4,000 Years Old and Still Alive – Oldest Tree in Wales – Queen of Ordinary – November 24, 2014

IMG_0558  IMG_0555 Oldest living tree in Wales

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It is hard for me to imagine a living organism on this earth that is over 4,000 years old.  This yew tree, Llangernyw,  would have been alive 2,000 years BEFORE Christ walked the earth.  It was alive through all of modern recorded history.  It was around when the pyramids were being built.

We were there.  We touched it, we left our imprint.  It will probably still be alive long after we have passed from this life.  I have often thought about trees and the stories they could tell if they could but speak.  This one could fill a library.

Of course, my curiosity drove me to research other “oldest trees,” and I was stunned by what I found.  There is another known tree in Iran, the Zoroastrian Sarv, estimated to be about the same age as the tree we vised in Wales.  These two are mere children compared to the Mac Daddy of them all.

The world’s oldest known living tree is more than twice as old as Wale’s yew tree, and estimated to have sprouted sometime during the last Ice Age, roughly 9,550 years ago. The 16-foot spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden has a root system that got started when the British Isles were still connected to Europe by an ice bridge.

The United States can lay claim to one of the oldest trees known to man on the planet.  Methuselah, as the tree has been affectionately named after the oldest man in the Bible, is a bristlecone pine tree in California’s White Mountains.  The tree is estimated to be almost 5,000 years old.  The location of the tree is not public knowledge in order to protect and preserve the tree.

It seemed that in our month long travels across the UK, God had ordered our steps to connect us with the ancient things of those places from the castle at Cashel, the Book of Kells, Giant’s Causeway, and even the oldest living tree.  I am in many ways still connecting the dots of those things most significant in our journey.  I am very thankful that our stops included a visit to this historic tree.

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Ducks Quack Me Up – Queen of Ordinary – November 14, 2014

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Irish Ducks

Ducks are so much fun to watch.  They fly, swim, eat, and pooh where ever they go.  These are the things we know right off the bat.  But, did you know that ducks fight, groom themselves, establish dominance and even play?

This group of ducks we stopped to feed in Ireland on a beautiful little stream had made a game out of going up a little waterfall, then riding the water back down over the rocks.  They would turn around, struggle against the current and the little bit of white water to get back up the rocks and over into their small rapids.

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If we threw out bits of food to them, there would be a couple paying attention who raced forward to get the treats, then all of the rest would follow.  Sometimes they fought over bits of food, but we had enough for all.  They weren’t interested in us as people – only as food givers.

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Their ducky antics definitely were amusing.

We could learn a lot from ducks.  They do what they were created to do – perpetuate their species, fly only to get where they are going, look for something to eat, swim in the water, quack to communicate, pooh, groom themselves, and make up chasing games or other simple things as play.  I don’t suppose there has ever been a duck who sat around feeling sorry for himself because he didn’t have a grander lot in life.  I doubt that a single duck has ever been depressed because God didn’t make them an eagle instead of a duck.

Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could be content in being what God created us to be and finding joy in it?

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Incredible Rock Formations: Giant’s Causeway – Queen of Ordinary – November 6, 2014

DSCN6052  DSCN6065 (2)  DSCN6074  The Giant’s Causeway

Wikipedia Describes The Giant’s Causeway:  The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

It is located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1986. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

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Can you imagine standing on the edge of creation, watching continents collide, oceans roar, and lava ooze upwards from the center of the earth?  Giant’s Causeway is in incredible place with the evidence of shafts of lava that pushed upward and against each other to form this extraordinary place at the edge of the ocean.

Being there was awe inspiring.  Why don’t these formations form everywhere there are volcanic eruptions?  Why did they form in this place?  Just as it pleased God to create such a diversity of plant and animal life in the earth, it seems to have pleased Him to make even the rock formations varied and unique.

If a person doesn’t believe in God, they probably would not be impressed by these things.  But for those of us who do believe in God, the Earth declares His glory.  Giant’s Causeway is definitely one of those places.

My Sheep Know My Voice – Queen of Ordinary – November 2, 2014

DSCN6441  Photo at Neist Point Lighthouse Cliffs

There are sheep dotting the countryside of the UK in all four countries we visited.  In the most unlikely places, their little white wooly forms dot the landscape like stray clouds on a sunny day.

I learned a little about sheep from all of our encounters.  If you make a sudden movement toward them, they run immediately.  If you stand still and stare at them from what they deem a safe distance, they will stand still and stare back, or even resume munching grass with a cautious eye toward you.  If you talk in hushed tones to them or sing softly, they will stand still for a while and listen.  But at the very moment that they are able to discern that your voice is not the voice of their shepherd or owner, they take off wildly to get away from you.

If reminded me of some Bible verses about sheep.

Matthew 9:36 – But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

Luke 15:4 – 7 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

John 10: 1; 4 – 6 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”

Psalms 100:2
– Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

John 21:17 – He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

We ought to behave more like sheep.  When strange voices, strange doctrines, or strangers trying to entice us down the wrong road speak to us, we ought to have as much sense as the sheep and run away as fast as we can.

Can You Grow Between a Rock and a Hard Place? – Queen of Ordinary – November 1, 2014

IMG_6950  IMG_6948  Bushmills Cottages – Ireland

One of our cottage stays in Ireland was at Bushmills Cottage – Columba #2.  it was an interesting place with modern conveniences, sheep in the pasture behind us, a clothesline in the back yard for drying laundry, and wi-fi.  What a combination!

I took a walk with my camera on the path at the edge of the woods.  Actually I was trying to sneak up on the sheep.  I soon learned this is an impossible task.

On my walk I noticed how many little plants were poking out of cracks in the rock fences and gate posts.  With an entire field behind us on one side and the forest on the other side, and a lawn on yet another side where they might have grown more easily, these little plants were flourishing in the most unlikely of places.

If they had grown in the sheep pasture, perhaps they would have been eaten along with a mouthful of grass by the sheep.  If they had blossomed in the lawn, they surely would have been mown down.  If they tried to grow in the forest, bigger plants would have overshadowed them and blocked the sun.  So they flourished right there, where their seeds had landed and taken root.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people thrived as well in the rocky places of life?  Instead of whining and complaining about how tough things are, or how it is so unfair that some people have so much more than others, what if we just sent down our roots and decided to bloom where ever we landed, even if it was between a rock and a hard place?

I Peter 1:23  – for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

IMG_6952  Be strong in the Lord.  You CAN blossom right where you are!

Visiting the Burren in County Clare, Ireland – Queen of Ordinary – October 31, 2014

IMG_5873 The Burren – County Clare, Ireland

As we drove along the Wild Atlantic Way, we stopped in the Burren National Park.  Of course one stop doesn’t do justice to the whole thing, but I had never seen such a lonely, rocky, forsaken looking place.

After returning home and doing a bit of  internet research I found The Burren to be an amazing, fascinating place.  The Burren has evidence of inhabitants over 6,000 years ago.  There are archaeological sites of importance across the area, and 75% of all of Ireland’s flora and fauna can be found in the Burren.

It is a good lesson that we can judge nothing by one glance or one short visit.  The high season for plant species had ended about a month before we got there and includes a combination of species found only in that region.  When we were there it looked as though it would be impossible for anything besides scrub grass and bushes to survive the rugged landscape on the edge of the sea.

I suspect that if we were there in spring or summer, the place would look entirely different.  I wish had known more about The Burren before we visited.  I would have judged it entirely differently.  All we were looking at was a snapshot of a place on one day and on a day beyond the floral season.

I can’t help wondering how often we do that to other people.  We see someone on a trying day, a barren day, somewhere beyond their high season of growth and flourishing life and that’s all we see… a snapshot that is only a small fraction of the whole person.  Just as the land passes through seasons, so do people pass through seasons in their lives.  Just taking one glimpse of someone on any given day is absolutely no reflection of who they are, where they’ve been, what they are going through, or the marvelous plans that God still holds for them in their next abundant season.

When we look at ourselves, sometimes we feel like we’ve lost our bloom.  When we are walking through the dry seasons of life and the rocky barren places, it is easy to get discouraged.  Yet, if we hold on to what we know to be true about God’s love for us and what we know about ourselves as His children, we can be assured that there will come another season of change and abundance in our lives.

Psalm 139:16  “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”


Queen of Ordinary – Visions in the Campfire – August 4, 2014

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Clouds, snow drifts, kudzu, and campfires all have something in common.  They stir the human imagination for see images that appear by chance in nature’s whimsy.

I took several photos of a campfire at Kingdom Come State Park last night after asking a nice couple if they would mind if I did.

When I downloaded the images, I was surprised to see a Phoenix rising out of the ashes/out of the flame.  Do you see it?  I actually see two different images of the Phoenix without ever having to strain to imagine it.

Even a flame captured in a split second has secrets all of its own if we look for them.

Queen of Ordinary Scatters Seed – June 22, 2014

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In the parable of the sower and the seed, the sower went out and scattered seed in many places.  In the end, some was fruitful and some was not.  However, the sower had only been instructed to sow.  That was his job.

Sometimes we take it on ourselves to worry about the end results of the good we do before we ever do it.  That is not what God calls us to do as Christians.  We are to sow seed, do good for others, and let HIM take care of the end result.

The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Queen of Ordinary Finds Beauty in Weeds June 19, 2014

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There are no weeds in God’s garden.  Every plant that brings forth a blossom is beautiful in its own right.  The exquisite design of the common weed, Queen Anne’s Lace, is an intricate combination of tiny blossoms that come together to form the “head” of the plant.

Queen Anne’s Lace is also known as “Wild Carrot.”  The juice of the root can help sooth itchy skin.  The roots are also rich in Vitamin A.  It is said to have been introduced into the United States from Europe where it was a very popular plant during the reign of Queen Anne.

According to information I read on the web, the large taproot of the plant can be eaten and is much like the carrots we eat – perhaps and ancestor.

Even a plant considered to be only a weed that springs up in ditches, fields, and along roadsides has value, beauty, and purpose.


Queen of Ordinary Observes Determination – June 17, 2014

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There are always lessons to be learned by simply observing things in nature.  One of my favorite things to watch is butterflies.  They are such beautiful creatures and ride so gracefully on the wind, but watching them reveals what hard workers they are.

Our little winged friends work constantly at gathering nectar.  Even when it appears they are resting, they are usually trying out a new plant.

As I watched this particular butterfly, he discovered that his proboscis was not long enough to reach the nectar in the depth of the flower.  He walked around it, uncurled his little straw and each time went a little deeper into the flower until he would back out and try again.  He didn’t quit nor move to a new flower.

What this butterfly needed was the nectar deep in the center of this Day Lily.  Finally he just stuffed himself into the opening at the middle of the flower and practically disappeared.  Only the black tip of his wings were poking out.  I chose this photo because it actually shows that it is a butterfly.

The determination of this little winged beauty was a lesson in nature.  Some people know what they want, but they are not willing to work for it.  They try a bit, then flit away to something else.  Others stay focused, know what they need and are willing to work for it.  They don’t give up until they get what they want.

The pay off is success.  Apparently there was a lot of nectar for this little guy because he stayed out of sight for a while, then emerged and took off for parts unknown.  Working hard and determination will bring us to our pay off if we stick with it – whatever it might be.  Let us learn from the butterfly what determination looks like.