Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jewel # 200 (Dec. 31, 2014)


“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

Dugong, the Sea Cow

“O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all.”
(Psalm 104:24)

Most of us have never seen a dugong, because they live in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the waters around Australia.  They are a close relative of manatees, which are more familiar to us.  In many ways, the dugong’s habits are like porpoises’, but they are larger, often between 8 and 15 feet feet long and weighing up to 750 pounds.  They are air breathing mammals, but like the sea lions of the north, they have heavy bones which help them submerge quickly.  Their nostrils automatically close when underwater, where they can remain from 5 to 8 minutes before returning to the surface for air.

Like dolphins and whales, dugongs stay close by their mates, usually traveling as a family with their calf beside them.  If one is injured, the other stays close by, helping it rise to the surface for air.  The female, which usually has one calf each year, floats on her back when nursing it and cradles the little one in her flippers.  This permits the calf to breath while nursing.

Unlike dolphins and whales, dugongs do not eat fish or marine life.  Their diet is strictly seaweed and grasses that grow beneath the water’s surface.  This explains the nick-name “sea cow.”  God has equipped them especially for this kind of life.  Since they feed mostly in the twilight or darkness, He has given them large eyes that have a protective, transparent covering instead of eyelids.  Their ears are only openings on each side of their heads, yet they have excellent hearing.

Besides having efficient flippers, dugongs have forked tails similar to whales, which help them to maneuver swiftly.  Their upper lips are covered with long, tough, bristle-like hairs which help them select plant food.  Their teeth are designed to quickly cut through the tough stems of seaweed and other water plants.  An adult will eat almost 100 pounds of food each day.  Where large numbers group together, they use up the food supply and must move to another location.  Dugongs can stand on their tails in shallow water.

Dugongs have been around since the days of creation and were given all their abilities to survive when the Lord God created them.  All their needs were provided for when they were placed on the earth.

As the many wonders of God’s creation come to our attention, it is good to think about His counsel: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  We know He is the Creator of all things, but He is more than that to those who believe His Word: “He will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth . . . and to believe in the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

Besides being your Creator, is He also your Saviour?

Love you all,
Grandpa 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Jewel # 199 (Dec. 24, 2014)

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"They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make
up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)
To my dear grandchildren,

An Incredible ’Thank You’

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Ephesians 5:20)

In late summer of this year, a report was received of a very strange, yet astounding and beautiful occurrence. The event took place in the ocean not far from San Francisco.

A fisherman had spent some time fishing in the area of a group of islands not far from San Francisco. While there he spotted a very large female humpback whale that appeared to be in trouble. Upon careful examination the fisherman realized that the huge creature had become entangled in a spider web maze of crab traps and lines. She was almost helplessly weighted down by hundreds of pounds of of traps.

The whale was struggling just to stay afloat, and it was obvious to the fisherman that if something were not done to help the creature, she would die. Adding to her very dangerous condition were the hundreds of yards of line rope which had wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, and even tugging in her mouth.

The fisherman who spotted her just a bit east of the Farralone islands (outside the Golden Gate Bridge) decided upon a plan to try and do something to help the trapped whale.

He radioed an environmental group explaining the whale’s plight, asking for help. Within a short time a rescue team arrived. They determined the whale was so badly entangled, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her by hand - a very dangerous act since just one slap of her tail could kill a rescuer.

The environmental group divers worked carefully with knives and after three or four hours, eventually freed the whale. Then something astounding and beautiful took place. The freed whale swam for awhile in joyous circles. Then to everyone’s surprise she came back to each and every diver. Nudging them one at a time, the huge whale gently pushed them in circles - as though she was thanking them for her freedom.

One of the divers who cut the rope out of her mouth says he saw her eye following him the whole time. He and other divers said that awesome experience was one they will never forget.

May we never forget what our Lord Jesus has freed each believer from through His death on the cross!

"If the Son . . . shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
(John 8:36)

Love you all,
Grandpa

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jewel # 198 (Dec. 16, 2014)

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“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make
up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren

The Sly Fox

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines:
for our vines have tender grapes.”
(Song of Solomon 2:15)

Not many people really like a wolf or a coyote, but most everyone likes a fox. It looks like an animal that would be nice to pet, but don’t try it . . . a fox has sharp teeth and claws.

This intelligent, wild animal belongs to the dog family. The average size is about 30 inches long with a 15 inch, bushy tail. It has a pointed muzzle and large, furry, triangular ears.

Foxes are found on every continent except Antarctica. They can be seen frequently throughout Canada and the United States, mostly in the western parts. There are many varieties, including the red, gray, silver gray, blue and black. The most common and widespread species is the red fox, named for its thick, long-haired coat, which is a rich shade of rusty-red with patches of white on its throat, lower jaw and the tip of its tail.

Foxes do not hibernate in the winter, but most do dig dens in the ground. Some live in caves or hollow logs. Their dens usually have two or three entrances. One is the main entrance, and the others are used only to escape in an emergency. The main entrance will often be among tree roots or under large rocks.

A female fox is called a vixen, and the young are called pups. In the spring, four to nine pups are born to the vixen in the den. They are completely helpless at birth and depend on the mother for food and protection for about six months. When the pups are about a month old, she takes them outside on trips to play and to practice hunting. The frisky pups make the most of this, chasing each other, tossing sticks in the air and playfully wrestling. But the mother sees to it that they learn to hunt and to be alert for enemies.

Dogs are the enemy that they fear most. When being chased by a pack of dogs, foxes use many sly tricks to throw the dogs off the trail. Usually they can outrun the dogs in a chase. Did you know that foxes can climb trees?

Foxes are most active at dusk. They live mainly on mice, ground squirrels, insects and fruits, but most will eat anything they can catch. They hunt by stalking and then quickly pounce on their prey. They have been know to catch chickens and lambs, but generally, with the quantity of rodents they catch, they do far more good than harm.

As our opening verse says, they also eat grapes, sometimes spoiling the vines. The “little foxes” here tell us that many things that look innocent can actually be harmful in our lives. To avoid these, the Bible instructs:

“Enter not into the path of the wicked . . . avoid it, pass not by it” (Proverbs 4:14-15).

This is good advice for everyone.

Love you all,
Grandpa

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jewel # 197 (Dec. 10, 2014)

"They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make
up MY JEWELS."
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

Elephants at School

“Every kind of beasts, and . . . things in the sea . . . hath been tamed of mankind:
but the tongue can no man tame.”
(James 3:7-8)

Elephants are included in the above Bible verse and have been useful to mankind over many years. Long ago they were often used in wars to carry soldiers and move heavy equipment. People from royal families still ride on elephants’ decorated backs in parades in some countries, and elephants are useful in other ways too.

In Asian countries they help in forestry work. They will uproot trees, pull them out for cutting, and then carry the logs with their trunks or tusks to storage areas where they cleverly stack them or load them on trucks.

What kind of school do elephants attend? When natives need a worker elephant, they search wild areas for a suitable one. Then several men and two or more big, strong, tamed elephants go after it - an exciting and dangerous experience! First they must isolate it from others, then it is “tranquilized” with a dart from a special gun, and it soon lies sleeping on the ground. Strong ropes are tied around each leg above the foot, and the ends are tied to nearby trees. Another rope, passed around its neck, is tied to the “teacher” elephants standing on either side.

Awakening, the elephant rises and tugs and pulls on the ropes until it learns this is useless. Then the two teacher elephants move in, pressing against it and gently but firmly directing it. Soon the three of them move slowly around, the captive resisting, but gradually learning that neither its teachers nor the men are going to harm it. Soon the teachers take it slowly between them to a stockade where it is released.

With kind but firm treatment and continued teaching, the elephant gradually loses its wildness and understands commands it must obey. Finally the day comes when with the two teachers, the men take it to the forest where they are working. After many trips with the patience and skill of men and teacher elephants, the new member learns how to help with the work and does it willingly. Its school term is over; it has graduated.

It is only too true that we can tame the wildest creature, as the opening verse says, but we are unable to control our own tongues. How unkind the the tongue can be, and how sorry we often are for what we have said, but it can never be taken back.

What can be done about it? By admitting to the Lord Jesus how helpless we are, we can ask His help to control our tongues. He has promised to do just that if we ask Him. Here is His promise:

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with Mine eye” (Psalm 32:8).
Will you trust His promise?

Love you all,
Grandpa  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jewel # 195 (Nov. 15, 2014)

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“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

The Magnificent Elk


"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and
opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
(Hebrews 4:13)

In Europe the animal called an elk belongs to the same species as the American moose. The American elk is smaller and differs in other ways. Because of these differences, those in North America are technically know as wapiti but are usually referred to as elk.

Being part of the deer family, the American elk is second only to the moose in size. A bull elk may stand as high as five feet at the slight hump behind his shoulders and weighs 700 to 1000 pounds. A cow elk is smaller and has no antlers.

There are two varieties of native elk. Most of them live in national parks or protected reservations in the United States and southern Canada. One is the Rocky Mountain elk, living in those high mountains, mainly at Yellowstone Park and nearby, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The other, living at lower levels and staying year-round in grassy meadows, is the Tule elk.

Many of these are found in California, Idaho, Washington and Alaska. One difference between them is their feet - the Rocky Mountain elk has feet almost as wide as they are long, while the Tule’s feet are nearly twice as long as they are wide. This difference is a provision of the Creator giving the Rocky Mountain elk feet that help them in deep snow, while the long and narrow feet of the Tule elk are more suited to meadows and adjacent dry hills where they live.

Considering their size, all elk have small heads with mule-like ears, but their antlers may spread more than five feet and have as many as twelve points. Their legs are slender but strong. An elk can jump eight feet high.

Coarse hair forms a shaggy mane, and they are covered mostly with reddish brown fur. Their tan tail is just a stub, surrounded by a large yellowish patch of fur that helps identify them. In winter months a temporary warm undercoat and heavy outer coat change to greyish brown until they return to lighter fur in spring.

Elk are majestic animals, holding their heads high with eyes and ears alert. All their grazing is done during the day, with one or two of each herd maintaining a lookout while the others eat. If danger threatens, they scatter in every direction.

Elk are sometimes hunted for their meat, which is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken.

Their manner of life in harsh surroundings impresses upon us how wisely the Lord God, their Creator, has provided instincts for all living things. As the Bible verse states,

“By Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . and
He is before all things, and by Him all things are preserved.”
(Colossians 1:16-17)

Love you all
Grandpa

Friday, November 07, 2014

Jewel # 194 (Nov. 7, 2014)

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“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make
up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

How an Enemy of Trees is Stopped

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
(Ephesians 6:11)

As beautiful, tall and strong as a tree may appear, it has enemies quite capable of killing it. Some of these enemies are very small insects. One persistent little enemy is the bark beetle. It is one of the worst pests of spruce and pine trees in North America.

Usually these beetles come in swarms, boring through cracks in the bark and eventually boring their way into the sapwood. In a healthy tree, these beetles often become submerged in the resin that oozes our of the hole and then they die. But in weakened and drought-affected trees, there is not enough resin to trap them.

Once the beetles reach the vital sapwood, they lay their eggs in their bored tunnels. When the eggs hatch, the larvae continue to feed in the tree.

If there were no way to stop these persistent little insects, there would eventually be no pine or spruce trees left. God has provided protection for these trees by using another insect known as the checkered beetle which can catch the bark beetles in flight and eat them. Not only do checkered beetles kill the bark beetles, but they also go into the tunnels the bark beetles have already made. The checkered beetles lay their eggs alongside those of the bark beetles, and when the larvae hatch, they attack and kill the newly hatched bark beetle larvae.

God has also given another friend to the trees - the braconid wasp. In some unknown way, it locates the bark beetle larvae, even though they might be under an inch of bark. This wasp injects its own eggs into the larvae of the bark beetle. The eggs soon hatch, and these larvae immediately feed on their hosts, which kill the bark beetle larvae.

Recently, an enemy of ash trees has been killing many, many of these large hardwood trees. It is a small bright-green beetle called the emerald ash borer. These can kill an ash tree in just two years. Presently no natural enemy is known.

The killer beetles remind us of the enemy Satan, who “as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His attacks are often in some small manner that we may even be aware of, but we say, “That doesn’t amount to much; I‘m not concerned about it.” But what prayerful care we need so that Satan does not get the edge on us.

The only way we can apply the armour of Ephesians 6:11 or withstand Satan’s attacks is by turning to the Lord Jesus in every testing. “Finally . . . be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). With Him taking our place before our enemy, we can say, “Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Love you all,
Grandpa

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jewel # 193 (Oct. 31, 2014)

They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make
up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

Attractive Barbets

“He sendeth the springs into the valleys. . . . By them shall the fowls of the heaven
have their habitation, which sing among the branches.”
(Psalm 104:10-12)

There are about 75 species of barbets. All of these birds have colourful and strong bills, which make them look like miniature toucans. In relation to their size these birds have large heads and short tails. The smallest variety is about 3 inches long, and the largest is close to 12 inches. They are tropical birds and do not migrate. They live in the forests of Africa, Central and South America and parts of the South Pacific.

All barbets are brightly coloured with some white and dark, and many bird watchers consider them the most beautiful of all birds. Each species bears a descriptive name, and we will look at two. One is called the crimson-fronted and lives in Asia. It is strictly a fruit eater and is especially frond of wild figs. It nests in a tree hole, laying 2-4 eggs.

Another is called the red and yellow, an African barbet. Males have red and yellow plumage with a black and white stripped tail. Females and young ones are less brightly coloured. These barbets nest and roost int tunnels. All other barbet are equally colourful and interesting.

The Creator has provided barbets with strong legs and feet having sharp claws, enabling them to climb and hold securely to the side of a tree, while feeding or digging a nest out of a decaying area of the trunk. Males and females work together, their large beaks pulling out the decayed wood. They make a nest with a small opening, but it is large enough inside for both them and their young, which usually number four. They are tidy housekeepers and promptly discard all unusable material from the nest.

The lives of most barbets are spent in the trees, and they seldom go to the ground. Resting after searching for insects, lizards, rodents and fruit, all of which they eat, they often sit on a branch for hours without moving. There they call back and forth to one another in sharp, ringing tones that have no real melody. It is amusing to hear their happy but discordant notes when a pair sits cozily side by side. Barbets are silent in winter.

These lovely birds remind us of the Lord’s pleasure in His creation. Psalm 111:4 says, “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” That gracious compassion is extended toward everything He has created, but it is especially extended to all the people of the earth. Jeremiah, one of the Bible prophets, wrote, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is His faithfulness. . . . Therefore will I hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

Are you aware of the Lord’s loving compassion to you?
And have you received Him as your Saviour by faith?


Love you all,
Grandpa

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jewel # 192 (Oct. 21, 2014)

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“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts,
in that day when I make up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

How the Aye-Aye Got its Name

“The eyes of all wait upon Thee; 
and Thou givest them their food in due season.”
(Psalm 145:15)

The little squirrel-like animal called the aye-aye is about 15 inches long plus a two foot long tail.  It is found mainly on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of southeast Africa, and this year (2014) it has been listed as an endangered species.  Its distinctive cry of “I-I” caused the natives to make that its name, which we now spell “aye-aye” in English.  It is a member of the lemur family.

A nighttime feeder, it is rarely seen because it spends most of the daylight hours curled up in a ball-shaped nest in the hidden fork of a large tree.  Sometimes it grooms itself with its long fingers during the day.

Its appearance is rather unusual.  It has a pale-brown smooth face and white chin, sharp red eyes and alert black ears.  The rest of its body is covered with long, silky, rust coloured or grayish-black hair.  Its head is broad at the top, but tapers to a narrow point at its small mouth and chin.  Because of its rather spooky-looking eyes, the natives have long thought that it has an evil sprit, and they avoid touching it.  However, that is only superstition; the aye-aye will not harm anyone.

An interesting feature is the long narrow third finger of each front paw.  Armed with a long, sharp nail and hinged in the middle, this finger is used for catching much of the aye-aye’s food.

Its sensitive ears pick up the sound of an almost-silent grub or insect inside a tree trunk.  With its strong teeth it immediately chews a hole in the wood.  Then this long finger is used to pull the grub out of its tunnel.  It quickly eats the grub and reaches in again and again, until no more grubs remain.  These slender fingers are also helpful in removing bark to expose tidbits, as well as scooping out the insides of fallen coconuts, and they are even used as a toothpick!  (Aye-ayes’ teeth never stop growing.) The aye-aye’s  food is not just insects.  It also likes fruit and their juices, often dangling by its legs from the branches to get at ripe, juicy treats, like mangos, sugar cane, lychees and eggs from villages and plantations.

The aye-aye is another example of the Creator’s marvellous works, some of which are never seen by human eyes, but which, as our opening verse tells us, are always under His watchful care, whether in the darkness of night or light of day.

People sometimes think their activities are hidden from God, but the Bible tells us: “His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He sees all his goings” (Job 34:21).  True happiness is only found in knowing the Lord Jesus as our Saviour and Friend and trusting in Him every day for every event of our lives.

Love you all,
Grandpa        

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jewel # 191 (Oct. 12, 2014)

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“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make 
up MY JEWELS.”
(Malachi 3:17)

To my dear grandchildren,

The Pretty Little Goby

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.”
(Psalm 107:23-24)

Those who live in the islands of the Caribbean Sea and have explored underwater in the bays or along the reefs have seen beautiful and fascinating sights.  Among all the colourful sights, they may have observed a small, bright-blue fish known as the goby.  This little fish lives a rather unusual life.

Most little fish try to remain hidden, fearing that larger fish will eat them.  But the goby remains entirely exposed on a piece of coral where it lives and has a little business going.  It has no fear of larger fish; in fact, it seems to try to attract them.

The Parrot fish, which has beaklike jaws, is one of the goby’s regular customers.  When a parrot fish sees the goby, it will slowly swim over to it, and then turning upright in the water it spreads out its fins. The goby begins cleaning off and eating all the small parasites that are attached to the body of the parrot fish.   Then the parrot fish will open its mouth wide, and the goby swims inside to clean the teeth and the inside of the parrot fish’s mouth.  When the cleaning is finished, the goby swims out, the parrot fish swims away, and the goby has had a good meal for its work.

Other species of fish, such as the surgeon fish and the vicious bar jack, are also cleaned by the goby.  Both of these could easily swallow the little goby whole.

How is it that a little fish could overcome natural fear of larger fish that could so easily eat it?  What makes the otherwise vicious killers come peacefully to this little fish, even letting it swim into their jaws without harming it?  Here we have another wonder of God’s creation, displaying that “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).  It also shows His wisdom in providing a working relationship between creatures who would normally be enemies, that they might help each other through this arrangement.

Let us remember that the Lord God is the Creator of all things and is also the Provider for them.  His eye is always on even the smallest and strangest of His creatures, and all form a part of His wise purposes.  Of most importance, it is “the Lord God who formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). The little goby and the big fish do not have this, but God’s Word tells us that He has loved you and me with an everlasting love and would draw us to Himself through Christ the Saviour.  

Do not turn away from Him, but accept His love today.

I love you all,
Grandpa