Have you ever put a message in a bottle and then thrown it into the ocean?
More importantly, has anyone ever come across it years later?
Believe it or not, there are actually people who keep track of this sort of thing.
According to the Message in a Bottle Hunter website, the world’s oldest seagoing message in a bottle is almost 132 years old. It was dropped into the Indian Ocean by a German research vessel studying ocean currents in 1886, and was found on a beach in Western Australia in 2018. (Wikipedia records an even older message, a Japanese one found after 151 years afloat.)
Bottled messages have travelled many thousands of miles. The farthest recorded distance travelled is probably the one that floated from New Zealand to Spain, almost an antipodean journey.
Perhaps the most romantic message in a bottle story concerns Swedish sailor Ake Viking. In 1956, he stuffed the message “To Someone Beautiful and Far Away” into a bottle and cast it into the sea. It was later retrieved by a young woman named Paolina in Sicily. Their subsequent correspondence culminated in marriage in 1958, with the wedding ceremony attracting 4,000 people.
We marvel at events like these: the idea that something thought lost and forgotten can show up decades later.
But there are some things we don’t want to come across again.
Who wants to be reminded of a sordid episode in our past—something that we did that now makes us cringe with regret and horror?
Fortunately, once our sins have been forgiven by God, they won’t wash up on a beach somewhere to accuse us.
I recently realized that I wasn’t living in the house that I thought I was.
Last summer I moved into a house bearing the number 15. I love everything about it: the house itself, the neighbours, and the area’s community spirit.
It wasn’t until some months later that I realized that I didn’t actually live at #15: I live at #13. The house next door is #11, and opposite my house is #12. Counting from the bottom of the street, mine is the thirteenth house.
So why didn’t the city call it #13 when it was assigning street numbers to the houses?
In many countries, the number 13 has unlucky connotations. Why? One reason is that there were thirteen present at the Last Supper, including Judas, who would betray Jesus.
Some people are superstitious about this number, and try to avoid its “bad luck” by keeping away from anything labelled 13. There’s even a word for the fear of the number thirteen: triskaidekaphobia.
The result is that many companies and cities fudge their numbering to avoid 13. This is why many hotels and tall buildings seem to lack a thirteenth floor: the elevator buttons skip from floor 12 to 14.
The thirteenth floor continues to exist, as does the thirteenth house on a street: we haven’t erased them. But we just call them by other names. We simply pretend that they’re actually the fourteenth floor or the fifteenth house. Everyone goes along with this fiction because it means we don’t have to face reality. We’re deluding ourselves, of course, but it seems we prefer to live in denial.
We do the same with sin, don’t we?
We call it by other names so we don’t have to face up to the reality of what it really is.
Perhaps you squeezed the “mouth” of a snapdragon flower to make it “talk.”
Or maybe you held a buttercup underneath the chin of a friend. If it reflected back a yellow colour, it meant that they liked butter (apparently, everyone does!).
Probably one of the most famous flower games involves the daisy: it’s considered the oracle of affairs of the heart. The daisy supposedly has the ability to tell you if your sweetheart truly loves you or not.
It goes like this: you pluck off each petal of a daisy in turn, and as you do so, alternately say, “He loves me,” or “He loves me not.”
The final petal tells you which statement is true.
You’re left in suspense the whole time, and worry about what the last petal will reveal.
I know this is just a children’s game, but even as adults we sometimes worry if we’re truly loved, don’t we?
Human love can be a fickle thing, and we can often be unsure about the commitment and loyalty of those we love.
That’s why it’s so good to know that with Jesus, we’re never left wondering whether He loves us or not. He never leaves us in suspense as to whether He cares.
It’s natural to divide your life into “before” and “after,” isn’t it?
We mentally calculate whether something happened before or after certain important events in our lives.
We might say that such-and-such happened before we moved to Boston, or after we got married. We may recall that another thing happened after we had our son but before the twins were born.
Ancient cultures did something similar. Those with monarchies would mark events in relation to what king was on the throne at the time. They’d say that something happened in the 9th year of the reign of King so-and-so.
Certainly, most of us will divide our lives into pre-and post-pandemic eras. March of 2020 was a clear demarcation point between our previous “normal” life and one dominated by COVID-19.
The dividing lines of our lives will be different for all of us, but what most of the world has in common is the use of the same calendar system to mark off years. This system has its own before-and-after pivot point.
For instance, most of us just celebrated the start of AD 2022.
What does the “AD” mean, anyway? Or “BC” for that matter?
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.
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.
Don’t you love it when someone anticipates your needs?
You feel good when someone makes provision for something you’ll require before the need even arises. Or when they start setting in motion something for you before you even ask.
It makes you feel sort of special, doesn’t it?
As a teen, I’d occasionally stop by a small fish-and-chip joint on my way home from school. This little restaurant had an open kitchen, and the owner/cook could see the street through the front window.
Carlo, the owner, would see me get off the bus and wait at the lights. He knew what I liked to eat, so he’d start deep-frying my halibut before I even crossed the street and entered his restaurant.
He anticipated what I’d want and started cooking it before I even placed my order.
Did you hear about the guy who traded a paperclip for a house?
It’s a little more involved than that, but it really happened.
Over the course of a year starting in 2005, Canadian Kyle MacDonald made a series of 14 online trades, bartering small items for successively larger and more valuable ones.
He started with a red paperclip, which he traded for a pen. He swapped the pen for a doorknob, which he then bartered for a Coleman stove.
The stove was flipped for a generator, which was exchanged for an instant party, which he soon traded for a snowmobile.
Kyle’s next transactions involved a trip, a truck, a recording contract, and a year’s rent in Phoenix. They eventually culminated in a film role, which was traded for a two-storey farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
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 inSan 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.