A fellow explained to me the other day the difference between a city zoo and a country zoo.

“In a city zoo,” he said, “they have the names of the animals on signs with the Latin names underneath. In a country zoo, they have the names of the animal on signs with recipes underneath.”
One of the things I enjoy about living in the country is having the opportunity to be around animals. I enjoy seeing the whitetail deer grazing in the back yard and songbirds eating seeds from the feeder in the tree outside the kitchen window. 
I have lots of fun with my pack of beagles, my two mountain feist squirrel dogs, and my flock of chickens. 
I know many of you have cattle and horses and goats and pigs and alpacas and yaks and cats and who knows what else.
Perhaps none of us loved animals any better than King Solomon, who with his great wealth sent ships and crews to faraway places to bring back animals of all sorts. He essentially had his own zoo, complete with apes and monkeys.
Solomon had pretty much anything money could buy. He had a magnificent throne made of ivory, with lions along the stairs leading up to it. All his drinking cups were made of gold. Silver just wasn’t good enough. 
“And King Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (2 Chronicles 9:22).
But Solomon found no happiness in all his possessions. In fact, he said they were nothing more than vanity.
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” — Ecclesiastes 1:14.
Solomon, having gathered every material thing in search of happiness, found that only a personal relationship with the Lord can provide the kind of joy that every person hungers for.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). 
Solomon was telling us that joy doesn’t come from the homes we live in or the things we fill those homes with, that true joy doesn’t come from apes or monkeys or any other pets, though life would be less fulfilling without them. Solomon made it clear that joy comes from a right relationship with Jesus.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the things God has blessed us with. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with visiting the city zoo to have our spirits lifted. Of course, the country zoo can do that too, while also giving you some delicious recipes.

Roger Alford offers words of encouragement to residents of America’s heartland. Reach him at rogeralford1@gmail.com.

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