Life Cycle

Whatever you label them, bug or pest, insects are intriguing. The unseen world of insects in our four-season climate is increasingly active. Warm temperatures and habitat increase the population of every insect species on a daily basis. In our tiny 16-year-old restored prairie insect life thrives. One day ago, the Crane Fly made its appearance. It looks like a giant mosquito. But it does not have the mouth parts to bite. Biologists believe there are about 15,000 different kinds of true crane flies, and the Crane Fly is a beneficial insect. House flies were in our prairie garden this morning too. With perfect conditions a pair of house flies may produce nearly 1 million young in two months. Delicate and beautiful Damselflies are also patrolling our prairie plot. With few exceptions damselflies spend a part of their life as larval predators in wetlands. Finally, in the same little prairie,

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Crane Fly
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House fly

the spittle bugs have begun forming their larval spittle mass. The foamy mass protects the larva which hatched from an egg laid the summer before. That means it spent the winter-frozen! There will be many other trips to our prairie, the insects there are more than intriguing. Each one is a living miracle.

These insects they have life cycles. Every insect on earth has one of two types of life cycles. Incomplete metamorphosis occurs in insects which have three stages in their life cycle. Egg-nymph-adult. Dragonflies, damselflies and grasshoppers are three insects with incomplete metamorphosis. The second type of insect life cycle is complete metamorphosis. The life cycle is egg-larva-pupa-adult. Insects we know in this group are the flies, butterflies, bees, and beetles. The spittlebug foam mass in our little prairie holds the spittle bug larva. The spittle bug has a complete metamorphosis life cycle.

We humans have life cycles too. Every human life culminates in what we describe with the word death. Perhaps you favor demise or passing. Yes, we will die. God has also determined all humans have an after-death destination. You might think of it as the final stage of the human life cycle. There are two after death destinations: heaven or hell. Unlike insects, humans have opportunity to determine before death which of these two destinations will be their eternal home. It is God’s desire that every human spend eternity in heaven with him. Imagine, the Creator of the universe wants you and me-to be with him-forever. Heaven is a perfect place because God dwells there. God is love. You will love heaven. But is it really possible to secure your place in heaven? The Bible tells us we can. A jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (go to heaven) Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16) But you are thinking I am too awful for God to save me. Think again. In the book of Romans 8:1 we read, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” The end of every human life cycle can be one of eternal joy. Heaven is real. The way there is open to every human living today. Jesus opened the door. He waits at heaven’s gates with his arms open-for you.

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Damsel fly
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Spittlebug foam nest

The Perfect Plan

 

 

 

It’s human, making plans for life.

Every day we organize: morning, noon and night,

Our ideas often end-up with strife…

Every plan temporary, their imperfections soon come to light.

 

The perfect everlasting plans of God stand;

His ways are not our ways.

Rock solid, His forever thoughts ceaseless, all grand;

Every purpose he has planned, his eternal power displays.DSC_0023_1936sig

 

But long before human thought occurred an absolute plan was made,

With infinite love and faultless forgiveness every sin was paid.

Jesus came to earth, the flawless plan of God,

God’s deliverance for all humans who ever walked earth’s sod.

(John 3:16)

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Truth Walk

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Here’s an invitation. Take a walk with me. You may stay at your computer. This is a walk with photos. Everything you read and see will be true. Welcome to the “truth hike.”

Our location is a United States Fish and Wildlife Waterfowl Production area (WPA). As we begin, the wind is from the southeast. The temperature is above freezing and it’s nice to be outside. We take a few steps and a plan is made. There must be white-tailed deer nearby. We adjust our direction, we will stay along the west border of this wild place so our scent drifts northward and not into the WPA.

A “prescribed fire” has recently been completed here. Contrary to what you may think, fire is healthy for a prairie like this. When fire has removed the dry vegetation, it provides a chance to see the history of the area. We stop to examine what looks like a femur from a former resident of this place. We leave it, it will nourish the mice and become part of the prairie soil.DSC_0008sig

We trek northward. We pick up a deer trail and follow it into reed canary grass. More than once a deer has jumped up in front of me. They like bedding in this thick grass. We stand and wait, expecting a large mammal to rise up from the grass. But it’s quiet, only the wind rustles the grass. As we reach the top of the hill boulders buried in the soil catch our attention. They are covered in lichen. The kind in the photo is a type of crustose. No deer yet, but this lichen is old, many deer have passed this rock.DSC_0009sig

The chances of a deer seem improved as we look east. A compact oak savannah grows along the edge of a very interesting looking wetland. We’ll take a photo of the empty bird’s nest to prove to children there are times in the year when nests do not have eggs in them. We take the deer trail into the oak savannah. We barely make a sound. We find fresh deer scat, but again, there are no deer. The ice on this wetland stretches from shore to shore. We step on the edge for a few photos to the southeast. We do not take a chance by walking out toward the middle.DSC_0026sig

Now the wind is in our faces. Our scent blows behind us. We’ve been quiet too. We walk a few steps and stop, watching and listening. We come to another low place filled with reed canary. But this one has water in it. No deer in this one. We take the deer trail leading to the south-east. There are tracks frozen into the ground at the edge of the place we are leaving. Deer use this place, often. As we reach the crest of a small hill, the dried stalk of a fall aster catches my eye. The seed has already dispersed. Still, it seems like a good subject for a photo.DSC_0032sig

Now we reach the edge of the prescribed burn area. Our search for deer now seems futile. But we stop and look behind us often. It seems wise, wolves and coyotes always check their back trail. In just a few minutes we will have returned to our starting point. But as we walk downhill and through burned cattail stalks the white shells of water snails stand out against the charred black cattail. They are beautiful. I did not mention this until now, but during the entire hike my eyes were watchful for muskrats on the ice or edges. They appear to be frozen in for the winter. Speaking of winter, look at the size of their huts! DSC_0039sigThere is an old-timer adage about this. The size of the hut is a winter predictor. Small huts-mild winter…large huts-strong winter. These are the largest I have seen for a few seasons. This may or may not be truth. Hmm, we’ll see.DSC_0044sig

Our “truth hike” comes to an end here. All of these events are true. They happened today. 

There is another consideration about truth. We prefer the truth. We need truth. Because our world is filled with untruth, the beautiful truth we find in nature is one of the reasons we delight in time outside. Today’s “truth walk” was earthly. But each photo reveals the glory of God. They point us to the “eternal truth-walk.” Isaiah said, “This is the way, walk in it…”

Jesus is eternal truth. He is the author of truth, he is full of grace, and truth. He is the Creator of the truth we witnessed on our hike. Jesus also said this about truth to those who believed in him, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Take a truth walk outside where you live. Then take a “truth walk” today in your soul, believe in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life.

Which way should we “walk?” Walk with Jesus, He is the way.

Spiders…fear or not? It’s up to you!

Arachnophobia, it is real. Fear of spiders is widespread. Are you afraid of spiders? Perhaps it is a good idea. People say they bite humans. In an interview of 118 undergraduate students in London, 75% of them feared spiders. A long-standing spider perception is they are creepy. Their multiple long legs and their unusual appearance may contribute. Many spiders are web builders, webs are creepy, aren’t they? Someone said spider fangs are fearsome. Here’s another one; they are poisonous! Another one is the certain fact that they are sneaky. We mind our own business doing human things and BAM there is a spider. Do they actually sneak up on humans? Does ugly count?

Really, is a fear of spiders necessary? What if spiders are beneficial? What if they actually help humans more than harm?

My camera helped me to discover spiders today. In my experience, owning a camera provides a compelling reason to go outside. Nature is filled with an infinite number of magnificent subjects. One of my personal favorite times in a day is when I can see the photos on my computer screen. But this is about spiders. This my spider story, it happened today.

My photography goal for today was to take photos at sunrise. No chance, it was cloudy. Mid-morning photos became my goal. At first my eyes were drawn to colors. However, by mid-September in our latitude, color is largely absent. White asters were still in bloom. As I approached the edge of the city prairie a cold bumble bee snuggled into the aster flowers became my first subject. Walking into the prairie a 2-striped grasshopper on a gray-headed coneflower stem added color. The black of a blister beetle, again on the aster became my third insect subject. The prairie I was in was filled with rich luxuriant heads of Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans). The Indian Grass growing there in abundance was magnificent.DSC_0109_612sigDSC_0113_613sigDSC_0120_615sigDSC_0123_616sigDSC_0137_620sig

Then I walked searching for the next subject. The richly flowered prairie of July was now a place of ripening seed heads. The abundant bumble bees my eyes delighted in during a July trip were gone with the blossoms. My feet took me up the hill and then down. A stray cluster of stiff golden rod flowers caught my eye. It happened while setting the camera tripod for a photo of goldenrod yellow.

A large Argiope, or banded garden spider ( Argiope trifasciata) was working its orb web just to the right of the golden rod. Because of the spider, there are no golden rod photos. The spider was the most intriguing thing I’d seen so far. It had taken me more than 30 minutes to begin to notice the spiders in this prairie. Once my eyes witnessed this one it was possible to find 3 more within 10 feet of the first one. All were rapidly harvesting the small flying insects being caught in their orb webs. They were low in the prairie because of the strong north-east wind.DSC_0144_621sig

Another reality that happened while with spiders this morning, I was not bitten by any of the 4 I saw. Nor was I bitten by the many I never saw. Spiders are beneficial to humans. Consider this list:

  1. These spiders are quiet introverts. The Argiopes today wanted nothing of me. Their aim in life: consuming insects.
  2. Their orb web captures: aphids, flies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, wasps and bees.  Did you read humans in this list?
  3. They have a poisonous bite-but it is for disabling their prey. While a spider bite from some spiders can be painful, it is not fatal to humans-we are too large.
  4. Spiders control the world insect population. Without them we would be over our heads in invertebrates.
  5. Spiders are food for other animals, their venom may have medicinal uses, and their silk is strong as Kevlar.

garden spiders this morning have made their home in the prairie. This the natural habitat for them. But we can find them in our backyards too. They belong there. Actually, because they share the earth with us we benefit from their  existence.DSC_0180_630sig

Do you still fear spiders? Perhaps the next time you see a beautiful garden spider you will not be as fearful. Instead stop and marvel. God made each one. They are His design perfectly structured to function in a prairie world by creating a balance for all living things-humans included.

Is there a cure for Arachnophobia? As you spend time observing what spiders do in their role in a food web, you may find them far less creepy. Perhaps you’ll even be awestruck.

Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away. Psalm 66:5 (The Message)DSC_0162_626sig

 

No Tears, No Sickness or Pain, No Death

DSC_0011_543sigI spent 30 minutes in another world today. The world was in my backyard. Since it was in my backyard, this world contained earth residents. Once in this world, my feet never moved. Here my eyes found the Cup Plant ( Silphium perfoliatum) Most were over 10 feet tall with deep green leaves and brilliant yellow composite flowers. They made a world of their own. Their nectar and pollen drew other earth residents too. Just watching and listening, I saw a Two Spotted Bumblebee, a Long-Eared Bee, A large Yellow-jacket Wasp, Syrphid Flies and multiple Painted Lady Butterflies. A small white insect landed on my camera lens. In this miniature prairie planted by my own hands were multiple other life forms I never saw. Most were invertebrate. All were present because the little backyard prairie met their habitat needs. The bees and butterflies were there for food: nectar and pollen.

DSC_0017_544sigThis world was quiet. It was peaceful. Bees shared the same flowers with other bees and the butterflies. There was enough for all. I witnessed the same flowers visited over and over. The nectar continued to flow. There was no fighting, rather a visible harmony existed.

My heart was calmed. Peace settled on my own mind and soul. This happened steps from my backdoor.DSC_0056_548sig

This quiet place reminds me of another real place: heaven. There is peace and harmony there. No sickness or death ever occur in heaven. There will never be mourning, tears or pain. The peace of God is always there.  God’s peace passes understanding. We can spend eternity there-not just 30 minutes. Jesus paid the price of admission.DSC_0070_551sig

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