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Christianity 0ut of the Box

Lessons I Learned from the Bears

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Living in WNC was a wonderful experience. My parents own a vacation home located on a secluded mountain road. It was a haven for me and my daughter and a place of refuge. The scenery is magnificent; the mountains look different every day. The seasons show off their epic colors from snow in the winter to springs full of Dogwood trees. Summer is many shades of green and autumn is a blaze of orange and red. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

The wildlife is also prevalent.  I remember the time I heard a thump on the roof. Looking outside the huge opossum must have woken up and fell out of the tree he had been sleeping in. He waddled down the driveway.

One sunny spring day I walked outside to check the mail. The mailbox was located at the end of the cement driveway. All of a sudden a sense came over me that I was not alone.  Turning around about 50 feet from me was a Bobcat. I froze. He was the largest cat I had ever seen. We stared at each other. Silently he began to creep into the forest. I ran into the house.

Many summer mornings I would wake up to the call of a Pileated Woodpecker. You could hear him beating on the tree in the empty lot next to the house. If you were fortunate enough to actually see one you would be amazed at their size and deep black color. You could spot them by the red feather on the top of their heads.

These mountains were home to many snakes, fox, and deer. The most feared and by far the largest of the creatures were bears. One summer I walked outside to take the trash and saw something coming up the street. In broad daylight was the largest bear I have ever seen. He must have weighed 500 pounds and he was walking upright. I yelled at my neighbor who was on her front porch, “Get in the house Mary! There is a bear!” She and I both vanished quickly inside. You knew it was a male because there were no cubs. The men traveled alone.

The area had daily bear sightings. A mother and her 3 cubs had climbed a very tall tree to get away from the people. Of course the people would not leave so they would climb down on their own. A year later, we think it was this same mother and her 3 cubs that had grown ended up in our next door neighbor’s back yard one night. The mother bear lounged beside a tree while the 3 cubs played. They stayed out there for almost 30 minutes. We watched in amazement from inside of our house.

There was the time I put a load of laundry in the washer. It was located in our garage. I left the garage door open so I could get to it from the sunroom where I went to relax. It was a warm sunny day so the windows were open. Suddenly I heard a grunting sound and rustling in the trees and leaves across the street. The next thing I saw was a cub, about a year old weighing about 100 pounds. He crossed the street and ran right into our garage! I then realized this bear could come right into the house through the screen door! I panicked! I ran just inside to get the phone and locked myself in the sunroom. Then it hit me; where is his mother?

This small town was not equipped with a Wildlife Ranger. Whenever you had a bear in the yard or in your house you called 911. As soon as I hung up the phone I noticed the bear run out of the garage and up the hill beside the house. Once I knew he was gone I ran and closed the garage door.

Bear roam this area from spring through the summer into fall. They hibernate in the winter. The daily sightings were often posted in the newspaper or you heard about it by word of mouth. I always found it exciting to see them but also knew how dangerous and destructive they can be. Living in “bear” country tends to make you more aware of your surroundings. The following are some tips I learned about bears.

  1. Don’t panic as I did.
  2. Keep your trash cans in doors or they will tear them up.
  3. DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!
  4. If you see a bear, make noise. If you can get some pots and pans then beat on them.  Bears do not like noise.
  5. Get a barking dog. Bears do not like barking dogs.
  6. Close the garage door in warm weather.
  7. Do not leave honey or other food outside. Bears will eat almost anything.
  8. If you know a bear is around, get your pets and go inside.
  9. Always be aware if you see a bear cub that mama bear is watching.
  10. Don’t shoot bears. It is against the law.
  11. Realize this is the bear’s natural habitat. They were there long before we were.

It is realistic to take these tips into consideration when you live in “bear country.”  Bears are only doing what they naturally were born to do.  They come down the mountains looking for food because construction and building have taken over their habitat. If humans are going to live in their neighborhood then we need to understand them.

Isn’t this the way we should be with our human neighbors? How do we find common ground with those who we don’t have much in common with? Understanding that we are all different gives us the capacity for respect. The key is to understand each other or at least make the effort. In my case with the bears, I realized I had invaded their privacy, their livelihood. They didn’t ask me to be there but I came anyway. From my standpoint I find it necessary to keep the peace with bears because they don’t know any different, but people do. The bears taught me to learn about their habits and desires even if it was for my own safety. The bears taught me that our lives are mingled with others because the Creator of the Universe designed us to live that way even if they are bigger than we are.  Bears taught me respect for them is necessary if I am going to live in their backyard.

1 Corinthians 9:22 says, “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” This makes perfect sense. As Christians we need to find something good in everyone. Reaching out to others in love when we have been rejected, persecuted or hurt is powerful. It can make a bad situation good. When we do this not only will the other person see Jesus, we will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25.

Is there someone God wants you to find common ground with?

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