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Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

Return of the Bird Brain Chronicles!

I began a series of articles on birds in Corpus Christi, and anywhere I visited last year that I called the Bird Brain Chronicles. When my mother died, I put things on hold, and never got started again. Today, I decided I needed to get back to taking pictures of birds again, which I did at the Suter Wildlife Refuge in Corpus Christi. Then, I did a bird brain thing and didn’t realize that I had changed a setting when I too full moon pics a couple of weeks ago. So, these pics aren’t as sharp as I expected they would be. If you were to talk with my wife, she would tell you I whined about the pics the whole time I was picking the best of the bad lot I took. Still, I’m posting these because the birds are beautiful and I’m trying to document the birds I see. Be gentle as you look at these pics!

 

Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler

As you enter the the walkway over the wetlands, there’s a holding pond and outlet to the bay. I’ve seen a number of different birds there, but I almost always see this beautiful bird, known as a Norther Shoveler. This one was swiming in the outlet area after leaving the holding pond earlier. The Shovelers were flocking in the holding pond. I had the chance to talk with a couple from Fort Worth as we both watched. I enjoy talking with other birders, although putting myself in the class of a birder might be overstimating my ability as a birder. I saw a few Northern Coots mixed in with the Shoveler flock, but didn’t get a good picture of one.

 

 

 

 

Black Necked Stilt
Black Necked Stilt

I love black necked stilts. Their legs are so long that they do look like they’re on stilts. There’s an elegance to their awkward walk that makes me smile. This was the first bird I really noticed when I got to the farthest end of the boardwalk. He was slowly walking through the shallows looking for his brunch. (Brunch, of course, being served after ten and before noon.) I looked away some other birds when I heard a couple of real bird watchers talking about them, and when I looked back, he had disappeared. I usually see a stilt or two any time I come to this refuge and quite often in other parts of the city. I think they’re beautifu birds.

 

 

 

 

Green Wing Teal
Green Wing Teal

These are the birds that I overheard a couple of real bird watchers talk about. They’re beautiful green wing teals. They must have been doing lunch because they swam together, ducking their heads under water for whatver food they could find. (No pun intended.) I took a lot of pictures trying to get a good view, and I won’t continue to beat myself up by saying that I messed up the settings on the camera. That bothered me because this was the first time I’d ever seen a green wing teal. I am reminded though, that even more important than a great picture is seeing the beauty of God’s creation in person. I continue to be amazed at the beauty and diversity of God’s creation.

 

 

 

 

Brown pelican
Brown pelican

 

If you know me, you know that I’d have a brown pelican in the picture mix somewhere. I love watching white or brown pelicans, but I’ve come to realize the beauty and variety among brown pelicans is amazing. I’ve often said that Steve Spielberg must have been thinking of these birds when he designed the flight patterns of the pteradactyls from Jurassic Park. This one was a little farther out in the water, but in some places they’ll walk around within a few feet of people.

 

 

 

Sanderlings
Sanderlings

 

As we were looking at the birds spread out in the bay, these little birds cae running up the shallows looking for food. An old guy like me got tired just watching them running around. They don’t look too small in this cropped picture, but they were tiny little birds. They were so fast that when I looked away, they disappeared and I saw them later way off in the distance. These were new birds for a life list, if I kept up with one. If you think about diversity and variety in the bird world, you have sea birds like pelicans and great blue herons who are large, and then you have small birds like sanderlings – all of those beautiful birds playing an important part in our amazing ecosystem designed by God. I have a few other pictures that I could share, but I’m going to stop tonight. I plan to share more pics, and I hope that I get the settings right in the future. Look around as you walk about this amazing world and enjoy the beauty of God’s world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free eBook Offer…and Maybe More!

I will be attending Word Fest 2019 at Teas A&M Corpus Christi today from 9-3. I will be giving those who attend a chance to sign up for a free eBook copy of my January-February Devotional series. I will also have a drawing from those who sign up today for a full set of the devotionals in Paperback. If you would like to be a part of that list that gets a free eBook and be in the drawing for the full set of devotionals, sign up today!

https://forms.gle/V8X6JvMucWTR4o9y8

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Kanye Dig it?

Obviously, from the pun above, you can tell that this post is going to be about Kanye West. Let me apologize in advance for saying that, and I’ll explain my apology later. Much has been made about Kanye’s conversion to Christ and, with the dropping of his latest project, Jesus is King, his situation is being debated by Christians and non-Christians alike. The dirty little secret about Christians, and I’ve made no secret that I am a Christian, and what happens when a celebrity converts is that most Christians cheer it immediately, but then we put them under the microscope and any mistakes they make are magnified. We don’t give them time to grow and then we attack them for being immature Christians. Or, we assume that they’re “converting” for ulterior reasons. So, when my pastor mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Kanye West had professed faith in Christ, I raised my eyebrows and smiled. Then, I did some research.

Maybe I was behind the times in hearing about Kanye’s conversion, but as I researched, I got the impression that what my new brother did to ground himself in the faith was amazing. He’s spent time with his pastor. He’s been having private worship services at his ranch. He’s worked to grow in the faith and get a strong grounding in God’s word. I was flabbergasted. While I hadn’t followed Kanye much, I can tell you that he didn’t impress me. But what I’ve read about how he’s responded as the grace of God has moved in his life puts tears in my eyes. While my opinion isn’t worth much in general, if someone were to ask me how a celebrity should respond once they come to Christ, I’d have given a road map much like the one Kanye followed.

Many of the people who’ve been negative about this conversion have brought up sins from his pre-conversion days to make the case that this conversion couldn’t be real. I guess because God can’t forgive sinners who go over a certain threshold? Perhaps they forget Paul’s claim to be the chief of sinners? So, if we accept Paul at his word, perhaps we could make Kanye’s pre-conversion days the lifestyle of the second worst sinner of all time – which would then force us to acknowledge that if God could forgive Paul, maybe He can forgive Kanye? Does Kanye have a checkered past? You betcha! I don’t think I’d want people to go back and listen to his old music, for example. That being said, all those past sins are forgotten by God. They’re thrown away as far as the east is from the west. He’s forgiven. His sins, like mine, were nailed to the cross and God’s mercy is more than enough to bring forgiveness.

A friend of mine, Lori Twichell, wrote an excellent post about this story and included some great videos. She noticed two things about him that caught my attention: 1) This man had peace that radiated in his face and through the answers to questions. He had no trouble with tough questions and seemed to welcome them; and 2) Kanye used to be all about himself and now he describes himself as a servant of God. He talked about Jesus and about what God had done in a couple of interviews Lori mentioned and included links to in her post. And that’s why I apologized earlier. I think Kanye, were he to be sitting here commenting on this post, would chastise me for saying so much about him. So, any of the praise I’ve given to him, make sure you realize that Kanye would probably deflect it to Jesus.

So let’s get down to his recent project released the other day: Jesus is King. I’m going to be honest. I’ve listened to most, if not all, of the album and I’m not a fan. It’s not bad in any sense of the word, it’s just that my ear isn’t tuned to the cadences of rap/hip hop and I have a hard time making things out. From what I could understand, it’s on solid ground theologically. I’ve had one friend who noted that it’s very sound theologically, moreso than many worship songs we all seem to enjoy. I’ve had another friend say it’s the best Christian album of the year. It may be, but it’s not my cup of tea. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be. From what I could understand of the music, I wouldn’t be ashamed if anyone found out I listened to it, and will listen to it again. I wouldn’t turn it off if it came on the radio. That being said, though, Kanye will reach people I could never reach with this album. A number of people commenting on his songs mentioned their need to go back to church. I hear a lot of paise for Jesus coming through the music. I would have no problem recommending that someone who likes that style listen…and I would add, old geezers like me need to be willing to listen to it and hope to understand that God can use music like that to reach people I could never reach.

The conclusion of all this is that I believe that Kanye’s conversion is real and that he’s already exhibiting a vibrant faith that some of us older people can learn from. I also believe that somewhere along the way, Kanye will stumble and sin – which sin will be magnified beyond measure because of who he is and the number of spiritual vultures waiting for him to fall. When that happens, I hope and pray that i’m the first one to extend God’s love and forgiveness to him as he gets back on track wth his growth. And, even though Kanye would never read this let me just say, “Brother Kanye, welcome to the family! Walking with Jesus is an amazing ride that will never boring and will never get easier. I’m excited for this change in your life and I pray that as you go forward and grow in your faith that you’ll experience God’s presence and grace in the best of times and the worst of times.” I praise God that Jesus is being preached.

Daily Work

“We love China. We love playing there. … They show us the most important love.” (For the love of money.)

Earlier this year in June the NBA ran into problems because some of the players mentioned that the word “owners,’ referring to the people who had rights to the team franchise and paid them their pittance each month, made them uncomfortable because it made them think of slavery. I had to stop to think about that. Slaves were literally owned by their masters. NBA players are free to sign a temporary contract or not. Slaves had to work without pay pretty much until they died. The pittance the NBA players get is somewhere in the millions of dollars and no one forces them to play this game at all. But hey, if that makes you worry about slavery, fine. The NBA responded by noting that the people who had rights to the teams were called ‘governors” and the board of governors set the rules. 

I remind you of that to set the background for the latest clash involving the NBA. The China Clash. The NBA has some kind of arrangement with China. Some teams were apparently over in China for some good will, exhibition type games. (Please correct me if I’m remembering wrong.) Then, the GM for the Houston Rockets tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Immediately, Chinese television stopped broadcasting and streaming the game and Chinese companies cut off all sponsorship of the team. China is a big market. The NBA stands to make half a billion dollars in their partnership with China. The NBA folded like a pup tent in a Cat V hurricane.  

The GM was reprimanded, although a slight nod was given to the idea of freedom of speech. Players were aghast that someone would say something bad about China because they’re treated well there. Although, as pointed out in an NPR article, James Harden, one of the Rockets stars, wouldn’t be allowed to wear his beard if he were living in China, since “abnormal” beards have been outlawed. No matter, Harden supported the Chinese government because they treat the players nice there. 

Lest we forget what’s going on, while Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule a number of years ago, the people there had more freedom than the rest of the country. In recent days, China has been working on bringing this “abnormal” colony into the communist fold. Hong Kong has been rocked with protests as the people there are fighting for freedom. The Houston GM reminded people that we should stand for freedom and the people of Hong Kong.  

It goes without saying that the Chinese government is a brutal, repressive communist “paradise.” The beard law mentioned earlier is part of the government’s crackdown on Muslims in the western provinces. Muslims are imprisoned in re-education camps because their faith is considered a form of dissidence. (And while the government’s reaction to Christians isn’t part of this story, they get similar treatment.) Remember the slavery concerns mentioned earlier – well, the Chinese government practices slavery and there are reports of organ harvesting where prisoners are killed, organs are harvested for transplants, and then the bodies are cremated. 

Maybe these NBA players have focused so much on throwing that round sphere through a hoop with a slightly bigger circumference so much that they don’t understand that slavery’s happening in China, or maybe they figure that they can get a cut of the blood money that the government takes in from their oppression and slavery, so that makes it ok. Still they do seem to have a very keen understanding of America’s problem in regards to issues of brutality and oppression. They speak out, as they should, but their silence on the issue of China’s oppression is deafening – and scandalous in its hypocrisy.  

The NBA had a chance to make a stand. If they had any integrity or ethics, when the Chinese government reacted to the Houston GMs tweet, every single NBA official, team official, and player should have retweeted those words: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” even if it cost the league a half a billion dollars. They gross around seven billion dollars a year right now. I think everyone in the league would still be able to have a roof over their head and food on the table. I think, though, in the long run, China wants the NBA so much that they would have backed down in the face of this show of unity. But they didn’t. The NBA knuckled under to their Chinese overlords without even a fight. If there’s any justice in this world, NBA revenues ought to drop by at least a billion dollars this year as people show their disgust with their wallets. Sadly, I think the NBA is a product of the culture, and most people wouldn’t let the NBA’s cowardice affect them.  

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Reflections on the Stock Market and China

I haven’t followed the stock market much, recently, but after my mother died, part of the inheritance she left us was in the form of stocks. So, I’ve been checking things out as we’ve been dealing with those stocks and consolidating our retirement savings with our broker. (I like my broker a lot.) There are a lot of factors to consider when buying stocks that relate to your temperament and our broker has gone through a lot of discussions with us so that he can help find the right investments for us. One of the issues I’m concerned about, and it isn’t always easy relaying this concern to a stockbroker, is socially responsible investing. I’m not going to get into the details of that, but the inked articles can give you more understanding of that topic. There are some really strong mutual funds, Morningstar 5-star funds even, that follow socially responsible patterns of investing, so you won’t lose a whole lot doing that.

The biggest cloud hanging over the market right now is the issue of a US and China trade agreement. The most well-known barometer of the stock market is the Dow Jones average. The Dow will swing a couple hundred points up or down each day depending on what the rumors are about the trade talks. The other day was a particularly bad day for the market because a number of Chinese companies were blacklisted. While I don’t understand the whole story, these companies were blacklisted because they came from, perhaps even participated in, oppressing the Muslim minority in those provinces in the west.

Given China’s history on human rights, the fact that they are oppressing a religious minority shouldn’t surprise anyone. They continue to persecute Christians and members of the Falung Gong as well as Muslims. They put down a movement toward freedom at Tianammen Square a number of years ago and are cracking down on a similar movement in Hong Kong. What kind of reach do they have in their anti-freedom agenda, look no further than the NBA which has removed fans from the stands for supporting a free Hong Kong. Of course, this came after after Chinahad cut ties with the NBA because a member of one team’s executive staff tweeted that he stood with the Hong Kong protestors in seeking freedom. China has a lot of economic strength and they’re willing to flex their muscles to get their way and, in the past, US businessmen bowed to the Chinese because of the desire for trade.

If the above isn’t bad enough, let’s not forget that they use slave labor and infringe on copyrights and trademarks, and other issues of intellectual property as naturally as breathing. Because of their cheap/slave labor they can flood the market with cheap goods. They can even take a loss on some of those sales because they’re able to manipulate currency and end up earning money.

China has a weak spot in their economy, though, that wasn’t visible until the recent trade war. They have two economies: one for export and one for internal issues. The economy for the people of China is stagnant because no one has any money to buy things. What keeps China afloat is their export market. As their ability to export drops, less trade means less money to prop up the failed communist regime. That’s why I believe we’re seeing the Chinese trade negotiators responding so vehemently to any perceived slight. They know they can affect the various stock markets and hope that their threats will bring the US and other nations into their line before they have to fall to their knees and accept the US proposals.

Which brings us back to the beginning: the stock market. I can guarantee you that the market will take on a long, steady, downward drift if we don’t make peace with China in this trade war. But I think it’s worth it so we avoid a tacit approval of China’s evil practices. True, my stocks will go down, but it’s a price we need to be willing to pay to force China to trade fairly and treat their citizens appropriately. This is a trade war we can’t afford to lose.

EDIT: Case in point – I woke up to read this article. NBA takes mic away from reporter for asking about China