Thursday, August 18, 2022

Sylvia: A Not-So-Silly Squirrel Story

 Once upon a time, there was a cute little squirrel named Sylvia.  Sylvia was the youngest of twenty, and she lived with her family and dozens of other squirrel families in a stand of Blue Spruces known as Blue Point Ridge.  Being a squirrel in Blue Point Ridge was serious business.  Young squirrels were not encouraged to be curious and were warned to avoid distractions, and they were taught the squirrel code very early on: Squirrels were always to look out for one another and to take nut gathering with the utmost seriousness.  


Sylvia was not serious in the way the other squirrels were.  While the young squirrels would dash along the floor of the Ridge looking for nuts, Sylvia perched in a cozy spruce and gazed thoughtfully at the beautiful, symmetrical branches surrounding her.  Sometimes she would simply marvel at the beauty of the Ridge and ponder how it came to be.  And if a racoon or stray cat or dog encroached on their territory, the others would chatter their curses at the intruder while Sylvia wondered what had brought it so close.  Her siblings and friends found Sylvia to be downright annoying as they were always trying to find her as she wandered in the woods, and her parents and elder squirrels were always scolding her for her unserious ways. 


It was a short walk to squirrel school, but it was one that Sylvia enjoyed immensely.  The path led out of Blue Point Ridge for a bit, and Sylvia loved the open country, the bubbling creek, and the lush green valley just beyond.  But her classmates did not like that section of the route so much.  They would hop and chatter along their way, but when they left the secluded protection of the Ridge, the unfamiliar creek became an object of fear and they hurried past.


One drizzly Fall morning, Sylvia and the other young squirrels were trotting to school, and when they came in sight of the creek, her companions shrieked and sprinted the rest of the way to school as Sylvia stared.  The creek was shrouded in a glistening mist.  Sylvia crept toward the mysterious sight.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t afraid; but she was overwhelmed with curiosity.  As she stared into the mist, she thought she saw a shimmering figure in the mist, almost like a holograph.  When the figure disappeared, she shrugged her shoulders in bewilderment and followed her classmates to school.


At bedtime that evening, Sylvia told her story to her mother.  “Sylvia!” exclaimed her mother.  “Now you are being downright silly!  Please be a good little girl squirrel…. Please be serious!”  


It was a particularly rainy September and October, and the mist appeared more regularly over the creek. The little squirrel students developed the habit of dashing past the area as fast as they could go, arriving early and breathless at school.  Except Sylvia.  She developed the habit of inching closer to the creek and standing before the glistening figure in the creek mist.  She found it both frightening and irresistible.  After a few days, she found herself awed by the figure and started to bow her head in respect before continuing her journey to school.


And then one day, Sylvia made the mistake of mentioning her time with the mist figure to a few friends during noon playtime.  They stopped and stared at her almost in disbelief, and then burst into an avalanche of laughter.  “Sylvia is silly!”  “Sylvia is silly!” they chanted around the garden, and soon the entire school knew.  Her teachers became concerned, and the principal threatened to dismiss her.  When her parents confronted her, Sylvia could only explain what she saw and felt.  Her parents feared for her mental health and scolded her soundly: “Sylvia, stop this nonsense right now!  This is too silly!”  And they begged her to be a serious little squirrel.


Sylvia was very sad.  She knew she was not silly.  She knew there was more to the world than what the other squirrels could see.  She didn’t know who the figure was, but she did know she wanted to know.  It was so hard to not be able to talk to anyone about it, but she continued to linger by the creek on rainy days.


And then one day it happened.  A storm came upon the Blue Point Ridge one evening just as the young squirrels were settling in their nests.  Lightning lit up the sky above, and thunder drowned out the cries of terrified squirrels.  Suddenly the situation became life-threatening as a tree in the middle of the Ridge sustained a direct lightning hit and caught on fire; and then the fire started to spread with alarming speed.  Before long, the entire Ridge was ablaze and squirrel families were racing for their lives.  


The rain came, but not in time to save their homes.  Running blindly in the most familiar direction, the ragged groups of squirrel families came to the creek.  They stopped in their tracks as Sylvia walked forward, her eyes fixed on the figure in the mist.  Bowing before the figure, she was able to see the last thing she expected to see: a tiny bridge formed from debris that had collect in this shallow section of the creek.  She looked closely at the mist figure and was sure she saw a smile.  Sylvia turned and shouted, waving her arms in excitement.  “This way!  We can cross the creek here!”  She couldn’t see their faces, but their reluctance was clear by their lack of response. 


The fire raged behind them until eventually, the squirrel families had no choice but to try to cross the creek.  Sylvia kept waving her arms and shouted words of encouragement as the first few families took their first tentative steps across the makeshift bridge.  Before long, the entire group was across the bridge, safe from the fire, and scouting out the nearby forest for a satisfactory place to begin a new colony.


Once again, Sylvia lingered, glancing at the mist figure who remained.  She bowed and whispered, “Thank You!”  As she walked toward her new home, she cast one last glance at the figure.  She was sure He winked.


And from that time on, none of the squirrels called Sylvia silly.  She had earned a new nickname: “Spiritual Sylvia.”


Monday, August 1, 2022

Thought For The Day and A Lifetime

 "If I won't be myself, who will?"

                          Alfred Hitchcock

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Power of Living Loved

 "Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

                                                                                                               James Baldwin

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Faithful Life

 "It is not important to succeed, but to do right.  The rest is up to God."

                                                                                      C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Wisdom of George Washington

 "Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person's own mind than on the externals in the world."       

                                                                                                         George Washington

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Thought For the Day--And a Lifetime

 "Let us temper our criticism with kindness.  None of us comes fully equipped."

                                                                                          Carl Sagan

Friday, July 1, 2022

Truth or Consequences

 July is the month when we celebrate our freedom in this country.  It is worth celebrating!  Scripture is clear that God hates oppression in any form, and so the political freedoms that we enjoy are a blessing from Him.  Discussions about freedom, though, often center around the issue of rights.  And while personal and corporate rights are a legitimate component of freedom, our Lord is much more concerned about the spiritual freedom that often entails the sacrifice of our rights for the good of others.  If we want real, eternal freedom, we must look beyond our rights to find the freedom that the Lord offers, the freedom that is the fruit of knowing the truth.


We live in a day where truth is personal and subject to change at any moment.  We, like Adam and Eve, cannot seem to resist looking to feel good about ourselves, by ourselves.  And so the concept of absolute truth that was once commonly if not universally accepted has taken a beating.


Truth can be challenging indeed.  A well-known line from the film A Few Good Men sums it up nicely: “You can’t handle the truth!”  We prefer our own custom-made truths that serve to keep us in our comfort zone and protect us from the need to grow. 


But there is a cost to such an approach.  We serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whose identity and nature are Truth.  If we serve lesser truths, we miss the opportunity to know our Lord, partake in His nature, and become who He has created us to be. Please consider this quote with me:


“The truth will set you free.  But not until it is finished with you.”

                                                                                    David Foster Wallace


This reference to Jesus’s words as recorded in John 8 bears significant thought.  In this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching about what it means to be one of His disciples.  The life of a disciple is one of knowing the truth, and then reaping the fruit of freedom that truth offers.  It is no small matter.  


One aspect of knowing the truth is knowing Jesus as the Truth.  We become enabled to know Truth as we pursue a personal faith relationship with Him.  In order to do this, though, we must put aside the selves that would prefer comfort and independence and find our identity in our Lord.  And then, as we develop this faith relationship with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit is able to do His work of sanctification.  The Bible tells us that the Spirit is a wind, blowing where it will; as it blows unpredictably within us, it will often expose lies that have been masquerading as truth.  If we can embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, He will be more and more able to make us whole: to bring the truths that we believe into alignment and harmony with our faith relationship with the Truth.


As we persist in knowing the Truth in deeper and fuller ways and commit to the work of the Holy Spirit within us, then the truth will indeed make us free:  free from the penalty and power of sin; free from the opinions and expectations of others and our culture; free from lies that would bind us in self-imposed boxes.  It is, of course, a life-long process, but that only tells us that the time to start—or continue—is now.