Fear Is Contagious, But So Is Faith

Photo by Victor Bezrukov
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

There are a lot of things in this world that are contagious. Certain viruses and diseases come to mind, as do laughter and yawning.

There have even been cases of contagious dancing, such as the “dance epidemic” of 1518 in Strasbourg.

But did you know that fear is also contagious?

A friend of mine was telling me how she organized a backyard sleepover in a tent for her daughter and some friends a few years ago. The children were assured that the parents would be with them in the tent all night long.

The kids were excited about this adventure, and all seemed to go well at first. Eventually, however, one little girl became afraid of the dark. It didn’t take long for another girl to become fearful as well. Pretty soon the whole thing had to be called off, despite the parents’ promises that they wouldn’t leave the children outside alone in the dark.

The other kids had “caught” the fearful attitude of the first child.

Scripture recognizes how destructive fear can be when it contaminates a whole group.

Read more

Chocolate: Everybody’s Friend

Photo by Jean Beaufort, PublicDomainPictures.net

One of the wonderful things about chocolate (and there are many), is how well it pairs with other foods.

Chocolate seems to go well with just about everything. It marries happily with fruits like strawberries, raspberries, pears, cherries and bananas. It perfectly complements the flavours of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts.

Chocolate cheerfully coexists with citrus, coconut, ginger, caramel, coffee, dairy or mint. It has even been known to blend with the flavours of chili and meat in some Mexican dishes.

Some adventurous people claim that chocolate goes well with broccoli (well, perhaps…if you held the broccoli).

You’ve got to hand it to a food that is uncompromising about its own flavour yet harmonizes with such a wide variety of other substances.

Did you know that the Bible implies that we should be a bit like chocolate? Not in so many words, of course, but the concept is still there.

Read more

God Won’t Waste Your Pain

Quilting Bee circa 1910, New Jersey
Photo by Richard on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Did you grow up in a family that hated wasting things? So did I.

Instead of throwing out old scraps of fabric, my paternal great-grandmother would twist the lengths and sew the resulting cords together into a rag rug. Nothing was wasted.

It was the same on my mother’s side of the family. Material from clothes that were no longer of use would be cut up and sewn into quilts. My Mom recalls sitting underneath the quilting frame as a child when her mother and other female relatives worked together at a quilting bee (Mom thought she was “helping” push the needle back up to the top surface). Even as a little girl, my mother learned an early lesson in letting nothing go to waste.

I must have inherited that trait.

I love recipes that not only produce a yummy result, but that are efficient. By that I mean that you’re not left with partly used cans of an ingredient that will languish in the fridge and eventually have to be thrown out.

I prefer a recipe that uses up the whole can of an ingredient, or, if it calls for 3 egg yolks for the batter, it also calls for 3 egg whites for the filling or a meringue (see cheesecake recipe below). Nothing is wasted. No leftover egg whites that you have to store until you think of another recipe that can use them up.

Likewise, I think God is efficient in how He manages our lives. He won’t waste anything we go through: it all has a purpose, even the negative parts.

Read more

Focus on the Best, Pluck Out the Rest

Photo by Joffi on Pixabay

If you have a vegetable garden, what you’re probably doing about this time of the summer is pinching suckers off your tomato plants.

“Suckers” are the little growths between the main stem of your tomato plant and the lateral branches. These side shoots may be healthy and vigorous, but letting them grow would only rob the tomatoes themselves of growth potential. Better to pluck off the suckers in order to direct all the plant’s energy into ripening the tomatoes.

An extreme example of this practice can be seen in the growing of prize-winning pumpkins. The farmer or gardener will pluck off all but the most promising nascent pumpkins, sometimes leaving only one growing on each vine. The plant is forced to pour all its photosynthesis power into producing one massive pumpkin. World-record-setting pumpkins have weighed over 2,000 pounds!

There’s something to be said for focussing on the important things, isn’t there? It can produce astounding results.

Maybe there’s a lesson here we can apply to our own lives.

Read more

Buy and Hold the Best Investment

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Do you play the stock market?

What kind of an investor are you? Do you engage in active trading, or do you prefer to buy and hold investments?

Active or “day” traders believe that through rapid, speculative trading they can gain a larger profit more quickly than through passive investing.

The “buy and hold” strategy, on the other hand, is based on holding stocks for a long period of time with the idea that their value will gradually increase over the years.

It’s beyond my pay grade to tell you which form of investing is better: after all, The Faith Cafe isn’t a financial blog.

But I do have a hot investing tip for you.

This tip comes from an unlikely source, but don’t worry, I’m not engaging in insider trading or passing on confidential information.

This sure-fire investment advice comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.

Would you like to hear it?

Read more

Golden at the Broken Places

Bowl repaired by Kintsugi method by artist Ruthann Hurwitz
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-4.0

We all shudder at the sound of something breaking, don’t we? We can’t help but wince when we hear glass or crockery shattering into pieces on the floor.

Why do we have that involuntary reaction? Because we know that the object probably can’t be repaired: it’s likely to be damaged irreparably, and must be thrown away.

We’re wincing at the sound of loss.

But what if there were a way to not only put the pieces back together, but to make the object more beautiful than it was before, despite the breaks?

The Japanese long ago invented a way of doing just that, and have even made an art form of it. It’s called “Kintsugi,” which means “golden joinery.” The process involves mending the cracks in pottery with gold lacquer. Instead of trying to hide the damaged areas, they are instead highlighted with something precious. The end result is a restored piece of pottery that is beautiful at the broken places.

But what happens if it’s not a piece of pottery that is broken, but a life? How can a shattered heart be put back together?

Read more

Let’s Get With The Program

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pixabay

I don’t seem to have much luck getting birds to cooperate with me.

Years ago, I bought a Victorian-style birdhouse, and painted it light blue with white trim. I nailed it to a tree where I could see it when sitting at my kitchen table. I imagined the delight I’d have watching birds move in and raise their young there. I couldn’t wait for my new feathered neighbours!

But the birds refused to move in.

Year after year, the pretty birdhouse sat empty. I was so disappointed. What ingrates those birds were! And after all the trouble I’d gone to for them!

The problem was, I’d put the birdhouse where I wanted it, with no thought to their needs.

The birdhouse was pretty, certainly, but its placement didn’t suit the birds one bit. Being nailed to a tree made it too accessible to predators like squirrels or raccoons. The birds didn’t feel safe nesting there.

I thought the problem was with the birds, but it was with me. I’d done it all on my terms and expected them to get with the program.

Don’t we sometimes do the same with God?

We want to do things on our terms, in our own way, and expect God to get with our program. I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way.

Read more

Give It Time

Handkerchief Tree photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you get the feeling that society is becoming too impatient?

We seem to expect instant results these days: immediate responses to our texts or emails, same-day delivery for things we order, instantaneous loading of videos or web pages. In fact, a study showed that a YouTube video that loads slowly will start losing viewers after two seconds.

The problem is that sometimes our impatience with technology gets applied to people, too. We expect people to change quickly, and if they don’t, we lose patience with them and give up on them.

This reminds me of the tale of the handkerchief tree.

Called the dove tree in its native China, it became known to Western visitors in the late 1800s, who were entranced by it. The handkerchief tree features stunning white bracts surrounding its flowers, which resemble doves, ghosts or fluttering handkerchiefs, hence its name in the West.

European botanists in China collected the seeds and brought them back home, keen to grow such a gorgeous tree. One gardener planted the seeds, but was disappointed to find after a year that they hadn’t sprouted into seedlings. Figuring that the seeds must be no good, he discarded them by dumping them onto his compost pile, then forgot about them.

To his surprise, two years later he saw a bunch of seedlings on the compost pile. They were from the handkerchief tree. They had sprouted after all!

What he didn’t know was that seeds of the handkerchief tree have what’s called a “double dormancy”: they require two years to germinate, unlike most seeds which will sprout within the first year.

He had written them off too soon.

Don’t we do the same with people sometimes?

Read more

Does The Bible Really Say That?

Darth Vader photo by Steven Miller on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Sometimes we can get a bit fuzzy about what the Scriptures say, can’t we? We hear a commonly used phrase and think it sounds a bit “Bible-ish,” so we assume it’s in God’s Word. But we may be mistaken.

Let’s try a little quiz. Which of these sayings is in the Bible?

  1. “God helps those who help themselves.”
  2. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
  3. “Just follow your heart and believe, and you can do anything.”

Actually, NONE of them can be found in the Scriptures. The first was popularized by Ben Franklin, the second by John Wesley, and the third is from a Disney song!

Let’s try again. How about this one:

  1. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Who said that? It must have been Jesus, right? That totally sounds like something He would say, probably to His disciples.

Actually, that immortal phrase was uttered by Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movie!

We can really get thrown off track when we don’t know Scripture for ourselves. When we mistakenly think certain phrases are in the Bible, we can even believe things that are contrary to what God says.

Read more

Consider the Lilies

Pink Tiger Lily photo from Pxfuel

Many of us fret about our clothes. We worry that they aren’t stylish enough, or that they make us look fat, or that they’re last year’s (or even last millennium’s) fashions.

Some of us even worry that we won’t have enough money to buy the basic clothes we need.

But we shouldn’t be anxious that God won’t provide for us. After all, look how He’s clothed the flowers.

Have you ever marvelled at the rich “vestments” some flowers are clad in?

Look at the iris attired in silky frills, the peony robed in ruffles, or the delicate tracery of Queen Anne’s lace. The sumptuous, constantly unfurling petals of the rose boast the finest tailoring. Some flowers are decked out in speckles, mimicking the polka-dots on a dress; others are costumed in stripes, like a crocus. Even the common petunia can have petals that resemble luxurious velvet.

Red Rose photo by AliceKeyStudio on Pixabay

God hasn’t stinted on giving flowers rich colours, either. What about the intense blue of lobelia, suitable for any royal robe? Or the bright yellows of daffodils, the vivid oranges of marigolds, or the saturated reds of poppies? On the paler end of the spectrum are the shy blues of the forget-me-nots and the delicate ballet-pinks of some tulips.

Some flowers even have names which relate to clothing: bachelor’s buttons, lady’s slipper, Texas bluebonnet, foxglove, lady’s mantle, and monk’s hood.

And how about those lilies? In fact, I seem to remember a Bible verse which talks about the beautiful garments lilies wear:

Read more