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?
When I was a little girl, I loved to explore in the woods.
One day I came across a cicada clinging to a tree trunk. Except this insect didn’t look alive: its body was transparent, and it never moved.
What was wrong with the cicada, I wondered?
I finally realized that I wasn’t looking at a live bug, but rather at its discarded exoskeleton.
When it’s time for a nymph cicada to turn into an adult, it clings to a tree and sheds its outer body. The abandoned shell remains, still clinging to the bark of the tree, while the “reborn” cicada flies off.
My mistake that day?
I was looking for the living among the dead.
Some of the Jesus’ followers made the same error.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that many of its bridges have a story to tell.
The Pont de la Concorde is no exception.
This stone-arch bridge across the River Seine connects the Place de la Concorde with the National Assembly.
Construction of the bridge started during the late 1700s and continued even during the turmoil of the French Revolution. It was completed in 1791.
Interestingly, some of the stones used for the Pont de la Concorde were sourced from the rubble of the demolished Bastille prison. The bridge’s architect, Rudolph Perronet, said this was “so that the people could forever trample the old fortress.”
Today you can traverse this bridge and trample under your own feet the stones from the once-feared stronghold which imprisoned so many.
It’s a satisfying feeling to show your contempt for something vile by actually stomping on it, isn’t it?
Scripture tells us that Jesus will do something similar:
A funny thing happens in a city when one of its sports teams reaches the playoffs or finals.
Suddenly, everyone becomes a fan.
This is especially true if that team has suffered a trophy or title drought for a considerable length of time, perhaps decades.
The team’s fortunes become a topic of conversation everywhere in town. People talk about their team’s success while at work, in stores, or on transit. They speak with authority about the merits of certain players, or even about specific shots in particular games.
On any given day, people in town know exactly where their team stands, and how many games they need to win to achieve the championship title for that year.
My hometown of Toronto experienced this in 2019 when the Raptors won their first NBA title in the franchise’s history. Their victory was celebrated with a massive parade downtown, attended by millions.
I had friends who gushed about the Raptors’ success, then grinned sheepishly and admitted, “And I don’t even like basketball!”
Everyone loves a winner, don’t they?
But what happens when your team doesn’t produce the victory everyone is hoping for?
Jesus could tell us a thing or two about that.
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”?
We all love stories of rescues from behind enemy lines, don’t we?
There’s something thrilling about the courage of soldiers who risk their lives penetrating hostile territory for the sole aim of retrieving a fellow soldier who is trapped there.
Perhaps you’ve seen movies like “Behind Enemy Lines” or “Saving Private Ryan,” both of which feature storylines of military units launching search and rescue missions into enemy territory to retrieve one of their own soldiers.
We admire the willingness of soldiers to potentially sacrifice their own lives to save another’s. They deserve our utmost respect.
But did you know that God goes “behind enemy lines” to save people, too?
A beautiful red cardinal has been singing heartily outside my window the past week, as though it’s already spring.
My hibiscus houseplant has broken its winter dormancy and is putting forth flower buds.
But there’s still snow on the ground, and there’s bound to be more snow coming. This is Canada, after all, and it’s only March. It’s still cold enough outside to need a winter coat.
Doesn’t seem like spring to me.
Do the cardinal and the hibiscus know something I don’t?
In fact, they do. They sense the lengthening of the day and the increased hours of sunlight, things that have escaped my notice.
They know that spring is on its way, even if I can’t see it coming just yet.
In the same way, God knows a thing or two that we don’t.
He knows when a turnaround in our situation on its way, even if we can’t see any evidence of a change in the offing.
He knows that our “spring” is coming.
If you’ve ever invested in stocks or mutual funds, you’ll probably have come across a disclaimer like this:
“Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.”
This phrase is meant to warn us and give us pause before we press the “Buy” button. We shouldn’t assume that an investment will continue to succeed in the future just because it’s done so in the past.
But there’s a secondary meaning that can be read into that disclaimer, too.
We shouldn’t discount or overlook an investment opportunity simply because it has performed poorly recently. It could well turn around and gain ground.
It’s this last meaning of the disclaimer that we see exemplified in several characters in the Bible. It applies to our own lives as well:
Past failures in our lives don’t mean that God can’t still use us.
They’re not a reliable indicator of our future results or success.
If you have ever owned a cat (or have been owned by one), you’ll know that if you want to find the warmest, most comfortable place in your home, just follow the cat.
Cats unerringly zero in on the most comfortable spot in your house. They’re not above stealing your favourite chair or displacing you from your own bed in their quest for comfort.
Our feline friends consistently find the sunniest windowsill on which to perch or a warm heating vent in the floor over which to drape themselves. They’ll snuggle into the coziest, most protected part of the sofa, or stake out a claim on the most comfy lap.
Cats are masters at pinpointing zones of highest comfort.
But if you’re in need of comfort, reassurance, love and protection, where do you find it?
Follow the people who know the Source of all comfort.
Last week, NASA’s science rover “Perseverance” landed successfully on Mars, to jubilant cheers from scientists back home.
Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab near Los Angeles had been waiting anxiously for confirmation that the craft had landed safely.
Because it takes radio waves 11 minutes to reach Earth from Mars, “Perseverance” had already settled on the surface of the Red Planet by the time news of its safe arrival reached scientists back on Earth. NASA had to endure a nerve-wracking wait before they got the verification.
We encounter this time lag throughout our universe.
The light from our own Sun takes 8 minutes to reach Earth. Light from Pluto takes 5 hours. It takes 8 years for the light from the “Dog Star” Sirius to reach our planet.
This time lag means that with stars extremely distant from us, we’re actually seeing them now as they were thousands of years ago. It takes that long for their light to travel to us.
It sometimes seems as though there’s a similar “time lag” between our brains and our hearts.