I don’t know about you, but I still have trouble recognizing acquaintances when they’re wearing a mask.
One of the unusual things this pandemic has taught us is just how much we rely on a person’s whole face to clue us in to who they are.
When someone wears a mask, we’re missing half the visual information we normally get from their features. It takes us longer to cotton on to who it is.
We waltz past someone, glance at the top half of their face above their mask, and think they look vaguely familiar.
“That’s not so-and-so, is it?” we wonder, as we keep walking.
Too late, we realize it was so-and-so. We can only hope they weren’t offended that we sped past them without a hello.
This pandemic has been unnerving in many ways. Mask-wearing has robbed us of some of the crucial information we need to identify people quickly. Not only that, masks also deprive us of the ability to see people smile.
Do you ever feel like you’re only seeing half of God’s “face,” as it were?
Has hardship obscured His features from your sight? Do you long to see Him smile upon you again?
It seems like marriage proposals these days are a competitive sport.
It used to be that a man would propose to his beloved over a romantic dinner, with flowers on the table and perhaps some violins playing. He would get down on bended knee, present a ring, and ask for her hand in marriage.
Apparently, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Now, proposals have to be over-the-top. They might feature anything from fireworks to skywriting. A will-you-marry-me moment nowadays might involve a scavenger hunt, a fake movie trailer, a full orchestra and choir, or a ride in a hot-air balloon.
More adventurous grooms might enlist a celebrity in the proceedings, hire a flash mob at Times Square, or arrange to appear on the Jumbotron at a sports game.
And then there’s the man whose proposal took an entire year to create. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend Jennifer, each day for 365 days Dean Smith videotaped himself proposing to her, every time with a unique message. On the 366th day, he showed her the completed video and finally proposed in person (she said yes).
Why do people go to so much trouble?
Because they want to show their intended how much they’re loved.
Did you know that God has done the same for you?
He loves you deeply and He wants you to know it!
Let’s see how God stacks up when it comes to showing love.
Have you ever been shocked to find out that things which look nothing alike are actually closely related?
I know two men who are brothers, but who don’t resemble one another at all. One takes after his father with his dark, curly hair; the other has his mother’s straight blond hair. You would never take them for siblings by just looking at them.
It’s the same in the natural world, too. There are some plants which surprisingly belong to the same family, despite looking totally different. Broccoli and cabbages, for instance, which are both Brassicas. It’s hard to believe from their appearance that they have common roots, so to speak.
This disparity is even more evident in the animal world.
Surprisingly, jellyfish and corals are related, even though one swims like a fish and the other is fixed in place like a plant. They’re both members of the Cnidarian family.
Horseshoe crabs are actually more closely related to spiders than to other crabs, despite there seeming to be no family resemblance at all.
Elephants and manatees are kin, even though one lives on land and the other underwater.
I think the love of God follows this same pattern at times.
Sometimes His love looks nothing like what we would expect, so we don’t recognize certain circumstances as reflecting God working in our lives for our good.
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.
When you marinate food before cooking it, more is going on than meets the eye (or the taste buds).
You’re doing more than simply soaking the food in a seasoned liquid to add extra flavour to it.
You’re actually changing its structure and making it yield.
Marinating tenderizes meat, breaking down tough connective tissues to make it more palatable. It also helps meat retain moisture, ensuring that the cooked meat will be juicy and not dry.
Marinades usually have a sharp, acidic ingredient, like wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or an enzymatic one, like yogurt of papaya. Herbs, spices and oils are added as well.
Whether you use a red-wine-based marinade for beef dishes, or a tangy yogurt-lemon one for chicken, your meat is guaranteed to turn out tender and better-tasting.
Likewise, when we meditate on God’s Word, or “marinate” in it, we’re doing more than simply adding Biblical quotations to our knowledge base.
As we absorb and internalize Scripture, it changes us and leaves us better off than before.
I truly think that God is in favour of ice cream.
Don’t believe me? Let me try to convince you.
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were told that God would be bringing them into the Promised Land, a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
Well, milk is a dairy product, right? And honey is a sweetener. If you’ve got a dairy product and a sweetener, you’re halfway to ice cream right there. (To get all the way, see the recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream below.)
Too bad the ancient Israelites hadn’t invented freezers, or they could have enjoyed ice cream on the shores of the Mediterranean. Nothing tops eating refreshing ice cream on a sunny day at the beach, does it?
I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek with this, of course, but I do believe there’s a lesson that we need to learn from God’s promise to the Israelites about a land flowing with milk and honey.
It shows us that God delights in giving His children good things.
But sometimes we may find this hard to believe.
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?
We all love receiving more than we expected, don’t we?
Like when you order a product online, and to your surprise the company throws in some extra goodies or samples as a bonus.
Or perhaps it’s your birthday, and your family outdoes themselves with a party, special gifts and a scrumptious meal, all despite being in a lockdown.
It makes us feel valued to be the recipients of these unexpected blessings.
God certainly knows this. That’s why He often seems to enjoy outdoing Himself, showing up in a big way in answer to prayer or simply to demonstrate His power and majesty.
This is how Paul describes God’s “above and beyond” abilities in Ephesians 3:20:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (NKJV, italics mine)
The term Paul uses to express God’s ability to work beyond what we pray for, think or even dream is possible is variously translated “superabundantly more” (AMP), “infinitely more” (NLT), “immeasurably more” (NIV) and “far more abundantly beyond all” (NASB).
However you phrase it, it says a lot about God’s character, His generosity and his abounding love for His children.
Aristotle said that “nature abhors a vacuum.”
So do I, frankly. Perhaps I should simply stop vacuuming? After all, who am I to argue with Aristotle?
Seriously, though, what that phrase suggests is that empty spaces are unnatural, and somehow or other nature will seek to fill them.
I encountered a dramatic example of this truism through a friend of my late father.
This friend had developed a disorder called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Macular degeneration had left voids or blank spots in his field of vision. The brain finds these empty spaces to be disturbing, so in Charles Bonnet Syndrome it fills in the blank areas with patterns or random images from its memory bank.
The result was that my father’s friend would “see” people or animals that weren’t actually there. His wife would have to tell him that, no, there wasn’t really a stranger sitting on their couch, or a cow in their backyard. The hallucinations he experienced were just his brain attempting to paper over the upsetting voids in his visual field.
It seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, too.
We all have voids or empty spaces in our lives that we seek to fill: areas of dissatisfaction, lack of love or absence of validation. These blank areas make us uneasy, so we try to fill them up.
Have you been prone to “doomscrolling” recently?
Doomscrolling is a new word that’s been coined to describe the habit of obsessively consuming a large quantity of negative online news.
The committee of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary even named “doomscrolling” their Word of the Year for 2020.
Humans have a natural tendency to pay more attention to bad news, but the doomscrolling trend has accelerated during the pandemic.
We compulsively check our news apps and social media feeds, endlessly scanning the latest ominous headlines. We feed ourselves a steady diet shocking or disheartening news about rising COVID-19 case numbers, hospital intensive care units filling up, businesses shutting down, political instability or even weather woes.
We can’t seem to help ourselves, even when we sense that doomscrolling is probably detrimental to our mental health. All this bad news saturating our minds can leave us depressed, anxious, angry or hopeless.
We need an antidote to the feeling of despair that doomscrolling can produce.
I’d like to propose that we adopt a new habit: