Posted in theology

Our incredible God, the incredible Creator

By Elizabeth Prata

We read in so many books aimed at Christians that there is a secret code in the Bible. That life has a secret code. That there’s like hacks based on a code (enneagram, anyone?). There are no secret codes in the Bible and the only life hacks that do exist in the Bible are either indicatives or imperatives. But did you know there IS a secret, recently discovered, code to the universe?

I remember vividly when it was discovered and the wider general public became aware. January 1983. I subscribed to Smithsonian Magazine, the magazine associated with Smithsonian Museum. The cover displayed a weirdly balloon-like object on the cover, even more weirdly named a “fractal.” Intrigued, I read the article. I read it again, and re-read it many more times over the years, keeping that edition long past its sell-by date.

I never quite understood what fractals were or why the mathematics world was so excited about them. I wished I understood it. I wanted to understand it. I sensed its importance. But the point escaped me.

I wasn’t saved then.

Now I am.

This week I found a Christian scientist teaching about fractals at the Answers in Genesis Conference. His name is Jason Lisle and here is his bio:

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who researches issues pertaining to science and the Christian faith. Lisle earned a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr. Lisle has worked at Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and is the Founder of the Biblical Science Institute. (Source)

Now, why are fractals a code to the universe?

When we discover a mathematical truth we have discovered something about the way God thinks.

Dr. Jason Lisle
The original fractal, now called the Mandelbrot set, after its discoverer

The video below is a really understandable video of Dr. Lisle explaining fractals and why they are a code to the universe, a peek at God’s mind, AND a mind-blowing, awe-inspiring concept. In fact, in watching him explain it (he does it really well- you WILL understand it!) I actually teared up with joy at seeing this peek at something that is behind and supports God’s creation- the universe. I urge you, if you’re feeling down, if you want to glimpse our Holy God, if you are simply curious, or for any reason at all, to watch the video!

Here are some other creation beauties. I applaud, exalt, and praise our God for His incredible beauty. RC Sproul used to say that God is good, true, and beautiful. He’d often ask, “What happened to beauty?” I am fascinated by this question and I speak of it often. Here are a few mind-blowing examples of our Beautiful Creator!

God has made everything beautiful in its time; also, He has given human beings an awareness of eternity; but in such a way that they can’t fully comprehend, from beginning to end, the things God does (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

This isn’t CGI, it’s a real-life creature known as a sea angel (Clione limacina) found in the cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans.

Did you know that Mercury is a planet AND a comet? Here’s NASA-

The black dot is Mercury! Photo from NASA

Researchers have known for years that Mercury has a huge tail. Last week, Andrea Alessandrini photographed her from the balcony of his home in Veroli, Italy. … First preceded in the 1980s, Mercury’s tail was discovered in 2001. Its origin is Mercury’s super-thin atmosphere. Mercury is so close to the sun that the pressure of sunlight can push atoms out of the atmosphere into space. The escaping gas forms a tail more than 15 million miles long.

We contemplate God in church when we worship, when we pray, when we read the Bible. But please take some time to contemplate Him as Creator.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Job 12:10 – In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Psalm 8:3-4 – When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 104:24-25 – Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great.

Contemplate the beauty of His creation and His beauty itself.

Further Reading

Smithsonian magazine 2017: Fractal Patterns in Nature and Art Are Aesthetically Pleasing and Stress-Reducing

Answers in Genesis: Beauty, the Undeniable Witness

Sproul: “What happened to beauty?

Posted in brain spirituality, end time, prophecy

Everyone knows God exists, we suppress it though

EPrata photo

I came to the Lord sometime between December 10, 2003 and January 1, 2004. There were many reasons for my accepting the Truth, (besides the fact that it is the LORD who opens eyes and hearts) but one of them was a long-time curiosity with how the world got started and a dissatisfaction with the secular answer of evolution, Big Bang, and simple chance. During this time of my peak curiosity, I was fortunate to be able to travel the world for ten years. I saw many sunsets, the majestic Alps, active volcanoes, the Northern Lights, myriad exotic animals, the ocean at peace and in turmoil, and I would think, ‘there HAS to be more to it than a Bang…this is all so beautiful and delicately complex.’ In this, the scripture in Romans 1:20 comes into play, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Eventually, I clearly saw, and I understood. More important, I believed.

Continue reading “Everyone knows God exists, we suppress it though”
Posted in theology

I was without excuse

By Elizabeth Prata

I was looking through an old travel journal I’d kept on my first big trip. I was a senior in high school, and the class was taking a trip to London. My parents gave me the trip as a graduation present.

I’d never flown before at the time (except a small Cessna a few feet off the ground in Provinceown) so the thought of flying through the night, at such a high altitude, over the ocean, I was very excited.

My travel journal captured my excitement: “Just completed takeoff. It was the most fantastic experience I ever had in my whole life! At first we were going slow and then fast and the next thing we knew we were over the lights of Boston. They were beautiful, like spider webs in the morning. In the next second we were over Provincetown and the next second I saw Nantucket.”

At that point we were at an altitude of 22,000 feet, the captain informed us, and our top altitude would be 33,000 feet. My next entry was a few hours later, when the sun began to peek over the horizon. We were flying east, so we were meeting the sun as we traveled over Nova Scotia, Canada, then the Atlantic, then Ireland.

“Beautiful. I’m watching one side of the world wake up while the other side is still sleeping. It’s all pink and blue, and the clouds are like cotton. The stewardess asked us to close our window shades, I’m not. I’m not going to miss this for all the gold on earth. This is God’s handiwork. I’m not turning down an offering from God.”

I remember the giddy feeling of having left earth and flying through realms I’d never been. Unhitched from the world, able to see above the clouds and into the heavens from a new perspective was startling to me and made a big impression. I’d written:

“I’ve decided that this is heaven. When I die I want to spend eternity here. Nothing but God could have made this. This is another world. The sun just came over the horizon. It’s too beautiful to describe.”

I’ve always loved geography, maps, locations, and boundaries like the sand-sea boundary, the 45th parallel, the equator. Edges of things. Being above the clouds and seeing in one glance the earth below and space above; the dark vs. light areas of the earth, and the stars above while the world wakes as not only fascinating to me but moving.

I know when the astronauts went into space they were moved also. I think we can’t help but be moved. The scripture says

The heavens tell of the glory of God; And their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2).

How can we look at the magnificence of the skies, moon, stars, and sun progressing across the skies in such an orderly march, each in its sparkling place, note the sunrise and sunset. I see that at age 17, even though having lived with a rabidly atheist father and a constantly seeking but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth mother, I could and did see God in the skies, as it poured forth speech. It’s obvious.

Poor me.

I was a perfect example of Romans 1:19-20,

that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Acknowledging God as creator actually put me in a worse position “when I die”. I wasn’t going to heaven if it happened. I’d be going to hell. It isn’t enough to see God’s handiwork, acknowledge it as His, and go on my way, deciding to enter heaven after I die. Why?

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, (Romans 1:21a).

It is not enough to say “God made this” yet go on my way as before. The knowledge of God as august, majestic, powerful creator should move us to look at ourselves in comparison and say, “God have mercy on me, a sinner” like the tax collector did, and was justified. I was moved that there was a God, it’s obvious enough that He made the world as Romans 1:20 states (‘He has made it plain to them’), but I did not know THE God. His handiwork did not stir in me a self-awareness of my puniness and filthiness next to His holiness. His handiwork is supposed to do that for the Gentiles, as the Law was supposed to for the Jews. (Romans 2-3).

The Law was supposed to demonstrate to the Jew that he could not attain moral perfection. His inner man would prevent it, being totally corrupt. Therefore, we are both under condemnation, both Jew and Gentile, for “all have sinned”. Only God is perfectly moral, just, and holy.

I hung there, in that precarious position of acknowledging God as Creator, but foolish enough to ignore Jesus as Savior. I thought I had made a wise and philosophically advanced decision, and God should applaud me for it. Not consciously, but unconsciously. I was the person that the verse in Romans 1:21b-22 speaks of,

they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.

No, lol, I didn’t worship snakes and crawling things but I did worship myself, my goals, my intellect, my wisdom, my pride. I worshiped idols as the verse says.

It was another 25 years before my incessant questions as a pagan would be resolved. If God made the world, then all the cultures who ever worshiped a god must be right that there is an afterlife. Since it’s obvious there’s an afterlife, hell must be real too. What makes heaven so great? What is the standard by which a person goes there? Because if everyone goes there, what makes it heaven? Everyone here is awful. (I acknowledged others’ sin, our depraved nature being obvious, except for meee, of course…)

God graciously gave me Jesus, and upon His moment of time pre-planned before the foundation of the world, I finally recognized my sin thanks to His grace and opening my eyes through the gift of faith. I repented of sin and fell upon Jesus’ feet. I understood the cross.

All those years I’d asked those questions, but whenever my mind tread closer to the cross, Jesus, and my own sin, my mind skittered away and I said, ‘No not that. It can’t be THAT.’ I don’t think many Christians understand the torment of the conscience, and the weariness to the soul of trying to find the answer but that our sin-darkened minds refuse to allow the holy light of the answer to burst through. It takes God passing HIs hand over us to do that, the external understanding of our need for Him, seen because of Him, by Him, through Him. I never would have gotten there on my own never. I know that.

Therefore we should be weak-need because of His grace. Grace through faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Posted in theology

The creation of a unique snowflake…a quadrillion times over

By Elizabeth Prata

It is raining here today and tonight we are supposed to receive snow showers. Here in north Georgia the word ‘snow’ elicits squeals of excitement and also more than a little fear. In other words, it’s rare.

I’m from Rhode Island. I lived through the Blizzard of 1978, one of the worst blizzards that ever fell in America anytime in weather recorded history. I moved to Maine just afterward and stayed for about 30 years. I am quite familiar with snow, and lots of it. I do not squeal with excitement when the forecasters say the word, I groan instead.

My life ln Maine included a lot of snow…

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, And have you seen the storehouses of the hail, (Job 38:22)

For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the gentle rain, ‘Pour out a mighty downpour.’ (Job 37:6)

But I do love to ponder His creative work. I particularly enjoy His work as Creator. Jonathan Edwards did too. Edwards said,

The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God]. Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? ~Jonathan Edwards

Edwards took a horseback ride or a walk every day, and pondered great thoughts, and enjoying thinking of God as creator. Edwards enjoyed the creation he admired so much, and praised God for it always.

It’s hard for me to imagine the infinite capability God has in creating every snowflake differently. If one snowflake is this beautiful, how gorgeous will heaven be?

And even more amazing, He created all the souls on earth that ever were, uniquely and individually. Each person looks different, has different DNA, and a different personality. What an amazing creator God we have!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Posted in theology

What’s that glow in the middle of the universe?

By Elizabeth Prata

In my earliest days of my walk with Jesus, I tried to witness to a close friend. She rejected Jesus as God, the notion of personal sin, and God’s creation work because, she said, Genesis shows that God made light before He made the sun, and that’s just illogical. You can’t have light without the sun, she asserted.

I didn’t have an answer to that, except that if God could make the sun He certainly could make light too, and in whatever sequence He wanted.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:1-5).

Continue reading “What’s that glow in the middle of the universe?”
Posted in theology

Delicate beauty, intelligently created

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m still in summer-ocean-seashell mode. I’d written about Gifts from the Sea a week ago, here is another short meditation on the natural world and the Creator.

I lived for two years on a sailboat, sailing from Maine to the Bahamas and back, twice. That was fun. To keep occupied, I broadened and deepened my interest in the natural world and focused that interest on shells and the animals that lived in them. I learned how to spot the animals’ habitat based on how the shell was designed. Intertidal mollusks vs. rock clinging mollusks or digging mollusks.

The one thing that attracts people to shells, though, is their beauty. And how they are designed. Did you know that a univalve (one-hole mollusk) is born with a tiny apex attached to itself? As it goes thru life it grows the shell around itself. But it grows the shell in a pattern that has a defined ratio, and this ratio is consistent throughout the mollusk world, and also the natural world. Ferns grow at the same ratio.

EPrata photo

The Italian mathematician Leonardo da Pisa, or AKA Fibonacci, discovered this. He also introduced the decimal system to Europe, replacing the Roman Numerals in the 1200s (thank goodness!) Mollusk shells grow in a logarithmic spiral manner, always. Since the mollusks don’t have a brain that tells them to grow this way, and since the logarithmic consistency is carried over to other natural elements such as the pine cone and the sunflower and a snowflake, proponents of Intelligent Design use Fibonacci as a basis for the argument that the world that has been externally designed by a Master Intelligence.

We know that ‘intelligence’ not as an intelligence, but as a Person: God.

 

In any case, shells are exquisite, and a joy to discover as you walk the beach.

Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23)

Fractals definition: Geometrical entities characterised by basic patterns that are repeated at ever decreasing sizes. They are relevant to any system involving self-similarity repeated on diminished scales (such as a fern’s structure) as in the study of chaos.

Nautilus Photo from National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions Really cool photos!!

Posted in theology

Gifts from the Sea

By Elizabeth Prata

Happy Fourth of July long weekend, if you’re taking it off! For many of us the beginning of July is high summer. Lots of families take vacations at this time of year, and many of those, choose to go to the beach.

Shells, sea glass, rocks, coral, barnacles, and pottery from the sea, collected from Labrador to the Bahamas. Prata photo

I used to take a week off at Christmas and head to Florida, and the week of the 4th I’d go to my favorite spot in Maine, Lubec. If you see the map of Maine as a profile of a dog, Lubec is at the dog’s nose. It borders Canada separated only by a narrow inlet. The bridge from Lubec takes you to Campobello Island on the Canadian island of New Brunswick.

As you might guess, the beaches on the hardy, rockbound and foggy coast of Maine are wild. As a matter of fact, Dr Beach, AKA Stephen Leatherman, several years ago rated a beach near Lubec as the most wild in America.

In December, I took my vacation at Venice FL, where the sand beaches are white and the ocean is azure and gentle at the Gulf coast.

Beaches around the US and around the world all have their own personalities. Each one yields up its own treasures. At Jasper Beach in Machias Maine, the beach has no sand! There’s only smoothly polished rocks of rhyolite and jasper. At Lubec’s Globe Cove, the sea yields sea glass, from the hundreds of years the fishing fleet used to throw over their glass bottles. At Venice FL, the sea yields up shark’s teeth in great numbers. At the deserted beaches in The Bahamas, you find coral washed up, bleached and in interesting twisted shapes. In Labrador, you find scallop shells bigger than your hand! All you need is one of these for dinner!

You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. (Psalm 89:9)

And of course, there’s shells!

If you’re headed to the beach, or are already there, here are a few facts I found fascinating. As you amble along the borderline between ocean and ground, as you wade in the waters to cool your tired feet, as you shield your eyes and gaze out to the limitless blue expanse, praise God for making such a beautiful habitation, and its creatures so complex and wondrous.

My favorite shell is the moon snail. He has a lot of cousins. They all have that sweet spiral, so pleasing to the eye. Their hushed colors of slate grey or moon blue are also pleasing. In the US’s warmer waters and the tropics the shell colors are brighter. Some think this is because of the temperature of the ocean. Others think it’s because of the different food available that translates through digestion to the calcium the shells are made of. Scientists still aren’t sure what kinds of pigments the mollusks are using. The reasons for shell coloration and variation are a mystery to scientists, but God created them all. In one day! He knows why their colors and shaes are so varied. Perhaps to create a palette of beauty that glorifies Him.

Juvenile whelk, collected Gulf Coast Florida. Prata photo

Moon snails for all their delicate beauty are actually rapacious predators. The holes you see on other snail shells are made by the moon snail. He climbs on top of a shell, spits acid, uses his tongue lined with teeth to drill a hole, then spews acid onto the hapless mollusk inside. He waits for his prey to melt a little, then inserts his stomach into the hole and absorbs the prey.  Ouch! Yuck!

This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name: (Jeremiah 31:35)

Did you know that the moon snail is hatched with a little shell attached already? That’s the point at the start of the spiral. So cool.

Moon snail, collected Maine. Prata photo

Scallops can grow into the size of dinner plates, their age shown by lines on the shell – just like the rings of a tree. I found that one in the photo at the top, in Blanc Sablon near Labrador Canada.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:6)

The Bahamas has been described as having the third most extensive coral reef system in the world. Did you know? Andros Island has a 140-mile Barrier Reef – and that is one of the longest coral reefs in the world.

Coral. The Bahamas. Prata photo

Did you know? Corals are in fact animals, not plants. Coral reefs are the largest structures on earth of biological origin.

Sea glass is becoming rarer.

Did you know? Sea glass takes 20 to 40 years, and sometimes as much as 100 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape. Sea glass begins as normal shards of broken glass that are then persistently tumbled and ground until the sharp edges are smoothed and rounded. In this process, the glass loses its slick surface but gains a frosted appearance over many years.
Naturally produced sea glass (“genuine sea glass”) originates as pieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks, which are rolled and tumbled in the ocean for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance.

This article talks about the best places to find sea glass and mentions Jasper Beach in Machiasport, Maine among other beaches Downeast. That’s where you find the round and tumbled stones. Some glass can be found there, too. But if you’re going that far, drive just a bit further to Lubec, and walk the small beach at Globe Cove. That’s where even more sea glass treasure can be found.

If you spot some sea glass, salute our God who made the ocean and currents’ motion so strong that over time his waters will wear away hard glass.

See the barnacles on the scallop? Apparently in Labrador they grow em big! Barnacles are a sea creature that attaches to things, like they did to the underside of our sailboat. Enough of them get on there and it slows down the boat considerably, creating a lot of drag. Occasionally you have to pull the boat out of the water at a marina and scrape them off.

Barnacles on a scallop. They make it hard for the scallop to swim, too. Prata photo

Did you know that the cement barnacles use is stronger than anything man can make synthetically? How barnacles did it was a mystery from time immemorial until 2014. The US Navy has been intensely interested in barnacles, partly because of the issue of slowing the boats when barnacles grow on the hull, and also because the cement the creatures use is so sticky in salt water!!

When you’re walking on a pier and see the barnacles on the pilings, salute our God who made them so super strong.

Jasper Beach Machiasport ME. Prata photo

Whether it’s shark’s teeth, shells, rocks, sea glass, pottery, or any other treasure you find on vacation, praise God who made it all in 6 days by the power of His word and the creativity of His intellect.

Below you’ll find some resources I’ve enjoyed to help me learn more (and perhaps extend my vacation even after I get home?) the wonderful finds you find at the beach!

Conchologists of America, information about the shells and the animals that inhabit them. Conchologist is a shell collector.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote a books of poems and thoughts called Gift from the Sea. Here is the link to the 50th anniversary edition

Remembering Lubec: Stories from the Easternmost Point (American Chronicles) 
is a short book about life in that harsh but beautiful climate and location

This is a good book, and pretty, too: Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems

 

Posted in encouragement, theology

Springtime! Flowers! Butterflies!

By Elizabeth Prata

It’s spring, full-on, here in the South. I was reading a passage with one of my students this week called From Chrysalis to Butterfly. It’s that time of year we start seeing the flowers bloom and then come the butterflies. I started thinking about butterflies. I like butterflies. See?

Toshiba Exif JPEG

butterfly 4

butterfly 5

There is a documentary about butterflies that I found fascinating and extremely well done. It’s called Metamorphosis: The beauty and design of butterflies

metamorphosis
Description:

Throughout history butterflies have fascinated artists and philosophers, scientists and school children with their profound mystery and beauty. In METAMORPHOSIS you will explore their remarkable world as few have before.

Spectacular photography, computer animation and magnetic resonance imaging open once hidden doors to every stage of a butterfly’s life-cycle. From an egg the size of a pinhead…to a magnificent flying insect. It is a transformation so incredible biologists have called it “butterfly magic.”

The superbly engineered body of a butterfly is magnified hundreds of times to reveal compound eyes made of thousands of individual lenses, wings covered with microscopic solar panels that warm the insect’s muscles for flight, and navigational systems that unerringly guide Monarch butterflies on their annual migration from Canada to Mexico.

How did these extraordinary creatures come into being? Are they the products of a blind, undirected process? Or, were they designed by an intelligence that transcends the material world?

Filmed in the rain forests of Ecuador, Mexico’s Trans-Volcanic mountain range, and leading research centers, METAMORPHOSIS is an unforgettable documentary filled with the joys of discovery and wonder.
—end documentary description—-

Here is the trailer for it

It is told from a Christian perspective. The movie is great family viewing, for adults just wanting some encouragement of the beauty of creation, or for homeschooling parents doing a science unit (aimed at adults, some of the documentary will have to be explained to little ones). The photography is super and it leaves you with the unavoidable conclusion that God and only God can have made this amazing creature.

Happy Spring!

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)