Using Woodland Scenics Just Plug Lighting with Department 56 Christmas Pieces

When we decided to place these three Department 56 Christmas pieces in the hall connecting our dining room and kitchen, we were faced with the problem of no convenient electrical outlet to illuminate them. We looked into the cost of cordless lighting from Department 56, but decided that it was too expensive. So I checked-out Woodland Scenics products, which I use all the time on my model railroad layout. And that’s the way we decided to go. We purchased the items we needed from Amazon and Trainworld. Links and more information are provided below. Don’t forget to “Like” and Subscribe!

The battery charger and the batteries were purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com

The Woodland Scenics products were purchased from Trainworld: https://www.trainworld.com

Battery Charger: EBL Smart Multi-Functional Battery Charger for AA AAA 9V 6F22 Ni-MH Ni-CD Rechargeable Batteries (3 in 1)
Batteries: AmazonBasics 9V Cell Rechargeable Batteries 200mAh Ni-MH, 4-Pack
Battery Pack: Woodland Scenics #JP5682 Battery Case
Lights: Woodland Scenics #JP5743 Just Plug LED Nano Lights (2pcs) – Warm White
Light Hub: Woodland Scenics #JP5701 Just Plug Light Hub

Building an Outdoor Cat Shelter

Building an Outdoor Cat Shelter

This shelter will accommodate approximately two to three adult cats, depending on how sociable they are.  Smaller totes can be used to make a smaller shelter.  However, the difference in cost usually isn’t significant.

Materials needed (all of these materials should be available at Lowes, Home Depot, or similar stores – Total cost depends on local pricing.)  I’ve noted where I purchased each item in the list below. Only a small portion of the tape, and about 1/2 of the insulation board, are required to assemble a shelter.:

1 – Rubbermaid 31 gallon plastic tote with lid (Lowe’s)

1 – Hefty 66 quart plastic tote with lid (Lowe’s)

1 – 4’x8’ one-half inch EPS insulation board with one foil side (Home Depot & Lowes)

1 – six or seven inch length of 6-inch diameter drainage conduit (Home Depot*)

1 – roll of All-Weather duck (duct) tape – Regular duct tape may be used, but may be degraded by weather and UV light. (Home Depot)

*  Home Depot sells this online in ten foot lengths, with pick-up at your local store.  Since only about 6-7 inches are needed for each shelter, a ten foot length will build a lot of shelters!

Tools needed:

a tape measure or a T-square (a T-square works well to draw straight lines)

a black Sharpie pen

a heat-gun or a handheld hair dryer to heat and soften plastic before cutting the six inch doors.

a sharp box-cutter or other knife to cut six measured pieces from the EPS board, and the six-inch diameter doorways, aligned through both plastic totes.

a scissors to cut duck tape into useable lengths

Overview:

The cat shelter consists of the Hefty tote placed inside the Rubbermaid tote, with a piece of half inch EPS insulation board between the inner and outer totes.  The shiny foil side of the insulation board faces inward – this reflects infrared and keeps the body heat from the cats inside the shelter, so they stay warmer.  The foil side of the insulation board may need to be wiped clean with a damp cloth or paper towels to remove excessive dust/dirt that has accumulated on the surface, before it is cut and installed.

Bedding can be straw, old towels, or anything that the cats can snuggle in to keep warmer.  Don’t use hay – it will absorb moisture and make the inside of the box damp and cold.  If using textiles as bedding, it should be monitored to ensure that it remains dry and clean.  Adult cats will virtually never soil the bedding.  Kittens, however, may not be wise enough to leave the box to take care of their business.  

Another option is an electric “K&H Lectro Soft Pet Heating Pad”.  These are available on Amazon in two sizes.  The smaller size works well for these cat shelters.  They are pressure activated, so they heat only when a pet is laying on them, and they only heat to the pet’s body temperature.  This helps the animal maintain its body temperature when it is especially cold outdoors, while drawing very little electricity, and with no risk of overheating.  The electrical cord is armored to prevent animals from chewing on it, and the cord can simply pass through the doorway opening.

Doorways should be placed on the end or off-center on a side (closer to one end and about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom).  In our experience, cats seem to like the door on the end, which enables them to cuddle up at opposite ends inside the shelter.  The plastic totes are not square.  They taper from top to bottom, so the insulation board for the sides and ends will need to be tapered, as well.  The inner tote is not as long as the outer tote.  If the door is on the end, there will be a void at the opposite end between the totes.  The insulation board should be cut to fit closely around the inner tote.  Some gaps may occur around the lid.  In a typical North Texas winter, these gaps are not a problem.  

Directions:

  • Cut a six or seven inch length of drainage conduit.
  • Decide on the location for the doorway on the outside of the larger tote, and mark a six-inch diameter circle with a Sharpie, using the six-inch drainage conduit as a template to get the circle the right size.
  • Using a heat gun or hair dryer, heat the plastic and soften it to make it easier to cut the doorway.  Use a sharp boxcutter to cut the entry hole, following the Sharpie outline.  
  • After cutting the hole in the outer tote, put the bottom layer of insulation board in the outer tote.  Then put the inner tote inside and, using the Sharpie, trace around the hole in the outer tote to outline the place on the inner tote where the doorway will be cut.  (Be sure that the inner tote is sitting on the insulation board liner for the bottom to get the height right.)
  • Cut the inner tote doorway in the same manner as the outer tote doorway.
  • Put the insulation board piece for the doorway side of the totes in place between the inner and outer totes and trace where the hole for the door will be cut.
  • After cutting the entry hole in the insulation board, assemble the shelter, taping the corner edges of the insulation board sides together to make a tight fit over the inner liner.
  • Holding the inner and outer totes in place, insert the drainage conduit to create an entrance tunnel.  allow about one to two rings (about 1 to 1.5 inches of the conduit to extend inside to inner tote.
  • Cut 4 to 5 inch lengths of the tape to completely seal the conduit and the totes together.  Overlap the pieces of tape about a quarter inch to form a complete seal.  Repeat this on the inside of the inner tote. 
  • Completely tape all the way around the doorway to hold the two totes together and to keep moisture out of the space between the totes.
  • Tape all the way around both the inner and outer ends of the conduit to protect the cats from any sharp edges around the door openings.
  • Place the lid on the inner tote, cover it with the top piece of insulation board, and put the lid on the outer tote to complete the shelter.

Placing the shelter:

Depending on how skittish the cats are, keeping your shelter relatively close to a backdoor is a good idea.  It makes it easier to monitor use, and also discourages other critters from becoming squatters in your cat shelter.  Wherever you put it, be sure that it isn’t in the path of running water during a rainstorm.  Sitting it up on bricks or 2x4s to raise it up and protect it from rain, ice, or snow accumulation is a good idea.  Also, position it so that the entry isn’t facing north or west, to keep out the prevailing winter winds.  While we’ve never had a problem with wind moving our shelters, putting a couple of bricks or other weights on top might be a good idea.  We also stack these shelters two high, with a small wooden “porch” just below the height of the entrance to the top shelter, to make it easy for the cats to get in and out.

The Story of David and Bathsheba, Biblical Text 2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:25

Today, we think of David as a great king, a powerful warrior, a devout man especially favored by God.  Whether recalling the handsome young shepherd whose zeal for the honor of the LORD emboldened him, armed only with a sling and a few small stones, to stand against the giant Goliath, or the author of psalms expressing adulation, thanksgiving, and worship, David is to us a true hero of the faith.  How then could it be that this same man, beloved of God, could commit a sin so heinous as to fill us with revulsion?  In the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Second Samuel, we are confronted by a David far more complex, and far more human than the king we learned of as a Sunday School hero and the author of the Twenty-third Psalm.

The first part of the story of David and Bathsheba is a tale of illicit lust, base treachery and betrayal, and the arrogance of power spinning out of control.  David is the all-powerful king of a country that, though small in geography, enjoys remarkable military success.  That success is attributed by the populace to David, who, though not entirely without enemies, enjoys widespread support and popularity among the Israelites.  Yet, throughout the earlier chapters describing David’s life and accomplishments, it is clear that the success he enjoys comes from the favor of the LORD, not from any intrinsic power or wisdom in David.  Indeed, David’s sole source of strength is his faith in God.  But here, as Chapter 11 opens, David seems to have forgotten who it is that is his strength.

We are told that, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army” … “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  One can only speculate why this great warrior king decided to remain in Jerusalem while his army went out to face the hardship and danger of warfare without him.  We cannot add to the Word of God, but one wonders whether David may have become too fond of the perquisites of the kingship that the LORD had so graciously bestowed upon him.  

In any case, one particular evening, rather than being encamped with is army besieging the Ammonites in Rabbah, David was taking the night air, strolling around the rooftop of the palace.  As he enjoyed the pleasant evening, he saw a woman, presumably naked, bathing on a nearby rooftop.  At this point, we may speculate that this first sight of Bathsheba bathing was inadvertent.  Though it is possible that David saw only what he was already looking for.  Again, we will not go beyond the text.  In any case, David already had several wives.  He could have immediately turned away.  He could have gone back to his bed alone.  Or he could have gone to one of his wives if he felt he needed female companionship after glimpsing the beautiful bather across the rooftops.   But he didn’t.  He gazed long enough at least to see that, “The woman was very beautiful,…”  

Now the die was cast.  David sent someone to find out who she was, and then sent messengers to bring her to him.  He had made up his mind that he would have her in his bed.  What Bathsheba thought of all this, we are not told.  However, it probably mattered little.  David was, after all, the king of Israel.  His word was law.  This part always reminds me of a paraphrase on a famous line from the musical, “Damn Yankees,” What David wants, David gets.  And Bathsheba, David wants you.  Bathsheba would have been in no position to resist David’s advances.  So David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  

In short order, we learn that Bathsheba had been impregnated by David.  If ever there was a time for repentance, it would seem that this was it.  David had sinned, and his sin had produced serious consequences.  But it seems that David’s first thought is on covering up his sin.  This part seems especially strange given David’s close relationship with God.  Did he think that God was unaware of what he had done?  David first tried to arrange for Bathsheba’s husband, one of David’s loyal soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, to sleep with her and so make it appear that the child was legitimate.  When Uriah failed to cooperate, David grew desperate to hide his guilt, and arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle.  It happened just as David had planned.  So now David added murder to adultery.

In due course, after the period of mourning, David had the pregnant Bathsheba brought to his house and made her is wife, and she bore a baby boy.  Now we are told, “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”  No kidding!  Here we have the king of Israel, a man chosen by God for great things, enjoying success after success, and exercising power over the entire people of God, behaving as the pagans whom God had empowered the Israelites to drive out from the Promised Land.  At this point, one wonders what was going through David’s mind.  Did he think he had gotten by with something?  After all, Uriah was dead, the beautiful Bathsheba was now sharing his bed, and he had a new son.  It was good to be the king!  But God was displeased.

God sent the prophet Nathan to show David his sin.  Nathan told a story of a wealthy man who had taken from a poor man the one little lamb that was all the poor man had.  This is a classic story of self-righteousness, as David’s anger burned hot against the rich man in Nathan’s story who had taken the most cherished possession of a poor man.  Then like an arrow piercing his heart, David heard and understood the words of Nathan, “You are the man!”  Nathan recounted all of the blessings with which the LORD had showered David, but still it hadn’t been enough to satisfy David’s sinful nature, and now the full weight of his guilt overwhelmed him, and he confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD.”  And Nathan announced God’s forgiveness to David.  

Nevertheless, sin is not without consequences.  Nathan’s further pronouncements included God’s judgment on David and his house.  The son born to Bathsheba would die.  The sword would not pass from the house of David.  David’s wives would be taken from him in due course and someone close to him would lay with them in broad daylight (fulfilled in Absalom’s rebellion).  But David was still a man after God’s own heart, and God’s favor would not be withheld from him or his house forever.

So what are we to make of this king who, so blessed by God, nevertheless commits murder and adultery?  First, he is no god himself.  He is human, like you and me, a sinner from his mother’s womb.  But, second, he knows who God is, and he knows whom he has offended with his sin.  When confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he did not deny, he did not rationalize, and he did not further compound his guilt with prevarication.  Instead, he confessed.  Simply, honestly, and forthrightly, he stated, “I have sinned against the LORD.”  He could have claimed irresistible temptation (I can hear a lesser man exclaiming his innocence by saying, “The woman, whom you made so beautiful, bathed naked in full sight of my roof top.  It was her fault.  How was I to resist – I’m only human!”)  

David’s actions after the baby became ill, as Nathan had prophesied, was also revealing.  He spent the next seven days and nights praying to God to have mercy and let the child live.  Yet when the child died, David accepted the judgment of God.  He worshiped the LORD, accepting the justice and the will of God.  And David continued to be blessed by God.  Bathsheba conceived again, and bore a son named Solomon – who continued David’s line.  And God blessed David beyond all measure when he kept his promise that through David’s line would come the Christ, who would save the world.

Now we turn to David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ.  Like David, Jesus was beloved of the Father.  Like David, Jesus maintained faith in the Father despite all of the suffering he endured, even unto death on the cross.  But unlike David, Jesus was more than human.  While fully human, he is also fully God.  When confronted with temptation, David acting on his humanity, gave in.  Jesus, touching his divinity, resisted all temptation and remained sinless.  Though offered all power on earth when Satan tempted him in the desert, Jesus rebuked the tempter and remained sinless.

We, like David, are human.  While we are called to resist temptation always, we continually fall into sin.  Though we think that we do not commit adultery and murder as David did, the words of Jesus convict us, reminding us that if we lust in our hearts, we have broken the commandment and committed adultery.  If we hate our brother, we have broken the commandment and committed murder.  We don’t want to follow the example of David into sin, but we do want to follow his example into confession and repentance.  And what comfort beyond all understanding is ours when we know that, just as God forgave David, he forgives us as well.  

This doesn’t mean that our sins have no consequences in our lives – the alcoholic who has abused his family and driven them away from him, but who confesses and repents and puts his trust in Jesus has the certainty of forgiveness.  But he may still have to live with the pain of divorce, and the disability brought on by a damaged liver.  Nevertheless, the God who forgave David and continued to love him and bless him is also the God who will forgive us and continue to bless us in Christ Jesus, as we, like David, are saved by grace through faith.  

Even in suffering, God works to bless those who trust in him and remain faithful.  David’s life is filled with both anguish and joy.  Throughout it all, David remained faithful, and God continued to love him and care for him to the end.  Just as it is with believers today – God will never abandon those whose trust is in him.

Kittens and Halloween

The jack-o-lantern has been fascinating the neighborhood cats. Belle, 5-months old, and her cousin Midnight, going on 6-months old, even lean across the top of the pumpkin to look through the mask. Of course, the second the camera comes out, they move away from that perfect pose. Now if only they could be trained to chase the possums away before the little marsupials start eating the pumpkins!

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Knowing God

When I think of God, I think of One who is…

Omnipresent – God is everywhere present, not just in part, but in the fullness of his glory.  From the farthest reaches of the universe, to the center of the tiniest particle; from the hearts of the saints of old to the hearts of believers of today; from the hearths of those who cry out against God and attempt to refute his existence and truth, to the homes of those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  There is no place where God is not.

Omniscient – God knows all that is, all that was, and all that ever shall be.  His knowledge is perfect, complete in every respect, and his judgments are always informed by his perfect knowledge and righteousness.  There is no place where we can hide an act or thought from the Lord.  He knew us before we were knit together in our mother’s wombs, and he loved us despite knowing all of our sins, betrayals, and rebellions.

Omnipotent – God is all powerful.  He rules the world according to his purposes.  While Satan and his demons may attack us for a season, for the elect of God the victory over sin, death, and the power of the Devil is already won.  God uses means to accomplish his purpose, for example, he causes rain to fall on the fields and nurture the crops.  But the means are always completely under God’s control.  At the end of time, his omnipotent will in saving those whom by his grace he has called will be revealed, and all earthly powers will pass away.  God reveals his love for me by protecting me from all manner of dangers – from accident and injury, from illness and disease, from the demonic power of Satan and his legions.  When trials and tribulations occur, God give me confidence in knowing that he is always in control.

Triune – God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only one God.  Co-equal, co-eternal, and existing in perfect union.  The Almighty Triune God we worship is clearly taught in Holy Scripture.  The mystery of the Trinity continues, since in the limitation of our human minds we cannot fully understand or explain it.  But the fact of the Triune God is received by the Church, and properly taught in the creeds, as they rightly reflect the plain truth of Scripture.

Holy – God is holy.  In him there is no darkness at all.  Every thing he thinks, does, wills, or allows is perfect. 

The Creator – God has created me, the universe, and all that exists.  Time and space, matter and energy, and all the laws that guide their being and actions are created by God.  Further, God every moment continues to sustain all.  Without his continuous creative will, nothing would continue to exist.  The creation is not the Creator, nor is the Creator the creation.  Out of nothing God called into existence all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be.  God reveals his love for me in creating and sustaining me.

The Redeemer – When humankind fell from the state of grace in which God created us, God by his love provided a way back to fellowship and communion for us, through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The second person of the Trinity took on himself the punishment for all our sins, and offered us salvation and eternal life with God.  God reveals his love for me in the glorious act of redemption, the victory of Jesus.

The Sanctifier – The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, calls us whom God elects to faith; through the Gospel and the Sacraments we are brought to faith and our faith is strengthened.  There is no merit in us that would lead God to give us this most precious gift, but only by his love and grace are we saved.  God reveals his love for me in calling and sanctifying me unto eternal life.

Faith – is trust in things unseen.  Faith is both an action, our trust by grace, and the object – God who is trustworthy, always faithful, who can and will do what he promises.  Throughout Scripture, God promises to care for us, and in Christ is his most excellent proof of his trustworthiness. 

Carson MiniAura Digital Night Vision Monocular (NV-200)

Click here to see the Amazon listing for this item.

I came across this little night vision device on Amazon, and for less than ninety bucks, I had to try it.  Here is my personal review:

My Personal Review:

I’m amazed at how well this little night vision device works. I’ve only had it a few days, but so far it is exceeding my expectation. A neighborhood cat had kittens a few weeks ago under the deck behind our detached garage. Tonight, for the first time, I was able to see three of the kittens playing up on the deck in complete darkness. The image is bright and sharper than I expected. Because I wasn’t using a flashlight, neither the kittens nor their mother were disturbed by my presence. Looking forward to taking it out to the woods at night to watch more critters. I plan to buy another as a backup plus a couple for gifts. 

I’ve seen some reviews that commented that the batteries, “Only lasted about 10 minutes.” Not sure what kind of batteries that person is using, but I’ve had it on constantly till it auto shuts down for probably a couple of hours of total use so far, at the brightest setting, and my alkaline batteries are still going strong. I’ll track the actual use time on new batteries whenever these finally need to be changed. But ‘a battery hog’ it ain’t, at least in my experience.

 

I’ve included the seller’s description below:

Seller’s Description:

Say goodbye to night vision devices with image intensifier tubes that burnout over time. The Mini Aura from Carson

Optical is a completely digital night vision monocular that won’t burn out. The images seen through the digital screen will no longer be green but rather in a crisp black and white. The intensity can be easily adjusted with a simple push of a button. It boasts a 19-degree angle of view and you can see up to 82 feet in total darkness. The Mini Aura is compact and lightweight and can even fit in your pocket allowing you to bring it almost anywhere. 

Use the Mini Aura on camping trips for late night wildlife viewing, at dusk during hunting trips or during any outdoor activity. It can be used in ambient light or total darkness. The Mini Aura comes with a carry pouch and wristband. It uses 3 AAA batteries (not included). At Carson, we strive to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied with the quality of our products. We are so confident in our products that we back them with a One Year Limited Warranty! This Carson product is warranted to be free from defects in material and workmanship for a period of one year from date of purchase. Please contact Carson for additional warranty details.

Disclaimers:

I have no economic interest in the sales of this item, and I bought mine with my own money.  Whatever the seller says about it on Amazon is the seller’s responsibility, not mine.  I’m not a night vision expert, and everything I’ve said about it is just my personal opinion.

The photos included here was taken using my iPhone.  The photo on the left was taken with no flash.  The photo on the right was shot through the lens of the Mini Aura.  Not real professional and doesn’t show the image as clearly as it actually is looking through the lens.  You can see that this was taken in virtually total darkness by the photo on the left.  If you look closely, you can see a little kitten peeking over the edge of the deck in the upper right side of the photo.  Its eyes are reflecting the infrared illumination.

 

If Jesus Paid for Our Sins, Why Do We Still Suffer?

Christianity clearly teaches that Jesus has paid our debt of sin for all time, for all sins, for all people.  So why does suffering still occur?   How come everything isn’t sunshine and lollipops in our lives?  Well, let’s back up a bit and remember who God is and who we are.  God is the creator of all that exists, of all things visible and invisible.  Among the invisible things are the laws of physics, of celestial mechanics, and the laws that tell us that for every action and there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Simply put, our actions (and our inactions) have consequences.  Yes, Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, but that doesn’t mean that the laws of the universe have been repealed.  When we suffer as a result of sin, we are experiencing the worldly consequences of the sinful actions (or inactions), not punishment for those sins.

Evildoers will always be among us, until the end of time.  Oftentimes, we are evildoers, too.  The evil that we or others do has consequences in this world.  When someone sins, that sin reverberates in the lives of other people.  Like a stone dropped into a still pool of water, the waves spread out and affect the entire pool.  The driver of an automobile drinks four alcoholic beverages before getting behind the wheel and, while driving drunk, slams into a pedestrian in a crosswalk, killing the pedestrian.  There is nothing inherently evil in either the alcoholic beverage or the automobile.  The evildoer isn’t these inanimate objects, but the driver of the automobile.   The ripples of this sinful act spread out to cause suffering to many other people, including the family and friends of the victim and the family and friends of the drunk driver.  This suffering is a consequence of the sin that the drunk driver committed, but it isn’t the punishment for that sin.

The drunk driver in the example above may spend years in prison as a consequence of his or her actions.  But if that driver sincerely repents and puts their trust in Jesus for forgiveness, their sin is forgiven.  The civil authorities in this world are still responsible for meting out justice according to the laws promulgated for the wellbeing of society as a whole.  The prison sentence must still be served.  The family of the dead pedestrian must still bear their grief and suffer the loss of their loved one.  However, all of those are consequences of sin, not punishment for sin.

Suffering can also be the result of natural disasters:  Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and lightning strikes are a few examples.  Suffering can also arise from diseases, birth defects, disabilities, aging, wars, crime, and death of a loved one.  These are all consequences of living in a fallen world.  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God by disobeying him in the Garden of Eden, their sin did not only affect them, it affected all of creation, and every human being born through natural means thereafter.  The whole world has been groaning under the curse of sin ever since the Fall.  The suffering resulting from the examples above is a consequence of the Fall of humankind into sin when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God, it isn’t a punishment for our sins or the sins of others.

Many false preachers and prophets point to natural disasters and diseases and seek to connect them to specific sins that people or nations are committing.  By doing so, they unwittingly are seeking to rob Jesus of his glory, and denigrating the sacrifice that he made once and for all on the cross.  Such false preachers and prophets mistakenly teach that our forgiveness is something that we must somehow earn by our good behavior.  They ignore the clear message of the Gospel, which teaches that we are saved by faith through grace and not by any works that we do.  Doing good works is a consequence of being saved and trusting in Jesus.  If we had to rely on our good works for our salvation, we would never have the assurance and peace that comes from knowing we are saved – saved because Jesus, the Son of God, has already done all that is necessary for our salvation.  Nothing we could ever do would be enough to pay for even one sin.

Sins will be committed.  Suffering will come, even into the lives of the most fervent Christians.  But thanks be to God, such suffering is only a consequence of sin, not a punishment for sin.  The punishment was born by Jesus Christ on the cross.  And nothing we do adds anything to his victory over sin, death, and the power of the Devil.