Easter: Jesus’ Finest Hour

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What makes something your “finest hour”?

To answer that question, we first have to reach back to June 16, 1940, when that phrase was made famous in a speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

World War Two had begun the previous year. France, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands had all fallen under the jackboots of the Nazis. It was a dark time, and the only thing standing between Hitler and control of the rest of Europe was the island nation of Britain.

In this context, Churchill prepared his people for the immense sacrifices that would be asked of them in the coming battles. He told them that the survival of their nation and way of life lay at stake. He let them know the consequences both of success and of failure in the task ahead of them.

He concluded his speech with one of the great rallying cries in history:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Churchill was telling the British people that their finest hour would not be a time of ease or comfort. Rather, it would encompass pain, sacrifice, duty, and selflessness.

The same holds true for us.

And the same held true for Jesus in His finest hour.

Read more

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.

Read more

Winter, the Great Leveller

Photo by Mark Evans on Flickr, CC BY-ND-2.0

If you live in a cold climate, as I do, you’ll have noticed that winter has a way levelling us out.

It shows us we’re all in the same boat.

Let me explain:

No matter how rich or poor you are, you’re going to have to deal with snow one way or another. If you live in a cold climate, there’s no escaping this fact.

Whether you drive a snazzy, expensive car or a modest runabout, winter has a way of making all vehicles look rather crappy. No matter how much you paid for your car, road salt and slush will cover it with an ugly grey-brown film.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

And despite searching high and low for the most fashionable winter parka, you’ll still end up looking like an Arctic explorer, indistinguishable from everyone else.

Winter has a way of humbling us.

I think sin has the same sort of levelling effect.

Whatever walk of life we come from, we’re all going to have to deal with our sins somehow. There’s no escaping it.

No matter how wealthy or poor we are, when sin sticks to us, it makes all of us look rather stained. Whether a pauper or a prince, the muck of sin covers us all.

And even if we try to gussy up our image and paper over our sins, it simply doesn’t work. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re any better or different than anyone else.

When it comes to sin, we’re all in the same boat.

Read more

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.

Read more

The Joy of Long Letters

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Isn’t it lovely to receive a long letter from someone who loves you?

In an age of tweets, text messages, and sound bites, perhaps many of us are missing out on this special joy.

Several times a year, I am privileged to receive a long missive from an older male relative. These letters are hand-written, and the latest one was 18 pages long! I treasure these letters, and go back to them time and again to refresh my memory about what he’s said.

In the letters, my relative will share his views on world events, discuss the progress his garden is making, or pass along some wisdom about life. Invariably, he’ll also throw in a bit of cornball humour.

Throughout the letters are woven his love and regard for me. After all, you wouldn’t go to the trouble of writing an 18-page letter to someone if you didn’t care about them, would you?

Would you like to receive a letter like that from someone who loves you?

In fact, you already have!

God Himself has written letters to you in the form of the Bible.

Read more

Are You On The Naughty Or Nice List?

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Are you on Santa’s “Naughty” list or his “Nice” list?

Sometimes it’s hard to know, isn’t it?

You shovelled the snow off your elderly neighbour’s walkway, so that counts as nice.

But on the other hand, you greedily ate half a pan of freshly baked brownies before sharing them with your family. Not so nice.

You made up for that by running errands for a sick friend, and volunteering to work late at the office to help finish a project. Definitely heading well into “nice” territory!

But then you lost your temper at your spouse, fibbed to get out of visiting your mother-in-law, and illegally parked your car in a disabled space while you dashed into the store to buy milk. Uh-oh! Looks like you’re squarely back on the naughty list.

With Santa, it’s hard to know where you stand on the naughty/nice spectrum.

That’s why it’s good to know that, if you’re a believer in Jesus, there’s only one list:

Forgiven.

Read more

Need A Clean Slate?

Image of birch bark by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

If you feel like you could use a clean slate, you’re not the only one.

Birch trees feel the need to start afresh with a new page occasionally, too.

Except they do it literally, by allowing their outer bark to peel off to reveal a fresh layer underneath.

Why do birches do this?

After all, most trees don’t shed their bark. As trees grow from the inside out, their rigid outer bark, which can’t stretch, splits and cracks instead. This gives tree bark the rough texture and fissure-like patterns that we’re all familiar with.

The drawback of these crevices and grooves is that pests and parasites like to burrow into them, which can affect the health of the tree.

Birches have solved this problem by growing smooth bark. This type of bark doesn’t split, which means it’s more impervious to insects, bacteria and fungi. As the birch grows, it exfoliates some of its outer bark, like a snake shedding its skin.

Along with the shed bark the tree is able to cast off insects, moss and lichen at the same time. Birch trees are continually refreshing themselves.

Smart, isn’t it?

Could you use a fresh start, too? Would you like to get rid of some things that are dragging you down?

Jesus gives us an opportunity to do just that.

Read more

Want To Feel God’s Love?

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

It seems like marriage proposals these days are a competitive sport.

It used to be that a man would propose to his beloved over a romantic dinner, with flowers on the table and perhaps some violins playing. He would get down on bended knee, present a ring, and ask for her hand in marriage.

Apparently, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Now, proposals have to be over-the-top. They might feature anything from fireworks to skywriting. A will-you-marry-me moment nowadays might involve a scavenger hunt, a fake movie trailer, a full orchestra and choir, or a ride in a hot-air balloon.

More adventurous grooms might enlist a celebrity in the proceedings, hire a flash mob at Times Square, or arrange to appear on the Jumbotron at a sports game.

And then there’s the man whose proposal took an entire year to create. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend Jennifer, each day for 365 days Dean Smith videotaped himself proposing to her, every time with a unique message. On the 366th day, he showed her the completed video and finally proposed in person (she said yes).

Why do people go to so much trouble?

Because they want to show their intended how much they’re loved.

Did you know that God has done the same for you?

He loves you deeply and He wants you to know it!

Let’s see how God stacks up when it comes to showing love.

Read more

God Will Never Give Up On You

Image of antique shop by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

One of the things I love about antiques is that they usually have a story to tell.

The type of wood and the style used to make a piece of furniture can tell you where and when it was made. Marks on the bottom of pottery give you a clue to its origins, and perhaps even the name of the artist who fashioned it. The condition of a piece tells you what sort of life it’s had.

But occasionally antiques tell us something a bit deeper than that.

For instance, I recently bought an antique oak side chair dating from the mid-1800s. It’s nothing impressive, simply the type of armless chair you might have at your dining room table.

The tale it tells is rather moving, however.

I can tell from the dozens of drilled holes around the perimeter of the seat frame that it once had a cane or rush seat. The material must have broken decades ago, because a plywood seat was later installed. Even this seat has been upholstered twice since.

One of the chair’s bottom rails broke at some point and is being held together with a tiny makeshift splint. Several of the back splats fractured as well, and were replaced with ones made from a different type of wood. There’s also evidence of repairs to wobbly joints over the decades.

What does all this tell me?

That someone never gave up on this little chair.

With all its woes and breakages, they could have simply thrown it out. But they loved it so much that they thought it was worth repairing, and they did so, over and over again.

Do you know that God feels the same way about you?

He’ll never give up on you!

Read more

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.

Read more