Two Kinds of Water

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

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

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

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

No Ordinary Dove

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painted Lady Irruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eclipse

sun eclipse
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Eclipse means to hide, to conceal, cover or darken. It also denotes casting a shadow upon something. In the ancient Greek language, eclipse meant “to abandon.” This month, the earth’s moon will cover, conceal, and totally darken the sun in places on earth. In the United States, a total eclipse of the sun will occur on a path from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.

A total eclipse of the sun which occurs close enough for our eyes to see is rare. This is because the moon is vastly smaller than the sun it covers in an eclipse. This means that a narrow band of the earth is the place where a total eclipse can be seen. Eclipses occur regularly on the earth. Three partial eclipses will occur in different parts of the world next year: February 15, July 13, and August 11.

The soon to arrive eclipse across North America has created significant activity in national media. An eclipse has always caused human excitement. Babylonian records recorded an eclipse 1600-1700 years before Jesus walked on earth, and scientists have used eclipses of the sun to learn about the relationship of the earth and sun in our solar system.

An eclipse is also beautiful and dangerous at once. Without safety protection for our eyes the concentrated solar radiation can burn the cells of our retina. Rather than taking the risk, there are many photographed images which can be safely viewed. These will do no harm to the eye. There is no hazard with a photo.

A total solar eclipse does not last long either. Sorry to rain on your picnic, but most  take a brief 7 minutes 31 seconds.

But, there is an infinitely greater reason to be excited about an eclipse of the sun. Do you remember the Greek word for eclipse means abandonment? Perhaps they exclaimed, “The sun has abandoned us!” It is possible to imagine the fear that could occur if it was thought the sun had ceased to shine on the earth. Life would cease. We all fear change, especially with things we do not control.

The Bible tells us that one day in the future, the current sun will cease to shine. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Both the old testament and new testament speak of this. There are two words we pronounce the same: sun and son. The first sun will eclipse, it will someday be darkened. Read Joel 3:15. The second Son has walked as a man upon the earth. He was crucified on a cross on this earth. That day the sun was darkened for 3 hours not 7 minutes. Looking at Jesus will never harm you. Jesus died that all who believe in Him will not perish but have life everlasting! He made the sun. He directs the eclipse that is soon to come, and He does not abandon us. He will never leave us or desert us. There is no eclipse with Jesus! Enjoy the eclipse of the sun if you wish. Be safe, and be reminded the Son of God came so we would not be abandoned in our sin. Fix your eyes on the Son who is able to save and who does not blind you.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…

Luke 23:44

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)

DSC_0068_478sig(Ripening Indian Grass Seed)

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]