Creation Words Through the Seasons

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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)

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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

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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
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Something Greater

Late afternoon in a tiny prairie.

Photos: prairie onion (1&2) followed by Gray Headed Cone flower, the next two of two spotted bumble bees on Anise Hyssop, the last two are Cup Plant.

Sitting among flowers and bumblebees is quiet peace.

It brings a sense of being part of something much greater.

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Can Seeing Become Believing?

 

Remember…we forget easily, physical reminders refresh memory and clarify truth.

Change your routine, rise before the sun,

sit in a quiet place, face the east,

watch and wait.DSC_0112_2378ed

 

Wait, stay and watch blackness become dawn.

Think about what you have witnessed…all day.

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At evening do it again, face west this time.

Watch and wait in quiet stillness.

Wait for day to become night.

 

Why you ask, why watch a sunrise and sunset the same day?

To remember who turns day to-night and night to-day.

It does not happen by accident or chance.DSC_0108_2374ed

The words of a shepherd may help.

“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and turns day into night,

Who calls for the waters of the sea ad pours them out over the face of the land-the Lord is his name.”

 

Watch and remember, refresh your memory-know truth-the Lord is his name. (Scripture: Amos 5:8)DSC_0110_2376ed

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Perfection Found

It is winged perfection. Calling it a flying emerald, would not be wrong. The season of long-legged flies has come to the upper Midwest. Some are metallic green, emerald like. Their eyes have a red tint. They do have long legs. Found in the order of Diptera, they are true flies. But they are flies with an exclamation. Most people have never seen them.

Having them in your garden or flower bed is a good thing. Though tiny, long-legged flies are beneficial insects. Its diet includes things that eat flowers and vegetables. Aphids, mites, gnats, beetle larva and even smaller flies are all in its diet. But it will not come to your outdoor picnic. The long-legged fly is not attracted to human food. We should be thankful.

The colors of these flies ranges from bright metallic green, to copper or bronze. Some species are muted in browns and grays. Most of them are 5 millimeters or smaller. But it would be worthwhile to see an emerald long-legged fly. You would be watching a highly skilled predator. Insatiable is a human appetite term but could describe the appetite of a long-legged fly. For dining on the small invertebrates in its habitat, the long-legged fly has an extendable lower lip paired with flaring opposable lobes on either side of its mouth. They use them to efficiently crush and tear prey.

You may disagree. But, it would not be an exaggeration to describe long-legged flies as near faultless. Perfection is seen in its emerald iridescent green color, its crystal-clear wings, and contrasting red tinged eyes. While we really know little about its life cycle the long-legged fly fits seamlessly in its environment.

Where does all this perfection originate? Where does iridescence come from? How about long legs, or a specialized mouth? Laugh if you will, but this little fly is approaching impeccable.

We delight in perfection. We admire what seems perfect. We constantly seek perfection. We are disappointed when the next thing or person fails to be perfect. Perfection we want, yet perfection is not attainable for a human. No human or thing on earth is perfect, not even the long-legged fly.

Only God is perfect. The Bible explains it. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) There is another reason to seek this little fly. It is to see an example of God’s perfect work. God’s WAY, God’s WORD and God’s SHIELD are for us. They are perfection. Seeking perfection? God is seeking you.

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Freedom

It came to the bird feeder quickly with caution. A rare sight for my eyes, this bird is found in Western states. A Black-headed Grosbeak had come to crack the sunflowers with its parrot like beak. “Gros” is Germanic for large. Focus your attention on its beak, there is no question about its size. It quickly cracked and shelled three sunflowers before leaving for the woods behind the house.

 

Black Headed Grosbeaks are neo-tropical birds. These birds usually winter south of the Tropic of Cancer. That’s the latitudinal line 23.5 degrees north of the equator. That makes the Black Headed Grosbeaks an international traveler. Their summer nesting range finds them in the western United States and southern Canada with the Missouri river as a general eastern boundary.

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All life in God’s creation has miraculous aspects. Black Headed Grosbeaks have many. They are adjustable. Living in tropical heat in winter and northern climates in summer requires it. They fly long distances. Caution is built-in. Male and female incubate the 2-5 eggs in the nest. Black Headed Grosbeaks chooses nest sites in trees near water and in shade to keep the nest cool. While those large beaks easily crack the hull of a sunflower, they also break the hard shells of beetles which make up to 60% of their summer diets. Their diet includes snails. In fall migration berries are available and favored.

 

There is another miracle given the Black Headed Grosbeaks-freedom. Today we celebrate the freedoms we have been given in our nation. The Black Headed Grosbeak has been given freedom too. Our Creator, the author of freedom, has directed this bird to fly much of the North American continent. From southern Mexico to central North Dakota where the bird in the photos was is over 2000 miles. Black Headed Grosbeaks have a vast freedom. Their territory is enormous. Yet, all the basics for life are provided for it in the north or south. God has given each of us eternal freedoms too. The greatest is freedom from sin. What makes this freedom desirable? It frees us from guilt and gives freedom from sin’s eternal punishment. It gives us hope and an everlasting future.

 

Yes, we celebrate freedom today. But on this United States Independence Day, the greatest freedom is given by God. He sent his son to purchase freedom for you, for me. It is Jesus who has freed us. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12 This God-given freedom is perfect. It is eternal. It is available to all who seek it.

 

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Examine a Feather

Feathers are living miracles. They are one of my favorite things in nature. There are many reasons to view them as perfect wonder.

Their bright colors are even iridescent. They form patterns and designs. Agreed, feathers are beautiful.

Birds fly with them, and swim and dive with them. Don’t take this lightly. How feathers interact with air and water is actually breath-taking.

They shine, they can be waterproofed, they are wind proof, and they are repairable.

No human mind has designed anything like them.

They fall off. Its called molting. New body feathers, new flight feathers, gradually new feathers replace the old worn feathers. No human engineer can replicate it.

Feathers provide us with physical evidence that humans can molt too…not with feathers, with their sin. The same grand Designer has a perfect plan to make every human new. The sinful self can be shed-like a bird molts a feather. A new creature, a new “sins forgiven human” is the result. Molting in birds is caused by hormones. The perfect Creator engineered it. The shedding of human sin comes when a human believes in Jesus. The Bible explains it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

 

You can start over. You can be free of your past. You can shed your sorrows and hurts. Jesus will do it for you, ask Him. It’s the perfect human “molt” and it lasts forever.

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Life Food

A walk outside is worthwhile. It is time spent wisely, and a slow walk in a wild place often yields surprises.
 
Two dear grandchildren needed something to do. In my naturalist voice, I said, “Let’s use our eyes, ears, noses, tongues and fingers and explore what’s happening in the backyard.”  It worked.
 
Ants, weren’t surprising. The rough bark of an ash tree-ordinary. Waiting for an Oriole to come to the grape jelly feeder-too long. We needed something exciting.
 
We went to our 16-year-old prairie garden. The Northern bedstraw is blooming. Monarda caught my eye first. We rolled leaves between our fingers and nibbled on the tips to taste. Then we saw it. It takes time to really see nature.
 
We found exciting. A green caterpillar with yellow and black polka dots below two long black strips down its back amazed us. My naturalist partners were mesmerized with me.
 
A search today disclosed the name of this nearly three-inch caterpillar. We were admiring a Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar. (Hyles gallii) At this size, the caterpillar is nearly ready to pupate. It will burrow beneath the prairie garden and spend the remainder of summer and all of next winter in the safety of the earth beneath the prairie. Next growing season it will emerge as an adult Bedstraw Hawk moth. Like the caterpillar, it will be large.  Its wingspan could be over 3 inches.
 
The Bedstraw Hawk moth lives on the nectar of monarda and other flowers. It is one of the 11,000 species of moths in the United States. It is true to its name. The female Bedstraw Hawk moth lays her eggs on the stems of Northern Bedstraw. Hatching caterpillars feed on Northern bedstraw. They live and grow eating this plant. While the adult Bedstraw Hawk moth pollinates Northern Bedstraw, its caterpillar dines on it and lives. Beautiful bedstraw is life food for Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillars.
 
The Creator of both bedstraw and the Bedstraw Hawk moth ordered this relationship between plant and insect. Both organisms benefit, though the plant is partially eaten.
 
The same Creator has provided everlasting life food for humans. Jesus explained it this way.  He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
 
Eating earthly bread will provide temporary nourishment. Jesus, the bread of life, provides each one of us with forever life. Life for eternity. As He created the beautifully designed Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar, His design for us is life-beautiful eternal life. Only He has the power to give it.

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Proven Evidence

“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence,” Sir Isaac Newton once said. Why would Newton choose a digit on the human hand as a proof God exists? There is good reason. The thumb possesses a wide range of motion the other digits on the hand do not have. The tip of the thumb can touch the other fingertips. This range of motion makes grasping objects much easier. The muscle which moves the thumb, the flexor pollicis longus, is strong, making the thumb powerful to pinch and grip. The thumb is the only digit which can be swung from side-to-side, most frequently it is moved to touch a fingertip. There is one more remarkable characteristic about the thumb, it is the angle at which it is arranged from the other 4 digits on the hand. It is not difficult to find agreement with Newton’s statement. Move your thumb around, watch it move. One reason we may disagree with Newton is we take the remarkable ability of our thumbs for granted.
There is an insect which convinces me that God exists. My simple assumption is Sir Isaac Newton never saw a dragon-fly. Why would I choose the dragon fly as proof God exists? Dragon flies (family of odonates) have a three-stage life cycle. In biological terms the dragonfly life cycle is a simple or incomplete one. The stages are egg, larva, and adult. It may be called simple, but complex things occur in the life of a dragon fly. Most dragonflies live in water for the egg and larval stage of life. Female dragonflies have two expert methods of getting their eggs in water. Petal-tail and Darner dragonflies have ovipositors that actually cut a slit in an aquatic plant-below the water line. Damselflies deposit their eggs the same way. Club tails, skimmers, emeralds and spike tails all deposit their eggs on the surface of the water where they sink to the bottom. These types of dragonflies lay thousands of eggs increasing the chance that by using the scatter method some will read adulthood. Once hatched, dragonfly larva or naiads are major wetland and lake aquatic predators. The gills of dragonfly larva are in their rectum. When they exhale they propel themselves forward, they do. Sources about the number of dragonfly species in the world contradict each other. However, these same sources estimate there are between 3,000 and 5,000 species in the world. If you have ever been near water when the dragonflies leave the nymph stage to live as adults you’ve witnessed their beauty and grace. The power of God is in the dragonfly life cycle. God’s divine nature is seen in their wings.
What value is there in looking at your thumb, or for that matter a dragonfly in flight? Both provide us with visual evidence that God exists. You may wonder, why it is necessary to know that God exists? Let’s use probability to provide an answer. There are two possibilities regarding God. He exists. He does not exist. Sir Isaac Newton examined his thumbs and concluded they were conclusive evidence of God’s existence. The dragonfly is a second evidence. Their remarkable life cycle, the thousands of adults gathered near water, the gossamer of their wings and the design on them are all indicators that God exists. Both the thumb and dragonflies are evidence. Evidence leads to faith that He exists. The words from the author of Hebrews provide us with reason why God made dragonflies, thumbs and the thousands of other life forms on earth-that we would believe in God.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

 

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Look at your thumbs. Go outside near water in early summer, watch the dragonflies. God has put them here for us to know Him. Believe, He gives you faith

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Life Cycle

Whatever you label them, bug or pest, insects are intriguing. The unseen world of insects in our four-season climate is increasingly active. Warm temperatures and habitat increase the population of every insect species on a daily basis. In our tiny 16-year-old restored prairie insect life thrives. One day ago, the Crane Fly made its appearance. It looks like a giant mosquito. But it does not have the mouth parts to bite. Biologists believe there are about 15,000 different kinds of true crane flies, and the Crane Fly is a beneficial insect. House flies were in our prairie garden this morning too. With perfect conditions a pair of house flies may produce nearly 1 million young in two months. Delicate and beautiful Damselflies are also patrolling our prairie plot. With few exceptions damselflies spend a part of their life as larval predators in wetlands. Finally, in the same little prairie,

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Crane Fly
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House fly

the spittle bugs have begun forming their larval spittle mass. The foamy mass protects the larva which hatched from an egg laid the summer before. That means it spent the winter-frozen! There will be many other trips to our prairie, the insects there are more than intriguing. Each one is a living miracle.

These insects they have life cycles. Every insect on earth has one of two types of life cycles. Incomplete metamorphosis occurs in insects which have three stages in their life cycle. Egg-nymph-adult. Dragonflies, damselflies and grasshoppers are three insects with incomplete metamorphosis. The second type of insect life cycle is complete metamorphosis. The life cycle is egg-larva-pupa-adult. Insects we know in this group are the flies, butterflies, bees, and beetles. The spittlebug foam mass in our little prairie holds the spittle bug larva. The spittle bug has a complete metamorphosis life cycle.

We humans have life cycles too. Every human life culminates in what we describe with the word death. Perhaps you favor demise or passing. Yes, we will die. God has also determined all humans have an after-death destination. You might think of it as the final stage of the human life cycle. There are two after death destinations: heaven or hell. Unlike insects, humans have opportunity to determine before death which of these two destinations will be their eternal home. It is God’s desire that every human spend eternity in heaven with him. Imagine, the Creator of the universe wants you and me-to be with him-forever. Heaven is a perfect place because God dwells there. God is love. You will love heaven. But is it really possible to secure your place in heaven? The Bible tells us we can. A jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (go to heaven) Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16) But you are thinking I am too awful for God to save me. Think again. In the book of Romans 8:1 we read, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” The end of every human life cycle can be one of eternal joy. Heaven is real. The way there is open to every human living today. Jesus opened the door. He waits at heaven’s gates with his arms open-for you.

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Damsel fly
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Spittlebug foam nest
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A Clear Signal

 

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It looked dead. From a distance there was more lifeless tan than green. “Impossible,” I thought, “it can’t be dead.” Closer, the truth became clear. What seemed to be numerous dead spots were actually uncountable numbers of seeds hanging in clusters from the branches. My eyes began to scan the other trees like it growing in the neighborhood. All of them were weighed down with immeasurable numbers of seeds.DSC_0033_2262ed

Many silver maple trees have been introduced to our neighborhood. For our Latin friends, it is called Acer saccharinum. The word saccharin, a sweetener, originates from the Latin word Saccharinum. It means yielding or containing sugar. Silver maples also produce “helicopters.” If you’ve been around children when the seeds fall, you’ll know why they are called helicopters. Next to a bird, the seed from the silver maple tree may fly better than anything else in nature.

These seeds have another name, samaras. Samaras are a tiny wing-with a seed on one end. The weight of the seed at the small end keeps the seed end low. As the seed spins the air pressure lowers at the wing end providing lift. In the wind, samaras fly great distances. The weight of the seed causes the samara to “land” seed end down pointed to earth. A slight downward pressure brings the seed in contact with the earth.

This is no accidental design. It is too perfect. They may also be considered signals.DSC_0049_2271ed

The immense seed production of the silver maple can be a source of irritation for gardeners and those wishing to keep flower beds in perfect order. Recently we put the fresh landscape bark around the perennial flowers growing around our house. Beautiful. Then the silver maple seeds ripened and changed color from green to tan. A few days later thousands upon thousands of silver maple seeds fell. Our neighborhood was covered with “helicopters,” so was our fresh landscape bark.

One positive, our grandchildren took great delight in re-flying them.

You can see God in these little helicopters. From them we understand a bit more what infinity is. Try counting them. My grandson delights in numbers. However, he and I soon tired of trying to estimate how many samaras were on our front lawn alone.DSC_0038_2266ed

You can see divinity. God’s divine nature is in the intricate design found on the “wings.” Rather than be frustrated over the seeming “mess” they made, my choice was to delight in their beauty and design. They do fly. The fact that possibly millions of them are now on the ground in our neighborhood is testimony to the infinite power of God as Creator.

Why are so many seeds are produced? God knows. They are food for wildlife. They do produce new trees. Many become humus and nourish the soil.

But why so many? One answer-they demonstrate God’s abundance. God produced a vast number, more than seems to be needed. One look at the abundance of samaras and you may also understand the infinity of God’s love. It is more limitless than silver maple seed.

The Psalmist said this about God: “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24) These tiny samaras give testimony to God’s abundant, everywhere present and real love. Bible writer John explained it this way, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10

God wants us to know Him. He is continually sending signals. During this season, it is samaras. He must really want to get our attention He sent thousands and thousands of them.DSC_0042_2268ed

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Greatest Grace

Unseen most of its life, we seldom think of it or the service it does. My eyes have been watching it for you. That’s because its story will give you joy. You will be awed. Being awed is a joy for me. So, it must be for you. Don’t expect a large object. Its small. It is quick. In trying to photograph it my patience was tested every time. It’s not colorful either. Yet black fuzzy yellow with yellow pollen attached legs can be beautiful.
Yes, our subject is a bee. DSC_0010ed
What are your typical bee stereotypes? Perhaps your knowledge is based on the negative experiences you have had with a non-bee, the yellow jacket wasp. Worse, a yellow jacket has stung you. This is a bee, not a wasp. Look at the photo. There are no alternating black and yellow stripes on its abdomen.
It is small. For size perspective, it faces a 5/8 inch diameter garden hose.
This little ground bee can be your introduction to the concept that bees are not only good, they are amazing.DSC_0005ed
About bee stings. This bee and members of its colony have been active since late April. Be astonished, these small ground bees have their nests in front of the outside water spigots to our house. My wife and I use these spigots to water flowers, shrubs, and grass for the last 4 weeks. Each time we go to turn on the water spigot we step over, or on one or more of these bees’ nests. Guess how many times my wife and I have been stung? Zero. How many times has one of these bees buzzed around us for disturbing its nest? Zero. The day I forgot and covered the nests with a thin layer of landscape bark I was reminded the bees have their nests here when I returned and found 5 or 6 of them searching for their nest tube in the ground. I had covered them. Would you say I was stung that time? No.
More amazing. About 70 % of bee species nest underground like these do. These bees are expert at soil excavation. They tunnel into the soil and create a hard tube of small soil particles. Beneath the soil these tubes end in cells. The female ground bee brings pollen to the cell and shapes it into a ball. She lays one egg on the ball and closes the cell. The egg will hatch to feast on pollen before winter but spend winter in the cell as a prepupae. They freeze there and survive! Next spring it will emerge from the cell as an adult bee.
While many of the nest tubes are hidden, my estimate is between 30 and 40 tubes in a 2 foot by 3-foot area just below our outside water spigot. Many bees are using this area. We would like to add fresh landscape bark to the spot. We can wait till they finish nesting.DSC_0003ed
Have you thought about where the pollen comes from? Our yard has flowering crab apple trees, two fruit apple trees and a raspberry patch in our garden. We have a small native prairie garden. Two days ago, we planted a cherry tomato with blossoms already on it. These bees are doing us a great favor. They are making our food. As they gather pollen they pollinate the plants. Seeds and fruit result. They expect nothing but pollen to feed their larva. We get the best part of the bargain and we seldom if ever notice them.
Sometimes we mistake them for wasps and kill them. If they were human we could say all they ever are is gracious.
There is an even better greatest grace bargain. We get the best part. We do none of the work. The work of paying for our sin has been done for us. It was hard. It was agonizing and extremely painful. I don’t know the name of the little bees we’ve talked about. I do know the name of the One who paid for all our sins. His name is Jesus. While there were eyewitnesses to his crucifixion. You and I never saw it. To us His sacrifice was like that little bee-unseen. He is unseen, but on the throne of heaven today. His death for the sins of each person living and once living on the earth. He made the little bee I’ve shared with you.
Why did Jesus die? Love. God’s love. The Bible says it best. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 Jesus died for your sins and mine because God loves us, he graciously saves us. He made the beautiful ground bees to remind us his love has no limit and his power is everywhere present.

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In Search of Beauty

Human beings are beauty enthusiasts. We realize this, but seldom think of it. The world’s most famous museum, the Louvre, holds 35, 000 masterpieces. Millions of people visit here annually. They come to see beauty. We don’t need to think about liking things that are beautiful, we are wired to enjoy it. The substantial number of annual visitors to the Louvre is evidence we are willing to seek it.

Beauty is not found only in paintings. The musical compositions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and many others are witness to the beauty found in music. The human ear is synchronized with the heart to the beauty of harmony and melody. Beautiful music brings joy, peace and great emotion to the human spirit. The music does not need to be classical. It is estimated that 32 million people in the United States attend a music festival each year. It is the beauty they hear in music which draws them.

Humans become obsessed with beauty. Masterpiece paintings are stolen. Shiny new cars, sparkling diamonds, dazzling gold are objects we humans can become fanatically infatuated with.

What is the gateway through which we relate to beauty? We find it with our 5 senses. Throughout our lives we use our eyes, ears, nose, taste buds, and finger tips to know beauty.

We see beauty in a sunset. Hear it as the wind rustles the leaves of Aspen trees. Feel it as that same breeze caresses our skin and cools it. We delight in the scent of water freshened air. The citrus taste of a fresh orange boosts a healthy diet.

What is beauty? We know it when we see it. Understand it when we hear it. We are grateful when we feel it. We say “aah!” as we smell it and “yum” when we taste it.

Why does it grip the human heart so strongly? Human ability to appreciate beauty is a gift. While we use our 5 senses for other aspects of life, the 5 human senses work in harmony with beauty. Without our senses we could not enjoy or delight in the beauty found on earth.

Now, what is the origin of beauty? Serious reflection brings us to the conclusion that beauty did not develop with time. The qualities of what constitute beauty exist. They did not advance as time passed. Recorded human history for millennia reveals the presence of beauty. It also reveals the existence of the human sensory gifts to experience it.

Our 5 senses and beauty are God’s gifts to us. Beauty originates with God. Psalm 50:2 is clear: “From Zion, (Zion in this context means heaven.) perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” God is infinite beauty. He is the creator of beauty, and He made 5 human senses to experience it.

Examine the photos with this text. They provide examples of the beauty God placed in this world. No human has ever been credited with the invention of a human sensory ability. Yet, every human has a sense and appreciation for beauty. We were made to seek it and delight in it.

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Finally, the wisest man in world history, King Solomon of Israel, wrote these words about beauty and its origin, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 Enjoy this beautiful world, use your gifted senses to experience it. Have no fear when you cannot comprehend it all. The Creator of beauty and your senses loves you with a love beyond understanding. Remember the love of God when you next experience beauty on earth. Go, seek it and find its Creator.

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Waiting for Sunrise

Have you ever anticipated something? It may be a day in the future like a graduation, or a wedding. It could be a new job. There are many things we find reason to anticipate with pleasure.
For me, it was a sunrise.
Bruce, my cousin and friend would be my guide. He said, “I’ll pick you up at 5:00 AM.” My response was, “I’ll be ready.” After he told me I had to wait. Waiting is hard-especially when you wait for something you know will be good. Waiting for sunrise, it’s splendid and hard.
My head was on the pillow early the night before we were to go. My goal was to be up at 4:30. My feet touched the floor at 4:23 AM. Knowing the morning would be long, a bit of food was my task after dressing.

With camera and gear in the backpack my step outside happened 20 minutes before 5 AM. The black sky glittered with stars. The Milky Way glimmered from southwest to north-east. My gaze went to the east. Sunrise was on my mind.
Soon, the sound of tires on asphalt told me he was coming. No one else would be up this early. We drove east on the main road of the island. Only one other vehicle was out this early. That person was headed west, likely not for sunrise.

We reached the entrance gate to the State Park. Bruce punched in the code and we drove eastward into the park. In the darkness to my right it was difficult to ignore the vastness of the Gulf of Mexico. It was mystery with hundreds of miles of wilderness salt water. But we were headed for the east end of the island, the tip and sunrise there.
We came to the gate that closed off the protected shorebirds nesting area. Only a gravel road passed through this part of the park. Using the code provided we went through and closed it behind us. We were 4 miles from sunrise now. In those dark miles with only the pickup headlights to show the way our only companion was a Night-hawk which flew up from its resting spot on the road.
The Milky Way and handle of the Big Dipper were still visible as we parked at the east end. Bruce gave me a red-light LED flashlight and we walked on the sand along the bay. Ghost crabs scurried into their holes or swam into clear deeper water from us. No hint of sunlight yet.
As we reached the end of the island Bruce led us southward toward the Gulf of Mexico. The south wind pleasantly cooled our faces. The vastness of the place was unmistakable. A deep sense of wildness came upon me. We were alone with only the sound of the breeze, the surf and shorebirds of the night.
Then Bruce said, “Let’s look for a bench.” It delighted me when a short distance later we found a ledge of sand created by the water from a recent high tide. We sat on the “bench.” It was perfectly positioned. It faced east. We sat. We waited. Our words were few. The magnificence all around us was powerful, making words, irrelevant. Sunrise would be soon. We watched the eastern horizon.DSC_0455ed
My camera was ready. We watched as a more intense pink-orange glow developed in the east. Moments later a golden sliver of sun popped above the earth’s edge. We could see the sun move with the horizon as a reference. In moments the perfect star for earth cleared the horizon. The day had begun.DSC_0477ed
One reward for our early rising besides the sun, were the shore birds we saw in first light. A Great Blue Heron landed near us. Perhaps it thought we were fisherman. Royal Terns, Sanderlings, Willets, Brown Pelicans even a Red Knot searched for food to fill their stomachs. We got to watch them.DSC_0484ed

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Waiting for the sunrise turned my thoughts to another event greater than any sunrise. It is a once in eternity event. It is coming. It is worth every anticipation, even longing for. It is better than a sunrise. Actually, it is better than all sunrises and sunsets combined since time began. Imagine that.
One day, some-day, Jesus the Son of God will come again. The Bible tells us “every eye will see him.” Like a sunrise, Jesus is coming again to the earth he made and on which he walked. The return of Jesus will be a simultaneous world-wide event. Every person on earth will see him.
This is the best part: Those who believe he is the Son of God and Savior of the world who have turned from their sins in repentance will be raised with him… “in the clouds” to be with him in heaven. (Revelation 1:7 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Waiting for a sunrise reminds me that one day Jesus will return. It will be magnificent beyond imagination. DSC_0477ed

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A Walk With Naturalists

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Eye on Us

On Friday they told me they saw a beaver. They said it was on the shore right next to the trail where they stood. The skeptic in me thought, “maybe.” It was full day light, the beaver is nocturnal. My plan-stick with maybe. Their enthusiasm did not sway my opinion.
On Saturday my will weakened. “Could we go for a walk to see if the beaver is there?” was my request. It please me greatly when they said yes. All three of them showed eagerness both to go and to have me along. My skepticism vanished. You see the location of the beaver was in a backwater of a river. Yes, backwater, in a city park, in the capitol of North Dakota. The river was not any river, it was the longest river in the United States, the 2,300-mile-long Missouri.
A second incentive for this walk to the river was my motivation to observe how they would lead me across a busy city street and through blocks of a residential area before the park and the river.

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Two sets of eyes

In bright sunshine, the 4 of us started out. We cut westward through a coulee with water flowing through it. They spotted a pair of Mallard Drakes long before my eyes picked them out. Walking through a small grove of trees on the west edge of the coulee we heard a rooster pheasant crow. The 12-year-old boy conversations stopped. With delight, my eyes witnessed all three of them go into stealth mode. Again, my wise naturalist skills were eclipsed, one of the boys pointed out a pheasant slinking away. They spotted it first. These boys were good.
They led me directly to a pedestrian bridge that crossed the traffic filled street. The rest of the way they used cross walks and the sidewalk. It felt safe and comfortable. They did the same on the return trip. The boys were responsible. Sometimes three boys can think of unsafe things or become silly. There was none of that going or coming. We had not even come to the river and the walk with these three boys was remarkably pleasurable.

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He Watches

At the backwater, more joy came. My great privilege that morning was the company of three 12-year-old naturalists. They were interested in everything. They wanted me to get good photos. Tracks intrigued them. They listened when other pheasants crowed. They questioned what animals had made the tracks we observed. Then one of them did something few kids or adults would ever think of, he stepped over a track rather than destroy it with his foot. We witnessed Western Grebes fishing.

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Water off a Grebe’s Back

There were numerous reasons for happiness that morning. The maturity and responsibility of these three boys was one. The absolute thrill of seeing the respect and true interest in nature the three possessed another. Having conversations with three others who found everything on this sandbar of the Missouri river, fascinating. They were right about the beaver too. We didn’t see it this time. But two piles of fresh beaver scat and many chewed branches were clear evidence.

The boys and I got something else. We witnessed the power of God. We observed His divine nature in the beauty of the crowing pheasant calls and the dives of the grebes. They’d seen a fish in the water the day before. The mystery of fish in water exhilarated them. The four of us relaxed, stress fell away, our health strengthened.
Should we be surprised at the health-giving qualities available to everyone who goes outside? Why is the earth beautiful? Why do our eyes see color, our ears hear sounds equal to 10 musical octaves? Our three other senses add greater depth to any outside time. A man named David was both shepherd and king in his life. As shepherd he learned of the power and divine nature of God in creation. He wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 God put health in nature.
Take a walk. Better yet, take some kids with you. Why is the earth so beautiful, so full of stimulating mystery which captives the minds of three boys and a grandpa? Because God made the earth for us. He made it out of love. He designed all of it for us. It is one of his gifts to us. His greatest gift is Jesus Christ and the eternal life His death on the cross provides. Could Jesus really overcome all our sins? He is powerful enough to make a world filled with beauty and mystery. We see it best when we go outside.

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Discussion
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Bombus Ternarius

Bombus ternarius is a member of the group Bombini. Latin always adds some depth to the subject. But we are not discussing a new band. Our subject is a bumble bee. Now, a bumble bee announcement: Central North Dakota has this spring’s first Tri Colored Bumble bees. My own eyes witnessed one in the photos.DSC_0198ed

For you “so what” skeptics, yes this is significant. Look at the photo. If she was not so small you could bow to the queen. This is a queen. She has just emerged from her winter nest of more than 5 ½ months. At the time of the photos, she was the only bumble bee in the area. This is the first wow!

The 2nd wow: in her body are the eggs that will make the next generation of Tri-colored bumble bees for this area. Her eggs over wintered in her body-frozen.DSC_0200ed

3rd wow: She is small between 17 and 19 mm long, males and workers are between 8 and 13. A penny is about 17 mm. Yet, she is a big bee.

Ternarius refers to its three colors yellow, black and orange/red. Tri-colored bumble bees are quite common. They occur from the Yukon to Nova Scotia and are wide-spread in the United States. Don’t let the word common end your amazement.

Yes, wow is too plain-we’ll use astounding.DSC_0203ed

4th a worker Tri-colored bumble bee weighs 5 hundredths of a gram. Without exaggeration, we can say it is ultralight…astounding is better.

 Tri-colored worker bees may fly up to 1/3 to 1 mile to find pollen to feed the colony the queen produces. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees do not make large quantities of honey. Since they feed the larval bumble bees pollen, the bumble bee is an exceptional pollinator. While cold-blooded they warm up faster, with fuzzy bodies they begin their day earlier than the honey bee, so they accomplish more pollination.

Questions for us:

  1. How does the Tri-colored bumble bee fly in a wind? It is so light and its wings so small.
  2. Why does it have three colors-most bumble bees have two.
  3. How is this queen bee able to survive? There were no noticeable sources of pollen-no flowers at the time of the photos. How did it survive winter-frozen?
  4. Why is this queen bee so shiny? Why the shiny black wings and feet?
  5. Do you see the dots between the eyes? One photo shows the ocelli- primitive eyes between the large shiny compound eyes. Why ocelli?

This bee is beautiful. But not when she landed on our granddaughter’s nose. Perhaps it was the sugar from the frozen yogurt on her face. I heard the scream. It was later I found out this bee thought our granddaughter was food.DSC_0204ed

One more thing. This bee is no accident, no chance organization of life. She flies-in strong wind. She knows where the pollen is. She survives being frozen for months. She pollinates-even when it’s too cold for honey bees. She does things impossible for humans, even impossible for other types of bees. Our lives are dependent on her survival.

This is the thing: she is a miracle. Let’s give credit to its Inventor. Yes, this bee was “invented.” No human eye saw it. This bee was invented before human eyes were. We can substitute created for invented. In this case the Inventor knows everything and has all the power. This Inventor knows exactly how to make a large bodied insect like the Tri-colored bumble bee fly. This Inventor is the Creator of the universe, his name is Jesus.

John the Baptist explained it best in the Bible, John 1:1-3, he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Through Jesus, all things were made. Even my favorite bumble bee the Tri-colored bumble bee was made by Jesus.

Jesus knows the answers to all of my questions, and all of yours. He gave perfect attention and wisdom to the creation of the Tri-colored bumble bee and perfect attention, perfect wisdom, to making you and me.  His “inventions” shine with perfection. His love never fails.DSC_0202ed

 

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You Can’t Drink This

We agree, being big has its advantages. Think about size which provides advantage like tall basketball players and large bodied football players.

This bird has a definite size advantage. Its wingspan ranges from 5.5 to 6.5 FEET. Don’t let its weight of 4.5 to 5.5 pounds fool you. It is lightweight, all flying birds are. Walking on giant stilt legs 2 feet long or more it is able to find its preferred food, fish. There is a reason for its long neck. A long s-shaped neck has specialized vertebrae. The 6th is elongated and acts like a hinge when the Great Blue Heron “stabs” a fish or other prey. Right, stabs, look at the dagger like bill, it could be called a saber.DSC_0099_2178ed - wp

Big or not, the Great Blue Heron has no teeth.  How does it get the fish from mouth to stomach? It shakes it. Shaking breaks bones and fish spines making it easier and safer to swallow whole. It shakes all the other things it eats too. Shake it with that long neck and swallow it. Amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, including muskrats, insects and other birds. Great Blue Herons will also forage for food in fields. In a field they may find voles, gophers and more. These are Great Blue Heron food too.

Don’t compare this bird to humans. Just because it is large does not mean it is fearless. These words accurately describe Great Blue Herons: shy, reclusive, and cautious. The female in the photo did not want to fly. The male standing next to her immediately flew at my approach.

Great Blue Herons are water birds, big water birds. All living things need water. We agree on that. But this more than full-sized bird does not drink water. The water it needs for life is found in its food. While Great Blue Herons are found into the Central Canadian provinces during nesting season, they can be found year around from the mid to southern United States. Great Blue Herons frequent salt water areas. Salt water is not potable. The Great Blue Heron has no problem with thirst when life-giving water comes from its food.DSC_0109_2180sig - wp

Humans thirst too. There are two types of human thirst. The most well known is physical. The second is one which many humans are unaware. Some humans even choose to ignore or deny this thirst. The second thirst is spiritual. Miraculously, water-that’s H20, satisfies the physical need of every human. It works for a lifetime. Equally miraculous is the second water. This water works for eternity.

Every human soul has a God shaped space. Blaise Pascal explained this best when he said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”

Jesus is the living water. Only Jesus can fill the space open for God. Like a Great Blue Heron, you don’t drink this water. You believe. Nothing else can quench this thirst. Jesus explained it best. He said, “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

This is not great. It is vast. It is enormous. Imagine living water, unlimited life and it’s forever. You have room for it.DSC_0115sig - wp

 

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The Impossible Becomes Possible

 

 

 

 

Pick a bird. Which is your preferred feather carrier? (there are four shown)

Why only four? You will know soon enough.

Perhaps some facts will help in your decision.

DSC_0067_2069WPThe Cardinal would be a great choice. If you like brilliant red, the cardinal is your bird. Cardinals eat seeds, fruits and especially during nesting season, insects. They build a four-layer nest with twigs, followed by a leafy mat, that is covered with grape vine bark, and the final layer is grasses, fine roots, and pine needles. You may also choose the cardinal because of its song. Distinctively cardinal is the long string of clear down slurred two-part whistles.

Did you choose the Robin? Most of us think of the robin as the harbinger of spring. Their cheer filled song lifts our spirits. Because they are large and common, we see them often, especially on our lawns as they eat the earthworms they find there. They do eat worms and other insects but the robin is a mainly a fruit eater. Perhaps because they are common, you may choose robin.DSC_0046_2157wp

Maybe you have chosen the chickadee. Any resident of the north country soon comes to admire this little black and white dynamo-in January when the thermometer reads below zero. The chickadee seems unaffected by the cold. Its cheery song brightens each day. It is an omnivore like the robin and cardinal, so this may not help you decide. You may like the fact that every winter night, the chickadee goes in to a torpor. That means it can lower its pulse rate and its body temperature to conserve energy and survive bitter cold.DSC_0077_1966wp

My guess is you did not choose the American crow. Did you pass over the crow because of its all black plumage? Would it help if you knew the crow’s feathers shine in sunlight? Did you say no to the crow because it is large and its caws are loud and disturbing? The crow is an omnivore too. But then you may decide you don’t like the idea of it eating the eggs and young of other birds. Perhaps reminding you that the crow eats carrion does not help either. But, they are very social. They work together in raising their young, even older siblings, that includes offspring up to two years old.

We are not done with the crow. You did not choose it. Hold on one moment for one other fact. The American Crow is considered to be among the most intelligent birds on the planet. One source claimed the crow to be second only to humans in intelligence. Want to change your mind?DSC_0044_2155wp

Why only four birds?

This is about favoritism.

What is favoritism? You were asked to choose, your thoughts were directed, so you chose one over the other three. It’s very acceptable to all of us that you preferred one over the other three. Favoritism regarding your bird preference is your personal choice. It is ok to favor.

With birds we may choose one over the other. With others, any human, favoritism has no place. In the Bible, James, brother of Jesus, wrote the book of James. He is specific and direct about favoritism. He wrote, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1

Do you sense how quickly, how easily we show preference for one person over another? Return to the birds a moment. Think of how you made your choice. They are all birds. Yet you chose one-you desired that one more, you favored one.

Just a few verses later James reminds us why favoritism can have no part in human relationships. He reminds us that God’s royal law is for us to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” He adds, “But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” James 2:8-9

You say, “this is impossible!” I cannot overcome my weakness, I show favoritism constantly.” You are right. Favoritism is a universal human failure. But there is hope, always hope.

Once Jesus disciples questioned him about who could be saved? Do you know what Jesus answered them? “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26.

We have true hope. We can trust Jesus, he is the One who makes the impossible-possible.

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Either Way-You Win

Darkeyed Junco WPOne of my favorite birds is not a flashy multicolored wonder. Gray, black and white are considered ordinary. It is not a large bird. It does not fly at blazing speeds. Its beak is not curved or hooked. It does not have talons on its feet either. One more thing, it does not sing a spectacular song.

You are wondering. Why is this bird a favorite? What is it?

Stretch the suspense, go farther with me before you know.

This bird has been classified in the genus of American sparrows. Genus, that’s biology talk for family. Yes, I said it is in the sparrow family. Sparrows are common. Its 5 ½ to 6 inches long. Its size does not make it a favorite. Its wing span is a slight 7-9 inches. It is a ground bird seeking its food on the ground. 75% of its diet is composed of seeds. During nesting it adds protein from insects. Even more, during nesting season it nests in coniferous forests. But not in the trees, look for its nest on the ground.

It would be true to say this little sparrow sort of disappears for the summer. We said it is not flashy, and it is absent during the summer, it nests in the north in forests.  How could anyone find this bird delightful?

But it is delightful. The gray and black with white bars on their tails is actually beautiful. No need to be a flashy flier, they flit. It’s wonderful. Their beaks have perfect symmetry, the claws on their feet match the color of their body. And their color coordination is superb. What about that song? It’s a trill a bit like a Chipping Sparrow and similar to the Pine Warbler. A great pleasure comes from seeing a small flock of them feeding on the ground or perched on a branch.

Why a favorite? I get to see them Some of them spend winter in our backyard. They bring anytime joy to my birdbrain with their soft calls and deep color contrast with snow. Oh, you want to know what it is?

A Dark-eyed Junco is our bird star. Junco hyemalis for the biologists who are reading.

But Dark-eyed Juncos are a favorite of mine for another reason. It could be because they are in the sparrow family. It could be their quiet but pleasurable songs. It is true, black, and shades of gray can be eye appealing. The main reason these birds are favorites is they show me God.

John 20:31 tells us about the words written about Jesus in the Bible. It reads, “But, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The Bible gives us specific documentation about the life of Jesus. It identifies him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

The Dark-eyed Junco speaks of Jesus without words. The power of Jesus is seen in the Junco’s quiet life and how it lives through all seasons cold and warm. Jesus power is seen in this tiny 5-6-inch-long bird’s ability to safely locate a nest on the ground and know when to migrate northward safely. The fact that Jesus is divine, truly God, is heard when the Junco calls and when its black gray feathers contrast in exquisite beauty against white snow.

Want to see Jesus? There are two clear options, read the Bible, and watch the birds. Either way you win.

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Still Tending

Before leaving the Roman governor, he was flogged, and his skull was repeatedly pierced by thorns. He was in incalculable physical pain. He was mocked and struck repeatedly on the head…humiliation added to pain. Immeasurable sorrow filled his heart. He had always given love, patience, and healing. He loved them all.

 

They showed him hate. His heart was broken for them.

 
After leaving the Roman governor, the soldiers took over. They showed no sympathy. He said nothing. They put nails through his hands and feet. They dropped his cross in place. They had done these things many times. They were good at this job. Many others had been crucified at their hands.

 
There was one difference.

 
They had never crucified the Savior of the world before.

 
On the cross, incalculable pain unceasing He looked at his mother. He knew her pain, her future. He tended to her. He said, “Mother, see your new son.” To John he said, “This is your mother.”

 
Then he tended to our sins. He took care of them. He said, “It is finished.” He died.

 
But this was not the end.

 
He rose from the dead. He is taking care of us now. While you are reading, he is speaking with God about us. He is praying-for us. He is still tending our needs.

 
No one else can.

 

Therefore, he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25

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Everything That Matters is Here

 

Let’s take a walk.

Again? You ask. It seems we do this often.

We do.

It’s good for both of us. We’ll need a jacket, and another layer on your legs. When the temperature is below 40 degrees the air feels cold with a slight breeze from the south.

Let me tell you ahead of time; we’ll walk fast. There is a place down the road we need to get to before the light fades. Yes, the bulge under my jacket is my camera. Guess you figured that out because of the tripod in my left hand? DSC_0017_2044sig

I should tell you I have taken this walk many times before, and in every season. It came to me just now that this route has never been boring. Yes, I know my pace is fast, push yourself a little, your legs can do it.

Do you see the opening through the trees ahead? My eyes are always drawn across the water to the distant shore. Every time my eyes go there, skimming over the water. They pause at the tree line on that shore ¾ of a mile distant. They scan for deer. Truthfully, my eyes have scanned across the lake to that place every time we take this walk. There has never been a deer there. That won’t stop me from looking the next time.

Now we come to the east end of the lake. In all four seasons the view to the south across the water is beautiful. Many times, my legs quit moving here. A long gaze at the water, the trees, and the distant sky sometimes brings a sigh from inside. The beauty here stirs my heart.

Oh, we stopped this time too, didn’t we? It’s a habit when this spot comes up. Let me tell you another secret; sometimes my legs stop at this spot on the return trip too. The light is different then.

You got a moment to catch your breath. You should be ready for the next part. It’s going up the hill. We won’t stop, and for sure we won’t slow down. You’ll be breathing harder by the time we reach the top. It’s good for both of us.

There is another thing you should know.  Every time I take this walking route my question is, “What will be the surprise this time?” Remember this walking path is my preferred path. Yes, I walk it in every season. Did you know that I’ve walked this route for years? That’s a lot of surprises.

You don’t believe me, do you?

The surprises are not always big. Sometimes it’s the sparkle of sunlight on the water. Sometimes the fresh tracks of a white-tailed deer catch my eye. One early morning years ago in the dark, a Screech Owl called, a few days ago a Great Horned Owl flew away from me across the lake. Other times the smell of the earth and growing things makes this walk one to repeat. Oh, we are almost there. We’ll stop. We both will catch our breath.DSC_0034_2052sig

No need to talk.  We’ll look into the distance. Scan the trees at the far horizon, move your eyes across the distant hills. Let the beauty soak into your soul. Listen, can you hear mallard ducks calling from the corn stubble beyond? You say you see something moving? Here look through the viewfinder of my camera. Yes, those are deer. Listen, hear them? There were geese in that cornfield too. Can you see them just clearing the treetops in the distance?DSC_0053_2067sigDSC_0018_2045sig

Now, turn around. Isn’t the sunset beautiful?

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Everything that matters is here.

Romans 1:20 …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.

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Never Too Short

If you live in the northern hemisphere your tolerance of it is gone by March. Perhaps you were one of those who delighted in it last fall. In March you say, “enough.” As snow continues to fall our united hearts cry, “spring!”

Before snow and winter end, there is wisdom in remembering what snow is. It forms above our heads in air temperatures below 32 degrees. Call it a snowflake. It is actually a crystal. In each crystal, every water molecule is lined up in a precise hexagonal array. Now, a snowflake is any combination of exquisite snow crystals from fragments of crystals to hundreds, even thousands of crystals falling in clumps.DSC_0232_2018sig

We have heard it said, “no two crystals are alike.” This is the fantastic part. The formation of an intensely beautiful snow crystal is dependent upon these factors: temperature, humidity and path of travel. For every crystal, all three factors are slightly different. As each crystal forms and grows those three factors are the same for each of the six arms-but different for every other crystal.

This is the part that dazzles us. Have you given thought to how many snow crystals fall upon the surface of the earth in a winter season?  It’s one septillion. If you are interested in writing this number it is 1-with 24 zeros following it, don’t forget the commas…eight of them. What is dazzle doubled? Everyone of the one septillion crystals is different.DSC_0240_2021sig

This is the time of year we are delighted with another aspect of snow crystals. They melt.

Before we leave snow behind for this season, consider another truth. We can use snow for the example. How many things have you made that are alike but different? Certainly not 1 septillion. The snow crystal is one example in an infinite number of things all made by One Creator. God.

God controls temperature, humidity and yes, the path of every snow crystal. One more time-1 septillion paths. While each fell God also controlled the heart rate and respiration of every living creature on earth, including us. Simultaneously God coordinated sunrise and set, earth tides and the orbits of all nine major planets in our solar system. Not to mention all of the other unnamed events happening at the same time-in the universe.DSC_0244_2023sig

Does this seem too like an impossibility? Not when you remember omnipotent means all-powerful; unlimited all powerful. There is a verse in the Bible which is a metaphor describing the power of God. God is speaking to Moses about providing meat for over a million people. It reads, “The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” Numbers 11:23 It rained quail…read Numbers 23.

1 septillion snow crystals-in one winter. Quail falling from the sky by the thousands, enough to feed a million people. Perfect love for the whole world. Perfect never-changing love for you. A friend said today, “You can’t make this stuff up.”  One snow crystal is evidence of the power of God. 1 septillion snow crystals are overwhelming. God’s “arm” is never too short.

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The View from 1000 Feet

Altitude changes the human perspective.

Consider with me the subject of altitude, the height of an object above sea level. Sea level is the point at which the oceans exist when averaged between high and low tides. At sea level our eyes gaze at salt water and the vastness of an ocean. The Dead Sea is found at 1,312 feet below sea level. Mount Everest is 29,028 feet above the level of earth oceans. As we stand, our eye level view forms our life view. Much of how we think about life comes from our life long eye level point of view.

Every now and then it helps to have an altitude change, a physical lift above normal. Elevating our eyes with a variation of altitude can transform how we see the world. DSC_0098_1991sig

Recently, a thoughtful friend of mind invited me to fly with him. It was a small plane with four seats. They were small. He was careful in providing instructions; they included how to safely enter the cabin, buckling seatbelts and keep fresh air inside. He knew about air sickness. He did not mention it specifically. Rather, he said we would be in the air about a half hour. He knew. Before take off he said we would be flying at approximately 1000 feet in altitude. That’s 304.8 meters. Flying that day provided a fresh viewpoint of life on this earth. DSC_0103_1992sig

We flew over the community we call home. This is what the view from 1000 feet reminded me.

1.       Things I consider large on the ground become small at 1000 feet. An entire hospital fit in the viewfinder of my camera. A former workplace neatly fit in the same viewfinder.

2.       My earth-bound world is so small. At 1000 feet I could see the edge of the earth-the horizon. It was breathtaking.

3.       Hills I walk on were flattened. At eye level they cause me to breathe hard and strain my leg muscles. At 1000 feet they seemed to disappear.

4.       40 minutes later we landed. It was good to return to an eye level view of life. My stomach was queasy by then. My body is not made for extended views even at 1000 feet.DSC_0106_1975sig

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Since that beautiful afternoon above earth my mind has been on the “view at 1000 feet.”  

Another way of expressing the 4 statements above:  we see dimly. This is not my attempt to insult you. But, the truth is, our view of life and the world is shaped by a limited set of experiences.

We attempt to understand the trouble and heartache of this world from a small vantage point. It’s what we have. From this view, life often does not make sense, even from 1000 feet.

God sees the view from eternity.

While life viewed from our standpoint is limited, God sees all of life. He sees all of eternity. He sees the past and present. He sees far beyond the edge of the earth. With his eternity view he flattens the hills. No problem we have is too big for him. He knows about murder, sickness and deep human heart ache. He sees all with a view of eternity. He has made our hearts with a God shaped space for him. We live our lives with a limited human eye level view. There are hundreds of things we will never understand while we live on earth. God understands them all. Only he has the view of eternity.

In the Bible, God tells us this about his view of eternity. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

When your view of life and earth gives no answers, change your altitude.  Lift your eyes to God. Trust his power. Only God sees eternity. When life trials overwhelm and despair comes, tell God. He hears you. He loves you.DSC_0120_1976sig

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The Perfect Plan

 

 

 

It’s human, making plans for life.

Every day we organize: morning, noon and night,

Our ideas often end-up with strife…

Every plan temporary, their imperfections soon come to light.

 

The perfect everlasting plans of God stand;

His ways are not our ways.

Rock solid, His forever thoughts ceaseless, all grand;

Every purpose he has planned, his eternal power displays.DSC_0023_1936sig

 

But long before human thought occurred an absolute plan was made,

With infinite love and faultless forgiveness every sin was paid.

Jesus came to earth, the flawless plan of God,

God’s deliverance for all humans who ever walked earth’s sod.

(John 3:16)

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Goodness

Goodness has many aspects.

One of them is delightful. The change of seasons is good, actually delightful. Instead of being vertically oriented to the sun, the earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees toward the ecliptic of the sun. This also orients the earth to appear to move around the North Star. It is this slight tip from vertical which produces seasonal change. As the earth moves about the sun during the year, it causes seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres. For the northern hemisphere spring is the time when axial tilt moves the northern half of earth slightly closer to the radiant energy of the sun.DSC_0084_1920sig

Many things occur all because of this slight tip away from vertical. The season changes. Temperatures warm, snow melts, sap flows, plants begin growing, migration begins. These are big things. Little things are just as amazing. These are a part of the goodness of earth inhabitation.DSC_0081_1919sig

The little things of spring are part of what is splendid. As the northward movement of solar radiation increases snow melts. It begins on the south edges of the land. Snow melts from the base of tree trunks as solar power warms them. Because of increasing solar heat on the earth snow on the ground begins. Early snow melt creates intense beauty, excellent, superior, and splendid beauty. Lace like and crystal-clear ice compositions are formed. Framing the earth below, creating a crystal canopy, they change every day. They disappear in days.DSC_0058_1911sig

These little things reveal goodness. We seldom give them a second look. They teach us about goodness.

Another aspect of goodness is reliable. You can depend on it.  The goodness on my mind now is one which never fails. This goodness is completely, steadfast and always dependable.

This goodness is blameless. Before time began this goodness has been perfect. Into everlasting eternity this goodness will be faultless, impeccable, without flaw. That’s forever.DSC_0052_1908sig

We know that no human goodness could ever equal a goodness like this.

God is good. He is beyond our comprehension good. Read what He tells us about his goodness.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. Psalm 31:19

Do you see the word stored? God goodness beyond understanding. Stored means stockpiled in God’s warehouse. How big is that? How much is that?

Who is God’s goodness for?

You…me.

Read again how you receive it…come.

Spring reminds me of goodness, seen and stored.DSC_0043_1904sig

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Value in Stillness

Think with me about being still. If someone asks you to be still, what is your response? Is it stop moving? Still is opposite of move. Does still include speech? Are we still if we talking? Stillness is opposite motion. We’ve established two qualities of stillness. First, still is ending physical movement and second, closing our mouths. This is not an attempt to be unpleasant. We need the plain uncluttered truth about being still. There is a third quality of stillness. To be still is to quiet our thoughts. Our minds are full of thousands of thoughts. What we’ll do next, unfinished tasks, appointments, meetings, kids activities, sports, things we want. You understand. Still our minds, but not empty them. Stillness permits our minds to become focused.

Why be still? Someone asked me recently, why are there animals on earth? One reason, we can learn from them. We have an Eastern Cottontail rabbit in our backyard. It has perfected physical stillness.DSC_0026_1895sig

The Eastern Cottontail teaches us about physical stillness. Being still for a cottontail is essential to life. When most other living things eat you, being invisible in full view equals life. Biologists have discovered that only 20% of eastern cottontail survive their first year of life, that’s 8 in 10. Few cottontails live beyond their first year. Yet being a “freezer” enables a cottontail to live longer. Stillness brings life. 

Another favorite group of “freezers” are woodpeckers. All species are shy. Wary is a superior word. Even the largest, the pileated woodpecker is constantly alert for danger. Birds and mammals model the benefit of being still, without motion. It means life for them.DSC_0056_1864sigDSC_0031_1900sig

In contrast, most humans are constantly on the move. Personal calendars are full. We tell each other we multi-task. Who are we trying to dupe? Our physical bodies are not still. With physical motion our mouths and minds are engaged. Everything is moving. Why is this a problem? Life in our culture is “on the go.” Isn’t this the way to live?

These ideas are not mine. A shepherd, who spent 24/7 with sheep, wrote these words, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 A shepherd’s work was watching, being still. When the shepherd was still, there was time to think. Perhaps shepherds talk to sheep, not regularly. Body still, mind still, mouth closed, what happens?

God speaks. God has put each of us on a life journey. God. I am not the director of my life journey. Debate with me, but respectfully, truthfully, you are not either. Being still in body, mouth and mind brings us to a place where we can listen. It is not mental illness. When we are still God speaks. Invisible, all-powerful, everlasting, all-knowing God can easily speak to the human soul. It is simple, a shepherd directed by God gave us the way to hear God speak. Be still. Sit down, put your lips together, ask God to speak. You’ll be surprised.  You’ll discover where the absolute power is. There is real life in stillness. Need a model? Watch a cottontail.DSC_0007_1886sig

 

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One Purpose of Wind

What is wind? It is defined as a natural movement of air at any velocity. A wind has been blowing, blowing since yesterday. For more than 24 hours the wind has gusted. It has moved tree limbs and blustered around rooftops. This wind displays power. It does so with sound. It does so by moving fixed objects. The trees sway. The house creaks. It seems that it dies down. In minutes it returns with a rush that reminds me how small I am. This wind comes bringing a weather change. A winter storm is predicted. It is a wind bringing moisture. It will fall first as rain, then change to snow as temperatures drop below freezing.DSC_0111_1879sig

Praise comes with this wind.

It is God who sends all wind. This current stormy wind does what he directs it to. This wind is but a fraction of living and non-living things that do as God directs. There is a chorus of things, all praising God. Would you like the whole list? It can be summarized in one word: everything. The birds in the photos know how to use the wind. They are part of the chorus. In the chorus are the heavens, angels, sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, all other living things, lightning, snow, hail, kings of all nations, and young and old give praise to God.  If anything is missing, add your thought. Praise, worship, honor, glory devotion and adoration all belong to God.DSC_0056_1864sig

We lose sight of the greatest reason to praise God. It’s love. Love for you. Love for me. Neither of us deserve it. He gives us Jesus anyway.

Listen to the wind, give God the applause.

 

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, Psalm 148:7-9

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Done For You

How do you feel when someone asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” Do you break out a broad smile? Are you shocked? Possibly the cynic in you thinks, “finally.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” It’s like a signed blank check. It’s like someone opening a bank account-with your name on it. It’s not an everyday experience.

Hearing those words may leave you momentarily speechless. But in those moments without words you are already thinking of what you want

By know you may be thinking, “This is not as good as it seems. When someone says something like this there are limitations.

What if there were no limitations? What if the person asking you really meant it? The word “What?”  is open ended

What if that someone was God?

He has already asked it of you. There was a blind man. He was sitting by the road. Jesus was walking on it. The blind man shouted for Jesus to have mercy on him. Jesus asked him, “What is it you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) The man asked for his sight. Jesus gave it to him

But you say, “Jesus does not ask me what I want him to do for me.”

Are you sure? He has already “done” for you. You and I did not need to ask.

He wore a crown of thorns. He died on the cross. He said, “It is finished.”

“Finished” it’sDSC_0030_1658sig another word for do.

 

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Fullness

There were three of us. We had planned this before we closed our eyes in sleep the night before. We were going on an expedition. It would cross a lake and take us through thick woods. Our goal was to find signs of wildlife. To actually see wildlife would amaze us.

 

We knew the snow would be deep. More than 1 foot of new snow had fallen in the past week. It was soft and fluffy and the whitest of all whites.DSC_0005_1825sig

 

We ate a fantastic breakfast. We never talked about what we were doing afterwards. It was not hard to get my companions put on their winter gear. They were wired for adventure. They did not brush their teeth before we left. My fault, guess I was excited for this adventure too.

 

As we stepped outside the air was fresh, and cool. Can fresh air smell good? This air did. My steps are big when a distant goal is in mind. My adventure partners kept up with me although their strides are shorter. They made the expedition enjoyable in the beginning and all the way to the end.DSC_0008_1827sig

 

The first part of the expedition was on the street. The snow had been removed, walking was easy. When we came to the lake the snow was up to our calves. We crossed the lake sliding through powdery whiteness. We took turns in the lead. When we reached the woods, we paused and got quiet. Our goal was to walk silently. With more than a foot of fresh snow it was quite easy. At the top of the hill up from the lake we found fresh turkey tracks. We followed them for a distance until the turkey went a direction we did not want. There were places after that where the snow was up to our thighs and almost up to my partner’s waists.

 

An expedition is a journey with a purpose. One of our goals was to walk to the river through the woods. We made it. My partners legs were much shorter, but their muscles were much younger. We walked through thick woods, down small hills and up steep ones. We admired the morning. We admired the trees especially a massive spreading Red Oak. Never once did my expedition partners complain they were tired. We walked over 2 miles, most of it through a foot of fresh snow. It was completely worth every step.DSC_0011_1828sig

 

Why? First there was companionship. When people experience a walk outside together the shared experience builds bonds. These bonds are strengthened by the visual memories of the beauty in nature. My partners and I will remember being together and some details from this hike with a purpose for the rest of our lives. Second, there is health. Our expedition this morning improved our physical wellbeing, reducing our blood pressures, heart rates, reducing my muscle tension ( I don’t think my partners have any), and even the reduction of stress hormones. Our cardiovascular health was  improved. We walked for about 90 minutes in the cleanest air among great winter beauty.DSC_0020_1831sig

 

You may wonder how it is that a walk outside is so healthy for anyone who does it. There is a depth to exercise outdoors that cannot be matched by indoor exercise. Indoor exercise has proven health benefits. But the benefits of time outside are greater. Time outside refreshes the soul.  Consider the words of the Psalmist. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5 Knowing the earth is full of the unfailing love of God makes it easier to understand why time outside gives us health and peace. Consider these synonyms for full: complete, filled, and bursting. The earth is full of what? The unfailing love of God. The earth bursts with it. You sense it if you go outside. Perhaps that is why the fresh air smells so good. My partners and I found it today.DSC_0024_1834sig

 

It makes me want to go outside again tomorrow.DSC_0031_1837sig

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What is Your Plan?

Plans… we have them. We make them. They are things we intend. Plans are the ideas in our heads. Some are things we aim to complete. Some plans may have the flavor of a scheme. And since we are human there may be intrigue in them.

 

With every new day ideas fill our minds. Plans order our day. We follow plans. We write them down. Some plans are brief, get the mail, read a book. Other plans take on massive proportions. Plans to order an organization which become policies take thousands of words to express. Government plans may possibly be the most detailed, sometimes convoluted and confusing and filled with charts and tables.

 

What are your plans for today?

 

Have you completed them? Perhaps your plans have caused you frustration. What you intended has not happened. Someone close to you has done something to interrupt or block them. Perhaps you changed your plans realizing they were selfish. That’s hard.

 

Do birds and animals have plans? How about plants and things without internal skeletons-invertebrates?DSC_0127_1771sig

Have you ever seen the plan of a chickadee? Does it plan to increase the number of feathers on its body for winter? Does water have a plan? Does it plan to freeze when the air temperature reaches 32 degrees F or 0 degrees Celsius?  What about the sun or moon? Do they have plans to rise and set? You say, that’s foolishness. No bird or animal has ever planned. The sun and moon just rise and set, they follow the physical laws of nature.DSC_0041edsig

The physical laws of nature are a plan. The behavior of water freezing at 32 or 0 degrees follows a plan. The chickadee living its daily life follows a plan. The entire earth follows a plan. Our plans are puny, feeble and stunted compared to these plans.DSC_0106_495sig

The laws of nature are God’s plans. God knows your plans. They are not insignificant to him either. The Creator of the universe knows what you intend, what is your heart’s desire. His plans include you. In his word the Bible God said this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah  29:11DSC_0178_828sig

You know our plans fail and fall apart. The plans of God never do. When you seek him and call on him, he listens. He has a plan. What is it? That you find him! What if your plan was to follow his?

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Winter

DSC_0174_1803sigWinter… season of freezing air, pure white snow, deep silence, and breathtaking beauty.

A time opposite summer’s warmth.

Season of sparkling crystals, and snow frosted limbs.

Winter… time of unimaginable snow sculpture, shaped by icy wind.

Months of plant dormancy and hibernation, the land at rest. DSC_0188_1810sig

Winter… a period between fall and spring.

No air is colder more fresh than winter air, no other season forms thicker ice. 

The origin of winter, the source of its power?

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 GOD

 Too simple? Explain omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.

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It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:17DSC_0164_1799sig

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Uncommon, Never Common

This is not a riddle. It is not a trick question. What do a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis ) have in common? If you knew that being birds with feathers and all the bird characteristics was not the answer you will still find multiple answers.

Here are four.

First, a common life element for these birds is winter. All three live in blood and muscle freezing temperatures day and night; for months. Snowstorms, freezing rain even blizzards are a part of their winter. In this frozen world some do not survive. They become food and soil in the ecosystem. Yet, most remain active and very alive.

We can be grateful they respond to our attempts to provide them with food and water. This is the second common element for them. Each of these birds and their spring and summer mate benefits from food and water provided by those who walk upright and live in houses. We get to observe them and find joy and delight in them when we keep feeders and bird water basins filled. It could be truthfully stated that watching birds in winter is health giving.DSC_0141_1776sig

That brings us to a third common element shared by these three birds. It thrills me. These three species and the many others who come to winter feeders reveal something else; the power and divine nature of God who created them. A bird, whether in winter or any other season is a living testimony of God. Paul, the Apostle wrote the book of Romans in the Bible. In the first chapter Paul, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit wrote these words, “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.” Romans 1:20

Can we really see the power and divine nature of God in a bird? Yes. This is number four, when common is uncommon. Consider the proof: flight, eggs, feathers-in color, song, and migration-young birds fly to wintering areas, without their parents. This does not include how all three of these birds have built-in ways to survive a below zero winter night. There is nothing ordinary about a bird, whether it overwinters in place as these three, or migrates. We see them every day. We often consider things we can see regularly to be common, not important enough for another look. But, in truth, there is nothing common about them. The power and divine nature of God is present in each.

Three birds, three witnesses of God, the eternal, all-powerful Creator who loves you and me. Consider the birds of the air.DSC_0144_1785sig

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3 Miracles of Gravity

Here are three miracles for you.

 

Trumpeter swans and geese on the water. They are grace, majesty, and beauty coated in feathers. Why was it possible to photograph them yesterday? Go to the root of this question with me. Birds and all other physical objects remain on earth because of a force. Gravity is the answer this question.

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What is gravity? It is a force. Like a longer explanation? It is a force by which a planet or other object draws objects toward its center. Gravity is a phenomenon of nature. Interested in a first-hand gravity experience? Try jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Where there is matter, there is gravity. Gravity keeps the birds in the photos on water. For that matter, you and I on earth. It is gravity that keeps celestial objects arranged and in orbit.

 

What is gravity? Peel away everything we know about it and we come to this statement: We don’t know. What? In our modern, technology, information age we don’t know? That’s right, we do not know. We only know how it operates, how it behaves.

If we don’t know what it is, do we need it?

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Think about life with no gravity. There would be no swans, no geese. Sadly, no birds at all. All birds would drift into space. Without gravity all life on earth would drift into space, including humans. But, without gravity we could not live on earth. The two most important things for life would drift into space. Earth would have no atmosphere, and no water without gravity. Imagine, earth without gravity, actually you can’t. No birds would be a minor issue.

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Gravity is a natural phenomenon we cannot see. The invisible force of gravity means life on earth. Explain it how you wish, in the end miracle is best. This is number one.

The trumpeter swans and the geese point us to a second miracle. Birds are anti-gravity miracles. Birds overcome gravity through an anti-gravity force called lift. Further, birds have hollow bones. The body shape and their center of gravity is where most muscles and organs are located enables them to overcome this force. Birds are made to fly. From their eyes, to their blood, hearts and lungs birds are made to defy the invisible force of gravity. If birds did not have the ability to fly from creation, would there be birds at all? Imagine birds trying to learn to fly. They would die. Some would be injured, then eaten by predators, the rest would die in the attempt. It would be death by gravity.  Only God, who made gravity, would know how to make a creation that defies it. Make birds miracle two.

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Miracle three is that gravity is evidence of love. The love of God is made clear when we drop a newspaper to the floor. Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) is credited with the discovery of gravity. He said, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.” And perhaps it was his study of gravity which prompted him to say these words, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

Why can’t we know everything? Why is gravity beyond human comprehension? Because we aren’t God. God reminded Job of this fact. God said, “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” Job 38:33   Honestly, though we try, Job was not the only human who could not set up God’s dominion over the earth.

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Why is gravity evidence of God’s love? It gives us physical life on earth. God is love. He not only provides gravity for life. God provides eternal life through Jesus who died for our sins. Discover this love yourself, read John 3:16, watch a swan or a bird.

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Real Power

Power. We like to have it; power over others, for control, and a sense of safety and satisfaction.  We even view it as comfort. At times we resent others who have power. That means they can direct our choices. Because it seems they have more privilege we may be envious.

Power, as in control, authority, rule and dominance is what most humans strive for. When we have some power, we want more. This is a characteristic of power. We recognize power in humans who have it. These individuals have control and ability to use it.

We are not skilled in understanding power we cannot see. The greatest power of all is invisible to us now.  Yet we humans demand evidence. To believe it, we must see it.

We’ll use a bird to provide evidence of unseen power. This bird is my favorite example for demonstrating unseen power. Watch this bird; see the power. It is the chickadee that is a superb model of unseen power.DSC_0023_1697sig

The average chickadee weighs .3 to .5 ounces. One half an ounce or less, this is a lightweight. Its wingspan is from 6 to 8 inches. This smaller than a sparrow bird is a year around resident in northern climates from the central United States to as far north as the Yukon in northern Canada. Temperatures in these regions range below zero F for days, even weeks. How does the heart of a chickadee keep a body of ½ ounce from freezing? There are a number of significant factors. We can call them elements of power. Here are four:

+Feathers…during fall the chickadee will add 25% more feathers.

+A daytime body temperature of 100+ degrees F.

+Nighttime body temperature lowers from 14-20 degrees, the bird enters a torpor-call it nightly hibernation.

+A very high daytime metabolism requires all day feeding. In fall while adding feathers, a chickadee’s brain sluffs off last year’s neurons and adds new ones to increase memory and remember seeds it has cached during warm months for winter survival.

 

But the chickadee is not the only example of unseen power. Similar elements of power are actually found in all birds that are year-round residents of the northern climates of the world. Pull on the threads of these elements with me. Where does each thread lead us? As we follow them we will find all of them leading to one mutual source. God is the source of this power.

 

What difference does it make to know the source of unseen, real everlasting power?

 

We humans have another need, its peace of mind. If we are honest, the world is out of control. Murders, crime upon crime, lying, mistrust, sickness and bad things happen daily. Fear steals into our lives, we feel powerless, at risk. We long for peace in our hearts and minds. Actually, it seems that if there is a God, he has no power. If God existed and was all-powerful none of these power robbing events in the world would happen.

 

Sin exists too. Sin is the cause of a world out of control, the source of powerlessness. Sin entered the world through one man-Adam. With sin came the greatest power thief-death. Neither you nor I truthfully could say we welcome death. There is no human living who has power over death.

 

The Creator of the chickadee is the only one with death defeating power. Through another man, the Son of God, Jesus, came life-everlasting. Love is the power that overcomes death. God is love. He loves both of us. Romans 5:8 tells us this, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”DSC_0033_1706sig

 

Power to create bird that can overcome the frozen severities of northern winters is magnificent-beyond comprehension. But power over life ending death belongs to only one: Jesus. This is the ultimate, true power. Believe this and eternal life is your gift from God.

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He Sees

What does it mean to see something? We could say we understand or comprehend. Perhaps we might say, “I get it.” When we “see” something we realize it. To see is to perceive or grasp an idea. But the most basic meaning of to see could be expressed in the words observe and notice. To see means both to understand in our minds and observe with our eyes.

DSC_0002_1640sigA photographer must be able to “see.” A photo worthy subject might appeal because it’s rarely seen. Great nature photographers are able to position themselves in places to obtain unusual photos of wildlife. This requires not only ability to use a sophisticated camera, but knowledge of wildlife behavior. It also requires exceptional patience. Some nature photographers learn to see the beauty found everywhere in nature.

DSC_0013_1647sigOne of my favorite things to do with a camera comes while sitting down outside in a wild place. My objective is to find photo worthy subjects while sitting in one place. This takes time. Our minds and eyes need to begin to work in tandem. Using our mind and our perceived sense of the beautiful does not happen instantly. This takes concentration. Sitting in one place allows mind and eyes to work together. Our normal practice is to use our eyes to enable us to move from place to place while outside. Sitting still allows our minds to process the beauty around us. In a wild place there are thousands of beautiful things. We are accustomed to only seeing the big obvious things. The bright color of a Rooster Pheasant on snowy ground is an instant eye catcher.

DSC_0040_1663sigBut beauty is also found in nature details. A single leaf contrasted by white snow. The green of lichen on a background of white. Shadows on a bright winter’s day and a winding track of a deer mouse are beautiful. So are the convoluted chunks of ice thrown up by the river current beneath them. Sunlight on the bark of aspen trees on a bright winter day draws the eye. Dark limbs frosted with white snow are beautiful. To see these things requires stillness. It requires a mind actively seeking the silent beauty found in nature details. It takes time for nature photographers who capture the beauty of nature details to develop the skills to see.DSC_0064_1686sig.jpg

Our subject has been seeing, to observe and understand. What does it mean to you to know that God sees us? What does it mean to know God understands our minds and hearts? How wonderful, he not only sees us, he comprehends who we are. No human can understand you as God does.  He has seen you since before you were born. He saw you in your mother’s womb. He not only saw you, he formed you. He “knit” you together. All of your days were written in his book before you were born. God sees you. He knows when you rise and when you sit. His mind actively seeks you, but he does not need the practice to see you like a photographer. He sees you perfectly every moment of your existence.

Is God’s intent for harm or good? Relax, he sees you because he loves you. The Psalmist wrote from experience. He said, “The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It is delightful to see the work of a photographer who sees the beauty of nature. It is life changing to know eternal, everywhere present, all-knowing God not only sees us, he knows all about us. Every problem, every hurt, each fear and every sad moment God sees it all. The one who made all beauty in nature protects and saves us. True beauty lies in this.DSC_0030_1658sig

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The Real Super

The Real Super

Recently many have super things on their mind. What is super? The synonyms for super richly deepen our understanding. Super is wonderful, fantastic, great and marvelous. Super is tremendous, splendid, terrific superb and brilliant.

Second question, what is more than super? More than wonderful, great, terrific and brilliant. Above is synonymous with more. Above is our clue to what is more than super.

DSC_0133_1635sigGod is more than super. He is literally and figuratively above all things. We see evidence of the presence of God on the earth he created in small things that are min-super. This week two birds came for a drink at our bird water basin. The Downy Woodpecker and the House Sparrow are marvelous examples of the power and divine nature of God. These birds have the ability to fly. It is a miracle, the combination of feathers, lightweight hollow bones, and muscles for flight, that God has put in these two birds. Their calls and presence among us reveals a part of the divine nature of God. Birds are one of God’s gifts to us…one super.DSC_0128_1633sig

The moon is second super. Last month there were two full moons. The photo is of the second full moon in the month. The second full moon in a month is called a “blue moon” because full moons seldom occur twice in the same month. The photo was taken about an hour after the moon had risen. Light snow had fallen hours before and there were thin clouds still moving eastward. They made the moon seem hazy. The next morning this very moon was eclipsed as the earth moved between it and the sun. This moon was also one of three consecutive “super” full moons. Super moons are more brilliant than regular full moons. They occur when the moon being full coincides with it being close to the earth. If we have been paying attention to the moon recently our eyes have been provided with much beauty. Wonderful is a better description than super.

What is the real super? It is what we take for granted. Every breath, each heart-beat, health and an almost infinite number of daily gifts provided by God. We take the provisions of Almighty God for granted. We can. He allows it. These daily gifts are a boundless super. To put this truth in perspective we need to read the words of a man whose name was Elihu. He was a contemporary of Job, a man who has a book of the Bible named after him. Elihu reminded Job of the greatest super: God is always present and His power keeps us and the earth functioning according to the will of God. Elihu reminded Job this way, “If God were to take back his spirit and withdraw his breath, all life would cease, and humanity would turn again to dust.” Job 34:14-15

On this day when super is on our minds, it is right to give thanks and be reminded of what is really “super.”DSC_0135_1636sig

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Snowflake

We are like snowflakes.DSC_0147_1601sig

Call it a snowflake, but crystal is a superior name,

nothing is common about them, like frozen miracles.

Formed ½ to 3 miles feet above the earth,

a droplet of water, a speck of dust or salt.

Unseen by any human eye till just before it reaches land.

The central crystal adds 6 crystal arms on its trip to soil.

Each crystal arm forms according to the God arranged order of the water molecule which establishes them. In perfect conditions their symmetry is breathtaking.

All crystals travel a different path to earth.

No crystal is alike-ever, in all of history, this winter and any future winter, not even one image the same.

Sturdy for the long fall to earth, delicate, intricate, elaborate, and infused with breath taking beauty.

It may be called snow, but this word is too common, too ordinary.

How are we like snowflakes?DSC_0142sig

Call us embryo, but baby is a superior term.

We began life as babies.  Miracle is the best description.

Each of us was formed unseen at conception in the womb. Unnoticed by human eye.

Growing quickly adding incomprehensible and magnificent body systems. Every part miraculous, symmetrically breathtaking.

Our development followed a God set order-our DNA.

Like a snow crystal,

there is no other human exactly like you, not one.

Every human is sturdy for a long life on earth, but delicate, elaborate and infused with breath taking beauty, like a snow crystal.

Yes, call us human.

But separate from lifeless snow crystals for we are made in the living image of God.

Snow crystals melt within the season of their formation,
The human soul is eternal.

So, God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27DSC_0149_1603sig

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A Bump on a Log

Bumps on logs intrigue me. To be technical immediately, these bumps are burls. Find them on limbs and trunks of trees. Burls are formed from changes in the growth hormones of the tree. These changes occur from a number of factors. They originate from bacteria, a virus, a fungus, or even an insect.  The most common bacteria responsible for most burls is the crown gall bacterium. Scientists have discovered that crown gall bacterium carries with it extra DNA identified as plasmid. It causes the tree to produce extra amino acids and new growth regulators which cause the burl to grow. The burl appears be the preferred habitat for the bacterium. It is remarkable that the bacterium which begins the burl has usually disappeared long before the burl becomes large.

DSC_0066_1553sigA burl on a log appears useless. It does not move, its inactive, it breaks the uniformity of the tree trunk or limb on which it grows. On the outside is seems useless. The surface appearance of a burl does not fit the contour of the trunk or limb it grows on.  A derogatory statement about people relates to the burl. Know that being referred to as a “bump on a log” is not positive. It means you are not contributing, even worthless. Being a bump on a log suggests a laziness of heart, mind or body. There are few times in life when being a bump/burl on a log is a good thing.

Yet, the dense wood of burls may have great value to woodworkers. The wood grain found in burls is twisted and contorted. Its deformed nature creates a grain woodworkers call “figure.” Normally grained wood generally follows parallel lines. The grain of a burl is comparable to a ball of twine, twisted and wrapped together. Beautifully crafted pieces of art, furniture and sculpture are created from tree burls. Large burls have significant value. Because of this, the theft of burls on trees in parks and private property occurs. While a burl remains on the tree there is little damage. When a burl is removed disease is more likely to follow.

Burls teach us a spiritual lesson. Humans get burls. You can not see them on the outside as on trees. Inside every human there are “burls”. We are born with them. They are not benign. In trees burls are caused by bacteria. The bacteria in humans is sin. It is not a topic any of us enjoy being reminded of. Human burls cause jealousy, envy, striving and contention with others. Human burls are the cause of wars, murder, and sorrow and grief of all kinds. Whether we are willing to acknowledge sin in the life of every human, it exists. It is the unseen “burl.” In contrast to tree burls, human sin is deadly. Unless sin is dealt with sin in the life of a human condemns all to righteous judgement-from God.

Sin “burls” in the human heart are terminal.

Just as a burl can be turned into something of beautiful by a skilled carpenter, there is a way to turn the burl of sin to something beautiful, something perfect. All it takes is a Master. Jesus is that Master. As a boy and young man, he learned to work with wood. He was a carpenter. I have a friend who calls Jesus “the big carpenter.”  We do not need his carpentry skills here. The sacrificial death of this Carpenter gives every human who believes in him permanent “burl” removal. The blood of Jesus cleans the “burl causing bacteria” of sin from every human. The Psalmist knew how to be cleaned of sin. In Psalm 51:2 we read, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Only Jesus, “the Big Carpenter” can do that. He takes our sinful burls and turns them into a beautiful work of art, a human no longer sentenced to death, but cleaned of sin.

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Wonder Doubled

Exclamation, we know it as strong feeling. We use a mark to show it! One! is strong. Double that, does this indicate double strong feeling? What is double strong feeling? Perhaps more emotion, more passion? We know strong emotions walk with strong feelings. Perhaps they are the same. Passion found in strong feeling forms a feeling trio.

This is about strong excitement, great enthusiasm, and delight. This is about fervent emotion…doubled. To understand we will use two words: fathom and miracle. Fathom as in understand and comprehend. Miracle, the same as marvel and phenomenon.

You know there are miracles. We can find them in everywhere in nature.DSC_0073_1562sig A sunrise is an obvious place to begin. It is a phenomenon every human can witness daily on clear mornings. Astronauts aboard the International Space station witness nearly 15 sunrises in 24 hours. Because we could witness a sunrise multiple times each week, it does not seem significant. Light 8.3 minutes old streaming to earth from 93,000,000 miles distant is a marvel. Sunlight is radiant heat and bright light. Life giving vitamin D is in sunlight. Sunlight drives the entire earth process of photosynthesis. Our ability to witness a sunrise heralds a daily miracle Honestly, it is a phenomenon beyond human comprehension. This alone is double strong feeling, emotion, and passion.

Only one more example…hearts. One of my favorite birds, the Black-capped Chickadee has an astonishing heart. In daytime activity this tiny feathered dynamo has a heart rate of 2,000 beats per minute. There are three zeros after the 2. Beyond belief, 2,000 beats in 60 quick seconds. During the day it can feed constantly, not at night. How does a tiny bird survive northern climate nights where temperatures often reach -20F  (-28C)? Slow the heart rate…begin a nightly torpor, an overnight hibernation. At night a chickadee is able to slow its heart rate to 500 beats, that’s easy math 75% slower at night. Along with a vastly slower heartrate its body temperature lowers 20 degrees. Take a breath. This is unfathomable it is phenomenal in epic proportion. Make it double emotion. What makes your heart beat?

Now consider this. To put this in proper perspective we must turn to God. We read this in the Bible: “The Word of God is living, and active…”Hebrews 4:12 This truth is the foundation of the two miracles and the phenomenon they bring us, and infinitely more.

Remember what we began with, emotion, miracles, and phenomenon, doubled. In the Living Word of God, the book of Job there are two verses that read exactly the same. Word for word the same, all 12 of them.  12 words are repeated twice, a message doubled. Think about the significance of God repeating himself. Eternal, almighty, all-knowing, everywhere present God intentionally repeats this message of 12 words. Here are the words: “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Two verses, Job 5:9 AND Job 9:10  exactly the same.

When God repeats himself, listen.

Your turn, apply these words to your life now. God performs wonders and miracles, for you and no one can count them. Can you hear God shout? He’s not angry, he loves us . He reminds us twice in a dozen words. What is his greatest wonder, his most profound miracle? Jesus, the one who died for our sins. No human can fathom such love. It is the greatest exclamation the world has ever heard.DSC_0093_1404sig

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He Notices

What if your name was Tinder Polypore, Tinder fungus, Hoof Fungus, Tinder Conk and even Ice Man? There might be one for me, but Ice Man? Not possible. These names won’t work for any of us. They work superbly for a fungus that grows on the birch tree. Tinder Conk works best. As you examine the photos you may say, “it looks like a horse’s hoof”-then use Hoof Fungus. By now you are wondering why the word tinder is used. The history of this fungus has involved people much more in the past than this current century. In human history the preservation of fire was related to life. Tinder Cork can be used as an exceptional fire starter. With a hole in the center of Tinder Cork fungus, a glowing ember can be carried great distances. Tinder, it is like kindling. Tinder starts fires-easily.DSC_0093_1577sig

We understand tinder and hoof, but Ice Man? This one is good. Calling it Ice Man fungus takes us back in earth history about 5,300 years ago. In 1991 hikers in a northern province in Italy, South Tyrol, discovered a man frozen in a glacier. He was nick named “Ice Man”. Significant discoveries about life millennia ago were made. Ice Man was carrying 4 pieces of Tinder Conk.

A polypore fungus is a large group of mushrooms with spores held in tubes on the underside of the fungus. They are decomposers of wood. When a polypore fungus appears on a living tree the life of that tree is limited. Fungus like Tinder cork provide many benefits in a forest. Two of them are decomposition and recycling of nutrients. Many fungi have medicinal qualities, some are edible, some are highly poisonous. Scientists believe there are about 1.5 million species of fungi. Less than 5% of these species have been described. We are touching upon a great mystery when we examine and appreciate fungus. They are worth finding simply for their beauty. (For more on fungi go to this link: https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs79.pdf )DSC_0096_1579sig

You may have never seen a Tinder Conk. Ok. Perhaps noticing fungus is not part of your daily routine. Most people do not. Fungus is generally out of sight, its role in nature unnoticed. Perhaps the only fungus we notice is when it grows on a toenail.

Thinking about fungus is a worthy pastime for us, really. One characteristic of fungus is how little it’s noticed. For all it does in nature it is highly underrated. Perhaps after hearing about fungus you find you feel like one. Do you ever feel unnoticed? Ever feel that no one even knows you are alive? How does that feel? It’s not good. Sometimes we can feel like a fungus. No one ever notices. We even said that we know less that 5% of the world’s fungus. Perhaps you feel that way, people notice you less than 5% of the time.DSC_0100_1582sig

But you are noticed. God made every one of the 1.5 million fungi. God made you. He knows about every fungus. He knows the number of hairs on your head. God knows more about you than you know yourself. Jesus said, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7 Are you astonished? That would be a worthy response. Perhaps know the hairs on your head is not enough for you. The writer of Psalm 139 knew this about 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.” How is that for being noticed? Before your body was formed in your mother’s womb-God SAW you. Impossible you say? A quick reminder for you God is all-knowing. Nothing is impossible for God.

There is a third evidence that you are noticed. It’s your name. None of us are named after a fungus. But we all have a name. It is personal and identifies who we are. God notices you and he knows your name.

In John 10:3b we read these words… “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” No fear about being referred to as a sheep. Jesus calls himself a shepherd. It works. The point is God knows your name. He notices, and he knows you…even your secrets.

When you lay your head on your pillow tonight, say to yourself, “God knows me. He notices me.” What is the most important truth? The maker of fungus made you…and, here it is-He loves you. You are loved, and noticed by the ONE who matters most.DSC_0102_1584sig

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He Throws the Spear

He Throws a Spear (before you read this, read “A Spear in His Hand”)DSC_0010ed

He looked at the spear. He nervously swallowed. Then he lowered himself onto the spearing stool. He looked at grandpa, still holding the spear. Boone reached out his hand for the spear. It was heavier than he remembered, and he had carried it to the spear house. In his bare hand he felt the cold of the long steel handle. He took a deep breath and set the spear tines on the edge of the hole. The handle rested on his shoulder.

His eyes began to sweep the edges of the hole for a first view of a northern.

Pastor Andrew reached for the string holding the decoy. He said, “Ready Mr. Boone?” Boone could only nod. He was already focused on the activity below him in the water. He counted 6 sunfish around the edges. With a slight lean to the right he could see a bass and 3 more sunfish at the far-left edge of the hole. He would be alert for a change in this picture. Pastor Andrew pulled the decoy string. It went swimming in a circle beneath them, once, twice, three times and then Pastor Andrew released the string. The decoy swam more slowly and soon it stopped suspended in the center of the hole.

Boone knew that the movement of the decoy would be quickly picked up by any northern close by. He began to scan the edges. He watched for a change in the picture below him. The sunfish swam in closer to the decoy, first the 6 then the 3. The bass swam under the decoy and out of the hole on his right. He scanned back to the left and saw the nose of a fish. But as he watched he realized it was another sunfish. He took a silent breath, a false alarm.

Pastor Andrew broke the silence. “One could not find a better way to spend an afternoon than this,” he said. Though it was too dark to see, Boone could feel the smile on Pastor Andrew’s face. Softly Boone replied, “I agree.”  As he spoke the word agree, Boone saw something in the right corner of the hole. His boot was pointed toward the large dark green nose of a northern pike. Boone held his breath. Slowly, and silently, he lifted the spear and held it above the water. The fish would need to swim into the hole further in order for Boone to have a chance to spear it. Pastor Andrew rolled the decoy string between his thumb and forefinger. The decoy’s head moved slightly away from the northern.

As Boone watched the fish swam nearly up to the decoy. Now it was in full view, except the whole fish did not fit in the hole. Boone heard grandpa whisper, “big.” In the same instant, he heard Pastor Andrew whisper, “uh-huh it is. You can drop the spear on it now Boone.” He added. Silently Boone moved the spear to just behind the head of the big fish. Then he slowly lowered the spear into the water. Boone knew if the spear splashed into the water the fish would swim away. He had remembered what Pastor Andrew had said earlier.

With the spear just behind the head of the fish and partly into the water, Boone let the spear drop. Its weight quickly carried it toward the fish. Then the water below them began to churn. Boone saw a white flash, “fish belly,” he thought. Then he pulled on the string attached to the spear. The weight of the fish nearly pulled the string from his hand. With his other hand he reached for the end of the spear as it came up. Holding the spear was like holding a bucking horse. He put the other hand on the spear too and pulled the fish up. Boone thought the hardest part was over. He was wrong.

As the big fish was lifted up out of the water it began to flop its head and tail back and forth. Water splashed on all of them. The body of the fish slammed into the sides of the spear house. Suddenly, things were crazy in that tiny house. All Boone could do was hold on. He was not going to let this one go. Then he felt another hand on the spear. Grandpa had reached in to help. Together they lifted the crashing big fish toward the door. Pastor Andrew was already reaching around to get it open. When they laid it on the ice it gave a might heave and wrenched the spear out of their hands. The spear banged against the door of the house. Boone was off his stool in a second. On his way out of the door he barely managed to grab the spear handle and push the tines into the ice. The big fish was pinned. Suddenly Pastor Andrew was by his side. He said, “Boone, I got it now.”

Moments later the big fish had been subdued and measured. As Boone lifted the heavy fish to the pail, Pastor Andrew’s joyful voice announced, “it’s a 7 pounder!” Boone felt hands slapping on his back. As he looked into their faces he saw the two older men grinning at him. Grandpa came close and put an arm around his shoulder. “I’m proud of you Boone! Now before you put your fish in the pail, we have a few photos to take.” Bone could feel the smile creep across his face. He knew he liked fishing, but spearing was even better, it was marvelous. He looked over to Pastor Andrew. “Pastor Andrew, this was fantastic!” he whispered.

 

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Striving, Stillness, Peace

Yesterday a wordless reminder was impressed upon me. In words, it is for you today.

Three words focus our attention: striving, still, peace.

The order is important.

First striving. Synonyms for striving are struggling, trying, going all out, and my favorite: pulling out all the stops. When thinking of striving the word struggle seems most appropriate for our lives today. If circumstances and events in life do not cause struggle for us, we are adept at making life a struggle. Another description for striving comes from the term “multi-tasking.” Truthfully, no one can do two things at once. Multi-tasking is striving in disguise. Perhaps we live in the most advanced civilization in world history but we are overwhelmed with striving.

Does it matter?

In our hearts, we all know it does.

The wordless reminder was impressed upon me during a walk in a wild place yesterday. My goal: photograph something wild, exciting, something to cause you to say, “Wow!” Instead, my eyes and ears were met with stillness. Instead of “wow”, peace and quiet were given me. This place was so quiet. It was so still. It was deeply peaceful. The Psalmist reminds us of God’s instructions in Psalm 46:10 these words are written, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”DSC_0012_1536sig

Still. The opposite of striving. What if multi-tasking keeps us from living life well? What if all our striving is misdirected? The wisest man in the world once wrote these words, “What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22

There is a by-product of stillness. Something good and desirable happens when we stop striving. Peace comes. Isaiah the prophet of God wrote these words many centuries ago, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 We strive and struggle to live life, seldom allowing even a spare moment of quietness or stillness. We become focused on earthly life. In stillness we can remember the Creator of all life.

Here are those three words again. Striving, stillness and peace. Consider these words a life course adjustment. These words are for me too.

Enjoy the photos. Take some quiet deep breaths. As you view these pictures from a quiet place, stop rushing, striving. In the stillness know that God loves you. Jesus died for you. You are in the eternal hands of God.

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Opportunity for Great Joy

 

What trials are you facing today? Not court proceedings or legal things, what ordeals and hardships make your life hard to bear? You may be facing one or more life trials right now. Life trials bring us pain and suffering. They bring us distress. None of us want them. Yet, if you are drawing breaths, if you are reading these words you know life brings troubles. If you are not in a life trial now, you also know one is coming, likely soon.

What if we could consider life trials as opportunities? No, my sanity is intact. The idea that a trial in life is really an opportunity is not mine. One with infinite wisdom is the originator of the idea that trials in life are a chance for joy. There is an example we could consider.

To begin think about shyness. Call it a fear of people. Perhaps shyness around others is one of your life trials. Our example is a bird. A very shy bird around people. This bird is large, but shy. It would seem that being large would eliminate shyness. For the Pileated Woodpecker shyness is safety. Shyness for this bird is not a trial or trouble, it is an opportunity for protection. Shyness keeps this woodpecker nearly as large as a crow alive.DSC_0003_1532sig

Pileated woodpeckers are found in forests in most of North America. Find them in the hemlock forests of the northwest, the maple forests of the northeast, the cypress swamps of the south and forested places in between including Canada. This big bird likes big trees. Nearly a foot and one half long and weighing almost 1 pound, pileated woodpeckers are bird giants compared to other birds found in the same habitat. Its size, including a jumbo-sized beak allows it to feast on the number one preferred food of its diet: carpenter ants. The colossal beak soft at birth and bone hard in adulthood is an impeccable insect harvesting tool. That is, insects living inside the hardwood of trees. This long-billed wonder can excavate holes in trees nearly 20 inches deep and up to ½ a foot wide at the bottom. John James Audubon, one of America’s premier bird artists, testified of pileated woodpeckers stripping the bark off entire trees to satisfy their ant cravings.  He added that almost always the entrance hole of the pileated nest was found on the fair weather/sun-filled south side of trees. Audubon, a careful observer of nature, also wrote these words about the pileated woodpecker, he noted, “The Pileated Woodpecker is every-where to be found in the wild woods, although scarce and shy in the peopled districts.”DSC_0009edsig

We look at shyness in people as a liability. God put it in the Pileated Woodpecker (and all other animals) to preserve its life.

We see shyness in the pileated woodpecker. But in the bird, it is not a trial, it is a gift from God. And God has given us his words regarding life trials, … Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your perseverance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your perseverance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:2-5

Let’s go back to your current trial(s)in life. Can you really count them as joy, even “great” joy? There are many reasons why the answer is yes. A big reason has feathers. You can see it. God cares for and protects the magnificent pileated woodpecker. He has given it everything it needs: beak, long tongue, stiff balance giving tail, large body, loud call, even long life; and yes- shyness. God freely provides all these gifts for a bird of his creation.DSC_0013edsig

You are different. God loves you. He knows your heart. He knows the trials you are facing. He knows the trials you will face in the days ahead. He never leaves you. In his eternal Word, the Bible, he tells us to “consider it an opportunity for great joy” when we encounter trials.  Really? Yes, certainly. We have evidence God’s Word is true. One clear indication He has given to us is a large billed, loud and very shy woodpecker.

Are you in a deep trial today? You could let the trial destroy you. Or, you could take God’s word and consider it an opportunity for great joy.

 

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Power and Divinity on Display

Power was on display today.  You could see divinity too. Water vapor, invisible to the human eye became visible this morning. A light coating of frost formed on trees and plant stems and leaves. The beauty of water in solid form was on display. Frost forms when outside surfaces cool below the dew point. This occurred early today. The dew point is the temperature of the air at which dew will form. However, when the air temperature is below freezing dew becomes stunning crystals of ice. Another name for it is hoarfrost. Call it frozen dew. Another reminder, worth repeating, it is beautiful.DSC_0176_1493sig

The science behind hoarfrost is well documented. We can explain with clarity how it forms. Thousands of photos reveal the beauty and form of frost. Hundreds of scientific documents describe in detail the formation of frost. What science is unable to do is explain why hoarfrost forms. Why does water vapor behave in the way it does in temperatures below 32 F? The how is known. The why is the delightful and beautiful unknown. The why is the part “left out.” (blog, “Enough Left Out”)DSC_0185_1502sig

The why question points us to the source of frost. God, Creator of all things living and unliving knows the why. For now we are given the opportunity to understand the “how.” We have described the what, how, when, where, and certainly the Who of frost formation. The details of “why” remain for now with God the “frost former.”DSC_0187_1504sig

One of the power questions God asked Job was about frost. God’s question provides insight and reason to explain the unknown “why.” God asked him this in Job 38:29, “And who do you think is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost? You don’t for a minute imagine these marvels of weather just happen, do you?” The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 147 wrote words of praise to God in all 20 verses of this praise Psalm. In verse 16 we read this, “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.”DSC_0196_1513sig

While frost gives clear evidence of the power of God, it also reveals the divine nature of God. God is powerful. He creates frost. God is divine. He makes frost beautiful and pleasing to the human eye. God is love. When he formed the first two humans, he made them with an eye for earth beauty. Frost is earth beauty.DSC_0205_1522sig

Consider frost, hoarfrost if you wish evidence of the love of God for you. My limited brain cannot comprehend what issues you face today. God can. Remember, One who is powerful enough to create frost for a morning, and perfectly divine to make it beautiful for human pleasure is easily powerful and divine enough to love and care for you.DSC_0209_1526sig

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Enough Left Out

It is the heaviest bird living in North America. Historical evidence suggests it nested from the Bering Sea most of Canada and as far south as Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Majesty is everywhere present in this bird. Watch the curve of its neck as it swims you see stateliness. Look up and watch it in flight and witness grand splendor on the move. Set against a blue sky, its white feathers are living magnificence. Its 7-foot wing span takes away breath. In warm weather and ice-free water, it feeds on aquatic plants. In the deep cold of winter, it adds corn gleaned from farm fields. In the early 1900s Trumpeter Swans were hunted to near extinction. Today, in response to conservation efforts, the majestic Trumpeter Swan is found in large numbers in much of its former range.DSC_0129_1459sig

The beauty of this bird is undeniable. It is mesmerizing. The hearts of people are touched in inexpressible ways at the sight of these birds. Trumpeter Swans are powerful witnesses. They do not speak a language understandable by any human. Yet, they speak. In beauty, majesty, splendor, and magnificence they give silent incontestable witness to God. Before disputing this claim take time to observe Trumpeter Swans. Watch them swim, listen to their calls to one another, then watch them fly.DSC_0143_1463sig

There are dual intentions in mentioning the Trumpeter Swan to you. First, that you might enjoy its magnificence and beauty. Second, that you might see the hand of God in this snow-white North American native bird. Yes, we know a significant amount of information about this bird’s size, nesting habits, diet and behaviors. But, if we were to ask a wildlife biologist for a candid response. We would find most willing to acknowledge much about the Trumpeter is unknown.

Ravi Zacharias, teacher, and former Cambridge scholar spoke about the witnesses for God found on the earth. Zacharias explained it this way, “God has put enough into the world to make faith in him a most reasonable thing, and he has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.” The Trumpeter Swan is one of God’s glorious bird witnesses. Watch this bird, and witness the infinite wisdom of God the Creator of all things. Its adult pure white plumage, its size, and the grandeur in its curved neck, and graceful flight. There is more than enough mystery in this bird to cause a reflective person to recognize much about the Trumpeter is as Zacharias said, “left out.DSC_0155_1475sig

Centuries ago, God asked Job a number of questions to cause Job to realize much was left out. These questions had enough left out that Job realized the creative genius of God and the magnificent mystery of His power.

Consider these 5 God generated questions to Job.

1.       “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have an understanding.

2.       Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!

3.       Or who stretched the line upon it?

4.       On what were its bases sunk?

5.       Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  Job 38: 4-7

God asked Job 59 more questions like these in chapters 38-40. Job got it. There is no one greater, more mysterious, more powerful and 100% all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present than God.

Can you find a Trumpeter Swan to observe? In this bird there is more than enough to give witness to God. There is more than enough mystery in this bird to point you to God. It is most reasonable.DSC_0158_1478sig