One Without the Other

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You can’t have one without the other. This thought began today when my camera strap went around my neck. The air temperature was 68 F. That is important when your subject is invertebrates. Rain had fallen earlier, so insects were moving slowly.

After a few moments of observation, my subjects became the soldier beetle and showy goldenrod.

After taking their photos, my goal was to share them with you. Reading about them soon led me to the idea that, you can’t have one without the other. Without the pollinating work of the soldier beetles, there would be no showy goldenrod. Yet, without the showy goldenrod, there would be no soldier beetles.

Soldier beetles, like most insects, overwinter in the larval stage. Overwinter in some latitudes within beetle range means surviving average daytime temperatures of teens above zero and nighttime temperatures of 5 to -10 degrees F. (a range of -3 C to -22 C) Adult soldier beetles emerge from the pupa stage in later July to begin their life with pollen. Pollen of the goldenrod and other flowers blooming at this stage of summer is their food. If a flower blooms from mid-July till freeze up, it is likely a soldier beetle will visit it for a pollen dinner. Native plants have a symbiotic relationship with this common beetle. Both plant and insect benefit.

Showy goldenrod is beautiful. My favorite yellow is goldenrod yellow. This yellow is appealing to more than only my eyes. Many call this goldenrod the most attractive. This essential native plant grows throughout all of eastern and mid-western United States and in Manitoba and Ontario. It is a beneficial food source for butterflies. But, there is another one without the other showy goldenrod relationship. This is the most important one. It’s about when showy goldenrod blooms.

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It is not chance that brings showy goldenrod into bloom when the soldier beetles hatch from the pupa they were in during early summer. These two natural events occur almost simultaneously with symbiosis the goal.

Yes, there are many more “one without the other” relationships.  A few that may come to mind are:

  1. Loyalty and trust
  2. Experience and wisdom
  3. Success and sacrifice
  4. Happiness and peace of mind
  5. A beginning an end
  6. A healthy environment without predators
  7. Healthy forests or prairies and fire
  8. Flowers and pollinators
  9. Rivers, lakes or oceans and water
  10. Life and death
  11. Forgiveness of sin and Jesus

One without the other relationships are part of all human existence. But, number 11 is the only eternal one without the other relationship. We may ignore our conscious. When we do, we can ignore the fact that we sin. Yet, we fall short of God’s standards for humans every time. Sometimes ignoring our sin is less painful. But ignoring our sin is just a Band aid. Ignoring may cover-it up, but our sin is still there. Jesus came to earth to take away our sin. We cannot have our sin forever removed without Jesus. This is the one without the other relationship that matters for eternity. Everything else is trivia in comparison. One that has power to make the showy goldenrod and soldier beetle emerge at the same time of year has power to forgive your sins. We can’t have one without the other. The most important “one without the other?” It is forgiveness of sins and Jesus.

 “Brothers (and sisters), listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Acts 13:38  

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The Source of Power

Focus your thoughts on power, as in strength, might and intense energy. It is not about a power that can move massive objects. Still, this is about real power. Power as found in a bird. Weighing between 2 and 6 grams (or about 2-6 raisins), this is one of the smallest of the earth’s birds. Its wingspan is between 3 and a bit more than 4 inches.

DSC_0017_503sigIt is not difficult to justify its power. The Ruby Throated Humming Bird is a medium to long distance migrant. Plainly spoken, this means that Ruby Throats migrate considerable distances. Gradually moving southward as summer wanes, some ravel more than 2,500 miles. They do so on 4-inch wings. With its wings outspread a Ruby Throated Hummingbird would fit in the palm of most adult hands. Then, for added amazement, those wings beat at a rate of 50-55 times-per second and that makes 3,300 times per minute! How might we explain this? Power.

On 4-inch wings Ruby Throated Hummingbirds fly about 25 mph. During spring and fall migrations many fly across the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is 500 miles across north to south this is the shortest distance. It takes the average (if this bird can ever be called average) Hummingbird 18 to 20 hours to fly this distance. This is a truly a supreme marathon. Have you considered how many wing beats that would be?

How does this tiny bird sustain the energy needed for the 500-mile trip? No animal on earth has a faster metabolism than a Ruby Throated Hummingbird. They often eat 1 ½  to 3 times their weight each day. Before migration in the fall Ruby Throats must double their weight. Could a human move with a doubled weight in the same time a hummingbird does? Unlikely. They fly: 3,300 wing beats per minute, with weight doubled-on 4-inch wings. Some spend winter in Panama. Can you feel the power?

Where does this power come from? No, my question asks you to pull on the power cable all the way to the source. Is it the sun? Go further…the Source is God eternal. A little bird weighing less than 7 raisins flying over 2,000 miles in wind and rain evidences real power. Jeremiah said this about power and its source, “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom…for he is the one who formed all things. Jeremiah 15:15, 19 Does a hummingbird give evidence of God and His power? Contemplate the facts.

More Than All

Can you make Stiff Goldenrod Yellow or Blazing Star purple? Maybe. Then, make them bloom, pollinate, seed and produce the next generation. Can you make them drought and fire resistant? Maybe beautiful? Neither can I. There is One who can do “more than all” of these.
 
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 gloryEphesians 3:20-21DSC_0096_491sig

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)

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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

 

Never Withers, Never Fades, Stands Forever

DSC_0137_345sigGrass, we mow it. We fertilize it. We spread insecticide on it to prevent “bugs” from eating it and turning it from emerald-green to dead brown. Homeowners take pride in a lawn that is the same green as the area’s golf course. Thousands, no millions of dollars are spent on the things that make our lawns the perfect green. Americans spend 70 hours or more mowing the lawn each year. Another way to look at it, in 2014 Americans spent over 39 million hours on lawn work! In contrast, the average American spent a little more than 7 minutes on homework and research and equally dismal just 7 minutes daily in volunteer work.

My behavior, like my neighbor’s, contributes to these statistics. Mowing takes me nearly 2.5 hours each week, and as this piece is being written the sprinkler is watering the grass-so it grows more-to mow more.

It seems that we’ve lost our minds. Repeated trips back and forth on the grass around our house just to keep it all the same height, maybe even add alternating decorative stripes. What else could we do with our time, or money?

Two thoughts come to the front. The first is a temporary fix, mow less lawn, and plant native grasses and flowers on the rest of what used to be lawn. Really. Resist, stop all the mowing. There are an estimated 40 million acres of cultivated lawns in the United States. This number is four times the number of acres in the agricultural production of corn. Consider one strong reason to mow less. We have become alarmed at the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly due to habitat loss. Consider what may happen if 1/3 of our lawns became Monarch habitat.

The second thought is a permanent-forever solution. Even if you decide to continue the practice of maintaining a green lawn all around the house, this solution is one to consider. This afternoon on a walk with my wife my, thoughts about grass turned to a passage of scripture from the Bible. It refers to grass. Isaiah wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8 We know what happens to grass that is not watered or given fertilizer. The withering and slow color change to brown is made even more rapid but a hot dry wind. Grass fanatics, like me, fret at best and worry shamelessly if rain does not fall or the sprinkler system fails.

What does Isaiah tell us stands forever? Grass? The object so many of us sweat and agonize to maintain a uniform beautiful green color all summer? Not grass but the Word of God. We slave to keep a lawn green for a summer. But, God’s Word is forever. It is ceaselessly eternal. A why question fits here. Why is God’s Word forever? Because God is without beginning or end. He has always been, is now and will be forever in the future. We do not have to strive or sweat and it is free to be read by everyone.

We have fixed our eyes on an earthly object, grass. Today, green grass and all the related lawn care that goes with it reminded me there is something far more significant than a growing season of green grass. It is the Word of God. Turn off the mower, pick up a copy of the Bible. If you have not read it before, begin with the Gospel of John. Read the words of the true living eternal God. He has a message of love and forgiveness for you.

These thoughts bring me to ask two final questions:

  1. What if instead of focusing our attention on grass that withers and fades we spent more time on something that stands forever?
  2. How would our lives be different if reading the Bible became a part of our everyday routine?

 

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Native grasses are among my favorite plants. Where I live the native grasses are currently in flower. While they are always beautiful, this time of first bloom is especially glorious.

The featured image of this blog is Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) while the other two photos are of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).

Soul Restored

At 5:37 my feet were on the floor, my head out of bed. Fishing was first on my morning agenda. My 80 years young fishing accomplice would arrive before 7. There were things to do, a Bible to read, a breakfast to eat and then a boat to hook up for a tow to the lake. My optimism for a good catch was high. A dense fog had developed overnight, there would be low light conditions. This usually means better fishing.

We arrived at the lake minutes later. We were soon on the water headed for our first fishing spot. The reality of how thick the fog was, came moments later when my never fail navigation by sight system failed. In the fog, that was me-physically and mentally. We were already past the channel to the second lake, location of our first fishing spot!

We got our bearings and had a time of quiet but serious fishing on the water. We caught some fish. Something else happened: our souls were refreshed. Hold it! Don’t people go fishing to catch fish? It’s about catching fish, isn’t it?

For me it is. The catch is always a thrill and made better because it’s unexpected.  The meal after is mouth-watering, even healthy! But can fishing be soul refreshing?

Yes. Today it was especially refreshing to my soul. I’ll admit this-without fear of harming my masculinity.DSC_0011_326sig

First, the deep quiet caused by the fog impressed me with my smallness. As the fog “burned” away and sunlight began to overcome the gloom of fog, my eyes could see the details of our surroundings. The blue patches of sky, a herd of cows silhouetted on a hill, the dancing ripples on the water. The effect of the multiple morning bird calls accumulated in my heart. As we fished a sense of wellness came upon me. My friend and I spoke little. There was no need. Occasional glimpses into the clear water reminded me we floated on another world, a watery one. A single loon flew overhead on a mission, a fish meal mission. As we floated near shore, the forest at the edge of the lake contained dark shadows and thousands of shades of mid-summer green. We knew we were experiencing a blessing. And we thought we were on a fish meal mission like the loon.

Briefly this morning my mind went to the phrase in Psalm 23, He leads me beside quiet waters. That happened, this morning. The quiet waters caught the attention of my soul. It was God quieting the waters, He made the fog. He provided a friend to experience this morning with. Then my mind began to reflect on the rest of the first verses of Psalm 23. “I shall not want.” There are many days when wanting things burdens my heart. The quiet waters, the fog, the birds, the companionship of a friend took wanting away. God patiently restored my soul, this morning. I thought it was about fishing. God’s plans are always best and better. The Lord is my Shepherd. This sheep is grateful.

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

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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]