Don’t Be a Turkey

Millions of Americans will enjoy turkey on their Thanksgiving tables tomorrow.  But how many of those people know that a wild turkey can run 25 miles per hour or fly at speeds of 55 miles per hour? How many know that tame turkeys don’t have the same capabilities and some can’t even fly? Do you think many people know a tom turkey is a male or that a hen is a female? Or that a young male is a jake and a young female is a jenny?

Even the origins of the name turkey would be a mystery to a lot of people. The bird was actually named after the country of Turkey. Europeans were used to trading with merchants from Turkey.  One of the items these Turkey merchants would trade with the Europeans were Guinea fowl which became knows as turkey fowl. As Europeans made their way to the New World, they came into contact with a bird they mistakenly believed to be the same kind of bird, and the name turkey stuck.

Of course, not all countries call these birds turkeys.  The Portuguese know them as peru.  Greeks call them french birds.  Some more creative names given to turkeys are fire chickens and seven-faced birds.

So, without a case of mistaken identity we might be gathering around the Thanksgiving table to enjoy a juicy fire chicken!

Mistaking one bird for another is not a big deal, but for Christians being mistaken for something we aren’t can be a big deal.  To be a Christian means we are followers of Christ. Scripture tells us we are to be like Christ to those around us.  God wants our actions and beliefs to look so much like the way Jesus lived that others see the difference and want to know about Him.

This is a great way for others to see how much God loves them.  The problem comes when our actions don’t match with what we say we believe about God.  When we live our way instead of God’s way, we start to look like the rest of the world.  Living like the rest of the world creates a case of mistaken identity.  People believe we belong to the world instead of God, and our lives don’t encourage them to find out more about Him.

Maybe you feel like you’re just a kid.  It can’t be that big a deal to have others think you belong to the world instead of God. You have plenty of time to live God’s way after you grow up.  But that isn’t what God’s word says.  Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Everyone who has accepted God’s gift of forgiveness should be known for living the way God wants them to live.  No matter your age, God wants us to live in ways that keep us from having a mistaken identity.

Prayer Thought: Thank God for allowing you to show others His love.  Ask Him to help you learn how to live in ways that show you belong to Him.

Nature Moment: Mistaken identities in food can be fun.  Try this recipe from tasteofhome.com for fake sushi, and share it with your family and friends.  Melt four cups of miniature marshmallows and 1/4 cup of cubed butter in the microwave.  Be sure to stir after each minute.  Add in 5 cups of crisp rice cereal.  Stir until all cereal is covered in the marshmallow mixture.  Unroll 10 Fruit Roll-ups, leaving them on their papers.  Cut 10 pieces of multi-colored licorice lengthwise into thin strips.  Place about 1/2 cup of the cereal mixture on the edge of each roll-up.  Place licorice in the center of the mixture. Roll up “sushi” rolls to 1 inch diameter.  Discard paper.  Trim edged of rolls and cut each into four pieces.

Squirrel Preppers

Watch a squirrel for any length of time and you will likely see it find and hide a nut. Unlike some animals that prepare for winter only by fattening up, squirrels add hoarding to their list of survival techniques.  When they find a nut and hide it, they aren’t just trying to be tricky with that evening’s meal.  They are storing away food for a time when it will not be as plentiful.

Squirrels are not the only animals that rely on nuts for food.  Other animals sometimes find the squirrels’ hiding places and steal their food.  God gave squirrels a unique behavior to combat thievery by other animals.  It is called deceptive caching.  A squirrel will pretend to bury a nut in one place only to bury it in a completely different place.  The goal is to trick the food thief into searching an empty space instead of the real hiding place.

Another behavior squirrels exhibit to protect their food source is called scatter hoarding.  This means instead of having one place to bury their loot, squirrels will hide away their treasures in a variety of places. If all the food was hidden in one place and a thief found it, the squirrels would be out of luck for the remainder of the winter. By leaving food in several places, a thief can only take a small amount of the food if they find it.  There is only one problem with this plan.   Sometimes, the squirrels cannot remember where their food is safely hidden.  Between other animals finding their caches and the squirrel forgetting where they buried it, a squirrel may lose up to 25% of their stored food.

Squirrels have proven behaviors to help them successfully prepare for difficult winters.  Diligently seeking out food and burying it in safe places allow them to live through the times when food would not otherwise be found.  Preparation is an important part of their lives if squirrels are going to survive.

The same is true in how we live our spiritual lives.  2 Chronicles 12:14 tells us of the downfall of a king named Rehoboam.  It says, “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” Other versions of scripture say he did not prepare his heart to seek God.  To avoid sin in our lives we have to make the choice to focus our hearts on hearing God’s voice.  We have to choose to seek out God’s ways.

Seeking God doesn’t just happen.  It isn’t something we catch like a cold or the flu. It is something we put effort into.  When we prepare our hearts or determine in our hearts that we will seek God, that is when it will happen. Our preparation even goes beyond just deciding we are going to read the Bible or pray.  Before we do those things, we can set our hearts and minds on godly things.  We can ask God to show us what He wants us to know.  We can do things to get rid of distractions and take care of our own bad attitudes and thoughts.  When we come to God with hearts ready or prepared to hear Him, God can give us the spiritual treasures we need to have healthy relationships with Him and live the kind of lives He wants us to live.

Prayer Thought: Thank God for speaking to you through His word and in prayer.  Ask Him to help you remember to prepare your heart to hear what He has to say.

Nature Moment:Take care of the squirrels as weather in your area starts to cool.  Providing nuts for squirrels or even chunks of avocado can help squirrels through the winter months.

Full of Fruit

There is one popular dessert that will appear on dessert tables all over the United States during Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkin pie and its many variations are traditions for Thanksgiving, and there would be no pumpkin pie without pumpkins.

Pumpkins are fruits in the same family as cucumbers and melons.  Inside the shell of each pumpkin is the flesh which is used in most recipes, like those for pumpkin pie.  Seeds are also in each pumpkin.  In fact, there are 500 seeds in each pumpkin.  One little pumpkin can grow many, many more pumpkins.  And the seeds aren’t only good for growing more pumpkins.  People roast and eat pumpkin seeds. The stringy guts surrounding the seeds can also be used.  They can be boiled to create a pumpkin stock to add to soups and casseroles for additional flavor.  Even the shells of a pumpkin can be used.  When emptied out, soil can be added and a flower planted inside for a festive decoration.  As the pumpkin starts to rot, the entire thing can be planted in the ground.  The pumpkin acts as a fertilizer for the plant.  Or you can use that leftover shell to feed local wildlife such as deer. Pumpkins are surprisingly versatile and every single part can be used for something special.

As a Christian, you are also chosen for something very special.  2 Corinthians 5:20 gives us insight into what that special task is. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.” Believers are called to the special task of being God’s ambassadors.  Other scriptures tell us we were not made for this sin filled world.  This is not where we belong.  We belong with God, but God wants to use us in this world.  He wants all people to know who He is and accept His loving gift of salvation.  We are the way God has chosen to spread His message to those who don’t believe.

That is what an ambassador does.  They represent something to people.  We represent God to others.  We get the special honor of not only telling others about who God is but also showing them how He is through our actions.  Think of all the people you will come to know through your life. Are you showing them God in what you say and do? Just like one little pumpkin has the potential to make 500 more pumpkin plants and many, many more pumpkins, Christians who act as ambassadors for God have the potential to help many, many more people come to accept God’s gift of salvation.  And just like every part of a pumpkin can be used for something, every part of our lives can be used to do our special job as well.

Prayer Thought: Thank God for allowing you to be His ambassador. Ask Him to show you how you can best show others His love in what you say, do, and think.

Nature Moment: Find out for yourself what a pumpkin can do.  Have your parent buy a pumpkin and use it to make your own pumpkin pudding, roasted pumpkin seeds, and biodegradable pumpkin planter.  With a parent’s permission, use the internet to research recipes and instructions.

All Bark

If you were told to go outside and chew on some bark, you would probably pass on the opportunity.  No one wants to chew on bark.  Or do we? Cinnamon is a spice used in a variety of ways, and it comes from the bark of an evergreen tree from the genus Cinnamomum.  Most people are familiar with ground cinnamon, but you can also purchase cinnamon oil or even cinnamon sticks which most closely resemble bark.

Cinnamon is actually a very versatile spice. In ancient times, it was used in Egyptian mummification.  It is also popular in cooking, being able to compliment sweet and savory dishes.  Chewing on cinnamon bark or gargling cinnamon water is a great way to freshen your breath.  It is also high in calcium and fiber.

In addition to all of these uses and benefits, studies have shown cinnamon has antimicrobal properties, and it can help boost brain activity.  Cinnamon has been used in a variety of ways to help treat various health issues.  The idea of eating bark may not be very appetizing, but when that bark is cinnamon, even the men God led to write the Bible knew how special it is.

Along with other spices, cinnamon is mentioned several times in scripture.  Cinnamon oil was used in perfumes and also in anointing oil.  It was considered a valuable spice.  But as important as cinnamon and other spices were to the Jewish people, Jesus warned that there was something much more important for believers.  Luke 11:42 gives a strong warning to the religious leaders.  “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

The people were giving their expensive spices as a tithe to God, but God didn’t want them just giving from their riches.  He didn’t want them content with just giving a gift of money or belongings to the church.  God wanted and still wants His people to do right in how they live and show God to the world through loving acts.  It is when we love people the way God loves us, that they see who God really is.  Jesus tells the us it is much better to do without the spices and other tithes and give ourselves to others.  In this way, we become God’s fragrant spice in the world.

Prayer Thought: Thank God for the people in your life that showed you God through how they live.  Ask Him to help you be His fragrant spice in the world.

Nature Moment: Create fragrant ornaments for your Christmas tree with this recipe from the McCormick.com site. You will need 3/4 cup applesauce, 2 – 2.37oz bottles of ground cinnamon, cookie cutters, drinking straw, and colorful ribbon.  Preheat your oven to 2oo degrees. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in a small bowl until a smooth ball of dough forms.  Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll the dough to 1/4-1/3 inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Cut dough into desired shaped with 2-3 inch cookie cutters.  Make a hole at the top of the ornament with a drinking straw.  Place on baking sheet. Bake 2 1/2 hours.  Cook on wire rack.  Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang.

Now You See Me

Many animals use camouflage to escape predators. Their fur changes color to match the seasons, the back of their wings looks like the bark of a tree, or their shape and color make them look like leaves on a branch.  There is one animal that takes camouflage to a whole new level.  This master of disguise is the octopus.

Octopuses’ camouflage is not limited to looking like one thing in their environment.  Their unique ability comes from three specialized types of cells; chromatophores, iridophores, and leucophores.  While the last two types of cells in their skin have reflective properties, the first one contains pigments.  Working together, these cells are able to make an octopus almost completely disappear.  They are able to match not only the color of items in their surroundings, but also the patterns and textures.  Even watching this process happen in video, it is hard to believe how completely the octopus disappears.  The transformation is so complete, it is like the animal has become invisible.

There are a lot of things in this world that are really invisible.  Faith, love, and hope are invisible.  We only know they are there when we see people act on them. God’s patience, creativity, logic, and perfection are invisible too.  But God has given us a way to see them.  Colossians 1:16 reminds us, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” All of the things that make God who He is can be known by us because we have His creation to show us.  Romans 1:20 says, “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.”

God’s power can be seen in a storm or the strength of a tiger.  His patience and reliability can be understood by watching a mountain beaten by the weather day after day but standing strong. God’s loving and caring nature can be seen when we take a look at the way some animals care for their young or watch how very different animals work together in symbiotic relationships. Though God’s characteristics may be more invisible than an octopus blending into its surroundings, He has given us a way to know Him.  We just have to take the time to seek God out in His creation.

Prayer Thought: Thank God for giving us more than one way to know Him more.  Ask Him to help you have a clearer understanding of who He is through what He has created.

Nature Moment: Take a walk outside, preferably in a park or other natural setting.  Instead of rushing through the walk, take your time.  Really look at the world around you.  Use the time to pray and think about what God wants to show you.  If you have a camera, take pictures of things that catch your attention.  If you do not have a camera (and even if you do), take a notebook with you.  Write down what you see and what you learn about God from those things.