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