If you’re married, do you have a “date night” with your spouse?
Some people set aside time each week when they get together with their spouse, just the two of them, and do something special.
Life is so busy these days that we sometimes have to actually schedule time to spend with our spouse. We have to juggle work, raising children, community involvements, caring for aging parents, hobbies, and so on.
There are so many demands on our time that we often have difficulty making sure we’re giving enough attention to the person most important to us.
And besides, we know that our spouse is aware of our love for them. So we let things slide and don’t make the relationship a priority.
In this way, however, the bond between you starts to suffer. Without regular conversations and one-on-one time, a distance can start to grow in the relationship.
It’s the same with our relationship with God: we’re so busy with family and work commitments that we sometimes fail to fit Him in to our schedules.
Do you ever feel a bit shaky when you’re “up at bat” in life?
Sometimes we face daunting challenges, and don’t feel we’re capable of facing them on our own. We feel like we need a bit of help, someone who can take over for us when we’re at our weakest.
Someone like a pinch hitter.
In baseball, a pinch hitter acts as substitute who bats for a teammate. The pinch hitter might step in because the original player is injured, or when the one next up at bat is a less effective hitter, such as when a pitcher is worn out after six or seven innings pitching.
The manager might decide that the substitute has a better chance of helping their team to score, or may send in the pinch hitter to execute a specific play. In many cases, the pinch hitter will be called upon at a critical moment in the game.
Sounds like a handy person to have around, doesn’t it?
Did you know that believers have a heavenly “pinch hitter”?
This teammate who comes to your aid is the Holy Spirit Himself.
The snow on the mountains appears static and unchanging. From day to day, nothing looks different. It seems like the status quo will continue as before.
But then all of a sudden, a mass of snow and ice breaks loose and barrels down the hills. Sweeping change happens in a flash, seemingly coming out of the blue.
There was no hint that this would happen.
Or was there?
Underneath the surface, things were going on that we couldn’t see. Perhaps the composition of the snowpack was changing, the load was becoming too great, or sublayers were weakening through melting. From above, we might not be able to tell that the snowpack was becoming increasingly unstable.
But it was now being held in such precarious tension that at any moment a tipping point would be reached. It would be enough to set the whole thing off, leading to a massive snow slide.
Do you ever feel that you’re in a period in your life where nothing seems to be happening? Despite your prayers for change, everything looks the same from day to day.
Looks can be deceiving.
When Jesus is in the picture, sudden change may be on its way, perhaps even an avalanche of blessings.
If you’re a gardener, you know that when you plant seeds in the ground, you can expect results.
Not every seed will germinate, but a great many will. So you need to make preparations beforehand.
For instance, if you’ve planted seeds of climbing plants, you’ll need to provide something for them to cling to as they grow upward. Even if your pea or bean seeds haven’t germinated yet, you still might prepare some trellises or stakes for their eventual growth.
You wouldn’t think of not getting ready for the emergence of your seedlings and adult plants, would you? You have faith that they’re on the way.
Isn’t it funny, then, that when we pray and ask God for things, we often don’t really expect we’ll see any results?
We all love receiving more than we expected, don’t we?
Like when you order a product online, and to your surprise the company throws in some extra goodies or samples as a bonus.
Or perhaps it’s your birthday, and your family outdoes themselves with a party, special gifts and a scrumptious meal, all despite being in a lockdown.
It makes us feel valued to be the recipients of these unexpected blessings.
God certainly knows this. That’s why He often seems to enjoy outdoing Himself, showing up in a big way in answer to prayer or simply to demonstrate His power and majesty.
This is how Paul describes God’s “above and beyond” abilities in Ephesians 3:20:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (NKJV, italics mine)
The term Paul uses to express God’s ability to work beyond what we pray for, think or even dream is possible is variously translated “superabundantly more” (AMP), “infinitely more” (NLT), “immeasurably more” (NIV) and “far more abundantly beyond all” (NASB).
However you phrase it, it says a lot about God’s character, His generosity and his abounding love for His children.
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.
This is a special time of year in my part of Canada: the lilacs are speaking!
Lilac flowers don’t use words, of course. They announce their presence through their beautiful fragrance and delicate purple colour.
But there’s another way lilac shrubs can talk to us. Their very location can give us clues to the history of a place.
“…the story of early Canada can be read in the lilacs clustered where log cabins once stood, at the edge of abandoned fields—flowers marking time in centuries.” (from “A New Leaf,” by Merilyn Simonds)
Settlers to the northern parts of North America would often plant lilac shrubs on either side of the front door to their farmhouse. Generations or even centuries later, the building has long since been torn down, but the lilacs live on. If you see a pair of lilac bushes in a field or empty lot, you can be pretty sure they used to flank someone’s front door. The house is gone, the family has moved away, but the fragrance of the lilacs they planted still fills the air.
This reminds me a bit of how prayers can live on, long after the person who prayed them is gone.
There’s something strange about the crisis the world is undergoing right now: from the outside, things look surprisingly normal.
If you view the streets of your town during this pandemic, most things look the same as they did before. The buildings are intact, the streetlights come on at night like clockwork, and the spring flowers are blooming. This isn’t a crisis like a flood or earthquake, where the devastation is plain to see.
The COVID-19 crisis seems almost invisible, until you realize that something isn’t quite right when you look around: missing from the scene is the normal hum of human activity. The workplaces are shut, people aren’t in restaurants, and children aren’t in playgrounds. An eerie quiet pervades most areas.
It’s only when you look behind closed doors that you see the devastating impact of the pandemic. The high death toll in some nursing homes, the stressed out health care workers, and the loneliness of self-isolation.
When we have a crisis of our own, like depression or despair, we can look a bit like those intact buildings. Things look normal from the outside. When people look at us, there’s no evidence of the turmoil raging within.
The lockdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have produced some unexpected results in the natural world.
With fewer vehicles and industrial machines operating, noise pollution has been reduced so dramatically that seismologists can hear sounds from inside the planet that they couldn’t detect previously.
In cities, reduced traffic noise is allowing people to hear birdsong, the chatter of squirrels, and the chirping of crickets like never before. People have been surprised to discover that they can now hear the flapping of birds’ wings as they pass overhead.
A quieter environment is probably also allowing animals to hear each other better. City birds usually have to sing more loudly than their country cousins to make themselves heard above the urban cacophony: perhaps their mates and rivals can hear them more easily now. With a reduction in ship traffic, marine mammals might also be finding that they can contact each other with greater ease now that there is less “acoustic smog” in the oceans.
If we can hear the creation better during the lockdowns, and creation can hear itself better, can we hear our Creator better?