Making a House a Home

Ed Palm Photo--Used by permission

Earlier this week, while enjoying sunshine through the bedroom window, I noticed a pair of Oregon Juncos flitting through the branches of the Bartlett pear tree, examining a birdhouse hanging there. Though my husband hung the nest almost a decade before, I didn’t remember any birds ever using it.

But here these two were, scouting out the neighborhood like a couple of home shoppers.  One of them—in my mind the female—hopped on the roof of the house, poked her black head in the front door, and after a quick look over her tail feathers, ventured inside. Her companion waited on the branch while she completed her inspection,  tapping his little bird feet as his mate considered this site for their new home.

I couldn’t help but laugh at their behavior. One bird waiting patiently, as I’ve seen husbands do all too often, as the other bird decides if this will be the place she can be happy.

I could imagine their twitters.

“Honey, this nest has a larger living space, but I do wish the front door faced south.”

To which the other bird replied, “This is the seventh nest we’ve looked at today. Can’t you make up your mind?”

And she answered, “Raising our family requires a good home and I intend to find it.”

The wind rose and the house swayed in the breeze. The two birds, apparently startled by the movement, escaped to higher branches before flying to another part of the yard.

Birds aren’t the only ones particular about their surroundings. People are admonished in God’s word to proceed with steadfast earnestness.

In Colossians 3:23 we are told: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

When beginning a project, Luke 14:28-30 says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

The birds haven’t returned to the little house in the pear tree, but spring isn’t here. Maybe they are still doing the neighborhood tour before they settle down and start their family.  Who knows?  If they return, they might even pay rent!

The Weather Outside IS Frightful

The yard surrounding my rental property. The tenant vacated for a week.

When I chose to read  Lauraine Snelling’s novel, Wake the Dawn, little did I know the setting would soon parallel real life. Border patrolman Ben James and physician’s assistant Esther Hanson join forces to treat victims of a vicious storm which leaves power outages, downed trees, and massive flooding. Sound familiar?

With all the recent weather news, I confess I followed the media with passive curiosity.  In my head the severe storms kindled concern for those suffering in the wake of nature’s wrath, but my heart didn’t register the extent of the damage.  I’d seen enough coverage of former disasters to know not everything coming from behind the microphone could be trusted.

Until my power went out Saturday morning.

 Six and a half inches of snow had fallen Thursday, followed by another several inches
Friday.  Saturday brought the worst—freezing rain—which caused branches to snap and power lines to fall. Without traversable roads and electricity, no traffic moved and all electric devices  silenced. Amazing how deafening the quiet could be. Birds squabbled over food, trees cracked as they split, and dogs yapped to get in out of the cold.   

We wrapped in extra blankets and read by flashlight. A fully charged laptop powered a ninety minute DVD. Cold sandwiches and fruit provided our meals.  We were stuck, but not unhappy.  Our neighbor offered an evening ride to a nearby restaurant in his four-wheel drive. Many patrons shared our reason to dine out, and together we held our collective breath every time the restaurant’s lights flickered.

In Isaiah 41:10 God says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

When the power rallied early the next morning, I woke to the television’s blare. The digital clock flashed red from the dresser and the hall lights shone. As my foggy brain noted the time—2:07—I gave thanks for the linemen working in the cold, defying the darkness, and forgoing sleep to ensure my comfort.

Never again will I dismiss storms plaguing various parts of the country, knowing people suffer in bad weather. Physicians and patrolmen press on in spite of handicapped work environments.  Linemen are doing what they do best—keeping their communities together. Even when they become characters in a well-timed book.



Valentine’s Day–Finding the Right Words for Love


Courtesy free photos online

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a work of which I am an ardent fan, Elizabeth Bennett wonders who first discovered the efficacy of destroying affection with verse. She declares that poetry must indeed kill love. In surprise, the oft maligned hero Fitzwilliam Darcy replies, “I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love.” Elizabeth disagrees, saying she is convinced “one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.”

This week, in the spirit of Cupid, many will celebrate Valentine’s Day with written verse and amusing anecdotes. Husbands and wives will exchange words of tenderness, parents will confirm their fondness for their children, and friends will honor friends with declarations of warmth. Affirmations of affection will flood the store aisles, color our television screens, and even break into our newsfeed on Facebook.

Indeed, for all our advancements in the written word, society is filled with many varied and often twisted views of what love language must be. Television screenplays portray it in terms of rampant sex and unbridled lust—with innuendo and sarcasm often their companions. Many books on romance aren’t much better. Wanton behavior in our culture suggests we’ve missed the point entirely. Considering the rates of divorce, children with authority issues, and bewildered singles looking for attachment, maybe our society is, to quote a popular song, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” (Johnny Lee, Urban Cowboy,1980)

I Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV) has been labeled one of God’s love passages in the Bible. In it God’s kind of love is described as willing to wait patiently and kindly for others. This love doesn’t become jealous of others because of who they are or what they have. It doesn’t brag or exalt itself above others. God’s love puts others first. It is not easily angered, doesn’t seek revenge, or keep track of wrongs. God’s love seeks to find the good in others, protecting and defending them. His love has confidence in others, expecting good things for them. God’s love never stops loving.

Perhaps in the midst of our Valentine celebrations, we should stop and consider the One whose devotion to his creation wrote the book about loving.  For all that we attempt in the name of professed love, His love never fails. 

Book Pick–Sweet Mercy by Christy Award Winner Ann Tatlock

I love a story that surprises  me. Ann Tatlock’s newest novel, Sweet Mercy, does just that.  I didn’t expect the ending and the revelation elevates the book to the rank of memorable.

Set in the era of The Great Depression and Prohibition, the story follows Eve Marryat’s journey as she moves from her home in St. Paul, Minnesota to Mercy, Ohio. Her father has lost his job at the Ford Motor Company, can’t find new work, and decides to return to his roots, despite disagreements with the two brothers he left behind. One of them runs a lodge in Mercy and offers to let the family work for him in exchange for room and board.

Eve is happy about the change.  In her mind Mercy is an idyllic place she remembers from her childhood, a little town where she can avoid bootleggers, murderers, and gangsters, people she witnessed in operation in St. Paul.  Visitors to Mercy come to relax, spend time on the river, and dance to bands on weekends.

She meets her first boyfriend, receives her first kiss, and forms an unlikely friendship with a homeless man living in a camp along the river, totally ignorant of the business dealings of her uncle and his lodge.

Reality soon finds her and she is faced with a decision—expose her uncle for who he is and risk losing the position he has granted her father, or remain quiet and oppose the law. Her choice will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

Ann Tatlock lives with her family in North Carolina and is a recipient of the coveted Christy award, an honor given to authors who write compelling fiction from a Christian worldview.  Sweet Mercy is her tenth novel and is available from Bethany House Publishers.