The Amazing World We Don’t See

A friend of ours made a movie that will be in theaters this September (A Strange Brand of Happy. Go see it!) A little while ago an image appeared on the Facebook page for that movie that I really thought was the work of Photoshop.

“That can’t be real!” I thought. But a quick Google search proved otherwise.

That got me thinking. I just love seeing this crazy stuff that exists in our world that we never see. God made entire worlds and galaxies that, without the help of ridiculously powerful technologies, are just tiny lights in our sky—if even that!

In the other direction, to the infinitesimal, there is unseen beauty, intricate detail, and even some things that will light your face with an smile of “Wow!”

I included links at the end of this post to the source of these images, and a few sites that include more.

So take a moment today and enjoy the amazing beauty of the worlds what we never see. Incredible!

Really neat microscopic images:

Found across the web…

Cross-section of Marram Grass

Happy grass!
Cross section of marram grass

Bluebottle Fly Maggot

Or… microscopic walrus?
Maggot of the Bluebottle Fly


I love the intricate detail.


No wonder we don’t want them to bite!

Human Flea

Um… it doesn’t look human to me??


Incredible. Like fiber-optics, but much more impressive.


Wonderfully made. And blueprint for future buildings?

Lens of the Eye

Holy cow.


Not my favorite creature, but an amazing view of it.

The Inner Life of the Cell

(This is not by Steve Gschmeissner, but it is another fascinating animation of what goes in inside ONE cell! There are over 100 trillion in the human body!)



tree_with_rootsDeep under the flourishing leaves, and the towers branches, and the succulent fruits which garner all the deserved and proper attention, are the roots.

Hidden roots spread far and wide, providing the foundation of what you see above the ground. The visible draws from its roots the beginnings of its life, mixed with the elements added to it above, producing that which we know and see and of which we partake.

This is not only a simple overview of the biological processes of flora—it’s also true of us.

This past week we spent many hours and days intentionally tapping into my roots. There were celebrations of decades of marriage and long decades of life. My mother’s oldest sister celebrated fifty years of marriage, and my father’s father celebrated ninety years of breathing the air of this planet. Both occasions worthy to note and commemorate.

As these were noteworthy events, they drew family from far and wide. Relatives from many branches of the tree assembled in one of the main roots. The branches now extend far across this country and the next, but just one, or two, or three generations back, all seem to find their roots in Southwestern Ohio.

And so that is where we gathered. At the root.

But it’s not just a place. The roots were remembered through stories and photos and more stories as we gathered in this place.

Stories of a grandpa that I really don’t know—he died when I was barely a teenager, and was mostly estranged from all of his family for much of my mother’s life.

Stories of a tall, kind, gentle great-grandpa—a cherished favorite of my oldest aunt. After hearing the stories, I would have loved to have met and known him, too.

Stories of current generations of family whom, because of geographic distance, we only see very infrequently. Learning of the lives they currently lead upon their various branches of the tree.

Stories of a distant, foreign land which was once my home. Different language, different culture, but part of my root system. And thankfully, plenty of time to enjoy tales from, and new friends from this part of my roots.

New Faces of those who also share this tree whom I have either not seen since my childhood, or some whom I have not ever met. Most of those gathering to celebrate the man who is father to my father completing nine decades of life.

Stories of relatives I only know as a concept. Not always positive stories. Life is messy.

But it is part of my root system.

What a week. So full of life, present and past. Embraces, laughs, even tears. Tapping nearly every root, drinking deeply of as much as we could soak up in seven short days.

And we are full. We leave refreshed, replenished.

And still wanting more.

Thankfully, this is not an end. Not yet. There will be an end. A turning of the page. And a new page beginning. New branches. New fruit.

But the same roots.

Today I am thankful for roots. And I want to know more. Explore different root systems. Deeper root systems. Even just look closer at those we tapped a bit this week.

And I’d encourage you to do the same. Perhaps you already do… but if you do not, please schedule a conversation, or even better, a trip … to know your roots.

What we are right now, today, is built upon our roots. Mixed with the conditions of our lives (sun, water, air, weather) but built on our roots.

And today, I am so grateful for a week of exploring my own.

Full of Life

Seedling in fertilizerRecently, I was fascinated by poop.

(Yes, you read that correctly.)

Actually, it started in a public outhouse-style “restroom”. If you’ve never used an outhouse, or a “port-a-potty”, it’s just a big container collecting all the liquid and solid waste, rather than flushing it away down a nice, convenient pipe—out of sight, out of mind.

(And, if you’ve never used a toilet that doesn’t flush… well… that is also fascinating!)

At first, I was grossed out. And rightly so, I believe. It’s gross. I really don’t even like using public bathrooms with plumbing, let alone the variety that collects all of the waste for you to view while you’re adding your own.

But a secondary thought (thankfully) crossed my mind before I left.

Wow, what if we didn’t have toilets that flushed? We’d just have to find some place for all this gross stuff… but then… it does make really good fertilizer. Hmm…

And then I remembered that we use various animal waste products as fertilizers, to enhance the soil and to grow better food. (That’s oversimplified, but generally true.)

God is so full of life that even the waste from his living creations produces more life!

That is both amazing, and completely understandable.

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.1

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life… 2

For in him we live and move and exist.3

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.4

It’s obvious that the One who could, by a simple command, give life to all that is would be abundantly full of life itself. And that life being so fantastically complex that we’re still trying to understand it. We’re even looking for—and even finding—signs of it on other nearby planets, created by this Giver of Life.

That the waste generated by the Life he has breathed into his creation would also produce life is indeed astounding, and yet, it is as it should be.

God is life. Life beyond our wildest imagination. And he has breathed that same life into you and me.


Oh, the things you learn from a pile of poo!

Question With Boldness

Thomas JeffersonThough most people nowadays can conceive of no better poster child for agnosticism (or, at the very least, deism), Jefferson himself may have had a bone to pick with such people.

In a letter to his nephew, on the topic of forming his own views on religion (a topic which he labeled “important”), Thomas Jefferson wrote the following, now reasonably well-known words:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

(Somewhat of an aside: My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography regarding his own faith, “…I am a REAL CHRISTIAN…”. Well that about says it.) 🙂

There are (many) times when I think my being appropriately labeled a “Christian” might be questioned by those who determine such things. I believe I’ve written about my borderline-heretical thinking at least once or twice.

In fact, just the other day I was reading through the Old Testament book of Ezekiel and wondering things like, “Wow, this voice of God does not seem to be the same as even the book of Jeremiah, one book before—and he seemed pretty peeved in that book, too! I wonder if some of the books in what we call the Bible are even supposed to be in there? Who says that council got it right?”

Now, proceed with caution here. I am NOT SAYING that I unequivocally, irrevocably believe and hold to be fact that such questions even might be “true” (in the black-and-white sense of “true”) …

But perhaps my reason for such an emphasized statement above is that, in dealing with things of God, it’s sometimes considered heresy merely to question.

And, folks, that is plain wrong. Really, really wrong.

So, I may be a heretic, but I’m going to keep questioning.

Turns out, by the end of Ezekiel there was some really neat stuff in there kinda flipping the “rules and regulations” voice of God (being interpreted through Ezekiel) on its head. Chapter forty-seven has a really neat image of God abiding in a temple from which living water flows, giving life to everything it touches, including dead things. Hmm… the Living Water… giving Life… where have I heard those things before…?

I believe Thomas Jefferson had it right when he urged his nephew to throw away all bias and personal opinion and really dig into the facts, evidences, truths, and his own reason. Think. Don’t be afraid of the truth (or that it might not be the truth). Find, and know what is true. This is important! To know and understand the Creator is much more important than anything else.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. —John 10:10

I am the way, the truth, and the life. —John 14:6

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. —John 17:3

We believe in education in this home. Not school, or curriculum—although those can have their place.

Real education. Seek out original sources; find people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about a subject and learn from them (whether in person, or through recorded words); then, find someone else and hear other voices. Putting all of these pieces together, along with your God-given intellect (reason), and asking the Spirit to guide the entire process. (He is the one who teaches us, after all.)

Question with boldness, even the very existence of God.

And the world—starting with you—will be better for it.

If you wondered about that “I am a REAL CHRISTIAN” quote from Thomas Jefferson, here’s the full text of his introduction to what some call the “Jefferson Bible” (but he titled otherwise). It should give an even more convincing context to that quote!

I have made a wee little book from the Gospels which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME the infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all of their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. (Thomas Jefferson: In His Own Words, Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, editors. ©1993 Excellent Books, New York, NY.)

More of You and of Me Less

Lord Hear My VoiceThere’s a song. It’s a song that I wrote. The words actually seem a bit out of order:

“More of you and of me less…”

(Sometimes when you write songs, the words fit better when they’re “out of order”.)

But the words are still true.

(If you have time, or can listen while you read—or both?—you can find the song here.)

I have been hearing more and more again lately how the most important things in life are to put ourselves in a place of complete reliance on our Father—for everything in life, as it’s all from, through, and for him to begin with—and how in direct correlation, our own self and interests must diminish.

The song, written nearly twenty years ago now, was something I began singing while playing around with a chord loop on my Yamaha acoustic guitar (now in the possession and occasional employ of our oldest son) … “Take my life, Lord… make it wholly yours.” John the Baptist said, regarding Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30) Those words were reverberating in my heart and mind while I hummed and strummed a new tune … and thus was born a song.

And the theme has never diminished.

You’ve read it here, to be sure. There is a recurring realization that I frequently share on these pages: That Jesus is Life and Life is Jesus. They are synonymous and inseparable. (And they are separately unattainable, as they do not exist apart from each other.) We can produce no fruit—a visible sign of life—apart from him. Jesus tried to make that abundantly clear to us, both through his words and his actions.

Equally so, he wanted us to realize that to put him first, to follow him, means to put our own agendas and interests and even our life down—actually, to death.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

That is so ridiculously hard for all of us at some points, and some of us at most points.

So how do we actually “die to self” in order to receive this Life that we can find in Jesus? What does this look like?

To me, it’s often this:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Now… that may be what it looks like, and I see that Paul said we “must” have the same attitude as Jesus, but again … how?

I keep coming back to this symbiotic relationship of “more of you” (Jesus, Father, Spirit) and “of me less”.

Do you remember symbiotic relationships from biology classes, or maybe books of that topic, if that is an interest of yours? Wikipedia describes it thusly: Symbiosis (from Ancient Greek σύν “together” and βίωσις “living”) is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.

That sounds about right.

He is wholly other than us. His ways are not our ways, and all such similar sayings.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)


We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (1 John 4:16)


…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith… (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s all about him, and not about us. And, likewise, it’s all about humbly serving, giving, loving others—endlessly, without agenda, without “strings attached”—because all of us have limitless value to our Creator, and so regardless of how we are treated (or any self-benefit), we serve, love, give… as we have received from Father.

Just like Jesus.

But it only works if we first focus our hearts and minds on him. That is so important.

If we are doing selfless in our own strength, just “because it’s right” … well, that won’t last. We must be filled, too. You matter, too. But if I am angling to take care of me, then I will be missing the Life that Jesus wants to give me. He gives Life. Not me.

(I just get to share what he gives.)

Oh that you and I could daily understand this truth more and more. It’s so abundant through the entirety of the Scriptures.

One last one:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)

More of him. Less of me. That’s the way it ought to be.

(Hey… maybe that could be a song…) 😉


tolkienThere is no word to describe what I’m attempting to put into words. The concept of capturing extant reality in written words when no words are used—nor in the true reality, are they necessary—in order to communicate by text or mere oration (and auditory-only experience of that oratory) the experience in its entirety. It’s so difficult, and yet so masterfully accomplished by J. R. R. Tolkien in his stories of Middle-earth.

My two oldest boys and I have been making the journey through Tolkien’s adventures, starting with the Hobbit and subsequently through the Lord of the Rings trilogy for probably the past two years. (We’re taking them at a Sunday Driver’s pace…) The worlds that this man must have seen in his mind’s eye, and the incredible attention to detail that he conveys through description and dialogue are truly, utterly astounding. At times it even feels like too much; there are moments when after a few pages of reading poetry in Elven tongues you begin to wonder, “What is the deal with this guy?”

But then there are moments where you almost feel you are not simply present with the characters, in the magical places—rather you feel as though you are one of them.

Of course this is the goal of anyone who puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but how many can so well achieve this as has Mr. Tolkien? When you have a society in your name, you’ve probably made a name for yourself.

We’ve nearly reached the end of the third book in the LoTR series, and tonight’s chapter was just such an enjoyable read. Tolkien is bringing together several long, arduous journeys for so many characters through whom he has helped us live this adventure; their joys are ours, all that they are experiencing can be felt by the reader.

When I read the following paragraph, I stopped and commented to my son Ian, the aspiring author, observing that what Tolkien is able to do is to put into words things which have no words. He assembles (even creates) just the right words to allow the reader to enter the entirety of the moment. Not only does he elaborately describe a lush environment in all its fullness, but he also so perfectly captures the emotions and even the reasons for the emotions without “spelling it out” … rather he brings it to life.

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.

If Artists did not exist who could master the words to somehow so beautifully capture the fullness of that moment, it might have gone something like this:

‘A great Shadow has departed’, said Gandalf, with a laugh, a sound which Sam had not heard for a long time, as their journey had been so full of sadness, toil, and hardship. The sound made him glad, but Sam began to cry. After a while, his tears ceased and he too began to laugh. Then he got out of bed.

One of these things is not like the other …

I remain awe-struck at the way Tolkien not only paints a vivid picture using words, he really creates a wordality. (A reality brought to life—as near as possible—with only words.) The way the emotions of the moment are described in that paragraph, to think to describe the depth of the joy as laughter “[falling] upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known”, is much more engaging and colorful and real than, “The sound made him glad”.

(It’s quite obvious that I am no J. R. R. Tolkien!)

While words can never capture the fullness of experience, there truly is power in words, and I am becoming a firm believer that J. R. R. was one of the finest word craftsmen/artists/story-tellers ever to have breathed our air.

I shall greatly miss Middle-earth when we finally complete our reading of The Return of The King. I may have to delve into one of the sundry other works of Tolkien that rest quietly on my shelves, anticipating their turn to share the worlds which they contain.

The wordalities I myself endeavor to create may not be as complete and vivid as Tolkien’s, but I will nonetheless continue with ardent fealty my quest to capture with words the thoughts that are stirred in my heart and mind, ruminate in my soul, crescendoing within the depths of my being from the simplest melodies to the most elaborate symphonies; becoming then all the more enjoyable when shared with a fellow Word Enthusiast and Lover of Locution, like you.

It’s Raining Diamonds!

It Rains Diamonds on Neptune?One topic of study currently in the Campbell home is astronomy. Mom and most of the children are part of a home schoolers co-op that go through science curriculum together, and this year’s topic for the middle kids is the science of space.

(My favorite! Our kids had a leg up on everyone else as we have always watched space-related documentaries, and we subscribe to several NASA video podcast feeds as well. Yes, we are that awesome!)

This past week, one of the girls said something to me about learning that it rained diamonds on Neptune. My first response was a smile and a chuckle, and a silly, “Noooooo, it does not!” Little girls who are four, six, and eight can have a different way of hearing and passing along information, right? But she insisted that it was true, and her older siblings and Mom confirmed it.


I had to look this one up, so I did.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

If experiments at the University of California, Berkeley, are any indication, future explorers of our solar system may well find diamonds hailing down through the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus.
These planets contain a high proportion of methane, which UC Berkeley researchers have now shown can turn into diamond at the high temperatures and pressures found inside these planets.

“Once these diamonds form, they fall like raindrops or hailstones toward the center of the planet,” said Laura Robin Benedetti, a graduate student in physics at UC Berkeley.

Whoa! Neat! Are you kidding me?!

Space is just incredibly amazing. Our planet alone is amazing… then that God would create such diversity across the billions of light years of space. Holy moly.

BUT, as cool as that theory from last century is … (and I suppose it’s still possible, as most of what we know about those planets still falls under the “theory” category)

“Some scientists have claimed that diamonds may form inside both Uranus and Neptune, but I do not believe that is true since the methane is confined to the surface where the pressures are much less,” says Monash University astrophysicist Dr. Andrew Prentice. “I think that is wishful thinking. In any event, the ‘falling diamonds’ would hardly have any influence whatever on the internal heat budget of Neptune or Uranus.”

So says Mike Bessell, a professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, via this article.

Party pooper.

I thought a theory from 1999 might be a tad outdated. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

And I’m still holding out a little hope that this is actually happening!

There are a lot of wild theories out there! I read recently that we think that the best way to divert “Killer Asteroids” from smashing into our planet might be to spray paint them.


I think the diamond rain is cooler.

For further reading:

Pure, (Truly) Awesome Creativity

We use the word “awesome” far too often in our culture. That sounds like something you’ve heard your grandpa say, or your great-grandpa. (Or his grandpa…) We assign it to anything and everything: sporting events or just a moment in said event, a movie, a meal, and pretty much anything that may happen in the course of a normal day.

But today, as I was reading Genesis chapter one, the first word that came to mind was “awesome”.

Jen and I are going to try to read through the Bible together in 90 days (using‘s Bible in 90 Days plan). We just wanted to ingest Scripture again, not in small chunks, but in its entirety. Might be aggressive with all the other reading we enjoy doing (have you seen my “currently reading” list in the right sidebar of this website??), as well as the daily to-dos with work and family…

But it seems it will worth the extra effort. And there already has been a “wow” (“awesome”) moment.

(Not that there will be those every time, nor that such moments are the reason for such an undertaking. But… it was kinda neat, so I am sharing.)

Two things struck me about Genesis 1. First, in the New Living Translation, the phrase they used for “and it was so” was, “And that is what happened.” It made me chuckle out loud the third time I read it. So matter-of-fact: And that is what happened. Period. I love that the reality is, God spoke it, and that is what happened. Certainly something I’ve seen, noticed, considered before… but somehow I was struck this time with the simplicity of it.

Which led me to the second point: the account is incredibly simple, but the actual result is so complex what we have learned about the processes behind the operation of the universe in the subsequent millennia completely blows us away.

And I thought, God merely spoke a simple command, like, “Let there be lights in the sky” and “that is what happened.” The enormous complexity down to the quantum level and the vastness of the “lights in the sky”… all from a couple sentences.

The sheer power of this Creative Being created that vastness, that complexity, by only speaking a few words.

We would take years and years of planning and testing and building (and failing) until we had something pretty close to good. God spoke our entire universe—reality itself—into its intricately complex and ridiculously vast existence in six days.

We can argue about what a “day” is, or if God used “evolution” to create everything… or if he made things and let the process work itself to what we know in modern/recorded history. Certainly he placed adaptive capabilities into all that we know as life (and even other processes) on our planet and beyond.

But evident to me today was the unfathomable power of creativity that couldn’t help but produce greatness… seemingly without any effort whatsoever.


Amazing. Beyond words.

And that is what happened.

[From The Archive] Super Sucker Fish

Highlighting Articles from the Archives!It’s time for another trip to the Archive! This time, it’s the quite recent past—June of 2010.

One very hot night during that summer, after returning to our home after a few very hot days away visiting friends, we discovered a sight—and smell—that will stick with us for quite some time!

Super Sucker Fish! is the chronicle of the events of that fateful day (or two), and though in some ways it’s quite sad, it’s also full of some moments that will make you laugh, and, quite honestly, might astonish you! (They did me!)

Of course, if you own “sucker fish”, then you might already know their incredible powers of survival? After what we saw (retold in this story), they will definitely outlast all other life on this planet!

Enjoy, Super Sucker Fish!

Beautiful Eggs

Our oldest son was asked to take care of our friends’ animals while they are away visiting family for the Thanksgiving weekend. One of his plentiful duties is to collect the eggs laid by their hens at the end of every day. There are usually around eight to ten eggs per day, but tonight there were around a dozen. Nice job, chickens!

We brought them home and I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I washed them off. (I have since learned that this may not be the best idea… but we plan to use them soon, so it’ll probably be OK…)

As I was cleaning them, I noticed how vibrant the colors were. Not easter-egg vibrant, but just solid. And even a speckle or two of a darker shade of their natural color. There were three main hues: light blue, pink, and brown. It truly looked better than any Easter eggs I’ve ever colored!

And their shape. It was so perfectly round. Like they were somehow manufactured to exact specifications. And yet, there was a slight variation in each one. Distinct artistry. Not a shortcoming of any kind. Beautifully unique, while being perfectly uniform.

Then I remembered that these were fashioned inside a living creature. They weren’t pressed from a mold in a machine, then wrapped in a perfect packaging and placed on a pristine, immaculate store shelf. It was birthed. It was the natural product of a natural process.

And I was filled with wonder for the Creator of that process.

So many times we miss the incredible reality that is around us. The chickens are fed and cared for, and as their bodies process the food they take in, a natural outcome is this perfectly formed, beautifully colored and designed egg … that I eat for my breakfast. Or use to bake a couple dozen cookies or a deliciously moist cake.

Somehow, sometimes, the simplest things are so incredibly, jaw-droppingly astonishing to me. The creativity and genius of our Creator just blows me away.

Eggs aren’t much in the grand scheme. Nor are chickens, I guess. You and I are worth much more than sparrows (and probably chickens, too…) and every little part of God’s creation reminds us of that. His provision for us is not something that he does because he has to, or grudgingly, but with great pleasure.

Including ours.