Ask for the Ancient Paths

Call them migratory flyways. There are four in North America: Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific. These distinct flight paths for migratory birds are set by biologists. They were formally set in 1948 by biologists who worked with migratory waterfowl. Even earlier, the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, established treaties with Canada and Mexico for the protection of birds that make all three countries their habitat during parts of a year.

Yet, the human recognition of established flight paths for migrating birds is new. The flyways are ancient.DSC_0056ed

Today, a gusty northwest wind has caused the release of thousands of leaves from nearby ash trees. For every leaf it is the first and final trip to earth. These leaves have come to the place where they perform their second function: to renew the earth as they decay. The annual color change and flutter to earth of millions of deciduous tree leaves is an ancient event.DSC_0079ed

Yet, seasonal change and bird migration are relatively new.

So is the annual storage of food by squirrels. The seasonal ritual of burying walnuts in the earth by the squirrels has been underway for many days already. Squirrels have responded to the soon to come cold of winter by caching food in the ground for centuries, even millennia. Forests have grown from this rodent behavior.

But squirrels, leaves and birds are not the ancient.

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The way of Creator God is truly ancient. But not ancient in a negative, or being ‘out of date’ or antiquated way. God’s ways are both ageless and contemporary. Have you gazed at a fall forest hillside ablaze in color? Have you witnessed the wonderful mystery of a migratory flock of birds overhead? Has your breath ever been taken by the majesty of the thousands of stars in the night sky? Could the ancient ways of One who daily creates such majesty be out of date?

Ancient is a human term. It signifies the passage of a great deal of time. God has no clock. God has no day. God has no calendar. God is not ancient. God is now. God is active. God is all-knowing. We cannot comprehend the majesty that is God’s alone. But, we can trust Him.

When the subject of God comes before us we have two choices. Trust Him and follow His path or refuse and take our own path. It is incredible to think that we humans would ever say to God, “I’ll go my way, not yours.” But we do. We turn from the One who made migration paths, seasons, and the instinct to cache food, and go our way. Almighty God will not force us to walk with Him.

God’s prophet, Jeremiah wrote these invitational words from God. Our two choices are included. He wrote, thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)

The choice seems clear. Ask for the ancient paths. The good way is in them. God has promised rest for our souls.

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No Place to Hide

We humans think we can hide. We hide in many ways. We buy camouflage. Disguises may work for a time, even a mask. We suppress things we’ve done. We shield the truth fearing it will hurt too much. We swindle our hearts believing we can “hole up” where no one can find us.

Sometimes being in a wild place reminds me of my tendency to want to hide. Perhaps this explains my desire to have a cabin in the center of a large forest. My unspoken desire is to hide.

That’s not bad you say. It is when my motivation is to hide myself from God. And I don’t need a thousand-acre forest to do that.

What is the reason we humans want to hide from God? Sin-you know lies, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, sexual sin, idolatry, coveting our neighbor’s stuff, those things. We hide our sin from each other if we can.

A thousand-acre forest is not big enough to hide from God. No forest, no mask, shield, camouflage, or “holing up” some place can hide us from God. Jeremiah tells us this plainly, “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)

Wait. Why hide from God? Yes, God hates sin. Don’t hide. Tell God.

Tell Him every messed-up detail. We can tell Him all the awful stuff we want to hide. Do you know why? He knows it all anyway. He is everywhere we try to hide, and He waits there for us to tell Him. He loves us. When we confess our sin to Him, He is faithful. He forgives us… Of every sin we seek to hide. Every time, always.

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You can go to the forest to praise Him, not hide.

With Eternity in View

Its nickname is assassin fly but, you are not in danger, it eats other insects. It does bite. Its bite is painful to humans, but they bite only when provoked. To other insects bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles, and other flies-the robber fly is deadly.

In Latin this insect belongs to the family Asilidae. Approximately 1,000 species of Asilidae have been discovered in North America. Perhaps you’ve heard of robber flies. If not, you should know about them.

Robber flies are true predators in the insect world. From the larval stage produced from an egg laid on a low plant, or even in the soil a robber fly larva emerges to eat its way to adulthood. The way it eats is remarkable. The way it over winters as a larva in the soil is more. It freezes, yet lives on. The larva pupates in the soil. This stage can take from 1-3 years depending on the species of robber fly and the environment where it is found.

Why become excited about a robber fly? If overwintering in frozen soil does not impress you, its hunting prowess should. It captures its prey on the fly. Watch a bumblebee or butter fly, or even the lowly house fly. Attempt, if you can, to follow its flight for more than a second. Robber flies not only follow, they intercept these flying insects midair. Using exceptionally acute vision generated by their large compound eyes, they target their prey inflight with unfailing accuracy. Yes, it’s astonishing. There’s a problem though, robber flies are usually smaller than their prey. Now for the amazing.

Robber flies have long powerful, and bristled grasping legs. But, not strong enough to hold an insect larger than it is. Yet, just strong enough to hold the insect while the robber fly injects it with poisonous venom. Robber fly venom contains neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes. Think of it as a small dose of snake venom. In milliseconds this venom kills and liquefies the insides of the insect. The robber fly then perches on a nearby plant and consumes a liquified meal of insect parts and venom-but it lives!

An eternal reason to know about the robber fly it defies every human explanation for its existence.

Consider these facts you know:

  1. It kills other insects, yet the balance of insect life on earth is maintained.
  2. Exceptional vision…able to catch other flying insects in air! Its sight and instinct combined.
  3. Insect killing venom…that does not kill the robber fly, an insect itself.
  4. 1,000 species in North America, over 7,000 worldwide, each different, yet robber fly.

These attributes point us to the true origin of the robber fly, a Creator. Consider the questioning words of the prophet Isaiah who asked, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28) A small, but amazing part of the “ends” of the earth is the robber fly. Its existence is unfathomable. You should know about it.

This more than about a fly. It’s about eternity. The robber fly points the way.

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Can Seeing Become Believing?

 

Remember…we forget easily, physical reminders refresh memory and clarify truth.

Change your routine, rise before the sun,

sit in a quiet place, face the east,

watch and wait.DSC_0112_2378ed

 

Wait, stay and watch blackness become dawn.

Think about what you have witnessed…all day.

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At evening do it again, face west this time.

Watch and wait in quiet stillness.

Wait for day to become night.

 

Why you ask, why watch a sunrise and sunset the same day?

To remember who turns day to-night and night to-day.

It does not happen by accident or chance.DSC_0108_2374ed

The words of a shepherd may help.

“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and turns day into night,

Who calls for the waters of the sea ad pours them out over the face of the land-the Lord is his name.”

 

Watch and remember, refresh your memory-know truth-the Lord is his name. (Scripture: Amos 5:8)DSC_0110_2376ed

Examine a Feather

Feathers are living miracles. They are one of my favorite things in nature. There are many reasons to view them as perfect wonder.

Their bright colors are even iridescent. They form patterns and designs. Agreed, feathers are beautiful.

Birds fly with them, and swim and dive with them. Don’t take this lightly. How feathers interact with air and water is actually breath-taking.

They shine, they can be waterproofed, they are wind proof, and they are repairable.

No human mind has designed anything like them.

They fall off. Its called molting. New body feathers, new flight feathers, gradually new feathers replace the old worn feathers. No human engineer can replicate it.

Feathers provide us with physical evidence that humans can molt too…not with feathers, with their sin. The same grand Designer has a perfect plan to make every human new. The sinful self can be shed-like a bird molts a feather. A new creature, a new “sins forgiven human” is the result. Molting in birds is caused by hormones. The perfect Creator engineered it. The shedding of human sin comes when a human believes in Jesus. The Bible explains it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

 

You can start over. You can be free of your past. You can shed your sorrows and hurts. Jesus will do it for you, ask Him. It’s the perfect human “molt” and it lasts forever.

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Greatest Grace

Unseen most of its life, we seldom think of it or the service it does. My eyes have been watching it for you. That’s because its story will give you joy. You will be awed. Being awed is a joy for me. So, it must be for you. Don’t expect a large object. Its small. It is quick. In trying to photograph it my patience was tested every time. It’s not colorful either. Yet black fuzzy yellow with yellow pollen attached legs can be beautiful.
Yes, our subject is a bee. DSC_0010ed
What are your typical bee stereotypes? Perhaps your knowledge is based on the negative experiences you have had with a non-bee, the yellow jacket wasp. Worse, a yellow jacket has stung you. This is a bee, not a wasp. Look at the photo. There are no alternating black and yellow stripes on its abdomen.
It is small. For size perspective, it faces a 5/8 inch diameter garden hose.
This little ground bee can be your introduction to the concept that bees are not only good, they are amazing.DSC_0005ed
About bee stings. This bee and members of its colony have been active since late April. Be astonished, these small ground bees have their nests in front of the outside water spigots to our house. My wife and I use these spigots to water flowers, shrubs, and grass for the last 4 weeks. Each time we go to turn on the water spigot we step over, or on one or more of these bees’ nests. Guess how many times my wife and I have been stung? Zero. How many times has one of these bees buzzed around us for disturbing its nest? Zero. The day I forgot and covered the nests with a thin layer of landscape bark I was reminded the bees have their nests here when I returned and found 5 or 6 of them searching for their nest tube in the ground. I had covered them. Would you say I was stung that time? No.
More amazing. About 70 % of bee species nest underground like these do. These bees are expert at soil excavation. They tunnel into the soil and create a hard tube of small soil particles. Beneath the soil these tubes end in cells. The female ground bee brings pollen to the cell and shapes it into a ball. She lays one egg on the ball and closes the cell. The egg will hatch to feast on pollen before winter but spend winter in the cell as a prepupae. They freeze there and survive! Next spring it will emerge from the cell as an adult bee.
While many of the nest tubes are hidden, my estimate is between 30 and 40 tubes in a 2 foot by 3-foot area just below our outside water spigot. Many bees are using this area. We would like to add fresh landscape bark to the spot. We can wait till they finish nesting.DSC_0003ed
Have you thought about where the pollen comes from? Our yard has flowering crab apple trees, two fruit apple trees and a raspberry patch in our garden. We have a small native prairie garden. Two days ago, we planted a cherry tomato with blossoms already on it. These bees are doing us a great favor. They are making our food. As they gather pollen they pollinate the plants. Seeds and fruit result. They expect nothing but pollen to feed their larva. We get the best part of the bargain and we seldom if ever notice them.
Sometimes we mistake them for wasps and kill them. If they were human we could say all they ever are is gracious.
There is an even better greatest grace bargain. We get the best part. We do none of the work. The work of paying for our sin has been done for us. It was hard. It was agonizing and extremely painful. I don’t know the name of the little bees we’ve talked about. I do know the name of the One who paid for all our sins. His name is Jesus. While there were eyewitnesses to his crucifixion. You and I never saw it. To us His sacrifice was like that little bee-unseen. He is unseen, but on the throne of heaven today. His death for the sins of each person living and once living on the earth. He made the little bee I’ve shared with you.
Why did Jesus die? Love. God’s love. The Bible says it best. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 Jesus died for your sins and mine because God loves us, he graciously saves us. He made the beautiful ground bees to remind us his love has no limit and his power is everywhere present.

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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.