At long last, it’s here! Summer has come to the eastern seaboard. It’s about time too. I have been anxiously watching and waiting and looking and hoping for that telltale sign of the beginning of summer. Summer is the best season after all. There are so many things to do, it is hard to choose. You can stay up late since the sun doesn’t go to bed early. You can hike and camp and fish and cook out and sleep outside and make some-mores and swim and sit under tall trees in cool grassy meadows watching cotton candy clouds while contemplating and meditating on God and his tender mercy that covers over all the earth and all that is in it…(Psalm 119: 64).
Now some believe that the arrival of summer’s march is predicted by the calendar and in which case I would be way too early since June 20th is the day they utilize. Yet others rely on the climatic temperature changes as guide and again I would be premature in my claim. And still others, scientific types who emphatically insist summer begins by the changing sunlight determined by how our planet orbits the Sun and the tilt of its axis…the solstice supposition … But they’re wrong! Summer only comes after you see the first Firefly. And miracles of miracles, it was last night and I was there. I had been on Firefly Watch for a couple of weeks now and at long last… there he was.
Fireflies are such beautiful and intriguing little creatures. They’re in the insect family called Lampyridae, meaning “shining ones” in Greek. During ancient times, the Chinese captured fireflies and put them in transparent containers and used them as little, living lanterns. In Japan, fireflies or glow worms as they are sometimes called are revered and often appear in Japanese poetry as a common metaphor for love. I love Asians! Did you know that the firefly is the state insect of Pennsylvania in the United States? Or that firefly’s particularly in Southeast Asia i.e. Thailand and Malaysia, routinely synchronize their flashes by blinking together in unison as a large group. This phenomenon occurs through the night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles every day of the year! Did I say I love Asia! Unfortunately for us on the Western hemisphere this seldom happens. But there is one sighting of fireflies that spontaneously began blinking in rhythm that occurred near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the second week of June (Vaykay 2010). I am not sure where Elkmont Tennessee is, but I do want to go there this summer and watch for myself… (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Firefly).
Light production in fireflies is called bioluminescence. And according to Entomologists, the firefly’s light is actually a cool chemical reaction which is immensely significant in terms of scientific knowledge and the study of cool energy… But getting back to fireflies… A small organic molecule called luciferin mixes with an enzyme called luciferase (BTW, why do all enzymes end with the clause ‘ase’… I’m just asking…) in the firefly’s abdomen and in the presence of oxygen and adenosine triphosphate aka ATP… and ‘Shazam…’ there is light.
About 90 to 98 percent of the energy spent by the insects to generate light actually produces light, and only 3 percent, heat. That’s very efficient in terms of energy production; especially when you consider that a light bulb gives off 97 percent of its energy as heat, (http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/clocks/summer/fireflies.html ). However, for our little friend, it also means that he utilizing all his energy or ATP for something other than keeping himself alive, which explains why fireflies do not live very long after mating. They blink, “Here I am”, “Hello there, pretty Lady”, “Don’t wait forever, Honey… I’m dyin’ up here”.
There is one more fact that I really must share. At Texas A&M University there are scientists who have been studying luciferase and circadian rhythms in association with the biological clock. They discovered there is evidence that the gene determining circadian rhythms or molecular clocks are contained in every cell of the firefly’s body and, stranger still, these clocks kept on ticking even when disconnected from the fly’s brain…. Ewww…poor lil bug…
So what does this mean? Scientists believe that these tiny clocks help keep all animals on a set schedule, telling them when to mate, when to feed, and ultimately, when to die (Yu W, Hardin PE, 2007). If this little known fact can be applied to all life, and they believe it can… all life, meaning us… humans, then our days really are numbered… And if true, with that being said, the question then becomes…shouldn’t we be busy with the important stuff? The bible certainly has purported this fact as evidenced in the books of Hosea and Daniel. My favorite scripture in regards to our immortality has to be Psalms 103.
earth! How far has the LORD taken our sins from us? Farther than the distance from east to west!
Just as parents are kind to their children, the LORD is kind to all who worship him, because he
knows we are made of dust. We humans are like grass or wild flowers that quickly bloom. But a
scorching wind blows, and they quickly wither and its place knows it no more. The LORD is always
kind to those who worship him, and he keeps his promises to their children’s children and to those
who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (Psalms 103: 11-18).
As you are blooming… in your world today… remember our lovely and tender, merciful God. There are places he would like to take you. There are things He would like to show you… things that will surprise and excite you. Places you have never been… things you have never seen…
God may be reaching out to you as you read this blog. Reach back to him and taste and see that our God is good. He is there for you when your heart is breaking. He has counted every tear that you have cried and has recorded them in a ledger, (Psalm 56:8).
He is here for you now. Let this summer be a summer of new beginnings. He is a beacon of light and hope in a dark and dying world. He blinks… “I am”. “I am here”. “I am here for you”. “Come to me”. “I know your name”. “I know you”. “I long for you to know me”. “I am”. “I am”. “I am here”. “I am here for you!”
Yu W, Hardin PE. Use of firefly luciferase activity assays to monitor circadian molecular rhythms in vivo and in vitro. Methods Mol Biol. 2007;362:465-80.