A Special Kind of Faith

Tulip bulbs at a flower market
Photo from Pxhere, Public Domain

They say that planting seeds is an act of faith.

I think that’s true: you put seeds in the ground in spring, hoping most will germinate and grow into a plant. If you’re lucky, you might see hints of growth in a few days, but often it can be weeks before a little green head pokes its way out of the soil.

If planting seeds takes faith, then I think it takes a special kind of faith to plant bulbs in the fall.

In the fall, you know the days are getting shorter and colder. The leaves are dropping from the trees, and tender plants are beginning to die from early frosts. You know that snow will soon blanket the garden to the depth of a couple feet. You’re heading into a barren season.

The precious tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs that you’ve just planted will disappear from your view for many months. You’ll have no indication that they’re all right, let alone any guarantee that they’ll eventually bloom. They may fall prey to rabbits, squirrels or deer. Who knows what will happen to them?

And yet you still go ahead and plant fall bulbs, trusting that they’ll survive the frigid winter and bloom later in spring.

Some things in our lives take special faith to trust for, too, don’t they?

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The God of More Than Enough

Photo by Jenny Porter on Pixabay

In recipes, a teaspoonful of an ingredient doesn’t always mean a level teaspoon.

It can be “heaping,” meaning generous enough to form a heap on top, or “scant,” which means barely coming up to the rim of the spoon.

Likewise, a recipe might call for you to press down the brown sugar in a measuring cup so that it’s “packed.” Or it might instruct you to use only a “pinch” of a spice.

But the measures God uses are always generous. The blessings and grace He bestows on us are never meagre or paltry, but plentiful and abundant.

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A Gardener’s Worst Enemy

Garlic Mustard
Photo by Simone VomFeld on Pixabay

Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:

Weeds.

Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.

One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.

Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.

The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.

The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.

And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.

Weeds are sort of like sin, aren’t they?

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What Geese Can Teach Us

Canada Geese Flying
Photo by David Mark on Pixabay

Usually, the first signs of fall are visual: the leaves on trees start to redden, the fall asters begin blooming, and the sun is at a noticeably lower angle.

But sometimes you can hear the onset of fall.

Today at The Faith Cafe we could hear the sound of Canada geese honking at each other as they flew overhead, preparing to fly south for the winter. They’ll fly to warmer climes in their iconic V-formation, honking the whole trip.

But why do they honk at one another as they undertake their momentous journey, and why fly in a V-shape at all?

The lessons geese can teach us have long been used in leadership seminars, but I think they apply to our Christian walk as well.

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The Language of Flowers and the Language of God

Say it with flowers!
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA-2.0

Flowers speak. Not just through their fragrance or their beauty, but with secret codes, too.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “language of flowers” popular during Victorian times? This enchanting symbolic language enabled suitors to send coded messages to their paramours, ones that couldn’t be spoken aloud. The message depended on the particular flowers and colours chosen for the bouquet. An entire conversation could be carried out solely through flowers, with no words employed at all.

We all know that red roses symbolize true love, and we’d rightly guess that the forget-me-not begs that the giver be remembered. But did you know the following flower meanings?

Red carnation: My heart aches for you
Hyacinth: Your loveliness charms me
Canterbury bell: Your letter received
Yellow rose: Jealousy
Butterfly weed: Let me go
Weeping willow: Sadness

The Victorian language of flowers is a cryptic tongue. Most people only see the surface of the flower and not the symbolic meaning hidden within it.

God has His own “language of flowers,” but it actually encompasses all of creation. God is continually speaking to us through nature:

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20 NLT)

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)

If we listened in to what nature was saying about its Creator, what messages would be revealed?

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The God of Second Chances

Hands holding seedling
Photo by Pikrepo

It’s an awesome feeling to realize that you’ve got a second chance, isn’t it?

A friend of mine discovered this after moving into a house with a large garden this summer. A beginner gardener, she was delighted to finally have enough space for an extensive vegetable garden. She immediately planted some tomato and cucumber seedlings, which grew vigorously and are now producing ripe veggies.

Because she’d moved in mid-summer, however, she lamented that she’d missed the chance to start growing vegetables like beets, spinach, peas, and carrots from seed in spring. She knew that cool-weather-loving veggies like peas wouldn’t thrive in the summer heat. She figured that if you didn’t plant those seeds in the spring, you’d missed your chance for the whole year.

But the garden, like God, often gives us second chances.

I told my friend that she could actually plant those seeds now for a fall harvest. There was still time to grow a second crop before the frosts of November hit. She hadn’t missed out after all: she could still grow the cool-weather veggies she’d hoped for.

What a wonderful metaphor for how God deals with us!

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Have “Large Pot” Faith!

I’ll bet many of you grew up watching the televised cooking shows of Julia Child, “The French Chef.” If not, you’re probably familiar with her name.

Credited with popularizing French cuisine for an American audience, this six-foot, two-inch dynamo was always a hoot to watch. You not only learned a great deal about cooking from Julia, but you were also entertained with zingers like these:

“A party without a cake is just a meeting.”

“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”

“Cooking is like love—it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

“I just hate health food!”

But the Julia Child quotation that has stayed with me is this:

“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.”

Why does this phrase resonate with me? Because with faith, as with cooking, the size of our “container” can be a limiting factor.

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Blue Roses and Black Tulips

Photo by Faye Mozingo on Pixabay

For generations, gardeners have been trying to achieve the impossible: to breed a truly blue rose or a perfectly black tulip.

These two flowers have so intrigued people’s imaginations that they’ve entered both lore and literature.

Blue roses are often used to symbolize mystery and a longing to attain the impossible. Some cultures even say that whoever holds a blue rose will have his or her wishes granted.

Black tulips were featured in an 1850 novel by Alexander Dumas called what else but “The Black Tulip.” This swashbuckling tale of love, murder and greed centres on the quest for a unique jet-black tulip.

The problem is that blue roses and black tulips don’t exist in nature. Roses lack the specific gene that allows for a “true blue” colour. It’s the same story with black tulips: optically black flowers are virtually unknown in nature.

Plant breeders have come close to achieving a blue rose through hybridization, but the “blue” is often closer to lilac or mauve. To produce a bluer flower, they’ve had to resort to dyeing or genetically modifying the plant.

As for tulips, the “black” ones are usually a deep eggplant or plum colour. They give the appearance of being extremely dark, but are not optically black.

Maybe this is a hint that we were never meant to find perfection in this world.

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Lost In Translation

Sign on toilet door in Chengdu airport, China
Photo by Anne Roberts on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA-2.0

There’s a real art to translation: zeroing in on just the right words to convey the nuance of what the original author intended.

Done well, a translated work can be a masterpiece in its own right.

Oftentimes, though, a translation can turn out to be a farce, as in the following examples:

A menu item in Chinese for a roasted gluten dish was translated into English as “Sixi Roasted Husband.” (The perfect dish for wives who’ve finally had enough of their mates?)

A hot and spicy chicken dish on another Chinese menu became “Chicken Rude and Unreasonable” in English. (No wonder the chicken met his end—he had it coming!)

Or this Google Translate zinger: “It’s been the goat in the budget, because His raining badly, so quite short, he is on the bucket month out.” (Not sure what this meant in the original Danish, but I hope the goat was able to figure it out.)

Then there’s the sign for a hair salon in China whose English name is “Could Not Connect To Translator Service.” (A bit of a give-away that they didn’t bother hiring a real live translator?)

Sometimes, we have a different understanding or “translation” of what God actually meant in certain Bible verses.

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Trust Your Instruments

Photo by Thomas Fengler on Pixabay

It’s usually safe to rely on our senses, but sometimes they can play tricks on us.

Especially if you’re flying a plane.

Pilots sometimes get into trouble with something called “spatial disorientation.” If they’re flying at night or in poor weather, they’re unable to see the horizon through the cockpit’s windshield. Without these visual cues, they may fall back on their other senses, but this can be a big mistake.

A pilot’s non-visual sensations, such as signals from their inner ear, may not respond truthfully during flight. Without visual inputs to override these mistaken feelings, a pilot may believe he or she is flying level when they may actually be in a bank, or gradually ascending or descending.

If a pilot isn’t proficient in the use of flight instruments, errors can pile up until the pilot loses control of the aircraft, entering a steep, diving turn known as the graveyard spiral. The pilot remains unaware of what’s happening until it’s too late to recover control, and the aircraft breaks apart or crashes.

In fact, it’s believed that spatial disorientation is what led to the fatal crash in 1999 of the plane piloted by John F. Kennedy, Jr. Flying at night over water, the visual landmarks he might have relied on were absent. Kennedy was certified for visual flight rules, but had not yet received his full training for instrument-only flying. His instruments would have told him that he was heading on a collision course with the water, but tragically, he trusted his non-visual sensations until it was too late.

We as believers can get into the same sort of trouble when we trust our feelings instead of what the word of God says.

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