Monday, July 25, 2016

Jewel # 255 (July 25, 2016)

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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 Noisy Cicada

“God does great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number.”
(Job 5:9)

The periodical cicadas, also called locusts, have the longest life cycle of all insects and are seen just once every 13 or 17 years, depending on their species.  They appear in late May or early June, mostly in the northeastern United States, but some show up in the Midwest and northern California as well.  The ones appearing this year will have emerged in parts of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Most people become aware of them in early summer when they come out of the ground, sometimes millions of them, climbing tree trunks or anything upright and shedding their skins.  In the next few hours, their bodies harden as their large wings unfold, growing stronger and becoming colourful.  They can then fly short distances into trees.

Males make an ear-piercing buzzing song to attract females.  the shrill notes are not made with their mouths but are produced by vibrating drum-like membranes on the undersides of their bodies.  Sometimes males will group together, producing a chorus of song.  At times they will suddenly become totally silent for several seconds—as if by signal—and then all begin their shrill buzzing again.

These one-and-a-half-inch - to two inch-long insects with bulging eyes are harmless to people but do serious damage to tree branches.  The females make deep slits on the undersides of twigs and branches for depositing their eggs.  These twigs are so badly injured by these slits that the tips usually die.  A few weeks after the eggs are laid, the outdoors gradually becomes quiet again as the adult life cycle is over and they begin to die.  Their work of producing a new generation has been completed.

In a few weeks, the eggs hatch and the little nymphs appear and drop to the ground.  They immediately burrow into the soil, not to be seen for another 13 or 17 years, unless someone uncovers a few when digging in the soil.  What do they live on in the soil all those years?  As far a scientists can tell, they feed on tree roots.  This does not seem to hurt the trees.

There are other species of cicadas which have a shorter life span, staying underground for one year and others for two to five years.  These are called dog-day cicadas.  Because different groups develop at different times, some adults appear each year, and their buzzing songs are heard in late July or early August.

The more we discover and investigate the great variety of animals, birds, fish and insects the Creator has placed on the earth, the more we are impressed with His wisdom in not only creating them, but in caring for them as well.  We should say like King David did many years ago - 

I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all Thy marvellous works” 
(Psalm 9:1).

Love you all,
Grandpa  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jewel # 254 (July 16, 2016)

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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,

Birds of Paradise
(Part 2)

"I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will
show forth all Thy marvellous works.”
(Psalm 9:1)

In a previous article we commented on the beautifully coloured feathers, plumes and unusual features of the various species of birds of paradise.  The most outstanding feature that most have are two slender wires crossing each other as they extend beyond their tails.  Sometimes these curl to form a pair of circles or other shapes. On some birds there are 6 of these wires and on others 12.  These larger numbers of wires usually form small coils, resting snugly against the tails and not extending beyond.  Let’s look at a few of them.

One called Count Raggi’s has 12 wires.  He is bright yellow all over except for red feet and a bright green balloon-like head.  He is unusually active in winning a mate.  First he dances about on a tree limb to attract a female’s attention, then spreads his wings upward, and finally turns nearly upside down to make his feathers flash more brilliantly than ever.  If the female doesn’t respond, he repeats the performance for another one when he has the opportunity.

The king is also outstanding.  He is a brilliant red over his head and throat with a green band over his chest, dividing the red from a white underbody.  From his short, purple tail, two long wires extend with small balls of purple feathers on their ends.        

Another has the name King of Saxony and looks almost like a robin—with dark top feathers and an orange breast.  His distinctive feature is a pair of long, glossy plumes—one blue ad the other brown—extending from the back of his head beyond his tail by a distance of more than twice the length of his body.  The Creator has given him these pretty features rather than the wires most others display.

The Superb has a different arrangement.  An olive-green body and wide spreading tail contrast with his bright blue chest and short wings of the same colour.  He has no wires extending behind him.

The white-plumbed lacks the brilliant colours of the others but has a prominent display of long, fluffy, white plumes extending from his back.  He can raise these over his body to look like a most beautiful cape.

The beautiful feathers of these birds, as well as a wide variety of other birds, are possibly one of the greatest displays of God’s visible handiwork.  However, He has other beautiful designs in fish and and animal groupings.  In contrast, it is often the ordinary-coloured creatures that have the greatest skills and the most amazing ways of life.  They are all part of God’s creation, and we should think of Him and His wisdom when we have occasion to observe any of them.

Love you all
Grandpa 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jewel # 252 (June 23, 2016)

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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 World’s Laziest Animal

He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
(Proverbs 18:9

The sloth lives in the tropics of Central and South America and is among the strangest of all animals.  A full-grown sloth is about two feet long and has almost no tail or ears.  Its hair is long and coarse, but its face is bare.  It has a blunt nose on a head that doesn’t seem to have any neck.  Some species can turn their heads almost completely around without moving their bodies, which suits this sluggish creature just fine since it will sometimes stay in the same spot all day.

No wonder the Bible doesn’t have anything good to say about the sloth.  In fact, our opening verse indicates that it is shameful for people to be like these lazy creatures.  Another verse cautions, “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15). 

Perhaps the Creator allowed the sloth to have its lazy habits to give us an example of what is not pleasing to Him.  Instead of being slothful, we are instructed, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might"  (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  

The sloth lives among the trees of the tropics where it hangs upside down most of the time, using it three sharp claws on each foot to securely grip a branch.  After sleeping this way, it is quite content to spend its waking hours in the same position, slowly munching leaves, buds and young twigs within its reach.  

Because it seldom moves, it is well hidden from its enemies.  The sloth occasionally comes down to the ground where it moves clumsily about, but very soon it climbs back up the tree to its lazy way of life.

Unlike most other animals, the sloth doesn’t bother to groom itself.  As a result, its hair becomes the home of numerous bugs, ticks and moths, and some sloths even have a growth of green algae on their hair.  This certainly is not an animal you would want to touch or have for a pet!

This creature is an illustration of how bad habits and laziness are used by Satan to produce the ugly stains of sin that leave their mark on many people.  But, thank the Lord, all who come to the Lord Jesus Christ can be washed clean from their sins.  

In 1 John 1:7,9 we read this wonderful message: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”    

Certainly the sloth is a sad example of laziness.  How much better it is to please the Lord by obeying His request: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). 

Love you all.
Grandpa