Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jewel # 267 (Nov. 23, 2016)


“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 Oilbird or Guacharo

“He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heaven.”
(Job 28:24)

The oilbird is unusually interesting and lives in Central and South America.  A fairly large bird, it measures about 18 inches from its beak to the tip of its tail.  Its wings, when outstretched, measures close to 3 feet across and it has very short legs.  It has a powerful beak that has long whisker-like feathers at each side.  This reddish-brown bird has white spots on its head and outside wing feathers and black bars across its tail.  

Oilbirds make permanent homes inside  pitch-black caves where a person would need a light to see.  Whole colonies share many of these caves, building their nests and raising their young in the darkness.  You may wonder how they live under such dark conditions.  Their Creator has given them a navigational system similar to bats.  Like bats, the birds make sharp, quick sounds while flying in the caves. These sounds echo back to their sensitive ears, telling them when something is in the way and a safe way around it.

These birds also hunt in the darkness for the fruit of certain palms and other fragrant kinds of fruits.  Good night vision and a keen sense of smell help them find these fruits, which they gulp down whole while flying.  Fruit of this kind is very nourishing and is all the food they need for themselves and their growing chicks.  They are the only nocturnal, flying fruit-eating birds in the world.

The guacharo was given the more common name of oilbird because of their chicks.  When they first hatch, chicks are quite large and have enormous appetites, gulping down all the fruit their parents bring.  These fruits are full of fat and oily juice, and in a short time the chicks, while still in the nest, grow larger than their parents.

Once their plumage begins to fill out, they gradually thin down.  By the time they are three or four months old when they leave the nests, they are nearly a normal size.  This is further helped by the exercise of searching for their own food.  In times past, natives of the area discovered that the fat of these young, oversized birds produced a rich oil when they were caught, killed and the oil boiled out of the body.  They used the oil to make an excellent butter and as fuel for their lamps.  Killing these birds is no longer permitted, but that is how the  oilbird got its unusual name.

Does the Lord God, their Creator, see these birds in the dark caves or when they are flying about at night?  Yes, He both sees and cares for them, for His eye is always on every living thing, just as the opening Bible verse tells us.

Love you all

Friday, November 18, 2016

Jewel # 266 (Nov. 15, 2016)


“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 Pronghorn

“Turn not from God’s Word to the right hand or to the left, 
that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.”   
(Joshua 1:7)

The pronghorn, with its graceful horns, is found only in the interior western and central parts of North America with a few in northern Mexico.  It is the size of a small deer, with light tan colouring except for white fur on its face, underparts and hind quarters.  This colouring allows it to blend in with the prairie where it feeds on grasses, the tender twigs of sagebrush and other shrubs.

A doe will use her sharp hoofs to beat off a coyote threatening her young, but otherwise the pronghorn has no real means of defence.  However, being one of the fastest large mammals of North America, a mature pronghorn can sprint 55 miles an hour for a half mile, 42 miles an hour for one mile and 35 miles an hour for 4 miles to escape from an enemy.  It is often cited as the second-fastest land animal, with the cheetah being the fastest.

The pronghorn has remarkably keen sight.  Its large eyes are placed far back on the side of its head, giving it a great circle of sharp vision.  When it sees something threatening, it raises the white patch of fur around its tail—a warning signal to its companions, and they all run away.  The Creator gave them the instinct to have one of their herd always stand watch.  Even when they lie down, they face in different directions so an enemy cannot take them by surprise.

A doe usually bears twins in the spring.  Their eyes are already open, and they are able to stand right away.  Prowling animals cannot easily find them because they give off no scent for some months.  At ten months they are fully grown, and by the end of a year they can run as fast as their parents.

What leads the pronghorn into trouble is its curiosity.  Hunters will tie a piece of cloth to a stick and wave it in the air while remaining hidden.  The pronghorn comes toward it to investigate, and the hunter shoots it.  This is just like the person who knows that the Bible teaches the way “which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14), but who is tempted to investigate the things that Satan and the world offer.  Satan is always ready to deceive all who will be attracted by these temptations, leading them into tragedy and sorrow.

The Bible says, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).  As our opening verse advises, do not be like the curious pronghorn and leave the right path.  The Lord will give you the strength to stand firm and show you the right way.  His instruction is:  

Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15).      

Love you all - Grandpa

Friday, November 04, 2016

Jewel # 265 (Nov. 3, 2016)


“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

Scorpions of the Sea

“If a son shall ask . . . for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”
(Luke 11:11-12)

The scorpion of desert areas should definitely be avoided.  When the Lord Jesus mentioned a scorpion in the above verse, He was telling us that loving parents do not give harmful things to their children. 

Several types of vicious fish called scorpionfish are found in the Red Sea off the coast of Africa and nearby Jordan.  These are avoided by those who know about them.

One is named turkeyfish, probably because of the way it spreads its fins when swimming.  It is one of the more active in the scorpionfish family and a fearful enemy of small fish as well as shrimp.  It will gobble them up quickly.  Hunting in small groups, a few of them circle a school of small fish, driving them toward other turkeyfish, which quickly eat quantities of them and then change places with their companions.  They do not attack people unless stepped on.  Then, like a scorpion, they sting the swimmer’s foot or bare leg with a poisonous fin.  This is usually not fatal but very, very painful. 

Another variety, equipped with small fins that help it crawl along the sea bottom, is the devil scorpionfish.  This one usually lies on the bottom and is so well camouflaged that it looks like a piece of coral.  It’s a short life for a shellfish crawling nearby or a small fish swimming too close—they are quickly eaten.  When swimming it is quite colourful, and other fish stay far away from it.

A close relation to this one is the shortfin lionfish which, motionless on the sea bottom, also looks like a piece of coral until it leaps into action.

The most fearful of all is the stonefish, which doesn’t really look like a fish but more like a piece of coloured rock.  With no visible fins or mouth its brightly coloured eyes look like  pieces of gravel  resting on top.  Swimmers are also fearful of this one as its sting is extremely painful and sometimes fatal!  Even its skin is poisonous.  Like a cannibal, it doesn’t hesitate to eat a smaller stonefish.

These poisonous and crafty creatures remind us of Satan’s ways, the one whom the Bible warms us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan, of course, does not want to eat our bodies, but to “devour” our lives by leading us into sin and closing our ears to the story of God’s love and care toward us.

There is excellent counsel in the Bible, telling us how to avoid Satan and his evil ways: “The Lord shall help them, and deliver them: He shall deliver them from the wicked one, and save them, because they trust in Him” (Psalm 37:40).

Have you taken that counsel for yourself?

Love you all - Grandpa