Start As You Mean To Go

Image by morzaszum from Pixabay

Have you ever heard the phrase “start as you mean to go on”?

Maybe your parent or teacher taught it to you. But what exactly does it mean?

It means to begin doing something in the same manner that you intend to continue doing it: to set a consistent pattern of behaviour right from the start.

That way, everyone will know what to expect from you, and they won’t end up disappointed.

Many of us have a hard time being consistent. We start out the new year with grand resolutions about exercising more, being a better parent, or reading the Bible.

But then our enthusiasm wavers, we get busy, and our resolutions fall by the wayside.

What about Jesus? Did Jesus start as He meant to go in His earthly ministry?

Let’s take a look at His first miracle and see what we find out.

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The Dreams of the Blind

What do blind people dream about?

Do they dream in pictures, or in sensations and sounds?

Researchers tell us that it depends on when they lost their sight.

The brains of those who went blind after ages five to eight will have received a lot of visual inputs during the years when they could still see. These individuals are able to form visual dreams using the images stored in their memory banks for a good while after they’ve lost their sight.

People who are blind from birth are different, researchers say. The brains of these individuals have no visual images to work with, so they don’t dream in pictures like the rest of us. Instead, their dreams are based on input from the other senses: sound, taste, smell, or touch.

The upshot is that the blind can only dream using the inputs they’ve received.

Isn’t this true for all of us, in a way?

We can only dream about achieving or receiving things based on the examples that have been “inputted” into our minds. If we have never seen a real-life example that something is possible, we’ll probably never dream about it for ourselves.

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Watch the Impossible Happen

Image by Josef Pichler from Pixabay

They say that it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly.

The theory goes that their weight and size are too great for their tiny wings to support, so according to the laws of aerodynamics they shouldn’t be able to get off the ground.

The only problem is, no one has told the bumble bees that.

They seem to have no difficulty in buzzing about in the air from flower to flower, collecting pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive.

So how do they do it, when physics would seem to suggest that they can’t?

For a long time, this was a mystery to us. Eventually we discovered that bumble bees actually don’t defy the laws of aviation: they simply fly in a different way than a plane or bird does.

We learned that the propeller-like way they beat their wings creates an invisible force above them, like a mini-tornado or -hurricane. This vortex actually sucks them upward, giving them lift in spite of their weight.

There was more going on than met the eye, which allowed the “impossible” to happen.

Likewise, when we believe in God, there is more going on in our lives than we’re aware of.

When God is working in your life, sometimes He will cause the impossible to happen, even when you can’t see how it could.

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Not In Kansas Anymore

Characters from the film “The Wizard of Oz.” Photo by Richard Hitt.

Have you ever brought preconceived notions to a new situation, but then realized they simply don’t apply anymore?

I did something of the sort when visiting Southern California as a teen.

Growing up in Central Canada, I was used to street numbers being put on the actual houses themselves, at eye-level. But when I stayed in San Diego for a time, I noticed that the street numbers were instead spray-painted on the vertical parts of the curb at the foot of people’s driveways, just a few inches above the pavement.

That made no sense, I thought to myself. In winter, those numbers on the curb will be covered under several feet of snow, and no one will be able to read them. How silly!

I soon realized that my line of thinking was faulty: it doesn’t snow in San Diego. The numbers on the curb will always be readable. What was true for Toronto had no bearing on what was true for San Diego.

I needed to realize that I was “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy said in the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”

I think we sometimes make the same mistake when we think about the Kingdom of God.

We superimpose our past experiences and assumptions on it, but we don’t realize that with the Kingdom of God we’re in a whole new world. The old rules don’t apply anymore.

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Precedented Times Are Coming

Aren’t you a bit tired of living in “unprecedented times”?

You’re not alone. I saw a slogan on a T-shirt the other day which read, “I miss precedented times.”

We’re all longing to go back to our normal, predictable lives, the way they used to be.

But even when we’re able to return to a semblance of our pre-pandemic existence, we still aren’t guaranteed a life without injustices, sorrows and unwelcome surprises.

Jesus told us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” And ain’t that the truth!

Even so, we can have hope that with God, we can still live in “precedented times.” How so?

When you read the Bible, you find there are precedents to receiving healing, restoration, wholeness and joy, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.

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Rumour Has It

Same tree in winter and summer. Photo by Coanri/Rita on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

It can be hard to believe we’ll ever be back to normal life, can’t it?

We’ve lived so long in this pandemic-induced limbo that sometimes it doesn’t seem plausible that our regular lives will ever resume. It can seem like this state of suspended animation will drag on and on and leave our usual way of life just out of reach.

We might hear of other countries where day-to-day life is approaching normalcy, but this almost seems like a rumour intended to taunt us.

It can feel the same way in the bitter depths of winter, too. We get so accustomed to the frigid temperatures, bare trees and snow-covered landscapes that it’s hard to believe there’s such a thing as summer.

This feeling of incredulity reminds me of a quotation from John Crowley’s fantasy novel, “Little, Big”:

“Love is a myth,” Grandfather Trout said. “Like summer.”

“What?”

“In winter,” Grandfather Trout said, “summer is a myth. A report, a rumour. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”

This passage speaks of romantic love, but I think this quotation applies equally well to the way God sometimes works in our lives.

In “winter” seasons of our lives, when things aren’t going well for us, it seems like the status quo will drag on and on. We’re skeptical that anything could ever change. The idea that things will someday turn around for us seems like a cruel rumour, something it’s not safe to believe in.

But as we know, love, like summer, is not a myth or a rumour.

Neither is God’s goodness.

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Let God Surprise You!

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.

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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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“Magic” Still Happens

Vintage poster of magician from 1899
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Have you ever tried a recipe you secretly doubted would work out?

They’re often the ones with the word “magic” in the recipe title, and they seem to promise the impossible.

The “Magic Chocolate Pudding Cake” below is a good example. The recipe instructs you to press a firm batter into a baking pan, and then pour flavoured boiling water on top of it. It claims this will magically transform into cake and sauce during the baking process.

You may be a bit dubious about this, however. The batter seems too solid and unyielding, impenetrable to the liquid atop it. You don’t see how this “magical” transformation will ever happen.

As you put the baking pan in the oven, you may think, “This will never work out. This will be another culinary disaster my family will tease me about for years to come, like the time I tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but forgot to turn the oven on.”

But lo and behold, the recipe does succeed after all! The two differing natures of the mixture are indeed transformed into something new and delicious, and your family thinks you’re a genius in the kitchen.

Unlikely transformations can still happen in our lives, too.

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You Already Have What It Takes!

Shepherd using his staff to guide sheep
Photo by Jim Black on Pixabay

Have you ever thought that God could never use you in His service?

That you’re unqualified because you don’t have any special skills or talents?

Moses thought the same way.

God called him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, but Moses thought he wasn’t qualified to do so. He came up with excuse after excuse as to why he shouldn’t be chosen. He clearly felt that he didn’t have what it took.

But God can use us even when we feel ill-equipped. He takes us as we are and can use whatever we have at hand, no matter how meagre it seems.

In Moses’ case, God used a simple wooden stick.

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