In a match between a ground squirrel and a deadly rattlesnake, whom would you bet on?
Remember, this is a ground squirrel: it can’t run up a tree to escape.
And if the squirrel needs to defend its burrow with its babies inside, it doesn’t have much choice: it has to stand its ground.
What chance does it have against a venomous rattlesnake?
More than you’d expect.
California ground squirrels have an ace up their sleeve.
When confronted by a rattlesnake, this squirrel is able to engorge its tail with extra blood. It then waves its tail back and forth vigorously, super-heating the blood.
The snake, while lethal, has relatively poor vision, so it can’t clearly see what it’s facing. It instead uses its built-in infrared sensor to detect heat.
The squirrel’s hot, blood-filled tail swishing to and fro mimics the heat signature of a much larger animal. The snake thinks twice about taking on such a formidable creature, and more often than not it slinks away, defeated.
The squirrel has been saved from its enemy by the blood.
And so are we.
On our own, we are no match for that serpent of old, Satan.
Sometimes the most innocent-looking birds can be the craftiest.
Take the killdeer, for instance.
This bird, a type of plover, has cheery horizontal stripes across its front in bold black and white. The rest of its body is decked out in gentle brown and buff colours. It has what look to me like honest, kind eyes.
It seems like a bird that has nothing to hide.
But looks can be deceiving.
The killdeer isn’t above pulling a fast one on you.
If you or a predator gets too close to its nest, which is invariably on the ground, the killdeer puts on an act worthy of an Oscar-winner.
It pretends to be injured, holding its wing out at an awkward angle while emitting plaintive cries of distress.
This “broken-wing act” distracts the predator and lures it away from the bird’s eggs or chicks in the nest.
So if you want to take a peek at the killdeer’s nest, you have to look beyond the deception. You have to realize there’s something the bird doesn’t want you to see; hence the hullabaloo.
You have to have the discipline to not let yourself be distracted by the bird’s conniving song and dance.
I think sometimes Satan works a bit like the killdeer.
There are things he doesn’t want us to see or realize.
So he deceives us.
If you’re out for a walk in nature, you may not realize how much you’re being tricked.
You may think you’ve got an accurate picture of the natural world around you, but in many cases, you’re being fooled.
That’s because some creatures are masters of deception.
Stick insects camouflage themselves by mimicking the shape and colour of twigs on a tree. Moths may blend in so well with the bark pattern of the tree they’re resting on that you’d never know they’re there.
The killdeer bird fakes having a broken wing to make a predator think she will be an easy meal, thereby luring it away from the vulnerable chicks in her nest. Then she suddenly flies away, to the surprise of the predator.
Even beautiful butterflies get in on the act of trickery. Some species have markings on their wings that look like huge eyes. The eyespots may discourage a predator from attacking by making it think the insect is in fact a much larger animal.
These false eyes may serve another purpose: to encourage an attacker to aim for the wrong target. The markings deflect an attack away from the butterfly’s head or body to parts less vital for survival, such as its wing margins. By using this deception, the butterfly outwits its enemies and is able to fly away with a torn wing at worst, but otherwise relatively unscathed.
Butterflies aren’t the only creatures to use misdirection in this way:
Satan does, too, and we need to be wise to his tactics. We may not realize how much he’s tricking us.
If you’re a young seedling trying to survive, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be set upon by a cutworm.
Gardeners know this all too well. We start seeds indoors early in the season, with grand visions of the sturdy and beautiful plants they’ll eventually become. We baby the seedlings and give them just the right amount of water and light to set them on their journey to a bright future.
But then, soon after we’ve planted the seedlings in their forever home in our garden, disaster strikes.
The dreaded cutworm arrives in the night and stealthily attacks our precious young plants. It eats through their tender stems at ground level, cutting them off at the knees, as it were.
When we eagerly bound outside in the morning to check on the progress of our young charges, we’re confronted with a garden plot that has been laid waste in the most cruel way. Severed young plants lie helplessly wilting, cut off from the roots supplying them with sustenance. There is no hope for them now: they will surely die.
What makes it worse is that the cutworm hasn’t even bothered to eat the whole seedling, like a rabbit would: it seems to have acted out of sheer spite.
The cutworm has done its worst, and all we can do is mourn.
I’m overdramatizing this, of course, but the frustration, anger and sense of powerlessness gardeners feel when faced with the cutworm’s nefarious deeds are very real.
Even if you’re not a gardener, you’ve probably experienced emotions like these in your life. I’m sure we all have.
Because there will always be people trying to cut you down to size.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that many of its bridges have a story to tell.
The Pont de la Concorde is no exception.
This stone-arch bridge across the River Seine connects the Place de la Concorde with the National Assembly.
Construction of the bridge started during the late 1700s and continued even during the turmoil of the French Revolution. It was completed in 1791.
Interestingly, some of the stones used for the Pont de la Concorde were sourced from the rubble of the demolished Bastille prison. The bridge’s architect, Rudolph Perronet, said this was “so that the people could forever trample the old fortress.”
Today you can traverse this bridge and trample under your own feet the stones from the once-feared stronghold which imprisoned so many.
It’s a satisfying feeling to show your contempt for something vile by actually stomping on it, isn’t it?
Scripture tells us that Jesus will do something similar: