With all the digital devices we have which can tell the time, there’s still nothing quite like a sundial.
Sundials, used since ancient times, were the very first clocks. Their faces are marked out with hour lines, and a projecting arm shows the time by the position of the shadow it casts on the face of the dial.
Sundials were, and still are, popular garden ornaments. They’re often placed on a pedestal in the centre of a flower bed as a focal point.
Most sundials include inscribed mottoes, either in Latin or English. These sayings are often wistful reflections on the passing of time and the brevity of life.
I think there are a few lessons we can learn from these mottoes, ones which jibe with Biblical counsel about making the most of our time.
Have you ever noticed a flower growing in a peculiar spot in your garden and wondered, “How did that get there? Did I do that?”
You might see a rogue tulip popping up incongruously in the middle of your lawn.
Or you do a double-take when you see a cluster of flowers flourishing in the corner, but you have no recollection of having planted them there.
In some cases, squirrels might be the culprits. They’re notorious for unearthing tulip bulbs and burying them someplace else for future consumption, only to forget about them.
At other times, you might have tried growing something yourself from seeds but they never seemed to germinate. You give up and completely forget about them. A few years later, however, flowers are blooming in that corner after all, to your great surprise.
The same dynamic is sometimes at play when we plant “seeds” in someone’s life.
Have you ever thought that God could never use you in His service?
That you’re unqualified because you don’t have any special skills or talents?
Moses thought the same way.
God called him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, but Moses thought he wasn’t qualified to do so. He came up with excuse after excuse as to why he shouldn’t be chosen. He clearly felt that he didn’t have what it took.
But God can use us even when we feel ill-equipped. He takes us as we are and can use whatever we have at hand, no matter how meagre it seems.
Usually, the first signs of fall are visual: the leaves on trees start to redden, the fall asters begin blooming, and the sun is at a noticeably lower angle.
But sometimes you can hear the onset of fall.
Today at The Faith Cafe we could hear the sound of Canada geese honking at each other as they flew overhead, preparing to fly south for the winter. They’ll fly to warmer climes in their iconic V-formation, honking the whole trip.
But why do they honk at one another as they undertake their momentous journey, and why fly in a V-shape at all?
The lessons geese can teach us have long been used in leadership seminars, but I think they apply to our Christian walk as well.
No, I don’t know anyone by that name, and I haven’t seen any actual ghosts lately.
I’m referring to the giant sea holly, a plant whose nickname is “Miss Willmott’s Ghost.” I happened to see it on a visit to my city’s botanical gardens recently.
The giant sea holly was given this whimsical moniker in honour of the equally eccentric Ellen Willmott, an English gardener who lived in Victorian times.
Apparently, Miss Willmott so loved this plant that she carried its seeds with her at all times in hopes of helping it proliferate. On a regular basis, she would secretly scatter the seeds in other people’s gardens when visiting them. Later, this silvery thistle-like plant would mysteriously appear, no doubt causing the garden’s owners to do a double-take and wonder how it got there.
Perhaps we as believers in God should take a page from Miss Willmott’s book. Not to engage in any guerrilla gardening necessarily, but to follow her example of planting “seeds” wherever we go.
I love desserts that you can make on the spur of the moment, with ingredients you already have in your kitchen (like the recipe for coffee cake below). The ones where you don’t need to make a special trip to the store to find an uncommon or rarely used ingredient.
For instance, I love the flavour of pistachios, but rarely keep them on hand in my cupboard. Walnuts, on the other hand, are more likely to be found year-round in my kitchen. If a recipe calls for nuts, I know I’m bound to have some walnuts I can use.
Or what about an ingredient like rosewater? It sounds like it would create an exotic dessert, but who keeps rosewater in their pantry?
When I was a little girl, I always loved baking cookies with my Mom. The best part was when I “helped” her clean the mixing bowl.
Many people have fond memories of their Moms letting them “lick the bowl”: that is, scraping up and eating the bits of leftover cookie dough on the sides of the bowl.
My Mom would go one better than that, however. She’d deliberately leave not just the scrapings, but extra spoonfuls of cookie dough in the bowl for me to eat. Sometimes I wonder if more of the dough ended up in my stomach than on the cookie sheets to bake!
Isn’t God like that with us, too? He sometimes gives us unexpected favour or extra blessings in our lives just to show us how much He loves us.
We find an illustration of this favour in the beautiful Biblical story of Ruth.
Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.
Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.
Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”: