Tag Archives: Nature

When Progress is Invisible

my painting of a dove on her nest in our grapefruit tree

my painting of a nesting dove

I painted this mourning dove one year as she sat on her nest in the grapefruit tree in our back yard.  She watched me as I took the pictures that I would use for the painting, but she didn’t stir, didn’t leave the nest. She sat on those eggs for weeks.

And all that time she was mostly doing “nothing.” More than that, the things she was sitting on, her eggs, also seemed to be doing nothing. All that time she spent sitting there when she could have been flying around or walking about looking for seeds or taking a shower in the sprinklers with her dove friends… instead she was sitting up there on her eggs which did not seem to be doing a darn thing. For a very long time, no change whatsoever registered in those eggs, at least as far as the dove could see. And yet… amazing, profound, complex, rich changes were occurring behind the façade of the thin white shell.

She might have been tempted to give it up. I mean… 15 to 18 days of sitting there doing nothing at all? With only brief time outs to feed and get water? I doubt I could do it for even 2 hours!

And yet, lately God has been using the dove analogy with me as regards my working on Sky.  There’s been a lot of time where I can’t see any changes occurring… I was getting no ideas, I’d go in to write and couldn’t seem to think of a thing, couldn’t keep my mind on the work, couldn’t get anywhere. Stuck.

But a couple of months ago, He sent me the dove analogy courtesy of Elisabeth Elliot’s daily devotion site. Not only as the analogy regards the book, but even more so as regards my spiritual life. I love the idea that growth is occurring, unseen, unnoticed, behind the scenes, where I can’t feel it, can’t measure it, can’t realize it. Even as in another unseen place, He is orchestrating the pulling together of different elements of character and plot and setting to produce the next scene that I will eventually write.

I could freak out and get impatient and condemned and anxious or I can be still and trust that He’s at work even when it seems He’s not.  I know this, because He’s told me that it’s so:

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to execute for His good pleasure.” ~Philippians 2:13

“Faithful is He who calls you, and HE will bring it to pass.” ~I Thessalonians 5:24

I just have to believe it.

The Beauty of Pollination

Here’s an amazing, slow motion video showcasing the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation in action, and the way life is passed on through pollination… flowers, fruit, seeds…. Birds and bees and bats and butterflies.  It gave me chills at times, made me cry at others, both of which I do when I’m strongly moved.

Make sure you hit full screen as soon as you start playing it to get the full effect. If you wait til later in the playback it tends to hang up. Oh, and it’s better with sound, so make sure your speakers are on.

This video is made available through TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), a small non profit organization formed to gather and freely share ideas worth spreading from the world’s leading thinkers and doers.

THIS video  also about fruit and seeds, vines and leaves, is made available through Lighthouse Bible Church, another small, non profit organization formed to freely share thoughts and information more worthy of spreading than anything the world’s leading thinkers and doers could ever imagine! That is, the Word of God.

(Sorry, the parallel was too close and I just couldn’t help myself! 😀 )

Jonah’s Fish?

I saw this picture the other day about a whale shark almost swallowing a diver who was attempting to photograph it.

Apparently whale sharks, while completely docile, are filter feeders — they swim around with their five-foot wide mouths open, consuming whatever is in their path. Mostly that would be plankton, small fish, etc. But clearly it could also include seals, dolphins… people… Wait. The seals and dolphins would swim away. It’s only the people who hang around trying to take pictures…

Anyway, I wondered if this might be the big fish that swallowed Jonah.

For more pictures and information about whale sharks and people click here.

A Busy Weekend

It started with me getting out of bed before seven on Saturday to shower and then run off to take my mother to the grocery store. When I got home it was water the grass, eat breakfast and hang out a load of sheets, then Stu and I were off across town and out to the Desert Museum for the Saguaro National Park Symposium on Climate Change. We went, not because we have a great interest in climate change, but because a friend of ours was giving a presentation on the research she’s been doing on frogs in local drainages. Despite the climate change billing, it was fun. We listened to an hours worth of talks — our friend’s and three others — and it brought back memories. Both my husband and I have degrees in Wildlife Biology (I think they call it Wildlife Ecology now. Or maybe Wildlife studies?) and at one time in our lives were looking at maybe doing the same sort of work as was presented in the talks.

Of course that was not God’s will for our lives, but our interest was still strong enough we were engaged by what we were hearing. Afterward, as we headed home through the desert, we were surprised to find thunderheads building to the south and east — surprised since supposedly the monsoon has ended.  They were so cool, I told Stu to stop the car so I could take pictures.

Once home, we ate lunch and then did Skype with our son in San Diego — for two hours! And after that it was time to walk Quigley, eat dinner and then my hubby went off to meet with a high school friend in town from Pennsylvania. I was invited but I had already turned into a pumpkin from all that interaction, travel and stimulation and was in sore need of down time. So I stayed home, went over my notes from Bible Class and finished a birthday card.

Today was our local assembly’s monthly communion and pot luck. We usually gather on Sunday’s for a recording of classes taught in Massachusetts earlier that morning (Their 10am is our 7am) in the home of one of the deacons (I learned only recently that meeting in separate, public church buildings didn’t start until the third century BC  A.D.  — see how pathetic my brain is when drained? — Until then, most church groups met in homes.) On the first Sunday of each month we do communion along with the Somerset, MA congregation, and have a pot luck afterward with lots of talk and fellowship.

I don’t usually get home till mid afternoon or later. At which point my introvert self is completely drained of energy and my brain is full of stuff in need of processing. I love that analogy to the bank where all the deposits are being accepted, but nothing is actually being catalogued or recorded. If that’s not done soon, chaos will ensue.

Fortunately I don’t have to go anywhere that I know of tomorrow. I have delusional hopes of maybe getting in some work on Sky, but if the usual pattern for post-communion Mondays’ follows I’ll probably just moodle. But I’ve put all that in the Lord’s hands, having arrived at the conclusion that I have no idea what’s wrong with me, if anything, what I’m doing wrong, if anything, if I really have no self-discipline, or just a multifaceted calling that demands flexibility. Today in class one of the speakers reminded us of 2 Peter 1:7  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Not just anxiety, but your whole life, and your gift, he said. Weird that he’d say that, but it was just what I needed. Cast it all on Him and leave it there.

It’s the leaving it there that’s the tricky part. When I first wrote that down in my journal, I followed it with my next thought: “That can’t be right.” But when you set that down in writing, you see how absurd it is. Do you believe what the Book says or don’t you? Is there something unclear about “all”?

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Silver Linings

I was out taking pictures of our clouds the other day…er… more like a few weeks back, and this was one. I love our clouds, and the way the sun plays with them, brings out those silver linings.

(Silver linings: A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.)

Looking at this photo, I can see that the bright linings show the sun is shining beyond the cloud and perhaps soon will be fully manifest. Kind of a cool analogy to the Lord… He’s always there, shining, but sometimes clouds get in our way and we can’t see that. Forget to see that. In tonight’s lesson, Pastor McLaughlin reminded us that when we react to people, to unjust treatment, to a difficult situation, it’s because we’ve gotten our eyes off of the Lord — we’re no longer occupied with Him, but with ourselves.

Never a fun place to be. Especially since, when occupied with self we become like those smudge pots they used to use in orange groves to keep the fruit from freezing — belching out black smoke that further obscures our view of our Lord. Our Good Shepherd.

I’ve had a busy, draining few days… well, nearly a week now, I guess. Started feeling the effects of it yesterday (Monday) but had housecleaning and the monthly trip to the cancer center with my mother. I told myself I would rest today, but then kept coming up with all these things I “should” do. As it turned out, I rested despite myself, because it was one of those flitter days, where I flit from thing to thing and can’t recall quite how I ended up doing the things that I did. Generally when I get to the end of such a day I start to condemn myself, but today I recognized the pattern. It’s part of being tired, part of the resting. So I’m going to stop with the condemning and just enjoy the results of the day. Which is that I’ve gotten to rest, and when I do that it always surprises me what a difference it makes in my motivation and my attitude.

Turtle Excluders Pre-Empt Federal Law

Last week I was reading an article in the New York Times about the effects of oil on marine life, particularly the rise of sea turtle deaths in the gulf off the coast of Mississippi.  When the rate of turtle deaths suddenly spiked this summer, everyone’s first thought was to blame it on the gushing BP oil well. Instead, autopsies soon revealed that the turtles did not die from oil poisoning, but from being caught in shrimpers’ nets and drowned.

This conclusion was supported by the additional observation that the sudden spike in sea turtle deaths occurred three days after the opening of the Mississippi shrimping season. Federal law requires shrimpers to have special “turtle excluder” devices on their nets which provide the turtles with a way of escape so they won’t drown. Those who fish by skimming with nets don’t have the excluders but are limited in how long they can skim, such limitation being less than the length of time it would take a turtle caught in the skimming net to drown. Before the shrimping season began, all the operators’ boats and gear were inspected and found to be in order.

Nevertheless, the number of turtle deaths jumped dramatically almost as soon as the season opened; since then, with the waters having been closed to shrimpers on account of the oil spill, the turtle deaths have  fallen off. Which leads experts to the inevitable conclusion that “fisheries interaction” was the cause of the deaths. With the oil spill diverting most of the Coast Guard and other inspectors, the shrimpers most likely took advantage of their freedom and  just disabled their excluders…

And then in the middle of all this interesting talk of turtles and Mississippi, the author switches venues to note that the excluder devices are quite a contentious subject in Louisiana. So contentious, in fact, “that Louisiana law has long forbidden its wildlife and fisheries agents to enforce federal regulations on the devices.”

And that stopped me in my tracks (figuratively, anyway)

Did I read that right??! Louisiana law has long forbidden its W&F agents to enforce federal regulations…? That’s what it said, going on to add that recently Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation that would lift that ban in light of the  “challenges and issues currently facing our fishermen.”

So, apparently  Louisiana can have a law forbidding state personnel to enforce a federal law and no one says a thing, but Arizona institutes a law which requires its personnel to enforce a federal law and that’s considered pre-emptive, irresponsible and misguided…. Hmmm.

Having noted that, the author returns to turtles and shrimpers, the latter having violated the bans that had closed various waters to fishing because of the spill. Over 20,000 pounds of shrimp were seized by agents in Louisiana and 350 citatons issued to those who dared fish where they shouldn’t. But suddenly the enforcement of federal laws seems more arbitrary and whimsical than ever to me…

If you want to read the NY Times article Animal Autopsies in Gulf Yield a Mystery, it’s HERE.

Fruit Ripening

He is the Vine. I am the branch. A branch doesn’t do anything. It just sits there, attached to the vine, a conduit for nutrients and moisture, a support for the leaves and the fruit.

The fruit of the spiritual life is not the fruit of the branch but of the Vine, of the Spirit. Not of me. Considering our lemon tree and how the lemons grow is instructive. Water and nutrients come up the trunk along the branch and at certain points, cell by cell a stem begins to develop. At some point, known only to the stem, the cells begin to change and now it’s no longer a stem but a fruit. First no more than a swelling, then a small green nubbin, then larger and, ever so slowly, larger still. Gradually it takes on its distinctive lemon shape though it is still as green as the leaves around it and hard to spot when you just glance at the tree. As the months pass, it grows larger still, and during all that time if you were to pick it, it would be no good. It would be hard and dry and more bitter than sour, I think.

Finally, though, again with no visible sign or trigger, the ripening process occurs. The fruit goes from green to yellow and suddenly you have the lemon. Compared to the rest of it, the time of ripening is short. And after the fruit has ripened, it is only a month before it begins to fall from the tree and by then if the weather is right, the new blossoms have already come, starting the next batch of fruit.

That’s how it is with writing and I think that’s how it is with the spiritual life, as well. There is a long time of growth when the fruit is barely visible or isn’t ripe yet, isn’t useful. It just sits there on the tree, growing. The brnch just sits there, attached the trunk, delivering the nutrients, keeping the fruit off the ground. Most of all, fruit-bearing isn’t something the branch controls. Nor do we. Our job is to stay connected to the Vine and receiving the nutrients it provides (Filled with the Spirit and taking in doctrine). Those things plus the innate nature of the branch produces the fruit.

The Strange Case of the Tuatara

Does this make any sense:

Scientists have “recovered DNA sequences from the bones of ancient tuatara, which are up to 8000 years old. They found that, although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving – at a DNA level – faster than any other animal yet examined.”

So reports the Science Daily in an article called New Zealand’s Living Dinosaur — the  Tuatara — is Surprisingly the Fastest Evolving Animal. The creature, a type of lizard that lives only in New Zealand, hasn’t changed physically in 8000 years, but its DNA is evolving rapidly. “Of course,” says the discoverer, Professor Lambert, “we would have expected that the tuatara, which does everything slowly — they grow slowly, reproduce slowly and have a very slow metabolism — would have evolved slowly. In fact, at the DNA level, they evolve extremely quickly, which supports a hypothesis proposed by the evolutionary biologist Allan Wilson, who suggested that the rate of molecular evolution was uncoupled from the rate of morphological evolution.”

Say what? Molecular evolution has “uncoupled from morphological evolution?” Then wouldn’t that mean the first has no connection with the second? And wouldn’t that sorta make molecular evolution a bit… irrelevant? Is the data here being pushed into a mold to fit the conclusion the researcher desires? The whole thing raises numerous questions for me, being neither a paleontologist nor a geneticist. How exactly does DNA evolve? What are the signs? And if DNA is “evolving” with no discernible change in phenotype… what’s the point? How does that prove anything?

The conclusions in this article presented as from the “experts” requires not only the use of faith, but the dispensing of logic to be accepted: We know this creature is evolving rapidly, even though it hasn’t changed in 8000 years. Talk about non-intuitive! Tell me again — why is it we’re supposed to put our faith in stuff like this instead of the Bible?

Photo: Tuatara in New Zealand. (Credit: iStockphoto/Robyn Grant)