The Sweetest Perfume Can’t Be Bought

Vintage perfume bottles
Photo by domeckopol on Pixabay

We humans can’t help but react instinctively to a beautiful smell, can we?

In my last post, The Perfect Recipe for Bread, I mentioned how wonderful the smell of freshly baked bread is in your own home. The same is true when you bake a cake, cook a roast, light a scented candle, or when you bring a bouquet of flowers inside: the aroma fills the whole house and gives you a deep sense of pleasure.

You get the same pleasing effect when you take a walk in your neighbourhood and can detect cooking smells emanating from houses as you pass by: here someone’s making a rich stew, over there a spicy curry. Even better is strolling by someone’s garden and being enveloped by the scent of the lilacs or roses growing there.

But what if a beautiful aroma could permeate an even bigger area?

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Good Fear Vs. Bad Fear

A tarantula, one of the most feared spiders
Photo by WikiImages on Pixabay

Has this pandemic made you fearful? Are you afraid that you or your loved ones might catch the COVID-19 virus? Are you nervous about even going out in public? Afraid that life will never be quite the same again?

For many of us, the coronavirus crisis has only added to our list of things to fear. As if we didn’t already have enough things to be afraid of!

There are fears common to many of us, such as fear of spiders or snakes, fear of public speaking or fear of falling.

Then there are the more unusual phobias, such as fear of clocks or clowns, balloons or buttons, and even beards. (Full marks to you if you know that triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number thirteen.)

There’s no end of things to be afraid of in this world. But is fear always bad?

No. God gave us the emotion of fear: it’s there to save us from danger.

But we need to differentiate between good fear and bad fear.

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An Invisible Crisis

Empty streets of Milan, Italy during the pandemic
Photo by Alberto Trentanni on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There’s something strange about the crisis the world is undergoing right now: from the outside, things look surprisingly normal.

If you view the streets of your town during this pandemic, most things look the same as they did before. The buildings are intact, the streetlights come on at night like clockwork, and the spring flowers are blooming. This isn’t a crisis like a flood or earthquake, where the devastation is plain to see.

The COVID-19 crisis seems almost invisible, until you realize that something isn’t quite right when you look around: missing from the scene is the normal hum of human activity. The workplaces are shut, people aren’t in restaurants, and children aren’t in playgrounds. An eerie quiet pervades most areas.

It’s only when you look behind closed doors that you see the devastating impact of the pandemic. The high death toll in some nursing homes, the stressed out health care workers, and the loneliness of self-isolation.

When we have a crisis of our own, like depression or despair, we can look a bit like those intact buildings. Things look normal from the outside. When people look at us, there’s no evidence of the turmoil raging within.

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Some Things Never Change

Photo by mabi2000 on Flickr CC BY-SA-2.0

During this worldwide crisis, many of us are concerned about the changes that are being wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. We wonder what the world will look like once we emerge from the lockdowns.

Will life truly return to the way it was before? Will there be thousands of small businesses that will never reopen? Will we ever be able to gather in large crowds like we did in the past? Will the way we “do life” have changed permanently because of this pandemic?

It’s at times like these that we need something that never changes, much like conifers. During the winter, when deciduous trees are bare, I’m thankful for coniferous trees. These loyal friends, like the spruces, pines and firs, still have their mantle of green, which they’ll keep year-round. These silent sentinels might not be flashy, but we can count on them not to change.

God’s character is like that, too.

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The Best Worst Day

1895 lithograph of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”
Photo by Steven Zucker on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA-2.0

There are some dates in history which stand out for being associated with awful events. Each year, when the calendar rolls around to these dates, we shudder in horror when we recall what happened.

Here are a few “worst days in history” that come to mind:

September 11th, 2001: the deadly World Trade Centre terrorist attacks in New York.

August 6, 1945: the dropping of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

June 28, 1914: the day Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, igniting the horrific First World War which killed tens of millions.

December 26, 2004: the Boxing Day tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands.

Some horrible dates in history have specific terms associated with them, such as:

December 7, 1941: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a date which President Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”

October 29, 1929: called “Black Tuesday,” the worst day of a stock market crash which would send the world spiralling into the Great Depression.

What term is associated with the horrible day Jesus Christ was crucified?

Good. It’s called Good Friday.

But why?

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Comfort Food for the Soul

Are you reaching for comfort food during the pandemic?
Photo of Supreme Pizza by Wikipedia, Public Domain

As hundreds of millions of us are shut in our homes, nervously monitoring the news for the latest updates on the coronavirus, we’re also dealing with an unexpected side effect of this pandemic:

Many of us are gaining weight as we turn to comfort foods to calm us.

This is perfectly understandable. We’re in a global crisis right now, with the news getting worse day by day in some countries. Who would blame us for reaching for cookies, ice cream, fried foods or nostalgic casseroles to console us, even if they can only do so temporarily?

But is there a more lasting source of comfort, preferably one that’s low in fat and calories?

Yes, there is…

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Shelter in the Best Place

An Impregnable Fortress: Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, England
Photo by Ryan Lea on Flickr CC BY-2.0

During the past week hundreds of millions of people around the globe have been told to “shelter in place,” a phrase normally reserved for natural disasters or violent attacks. In today’s context, it means to stay at home for a certain length of time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Good advice. But what if it’s your heart that needs shelter? Where can you go when you need protection from emotional distress?

The Bible speaks of a shelter that believers can turn to when events threaten to overwhelm us:

The arms of our loving God.

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Your Finest Hour

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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”:

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We Still Have So Much

A little boy chasing bubbles: almost as cute as my neighbour’s son!
Photo by Beat Kung on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

The news these days is pretty depressing, isn’t it?

Each day brings reports of the latest closures due to the coronavirus threat. We’re seeing schools shut down, stores and workplaces shuttered, and restrictions on travel and gathering in groups. More and more aspects of our normal lives are being taken away from us.

Feeling discouraged after watching the news on TV yesterday, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw something shiny pass by the window. First one shimmery orb, then dozens whizzed by. I peered out to discover what on earth they were.

What I saw quickly dispelled my negative thoughts:

Bubbles.

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No Social Distancing With God

Social Distancing Due to COVID-19 Virus
Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ve all had to learn some new phrases recently. We’re now painfully familiar with terms like COVID-19, “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” and “flatten the curve.”

Social distancing is perhaps the most wrenching new practice many of us have had to adopt. After all, humans are a social species. It’s unnatural for us to avoid contact with other people, and to keep 2 meters away from those we do encounter.

It’s extremely important that we do so right now, but still….it sort of hurts, doesn’t it?

But there is some good news in all of this:

There’s no social distancing with God.

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