Straight Out of Left Field

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Have you ever had a time in your life when God did a work for you that came straight out of left field?

The blessing, provision or miracle he bestowed on you caught you off guard and astonished you. It was completely unexpected and surprising.

You never saw it coming.

God seems to like to work that way, doesn’t he?

Think of Moses in the Old Testament, when he was leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.

They found themselves in a jam: cornered at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army snapping at their heels.

Moses had faith that God would save them, but I wonder if he was racking his brains trying to figure out just how it would happen.

Maybe God would send a flotilla of boats from the other side to rescue them, Dunkirk-style? But no one knew they were coming, and at any rate, the only people on the other side were either enemies or strangers.

Maybe God would send an affable and reasonable Egyptian captain to negotiate with Moses? Not likely, since all of Egypt’s firstborn had just been killed. The Egyptians were in no mood to parley with their escaped slaves.

No matter what Moses came up with as a potential solution, he never could have expected the curveball that God threw:

God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then closed up the waters to drown their enemies. Moses surely didn’t see that one coming!

And that’s not the only curveball that God threw…

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What Will You Grow: Fear or Faith?

Image by HeungSoon from Pixabay

With the arrival of spring, gardeners are faced with some difficult decisions:

What should I grow in my garden?

You only have so much square footage and only so much soil.

You have to make hard choices about what plants will be given space, and which ones you’ll have to forgo this year.

Maybe you’d like to grow dozens of pink roses in your garden plot. That’s a great idea: it would look gorgeous and smell beautiful.

But then you’d have to give up on the idea of growing a vegetable garden in that spot. You simply don’t have the space to do both.

If you dream of having a wildflower meadow in your yard, you’ll have to skip your plan of creating a formal French garden. You have enough room for one or the other, but not both.

Similarly, you only have so much real estate in your mind.

You have to make decisions about what you’ll let take up space.

What will you grow there?

Faith or fear?

They both grow in the same soil, so to speak: uncertainty.

But only one of them produces a harvest that’s worthwhile.

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God Can Use Anything And Anyone

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

Now that spring has arrived, the birds are starting to build their nests.

It’s delightful to watch them collect items to fashion into a new home.

They’ll mostly gather twigs and leaves as their construction materials. They might also add moss, plant fluff, dried grass, or feathers to make the nest soft for their chicks.

But sometimes birds use unexpected things when constructing a home.

They’ve been known to use mud, pet fur, discarded snake skins, and spider silk for their nests. They’ll even use man-made items, such as plastic, tinsel, dryer lint, or even purloined underwear from a clothesline!

Birds don’t seem to count anything out: they’ll use the most unlikely things to achieve their goal.

And so does God.

God also uses unexpected things and unlikely people to fulfill His purposes. The Bible is chock-full of examples of this:

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The Banana Paradox

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Who doesn’t like banana cake?

Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake or bread. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked. In fact, each year we celebrate National Banana Bread Day on February 23rd.

And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?

Wrong.

Counterintuitively, banana cake or bread is made using mushy, overripe, spotted, or even brownish-black bananas. The kind that no grocery store would even think of trying to sell. The kind that look sort of yucky, to be honest. The kind no one wants to eat. The kind that was used as an insult in the Christmas song about Mr. Grinch: “You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”

Whenever we had those sorts of bananas in the kitchen when I was little, my Dad would say to my Mom, “Honey, why don’t you throw those things out? They look awful!”

My mother would interpose her body protectively between my Dad and the bananas and say, “No, no! I’m saving them for a banana cake.”

You see, Mom understood the banana paradox. She knew that the mushiest bananas make the best cake. She could see beyond the decaying exterior to what the banana could become.

She saw what my Dad couldn’t see: their potential.

In the same way, God can see beyond our faults and failures to what we can become. God sees the potential in people who have been written off by others, who seem to have disqualified themselves from ever achieving anything great for the Kingdom. God can still use those of us who feel our record is too spotty, that we have too many black marks against us.

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Too Many Cooks

Chef Blair Rasmussen and colleagues, Vancouver, 2009
Photo by VancouverConvention on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Can you have too much of a good thing?

When it comes to chocolate, I would say an unequivocal no.

What about when it comes to having assistance in the kitchen? Surely you can’t go wrong having an abundance of help when you’re cooking?

You would think not, wouldn’t you?

But there’s a limit to how many “sous-chefs” you should have.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” This idiom can be literally true. One person might decide the soup needs more salt, so liberally adds more. The next helper might think the soup is too salty, so dilutes it to compensate.

Some might figure the soup needs more onion; others think it’s too spicy. Each tries to correct the perceived mistakes of the others until you end up with an inedible mess.

Sometimes we need to be judicious about who we listen to.

There are some key examples in Scripture which teach us that too many “cooks” or advisors can confuse and divide us.

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Your Past Doesn’t Determine Your Future

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

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.

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Do It Yourself? Or Let God?

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Sometimes doing things ourselves isn’t always the best idea, is it?

My mechanic certainly seems to think so.

I saw a humorous sign at his shop a few months ago when I was getting the snow tires put on my car. It read:

“Hourly Rates:

Regular rate: $1 per hour
If you watch: $2 per hour
If you help: $10 per hour
If you tried to fix it yourself and couldn’t: $20 per hour.”

I guess sometimes it’s simply better to let an expert handle things!

It’s no different in our lives, is it?

Sometimes God wants us to hand Him the reins and trust that He’ll come through for us. If we try to do things our own way, it can end up being costly and taking more time.

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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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The God of Second Chances

Hands holding seedling
Photo by Pikrepo

It’s an awesome feeling to realize that you’ve got a second chance, isn’t it?

A friend of mine discovered this after moving into a house with a large garden this summer. A beginner gardener, she was delighted to finally have enough space for an extensive vegetable garden. She immediately planted some tomato and cucumber seedlings, which grew vigorously and are now producing ripe veggies.

Because she’d moved in mid-summer, however, she lamented that she’d missed the chance to start growing vegetables like beets, spinach, peas, and carrots from seed in spring. She knew that cool-weather-loving veggies like peas wouldn’t thrive in the summer heat. She figured that if you didn’t plant those seeds in the spring, you’d missed your chance for the whole year.

But the garden, like God, often gives us second chances.

I told my friend that she could actually plant those seeds now for a fall harvest. There was still time to grow a second crop before the frosts of November hit. She hadn’t missed out after all: she could still grow the cool-weather veggies she’d hoped for.

What a wonderful metaphor for how God deals with us!

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