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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Amplify The Signal

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Does your dog or cat come running when it hears the can opener?

Does your husband?

I guess we all tune in to sounds that are important to us, don’t we?

Parents are able to zero in on the specific cry of their child at a playground. They’re able to filter out the sounds of other children to focus on their own.

If you drop some coins on the floor, everyone’s head swivels toward the sound. Our ears strain out the other ambient noises in the environment and prick up at the sound of money tinkling.

Obviously, our family and money are things that are important to us.

But what about the messages that God is trying to send us?

Do we tune in to those with as much attention?

Or are there so many distractions in our lives that we’re unable to focus on the character of God and His love for us?

Maybe we need to adjust the signal-to-noise ratio in our lives.

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Too Many Cooks

Chef Blair Rasmussen and colleagues, Vancouver, 2009
Photo by VancouverConvention on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Can you have too much of a good thing?

When it comes to chocolate, I would say an unequivocal no.

What about when it comes to having assistance in the kitchen? Surely you can’t go wrong having an abundance of help when you’re cooking?

You would think not, wouldn’t you?

But there’s a limit to how many “sous-chefs” you should have.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” This idiom can be literally true. One person might decide the soup needs more salt, so liberally adds more. The next helper might think the soup is too salty, so dilutes it to compensate.

Some might figure the soup needs more onion; others think it’s too spicy. Each tries to correct the perceived mistakes of the others until you end up with an inedible mess.

Sometimes we need to be judicious about who we listen to.

There are some key examples in Scripture which teach us that too many “cooks” or advisors can confuse and divide us.

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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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Always In Fashion

The Latest Fashions for 1866.
Image by CharmaineZoe on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Don’t you wish there was a style of clothing you could wear that would always be in fashion?

Think of it: You’d never have to worry about being caught wearing last year’s fashions. You’d never accidentally make a fashion faux-pas. Your clothes would always be in style.

Perhaps this is a notion that preoccupies women more than men. Men seem to be a bit luckier in the fashion department: styles of suits don’t evolve very rapidly over time, and they always look becoming.

Women, on the other hand, have had to put up with fashions that have changed drastically over the years and decades. Our foremothers had to endure corsets, hoop skirts, and bustles. Perhaps some of you are old enough to recall leg warmers, tie dye and jumpsuits.

Some styles inexplicably come back into fashion for a time, like bell-bottom jeans or platform shoes.

Let’s hope that some never do: women once wore skirts so wide that they had to turn sideways to get through a door!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to put on a style that would never go out of fashion?

As a matter of fact, there is such an item of “clothing.”

Scripture advises us to put on Christ.

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Not In Kansas Anymore

Characters from the film “The Wizard of Oz.” Photo by Richard Hitt.

Have you ever brought preconceived notions to a new situation, but then realized they simply don’t apply anymore?

I did something of the sort when visiting Southern California as a teen.

Growing up in Central Canada, I was used to street numbers being put on the actual houses themselves, at eye-level. But when I stayed in San Diego for a time, I noticed that the street numbers were instead spray-painted on the vertical parts of the curb at the foot of people’s driveways, just a few inches above the pavement.

That made no sense, I thought to myself. In winter, those numbers on the curb will be covered under several feet of snow, and no one will be able to read them. How silly!

I soon realized that my line of thinking was faulty: it doesn’t snow in San Diego. The numbers on the curb will always be readable. What was true for Toronto had no bearing on what was true for San Diego.

I needed to realize that I was “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy said in the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”

I think we sometimes make the same mistake when we think about the Kingdom of God.

We superimpose our past experiences and assumptions on it, but we don’t realize that with the Kingdom of God we’re in a whole new world. The old rules don’t apply anymore.

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What Makes A Garden?

Japanese garden. Image by Drobekpetr from Pixabay

If something doesn’t fit your idea of a garden, is it still a garden?

I must confess to having trouble warming up to Japanese gardens. They often feature distinctive elements such as conifers and moss, gravel raked to suggest waves in water, stone lanterns or water basins, and perhaps a bridge.

But to me, a garden isn’t really a garden unless its primary focus is an abundance of colourful flowers.

So are Japanese gardens still gardens? Very much so!

They still celebrate nature, even if some elements are suggested rather than incorporated literally. They still reflect the beauty that God has placed on this Earth. They still have the essentials down pat.

I guess I need to expand my idea of what a garden is.

We shouldn’t look askance at the way others have created their gardens. God smiles on them all.

Perhaps this is a lesson we can apply to the Christian life, too.

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Cleaning Tips From The Bible

Image by Carola K. from Pixabay

If your Mom is like mine, she’s probably given you some handy cleaning tips over the years.

She (or your Dad or caregiver) may have told you that you can use baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice as natural cleaning products.

She might have even told you about some surprising substances you can use to clean household items, like Coca-cola, mayonnaise, toothpaste or ketchup.

You may have been taught the secret to getting blood stains out of clothes: wash the fabric in cold water only. This is counterintuitive, because it’s the opposite of how you treat most other stains.

In the case of blood, however, heat will only set the stain and make it harder to remove.

It’s good to know how to deal with pesky stains: what substances to use to clean things, and what substances and methods not to use.

For instance, you’d certainly never use blood itself to clean anything.

Or would you?

Scripture tells us that there’s a special case where blood washes things whiter than snow:

When it’s the blood of Jesus.

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Being Cruel To Be Kind

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Sometimes, in the garden as in life, you have to be cruel to be kind.

Perhaps like me, you’ve started seeds indoors in late winter. I have a sunny spot in a front bay window where I put my trays of seeds.

I cover them while they’re germinating to keep them warm and moist. After they’ve sprouted, I check the seedlings daily in their protected nook and make sure they’re well watered.

Life for my little seedlings is sweet.

However, I’ve sometimes made the mistake of babying my charges too much. They then shoot up too fast and get “leggy”: their stems are tall but weak.

The problem with this is that when they’re transplanted outdoors, they won’t be able to cope well with the harsher conditions in the garden: the colder night temperatures, the wind buffeting them or the rain pelting on them.

What I need to do is subject the seedlings to a bit of hardship while they’re still in their trays indoors. So I’ve learned that I should blow on them or run my hand over them to simulate wind: this will strengthen their stems. I harden them off by gradually introducing them to greater temperature fluctuations and stronger sunlight. I let them feel a bit of cold.

The seedlings may not like what I’m doing to them, but my efforts will produce stronger plants that will have a better chance of surviving and thriving once translated outside. I do them no favours if I coddle them and leave them unprepared for the hardships they’ll face outdoors.

I think God does the same with us.

Sometimes He subjects us to unwelcome things in order to toughen us up and prepare us for what lies ahead. We may not like it, but He would be an unloving Father if He didn’t do so.

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Weed-Free Living

Image of dandelions by Hans Linde from Pixabay

Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?

Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.

Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.

I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.

Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.

Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.

Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.

All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.

This got me thinking:

Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?

Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?

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