Green Lacewings

I’m the sort of person who stares at lichen. I love its patterns, colors; the way it clings to cold, mossy boulders, craggy tree bark, and smooth, algae-painted fence rails. And I love how every now and again, it takes a walk.

Of course, lichen doesn’t walk, but it can travel with a bit of help.

Twice in my life, I’ve come across a larva of the Green Lacewing. The first time, I was bent over a rock face looking at clusters of lichen when suddenly a tiny piece moved. I gasped, pulled back, then wrinkled my brow and leaned in closer. A mere pinch of the pale, crinkly green was waddling along the stone’s surface, clearly hindered by uneven terrain, lots of very short legs, and mostly, by the load on its back.

Despite their small stature, Lacewing larvae are ferocious beasts. Sometimes called Aphid Lions, they are ruled by their appetite and not too picky about how they satisfy it. Besides aphids, they’ll eat caterpillars, thrips, white flies, spider mites, insect eggs, and the list goes on.

They are not . . . attractive. But to be fair, most insect larvae are not pretty; cute maybe — in their own way. These larvae are covered in a hard, brown armadillo-like shell and shaped like deflated, bumpy footballs. Their mouth parts resemble the business end of the Grim Reaper’s scythe. Once you learn the load on their backs is not just lichen but the carcasses of creatures they’ve sucked the life from by draining and slurping their bodily fluids, the image of death’s deliveryman makes sense. Underneath this load of cadavers and debris, they hide their true selves from predators.

It’s hard to believe they grow up to be lovely, ethereal creatures, appearing as if they may have arrived fresh from some other galaxy. They change from a scuttling blob of waste-covered, brown, hard shell to an almost unreal beauty; from angel of death to angel of light. With dragonfly shaped bodies and wings laced with veins and cross-veins in patterns that must have taken some thought they shine, iridescent, in lime green. Their heads are crowned in yellow, and their large eyes are a dark, rich bronze.

Lacewing in the laundry room.

Lacewings are slow, dreamy fliers; acrobats who sometimes lift off with a backflip. They are fae in flight, just a wee bit enchanted.

Lacewing in a world of green.

The eggs they lay, tiny, white pearls attached to a thread of hardened mucus, dangle from leaves or tree bark. An easy and enjoyable way to spot their eggs, is to relax in a hammock and scan the branches and leaves overhead.

I have no quarrels with trees or hammocks.
Lacewing Egg — that tiny white spec in the center.
Lacewing Egg
Lacewing Egg on Green Leaf
Lacewing pupa — I think.

I love the adults but must admit, I relate more easily to those shuffling larvae. I too drag death around on my shoulders, things that weigh heavy, things I can’t forget. You know the ones. They fall over you like a wave out of nowhere then settle in your gut.  

Words: The ones you wish you’d never said. You ache to reach through time and yank them back. The ones you wish you hadn’t failed to say – “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “Will you forgive me?”.  The words that were lies that have somehow remained; the real story never revealed, always distorting a friendship, your standing at work or church, a spousal or parental relationship.   

Actions: The things you regret doing, the ones you did for pride, vengeance, or fear’s sake. The things you regret not doing, the ones you were too afraid to do, too vain to risk failure; the opportunities to serve and welcome that you left lay.  

The words and actions of others pile up as well. We can be wronged and still feel shame even though we aren’t the guilty ones. Maybe we’ve been abused or neglected. Maybe rejected even though we’ve been faithful and kind. Those things, when we remember them, make our faces burn with the humiliation that should belong to another.

We carry dead weight just like those little larvae. Thinking of this reminded me of Isaiah 46, the false gods of Babylon are being hauled away on ox carts. The prophet says they are bowed down as they are lowered to the ground — too heavy for the people to bear. Too heavy for the oxen to bear. They cannot protect the people, and the people cannot protect their homemade gods. He says both the gods and the people are brought low by the weight of the lifeless statues.  

Verses 6 and 7: “Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move! And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.”

In Christian-think, an idol is anything we hold above God, anything we make more important. Past sins, the ones we’ve committed and the ones done toward us, may not seem like idols on the surface. But if we’re honest, we often think about them more than we think of God. We allow them power over us; control. And if we say we trust Christ and his work on the cross yet continue to scoop up our sin-debris and place it on our own shoulders, then we aren’t trusting at all. We’re either believing God is weak and can’t bear sin’s weight, or that we are strong and must deal with it ourselves.

When ancient people carved stone or wood into a “god” they were only making burdens for themselves. That’s all an idol is — a heavy, oppressive burden. We must fashion it, bear the weight of it. We move it where we want it to go; it cannot move itself. We put it on its high place and take responsibility. An idol cannot leave us alone of its own accord, it has no will. It cannot set us free from itself.

The bible says, I was dead in my sin but now am alive in Christ, that my sins are removed from me as far as east from west; that I am not condemned. So why shuffle and scuffle and waddle under the weight of if-onlys. If only I had done better. If only I could have been braver, smarter, kinder, wiser. It never ends. Notice all the “I” statements. I keep believing in me, but I can’t rescue me from trouble. I can carve up my past in so many different ways, replay things, drag them here, drag them there, but still, I drag. I carry. I can’t erase or redeem anything. Perhaps, it isn’t the stuff on my back that I worship. Maybe, after all, it’s me.

But I can learn and change. Growth is key for us and for the Lacewing larva. Overtime, the smallness of the creature becomes larger, the body expands until it sheds its flesh as well as the load on its back. It doesn’t get away with doing this just once. There will be many periods of growth as well as periods of piling on, of hauling around a collection of all the harm it has wrought on others and perhaps some wounds inflicted to itself in the fight.

But, there will be a last molt. The old, not-so-pretty skin will fall away one final time and a winged creature of light will emerge. And it will dazzle.  

Life in a corrupted world is like this. We lug the wreckage of our existence. We drag it everywhere we go. We hide our true selves underneath it, the selves that live blameless in Christ. Just like the larva, we want to be protected, to feel safe from those we fear might hurt us, whether they be people or Almighty God. We think if God or our friend can see what we really are, they won’t be able to love us.

But I am reminded again of how this started  — with my lichen fascination.

Lichen clings to a winter tree

Lichen is not dead. It’s alive and lives in death’s company on the back of the Lacewing larva. It even grows there. When the death cloak falls away, wherever it lands, the lichen will eventually overtake it, so whomever passes by, when they see it, will only see life. This observer will have no idea this bright, living organism covers over a multitude of death.

This is the fate of those who put their trust in Christ. He clings to us, holding on when we struggle over rough paths in a world full of loss and rubbish. His life, our eternal life, is always with us, and one day, all that we have carried will lift. It will be left behind with our old self. We’ll be new, made completely lovely by the persistence and patience of Jesus to never let us go.

Makers, All

In a cave in Indonesia, hand prints embellish a wall. Child-sized and full grown, compact and stocky, long and graceful, all captured in an earthy-red collage. Thousands of years ago, maybe a family like mine, stretched out their fingers, pressed their palms flat, and painted around each digit, hand, and wrist. When I look at photos of them, I of course, remember pressing my own palm onto paper, fingers stiff and still as I sealed the shape inside a wiggly line of waxy color.

I wish I could place my, now grown, hand over their prints; imagine the warmth their hands held in life, the scars, callouses, and wrinkles. I want to acknowledge what I share with them and with everyone from all of time and every place.

We are makers, giving color, form, and representation to the things we dream up.

Turn on the television, browse social media, and you’ll find makers competing, instructing, and inspiring. Even now, in the midst of a global pandemic, craft stores declare themselves essential and thrive as people weave, stitch, glue, and nail together to help alleviate the feeling that everything may be coming apart.

Making is a soothing motion. It frees the mind from dense and despairing thoughts or expresses pain too heavy to bear, and helps us endure suffering.

It’s also often an act of whimsy, of pure, silly joy.

We produce from new materials, thrilled by a clean canvas, neatly wrapped skein of yarn, crisp yard of fabric, or a bare, brown piece of ground.

We restore and repurpose. When presented a worn piece of furniture, we’re eager to scrape off the old and brush on the new.

We create from paper, wood, metal, toilet tissue rolls, macaroni – nothing is off limits to the innovative, and we’re certainly that.

We carve out nooks, filling them with more supplies than we’ll use in a lifetime and designate these dens of possibility, “makerspaces.”

We love potential, hope, and renewal; are exhilarated by mistakes or failures transformed to beauty. These things are our stories, after all, the stuff we’re made of.

When I make something, I begin by hovering. Like a Bombyliidae – or as it’s more commonly known, a bee fly – suspended over a flower, I am moving but not going anywhere.

I hang, shifting only slightly, thinking about my next move, about color, shape, usefulness, and style. Only when ready do I execute the first cut, cast on the first stitch; only then, do I drink in the sweet pleasure of making.

But also, like the bee fly, who is not really a bee, I’m an imitator, a maker who has been Made, a creator, Created; Imago Dei — in the image of God — a God who hovers and starts with a blank slate:

The earth was formless and empty and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of them. (Genesis 1:2)

A God who begins with new materials:

For I am about to do something new. See I’ve already started! Don’t you see it? I’ll make a pathway through the wilderness.

I’ll create rivers in the dry wasteland.

The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and the owls too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes. I’ll make rivers in the dry wasteland, so my chosen people can be refreshed. (Isaiah 43:19)

A God who delights in transforming damaged goods into treasures, and deep, deep sorrow into happiness and hope:

To all who mourn in Israel, 
he'll give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of grief,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they'll be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3). 

But especially it seems, a God who loves to restore the old and worn: 

In his kindness God called you to share in his forever glory by means of Jesus. So after you’ve suffered a little while, he’ll restore, support, and strengthen you, and place you on a firm foundation. (1Peter 5:10)

You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you’ll restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. (Psalm 71:20)

These similarities between his making and mine are, in part, why I believe I’ve been dreamed-up and designed.

Goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, my vision and skills pale in comparison. While I can lift a stone from a creek bed and paint it, I can’t make a stone. No creation of mine will ever breathe. As I said, I’m an imitator. And, unlike God, my making – and yours – can’t always even be called “good.” Our creations indicate something about what we treasure or want, and we don’t always treasure or want the best things.

But, Romans 1 says that God’s creation tells us something about him too. His invisible qualities, his character, are expressed through his making, and his stuff is good, in fact, very good. I never spend time outside without seeing something that reminds me of him, his gospel, or my own walk of faith, and I spend a lot of time outside. It’s easy to surmise, from creation, what matters to God.

The heavens proclaim his glory; the skies, his craftsmanship.

Night after night they make him known.

Day after day they continue to speak;

without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone out to all the earth,

and their words to all the world.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.

It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.

The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course

to the other end.

Nothing can hide from its heat.

(Psalm 19:1-6)

Wordlessly, creation pours out evidence of design, and by default, Designer. It displays power, compassion, and intimate knowledge of every creature’s need. These are the things important to him — his glory is for our good.

Winds are his messengers, ruffling our hair, filling our lungs, thrilling and scaring us, grabbing our attention.

Flames are his servants, purifying forest and prairie – nothing can hide from his heat.

Water rushes through ravines reaching all the thirsty creatures. Birds congregate beside it to fluff, sing, and drink their fill. He gives grass for livestock, trees for food and beauty. He lets us garden, reaping good things to eat, to make us happy, soothe our aches and pains. Day and night, it never stops – the provision, the proclamation of the presence of a Maker. It tells us God treasures everything he’s made and that he longs for all of it to be fully alive. (Psalm 104)

According to Scripture, we’re to master creation. But what does that mean? For Christians, as in all things, we’re to be like Christ, so what sort of master is he?

Come to me, all who labor, who are burdened, and I’ll give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you; learn from me, for I’m gentle and humble,

and you’ll find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(Matthew 11:28-30)

If honest with ourselves, we’re not often motivated by a desire to see creation flourish, but mostly, to sate our own insatiable cravings. Though imitators of one who is love and truth, as with all imitations we’re imperfect and often use our abilities in selfish, destructive ways.

Remember the Bombyliidae? If you’re like me, after you read this, you may be curious and do some research. concluding that every metaphor falls apart when you learn the bee fly is, kind of, ruthless. They hover over bee nests, and with a flick of their abdomens, drop their spawn inside where their offspring devour both the nourishment the bee has set aside and the babies it was meant for. Bee flies, like all of nature, look out for number one. And yes, I believe my metaphor holds.

Sometimes, I’ll write about the ways we’ve distorted our role as caretakers and how we can do better. It ought to be humbling to know we’ve been favored, given the necessary gifts to care for the life that takes care of us. Nature is surely vulnerable to our choices, but arrogance forgets that we are vulnerable too, dependent upon the water, air, and soil; reliant on the tiniest insects.

I Love Hiking!

Wait. What about hiking? I love hiking!

I will write about it. Not a guide to the best trails, no tips about difficulty level, length, or which spots have flushing toilets versus those holes-in-the-ground, but I’ll write about the things I observe, like lichen, sparrows, dirt, grass, feathers, and Bombyliidae. I’ll wax about Sycamores, ravines, dragonflies, and hummingbirds. I’ll indite the virtues of prairies, bats, grasshoppers, tadpoles, and spiders.

A final fyi — I believe God created. I don’t know how, though, so if you’re here for an amalgamation of current scientific theory with the narrative of Scripture, you’re going to be disappointed — or relieved — when it never happens. I love science, I’ll share my limited knowledge of it, but Genesis 1 and 2 don’t discuss photons, cell division, photosynthesis, or the gaseous content of the air, so I won’t ever feel the need to use science to try and “prove” God created. As makers, we like to know how, but I don’t think “how” is the point, not the Bible’s point, anyway. God’s relationship with his creatures, his friendship with us, and our response to him, to all he’s made, seems the point to me and will be my focus.

So, this is my guide, my creationist’s guide to hiking; to how we have – sometimes – stone-cold, bee fly hearts, but by grace, can be dragonflies, escaping our hideous exoskeletons to fly lovely and free. I’ll walk through exhibits of God’s work, tour his makerspace, and think out loud about what it all means — how flora, fauna, and faith connect.

Every created thing tells the story of its Maker, and I’m no exception. I hope you’ll read my stories.


Emerge, rise up, reach up, find warmth, cool rain,
Stretch low, deep down into soft, quiet, dark.
Find nourishment, grow, expand,
Spread Out!
One branch, only one, weakens,
Wind strengthens, breaks you, 
just a little at first.
Summer comes and you are brave again, 
feeling forever is yours.
Autumn is here -- death tries to hang on, 
you push it away - for awhile - it floats, rests at your feet.
A crack, split, jagged break,
In your height, you grow hollow, 
but you are a home.
Fuzzy, feathered babies blink big eyes, warm in the hole left by your suffering,
Soon they'll fly because your affliction made room for their life.
You fall, over time sink into damp, become loamy earth. 
You emerge, reach up, rise up, stretch out. 
New seeds, new green, new life.
You nourish, 
You live always.