Bring Out The Big Guns

The Tsar Cannon, the Kremlin, Moscow.
Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay

Have you ever had a day when you simply needed chocolate?

Maybe you faced some problems, and needed a pick-me-up. Or you were dealing with a heartbreak and needed a balm for your ragged emotions.

And you knew that milk chocolate just wouldn’t cut it, let alone white chocolate.

It required the stronger stuff. You needed to bring out the big guns to help you cope with your challenges:

Dark chocolate.

Only the intense flavour and strength of chocolate with over 80% cocoa solids would do the trick. Nothing else would suffice.

Sometimes we reach a similar point in our spiritual lives, too.

The Christian life isn’t all a bed of roses. Oftentimes we face desperate circumstances, and we may find ourselves in a heap on the floor, crying our eyes out.

Maybe we’ve received a scary diagnosis from the doctor. We might have been let go from our job. Or our family might be in crisis: our marriage is in tatters or our children have gone astray.

We need help that is grounded in the gritty reality of what we’re facing. Sunny bromides like “Don’t worry, be happy” just won’t cut it.

We need to bring out the big guns.

We need the Psalms.

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Don’t Let Fear Get The Better Of You

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Do you have a fear of bugs?

Many of us do, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m one of them.

Finding a bug in the house instills terror in me. I’m convinced the bug is out to get me, lying in wait to murder me.

I’m tempted to have armed police arrive at my door to deal with the “intruder.” It takes all the self-control I can muster to refrain from dialling 911.

People tell me I’m being irrational. After all, humans are thousands of times bigger than bugs. Insects are probably more afraid of us than we are of them, right?

But I don’t see it that way, so I’m afraid to confront them.

I’ve fallen into the trap of letting my fear get out of proportion to the problem.

Many of us make this mistake. We let fear get the better of us, and it hobbles our responses to life’s challenges.

In ancient times, the children of Israel were no exception.

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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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Trust In Your Sentinel

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

It’s nice to have a bodyguard, isn’t it?

Someone who watches over you, keeps tabs on what’s happening to you, and is ready to step in if it looks like you’re headed for trouble.

Even flocks of geese have a bodyguard of sorts. The individual bird which fills this role is called a sentinel.

While the other geese are feeding, individual geese will take turns acting as protectors for the rest of the gaggle. These sentinels will stand guard, necks erect, alert to any threat from predators. They have keen eyesight and hearing, and will honk loudly to warn the others if they sense any danger.

Geese make such effective guards that we humans have often taken advantage of their services. We’ve employed geese at farms and warehouses as living alarm systems, and have even used them to guard U.S. Air Defense Command installations in Germany!

We could all use a sentinel like that in our lives, couldn’t we?

Did you know that if you’re a believer, you already have a “bodyguard”?

It’s God Himself.

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Beauty in Unexpected Places

Burl on Tree Trunk.
Image by Evelyn Simak, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA-2.0

Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.

Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).

These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.

Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.

They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.

Surely there’s nothing good about burls?

But there is.

Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.

Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.

This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.

Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?

Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?

He can!

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Have Faith, And Bring Your Umbrella!

Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay

If you’re a gardener, you know that when you plant seeds in the ground, you can expect results.

Not every seed will germinate, but a great many will. So you need to make preparations beforehand.

For instance, if you’ve planted seeds of climbing plants, you’ll need to provide something for them to cling to as they grow upward. Even if your pea or bean seeds haven’t germinated yet, you still might prepare some trellises or stakes for their eventual growth.

You wouldn’t think of not getting ready for the emergence of your seedlings and adult plants, would you? You have faith that they’re on the way.

Isn’t it funny, then, that when we pray and ask God for things, we often don’t really expect we’ll see any results?

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The Unexpected Detour

Photo by awsloley on Pixabay

While going for a walk recently at a track in my neighbourhood, I noticed something that hadn’t been there before.

There was now a second path parallel to the old gravel track circling the playing fields. This new footpath had been beaten into the grass over the summer and fall by people wanting to jog while still physically distancing from those on the main path.

It got me thinking how events in our lives often make us forge a new path.

For just about all of us, the coronavirus has diverted our life path onto an unexpected detour. Some of us may have experienced a job loss or had our health impacted. All of us have had our daily routines disrupted and our plans upended.

We’re having to travel a new path, one we’ve never taken before.

But the good news is that God knows which way we should go, and will lead us in the right direction.

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“Magic” Still Happens

Vintage poster of magician from 1899
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Have you ever tried a recipe you secretly doubted would work out?

They’re often the ones with the word “magic” in the recipe title, and they seem to promise the impossible.

The “Magic Chocolate Pudding Cake” below is a good example. The recipe instructs you to press a firm batter into a baking pan, and then pour flavoured boiling water on top of it. It claims this will magically transform into cake and sauce during the baking process.

You may be a bit dubious about this, however. The batter seems too solid and unyielding, impenetrable to the liquid atop it. You don’t see how this “magical” transformation will ever happen.

As you put the baking pan in the oven, you may think, “This will never work out. This will be another culinary disaster my family will tease me about for years to come, like the time I tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but forgot to turn the oven on.”

But lo and behold, the recipe does succeed after all! The two differing natures of the mixture are indeed transformed into something new and delicious, and your family thinks you’re a genius in the kitchen.

Unlikely transformations can still happen in our lives, too.

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The Key to Stronger Faith

Chickadee Photo by Larry Doucet on Pixabay

A chickadee may have a bird-brain, but it can actually be pretty smart.

Especially if it lives in a harsh climate.

What does climate have to do with bird intelligence? As it turns out, more than you’d expect.

Biologists have discovered that chickadees living in the mountains or in northern latitudes, where the weather is more severe, were smarter than their peers living more comfortably down below.

Chickadees from harsher habitats had superior spatial memories and problem-solving abilities than those living in gentler climes. They were better at finding stored caches of food and at figuring out how to access a worm treat that scientists had cleverly tucked into a glass tube.

The harsh environment makes their brains work a bit harder.

Is there a lesson for humans in the example of the chickadees?

Yes, but it isn’t to move to a more wintry climate (take it from a Canadian who’s done her share of shovelling snow—it hasn’t made me smarter!).

The takeaway here is that there can be unseen benefits to the challenges we face.

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A Special Kind of Faith

Tulip bulbs at a flower market
Photo from Pxhere, Public Domain

They say that planting seeds is an act of faith.

I think that’s true: you put seeds in the ground in spring, hoping most will germinate and grow into a plant. If you’re lucky, you might see hints of growth in a few days, but often it can be weeks before a little green head pokes its way out of the soil.

If planting seeds takes faith, then I think it takes a special kind of faith to plant bulbs in the fall.

In the fall, you know the days are getting shorter and colder. The leaves are dropping from the trees, and tender plants are beginning to die from early frosts. You know that snow will soon blanket the garden to the depth of a couple feet. You’re heading into a barren season.

The precious tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs that you’ve just planted will disappear from your view for many months. You’ll have no indication that they’re all right, let alone any guarantee that they’ll eventually bloom. They may fall prey to rabbits, squirrels or deer. Who knows what will happen to them?

And yet you still go ahead and plant fall bulbs, trusting that they’ll survive the frigid winter and bloom later in spring.

Some things in our lives take special faith to trust for, too, don’t they?

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