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      

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Jewel # 190 (Oct. 4, 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,

Hitchhiking Birds

“He giveth to the beast his food, 
and to the young ravens which cry.”
(Psalm 147:9)

The energy needed by birds demands a plentiful supply of food, and usually much time is spent finding it.  Some, like the kingfisher, dive into the water for theirs.  Others, such as robins, search in the soil for worms and insects.  Swallows are one kind that captures insects in the air.  Others use an easier way.

The small, graceful, white-plumed cattle egrets ride on the backs of wild and tame animals.  As the animals graze in grassy areas, they disturb insects in the grass, which are caught by these hitchhikers.  Even crows will ride on the backs of of pigs while they are rooting in the ground, swooping down to snatch the grubs and worms that are turned up.  Cowbirds ride on the backs of grazing cattle and catch the insects stirred up by the cows’ hooves.

The oxpecker, with its red bill and orange and black feathers, frequently perches on the neck of an impala to remove ticks from the impala’s ears.  Sometimes it clings to the sides of rhinos, water buffalo or hippos, eating parasites out of their loose folds of skin.  Certain starlings, as well as the tick bird, also ride on the backs of these big animals.  Cattle egrets also follow farm machines, fires and airplanes to catch insects.  

Other unusual birds include the phalaropes in the Arctic and the carmine bee-eater of South Africa.  Both gray and red phalaropes will perch on the exposed fin of a killer whale and feast on parasites.  The bee-eater rides atop another bird - the big hori bustard.  As the bustard walks through meadows, it stirs up food for itself as well as its little passenger.

In the British Isles, the pied wagtail perches on the head of a fallow deer and catches the pesky flies that bother the animal’s eyes and sometimes cause blindness.  Often this bird’s young ones also ride on the deer’s back while the mother is busy up front collecting flies to bring back to them.

All of these birds, and many others, help their hosts by catching the annoying insects and parasites that bother them.  The birds are very welcome as riders, and if the animals could talk, they would probably thank them for the relief and comfort their service provides.

It has been the joy of the Creator to give these birds and animals a companionship which benefits each other.  It is another example of how“the Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9).

But as wonderful as God’s care is over all living things, His care and love for you is much greater.  That love has provided His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  On Calvary’s cross He was punished for the sins of all who will admit they are sinners and accept Him as their Saviour.  Then God delights to call these His own sons and daughters.

Have you accepted and thanked Him for that love?

I love you all,
Grandpa