I recently realized that I wasn’t living in the house that I thought I was.
Last summer I moved into a house bearing the number 15. I love everything about it: the house itself, the neighbours, and the area’s community spirit.
It wasn’t until some months later that I realized that I didn’t actually live at #15: I live at #13. The house next door is #11, and opposite my house is #12. Counting from the bottom of the street, mine is the thirteenth house.
So why didn’t the city call it #13 when it was assigning street numbers to the houses?
In many countries, the number 13 has unlucky connotations. Why? One reason is that there were thirteen present at the Last Supper, including Judas, who would betray Jesus.
Some people are superstitious about this number, and try to avoid its “bad luck” by keeping away from anything labelled 13. There’s even a word for the fear of the number thirteen: triskaidekaphobia.
The result is that many companies and cities fudge their numbering to avoid 13. This is why many hotels and tall buildings seem to lack a thirteenth floor: the elevator buttons skip from floor 12 to 14.
The thirteenth floor continues to exist, as does the thirteenth house on a street: we haven’t erased them. But we just call them by other names. We simply pretend that they’re actually the fourteenth floor or the fifteenth house. Everyone goes along with this fiction because it means we don’t have to face reality. We’re deluding ourselves, of course, but it seems we prefer to live in denial.
We do the same with sin, don’t we?
We call it by other names so we don’t have to face up to the reality of what it really is.
I’d suggest to you that the holder of this title belongs to the common swift.
The swift holds the record for the fastest confirmed level flight of any bird: 111.5 km/h (69.3 mph). (Birds like falcons can fly faster, but only when diving down through the air to catch prey.)
Swifts also spend most of their lives on the wing, landing only to nest. Some individuals can spend up to ten months in continuous flight. In a single year a common swift can cover at least 200,000 km. No other bird spends as much of its life in the sky.
They are truly astonishing creatures.
A funny thing about swifts, though: they don’t do very well on the ground.
Their small, weak legs, which are placed far back on their bodies, are really only good for clinging to vertical surfaces like cliffs. They never voluntarily settle on the ground, where they’d be vulnerable to predation. Although swifts are capable of taking flight from level ground, they prefer to “fall” into the air from a high point.
Simply put, swifts were meant to soar.
And so were you.
But oftentimes there are things inhibiting our flight…
Are you on Santa’s “Naughty” list or his “Nice” list?
Sometimes it’s hard to know, isn’t it?
You shovelled the snow off your elderly neighbour’s walkway, so that counts as nice.
But on the other hand, you greedily ate half a pan of freshly baked brownies before sharing them with your family. Not so nice.
You made up for that by running errands for a sick friend, and volunteering to work late at the office to help finish a project. Definitely heading well into “nice” territory!
But then you lost your temper at your spouse, fibbed to get out of visiting your mother-in-law, and illegally parked your car in a disabled space while you dashed into the store to buy milk. Uh-oh! Looks like you’re squarely back on the naughty list.
With Santa, it’s hard to know where you stand on the naughty/nice spectrum.
That’s why it’s good to know that, if you’re a believer in Jesus, there’s only one list:
If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.
The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.
Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.
I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!
Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.
I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.
Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.
But it can be transformed.
As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”
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.
We all love stories of rescues from behind enemy lines, don’t we?
There’s something thrilling about the courage of soldiers who risk their lives penetrating hostile territory for the sole aim of retrieving a fellow soldier who is trapped there.
Perhaps you’ve seen movies like “Behind Enemy Lines” or “Saving Private Ryan,” both of which feature storylines of military units launching search and rescue missions into enemy territory to retrieve one of their own soldiers.
We admire the willingness of soldiers to potentially sacrifice their own lives to save another’s. They deserve our utmost respect.
But did you know that God goes “behind enemy lines” to save people, too?
Many of us learned as youngsters that raw cookie dough can taste even better than baked cookies. As adults, some of us will sneak a spoonful or two of cookie dough when we’re baking, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For some of us, however, our addiction to raw cookie dough is rather more extensive. We have a particular problem resisting those tubes of uncooked cookie dough that you can buy in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores.
When we were kids, our Mom would buy a tube of dough and put it in the fridge, but it would mysteriously disappear before she had a chance to bake it.
As adults, our addiction to this surreptitious habit continued. We’d sometimes eat an entire tube of dough without baking a single cookie for our families.
Last summer, the Pillsbury company finally acknowledged what many of us have known for decades: their raw cookie dough tastes darn good, and people can’t resist it. So they’ve developed a formula that is safe to eat raw.
Pillsbury Cookie Dough tubes now state on the label: “Eat or Bake.”
Fellow cookie dough eaters: our secret is finally out!
And yes, I’m admitting that I’ve been a surreptitious cookie dough eater, too. There, I’ve said it.
Frankly, it’s a relief to have it out in the open. It feels liberating to finally admit my secret “sin.”
This weekend, my neighbours south of the border celebrate their nation’s birthday.
July 4th is known as Independence Day for our American friends. There is much to admire about their yearning for freedom and their hard-won independence.
On the whole, independence is a good thing. We try to foster independence in our children, and rejoice when they’re finally able to do tasks for themselves, such as tying their own shoelaces or making their own beds (although some teenagers never seem to master this one).
But as Christians, we have a slightly different take on independence. We’re called to live “in dependence” on God, not independent of Him.