Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Lesson from Elephant Matriarchs

Imire, Zimbabwe Elephants by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography

Imire, Zimbabwe Elephants by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography

 A LESSON FROM ELEPHANT MATRIARCHS

I am certain that it is no secret to those who follow my Nuggets that I have a deep love and respect for all wildlife but elephant in particular! Having lived among them in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) I was able to interact firsthand with these “gentle giants”. My love and passion grew through my childhood years and into my adult life. I think I have read and assimilated more books, documentaries and discussions on elephant, than the average grandmother!

There are many lessons that can be learned from the Matriarch of the elephant herd.

Come walk with me down the dusty trails in the African bush while a family of elephants become our companions.

In the golden dusk of early evening, the shimmering leaves appear to be dancing their evening waltz.  A herd of elephant silently slip into view, puffing up small whirls of dust that appear to hang motionless on the waning breeze. The matriarch, her large and noble head held high, swings her trunk back and forth. She is at one with the peace that only early evening can bring. Despite her giant size, she has the lightness and grace of a ballet dancer.  Her fluid movements ooze with confidence as she leads her herd into the darkening shadows of early evening. They follow her through the swirling dust along the well-worn game trail. Their survival depends on her guidance and they trust her completely as she has led them for many years. They are a cohesive group of females and their adorable babies of varying sizes.

The matriarch, along with her daughters, have “assisted” with many births; forming an impenetrable wall of muscle and tusks around the cow in labor. The birth of a calf causes much excitement in the herd as they encompass the newborn with joy: a cacophony of trumpeting screams and rumbles shred the air. All the females welcome and encourage the newborn to get onto its feet. An elephant’s emotional attachment to their family members rivals many human families!

The mother elephants in the herd must provide the +-250 pound newborn with milk. Like all mothers, her newborn is a precious seed and it will never grow unless nourished and nurtured. In the elephant world, the newborn will be raised within this warm and caring environment, learning life skills from all the females in the Matriarchal herd. Young aunties or elder siblings will take on babysitting duties and model all important behavior for their development; preparing them for the responsibilities of ‘Motherhood’ if they are female calves. These young elephant calves learn how to become independent by watching and mimicking the others. They are nurtured and loved by all the members of the herd as they grow and develop.

The information passed down over generations is imperative to their survival. Discipline is necessary for unruly youngsters who will receive a cuffing from one of the elders’ trunks to keep them in line. To survive, they need to be team players. They have learnt all the right skills and they use them effectively. The matriarch has taught them clear roles within the herd such as; communications, co-operation, respect for one another, decision making and the art of skillful reconciliation. All these lessons ensure cohesive bonding between the elephants. When in crisis, they will trust and follow the matriarch who has earned their respect, and she will not rule by force or fear but by loving example. Her impeccable memory serves them well.

Once night falls and the darkness deepens, two adult cows stand like sentries in the place the matriarch has chosen for the night’s rest. The “sentries” large ears flap gently fanning the warm and heavy night air. The long night lies before them; this is the time when hungry predators roam but the elephant calves are safely tucked in the center of the herd protected by powerful legs, trunks and lethal tusks.

As the crimson light invades the darkened horizon with the coming of dawn, a sense of anticipation for the new day glides with gentle fingers over the resting herd. With a low frequency purr that you can feel rather than hear, the herd rouse themselves, their need for food fueling them on. They stir and look to their matriarch to make the first move. Thanks to their courageous leader, this family of elephants has lived to face another day.

Now let me lead you down a different path; one that will determine your eternal destiny.  First let me ask you a question: Have you ever tried to fathom the essence of God?

We have so many images of God, some are a result of our culture, our upbringing (or lack of it), our limited human understanding, our positive or negative experience with authority and I could suggest many more sources.

Then there are those who have plumbed the depth of God’s essence, in their relationship with Him and found the priceless attribute that makes God Who He is!

What is that priceless essence? It is HIS NEVER ENDING LOVE.

Think about this: water must be wet and a fire must be hot. You can’t take the wet out of water and still have water! So too, you can’t take the heat out of fire and still have fire.

In the same way, you can’t take the love out of God and still have Him exist……FOR HE WAS….AND IS….AND WILL BE LOVE!

Let me challenge you dear friends…probe deep within Him. Explore every corner. Search every angle and I assure you LOVE is all you will find, shining in its many facets.

Go to the beginning of every decision He has made and you will find His love in that decision.

Go to the end of every circumstance He walked you through and you will see His love woven and shining even in the darkest of days.

Simply LOVE! No bitterness……. No evil…….. No cruelty……. JUST LOVE!

Flawless love……….Passionate love………………Vast and pure love.

YES, GOD IS LOVE and you can trust your days to Him!

1 John 4:16 (NKJV) “ And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

Credit: Photo by Ann Warner Wildlife Photography at Imire, Zimbabwe

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Fear Not!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine - Photographer -JustBob Images

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine – Photographer -JustBob Images

FEAR NOT!

I woke up this morning with the beautiful song taken from Psalm 61 ringing in my heart.

Psalm 61:1-4 (NKJV) Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

So many are struggling with fear of the future; or difficult circumstances; or waiting for results of a life changing diagnosis;  or the loss of a loved one; along with a whole host of other heart breaking situations. It would seem that everywhere you turn there is a “prophet of gloom and doom” ready to snatch what measure of joy you cling to and replace it with a dark foreboding of what lies ahead.

It troubles me that God’s children are so easily snared by the net of lies that today’s fear-mongers spread! God’s Word is FULL of precious promises of His provision and protection for the righteous believers! Yet the church of today seems to chase after every “new teaching” whether it is Bible based or merely man’s speculation.

This morning a Pastor friend posted this comment which rung so true in my heart:

“Blood moon? You ain’t seen nothin yet! A careful comparison of the primary scriptures relating the sign of “The moon turning to blood” (Joel 2:30-31; Acts 2:19-20; Matthew 24:29-30 and Rev. 6:12-17) clearly tells us that this will be a “supernatural phenomenon” that will be accompanied by a huge earthquake and cosmic chaos in the stars during the Great Tribulation when the sixth seal is opened. This will be a sign of Christ’s physical return to earth at the battle of Armageddon. The Bible is pretty clear on this subject… so if you want to see the real Blood moon, you’ll have to be around during the Tribulation. I wouldn’t recommend that! (Pastor Tim Satryan)”

You see as Children of God during life’s storms, we have the assurance that if our feet are firmly planted on the “rock of His salvation” we will be sheltered in His “strong tower”!

It should not come as a surprise to the righteous that evil days are upon us for His Word has clearly shown the events that will unfold during the “End Times”!

This is NOT the time to be spreading messages of fear and gloom but a time to “LOOK UP AND REJOICE FOR OUR REDEMPTION DRAWS NEAR”! (Luke 21:28)

Let me paint a visual picture for you to explain this Nugget of encouragement.

Living here in Missouri in what is commonly called “Tornado Alley” we have had to ride out numerous super cell thunderstorms which produce devastating tornados. The ones that hit under the cover of darkness are the hardest to endure as you cannot SEE the direction the tornado is moving IN but you HEAR the shrieking roar of the wind, the snapping trees, the ripping metal, the shredding and splintering of homes that once stood stately and tall. Jagged lightning strikes hit all around and the thunder peals are so powerful they shake the very foundations of the house. These violent sounds of nature in all its fury will strike fear to even the bravest heart.

Most of our towns have tornado sirens and we are conditioned to “duck and cover” when these sirens start blaring.  When the storm is building there is a sense in the atmosphere that something terrible is approaching. This is NOT the time for fear and panic but a time for calm, deliberate PREPARATION to move the family to your “safe place”. Some homes have underground tornado shelters; some have “safe rooms” within the house; while others simply have an inside room (usually a bathroom) where the family can gather and wait and pray!  Glyn and I have experienced these storms more than I care to count, they are NOT FUN and the power of the tornado is terrifying BUT our confidence in God’s Hand of protection is greater than the power of the storm.

Now do you get the picture? This old world is being shaken at its very foundations. Evil abounds on every side, corrupt governments are destroying what once were peaceful and prosperous nations; suffering, poverty and famine abounds. Closer to home many families are fighting to survive in a dying economy; while others are facing terminal diagnosis and having to walk through the valley of suffering.

YET…………………………….THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC AND BE CONSUMMED BY PARALYSISING FEAR but a time for the righteous to prepare in anticipation and joy for what God has prepared for them!

Let me take you back to the scripture verse and song that is ringing in my heart! No matter how bad the “outlook” is………… the “up-look” for the Child of God glorious!

I have stood on Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, Maine and watched the awe-inspiring rise of the morning sun. The cold gripping fingers of darkness flee as the first rays of the glorious sunlight rise above the horizon and a sense of deep reassurance floods the heart; while the warmth of the early morning glow touches the face giving the assurance that the God we love and serve has everything  in control!

So my friends let me encourage you today.  Things will get worse before they get better, we will experience seasons of suffering and hardship BUT fix your eyes FIRMLY on this promise……………..

Hebrews 11:10 (NKJV) “For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

What glory a-waits those who remain faithful to the end!

Distant Drums

African village beating the drums.

African village beating the drums.

DISTANT DRUMS

The stand of huge Eucalyptus trees that towered over the mission house began to stir as the morning wind gently wafted through the leaves; signaling to our resident troop of monkeys that morning had arrived. It was late October which meant the summer heat was upon us and hopefully soon some good rains would replenish the thirsty earth with its life giving moisture!

It was the weekend so there was no need to vault myself out of bed for the early morning drill to get ready for Dad to drive us to our one roomed school house, in the village of Chatsworth, Rhodesia.

Lazily I lay listening to the monkey troop’s noisy morning chatter; it was time for them to forage for food! Then a different sound drifted in on the wind; it was the throb of distant drums. It was not uncommon for us to hear the drums from some of the African villages that were dotted across the bush on the other side of the rocky granite kopjie (hill). The drums served as a form of primitive communication to the residents of the village as well as to near-by villages. A death; a wedding feast; a call for a tribal “indaba” (discussion); or an alarm of pending danger; all could be conveyed through the beating of the drums. Sometimes the sounds were joyful and sometimes they were muted and sinister. I slipped out of bed, giving my slippers a good shake before I slid my feet into them; as scorpions and some nasty spiders loved to use them as hiding places! The old mission house with its cracked walls and cement floors was a haven for these critters seeking a dark and cool place to escape the burning African sun! So part of our morning ritual was to always check slippers and shoes for uninvited critters that had the capacity of giving you a very painful bite or sting.

During breakfast Dad mentioned that the next day we were going to take the mission truck and head over the rough bush track to one of the villages to hold a church service. I loved going on these trips as there was always some unexpected excitement that the trip into the bush would spring on us. Life was by no means boring for this red-headed missionary’s child as it seemed each day brought a new adventure.

The next morning bright and early; we loaded up the truck with some bags of maize meal, bags of salt and bags of brown sugar to give to our African church elder and his family that lived in the village. As was my custom I rode in the back of the truck with some of our African helpers and joined in their happy singing as we bounced over the apology of a bush track. I loved the smell of the bush; it was distinct and unique. Some trees were still flowering giving off a beguiling fragrance that you never forget.

We finally arrived at the village and already a fairly good sized congregation was waiting for us. There was no church building so we gathered under the shade of a large Massa tree that afforded us a measure of shade. Off in the distance on the perimeter of the village a single drum began to beat; it signaled to my parents that trouble was brewing. Our Elder explained that everyone was fearful as the witchdoctor had told the villagers that he was going to cast a bad spell on the missionaries and cause them to die, to prove his power was greater that their God. Dad chuckled and told Elder Petros that the witchdoctor was in for a surprise as God would prove Himself faithful to us that day!

The church service went without incident. The brave souls that had gathered lifted their voices in song and the harmony of their song came from their deep devotion to a God who was a God of love and not one to be feared. The hot summer breeze carried the heartfelt melodies into every corner of the village.

I never tired of listening to the Africans sing. They have a gift of beautiful harmony without the aid of any musical instruments. Just the pure blending of joyful voices that to this day is burned deep within the core of my being. Just typing these words for this Nugget floods me with a deep longing to hear those songs in the primitive bush again!

Once the service was over, Elder Petros invited us to sit in the shade of his hut and rest before our journey back to the mission compound. His wife was preparing us a cup of hot tea. While we visited he commented to Dad that nothing sinister had taken place for which he was thankful; Dad agreed with him but assured him that we had no fear for our trust was in God. We began to drink our tea when suddenly Dad, Mom, Petros and I were overcome with acute vertigo. Petros exclaimed in terror: “Mfundisi (teacher or missionary) we have been poisoned! Surely today we will die!” We all immediately poured out what tea was left in our cups. Dad had one of the villagers bring him a mangy village dog and asked for the milk that had been used in our tea to be brought to him. Gently he placed a drop of milk in the dog’s eye and immediately the pupil became dilated, confirming that a certain poisonous fruit had been squeezed into the milk container before it had been brought to Petros’s hut. The drop would not harm the dog but we were in serious danger depending on exactly how much of the poison we had ingested. By now the word had spread and a crowd of the villages had gathered; some terrified their missionary would die before their eyes and others mocking, saying the witchdoctor’s muti (medicine) was stronger than the missionary’s God. To bring a sense of calmness to the gathering crowd Dad stood up and announced that we were going to pray and ask God to stop the poison from harming us. He asked for any villager who believed God could do this to come and gather around us as we prayed. Slowly with timid steps one after another separated themselves from the mocking group and made their stand. Vocally the whole group raised their voices in earnest petition; asking God to protect their missionary family. Then all became silent with every eye in the gathered crowd riveted on our family. We stood up from our chairs and shouted as loud as we could: “God has heard our prayers, we are strong, and the effects of the poison are gone!” Instantly an ecstatic cry went up and the believers began so sing and dance to demonstrate their exultation of the faithfulness of God.

Today the nations of the world are hearing the throb of distant drums. They are not playing a song of freedom and joy but one of fear and war. These are dark days that we are living in BUT WE NEED NOT FEAR! We have the assurance from God’s Word that He will be our shield and protector during times of trouble.

“Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” Prov. 3:25, 26

When wars and rumors of wars fill our hearing, the Lord tells those who trust in Him not to become alarmed and fearful. He has promised to defend the righteous.

God would have His children manifest courage not fear!

Since the scriptures teach us that the Lord Himself will suddenly come to our defense, we should not then be surprised at anything unexpected. 

Serenity under the rush and roar of unexpected evil is a precious gift of divine love.

The Lord would have His children see that the desolation of the wicked is not a real calamity to the universe. Sin alone is evil; the punishment which follows it is as a preserving salt to keep society from putrefying.

So, today be encouraged with this promise; we who trust in the Lord, let us exhibit a quietness of spirit in the face of great adversity.

Satan and his minions are full of all subtlety; but those who walk with God shall not be taken in by their deceitful snares.

Go on………I challenge my readers today; let the Lord be your confidence and all fear be erased.

Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV) The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.