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.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

'Them' and 'Us'

I was asked who 'them' and 'us' are in my butterfly blog. I hadn't thought too much about how my blog could be taken by non-Christians. What are the differences between a 'Christian' and a 'non-Christian'?

Butterfly Release at Easter at First Christian Church of Starke with the cross of flowers in the background

'Them' and 'us' can be somewhat compared to 'butterfly people' and 'non-butterfly people'. Some live thier lives based upon butterflies while others never have a thought about butterflies!

The answer is simple but first let me share a little bit in explanation.

1. Both Christians and non-Christians 'sin' or break the law of love and obedience that God set from the beginning of man.
2. Both Christians and non-Christians offend others.
3. Both Christians and non-Christians can be kind, wonderful, helpful, and sweet.
4. Both Christians and non-Christians can be offensive and someone no one wants to be around. (Read the post about maturing.)
5. Both Christians and non-Christians are in church.
6. Both Christians and non-Christians are not in church.
7. Just because someone says he/she is a Christian doesn't mean that he/she is a Christian.

The difference is that Christians recognize that they have disobeyed God and have asked for forgiveness and help to become what God wants them to be! Christians are forgiven, not because they are 'good' but because they accepted a gift that cannot be 'earned'. Goodness will never take anyone to heaven, the home of Christians.

I know many non-Christians who are wonderful people. They always have a smile, always help others, are upbeat, and a pleasure to be around.

People often say that churches are full of hypocrites. Well, yes, churches are! But not everyone in a church is a hypocrite. Churches do contain both hypocrite non-Christians AND hypocrite Christians. They also contain non-hypocrite Christians.

Christians are NOT perfect. God isn't finished with them. He's taking them and working to help them grow into what they SHOULD be. Against God's wishes, they offend others, do, and say many things that are not attractive (to say the least). But they should be trying to grow into mature Christians. (Please read the following post about maturity.)

My personal belief and faith is that the Bible is true. According to the Bible, I needed to obtain forgiveness for my disobedience of God (sin) through accepting the gift that Jesus gave me; he took the punishment for my disobedience. I simply had to accept that gift.

Accepting that gift makes me a Christian. Christian means different things to different people. To me the word 'Christian' means that I am 'of Christ'. This does not mean that I am perfect, that I am mature, and that I don't make terrible mistakes! It means that I am a child of God, forgiven of my sins (hey, you have to sin to be forgiven of them), and I try to live in a way that would bring a smile to God's face.

Butterflies help me grow as a Christian. They have so many lessons for me.

I did want to take this opportunity to answer the question I was asked in the blog. Just in case someone else wonders what I mean by 'them' and 'us' or 'Christian' and 'non-Christian', I wanted to answer the question in the blog.

Romans 3;23-26
" 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus."

Acts 4:12 "There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved."

NOT Growing and Maturing Into Butterflies

NORMALLY caterpillars gain over 2,500 times their hatchling weight before pupating into a chrysalis. What an amazing feat ... that humans do NOT want to duplicate.

They molt when their skin is too tight, crawling out of the old skin that had become too tight, turning around to eat it, then going on to grow more.

After growing and growing, they pupate into a chrysalis.

After a week or two have passed, the adult emerges to dry its wings and fly away as a mature butterfly.

But IF it has eaten growth regulator, intended to keep insects from becoming adults, it will stay a caterpillar until it dies. It grows to enormous proportions, far beyond their normal size, and finally dies.

As Christians, we are like butterflies. Caterpillars are children butterflies, chrysalises are teenager butterflies, and winged adults are simply adult butterflies. We, as Christians, grow from children to adults. Paul mentioned maturing in several of his letters.

As Christians, we can partake of growth regulator, dosed out regularly by our faithful enemy, the devil. He will feed us anything to keep us from growing into mature Christians.

Just like a caterpillar and a chrysalis is a butterfly (they are simply immature butterflies) so are immature Christians still Christians. Immature Christians are expected when they are new or young Christians. How can I be expected to be a mature Christian when I am a new Christian? As I grow in my walk with Christ, how can I be expected to be mature before I have had time to grow in Christ?

But in areas where I have had time to mature, I should mature. In the letter to the Hebrew Christians, the writer said that they needed to quit going over the same basics when they should be moving on to something other than basics. When we have repented (been so regretful for a fault or sin that we change our life so that we will not repeat the same faults or sins) we need to move forward and grow.

Jesus talked about how people allow the 'crowns and riches and treasures' to crowd out the Word of God and people do not mature. This is an issue I battle with; I find so much fun in the riches that God has given me (butterflies, cameras, and fields in which to wander) that I fail to spend as much time with God's Word as I should. This keeps me from growing. Oh, my knowledge of butterflies and moths grow, but my spiritual life doesn't grow as much as it should.

Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth about childish understanding; he told them to be innocent when it comes to evil, but to be mature in understanding the things of God. We need to be mature in God and innocent in evil. God does not intend us to become mature in evil. Many people are very mature in evil. In another letter to these Corinthian Christians, Paul shared with him that he prayed that they would mature. It was that important to Paul. I ask that those who read this blog also prays the same for me, that I would mature in Christ and God.

Paul's letters to different Churches had different tones, according to their maturity. Just as we talk to children in one way, we talk to an adult in another way. We warn a child about guns; we teach adults how to use them properly. We teach children about dressing themselves; adults don't need to hear lessons on how to dress themselves, they know how to put on socks and tie their shoes!

Christian maturity; we learn from the Bible as well as from life itself about the importance of maturing and feeding upon the 'food' that fits our level of maturity in our Christian life.

Just as there are many levels of maturity in normal life, there are many levels of maturity in a Christian. Just as a child never grows six inches overnight, so a Christian should not be expected to 'grow six inches' overnight. Maturing is a process.

We need to be patient with each other and we need to be patient with ourselves. We need to remember, both about ourselves as well as about others, that God isn't finished with any of us until we quit breathing. We ARE Christians but we are not perfect in the eyes of other people or ourselves. We are perfect in the eyes of God when we have accepted the gift Jesus gave us; he took the punishment for our failings so that we don't have to do so.

In immature Christian is a Christian.
God never expects a new Christian to be mature.
God does expect a new Christian to grow and mature.

I Cor 14:20
Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.

II Cor 13:9
We pray that you will become mature.

Hebrews 6:1
So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.

I John 2:13
I am writing to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.

Luke 8:14
The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.