10 000 Fireflies

Have you ever seen a firefly? Unfortunately, the light pollution in our city makes the nostalgic experience rare and far between most summer nights. Recently, however, I was out walking the dog in a back field out in the country, where the city lights were significantly dimmed enough for me to catch a glimpse of a few lightening bugs calling to each other. I wouldn’t have paid too much attention, normally, but the quiet of the evening and the fact that our chocolate lab is almost invisible in the dark, made me consciously scan the bush edge for unsuspecting creatures or beady eyes staring back at me from the shadows. I smiled to myself as I watched for awhile and then proceeded to ask the dog if he noticed them too? Yes, out loud. Don’t judge me as I talk to the dog, okay?

Photo by: Cathy Kiefer

Being the good scientist that I am, I thought the little beetles might be interesting to learn about… not everyday you see glowing butts as a way to catch the love of your life’s attention, is it? There are about 2 000 species of fireflies — and not all can use bioluminescence. The “glow” is produced to lure a mate and can be green, orange or yellow coloured. It is created by the combination of oxygen, calcium, ATP and an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase is derived from the (get this!) Latin word for lucifer…meaning “light bearer” and has been a very important chemical in science for detecting all sorts of things in cells and living creatures. It is apparently very efficient — nearly 100% of the energy produced in the chemical reaction produces light.

Yet not all fireflies can boast such (pardon the pun) glowing reviews…some are deceivers. Some use their light to attract prey. The unsuspecting love seeker gets all caught up in the show and gets eaten for its efforts. Some fireflies will actually “steal” other flies from spider’s webs! Packaged lunch to go! Wanna hear the cool word for that behaviour? “Kleptoparasitism.” Researchers still don’t know how the burglars get on and off the webs without getting caught themselves….

Isn’t science fascinating?! But more than that, I think God uses these real life examples to teach us more than cool vocabulary words. So many life lessons are observed by watching the world around us. Is it co-incidence that the most efficient light is named after Lucifer? How attractive he is … and how easily he ensnares us into following him! The little blips of temptation can easily go unnoticed until they catch our eye and distract us into mesmerizing patterns, drawing us deeper and deeper into the darkness — only to devour us later. You need a lot of “darkness” to see the tiny blips of fireflies … surrounding yourself with light will drown them out. In fact, our light pollution is creating a decline in the numbers of fireflies … they can’t reproduce if they can’t find mates. Do you see the lesson here?

The band Owl City has a bubbly little tune called 10 000 Fireflies. (Find it here). It draws us to the nostalgic side of watching fireflies and believing in the “magic” of our childhood dreams. Obviously, life isn’t as easy as our childhood wishes… and frequently we spend sleepless nights worrying about things that are often out of our control. May you be encouraged this week that there is someone who does care about you and your dreams. He’s not “magical” or flashy… He’s simply the God who loves you. And me. The One who created 10 000 fireflies… and the God who made me notice one, so I can tell you the story of how it made me smile on a summer’s evening (and talk to the dog out loud.)

“Your Focus Needs more Focus”

I was in charge of walking the dog this week. Not a big deal, he’s pretty good about walks now. There was a time, though… a time when that puppy of ours was a bundle of energy and was distracted by every person, stray dog, fluttering bird or swaying blade of grass. He’s older now and a little less distracted… but the odd time he loses focus. Just like the rest of us. Or as the next generation of karate kid training says “your focus needs more focus”. Love Jackie Chan.

Which had me musing this week. Focus. What are we really focused on? The center point. The hub. The nucleus of your world. Focus. The clarity in the situation. The distinct, well defined, finger-pointing “thing” that makes it, well, “it”. Some of us have a goal for a time. Raise our kids well. Focus on a career that will lead us to financial stability. Finish college. Buy a house. Many of my readers will note that I have had a #wordoftheyear for the first time in 2021. I chose it to bring a little focus into my life for the next 365 days. (You can read about it here).

FOCUS

Our physical bodies are often something we focus on as well. How many workouts target one or two “problem areas”. Buns of steel, anyone? Or calming ourselves down by focusing on our breathing, or pulse, or making each step deliberate. It helps keep us under “control”. The control is needed to keep us from going off on tangents, wild goose chases or as a friend puts it…rabbit trails. Alice got into a lot of trouble following a rabbit.

Clarity. Good clarity comes from the right focus. My glasses help me see clearly. Microscopes and telescopes bring clarity to objects our eyes simply cannot see without help. It brings a fuzzy, undefined image into something we can recognize and understand. And often learn from or learn more about with study.

So why focus on focus? It is a strong contender in our ability to keep going. It goes hand and hand with hope. When we lose focus, we easily become distracted… and then the journey is no longer enjoyable. Like our puppy walks. When we had to correct, refocus, pull on the leash and speak harshly to the pup… nobody enjoyed the outing. Sure, truth be told, all of us need a little distraction now and then to break the monotony of tunnel vision. Maybe breaks are even necessary. Yet, focus brings us back to the point.

The beginning of Hebrews 12 reminds us to not only to stay focused on the end goal, but shows us how Jesus was our perfect example of this:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT

His love for us. Our weak faith. Our focus on the finish line before us. What about you, my friend? Does your focus need more focus? Are you pulling in all directions? I know I struggle with this all too often. May you be encouraged to “focus” along with me in the next few days, and set our eyes on the finish line, as we enjoy our walk together.

Into the Unknown

Happy May 24 to all my fellow Canadians!! The first official long weekend of summer. For the Mitton crew, that meant heading up to the summer home… with all the Covid-protocols still in place and thoughts on respecting everyone’s distance. It also meant another weekend of boarding for the pupp-ers. He’s been once to doggie-daycare. He was fine. Yet, this mama is worse now with the dog than I was with my own flesh and blood. Kindergarten? Send them off kicking and screaming, I say. The poor puppy, though! He cowered behind us, all naked (they take the collars off for safety reasons) and vulnerable… and then off into the unknown…

“Reese”, off on another adventure!

Of course, the dog will be fine. The kindergarteners survive. The teens grow up. And the young adults move out on their own. Still, it had me thinking about that feeling. That vulnerable, alone, exposed moment we feel as we stand on the precipice of something unknown. It might be an exciting adventure that awaits you on the other side of the door. Perhaps one that you’ve waited for and dreamed of. Like, ahem, country homes and chickens. Or the valedictorian speech. Or your Nobel prize acceptance dinner. Maybe it’s the final visit to the specialist who has your medical results and wants to discuss it with you. It’s the parent-teacher interview you were asked to attend. Or the seniors home liaison who wants to discuss hospice options with your family.

Whatever is on the other side of the gate…good or bad…begins with that moment. You have never been here before. You don’t know exactly how it will all turn out. You anticipate. You might even prepare for it. You may have stumbled upon it by accident or out of no doing of your own … like a global pandemic. And yet, here we are. Living through history just trying to get to the other side. No other person has lived this day, this moment, of this hour, of your life. And each tick of the clock propels us into the unknown.

My family is giggling at me as I write up this blog post, because “Into the Unknown” is, of course, the famous ballade from Disney’s Frozen 2 where Elsa follows the “voice” in the wilderness drawing her into the unknown to a place where she finally belongs. Which, to some extent, is exactly what God does. He calls us to follow Him. He calls us to follow Him into the unknown. Into the scary, big wide world out there that whispers to us as we lie awake at night. (Not that I am comparing Disney to the Bible. I did that once. You can read about it here. But just work with me and ah, Let it Go, okay?) Many years ago, God promised His people that He will guide them as they travelled out of their comfort zones and into the unknown. Idols and false gods have no way of knowing the future, nor have they made the paths straight for those who follow them. Only God alone can do this:

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Isaiah 42:16 ESV

Do you need this encouragement today, my friend? Are you standing at that crossroad of life? Perhaps you are hearing God’s whisper asking you to follow Him. Maybe you’ve answered the knock at the door but you need to climb back on the trail and keep marching forward. Or you’ve already been marching for a long time and are tired and in need of fresh ground. I’m imagining our dog on the other side of the kennel door running free and sniffing every friendly post along the way. Or Elsa flashing icicles at will as she glides into the unknown to a place where all the dots connect and things finally make sense.

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

It’s scary. It’s … well … it’s the unknown. All the same, the verse promises us that He will not forsake those who follow Him. Let’s turn the handle and walk through the door.