Sticker Shock

Image by Merio from Pixabay

Have you been taken aback recently by rising prices?

I think a lot of us have been suffering from sticker shock lately.

Whether it’s an item at the grocery store, gas at the pumps, or a house to live in, prices have been going up.

We look at something that we’re accustomed to buying at a certain amount and do a double-take at the suddenly inflated cost.

We think, “Are you kidding me? I’m not paying that much! They’ve got to be crazy charging that price.”

And off we stomp in a huff.

But aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t do the same?

He could easily have suffered from “sticker shock” when faced with the incalculable price He’d have to pay to save us from our sins.

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The Most Valuable Thing On Earth

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?

If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.

If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.

You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.

These would all be good guesses, but not even close.

What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.

If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.

This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.

But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…

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Nose Down, Full Throttle

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.

Stalling your aircraft is one of them.

If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.

So how does a pilot get out of a stall?

Nose down, full throttle.

This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.

To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?

It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.

In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.

Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.

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Precedented Times Are Coming

Aren’t you a bit tired of living in “unprecedented times”?

You’re not alone. I saw a slogan on a T-shirt the other day which read, “I miss precedented times.”

We’re all longing to go back to our normal, predictable lives, the way they used to be.

But even when we’re able to return to a semblance of our pre-pandemic existence, we still aren’t guaranteed a life without injustices, sorrows and unwelcome surprises.

Jesus told us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” And ain’t that the truth!

Even so, we can have hope that with God, we can still live in “precedented times.” How so?

When you read the Bible, you find there are precedents to receiving healing, restoration, wholeness and joy, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.

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Rumour Has It

Same tree in winter and summer. Photo by Coanri/Rita on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

It can be hard to believe we’ll ever be back to normal life, can’t it?

We’ve lived so long in this pandemic-induced limbo that sometimes it doesn’t seem plausible that our regular lives will ever resume. It can seem like this state of suspended animation will drag on and on and leave our usual way of life just out of reach.

We might hear of other countries where day-to-day life is approaching normalcy, but this almost seems like a rumour intended to taunt us.

It can feel the same way in the bitter depths of winter, too. We get so accustomed to the frigid temperatures, bare trees and snow-covered landscapes that it’s hard to believe there’s such a thing as summer.

This feeling of incredulity reminds me of a quotation from John Crowley’s fantasy novel, “Little, Big”:

“Love is a myth,” Grandfather Trout said. “Like summer.”

“What?”

“In winter,” Grandfather Trout said, “summer is a myth. A report, a rumour. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”

This passage speaks of romantic love, but I think this quotation applies equally well to the way God sometimes works in our lives.

In “winter” seasons of our lives, when things aren’t going well for us, it seems like the status quo will drag on and on. We’re skeptical that anything could ever change. The idea that things will someday turn around for us seems like a cruel rumour, something it’s not safe to believe in.

But as we know, love, like summer, is not a myth or a rumour.

Neither is God’s goodness.

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Make Sure The Right Things Stick

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

It can be hard to remove labels once they’re affixed, can’t it?

They can be so darn sticky.

You can try to peel off the paper part of the label, but the adhesive often stubbornly remains behind on the object. It can take some strong chemicals or a lot of scrubbing to remove every last trace of a label or sticker.

But what about the labels that people affix on us, whether we want them to or not?

Labels like “loser,” “clumsy,” “screw-up,” “stupid,” “misfit,” or “failure.”

They can be the stickiest, and the hardest to remove.

Once people classify us in a certain way, it can be awfully hard to shake that identity. We eventually internalize the labels that people put on us, and believe that they must be true.

Especially when they’re negative.

But did you know that God has put “labels” on believers?

And they’re all good!

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Light in the Darkness

Jellyfish Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

The Earth’s oceans are a bit mysterious to landlubbers, aren’t they? Especially the farther down you go.

The top zone of the ocean, 200 meters or less from the surface, is called the “sunlight” zone. This zone hosts the vast majority of fish, sea mammals and aquatic plant life that we’d be familiar with.

In the next zone down, the “twilight” zone, the amount of sunlight rapidly diminishes. Such a tiny amount of light penetrates this region that photosynthesis is no longer possible.

But it’s the lowest reaches of the oceans that are the most otherworldly and forbidding.

The bottom zone, below 1,000 meters, is called the “midnight” zone, and with good reason. Sunlight has no hope of penetrating this far down. These inky depths are darker than most humans have ever experienced.

And yet some creatures down here have eyes.

What on earth for? What is there to see in this eternal darkness?

There’s actually still light in the deepest part of the oceans. It comes not from the sun but from bioluminescent creatures. Some deep-sea organisms, like jellyfish, can generate and emit light much the way fireflies do here on land.

There’s still light, even in areas where sunlight never penetrates and the darkness seems impossible to vanquish. Even in the “midnight” zone.

Are you going through a “midnight” of your own?

Does it seem to you that you’re living in a kind of darkness, that you’ll never see the light of day in your situation?

Rest assured that there’s no place on earth where God’s light can’t reach you.

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With God, You Get the Flower First!

Redbud blossoms. Photo by Sheila Brown, Public Domain CC0

Sometimes nature can be a bit unpredictable—things happen in an order we wouldn’t expect.

Normally, plants put forth leaves long before they produce flowers.

But some trees and shrubs flip the script, so to speak.

With certain plants, the normal sequence is reversed: the flowers come first, before the leaves have developed.

A good example is the beautiful redbud tree. It puts forth gorgeous pink flowers on its bare branches in early spring, when none of its leaves are yet in sight.

The forsythia shrub bears its bright yellow flowers in advance of its leaves, and the lovely magnolia presents its pink or white blooms before the green foliage appears. Some maples and oaks also exhibit this flower-first behaviour, although with less showy blossoms.

All of these plants give us a treat in springtime when we’re starved for colour. We get the flower first without having to wait for the leaves.

Why do some plants reverse the normal order of things?

Some trees are wind-pollinated, so put forth flowers before their bulky leaves get in the way. The same goes for flowers that need extra sunlight. Other plants produce a mass of conspicuous flowers first, unobscured by leaves, to better attract the attention of pollinating insects.

Did you know that God also flipped the script and gave us the flower first, so to speak?

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Beauty in Unexpected Places

Burl on Tree Trunk.
Image by Evelyn Simak, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA-2.0

Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.

Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).

These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.

Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.

They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.

Surely there’s nothing good about burls?

But there is.

Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.

Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.

This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.

Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?

Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?

He can!

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Ultimate Victory Is Coming

Pont de la Concorde, Paris. Image by David Mark from Pixabay

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that many of its bridges have a story to tell.

The Pont de la Concorde is no exception.

This stone-arch bridge across the River Seine connects the Place de la Concorde with the National Assembly.

Construction of the bridge started during the late 1700s and continued even during the turmoil of the French Revolution. It was completed in 1791.

Interestingly, some of the stones used for the Pont de la Concorde were sourced from the rubble of the demolished Bastille prison. The bridge’s architect, Rudolph Perronet, said this was “so that the people could forever trample the old fortress.”

Today you can traverse this bridge and trample under your own feet the stones from the once-feared stronghold which imprisoned so many.

It’s a satisfying feeling to show your contempt for something vile by actually stomping on it, isn’t it?

Scripture tells us that Jesus will do something similar:

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