This is the place where I talk about what is on my mind! My plan is to let you in on what drives me, what motivates me & what fires me up! Please stop by often, leave a note or comment on what I've written or what I've posted. Pastor Steve (1 Timothy 1:16)
Summer Dog Days Provide Sultry Backdrop for
Predator & Prey
By Lowell Washburn
The Dog Days of summer are
upon us.August is just around the
corner and, right on schedule, this year’s crop of annual cicadas are making
their above ground debut.Within hours
of their appearance, the distinctive chorus of hopeful males began to fill the
humid afternoon air.The “scissor grinder’s”
trilling is impossible to miss.Surpassing 100 decibels; the sound is the insect equivalent of a power
saw and can easily be heard above your neighbor’s roaring lawn mower.
For many folks, the cicada’s
song provides an audible reminder that summer heat is on borrowed time.For others, the harsh buzzing is regarded as
just one more item on the growing list of hot weather annoyances.But for the giant cicada killer wasp, the
outlook is much different.As far as
this formidable amber-winged predator is concerned, the cicada’s noisy rattling
is simply the sweetest music ever heard.For currently emerging cicadas, the huge wasps represent the very worst
nightmare the world has to offer.
For anyone who has had an
opportunity to admire a specimen at close range, it will come as no surprise
that the giant cicada killer is Iowa’s largest species of wasp.For weeks now, these solitary hunters have
been busily preparing for the annual emergence of adult cicadas.After selecting a well drained, usually sandy
location, female wasps begin digging elaborate tunnels containing several side
chambers --- kind of like the hallway of a subterranean hotel.Although cicada killer wasps are solitary
[meaning they don’t live in large, highly organized colonies] multiple females
may share a single tunnel.Although most
excavations are smaller, tunnels can go as deep as two feet and extend for five
or six feet.
Once a side chamber is
completed, the female who dug it immediately goes on the hunt for cicadas.Searching the upper canopy of deciduous
forests and urban shade trees, the predacious wasps appear to relentlessly
scour each and every leaf in search of game.I’ve read that cicada killers readily home in on the sound of singing
[male] cicadas.Sounds reasonable,
except that the wasps I’ve spent time observing bring in at least as many
female cicadas as they do males.Even if
cicada killers do use sound to locate prey, it seems to me that visual cues
must be equally important.Here in north
central Iowa, the past week was easily the best for wasp watching so far this
summer, with individual hunt times running as low as 12 to 15 minutes.Cicadas being brought to the lek I have been
observing ran about 2 females for each male, with peak hunting activity
occurring at a time when the buzz of male cicadas provided a constant audio
Regardless of what hunt
strategy is actually employed, there are some constants.As soon as an adult cicada is located, the
wasp delivers a powerful sting; injecting a potent shot of venom that
immediately overpowers and totally immobilizes its victim.The powerful wasp then airlifts its heavy
cargo back to the tunnel.The higher the
cicada is located in a tree, the easier the flight back home.In spite of the cicada’s weight and bulk, the
incoming wasp usually dead centers the tunnel’s entrance so precisely that you
barely have time to catch even a fleeting glimpse before the cicada and its
captor disappear into the hole.On windy
or extremely humid days, incoming wasps seem more likely to miss the mark and
may end up having to drag their cargo the last few inches to the tunnel.
Once an immobilized cicada is
spirited below ground, the scenario’s creep factor escalates dramatically.What began for the cicada as a sunny
afternoon of singing in the treetops has suddenly become a living nightmare of
Stephen King proportions.But the worst
is yet to come, and what lies ahead for the comatose insect isn’t likely to
make the Mother Goose list of suggested bedtime readings for toddlers any time
soon.In the true life world of the
outdoors, Walt Disney story lines are few and far between; and fact is often
scarier than science fiction.Let’s
Upon finally reaching the
inky blackness of its preprepared underground chamber, the female cicada killer
drops her prey onto the floor the cramped room.She then lays a single egg on her victim.Mission accomplished, the wasp seals the
chamber’s entrance with a sodden door and leaves.Like a fresh side of beef hanging in the
local locker, the cicada lies on its back and waits.In two or three days the attached egg hatches,
and the wasp larvae immediately begins to devour its helpless, protein packed
host.Meanwhile, the female is busy
constructing new ‘guest chambers’ and continues filling the nursery -- one
stunned cicada at a time.Although their
time is short -- all adult wasps will die before winter -- the predators make
the most of what days they have.During
the four weeks or so that it will spend on the hunt, a female may capture 100
or more cicadas.
With its amped up demeanor,
pulsing abdomen, bright colors, loud wings and huge size; Iowa’s giant cicada
killer wasp projects an ominous air.But
in reality, humans have little to fear.For the most part, cicada killers are all about the hunt.Unlike colony nesting wasps and hornets whose
lives are directed toward protecting a communal hive, cicada killers are
extremely tolerant of human intrusion --- at least under most
circumstances.Even though I’ve given
tunnel digging and cicada toting females plenty of just provocation to sting,
the harshest rebuke I’ve received so far was a stern warning rattle of the
wings -- at which point I immediately backed off and let the creatures go.I think the females are simply conserving
their venom for future cicadas, or maybe they just think I’m too big to drag
down the tunnel.
Final Thought:The wonders and complexities of creation are
never fully explored, nor are they ever completely understood.Things that appear simple at a glance, rarely
are.The inseparably intertwined lives
of the annual cicada and the cicada killer wasp present a portrait of two
seemingly disconnected and unrelated species each living out the adolescent
stages of their lives in complete ignorance of the other, yet both headed on a
direct and completely predictable collision course to an unavoidable
convergence that will occur, right on schedule, late each summer.
Cicadas that survive predators
will deposit their eggs in slits they slice into the bark of tender tree
branches.Cicada eggs hatch, nymphs drop
and borough into the ground where they will spend the next three to five years
using spear-like siphons to tap tree roots for sap.When the timing is perfect, maturing nymphs
suddenly tunnel to the surface.Climbing
a nearby tree trunk, the nymph splits its plastic-like skin down the back and
the anvil headed, clear winged adult we all recognize emerges.Within hours, the sound of singing cicadas
fills the sultry summer air.Although
the adults are actually at least three or more years old, they are called
annual cicadas because “a hatch” emerges above ground each summer.
Right now, the first cicada
killer eggs have already hatched and larvae are voraciously consuming their
paralyzed hosts -- one stunned cicada for baby males, but two or three for
growing females [The mother knows in advance which gender an egg will become].Once the meal is complete, larvae will spin a
cocoon of sorts and then go dormant for the remainder of the summer, fall, and
winter in the underground room its now deceased mother constructed.The wasp larvae will pupate late next spring,
and the annual crop of giant cicada killers will appear, right on schedule, in
late July of 2013 --- just in time to make hurried preparations for the
impending emergence of the annual cicada when, with all the precision of a finely
crafted Swiss watch, the lives of two seemingly unrelated species will converge
in perfect synchrony.
To every thing there is a
season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
Yesterday, the lovely and gracious Lynn & I drove to Des Moines to see Amy and taker her out for supper. (Along w/ a number of other errands I needed to run in Central Iowa).
The mots-operandi for these trip to the Des Moines area consist of Lynn & I making the decision to go and then calling numerous people and letting them know where we are going to eat out and whoever shows up ... shows up! Normally that group will run between 4 and 15 people.
Mom & Dad (Love this pic)
Back to yesterday ... After contacting Amy and letting her know that we were coming down. I decided to run down to visit my Mom. Lynn suggested we ask her to dinner with us. Now for whatever reason, the idea of snatching up my Mom and taking her on one of these dinner outings had never crossed my mind! (BTW, Yes, I'm aware that my Mom eats, enjoys dining out and is an excellent conversationalist!) I'm just dense!
I called my mom asked her is she would like to go to Famous Dave's BBQ with us and she said "of course"! I thought rather than overwhelming her with a ton of people on her first voyage, we kept it to just the 4 of us. We had a great time! The food was great, the conversation was even better and the top of the evening was the waitress spilling a Dr. Pepper on the lovely and gracious Lynn! Hilarious!!!
I think Mom had fun and she is even willing to go again. It will be a couple of weeks before we get back to the Des Moines area but ... it's on now! She is officially part of the group!
A couple of note for the rest of you who are thinking ... "I never got one of those calls or I would like to get one of those calls". First, just contact me via email and your in. Second, this is normally a Dutch treat event ... I'M NOT BUYING YOUR DINNER! Nice try! Third, these outing are not for the faint of heart, just ask Pastor Nick Oliver who left his lovely wife at an Olive Garden while the rest of us drove around looking for a place w/o a 2 1/2 hour wait! What an adventure!
I'm not sure if I've blogged about this but I need to now...
Over a year and a half ago I decided I really wanted to preach through the Old Testament book of Ruth. As I began doing some background work, it became very clear to me that to really have a handle on Ruth, you must understand the time of the Judges. So... I began doing work in preparation for preaching through the book of Judges. As I did I came to the stark realization that if you are going to understand Judges and what is happening there you need to have a working knowledge of the book of Joshua!
And so it began ... I started to walk through the book of Joshua and build the platform from which we would transition in to the book of Judges and then into Ruth.
This has been an incredible time learning from God's Word!
Joshua: Beginning with the statement that Moses is dead ... Joshua is now the leader of God's people, the Nation Israel. Joshua leads them in conquering the promised land and driving out the people. This is all going along fairly well with few set backs and concludes with the division of the land according to God's direction. Finally, there are two incredible speeches by Joshua; first to the leadership of the nation and then to the general population itself.
Judges: When it comes to preaching or even doing a Bible study, I find that most people will avoid the book of Judges. In fact, one of the men of our church was talking to a friend of his, who attends another church in Clear Lake, and mentioned that we were beginning to walk through Judges as a church family and the response was something to the effect of he did not believe that his church would "buy into" a study like Judges!
I'm not going to kid you ... the book of Judges can be very depressing! The highlight of the book comes in chapter 1 and verse 1. Literally, it is all downhill from there to the point that at the end of the book it simple says: "...all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes."
The problem in Judges is cyclical: The people grow lax in there obedience and fall into sin - rather than repenting of their sin they just continue in it ... because of their sin and lack of repentance God brings in/allows/uses the surrounding nations to discipline Israel ... eventually the nation cries out for help (not in repentance) and God raises up a judge to deliver them from their oppressors ... Israel "follows" after God and there is a time of peace following the deliverance of the judge, but sooner rather than later the people begin to drift back into sin and the cycle repeats!
The last three chapter contain one of the most gross and disgusting accounts in all of the scriptures. As I was studying and preparing for that particular message, I seriously wondered why I ever started this book. Judges ends and leaves the reader/student of God's Word with a very uneasy concern because of a lack of closure.
Ruth: In the midst of the cesspool of sin as seen in Judges, emerges the account of Ruth. It is like a breath of fresh air or as one of the men of our church said: It's like the Friday night BBQ following just a brutal week at work; an opportunity to stop, relax and be recharged.
The book of Ruth is set in the time period of the book of Judges. Sometime probably around the time of Gideon.
The account is not about the man who’s name was Elimelech, or his wife was Naomi, or their two sons Mahlon and Kilion. The book is really not even about Ruth or Boaz even though these are all of the main characters.
The account of Ruth is all about God and His sovereign work that is always going on behind the scenes. Even in the midst of what is to us one of the darkest periods in the history of the Nation Israel, God is at work and in perfect control! The doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, in my humble opinion, has to be one of the most comforting doctrines known to man!
Well, all of this to say that if God so wills, I will preach the final message in the series from the book of Ruth this Sunday. As I have mentioned to my folks at the church ... all I wanted to do was preach through Ruth and now we have come to the end.
Got this in an e-mail, just too good not to share here.
Scientists Discover Elusive God Particle --- Decades Long Search Concludes --- Maybe
"Listening to the radio can be so much fun. The latest
example occurred just a few minutes ago when I heard national news
commentator Harley Carnes announce that it's not newsworthy when a
deadly and prolonged heat wave, like the one we just endured, finally
The reason, says Carnes, is that no one needs a headline
to let them know that it's cooler outside or that we all feel better
now. Can't argue with that. Firm grasp of the obvious for sure!
another. Anyone who has listened to or watched much news lately, has
probably heard about that giant swarm containing 6,000 of the world's
foremost scientists who think, that at long last, they may have actually
discovered the elusive "God Particle". Remotely akin to the long
sought missing link between man and ape, the God Particle is thought
to hold the secret to such things as what gives objects their mass,
what holds the universe together, and perhaps most importantly, contains
the potential to reveal how the universe got its start. One currently
popular theory, of course, is the so called Big Bang -- the belief that
our universe began with a massive explosion.
This latest search for
the God Particle involved the construction of a
seventeen-mile-long underground tunnel housing a $10 billion machine
known as the Large Hadron Collider. During the past 24 months,
scientists have really poured the cobs to this phenomenal new machine;
repeatedly setting the shots, pulling the trigger, and analyzing the
gigantic mountains of data resulting from an astounding 800 trillion
warp speed, proton-to-proton collisions. Boil it all down, sweep away
the chaff, and the heretofore undiscovered God Particle suddenly emerges
for all to see -- Well, not for sure; it's actually more like sorta
Although their collective pulse
rates have certainly accelerated, scientists say that it is still too
early; that no one can know for certain whether or not the God Particle
has finally been isolated. But the events of the day are nevertheless
exciting, says renowned Futuristic Theoretical Physicist, Michio Kaku.
Now there's no denying that Kaku is a 50,000 fathoms deep thinker. He's
a cool guy and is always fun to listen to. But after hearing or, worse
yet, trying to read him; I always come away feeling like his giant
brain must be the size of a state fair pumpkin and that mine must
approximate an anemic version of the proverbial single mustard seed.
But this time I got it. I really did understand what he was saying --
well at least on a 'sorta kinda maybe' level anyway.
can't yet say for sure that this is really it [the God Particle] there
are some things we can be fairly certain of, says Kaku. The universe
did begin with a big bang, a colossal explosion [of energy?] creating a
very bright light. Regardless of the final outcome of this latest
experiment, scientists feel as if they've never been closer to the
truth. Kaku summed it up this way --- If this latest effort does fall
short of providing positive proof as to what actually caused the bright
light explosion that was the origin of the universe,
then science has "at least found the fuse".
you have it. It's appears as if we may be on the verge of proving,
once and for all, that the universe began with an loud noise accompanied
by a bright light. Nope; Not kidding! Once again, a firm grasp of the
obvious is almost within our reach. But arriving at the answer didn't
come easy. Let's not forget that the latest attempt in this decades
long effort took two years of work, a ten billion dollar collider, a
full battalion of 6,000 scientists, a seventeen-mile-long underground
tunnel and the orchestration of 800 trillion proton collisions -- give
Here's more news. For only fifty or sixty
bucks [or for free on the internet] the team could have obtained a copy
of the Bible and, upon reading the first few words, arrived at basically
the same answer. In addition to Genesis, they also would have received
65 bonus books for no additional cost, and would have also been able
to discover how the story of the universe ends.
question. If it does happen to turn out that this latest search for
the God Particle falls short and has merely "found the fuse" to
what ignited the explosion that created the universe; then exactly
who was it that lit that fuse in the first place?
Thought: In Genesis 1:3, the Creator God pulls it all together by
commanding, "Let there be light." I'm guessing that He didn't whisper
those words and that when the universe began, the whole amazing process
was very loud indeed."
I know I'm posting twice in the same day and sometimes it seems that I hardly post twice a month. But my favorite older brother doesn't do Facebook and this is the only way I can keep him in the loop!
So I'm trying my hand at Smoked Meatloaf this afternoon. This is a recipe i got from my nephew Kevin Dennis and he just raves about how good this is. Being me, I must dink with the recipe a bit adding my own twist.
Meatloaf on the smoker ... jury is out! I will be posting results as soon as I have them. until then ... here are a couple of pictures:
Graziano"s Italian Sausage: If you know me very well at all you know that I'm just not a very complicated person. I am very easily entertained & amused.
That being true ... imagine my joy when I realized that the local Hy-Vee grocers were found to be selling Graziano's Italian Sausage!!
This is, hands down, the BEST Italian sausage in captivity! Part of my affection for this delicacy stems from my childhood growing up on the South-side of Des Moines where the Graziano family had a little Mom & Pop store where they would make and sell their sausage.
Here is a bit of their history:
This sausage is a treat from my childhood and I'm very thankful to Hy-Vee Mason City for carrying this product.
I'm really looking forward to "killer pizza", Italian sausage sandwiches and grinders!
Grilling & Smoking Meat: I have always been a fan of grilling, BBQing and smoking meats. the issue I had was I felt I never had the right equipment.
All of that has changed ... armed with only my Weber Kettle Grill and my Char-Broil Gas Grill I have been turning out some incredible smoked meats!
I have done pork lions, beef brisket, Boston butt roasts, pork roast, bone in & boneless pork ribs, boneless beef ribs, chicken and a beef chuck roast!
I picked up a great rub off the internet and after a bit of tweaking, think I have a pretty good mix. Sweet and spicy with just a bit of an after bite!
A friend of mine from the Des Moines area told me that I was creating restaurant quality meats. I will take that as a compliment!
Wow, we are already past the 4th of July! And a VERY hot one it was!! Both the weather and the fun were very hot!
The day started with the firing up of the smoker/grill and putting on a boneless pork loin for our lunch. This was followed by the annual 4th of July parade in Clear Lake. I for one enjoy parades and look forward to this one every year! The parade begins at 10 AM and lasts about 2 hours!
Following the parade we returned home for our smoked pork lion lunch which was fantastic!
Later that afternoon we arrived at the church for a cook-out and fellowship time. It was very hot and humid and therefore we cooked out side but decided to eat in the church fellowship hall!
Following supper and fellowship we made our way to the lake front for the "Firework over the Lake" a Clear Lake tradition. This is a no holes barred, top of the line fireworks display! Most communities will have a 15 to 30 minute fireworks program, Clear Lake averages 45-50 minutes with a grand finale that is second to none! Where we sit ... it is a front and center position for teh show and we love every minute!
My 4th of July began at around 5:30AM and ended about 11:45PM, a very long day but in my mind worth every minute!
Trust that as you enjoyed your 4th of July you took at least a moment to that God for the privilege of living in the greatest country on earth. No place is perfect (yet!) but, there are far worst places to have to live! May God continue to bless our great nation!