King he became suspicious that Theodulph was sympathetic with his Spanish relative, Bernard. Fearing there was a conspiracy he had Theodulph imprisoned in a monastery in Angers in 818. Theodulph wrote this hymn while in prison. He died there in 821.

Please sing this with me. (I prefer not to sing alone.)

All Glory, Laud and Honor

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King

To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son,

Who in the Lord’s name comest, The King and Blessed One.

The company of angels are praising Thee on high,

And mortal men and all things Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went;

Our praise and prayer and anthems before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion, They sang their hymns of praise;

To Thee, now high exalted, Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises; accept the praise we bring.

Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King.

For further study:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:1-4

And as He was approaching…, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” And He answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:37-40

Tallis’ Evening Hymn

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Tallis is called “The father of English Cathedral music.” He was born about 1520 in England and died in 1585 in Greenwich.

Glory to Thee, my God this night for all the blessings of the light. Keep me, O keep me King of kings beneath Thine own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son, The ill that I this day have done, That with the world, myself, and Thee. I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread the grave as little as my bed. Teach me to die, that so I may, Rise glorious at the awful day.

O may my soul on Thee repose, And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close. Sleep that may me more vigorous make to serve my God when I awake.

Praise God, Whom from all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above the heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

How Firm a Foundation

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My granddaughter, Arianna and I have a habit of watching an episode of “Andy Griffith” every night before bed. Last night Sheriff Andy was humming a song as he sat on his porch in the evening. Recognizing the tune as “How Firm a Foundation”, I found the words and started recording.

Every source I looked at said the author was unknown. It first appeared in 1787 simply labeled with the letter K. Somehow, I don’t think the original author would mind. Anyone who wrote words like the ones below was looking to glorify God, not himself.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I will not, I will not desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

For Further study:

Luke 21:33 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 – “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” “And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”

Hymn – I Heard the voice of Jesus Say

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My goal is to put up one or two old hymns every month. Music paired with true words are healing to the soul. I hope they are an encouragement to you.

Horatius Bonar, a clergyman from Scotland, wrote this hymn in the 1800s. It has been sung to several tunes, but my favorite is an English folk tune called “Kingsfold” which was paired with the words around 1900.

You will find the music and words below so we can sing together.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me, and rest.

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad.

I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give

The living water thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank, of that life giving stream.

My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light.

Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun,

and in that Light of life I’ll walk, ‘Till trav’lling days are done.

………………………………………………………..

“To be entitled to use Another’s name when my own name is worthless,

To be allowed to wear Another’s raiment because my own is torn and filthy.

To appear before God in Another’s person – the person of the beloved Son –

This is the summit of all blessing.”

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

For further study:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Choices

My grandfather’s sister was an extraordinary woman. She was born in 1886, which meant she lived through two World Wars. She lived in our town and spent all her holidays, birthdays, and many Sunday dinners with us. She was like a grandmother. We called her Aunt Signe.

She often told us to sit up straight… Didn’t like that we wore slacks… Complained that my sister’s boyfriend’s hair was too long. Severe might be the best way to describe her.

But we loved her and she loved us. She loved us enough to be critical, to push us to be better, to always remember our birthdays. She even bought our family a piano to ensure each of us learned to play.

She had spent most of her life teaching school and was the principal at four different schools in Fargo, ND. One year she even coached the boys basketball team. When she retired, she became a World Book salesman. I still have the well worn set she gave us when I was a child.

Signe was engaged to be married in her 20s to a young man named Byron. When she heard the gospel and God’s demands on her life she made a life changing decision to follow Christ. When she told the good news to Byron, her fiancé, he made light of it. He thought having a slight knowledge of God was good enough. He thought of himself as a good person who had no need of a transformation. Signe argued that God demanded a complete commitment, a redirection, a turning away from our own way of sin to follow Him. When Byron refused to take her new path seriously Signe gave the engagement ring back. God had changed her and nothing else mattered. She went forward with fire and determination.

She raised her nephew on her own. I’m not sure of the circumstances. Families didn’t talk about such things back then.

She never married and out-lived all of her siblings by quite a few years. She would often scold us for not knowing the names of 2nd cousins, that lived on the west coast, who we had never met. Family was important to her, but God meant more…always more.

She took seriously what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-38.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

I think often of her determination to follow hard after God, and her determination to convince us to do the same. In her view there was no other path worth taking. She lived to be 93 just as committed to her God as when she was 23. She never looked back.

And so, dear reader, like her, I beg you to be reconciled to Christ. We live in a temporary world that is full of trouble. It is full of sadness, injustice, sin and pain. There is another path that is beckoning. Shift your gaze from earthly rulers and pursuits to the God who is over it all.

Someday there will be a reckoning. Will you be like Byron or Signe? Do you think, like Byron, that you are good enough and just a passing knowledge of God is adequate? Or are you like Signe who saw her sin and her utter need of God?

For further study:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“…and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die…” John 11:25-26

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand

This song written by Samuel Stennett in 1787 (or earlier) was originally written in a minor key. It was given a new tune in 1835 and the chorus was added in 1895. I have removed the chorus and given it a minor key again in keeping with the original author’s intent.

I hope you enjoy this “new” version. Take special note of verse 3, which has special significance in our present situation. I’ve included the words so you can sing with me.

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks – Samuel Stennett – 1787

  1.   On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
    And cast a wishful eye
    To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
    Where my possessions lie.
  2. O’er all those wide, extended plains
    Shines one eternal day;
    There God the Son forever reigns,
    And scatters night away.
  3. No chilling winds or poisonous breath
    Can reach that healthful shore;
    Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
    Are felt and feared no more.
  4. When I shall reach that happy place,
    I’ll be forever blest,
    For I shall see my Father’s face,
    And in His bosom rest.
  5. Filled with delight my raptured soul
    Would here no longer stay;
    Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
    Fearless, I’d launch away.

(Music copyright 2021 – Karen Pickering)

Revelation 21:23 – And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

A New Start

This year my daughter-in-law asked me what my goals were for the coming year. I came up empty, but it got me thinking. Suddenly I had a list of 20 things. Realizing that a list that is too long is worse than none at all I did some editing. Here is my much shorter list.

  1. Finish reading through the Bible. No, I’m not going to start in Genesis again. I’m going to start where I am and finish. Too many years I have started over every January without finishing from the year before. Maybe that is why Genesis is one of my favorite books. I have read it more than all the others.
  2. Memorize one Bible verse a month. My goal used to be 2 verses a week. My brain is older and slower now, and 12 verses is better than no verses.
  3. Pray more and keep a prayer journal. I am a forgetful person. I need to be reminded of how faithful God has been, how many times He has met my needs, kept me safe, and encouraged my soul.
  4. Sing more. Music is a necessary survival tool. Next time you feel discouraged try singing. Collect some old hymn books or chorus books from the second hand store and work your way through them. If you aren’t sure of the melodies YouTube is a wonderful tool that will teach you any song you want to learn.
  5. Write one letter each week to one of my five grandchildren. In this age of Facebook, messenger and texts I want to communicate something deeper to these ones I love. Tell them some things that they won’t hear on their favorite show or while playing a computer game.

I still have my longer list that I might look at from time to time, but for now this is more than enough.

What are your goals for this year?

Hope each of you is holding fast to the God who loves you. Blessings on another New Year.

Missing Christmas

They all were looking for a king

To slay their foes and lift them high:

Thou Cam’st a little baby thing

That made a woman cry…

And so begins a poem by George MacDonald, “That Holy Thing”.

This year we are missing the Christmas we were expecting…the Christmas we remember…

Over 2,000 years ago a baby was born. His purpose…to save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) The focus wasn’t on the corrupt government or the invading armies. He didn’t come to change society, He came to transform hearts. Repentance, not easy living, was His goal.

33 years after he was born He died an awful death at the hands of those He had come to save.

3 days later He rose from the grave in spite of Satan’s best efforts to do away with God’s redemption plan.

40 days later, He ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11)

Now might be a good time to remember some of the promises He made before He left.

John 14:3 …If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again that where I am, there you may be also.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

We need to remember that…

He is with us,

He died for us,

He has overcome the world,

He is preparing a place for us,

He is coming back to take us home.

There is nothing I would like more than to sit down with each of you and have a cup of tea. I can picture each of you hurrying around getting ready for Christmas with many or few people this year. Most of all I pray that each of you finds the peace that only Jesus can give.

For further study:

..in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. I Corinthians 15:52

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings… As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake. Psalm 17: 8 & 15

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence – Isaiah 64:1

And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Joel 2:13