Don’t you love it when someone anticipates your needs?
You feel good when someone makes provision for something you’ll require before the need even arises. Or when they start setting in motion something for you before you even ask.
It makes you feel sort of special, doesn’t it?
As a teen, I’d occasionally stop by a small fish-and-chip joint on my way home from school. This little restaurant had an open kitchen, and the owner/cook could see the street through the front window.
Carlo, the owner, would see me get off the bus and wait at the lights. He knew what I liked to eat, so he’d start deep-frying my halibut before I even crossed the street and entered his restaurant.
He anticipated what I’d want and started cooking it before I even placed my order.
Sometimes, in the garden as in life, you have to be cruel to be kind.
Perhaps like me, you’ve started seeds indoors in late winter. I have a sunny spot in a front bay window where I put my trays of seeds.
I cover them while they’re germinating to keep them warm and moist. After they’ve sprouted, I check the seedlings daily in their protected nook and make sure they’re well watered.
Life for my little seedlings is sweet.
However, I’ve sometimes made the mistake of babying my charges too much. They then shoot up too fast and get “leggy”: their stems are tall but weak.
The problem with this is that when they’re transplanted outdoors, they won’t be able to cope well with the harsher conditions in the garden: the colder night temperatures, the wind buffeting them or the rain pelting on them.
What I need to do is subject the seedlings to a bit of hardship while they’re still in their trays indoors. So I’ve learned that I should blow on them or run my hand over them to simulate wind: this will strengthen their stems. I harden them off by gradually introducing them to greater temperature fluctuations and stronger sunlight. I let them feel a bit of cold.
The seedlings may not like what I’m doing to them, but my efforts will produce stronger plants that will have a better chance of surviving and thriving once translated outside. I do them no favours if I coddle them and leave them unprepared for the hardships they’ll face outdoors.
I think God does the same with us.
Sometimes He subjects us to unwelcome things in order to toughen us up and prepare us for what lies ahead. We may not like it, but He would be an unloving Father if He didn’t do so.
Have you ever been shocked to find out that things which look nothing alike are actually closely related?
I know two men who are brothers, but who don’t resemble one another at all. One takes after his father with his dark, curly hair; the other has his mother’s straight blond hair. You would never take them for siblings by just looking at them.
It’s the same in the natural world, too. There are some plants which surprisingly belong to the same family, despite looking totally different. Broccoli and cabbages, for instance, which are both Brassicas. It’s hard to believe from their appearance that they have common roots, so to speak.
This disparity is even more evident in the animal world.
Surprisingly, jellyfish and corals are related, even though one swims like a fish and the other is fixed in place like a plant. They’re both members of the Cnidarian family.
Horseshoe crabs are actually more closely related to spiders than to other crabs, despite there seeming to be no family resemblance at all.
Elephants and manatees are kin, even though one lives on land and the other underwater.
I think the love of God follows this same pattern at times.
Sometimes His love looks nothing like what we would expect, so we don’t recognize certain circumstances as reflecting God working in our lives for our good.
With all the digital devices we have which can tell the time, there’s still nothing quite like a sundial.
Sundials, used since ancient times, were the very first clocks. Their faces are marked out with hour lines, and a projecting arm shows the time by the position of the shadow it casts on the face of the dial.
Sundials were, and still are, popular garden ornaments. They’re often placed on a pedestal in the centre of a flower bed as a focal point.
Most sundials include inscribed mottoes, either in Latin or English. These sayings are often wistful reflections on the passing of time and the brevity of life.
I think there are a few lessons we can learn from these mottoes, ones which jibe with Biblical counsel about making the most of our time.
Are you one of those people who is terrible with names?
I must confess to belonging to this group as well.
When being introduced to someone new, somehow their name starts to slip my mind’s grasp only a few minutes later.
This failing bothers me, because I know that people appreciate it when you remember their names.
My late father hit on a mnemonic device to solve this problem: You should come up with some sort of image to associate with the person’s name. That will help fix it in your mind.
He figured this method was foolproof.
Until the day he was in a camera store and met an employee there named Royce.
When you hear the name Royce you naturally think of Rolls Royce, a maker of luxury British cars. So my Dad decided the best way to remember this man’s name was to picture him driving an expensive British car.
The next time my father saw Royce in the camera shop, he confidently greeted him with, “Bentley, good to see you!”
(For those who don’t know, Bentley is another maker of luxury British cars.)
So much for mnemonic devices!
Aren’t you glad that we have a God who is perfect with names?
God not only knows your name, He knew you before you were even given a name.
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?
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.
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?