Clues to God’s Presence

If you’re out in the countryside, how can you tell if you’re near water?

You may be able to catch a glimpse of blue and know that you’re near a lake or pond, but sometimes trees may hide it from your view. What then?

You can use your other senses, plus search for indirect clues.

If you hear the sound of waves lapping on the shore or running water cascading over rocks, you know you’re close to water even if you can’t see it.

Hearing the call of the red-winged blackbird can be another clue, because this bird prefers habitats near water.

Your sense of smell might help you detect the presence of water, too. Wet earth gives off a distinctive scent, and the presence of algae in a lake also emits an odour that can be a tip-off.

If vegetation is blocking the sight of a pond or river, even that vegetation itself can be a clue for you. If you see lots of willow trees, you’re bound to be near water, as willows are naturally found there.

So there are things we can look for that indicate the presence of water, even if it’s hidden from our sight.

But what about when we’re trying to determine if God is near?

We might not be able to see Him directly in physical form, but are there still indications that our Heavenly Father is close by?

Yes!

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Nose Down, Full Throttle

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.

Stalling your aircraft is one of them.

If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.

So how does a pilot get out of a stall?

Nose down, full throttle.

This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.

To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?

It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.

In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.

Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.

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God Hasn’t Changed A Bit!

Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant. Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-3.0

Some flowers have a trick up their sleeve (or up their petals):

They’re able to change colour.

I recently noticed a beautiful flowering plant heavy with pink blossoms in a neighbour’s garden. When I walked by several days later, I saw that some of the flowers had turned a lighter creamy colour as they matured. I did a double take and had to make sure I was indeed looking at the same plant as before.

Other flowering plants have the same ability to surprise us with shifting colours.

Among them is the aptly named “yesterday-today-and-tomorrow” plant. This tropical shrub has short-lived flowers which change colour as they age. They start out as purple, then shift to lavender and finally fade to white before dropping from the plant.

While flowers that change colour can delight and surprise us, sometimes we need something unchanging and constant in our lives.

Isn’t it good to know that we can count on God to always remain the same?

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Marinate Yourself in God’s Word

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

When you marinate food before cooking it, more is going on than meets the eye (or the taste buds).

You’re doing more than simply soaking the food in a seasoned liquid to add extra flavour to it.

You’re actually changing its structure and making it yield.

Marinating tenderizes meat, breaking down tough connective tissues to make it more palatable. It also helps meat retain moisture, ensuring that the cooked meat will be juicy and not dry.

Marinades usually have a sharp, acidic ingredient, like wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or an enzymatic one, like yogurt of papaya. Herbs, spices and oils are added as well.

Whether you use a red-wine-based marinade for beef dishes, or a tangy yogurt-lemon one for chicken, your meat is guaranteed to turn out tender and better-tasting.

Likewise, when we meditate on God’s Word, or “marinate” in it, we’re doing more than simply adding Biblical quotations to our knowledge base.

As we absorb and internalize Scripture, it changes us and leaves us better off than before.

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Rumour Has It

Same tree in winter and summer. Photo by Coanri/Rita on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

It can be hard to believe we’ll ever be back to normal life, can’t it?

We’ve lived so long in this pandemic-induced limbo that sometimes it doesn’t seem plausible that our regular lives will ever resume. It can seem like this state of suspended animation will drag on and on and leave our usual way of life just out of reach.

We might hear of other countries where day-to-day life is approaching normalcy, but this almost seems like a rumour intended to taunt us.

It can feel the same way in the bitter depths of winter, too. We get so accustomed to the frigid temperatures, bare trees and snow-covered landscapes that it’s hard to believe there’s such a thing as summer.

This feeling of incredulity reminds me of a quotation from John Crowley’s fantasy novel, “Little, Big”:

“Love is a myth,” Grandfather Trout said. “Like summer.”

“What?”

“In winter,” Grandfather Trout said, “summer is a myth. A report, a rumour. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”

This passage speaks of romantic love, but I think this quotation applies equally well to the way God sometimes works in our lives.

In “winter” seasons of our lives, when things aren’t going well for us, it seems like the status quo will drag on and on. We’re skeptical that anything could ever change. The idea that things will someday turn around for us seems like a cruel rumour, something it’s not safe to believe in.

But as we know, love, like summer, is not a myth or a rumour.

Neither is God’s goodness.

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Make Sure The Right Things Stick

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

It can be hard to remove labels once they’re affixed, can’t it?

They can be so darn sticky.

You can try to peel off the paper part of the label, but the adhesive often stubbornly remains behind on the object. It can take some strong chemicals or a lot of scrubbing to remove every last trace of a label or sticker.

But what about the labels that people affix on us, whether we want them to or not?

Labels like “loser,” “clumsy,” “screw-up,” “stupid,” “misfit,” or “failure.”

They can be the stickiest, and the hardest to remove.

Once people classify us in a certain way, it can be awfully hard to shake that identity. We eventually internalize the labels that people put on us, and believe that they must be true.

Especially when they’re negative.

But did you know that God has put “labels” on believers?

And they’re all good!

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Absent-Minded Gardening

Photo by Roman Boed from Pxhere

Have you ever noticed a flower growing in a peculiar spot in your garden and wondered, “How did that get there? Did I do that?”

You might see a rogue tulip popping up incongruously in the middle of your lawn.

Or you do a double-take when you see a cluster of flowers flourishing in the corner, but you have no recollection of having planted them there.

What gives?

In some cases, squirrels might be the culprits. They’re notorious for unearthing tulip bulbs and burying them someplace else for future consumption, only to forget about them.

At other times, you might have tried growing something yourself from seeds but they never seemed to germinate. You give up and completely forget about them. A few years later, however, flowers are blooming in that corner after all, to your great surprise.

The same dynamic is sometimes at play when we plant “seeds” in someone’s life.

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The God of Ice Cream

I truly think that God is in favour of ice cream.

Don’t believe me? Let me try to convince you.

In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were told that God would be bringing them into the Promised Land, a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Well, milk is a dairy product, right? And honey is a sweetener. If you’ve got a dairy product and a sweetener, you’re halfway to ice cream right there. (To get all the way, see the recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream below.)

Too bad the ancient Israelites hadn’t invented freezers, or they could have enjoyed ice cream on the shores of the Mediterranean. Nothing tops eating refreshing ice cream on a sunny day at the beach, does it?

I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek with this, of course, but I do believe there’s a lesson that we need to learn from God’s promise to the Israelites about a land flowing with milk and honey.

It shows us that God delights in giving His children good things.

But sometimes we may find this hard to believe.

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With God, You Get the Flower First!

Redbud blossoms. Photo by Sheila Brown, Public Domain CC0

Sometimes nature can be a bit unpredictable—things happen in an order we wouldn’t expect.

Normally, plants put forth leaves long before they produce flowers.

But some trees and shrubs flip the script, so to speak.

With certain plants, the normal sequence is reversed: the flowers come first, before the leaves have developed.

A good example is the beautiful redbud tree. It puts forth gorgeous pink flowers on its bare branches in early spring, when none of its leaves are yet in sight.

The forsythia shrub bears its bright yellow flowers in advance of its leaves, and the lovely magnolia presents its pink or white blooms before the green foliage appears. Some maples and oaks also exhibit this flower-first behaviour, although with less showy blossoms.

All of these plants give us a treat in springtime when we’re starved for colour. We get the flower first without having to wait for the leaves.

Why do some plants reverse the normal order of things?

Some trees are wind-pollinated, so put forth flowers before their bulky leaves get in the way. The same goes for flowers that need extra sunlight. Other plants produce a mass of conspicuous flowers first, unobscured by leaves, to better attract the attention of pollinating insects.

Did you know that God also flipped the script and gave us the flower first, so to speak?

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Date Night With God

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

If you’re married, do you have a “date night” with your spouse?

Some people set aside time each week when they get together with their spouse, just the two of them, and do something special.

Life is so busy these days that we sometimes have to actually schedule time to spend with our spouse. We have to juggle work, raising children, community involvements, caring for aging parents, hobbies, and so on.

There are so many demands on our time that we often have difficulty making sure we’re giving enough attention to the person most important to us.

And besides, we know that our spouse is aware of our love for them. So we let things slide and don’t make the relationship a priority.

In this way, however, the bond between you starts to suffer. Without regular conversations and one-on-one time, a distance can start to grow in the relationship.

It’s the same with our relationship with God: we’re so busy with family and work commitments that we sometimes fail to fit Him in to our schedules.

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