Sticker Shock

Image by Merio from Pixabay

Have you been taken aback recently by rising prices?

I think a lot of us have been suffering from sticker shock lately.

Whether it’s an item at the grocery store, gas at the pumps, or a house to live in, prices have been going up.

We look at something that we’re accustomed to buying at a certain amount and do a double-take at the suddenly inflated cost.

We think, “Are you kidding me? I’m not paying that much! They’ve got to be crazy charging that price.”

And off we stomp in a huff.

But aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t do the same?

He could easily have suffered from “sticker shock” when faced with the incalculable price He’d have to pay to save us from our sins.

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The Most Valuable Thing On Earth

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?

If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.

If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.

You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.

These would all be good guesses, but not even close.

What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.

If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.

This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.

But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…

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Clues to God’s Presence

If you’re out in the countryside, how can you tell if you’re near water?

You may be able to catch a glimpse of blue and know that you’re near a lake or pond, but sometimes trees may hide it from your view. What then?

You can use your other senses, plus search for indirect clues.

If you hear the sound of waves lapping on the shore or running water cascading over rocks, you know you’re close to water even if you can’t see it.

Hearing the call of the red-winged blackbird can be another clue, because this bird prefers habitats near water.

Your sense of smell might help you detect the presence of water, too. Wet earth gives off a distinctive scent, and the presence of algae in a lake also emits an odour that can be a tip-off.

If vegetation is blocking the sight of a pond or river, even that vegetation itself can be a clue for you. If you see lots of willow trees, you’re bound to be near water, as willows are naturally found there.

So there are things we can look for that indicate the presence of water, even if it’s hidden from our sight.

But what about when we’re trying to determine if God is near?

We might not be able to see Him directly in physical form, but are there still indications that our Heavenly Father is close by?

Yes!

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The Bright Side of Storms

Photo by slgckgc on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Gardeners know that storms can wreak terrible havoc with their plant friends.

If the winds are strong enough, mature trees can be downed, leaving a gaping hole where they once stood.

In a garden, the loss of a large tree upsets the ecosystem of the area. It changes all manner of things, from the shade afforded plants in the understory, to the strength of the wind that buffets them, to the amount of rain reaching the ground. The entire microclimate is affected.

But the subtraction of a tree also presents new opportunities for a gardener.

Suddenly, more sunlight and rain can reach the area. There is space now for new plants or trees to grow that couldn’t before. Where once the gardener was limited to plants suitable only for shade, now he or she can consider roses, vegetables or other sun-loving plants.

So I suppose a storm’s effects aren’t always strictly negative for gardeners.

But what about the storms of life? Is there anything good that can come when some disaster leaves a gaping hole in our lives?

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Nose Down, Full Throttle

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.

Stalling your aircraft is one of them.

If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.

So how does a pilot get out of a stall?

Nose down, full throttle.

This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.

To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?

It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.

In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.

Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.

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God Hasn’t Changed A Bit!

Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant. Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-3.0

Some flowers have a trick up their sleeve (or up their petals):

They’re able to change colour.

I recently noticed a beautiful flowering plant heavy with pink blossoms in a neighbour’s garden. When I walked by several days later, I saw that some of the flowers had turned a lighter creamy colour as they matured. I did a double take and had to make sure I was indeed looking at the same plant as before.

Other flowering plants have the same ability to surprise us with shifting colours.

Among them is the aptly named “yesterday-today-and-tomorrow” plant. This tropical shrub has short-lived flowers which change colour as they age. They start out as purple, then shift to lavender and finally fade to white before dropping from the plant.

While flowers that change colour can delight and surprise us, sometimes we need something unchanging and constant in our lives.

Isn’t it good to know that we can count on God to always remain the same?

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5 Things A Monstera Plant Can Teach You

Photo by Maja Dumat on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Can the monstera houseplant teach us something about our faith in God?

This plant, nicknamed the Swiss cheese plant, has become hugely popular in recent times. Much sought after, it has risen to the status of an icon among houseplant aficionados.

But besides being a fun plant to grow indoors, is there anything we can learn from the monstera? Can its example help us grow spiritually?

I believe that just about everything in the natural world can teach us something that can deepen our faith. I like how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.”

And the monstera is no exception!

Here are 5 things this special and beloved plant can teach us:

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Precedented Times Are Coming

Aren’t you a bit tired of living in “unprecedented times”?

You’re not alone. I saw a slogan on a T-shirt the other day which read, “I miss precedented times.”

We’re all longing to go back to our normal, predictable lives, the way they used to be.

But even when we’re able to return to a semblance of our pre-pandemic existence, we still aren’t guaranteed a life without injustices, sorrows and unwelcome surprises.

Jesus told us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” And ain’t that the truth!

Even so, we can have hope that with God, we can still live in “precedented times.” How so?

When you read the Bible, you find there are precedents to receiving healing, restoration, wholeness and joy, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.

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Marinate Yourself in God’s Word

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

When you marinate food before cooking it, more is going on than meets the eye (or the taste buds).

You’re doing more than simply soaking the food in a seasoned liquid to add extra flavour to it.

You’re actually changing its structure and making it yield.

Marinating tenderizes meat, breaking down tough connective tissues to make it more palatable. It also helps meat retain moisture, ensuring that the cooked meat will be juicy and not dry.

Marinades usually have a sharp, acidic ingredient, like wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or an enzymatic one, like yogurt of papaya. Herbs, spices and oils are added as well.

Whether you use a red-wine-based marinade for beef dishes, or a tangy yogurt-lemon one for chicken, your meat is guaranteed to turn out tender and better-tasting.

Likewise, when we meditate on God’s Word, or “marinate” in it, we’re doing more than simply adding Biblical quotations to our knowledge base.

As we absorb and internalize Scripture, it changes us and leaves us better off than before.

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The Comparison Trap

Image by Sue Rickhuss from Pixabay

Around this time of year, an unwanted visitor makes its way into many a gardener’s life.

I’m not talking about weeds or pests, although we certainly have to contend with those.

Rather, I’m referring to garden envy.

It starts out when we’re visiting the gardens of friends or neighbours. At first, we admire their lush plantings and attractive landscaping.

If we’re not careful, however, this appreciation can morph into envy. We think, I wish I had roses as beautiful as hers. Or, if only I had room in my yard for a gazebo like he does.

This envy can then develop into disenchantment with what we have. Why am I stuck with so much shade in my yard? Why can’t we afford an inground pool?

We can even become resentful of our comparatively meagre gardens, when we should be grateful to have a garden at all: many people don’t.

Envy is something we need to nip in the bud, whether it relates to our gardens or our lives.

We get into trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. This is true even in spiritual matters.

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