Just the Right Time

 

DSC_0042edThe time is now. The time to see Virginia Clematis, Old Man’s Beard or Devils Darning Needles has come. Since this native climbing vine in the clematis family is rare enjoy the photos. If contrasting green and white appeal to your taste, you’ve found a new favorite.

This amazing climbing vine can dominate the area it grows in. Mine is planted on the west corner of our garage. Its vines climbed nearly to the roof covering the corner of the garage. After being cut back 3-4 times it settled for a height of 4 feet completely covering the trellis fastened behind it.

The time is now. This Virginia Clematis is covered with a tidal wave of white one-inch flowers each with 5 white petals. It emits a faint, but pleasant fragrance. This explains why there are honeybees, miniature black native bees, house flies and even ants gathering nectar and pollinating every flower they visit. This plant is a miniature world of its own. Lush, green and white and a rich food source for many pollinators, it’s one of my favorite stops on backyard walks.

The time is now to see this green and white beauty. In a few weeks the five petals on each flower will develop into showy, soft feather like plumes each with a seed attached at the bottom. It will be clear evidence of the success of the pollinators visiting now.

It is beautiful in its time of bloom and ripening seed. This is the time of year it happens.

King Solomon knew of plant seasons and human seasons. He wrote the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time…”

God is the perfect time expert. God knows our time. Our times are in his hands. “For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Plants bloom at specifically ordered times. The Virginia Clematis is an impeccable example. God orders this. God is perfect in His order of our lives too. Listen, His power is at work in every human heart. One of the beautiful things He has given us is His love…”at just the right time.” He listens for your call.

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We Don’t Know

We live in the need to know age. Call it the information age. We expect to have an answer to our questions fast. My question was where does the chlorophyll which makes plants green come from? In .52 seconds, there was a response on my browser.

Careful reading of a research article written to explain the origin of chlorophyll revealed words like: competing hypothesis, possibilities, appear, may be impossible, and likelihood. Synthesize these words into one synonymous phrase and the words are: we don’t know.

We don’t know. These three words acknowledge human limitation. These three words allow us to consider the reality of a Creator. Where does chlorophyll come from? I know. This is not boasting. God made it. Chlorophyll is a “work of God.” Before green plants, God made chlorophyll.

The wisest man in recorded world history, Solomon, wrote these words. They help me with the many “why” questions in life. He said, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5

Perhaps your biggest “why” question is not about plants. It may be a painful question, “Why did my loved one die?” “Why does he/she have cancer?” Why doesn’t God heal them?” I don’t know.

Perhaps the hardest question for all humans is, “can I trust God?” In a word: Yes.  You can trust Him. Completely.

You do not need to have answers to life’s hard questions when you know God is trustworthy. The same wise man, Solomon, also wrote these words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5 Trusting in God not our own understanding secures our lives with eternal hope. God knows.

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Eternity in Our Hearts

DSC_0106edIt is the time for the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly, and the Monarch butterfly. Their beauty tugs at the knowledge of every human that there is an eternity. It is God who puts eternity in our hearts. But, we do not need all the answers. God has them, and He is trustworthy. Consider the words of King Solomon.

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“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

With Eternity in View

Its nickname is assassin fly but, you are not in danger, it eats other insects. It does bite. Its bite is painful to humans, but they bite only when provoked. To other insects bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles, and other flies-the robber fly is deadly.

In Latin this insect belongs to the family Asilidae. Approximately 1,000 species of Asilidae have been discovered in North America. Perhaps you’ve heard of robber flies. If not, you should know about them.

Robber flies are true predators in the insect world. From the larval stage produced from an egg laid on a low plant, or even in the soil a robber fly larva emerges to eat its way to adulthood. The way it eats is remarkable. The way it over winters as a larva in the soil is more. It freezes, yet lives on. The larva pupates in the soil. This stage can take from 1-3 years depending on the species of robber fly and the environment where it is found.

Why become excited about a robber fly? If overwintering in frozen soil does not impress you, its hunting prowess should. It captures its prey on the fly. Watch a bumblebee or butter fly, or even the lowly house fly. Attempt, if you can, to follow its flight for more than a second. Robber flies not only follow, they intercept these flying insects midair. Using exceptionally acute vision generated by their large compound eyes, they target their prey inflight with unfailing accuracy. Yes, it’s astonishing. There’s a problem though, robber flies are usually smaller than their prey. Now for the amazing.

Robber flies have long powerful, and bristled grasping legs. But, not strong enough to hold an insect larger than it is. Yet, just strong enough to hold the insect while the robber fly injects it with poisonous venom. Robber fly venom contains neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes. Think of it as a small dose of snake venom. In milliseconds this venom kills and liquefies the insides of the insect. The robber fly then perches on a nearby plant and consumes a liquified meal of insect parts and venom-but it lives!

An eternal reason to know about the robber fly it defies every human explanation for its existence.

Consider these facts you know:

  1. It kills other insects, yet the balance of insect life on earth is maintained.
  2. Exceptional vision…able to catch other flying insects in air! Its sight and instinct combined.
  3. Insect killing venom…that does not kill the robber fly, an insect itself.
  4. 1,000 species in North America, over 7,000 worldwide, each different, yet robber fly.

These attributes point us to the true origin of the robber fly, a Creator. Consider the questioning words of the prophet Isaiah who asked, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28) A small, but amazing part of the “ends” of the earth is the robber fly. Its existence is unfathomable. You should know about it.

This more than about a fly. It’s about eternity. The robber fly points the way.

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Danaus plexippus

Danaus plexippus, the milkweed butterfly.

This resident caterpillar…

from one egg of over 300 eggs; after a 3-5 day development becomes…

a summer weather caterpillar for 9-14 days with 5 stages of growth called instars.

On the 5th instar…

a pupa forms, then in 8-15 days an inexplicable wonder …

millions of late summer adults become international travelers.

Unfathomable mystery packaged by God.

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The Flying Lion

I have a new summer favorite for you.

Anax Junius, the Green Darner Dragonfly. Think of it as the lion of the insect world. If it is an insect that flies, the Green Darner will eat it. Mosquitoes, midges, flies, butterflies, moths, mayflies, stoneflies even smaller dragonflies all fuel this winged predator. Its life cycle differs from most insects. There are three stages in a Green Darner’s life: egg, nymph and adult. A dragonfly nymph has a voracious appetite. It will eat anything in the water smaller than itself. For the Green Darner nymph this includes minnows and tadpoles.

Look closely at its compound eyes. There are about 30,000 lenses in them. It can see all the way around itself. Those large wings can propel it at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.

Did you know this dragonfly migrates? Biologist estimate there are 331 dragonfly species in North America. Only nine migrate seasonally. Green Darners will fly up to 60 miles a day in favorable conditions. Their compound eyes protect them from a predator which migrates with the darners. American Kestrels and small falcons time their migrations to match that of the darner. They feast on the winged buffet of green darner dragonflies.

Like the birds that eat them, Green Darners migrate to Texas, Florida, and on to Mexico and the Caribbean where those that survive mate to begin the next generation whose offspring will lay eggs in northern wetlands the next summer.

If they weren’t such amazing creatures, their beauty alone would make them on of my favorites.DSC_0114ed

Every Heartbeat

Every Heartbeat
 
This is about the heart. Break it down to a purely physical description, and describe it as “a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation.” This is a start. There is significantly more to a heart. More physical detail helps. In humans there are 4 chambers, two atria, and two ventricles. A normal sized heart is comparable to a human fist and weighs about 10.5 ounces.
The average human heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute(bpm). DSC_0027ed
 
To understand the significance of the human heart rate let’s compare them with animal heart rates. A hibernating groundhog rate is 5 bpm. The Blue Whale 8-10 bpm. Horses have a bpm of 28-40. A mouse has a bpm of 450-750.
 
Invertebrate hearts are very different physically from humans. Insects are known to have an open circulatory system. Their internal organs “float” in blood. Insect blood is called “hemolymph.” Insects hearts are found in their abdomens. Usually there is a tube at the top of the insect’s back which has holes to take in the “hemolymph” and pump it towards the head.
 
Large insects like the bumble bee use the muscles of their wings to increase heart rate and blood flow and warm their bodies on cold mornings. This makes bumble bees important pollinators. They begin pollinating earlier in the day and continue longer as evening temperatures ground other pollinators. We do not know the heart rate of insects. Yet a honey bee flies at a rate of 15 mph and will travel up to 3 miles to collect plant nectar. Its heart rate must be elevated after such exertion.DSC_0023ed
 
What causes human hearts to beat rhythmically, steadily night and day for an average of 79 years? Do you ever need to tell your heart to beat? Medical science identifies the sinoatrial node as the “heart’s natural pacemaker.” This tiny cluster of specialized heart cells send electrical impulses which produce a heart-beat. It works for a lifetime.
 
Now the question behind what causes the heart to beat. What causes the sinoatrial node to send electrical impulses? DSC_0018ed
 
Have you ever taken your pulse, or placed your hand over your heart and felt your pulse? Yes, diet, stress and exercise impact heart health. But our hearts function a lifetime, and we have little to do with it. It’s really a miracle. My favorite shepherd who also was a king, David said of God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God knows your heart. He made your heart and knew how many times it would beat-before you were born. That’s how powerful, how wonderful God is.
 
There is great comfort in this. Your heart beats free at no charge for you-all of life. God does that for you. God directs the sinoatrial node to function.
 
This is also about the heart that lives beyond death, your soul. He knows the number of your days. He knows the sin in your heart for each of those days. He did something for us about that. He sent His Son Jesus to clean our soul-heart, the eternal heart, from sin which separates us from God.
 
Consider the words of the shepherd/king once more, “From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33:14-16) God is in the heart business, yours and mine. He’s the ultimate expert in hearts.DSC_0045ed