Winter, the Great Leveller

Photo by Mark Evans on Flickr, CC BY-ND-2.0

If you live in a cold climate, as I do, you’ll have noticed that winter has a way levelling us out.

It shows us we’re all in the same boat.

Let me explain:

No matter how rich or poor you are, you’re going to have to deal with snow one way or another. If you live in a cold climate, there’s no escaping this fact.

Whether you drive a snazzy, expensive car or a modest runabout, winter has a way of making all vehicles look rather crappy. No matter how much you paid for your car, road salt and slush will cover it with an ugly grey-brown film.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

And despite searching high and low for the most fashionable winter parka, you’ll still end up looking like an Arctic explorer, indistinguishable from everyone else.

Winter has a way of humbling us.

I think sin has the same sort of levelling effect.

Whatever walk of life we come from, we’re all going to have to deal with our sins somehow. There’s no escaping it.

No matter how wealthy or poor we are, when sin sticks to us, it makes all of us look rather stained. Whether a pauper or a prince, the muck of sin covers us all.

And even if we try to gussy up our image and paper over our sins, it simply doesn’t work. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re any better or different than anyone else.

When it comes to sin, we’re all in the same boat.

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Need A Clean Slate?

Image of birch bark by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

If you feel like you could use a clean slate, you’re not the only one.

Birch trees feel the need to start afresh with a new page occasionally, too.

Except they do it literally, by allowing their outer bark to peel off to reveal a fresh layer underneath.

Why do birches do this?

After all, most trees don’t shed their bark. As trees grow from the inside out, their rigid outer bark, which can’t stretch, splits and cracks instead. This gives tree bark the rough texture and fissure-like patterns that we’re all familiar with.

The drawback of these crevices and grooves is that pests and parasites like to burrow into them, which can affect the health of the tree.

Birches have solved this problem by growing smooth bark. This type of bark doesn’t split, which means it’s more impervious to insects, bacteria and fungi. As the birch grows, it exfoliates some of its outer bark, like a snake shedding its skin.

Along with the shed bark the tree is able to cast off insects, moss and lichen at the same time. Birch trees are continually refreshing themselves.

Smart, isn’t it?

Could you use a fresh start, too? Would you like to get rid of some things that are dragging you down?

Jesus gives us an opportunity to do just that.

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Get Your Joy Back!

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

When I was a little girl, the first snowfall of the season was a big deal.

If the snow had fallen overnight, my Mom would wake me up with, “Lori, I have a surprise for you!”

I’d then look outside to see everything covered with a blanket of pristine, white snow. I’d be excited about going outside to play in it with my friends. We’d create snow angels and snowmen, throw snowballs, go tobogganing, and perhaps even make a snow fort.

A new snowfall was an occasion for joy.

But now that I’m an adult, how do I react to a fresh snowfall?

With groans and grumbles.

I think of having to shovel it off the driveway and the sidewalk. I think of how it will make the roads slippery and the commute slower. I think of all the extra work and trouble it will cause me.

Nowadays, a new snowfall is an occasion for chores and complaints.

I guess I’ve lost the joy that new snow used to bring me.

The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives, too.

We sometimes lose the joy that our salvation initially brought us. Gradually, our focus shifts from Jesus and what He has done for us to what we feel we should be doing for Him.

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Want To Feel God’s Love?

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

It seems like marriage proposals these days are a competitive sport.

It used to be that a man would propose to his beloved over a romantic dinner, with flowers on the table and perhaps some violins playing. He would get down on bended knee, present a ring, and ask for her hand in marriage.

Apparently, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Now, proposals have to be over-the-top. They might feature anything from fireworks to skywriting. A will-you-marry-me moment nowadays might involve a scavenger hunt, a fake movie trailer, a full orchestra and choir, or a ride in a hot-air balloon.

More adventurous grooms might enlist a celebrity in the proceedings, hire a flash mob at Times Square, or arrange to appear on the Jumbotron at a sports game.

And then there’s the man whose proposal took an entire year to create. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend Jennifer, each day for 365 days Dean Smith videotaped himself proposing to her, every time with a unique message. On the 366th day, he showed her the completed video and finally proposed in person (she said yes).

Why do people go to so much trouble?

Because they want to show their intended how much they’re loved.

Did you know that God has done the same for you?

He loves you deeply and He wants you to know it!

Let’s see how God stacks up when it comes to showing love.

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Your Internal Voice Recognition Software

Adele live in concert, Glasgow, 2016. Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Sometimes your eyes may fool you, but your ears know the truth.

A group of Adele impersonators found this out back in 2015.

They had gathered for a contest to choose who could best imitate the British singer Adele. The competition was filmed as a supposed BBC TV special, hosted by Graham Norton.

There was a catch, however. It wasn’t really a contest, but rather a set-up.

Unbeknownst to the other participants, the real Adele had gone undercover and had entered the competition as well. A movie effects specialist had disguised the superstar’s appearance with a fake nose and chin so that people wouldn’t recognize her. She introduced herself as “Jenny,” a nanny.

One by one, the contestants performed a song. Each had done her make-up to look like the real Adele. And some did a passable impression of her vocally, too.

Then, “Jenny” began to sing.

Once she opened her mouth and sang in her trademark style, the other “Adeles” were riveted. They got emotional as goosebumps ran up their arms. It soon dawned on them that it was actually their idol singing, not some anonymous nanny (watch the video of their reactions here).

There was no mistaking who it was anymore, even if she was in disguise.

Simply put, they knew her voice.

Did you know that, if you’re a believer, you have a similar ability within you? You have an internal “voice recognition software” that enables you to recognize Jesus’ voice.

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The Way of Escape

Image of Jewelweed flower by jimaro morales from Pixabay

Sometimes Mother Nature can reach out and bite you.

If you’ve ever suffered the ill effects of a run-in with stinging nettles or poison ivy, you’ll know what I mean.

Both of these plants produce an unpleasant, itchy rash if your exposed skin comes in contact with them. If this happens when you’re out in the woods and nowhere near a pharmacy to buy rash cream, where do you find some relief?

From Mother Nature herself!

The wilderness might have stung you, but it also provides an effective solution.

Plants such as dock and jewelweed (also called touch-me-not) help relieve the sting from nettles and the itch from poison ivy. The sap of these “rescue” plants, when rubbed on the skin, provides a cooling, soothing effect. Native Americans have known this trick for millennia.

Conveniently, dock and jewelweed can usually be found growing in the same area as poison ivy and stinging nettles.

Coincidence? I’m not so sure.

I think God placed the “cures” near the harmful plants on purpose.

For one thing, He knew we’d need a ready remedy for skin woes when out in the bush.

Also, it illustrates a truth contained in the Bible:

When we are faced with temptation, God always provides a way of escape along with it.

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Fast Or Slow, God Is Always At Work

Image by Valiphotos from Pixabay

If you look out the (virtual) window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the leaves starting to change colour on the trees outside.

The tops of the maple trees are starting to blush with red. There’s a hint of yellow among the linden leaves. And the sumacs are beginning to fire up in vivid shades of orange.

This change creeps in gradually, however. At first, you barely notice fall coming on. Weeks from now, though, the trees will be ablaze in vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. The difference from how they look today will be dramatic.

Oftentimes, I think this is the way God works in our lives.

He is slowly but surely leading us through a process of change and sanctification.

We may not notice that aspects of our character are being transformed, because the change is so gradual. One day, however, you look up and realize how far you’ve come and what amazing things God has done in your life.

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Watch the Impossible Happen

Image by Josef Pichler from Pixabay

They say that it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly.

The theory goes that their weight and size are too great for their tiny wings to support, so according to the laws of aerodynamics they shouldn’t be able to get off the ground.

The only problem is, no one has told the bumble bees that.

They seem to have no difficulty in buzzing about in the air from flower to flower, collecting pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive.

So how do they do it, when physics would seem to suggest that they can’t?

For a long time, this was a mystery to us. Eventually we discovered that bumble bees actually don’t defy the laws of aviation: they simply fly in a different way than a plane or bird does.

We learned that the propeller-like way they beat their wings creates an invisible force above them, like a mini-tornado or -hurricane. This vortex actually sucks them upward, giving them lift in spite of their weight.

There was more going on than met the eye, which allowed the “impossible” to happen.

Likewise, when we believe in God, there is more going on in our lives than we’re aware of.

When God is working in your life, sometimes He will cause the impossible to happen, even when you can’t see how it could.

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Fill Up Your Storehouse

This is a busy (and nutty) time of year for squirrels.

The little critters are hard at work storing up nuts and seeds for the hard winter ahead.

Depending on the species, they may either store their nuts in one spot (a stash), or hide them by burying them in multiple locations (known as “scatter-hoarding”). They’ve even been known to shamelessly steal nuts from the stashes of other squirrels.

The jury is out on whether squirrels actually remember where they’ve hidden all those nuts. Some studies suggest they can recall the location of thousands of buried nuts. Other research implies that squirrels fail to recover a good number of their treasures, which allows the nuts and acorns to grow into trees.

One thing is for certain: these little guys are single-minded about gathering up nuts before winter, often using unconventional places to store them.

Like cars.

Just ask Bill Fischer of Fargo, North Dakota. For the past eight years, a red squirrel has been using Bill’s pickup truck to store walnuts. Each year, the poor man has to remove thousands of walnuts from every crevice of his truck, including the engine compartment and bumpers.

This month, the critter set a new record, stashing 348 pounds of nuts in Bill’s vehicle. And this was all the work of one tiny squirrel.

These crafty little animals might exasperate us, but we can learn something from them:

They make sure they’ve “squirrelled away” provision for hard times to come.

I think we should do something similar:

Store up the Word of God in your heart, because you never know when you might need a certain verse to sustain you in a tough situation.

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Plant the Seeds of Your Dreams

Vintage seed packets. Photo by Douglas Coulter on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.

I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:

Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.

Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.

I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!

There’s only one problem:

Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.

I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.

But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.

If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.

Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.

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