Sunday, December 21, 2008

Caterpillars with Wings!

An older caterpillar starts developing adult butterfly parts before it changes into a chrysalis. In fact, a caterpillar has wings. The wings are simply developing inside of the caterpillar and they're not NEAR ready to use. Along with wings, its proboscis, legs, antennae, eyes, and other adult body parts are developing out of sight. The photo below has these parts labeled. Normally I don't use such a large photo on the blog, but with this photo, I wanted the parts clearly visible.

monarch butterfly chrysalis with antennae, legs, wings, eyes, proboscis

This photo is of a freshly pupated caterpillar. Remember; a chrysalis is simply a caterpillar without its skin. A few minutes before I took the photo, it was a Jing caterpillar, preparing to pupate. In three minutes, it changes from a caterpillar to an adult by simply 'shedding its skin'.

The labeled body parts that you see in this photo started developing in the caterpillar. As the soft fresh chrysalis reshapes over the next hour and develops for a week or more, these body parts as well as other adult butterfly body parts continue to develop. After they have fully developed, the adult butterfly emerges.

There are quite a few things going on inside the caterpillar and chrysalis that no one can see.

I try to always remember that when I am down on me. Hey, there's a lot of 'worm' about me but God is developing some pretty wonderful things inside me. No, not because I am special myself but because God loves me.

For years I have found myself praying that God will do two things:
1. Show me where I am wrong and need to change or grow
2. Show me wherd I have grown and changed for the better

The first one is easy. I see things I need to change every day. Patience, self-control (chocolate?), generosity, tolerance - it's enough to get downright discouraging! I know its God showing me because it's normal for people to think that they have a right to be impatient; after all (people often think), I'm as important (or more so) than he/she is! And so forth. It takes God to show me that eating wrong is a lack of self-control and no matter how bad my day has been, I need to take better care of the gift he gave me - a healthy body. Some fun food is fine as long as I do eat right overall.

The second one is what keeps me from becoming discouraged! God is gracious enough to show me where I have grown. How can I become discouraged when I can see God working in me? Sometimes (sadly, not always) I step back and allow someone else to go ahead of me (if I'm the only one in line so I'm not giving away other people's place in line too), I do turn down chocolate and other unhealthy food often, I sometimes give away things I want for myself, I realize that others have as much right to be wrong as I do (that grows tolerance in me), and I become encouraged. God IS working in me. I may not be changing fast, but I am changing inside. People may not see it on the outside yet - but I know that there are things going on inside that mean I am maturing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caterpillars Grow and Grow and Grow and Grow

Butterfly caterpillars grow and grow and grow.

Viceroy butterfly larvae / caterpillars of varying sizes or instars

These caterpillars grow about 2,800 times the weight they were when they hatched.

Cloudless Sulphur butterfly larvae / caterpillars of varying sizes or instars

If they don't eat enough, they'll not grow as large. The photo below shows two chrysalises; one ate plenty and grew large. The other one didn't eat enough and didn't grow as large. Both emerged as beautiful adult Monarch butterflies. (Note: the word 'cocoon' isn't the proper term for a butterfly pupa).

monarch butterfly chrysalises / pupae / cocoons large and small

Several things can keep a butterfly or moth caterpillar from growing to it's full potential:
1. Not enough food available (early frost, too many caterpillars, too early in spring for the food to grow fast enough to keep up with the demand)
2. Temperatures too cold (late fall and early spring) for the caterpillars to be active and eat well
3. Disease; sick caterpillars often lose their appetites
4. Too crowded; too many caterpillars on the same plant and they keep bumping each other or even purposely knocking each other off their plant
5. Plant losing it's nutrition (plant pests draining leaves of nutrition, drought)
6. Plant tasting wrong (spray on the leaves that change the taste, plant pests leaving a large amount of excrement on which sooty mold grows, strong fertilizers or other nutrients/chemicals drawn up by the roots into the leaves)
7. An older caterpillar becoming 'lost' and cannot find the host plant again to continue eating
8. And many other reasons!

It's sad to see a small version of a butterfly that we know is much smaller than normal. We know that something happened to cause it to be so much smaller than normal.

It will be mature; just much smaller than it's potential mature size.

But it's great to see that it did live to become an adult, even if it has not reached its full potential! If it doesn't have enough nutrition, it will starve to death and cannot become an adult. Sometimes it will become a chrysalis but doesn't have enough strength / life to finish developing to become an adult; an additional week or more as a chrysalis.

Quite often I look at myself and see that I am much 'smaller' or less mature than I should be. At 53, as a Christian for my entire life, I should have matured far beyond what I have to date. As a 53 year old 'newborn' Christian, I wouldn't expect so much out of myself - but as I said, I'm not a 'newborn' Christian. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home where God was first - PERIOD.

Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. So are the eight other attributes that I don't like to look at too close. Sigh. It takes a long time for this fruit to grow in me! Some parts of this fruit are more more developed than others.

I think about love and my first reaction is, 'Sure, I have love'. Then I remember that Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. Well, maybe I really don't have love in the sense Jesus used the term. It's easy to love those who love me. 'Full-grown' love is one that loves enemies as well as friends and loved ones. The love Jesus talks about is an action, not a feeling. We can't command our feelings but we can command our actions.

Joy; yes-sir-ree, I have joy! Then things go 'wrong' and I lose that 'joy'. But then I realize that I often mix up joy and happiness and yes, I do lose my happiness but I always have had the joy that God puts inside me. Hopefully, I'll never be tested with really rough times and have my fruit of joy tested.

Peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness ... each one of these parts of the fruit of the Spirit needs to grow to its full potential within me.

How do I grow this fruit to the right 'size'? As I think about it, I realize that this fruit grows the same way as a caterpillar grows, but feeding on the right food. If the Spirit of God is within me, my spirit grows and the fruit will grow.

I can be less than the potential God intends me to be; it's up to me. I can feed on the Word of God and by spending time talking to God, thanking God, asking God to grow me. Or I can ALL spend my time doing other things without taking time for God.

So what is my excuse:
1. Not enough food available? There is plenty for me to feed upon. I can't claim this excuse.
2. Conditions not suitable for me to be active and eat well? No, once again, conditions are perfect - I'm not always as active and feeding on the right things out of my laziness. Not an excuse.
3. Disease; hmmm - could I be allowing myself to become 'diseased' by allowing things to grow in me that shouldn't? Things like worry, lack of faith that God is in control, or other 'diseases'? Not an excuse.
4. Too crowded; no - I have plenty of time alone to read and study God's word and to talk with God in prayer. Not an excuse.
5. Plant losing it's nutrition; absolutely not. God's word does not change. Nothing can alter it's 'nutrition'. Not an excuse.
6. Plant tasting wrong; well, my attitude can cause problems with the taste but the taste of God's word is always good. But if I've become immersed in myself and don't want to listen to God's word because it will reveal my faults (as it should) then yes, it will taste 'wrong' because of my taste buds, not because of the 'taste' of God's word. Not an excuse.
7. Becoming 'lost' and cannot find food; God's word in this country is always nearby. God is always with me. I can choose to walk away but God will never leave me. Not an excuse.
8. And many other reasons - but none of them can I claim as an excuse for myself to not have enough to eat and grow as I should.

Even if I do not fully 'mature' or 'grow', I am still a child of God, like a smaller than normal adult butterfly is still an adult butterfly. But I am robbing myself and others if I don't feed properly to fully grow and mature.

It's past time for me to start 'eating' heartily in the spiritual sense. I thank God that there is always enough spiritual nutrition at hand for me to grow and produce fully 'grown' and mature fruit of the Spirit.

Galations 5: 22, 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control;

Matthew 5: 43 -
Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you;

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ugly Beginnings

Imagine finding what looks like a little pile of caterpillar frass (poop) on a leaf. You turn over the little pile and find a pupa of either a butterfly or moth. What an odd place to find such a thing! Looking at the above photos, who would ever guess that something beautiful could come from this nasty little pile?

When I found this little pupa, I brought it home and kept it secure until the moth or butterfly inside emerged. I had no idea what species was inside, developing it's mature wings and body.

Imagine my surprise when I found the beautiful small green moth that emerged one day. This little moth resembles a butterfly with it's posture; wings upright over its back.

green moth

I started thinking about how much beauty comes from 'ugly' things. Our human judgement is not commendable.

This caterpillar is also considered 'ugly' ....

... and so is this chrysalis. The caterpillar has lumps, bumps, and not much beautiful about it. The chrysalis is also brown and lumpy.

Yet the Red-spotted Purple butterfly that develops from this caterpillar and chrysalis is a real beauty. One would never dream that such beauty could come from this brown lump of a chrysalis.

This time of year we think of a spot that was also very disgusting to our human minds. A spot where animals were kept; with smells from animals and the smells of fresh manure of those animals very present. The word 'manger' brings images of clean beautiful surroundings, fresh hay, clean little lambs and donkeys, such as we see in 'manger' scenes and paintings. But lets look at the truth; even when a stable is cleaned regularly, it definitely keeps the smell of manure.

Now imagine the stable on the night that Jesus was born. There were so many people in Bethlehem that the inn was full. There arrived a man and a woman who was so far advanced in her preganacy that she delivered her baby that night. The inn was so full that the only option she had was the stable. This stable must have been filled with animals that people rode as they traveled to Bethlehem; remember that the town was full of people who came to register for the census.

No matter how many times the stable was cleaned, it simply must have been dirty when Mary was giving birth to Jesus. So many people had traveled to the town that the inn was full. Their animals would have been in stables. A very real fact about animals is manure. No matter how often a stable is cleaned, it will be dirty.

The smell of dirty sweaty animals must have been heavy. Mary's feet must have been dirty with manure as she walked through the stable. Joseph must have cleaned an area for Mary to lie down and to give birth to the baby that they both knew was far from an 'ordinary' baby. Angels had talked to each of them privately, months before. I can't believe that Joseph would have allowed this baby to be born in the midst of dirty animals and manure if he had any other option.

We can't know what it was really like; how many animals, how bad it smelled, how much manure was on the floor, what the surroundings were for this woman to give birth to her son. But it had to be dirty by our standards of living quarters, let alone a delivery room.

But we do know that the truly most beautiful thing ever to enter this world was our saviour, Jesus Christ. The son of God - who came from surroundings we humans consider 'ugly'.

Matthew 1 : 18 - 21
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Luke 1 : 26B - 38
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel[e] forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Luke 2 : 1-7
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Luke 2 : 15 - 16
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spider Webs & Butterflies

Viceroy butterfly caught in a spider web

Spider webs are sad for butterflies. Many butterflies lose their lives in spider webs.

A few days ago I walked into an area of the garden and saw this sight; a Viceroy butterfly caught in a spider web. As usual, my camera was strapped to me and I stopped to take a photo. I reached up to remove the web and realized this Viceroy was still alive! I gently removed the webbing and let it fly. No problem; it was READY to go! Normally the butterfly is struggling and I know it is alive without touching it.

I thought about all the butterflies I find in webs that are dead; obviously dead.

tawny emperor butterfly caught in a spider web

As I thought about the butterfly over the next fews days, I thought about all the butterflies that struggled to get loose and either was killed by the spider or, if the web was old, just starved in the web. Yes, they're 'just insects' but I have a strong emotional attachment to these winged beauties! I always am thrilled when I know that I saved one.

'Saved' one. I keep thinking how Christians use words that people who did not grow up in a Christian church or family have trouble understanding. Christian terms are often like a foreign language. 'Saved' is a Christian term, too.

Christians say, "I'm saved" and to those who don't understand Christian language, it sounds very odd. What are we saved from? How are we saved?

Having grown up in a Christian home where God was as real as anything else in this world, I was kept from a lot of things that many people have had to battle. But even so, I was born with a carnal nature; selfish and without thoughts for God or others. People ask me about that; what do I mean that I was born selfish? The answer is simple. Watch any child. 'Mine' is often the first word a younger child learns. Older siblings tend to take their toys because the younger one isn't strong enough to hold on to it. Older siblings often clearly show that selfish 'me' nature.

Selfishness is normal; for most children, sharing is a taught action.

A child that doesn't throw a temper tantrum, doesn't take what doesn't belong to her, that does her chores, that never lies, that .... well, the list goes on ... that child doesn't exist. Every child has to learn to fit into society and live by the rules of unselfishness. That's the carnal nature that we are all born with. Yes, some are naturally more generous than others but even so, every one is born with the 'me' attitude.

I'm thankful that I have been 'saved'. Once I was old enough to understand about God and Jesus, I had the choice of turning from the nature that was natural in me and to ask for forgiveness and ask God to lead me for the rest of my life. Learning to leave the old nature behind was/is a slow process. Even now, at 53, I find the old nature is still here. (Especially when chocolate is around! Grin) But I know that God will welcome me when I die - to join him for eternity. Things will be the way HE intended it from the beginning!

I'm thankful for the one who 'saved' me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Microscopic Killers - Ophryocystis electroskirrha

Monarch Butterfly Danaus Plexippus

Disease is a nasty part of a butterfly's world. A glance at a Monarch butterfly will not always reveal whether it is diseased or not. Sometimes it takes a microscope to make that determination.
Monarch Butterfly Scales

The touch of a piece of clear tape to the abdomen of a Monarch butterfly removes some of its scales. The loss of those few scales does not harm the butterfly. A look through the microscope shows us a world we cannot see with our naked eye; scales and more.   
OE spores on Monarch butterfly

One terrible disease that Monarch butterflies contract is Ophryocystis electroskirrha (OE). OE infection can be light to heavy. Heavy infection can cause the butterfly to die. Many Monarch butterflies in the wild live without problem with heavy OE infection. The photo above shows OE spores on and among a Monarch's scales. This Monarch was heavily diseased. The spores look like small dark footballs. A spore is, simply put, a disease seed. Under the right conditions it will 'sprout' and grow.

The only way caterpillars can contract OE is to swallow one or more spores. Over 100 spores can fit on one butterfly scale. A butterfly chrysalis or adult cannot contract OE although the adult is the carrier of the spores. The photo below is of a Monarch egg with one scale on it, left behind when the egg was laid. This one scale may have over 100 OE spores on it.

Monarch butterfly egg with scale

At a butterfly farm, farmers often wash Monarch eggs in a light bleach solution. This washing operation does not harm the eggs or caterpillars inside the eggs. It does kill OE spores. Because a hatchling caterpillar eats its eggshell, if a spore is on the egg and the hatchling swallows it, it will contract OE. If eggs are washed with a mild solution of bleach, the spores are killed.
Killed OE spores

The photo above is of OE spores in a light bleach solution. Bleach has killed some of the spores, breaching their cuticles and destroying the spores themselves.
This started me thinking of how many things in my life won't hurt me until I 'swallow' it. These things are all around me and it’s my choice whether to 'eat / swallow' them or not. The caterpillar doesn't have the knowledge that it is swallowing an OE spore and does not have a choice in the matter. I usually have the knowledge when I'm 'swallowing' something I shouldn't swallow.
I 'swallow' things that come from within me and from outside of me. What kinds of things do I find myself 'swallowing' that I shouldn't?
Unrighteous anger and resentment are two things that I ‘swallow’. These things come naturally into all our minds. A thought is like a spore. It is when I dwell on a bad situation that I have started 'swallowing' these 'spores'. Dwelling on a bad situation can cause that can create unrighteous anger or resentment. It is when I dwell on them that they start to grow inside me up to the point that they can take over my life. There is a righteous anger - and there is an unrighteous anger. Anger itself is not sin; it's the type of anger and what I do with it. (Psalm 4:4) I learned not to 'swallow' this by trying to make peace with people who tend to make me angry. If that does not work, I simply try to ignore their efforts to do whatever would make me angry. Once I refuse to 'swallow' anger and resentment, I find myself praying for the other person and it becomes hard to become angry and resentful at someone when I realize how much they need prayer. It also makes me aware of how graceful others have been when they prayed for me rather than becoming angry or taking offense.
Thanklessness is a horrible disease. When I go through my life without looking around and thanking others, I've swallowed the spore of thanklessness.
Pride can be another disease. Praise is not bad for any of us. It can help us as long as we realize that God is the only source of all good things. When we are obedient, we are acting as a part of the body of Christ. He is doing good things through us or giving us good things. Believing that anything good is of me and forgetting that anything good within me is from God, that is swallowing the spore. Praise is good as long as we keep it flowing, up to the right source, God. When I allow it to sit in me it will cause me to become diseased with this horrible 'disease'; unrighteous pride.

Mark 7 20-23
And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Psalm 4:4
Be angry, and do not sin ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

They are what they eat; Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Caterpillars

cloudless sulphur butterfly caterpillar larva green and yellow

They say 'You are what you eat'. These caterpillars prove it to be true! Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars that eat green leaves of their host plant (Cassia and Senna plants) are green while caterpillars that eat the flowers of their host plant are the color of the flowers.

yellow caterpillar larva cloudless sulphur butterfly

Part of the fun is that the markings on a caterpillar after it turns to yellow are different than when it was green. If it starts eating green leaves again, it will turn green again in a day or two. The markings change back to normal markings on a green caterpillar.

cloudless sulphur butterfly green caterpillar larva

Even small caterpillars turn color when they eat blooms.

Cloudless sulphur butterfly yellow and green caterpillar larvae

I've found this to be true in my mind. Whatever my thoughts are feeding on is what I become. If I am resentful and thinking of negative things, I become negative. If I am thinking of good things, I become happy and giving.

Some negative things are realities of life; the news is full of horrible happenings. To be aware of these things and to do what I can as well as pray for these situations is one thing. To dwell on them to the point that they make me depressed is another.

When negative things happen to me or people I love, it can be hard to not become negative. I found the key is to feed on positive things even in hard times. Some of the very positive things is heaven and Jesus.

When all else fails, I try to remember Romans 8:28. For those who love God, all things work together for good. That doesn't mean that I won't become terribly sick or even a quadriplegic. It doesn't mean that I won't lose someone (or several people) who are near and dear to me. What it means is that God will work through those things for good.

A wonderful day for me was when I realized that Psalms 23 doesn't say "You keep me from walking through the valley of the shadow of death" it says "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death".

Even in that valley, God comforts me with the promise that all things are working together for the good and that heaven awaits those who love Him.

Psalms 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Butterfly Hair

monarch butterfly 'hair' isn't hair, it is a type of scales

While doing a presentation at a school in Ocala, Springs Elementary, I was asked by the students if butterflies had hair. I was totally stumped. New to butterflies, I had seen the 'hair' on lots of butterflies, including Monarchs (photo above) and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (photo below). I was not sure what it was myself!

eastern tiger swallowtail scales on its body resemble hair

I had to admit that I didn't know exactly what the 'hair' was on a butterfly but I would certainly get back with them. My first step after arriving back home was to check my facts. I then wrote to the class to explain that no, butterflies do not have hair.

Instead, they have several types of scales and one of these types resembles hair.

This reminds me again of how easy it is for me to be fooled by things/people who are not what they seem to be.

And I am reminded to beware - I find myself deceiving myself sometimes, not wanting to face truth.

One thing for sure; anything that uses deception is not what I should embrace. God never uses deception. He IS truth.

II Cor 11 : 13-15
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.

I John 1:8
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and(V) the truth is not in us.

John 8 : 44-47
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Helping Hand

While gathering pipevine leaves to feed some caterpillars we had in the office, I found this caterpillar trying to slip its head into its silken girdle while preparing to pupate.

The problem was a wasp. The wasp was trying to kill the caterpillar. The caterpillar was trying to wiggle enough to keep the wasp from grabbing hold. Sooner or later the wasp would have won because the back prolegs of the caterpillar was already locked into its silk pad in preparation for pupation.

I broke the stem and brought in the caterpillar. As always, I stopped along the way to take photos (once the wasp had left). This photograph is one of my favorites; the caterpillar is preparing to slip its head and body into the silken girdle (loop).

It finished the job indoors ...

the caterpillar pupated normally ...

pipevine swallowtail butterfly pupa chrysalis (not cocoon)

and emerged as a big healthy beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly.

Pipevine Swallowtail male butterfly

I started raising butterflies nine years ago to save them from predators. It's a never-ending job. Nature does a good job of keeping butterfly populations in balance. If more than 2 out of 100 eggs in the wild lived to be an adult, we'd have problems driving down the road. But even with that knowledge, my gut reaction is sympathy for the caterpillar, not the wasp.

I know that I've saved tens of thousands of butterflies through intervention and farming. It feels good.

It makes me think of those who have saved me from natural and spiritual enemies and even from myself and my tendency to make bad choices.

But most of all, the Holy Spirit saves me from making bad choices and Jesus saved me from the natural consequences of the bad choices I made in spite of being told that they were bad choices.

What a beautiful word; 'save'.

Monday, September 29, 2008

WHAT are these???

God has such an imagination. This little green critter is being held between my thumb and first finger. It's about 1 inch long.

duskywing skipper chrysalis pupa face

Another such tiny critter is this one that resembles a seal.

tropical checkered skipper pupa chrysalis

Now for a look at the entire 'seal'.

tropical checkered skipper pupa chrysalis

After emerging as an adult, this 'seal' is actually a Tropical Checkered Skipper butterfly.

tropical checkered skipper butterfly

I often wonder if God is grinning when I 'discover' another of his little jokes. So many bits of information about butterflies and moths are totally fascinating and can be somewhat confusing to a human mind.

Adult butterflies have two eyes and see pretty well. Caterpillars have twelve eyes and see light and dark. So where is the sense in that?

Add these items to the fun things God has hidden in his handiwork:
* Caterpillars that look like bird droppings
* Caterpillars with fake eyes
* Butterflies whose 'tail' looks like a head
* Caterpillars and chrysalises that create 'anti-freeze' so they can live through below freezing temperatures for weeks and months
* Chrysalises that look exactly like broken twigs

Isn't it great to know that God has such an imagination? No matter where I go when I wander, no matter what species of butterfly or moth I find, there is always something to make me laugh.

I thank God for giving us something so original to laugh at ... His wonderful handiwork.

Stephen was reading today about creation, "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God." Romans 1:20

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Viceroy butterfly eating apple fruit
Some butterflies enjoy fruit. This Viceroy discovered the apple hanging less than 30 minutes after it was first hung in the tree.

Question Mark butterfly eating an apple slice

Question Mark butterflies also enjoy apple. This one was offered a slice of apple and decided it was supper time.

Many people have been taught that Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden. Truth is, we don't know if she ate any apples or not. I assume there were apple trees in the Garden of Eden. Apples are mentioned nine times in the bible, but not actually mentioned as growing in the Garden of Eden.

But what Eve did eat was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That tree was growing in the middle of the garden. Before God made Eve, God had told Adam not to eat from that tree.

The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was never named.

The crafty serpent asked Eve ... uh ... let's stop a minute. Have you thought about what life must have been like for Even to calmly stand and talk to the serpent? First, it talked to her. About that time I'd be checking myself into a mental hospital. She just calmly carried on a conversation with the serpent.

The Bible tells us that Eve ate of the fruit and also gave some to Adam. Now I used to think of this as Adam not knowing where the fruit came from but I realized after reading this historical account again (Genesis 2 and 3) that the account reads, "She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it". So obviously Adam knew what was going on.

Like his mode of operation, the serpent told a bit of truth, "For when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil". He also added in a bit of untruth, "You will not surely die".

Satan is a whiz at taking a bit of truth and mixing it in with a bit of untruth to make the whole thing untrue. He also deceives me the same way he deceived Eve.

After eating of the fruit, Adam and Eve did know good and evil.

Adam and Eve used the same means of defending themselves that we still use today.

Adam's excuse: When God asked Adam, "Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?", Adam responded, "It's not my fault, it's all your/her fault". Oh, you want the Bible's words? "The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it." Translation: YOU gave her to me (it's your fault) and SHE gave it to me (and it's her fault too) (and it's not my fault at all, I'm the victim).

Eve's excuse: When God asked Eve, "What is this you have done?" she responded, "I was deceived, it's not my fault, it's all his fault". Reading the NIV it's worded, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate".

So I have several lessons to remember when I see an apple:
1. It wasn't an apple in the Garden of Eden that Eve and Adam ate.
2. Satan uses truth and mixes it with a lie. Truth + lie = all lie
3. It's never the other person's fault when I make a bad decision. It's my fault.
4. I need to love God so much and have a good relationship with him so that I will never want to disobey God.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Eye see what?

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar larva

Eyes are deceiving. This blue headed caterpillar is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly 'child'. When it 'grows up' it will be a fantastic butterfly!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail adult butterfly

As an adult, it sees through compound eyes, hundreds of everything. We see just one of everything. (We SHOULD see just one of everything!)

But the caterpillar ('child' stage) of the butterfly sees things quite different. The photo below shows its six eyes on just one side of its head. Yes, six eyes on each side of its head. The 'eyes' you see are not eyes but skin spots. It's eyes are on the sides of its little sky blue head.

caterpillar eyes of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar larva blue head-

A butterfly sees hundreds of every object. Caterpillars discern only light and dark.

When Paul wrote a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he spoke of Satan who blinds the eyes of people so they can't see the glorious light. Unlike the caterpillar, these people can't even see light at all.

John shared his knowledge that God IS light. The neat thing is that where there is light, there can't be darkness. The deepest darkness is broken by a single match or candle. If there is light, the caterpillar can discern it.

2 Cor:4
"Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God."

I John:5-7
" This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blue Morpho Butterflies

Dark butterflies blend in with shadows and tree trunks. These Blue Morpho butterflies were drinking from decaying fruit on a recent trip to the Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville.

When they flew, though, their beautiful blue upper wings caught everyone's attention! It's like flashes of light - somewhat resembling police car's lights!

There is a purpose of their wings being drab on the outside and the inside being bright and showy. When they rest or drink, their wings are closed and they blend into the surroundings - predators aren't as apt to notice them.

Having grown up in a family where Bible reading was as much a part of life as eating, I couldn't help but hear Jesus' words ring in my head.

Mark 4:21
And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?"

Matthew 5:14-16
14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Unlike a Blue Morpho, our 'light' is supposed to always shine. We aren't to hide our light.

It's hard to let it shine at times. Things we are tempted to do (or not do) can hide our light. We can 'blend in' easily by using language that other people use, trying to take revenge when we shouldn't, and other such actions. We should be proud to stand for honesty, peace, love, and Jesus.

It's a weakness when I try to blend in to avoid ridicule or sneering. It's a weakness when I bicker with people in order to defend myself against untruths about me. It's a strength when I stay silent and simply wait for the truth to reveal itself. It's a weakness when I 'go along' with those who are doing things that aren't pleasing to God in order to keep others from being angry with me. I should stand for Jesus even when it brings hard times and misunderstandings from my friends (and non-friends).

It took a while for me to realize that the strongest man is the one who yields to Christ and stands firm against ridicule. It's the weak man that gives in to peer pressure.

Molting Caterpillars

spicebush swallowtail caterpillar molting
Caterpillars skin never grows. When they grow too large for their skin, they crawl out of it (molt) with a new baggy skin that allows them to continue growing. If they can't escape from their old skin, they're doomed to die in the tight skin that doesn't allow them to grow.

monarch caterpillar larva molt
This happens several times before a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis. Most caterpillars that people raise in their homes will molt four times. The first time, they are so small that no one can see the caterpillar well, let alone realize it is molting!

monarch butterfly caterpillar larva molt

Watching caterpillars molt brings a question to my mind; What is keeping me from growing as a Christian? Whatever it is, I need to get 'out' of it and grow.

As I examine myself, I realize that some of what keeps me from growing is not letting go of yesterday. Things positive I like to hold onto and keep close to me. Things negative I tend to hold onto and keep close to me. And I especially need to let go of negative things.

One of the 'positive' things I have realized that I need to 'grow out of' is enjoying my food too much. From M&Ms to fried chicken to M&Ms to bacon to M&Ms to pizza to ... well, you get the drift. I've thought quite a bit lately of the fact that we are the temple of God. Now how should I treat the temple of God? Not by doing things that cause it to crumble down around my ears, that's for sure. By not eating right, I'm not taking care of this temple. To know to do something and not do it ... that can keep me from growing. (Uh ... but in this case I don't mean growing physically, as into a larger jean size!) Why should God give me more when I don't take care of what he has given to me?

A 'negative' thing I need to grow out of is dwelling on negative thoughts. Things I wish I had done or said different or not at all, times that I (or those I love) have been misunderstood or misjudged, or times I have misunderstood or misjudged others, and so many more things! Time spent in negative thoughts is wasted time. I must first ask forgiveness or to forgive, and to move forward into today.

Spending more time with my best friend of all, God, is the best way to grow. But to do so, I must 'molt' by leaving behind some of the time I spend wastefully. No, not that the things are bad, but that the time could be better spent. I've started spending less time on the internet (that's hard, cutting out internet time) and putting more time into reading Christian books (Women of Faith and Joyce Meyer books at the present time) and listening to those who share about the lessons they've learned from God.

I won't be limited to four molts; I have too many things to grow out of ... and I can trust God to show me the things I need to leave behind. Sometimes it's not something I really want to leave behind until I do so; then I realize that what I treasured was simply something that I am much happier leaving out of my life.

I Cor. 6:16
"... for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Phillipians 4:8
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Split Proboscis

Butterflies and moth adults drink through their proboscis. Instead of a mouth and tongue like we have, or a trunk and mouth like an elephant, their 'mouth' is simply two straws fused into one unit. Well, usually it's one unit! Sometimes the two tubes of a proboscis will not fuse and the butterfly has a split (divided) proboscis.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly with a split divided proboscis tongue

This can pose a serious problem for the butterfly. This Gulf Fritillary (photo above) can drink fluid when it is on a fairly flat surface. But it cannot insert its split proboscis into a flower to drink nectar.

Monarch butterfly drinking nectar with its proboscis

The proboscis must be fused together for the butterfly to drink properly. The two tubes must work as a unit.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly drinking nectar from a zinnia flower

The Gulf Fritillary above is drinking from a small yellow center flower of a zinnia. If its proboscis was split, it could not drink from this flower.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly proboscis

Pastor Steve (First Christian Church of Starke) was talking today about how the body of Christ must work as a complete unit. He used a portion of the letter to the Roman Christians and portion of a letter to the Christian church at Corinth to illustrate this truth. The text (the verses Steve read) of those letters are copied below.

Sadly, too often Christians fail to work as a body and cause problems such as the split proboscis. Our ability to 'feed' and grow becomes limited.

When we disagree, often attention and focus is taken off of Christ Jesus and placed on other things that may or may not be important. We need to ask ourselves if they are so important that it's worth the heartache the 'subject of disagreement' can bring. If it takes focus off of Christ, it either isn't important OR the motivation (or basis) of the 'problem' is not truly for God but selfish motivation.

We can disagree on important things for the wrong reason and by doing so take focus off of God and place it upon ourselves and our insistence that we are 'right' and others are 'wrong'. (This can happen between Christians and Christians or between non-Christians and Christians.)

We can disagree on unimportant things (such as the color of the carpet in the church building) and by doing so, fail God completely!

For Example:
Christians disagree upon how often communion should be served. Jesus didn't say how often to take communtion. Disagreements of this type takes focus off of the purpose of communion and places it upon differences between Christian churches and upon which is right and which is wrong. Christians are all children of God. Christians are all forgiven for their disobedience. Whether Baptist, Methodist, or whatever name (or not taking a name) God's Christian churchs use, we're all God's children and we hurt God's heart when we squabble and hurt each other. Instead of disagreeing to the point of an argument and hard feelings, Christians should encourage each other to partake of communion in the spirit that Jesus taught us and not to get into disagreements upon how often or when it should be offered.

I need to remember to disagree only on things that are important enough to disagree upon AND to make sure that the motivation is pure; that the disagreement is for God's sake, not my own.

Romans 12:4-5
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

I Cor. 12:12-27
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14 For the body is not one member, but many.

15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

(Note; Bible text is often copied from

Chrysalis Color

Black Swallowtail butterfly pupa chrysalis green
Black Swallowtail butterfly pupa chrysalis brown

Black Swallowtail chrysalises can be two basic colors; green or brown. They can be various shades of green and brown but they are either green or brown. From pale beige to nearly black, from pale green to yellow green, to green green, to aqua green, their green shades vary.

The color of the chrysalis depends upon the enviroment where it pupates. If the surroundings have shades of green, it normally pupates green. If the surroundings have shades of brown, it normally pupates brown.
Black Swallowtail butterfly pupae chrysalis color
In various conditions from full light to full dark, we've set up experiments to see what color of chrysalises they will become. Although we are still conducting experiments, it so far it hasn't mattered if it has J'd and pupated in total darkness or in bright light. This surprised me; I thought that if it J'd and pupated in total darkness, it would be dark brown. (Click on these photos to see a larger version of the photo.)
Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly pupae chrysalis color experiment
But no matter what color the chrysalis is, this butterfly that emerges is the same species; Eastern Black Swallowtail. The inside of the chrysalis is not changed according to the color of the chrysalis. The butterfly inside is an Eastern Black Swallowtail.
Eastern Black Swallowtail female
I am reminded what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, "and to the Jews I became as a Jew .... to the weak I became weak ... I am become all things to all men". Paul knew he was free from the Old Testament law. But he obeyed these Old Testament laws when he believed it would help others. He became 'weak' to the 'weak'. He became all things to all people; but he stayed Paul, God's son. After Paul became a Christian (Read Acts 9 for the story of Paul's meeting with Jesus) no matter what he did or said, he remained a Christian.

The reason he did or didn't do these things was to win others to Jesus. He didn't count himself as important; God was all important. He didn't live to please himself, he lived to please God.

We are instructed not to offend others, however. At times we know that no matter what we do, we will offend someone. We have to make the choice of what to do, knowing that we will offend someone. It's a hard decision - knowing that our actions will offend someone. We have to stay true to what we believe is God's plan for us.

Like Paul, as long as I keep my love for God pure and my relationship with Jesus alive, I can do or not do many things without changing my true identity; a Christian.

I can eat vegatarian, eat meat, or eat carbos; I can raise butterflies, raise moths, or raise nothing. But whatever I do, the one thing that I will not let change is my very basic identity; a child of God.

1 Cor. 9:19-23

19 For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.

20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

21 to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.

22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.

23 And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.