An Unexpected Friend

Last summer, I had an unusual visitor. A lady I didn’t recognize came to my front door and rang the doorbell. I’d never seen her before, but she was clearly from the neighbourhood, as she had come on foot.

She said she had come to apologize to me.

I was mystified. This lady was a total stranger: why would she need to apologize to me?

“What on earth for?” I asked her.

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Are You At The Breaking Point?

Trees bent over by ice storm
“Ice Cathedrals” photo by Daryne Rockett on Flickr CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you live in a cold climate, have you ever woken up to discover that there had been an ice storm overnight? You look outside to find the bare branches of the trees are encased in a thick layer of ice.

The effect can be absolutely stunning. The branches glisten and sparkle in the sunlight. People rush outside to take photos of the ice-covered trees.

But the beauty masks a danger: those bare branches are at risk. They were never meant to carry the weight of so much ice. The branches may break off, and the tree can be left devastated.

Do you ever feel like you’re carrying too much “weight”?

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God Provides, Even in Winter

Male Northern Cardinal. Photo by Tom Murray on Flickr CC BY-NC-2.0

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?

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Fill in the Blanks

Photo by Michael Gaida on Pixabay

Did you know that some people make a hobby out of “reading” the forest in winter? By that I mean identifying trees despite their being bare of leaves this time of year.

This can be quite challenging, because frankly, many species of trees look almost identical to each other without their leaves. How do these nature lovers do it? How do they “fill in the blanks” and distinguish one species of tree from another in winter?

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How Larch Trees Are Like Jesus

Larch Trees, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr CC BY-2.0

It’s easy to categorize trees, isn’t it? Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Coniferous trees bear cones and keep their needles throughout the year. It’s simple to tell them apart.

Case closed, right?

But what about the larch tree? It bears cones and has needles like a conifer, but the needles drop off each autumn like a deciduous tree.

So which is it, coniferous or deciduous?

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What Is Your "Burning Bush"?

Photo by Leonora (Ellie) Enking on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

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Blessings of the Barren Season

Looking out the window here at The Faith Cafe, I notice that the deciduous trees in the park have dropped almost all of their leaves by now.

It’s always sad to have to say goodbye to the autumn leaves, isn’t it? When the last one has fallen, you’re left with a sense of loss, because you know you’re heading into the barren season of winter.

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

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It Was There All Along

If you look out the window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the beautiful autumn leaves in the park next to us (remember, we’re a virtual cafe, so use your mind’s eye).

We’re fortunate in Toronto to live in a part of the world where the green leaves of summer change to spectacular colours of yellow, orange, red, purple and bronze during fall. If you ask many people here, they’ll say fall is their favourite season, and the gorgeous changing leaves play a big part in that.

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