More Than All

Socrates is considered a wise man. Perhaps he is best known for his gifted ability to question everything and everyone. Today we know it as the Socratic method.  The Socratic method of teaching is to ask question after question until students or readers arrive at their own understanding.

The method of Socrates can lead us to truth. Here are the questions:

  1. How much is abundantly more than all?
  2. If all is done what more can be done?
  3. Is there a limit to more than all?
  4. Do you know any human who can actually do abundantly more than all?
  5. Is “more than all” even possible?

Nature provides us with a specific example which can enable us to understand the truth, the answers to these questions. The natural world exists to point us to truth.DSC_0007_462_483sig(Beaded water on Indian-Grass)

Our example is the grasshopper. Specifically, Melanoplus bivittatus, or the Two Striped Grasshopper. The two-striped grasshopper is one species of more than 20,000 species world-wide. The two striped is the grasshopper with, as expected, two yellow stripes which run from their head to mid-wing forming a triangle. The ultimate habitat for the two-striped grasshopper is prairie. The two-striped is a herbivore, a plant eater. It eats flowers and grass. Flowers like Stiff Goldenrod and Monarda, and grasses like Indian grass and Big Bluestem find their way into the stomach of the two-striped. This grasshopper lives in a beautiful world. DSC_0020_464sig(Stiff Goldenrod)

DSC_0023_465sig(Soldier Beetle on  Gray headed coneflower)

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In a prairie, there is always a harmonious balance. The eaters seldom overcome the plants. Plants dominate. But grasshoppers and their kind can and have overpowered everything. The over-abundance of grasshoppers and locusts is common in world history. Consider two. The first occurred in the United States. It is recorded in history as the grasshopper plague of 1874. In July of that year millions of Rocky Mountain locusts flew into the prairies of the Dakotas and all the way to Texas. By 1874 much of what had been prairie had been repurposed to become farmland growing wheat. This plague of locusts destroyed everything-even wooden tool handles!

The second plague occurred much earlier in human history. The setting was ancient Egypt. It is recorded in the Bible in the book of Exodus chapter 10. In this chapter, it is recorded that the locusts covered the entire country of Egypt and “darkened” the land, and after they were done eating, “not a single leaf was left on the trees and plants.”

Now, return with me to the first question: How much is abundantly more than all?

Few of us have ever seen a plague of locusts like that described in these two accounts. We realize that it must have been a natural disaster of the greatest magnitude, yet since we have never seen such a swarm of locusts, we cannot fully understand. But these plagues bring within sight of the truth. While these plagues contained millions of grasshoppers-neither were more than all. We can see the truth standing on the history of these locust accounts. No human could create the vast swarms contained in these plagues. No human could even make 1 grasshopper.DSC_0044_471sig(The Two-striped Grasshopper

God is our More Than All. He is able to do abundantly more than all. There is no limit to God. It is God who does “abundantly more than all.” This brings us to one of the greatest truths the human mind can consider. Since God is able to do abundantly more than all, like creating swarms of locusts and grasshoppers. Can God be abundantly more than all for you? What are your needs? What benefit would there be for you and I to trust ONE who is able to do abundantly more than all?  Does it help to know that this ONE who is able to do abundantly more than all so loves the world? The not so lowly grasshopper is just one evidence of the infinite powers of More Than All.

 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

 

Unchangeable-Always Good

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

My day began with thoughts about this man. George Washington Carver has long been one of my never met heroes. Of course, meeting him would be impossible, my birth came after his death. Regardless, he remains a man to look up to.

He was called the “plant doctor” from the time he was a young boy. It could be argued, that his understanding of plants has never been equaled by another human. He once said no book went into his laboratory with him and that “God alone drew aside the curtain” to reveal truth about the plants he was studying. He was a genius with plants, and he always gave God credit.

What continues to bring me to reflect on this man-even today-is his love for and trust in his eternal Heavenly Father. It would have been an honor to listen to George W. Carver speak, to speak with him and learn from him. Yet, today, you as you read, and I as I write, we can learn from Carver the truth that God revealed to him.

Reflect on Dr. Carver’s words as you begin your day, or as you conclude it and prepare for a night’s rest. “Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.”

Carver knew of the eternal constant of God, that He is unchanged from eternity before to eternity after. Carver also knew that whether we claim there is no God, or attempt to say He does not exist; that God is always present, always God, always loving each one of us with perfect love. We cannot easily dismiss Carver’s words as trite.  These words came from a man who had studied creation in detailed ways few humans ever have. Carver knew God was Creator, he learned from God’s plants.

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of this truth with these words: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) We can believe Carver’s words about God, He “waits to give you good” today.george-washington-carver-393757__480[1]

Small in a BIG Way

DSC_0055_292We are on to something big, small but big. This seems contradictory, it is not. We are on to something big, and it is small. There are ways to know if you are on to something big. Two consistently effective are observation, and knowing the truth.

The true facts- It has six legs. It is an invertebrate with an exoskeleton. These make it an insect. These are ordinary, nothing big yet. It is iridescent. The shell of the adult changes color in different light.  Coppery metallic green stands out. Its Latin name Chrysochus auratus means “made of gold”.  The same writer called it one of the most “gorgeous” of all insects. Ditto that. Told you it’s big. Yet the human eye needs a careful look to see a dogbane beetle. Only 1 cm or ½ inch in length, they are easily overlooked even though they are brilliantly colored.DSC_0082_296

The dogbane beetle is something big-in a small package. They are dependent upon the dogbane plant for life. They eat dogbane, they lay their eggs on dogbane and they mate on dogbane. Eggs are laid in dogbane feces on the underside of a leaf.  Adult beetles eat the leaves. The larva eats the roots.

Question: are you able to eat poison every day and survive? No jest or disrespect intended. We can’t. The dogbane beetle can. Dogbane plants, contain the poison cardenolide. Cardenolides, also known as cardiac glycosides, can have serious effects on the human heart if ingested at the same rate the dogbane beetle does. Actually, for the beetle it is good that it is toxic. During the growing season birds, other insects and mammals feast on insects with great enthusiasm. They usually leave the dogbane beetle alone.

This is big, in a small package. Dogbane sap is also sticky. Eventually the sap sticks to the beetles jaws. Another big, its jaws/mandibles fit into one another. The left side slides into a groove on the right side. When the sap sticks, the beetle just backs up and the sap is unstuck.DSC_0102_299

Once the larva hatch, they crawl “down-stem” and burrow into the soil immediately around the plant they hatched on. Once underground, they dine on their home plant’s roots. It is no coincidence that once underground they are protected from the coming bitter cold of winter. As adults, they emerge early the next summer to begin the life cycle anew.

You say, “you are overdoing this “big” thing. Wait, we cannot eat poison, we are not iridescent, we quickly wash sticky things off, we also quickly tire of the same place. We cannot imagine spending a life time in the very place of our birth. Then, since an adult dogbane beetle’s lifespan is 42-56 days, perhaps we can.

The biggest “big” in relation to the dogbane beetle is invisible. Simple logic dictates this beetle did not organize itself over time. Either it was able ingest poison from the beginning, or it would die. No more beetle. Iridescence is a fringe benefit. Such beauty seems clearly extravagant for a simple beetle.DSC_0085_297

Moses, who led Israel across the desert, and who knew the natural world well, wrote “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) Consider the dogbane beetle. It is a glorious insect with amazing traits. Made by a majestic, awesome, all powerful God. He alone does wonders, even to small ones like the dogbane beetle. That is big!

Abundant & Infinite

Abundance is visible now. There is a profusion too. My favorite word to describe this is plethora. But our subject is not excessive. It is beautiful. Lavish works, it is an amazing descriptor for this place. Our subject is native prairie. Few ever see the surprising beauty of a prairie. Busy lives and other priorities are the chief reasons.

In his book A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote about the progression of blooms in a summer prairie. He chose the words “prairie birthday” to describe the abundance found in a summer prairie. He wrote, “In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.”

These photos record the prairie plant birthdays that are occurringDSC_0078_244 DSC_0114_263DSC_0087_246_249DSC_0089_252DSC_0132_271DSC_0098_255now in early July. From top to bottom there is Blue Vervain, Purple Prairie Clover, Black Eyed Susan, False Sunflower, White Prairie Clover, and Anise Hyssop.

All of these plants were growing in the same restored prairie. All were in bloom the same day. There were still other prairie natives whose blooms I did not photograph.

Leopold began the forward in his Sand County Almanac with the words, “There are those who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” (Sand County Almanac, 1949.)

 

To see this beauty and brilliant color in one place, it is easy to agree with him.

Now the question which may seem immaterial. It is not. Why all of the abundance? Every prairie native pictured also produces a profusion of nectar, pollen and seed. The clovers enrich prairie soil with nitrogen. From insects to large mammals like white-tailed deer there is food in these plants. For the human who ventures into a prairie there is jaw dropping beauty. Abundant, yes, even extravagant, but not wasteful, that defines a prairie in summer.

Where does abundance originate? Our hearts tell us the answer if we pause to consider it. The intricate web of life in a summer prairie originates with the powerful hand of God. The evidence is vast. There is a universe filled with it.

Psalm 147:5  Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

We use abundant. Infinite is for God.

America’s National Symbol

When diving for prey it can reach speeds of 75 to over 95 mph. It weighs between 6 and 14 pounds, and females are larger than males. Its wingspan ranges from 6 to 8 feet! With these great wings, it can use thermals to rise to heights of 10,000 feet above earth.

Mating for life the male and female build the nest which they add to each year. Large nests have measured 8 feet across and weigh thousands of pounds. The Bald Eagle is found on only one continent in the world: North America.

In 1789, 13 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Bald Eagle was chosen as America’s symbolic bird. Chosen for its strength, majestic beauty and longevity, the Bald Eagle continues to be a superb choice as America’s bird icon.

Nearly extinct in the early 1950s, extensive conservation efforts, primary among them the ban of DDT, brought back the eagle population. It was removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

This Bald Eagle lives on the Crow Wing River along the stretch of river north of Nimrod, Minnesota.

God, who gave the eagle amazing strength and majesty, is the One each American can turn to this July 4th and every day after for forgiveness, strength and guidance.  Happy Birthday America!

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Eyes

Eyes are a gift. They are tools to interpret the world we live in.

Eyes are wondrously complex.  A house fly has compound eyes. They are seriously compound. Between 3,000 and 6,000 simple eyes compose a single fly eye. The range of 3,000 tells us we really do not know how many eyes there are. These eyes work like thousands of TVDSC_0054_119sig monitors. Between the two compound eyes every fly has 3 ocelli. These provide the fly with navigational awareness. They keep the insect aware of which way is up. Perhaps one reason for such acute vision is the truth. The common house fly is food for many other animals, even the Venus Fly trap plant. Yet, these facts do not address the absolute phenomenon that fly vision is.

We intensify vision at least 10 times better than the house fly when the dragonfly is considered. Dragon flies and their smaller slower relatives the damselflies have up to 30,000 facets in each eye. This is like a human having 10-30,000 receptors spread across the retina. Actually, dragonfly vision is better than that because each facet has multiple receptors! The technical term for these receptors is ommatidia. Each receptor contains light-sensitive proteins called opsins. Daytime flying dragonflies have 4-5 different opsins. This allows them to see colors we humans cannot.

Look at the dragonfly eyes in the photo. Let’s estimate that a dragon fly has 15,000 receptors in each eye. That means that every split second there are 30,000 images coming to the dragonfly’s brain! Again, if it is a daytime flying insect it sees in colors even U-V light we humans cannot see. It is easy to believe that scientists do not understand how the dragonfly can process this massive mosaic of information.

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People say the eye is the window to the soul. Human eyes do not function like the two insects we have discussed. Still, they are physical miracles. There are an estimated 2 million parts-in one human eye. More than 1 million nerve fibers that connect the eye to the brain-2 million with both eyes! It is estimated that 80% of what we learn we learn using our eyes. This is stunning.

One more thing. It’s about how we humans use our eyes.

Jesus said our eyes are the like a lamp. He described it this way, “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is. Matthew 6:22-23

The Bible calls life a race. When running a race the eyes of the runner are pivotal in the success of the runner. In the race of life, God provides us with these race instructions; “…let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

But, you say, I am so easily distracted. My eyes focus on other things. Relax, God is at hand, your hand. How close is that? Tell Him about your distractions. Ask Him to enable you to fix your eyes on Him. He will do it.

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Common or Uncommon

When common is uncommon.

DSC_0015_202Common, it means every day, and ordinary even unexceptional.  One of my personal puzzles has been why milkweed is named common. Ok, my human foolishness shows. Still, why common? In my view there is nothing common about the milkweed plant.

Perhaps we should use its Latin name: Asclepias syriaca. That looks impressive, but for most it is unpronounceable. We could use its lavender pink flowers as a starting point. We can add that each flower when view directly forms a star, but many flowers do that. We could say it spreads rapidly by the roots or rhizomes; it even grows well from seed gathered in the fall. But, again many plants do that.

Nevertheless, this plant is not common.

Another name for it is Virginia Silk. It is an ethnobotanic plant. Humans living with milkweed have used it for fiber, food and medicine. Milkweed fiber makes a beautiful strong cord. Native people used milkweed for many medicinal purposes. It was not only one native group, but many who knew the milkweed had healing qualities.

Milkweed sap contains cardiac glycosides. These are related to some digitalins used to treat some forms of heart disease. To the monarch butterfly, this means toxic. But not to the monarch, rather to any predator attempting to add the monarch caterpillar to its diet.

How do the monarch butterfly caterpillar bodily processes allow it to eat a plant that is toxic? Native people knew how to prepare it for consumption. But if you join the many who seek to increase monarch habitat by growing milkweed be aware; the plant has toxins. Eating any of the plant or getting sap in your eyes may require medical attention. Again, not for a monarch caterpillar. Milkweed is its only food source. Besides the monarch many bees, other butterflies and even the hummingbird benefit from this plant that is far from common.

Common, ordinary, unexceptional do not apply to this marvelous plant. We can call it common, but we know better.

A closer look at the milkweed reveals the presence of its Creator. Its relationship with the monarch butterfly, its beauty, its function in a food web all provide evidence of the plant’s author. God has written His power into the milkweed plant. You see, it is not common. This plant was made by God and for God. Here’s final thought, you and I were made by Him and for Him too.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

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