Doomscrolling? Try Hopescrolling!

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Have you been prone to “doomscrolling” recently?

Doomscrolling is a new word that’s been coined to describe the habit of obsessively consuming a large quantity of negative online news.

The committee of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary even named “doomscrolling” their Word of the Year for 2020.

Humans have a natural tendency to pay more attention to bad news, but the doomscrolling trend has accelerated during the pandemic.

We compulsively check our news apps and social media feeds, endlessly scanning the latest ominous headlines. We feed ourselves a steady diet shocking or disheartening news about rising COVID-19 case numbers, hospital intensive care units filling up, businesses shutting down, political instability or even weather woes.

We can’t seem to help ourselves, even when we sense that doomscrolling is probably detrimental to our mental health. All this bad news saturating our minds can leave us depressed, anxious, angry or hopeless.

We need an antidote to the feeling of despair that doomscrolling can produce.

I’d like to propose that we adopt a new habit:

Hopescrolling!

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Believe Six Impossible Things!

Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party. Image from Pixy.org CC BY-NC-ND-4.0

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.”

Alice laughed.

“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.”

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You’re Not Insignificant to God

Man looking at the Milky Way
Photo by Evgeni Tcherkassi on Pixabay

When you look up at the stars in the night sky, what do you feel?

Many people say the vastness of the universe and the countless stars make them feel puny and insignificant.

In a way, that’s understandable.

The star that Earth orbits around is just one of many in the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we live. In fact, there are perhaps 100 billion stars in our cosmic “neighbourhood.”

And the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies. Estimates vary as to how many galaxies exist in the observable universe: some experts suggest a couple hundred billion, and others postulate as many as 10 trillion.

It’s impossible for us to know how many stars there are in the observable universe, but here’s the largest guess I came across: Multiplying the higher number of estimated galaxies by the Milky Way’s estimated 100 billion stars gives a possibility of 1 septillion stars in the universe (1 quadrillion in the European system). That’s a “1” with 24 zeroes after it!

The Milky Way is so enormous that, even travelling at light speed, it would take 100,000 years to travel across it. The observable universe is incredibly more vast: according to current thinking, it’s about 93 billion light years in diameter.

No wonder people feel small when they contemplate the unimaginable expanse of the universe!

But for me, this knowledge doesn’t make me feel insignificant.

It makes me feel just the opposite.

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The God of More Than Enough

Photo by Jenny Porter on Pixabay

In recipes, a teaspoonful of an ingredient doesn’t always mean a level teaspoon.

It can be “heaping,” meaning generous enough to form a heap on top, or “scant,” which means barely coming up to the rim of the spoon.

Likewise, a recipe might call for you to press down the brown sugar in a measuring cup so that it’s “packed.” Or it might instruct you to use only a “pinch” of a spice.

But the measures God uses are always generous. The blessings and grace He bestows on us are never meagre or paltry, but plentiful and abundant.

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The Moonbow Connection

Lunar Rainbow over Victoria Falls, Zambia
Photo courtesy Calvin Bradshaw (calvinbradshaw.com)
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

I’ll bet most of us have seen a rainbow at some time in our lives, but have you ever seen a moonbow?

Frankly, until recently I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Moonbows, also known as lunar rainbows, are rainbows which are produced by moonlight rather than by direct sunlight. As such, they’re usually fainter than regular rainbows, and may even appear white.

But moonbows are still evidence of the sun’s presence, because they’re created by reflected sunlight bouncing off the moon. They’re a very special reminder that the sun is still shining, even when we can’t see it.

Sometimes I think God puts believing friends in our lives to function as “moonbows” for us.

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Golden at the Broken Places

Bowl repaired by Kintsugi method by artist Ruthann Hurwitz
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-4.0

We all shudder at the sound of something breaking, don’t we? We can’t help but wince when we hear glass or crockery shattering into pieces on the floor.

Why do we have that involuntary reaction? Because we know that the object probably can’t be repaired: it’s likely to be damaged irreparably, and must be thrown away.

We’re wincing at the sound of loss.

But what if there were a way to not only put the pieces back together, but to make the object more beautiful than it was before, despite the breaks?

The Japanese long ago invented a way of doing just that, and have even made an art form of it. It’s called “Kintsugi,” which means “golden joinery.” The process involves mending the cracks in pottery with gold lacquer. Instead of trying to hide the damaged areas, they are instead highlighted with something precious. The end result is a restored piece of pottery that is beautiful at the broken places.

But what happens if it’s not a piece of pottery that is broken, but a life? How can a shattered heart be put back together?

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Got Baggage? Jesus Understands

Image by Scott O’Donnell on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Do you ever feel like you have too much “baggage” to ever be accepted by people, let alone by God?

Do you need a sense of hope that you could be loved despite the burdens you’re carrying from your background? Then read on…

A few weeks ago, we explored the moving account of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament. It’s a favourite of many people, because it’s one of the few outright love stories in the Bible. But we sometimes get so caught up in the romance of the story that we miss how startling their pairing actually was.

Boaz was a wealthy landowner living in ancient Israel. He was successful and respected, a descendent of Abraham himself. One would have expected him to marry a woman of his own people, someone from an equally illustrious family.

But Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, a woman with three strikes against her: she was poor, a widow and a foreigner. She had nothing and was a nobody in the eyes of the Israelites. In fact, she was worse than that: she was a Moabite, a group hated by the Israelites. No doubt Ruth was looked down on by many in the community.

So why would Boaz agree to marry her? We know that Boaz respected Ruth for how she’d cared for her mother-in-law. And certainly, God’s hand was on their meeting and their union. But why was Boaz so accepting of the idea of marrying someone like Ruth? Why was he not put off by her “baggage”?

I believe an answer lies in Boaz’ background. Turns out he had some baggage of his own.

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This Is Who We Are

Canadian Flag Photo from PickPik

In a few days, Canada will be celebrating its birthday. July 1st is Canada Day, a holiday on which we have parties, set off fireworks, and wave the flag.

We’re all attached to our national flags, aren’t we? Each is beautiful in its own way. Some flags have blocks of colour, some feature significant symbols, others have patterns of stars and stripes. A handful of countries depict plants or trees on their flags, mine among them.

Canada’s flag has a maple leaf at its centre. In fact, the nickname for our flag is the Maple Leaf. As a nature lover, I’m proud to have a symbol of a plant on my national flag, and especially pleased that it’s a leaf from one of my favourite trees.

Growing up, I loved maple trees: I climbed them, enjoyed the sugar and fudge made from their sap, collected their red and orange leaves in autumn to press and even jumped into raked-up piles of them.

I’d venture to say that all Canadians love maple trees. The trees themselves are beautiful and stately; the wood harvested from them is so strong it can be used as the flooring for bowling alleys; we harvest precious sap from them to make sought-after products; and the leaves turn gorgeous colours in the autumn.

The maple leaf is the emblem of Canada. It symbolizes who we are as a people: hardy, strong, nature-loving northerners.

Just as the maple tree is important to Canadians, there’s another tree which is very important to a certain group of people:

It’s the tree Christ was crucified on.

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What’s in a Name?

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pixabay

As a gardener, I must admit that I prefer using the common or folk names for flowers. These sometimes-ancient names are often whimsical and enchanting, like “Miss Willmott’s Ghost,” whose origins we explored last week.

Who wouldn’t love calling flowers by such names as cherry pie plant, lady’s slipper, love-in-a-mist, baby blue eyes, bachelor’s button, quaker ladies, whirling butterflies, johnny-jump-up, busy lizzie, or candytuft? It makes the heart sing to use endearing names like these.

The scientific or botanical names for flowers, on the other hand, can seem daunting. They’re usually derived from Latin, and while they can give a more accurate description of what a plant’s nature is, they can sound a bit intimidating to my ears.

In fact, some botanical names actually sound like a disease:

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got Scabiosa again.”

“That’s nothing! You should see my sister’s Myosotis: it’s rampant.”

“You don’t say! But did you hear about Kelly? She’s got Nepeta nervosa.”

“No! Is she seeing a psychiatrist for that?”

(In case you’re wondering, Scabiosa is the botanical name for the pincushion flower; you might know Myosotis better as the little blue forget-me-not; and Nepeta nervosa is a type of catmint.)

I’m so glad that we have the opportunity to use informal names for the flowers we cherish.

In the same way, believers have been given the great privilege of using a remarkably intimate name for God: “Abba Father.”

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Miss Willmott’s Ghost

Giant Sea Holly: Photo by Matthew Richardson on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

I saw Miss Willmott’s Ghost this week.

No, I don’t know anyone by that name, and I haven’t seen any actual ghosts lately.

I’m referring to the giant sea holly, a plant whose nickname is “Miss Willmott’s Ghost.” I happened to see it on a visit to my city’s botanical gardens recently.

The giant sea holly was given this whimsical moniker in honour of the equally eccentric Ellen Willmott, an English gardener who lived in Victorian times.

Apparently, Miss Willmott so loved this plant that she carried its seeds with her at all times in hopes of helping it proliferate. On a regular basis, she would secretly scatter the seeds in other people’s gardens when visiting them. Later, this silvery thistle-like plant would mysteriously appear, no doubt causing the garden’s owners to do a double-take and wonder how it got there.

Perhaps we as believers in God should take a page from Miss Willmott’s book. Not to engage in any guerrilla gardening necessarily, but to follow her example of planting “seeds” wherever we go.

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