When you let your mind wander, do you ever find yourself asking odd questions?
Such as, “Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?”
Or, “How do you grow a seedless fruit?”
Or how about this one:
“Why don’t spiders get caught in their own webs?”
I can’t help you with the first two, but I do have an answer for the third.
When spiders build their webs, they draw out silk from their abdomens with six spinnerets. The key is that they’re able to emit different types of silk for different purposes.
The spider first constructs a frame for its web. Then, it lays down spokes of non-sticky silk to use as walkways.
Next, the spider weaves spirals of connecting lines between the spokes using sticky silk. This is for ensnaring small insects that it will later eat. The spider knows to avoid walking on these gluey strands.
A spider can also spin stretchy silk for the centre of its web, or extra-strong silk for the anchor lines.
Whichever type of silk the spider decides to spin, it all has a specific purpose. And even though the types of silk differ, they all come from the same source.
I think we can borrow this analogy to describe how we can receive quite different things from God’s hand.
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:
Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.
Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).
These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.
Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.
They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.
Surely there’s nothing good about burls?
But there is.
Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.
Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.
This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.
Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?
Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?
Have you ever cooked a dish which turned out to be plainly inedible, or even downright dangerous to consume?
It can happen to the best of us, as these examples prove:
A grandmother with failing eyesight accidentally grabbed a bottle of ammonia instead of vinegar when making potato salad for her family. They started gagging at the mere smell of it, which fortunately prevented anyone from eating it!
An 18-year-old living on his own for the first time wanted to make fried rice. He poured some oil into a very hot pan, then dumped in a bunch of uncooked rice. Needless to say, the burned mess had to be thrown out.
Another young person forgot to add water when cooking packaged ramen noodles. I guess cooking isn’t for everyone!
Did you know that a cooking fail even happened in the Bible?
Do you ever feel like you have too much “baggage” to ever be accepted by people, let alone by God?
Do you need a sense of hope that you could be loved despite the burdens you’re carrying from your background? Then read on…
A few weeks ago, we explored the moving account of Ruth and Boaz in the Old Testament. It’s a favourite of many people, because it’s one of the few outright love stories in the Bible. But we sometimes get so caught up in the romance of the story that we miss how startling their pairing actually was.
Boaz was a wealthy landowner living in ancient Israel. He was successful and respected, a descendent of Abraham himself. One would have expected him to marry a woman of his own people, someone from an equally illustrious family.
But Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, a woman with three strikes against her: she was poor, a widow and a foreigner. She had nothing and was a nobody in the eyes of the Israelites. In fact, she was worse than that: she was a Moabite, a group hated by the Israelites. No doubt Ruth was looked down on by many in the community.
So why would Boaz agree to marry her? We know that Boaz respected Ruth for how she’d cared for her mother-in-law. And certainly, God’s hand was on their meeting and their union. But why was Boaz so accepting of the idea of marrying someone like Ruth? Why was he not put off by her “baggage”?
I believe an answer lies in Boaz’ background. Turns out he had some baggage of his own.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, recipes don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to.
Your soufflé turns into a pancake; your cookies are as hard as hockey pucks; or your cake is a soggy mess. Any way you slice it (if it’s even possible to slice it), the recipe results in a total disaster.
Sometimes it’s due to a mistake on your part. You accidentally added twice the amount of an ingredient called for (guilty!); you used Shake ’n’ Bake instead of graham cracker crumbs for the dessert base; or you put the pizza in the oven for 450 minutes at 15 degrees, instead of 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
Or maybe the fault lies with someone else. The recipe’s author might have led you astray by inadvertently calling for 1/2 pound of flour instead of 1/2 cup’s worth. You only discover later that the recipe contained errors when you see a correction printed in the next day’s newspaper or blog post. But by then, of course, it’s too late: your family is using the rock-hard muffins you made as door-stops.
Often, you didn’t see a recipe fail coming at all. You followed the instructions to the letter, but it still didn’t work out. The ingredients may not have behaved as you expected due to humidity, altitude, or their age. Your oven may be hotter or colder than you realized, or your flour is harder than the type tested in the recipe. It wasn’t your fault, but just the nature of baking.
As Marian Keyes puts it in her cookbook, “Saved by Cake,” sometimes bad cakes happen to good people.
It’s the same in our lives, isn’t it? Sometimes things go wrong even when we’ve tried to do everything right. Our lives don’t turn out the way we expected.
But there’s good news for the believer in God: He can redeem any mistake and turn things around for your good and His glory.
Once the worst of this pandemic is over, psychologists warn that many of us may suffer from post-traumatic stress for some time to come. Some of us will have lost a job, seen our business close down for good, suffered isolation and loneliness, or may have even lost a loved one during the COVID-19 crisis.
But is PTSD a given in these circumstances? Is there different outcome that can occur, an unexpected benefit that may arise out of these difficult times?
Psychologists say yes: there’s such a thing as post-traumatic growth. It’s been found in survivors of war, cancer, and natural disasters. Some people emerge from a crisis with increased spirituality, a greater sense of personal strength, new priorities and closer relationships with others. What could have broken them actually made them better.
This phenomenon reminds me a bit of “sea glass.” Sea glass, or beach glass, found washed up on shores, starts out as merely cast-aside pieces of broken glass. Perhaps they’ve been tossed overboard from a ship, or thrown into the sea from land along with other garbage.
These shards of glass endure years of being buffeted against the stones of the sea bottom. It seems like they’re being dashed about mercilessly by the relentless action of the waves. Surely no good could come of this?