Janice Boekhoff

Ice Quakes


Ice Crystals

Anybody heard any sonic booms in the middle of this deep freeze? Maybe if you live in Florida or California or someplace outside the U.S., you don’t really care about those of us trapped in the swirling snow of the polar vortex, but much of the rest of this country has seen freezing temperatures on a record scale. And with those crazy temps comes a phenomenon that many have never heard of—ice quakes.

Called a cryoseism, it’s a cracking of the ground that comes from a sudden deep freezing of the water in the ground. Many times these quakes are heard as loud booms accompanied by a short-lived shaking. People have described them as sounding like a blown transformer, a sonic boom, a car accident and even a plane crash.

Ice quakes occur near the surface, so there’s no danger of prolonged shaking and little risk of property damage. If you want to hear one, they usually occur between midnight and dawn during the coldest part of the night. This explains why I’ve never heard one since I’m dead asleep at that time.

The explanation for ice quakes lies in the properties God gave to water. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the water molecule. If rain seeps down into cracks during warmer periods and then rapidly freezes when the temperature plummets, the ice expands and pushes on the surrounding material. Stress builds up until the pressure is released by the ground cracking.

Thanks to this frigid winter, ice quakes have been reported in the Midwest, Canada, the Northeast, and even parts of the south, like North Carolina and Tennessee. Ice quakes are nothing to be afraid of, but if a loud boom wakes you up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the police.

What about you? Have you actually heard one? What do you think it sounds like?


References: http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-residents-mistake-frost-quakes-airplane-crash-explosions/story?id=29101755, http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/icequakes-cause-earth-to-crack/21985456

Photo Credit: ID 7623341 © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com


Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

Look at the behemoth,

which I made along with you

and which feeds on grass like an ox.

What strength he has in his loins,

what power in the muscles o his belly!

His tail sways like a cedar;

the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.

His bones are tubes of bronze,

his limbs like rods of iron.

He ranks first among the works of God,

yet his Maker can approach him with his sword.

Job 40:6,15-19

Behold, my one and only dinosaur devotion. Why, you ask? Because dinosaurs aren’t mentioned specifically in the Bible. The term dinosaur was first used in 1841 by Dr. Richard Owen, so obviously the Bible doesn’t use it. However, some verses give us clues to animals that might be dinosaurs.

In the verses above, the Lord is speaking to Job and explaining that He is more powerful than the great beast known as behemoth. This must have been a creature familiar to Job, but it doesn’t seem to describe any creature we know of today. Behemoth had a number of interesting characteristics:

  • Feeds on grass
  • Powerful muscles in its loins and belly
  • Tail sways like a cedar tree
  • Bones like tubes of bronze and limbs like rods of iron

Some biblical scholars believe behemoth could have been a plant-eating sauropod dinosaur. It certainly sounds like it could be an animal like Brachiosaurus who had huge limbs and a long tail as big as a tree.

Can we be certain that behemoth was a dinosaur? Nope. Not until we get to heaven and can ask God himself. But we can be certain that God created a magnificent creature in behemoth. And yet the point He was making to Job was that He created the great and powerful creature which displays His power. God is able to do all things and with Him all things are possible.

Dear Lord, thank you for the reminder of how powerful You are. Whether behemoth is a dinosaur or not, I know that your creative power is unmatched. I’m humbled that You release that power through me to accomplish Your will. Help me to be yielded to You every day. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Blessed Suspension of Disbelief


As a writer, I’m fascinated with how our brains interpret stories. Not only our personal narratives which we use to make sense of our world and our place in it, but especially the magic that happens when fictional characters enter our head and change our lives. Have you ever read a book where you can’t stop thinking about the main characters afterward? It feels like you lived through whatever that character lived through on the page.

Novelists call this phenomenon “suspension of disbelief.” We know what’s happening isn’t real and isn’t even happening to us, and yet our brains act as though it is. Why does this happen?

Researchers have discovered that our brains use two separate systems for analyzing a narrative, both located in different parts of the brain’s frontal lobe. One is a rapid system that immediately believes what is perceived. That is, you believe the narrative completely as you work to comprehend the story. But this system inhibits the frontal lobe of the brain to keep us from acting on what we are believing at the moment, so we’re not running around the room trying to get away from vampires, zombies or rogue assassins.

A different, slower system judges the probability of the narrative being true or fitting into reality as we know it. That’s right, the judging comes after the believing. This means that we accept the story as true until we actively construct our disbelief (usually after the story is over).

This leaves us humans in a state which researchers call “lie blindness.” It means we are notoriously bad at catching people who are lying. When asked to guess who is lying in a video, test subjects will only guess correctly about 54% of the time. You might as well flip a coin and you’d be right almost the same amount of times.

While this is fascinating (at least to me), you might notice that it didn’t exactly answer the question of what causes this phenomenon. That’s because scientists don’t really know. Is it “lie blindness” that causes us to accept stories at face value or something else?

One theory states that, when reading fictional stories, our brains stop testing the reality of the situation because the reader doesn’t plan to act or change the novel. At first, I disagreed with this theory. I think we actually transfer a portion of our reality testing to the fictional world as we imagine what we would do in the place of the characters. But then, I realized there might be a nugget of truth in the idea that we suspend our belief when we don’t plan to change what we’re reading.

As an author, I can be ruthless with my characters. I kill them, maim them, take away their best friends and shred their security blankets—all in the name of suspense—and it doesn’t bother me a bit. But when I read a novel, the experience is totally different. I cry when the main character loses her father. I bite my nails while she’s running for her life, even though I know she probably won’t die in the end. Somehow, the fact that I change my own stories reminds me they’re not real. When I read someone else’s stories, though, I’m convinced it’s real—at least for that moment.

Yep, there was a reason Jesus told all those parables. God wired us to understand and believe in stories.

What do you think? Do we turn off the reality testing part of our brain when we read fiction? Or do we transfer it to the page?


Reference: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/is-your-brain-culture/200908/why-dont-we-doubt-spider-mans-existence-4-and-last

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24532534@N02/6425826315″>Glowy brain</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>


Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

Last night, my son launched another battle in his year-long war to watch PG-13 movies at the age of ten. Apparently, he thought when he reached double digits that had to be close enough.

He has tried every argument he can think of. First, he appealed to my compassion for him by saying everyone at school was watching those movies. When I said I didn’t care, he took on an indignant tone and said I must be calling everyone else’s parents ‘bad parents.’ To which I replied that I can disagree with another parent’s decision without calling them bad.

When the emotional arguments failed, he tried logic, asking me why I agreed with the ratings people. After all, I don’t know any of them personally. Maybe they’re rating the movies incorrectly? Problem for him is that I’ve seen most of the movies he wants to see and I agree with the ratings.

Finally, in one last, desperate plea, he said, “I can handle it. I know I can.”

I laughed (he didn’t really appreciate that) and said, “Who are you to claim you can handle something you know nothing about?”

Later, the conversation hit me in a different way and I knew it was God.

Who am I? This phrase stuck in my head. Who am I to think I can handle the future that I know nothing about? Who am I to get frustrated when I pray and don’t see answers? Who am I to get impatient with my writing journey?

I don’t have any idea what’s coming next in life. I can’t claim to be ready for what I might have to handle tomorrow. And yet, I think I have the right to sit back and judge where God is taking me and how fast.

Who am I? A flawed sinner saved by Your astounding mercy. Good thing that mercy is new every day.

Oh magnificent Lord, who am I to understand Your ways? Give me only what You see fit to give. Filter my life through Your loving hands. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Blue Fire Volcano

Kawah Ijen

I’m constantly amazed at how God has created the world. There’s always something amazing to discover.

Like a blue fire volcano!

The volcano Kawah Ijen lies along a subduction zone in Indonesia. If you think of the earth as a baseball, the leather in the baseball represent the techtonic plates and the seams are where the plates meet. In a subduction zone, one plate slides under the other causing the rock on the lower plate to melt. This melted rock is more buoyant and rises to the surface, sometimes coming out in volcanic eruptions of lava and gas.

But Kawah Ijen has a special kind of volcanic display—blue fire. This blue phenomenon cascades down the volcano like lava, but it’s not blue lava. It’s actually rivers of sulfur. The sulfur gas escapes from cracks called fumeroles, hits the cooler air and some of it condenses into liquid sulfur.

When this sulfur ignites, it burns with blue fire (at up to 1,112°F) and appears to flow down the volcano like lava. Some of the flames reach as high as 16 feet.

This volcano generates so much sulfur that the local people mine it. They use spring water to condense the sulfur around ceramic pipes, which hardens it. Then these sulfur miners carry their rock load (usually 100 to 200 lbs of sulfur) down the volcano on their backs. What a way to make a living.

Check out the National Geographic link here for more amazing pictures of this blue volcano!


References: Skelton, Renee. “Blue Volcano.” National Geographic Kids, March 2015, p. 22.


Photo Credit: ID 38085143 © Anekoho | Dreamstime.com

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