Crimson Snow

51GNSVES0ZL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_I must admit I wasn’t expecting much when I picked up a copy of Crimson Snow by William Kritlow.  He’s an author I’ve never heard of.  I confess it was the novel’s setting, the Lake Champlain region of New England, that lured me to check out this book.

In the opening pages a murder has been committed at a community church in the small town of Sugar Steeple, Vermont.  The body lying in the snow is that of the assistant pastor.  The police detectives have precious little information to go on and suspect it could be someone connected to the church.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, Georgia, we are introduced to a socially immature seminary graduate named “Win”  Brady who still resides at the seminary three and a half years after his graduation.  A Dean at the seminary is pressured by Brady’s wealthy father to force Win’s exit from the safe confines of the seminary, wanting him to do something “productive” with his life.  The Dean just so happens to have ties to New England, and you guessed it, the town of Sugar Steeple.

From this point on the book sprouts wings and soars as I watched Win Brady clumsily navigate his first ever assistant pastorate.  He becomes enamored with a woman police officer who somehow convinces him to work undercover for a hard-nosed detective.  As the book progresses, a spiritual battle unfolds pitting good against evil.

Kritlow has succeeded in creating well-developed characters and an engaging plot that keeps you guessing as to who the real killer is.  I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the Lake Champlain Mystery series.

On the fourth day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds.  An old English version of the song refers to them as “colly” birds.  Colly, refers to something covered with coal dust, something completely black.  After taking a quick tour of the internet I gathered the following information on colly birds:

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They are most likely blackbirds.  Wikipedia states blackbirds unlike many other black creatures, are not normally seen as a symbol of bad luck.  They have the ability to sleep effectively with half their brain while the other half maintains a degree of alertness.  Unlike migratory fowl, blackbirds remain during the winter if food is available.

In the theological version of Twelve Days of Christmas, four colly birds represent the four Gospels found in the Bible.  To this Wikipedia adds: “The symbolic meaning of blackbirds is eternally linked to the “dark vs light” phases of the moon. I’m talking nocturnal awareness. … The bird is symbolic of life in the heavens (higher ideals, higher path of knowing) and the color black is symbolic of pure potential.”

The gift my true love gave symbolizes her faithfulness and commitment to our relationship, ever watchful to protect it no matter the season of life.  Together we will prosper with the wisdom and blessings from heaven.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Proverbs 31:25-27

On the third day of Christmas

chicken-3662513_960_720.jpgThe lyrics of the song continue…”On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens.” Some suggest this is a theological reference to three virtues of the Christian faith: Faith, Hope and Charity.

From an animal husbandry prospective, a French breed of chicken, or Faverolles, are well adapted both to captivity.  And were the egg-producing poultry of choice centuries ago.  Today these docile creatures they serve more as an ornamental and exhibition breed.  Children love the French hens because they make excellent pets.

I consider the gift of 3 French hens a generous gift, symbolizing both a practical and prosperous future.  Like love, the gift can multiply and sustain itself.

On the second day of Christmas.

heart-81207_960_720“On the second day of Christmas my true love gave me two turtle doves.”

From what I’ve read, the term turtle dove refers to a group of old world doves that includes ringed doves and mourning doves.  In literature they are associated with innocence, purity and enduring love.  The bird utters a sweet, mournful call, arriving on the scene in the early spring and staying until late in the summer. They are dedicated to their mate and offspring.

I see the gift of a pair of turtle doves given to me by my true love as a gesture of commitment, love and faithfulness to me.  It is an enduring and desirable gift in an age littered with disposable relationships.

My lover said to me, “Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!  Look, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.  The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.”  Song of Solomon 2:10-12 NLT

 

On the first day of Christmas

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More than likely you are familiar with the song, “The twelve days of Christmas.”  This Christmas season I search for a deeper, more personal meaning to the lyrics of this song.tree.”

The first gift my true love gave to me was a partridge in a pear tree.  Today, such gifts would seem quaint.  Before you start yawning, consider the first gift of a partridge.  In the land of Palestine partridges are wilderness fowl that are known for their distinct call.  Additionally, partridges have beautifully marked plumage.

Here’s the symbolism I found in the gift of a partridge.  A partridge thrives in a wilderness environment.

pear-3570890__340What a prize it would be to find this beautiful creature in such an inhospitable region. I am reminded of the times I found myself wandering in a proverbial wilderness only to hear the sound of a familiar voice, which breathed life into my parched soul.

The partridge is presented perched in the second gift, a pear tree.  An Asbury College student, Scott Cozart, told this parable in a chapel service.  

“A father wanted to teach his four sons the lesson of not judging something or someone too quickly, and so he called his four sons together and said “I have a task for you. I want you, my eldest son to go out into our fields and take a look at the pear tree and come back and tell me what your evaluation is of its condition.””

“So the eldest went out and saw the pear tree. But it was winter, and the son saw the tree on a harsh winter day and reported back and said to his father. “I see nothing of promise about the tree. It appears old, and gnarled and has no blooms on it at all. I doubt it will survive the winter.””

“Three months later the father sent the next eldest son out in the spring to evaluate the pear tree. The son came back saying “The tree is very beautiful, with white blooms, but it seems purely ornamental, it has no fruit, nor any sign of ever bearing any. I doubt it will be of much practical use to us.””

“Three months later the father sent the third from the eldest son out in the summer. The son went out to see the tree and came back reporting: “the tree seems to be growing and doing well, and it is full of leaves, and I could see some fruit, so I picked one and tasted it, but it was bitter, not fit for human consumption. I doubt it will prove of much use to us.”’

“Finally three months later the father sent his youngest son out to see the tree once more. This time the tree was full of ripe beautiful golden and red pears. The son tried one and came back with the glowing report “Father we must come quickly for the harvest is upon the tree, and it is heavy laden and needs us to pick the pears for they are ripe and delicious now.””

“The father called his four sons back together, and said, “You see each of you have observed well the condition of a the tree at a particular season of the year, but your judgment of the tree was only partial, and made too quickly based on what you saw on only the one occasion. See to it that you never judge human beings this way. Never evaluate them too quickly or on the basis of one encounter, for it is unfair and unwise. Indeed all living things should only be evaluated over the course of time and after repeated careful inspection, for who knows but the ugliest and most unproductive of living things might some day turn into the most beautiful and fruitful.””

From the parable of the pear tree, I was able to see the beauty found in a relationship with my true love.  One that withstands the test of time.

Partridges are not known to roost in trees.  So when the partridge is presented perched in a pear tree, it stands as a monument observable from a great distance.  The partridge’s distinct call is capable of spanning a vast wilderness.  A partridge in a pear tree is a beautiful, fruit-bearing gift, which stands out in a world crowded with distractions vying for our attention.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 15:16

Growing faith

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT

Growing faith leads to abounding love. How does faith grow? One way is through persecution or trials, when we are forced to fully rely on God. How can we as followers of Christ, abounding in love, help those who are embroiled in such a predicament? Several years ago I began the practice of praying for someone who seemed to be wandering in a proverbial “desert wilderness.” I reasoned, if Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted forty days, then hat should be the measure of my commitment.  My forty day commitment to praying for someone is often done without telling them.  It builds up my faith to see God answering prayer in the life of another person.

praying-1319101_960_720Dear God, strengthen my faith by your mighty power. Remind me my strength comes from every word that comes out of your mouth. Guide my words and deeds to bring glory to your name. Show me someone who may be suffering, whether they’re facing a trial or struggling with doubts about their faith.  

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”  Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

 

Couch to 5k: The benefits of walking

walk-2635038_960_720About 30 days ago I sat in a doctor’s waiting room waiting for my six month check up. A year earlier I had been prescribed a small dose of blood pressure medicine to manage my blood pressure.  From periodic pressure readings, I knew my blood pressure had been rising recently.  A nurse confirmed my bp was high.  I knew what was coming, they were going to prescribe a higher dose of BP medicine.  Would they need to increase my meds again next year, and what about the year after that?

I had given up on cardiovascular exercise earlier in the summer.  I didn’t want to subject my knees and hips to jogging anymore.  I didn’t plan to run anymore 5ks so why keep jogging?  I questioned whether or not walking would give me any cardio benefit.  Besides, I considered myself active.  On work days I averaged 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.

However, In the last 90 days (minus any cardio) my resting pulse had risen significantly as had my BP.  To make matters worse, I was coping with a stressful family medical situation.  I am grateful my doctor didn’t overreact.  He calmly recommended the D.A.S.H. diet, some cardio, and said losing a handful of pounds would make a big difference.

It was time to draw a line in the sand.  The next day I started walking for at least 20 minutes a day.  I focused on trying to keep my pulse in the cardio range, 110 to 130 beats per minute as defined by my Fitbit.  I also started making better choices on the food I ate to lower my salt intake.

The results have been noticeable.  In just a little over 30 days my resting pulse has fallen almost to what it was when I was jogging almost 90 days. ago  My BP has fallen below my doctor’s suggested ideal range (that’s with taking my BP meds).  I have also shed a couple of pounds in the process. My Fitbit now declares I have excellent cardio vascular health!  Cardio walking for 30 minutes or more a day 4 or more times a week does make a huge difference!