Never Withers-Never Fades

 
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:8)
 
Yesterday, my objective was a Woolly Bear caterpillar. Should adults be looking for small orange and black fuzzy caterpillars? In a word, yes. Woolly Bear caterpillars are good photography subjects. My search resulted in a respectable hike, but not one Woolly Bear was seen.
 
Searching places my human reason determined to be Woolly Bear habitat did not help either. Actually, it’s good my mind does not work like a Woolly Bear’s, it would be disastrous for both insect and human.
 
As the hunt for the elusive Woolly Bear continued, small areas of color caught my eye. Delicate white, royal lavender, and deep scarlet came into view as my steps carried me onward. Yesterday, fall was a week old. The few flowers remaining were a minority among the withered tan and brown leaves and stalks of the grasses. They became my subjects.DSC_0025ed
 
Today, my mind is still on the flowers and the grass. Not their diminishing beauty and number, or their withered drying stalks, but their example. Withering and fading happen in the north country each fall. The beautiful vitality of a native plant, either flower or grass gradually withers or fades. Petals and leaves fall to earth. The response of native plants to seasonal change provide us with a powerful physical example which instructs us about the Word of God.
 
Take a fall walk outside. Notice the grass and flowers. They clarify for us a truth about God’s Word. In sharp contrast, God’s Word never fades. It never declines. It does not become weak. It never wastes away. God’s Word stands forever. It endures. It survives every human attempt to destroy it. Over all human rhetoric, God’s word prevails. It is always beautiful. It endlessly, ceaselessly stands as the ultimate truth.
 
Here are two truths from the forever Word of God: We can have eternal hope. Jesus died for my sins and yours. As the flowers fade and grass withers we are reminded God’s Word is everlasting. One place the power of God is found is in His word. Find a Bible, and read.

Look at the Queen

The bee in the photo is the titanic. Two other bumble bees of the same species would not equal the size of this one.DSC_0039ed

This bee is a queen. If no one else is watching you could bow. She is a queen two spotted bumble bee.  There are some reasons why at least a fast salute to this sizeable queen would be appropriate.

First, she is a seasonal marker. When the queen comes out bumble bee work is nearly finished. Flowers blossoms are fewer. Freezing temperatures are near. The queen marks the change of season.

Next, she is a survivor. In the next days she will dig a hole in the ground her size. Her nest cavity will not be deep usually less than 6 inches. In this nest she will hibernate. She will survive winter temperatures of -25 F or -31 C often colder.

Have you saluted yet? There’s one more thing worthy of mention. The male bumble bee who mated with her will die likely before frost come. So will all of the worker bumble bees of her colony; and the old queen who began the colony last spring. All will die. She will live. She holds the future spring 2019 colony in her abdomen. One bee carries the next year’s colony.DSC_0059ed

You don’t need to salute. Know this, a queen bumble bee is an extraordinary creature.

Yesterday we called what happens with bumble bees a superior life plan. It is certainly efficient-and effective. God has made all of His creation this way.

God has a Superior Life Plan for humans. This plan includes the forgiveness of all your sin, and mine…all the sins of every human. This plan includes the infinite grace and mercy of God. He favors us with forgiveness we do not deserve because He is merciful. This Superior Life Plan is free. Jesus bought it for us when died on the cross. It is perfectly effective, and completely effective. The Superior Life Plan of God has no ending. This plan provides life forever-eternally.

It seems logical doesn’t it? God could create the bumble bee to mark season change. He could create the physical body of all queen bumble bees to survive subzero temperatures for months. He could design her body to preserve the next generation. Could God devise a way to give all humans a Superior Plan for eternal Life?

Look at the queen…and see the King of Kings.

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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

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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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

 

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

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