For those of us who are regular church-goers, the cessation of regular worship gatherings due to the coronavirus has been wrenching.
With churches shuttered temporarily, the children’s and youth activities, Bible studies, and men’s and women’s groups that they housed have had to close down along with them. Sure, some churches have switched to live-streamed Sunday services and online gatherings, but we’re not able to meet in person to worship or fellowship like we used to.
We probably feel a little hard done by, don’t we?
But there’s one group of Christians for whom these sorts of restrictions have long been an all too familiar reality:
When winter still has us in its icy grip, it’s hard to imagine that it will ever let us go. There seems to be no end to the frigid temperatures and snowstorms, and it can really get a person down.
What can we do to give us hope during a bleak, cold winter?
A favourite thing that gardeners do is to curl up indoors with some seed catalogues. They read about the promise of future luxuriant flower gardens and abundant crops of vegetables. It lifts their spirits and helps them hold on until spring comes.
If you’re familiar with the stock market, you probably know what a “stop-loss” is. It’s an order whereby your shares are automatically sold if their value drops to a predetermined level. This prevents your losses from becoming even greater if share prices drop further.
It’s a handy tool to set in place when trading on the stock market. It locks in your profits or limits your losses in a down market, and helps preclude financial catastrophe.
But don’t you wish we had a “stop-loss” for real-life problems?
Do you have a collection of old family recipes or cookbooks? Many of us are fortunate enough to have such treasures, lovingly passed down to us. They’re worth hanging on to.
The recipes might be contained in a cookbook, or written down on index cards and filed in a plastic or wooden box. They may be handwritten and neatly organized in a binder, or simply clipped from the newspaper and stuffed haphazardly into the pages of an old cookbook.
But no matter how the recipes are filed, there’s an easy way to tell which ones are the best:
What’s your astrological sign? Are you a Libra or a Leo? Do you read your horoscope daily and make life decisions based on that advice?
Or maybe you follow Chinese astrology, which is based on the year in which you were born rather than the month. The Chinese are about to celebrate the Lunar New Year, heralding the beginning of the Year of the Rat.
Both of these systems teach that the time cycle in which you were born determines your personality, and to some extent the course of your life. But this might leave you with a sense of being powerless, at the mercy of impersonal forces beyond your control.
Isn’t there something better to help you navigate your way through life?
Did you know that some people make a hobby out of “reading” the forest in winter? By that I mean identifying trees despite their being bare of leaves this time of year.
This can be quite challenging, because frankly, many species of trees look almost identical to each other without their leaves. How do these nature lovers do it? How do they “fill in the blanks” and distinguish one species of tree from another in winter?
You’ve got to love a plant which turns pink in the autumn. I’m referring to the Euonymus alatus shrub, whose leaves change from green to a vivid, hot pink this time of year.
One of its nicknames is “burning bush,” because in autumn the shrub looks like it’s on fire. It must have reminded people of the burning bush Moses encountered in Exodus 3, through which God spoke to him.
I think God uses many different ways to speak to us today, each a “burning bush” tailored to our unique personalities.