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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Divine Forgetfulness

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Does God have a bit of a memory problem?

It would appear so, according to the Bible.

Several Scriptures tell us that when God forgives our sins, he also forgets them.

Isaiah 43:25 tells us that God blots out our transgressions and remembers our sin no more.

Hebrews 8:12 echoes this: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

But if God’s memory of the sinful things we did is wiped clean, why isn’t ours?

Why didn’t He arrange it so that we can’t remember our shameful deeds, either?

I’m sure many of us would love to have amnesia about our moral failures, but God knows that this isn’t best for us.

I think there are several reasons for this:

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The Most Memorable Gift Of All

Image by Marco Verch on Flickr CC BY-2.0

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve ever received?

Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t something bought for you in a panic at the last minute.

More likely, the gift you remember most involved time or trouble on the part of the giver.

Perhaps your child presented you with something that they’d painstakingly fashioned themselves.

Or maybe your spouse had a piece of jewellery custom made for you that they’d had a hand in designing.

Or a friend spent months searching high and low for a hard-to-find collector’s item that you’d always wanted, and finally tracked one down.

The present was especially meaningful for you because the time and trouble the giver went to were part of the gift.

Did you know that Jesus has given you a gift? And it isn’t something He picked up at the mall on Christmas Eve.

He offers you the gift of eternal life.

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Are You On The Naughty Or Nice List?

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Are you on Santa’s “Naughty” list or his “Nice” list?

Sometimes it’s hard to know, isn’t it?

You shovelled the snow off your elderly neighbour’s walkway, so that counts as nice.

But on the other hand, you greedily ate half a pan of freshly baked brownies before sharing them with your family. Not so nice.

You made up for that by running errands for a sick friend, and volunteering to work late at the office to help finish a project. Definitely heading well into “nice” territory!

But then you lost your temper at your spouse, fibbed to get out of visiting your mother-in-law, and illegally parked your car in a disabled space while you dashed into the store to buy milk. Uh-oh! Looks like you’re squarely back on the naughty list.

With Santa, it’s hard to know where you stand on the naughty/nice spectrum.

That’s why it’s good to know that, if you’re a believer in Jesus, there’s only one list:

Forgiven.

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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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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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Choose The Right Mountain

American aviator Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, who in July, 1938 took off from New York City and somehow ended up in Ireland, even though his flight plan indicated he was headed for California. Image by IMLS Digital Collections and Content via Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Did you hear about the couple who booked a trip to Sydney, Australia, but accidentally ended up on the wrong continent?

Back in 2002, teenagers Emma Nunn and Raoul Christian booked their once-in-a-lifetime holiday online, not realizing that there was more than one Sydney in the world. Unbeknownst to them, their flight was actually taking them to the town of Sydney in Nova Scotia, Canada, thousands of miles from their intended destination.

Apparently, this sort of mistake is more common than you’d think.

Last year, a group of French football fans managed to miss their team’s game against Hungary in the Euro 2020 championship. They ended up in the wrong country, inadvertently travelling to Bucharest (Romania) instead of the similar-sounding Budapest (Hungary).

The next month, the mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team accidentally travelled to Toronto, Ohio instead of Toronto, Canada for a game. It took him quite a few hours before he realized his mistake: seeing an American flag is what finally clinched it for him.

The same thing almost happened to me once. I had boarded a connecting flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, on my way to a wedding in Bloomington, Illinois. As our small plane waited on the tarmac for takeoff, however, I overheard some of the other passengers talking about Bloomington, Indiana.

Indiana? You mean there are two Bloomingtons? Which one is this plane about to fly to?

After a few panicky moments, I ascertained that I was indeed on the plane to the correct Bloomington. I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed for the short flight.

When we’re travelling, it’s crucial that we make sure we’re going to the correct destination.

The same applies to our spiritual lives, too: we need to ensure that we’ve got the right direction and headings for our journey.

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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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God Will Never Give Up On You

Image of antique shop by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

One of the things I love about antiques is that they usually have a story to tell.

The type of wood and the style used to make a piece of furniture can tell you where and when it was made. Marks on the bottom of pottery give you a clue to its origins, and perhaps even the name of the artist who fashioned it. The condition of a piece tells you what sort of life it’s had.

But occasionally antiques tell us something a bit deeper than that.

For instance, I recently bought an antique oak side chair dating from the mid-1800s. It’s nothing impressive, simply the type of armless chair you might have at your dining room table.

The tale it tells is rather moving, however.

I can tell from the dozens of drilled holes around the perimeter of the seat frame that it once had a cane or rush seat. The material must have broken decades ago, because a plywood seat was later installed. Even this seat has been upholstered twice since.

One of the chair’s bottom rails broke at some point and is being held together with a tiny makeshift splint. Several of the back splats fractured as well, and were replaced with ones made from a different type of wood. There’s also evidence of repairs to wobbly joints over the decades.

What does all this tell me?

That someone never gave up on this little chair.

With all its woes and breakages, they could have simply thrown it out. But they loved it so much that they thought it was worth repairing, and they did so, over and over again.

Do you know that God feels the same way about you?

He’ll never give up on you!

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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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