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Clear Signal

Its ears work better than ours. Humans hear almost as well, but human ears cannot swivel to pinpoint sound. It hears sounds at both lower and higher sound frequencies.

Its sense of smell is better. It’s not even a close contest. It possesses 297 million olfactory receptors. We humans have just 5 million.

When we compare its ability to see with humans, the human eye sees more detail and color. Human eyes have three types of cones: trichromatic vision. While this marvelous creature has two: dichromatic vision. But this fur-bearing mammal has larger pupils and reflective retina. It sees much better than humans in low light conditions. Its eyes are located on the side of its head. This give it 310 degrees of vision-without moving its head. Remarkable, in contrast, the human range of vision is only 180 degrees.

This 4-legged creature was made to live life outside. Outside, during months of nighttime temperatures well below zero. Hollow dark brown outer fur traps solar energy for warmth while dense under fur insulates from extreme cold. How do two types of fur grow one animal? Equally impressive, this fur is water proof (built-in oil glands enhance this). It is also wind-proof.

This marvelous creature can store insulating body fat around internal organs-in warmer weather-to insulate it internal organs and provide energy for the sparse diet of winter. It does not choose to do this, it happens for the animal automatically. Like us-we cannot choose to have oxygen exchanged in our lungs.

Perhaps you’ve guessed.(the feature photo gives the best clue!) The spectacular animal that has our attention is the White-tailed Deer. It can run at top speeds of 40 mile per hour. It jumps 30 feet in a bound. Its vertical leap is around 9 feet. They can swim at speeds of over 10 miles per hour. In comparison, an average human speed is about 5.5 mile per hour. Both deer are human use 4 limbs in this contest.

They are beautiful to witness in their native habitat. Whitetail are the essence of wildness and mystery. We have listed numerous facts about them, but there is much more we do not know. This is part of the delight of seeing a Whitetail. It’s why the Whitetail is one of the most sought after big game animals. Deer hunters know the mystery and beauty of whitetails.DSC_0219_1139sig

White-tailed deer do something else for humans. They are clear God signals. Does it seem possible that an animal would have all of the characteristics we’ve mentioned by accident? Could these traits of the deer happen over time? Hollow guard hairs, adding insulating fat in fall, and a sense of smell 290 times better than human? We did not mention the ability of deer to switch from grass to highly fibrous browse in winter. We would not function well on a diet of high fiber-every day.DSC_0183_1131sig

God has placed millions of signals of His power and presence on earth. While some are small, they are easy to spot. Whitetails however, are large, clear signals of God as Creator. There is no ambiguity.

The deer, perhaps not Whitetail, is mentioned in the Bible too. We would be wise to emulate the deer in this way.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

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Boone’s Morning (conclusion)

Boone’s Morning Conclusion

Boone scanned the woods as he slowly made each step. He had learned the art of feeling the earth before he put his full weight on it. If a twig or branch was beneath, he moved his foot to the side. There was no sound of twigs or branches breaking when Boone walked. The leaves were something else. The carpeted the floor of the woods. He could not avoid them. He could pick up his feet and place them gently on the leafy mat which was part of the woods. He did not mind that walking took longer this way. Being quiet was his goal. He intended to see things.

He had walked 100 yards when he came to the small flow of water. Crossing a stream was a delight. This one had ice on the edges and Boone’s alert eyes noticed the movement of the water beneath the crystal-clear ice. Water moving under ice was a favorite sight of his. He paused. His eyes took in the liquid beauty flowing silently below him. He looked up and picked his crossing place. Deer had crossed here too.DSC_0025_1068sig

As he reached the top of the little stream bank he took a long look to the north through the woods. It was easy to see ahead. The trees in the woods were thick but with the leaves down the late fall view was uncluttered. Nothing moved. He was reminded then of the strength of the south wind as a fresh gust bent the tops of the trees. He could hear it growl as it tore through the limbs above his head. He knew his scent went before him. He resolved to be more careful, even more quiet. He began to look for a place to sit.

 He chose another landmark in one of the trees to the north. This time it was a large cluster of basswood, the only one like it. Quietly, with care he moved northward to the trunks bunched like only basswood can. He noticed the near perfect rings of holes drilled by a Sapsucker Woodpecker in the trunk. He liked the symmetry found in the woods too. Finding it many places was one of the other pleasures of being in the woods. Soundlessly he moved to the north side of the basswood. He saw the trunks made a perfect spot to sit. They would make a great backrest. But the ground was bare. He decided to pick up a handful of leaves to pad his seat and keep him dry. Even with the wind noise, the rustle they made disturbed the deep stillness. He did not pick up any more. DSC_0094_1081

Quietly he sat down, his back against one of the basswood trunks. He was on the south side of a bowl like dip in the forest floor. He could see everything to the north. He would sit here; and watch. Sitting outside always relaxed him. As the minutes passed Boone became drowsy. But he did not let himself sleep. He’d been quiet. He’d traveled slowly observing while he moved. Perhaps there was a deer standing nearby. Slowly, he swiveled his head from east to west, then back again. Nothing moved. The gusting rumble of the south wind continued. He waited eyes open, and alert. He felt alive. Adventures like this he could picture himself doing over and over. He watched and listened. Still nothing. He knew he needed to keep moving. He was not sure how much farther to the north the lake was.

Softly he rose from his leafy seat. He picked another clump of basswood trunks visible across the bowl before. His northward steps were silent with only a slight leaf rustle. Boone had learned much about travel in the woods. The lake was ahead. He was eager to see it.DSC_0040_1071sig

After reaching the basswood clump, a burl on a birch tree led him further north. Reaching the birch, he glanced north. He could see the blue-gray color of ice on the lake. He did not pick another north facing landmark. He silently made his way to the lake. Just before reaching the downslope towards the water he crossed two deer trails. He had not seen any on the way to the lake. Yet these two paralleled the lake shore and they were only a few yards apart. He did not dwell long on the deer trails. His eyes were pulled the vista of the lake before him. He was amazed at the small hump of land that formed an island in the lake. It was entirely tree covered. In the mid-morning sun it glowed. Movement on the north end of the island shifted his gaze. A bird of prey drifted southward against the wind. He watched as the wind lifted it westward and behind the island out of sight.

He lingered on the edge of the lake for a few moments. The hike had been worth the effort. His reward was not the sighting of a deer, mink or even the fisher he knew lived in the park. His reward was something he knew he would picture again over and over in his memory. The lake pristine, its shoreline undeveloped and the feeling of wildness were his rewards. He made plans to return, for a longer hike next time. It was time to meet his grandfather. He knew the way back and how long it would take him. He turned and faced into the wind. He still hoped to get a glimpse of a whitetail deer. Boone resolved he could come back. There was much more to learn about this place. It was a better than usual morning.DSC_0119_1092

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Boone’s Morning

Join me in something new. It’s been on my mind for an extraordinary long time. Meet Boone. He’s a 11-year old boy. He delights in the mysteries and wonders of nature. My idea is to use Boone to share with you some of my nature experiences. Boone is my fictional character, I chose his name today. Boone means good, a blessing.  His experiences will be based on real events in nature. My wish for you is that you enjoy this first adventure of Boone’s. My eyes actually have seen what you will read about in this first story.

Let’s call it “Boone’s Morning.”

 As far back as he could remember in his 11-year-old life, Boone had liked being outside. This morning was no different. He was taking a solo hike for 3 hours in a 10,000-acre park. This park had been returning to nature for nearly 50 years. He was ready. He’d been outside since he was old enough to walk. His grandfather had carefully taught him to be observant, and he knew how to listen to life outside. Boone could walk quietly. He knew his way in the woods.

 This was the first time Boone would go alone. His grandfather would drop him off. The drop off was just an approach, a little driveway that ended at the woods. He had his cell phone compass to keep his bearing, but he planned to walk due north. There was a lake ¾ of a mile distant. Boone planned to see it. His grandpa would be back in 3 hours.

 Boone looked into his grandpa’s eyes. He saw them tear up. But he heard grandpa’s strong voice, “You know what to do, enjoy this Boone.  I’ll be waiting here 3 hours from now like we planned.” Boone just nodded. He put his hand on grandpa’s arm. His smile said thanks. Boone turned to the woods while his grandfather drove away. The wind was strong at his back, at times it gusted over 20 miles an hour. It made a roar in the tops of the trees. Boone liked it. He did not like that the wind would move his scent in front of him long before he could see the wildlife that made this magnificent hardwood forest home. He determined to be ultra-quiet as he moved northward toward the lake which was his morning destination.

 He paused after his steps had taken him far enough from the road that he could not be seen. One thing he liked about the first few minutes in a wild place was the sense of the unknown. He did not know what he would see or hear. This mystery never got old. He gazed around him in a 360-degree swing taking in the whole woods. It smelled good here. The roar of the wind was muted. His heart swelled, this was better than he expected already.

 He took out his phone and turned on the compass. He knew he was facing north. But he knew grandpa would want him to check. North, it was. He carefully stored his phone in a zipped pocket. He took another deep breath of sweet forest air. Somewhere ahead lay the deep lake that was his morning destination. He smiled and thought, “I can do solo hikes like this for the rest of my life.” Once more he slowly scanned the trees for any sign of life. He really wanted to see a whitetail.DSC_0031_1069sig

 Then he took his first step. (to be continued.)

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Thanksgiving Every Month

Thanksgiving is still on our minds. The food, family, and fun linger as pleasant thoughts. What if we gave thanks every month, all year long? It is effortless, really.

Start with a pink cumulo-status sunrise, January 2017.
Give thanks to God, for He is good. He creates sunrise and sunset for each day.2-1-17

The hairy woodpecker is largely immune to winter, even below zero temperatures in February. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created insulating down for woodpeckers. He knows what we need too.

Early spring finds this coyote on prowl at a Prairie Chicken Lek. Give thanks to God for He is good. The coyote has been provided food to
survive another winter. The abundance of spring has come. We receive his abundance every day.4-1-17

April brings blue in the form of eggs. This bluebird was half done with her clutch of 6. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created the miraculous egg! He gives us daily miracles.4-22-17

Spring reveals the power of the first thunderstorm. Give thanks to God for he is good. His power is evident in every cloud, even more in cumulonimbus. His power is for you, me.6-2-17

The flowers of June delight our eyes and clothe the land in unspeakable beauty. Give thanks to God for he is good. His love is evident in the blooms he creates. This beauty soothes our souls.6-14-17

July reminds us of Gods perfect timing. All of nature is set to God’s precise clock. In late July, without fail Cicadas emerge from their earth-bound home to become adults whose calls reverberate in the summer trees. They announce the renewal of the next generation. Everyday, God renews his love for us. His timing for us is perfect.DSC_0080_457sig

August comes. It shows us how often and much we take the goodness of God for granted. The pollinators, bees, wasps, moths and birds are faithfully on duty making fruit and vegetables which bring us health. Give thanks to God for he is good. We never tell pollinators to do their work. They follow the instructions of God who loves us.DSC_0075_439sig

September and October arrive. The colors of changing seasons cause us to drop our jaws at the profusion of color. Yet, we seldom give thanks for the eyes we use everyday to witness the beauty of the earth. God is ok with that. Our eyes are part of his love gift to us. Give thanks to God for he is good. Fall colors bring us joy. Joy is a reason for thanksgiving.9-19-1710-1-17

A full moon in November is a celebration. November is a cloudy month. To witness the moon rise above the horizon on a crisp November evening is one more in the parade of gifts God gives in a year. So is a female Pileated woodpecker demolishing a suet block in December. She was watching, and cautious; but her taste for suet won. Give thanks to God for he is good. Winter beauty is reason for thanksgiving.11-23-16

12 photos, 12 months…12 snips of 365 days of life. 365 days of steadfast 24/7 goodness and blessing from God. Give thanks to God for he is good …here is the best part for last…His love endures forever. Giving thanks? There are endless reasons because…once more…God is good.12-22-16

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Made for Communion

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Cedar Waxwing, bird of community.

It benefits from kinship.

A passerine whose identity is communal.

See one, the flock is near.

Frugivorous, palate for fruit.

Black mask shields the eye,

Cedar Waxwings, made to live,

in concert with others.DSC_0156_1049sig

Humans live in community

in cities, suburbs, and towns.

We benefit from kinship.

We bear one another’s burdens.

Humans, see one, more are near.

Humans-made by God.

Made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

Like Cedar Waxwings,

Crafted by God for communion with God.

Everlasting God, Creator of the Universe,

wants you to walk with him,

talk with him.

He loves you.DSC_0142sig

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Black and White

Black and White…

Black…dark, shadowy, dim…

Light reversed.

White…snowy, bleached, hoary…

Black vanished.

Black-dark; white-light,

Opposites.

In combination, striking.

Attention arresting.DSC_0172_1056sig.jpg

Black and White

Sin filled me…flawed, error prone, easily angered

Sin less Jesus

…perfect Man, patient, loving, Savior

Sinful me? Condemned…

Jesus-condemnation remover

It’s Black and White…

Sinner forgiven…life everlasting.

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This is truth in black and white.

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Another Use for 5 Senses

Sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste; every human has multiple senses. Some have 5. My gratitude for just the ability to see and hear returns with every trip outside.

Our senses reveal the magnificence of earth. Our minds revel in the splendor and grandeur of earthy majesty. Millions of photographic images of earth grandness are irrefutable evidence.DSC_0184_1006sig

Yes, we are beauty fanatics. We find beauty using all 5 senses. Have you ever wondered why a sunrise or sunset takes your breath away? What about the powerful sound of the surf, the wilderness call of a loon, the rustle of leaves in a south breeze? The scent of pine, the ocean, and freshly turned earth delight our noses. The soft touch of downy feathers, a flower petal, a gentle breeze on our skin calms us and thrills us at the same time. What about the taste of a fresh crisp apple just picked from the tree? On this earth we are surrounded by magnificence.DSC_0032sig

Our senses connect us with earth majesty. They give a fullness, and richness to life. They are gifts. DSC_0007sig

Our 5 senses point us to God. Why do humans have 5 senses? Do you take them for granted? Another question, what is the origin of human sensory abilities? Actually, this is a profound question. Reflect on your answer. Know the answer is filled with an unfathomable peace centered reality: God.

Pastor, author and speaker, Dr. Paul Tripp calls earthly beauty “sign beauty.” Tripp tells us “sign beauty points us to eternal beauty. He writes this about God, “Only his beauty can give you hope, strength, and peace. Only his beauty can give you life… be sure to look beyond what you are thankful for and see the Creator.”

Make time to go outside again, soon. Use your senses, delight in the majesty of the earth you live on, use them to lead you to him. Then remind yourself, “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. Deuteronomy 33:26 He is God today; his promises are real. His help always available. Just ask him. He is near.DSC_0025sig.jpg

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Truth Walk

very

Here’s an invitation. Take a walk with me. You may stay at your computer. This is a walk with photos. Everything you read and see will be true. Welcome to the “truth hike.”

Our location is a United States Fish and Wildlife Waterfowl Production area (WPA). As we begin, the wind is from the southeast. The temperature is above freezing and it’s nice to be outside. We take a few steps and a plan is made. There must be white-tailed deer nearby. We adjust our direction, we will stay along the west border of this wild place so our scent drifts northward and not into the WPA.

A “prescribed fire” has recently been completed here. Contrary to what you may think, fire is healthy for a prairie like this. When fire has removed the dry vegetation, it provides a chance to see the history of the area. We stop to examine what looks like a femur from a former resident of this place. We leave it, it will nourish the mice and become part of the prairie soil.DSC_0008sig

We trek northward. We pick up a deer trail and follow it into reed canary grass. More than once a deer has jumped up in front of me. They like bedding in this thick grass. We stand and wait, expecting a large mammal to rise up from the grass. But it’s quiet, only the wind rustles the grass. As we reach the top of the hill boulders buried in the soil catch our attention. They are covered in lichen. The kind in the photo is a type of crustose. No deer yet, but this lichen is old, many deer have passed this rock.DSC_0009sig

The chances of a deer seem improved as we look east. A compact oak savannah grows along the edge of a very interesting looking wetland. We’ll take a photo of the empty bird’s nest to prove to children there are times in the year when nests do not have eggs in them. We take the deer trail into the oak savannah. We barely make a sound. We find fresh deer scat, but again, there are no deer. The ice on this wetland stretches from shore to shore. We step on the edge for a few photos to the southeast. We do not take a chance by walking out toward the middle.DSC_0026sig

Now the wind is in our faces. Our scent blows behind us. We’ve been quiet too. We walk a few steps and stop, watching and listening. We come to another low place filled with reed canary. But this one has water in it. No deer in this one. We take the deer trail leading to the south-east. There are tracks frozen into the ground at the edge of the place we are leaving. Deer use this place, often. As we reach the crest of a small hill, the dried stalk of a fall aster catches my eye. The seed has already dispersed. Still, it seems like a good subject for a photo.DSC_0032sig

Now we reach the edge of the prescribed burn area. Our search for deer now seems futile. But we stop and look behind us often. It seems wise, wolves and coyotes always check their back trail. In just a few minutes we will have returned to our starting point. But as we walk downhill and through burned cattail stalks the white shells of water snails stand out against the charred black cattail. They are beautiful. I did not mention this until now, but during the entire hike my eyes were watchful for muskrats on the ice or edges. They appear to be frozen in for the winter. Speaking of winter, look at the size of their huts! DSC_0039sigThere is an old-timer adage about this. The size of the hut is a winter predictor. Small huts-mild winter…large huts-strong winter. These are the largest I have seen for a few seasons. This may or may not be truth. Hmm, we’ll see.DSC_0044sig

Our “truth hike” comes to an end here. All of these events are true. They happened today. 

There is another consideration about truth. We prefer the truth. We need truth. Because our world is filled with untruth, the beautiful truth we find in nature is one of the reasons we delight in time outside. Today’s “truth walk” was earthly. But each photo reveals the glory of God. They point us to the “eternal truth-walk.” Isaiah said, “This is the way, walk in it…”

Jesus is eternal truth. He is the author of truth, he is full of grace, and truth. He is the Creator of the truth we witnessed on our hike. Jesus also said this about truth to those who believed in him, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Take a truth walk outside where you live. Then take a “truth walk” today in your soul, believe in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life.

Which way should we “walk?” Walk with Jesus, He is the way.

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Persist in This

 

Unnoticed, in silent existence.

We pass it without a glance.

It’s beautiful.

An amazing organism team; fungus and algae.

Too lowly to consider.

Some fix nitrogen fertilizing soil.

All live in harsh habitat; surviving drought, cold, heat.

Miniature chemical factories…producing 500 bio-chemicals;

controlling light, repelling herbivores, driving off attacking microbes, for survival.

Lichen persists on the earth.

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Jesus, Creator of extraordinary lichen.

We pass him by without a glance.

He’s Savior.

He’s inexplicable-three in One.

Suffered a lowly death on a cross.

Only solution to our sins.

Persist in Him; survive a harsh sin filled world.

Receive eternal life…free.

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The Testimony of Geese

Lurking” begins in late winter. There is no malice or mischief in this waiting, it is intentional. There is still ice on wetlands. The “lurkers” stand on it. Some late winter days they loiter for hours. As warmer weather approaches and the ice melts from wetland waters, the “lurkers” get serious. No other loiterer is permitted to be in the place the two original “waiters/lurkers” have chosen. These waiters are not employees of a restaurant. They wear feathers. They fly. They honk. Sometimes they perch with webbed feet on the roofs of buildings to keep watch over their wetland turf. The early spring lurkers are Canada Geese (Brantis Canadensis) Imagine a large bird with a long neck and flat, webbed feet on the peak of a roof. But there is no danger, they can fly.DSC_0129_985sig

You may wonder why write about Canada geese in spring-when it’s near the end of fall. Today, the geese provide us with perspective. Winter is coming. These geese live outside 24/7. They have no warm building to escape to. Geese do not possess cupboards filled with food. They do have down feathers that keep them warmer than most of our human constructed warm weather gear. They will face freezing temperatures, snow, even blizzards. They live outside all day, all night in conditions we humans would expire from. They live.DSC_0154_993sig

Now, the rest of the spring story. Before the ice is off the wetland, the pair of Canadas begin nesting. The goose (female) builds the nest. She lines it with down from her own body. The gander(male) becomes his mate’s consistent body-guard. He is a true force.  25-30 days must pass as the female incubates and the male guards. Reading about this miraculous process does not provide the magnitude of effort two birds expend to produce a clutch of 4-6 young. She stays on the nest except for brief periods to get water and enough food to sustain her. My memories include a Canada goose incubating her eggs and observing her with head down and neck stretched over the nest-during a snowstorm. I got cold and went inside. The next morning, with ice covering the wetland she was still there. The gander was still guarding. That day for almost 30 more, they stayed on task. My activities that day after sunset included a warm meal, and a warm bed sheltered from any of the freezing elements both geese were experiencing for the entire night. That’s persistence. That’s unselfishness and dedication. It is self-sacrificing, all for the next generation.DSC_0160_996sig

Now, the perspective we can take from the life of a Canada goose. They never give up. This may sound strange, but they never complain. Cold or wet, comfortable or not geese persist-in every season. Yes, you say-they are geese! But they provide a living example we can learn from.

How are geese able to persevere, in all conditions? It’s mercy. It’s great faithfulness. The living example of the geese for us reveals the mercy and faithfulness of God. As Creator of the geese. God provides everything Canada geese need. Water, food, oxygen, yes-shelter, instincts to nest, fly, protect and stay with the same mate for life, these are evidence of the faithful mercy of God. You know the geese cannot generate any of these things by their own strength.

It is a short step now from the example of the involvement of God with the Canada geese. You and I were made “in the image of God.” Why is that important? Only human beings are given the distinct and separate designation of being “made in God’s image.” No other living things fit this category. Humans were made by God to reflect the character of God. We fail often at this-we are sinners. But God never fails. His faithful love exists each day for the Canada Geese who are facing the extremes of a northern winter. Even greater is the faithful love God offers us. It never ends, never ceases and wonder of wonders, it begins new every morning. Look at the geese and see the great faithfulness of God. Best of all, you and I can do nothing to earn this great love of God, it is not necessary. God loves us first, long before we have any idea we need His love. That’s a miracle.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23DSC_0167_998sig

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Following the Ordinances of Heaven

Canada Geese ( Branta canadensis)…Lesser Canada Geese (Branta hutchinsii)

There is nothing common about these magnificent birds. They live from coast to coast & from Mexico to the Arctic. Because they are herbivores, they eat everything green from new wheat to golf course grass. Canadas are very adaptable. They thrive at life. DSC_0062_974sigGiant Canadas are well named as they have wingspans to 6 feet and males may weigh over 23 pounds. Their longevity is another amazing attribute, the average lifespan of a Canada goose is 10-25 years. It is no surprise why their population increases. Examine the photos for an understanding of the word gregarious…Canadas “hang” together. The famous Canada Goose V flying formation allows flocks to fly up to 70% farther than when flying alone. Pilots have reported geese flying at altitudes of 9000 feet, at average speeds of 40-55 miles per hour; they can fly at 70 mph with a tailwind! We know they mate for life. We humans could learn from their example. A male is the gander and a female the goose. DSC_0070sigDowny body feathers keep them warm in below zero temperatures which send us scurrying for heat-indoors. These feathers retain their insulation qualities even after the bird dies. Down is best at keeping humans warm.

DSC_0120sigWhile there may be thousands of them in view, there is nothing common about them. How might we explain the ability of these birds to live almost everywhere on the North American Continent? How are they able to withstand extremes in weather, both heat and cold? Why do they mate for life? Because the Canada Goose does not follow prescribed human directives. There is an unseen power to be found in these birds. Whether there are 1000s honking and splashing in one place or a pair in flight over head careful observation reveals power. Canada Geese follow the script. God gives it to them. In Job 38:33 God asks Job two questions.

1.       Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

2.       Can you establish their rule on earth?

We have libraries full and an internet packed with knowledge about these geese. But Canada Geese act and live the way they do because they know the ordinances of God. His instructions are written in their DNA. They do geese things each day because the rule of God directs them. Refrain from taking them for granted because we see them often. They are completely uncommon.DSC_0086sig

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The Best “Dessert”

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You can have dessert first… it’s the best.

Yesterday we brought up the subject of humans and faith. Candidly we recognized we put our faith in things that are temporary. An easy one is turning water into ice. Our faith is unwavering in the principle that water freezes-every time when the air temperature is below 32 degrees.

We acknowledged that faith in water freezing is faith in something temporary. We had a chance to think about faith in Someone everlasting, eternal. If we are honest, we realized that faith in God is unending, while all the things we put our trust on earth are temporary.

But, yesterday, I forgot something important. In my opinion it’s like saving the best for last, perhaps like dessert. You ask, “how could you?” My response, what do you expect from an imperfect human? Regardless of this, I DID forget the most important fact about faith in God. That is to remind both of us where faith comes from.

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What do you think? What is the source of faith? If we use simple logic (and my logic limit is simple) we conclude there are two answers. We generate faith in God-or-God gives us faith.

Examine these choices with me. If we generate faith in God ourselves, we know immediately there is a problem. For us to trust in God we must not want to be God ourselves. Have you ever gone just one day without trying to be a little god, solving your problems yourself? Sorry, but we are like toddlers in this respect. We daily say to God, “I’ll do it myself!” See the problem? How can we have faith in God if we are trusting ourselves? We cannot generate faith.DSC_0091_917sig

At this point we know the other answer is best. This truth should give us both great peace of mind. God gives us faith. Perhaps you wonder what does it cost? It was costly for Jesus, He painfully died for us on a cross to save us from our sin of making ourselves little Gods. Then He gives us faith-free. True faith is a gift from God. Jesus initiates and perfects our faith. He is our faith champion, and our Savior.

Would you want it any other way? We know our hearts. We’d rather not admit it but our default setting is to be a little god. This news, that Jesus gives us faith is eternally better than dessert.

Faith, it’s eternal dessert, better than all desserts. Served by an eternal loving Father God. It’s not fattening, but it is addicting. If you want more, ask God. He freely gives us faith and then, by his great love, he GROWS our faith. It’s called sanctification, God’s process of making us holy.

Why the photos with these words? They are evidence of God’s love. Examine them, the earth is full of the steadfast love of God-the same God who saves us and gives us faith far greater than all the earthly things we put our faith in. Faith is like the best dessert, but it is eternal, free, and life changing.DSC_0084_912sig

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Humans and Faith

The first winter cold has fastened its grip on us. Snow is on the ground. Yes, it feels like winter. This cold day has me thinking about faith. Don’t shake your head.  Faith goes well with cold. One reason is heat. Stay with me, no head shaking. Northland dwellers rely on sources of heat to keep homes warm. When cold increases, it is wonderful, even life-saving, when we can touch the thermostat and raise the inside temperature. We have faith heat is on the way.

What is faith?  My choice of the best two words synonymous with faith are confidence and trust. But reliance, conviction and belief are excellent ways to comprehend faith. We put our faith in an enormous number of things each day. We have faith that water will come from the faucet when we thirst. We have faith that the lights will come on when we flip a switch. I thank my friend Rick who works for a power company for “keeping the lights on.” We even exhibit faith as we move to a chair to sit down. We even expect the chair to hold us. Daily we display faith just by living.

We exhibit everyday faith on a larger scale with nature. Actually, this would be an amazing exercise for all of us. How many things in nature do we “believe” and “trust” will happen? These are things we do nothing about. A few come to mind. We put water in our freezer and expect it to become ice. We awaken in the morning and breathe. There is never a question, “will there be enough oxygen?” Never do we debate if the sun will rise. It always peeks above the horizon at the time predicted. Yes, it is so regular we are able to make sunrise/sunset tables. Consider one more, your heart. No human ever has the ability to will their heart to beat. Yes, we can do things which affect heart rate, but the life-long beating of the human heart is both a gift and an act of everyday faith.sunrise matt hendricks2

Author and speaker, Ravi Zacharias has written the book The Grand Weaver. It is worth picking up a copy. In it Zacharias quotes essayist F.W. Boreham. Zacharias paraphrases Boreham’s words about faith with these words. “Faith is actually the mainspring of the universe, the sheet anchor of civilization.”

We put faith in so many things. Have you considered what is often the most difficult for us to have faith in? My small man submission, it’s God. Amazing, isn’t it, we trust that the sun will rise and set, we trust there will be oxygen to breath in, and our hearts to beat. We never have to think about it. But we waver when we consider faith in God who makes all of these possible. Zacharias’ words further clarify the significance of faith he states, “the loss of faith is a dreadful thing because it takes away hope and even threatens love.”DSC_0025_762sig

We are greatly loved. God loves every human alive on earth today, all of those once living, and all of those yet to live. Have you given thought to all of the temporary things you put faith in? Would you consider putting your faith in Someone who could provide you with the cure for death?

Consider these closing words from Ravi Zacharias, “The Bible is a book on life building, written for us as we sojourn on this planet. Interestingly, it also tells us that the rudder and sail remain in God’s control and that we enter the high seas with the understanding that we must trust him.”  (page 45)

What do you believe, have faith in? Where do you place your trust and confidence? To confirm your answer, watch the next sunrise, observe the clouds scudding over head on a northwest wind. Know that He is the One on which you may anchor your faith. He never fails, forever.DSC_0059_902sig

Thank you Matt Hendricks for your sunrise photos!

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Why There are “Outskirts”

This is the final piece of writing about “outskirts.”…for now.

These seven photos are ordinary examples of the outskirts of the outskirts of the majesty and power of God. These photos were taken from July through November. There are actually uncountable millions of beautiful photos which could have been taken but were not. Yet, the beauty of the earth continued.DSC_0169_311sig

Job used this term to describe the majesty and power of God. Understanding this word brings us closer to understanding what omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God is like.
One example Job provided regarding the “outskirts” of God’s glory is contained in this statement, “He hangs the earth on nothing.” Breath stopping views of earth from the moon confirm this- there is nothing holding the earth.DSC_0005_871sigDSC_0028_723sigDSC_0108_735sig

Wanting more of this awesome picture of God, my question for three days was, “If hanging the earth on nothing is the edge of God’s power and majesty-what must the center be?”

For two days my mind pondered this question. My thought was the answer could not be known until heaven. A few days ago, it came to me (a gift from God) that we can know the exact center of the majesty and power of God today, today, now.

If the “outskirts” of God’s majesty and power is evidenced by the earth “hanging on nothing” then the center of his majesty and power is Jesus. Jesus is the center of God’s awesome power and glory.

John 3:16 reminds us that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The love of Jesus before, now and in the future days to come is the center of the unfathomable power of God. The power of God centers in love. Look at the photos, see the power and know the even greater love of God for you. Fall to your knees, this love for us is beyond amazing and God promises his love for eternity!DSC_0068_760sigDSC_0160_869sig

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The Edge of “Outskirts”

Walk with me to the outskirts. You remember, the edges. We will walk past the small grove of ash trees towering over invasive tenacious buckthorn. As we reach the edge the ground will be soft. There’s water near the surface here. Here near a new outskirt we’ll find reed canary grass. In this place it always grows at the edge of the outskirts. We take just a few more steps and we arrive. At this “outskirt” the broad-leafed cattail grows in tangled abundance. This outskirt is peaceful, the north wind cannot reach the sheltered wetland where this outskirt is found.DSC_0128_859sig

It is cold here, but we won’t stay long. We will linger a few minutes to examine this outskirts plant. Speak Latin with me, say Typha latifolia. We could simply call it cattail, but personally the Latin term is more stimulating. If we could look at a map of North America we would see that broad-leafed cattail grows in every state of the lower 48, into Canada and on to Alaska. If we had come here when the cattail were green and growing we could have enjoyed a cattail snack. During the growing season, all parts of the cattail are edible. Since we cannot see it now you should know that cattail pollen is considered a fine flour substitute. Its rich yellow color adds an eye appealing color to fresh pancakes. Are you hungry yet? One more thing about cattail as food. An acre of cattail would produce about 6,400 pounds of flour. In comparison, an acre of wheat produces about 65 bushels, each bushel produces 42 pounds of flour. Do the math, an acre of wheat will produce about 2730 pounds of flour. Now you are wondering, why don’t we have cattail flour.DSC_0132_861sig.jpg

I know what you are thinking. It’s cold. Yes, it is, my fingers are feeling it. Before we go, take a look again at this plant. So common, but it’s definitely an “outskirts” plant. Grab one of the brown seed heads, the ones that look like brown hotdogs on a stick. Let’s try counting the seeds. Ok, right there could be over 300,000 on one seed head. By the way the cattail seed is about 2mm long you can see some of them sticking to the seed head. Yes, that’s unimaginable! Let me tell you cattail can also spread by their roots. Cattail rhizomes spread under water, they can even grow while floating in the water. But an acre of cattails may only come from a few cattail plants whose rhizomes have spread over the space.DSC_0145_864sig

Yes, it’s cold. Walk back to the car with me. There are many other reasons why this common wetland plant is an exceptional “outskirts” plant. Since the parking lot is close, listen to two more. This is not a trick question, or a riddle. What do cattail do to prevent overpopulation a wetland? They emit a toxin which prevents germination of their own species. The last reason is one of my favorites. cattail are the perfect habitat for red-winged blackbirds. They make their nests of cattail, and they find their insect food on the cattail plants. Males, who return first in the spring use the old mostly bare seed stems as perches when they establish a cattail territory.

Oh, it has been on my mind that perhaps the cattail is not really an “outskirts” plant. In thinking about it perhaps we should classify the broad-leafed cattail as an “edge of outskirts” plant. You know at the outskirts of the outskirts. Why? It’s not a big enough example of the majesty and power of God.

In Job 26:14 we discover the true “outskirts” examples: God has hung the earth on nothing! What would you hang the earth on if it were up to you? We read that another of the “outskirts” of God’s majesty and power are when God, “wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.” Job 26:8  Don’t stop, I won’t even make you uneasy by asking you how many clouds you have made, and we won’t think about filling them with water without bursting.

Would you agree? The broad-leafed cattail even though truly amazing really should be an “edge of outskirts” example of the power of God? Could we drive home in silence?  Thinking about “outskirts.” makes talk seem unfitting.DSC_0153_867sigDSC_0157_868sig

 

 

 

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On the “Outskirts”

This word has been on my mind all day: outskirts. Either you are thinking, “get a life,” or you are wondering, “why?” For those who wonder, outskirts is synonymous with fringes, the outer edge of something.

I have found a bird that is definitely on the outskirts.  This is my explanation.

The bird referred to is the emblematic American Robin (Turdus migratorius, (turdidae are the thrush family). It holds an esteemed place for nature watchers. For some it is a herald of warmer days ahead. It has been the subject of songs and poetry. A robin’s song stirs the human heart. Found year around in the United States, Robins also nest in most of Canada. It is estimated that 310 million American Robins live on the North American continent. The estimated population of the United States for 2017 is 324 million. There are almost enough robins for every American to enjoy their own personal robin! The robin is likely at the outskirts of the places where North Americans live, whether it is Mexico, the United States or Canada-there is a robin near you.DSC_0038_843sig

Robins are more than symbols of good weather. They are prolific. A female robin may produce up to 3 broods each year. This is a necessity. The entire population of 310 million turns over within 6 years. Life is short for a robin. In fall, surviving robins gobble enormous amounts of fruit as they prepare for migration. Robins are frugivorous. They eat fruit. Of course, worms are in their diet, but only when in season. John James Audubon praised the robin for skillful nest-building and for nourishing their young “with anxious care” He described the robin pair as “tender parents.”  Such behavior enables the robin population to remain steady, even grow in some areas.

Robins are the birds we are most familiar with. Being an “outskirts” or at the edges, dweller, it is often the robin whose nest or eggs are found by children. The robin is likely the bird most children know because robins live in proximity to humans. Children and adults delight in the sight of two robins in a tug of war contest over a fat spring night crawler. It is equally delightful to watch robins gorge themselves on the fruit of fall. They especially enjoy the small ornamental apples produced by the thousands of flowering crab apple trees planted in many places of the country.DSC_0044_844sig

The robin magnificently represents another use for the word “outskirts”. Have you thought about the magnitude of 310 million robins dying every 6 years? Have you considered how many eggs female robins lay to produce 310 million juvenile robins in 6 years? How many worms and how much fruit do these 310 million eat? How many feathers are on 310 million robins? Yes, the robin is a perfect example of a model for the word “outskirts.”

Here’s what it means. Job is one of my favorite Bible people. While he was explaining to his friends used the word “outskirts” to describe the unfathomable majesty of God. He spoke of “hanging the earth on nothing,” and of “binding water in thick clouds and the clouds do not split open.” He said, “even the pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke.” (Job 26) In conclusion, Job reminds his friends that these things are “but the outskirts of his ways…” The robin is another outskirt example. This bird, a delight to many, is another example of the power and majesty of almighty God. There are many examples of things outside which demonstrate just the “outskirts” of God’s power. What delight there is in being a student of the “outskirts.” What a privilege it is to examine just the edges of the greatness of God!DSC_0051_845sig

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Stunning Power

DSC_0204_834sigPhotographs of nature always catch my attention. My offer to you:  six pictures of natural objects for your eyes to focus upon. The first, the final yellow leaves of fall clinging to the branch despite a strong northwest wind. The second, the gray white seed of stiff goldenrod transformed by ripening from brilliant yellow to gray white, matching the color of winter to come. The third, cottonwood yellow and what happens when the final moisture dries from the leaf. The fourth, little bluestem purple, a permanent fall favorite of mine. The final two photos are of the common Canada goose. Remember, however, there is nothing common about the Canada goose.DSC_0005_842sig

These six will be our evidence, only six. Understand, there are millions, even an infinite number more which may stand as evidence. These six photos were taken less than 10 minutes from the living room couch where my current book awaits my attention. It is conceivable that within this small area there are millions of other photos to use as evidence. My choice this time, trees, grass, flowers and birds. Subjects not chosen to use as evidence are the stars, planets, the sky, and the ocean, these are the colossal examples of evidence. These six photos are more than enough proof.DSC_0210_836sig

Each speaks of the power of invisible God. But, to speak of the power of God is something my mind is highly unqualified for. Sorry, your mind is not qualified either. To offer these six photos of evidence that God is the creator of the earth and universe is sufficient. Our minds then move to the infinite number of living things inhabiting the earth. All were formed by God. Scientists estimate there are from 5 million to 100 million species, and only 2 million of them have been identified. Actually, this is unfathomable, but it is clearly evidence of God’s power.

To me the greatest demonstration of the power of God is found in HOW he created all we see on earth and beyond. We know one thing about how God created. There is unimaginable power in this: God created all we know and see by speaking them into existence. He SPOKE and there were cottonwood trees, geese, little bluestem and stiff golden rod. God spoke and it existed. Are you able to speak anything into existence? You know I can’t.DSC_0217sig

My final question, what power might God possess if he can say a word and something exists which did not before? You do not need to take my word for it. The writer of the book of Hebrews speaks of the power of God. We read, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Hebrews 11:3

To keep us clear about God’s absolute power. He also willingly gives us the faith we need to believe and understand his power. This bi-level faith enables us to believe and it saves us from our sins. Paul, the author of the book of Ephesians wrote this about faith, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Search for evidence of Gods power. It is easy to recognize, we are surrounded by it. Why would there be so much evidence of God on earth and in the heavens. One reason is he wants us to know him. Amazing, the God of the universe, creator of all things wants to know you-and me. We can speak to him through prayer, another of his gifts to us. These truths are stunning.DSC_0009sig

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Two Kinds of Water

Water, is as old as the earth itself. Water outlasts every human who needs it for life. Old, ancient, yet constantly renewable and always life-giving. It is made to refresh every cell in the human body. Likewise, all earth dwelling animals need the daily recharge of water within their cells. Water is the universal life-giving liquid. Foul it, dirty it then filter it clean again. It is always on the move. Evaporating, condensing precipitating as rain, snow, sleet, fog, even hail. The cycle of water is massive. It covers the entire earth. Blizzards, thunderstorms, hurricanes, torrential rains and gentle showers water the earth. It soaks into the earth giving life to all plant life. It runs off the earth forming rivers useful to man and wildlife.DSC_0143_820sig

DSC_0145_821sigWater is beautiful in every form. Water as ice is hard, cold and refreshing. As liquid it quenches thirst and cleans our skin. As gas it is invisible, able to form clouds. It can be blue, gray or the color of stainless steel. Water reflections form magnificent mirror images. No other substance has qualities like it. Actually, water is a miracle life-giving substance. We take it for granted. We can. God made water. He put it on earth to sustain life. God controls the water cycles of the earth. He knows how to care for it. Water is his gift.DSC_0165_841sig

DSC_0171_827sigGod has made another kind of water. It’s called “living water.” Living water is God’s specialty. This water is God’s ultimate gift to humans. Drink of this water and you will never thirst again. This living water wells up, it gives eternal life. Jesus spoke to a woman at a well on a hot day in the middle east. He told her he was the living water. He invited her to drink of the living water and receive eternal life. She did.

God is the perfect water expert. He has made two kinds. One gives life on earth, to earth. The other is far more powerful than earthly water. His second kind of water is more miraculous than earthly water. It’s Jesus, the living water, He is the source. Drink the life-giving water of earth for physical health. “Drink” the living water Jesus offers to be cleaned of every sin, and given life everlasting. You might think water this powerful would be expensive. Do you know what the most amazing truth about this living water is? Jesus, Son of God, invites us to come, it’s free, no strings, no expectations. There are no qualifying conditions, you are invited to partake of living water-as you are. Come drink, Jesus is inviting us.DSC_0178_828sigDSC_0179_829sig

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No Ordinary Dove

It was a dove in a tree. But not just a dove. My first exposure to a dove of this species came nearly a decade earlier. It was on a barrier island in Florida. The calls of this bird brought a sense of being in an exotic place. The dove in the tree was the same species, close up. But it was not in Florida. This bird was in central North Dakota.

The bird is an Eurasian Dove or Streptopelia decaocto . The spread of these doves across the North American continent is astonishing. Yet, almost beyond belief is the fact that this bird’s place of origin is the Middle East. In 1974 ancestors of the dove in the photo were accidentally introduced to the Bahamas through a burglary of a pet shop. By the 1980’s this dove’s ancestors where in Florida. 47 years later collared doves live in North Dakota. It is an astounding testimony of the resilient power of a species, and something more, but that comes later.

If the essential habitat is present wildlife flourishes. In the circumstance of the collared dove, it is people who have provided the collared dove the platform to expand its range so swiftly. Bird feeders and trees people have planted in urban and suburban areas have created the perfect habitat storm for collared doves to flourish. They are now found in every state from Florida to Washington, all states west of the Mississippi have collared dove populations. Collared doves prosper where there are people.

Remember the collared dove’s place of origin? My imagination prompts me to think of another dove thriving under the care of people. This one was in a boat, a very large boat. All the land species of animals found in the world were on this boat. The boat floated through an earth flooding storm lasting 150 days. 10 months and 40 days later, almost a year after the flood began, the man on the boat released a dove “to see if the water had receded from the ground.” It came back to his hand. 7 days later it returned to him with a ‘freshly plucked olive leaf” in its beak. When he “sent it out” a third time a week later, “it did not return to him”. There is a respectable probability the dove Noah released three times was the Eurasian collared dove.

God also used the dove to teach us about Himself. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit of God came “down from heaven as a dove and remained on Jesus.”

Watch a gentle dove, be reminded of the tender, enduring love of God the Father Creator. God used a dove for his purpose in the flood, at the baptism of Jesus, and he is spreading his doves to remind us today his love is unchanged. The world is not spinning out of control. God oversees all, nothing escapes his notice, nothing occurs without his allowing, even the spread of doves. What should be our response to One who commands birds, even the wind and the waves…and they obey?

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One of a Kind

One of a Kind
One of a kind is something rare and original. In nature, the red breasted nuthatch is one of a kind. It plasters the outside and inside of its entrance hole with very sticky pine resin. If removing pine pitch from anything has been one of your tasks in life, you know how adhesive pine sap is. However, the nesting pair never get sap on themselves, they never perch at the entrance. They fly directly into the hole. Most birds this size fly between 20 and 30 miles per hour. Therefore, direct flight into the hole requires great skill. Certainly, it slows before entering but consider what the red breasted nuthatch needs to do once it has flown inside the hole! This little bird is one of a kind. One of its call is a nasal “yank, yank, yank”, no other bird sounds as though it has a cold. This one of a kind bird is the only known North American nuthatch to have flown across the Atlantic to Europe. The red breasted nuthatch is 11.5 cm long (4.5 inches for Americans)! It is a nature delight to see one of these birds. Yes, one of a kind is a fitting way to describe this bird. Good news, the population of these miracle birds is increasing.

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You are one of a kind. You are the original. There is only one of you. Like the marvelous red breasted nuthatch, you and I are wonderfully made. Of the millions of people in the world, there has never been and never will be another you. In Psalm 139:14 the words fearfully and wonderfully made are used to describe us.
Why would the all-powerful God of the universe fashion each human on earth with exquisite, flawless precision? Why would we be formed with extraordinary body systems which function perfectly for years, and can heal themselves when injury occurs? One simple answer: God loves you. He loves the world. He made each human living, past, present and future. Because He is God and Creator, only He has the infinite capacity to love them all. His love is perfect. Have you felt ordinary today? The truth is, you are one of a kind to Him.

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While Chickadees Flew Overhead

A man I respected once explained what goodness is. He said, “Goodness is when everything is just right.” When everything is just right in nature things are beautiful and serene. Experience this once and you will desire the experience again. This kind of goodness we seek.

Where does the goodness and serenity of nature come from? Try this explanation. The peace and serenity humans delight to find in nature comes from the Sovereign presence of God. Can this be the explanation for the bliss humans feel when outside? It not only can, but is the reason we delight in a sunrise or sunset. It’s why we are awed at a rainbow or the mirror images on the surface of an entirely calm lake. It is a distinct pleasure to experience the sovereignty of God.

Sovereign means supreme, absolute, matchless. God is all of this. God is infinitely endlessly more. He is the author of the serenity and peace found in nature. His infinite nature instills an endless fascination and awe in the place beyond the current building you are in. He is the final authority, no one is greater. Because He is Sovereign, his presence is everywhere; especially in nature. It inspires the awe in us. This fact often escapes ultra-busy human beings.

You want this serenity. To understand why and see the sovereign presence of God, take a child outside. The best age is under three. My 20-month granddaughter demonstrated this to me recently. There is a coulee (deep valley) in their backyard. This little girl delights in this place. We sat together on the ground near the top multiple times. She was enchanted with the chickadees flying in the trees overhead. The first time we went I said, “shh,” she became still, reverently still. While I delight in the quietness and beauty of that place, watching my granddaughter enjoy it was a greater delight. It is not an accident, this quiet stillness from a 20-month old. We did this two more times; her response was always quiet, reverent awe. She’s 20 months old! Can you imagine a 20-month old sitting still, for even 2 minutes?

Jeremiah must have sat on the edge of a coulee. He sensed “everything being just right.” He wrote, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

 Just one more truth needs to be expressed here. Sovereign God, Creator of all life and the peace and serenity of nature loves you. Remember, nothing is too hard for Him. Sit in a place where chickadees fly overhead. If possible, take a little child. Know God’s “everything is just right” is for you.DSC_0060_785sig

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Calm Day-Calmed Heart

 

It’s 4:13 PM. The wind is calm. Calm would describe the wind speed since sunrise. Today has been still.

A calm day does something positive to the human spirit. A tranquil sunshine filled day produces optimism. There is a sense that everything is right at least in your part of the world. Happiness is a bi-product of a calm day too. Troubles fade. The difficulties of life are washed away by bright sunshine. Peace descends upon your heart. Stress from a thousand things slips away in the quiet. All of this happens, but only if you are outside.

Analyze a calm sun filled day, or a calm peace filled sunset. The absence of wind calms the human spirit. On a calm day our emotions settle. What makes a calm day? The absence of wind. Wind circulation occurs in two specific types, there are general and secondary winds. General winds occur over all the earth. They are the prevailing winds. There are two belts of them at 30 degrees north and south latitude. We call them trade winds. Secondary winds form within general circulation. Air or wind flows into areas of low pressure and away from areas of high pressure.

We know the science. We know why winds form and how. But, no human can control the wind. We have tried and continue to attempt to control the wind and ultimately the weather. The bare truth is we cannot.

We can simplify this discussion. Where does wind come from? God directs the wind. The Psalmist, said, “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7

There are days when God keeps his winds in his storehouses. He calms nature and then he calms us. I think God sends calm days to get our attention. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “be still.” One of my favorite reminders from God is “be still.” A paraphrase of the Bible, the Message, expresses “be still” this way, “Attention, all! …See the marvels of God! “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:8-10)

A calm day, a cattle-filled sunrise, a quiet moon permeated sunset, these are the tranquil times outside. Especially during these times God calls us to be still. Step out of the traffic from time to time. Set aside your work, your sports, your recreation, your desire for things. Look long at God who loves you. You will find him holding out his hands, his eyes calling you to come into his love. Be still.DSC_0007_743sigDSC_0044_724sigDSC_0028_723sigDSC_0009_633sig

 

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This Morning in Aurdal Township

This Morning in Aurdal Township

I saw wonder in blue. It perched to view the world safely from a high wire. Not alone, it was with a group of Bluebirds gathering to migrate. This one may winter in southern Texas. What will those bluebird eyes see?DSC_0091_750sig

I saw gold beauty this morning in Aurdal Township. Aspen leaves shimmered golden in the before noon light. These were small, large aspen trees may reach 80 feet tall and be larger than two feet in diameter. Their leaves quiver in a slight breeze because the stem is at a right angle to the leaf. Fall “aspen gold” draws my eyes again and again.DSC_0080_747sig

 

“Sumac Scarlet” was visible this morning in Aurdal Township. The beautiful, gorgeous, striking red of fall sumac leaves are always eye pleasing. Sumac isn’t just for pleasing humans, 300 species of songbirds include sumac fruit in their diets.DSC_0082_748sig

Wild turkeys were in view, feeding peacefully this morning in Aurdal Township. They walk on the ground to feed. It may have been an entire “family”. The hen lays between 10-15 eggs in spring. My eyes counted 13. They were very aware of me.DSC_0111_754sig

The moon traveled silently above Aurdal Township this morning as it made its regular orbit from east to west. It was 60 % illuminated moving steadily above a wisp of high thin cirrus clouds. Ash yellow leaves reminded me once more, fall has come…to Aurdal township. All of this, and there was much more. Life in abundance on a midweek morning in an area of 35 square miles where 1,450 live. Did anyone else see the wonder and beauty? Some did, most were busy with living life this morning in this small township.DSC_0123_755sig

Could beautiful things such as these be seen in any other place? Certainly, but it is too much for my mind to comprehend. Think of it! The earth is full of both beauty and wonder. The author of Psalm 65 confirmed it,

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalm 65:8) Imagine the whole earth-filled with awe and wonders! With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”) Imagine, we live in a world filled with wonder and awe, all made for us. Why would God create such a world? Love.

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Prescribed Fire

When fire burns in your life, expect God to be at work purifying your life for His purposes.

Think about fire, like ablaze, flames and conflagration. We do not want to be trapped in fire, but what if fire was good for us?

What is fire? There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. Physical fire is heat and light; and more. It is a chemical reaction and when a fire burns it is called combustion. The chemical reaction is with oxygen and a fuel gas. Not gasoline, but the gas released when fuel is heated above a specific temperature. In the photos, the fuel is a handful of twigs from our lawn. Dry leaves started this fire. When small twigs just above the leaves reached a temperature of 300°F, the heat began to decompose the cellulose material in the wood. As the fire began, smoke formed. Smoke is a blend of the compounds of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. As long as there is fuel and oxygen a fire will continue to burn.DSC_0033sig

The fire in the photos was controlled. It was pleasant and gave off a comfortable heat and an agreeable aroma of wood smoke. Uncontrolled fire is dangerous and causes death and often significant destruction of property. We humans fear fire in an uncontrolled situation. We should.

There is secure kind of fire. A prescribed fire is one recommended by a biologist. Biologists responsible for the health of habitats regularly use prescribed fire to maintain optimal plant growth, return nutrients to soil, minimize the spread of plant species not native to a habitat, and generally improving live in a food web. It seems counterintuitive, but prescribed fire is beneficial. Centuries before settlement and increased populations, fire was a normal and restorative part of forest, and prairie habitats.

Fire has a role in our spiritual lives. It is at times, destructive, but it can also be highly beneficial.  The Bible speaks of fire in both ways: destructive and beneficial. It describes God as “a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29 God uses fire to strengthen us. This is the spiritual fire. Call this fire trial.

No human living enjoys life trials. Yet, God allows us to experience them even suffer in life trials. Why would God do that? Doesn’t the Bible tell us God is love? How can a loving God allow us to suffer trials? They hurt, bring pain, and heartache.

God knows what life trials do for us. Physical fire purifies metal. Fires burns away impurities and leaves pure metal. Earthly trials for humans burn away human impurities: pride, ego, coveting-you know-all of the things we humans do which fail to meet God’s standards. God is the author of earthly trial (fire) He prescribes it. He knows exactly how much fire you can withstand. While the fiery trial rages in your life God is watching. He knows when you can stand no more, He knows when the trial has done its purifying work. Think of it, is there anyone in the universe who knows you better than God the Father? There is no one. Besides this truth, remember another, God loves us. His love is perfect and unchanging.

Are you experiencing a fiery trial? Turn your heart to God. Tell Him about the fire. He is allowing it. Seek His strength. While it may hurt, let the trial (fire) do its work. When God prescribes a fire, He knows what it will do for you. In a fire now? Trust God. He is working the purification of your heart

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it (YOU) shall be clean… Numbers 31:23DSC_0049sig

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Hope, Perfect, Everlasting

This week is unlike any other in my memory. It seems the world is falling apart. Appalling human behavior produces fear in our hearts, the world as we know it, appears in shambles. Though difficult to acknowledge, evil activities are daily occurrences in our world.

We search for something to give us hope. In times of trouble we are even frantic for it. Yet even in darkest times, such as this week, there is always hope. In a world that seems chaotic, and hopeless- hope is accessible. Really, hope is always near.

Your skeptical human nature says, “no chance…have you seen what is happening in this world?” Since you are already dubious, here is one more statement to question. The moon, full this week, provides us with concrete evidence that hope is always near. The moon? You are thinking, “this is a reach?!!” Yes, the moon is consistent evidence there is a God, and God’s existence is reason for great hope. The writer of Psalm 89 called the moon a “faithful witness” in describing the authenticity of blessings from God to King David. God’s blessing to David would be as dependable as His faithful witness, the moon.DSC_0012_744sig

The earth’s moon has consistent, predictable phases. They are certain. When the moon is full each month, the human eye cannot miss this lunar witness. Even when the moon wanes and becomes a thin crescent above earth it silently points our hearts to God’s nearness. Imagine, 283,000 miles away from earth, this satellite is a constant reminder that God is present and faithful. Sometimes full, sometimes a curved white splinter.

Do you know one thing seeing the moon could do for you? Provide you with hope, comfort and peace for your fear filled heart. God never fails to keep His promises. He placed a large, daily reminder for all who will look that he never ceases to love and protect…even in great tragedy.

You could shake your fist at God, some do. You could claim He is no God to let such pain and suffering happen or earth. But we do not know the mind of God. He allows evil on earth-for a season. There is another response- you could bow your head and say, “God I will obey you before I understand.”

While you think about that, know this, there are at least two things hope in God will not be. First, hope in God will not be limited. It never runs out, there is no time of day when it is not available. God’s refuge of protection never ceases. Second, putting hope in God will not be limited to certain people. God offers His refuge of love and mercy for everyone-no matter who you are, or what you have done. Jesus even forgave the thief on the cross next to him.

In the book of Romans (15:13) Paul described God as the God of all hope. In this verse Paul also said hope in God will fill us with joy and peace.

Look at the moon, even when it is a crescent. As you gaze remind yourself that God made this beautiful earth satellite and prescribed in advance its precise orbit. Gaze at the moon and in this world filled with evil  be reminded-there is hope for humans in the God of all hope. The Maker of the moon loves you.DSC_0041_746sig

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Strength and Confidence

 

Has your day been hectic? Did you try multi-tasking? How did that go? Does hurtling through your day work well? Our culture promotes a go all the time lifestyle. Does it really work?

In 1938 Fredric Wisloff, a pastor, wrote these words, “quietness is strength, hustle and bustle are weakness.” Opposite of what the world tells us, strength is found in quietness. We do not realize it, but one who is continually busy loses strength. It is subtle. Pastor Wisloff went on to write, “much quietness imparts much strength.”

Wisloff got his ideas from Isaiah. Isaiah wrote about strength and confidence. In Isaiah 30:15 we read, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…’” Isaiah combined quietness with confidence in God. Strength comes from confidence in God.DSC_0045_539sig

Determining to be quiet in a world that never stops will not be easy. Humanly speaking, it will be almost impossible. When our confidence is in God, He will provide a quietness to our soul that strengthens. Quietness equals confidence and strength. These are desirable qualities and they originate with God. He gives them when we are quiet. God desires quietness in us. He provides when we ask.

Multi-tasking, and a full schedule set our focus on things that eventually weaken us. Quietness? Well, it is counter-cultural. It is difficult for us to believe that the benefits of quietness outweigh the benefits of a busy hectic life.DSC_0066_550sig

Look outside, search for the quietness found there. Quietness is found in a Monarch on a flower. It’s a Painted Lady sipping nectar from a flower, a forest in sunlight, a glass calm lake, and a lone mushroom on a birch log. In each, there in the quiet strength that God puts in all of nature. Quietness is His gift to frantic humans. It brings confidence and strength. Quietness is my need. What if you were quiet? What might you hear? The offer of confidence and strength is too good to pass.DSC_0024_584sigDSC_0001_719sig

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Evening and Morning

And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Genesis 1:5

Evening…

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And there was evening and there was morning as God created 5 more days. (See Genesis 1:31)  Evening and morning…humans have received them each day since those first 6 days. We received them again today: evening and morning.

 

Morning…

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Father of Dew

Is it possible to learn something from the dew? Consider with me three things about dew.

First the teaching.  “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2

This morning, after three days of clouds and off and on rain, the sun rose in a clear sky. What makes dew? The science behind dew involves water vapor, temperature and a thing called dew point,. When the air after sunset cools to a temperature below the dew point, or temperature at which air can no longer hold the water vapor it contains, dew forms on objects outside, like grass. That is a basic explanation of the science.DSC_0324 (3)sig

A dew-covered earth is beautiful. When sunlight hits the tiny droplets of water there is a sparkle of water diamonds. Miniature shimmers of color are given off. Dew filled mornings are often peaceful and understandably wet. Dew actually provides plants in dry areas of the earth with a regular source of moisture. Mot grasslands of the world receive low amounts of moisture, on average between 6 and 24 inches annually. Dew is a significant source of moisture in these areas.

Look at the dew, it represents the loving power of God. It is a visible symbol of His presence.

Second, the source. Job of the Bible is asked by God about dew. God asked Job, “Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew?” Job 38:28 Science says water vapor, and temperature form dew. The dig deeper question is WHY. Why does water condense on objects outside when the temperature drops to the dew point. Why does it work with perfect predictability-every time? How does a water cycle system so enormous to cover the entire earth function with such meticulous perfection? Job knew the answer. It delights me to be reminded God’s power is always, perfectly in operation.DSC_0337 (2)sig

Finally, the blessing. A blessing is an approval. This blessing is from God. It is for you. “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine.” (Genesis 27:28) What did you just receive? A request to the God of the universe that He provide you with the “fine mist” of heaven on your life today. May it cause your life to flourish.  May you sense God’s nearness to you throughout the day. May God open your eyes that you may see how He is providing you with everything you need.DSC_0320 (3)sig

 

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1 Tree for You- The Same for Me

My thoughts have wandered often to trees today. My mind plays over and over two things significant about trees and human life. All day, to this moment my breaths have been regular. Each breath brings life-sustaining oxygen to my lungs. You’ve been doing that too. The tree in the photo is almost ready to shed its leaves. Since late April this Maple tree has produced oxygen as a bi-product of photosynthesis. What it really needs is the carbon dioxide you and I have been breathing out all day. When its leaves fall off it will have produced enough oxygen for you and me-for a whole year. This has been on my mind all day. DSC_0120_661
This is the other thing. We have established that the maple in the picture has produced enough oxygen for you and me, what about all the other people in the world? The other thing that has played over and over today is how many trees scientists estimate are growing now, today on earth. This is the number which came up more than once during my search: 3 trillion…3 with 12 zeros trailing it! This last truth just drops me. Divide the total number of people on earth into 3 trillion. The answer is how many trees there are for EVERY person on earth.
Its 400. 400 trees for you, 400 for me and 400 for every other person-on earth! What have we been discussing here- trees, oxygen, you and me? What we haven’t discussed is abundance. There is an overwhelming abundance of oxygen available to you, me and all of our fellow earth dwellers. Is this abundance an accident? Did this balance of life come from self-organization of earth biomes which over time balanced with human life? Inconceivable. No need to hug a tree for this marvelous gift of abundant oxygen. Fall to your knees and thank God.DSC_0108_655sigDSC_0177sig

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Trees-More Than Wood

Imagine this earth without trees. No trees on any continent, any island, any place on earth. Possible? Perhaps, but would you be willing to do without all of the things that make life easier because there are trees on earth?

We humans are tree dependent. Trees provide shelter, cook our meals, provide us with nutrition and significantly more. As many as 5000 products are derived from or contain wood. Even exotic things such as camera cases and nail polish contain wood fiber. Humans have walked on floors of wood for centuries. Yet wooden floors while adding comfort in homes are a mere detail in the human interaction with trees. Wood from trees enables the manufacture of tools for almost every human industry. Understanding the human bent for greed and covetousness we comprehend how wood was then and now is used for war. Wood has been used for wheels, ships, wagons, even in early automobiles as we humans move about the earth.

Would you be willing to do without shade on a hot summer’s day? No more apple pie, no pecans, no pistachios, oranges, or peaches, how would that suit? Trees scent our air with sensory pleasures. There would be no pine scent, and the fragrance of Christmas no more. Is there an anxious feeling welling within your heart and mind? What, no trees?!! The request was to imagine a world without trees. No world tree removal mandate has been set-or will be.

There is one more important category which impresses upon us the significance of trees. They are magnificent. Beautiful places exist in our world because trees grow there. One of my personal favorite dimensions of tree beauty is the immense diversity found in trees. First there is shape, from the pointed spires of towering pines to the symmetrical domes of Sugar Maples, tree shapes are both inspiring and fascinating. The leaves of trees, each a miniature food factory, are a delight in shape and color. Summer winds make them sing. Change of season makes them stunning. Few humans fail to pause in awe and wonder at the magnificent yellows, reds and oranges of leaves which develop as fall progresses. Examine the accompanying photos of tree bark. Each tree is distinctive and unique. There is beauty in bark. Beneath the bark more beauty is hidden. The dense fibers of wood are arranged in such beautiful patterns that we adorn our homes with wood from floor to ceiling.

Trees do another thing for humans, they point us to God. Stop a moment, consider the number of different tree species. How do we explain that a by-product of tree food production (photosynthesis) is oxygen? Is it a coincidence, an accident? Oxygen is just what we humans need for life, and trees are significant oxygen producers. “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.” There are estimated 23,000 different tree species on the earth. That is the equivalent of over 3 trillion trees! Based on our current earth population that figure provides 400 trees for EACH person-on earth! How do we explain such abundance, such provision? It comes from God. No human industry could generate oxygen at this level. No gradual process over time could develop such balance.

Pause one more moment after you read this. Find a tree to look at. As you examine it, you are gazing at living evidence of God’s presence and power on earth. On the third day of creation God spoke these words; “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:11)

Can you imagine an earth without trees? A tree was even used as part of God’s plan to save the world from sin. As you fix your eyes on that tree, remember the Savior who was nailed, for our sins-to a tree. (Hebrews 12:2)  

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World Apart

DSC_0108_655sigRecently we spent 24 hours in another world; a world apart. No space travel was needed, a rocket is not in the budget. It was not a dream, rather complete reality. We were on earth just a few miles from our home. But we were in another world. This world is magnificent in fall. Thousands of people are attracted to it just as we were. It is a place of stunning color. Shades of green, yellow, orange and red make this world a feast for eyes. This world is a place of light and shadow. It filled with solitude and peace. The soothing sound of a south breeze in aspen leaves washes away stress. This world is filled with life and wonderful mystery. Like the tiny spiders and the Bald Eagles which soar above the maple trees. Loons call on nearby lakes. Raccoon and white-tailed deer roam the wooded hills, fish swim in the sky blue lakes. It is another world, but it is part of the earth we dwell on. 24 hours is too brief, but it is better to visit this world for a short time than not at all. How does such magnificence occur in one place? There is one very reasonable answer. The order, the beauty, the enormous diversity of life found here are part of God’s creative genius. Find the world of solitude and beauty nearest you. There is one, it may a bit further away. Go there, be renewed. The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” Psalm 89:11

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Yellow Jacket…Mini-sized Power

This is about power. This is about persistence. Tenacity describes our topic. Doggedness works too. This is about power in an insect. A persistent, tenacious, single-minded insect. It is an insect with a bite you will not forget. We fear spiders. This insect can bite repeatedly. The life goal of this insect is to reproduce more of its kind. In recent days, my personal experience with this insect allows me to speak with authority. This is one strong, never give up, never go away insect. Meet the Yellow Jacket.DSC_0027_639_ed_edited

Yellow Jackets do not have favorable memories for me. They have given me numerous painful bites. Most were my fault. Lately, a large number of them have made a nest in a very unfavorable location-in our hollow cement front step. Imagine, hundreds of highly aggressive insects living where guests to our home stand before being welcomed into our home. Painful bites are a very real possibility. This is not a great way to welcome our guests.

It has been necessary to remove them. To do so the nest must be destroyed. You may be shocked to read that my recent activities have included killing wildlife. But this is essential. There is a chance they will actually find a way into our house. Therefore, the skirmish with Yellow Jackets has been joined. My weapon of choice is Dawn dish soap. It removes the yellow jackets but is not as toxic to the environment.

While I have fought them on a daily basis in an attempt to eliminate them, these black and yellow striped one-half inch armored insect tanks have held their own. The Yellow Jacket or Vespula vulgaris is a social insect. The yellow jacket queen is larger than her progeny. By fall, a colony of yellow jackets may be as large as 2,000 to 4,000 winged and infertile females who do the job of nest-building (inside our front steps!). These female workers also bring food to the nest. Yellow Jackets are omnivorous, primarily eating other insects. However, they quickly find sugar filled sources of food. Flowers, fruits, and even soft drinks they can find outside become yellow jacket attractors.DSC_0045_643_edited

Since they are highly aggressive in protecting their nest, we are familiar with their throbbing, painful sting. Bad news, since their stingers are smooth-they can sting repeatedly. In the state of Colorado, 90% of alleged “bee stings” were caused by the yellow jacket.

Before we completely vilify the yellow jacket, know this: Yellow Jacket wasps are beneficial. They consume vast quantities of insects that are harmful to gardens, flowers even crops. They are carrion eaters as well, a part of “nature’s clean-up crew”.

There is another amazing thing about yellow jackets-they manufacture their own nest material by chewing wood fibers to create a gray, weather proof paper like material that protects the eggs and larva of the nest. Some nests can become very large. One nest is reported to have filled the inside of an abandoned car.

Power has been a subject we have thought about as we began this discusssion. How can such tenacity, such power be found in a tiny 6-legged insect? They have chewed through weatherizing caulk. They have pushed their way through the steel wool I have used to block their path to the nest. They do not give up. Get stung by one and you feel power in a memorable way!DSC_0065_644_edited

I will answer my own question. Yellow Jacket power comes from God. In Romans 1:20 we read these words of Paul, For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. What does the eternal power of God look like? Is it even possible to grasp the power of God? Look at the little yellow jacket.DSC_0074_645_edited

*Great news, the write/photographer was never stung when taking these photos!

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Spiders…fear or not? It’s up to you!

Arachnophobia, it is real. Fear of spiders is widespread. Are you afraid of spiders? Perhaps it is a good idea. People say they bite humans. In an interview of 118 undergraduate students in London, 75% of them feared spiders. A long-standing spider perception is they are creepy. Their multiple long legs and their unusual appearance may contribute. Many spiders are web builders, webs are creepy, aren’t they? Someone said spider fangs are fearsome. Here’s another one; they are poisonous! Another one is the certain fact that they are sneaky. We mind our own business doing human things and BAM there is a spider. Do they actually sneak up on humans? Does ugly count?

Really, is a fear of spiders necessary? What if spiders are beneficial? What if they actually help humans more than harm?

My camera helped me to discover spiders today. In my experience, owning a camera provides a compelling reason to go outside. Nature is filled with an infinite number of magnificent subjects. One of my personal favorite times in a day is when I can see the photos on my computer screen. But this is about spiders. This my spider story, it happened today.

My photography goal for today was to take photos at sunrise. No chance, it was cloudy. Mid-morning photos became my goal. At first my eyes were drawn to colors. However, by mid-September in our latitude, color is largely absent. White asters were still in bloom. As I approached the edge of the city prairie a cold bumble bee snuggled into the aster flowers became my first subject. Walking into the prairie a 2-striped grasshopper on a gray-headed coneflower stem added color. The black of a blister beetle, again on the aster became my third insect subject. The prairie I was in was filled with rich luxuriant heads of Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans). The Indian Grass growing there in abundance was magnificent.DSC_0109_612sigDSC_0113_613sigDSC_0120_615sigDSC_0123_616sigDSC_0137_620sig

Then I walked searching for the next subject. The richly flowered prairie of July was now a place of ripening seed heads. The abundant bumble bees my eyes delighted in during a July trip were gone with the blossoms. My feet took me up the hill and then down. A stray cluster of stiff golden rod flowers caught my eye. It happened while setting the camera tripod for a photo of goldenrod yellow.

A large Argiope, or banded garden spider ( Argiope trifasciata) was working its orb web just to the right of the golden rod. Because of the spider, there are no golden rod photos. The spider was the most intriguing thing I’d seen so far. It had taken me more than 30 minutes to begin to notice the spiders in this prairie. Once my eyes witnessed this one it was possible to find 3 more within 10 feet of the first one. All were rapidly harvesting the small flying insects being caught in their orb webs. They were low in the prairie because of the strong north-east wind.DSC_0144_621sig

Another reality that happened while with spiders this morning, I was not bitten by any of the 4 I saw. Nor was I bitten by the many I never saw. Spiders are beneficial to humans. Consider this list:

  1. These spiders are quiet introverts. The Argiopes today wanted nothing of me. Their aim in life: consuming insects.
  2. Their orb web captures: aphids, flies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, wasps and bees.  Did you read humans in this list?
  3. They have a poisonous bite-but it is for disabling their prey. While a spider bite from some spiders can be painful, it is not fatal to humans-we are too large.
  4. Spiders control the world insect population. Without them we would be over our heads in invertebrates.
  5. Spiders are food for other animals, their venom may have medicinal uses, and their silk is strong as Kevlar.

garden spiders this morning have made their home in the prairie. This the natural habitat for them. But we can find them in our backyards too. They belong there. Actually, because they share the earth with us we benefit from their  existence.DSC_0180_630sig

Do you still fear spiders? Perhaps the next time you see a beautiful garden spider you will not be as fearful. Instead stop and marvel. God made each one. They are His design perfectly structured to function in a prairie world by creating a balance for all living things-humans included.

Is there a cure for Arachnophobia? As you spend time observing what spiders do in their role in a food web, you may find them far less creepy. Perhaps you’ll even be awestruck.

Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away. Psalm 66:5 (The Message)DSC_0162_626sig

 

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Can’t Live Without It

Think about something you cannot do without. Since guessing games are not my favorite thing, let’s skip my list of things you thought of and get to the point. Did you think of light? We can’t live without it. An eclipse of the sun may grant us more understanding of the life-sustaining importance of light.

What is light? Yes, it comes from the sun. Perhaps the definition of light will help. Light is: Electromagnetic radiation that has a wavelength in the range from about 4,000 (violet) to about 7,700 (red) angstroms and may be perceived by the normal unaided human eye. Ok, that is way more than most humans would even consider thinking about light. But in this definition, we find the spectrum of light. In between the colors of red and violet are orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue. 7 colors in visible white light. Sure, there is a physical explanation for white light having color, but the mystery of this is also fascinating. Why are there 7 distinct colors in white light?

The benefits of light are many. Solar energy, actually 8.5 minutes old when it gets to earth, can be used to create electricity. Solar energy makes the salad you will eat at your next meal. It is light that drives the worldwide process of photosynthesis. Thirsty? Our next drink of water comes from an unceasing process called the water cycle. It is driven by solar energy, or light. Without light, your next breath would be difficult, and given time, impossible. Light which drives photosynthesis also produces a side product: oxygen.

There is another aspect to light. Good light makes better photographs. Earlier this week my photos were taken in the bright light of midmorning.  It is ok to remind me that the “golden hours” for best photos are the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. The photos shared in this blog were taken in the evening golden hour. It truly does make a difference.DSC_0066_599sig

There is much more about light, you’ve thought of some by now. But we are now both at the point where we can agree one of the things we cannot do without is light, or to be technical, electromagnetic radiation.

There is another kind of light, not from the sun. The Creator of the sun spoke of this other light. While on earth Jesus said to the people who were with him, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12) If we are candid with ourselves we know that there are two aspects to life, the physical and the spiritual. Jesus is the Creator of light, the sun. The Bible tells us Jesus was with God at the creation of the universe. John 1:2 tells us Jesus existed in the beginning with God.

As we must have the physical light of the sun on earth, we cannot live our spiritual lives without the spiritual light of Jesus. Did you read what Jesus said after declaring he was the light of the world? We “won’t have to walk in darkness, because (we) will have the light that leads to life.”

It is hard to walk in darkness. Physical darkness causes us to stumble, possibly be injured. Spiritual darkness does the same for our eternal souls. The light of Jesus leads to life. You and I cannot live without it.

*To know how to “walk in the light”, click on the link: https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

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Help…Forever

You desperately need help, but that is my condition too. We are both desperate. It does no good to attempt to help yourself. We are both too weak. Our weakness is physical and spiritual. This leaves no room for do it yourself action. We need help to live our lives. Help in making decisions. Help with our health. Help in relationships, at work, to be truthful, with all things. There is no intent to insult you by this. But if we are honest we know it. We cannot live life on our own strength.DSC_0048_593sig

Where does help come from?

Look up

Gaze at the ancient hills formed by God’s hands.

Consider your life. You are surrounded by trouble and trial.

Admit you have no true strength.

Admit you need help-every moment.

Fix your eyes on the hills, ponder the majesty and power seen in them. The ocean, prairies, forests, the desert, even the sky works too. Fix your eyes.

Stop struggling,

realize our help comes from God.

He made all our eyes can see outside.

He also made what you see in the mirror.

Need help? Perfect help?

God is our perfect help-forever.DSC_0007_577sig

I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from? My help will come from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. He will not let you fall. Your Protector will not fall asleep. Psalm 121:1-3DSC_0053_596sig

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Truth…that sets you free

Join me in the thinking game. It’s my turn, think with me about truth. There is freedom in truth, the best and most enduring kind. Throughout the entire history of humans, truth has always been the ultimate solution to life for every person in the past and today. There is joy in truth. There is hope and direction in truth.

There is absolute truth. This is the truth we seek, we need.

Opinions stated as truth are not truth. They lead to confusion, chaos, and heartache. Our world today is filled with opinions dressed as truth. We have tramped truth when we allow it to be based on personal preference or desire. We trample truth when we believe everyone should be allowed their personal desires as truth.

Lies are the opposite of truth. Lies are cleverly disguised as truth. We humans are experts at disguising a lie with apparent truth. Our world is plagued with lies. It suffocates under the soft but deadly pillow of lies poised just above every head.

Still thinking about truth? Novelist Angela Hunt wrote the book Truth Teller. One of the main characters is a little boy. His greatest physical gift is discerning truth. He never fails to distinguish truth from lie. A quote near the conclusion of the book touches my heart. The little boy when asked how he can tell when people are lying said this.

“I just know (the truth). Like when the sun knows to go down every night and the stars know to come out. God put the stars in the sky and He taught fish to swim and flowers to grow. He doesn’t know how to lie, and it hurts Him when people do…God loves everyone, He understands everyone. He wants everyone to know Him, but they won’t listen to the truth. There are too many lies.”DSC_0247_384sig

What is truth? We cannot count the number of times this question has been asked in the course of history. There is an answer.

Jesus is truth. He once said this to a group of misfits he mentored into disciples, “I am the way, the truth, the life no one comes to the Father (God) except through me.” (John 14:6)

The little boy in the Truth Teller said, “there are too many lies.”

Our world is lie saturated. We desperately need truth. Jesus never lies. He loves us greatly. He is the truth…He is the way…forever and ever. He makes the sun to rise and set, the flowers to bloom, the birds to fly. He loves us greatly. This is the truth. DSC_0113_571sigDSC_0392_573sig

 

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Awesome…in 5 Steps

We have 6 senses. Most of us believe we have 5. For adults, the 6th sense is greatly unused. Many children are drastically more skilled with the human 6th sense. Children are less inhibited by life experiences. They can see the wonder in the world we live in. The human 6th sense is a sense of wonder.

We are not referring to wonder as a question. That is the other type. We mean the human sense of awe at the natural world. Using our built-in sense of wonder intensely enriches human life.

If you are a skeptic, you’ve been thinking, “So what? Big deal, this is a non-issue.” If you are thinking this, your sense of wonder is buried under layers of proper adult behavior. Children lose their sense of wonder when they are inside for long periods. Adults and children both lose their sense of wonder when a majority of time is spent in front of a screen. Excessive screen time is unhealthy.

To get you outside quickly-Two things remain:

  1. How to revive your sense of wonder.
  2. A vital reason to rekindle yours and that of children’s sense of wonder.

 

Reviving your sense of wonder: (do all of these outside)

  1. Use your primary 5 senses: sight, touch taste, smell, hearing. Rather than using only your sense of sight-close your eyes and smell, touch, listen, even taste if safe. It takes time, but you will quickly enjoy this!
  2. Find a favorite spot outside. Go there on a regular basis. Look for things that you feel are beautiful in nature. Remember to look at the sky every time. Watch clouds if there are some.
  3. Be still-this includes talking…listen in nature more than you speak.
  4. After a few times in your favorite spot-lay down on the ground-on your back. It will surprise you…this is something you will like.
  5. Every time you go outside expect to be surprised by something unexpected, look for it.

Start with these 5. It is possible to spend the rest of your life searching for wonder (awe) in nature. It could become one of the greatest joys of your life.

Now for the vital reason: God created all of the natural world we live in. Everything in it points to Him.

God invites us to look at what He has done. “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” Psalm 66:5

What could happen to your life as you discover the awe of nature? I offer one answer to that question. If God has made all we see, and holds it all in order, doesn’t it make sense to know more about Him? God’s hand is visible outside. Your God given sense of wonder will help you see the hand of God wherever your eyes roam. Light the match, rekindle your sense of wonder. Even better, ask God to help. He is the only awesome.

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No Tears, No Sickness or Pain, No Death

DSC_0011_543sigI spent 30 minutes in another world today. The world was in my backyard. Since it was in my backyard, this world contained earth residents. Once in this world, my feet never moved. Here my eyes found the Cup Plant ( Silphium perfoliatum) Most were over 10 feet tall with deep green leaves and brilliant yellow composite flowers. They made a world of their own. Their nectar and pollen drew other earth residents too. Just watching and listening, I saw a Two Spotted Bumblebee, a Long-Eared Bee, A large Yellow-jacket Wasp, Syrphid Flies and multiple Painted Lady Butterflies. A small white insect landed on my camera lens. In this miniature prairie planted by my own hands were multiple other life forms I never saw. Most were invertebrate. All were present because the little backyard prairie met their habitat needs. The bees and butterflies were there for food: nectar and pollen.

DSC_0017_544sigThis world was quiet. It was peaceful. Bees shared the same flowers with other bees and the butterflies. There was enough for all. I witnessed the same flowers visited over and over. The nectar continued to flow. There was no fighting, rather a visible harmony existed.

My heart was calmed. Peace settled on my own mind and soul. This happened steps from my backdoor.DSC_0056_548sig

This quiet place reminds me of another real place: heaven. There is peace and harmony there. No sickness or death ever occur in heaven. There will never be mourning, tears or pain. The peace of God is always there.  God’s peace passes understanding. We can spend eternity there-not just 30 minutes. Jesus paid the price of admission.DSC_0070_551sig

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Painted Lady Irruption

Suddenly there were thousands of them. It was, in biologists’ terms, an irruption, a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a population. My grandpa’s eyes had never witnessed such a dramatic increase. Unusual things like these a naturalist remembers and records. My experience has recorded nothing of this magnitude before. It may be a lepidopterist’s dream come true.

You ask what “irrupted”? You may be questioning the use of the word. The word irruption is not a mistake, the term is not “erupted”. An eruption is for volcanoes, and rashes. Our subject is an irruption of butterflies. The sudden appearance of thousands and thousands of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) to be specific.

As this holiday weekend began we had the privilege of traveling with 4 grandchildren across half the state of North Dakota to connect them with their cousins for a time with family. It is nearly 200 land miles, or 3 hours of driving time. On the outbound trip, there were thousands of painted ladies crossing the road headed south, likewise on the return trip. Even more astonishing, the return trip was 3 days later. How many butterflies flew southward during the time we were with family? When we returned there were still thousands flying. All were southbound. Arriving home last evening, we found dozens on the flowers of our postage stamp sized prairie. Today my 11 AM estimate was 40 butterflies. Most years there are 3 or 4. The large number is highly unusual, but within normal for the painted lady butterfly. From season to season, this butterfly has noticeable population increases and declines. The current irruption is massive and impressive, the largest in memory!DSC_0086 (2)sig

During these times of irruption, thousands to millions of individuals can be seen. Since they migrate close to the ground, just 6-12 feet above the surface, they are easily noticed. Most of the world’s population has had opportunity to see painted Lady butterflies since they are found on every continent in the world except Australia and Antarctica. Many painted ladies migrate from the south in spring before the more well-known migrator, the monarch butterfly arrives. Perhaps one reason painted ladies are found in almost all parts of the world is their ability to feed on many different types of plants. Few other butterflies will forage on such a wide range of flowering plants. Over 100 have been recorded. The painted lady butterflies in the photos were feeding on Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) flowers. Possibly a second reason there are so many painted ladies in our prairie garden is the great abundance of cup plants growing there. Painted Lady butterflies prefer composite flowers that are tall. Cup plant grows tall. The plants in the prairie garden tower more than 10 feet in height. Go ahead try to imagine dozens of painted ladies on tall yellow flowers. They too are pollinators, while they seek food for life, the plants they feed on are able to develop seed from the mix of pollen moved by butterfly feet, proboscis, and even wings.DSC_0029 (2)sig

From egg to prickly caterpillar, to chrysalis and on to adult, the painted lady really lives a life of mystery. There have been thousands of words written, hundreds of websites produced and thousands of school children studying the painted lady. Yet, it lives its life largely away from human attention. Most humans are unaware of the wildlife that lives just outside their homes. The coming change of season will move the painted lady butterflies to their winter places. It is why they are moving now. In spring the mystery is continued. It is reversed, painted lady butterflies will move northward.DSC_0024 (2)sig

The greatest naturalist the world has ever known was King Solomon. He spoke about plant and animal life to the kings of the world at the time. Solomon also reminded us that there is a God directed time for everything. He said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

This is the season of the painted lady.DSC_0114 (2)sigDSC_0023 (2)sig

 

Systems

Time to shift your mental thoughts to action. Turn on your reasoning and logic. No grousing, thinking is beneficial for us. Systems are our new topic. A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. Consider this definition with me. A system is a group. Things in this group interact. That means there is interrelationships, cooperation. Things in a system relate to one another. They intermingle and work together. There is independence and community in a system. The last statement to make about a system is this. A system is intense. It is complex. The things forming the system are multifaceted. There are many layers in a system. A system is intricate and complicated at the same time.

 

On this earth there are countless systems for us to consider and understand. All of them are complex, and interactive. All are intense.

One of my favorite systems is a hardwood forest. Deciduous forests perfectly fit our system definition. Complexity is everywhere in view and everywhere unseen. The whole of a hardwood forest is intensely complex. It is also intensely beautiful. Yes, we must not forget the beauty of thousands of trees interacting with thousands of other life forms. Beauty is a clue to the answer for this complexity.DSC_0040_1071sig

 We declared  the obvious life forms, the trees. Contemplate the trees found in a hardwood forest. First a list of them: Basswood, Ironwood, Maple, Aspen, Burr Oak, Birch, Red Oak, Ash, and Hackberry are found in the forest of my example. There are other species which grow in other hardwood forests. In the large system of forests found in North America there are 950 species of trees in 81 plant families!

 Complex? Think about the root systems of the trees interlinking in the forest soil. Different species are connected by uncountable roots. More complex is the activity each of these trees must undertake to live during the growing season. Photosynthesis takes the idea of system complexity to staggering. Trees in the forest now are linked to the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the sun itself. While we have written documentation of each of these systems and their functions-but the complexity is overwhelming actually. Have you considered how complex the world we live in is?DSC_0053sig

 Trees? They are the big life forms. Our eyes are drawn to them. But, the point of discussion about systems has been made: a forest is a group of interrelated but independent life forms interacting to form a complex whole: a deciduous forest. There is another consideration in wrapping up this dialogue about systems, the OTHER living things found in the hardwood forest. Dwelling with the trees-in systems are birds, migratory and year-round, mammals, insects, other flowering plants much smaller than trees, lichen, fungi, and microbes in the soil. There are reptiles and amphibians too. Yes, my limited mind has missed many other life forms found in the complex system of a hardwood forest. I did mention beauty.DSC_0016_1066sig

The purpose of this flow of information is to cause your thinking to center on the term “system.” To lead you to grapple with the immense complexity of any system in nature. Then to ask the question, “How is such intricate complexity possible?” There is a one-word answer

God

Use your logic, use critical thinking, or do some research. It is possible for a forest system like the one in our example and photos, to organize itself? Is there enough time in eternity that trees could organize to use sunlight, water, minerals from the soil and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make their own food? No grousing now either…think this through. The benefits of a correct answer are eternal. Consider this closing question and answer from Isaiah. Here is the ultimate way to comprehend the complexity of earth systems

Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

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