Category Archives: Nature

Weird Things

I remember the first time I realized that God has a masculine sense of humor.  I was reading about sea cucumbers, nondescript little blobs of animals that are at the bottom of the ocean food chain.  They are mostly sedentary, but if threatened can defend themselves by ejecting part of their internal organs.  This is called eviscerating.  While a predator is munching the jetsam, the sea cucumber can swim to safety and regrow its organs.  Another weapon in its arsenal is a toxic substance that it can eject, which poisons creatures nearby.  According to Wikipedia, the toxin is similar to soap.  Apparently, some creatures that live underwater cannot tolerate soap.  Go figure.

So, as I was saying, they are sea blobs that shoot out part of their insides and, when they’re really mad, they spit soap.  You know that’s a guy joke.

My new favorite animal is equally bizarre.  This is the cuttlefish, which I knew nothing about until I watched the Nova special (“Kings of Camouflage”) online.  Apparently, cuttlefish not only change colors, they are shape-shifters as well.  They’re invertebrates, and their outrageously flexible skin can stretch into different shapes and change colors at will.  According to Wikipedia, they have layers of skin pigmentation with 200 specialized pigment cells per square inch, which is about 350 dpi.  In other words, their skin has about the same resolution quality as an inkjet printer, and they can mimic patterns in their environment as well as basic colors.

What could be better than that?  How about three hearts, green-blue blood, and eight arms coming out of their heads.  As I watched Nova, I got the distinct impression that God was amusing Himself when He invented cuttlefish.  They put on a show that Hollywood couldn’t top with CGI and special effects.

We so seldom think of God as being entertained by His creation.  Perhaps that would sound more pious if I said that He is delighted with His creation.  Fallen and imperfect as the world most definitely is, there must still be endless moments when God takes pleasure in gazing at what He has made.

May I suggest that we might be better people if we learned to do the same.  Friday was a heavy day for me, full of anxiety and concern.  Today, I find myself back in the hospital with a loved one.  And yet I was thrilled and delighted yesterday by a program about cuttlefish, as if God were letting me take a time-out from life while He delighted me with something playful and amusing that only He could invent.  We get so bowed down and aged by life that we forget that we are, after all, only children of our Father.  Do we imagine that God has no time for playing in the nursery?  Once I would have thought so, but the older I get the younger I act.

 

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Pause to Admire

For those of you who didn’t travel this holiday weekend – good for you!

I took my mother and brother to meet with family in Blowing Rock on Saturday, and the traffic was something else altogether.   It took us thirty minutes to drive through Elk Park because we found ourselves behind the town parade.  For those of you who have never been to Elk Park, I will indicate the size to you by noting that we might have passed all of twenty people lined up to watch the said parade.  Apparently, everyone else in town was in the parade, and that’s why it took them thirty minutes to do it.  Then we tried to take our usual route over Grandfather Mountain, but had to turn back because there were about fifty cars (and I’m not kidding) lined up outside the entrance gates to the park.

Needless to say, I was a bit chuffed by the time we and the traffic (finally) moseyed into downtown Blowing Rock and set about to find a parking space.  For those of you who think I should have just stayed home, I agree with you.  However, when one is meeting family, one does not always have the luxury of choosing the appointed day.  One should, however, try to avoid showing up in a bad mood.  I have to say that I was finding that hard to do.

That was when I saw something that delighted me.  Keep in mind that I am easily amused.

Isn’t he beautiful?  I think he decided to drop in for a photo shoot.  I got several pictures before he flew away.

I wish I could think of something more profound to say than, “Look at that symmetry!”  On the other hand, perhaps we are never more profound than when we simply pause to admire.

The day offered me another gift in the form of the rhododendron which are in full bloom in the mountains.  I do not know what dreary and unpoetic soul named them “rhododendron” (one of the ugliest words in the botanical lexicon), but they don’t deserve it.  Rhododendron grow in shady places, out of the sunlight.  They are hardy shrubs that thrive in the cooler weather of the mountains, and when they are not in bloom, they appear to be nothing more than tough, scrubby bushes.  Then summer comes, and they produce a blossom that is truly a lady among flowers.

It is hard to imagine how a shrub can grow such tough leaves and such delicate blooms at the same time, but here is another angle.

We all know that God grows some of his finest people in out of the way places and unpromising circumstances.  My mother is one of those people.  You cannot imagine more barren soil than what her childhood seemed to offer.  But Jesus himself was a “tender root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53).  Like rhododendron in the winter, His appearance had no particular beauty, no distinguishing loveliness to set Him apart from the other people He mingled with on a daily basis.  Yet those who measured His quality by the roughness of His exterior missed the incomparable glory of His godhead that those closest to Him were privileged to see.  His disciples saw the dead raised and the lame dance and the deaf hear and the blind see, and three of them saw Christ in his heavenly glory, shining like the sun.

All this we know from Scripture, but we forget over and over again to apply it to the reality of our lives.  We are angry at the traffic, frustrated with our loved ones, tired of the humid weather, weary at work, and a hundred other things.  Yet, God continually shines through His creation with an unspeakable beauty, and He reminds us that it was not beneath Him to come and share the ordinariness of our lives.  Indeed, He breathes upon that ordinariness, and it blossoms into “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

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