Happy In-Between

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

A few weeks ago, I heard a lady say, “Happy In-Between!”

It took me a moment to figure out what she meant.

I finally realized that she was referring to the time after Christmas but before New Year’s. We don’t really have a term to describe the awkward period between these two holidays, so this lady settled on “In-Between,” and hoped we’d have a happy time during it.

It got me thinking about the other “in-between” times in our lives.

Many of us go through times when we’re in an awkward phase of waiting for something to happen.

Perhaps we believe God has given us a promise about something He will do in our lives, but it’s taking a long time to come to pass.

Maybe we’re trusting God for a healing, a new job, the restoration of a marriage, or the return of a prodigal child.

It can be hard to stay happy during a time of limbo, when nothing seems to be happening in our situation. As the months go by, our prayers don’t seem any closer to being answered.

So what do we do when we’re having trouble staying upbeat, faithful, and patient during the in-between times, when life just seems to be a hard slog?

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The Dreams of the Blind

What do blind people dream about?

Do they dream in pictures, or in sensations and sounds?

Researchers tell us that it depends on when they lost their sight.

The brains of those who went blind after ages five to eight will have received a lot of visual inputs during the years when they could still see. These individuals are able to form visual dreams using the images stored in their memory banks for a good while after they’ve lost their sight.

People who are blind from birth are different, researchers say. The brains of these individuals have no visual images to work with, so they don’t dream in pictures like the rest of us. Instead, their dreams are based on input from the other senses: sound, taste, smell, or touch.

The upshot is that the blind can only dream using the inputs they’ve received.

Isn’t this true for all of us, in a way?

We can only dream about achieving or receiving things based on the examples that have been “inputted” into our minds. If we have never seen a real-life example that something is possible, we’ll probably never dream about it for ourselves.

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Focus On Alpha and Omega, not Delta and Omicron

Alpha and Omega letters. Image by J. & R. Lamb Studios, 1857, U.S.Library of Congress Collection via Picryl

Just when you thought you could see a light at the end of the tunnel, the light bulb burns out.

This pandemic sort of feels like that, doesn’t it?

It almost looked like we were getting a handle on COVID-19, and then along comes the Omicron variant. At this juncture it still remains to be seen just how benign or destructive Omicron will be, and whether it will displace the Delta variant. But it’s not the news we wanted to hear, was it?

And there’s always the possibility that other variants may develop in the future. With each of them now being named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, I’m learning a bit more Greek these days than I cared to!

But really, there are only two letters of the Greek alphabet that believers need to focus on, and they’re not Delta and Omicron.

They’re Alpha and Omega.

These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In the Bible, this pair of letters represents both God the Father and Jesus Christ.

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The Blessings of Not Seeing

Ishihara test for colour blindness. Those with normal colour vision should see a green W on a red background. Image by Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The colour blind have to take a lot by faith.

The term “colour blind” means just what it says: unable to perceive certain colours. The most common type of this vision disorder is red-green colour blindness. People with this visual deficiency may see these colours as yellowish or greyish.

While these individuals have never seen red or green, they do acknowledge that these colours exist.

Why?

Because they trust in the conviction of others who have seen red and green. They believe that those who have had real-life experience of these colours are telling the truth. So the colour blind take our word for it that these hues genuinely exist.

Basically, they believe in the existence of red and green by sheer faith.

As believers in Christ, there are fundamental things that we have to take by faith, too.

And the Bible says we will be blessed for what we haven’t seen.

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All in Good Time

They say cooking is an art, but baking is a science.

Part of what makes baking scientific is that it often calls for exact timing.

When you cook a roast or a turkey in the oven, the estimated cooking time can vary. The meat will be in the oven for several hours, and the recipe might give you as much as a half-hour window to start checking for doneness.

But when you’re baking cookies, the recipe will sometimes only give you a two-minute span to remove them from the oven. You have to be on your toes so you don’t miss this window, but at least you have a greater degree of certainty as to when the baking process will be over.

We humans crave certainty, don’t we? And that’s especially true when we’re going through difficult things in our personal lives.

Wouldn’t you love it if God told us exactly when our time of suffering would end?

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Fast Or Slow, God Is Always At Work

Image by Valiphotos from Pixabay

If you look out the (virtual) window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the leaves starting to change colour on the trees outside.

The tops of the maple trees are starting to blush with red. There’s a hint of yellow among the linden leaves. And the sumacs are beginning to fire up in vivid shades of orange.

This change creeps in gradually, however. At first, you barely notice fall coming on. Weeks from now, though, the trees will be ablaze in vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. The difference from how they look today will be dramatic.

Oftentimes, I think this is the way God works in our lives.

He is slowly but surely leading us through a process of change and sanctification.

We may not notice that aspects of our character are being transformed, because the change is so gradual. One day, however, you look up and realize how far you’ve come and what amazing things God has done in your life.

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Plant the Seeds of Your Dreams

Vintage seed packets. Photo by Douglas Coulter on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.

I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:

Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.

Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.

I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!

There’s only one problem:

Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.

I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.

But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.

If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.

Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.

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The Best Fire Protection

Baked Alaska dessert set alight. Image by Vxla on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that seems like it will end in disaster.

This dessert involves covering a core of ice cream and cake with meringue and baking it at 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Really.

Who puts ice cream in a hot oven anyway?

Surely it will result in a melted mess, and you’ll be spending the next hour resentfully scrubbing out your oven.

But Baked Alaska will surprise and amaze you.

When you take this dessert out of the oven after a few minutes, you find that the meringue has cooked and slightly browned, but the ice cream underneath it is still cold and has retained its firm shape. The ice cream inside the “igloo” has remained untouched by the intense heat.

It seems miraculous, because you’d think that ice cream would melt when it came anywhere near temperatures that high. It’s not actually a miracle, however, but rather a clever application of physics. The dessert was invented in the 1800s by American physicist Benjamin Thompson, who was investigating the insulating properties of whipped egg whites.

If you want a genuine example of miraculous protection from a hot oven, you need to go the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

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Bring Out The Big Guns

The Tsar Cannon, the Kremlin, Moscow.
Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay

Have you ever had a day when you simply needed chocolate?

Maybe you faced some problems, and needed a pick-me-up. Or you were dealing with a heartbreak and needed a balm for your ragged emotions.

And you knew that milk chocolate just wouldn’t cut it, let alone white chocolate.

It required the stronger stuff. You needed to bring out the big guns to help you cope with your challenges:

Dark chocolate.

Only the intense flavour and strength of chocolate with over 80% cocoa solids would do the trick. Nothing else would suffice.

Sometimes we reach a similar point in our spiritual lives, too.

The Christian life isn’t all a bed of roses. Oftentimes we face desperate circumstances, and we may find ourselves in a heap on the floor, crying our eyes out.

Maybe we’ve received a scary diagnosis from the doctor. We might have been let go from our job. Or our family might be in crisis: our marriage is in tatters or our children have gone astray.

We need help that is grounded in the gritty reality of what we’re facing. Sunny bromides like “Don’t worry, be happy” just won’t cut it.

We need to bring out the big guns.

We need the Psalms.

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Cake Mix Religion

Photo by Roadside Pictures on Flickr CC BY-NC-2.0

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”?

Does faith alone seem too easy?

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