November 27, 2010

Well, it's official. "Monkey" has got a clean bill of health and Michael and I have resolved to keep this little creature.

November 17, 2010

You're Fooling Yourself

This has nothing to do with the "Secret Garden", but, this is really, really, good and I wanted to retain a copy on this blog.!

You're Fooling Yourself

There's loads of knowledge to be found, but wisdom is a rare commodity. Why? Because wisdom is one of sin's first casualties. It's hard to admit, but true none the less: sin reduces all of us to fools. And the fact is that no one is more victimized by your foolishness than you are.

You see the empirical evidence of the foolishness of sin on almost every page of Scripture. For example, you see foolishness in full operation in the tragic story of David and Bathsheba. This is why David says, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place" (Psalm 51:6 NIV).

You read the story of David's sin, and you say to yourself, "What was he thinking? Did he really believe that he'd get away with this? Did he completely forget who he was? Did he think that God was going to stand idly by and let this happen?" But David is not some extreme case of foolishness gone wild; you see evidence of the same foolishness in each of our lives daily. People could say of us again and again, "What was he thinking? What was she thinking?"

What does foolishness look like? Here are four of its most significant aspects.

1) The Foolishness of Self-centeredness

We were created to live for something, someone bigger than ourselves. We were designed to live with, for, and through the Lord. God is meant to be the motivation and hope of everything we do. His pleasure, his honor, and his will are the things for which we are meant to live. But the foolishness of sin really does cause us to reduce our lives to the size and shape of our lives.
Often our living has no greater purpose than self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. Does this sound harsh? Well, ask yourself, "Why do I ever get impatient with others?" "Why do I ever say things I shouldn't say?" "Why do I get discouraged with my circumstances?" "Why do I give way to anger or give in to self-pity?" The answer is that, like me, you want your own way, and when things don't go your way or people are in your way, you lash out in anger or you turn inward in discouragement.

2) The Foolishness of Self-deception

We're all very good at making ourselves feel good about what God says is bad. We're all very skilled at recasting what we've done so what was wrong doesn't look so wrong to us. I'll tell myself that I didn't really lash out in anger; no, I was speaking as one of God's prophets. I'll tell myself that that second look wasn't lust; I am simply a man who enjoys beauty. I'll tell myself that I'm not craving power; I'm just exercising God-given leadership gifts.

Foolishness is able to do something dangerous. It's able to look at wrong and see right. Had David been able to see himself with accuracy and if he'd been able to see his sin for what it really was, it's hard to imagine that he would have continued to travel down that pathway.

3) The Foolishness of Self-sufficiency

We all like to think of ourselves as more independently capable than we actually are. We weren't created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others.

Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources that God has given us.
The lie of the garden was that Adam and Eve could be like God, independent and self-sufficient. We still tend to buy into that lie.

4) The Foolishness of Self-righteousness

Why don't we celebrate grace more? Why aren't we more amazed by the wonderful gifts that are ours as the children of God? Why don't we live with a deep sense of need, coupled with a deep sense of gratitude for how each need has been met by God's grace? Well, the answer is clear. You'll never celebrate grace as much as you should when you think you're more righteous than you actually are.

Grace is the plea of sinners. Mercy is the hope of the wicked. Acceptance is the prayer of those who know that they could never do anything to earn it. But the foolishness of sin makes me righteous in my own eyes.

When I tell my stories, I become more the hero than I ever was. I look wiser in my narratives than I could have been. In my view of my history, my choices were better than what they actually were. Often it isn't my sin that keeps me from coming to God. Sadly, I don't come to him because I don't think I need the grace that can be found only in him.

Here is what all of us must face, sin really does reduce us all to fools, but happily the story doesn't end there. The One who is the ultimate source of everything that's good, true, trustworthy, right, and wise is also a God of amazing grace.

You don't get freed from your foolishness by education or experience. You don't get wisdom by research and analysis. You get wisdom by means of a relationship with the One who is Wisdom.
The radical claim of the Bible is that wisdom isn't first a book, or a system, or a set of commands or principles. No, wisdom is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ. When you and I are graced into acceptance with him, we're drawn into a personal relationship with Wisdom, and Wisdom begins a lifelong process of freeing us from the stronghold that the foolishness of sin has on us. We aren't yet completely free, but there will be a day when our every thought, desire, choice, action, and word will be fundamentally wise!

It makes such sense then, that a repentant man (David) would reflect on his need for wisdom. Sin, in reducing us to fools, causes us to do foolish things, even though we think we're wise. And for this we need more than information, education, and experience. We need exactly what we find in Christ—grace.

Wisdom is the product of grace; there is simply nowhere else it can be found.

November 17, 2010 by: Paul Tripp

November 16, 2010

First there were "galls" and now "conks"

My goodness, I am learning a whole new vocabulary! Had you ever heard of "galls" before reading my earlier posts? Have you ever heard of a "conk"? Me either. So what exactly is a conk? Well, let me share:

On my way through the parking lot on Monday evening, after stopping to get the mail, I drove past a large oak tree that grew next to the recycle dumpster in the parking lot of the apartment complex. Just about 3 feet off the ground, in a hollow out dead portion of the trunk of the tree, there was something jetting out that looked like layers of 12" golden clam shells. After parking the car and going upstairs, I asked Michael if he wanted to take a short walk. I explained that I had seen something very odd and wanted to get a closer look. So we grabbed the camera and headed back to that tree.

It was amazing. They seemed to be some sort of mushrooms. I had seen smaller versions on trees before, but nothing like this. It felt cool to the touch almost like wrinkly old skin or rubber. The largest one was at least 12 inches wide.

I took several pictures. I was not satisfied that these were mushrooms and wanted to find out more about them. So I did a little research only to discover that what we had growing inside the hollow section of the trunk of that old oak tree was actually:

"Fruiting bodies of the sulfur fungus, Laetiporus sulphureus."

The fungus causes a brown heart rot on living trees but will also decay dead trees. Can enter trees through bark wounds and dead branch stubs. Fungus is one of the most serious causes of decay in oaks and one of the few fungi that cause decay in yew. The soft, fleshy, moist conks range from 2-12 inches wide and are bright orange-yellow above and red-yellow below. Conks are produced annually and appear singly or in clusters, usually in fall; they become hard, brittle, and white with age. Conks do not appear until many years after the onset of decay and indicate extensive internal damage.

Unfortunately, what this means is that giant oak tree is in dire straits and will probably be the next one to fall in the garden.

November 13, 2010

Remember that kitty that the Fireman rescued?

It was raining hard last weekend and early Sunday morning, Michael heard something at the front door. He opened it only to find a wet kitty looking up at him. It was the same kitty that we had rescued from the oak tree just outside our balcony (see earlier post). We were getting ready for church, but couldn't just leave that little wet kitty outside. We went and got a towel, dried her off and brought her into the warm apartment as we finished getting ready for church. All we had was a few boiled eggs, so we warmed one up; cut it into bit size pieces and fed it to her.

It was still raining pretty hard so before leaving we fashioned a waterproof box and placed it facing the front door on our front porch, which was out of the rain and wind; put a towel in the box; put the kitty in the box and left for church. We left around 9:00 am and arrived home about 2:00 in the afternoon. It had stopped raining and as we walked up our stairs to our front door, there she was stretching a paw out of the box and yawning. We laughed and let her in for another boiled egg. What were we going to do with this kitty? We didn't really know. We let her stay in the apartment over night and put her out the following morning. The rain had stopped and we assumed she would go home (wherever that was).

On Monday night, Michael kept going to the front door and peeking out. At 11:30 that night, on the last "peek" there was the kitty and we let her in again. We talked about what we were going to do with this cat. I am not a cat person. On Tuesday, we talked more and bought a small bag of cat food and a small bag of kitty litter. If she was going to be in the apartment, "Visiting" I wanted to make sure she had a place to go. She took to the litter box right away. Michael let her stay in on Tuesday and things went from there...

Thursday was Veteran's Day and I had the day off. We ended up in Auburn, a small town approximately 26 miles north of our apartment up interstate 80. I had spent the week researching veterinary clinics in our area, only to discover that even an exam would cost nearly thirty dollars--add to that; vaccinations, rabies shot, testing for leukemia, Frontline for fleas and drops for mites in the ear and we would be out a couple hundred dollars; not to mention the going rate for spaying a cat--another hundred to hundred and ninety dollars.

Forget it!

But; we did want to (at the very least) find out the general overall heath of the kitty and, if need be, have her spayed. That is how we ended up in Auburn. I had found a non-profit spay and neuter clinic there that would exam the kitty for five dollars, spay her for thirty and administer all the other vaccinations at a very low cost. Michael had a softer heart for this animal than I did, and yet I was growing somewhat fond of her. I could tell Michael wanted to take care of this kitty and on Tuesday night he had asked me, "Do you want to keep this kitty?" I answered, "Yes, I suppose I do" and he smiled and said, "Okay".

We fashioned a carrier out of a plastic file crate, using an oriental tea tray for the lid and one of my stretching black belts to secure the lid to the crate. It was a half hour drive and she never meowed a single time, which amazed me. We arrived just as the clinic was opening and the lobby was already full. We told the lady at the front counter why we were there; that we knew nothing about this kitty, and that we really just wanted to have her examined and then decide where to go from there. While filling at the chart, she asked us what the kitty's name was and we looked at each other and said, "kitty" as that was what we had been calling her since she arrived last rainy Sunday morning on our front porch.

We had only been in the lobby for 5 minutes before we were called into the exam room. The doctor was a tall woman with a rather serious disposition. Of course, all the doctors working there do so on a volunteer basis, and must see hundreds of cats and dogs and also perform surgeries during their shifts. Personality is not a requirement when working with animals.

She looked at the kitty's teeth, checked her ears and felt her tummy. I asked how old she thought she was, and was told that the cat was approximately 10 months old. The Vet than asked Michael to hold the kitty's front paws and she check her "private" parts.

I asked the Vet, "can you tell if she has been spayed already?" The Vet smiled and said, "Actually, she has not been spayed because she is a he. You have a neutered male cat here."

Michael and I were thrilled! We had not wanted to put out the expense of spaying the cat nor go through the recovery process in our little apartment; so, needless to say, we were thrilled, indeed.

She then ran the scanner over the kitty and low and behold, the kitty had a microchip. We were told that any animal who had been neutered and micro chipped, would undoubtedly have already been vaccinated and had their rabies shot. We left there having to pay only for an exam, some Frontline and some ear drops. Of course, we also had the microchip number and the phone number to call to find out if the chip was registered.

To make a long story short, I spent quite sometime on the phone with the company. I was told that the original owner had given the cat to a "caregiver" but they were not sure what the status was. The owner indeed lived in our apartment complex, but we were not given the name or phone number; instead the company took our number and told us that she would call the original owner and have them call us.

On Friday, the owner called and left a message. She said that she no longer owned the cat; that she had given it to a neighbor. There is more to that story; but, I will spare the reader of the details and simply end this post by informing the reader that we now have a new member of the family. By the way, Michael has named him "Monkey".

Who would have thought that after just 6 months of marriage I would now be a mom to a monkey!

Well, here is our little "Monkey"

November 7, 2010

Fall has arrived in the Secret Garden and with it a new litter of wild kittens. Michael took a few pictures of them (from afar). They were born under the fallen Oak tree and come out in the warmth of the afternoon sun. The mother cat does not let anyone near them; so, getting a picture was a rare treat. I am enjoying turning his photo's into little "watercolors" and making small greeting cards out of them.