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)

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

 

The Magician

DSC_0010_417sig

It is a magician but with flowers, stems and roots. It can pollinate itself. But we seldom are excited with pollination, it is out of sight, but it’s still magical. It reaches above earth from ½ to over a meter in height. Not a giant, but perfectly tall enough in a prairie. Its delicate leaves are light and touch sensitive. They enfold at a touch or change in light-yes-magical. Its white flowers are spherical. They resemble something other worldly. In a sense, they are.

Our plant magician is the Illinois BundleFlower (Desmanthus illinoensis). It is also called False sensitive plant. The BundleFlower is significantly better than a magician. Magicians use sleight of hand and illusion to conduct their “magic”.  The Illinois BundleFlower is the real thing.

It is a highly nutritious plant. It is palatable to all classes of livestock, deer and pronghorn antelope. The Eastern Cottontail that lives in our prairie garden likes it also, but not with the cayenne pepper I sprinkle on the leaves. The seeds of BundleFlower are eagerly eaten by birds and rodents. The protein content of BundleFlower seed is 38%, this nearly equals the 40% protein found in soybeans.  In documents published by the USDA, this native plant is considered one of the most important native prairie legumes.

 BundleFlower grows in much of the central to eastern United States. It ranges southward from South Dakota and Minnesota through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, and eastward to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas and into Florida.

My guess is-you’ve never seen it before. In more than 6 decades of walking pastures and prairies, my eyes had never seen even one Illinois BundleFlower. In the fall of 2015 my hands touched its seed pods. We gathered them, saved them and propagated them in a greenhouse. The photos you see are of BundleFlower growing in our prairie garden from that seed. Call me a geek, or a bore if you wish. Having Illinois BundleFlower growing in my backyard is a special thrill. We do not see these plants because most of the North American prairie is now at work doing another task: producing food for America.DSC_0010_417sig

It is also most likely that as you have now read this far the skeptic in you has been saying, magician? This is no biggie, it’s just a plant! Been waiting for you to say that. It’s time for just little science. We know that oxygen comes from the air we breathe. Many of us know that the earth’s atmosphere contains more than oxygen. Gasses in the blend we breathe are:

Nitrogen – 78 percent.

Oxygen – 21 percent.

Argon – 0.93 percent.

Carbon dioxide – 0.038 percent.

Remember a few sentences ago we said BundleFlower is one of the most important native prairie legumes? Being a legume means the BundleFlower during the process of photosynthesis can transfer nitrogen from the air into plant ready fertilizer-in the soil. Explained another way: BundleFlower can transfer the nitrogen in the air into the soil. It becomes fertilizer plants can use-and it is all natural.

My current guess is you are thinking, “is that all you’ve got?” Stop, consider what was said. BundleFlower can change a gas in the air to a solid fertilizer in the soil that all plants benefit from. It’s actually a miracle, not magic.

We live in an amazing world. There are always new things to discover. There are always surprises to delight us. The Illinois BundleFlower is a special delight. What discoveries could you make by stepping out your door? What things in nature could fill you with delight? They are out there, go outside.

DSC_0068_415sig

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.

DSC_0256_386sig

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.

DSC_0264_390sig

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.

DSC_0275_394sig

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.

DSC_0247_384sig

Flying Wolf-With 6 Legs

A wolf with six legs. Actually, a flying wolf with six legs. This six-legged creature in these pictures hunts in prairies during the summer. No fangs, just a needle like mouth that can pierce its prey. Wolf like in another way, it catches its prey on the move-flying actually. It never tears its prey apart. It injects a saliva like liquid containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes. The inside of its prey is liquified! This predator drinks a liquid meal. Wolf like in another way, it preys on creatures larger than itself: bumblebees, wasps, even dragonflies. It perches in a location with easy flight access to prey. Just slightly concealed, when prey flies by it springs into the air capturing its meal midair. The venomous bite is quickly given and the prey just as quickly immobilized. They have insect killing venom. It kills their prey but not them. They can eat poison and live.

No wolf, it has no fur, no howl, no fangs, just lethal venom and strong wings with large bristly legs to grasp its prey. Our predator is the assassin or robber fly.    DSC_0197_360sig                                                                                                                              ( Asilidae)

Between 5,000 and 7, 000 species of robber fly exist worldwide. 900-1000 of these live in North America. With so many species, it would seem likely that most people would know of these carnivorous insects. The truth is most people never see them. Robber flies are experts in concealment.

The compound eyes of this skilled invertebrate assassin enable it to see prey in almost all directions. Some Robber flies make a distinct buzz when they fly.

Soon they will lay eggs in the earth beneath their hunting ground. Robber fly larva are predators too. They consume the eggs and larva of other invertebrates sharing the soil that is home to both. They pupate in spring to become adults or the wolves of the summer air over a prairie.DSC_0236_378sig

Robber flies also give testimony. Not in words. By their presence in an ecosystem. While other flies have mouth parts that sponge their food, the robber fly stabs and injects venom to liquify the insides of its victim! They can drink poison and live. They have specialized legs for grasping prey, even a bearded mouth to protect its head. The solitary insect wolf of the prairie, the robber fly by its presence gives magnificent testimony to a Creator.

The Psalmist stated in Psalm 135 that God is greater than any other and “the Lord does whatever pleases”

I know the greatness of the Lord—that our Lord is greater than any other god. The Lord does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:5-7

The robber fly greatly pleases this human. It is a living fighter plane with 6 legs.  It certainly pleases its Creator-He said so.

 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25

DSC_0194_358sig

An Unscented Fragrance

DSC_0022_317sigDSC_0045_321sigIn the world of insects, specifically those whose diet contains the pollen or nectar of flowers, a big event has begun. Gray headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) and Common Bergamot or (Monarda fistulosa) are in bloom.

A skeptic may say, “big deal” two flowers I ‘ve never heard of, and why are you talking about “here today and gone tomorrow” flowers? Like I said, big deal!”

Pollen is a big deal, so is flower nectar. Pollen is a vital source of protein for bees. It is the male part of the plant, it’s required for the fertilization of the plant. Plant nectar brings pollinators to the stationary plant. Bees and many other insects are attracted to the plant for its sweet nectar. Besides a sweetness that often exceeds that of a soft drink, nectar has health giving amino acids and vitamins and oils essential to insect health. Like a multivitamin, nectar is naturally beneficial to insects. Gray headed coneflower and monarda have joined the summer flower team, the bees know it.

Pollen, and flower nectar are not on the mind of most humans. But they are immense arrangements for life on earth.DSC_0033_318sigDSC_0069_322sig

When the natural world is in balance, humans can even ignore the pollination process it works with perfect efficiency. With the loss of habitats like prairie we are beginning to realize how significant pollen, nectar and pollinators are to all life on earth. True, it isn’t a “big deal”, it’s nothing short of incalculable in significance.

There is another aspect to these two in bloom now beauties. It’s not a big deal either, it is an infinite miracle. This miracle in a word is fragrance. If it were possible to digitize the fragrances of these two plants and share with you…well, that would be amazing. The fragrance of Gray headed coneflower has been described as a fresh lemony scent. Monarda, bee balm as it is commonly called, is a part of the mint family. It historically has been used for tea, it has and is being used as a digestive aid and even for aromatherapy.

Fragrance, it is in the seed of the coneflower, and in the leaves and flowers of monarda. Each summer season and into the fall my heart and mind are thrilled with the distinct scent of these two flowers. Once you know them it is possible to identify them by fragrance alone. How can a combination of sunlight, water, and soil nutrients produce fragrances like these two native plants have?

The Bible reminds us that those who believe in Jesus have His fragrance. While a Jesus follower still has the sinful human nature, the presence of Jesus in a human life changes every person. It is tangible. The fragrance of Christ is evidenced by the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 There are many people who cannot tolerate the fragrance of perfume or cologne. The fragrance of Christ is, appealing, wholesome. The world needs this fragrance.

The distinct and pleasing fragrance of Gray headed coneflower and that of monarda fistulosa can fill a room. Their scent lingers on your hands after touching them.

The fragrance of Christ Jesus is the true “big deal”. Humans cannot generate it. The fragrances of monarda and gray-headed coneflower come from the same ONE. God is the everlasting Fragrance Maker.

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

 

Earthbound Royalty

DSC_0116_300sigEternal royalty is on my thoughts today. My thoughts on an endless, ceaseless king. He left evidence of His royalty in an earth-bound plant. Lead plant has royal blossoms. They are purple.

For all of recorded earth history, purple has been a considered a royal color. Kings and Queens wore purple. During the Roman rule of the world, some emperors forbid the wearing of purple by common people. Purple was only for royalty.DSC_0123_301sig

The prairie perennial, Lead plant wears purple once each year-summer. Depending on the season, the purple blossoms of this “royal” plant appear from early to mid-July. It can be found in the midwestern states and the prairie provinces of Canada. Call it Amorpha canescens Pursh if you wish to be scientific. A delightful alternative name is the one North American native people gave to it: “Buffalo Bellows” This is because lead plant blooms when the North American Bison is in rut. Mating season for the bison begins when lead plant blooms in July.

True royalty is exceptional. Lead plant is worthy of its rich purple blossoms. Its root system is possibly the most extensive of all native plants. Biological records show its roots reaching depths nearing 20’!  As a legume, it is able to draw the nitrogen in air into its roots as nodules. The soil is naturally fertilized in this way. Native peoples used the astringent properties of the plant to heal wounds. Between 200-300 flowers with royal purple blossoms grow on one raceme, or flower cluster. Leadplant correctly fits the “royal” label.

Eternal royalty is represented by this beautiful prairie perennial. The color purple is a blend of blue and red. Blue represents law, and red, judgement and blood. Jesus Christ perfectly kept all of God’s law. His blood, shed for the sins of all people satisfied God’s right demand that His law be followed. As soldiers led Him to be judged, the put a cloak of purple on Him. They even crowned Him (with thorns) and mocked Him as “King of the Jews”. (Mark 15:16-20)The purple of lead plant reminds us of its Creator who saves us from our sin! Admiring flower blossoms can bring our minds to thoughts eternal.

We can’t see Him now, but He provides us with visible reminders that He is King, one is leadplant.

DSC_0128_302sig