What traditions does your family have when it comes to Christmas gifts?
Do some of your family members like to give “prank” gifts?
This seems to be the specialty of a lot of Dads. Kids unwrap a gift from Dad to find an iPad box, and squeal with glee. When they open the box, however, they discover that inside are a bunch of eye pads! Thanks, Dad!
Or perhaps your family likes to disguise what the gift really is by wrapping it in a way that leaves you guessing. You might receive a large box, but when you unwrap it you find that it contains a series of increasingly smaller boxes. The last one contains the real gift, which might be a tiny box with jewellery inside.
In my family, we always open our gifts on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day itself. This tradition started when a certain little girl, who shall remain nameless, couldn’t wait until Christmas morning to see what “Santa” had brought her.
But no matter how a gift is wrapped or when it’s given, offering the gift is only half the equation.
It has to be received before the action is complete.
We seem to have difficulty being still these days, don’t we?
For many of us, life happens at warp speed. We’re always on the go, and have little downtime to pause and reflect on things.
But with all our constant motion, are we missing out on something?
Recently, I visited a park with a pond large enough to almost be a small lake. A slight breeze left ripples on the water, disturbing the reflection of the trees in the distance. The image on the water’s surface was wavy and impressionistic, not a true representation of the landscape nearby.
I then walked to a different part of the park where a river flowed lazily into the pond. The water was running slowly, and because it was sheltered from the breeze in this area, it was very still. The trees here were perfectly reflected in the water, giving a mirror image of their true forms.
I guess that to get the best reflection in water, stillness is the key.
Perhaps the spiritual lesson here is that if our lives are too frantic, it’s hard for us to reflect Christ.
One of the greatest natural events on Earth is now underway: the migration of the monarch butterfly.
Each fall, millions of these colourful insects set off from their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada for a gruelling journey. They travel thousands of miles across North America all the way to Mexico, where they’ll spend the winter.
Many people believe that the monarch butterflies which leave in the fall are the same ones which arrive back in the spring, but this isn’t so. Individual butterflies don’t make the entire round-trip journey. The ones which migrate from the northeastern part of North America in fall will never return.
Rather, their great-great-grandchildren are the ones who will arrive the following spring, as successive generations keep making their way north. The entire annual migration cycle of the monarch takes about four generations.
Perhaps I’m being fanciful, but I can imagine monarch butterflies telling their children of the awesome journey they’ll be undertaking. They may say that they’ll only be able to go part of the way with them, but to keep the faith and keep going.
Maybe they encourage their children to tell successive generations to keep believing in the promise of return. Because eventually, their descendants will see the promise fulfilled.
One of the wonderful things about chocolate (and there are many), is how well it pairs with other foods.
Chocolate seems to go well with just about everything. It marries happily with fruits like strawberries, raspberries, pears, cherries and bananas. It perfectly complements the flavours of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Chocolate cheerfully coexists with citrus, coconut, ginger, caramel, coffee, dairy or mint. It has even been known to blend with the flavours of chili and meat in some Mexican dishes.
Some adventurous people claim that chocolate goes well with broccoli (well, perhaps…if you held the broccoli).
You’ve got to hand it to a food that is uncompromising about its own flavour yet harmonizes with such a wide variety of other substances.
Did you know that the Bible implies that we should be a bit like chocolate? Not in so many words, of course, but the concept is still there.
In a few days, Canada will be celebrating its birthday. July 1st is Canada Day, a holiday on which we have parties, set off fireworks, and wave the flag.
We’re all attached to our national flags, aren’t we? Each is beautiful in its own way. Some flags have blocks of colour, some feature significant symbols, others have patterns of stars and stripes. A handful of countries depict plants or trees on their flags, mine among them.
Canada’s flag has a maple leaf at its centre. In fact, the nickname for our flag is the Maple Leaf. As a nature lover, I’m proud to have a symbol of a plant on my national flag, and especially pleased that it’s a leaf from one of my favourite trees.
Growing up, I loved maple trees: I climbed them, enjoyed the sugar and fudge made from their sap, collected their red and orange leaves in autumn to press and even jumped into raked-up piles of them.
I’d venture to say that all Canadians love maple trees. The trees themselves are beautiful and stately; the wood harvested from them is so strong it can be used as the flooring for bowling alleys; we harvest precious sap from them to make sought-after products; and the leaves turn gorgeous colours in the autumn.
The maple leaf is the emblem of Canada. It symbolizes who we are as a people: hardy, strong, nature-loving northerners.
Just as the maple tree is important to Canadians, there’s another tree which is very important to a certain group of people:
Do you live in an area with a snowy climate? Then you’ll know the sheer joy of trying to drive during a heavy snowstorm.
The snowplow hasn’t come by yet, so for starters no one can see the lane markers. Cars start to slip and slide into the wrong lane. Drivers become less able to stop their vehicles in time at red lights, or to get up large hills. Cars might be stuck at the side of the road, wheels spinning fruitlessly. The number of car accidents skyrockets, and everyone is late for work.
It’s delightful, isn’t it?
But there are a few tricks to driving in snow, and they also apply to navigating through the difficulties of life.
Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.
If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:
If you look out the window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the beautiful autumn leaves in the park next to us (remember, we’re a virtual cafe, so use your mind’s eye).
We’re fortunate in Toronto to live in a part of the world where the green leaves of summer change to spectacular colours of yellow, orange, red, purple and bronze during fall. If you ask many people here, they’ll say fall is their favourite season, and the gorgeous changing leaves play a big part in that.