Apr 29 2015

Bats and God’s Universe

Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, TexasWe’ve all heard the saying, “God moves in a mysterious way.” This is from an old hymn written in 1773 by William Cowper. A well-known author, pastor and theologian from the last century, J. Vernon McGee, put it in a different way, “This is God’s universe and he does things his way. Now, you may have a better way of doing things, but you don’t have a universe.”

Keep that in mind for a moment and let’s look at bats. I have become fascinated by these little creatures. I have photographed them just a few times, but I hope to do more.

Bats are not flying mice or rodents. They are their own group called chiropterans. Bats are hugely varied in different types and species. In fact, almost a quarter of all mammals are bats.

As a group, bats eat a huge range of food. Most people know they eat insects, and a large portion of bats do. But different species eat fruit, nectar, and all kinds of animals from frogs to fish to even scorpions and much more. But even the insect eaters specialize in different ways of eating. Some catch insects on the fly, which we all know. But some work from perches to catch larger insects. Others flutter through trees and along the ground and pick off their prey from branches and rocks. As you can probably guess, this means bats come in all sizes, from the tiny bumblebee bat of SE Asia that is a little over an inch long and weighs less than an ounce to the big flying fox fruit bats of Australia that have a wingspan of nearly six feet and weigh over three pounds.

Even the bats that catch insects are different. Some fly high over vegetation to catch insects there, others work dense woods to find insects there, and still others change the times at night that they fly in order to catch certain insects.

Bats fly differently, too, which makes sense when you think about their variety of size and food. Some fly slowly and do a lot of fluttering. Some are speedy fliers who zoom through the air. Others have the ability to hover and fly through the tight spaces of a tree while chasing insects. Each bat flying style means that bats have different sizes of wings in relation to their bodies, from long and tapered to short and rounded.

Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, TexasWe all know about bats in caves, but that is not all bats, and some bats only use caves to hibernate. Bats like the Mexican freetailed bat will use bridges, which is what is seen in the photos here from Austin, Texas. Many bats roost in trees – fruit bats of Africa will fill a large tree as they roost there. Different species of bats in North America will use old woodpecker holes, openings in trees from dead branches, spaces under loose bark, and even hang from branches looking like a bunch of dead leaves. There are bats in the tropics that will find insect holes in bamboo and roost inside the bamboo. There are even bats there that will chew the central stem of a palm large leave so that it folds over like a tent and roost there.

Some thoughts about their amazing echolocation skills: Bats put out high pitched sounds that we cannot hear. This bounces off prey like a fish finder bounces off fish hidden in waters below. With these echolocation skills, some bats can discern things as small as a human hair. This does not mean bats cannot see, however. Bats can see just fine, and some have extremely good eyesight to enable them to find specialized prey. And they do not get into people’s hair!

To me, all of this and more is absolutely amazing. I really had no idea, and I think that is true of most people. After all, bats are mostly out at night and spend much of the day hidden away.

Austin, TX batsYet God is fully aware of bats and who they are, even if we aren’t. What an incredible Creator to have made bats with such diversity that they can use the night in many different ways to adapt to food and life at that time.

Sometimes I have heard people say that they do not understand why a certain animal exists, or maybe worse, they consider life they don’t know to be unimportant. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God made life only FOR man. Genesis talks about creation as an act of God apart from man and that God saw it was all good.

This is indeed God’s world and we share it with all of his creations, including bats. Just knowing what amazing life God has created and allowed, apart from man, says a lot about how important it all is, and why it is all worth caring for.

– Rob

Aug 4 2013

“A Name For An Effect”

_CES5141William Cowper was an 18th c. poet who is known today primarily for the hymns he wrote.  It was Cowper who penned the well-known line “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.  He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.”  In 1785 Cowper published The Task: A Poem in Six Books.  This work, as the title suggests, is a long poem in which the author tackles a number of different subjects.  Among the subjects covered is the blessings of nature.

_CES5082In one section of The Task Cowper wrote: “The Lord of all, himself through all diffused, sustains, and is the life of all that lives.  Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God.  He feeds the secret fire, by which the mighty process is maintain’d, who sleeps not, is not weary; in whose sight slow circling ages are as transient days.”  Later, in this same section, he switches his focus to Christ and writes: “But all are One.  One spirit–His who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows–rules universal nature.  Not a flower but shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain, of his unrivall’d pencil.  He inspires their balmy odors, and imparts their hues, and bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes, in grains as countless as the seaside sands, the forms with which he sprinkles all the earth.”

_CES5104Needless to say, Cowper had no trouble seeing God in His Creation.  In fact, he speaks of God being “diffused” through all of Creation.  In ways we cannot begin to comprehend God is behind, inside, beneath and above everything that He has made.  Cowper sees God as being intimately involved in all facets of nature.  I love his phrase, “Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God.”   In his eyes he sees God not just creating the world but sustaining and maintaining it as well.  Others in his time believed that when God created the world He set things in motion but no longer played any role in His Creation.  Cowper’s view was quite the opposite.  God was at work everywhere!

_CES5129In the New Testament things come to a climax when Jesus is affirmed as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:16)  Cowper certainly sees Jesus as Lord over everything–including nature.  Christ’s lordship over nature is not an emphasis you see very often but it is a needed one.  His picture of Christ’s lordship over nature is a beautiful one.  Jesus is not seen as a tyrant seeking to hold back or tame nature but as one who loves it and continues to bring forth beauty from the earth.  It’s kind of hard to look at a flower again in the same way after reading Cowper’s words.  He sees in every flower the work of the Master’s hand.  Even their “balmy odors” come from him.

In practically every area of life we need teachers or mentors.  Seeing Creation is no exception.  I am thankful that we have mentors like William Cowper.  Our understanding of both God and Creation is richer because such people have come along.  Yes, indeed, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform!”


(I took all of the pictures shown above in a friend’s garden here in Henderson, KY.)