Inscribed in the Palms of His Hands

Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

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?

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Don’t Look For The Living Among The Dead

Image of cicada exoskeleton by Franck Barske from Pixabay

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.

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There’s No Place Like Home

Image by burtamus from Pixabay

There’s no place like home, is there?

A lot of animals would agree with that statement, if they could speak.

Many birds and animals have an uncanny “homing instinct” that allows them to travel thousands of miles to return to the very same location each year.

Monarch butterflies from eastern North America return to the same wintering grounds in central Mexico each year, even to the very same forest.

Sea-dwelling Pacific salmon return to the same river they were born in to spawn.

Pregnant sea turtles migrate thousands of miles across the ocean to lay their eggs on the same beach on which they were born decades earlier.

And then there are homing pigeons, the champions of long-distance way-finding. Their homing instincts are so reliable that they’ve been used in wartime to deliver crucial messages over enemy lines.

But how do they do it?

One theory suggests that homing pigeons may have a mineral called magnetite in their beaks, which acts as a tiny GPS unit. This would allow them to sense the earth’s magnetic fields and their own position in relation to it. If true, it would mean that these birds are essentially flying compasses, with their beaks pointing them in the direction they should go.

It makes me wonder: do humans have a “homing instinct”?

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Your “Spring” Is On Its Way!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

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.

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Angels Are Fighting For You

Image of the Northern Lights by Noel Bauza from Pixabay

If you’re lucky enough to have seen the Northern or Southern Lights, what do you think you’re seeing?

This spectacular light display, called the aurora borealis or australis, is usually confined to the high latitudes at the Earth’s poles.

Many people view these shifting ribbons of light as a sort of otherworldly dance in the sky. Others see the swirling colours as a mystical painting come to life. Some indigenous peoples believed the eerie, glowing streamers were ancestral spirits.

But when you look at the auroras, what you’re really seeing is a battle.

The entrancing, ghostly lights result from charged particles from the Sun interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field. These particles, borne on the solar wind, are constantly bombarding our planet. At times they’re more intense, as during periods of high sunspot activity.

The Earth’s magnetic field protects us from this barrage of particles, like a “deflector shield” in a science fiction movie. Without this protection, the solar wind would eventually kill us.

Our magnetic field is always there, an invisible but highly effective shield. It deflects 98% of the particles spewed out by the Sun in our direction, but is slightly weaker near the poles. During the ethereal display known as the Northern and Southern Lights, our magnetic blanket becomes visible as it works to protect us.

What we see as an intriguing and beautiful phenomenon is actually visible evidence of a fierce battle going on for our lives.

Likewise, in life, sometimes we don’t fully understand the battles that are raging behind the scenes.

Unknowingly, as we go about our daily lives, believers are being protected by heavenly forces from harm. We usually can’t see these protective beings, but they’re there nonetheless, working on our behalf.

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Follow The Cat

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

If you have ever owned a cat (or have been owned by one), you’ll know that if you want to find the warmest, most comfortable place in your home, just follow the cat.

Cats unerringly zero in on the most comfortable spot in your house. They’re not above stealing your favourite chair or displacing you from your own bed in their quest for comfort.

Our feline friends consistently find the sunniest windowsill on which to perch or a warm heating vent in the floor over which to drape themselves. They’ll snuggle into the coziest, most protected part of the sofa, or stake out a claim on the most comfy lap.

Cats are masters at pinpointing zones of highest comfort.

But if you’re in need of comfort, reassurance, love and protection, where do you find it?

Follow the people who know the Source of all comfort.

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Faster Than The Speed of Light

Artist’s concept of Mars Perseverance Rover, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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.

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What Birds Can Teach Us About Prayer

Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

It’s good to keep in touch with those you love, isn’t it?

Even birds know this.

Birds will engage in what are called “contact calls” with their mate or others in their flock. Unlike a bird’s song, a call is usually shorter and quieter. The purpose of contact calls is to maintain a continuous connection and to keep track of where each bird is located.

The Northern Cardinal, for instance, makes a brief metallic “chip” sound to keep tabs on its mate’s location when they’re both foraging for food. The mate will respond with the same call as reassurance that they’re nearby and that all is well.

We humans engage in the same type of behaviour. We’ll often make a short phone call or send a quick text to a loved one to keep track of how they’re doing and to reassure them that we’re all right.

I think our Creator would appreciate getting a “contact call” from us on a regular basis, too.

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Create Your Own “Dark Sky Preserve”

I sometimes wonder if people who live in the countryside have a better appreciation for God’s creation than we city folk?

I’m specifically thinking of the ability to see the majesty of God’s handiwork as seen in the starry night sky.

Living in a big city (in my case, Toronto), I’m only able to see a handful of heavenly bodies. I can see the Big Dipper and a smattering of other stars, bright planets such as Venus, and the moon in its phases. But that’s about it.

Big cities produce so much ambient light that it obscures our view of the wonder of the night sky. That’s why many jurisdictions are creating what’s known as “dark sky preserves.” These are regions far enough away from the lights of built-up urban areas that the majority of stars can still be seen.

Governments commit to protecting these preserves from development so that the full range of the starry sky will always be visible from those areas. They seem to understand that it’s important for us to be able to maintain our connection with the night sky, and see it the way our ancestors did.

Perhaps we should take a page from their book, and create some “dark sky preserves” in our own lives.

I don’t mean areas from which to see the night sky, but spaces in our lives that remind us of God’s majesty and creative ingenuity as expressed in nature.

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God Will Go Ahead of You

Cow eyeing something suspiciously. Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

Do you ever get a bit anxious when faced with something completely new?

Like how to find a new job in an economy that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before? Or how to navigate a world that’s turned upside-down?

Many of us shrink from the prospect of entering uncharted territory.

And we’re not the only ones: even some animals balk when confronted with something unfamiliar.

Cows are notorious for disliking disruptions to their routines and environments. They’re particularly averse to new gates. Cows are made so nervous by new entrances and openings that they’ll stubbornly resist going through them.

This trait is so well known that it’s given rise to the phrase, “like a cow looking at a new gate.” It means to view something with bewilderment and confusion, as though to say, “Are you serious? I’m not going through that.

Do you feel this way when faced with the uncertainties that the new year may bring? Is fear of the unknown keeping you from stepping forward in faith to realize your dreams?

Fear has a way of paralyzing us, so that we stay stuck where we are instead of trying something new.

But we needn’t be afraid.

God will go through the gate ahead of us.

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