God Sees You in Infrared

Bee on cosmos flower
Photo by Veronica H. on Pixabay

Did you know that some birds and bees can see things that are completely invisible to us? They’re able to see in infrared, just beyond the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum that human eyes can detect.

What looks to us like a regular pink flower might resemble a helicopter landing pad to a bee. Where we see only the uniform expanse of one colour, the bee may see a target-shaped design of several differently coloured concentric circles. The bee’s infrared vision allows it to home in on the most nectar-rich part of the flower.

The world looks completely different when you can see in infrared.

I sometimes think that God sees us in “infrared.” He can see things in us that are invisible to others, and even to ourselves.

Read more

Beauty Out Of Brokenness

Sea glass on a rock
Photo by treenabelle on Pixabay

Once the worst of this pandemic is over, psychologists warn that many of us may suffer from post-traumatic stress for some time to come. Some of us will have lost a job, seen our business close down for good, suffered isolation and loneliness, or may have even lost a loved one during the COVID-19 crisis.

But is PTSD a given in these circumstances? Is there different outcome that can occur, an unexpected benefit that may arise out of these difficult times?

Psychologists say yes: there’s such a thing as post-traumatic growth. It’s been found in survivors of war, cancer, and natural disasters. Some people emerge from a crisis with increased spirituality, a greater sense of personal strength, new priorities and closer relationships with others. What could have broken them actually made them better.

This phenomenon reminds me a bit of “sea glass.” Sea glass, or beach glass, found washed up on shores, starts out as merely cast-aside pieces of broken glass. Perhaps they’ve been tossed overboard from a ship, or thrown into the sea from land along with other garbage.

These shards of glass endure years of being buffeted against the stones of the sea bottom. It seems like they’re being dashed about mercilessly by the relentless action of the waves. Surely no good could come of this?

But then, something almost magical emerges.

Read more

An Invisible Crisis

Empty streets of Milan, Italy during the pandemic
Photo by Alberto Trentanni on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There’s something strange about the crisis the world is undergoing right now: from the outside, things look surprisingly normal.

If you view the streets of your town during this pandemic, most things look the same as they did before. The buildings are intact, the streetlights come on at night like clockwork, and the spring flowers are blooming. This isn’t a crisis like a flood or earthquake, where the devastation is plain to see.

The COVID-19 crisis seems almost invisible, until you realize that something isn’t quite right when you look around: missing from the scene is the normal hum of human activity. The workplaces are shut, people aren’t in restaurants, and children aren’t in playgrounds. An eerie quiet pervades most areas.

It’s only when you look behind closed doors that you see the devastating impact of the pandemic. The high death toll in some nursing homes, the stressed out health care workers, and the loneliness of self-isolation.

When we have a crisis of our own, like depression or despair, we can look a bit like those intact buildings. Things look normal from the outside. When people look at us, there’s no evidence of the turmoil raging within.

Read more

Shelter in the Best Place

An Impregnable Fortress: Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, England
Photo by Ryan Lea on Flickr CC BY-2.0

During the past week hundreds of millions of people around the globe have been told to “shelter in place,” a phrase normally reserved for natural disasters or violent attacks. In today’s context, it means to stay at home for a certain length of time to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Good advice. But what if it’s your heart that needs shelter? Where can you go when you need protection from emotional distress?

The Bible speaks of a shelter that believers can turn to when events threaten to overwhelm us:

The arms of our loving God.

Read more

Your Finest Hour

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.

Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.

Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”:

Read more

How To Make Maple Syrup

Collecting maple sap the traditional way, in buckets

Sometimes the sweetest things take the most effort to produce, don’t they?

Take, for instance, maple syrup, one of Canada’s iconic products. We often use it atop pancakes or waffles, or in desserts (see below). This delicious liquid starts out as sap collected from sugar maple trees.

Right now it’s maple syrup season in Eastern Canada: as the weather warms, the sap in the trees starts flowing freely. Holes are drilled into the trunks of the maples, and buckets or tubing collects the dripping sap, which is then transported to a central location.

And then it’s ready to be bottled, right? No! Actually, the process has only just begun.

Read more

Orchestra In Your Garden

Snowdrops, one of the harbingers of spring

Finally! At long last we’re starting to see signs of spring here in Toronto.

There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but the tiny snowdrops in my garden are already shyly blooming. The tulips are just starting to poke the tips of their leaves above the ground like a periscope, as if checking to see whether it’s safe to emerge.

“The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.” (Song of Solomon 2:12 NLT)

After a long winter, it makes my heart sing to see the beginnings of spring.

But do the flowers and trees themselves sing? And if they do, what is their song telling us?

Read more

Volatility Index of Your Heart

Feel like pressing the panic button?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-2.0

If you follow the stock market, you might be familiar with something called the Volatility Index. Sometimes called the “fear index,” it gauges the market’s anxiety level.

When investors are fearful and markets are in turmoil, the volatility index spikes higher. Now happens to be one of those times, thanks to fears over the impact of the coronavirus.

It made me wonder, do our hearts have a “volatility index” of their own?

And if they do, what can we do to keep our emotions on an even keel, when our circumstances might give us every reason to panic? How can we find peace even in the midst of turmoil?

Read more

Try Looking Up

People transfixed by their phones, Hyde Park, London
Photo by Waterford_Man on Flickr CC BY-2.0

The other day I went for walk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Even though the trees were bare of leaves and there was snow on ground, it was still a place of great beauty.

I noticed something strange, however, about the other visitors to the park. I must have passed at least a dozen other people as I walked the winding trail down the ravine to the river, but they were all standing stock-still.

Had I wandered onto a set for some science-fiction movie, in which aliens freeze people in place in advance of taking over the planet? Or had all these people been suddenly afflicted with a disease that left them immobilized?

No, the reason they were standing as motionless as statues was because they were all staring down at their smartphones.

Read more