Monday, December 10, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 86: Red and Green

Key Text

"If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also." John 14:3 (WEB)


What is red and green all over? It probably did not take you long to guess Christmas. These two colors are often considered the official colors of the holiday. But other colors are popular too. Blue, gold, silver, and white can be seen adorning nearly every home and shop at Christmas. Red and green still seem to dominate all others. It hasn’t always been that way. Until the early 20th century many colors were used in decorations as much as any other. But red and green slowly came to prominence with time.

In colder climates in Europe and North America, the dark green holly plant with its bright red berries are a familiar and welcome sight. They are one of few plants that grow in the cold months and stick out against the snow. Holly is able to grow even in winter because it is an evergreen. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees F (-6 degrees C).1 Holly has long been a symbol of hope of coming spring. So the holly branch has been associated with the Christmas season for centuries. The holly branch helped to make red and green the most popular Christmas colors.

This hope is mirrored in the hope of the Christmas story in which the birth of Jesus symbolized the coming hope of his mission. The birth of Jesus did not in itself bring salvation. Jesus still had to grow up. He had to complete his ministry and train disciples to carry his message to the world. Then he had to choose to go to the cross and die for our sins. But the birth of the Messiah brought hope. It was a sign that God was in the process of carrying out his promise. It was a symbol of hope.

God is now in the process of carrying out another promise. He is working to prepare a place for you and me so that he can come again and take us to live with him for eternity. As Jesus promised in the key text, he will come again and take us back to heaven with him. Christmas is the celebration of the first advent of Jesus and a reminder that Jesus fulfilled God's promise of a redeemer to save the world. When you look at the red and green decorations this Christmas season, let them remind you that like the holly is a promise of the coming spring, so Christmas is a promise of a savior that is coming a second time.


What is your favorite Christmas color?
What else does Christmas give us hope for?
Why has Jesus not returned yet?
How long will it be to Jesus comes back?

1. "AMERICAN HOLLY," University of Kentucky, Department of Horticulture online, last updated December 7, 2018, from

Written by David F. Garner

Friday, December 7, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 85: Better Than Metal Bones

Key Text

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.


Have you ever wished that you were made of metal? That your bones were as strong as steel and could never be broken, or perhaps that you had your own metal armor? This is a dream shared by many boys but probably few girls. It is an interesting thought and one contemplated by biologists. Not long ago biologists discovered one creature that does have a metal skeleton. It is called the scaly-foot gastropod (Crysomallon squamiferum). This odd creature is a snail-like animal that lives deep in the ocean near hydrothermal vents where it is warm. They live at depths of 1.5-1.7 miles (2.4-2.8 km). Scaly-foot gastropods grow their own shell which they use as a defense from predators.

Their shell is made of a trilayered composite structure that resembles modern armor. It is made of a highly calcified inner layer, an organic middle layer, and coated with an iron-sulfide outer layer. This deep-sea snail has iron armor! It is currently the only known animal to achieve this. This metal armored shell also acts as an exoskeleton for the snail. It serves to protect it from the harsh corrosive water it lives in as well as to stop predators from eating it. This unique creature is providing researchers with new insights that may lead to better designs for materials to use in armor and all sorts of applications.1

Researchers have studied metal and other materials as possible substitutes for bone in humans. Metals and other composite materials are used to replace bones in some surgeries such as hip replacements. These materials are in many ways stronger and more resilient than bone. One critical barrier remains to replacing our bones with other materials—self healing. Our bodies are designed to heal injuries using the materials and molecules we had at birth. Our bodies are simply not designed to heal metal bones.

Humans may devise a way to replace their bones with stronger materials one day. It may seem better to never have to worry about having a broken bone. But metal bones or armor will not stop all pain or harm. It cannot prevent death. God has given us something better than metal armor. He has provided a shield for us. As it says in the key text, those who trust in God will have him as their protector, as their rock. When we submit to God and trust him to provide our protection then we can have peace. God has outlined his armor for us in Ephesians 6:10-18: righteousness, faith, truth, and salvation. With these tools we have the protection of the Almighty King, much better than any metal. The scaly-foot gastropod can go about its business, without worry of danger, confident in the armor God has provided for it. How much more can we live free from worry, confident in the protection God provides us? Are we not more valuable than a sea snail? Jesus died to redeem us, our salvation is assured. We may suffer broken bones here on this earth, but that is nothing compared to the hope we have in Jesus!


If you have had a broken bone, how did it happen?

Would you choose between metal bones or metal armor? Why?

What do we do when we trust God’s protection but still worry?


1. Yao, Haimin, Ming Dao, Timothy Imholt, Jamie Huang, Kevin Wheeler, Alejandro Bonilla, Subra Suresh, and Christine Ortiz. “Protection Mechanisms of the Iron-Plated Armor of a Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Gastropod.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, no. 3 (January 19, 2010): 987 LP-992.

Written by David F. Garner

Photo credit:  Kentaro Nakamura, Hiromi Watanabe, Junichi Miyazaki, Ken Takai, Shinsuke Kawagucci, Takuro Noguchi, Suguru Nemoto, Tomo-o Watsuji, Takuya Matsuzaki, Takazo Shibuya, Kei Okamura, Masashi Mochizuki, Yuji Orihashi, Tamaki Ura, Akira Asada, Daniel Marie, Meera Koonjul, Manvendra Singh, Girish Beedessee, Mitrasen Bhikajee, Kensaku Tamaki via This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 84: Almonds For You

Key Text

“Moreover God’s word came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then God said to me, “You have seen well; for I watch over my word to perform it.”” Jeremiah‬ ‭1:11-12‬ ‭(WEB‬‬ paraphrased)


Almonds are a spectacular nut. They offer great health benefits. They are high in vitamins E and B2, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They offer a high level of antioxidants and are beneficial for the cardiovascular system.1 These nuts have a mild taste that is great alone and with many other foods. They make a great nut butter. They can even be used to make a tasteful milk substitute.

They grow on trees and are native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean region. They grow well in warm regions such as California which produces 80% of the world's almonds. Although almonds are normally called a nut they are technically a seed which grows inside a hard fruit covering called a drupe. There are two varieties of almonds, sweet and bitter. As you likely guessed the sweet almond is the one that is eaten as a nut. The bitter almond variety is used to produce oil.2 The most striking aspect of the almond tree is the flowers. When in full bloom they are beautiful with five white to light pink petals. They have a rich fragrance that smells of honey butter.

In the Bible, almonds are mentioned several times. In Genesis 43:11 Jacob tells his sons to take almonds with them into Egypt as one of the best foods of the land. These are to be a present to Joseph, probably because the almond was not a native to the region of Egypt. In Exodus 25:33-34 Moses was directed to decorate parts of the candlestick for the wilderness Tabernacle with carvings resembling branches and blossoms of the almond tree. Aaron's rod yielded almond blossoms and ripe almonds to prove he was God’s choice for high priest (Numbers 17:8). The most unusual mention of almonds is in the key text where Jeremiah sees an almond branch in vision. It is an odd verse the first time it is read. God asks Jeremiah "What do you see?" and Jeremiah says, "the branch of an almond tree." Then God seems to congratulate him on his powers of observation then completely change the subject.

While God may seem absent minded at first, when reading the verse in context, it makes more sense. Throughout the chapter of Jeremiah 1 God repeatedly asks Jeremiah what he sees in vision, then makes an important statement. God uses these images as symbols. He is trying to help Jeremiah understand the crucial points of His message. Almond buds are usually the first to appear after the long winter. They usually start growing in late January before winter is completely gone.2 The Hebrew word for almond (shaked) means the tree that "hastens to awake." Here God is emphasizing his hast to fulfill his promises to his people. God would not delay in fulfillment of his gracious and divine promise. His message is the same to us today. Look at the bare branch of the almond tree, watch as I fulfill my promises in your life and make them bloom into a beautiful flower and bear delicious fruit.


What is your favorite nut?

What can you do when you read something in the Bible, like the key text, that doesn't make any sense?

Is it significant that God compares the fulfillment of his promises to a flower that blooms towards the end of winter?

What promises has God given for your life that he has yet to fulfill?

1. Joe Leech, "9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Almonds," Healthline online, last modified September 6, 2018,

2. Melissa Petruzzello, "Almond," Encyclopædia Britannica online, last modified September 20, 2018,

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: LinArt via

Monday, December 3, 2018

Black People And Their Fight For Equal Rights In The Outdoors

African American children with dog on the beach - Apalachicola, Florida C. 1895

In the late 19th century the back-to-nature movement began as a revolt against mass and rapid urbanization in the northern U.S. It was defined by a desire to return to the more rural countryside where fewer people lived and more open spaces existed. Cities were crowded and dirty. Many people worked in factories that were dark and noisy. Little room was left for green spaces as cities grew faster and faster with man-made structures popping up everywhere. When people no longer had easy access to open, outdoor spaces they realized how much they needed those spaces. It was a need felt by all races, religions, and socioeconomic classes.

People from every walk of life started seeking ways to leave the city if only for a few hours to reconnect with nature. This began with people riding the trolley to the end of the line or walking if they had to out of the city and into the countryside. Long walks, picnics, and eventually camping caught on as new but vital forms of recreation. People frequently picnicked in farmer’s fields, churchyards and even in cemeteries as no parks existed in most cities. This would be considered socially unacceptable today if not illegal. But at that time in history, people found natural spaces wherever they were available.

The back-to-nature movement has historically been seen as a primarily White phenomenon. But this is not the full story. Contact with nature is something everyone enjoys and is decidedly human. It is not limited to any race. Cultures throughout history have enjoyed gardens and prized natural spaces as sacred. To be human is to be a part of a larger biologically diverse community.

Black people have not historically accounted for a large percentage of outdoor recreators. But this has more to do with means and opportunity than with passion or desire. Segregated public spaces and businesses have long been a major obstacle to Black people who desired to enjoy natural areas. However, Black communities and individuals have found ways to access natural areas despite all barriers. There is no doubt they found ways to gather, recreate and relax outside even before the beginning of the back-to-nature movement.

A great example can be found in one Richard Allen. His story takes place before the back-to-nature movement. Allen was born a slave in 1760. During his childhood, he attended Methodist Society meetings and converted to the Protestant faith. As he grew older he purchased his own freedom and sought to become a preacher. At the young age of 22, he was licensed as an official Methodist preacher. At that time there was little effort to ease the plight of American slaves. Richard Allen sought to change that. Utilizing the progressive practices of the Methodist movement, Allen became a circuit preacher. He traveled by foot and horse as much as 25 miles a day around the New England States. He reported he enjoyed being outdoors despite the challenges. Wherever he went he preached his message of hope anywhere he could, often in open fields. At times barred from established churches, Allen took his message to his oppressed brethren wherever they were. He encountered much hardship and many barriers. He established the Free African Society in 1787 which provided assistance to the sick, widows, orphans, and anyone in need. His work eventually led to the creation of one of the first all-Black church in the United States —Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. This church is still thriving today.1,2

Beginning with the freeing of all slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War in 1865 the lot of Black people in the United States began to improve. However, things moved extremely slowly especially in the South due to discriminatory laws and attitudes. In many ways, life was as difficult and oppressive as pre-emancipation. Small freedoms became avenues through which African Americans could practice their independence. Hunting and fishing were vivid symbols of their new freedom and independence. Under the structure of slavery, White masters hunted and fished for sport. If Blacks did hunt or fish it was rarely for themselves and certainly never for recreation. With freedom came the ability to hunt and fish for themselves and their families. Still, for many, it was a requisite for survival. Poor and trapped in debt to White landlords due to unfair laws, most Blacks could not spare the resources to hunt and fish for pure pleasure until well into the 20th Century. Necessity was the prime motivation. Yet there is always a relish that accompanies these activities and although superseded by necessity, hunting and fishing provided a source of recreation. It simultaneously gave them control over their own lives and provided a means of enjoyment in the great outdoors.3

History has left us a definite record of African Americans participating in outdoor recreation on a large scale beginning in the 1890’s. Off the coast of Massachusetts in the Cape Cod islands are found beautiful beaches. Several Protestant evangelistic groups held revival meetings on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. As people attended these meetings they were impressed by the island's natural beauty. People began to frequent the island and its beaches. Black people grew especially fond of the beaches on the northeast side near Oak Bluffs because they were able to access them without the push-back of segregation. The main beach became known as Inkwell due to the predominantly Black visitors. This beach inspired the 1994 movie The Inkwell. This area became so popular around the turn of the 20th century that resort communities, many dedicated primarily to Black clientele, sprang up to accommodate the volume of visitors. This island is still a popular resort destination today.4

At the turn of the Century and into the first few decades African Americans continued to face segregation and discriminatory laws. One place provided a pleasant escape --Lincoln Hills. Lincoln Hills was a “Scenic Wonderland” in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as one advertisement put it. Beginning in 1922, Lincoln Hills slowly developed into a resort location where people, especially Blacks, could rent a cabin or a room at a lodge high in the mountains. Lots were also available for sale where one could build a private cabin adjacent to the commercial property. Lincoln Hills became a popular destination for summer vacationers in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s. It continues to be a location for outdoor relaxation and recreation today.5

Another significant event in this history was the establishment of camp Atwater in 1921 by Reverend Dr. William N. DeBerry. It was created as a summer camp especially for Black boys and girls at a time when most summer camps were segregated. It is the first known summer camp dedicated to serving Black and African American children. Camp Atwater is located in Massachusetts on the shores of Lake Lashaway. The camp is still serving kids nearly 100 years later.6

Rev. DeBerry was a visionary and anthropologist who worked hard to serve his community. He spearheaded the establishment of several church ministries dedicated to the community and especially children. These include a boy's and girl's club, women’s home, and education programs among others. He deserves to be remembered for his contributions.7

Thanks to civil rights promotion by leaders like Dr. DeBerry and to changing cultural dynamics, discussion of integration in many facets of society became ever more common. Summer camps were among those places where activists called for desegregation. In 1945 the American Camps Association became one of the first interstate camp organizations to call for inclusive summer camps. As a centralized association for summer camp leaders, it had the influence to affect change. Thanks to the ACA, camps across the United States slowly began to integrate.8

The YMCA has long provided recreational opportunities to African Americans in the United States and around the world. The first “Black YMCA” was founded in 1853 by Anthony Bowen, a former slave, only two years after the first YMCA was established in the U.S. It was located in Washington D.C.9 Others soon followed and the organization grew rapidly. The YMCA again changed recreation when they opened Camp Dudley in 1885. Because of the broad influence of the “Y”, Camp Dudley and other YMCA summer camps helped to popularize the summer camp movement across the Nation until it became a staple of American childhood. As talk of integration became common in the 1930’s and ‘40’s the YMCA leaders realized change was needed. However, at the organization level, leaders were hesitant to push camps to integrate across the country because in some regions of the country this change could have negative consequences. Instead, they left this decision up to local camp leadership. Some within the YMCA helped to improve outdoor recreation opportunities for Blacks when they began integrating camps.

First was Camp Custer, opened in 1944 in New York to serve an interracial clientele. Due to the dramatic success it achieved, in the first season, other camps in the region began integrating the following year in 1945. YMCA camps continued to integrate across the country in the following two decades with some leading the way and others only changing because of outside pressure. Summer camps run by the YMCA helped to show other camps what was possible and set a national precedent for interracial camps.10

1963 was a landmark year for the Civil Rights movement. It was the year of the March On Washington which helped to thrust the movement into the national spotlight. It was at this march that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Another landmark event took place that year that helped pave the way for African Americans to access the outdoors. In the same issue of Ebony Magazine that reported the March On Washington was another report on one of the first African American mountain climbers in North America. Ebony reported that Charles Madison Crenchaw had been selected as the first Black person to attempt to climb Mt. Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The actual climb took place in 1964. Crenchaw made a successful summit and returned as a conqueror. His success became symbolic of the mountains all African Americans were seeking to conquer through the Civil Rights movement. But more than that, Crenchaw showed that mountain climbing, and the outdoors, was a place for all races. He continued climbing for multiple decades and his story still provides inspiration.
Crenchaw enjoyed climbing because it gave him a sense of “oneness with God.”11 This is a prime reason many people have enjoyed the outdoors throughout history. It is refreshing to be close to God among his Creation.

Despite all the success of the Civil Rights movement in the latter half of the 20th Century, decades of statistics have shown low participation of minorities, including Black people, in outdoor recreation and visits to national and state parks. There is a myriad of complex reasons for this including socioeconomic barriers as well as cultural barriers. Many individuals, politicians, and companies have been working to address these barriers. Some of these individuals deserve mention for the impact they have had and for carrying forward the work of earlier civil rights activists.

In 1996 two college students began a friendship that would become a nationwide movement. GirlTrek was formed in 2012 by T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison and encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living for themselves, their families and communities. Part of GirlTrek’s mission is to encourage African-American families to experience, protect and reclaim green spaces. Through walking outdoors they desire to, “Pioneer a health movement for African-American women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles through walking campaigns, community leadership, and health advocacy.” GirlTrek has nearly 450 teams around the country and continues to grow.12

Another organization working to continue the legacy and help African Americans enjoy nature is Outdoor Afro. It is a nonprofit founded in 2009 that hosts outings, events, and workshops for many types of activities. These activities include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, yoga, and others. Outdoor Afro serves over 30,000 people, and continues to grow. They seek to help Black people from every walk of life experience and enjoy the green spaces around them. At the same time, they work to share stories both present and past of individuals who have encountered nature in meaningful or inspiring ways. These stories help participants engage with the past and look to the future. Outdoor Afro is all about helping people have a good time and building community simultaneously.13

The history of Black people and their ability to access and enjoy natural spaces in the U.S.A. has been a story of freedom and civil rights; of hero’s, leaders and visionaries. The work is not over. Continued efforts are needed by individuals, communities, and organizations. Individuals like Dr. William N. DeBerry and organizations like Outdoor Afro and the American Camps Association. Individuals who will stand up, despite the costs and promote equality, freedom, and the ability to enjoy and preserve nature. People who will help to create a better future for the next generation. As Robert G. Stanton, first African American Director of the National Parks Service said, "if early on people develop an environmental ethic and an appreciation of their natural and cultural heritage, they will take that with them as they become a member of the Senate, become a president of a bank, or a grocer down at the corner store, or a carpenter."14


Written by David F. Garner


1. Richard Allen, The Life, Experience, and Gospel Labours of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen (Philadelphia: Martin & Boden Printers, 1833),

2. “A Brief History of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church,” Mother Bethel online, accessed December 1, 2018,

3. Scott E. Giltner. Hunting and Fishing In The New South: Black Labor and White Leisure after the Civil War (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2008).

4. Alison Rose Jefferson. “Inkwell, Matha’s Vineyard (1890s- ),” Black Past online, last modified 2017,

5. Shereen Marisol Meraji, Laura Krantz. “During Segregation, A Mountain Oasis Gave Black Families A Summer Escape,” NPR online, last modified August 16, 2015,

6. Elwood Watson. “Camp Atwater (1921- ),” Black Past online, last modified 2017,

7. “Our History,” St. John’s Congregational Church online, accessed December 2, 2018,

8. “Establishing Racial Good Will through Camping,” Camping 17, no. 5 (May 1945): 9.

9. “History - 1800-1860s,” YMCA online, accessed December 2, 2018,

10. Leslie Paris. Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp. (New York: New York University Press, 2008), 261.

11. James Edward Mills. The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors, (Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2014), n.p.

12. "Our Story," Girl Trek online, accessed December 2, 2018,

13. Kirsta Karlson. "Outdoor Afro Connects Participants To The Outdoors And To Black History," REI online, last modified April 10, 2018,

14. Janet A. McDonnell. Oral History Interview With Robert G. Stanton, (Washington DC: National Park Service Department of the Interior, 2006): 51,

Photo credit: Unknown. Copyright - Public Domain

A Christmas Carol

At Bethlehem, that city blest
Did Our Lady take her rest
Mary, fair and undefiled
There conceived and bore a Child
Mater santissima
Ora pro nobis

And Saint Joseph, when he saw
Christ asleep upon the straw,
In great love he worshipped there
Mary and the Child she bore
Ave plena gratia
Ave Rosa Mundi

And the beasts that were around
Knelt upon the holy ground
And in dumb amazement they
Praised the Lord on Christmas Day
Omnia O Opera
Benedicite Dominum

But the ox that kneelèd down
Nearest to the manger-throne,
When Our Lady stroked his head,
He the Holy Credo said
“De Maria Virgine
Et est Homo factus”

And the shepherds that had heard
Of the coming of the Word
From the mouth of Gabriel
On their knees before Him fell
Sunt beati pauperi
Quorum Dei Regnum

Then the kings from out of the east
Started to the Birthday feast
Came and knelt, and, as is told,

By G.K. Chesterton (unfinished poem)

Outdoor Object Lesson 83: Poinsettia’s Point

Key Text

“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without defect to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14 (WEB)


No flower embodies the Christmas season more than the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). In fact, no other plant except the Christmas tree comes close to the same popularity this time of year. But why did this flowering plant become so popular? Afterall there are numerous red flowers in nature. Poinsettias were discovered and named by Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and the first United States ambassador to Mexico. He discovered this beautiful bush growing in Mexico in 1828. He was responsible for importing and popularizing the bush in the United States.

One primary reason this plant became popular at Christmas time is because December is the only time of year that poinsettias bloom. Their brilliant red leaves are the perfect color to adorn the Christmas story. Red and green have long been associated with the Christmas season although not always as dominant as today. Poinsettias have been a staple of church decorations in Mexico at Christmas time for hundreds of years. As they spread in popularity in the United States, they easily became a staple of Christmas décor because they are one of few plants that bloom in December, especially in the northern climates.

Another reason poinsettias became popular in churches at Christmas time is because to the Aztecs of Mexico the color red represented purity. As Christianity spread in Mexico the poinsettia naturally became a dominate fixture in churches at Christmas time. In the Bible the color white is most often associated with purity. White is clean, and even the slightest bit of impurity is easily seen against a white background. So, it is easy to see why it represents purity. In the Bible red can also represent purity because of the blood of sacrifices. In the key text we see the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice used to symbolically cleans and purify us from sin.

Poinsettias are an amazing plant. They can grow into small trees in their native region reaching 12 feet (3.7 m) high with leaves 8 inches (20.3 cm) wide. It is actually their leaves that turn red. Many people mistake the red leaves as flower petals. On most flowering plants the petals have the bright colors. That is not so with poinsettias. The flowers are very small, unremarkable yellow buds at the center of the brightly colored leaves. Poinsettias come in a variety of colors including white, pink, salmon, cream, yellow, and most popular, red. You may see blue or other colors, but these have been dyed. Whenever you look at a poinsettia this Christmas, whether white, red, or some shade in between, remember what Jesus has done for you. Jesus shed his blood so that we could be purified and live with him eternally. Let that be an ever-present thought in your mind when you see a poinsettia.


What is your favorite Christmas decoration?

Why do you think red and green are the most popular Christmas colors?

How does the blood of Jesus make us pure?

What are some ways you can help to keep Christ at the center of Christmas this year?


1. Dr. Leonard Perry. “Fun Facts About Poinsettias,” The Green Mountain Gardener online, (Burlington: University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science) accessed December 3, 2018,

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: sandid via

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Outdoor Object Lesson 82: God Will Provide

Key Text

“Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 (WEB)


Birds are one of the most beautiful and popular creatures in the wild. They are enjoyed by people around the world. They are an extremely diverse class of animals. Birds are found living in amazing and diverse places, from penguins in icy Antarctica to roadrunners in the desert. One of the most unique birds is the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus). This small bird is native to the western North American continent. It is a small robin size bird that has a round body and small head. It is usually all grey with white on the edges of its feathers. Sometimes they have a light brown head. They are a seemingly unimpressive bird on first appearance.

After watching these special birds hunt for food one will soon realize how unusual they are. American dippers live in mountainous areas. They make their home along mountain streams and creeks. They spend all their time close to these streams. These birds are amazing water birds. They hop along the edges of their stream and repeatedly dip their heads in and out of the water looking for insects and fish eggs to eat. They also plunge into deeper water and use their wings to dive and swim down to the bottom and hunt among the rocks for food. The most amazing aspect of American dippers is their ability to walk along the bottom of the stream, even in deep water. Dippers have special claws on their toes that help them hold onto the rocky creek bottom. They can remain on the bottom under water for up to thirty seconds.

These special birds have unique anatomy and body structure that allows them to be good swimmers. Clear eyelids cover their eyes and scales cover their nose when submerged under water. Strong short wings allow them to swim underwater and fly in the air. Extra oily feathers provide a waterproofing that help them shed water better than other birds. A slow metabolism and blood capable of storing a high concentration of oxygen help them tolerate the cold waters of mountain streams. All of these remarkable traits allow Dippers to find food where few other birds can by diving and walking under water.1 They live and eat where one would least expect. Even if food is scarce in other parts of the forest and other birds struggle to find food, this bird is able to rely on a completely separate and unique source of food because of God’s design for it.

Towards the end of the life of the Apostle Paul he felt the Holy Spirit calling him to go and preach in Jerusalem. Up to this point he had avoided Jerusalem in his missionary journeys because he knew there were people there who wanted to discredit and even kill him. He did not fully know God’s plan, but he had learned to trust God would care for him where ever he was. Paul decided to follow the Holy Spirit and go even though he knew he would probably die there (Acts 21:12-14). Just as Paul guessed, he was arrested and charged with crimes in Jerusalem. He knew that he would never get a fair trial there so as a Roman citizen he appealed to a trail by Cesar, King of Rome.

Paul was granted this request. He traveled all the way to Rome and lived under house arrest for two years awaiting to be tried by Cesar. Because of this, Paul was able to witness to many people on his way to Rome whom otherwise would not have heard the Gospel. While on house arrest for two years Paul could not travel, so he was forced to communicate by writing letters. Some of these letters are books in the New Testament. Finally, Paul was granted his trail in front of Cesar. Paul was able to use this opportunity to share the Gospel with the King of the most powerful nation in the world and his family and servants. Because Paul relied on God’s leading, he was able to share the Gospel with people he never would have thought possible. He was able to write letters that are still helping Christians learn more about God to this day. When we trust in God’s design and plan for our lives, we are always better off. It may not seem like it at first. We may even suffer more now as Paul did. But it will be worth it in eternity and we will accomplish things that seemed impossible, just like that little bird who can walk under water.


What is something hard that God asks you to do?

Does God what us to be happy in this life?

Would God ever ask us to jeopardize our happiness, comfort, or safety for him?

How to we have enough faith to trust God even when we cannot see a good outcome?


1. Venturi. “The American Dipper, An Underwater Bird.” (July 31, 2017). San Bernardino County Sentinel online. Accessed December 2, 2018 from

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Dlthewave