Clear Signal

Its ears work better than ours. Humans hear almost as well, but human ears cannot swivel to pinpoint sound. It hears sounds at both lower and higher sound frequencies.

Its sense of smell is better. It’s not even a close contest. It possesses 297 million olfactory receptors. We humans have just 5 million.

When we compare its ability to see with humans, the human eye sees more detail and color. Human eyes have three types of cones: trichromatic vision. While this marvelous creature has two: dichromatic vision. But this fur-bearing mammal has larger pupils and reflective retina. It sees much better than humans in low light conditions. Its eyes are located on the side of its head. This give it 310 degrees of vision-without moving its head. Remarkable, in contrast, the human range of vision is only 180 degrees.

This 4-legged creature was made to live life outside. Outside, during months of nighttime temperatures well below zero. Hollow dark brown outer fur traps solar energy for warmth while dense under fur insulates from extreme cold. How do two types of fur grow one animal? Equally impressive, this fur is water proof (built-in oil glands enhance this). It is also wind-proof.

This marvelous creature can store insulating body fat around internal organs-in warmer weather-to insulate it internal organs and provide energy for the sparse diet of winter. It does not choose to do this, it happens for the animal automatically. Like us-we cannot choose to have oxygen exchanged in our lungs.

Perhaps you’ve guessed.(the feature photo gives the best clue!) The spectacular animal that has our attention is the White-tailed Deer. It can run at top speeds of 40 mile per hour. It jumps 30 feet in a bound. Its vertical leap is around 9 feet. They can swim at speeds of over 10 miles per hour. In comparison, an average human speed is about 5.5 mile per hour. Both deer are human use 4 limbs in this contest.

They are beautiful to witness in their native habitat. Whitetail are the essence of wildness and mystery. We have listed numerous facts about them, but there is much more we do not know. This is part of the delight of seeing a Whitetail. It’s why the Whitetail is one of the most sought after big game animals. Deer hunters know the mystery and beauty of whitetails.DSC_0219_1139sig

White-tailed deer do something else for humans. They are clear God signals. Does it seem possible that an animal would have all of the characteristics we’ve mentioned by accident? Could these traits of the deer happen over time? Hollow guard hairs, adding insulating fat in fall, and a sense of smell 290 times better than human? We did not mention the ability of deer to switch from grass to highly fibrous browse in winter. We would not function well on a diet of high fiber-every day.DSC_0183_1131sig

God has placed millions of signals of His power and presence on earth. While some are small, they are easy to spot. Whitetails however, are large, clear signals of God as Creator. There is no ambiguity.

The deer, perhaps not Whitetail, is mentioned in the Bible too. We would be wise to emulate the deer in this way.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Systems

Time to shift your mental thoughts to action. Turn on your reasoning and logic. No grousing, thinking is beneficial for us. Systems are our new topic. A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. Consider this definition with me. A system is a group. Things in this group interact. That means there is interrelationships, cooperation. Things in a system relate to one another. They intermingle and work together. There is independence and community in a system. The last statement to make about a system is this. A system is intense. It is complex. The things forming the system are multifaceted. There are many layers in a system. A system is intricate and complicated at the same time.

 

On this earth there are countless systems for us to consider and understand. All of them are complex, and interactive. All are intense.

One of my favorite systems is a hardwood forest. Deciduous forests perfectly fit our system definition. Complexity is everywhere in view and everywhere unseen. The whole of a hardwood forest is intensely complex. It is also intensely beautiful. Yes, we must not forget the beauty of thousands of trees interacting with thousands of other life forms. Beauty is a clue to the answer for this complexity.DSC_0040_1071sig

 We declared  the obvious life forms, the trees. Contemplate the trees found in a hardwood forest. First a list of them: Basswood, Ironwood, Maple, Aspen, Burr Oak, Birch, Red Oak, Ash, and Hackberry are found in the forest of my example. There are other species which grow in other hardwood forests. In the large system of forests found in North America there are 950 species of trees in 81 plant families!

 Complex? Think about the root systems of the trees interlinking in the forest soil. Different species are connected by uncountable roots. More complex is the activity each of these trees must undertake to live during the growing season. Photosynthesis takes the idea of system complexity to staggering. Trees in the forest now are linked to the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the sun itself. While we have written documentation of each of these systems and their functions-but the complexity is overwhelming actually. Have you considered how complex the world we live in is?DSC_0053sig

 Trees? They are the big life forms. Our eyes are drawn to them. But, the point of discussion about systems has been made: a forest is a group of interrelated but independent life forms interacting to form a complex whole: a deciduous forest. There is another consideration in wrapping up this dialogue about systems, the OTHER living things found in the hardwood forest. Dwelling with the trees-in systems are birds, migratory and year-round, mammals, insects, other flowering plants much smaller than trees, lichen, fungi, and microbes in the soil. There are reptiles and amphibians too. Yes, my limited mind has missed many other life forms found in the complex system of a hardwood forest. I did mention beauty.DSC_0016_1066sig

The purpose of this flow of information is to cause your thinking to center on the term “system.” To lead you to grapple with the immense complexity of any system in nature. Then to ask the question, “How is such intricate complexity possible?” There is a one-word answer

God

Use your logic, use critical thinking, or do some research. It is possible for a forest system like the one in our example and photos, to organize itself? Is there enough time in eternity that trees could organize to use sunlight, water, minerals from the soil and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make their own food? No grousing now either…think this through. The benefits of a correct answer are eternal. Consider this closing question and answer from Isaiah. Here is the ultimate way to comprehend the complexity of earth systems

Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

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Thanksgiving Every Month

Thanksgiving is still on our minds. The food, family, and fun linger as pleasant thoughts. What if we gave thanks every month, all year long? It is effortless, really.

Start with a pink cumulo-status sunrise, January 2017.
Give thanks to God, for He is good. He creates sunrise and sunset for each day.2-1-17

The hairy woodpecker is largely immune to winter, even below zero temperatures in February. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created insulating down for woodpeckers. He knows what we need too.

Early spring finds this coyote on prowl at a Prairie Chicken Lek. Give thanks to God for He is good. The coyote has been provided food to
survive another winter. The abundance of spring has come. We receive his abundance every day.4-1-17

April brings blue in the form of eggs. This bluebird was half done with her clutch of 6. Give thanks to God for He is good. He created the miraculous egg! He gives us daily miracles.4-22-17

Spring reveals the power of the first thunderstorm. Give thanks to God for he is good. His power is evident in every cloud, even more in cumulonimbus. His power is for you, me.6-2-17

The flowers of June delight our eyes and clothe the land in unspeakable beauty. Give thanks to God for he is good. His love is evident in the blooms he creates. This beauty soothes our souls.6-14-17

July reminds us of Gods perfect timing. All of nature is set to God’s precise clock. In late July, without fail Cicadas emerge from their earth-bound home to become adults whose calls reverberate in the summer trees. They announce the renewal of the next generation. Everyday, God renews his love for us. His timing for us is perfect.DSC_0080_457sig

August comes. It shows us how often and much we take the goodness of God for granted. The pollinators, bees, wasps, moths and birds are faithfully on duty making fruit and vegetables which bring us health. Give thanks to God for he is good. We never tell pollinators to do their work. They follow the instructions of God who loves us.DSC_0075_439sig

September and October arrive. The colors of changing seasons cause us to drop our jaws at the profusion of color. Yet, we seldom give thanks for the eyes we use everyday to witness the beauty of the earth. God is ok with that. Our eyes are part of his love gift to us. Give thanks to God for he is good. Fall colors bring us joy. Joy is a reason for thanksgiving.9-19-1710-1-17

A full moon in November is a celebration. November is a cloudy month. To witness the moon rise above the horizon on a crisp November evening is one more in the parade of gifts God gives in a year. So is a female Pileated woodpecker demolishing a suet block in December. She was watching, and cautious; but her taste for suet won. Give thanks to God for he is good. Winter beauty is reason for thanksgiving.11-23-16

12 photos, 12 months…12 snips of 365 days of life. 365 days of steadfast 24/7 goodness and blessing from God. Give thanks to God for he is good …here is the best part for last…His love endures forever. Giving thanks? There are endless reasons because…once more…God is good.12-22-16

Made for Communion

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Cedar Waxwing, bird of community.

It benefits from kinship.

A passerine whose identity is communal.

See one, the flock is near.

Frugivorous, palate for fruit.

Black mask shields the eye,

Cedar Waxwings, made to live,

in concert with others.DSC_0156_1049sig

Humans live in community

in cities, suburbs, and towns.

We benefit from kinship.

We bear one another’s burdens.

Humans, see one, more are near.

Humans-made by God.

Made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

Like Cedar Waxwings,

Crafted by God for communion with God.

Everlasting God, Creator of the Universe,

wants you to walk with him,

talk with him.

He loves you.DSC_0142sig

Black and White

Black and White…

Black…dark, shadowy, dim…

Light reversed.

White…snowy, bleached, hoary…

Black vanished.

Black-dark; white-light,

Opposites.

In combination, striking.

Attention arresting.DSC_0172_1056sig.jpg

Black and White

Sin filled me…flawed, error prone, easily angered

Sin less Jesus

…perfect Man, patient, loving, Savior

Sinful me? Condemned…

Jesus-condemnation remover

It’s Black and White…

Sinner forgiven…life everlasting.

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This is truth in black and white.

Truth Walk

very

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.

The Testimony of Geese

Lurking” begins in late winter. There is no malice or mischief in this waiting, it is intentional. There is still ice on wetlands. The “lurkers” stand on it. Some late winter days they loiter for hours. As warmer weather approaches and the ice melts from wetland waters, the “lurkers” get serious. No other loiterer is permitted to be in the place the two original “waiters/lurkers” have chosen. These waiters are not employees of a restaurant. They wear feathers. They fly. They honk. Sometimes they perch with webbed feet on the roofs of buildings to keep watch over their wetland turf. The early spring lurkers are Canada Geese (Brantis Canadensis) Imagine a large bird with a long neck and flat, webbed feet on the peak of a roof. But there is no danger, they can fly.DSC_0129_985sig

You may wonder why write about Canada geese in spring-when it’s near the end of fall. Today, the geese provide us with perspective. Winter is coming. These geese live outside 24/7. They have no warm building to escape to. Geese do not possess cupboards filled with food. They do have down feathers that keep them warmer than most of our human constructed warm weather gear. They will face freezing temperatures, snow, even blizzards. They live outside all day, all night in conditions we humans would expire from. They live.DSC_0154_993sig

Now, the rest of the spring story. Before the ice is off the wetland, the pair of Canadas begin nesting. The goose (female) builds the nest. She lines it with down from her own body. The gander(male) becomes his mate’s consistent body-guard. He is a true force.  25-30 days must pass as the female incubates and the male guards. Reading about this miraculous process does not provide the magnitude of effort two birds expend to produce a clutch of 4-6 young. She stays on the nest except for brief periods to get water and enough food to sustain her. My memories include a Canada goose incubating her eggs and observing her with head down and neck stretched over the nest-during a snowstorm. I got cold and went inside. The next morning, with ice covering the wetland she was still there. The gander was still guarding. That day for almost 30 more, they stayed on task. My activities that day after sunset included a warm meal, and a warm bed sheltered from any of the freezing elements both geese were experiencing for the entire night. That’s persistence. That’s unselfishness and dedication. It is self-sacrificing, all for the next generation.DSC_0160_996sig

Now, the perspective we can take from the life of a Canada goose. They never give up. This may sound strange, but they never complain. Cold or wet, comfortable or not geese persist-in every season. Yes, you say-they are geese! But they provide a living example we can learn from.

How are geese able to persevere, in all conditions? It’s mercy. It’s great faithfulness. The living example of the geese for us reveals the mercy and faithfulness of God. As Creator of the geese. God provides everything Canada geese need. Water, food, oxygen, yes-shelter, instincts to nest, fly, protect and stay with the same mate for life, these are evidence of the faithful mercy of God. You know the geese cannot generate any of these things by their own strength.

It is a short step now from the example of the involvement of God with the Canada geese. You and I were made “in the image of God.” Why is that important? Only human beings are given the distinct and separate designation of being “made in God’s image.” No other living things fit this category. Humans were made by God to reflect the character of God. We fail often at this-we are sinners. But God never fails. His faithful love exists each day for the Canada Geese who are facing the extremes of a northern winter. Even greater is the faithful love God offers us. It never ends, never ceases and wonder of wonders, it begins new every morning. Look at the geese and see the great faithfulness of God. Best of all, you and I can do nothing to earn this great love of God, it is not necessary. God loves us first, long before we have any idea we need His love. That’s a miracle.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23DSC_0167_998sig