God Can Use Anything And Anyone

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

Now that spring has arrived, the birds are starting to build their nests.

It’s delightful to watch them collect items to fashion into a new home.

They’ll mostly gather twigs and leaves as their construction materials. They might also add moss, plant fluff, dried grass, or feathers to make the nest soft for their chicks.

But sometimes birds use unexpected things when constructing a home.

They’ve been known to use mud, pet fur, discarded snake skins, and spider silk for their nests. They’ll even use man-made items, such as plastic, tinsel, dryer lint, or even purloined underwear from a clothesline!

Birds don’t seem to count anything out: they’ll use the most unlikely things to achieve their goal.

And so does God.

God also uses unexpected things and unlikely people to fulfill His purposes. The Bible is chock-full of examples of this:

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Mustard Seed Faith

What are the smallest seeds on earth?

You might guess mustard seeds. Close, but not quite.

How about poppy seeds?

They’re very tiny. You’ll find out how extremely tiny they are if you accidentally spill them on the floor. You’ll discover that you can’t pick them all up by hand: it’s hopeless. You have to bring out your vacuum. (Don’t ask me how I found this out!)

Actually, the tiniest seeds on earth are said to be those of certain orchids from the tropical rainforest. Each of these dust-like seeds weighs only one 35 millionth of an ounce. They’re smaller than a grain of salt.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the prize for the largest seed on earth probably goes to the Coco-de-Mer palm tree of the Seychelles Islands. One of its seeds can weigh up to 45 pounds.

Mustard seeds are a bit larger than poppy seeds, but they’re still exceptionally tiny compared to most seeds.

They’re so small that Jesus used them as an example in one of His teachings. Surprisingly, He said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could see great things accomplished.

How is this possible?

Because when we have even a small amount of pure faith, God uses it as a force multiplier. Our tiny contribution somehow provides the spark for God’s power to show up in a big way.

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The Blessings Of Barren Seasons

Image by Henning Sørby from Pixabay

Looking out the window here at The Faith Cafe, you see that the trees in the park display a stark beauty.

Stripped of their leaves in winter, they stand amid the snow looking rather barren and forlorn.

But a funny thing happens when a tree has lost its leaves: you can see things that you didn’t know were there before.

Going for a walk in your neighbourhood in winter, you might see that the bare trees are now revealing things that had been concealed by summer’s foliage. You might be surprised to see a bird’s nest the size of a teacup nestled in the bare branches; you’d passed beneath it dozens of times without knowing it was right above you.

Or you might see a larger nest, called a drey, which was built by squirrels. You’d had no idea that the squirrels had been raising a family there in their hidden home, perhaps in a tree just feet from your own house.

With the trees denuded of leaves, you might spot a kite or balloon that had been caught in the branches months before. Only winter could reveal this lost object. Maybe it belonged to your child: “So that’s where it went!” you think.

Or you realize that there are dead branches in some of the trees around your house that need removing. You can only see the problem now that the dense foliage has been stripped away.

So it is with us, too.

Sometimes there are things we can only see when we hit a barren season in our lives, brought on by a loss, a breakup, a setback, or a disappointment. Sometimes it’s only when something has been stripped away from us that other things are revealed.

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Of Lions And Lambs

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Do you have some weather sayings or proverbs in your area?

Maybe you’ve heard ones like “April showers bring May flowers,” or “Clear moon, frost soon.”

Perhaps you know this weather proverb: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”

Here in the northern hemisphere, we say “March comes in like a lion but goes out like a lamb.”

This saying might have started out referring to the stars. The beginning of March sees the constellation Leo (the lion) rising in the east. The end of the month features the constellation Aries (the ram or lamb) setting in the west.

Over time, the saying shifted to have more of a weather connotation. The start of March is often cold and stormy, fierce like a lion. By the end of the month, the weather has turned more calm and gentle, almost lamb-like.

This weather proverb doesn’t always hold true, of course; sometimes March starts out like a lamb but ends like a ferocious lion!

There is, however, a Biblical promise about these two animals that you can bank on:

Jesus came to earth first as a lamb, but will return as a lion.

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One Hundred Words for Snow (and for God)

Image by Maurizio Ceol, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

They say that the Eskimo and Inuit peoples have over 100 words for snow.

Is this actually true, or is it just a cliché?

There has been heated debate on whether the Eskimos really do have that many distinct words for snow. I consulted Giles Whittell’s 2019 book “Snow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration” for information.

Whittell refers to a recent contribution to the question by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. They determined that in Canada’s Nunavik region, the Inuit there have 53 distinct words for snow; in the Central Siberian Yupik dialect they counted 40.

Among the words listed in the Yupik dictionary are:

“kanevvluk” = fine snow
“navcaq” = snow formation about to collapse
“qanisqineq” = snow floating on water
“utvak” = snow carved in a block, as for an igloo

Clearly, those living in the extreme north do have far more words to describe snow than those who makes their homes farther south.

As Whittell says, “…people learn to describe in greatest detail what matters most to them.”

I suppose that the number of words a culture has to describe something tells us a great deal about the importance they place on it.

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Let the Son Outshine Your Problems

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

The moon did a disappearing act on me recently.

As I sat eating breakfast, I could see the moon shining brightly through the window. It handily outshone the streetlights, which were still on at that pre-dawn hour.

But slowly, the moon grew dimmer and fainter, although it was still high in the sky.

What had happened to its luminosity?

Had the moon changed in some way?

No, the sun had simply come up!

The sun’s growing brilliance filled the morning sky, causing the moon to appear paler than before. Eventually, I could barely see the moon at all, even though it hadn’t set behind the horizon yet.

This puts me in mind of how we sometimes view our problems.

In the darkness of our difficulties, we often focus on what’s causing us pain. The source of our problems gets our attention, out-competing other factors in our lives.

But if we let the light of Jesus shine on our situation, the truth of His unending love for us can outshine the temporary nature of our problems. Our challenges appear dimmer in the light of His forgiveness, His care for us, and His promise of eternal life.

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Supercharge Your Prayers

Fertilized vs. unfertilized rows of maize. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

If you’re a gardener, you might sometimes look at your plants and decide that they’re missing something.

They need more “oomph.”

That’s where fertilizer comes in.

It can supercharge your flowers and vegetable plants by providing them with nutrients, such as nitrogen, that might be lacking in the soil.

With the addition of fertilizer, your plants can grow to their full potential and become as fruitful as they were meant to be.

Similarly, our prayers sometimes need more oomph, too.

But how do we give them that? How do we go about supercharging our prayers?

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Shift Your Perspective

Mallard duck. Image by Ralphs_Fotos from Pixabay

Among the most spectacular aspects of nature for me are its colours.

I’m continually wowed by the vivid colours found in nature, such as the brilliant red plumage of the Northern cardinal.

The cardinal’s red feathers, which come courtesy of pigments, look the same when viewed from any angle. But there’s another source of colour in nature that is even more mesmerizing:

Iridescence.

With iridescence, the hue of something changes when seen from different angles. You’ve probably experienced this shimmery optical phenomenon yourself when looking at certain insects, butterflies, birds, or even soap bubbles.

A good example of iridescence is the head of the mallard, a common duck found in the northern hemisphere. Its head appears to be a bright emerald green at first, but if you shift your angle of observation, it can appear green-gold, blue, or indigo.

It all depends on your perspective.

Maybe there’s a little lesson here for us.

If we shift our perspective about our own situations, we can see beauty that we didn’t know was there.

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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Did you ever play games with flowers as a child?

Perhaps you squeezed the “mouth” of a snapdragon flower to make it “talk.”

Or maybe you held a buttercup underneath the chin of a friend. If it reflected back a yellow colour, it meant that they liked butter (apparently, everyone does!).

Probably one of the most famous flower games involves the daisy: it’s considered the oracle of affairs of the heart. The daisy supposedly has the ability to tell you if your sweetheart truly loves you or not.

It goes like this: you pluck off each petal of a daisy in turn, and as you do so, alternately say, “He loves me,” or “He loves me not.”

The final petal tells you which statement is true.

You’re left in suspense the whole time, and worry about what the last petal will reveal.

I know this is just a children’s game, but even as adults we sometimes worry if we’re truly loved, don’t we?

Human love can be a fickle thing, and we can often be unsure about the commitment and loyalty of those we love.

That’s why it’s so good to know that with Jesus, we’re never left wondering whether He loves us or not. He never leaves us in suspense as to whether He cares.

He always does.

And He always will.

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Following In His Footsteps

Image by Jennifer Beebe from Pixabay

In winter, it can be fun to decipher tracks left in the snow.

I sometimes make a little game of this as I’m going for a walk.

You can usually tell by the size and spacing of bootprints whether they were left by a man, woman, or child.

Tracks going to each house in turn clearly belong to the mail carrier.

Human footprints next to smaller, clawed ones indicate that a neighbour was walking the dog.

Dainty, single-file paw prints show that a cat was making its rounds, whereas a repeating W-shaped pattern of impressions indicate that a squirrel was hopping across the lawn.

And small bootprints that meander crazily like a butterfly are a sure sign that my four-year-old neighbour Noah passed this way!

What tracks are you leaving in life?

Will people want to follow in your footsteps?

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