With 2020 behind us, it’s time to believe that good things are in store for us in 2021.
Are you having trouble believing that? Has your faith been a bit battered by the events of the past year? Do you find it difficult to believe that God has something good lined up for your future?
You’re not the only one to think certain things are simply impossible.
Have you read the book, “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll? At one point in the story, Alice is challenged by the White Queen to believe impossible things.
When the Queen says that she’s a hundred and one years old, Alice is incredulous.
“I can’t believe that,” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said, in a pitying tone. “Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Even though this story is fictional, I think we as believers in God can learn a lesson from it. Sometimes God wants us to believe things that the world might consider to be “impossible.”
How have you been sleeping recently? Do you find yourself waking at night, worried about the future?
Wish you could sleep as soundly as your pet?
Cats and dogs have an advantage when it comes to sleeping deeply. They’re predator animals: in the wild, canines and felines are hunters. Large predator mammals generally spend more time in deep non-REM sleep than their prey.
Prey animals such as rabbits or deer, the hunted, spend more time in lighter non-REM sleep. They also experience very little REM sleep at all. Their survival is dependent on being permanently alert, and the paralysis of REM sleep would make them too vulnerable to their predators.
I wonder if the poor sleep we humans often experience relates to our feeling “hunted,” relentlessly chased by worries, deadlines, and obligations?
Is there a way we can calm our anxious minds and get a good night’s rest?
Yes! I believe the Bible offers some tips to help us sleep better.
A chickadee may have a bird-brain, but it can actually be pretty smart.
Especially if it lives in a harsh climate.
What does climate have to do with bird intelligence? As it turns out, more than you’d expect.
Biologists have discovered that chickadees living in the mountains or in northern latitudes, where the weather is more severe, were smarter than their peers living more comfortably down below.
Chickadees from harsher habitats had superior spatial memories and problem-solving abilities than those living in gentler climes. They were better at finding stored caches of food and at figuring out how to access a worm treat that scientists had cleverly tucked into a glass tube.
The harsh environment makes their brains work a bit harder.
Is there a lesson for humans in the example of the chickadees?
Yes, but it isn’t to move to a more wintry climate (take it from a Canadian who’s done her share of shovelling snow—it hasn’t made me smarter!).
The takeaway here is that there can be unseen benefits to the challenges we face.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
In baking, as in life, it’s important to let off some steam every so often.
When you’re baking a pie, the recipe will usually instruct you to make some slashes or holes in the top crust before putting the pie in the oven. This isn’t just to make a pretty design, although some people do get very creative and make decorative cut-outs of hearts or dots, or even create a latticework effect in the crust.
The real purpose of these openings is to let the steam escape. If there’s no outlet for the steam building up under the crust, the filling will burst through and spill out. Your pie will end up looking like an unsightly mess.
Sometimes we need to let off a bit of steam, too. We get frustrated or angry at the circumstances in our lives, and need to “vent” our feelings.
David certainly did his share of venting in the Psalms. He let loose with some very raw emotions, crying out to God to intervene in his situation.
Surprisingly, God seemed okay with David’s outbursts. In fact, David was the only person in Scripture whom God called “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).
I believe David’s example can give us a key to how to vent appropriately without letting our emotions explode all over, making a mess of our lives and leaving us bitter.
Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.
Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.
Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”: