All I Want For Christmas Is Staff

Have you made a list yet of what you want for Christmas?

Time is running short, so if you want to submit your list to Santa, you’d better get cracking!

Maybe you want some jewellery, a designer handbag, or a trip to a tropical isle?

Or perhaps your tastes run more to tools for your workshop, some custom bling for your car, or season tickets to see your favourite sports team play.

The kids in your life are probably way ahead of all of us and already know what toys and games they’d like.

As for me, after years of watching the historical British TV drama “Downton Abbey,” I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having staff.

The size of staff required to keep a stately home like the fictional Downton Abbey running a century ago was considerable. They needed maids, cooks, valets, butlers, chauffeurs, and gardeners.

But the position that intrigued me most was that of footman. They seem to be so useful, able to turn their hands to any task around the house.

I really think I need a footman!

Or maybe, if I had to ask Santa for just one, a chef would be the better choice?

But really, I’m asking the wrong question. I should be asking: do I want to serve or to be served?

For Christians, there’s only one right answer:

It’s to serve others.

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Allow God to Prune You

Fruit tree espaliered against wall. Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

If I were a young apple tree, I probably wouldn’t like being pruned very much.

If I saw the gardener heading my way with secateurs or pruning shears, I’d probably flinch. I would hope that he would just give me a little trim, and leave most of my luxuriant growth intact.

But the gardener invariably has other ideas.

I’d watch in horror as one branch after another was lopped off. They seemed perfectly good to me, but the gardener thought otherwise.

Why has the gardener cut me back so severely?

To make me more fruitful.

God does the same with us, and we find it just as uncomfortable.

The truth is, pruning hurts, and it seems to involve so much wastage.

But our loving Heavenly Father knows that it’s for our own good. Scripture says that it’s for His glory that we bear much fruit.

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Lessons From Sundials

Image by Incygneia from Pixabay

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.

Let’s look at a few of them…

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Absent-Minded Gardening

Photo by Roman Boed from Pxhere

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.

What gives?

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.

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Don’t Spoil Your (Spiritual) Appetite

Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

When you were young, did your parents ever admonish you not to eat sweets too close to dinner time because it would “spoil your appetite”?

Mine certainly did. However, delaying dessert until after dinner is difficult to do.

The look of a beautifully frosted cake or the smell of freshly baked cookies can be notoriously tempting. And of course, one cookie or piece of cake invariably leads to another…

Before you know it, you’ve stuffed yourself with sugary foods and are too full to eat dinner. You miss out on all the good protein and vegetables in the main meal.

I guess Mom and Dad knew best: we should fill ourselves with more nourishing things first, and leave the dessert until afterward as a treat, not the main course.

The same lesson holds for us spiritually, doesn’t it?

We should concentrate on things of substance in our lives first.

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You Already Have What It Takes!

Shepherd using his staff to guide sheep
Photo by Jim Black on Pixabay

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.

In Moses’ case, God used a simple wooden stick.

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What Geese Can Teach Us

Canada Geese Flying
Photo by David Mark on Pixabay

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.

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Miss Willmott’s Ghost

Giant Sea Holly: Photo by Matthew Richardson on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

I saw Miss Willmott’s Ghost this week.

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.

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You Already Have What You Need

Baking ingredients
Photo by Kathy Moreno on Wallpaper Flare

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?

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Lick The Bowl!

Child happily licking the bowl of cookie dough
Photo by pxfuel

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.

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