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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Focus On Alpha and Omega, not Delta and Omicron

Alpha and Omega letters. Image by J. & R. Lamb Studios, 1857, U.S.Library of Congress Collection via Picryl

Just when you thought you could see a light at the end of the tunnel, the light bulb burns out.

This pandemic sort of feels like that, doesn’t it?

It almost looked like we were getting a handle on COVID-19, and then along comes the Omicron variant. At this juncture it still remains to be seen just how benign or destructive Omicron will be, and whether it will displace the Delta variant. But it’s not the news we wanted to hear, was it?

And there’s always the possibility that other variants may develop in the future. With each of them now being named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, I’m learning a bit more Greek these days than I cared to!

But really, there are only two letters of the Greek alphabet that believers need to focus on, and they’re not Delta and Omicron.

They’re Alpha and Omega.

These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In the Bible, this pair of letters represents both God the Father and Jesus Christ.

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How To Be The Best Dressed Person At Any Gathering

Image by Andrew Vargas on Flickr CC BY-2.0

If you live in a cold climate, you’ll know that getting dressed to go outside in winter can be quite an operation.

This is particularly true if you have children. Getting your little one bundled up warmly enough to brave the frigid temperatures outside can take a great deal of time.

First, you have to make sure they have warm underclothes and socks on. Then, you might dress them in layers of several tops, and select pants made of warm, thick material.

Once you’ve put their winter coat or snowsuit on them, you’re not done yet. There’s still their boots, hat, scarf, and mittens to don.

And then what inevitably happens when you’ve finally wrestled a recalcitrant child into all their winter gear, and are poised to leave the house?

Your little darling suddenly announces that they have to go to the bathroom!

Dressing in layers takes a lot more time and effort, but it’s essential to ensure that we’re kept warm and protected in winter.

Similarly, Scripture tells us to dress in spiritual “layers” as well.

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Get Your Joy Back!

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

When I was a little girl, the first snowfall of the season was a big deal.

If the snow had fallen overnight, my Mom would wake me up with, “Lori, I have a surprise for you!”

I’d then look outside to see everything covered with a blanket of pristine, white snow. I’d be excited about going outside to play in it with my friends. We’d create snow angels and snowmen, throw snowballs, go tobogganing, and perhaps even make a snow fort.

A new snowfall was an occasion for joy.

But now that I’m an adult, how do I react to a fresh snowfall?

With groans and grumbles.

I think of having to shovel it off the driveway and the sidewalk. I think of how it will make the roads slippery and the commute slower. I think of all the extra work and trouble it will cause me.

Nowadays, a new snowfall is an occasion for chores and complaints.

I guess I’ve lost the joy that new snow used to bring me.

The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives, too.

We sometimes lose the joy that our salvation initially brought us. Gradually, our focus shifts from Jesus and what He has done for us to what we feel we should be doing for Him.

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When You Can’t See God’s Face

Image by Sumanley xulx from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but I still have trouble recognizing acquaintances when they’re wearing a mask.

One of the unusual things this pandemic has taught us is just how much we rely on a person’s whole face to clue us in to who they are.

When someone wears a mask, we’re missing half the visual information we normally get from their features. It takes us longer to cotton on to who it is.

We waltz past someone, glance at the top half of their face above their mask, and think they look vaguely familiar.

“That’s not so-and-so, is it?” we wonder, as we keep walking.

Too late, we realize it was so-and-so. We can only hope they weren’t offended that we sped past them without a hello.

This pandemic has been unnerving in many ways. Mask-wearing has robbed us of some of the crucial information we need to identify people quickly. Not only that, masks also deprive us of the ability to see people smile.

Do you ever feel like you’re only seeing half of God’s “face,” as it were?

Has hardship obscured His features from your sight? Do you long to see Him smile upon you again?

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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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The Blessings of Not Seeing

Ishihara test for colour blindness. Those with normal colour vision should see a green W on a red background. Image by Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The colour blind have to take a lot by faith.

The term “colour blind” means just what it says: unable to perceive certain colours. The most common type of this vision disorder is red-green colour blindness. People with this visual deficiency may see these colours as yellowish or greyish.

While these individuals have never seen red or green, they do acknowledge that these colours exist.

Why?

Because they trust in the conviction of others who have seen red and green. They believe that those who have had real-life experience of these colours are telling the truth. So the colour blind take our word for it that these hues genuinely exist.

Basically, they believe in the existence of red and green by sheer faith.

As believers in Christ, there are fundamental things that we have to take by faith, too.

And the Bible says we will be blessed for what we haven’t seen.

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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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Your Internal Voice Recognition Software

Adele live in concert, Glasgow, 2016. Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Sometimes your eyes may fool you, but your ears know the truth.

A group of Adele impersonators found this out back in 2015.

They had gathered for a contest to choose who could best imitate the British singer Adele. The competition was filmed as a supposed BBC TV special, hosted by Graham Norton.

There was a catch, however. It wasn’t really a contest, but rather a set-up.

Unbeknownst to the other participants, the real Adele had gone undercover and had entered the competition as well. A movie effects specialist had disguised the superstar’s appearance with a fake nose and chin so that people wouldn’t recognize her. She introduced herself as “Jenny,” a nanny.

One by one, the contestants performed a song. Each had done her make-up to look like the real Adele. And some did a passable impression of her vocally, too.

Then, “Jenny” began to sing.

Once she opened her mouth and sang in her trademark style, the other “Adeles” were riveted. They got emotional as goosebumps ran up their arms. It soon dawned on them that it was actually their idol singing, not some anonymous nanny (watch the video of their reactions here).

There was no mistaking who it was anymore, even if she was in disguise.

Simply put, they knew her voice.

Did you know that, if you’re a believer, you have a similar ability within you? You have an internal “voice recognition software” that enables you to recognize Jesus’ voice.

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All in Good Time

They say cooking is an art, but baking is a science.

Part of what makes baking scientific is that it often calls for exact timing.

When you cook a roast or a turkey in the oven, the estimated cooking time can vary. The meat will be in the oven for several hours, and the recipe might give you as much as a half-hour window to start checking for doneness.

But when you’re baking cookies, the recipe will sometimes only give you a two-minute span to remove them from the oven. You have to be on your toes so you don’t miss this window, but at least you have a greater degree of certainty as to when the baking process will be over.

We humans crave certainty, don’t we? And that’s especially true when we’re going through difficult things in our personal lives.

Wouldn’t you love it if God told us exactly when our time of suffering would end?

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