Don’t you wish there was a style of clothing you could wear that would always be in fashion?
Think of it: You’d never have to worry about being caught wearing last year’s fashions. You’d never accidentally make a fashion faux-pas. Your clothes would always be in style.
Perhaps this is a notion that preoccupies women more than men. Men seem to be a bit luckier in the fashion department: styles of suits don’t evolve very rapidly over time, and they always look becoming.
Women, on the other hand, have had to put up with fashions that have changed drastically over the years and decades. Our foremothers had to endure corsets, hoop skirts, and bustles. Perhaps some of you are old enough to recall leg warmers, tie dye and jumpsuits.
Some styles inexplicably come back into fashion for a time, like bell-bottom jeans or platform shoes.
Let’s hope that some never do: women once wore skirts so wide that they had to turn sideways to get through a door!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to put on a style that would never go out of fashion?
As a matter of fact, there is such an item of “clothing.”
Have you ever brought preconceived notions to a new situation, but then realized they simply don’t apply anymore?
I did something of the sort when visiting Southern California as a teen.
Growing up in Central Canada, I was used to street numbers being put on the actual houses themselves, at eye-level. But when I stayed in San Diego for a time, I noticed that the street numbers were instead spray-painted on the vertical parts of the curb at the foot of people’s driveways, just a few inches above the pavement.
That made no sense, I thought to myself. In winter, those numbers on the curb will be covered under several feet of snow, and no one will be able to read them. How silly!
I soon realized that my line of thinking was faulty: it doesn’t snow inSan Diego. The numbers on the curb will always be readable. What was true for Toronto had no bearing on what was true for San Diego.
I needed to realize that I was “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy said in the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
I think we sometimes make the same mistake when we think about the Kingdom of God.
We superimpose our past experiences and assumptions on it, but we don’t realize that with the Kingdom of God we’re in a whole new world. The old rules don’t apply anymore.
If something doesn’t fit your idea of a garden, is it still a garden?
I must confess to having trouble warming up to Japanese gardens. They often feature distinctive elements such as conifers and moss, gravel raked to suggest waves in water, stone lanterns or water basins, and perhaps a bridge.
But to me, a garden isn’t really a garden unless its primary focus is an abundance of colourful flowers.
So are Japanese gardens still gardens? Very much so!
They still celebrate nature, even if some elements are suggested rather than incorporated literally. They still reflect the beauty that God has placed on this Earth. They still have the essentials down pat.
I guess I need to expand my idea of what a garden is.
We shouldn’t look askance at the way others have created their gardens. God smiles on them all.
Perhaps this is a lesson we can apply to the Christian life, too.
Sometimes, in the garden as in life, you have to be cruel to be kind.
Perhaps like me, you’ve started seeds indoors in late winter. I have a sunny spot in a front bay window where I put my trays of seeds.
I cover them while they’re germinating to keep them warm and moist. After they’ve sprouted, I check the seedlings daily in their protected nook and make sure they’re well watered.
Life for my little seedlings is sweet.
However, I’ve sometimes made the mistake of babying my charges too much. They then shoot up too fast and get “leggy”: their stems are tall but weak.
The problem with this is that when they’re transplanted outdoors, they won’t be able to cope well with the harsher conditions in the garden: the colder night temperatures, the wind buffeting them or the rain pelting on them.
What I need to do is subject the seedlings to a bit of hardship while they’re still in their trays indoors. So I’ve learned that I should blow on them or run my hand over them to simulate wind: this will strengthen their stems. I harden them off by gradually introducing them to greater temperature fluctuations and stronger sunlight. I let them feel a bit of cold.
The seedlings may not like what I’m doing to them, but my efforts will produce stronger plants that will have a better chance of surviving and thriving once translated outside. I do them no favours if I coddle them and leave them unprepared for the hardships they’ll face outdoors.
I think God does the same with us.
Sometimes He subjects us to unwelcome things in order to toughen us up and prepare us for what lies ahead. We may not like it, but He would be an unloving Father if He didn’t do so.
Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?
Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.
Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.
I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.
Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.
Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.
Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.
All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.
This got me thinking:
Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?
Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?
Have you ever been shocked to find out that things which look nothing alike are actually closely related?
I know two men who are brothers, but who don’t resemble one another at all. One takes after his father with his dark, curly hair; the other has his mother’s straight blond hair. You would never take them for siblings by just looking at them.
It’s the same in the natural world, too. There are some plants which surprisingly belong to the same family, despite looking totally different. Broccoli and cabbages, for instance, which are both Brassicas. It’s hard to believe from their appearance that they have common roots, so to speak.
This disparity is even more evident in the animal world.
Surprisingly, jellyfish and corals are related, even though one swims like a fish and the other is fixed in place like a plant. They’re both members of the Cnidarian family.
Horseshoe crabs are actually more closely related to spiders than to other crabs, despite there seeming to be no family resemblance at all.
Elephants and manatees are kin, even though one lives on land and the other underwater.
I think the love of God follows this same pattern at times.
Sometimes His love looks nothing like what we would expect, so we don’t recognize certain circumstances as reflecting God working in our lives for our good.
Is there such a thing as something being too easy?
The original developers of cake mixes seemed to believe so.
When cake mixes first debuted in the 1930s, all the baker had to do was add water and then bake. It was as easy as pie, so to speak.
But they soon realized they had to tweak the recipe. First off, the powdered eggs in the original mixes didn’t taste that great.
Later, psychologists thought that bakers wanted to feel more involved in the cake-baking process. Home bakers found the mixes a bit too easy, as though they weren’t putting in enough effort. There was a sense that baking a cake from a mix didn’t really count.
So the cake mix companies changed their recipes to require home bakers to add fresh eggs in addition to the liquid. Putting the eggs back in the hands of the bakers proved to be the winning formula.
I sometimes wonder if we apply the same logic to our faith.
Does trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins seem like it’s only part of the recipe?
Are we sometimes tempted to add in some effort on our own part to make it “complete”?
With all the digital devices we have which can tell the time, there’s still nothing quite like a sundial.
Sundials, used since ancient times, were the very first clocks. Their faces are marked out with hour lines, and a projecting arm shows the time by the position of the shadow it casts on the face of the dial.
Sundials were, and still are, popular garden ornaments. They’re often placed on a pedestal in the centre of a flower bed as a focal point.
Most sundials include inscribed mottoes, either in Latin or English. These sayings are often wistful reflections on the passing of time and the brevity of life.
I think there are a few lessons we can learn from these mottoes, ones which jibe with Biblical counsel about making the most of our time.