Have you ever been tempted to carve initials or names in the trunk of a tree?
Perhaps linking yours with those of someone you love, like “M + F” or “Josh loves Amanda”? The inscriptions could last for centuries, emblems immortalizing your love for generations to come.
(Of course, as a nature lover, I’d rather people not make carvings in the bark of a living tree. But I can understand the impulse to do so.)
In fact, people have been engraving things on tree trunks for millennia.
Birch trees are a natural choice due to their white bark. The smooth silver-grey bark of beech trees is also a magnet for trunk-carvers. Indo-European peoples have used it for writing-related purposes since antiquity. In some modern European languages, the words for “book” and “beech” are either very close or identical. No wonder the beech has been called the “patron tree” (sort of like a patron saint) of writers.
Did you know that God sometimes inscribes things in usual places, too?
When I was a little girl, I loved to explore in the woods.
One day I came across a cicada clinging to a tree trunk. Except this insect didn’t look alive: its body was transparent, and it never moved.
What was wrong with the cicada, I wondered?
I finally realized that I wasn’t looking at a live bug, but rather at its discarded exoskeleton.
When it’s time for a nymph cicada to turn into an adult, it clings to a tree and sheds its outer body. The abandoned shell remains, still clinging to the bark of the tree, while the “reborn” cicada flies off.
My mistake that day?
I was looking for the living among the dead.
Some of the Jesus’ followers made the same error.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that many of its bridges have a story to tell.
The Pont de la Concorde is no exception.
This stone-arch bridge across the River Seine connects the Place de la Concorde with the National Assembly.
Construction of the bridge started during the late 1700s and continued even during the turmoil of the French Revolution. It was completed in 1791.
Interestingly, some of the stones used for the Pont de la Concorde were sourced from the rubble of the demolished Bastille prison. The bridge’s architect, Rudolph Perronet, said this was “so that the people could forever trample the old fortress.”
Today you can traverse this bridge and trample under your own feet the stones from the once-feared stronghold which imprisoned so many.
It’s a satisfying feeling to show your contempt for something vile by actually stomping on it, isn’t it?
Scripture tells us that Jesus will do something similar:
A funny thing happens in a city when one of its sports teams reaches the playoffs or finals.
Suddenly, everyone becomes a fan.
This is especially true if that team has suffered a trophy or title drought for a considerable length of time, perhaps decades.
The team’s fortunes become a topic of conversation everywhere in town. People talk about their team’s success while at work, in stores, or on transit. They speak with authority about the merits of certain players, or even about specific shots in particular games.
On any given day, people in town know exactly where their team stands, and how many games they need to win to achieve the championship title for that year.
My hometown of Toronto experienced this in 2019 when the Raptors won their first NBA title in the franchise’s history. Their victory was celebrated with a massive parade downtown, attended by millions.
I had friends who gushed about the Raptors’ success, then grinned sheepishly and admitted, “And I don’t even like basketball!”
Everyone loves a winner, don’t they?
But what happens when your team doesn’t produce the victory everyone is hoping for?
Jesus could tell us a thing or two about that.
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?
A beautiful red cardinal has been singing heartily outside my window the past week, as though it’s already spring.
My hibiscus houseplant has broken its winter dormancy and is putting forth flower buds.
But there’s still snow on the ground, and there’s bound to be more snow coming. This is Canada, after all, and it’s only March. It’s still cold enough outside to need a winter coat.
Doesn’t seem like spring to me.
Do the cardinal and the hibiscus know something I don’t?
In fact, they do. They sense the lengthening of the day and the increased hours of sunlight, things that have escaped my notice.
They know that spring is on its way, even if I can’t see it coming just yet.
In the same way, God knows a thing or two that we don’t.
He knows when a turnaround in our situation on its way, even if we can’t see any evidence of a change in the offing.
He knows that our “spring” is coming.
Last week, NASA’s science rover “Perseverance” landed successfully on Mars, to jubilant cheers from scientists back home.
Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab near Los Angeles had been waiting anxiously for confirmation that the craft had landed safely.
Because it takes radio waves 11 minutes to reach Earth from Mars, “Perseverance” had already settled on the surface of the Red Planet by the time news of its safe arrival reached scientists back on Earth. NASA had to endure a nerve-wracking wait before they got the verification.
We encounter this time lag throughout our universe.
The light from our own Sun takes 8 minutes to reach Earth. Light from Pluto takes 5 hours. It takes 8 years for the light from the “Dog Star” Sirius to reach our planet.
This time lag means that with stars extremely distant from us, we’re actually seeing them now as they were thousands of years ago. It takes that long for their light to travel to us.
It sometimes seems as though there’s a similar “time lag” between our brains and our hearts.
Don’t you love recipes that are so simple that you can easily memorize them?
The ingredients list isn’t too long, and the items are probably measured in even cups or teaspoons, not fractions.
You’ve made the dish so often that the instructions are now fixed in your head. You don’t have to go rifling through your recipe box or searching your online files to find the recipe.
Even years later, you can still bring the recipe to mind and whip up the dish reliably.
You’ll never forget it.
There are things that God will never forget, either.
I heard a pastor say that “God has not forgotten the recipe for manna.”
God still remembers how to cook up whatever you need and get it to you!
Are you a secret cookie dough eater?
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.”
Aristotle said that “nature abhors a vacuum.”
So do I, frankly. Perhaps I should simply stop vacuuming? After all, who am I to argue with Aristotle?
Seriously, though, what that phrase suggests is that empty spaces are unnatural, and somehow or other nature will seek to fill them.
I encountered a dramatic example of this truism through a friend of my late father.
This friend had developed a disorder called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Macular degeneration had left voids or blank spots in his field of vision. The brain finds these empty spaces to be disturbing, so in Charles Bonnet Syndrome it fills in the blank areas with patterns or random images from its memory bank.
The result was that my father’s friend would “see” people or animals that weren’t actually there. His wife would have to tell him that, no, there wasn’t really a stranger sitting on their couch, or a cow in their backyard. The hallucinations he experienced were just his brain attempting to paper over the upsetting voids in his visual field.
It seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, too.
We all have voids or empty spaces in our lives that we seek to fill: areas of dissatisfaction, lack of love or absence of validation. These blank areas make us uneasy, so we try to fill them up.