Friday, July 31, 2015

Jewel # 221 (July 31, 2015)

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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 Lowly Sparrow

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground 
without your Father . . . Ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
(Matthew 10:29-31) 

How pleasant it is to think that God is aware of even a small, common bird such as the sparrow.  But everything is of concern to Him whose eye is on all living things.  If He watches each little sparrow, He must watch over you and me much, much more, because He says “Ye are of more value than many sparrows.” 

This plain little bird is known as the house sparrow because it makes its nest around houses, barns or other buildings.  It is also called the English sparrow since the British brought them to North America in 1850.

Although we see many sparrows hopping about on paved streets and sidewalks in cities, they actually prefer living in brush beside cultivated fields.  There they find food in the form of seeds, caterpillars and insects.

Scientists have been able to determine that young sparrows’ food has to be at least 70% larvae and insects.  As they grow, the amount of “living food” drops to only 3%, while adult sparrows feed almost entirely on seeds.  Since the  parents must feed the little ones until they mature, how do they know the babies need a diet so different from their own?  Certainly they have learned this from God, the One who created and watches over them.

The sparrow does have some amazing features.  Its vision is far superior to the human eye.  Flying over the ground, it can spot and stop for a seed on a grass stem.  It apparently can also pick out special colours that indicate food.  Its eyes, about one forth the size of a man’s, are large for its body.  It can see ahead, to both sides and slightly behind.  This permits it to keep alert for hawks, buildings, trees or other objects while flying.  House sparrow are able to swim underwater.

Its feathers are complex.  There is a central shaft in each feather called the vane.  From this vane there are barbs (branches) all along its surface.  Each barb interlocks into its neighbour and provides a strong, tough surface.  Special muscles turn all or part of the feathers instantly, so its feathers and wings can raise, lower or rotate automatically.  This provides lift, direction and balance while in flight.  In cold weather, additional fuzzy down grows at the base of each feather, providing warmth and insulation.

We can easily see that the Creator has given this little bird all necessary provisions for its life.  The Bible tells us, “Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16).  He not only feeds and cares for each sparrow, but He also sees when life ends for one of these little birds.  How closely He must watch over you and me who are of more value than many sparrows!

Love you all,
Grandpa  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Jewel # 220 (July 22, 2015)

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Cicada
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Cicada Killer

“And 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 Cicada Killer

“I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings.”
(Psalm 77:12)

The shrill chorus of many singing cicadas can be very annoying in July and August.  The noise goes on steadily with no break until suddenly, as if by a signal, they stop for a few moments and there is silence.  But soon they are singing again.

While the cicadas are singing, female wasps, called cicada killers, are hunting them.  After finding a cicada, the wasp plunges her stinger into its nerve center.  This paralyzes the cicada, but it continues to live.  Then, firmly grasping it, the wasp tumbles to the ground and turns the cicada on its back so she can pull it head first, like a sled, to one of the many burrows she has dug in the ground.  Sometimes the wasp drags the heavy, paralyzed cicada partway up a tree, until she can get enough altitude to fly back to her burrow.  She may have to repeat this several times before the trip is finished.

When the wasp finally reaches the burrow, she drags the cicada to the bottom where she has already prepared a little room.  Then she lays an egg and places it under the cicada.  After that, she goes back out to catch another cicada.  This process is repeated until two or three cicadas are brought to each burrow and an egg placed under each one.  As she exits each burrow, she fills it with dirt.

In a few days, the eggs hatch and the larvae begin life by feeding on the paralyzed cicadas.  After a week or more of eating this food, the larvae spin cocoons and remain underground through the cold winter.  In early summer they change into the pupa stage and shortly break out of the cocoons as adult wasps.  Then they have to dig their way out of the dirt-filled burrows.  Surprisingly, as full-grown wasps, they no longer eat cicadas, but feed entirely on nectar.  Cicadas are captured only when the female wasps need to provide food for the next generation.

How does the female wasp know where to place her stinger to paralyze, but not kill, her victim?  How does she know to place an egg under a paralyzed cicada, so the larva will have food for its start in life?  Who taught the young wasp to dig its way out of the burrow?  We know that these instincts are given by God who created and cares for them.

But have you stopped to think that His provisions for us are much more wonderful?  He gives us life and sustains it day by day.  He also gives eternal life to all those who accept the salvation He offers.  Salvation is provided through faith in His beloved Son, Christ Jesus, who died on Calvary’s cross for us.  

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).     

Have you accepted this invitation?    

Love you all,
Grandpa      

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Jewel # 219 (July 4, 2015)

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“And 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 Cock-of-the-Rock

“Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, 
and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?”
(Job 35:11)

The pigeon-sized cock-of-the-rock makes its home in the Amazon region north of Brazil.  The outstanding colour of the male is orange-red, its head topped with a helmet-like orange crest.  Wing feathers are contrasting dark brown and blue — all making this bird very beautiful.

In contrast, young chicks are anything but beautiful, with their fuzzy black hair, bare legs and wings looking like a coarse comb.  But in a year’s time, they have the same plumage as the adults.

Because of the male’s fighting attitude toward any other bird that approaches its nesting area, it is well named cock-of-the-rock.  This fighting attitude makes them quick to challenge one another, especially when one trespasses into another’s territory or when they are both trying to win the same female at an event called a lek. 

At the time of the lek, several male and female birds gather together in a clearing.  The females are off to one side while the males, one by one, approach with their pretty feathers fluffed out, dancing with steps and hops and fluffing out their pretty light-blue wings below the orange body feathers.

The females then make their choice of a mate, and they go their way to find a place to build a nest of mud and sticks among the trees or perhaps on top of a rocky ledge.  But the female, whose feathers are plain brown, often builds the nest by herself and incubates the eggs and raises her young without any help.  Meanwhile, the father bird is enjoying a care-free life, showing off his feathers as he flies through the forest.  What a selfish fellow!

Males in combat lock powerful talons together, jab at each other with their wings and may lock beaks.  These matches may last two or three hours, and if neither can claim himself a winner, they seem to agree to rest a while before fighting again until one is defeated.  When not fighting, they still threaten each other with harsh calls and noisy wing-flapping.

We may be sure that when these beautiful birds were created, they were not proud and vicious as they are now.  When God created them, along with the other birds on the fifth day of His creation, the Bible states, “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21).  What happened to change them?  It was sin coming into the world through Satan, and he has never changed from his evil ways.  The Bible warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary [enemy] the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour [destroy]” (1 Peter 5:8).

We can only resist Satan and his evil ways by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus and asking Him to lead us in His ways.

Have you done this?

Love you all, 
Grandpa