The Sap Has Started To Run!

sap

Some of our maples have started to produce sap which we will soon start boiling down into the Nectar of the North aka Pure Maple Syrup! This flow of sap will continue as long as we have air temperatures cycling below and above freezing.

When the trees thaw initially they take up water along with the stored sugars they had deposited last fall. As the tree refreezes the water it has taken up expands and creates a positive pressure within that will push the sap out the taps. Eventually the pressure will equalize if the tree doesn’t freeze up again and the sap flow will stop, but each time the tree refreezes pressure will be regained. This process will last 4-6 weeks. By that time the temperatures will stop dipping below freezing or the sap will start to turn off-flavored due to the leaf and flower buds breaking open.

This kind of pressure build up during sap flow is found in only a few types of trees. Thankfully, God has designed the maple in this way so that we can harvest the sugars in the sap and boil them down into a delectable syrup!

One final parting fact: The Box Elder Tree (Acer negundo) is part of the maple family and can be tapped for maple syrup.

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Necessary Diversity

I learned many lessons about God’s creation while at the University of Minnesota. Even though there is a strong emphasis on evolution being the explanation for our origins at the U, God’s beautiful and efficient design could not be hidden. In a class that studied the ecology of managed landscapes I learned about God’s design for diversity. One of the main emphases of the class was that diversity is directly related to resilience. As diversity within a population increases so does the population’s resilience to disturbance and disaster. As I pondered this I realized that this is true not only for landscapes, but also people in general and the church specifically. Thus the adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is wisdom that God has woven into the fabric of creation.

Where do we see this diversity? Take a walk through the woods and you will see the trees towering overhead. There will likely be 5-10 different species of trees overhead. As you look out at shoulder level there will be dozens of species of shrubs and as you look down many more plant species will be around your legs. And this is only the plants. If you sit quietly for a while many birds and possible other animals will come by and thousands of insects will buzz, crawl, and whir around you. Then kick back the leafy duff on the ground and you will see many more crawlies chewing up the dead plant material. Get out your microscope and you will see billions of lifeforms alive in the first couple inches of the soil preparing nutrients for the plants. All of these species are dependant upon each other to carry out the duties which God designed them to do.

Now take a walk in downtown Minneapolis. See the flurry of activity of business people making their way to work. See the bus driver picking up and dropping off these people. In and out amongst the traffic you see bicycle couriers delivering important packages. There is a hotdog stand feeding the people who are too busy to make their own lunch. You walk past stores filled with sales people ready to sell items needed or wanted by shoppers walking along the streets. There is the street performer reminding people that we live in a world that has beauty in it. There is a street evangelist reminding people that we live in a world created by a holy and just God and that we need to be reconciled to Him. And there is the homeless man begging for money, his dependency upon others an uneasy reminder to many of their own dependancies. All of these people dependant upon each other to carry out the duties which God designed them to do.

Now take a visit to your church. See the people at the door welcoming you in. Hear the Sunday School teachers teaching the kids. The church librarian is organizing the books and the nursery workers are taking care of the young. The prayer circle is praying for the day, the church, and the pastor. Now the worship team is leading people in worship. There is food being shared in fellowship. The men are meeting together to encourage each other with God’s word. The elders are equipping the saints, and the deacons are taking care the needs within the church. All of these parts of Christ’s body fit together, dependant upon each other to carry out the good deeds which God had prepared for them in advance.

Thus a forest filled with a myriad of plant species ranging from the lowly mosses under the leaves to the majestic oaks towering above, along with multitudes of animals, fungi, and bacteria in between will have much more resilience than a mono-cultured corn or soybean field. A city filled with multitudes of people skilled in various things will be much more resilient than a city full of accountants. And a church that is abounding with the all the parts of the body of Christ is much more resilient than the church that has many feet but no eyes.

All of this to say that God designed the pattern of necessary diversity into creation for a reason. The interdependencies diversity creates within nature, within humanity, and within the church all point to one thing, that nothing in creation is truly independent. Yet all creation is not merely interdependent upon itself as panentheism teaches (think Avatar). Rather just as a body needs a head and a stable forest needs its mature trees, and people in general need leaders, so to on a grander scale all of creation depends upon its Master and Creator, Who sustains all things. Thus in the diversity of creation we see that God has woven a fabric of interdependence that ultimately points to Him. Sadly many of our culture are seeing this interdependence and are turning to the godless pagan idea of panentheism rather than to turning to God our Creator.

So I encourage you to do two things. First, as you see the necessary diversity woven into our world and lives marvel at its beauty and declare your dependence upon the Creator of all things, Our King Jesus! Second, help your neighbors to see that higher diversity equals higher resilience and that that was God’s design from the beginning to help us see our dependence upon Him.

This is an article I wrote in our latest newsletter – Mathew

When I Am Afraid …

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You”

Psalm 56:3

We have taught this simple verse to our boys to help them when they are afraid. Many times when they wake up with a nightmare or are afraid to go to bed I remind them that they can trust in God when they are afraid. Then we think about why they can trust in Him.

1. He is the Creator of this universe, there is nothing more powerful than Him. He is Almighty

2. He is everywhere, He promises to be with us always.

3. He knows our hearts and knows what scares us, He will hear our cry for help.

4. He promises to uphold us with his righteous right hand.

As we talk about these things the boys usually are calmed and are able to go to sleep. Often I forget that these Bible verses I am teaching my boys were written for me also.

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His Invisible Attributes…Have Been Clearly Perceived…

Since I have been busy making sure chicks are happy, getting sap from the sugar bush, and boiling it down to syrup I haven’t been able to do much blogging. So when I’m busy I’ll try to post somethings that I have written in previous newsletters we have sent out. This particular piece comes from ponderings on how God makes His invisible attributes clearly perceived within His creation (Romans 1:19-20). My apologies to those of you who might have read this before.

God has made us in many marvelous ways. And all of these marvelous ways point to Him if we take a moment to consider them. One feature we have been given is the ability to taste sweet stuff. God did not merely give us food as a source of energy, rather he gave us taste buds. We can go beyond surviving on food to savoring food. Oh how good it is to bite into a sweet juicy orange or to crunch into a crisp, succulent pea pod! We all have something sweet that we have a hankering for on occasion. It might be an old fashioned doughnut or fresh juicy peach. Now one of these is quite a bit healthier for you than the other.

God uses His good creation to illustrate spiritual truths in ways that we can grasp. So how does having the ability to enjoy sweet things (both healthy and unhealthy) figure into spiritual truth? In Psalm 119:103 the sweet taste of honey is used to help us understand how the psalmist delights in God’s word. In Proverbs 9 the woman named Folly calls out to the simpleton that, “stolen water is sweet.” Here are two very different kinds of spiritual sweets. The wise psalmist highlights the sweetness of God’s word. The foolish woman highlights the sweetness of ill gotten gain. Where do these proclamations of longings for spiritual sweets come from? There seems to be a distinct connection with what our mouth says and the condition of our hearts (Matthew 12:34). Thus a good heart will savor God’s word and a bad heart will savor the products of sin. Isn’t it wonderful how God reveals to us in His word how our hearts can be captivated by both good and bad sweets, just like our physical tongues can be captivated by both healthy and unhealthy sweets.  And just like a peach is designed to do us good while we savor it, so to God’s word is designed to do us good while we savor it. Isn’t God good to us?

So, have you been finding God’s word sweet lately? If not, try to savor some of the promises God has for you in His word today (try Psalm 23, Romans 8, or Ephesians 2 for starters). If you have been finding His word particularly sweet, why not share that sweetness with others(in person or comment below)?

He is risen!

He is risen! What a glorious proclamation. HE IS RISEN! We can say with confidence that our sins have been properly dealt with through Jesus’ death on the cross AND Jesus has conquered death for us. He is the living God. The wages of sin are death. Jesus did receive those wages on our behalf, but He is the living God and death could not hang on to His life. So now through Jesus we have new life as well.
For us in the temperate Northern Hemisphere this great truth is magnified by God’s creation. At this time of year the death of Winter is being replaced by the new life of Spring. Just today (the Saturday before Easter) I heard the laughing and leaping waters of the beaver dam set free from their icy blanket, I saw tender shoots of green rising up out of the brown mat of last year’s growth, I smelled the freshness of life coming back into the newly thawed soil, I tasted the sweet running sap of the freshly awakened maple trees, and I felt the moist air of spring overtake the dry and parched air of winter. Every year I feel a sublime undercurrent of excitement both within myself and from others as this life springs forth. Don’t miss the truth about God that he has woven into His creation. Just as He has designed the new life of spring to come out of the deadness of winter, so also He has designed our new life in Christ to come out of the deadness of our sins. Isn’t this exciting? Isn’t this amazing?
For me, there once was a disconnect between enjoying God and enjoying His creation. I didn’t realize that my enjoyment of His creation could heighten my enjoyment of God. But that is exactly what God has intended His creation to do. To bring Him glory through its entirety. From the smallest sub-atomic particle to the greatest galaxy if we pay attention and look close enough everything points to our Creator. So now when I experience the joy of the new life of spring, I make the connection that this is a reminder of what God has done for you and me spiritually (Check out Ephesians 2). So go ahead and get excited about spring, and let it be an avenue for you to get excited about your great Savior who has brought you new life!