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 other day I went for walk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Even though the trees were bare of leaves and there was snow on ground, it was still a place of great beauty.
I noticed something strange, however, about the other visitors to the park. I must have passed at least a dozen other people as I walked the winding trail down the ravine to the river, but they were all standing stock-still.
Had I wandered onto a set for some science-fiction movie, in which aliens freeze people in place in advance of taking over the planet? Or had all these people been suddenly afflicted with a disease that left them immobilized?
No, the reason they were standing as motionless as statues was because they were all staring down at their smartphones.
If you live in eastern North America, you might be lucky enough to have seen a gorgeous bird called the northern cardinal. The male is especially distinctive, with his breathtaking red plumage and black “mask” on his face.
Up here in Canada, the cardinal is at the northernmost part of its range. We’re especially fortunate that, unlike many songbirds, cardinals don’t migrate south for the winter. We get to enjoy their presence year-round.
But what on earth do the cardinals eat here, when parts of Canada might be covered in several feet of snow?
You’ve got to love a plant which turns pink in the autumn. I’m referring to the Euonymus alatus shrub, whose leaves change from green to a vivid, hot pink this time of year.
One of its nicknames is “burning bush,” because in autumn the shrub looks like it’s on fire. It must have reminded people of the burning bush Moses encountered in Exodus 3, through which God spoke to him.
I think God uses many different ways to speak to us today, each a “burning bush” tailored to our unique personalities.
Did you hear about the “prison break” at a Houston, Texas animal shelter recently?
A cunning criminal had been opening the heavy door of the senior cats’ enclosure for several nights in a row, setting the captives free to roam the shelter. Each morning, workers at the Friends for Life Animal Rescue would arrive to find the door mysteriously opened, and would have to wrangle the 15 cats back into their room.
The staff were stumped at who could be responsible for the feline jail break. It was only when they looked at footage from the building’s security cameras that they were able to crack the case.
I read a delightful fact about Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Apparently, he keeps nuts in his pockets to feed the red squirrels that live on his Balmoral estate. He so loves these little rodents that he even lets them into his house!
Prince Charles writes about the squirrels in the November 14, 2018 edition of “Country Life” magazine, which he guest-edited: