The Law of the Universe

Newton’s cradle, a device which illustrates conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.

The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.

Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.

I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!

Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.

I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.

But it can be transformed.

As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”

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Weeding, Like Forgiving, Never Ends

Weeding the garden, like forgiving, is a task that’s never-ending.

We can’t simply say, “I weeded last week, so I’m done now. I won’t need to weed for the rest of the season.”

Every gardener know that the weeds will keep cropping up. The job of weeding is one that lasts for as long as you have a garden.

So it is with forgiving those who have offended or hurt us. Forgiving is not optional for believers: we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

But sometimes we think that it’s a “one-and-done” effort. We grudgingly forgive someone once, and assume we’re done with it.

Inevitably, though, we learn that it doesn’t work that way. The next week, we might ruminate about what they did to us and get mad all over again. We find there’s still a root of bitterness in our heart, and we have to forgive them once more.

Like weeding, the duty to forgive is ongoing. It may require more “rinse and repeat” cycles than you might imagine.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Nose Down, Full Throttle

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.

Stalling your aircraft is one of them.

If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.

So how does a pilot get out of a stall?

Nose down, full throttle.

This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.

To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?

It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.

In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.

Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.

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