Why don’t trees freeze to death in winter?
After all, if you or I stood outside naked for several months in sub-zero temperatures, we’d soon be turned into frosty statues.
Trees can’t burrow into the ground and hibernate like bears, and they can’t fly south like migratory birds. They’re fixed in place, at the mercy of the elements.
And yet they somehow survive through the cold depths of winter. Why don’t they turn to ice, since, like other living things, they’re made mostly of water?
Their trick is something called “hardening.”
In autumn, trees in cold climates undergo a change whereby water flows out of their cells. The concentrated sugars, proteins, and acids left behind act as a potent antifreeze. The water now in the spaces between the cells is so pure that ice crystals can’t form. This ultra-pure water can be cooled to -40 degrees F and still remain an ice-free liquid.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
But what is it that triggers the hardening?
Ah, this is where we can learn a lesson from the trees.
What’s the difference between a tart and a torte?
For that matter, what’s the difference between torte-with-an-e and tort-without-an-e? Are they all edible?
Let’s see if we can straighten out the confusion.
A tart is an open pastry containing a filling. A torte is a multi-layered cake-like confection. They’re both edible (and extremely tasty—see recipe for Lemon Almond Tart below).
Tort is a legal term referring to a wrongful act or infringement of a right. You could try to eat the paper a tort was described on, but I wouldn’t recommend it!
But we’re not quite finished unpacking the meanings of these similar-sounding words.
A tart can also refer to a promiscuous woman: one who has had many sexual partners. A woman others would look down on. A woman polite society might consider to be “loose.”
But we should be careful before we slap anyone with a label such as this. We never know how God might use them.
As gardeners know, some plants need their best buddies nearby in order to flourish.
It’s been known for centuries that planting certain combinations of plants together can help the garden prosper. This practice is known as “companion planting.”
For instance, planting alliums such as garlic underneath roses can protect the latter against blackspot and aphids. When lilies and roses are planted together, the scent of each improves.
Yarrow and foxglove have a tonic effect on the plants in their vicinity. Yarrow helps fight off pests, attracts beneficial insects, and improves the soil. Likewise, foxglove stimulates the growth of nearby plants and helps them build up resistance to disease. Planting foxglove under fruit trees improves the storage qualities of the fruit.
Perhaps the ultimate companion plant is marigold. It has traditionally been grown with tomatoes to keep them healthy and produce a better crop. Marigold’s pungent odour disguises the scent of vegetables from pests, preventing them from homing in, and its root secretions kill nematodes that attack plant roots.
Who wouldn’t want such stalwart companions in their corner?
God wants us to have buddies like these on our team, too.
It’s amazing what a cape can do.
Ask any child who puts on a superhero costume for Halloween.
They suddenly feel braver. Their confidence gets a boost. They believe that they can achieve things that they couldn’t before.
Actors understand this. Many actors report that they can more readily get in character for their role once they don the costume associated with it.
Interestingly, some actors identify with the characters they portray so much that they become real-life action heroes.
Tom Cruise has reportedly rescued people in real life at least six times, including coming to the aid of a woman set upon by muggers in London, rescuing a family from a burning boat in France, and helping the victim of a hit-and-run in California.
Likewise, action star Harrison Ford has pulled someone out of a burning car, and has used his own helicopter to rescue a stricken hiker.
The theory behind this phenomenon is called “embodied cognition,” and it might help explain how actors and others become their roles.
In the case of action heroes, acting brave in movies may lead to actually being brave. The more you practice something, the more you become it.
The key might be in putting on a costume or adopting a set of behaviours.
I think that’s why Scripture tells us to “put on” Christ.
Do you ever think that you could have designed this planet a bit better than God did?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the beauty of God’s Creation: the animals, birds, trees, flowers, oceans, mountains, and starry night sky.
But I have just one quibble….
I think God made far too many of them.
Scientists estimate that there are 10 quintillion bugs on Earth, which works out to well over a billion insects per person.
I find this excessive. All most of them do is bite, sting, or frighten people.
In an ideal world of my creation, there would only be a few select insects. Cute ones like ladybugs and beautiful ones like butterflies would make the cut, but I can do without the rest.
Plus, I’d make a lot more flowers. Sound good?
There’s only one problem with the utopia I’ve designed: what would pollinate the flowers?
Insects are responsible for the vast majority of pollination. In my version of this world, I would have eliminated the very things that make possible productivity in flowering plants.
I think we take the same attitude when it comes to things in our lives that we find unpleasant or demanding.
We want nothing to do with the things that “bug” us.
What is the ultimate flying machine?
The Concorde? A high-tech fighter jet?
I’d suggest to you that the holder of this title belongs to the common swift.
The swift holds the record for the fastest confirmed level flight of any bird: 111.5 km/h (69.3 mph). (Birds like falcons can fly faster, but only when diving down through the air to catch prey.)
Swifts also spend most of their lives on the wing, landing only to nest. Some individuals can spend up to ten months in continuous flight. In a single year a common swift can cover at least 200,000 km. No other bird spends as much of its life in the sky.
They are truly astonishing creatures.
A funny thing about swifts, though: they don’t do very well on the ground.
Their small, weak legs, which are placed far back on their bodies, are really only good for clinging to vertical surfaces like cliffs. They never voluntarily settle on the ground, where they’d be vulnerable to predation. Although swifts are capable of taking flight from level ground, they prefer to “fall” into the air from a high point.
Simply put, swifts were meant to soar.
And so were you.
But oftentimes there are things inhibiting our flight…
Have you ever had a time in your life when God did a work for you that came straight out of left field?
The blessing, provision or miracle he bestowed on you caught you off guard and astonished you. It was completely unexpected and surprising.
You never saw it coming.
God seems to like to work that way, doesn’t he?
Think of Moses in the Old Testament, when he was leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.
They found themselves in a jam: cornered at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army snapping at their heels.
Moses had faith that God would save them, but I wonder if he was racking his brains trying to figure out just how it would happen.
Maybe God would send a flotilla of boats from the other side to rescue them, Dunkirk-style? But no one knew they were coming, and at any rate, the only people on the other side were either enemies or strangers.
Maybe God would send an affable and reasonable Egyptian captain to negotiate with Moses? Not likely, since all of Egypt’s firstborn had just been killed. The Egyptians were in no mood to parley with their escaped slaves.
No matter what Moses came up with as a potential solution, he never could have expected the curveball that God threw:
God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then closed up the waters to drown their enemies. Moses surely didn’t see that one coming!
And that’s not the only curveball that God threw…
When you come home late at night, isn’t it nice when a family member has left a light on for you?
It shows they care about you, and want you to be guided safely back inside.
I was reminded of this recently when I came across a fun fact about border collies, a highly intelligent breed of dog often used to herd sheep.
The border collie usually sports a prominent white tip on its tail. This characteristic colouration is known as the “Shepherd’s Lantern.”
The white tip of the collie’s tail stands out in the dim light of dusk, allowing the shepherd to be guided home from the pasture after a long day’s work.
That got me thinking:
Our Heavenly Father gives us a “lantern,” too.
God loves us and wants to make sure we’re guided home to him.
He does this in two ways:
Pity the poor cormorant.
This ungainly waterfowl is never at the top of anyone’s list of favourite birds.
It looks almost prehistoric, with its matte black feathers and strongly hooked bill. It lacks the beauty of a brightly coloured cardinal or the elegance of a swan.
The cormorant sits unusually low in the water, as though it’s about to sink. And because its wing feathers aren’t waterproof like those of other waterfowl, it needs to stand for long periods with wings outstretched, drying its feathers out in the sun.
It’s clumsy on land, and must expend more energy flying than other birds.
Nothing seems quite right about the cormorant.
Did God make a mistake when he fashioned them?
Not at all!
The cormorant’s lack of waterproofing actually plays to its advantage. Its waterlogged feathers make it less buoyant than ducks, enabling it to dive deeper in search of fish to eat.
Cormorants are excellent divers, agile and swift, with some species being able to dive to an astounding 150 feet.
So its “deficiencies” aren’t actually a bug, but rather a feature.
Do you ever feel like you’re not as good at things as other people? Do you feel as though you simply don’t measure up?
Rest assured, God didn’t make a mistake when he made you.
There’s nothing quite like a perfect fit, is there?
When you buy a piece of clothing that hugs you where it’s supposed to, and is more flowing where you want it to be looser, you feel confident and comfortable. There’s something special about a garment that seems like it was made just for you.
The tailorbird of tropical Asia know this, too. When it fashions a nest for its young, it makes sure it is perfectly suited for its young family.
The female tailorbird makes its nest out of a living leaf hanging from a shrub or tree. She chooses a leaf and carefully checks it for size by wrapping it around her body like a cloak.
If the leaf suits her, she uses her needlelike beak to sew the sides together with plant fibre or spider silk, making as many as 200 stitches.
Once the leaf “cup” has been sewn, the male tailorbird lines it with soft materials in preparation for the eggs that will soon be laid in it. The parent birds make a perfect home for their chicks.
If a tailorbird goes to so much trouble to make nest that is perfectly suited for her family, won’t God make sure that the service He has in mind for you is a perfect fit, too?