Jam The Signal!

The tiger moth Bertholdia trigona is the only animal in nature known to jam
the echolocation of its predator
Photo on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Bats are crafty creatures.

Being nocturnal, bats search for food at night, but their night vision is fairly poor. So instead they use echolocation, or reflected sound, to home in on insects such as moths. Their built-in sonar directs them to the precise location of the tasty morsels; then it’s just a matter of swooping in and gobbling them up.

So the bats’ prey have to be crafty as well.

Certain species of tiger moth have the ability to emit sonar of their own. As a bat is closing in, the moth emits a fusillade of ultrasonic clicks. This barrage blurs and disrupts the bat’s echolocation: the signal is essentially jammed. The baffled hunter can no longer “see” the moth, and is tricked into thinking its target has vanished. Thwarted, the hungry predator flies away, and the prey is safe.

Our little tiger moth beats its enemy at its own game.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could “jam the signal” of the enemy of our soul? If we could disrupt and counter the lies the world tells us about ourselves?

In fact, there’s a way that we can.

Read more

Break Out Of Your Shell

Eggs of the American robin
Photo by Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-3.0

Is there a colour more exquisite than robin’s-egg blue? If there is, I’m not aware of it.

To me, the tiny oval of a robin’s egg is perfection itself. Its soft blue-green hue seems to evoke a feeling of serenity. And the shape of the egg itself, all gentle curves, seems to echo this calmness.

I’d love to keep it that way forever, just so, and never see it broken.

There’s only one problem with this: if the egg stayed intact, a baby robin would never be born.

Sometimes we have to break something we cherish for an even more beautiful thing to come into being.

Read more

God Sees You in Infrared

Bee on cosmos flower
Photo by Veronica H. on Pixabay

Did you know that some birds and bees can see things that are completely invisible to us? They’re able to see in infrared, just beyond the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum that human eyes can detect.

What looks to us like a regular pink flower might resemble a helicopter landing pad to a bee. Where we see only the uniform expanse of one colour, the bee may see a target-shaped design of several differently coloured concentric circles. The bee’s infrared vision allows it to home in on the most nectar-rich part of the flower.

The world looks completely different when you can see in infrared.

I sometimes think that God sees us in “infrared.” He can see things in us that are invisible to others, and even to ourselves.

Read more

Season of Stillness

Empty cafe in Italy
Photo by Peter H. on Pixabay

The lockdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have produced some unexpected results in the natural world.

With fewer vehicles and industrial machines operating, noise pollution has been reduced so dramatically that seismologists can hear sounds from inside the planet that they couldn’t detect previously.

In cities, reduced traffic noise is allowing people to hear birdsong, the chatter of squirrels, and the chirping of crickets like never before. People have been surprised to discover that they can now hear the flapping of birds’ wings as they pass overhead.

A quieter environment is probably also allowing animals to hear each other better. City birds usually have to sing more loudly than their country cousins to make themselves heard above the urban cacophony: perhaps their mates and rivals can hear them more easily now. With a reduction in ship traffic, marine mammals might also be finding that they can contact each other with greater ease now that there is less “acoustic smog” in the oceans.

If we can hear the creation better during the lockdowns, and creation can hear itself better, can we hear our Creator better?

Read more

What Lions Guard Your Door?

New York City’s library lions, “Patience” and “Fortitude”
Photo by Dave and Margie Hill on flickr cc by-sa 2.0

For over a century, two marble lions have guarded the main branch of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. These majestic stone creatures flank the entrance to the building, keeping careful watch over all who enter.

During the 1930s the library lions were officially named “Patience” and “Fortitude” by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. He felt that those names embodied the qualities that New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression of that era.

If ever there was a time when New Yorkers (and indeed all of us) again need patience and fortitude, it’s during the COVID-19 crisis. New York has been struck particularly hard by this pandemic, but they are pulling through in large part thanks to the selfless health care workers who have done their utmost to guard the health and welfare of those under their care.

We still need guardians, don’t we? Particularly during times like these.

What “lions” guard your door?

Read more

Shelter in the Best Place

An Impregnable Fortress: Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, England
Photo by Ryan Lea on Flickr CC BY-2.0

During the past week hundreds of millions of people around the globe have been told to “shelter in place,” a phrase normally reserved for natural disasters or violent attacks. In today’s context, it means to stay at home for a certain length of time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Good advice. But what if it’s your heart that needs shelter? Where can you go when you need protection from emotional distress?

The Bible speaks of a shelter that believers can turn to when events threaten to overwhelm us:

The arms of our loving God.

Read more

Try Looking Up

People transfixed by their phones, Hyde Park, London
Photo by Waterford_Man on Flickr CC BY-2.0

The other day I went for walk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Even though the trees were bare of leaves and there was snow on ground, it was still a place of great beauty.

I noticed something strange, however, about the other visitors to the park. I must have passed at least a dozen other people as I walked the winding trail down the ravine to the river, but they were all standing stock-still.

Had I wandered onto a set for some science-fiction movie, in which aliens freeze people in place in advance of taking over the planet? Or had all these people been suddenly afflicted with a disease that left them immobilized?

No, the reason they were standing as motionless as statues was because they were all staring down at their smartphones.

Read more

God Provides, Even in Winter

Male Northern Cardinal. Photo by Tom Murray on Flickr CC BY-NC-2.0

If you live in eastern North America, you might be lucky enough to have seen a gorgeous bird called the northern cardinal. The male is especially distinctive, with his breathtaking red plumage and black “mask” on his face.

Up here in Canada, the cardinal is at the northernmost part of its range. We’re especially fortunate that, unlike many songbirds, cardinals don’t migrate south for the winter. We get to enjoy their presence year-round.

But what on earth do the cardinals eat here, when parts of Canada might be covered in several feet of snow?

Read more

What Is Your “Burning Bush”?

Photo by Leonora (Ellie) Enking on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

You’ve got to love a plant which turns pink in the autumn. I’m referring to the Euonymus alatus shrub, whose leaves change from green to a vivid, hot pink this time of year.

One of its nicknames is “burning bush,” because in autumn the shrub looks like it’s on fire. It must have reminded people of the burning bush Moses encountered in Exodus 3, through which God spoke to him.

I think God uses many different ways to speak to us today, each a “burning bush” tailored to our unique personalities.

Read more

Feline Prison Break

Photo by Mark Turnauckas on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Did you hear about the “prison break” at a Houston, Texas animal shelter recently?

A cunning criminal had been opening the heavy door of the senior cats’ enclosure for several nights in a row, setting the captives free to roam the shelter. Each morning, workers at the Friends for Life Animal Rescue would arrive to find the door mysteriously opened, and would have to wrangle the 15 cats back into their room.

The staff were stumped at who could be responsible for the feline jail break. It was only when they looked at footage from the building’s security cameras that they were able to crack the case.

The identity of the culprit came as a shock.

Read more