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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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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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

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

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