Friday, June 11, 2010

Undercover Activities

Clearly, I remember catching sight of 2 neighbor boys crouched down among the weeds behind our fence. Wandering over to see what they were doing, I discovered they were attempting to light a small fire in some paper trash. I played often with these boys and we all knew the rules: matches were not for playing with. Afraid of being labeled an accomplice, I quickly turned to leave with their admonishment ringing in my ears - “You better not tell!” I didn’t - quickly busying myself with some play in the back yard. It was not long before the weeds and grass, grown tall and tinder dry through the long summer, caught fire with a vengeance. Flames moved quickly down the line between the gravel alley and our wooden fence, a cloud of smoke rising above. My dad, working in the greenhouse or shop, luckily noticed it and pulled a long hose out to quickly extinguish it. I continued playing and when questioned, swore I knew nothing. I did not want to get in trouble - from either my parents or those boys, who often threatened to beat others up, although they never did. Later in the day, after gentle prodding and explanation of just how serious the situation might have become, I finally did tell what I had seen. I do not remember what happened after that, whether my parents called the boys’ parents or just kept an eye on them, but I was off the hook - at least in this instance.

Do NOT feed the sea gulls!” I always informed the kids at my summer camps. One young boy, however, could never resist, and daily spent some of his lunch time at the railing, his back to me and his hands out of sight. Somehow, he did not think I would find it suspicious that he took extra slices of bread or that a number of sea gulls frantically circled overhead above him. He only smiled sheepishly as he lost outdoor privileges.
Working in the garden, I came across a stem with several clumps of what looked like spit. Curious, I gently poked into the foam, revealing a tiny, soft, green bug. Further exploration revealed a bug in the center of every mass of foam that I found.
Immature bugs, or nymphs, spittlebugs earn their name from these small patches of “spit” they create along the stems of plants and meadow grasses in late spring and early summer. While feeding on plant sap, these nymphs provide themselves with a moist habitat and protection from predators. Mature adults, called froghoppers because they resemble tiny frogs, feed on plants too, but create no spit. They have hard bodies and, like frogs, can leap a great distance in a single bound.
Well-disguised and working undercover, spittlebugs can harm plants if present in large numbers, or if a secondary infection moves in. Now that I know how to recognize them, I keep my eyes open and carefully squash each one that I find on my garden plants, leaving wild plants to fend for themselves.

Years later, I asked my dad how he had known that I knew something about how that fire started. He had found my behavior strange, he told me - continuing to quietly play while a fire raged in the alley. Although I had attempted to shield myself with an invisible bubble, my father knew. They always do.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive me my hidden faults.
Psalm 19: 12

He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Proverbs 28: 13

Therefore, since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
1 Corinthians 4:1-2

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