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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The Law of the Universe

Newton’s cradle, a device which illustrates conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.

The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.

Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.

I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!

Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.

I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.

But it can be transformed.

As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”

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Easier to Destroy Than Create

It’s a truism that it’s easier to destroy than to create.

I saw this in action recently in my own neighbourhood.

A two-storey house had been damaged internally by fire, although it looked salvageable from the outside. Nonetheless, the owners and insurers agreed that it should be demolished and a new house built in its stead.

I imagine the original house had taken months to build. It probably involved scores of people in its construction: contractors, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, and the like.

But it only took one man with one large backhoe a few hours to raze that building to the ground.

It was shocking how quickly the structure was destroyed. What could have lasted for decades was levelled in the space of a morning.

A cautionary tale, don’t you think?

If we’re not careful, we can see the same thing happen in our own lives.

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God Is A Step Ahead Of You

Image by kariwil from Pixabay

Don’t you love it when someone anticipates your needs?

You feel good when someone makes provision for something you’ll require before the need even arises. Or when they start setting in motion something for you before you even ask.

It makes you feel sort of special, doesn’t it?

As a teen, I’d occasionally stop by a small fish-and-chip joint on my way home from school. This little restaurant had an open kitchen, and the owner/cook could see the street through the front window.

Carlo, the owner, would see me get off the bus and wait at the lights. He knew what I liked to eat, so he’d start deep-frying my halibut before I even crossed the street and entered his restaurant.

He anticipated what I’d want and started cooking it before I even placed my order.

God does the same sort of thing for us, too.

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The Best Swap Of All

World’s Largest Paperclip, Bell Park, Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo by purecanucks on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Did you hear about the guy who traded a paperclip for a house?

It’s a little more involved than that, but it really happened.

Over the course of a year starting in 2005, Canadian Kyle MacDonald made a series of 14 online trades, bartering small items for successively larger and more valuable ones.

He started with a red paperclip, which he traded for a pen. He swapped the pen for a doorknob, which he then bartered for a Coleman stove.

The stove was flipped for a generator, which was exchanged for an instant party, which he soon traded for a snowmobile.

Kyle’s next transactions involved a trip, a truck, a recording contract, and a year’s rent in Phoenix. They eventually culminated in a film role, which was traded for a two-storey farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

A large sculpture of a red paperclip now stands in the small Canadian town where his trades ended, commemorating his achievement.

Pretty impressive, I must say!

But I can think of an even more astonishing swap.

It took only one transaction and involved the most valuable thing of all…

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