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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Earth Engineer

Web maker

An engineering genius.

Its web making family more than 40,000 species of engineer designers.

Astonishing silk makers,

five times stronger than the same diameter of steel.DSC_0120_500sig

Every web distinctive,

Every orb with different radii and lengths of silk.

Insect consumer extraordinaire.

The weight of insects consumed annually by the world’s spiders exceeds the weight of humans on earth!

All perfectly trained in the Eternal University of the Creator.DSC_0094_489sig

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

 

Alpha and Omega

Alpha is the Greek word for beginning. Omega is its Greek opposite, or the end. Yesterday my eyes were privileged to witness the Alpha of Omega or the beginning of the end. In my lifetime of more than 6 decades, my eyes had never witnessed this Alpha of Omega. It almost never happened. My first response at seeing a blob on the top wire of the tomato cage was, “wipe that blob off.” A moment later came the comprehension that something very unique was happening and I was going to experience it in real-time.

This is an account of a real alpha and omega. It was amazing. In front of my eyes, in our own garden, a cicada came out of its nymph stage and became an adult. You may disagree if you knew me but, I am not a bore. It was amazing. Watching a nature masterpiece occur is a gift every human should have opportunity to witness.DSC_0003_449sig

This is what happened. Instead of a brown blob on the top wire of a tomato cage my eyes picked up the exuviae of a Dog Day Cicada that had moments before split the skin of the exoskeleton and was just emerging in its first moments as an adult Dog Day Cicada or in Latin, Neotibicen canicularis. It was my delight to witness its “alpha” adult moments. Though my observation did not include specific timing of this event, within 2 hours an adult Dog Day cicada perched itself on a tomato cage stake.DSC_0007_450sig

Cicadas are marvelous insects. It is believed there are 170-190 species of cicadas in the United States and over 3,000 world-wide. Some of these species do not emerge from the earth where they have been living as nymphs for 13 or 17 years. After years of life underground these cicadas, both 13 and 17 year and annual cicadas, emerge as adults and live between 5 and 6 weeks, just long enough to mate and produce the next generation. The “omega” part of the cicada’s adult life comes quickly.DSC_0047_453sig

Female cicadas lay up to 24 eggs. Females have an ovipositor which can cut slits in the small branches of trees. Imagine, and insect part that is strong and sturdy enough to cut into a tree. She lays her eggs in these slits which then shelter and provide food in the form of tree sap to the cicada larva when they hatch. Between 2 and 7 months later, shorter in northern climates and longer in southern, the eggs hatch as ant-like nymphs.

Next begins the longest part of the life of any cicada. Cicada nymphs burrow beneath the surface to begin a feast on the sap they find in tree roots. This “feast” may last from 1 to 17 years depending on the type of cicada!DSC_0080_457sig

Just before the “omega” portion of the cicada’s life cicada music begins. Male cicadas have tymbals to create the “hear it everywhere” sound distinctive to cicadas. Male cicadas can flex their tymbals, the drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Think of a tymbal as a combination tympani and cymbal, both of which are percussion instruments. Cicadas can certainly attract a mate with their calls. The loudest North American cicada call can achieve an ear drum piercing 108.9 decibels. That is equal to a car horn.

Yes, cicadas have an amazing “alpha and omega” from the start of their life to their brief but boisterous adult lives, cicadas are worth searching for. They point us to the ultimate Alpha and Omega.

God, Creator of cicadas, is the true “beginning and end.” Isaiah, one of the Old Testament prophets, reminds us who God is in this way, “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God.” (Isaiah 44:6) Pastor John Piper reminds us of the timeless nature of the cicada Creator he says, “God has the first word and the last word in history.” The writer of Psalm 90:2  expresses the eternal nature of God this way, “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.”

Only an everlasting, almighty God could imagine and create a cicada. May you think of the eternal Alpha and Omega the next time you hear a cicada calling.

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Superhero

Super heroes attract. A superhero has extraordinary powers. Most super heroes do extraordinary good for people.

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We are fascinated with them. There is another truth, superheroes are fictional.

But, not all of them. This is about a real superhero, actually many of them. They are called bumblebees.

Our superhero flies, just like most fictional heroes. It is not fast though. Top speeds are about 16 yards per second. (that’s about 32 mph) Most superheros are strong. So are Bumblebees. They can fly because they have powerful thorax muscles they vibrate. The thorax can vibrate a bumblebee’s wings between 130 to more than 200 times-per second-for real.

Contrary to fictional heroes, our superhero does not live alone. Bumblebee colonies grow larger as the summer season progresses. Between 50 and 500 bumblebees may work in unison in the same colony. These superheros accomplish much more than their solo and fictional counterparts.

Ability to be frozen fits in super hero caliber. As a queen bee emerges from a winter of hibernation beneath frozen ground she searches for a suitable nest site. She lays her eggs underground, usually in an abandoned and already fur-lined rodent hole. He first young to hatch are daughters. They feed the colony. They are superheros as well. Female bumblebees carry pollen in baskets called corbicula on their rear legs, another superhero feat. Unlike honeybees, a bumblebee colony only needs enough honey to live through cold summer days when they cannot fly because of rain and cold temperatures. Bumblebees can fly in cooler temperatures and in lower light than other bees-superhero again. Just one additional thing: other insects pollinate, the bumblebee with its muscular thorax can pollinate flowers by buzzing. It is called buzz pollination. The female bumblebee grabs the pollen structure of the flower and buzzes. This dislodges more pollen for the bumblebee-and the flower is pollinated.

 

Super heroes do extraordinary things. But, they are fictional, and given their powers through the imagination of a human mind. As pollinators, bumblebees do super things in real-time every day of the growing season. They are critical to our human world food supply. Bumblebees however are not the figment of a human mind. They are the creative genius of God. No human mind could develop an insect like the bumblebee. Not only does it possess superhero characteristics, the bumblebee provides a life service to thousands of plants and we humans.

The Creator of the bumblebee has beyond superhero status-He is God.

 He counts the stars    and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! Psalm 147:4-5

There is a most logical way to explain the bumblebee; earthly super heroes require an almighty beyond comprehension Creator.

Dill, Not Only for Pickles

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23

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There are three things to set before our thoughts today. They are:

  1. There is a largely unseen world on earth today. It is worth seeing.
  2. All of the plants on earth have a purpose. Dill is one astonishing plant.
  3. The unseen world of the dill flower is a reminder. We are called to justice, mercy and faithfulness.

First, the largely unseen world. It is best seen through a camera lens. The photos provide strong evidence. When these pictures were taken, the dill plant was shaded. At first glance, each dill flower appeared to be alone. The reason my eyes were attracted to the dill at all was the presence of a Black Tiger swallowtail butterfly. My goal to photograph it revealed a significant number of other insects on the dill, the herb that makes dill pickles delicious. The first attempt produced fuzzy caterpillar pictures. The second trip, just 3 hours later found the caterpillar out of sight. It was then my eyes noticed the other insects. Syrphid Flies, a lady bug, common house flies and an insect which appears to be a wasp but is likely a fly because of the large eyes all were taking nectar from the miniature dill flowers. The whole of this experience left me amazed anew. While neighbors mowed their lawns and people sped past in cars to unknown destinations, the dill plants in our garden were hosting an amazing invertebrate spectacle.DSC_0046_425sig

Next, set your thoughts on dill. Yes, the dill of dill pickles. Dill is thought to have been used by ancient people as early as 5,000 years ago. Early people did not limit dill to the one function of seasoning dill pickles. The health benefits of this long-used plant truly surprise me: (To be realistic-dill is good for your health, but it is not the “fountain of youth.”)

Greeks used it as a symbol of wealth . This fact may have been the reason Jesus spoke of dill when He criticized the scribes and Pharisees. Dill reminds us today that each of us are called to justice, mercy and faithfulness.

He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23 The wealthy used dill as an offering when Jesus walked the earth. They were free and easy with their wealth. They had riches in abundance. Jesus sharply criticized them for missing the more important truth in life. Wealthy or not, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus called this the second great commandment. Justice, mercy and faithfulness: we are to give them to others. Jesus wants this before He wants our wealth.

Dill is amazing…part of a beautiful, unseen world; filled with health benefits; and a living example of what Jesus has called us to be as we live our lives. Oh, when we fail at justice, mercy, and faithfulness; He gives His forgiveness and then strength to fulfill His call to love others. How faithful He is.

I planted more dill in our garden this morning.DSC_0066_433sig

 

Vastness Explained

Vastness…it is immense, even cosmic. And we humans cannot fully comprehend what true vastness is.

We should try. What is vast to you? Your example should be immense and measureless. Your example should cause you to feel small. Feel small, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Your example should cause you to feel powerless. Not helpless-but almost.

 

In abstract situations such as this, we benefit from concrete examples that enable us to visualize the abstract.

 

When thinking about vastness, one of my favorite models to exemplify what vastness is comes from a finite example. The example is a prairie. The French word for a place of grass and flowers is prairie. Prairies occur worldwide in North America, Asia, Europe, South American and Africa. They are characterized as places of moderate temperatures, moderate rainfall and vast stretches of mostly flat, treeless land. The word vast can be used to describe prairies before agriculture cultivation of the land began.

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Even today, there are places in the world where thousands of acres of continuous prairie exist. But size in acres is only one part of the vastness of a prairie. The life forms found on a prairie are another vast seemingly limitless realm. 40 to 60 different species of grass alone canhttps://www.nps.gov/tapr/learn/nature/a-complex-prairie-ecosystem.htm be found in a prairie. Before agricultural development this grass fed between 30 and 60 million bison on the North American continent. Mixed with the grasses an amazing 300 species of flowers with unique characteristics that give each plant climate matching traits that allow the plant to grow on a prairie. Plants native to prairies can withstand drought, fire, intense sun and intense cold.

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In a prairie in summer a nearly incalculable number of insects can be found living in prairies. A better word may be invertebrates. Biologists believe there are approximately 11,000 species of grasshoppers living in the earth’s grasslands. This is simply because they have been studied them more than other invertebrate species. Consider the vast and to humans’ uncountable numbers of insects, spiders and other invertebrates that live in the earth’s grasslands. As we do so we are only starting to comprehend vastness.

 

What is the source of vastness? Ask GOOGLE for the answer. You will discover there is no answer. The answers GOOGLE gives relate to the universe. That vastness exists is undeniable. But, the true source of vastness is God.

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A vast God can create a vast prairie and all the life in it. The Bible records God as a vast Creator and gives the oceans of the world as a second example. Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. Psalm 104:25

 

Consider vastness for another reason. We are all sinful. Like it or not, and whether you are willing to admit it or not-you are sinful. Like me. We lie, steal, cheat, commit murder in our hearts and we want what others have-we covet. We all need a vast forgiveness. We are a mess and in need of a vast unfailing love that forgives us of all our sin. In your heart, you know it’s true.

 

There is eternal and infinitely good news. God’s love is as vast as His creation! Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Psalm 36:5

 

Still thinking about vastness? A prairie or an ocean can remind you of the vastness of God’s great love for you, for me. He is as near to you with HIS vast love as a prayer. He is at hand. Tell Him what you need. His vast love will never run out.

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