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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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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Cake Mix Religion

Photo by Roadside Pictures on Flickr CC BY-NC-2.0

Is there such a thing as something being too easy?

The original developers of cake mixes seemed to believe so.

When cake mixes first debuted in the 1930s, all the baker had to do was add water and then bake. It was as easy as pie, so to speak.

But they soon realized they had to tweak the recipe. First off, the powdered eggs in the original mixes didn’t taste that great.

Later, psychologists thought that bakers wanted to feel more involved in the cake-baking process. Home bakers found the mixes a bit too easy, as though they weren’t putting in enough effort. There was a sense that baking a cake from a mix didn’t really count.

So the cake mix companies changed their recipes to require home bakers to add fresh eggs in addition to the liquid. Putting the eggs back in the hands of the bakers proved to be the winning formula.

I sometimes wonder if we apply the same logic to our faith.

Does trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins seem like it’s only part of the recipe?

Are we sometimes tempted to add in some effort on our own part to make it “complete”?

Does faith alone seem too easy?

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Sticker Shock

Image by Merio from Pixabay

Have you been taken aback recently by rising prices?

I think a lot of us have been suffering from sticker shock lately.

Whether it’s an item at the grocery store, gas at the pumps, or a house to live in, prices have been going up.

We look at something that we’re accustomed to buying at a certain amount and do a double-take at the suddenly inflated cost.

We think, “Are you kidding me? I’m not paying that much! They’ve got to be crazy charging that price.”

And off we stomp in a huff.

But aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t do the same?

He could easily have suffered from “sticker shock” when faced with the incalculable price He’d have to pay to save us from our sins.

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The Most Valuable Thing On Earth

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?

If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.

If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.

You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.

These would all be good guesses, but not even close.

What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.

If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.

This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.

But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…

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With God, You Get the Flower First!

Redbud blossoms. Photo by Sheila Brown, Public Domain CC0

Sometimes nature can be a bit unpredictable—things happen in an order we wouldn’t expect.

Normally, plants put forth leaves long before they produce flowers.

But some trees and shrubs flip the script, so to speak.

With certain plants, the normal sequence is reversed: the flowers come first, before the leaves have developed.

A good example is the beautiful redbud tree. It puts forth gorgeous pink flowers on its bare branches in early spring, when none of its leaves are yet in sight.

The forsythia shrub bears its bright yellow flowers in advance of its leaves, and the lovely magnolia presents its pink or white blooms before the green foliage appears. Some maples and oaks also exhibit this flower-first behaviour, although with less showy blossoms.

All of these plants give us a treat in springtime when we’re starved for colour. We get the flower first without having to wait for the leaves.

Why do some plants reverse the normal order of things?

Some trees are wind-pollinated, so put forth flowers before their bulky leaves get in the way. The same goes for flowers that need extra sunlight. Other plants produce a mass of conspicuous flowers first, unobscured by leaves, to better attract the attention of pollinating insects.

Did you know that God also flipped the script and gave us the flower first, so to speak?

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Inscribed in the Palms of His Hands

Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

Have you ever been tempted to carve initials or names in the trunk of a tree?

Perhaps linking yours with those of someone you love, like “M + F” or “Josh loves Amanda”? The inscriptions could last for centuries, emblems immortalizing your love for generations to come.

(Of course, as a nature lover, I’d rather people not make carvings in the bark of a living tree. But I can understand the impulse to do so.)

In fact, people have been engraving things on tree trunks for millennia.

Birch trees are a natural choice due to their white bark. The smooth silver-grey bark of beech trees is also a magnet for trunk-carvers. Indo-European peoples have used it for writing-related purposes since antiquity. In some modern European languages, the words for “book” and “beech” are either very close or identical. No wonder the beech has been called the “patron tree” (sort of like a patron saint) of writers.

Did you know that God sometimes inscribes things in usual places, too?

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Ultimate Victory Is Coming

Pont de la Concorde, Paris. Image by David Mark from Pixabay

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that many of its bridges have a story to tell.

The Pont de la Concorde is no exception.

This stone-arch bridge across the River Seine connects the Place de la Concorde with the National Assembly.

Construction of the bridge started during the late 1700s and continued even during the turmoil of the French Revolution. It was completed in 1791.

Interestingly, some of the stones used for the Pont de la Concorde were sourced from the rubble of the demolished Bastille prison. The bridge’s architect, Rudolph Perronet, said this was “so that the people could forever trample the old fortress.”

Today you can traverse this bridge and trample under your own feet the stones from the once-feared stronghold which imprisoned so many.

It’s a satisfying feeling to show your contempt for something vile by actually stomping on it, isn’t it?

Scripture tells us that Jesus will do something similar:

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Your “Spring” Is On Its Way!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

A beautiful red cardinal has been singing heartily outside my window the past week, as though it’s already spring.

My hibiscus houseplant has broken its winter dormancy and is putting forth flower buds.

But there’s still snow on the ground, and there’s bound to be more snow coming. This is Canada, after all, and it’s only March. It’s still cold enough outside to need a winter coat.

Doesn’t seem like spring to me.

Do the cardinal and the hibiscus know something I don’t?

In fact, they do. They sense the lengthening of the day and the increased hours of sunlight, things that have escaped my notice.

They know that spring is on its way, even if I can’t see it coming just yet.

In the same way, God knows a thing or two that we don’t.

He knows when a turnaround in our situation on its way, even if we can’t see any evidence of a change in the offing.

He knows that our “spring” is coming.

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His Footprints Are Still Here

Footprint on the Moon. Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

“The footprints are still there,” the article began.

Whose footprints? And where?

The article was talking about the footprints of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the ten others who have walked on the moon.

Astonishingly, their footprints are still there. It’s been over 50 years since humans first walked on the lunar landscape, but the moon’s dusty surface is still marked with our historic bootprints.

How can this be?

After all, here on earth, footprints in the dirt can be washed away by rain days later. An imprint of a foot on a sandy beach might be erased in seconds by an incoming wave. Other people or vehicles can trample a footprint, cancelling it out.

But it’s different on the moon. The moon has no atmosphere, and therefore no breezes or rain to erode any footprints. Earth’s satellite also doesn’t get a lot of visitors, so no one else’s footprints or vehicle tracks have obscured those made half a century ago.

Scientists suggest that the lunar footprints of the astronauts might last a million years, maybe almost as long as the moon itself continues to exist.

That couldn’t happen here on earth. Or could it?

Are there footprints on earth that will last for millennia or eons, or even for eternity?

Yes.

The footprints of Jesus will.

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