The Flying Lion

I have a new summer favorite for you.

Anax Junius, the Green Darner Dragonfly. Think of it as the lion of the insect world. If it is an insect that flies, the Green Darner will eat it. Mosquitoes, midges, flies, butterflies, moths, mayflies, stoneflies even smaller dragonflies all fuel this winged predator. Its life cycle differs from most insects. There are three stages in a Green Darner’s life: egg, nymph and adult. A dragonfly nymph has a voracious appetite. It will eat anything in the water smaller than itself. For the Green Darner nymph this includes minnows and tadpoles.

Look closely at its compound eyes. There are about 30,000 lenses in them. It can see all the way around itself. Those large wings can propel it at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.

Did you know this dragonfly migrates? Biologist estimate there are 331 dragonfly species in North America. Only nine migrate seasonally. Green Darners will fly up to 60 miles a day in favorable conditions. Their compound eyes protect them from a predator which migrates with the darners. American Kestrels and small falcons time their migrations to match that of the darner. They feast on the winged buffet of green darner dragonflies.

Like the birds that eat them, Green Darners migrate to Texas, Florida, and on to Mexico and the Caribbean where those that survive mate to begin the next generation whose offspring will lay eggs in northern wetlands the next summer.

If they weren’t such amazing creatures, their beauty alone would make them on of my favorites.DSC_0114ed

The Impossible Becomes Possible

 

 

 

 

Pick a bird. Which is your preferred feather carrier? (there are four shown)

Why only four? You will know soon enough.

Perhaps some facts will help in your decision.

DSC_0067_2069WPThe Cardinal would be a great choice. If you like brilliant red, the cardinal is your bird. Cardinals eat seeds, fruits and especially during nesting season, insects. They build a four-layer nest with twigs, followed by a leafy mat, that is covered with grape vine bark, and the final layer is grasses, fine roots, and pine needles. You may also choose the cardinal because of its song. Distinctively cardinal is the long string of clear down slurred two-part whistles.

Did you choose the Robin? Most of us think of the robin as the harbinger of spring. Their cheer filled song lifts our spirits. Because they are large and common, we see them often, especially on our lawns as they eat the earthworms they find there. They do eat worms and other insects but the robin is a mainly a fruit eater. Perhaps because they are common, you may choose robin.DSC_0046_2157wp

Maybe you have chosen the chickadee. Any resident of the north country soon comes to admire this little black and white dynamo-in January when the thermometer reads below zero. The chickadee seems unaffected by the cold. Its cheery song brightens each day. It is an omnivore like the robin and cardinal, so this may not help you decide. You may like the fact that every winter night, the chickadee goes in to a torpor. That means it can lower its pulse rate and its body temperature to conserve energy and survive bitter cold.DSC_0077_1966wp

My guess is you did not choose the American crow. Did you pass over the crow because of its all black plumage? Would it help if you knew the crow’s feathers shine in sunlight? Did you say no to the crow because it is large and its caws are loud and disturbing? The crow is an omnivore too. But then you may decide you don’t like the idea of it eating the eggs and young of other birds. Perhaps reminding you that the crow eats carrion does not help either. But, they are very social. They work together in raising their young, even older siblings, that includes offspring up to two years old.

We are not done with the crow. You did not choose it. Hold on one moment for one other fact. The American Crow is considered to be among the most intelligent birds on the planet. One source claimed the crow to be second only to humans in intelligence. Want to change your mind?DSC_0044_2155wp

Why only four birds?

This is about favoritism.

What is favoritism? You were asked to choose, your thoughts were directed, so you chose one over the other three. It’s very acceptable to all of us that you preferred one over the other three. Favoritism regarding your bird preference is your personal choice. It is ok to favor.

With birds we may choose one over the other. With others, any human, favoritism has no place. In the Bible, James, brother of Jesus, wrote the book of James. He is specific and direct about favoritism. He wrote, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1

Do you sense how quickly, how easily we show preference for one person over another? Return to the birds a moment. Think of how you made your choice. They are all birds. Yet you chose one-you desired that one more, you favored one.

Just a few verses later James reminds us why favoritism can have no part in human relationships. He reminds us that God’s royal law is for us to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” He adds, “But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” James 2:8-9

You say, “this is impossible!” I cannot overcome my weakness, I show favoritism constantly.” You are right. Favoritism is a universal human failure. But there is hope, always hope.

Once Jesus disciples questioned him about who could be saved? Do you know what Jesus answered them? “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26.

We have true hope. We can trust Jesus, he is the One who makes the impossible-possible.

Never Too Short

If you live in the northern hemisphere your tolerance of it is gone by March. Perhaps you were one of those who delighted in it last fall. In March you say, “enough.” As snow continues to fall our united hearts cry, “spring!”

Before snow and winter end, there is wisdom in remembering what snow is. It forms above our heads in air temperatures below 32 degrees. Call it a snowflake. It is actually a crystal. In each crystal, every water molecule is lined up in a precise hexagonal array. Now, a snowflake is any combination of exquisite snow crystals from fragments of crystals to hundreds, even thousands of crystals falling in clumps.DSC_0232_2018sig

We have heard it said, “no two crystals are alike.” This is the fantastic part. The formation of an intensely beautiful snow crystal is dependent upon these factors: temperature, humidity and path of travel. For every crystal, all three factors are slightly different. As each crystal forms and grows those three factors are the same for each of the six arms-but different for every other crystal.

This is the part that dazzles us. Have you given thought to how many snow crystals fall upon the surface of the earth in a winter season?  It’s one septillion. If you are interested in writing this number it is 1-with 24 zeros following it, don’t forget the commas…eight of them. What is dazzle doubled? Everyone of the one septillion crystals is different.DSC_0240_2021sig

This is the time of year we are delighted with another aspect of snow crystals. They melt.

Before we leave snow behind for this season, consider another truth. We can use snow for the example. How many things have you made that are alike but different? Certainly not 1 septillion. The snow crystal is one example in an infinite number of things all made by One Creator. God.

God controls temperature, humidity and yes, the path of every snow crystal. One more time-1 septillion paths. While each fell God also controlled the heart rate and respiration of every living creature on earth, including us. Simultaneously God coordinated sunrise and set, earth tides and the orbits of all nine major planets in our solar system. Not to mention all of the other unnamed events happening at the same time-in the universe.DSC_0244_2023sig

Does this seem too like an impossibility? Not when you remember omnipotent means all-powerful; unlimited all powerful. There is a verse in the Bible which is a metaphor describing the power of God. God is speaking to Moses about providing meat for over a million people. It reads, “The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” Numbers 11:23 It rained quail…read Numbers 23.

1 septillion snow crystals-in one winter. Quail falling from the sky by the thousands, enough to feed a million people. Perfect love for the whole world. Perfect never-changing love for you. A friend said today, “You can’t make this stuff up.”  One snow crystal is evidence of the power of God. 1 septillion snow crystals are overwhelming. God’s “arm” is never too short.

Goodness

Goodness has many aspects.

One of them is delightful. The change of seasons is good, actually delightful. Instead of being vertically oriented to the sun, the earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees toward the ecliptic of the sun. This also orients the earth to appear to move around the North Star. It is this slight tip from vertical which produces seasonal change. As the earth moves about the sun during the year, it causes seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres. For the northern hemisphere spring is the time when axial tilt moves the northern half of earth slightly closer to the radiant energy of the sun.DSC_0084_1920sig

Many things occur all because of this slight tip away from vertical. The season changes. Temperatures warm, snow melts, sap flows, plants begin growing, migration begins. These are big things. Little things are just as amazing. These are a part of the goodness of earth inhabitation.DSC_0081_1919sig

The little things of spring are part of what is splendid. As the northward movement of solar radiation increases snow melts. It begins on the south edges of the land. Snow melts from the base of tree trunks as solar power warms them. Because of increasing solar heat on the earth snow on the ground begins. Early snow melt creates intense beauty, excellent, superior, and splendid beauty. Lace like and crystal-clear ice compositions are formed. Framing the earth below, creating a crystal canopy, they change every day. They disappear in days.DSC_0058_1911sig

These little things reveal goodness. We seldom give them a second look. They teach us about goodness.

Another aspect of goodness is reliable. You can depend on it.  The goodness on my mind now is one which never fails. This goodness is completely, steadfast and always dependable.

This goodness is blameless. Before time began this goodness has been perfect. Into everlasting eternity this goodness will be faultless, impeccable, without flaw. That’s forever.DSC_0052_1908sig

We know that no human goodness could ever equal a goodness like this.

God is good. He is beyond our comprehension good. Read what He tells us about his goodness.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. Psalm 31:19

Do you see the word stored? God goodness beyond understanding. Stored means stockpiled in God’s warehouse. How big is that? How much is that?

Who is God’s goodness for?

You…me.

Read again how you receive it…come.

Spring reminds me of goodness, seen and stored.DSC_0043_1904sig

Value in Stillness

Think with me about being still. If someone asks you to be still, what is your response? Is it stop moving? Still is opposite of move. Does still include speech? Are we still if we talking? Stillness is opposite motion. We’ve established two qualities of stillness. First, still is ending physical movement and second, closing our mouths. This is not an attempt to be unpleasant. We need the plain uncluttered truth about being still. There is a third quality of stillness. To be still is to quiet our thoughts. Our minds are full of thousands of thoughts. What we’ll do next, unfinished tasks, appointments, meetings, kids activities, sports, things we want. You understand. Still our minds, but not empty them. Stillness permits our minds to become focused.

Why be still? Someone asked me recently, why are there animals on earth? One reason, we can learn from them. We have an Eastern Cottontail rabbit in our backyard. It has perfected physical stillness.DSC_0026_1895sig

The Eastern Cottontail teaches us about physical stillness. Being still for a cottontail is essential to life. When most other living things eat you, being invisible in full view equals life. Biologists have discovered that only 20% of eastern cottontail survive their first year of life, that’s 8 in 10. Few cottontails live beyond their first year. Yet being a “freezer” enables a cottontail to live longer. Stillness brings life. 

Another favorite group of “freezers” are woodpeckers. All species are shy. Wary is a superior word. Even the largest, the pileated woodpecker is constantly alert for danger. Birds and mammals model the benefit of being still, without motion. It means life for them.DSC_0056_1864sigDSC_0031_1900sig

In contrast, most humans are constantly on the move. Personal calendars are full. We tell each other we multi-task. Who are we trying to dupe? Our physical bodies are not still. With physical motion our mouths and minds are engaged. Everything is moving. Why is this a problem? Life in our culture is “on the go.” Isn’t this the way to live?

These ideas are not mine. A shepherd, who spent 24/7 with sheep, wrote these words, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 A shepherd’s work was watching, being still. When the shepherd was still, there was time to think. Perhaps shepherds talk to sheep, not regularly. Body still, mind still, mouth closed, what happens?

God speaks. God has put each of us on a life journey. God. I am not the director of my life journey. Debate with me, but respectfully, truthfully, you are not either. Being still in body, mouth and mind brings us to a place where we can listen. It is not mental illness. When we are still God speaks. Invisible, all-powerful, everlasting, all-knowing God can easily speak to the human soul. It is simple, a shepherd directed by God gave us the way to hear God speak. Be still. Sit down, put your lips together, ask God to speak. You’ll be surprised.  You’ll discover where the absolute power is. There is real life in stillness. Need a model? Watch a cottontail.DSC_0007_1886sig

 

One Purpose of Wind

What is wind? It is defined as a natural movement of air at any velocity. A wind has been blowing, blowing since yesterday. For more than 24 hours the wind has gusted. It has moved tree limbs and blustered around rooftops. This wind displays power. It does so with sound. It does so by moving fixed objects. The trees sway. The house creaks. It seems that it dies down. In minutes it returns with a rush that reminds me how small I am. This wind comes bringing a weather change. A winter storm is predicted. It is a wind bringing moisture. It will fall first as rain, then change to snow as temperatures drop below freezing.DSC_0111_1879sig

Praise comes with this wind.

It is God who sends all wind. This current stormy wind does what he directs it to. This wind is but a fraction of living and non-living things that do as God directs. There is a chorus of things, all praising God. Would you like the whole list? It can be summarized in one word: everything. The birds in the photos know how to use the wind. They are part of the chorus. In the chorus are the heavens, angels, sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, all other living things, lightning, snow, hail, kings of all nations, and young and old give praise to God.  If anything is missing, add your thought. Praise, worship, honor, glory devotion and adoration all belong to God.DSC_0056_1864sig

We lose sight of the greatest reason to praise God. It’s love. Love for you. Love for me. Neither of us deserve it. He gives us Jesus anyway.

Listen to the wind, give God the applause.

 

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, Psalm 148:7-9

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