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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ll bet most of us have seen a rainbow at some time in our lives, but have you ever seen a moonbow?
Frankly, until recently I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Moonbows, also known as lunar rainbows, are rainbows which are produced by moonlight rather than by direct sunlight. As such, they’re usually fainter than regular rainbows, and may even appear white.
But moonbows are still evidence of the sun’s presence, because they’re created by reflected sunlight bouncing off the moon. They’re a very special reminder that the sun is still shining, even when we can’t see it.
Sometimes I think God puts believing friends in our lives to function as “moonbows” for us.
In a few days, Canada will be celebrating its birthday. July 1st is Canada Day, a holiday on which we have parties, set off fireworks, and wave the flag.
We’re all attached to our national flags, aren’t we? Each is beautiful in its own way. Some flags have blocks of colour, some feature significant symbols, others have patterns of stars and stripes. A handful of countries depict plants or trees on their flags, mine among them.
Canada’s flag has a maple leaf at its centre. In fact, the nickname for our flag is the Maple Leaf. As a nature lover, I’m proud to have a symbol of a plant on my national flag, and especially pleased that it’s a leaf from one of my favourite trees.
Growing up, I loved maple trees: I climbed them, enjoyed the sugar and fudge made from their sap, collected their red and orange leaves in autumn to press and even jumped into raked-up piles of them.
I’d venture to say that all Canadians love maple trees. The trees themselves are beautiful and stately; the wood harvested from them is so strong it can be used as the flooring for bowling alleys; we harvest precious sap from them to make sought-after products; and the leaves turn gorgeous colours in the autumn.
The maple leaf is the emblem of Canada. It symbolizes who we are as a people: hardy, strong, nature-loving northerners.
Just as the maple tree is important to Canadians, there’s another tree which is very important to a certain group of people: