Have You Found The Way?

Image by claumoho on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Have you ever tried navigating through a maze?

Perhaps as a kid you tried to find your way in and out of a hedge maze in a park. Or maybe you visited a maze made of corn or sunflower stalks in a farmer’s field. They’re fun, aren’t they?

Mazes can vary dramatically in size. Some are so large that visitors are given an emergency cell phone number to call if they get lost in the maze and can’t find their way out!

You might wonder, is a maze the same as a labyrinth?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but there’s actually a difference between them.

A maze is known as “multicursal.”

It branches off into many confusing paths and surprising dead ends. A maze may have several entrances and exits. The surrounding hedges or walls are so high and dense that you can’t see the whole pattern unless you get up high in a viewing tower or balloon ride. A maze is for entertainment, a fun puzzle to try to solve.

A labyrinth, on the other hand, is “unicursal.”

A labyrinth has only one track or walkway, and it doesn’t branch off into dead ends. There’s only one way in or out. You enter, follow the path to the centre, and continue on the same path until you reach the exit. Sometimes the barriers on either side are very low, allowing you to see the entire pattern. Walking a labyrinth can be a calming, spiritual practice.

Which does Christianity most resemble, a maze or a labyrinth?

Jesus implies that it’s more like a labyrinth:

There’s only one way in, and one path to follow.

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Forward Guidance From God

1890s image of banker from Picryl, Library of Congress collection, Public Domain.

Central bankers can be inscrutable folk.

They issue statements regarding the economy that can sometimes be a bit enigmatic and vague.

Economists and journalists pore over every word of each press release, trying to read between the lines and guess at what the central banker is thinking and planning.

At other times, however, central bankers are more forthright.

They issue what is known as “forward guidance”: clearcut statements about the likely course of future monetary policy.

They may plainly state that at their next scheduled meeting, interest rates will be going up (or down). People are able to make decisions about mortgages or loans based on that foreknowledge.

Don’t you wish that God offered “forward guidance”?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God let you know in advance what’s coming down the pike in your life?

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We Must Experience Christ Firsthand

What’s your favourite floral fragrance?

If you said rose or lavender, you’re in luck.

These flowers are among those from which we can easily extract essential oils. These substances can then be used in products ranging from perfumes to scented soaps. If you love the smell of these flowers, you have all manner of ways to experience the scent. You can do so directly, by smelling the flower, or secondhand, as it were, through items made from their oils.

But some flowers don’t produce enough usable essential oils.

My favourite floral scent, lilac, is one of them.

Unfortunately for me, the aromatic compounds in lilacs are nearly impossible to acquire. Trying to extract the fragrance through steam distillation can end up destroying the scent profile. And the tiny amount of essential oils that may result are so expensive to produce that it’s not economically worthwhile to bother.

The end result is that you can’t buy true lilac essential oil. Perfumers may be able to mimic the scent of lilacs through synthesis, but the resulting fragrance hasn’t been distilled solely from the actual flower itself; it’s merely an approximation, a blend of other floral notes. No chemist can authentically capture the unique scent of the lilac.

If you want to experience the true fragrance of lilacs, there’s only one way to do it. You have to experience it “live,” by smelling an actual cluster of flowers.

Likewise, if we want to experience Jesus, it has to be “live.”

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Sticker Shock

Image by Merio from Pixabay

Have you been taken aback recently by rising prices?

I think a lot of us have been suffering from sticker shock lately.

Whether it’s an item at the grocery store, gas at the pumps, or a house to live in, prices have been going up.

We look at something that we’re accustomed to buying at a certain amount and do a double-take at the suddenly inflated cost.

We think, “Are you kidding me? I’m not paying that much! They’ve got to be crazy charging that price.”

And off we stomp in a huff.

But aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t do the same?

He could easily have suffered from “sticker shock” when faced with the incalculable price He’d have to pay to save us from our sins.

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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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There’s No Place Like Home

Image by burtamus from Pixabay

There’s no place like home, is there?

A lot of animals would agree with that statement, if they could speak.

Many birds and animals have an uncanny “homing instinct” that allows them to travel thousands of miles to return to the very same location each year.

Monarch butterflies from eastern North America return to the same wintering grounds in central Mexico each year, even to the very same forest.

Sea-dwelling Pacific salmon return to the same river they were born in to spawn.

Pregnant sea turtles migrate thousands of miles across the ocean to lay their eggs on the same beach on which they were born decades earlier.

And then there are homing pigeons, the champions of long-distance way-finding. Their homing instincts are so reliable that they’ve been used in wartime to deliver crucial messages over enemy lines.

But how do they do it?

One theory suggests that homing pigeons may have a mineral called magnetite in their beaks, which acts as a tiny GPS unit. This would allow them to sense the earth’s magnetic fields and their own position in relation to it. If true, it would mean that these birds are essentially flying compasses, with their beaks pointing them in the direction they should go.

It makes me wonder: do humans have a “homing instinct”?

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Believe Six Impossible Things!

Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party. Image from Pixy.org CC BY-NC-ND-4.0

With 2020 behind us, it’s time to believe that good things are in store for us in 2021.

Are you having trouble believing that? Has your faith been a bit battered by the events of the past year? Do you find it difficult to believe that God has something good lined up for your future?

You’re not the only one to think certain things are simply impossible.

Have you read the book, “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll? At one point in the story, Alice is challenged by the White Queen to believe impossible things.

When the Queen says that she’s a hundred and one years old, Alice is incredulous.

“I can’t believe that,” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said, in a pitying tone. “Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed.

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Even though this story is fictional, I think we as believers in God can learn a lesson from it. Sometimes God wants us to believe things that the world might consider to be “impossible.”

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Preparing a Place Just For You

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pixabay

If this were a normal Christmas, I imagine that many of us would be preparing to have guests over for the holidays.

We’d be spiffing up the house, decorating the Christmas tree, and getting the guest bedroom ready for overnight visitors.

We might also be planning the decorations for the dining table: choosing which candles and flowers to use, bringing out the best china, or making whimsical place cards.

It’s fun to prepare for guests, isn’t it? Selecting special touches that you know they’ll like, ensuring that they’ll be comfortable, even customizing things so that each guest feels cherished.

This year, however, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into our Christmas plans. For many of us, preparing for guests is something that’s off the menu.

But did you know that there’s someone who’s still preparing a place for you, pandemic or not?

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Signs From God

Image by Annalise Batista on Pixabay

I used to love eating Doritos, and would buy them regularly at the store.

I finally admitted, however, that junk food like this wasn’t very good for me, so I stopped buying them.

Except when they were on sale: then I viewed it as a sign from God that I could buy some.

I’m just kidding, of course: a sale on Doritos is NOT a sign from God. I was just fooling myself and creating a reason why I could have what I wanted.

It’s sometimes hard to recognize when something really is a sign from God, isn’t it? We put our own spin on circumstances, and conveniently draw the conclusions that align with our desires.

But there are some things that we can be absolutely certain are signs from God, because they align with His Word.

When you see the following “signs” in your life, take note and obey them:

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Blue Roses and Black Tulips

Photo by Faye Mozingo on Pixabay

For generations, gardeners have been trying to achieve the impossible: to breed a truly blue rose or a perfectly black tulip.

These two flowers have so intrigued people’s imaginations that they’ve entered both lore and literature.

Blue roses are often used to symbolize mystery and a longing to attain the impossible. Some cultures even say that whoever holds a blue rose will have his or her wishes granted.

Black tulips were featured in an 1850 novel by Alexander Dumas called what else but “The Black Tulip.” This swashbuckling tale of love, murder and greed centres on the quest for a unique jet-black tulip.

The problem is that blue roses and black tulips don’t exist in nature. Roses lack the specific gene that allows for a “true blue” colour. It’s the same story with black tulips: optically black flowers are virtually unknown in nature.

Plant breeders have come close to achieving a blue rose through hybridization, but the “blue” is often closer to lilac or mauve. To produce a bluer flower, they’ve had to resort to dyeing or genetically modifying the plant.

As for tulips, the “black” ones are usually a deep eggplant or plum colour. They give the appearance of being extremely dark, but are not optically black.

Maybe this is a hint that we were never meant to find perfection in this world.

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