I love living in nature; it is where I feel closest to God. On our little hilltop, with a view of the Caribbean Sea to the north, we are surrounded by “a thousand shades of green,” as Sister Alegrìa says. Much of the year I wake up to the sound of birds. Right now, in “verano” (summer, the dry season), the cicadas cry shrilly at dawn and midday. I enjoy watching woodpeckers tap on the pine tree trunks and hearing toucans call from high branches, jutting out their big bills like flags. Hummingbirds hover close and sip nectar from wildflowers and the pineapples we grow. Inside our simple wood monastery, geckos and tarantulas stalk insects for a snack. However, I don’t feel so welcoming to other wildlife. Jay birds come in close and peck at the growing pineapple and cashew fruits. Hungry possums try to snatch chickens from the coop. And then there are the insects. A beetle like I wrote about in today’s meditation—or the unusual specimen in this photo—is annoying but harmless. But gnats and golden “tàbanos” (flies) bite. Mosquitoes not only bite but can spread disease.
Years ago, I got very ill for two weeks from dengue and would prefer not to experience that again! I am grateful for the screens in our windows that allow us to have some protection from insects. In this photo, there are about 50 mosquitoes resting on the outside of the screen. When it gets real bad though—we experience a “plaga” (plague) several weeks each year—Sister Alegrìa and I retreat into the mosquito nets that cover our bunks. Though I try to be a nonviolent person, I admit that I kill biting insects and other pests. I look forward to the day about which Isaiah prophesied, when there will be no more enmity between humans and animals: the wolf will live with the lamb, the little child will play with snakes, and insects won’t bite. All creation will live in harmony, and no one will be hurt because we will all truly know God (see Isaiah 11:6-9).
The Upper Room lifts the spirits of residents I serve as a correctional chaplain. Christians and non-Christians read the devotions, reminding them of an alternative path to a loving God that will walk alongside them through the good and ugly of life.”
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