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02/03/2006: "The Shadow of Punxatauney Phil... and other Prophecies"

Ah, yes... though we draw ever closer to the advent of spring, Punxatauney Phil, yesterday prophesied another several weeks of winter. On the other hand, here in southeastern Ohio, we've yet to really see any wintry weather this season. It's a good thing I'm not much of a skier!

My general attitude towards rodents is not all that favorably disposed, but I have to admit that America's favorite groundhog IS an interesting critter. His dubious moonlighting as a fortune-teller aside, this rodent of distinction is a much more pleasant alternative to his smaller, more widely known cousins, not to mention that he is a "myth-in-motion" - an American icon that even placed him several years ago in a movie role opposite Hollywood mega-funny guy, Bill Murray.

I think I like Phil. I certainly like him more than I like other rodents. Rats and mice make nice pets, or so I've heard... but I can't help but fear that they're always thinking about how to escape and take my secret stash of cookies hostage. Come to think of it, the people who've told me that they make good pets are the same people who also have pet pythons and boa constrictors living in large tanks in their homes. Hmm.

Guinea pigs are like giant-sized cotton balls... with about as much personality. When I was a boy, I tried to train my pet guinea pig, Emmie, to walk with me on a leash. What she ended up doing on the leash was what she was always doing in her cage: just sitting there. "C'mon, Emmie! Let's run! C'mon, girl!... Emmie? Up! Up!... Heel! Up! C'mon, Emmie!... Oka-a-ay, Emmie... sit! Sit, Emmie! Sit! Good girl! Have a carrot!"

Some are convinced that hamsters make great pets, but sheesh! All the hamsters I've ever known were like little piranha fish just waiting for some human hand to haplessly enter their cages! If you’re not personally acquainted with rodent teeth, let me advise you to keep your hand carefully out of range. By the way, hamsters don’t like people sneaking up on them either. Of course, maybe its easy to understand why they're so neurotically lethal given that I’ve also seen the little darlings gang up and finish off their own the moment their owners’ backs were turned. Yuck!

No, Punxatauney Phil may indeed be a R.O.U.S. (Rodent Of Unusual Size), but I haven’t yet seen Him try to chomp off his handler’s fingers or, even worse, go for his throat. Good Phil, good boy. Have a carrot.

Whatever Phil may know or not know about the future, spring WILL definitely arrive sooner-or-later. Renewal WILL come, life WILL stir, and the lovely green of fresh growth WILL spread again across the horizon.

Another thing we can count on in the Church is that renewal will also come to us in the spiritual realm, no matter that the winter of human complacency seems to suggest otherwise. All we need to do to experience it is to come under the illumination and warmth of His “sonlight”.

“Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a RSV).

A surer word than is Punxatauney Phil's shadow sighting, the Bible assures us that God desires warmth and growth and fruitfulness for His people instead of the cold, hard barrenness that is always the result of the winter of selfishness and sin.

Let’s pray for a spiritual spring to come to our church family and our community. Let’s turn from anything and everything that makes our lives too spiritually chilly for God’s Holy Spirit to bless. Let’s look to Him, trust in Him, obey Him, and fully expect that He’ll bless us indeed with an abundance of amazing grace!

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