Life is Messy

Oh, my friends! What a world we have come to live in! Not only have we only just begun to crawl out from under a global pandemic, our own country has faced huge discord among its people in recent weeks, resulting in freezing assets, misguided information, and rally cries for dissension. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Europe has gone to war. Power-hungry men are puffing up their chests in attempts to gain … something. And the innocent are suffering. I have no words. In fact, I skipped a week or two of posts because I am beginning to question it all. Do words have value anymore?

Is it worth my two cents if I choose not to post my personal views and take sides? Is it worth it to “remain neutral” and bring some light-hearted script to encourage when the world is in such darkness? Last week I received a new book on the Psalms (check out my Instagram reel here) and I am looking forward to doing some doodling as I delve into it. The Psalms were never my go-to book. I think King David was a bit bipolar. His words always seemed far too “up and down” for me. One minute praises — the next, deep laments and evil wishes to dash his enemies. Recently I heard this about the Psalms: that you don’t truly know the light until you’ve been in the dark places. I suspect that is a very true statement. And the Psalms hit it on the head.

A couple weeks ago was my eldest daughter’s birthday. Now, she will be the first to admit that her culinary skills are not top-notch. She has a few basic recipes under her belt and she is happy to repeat them week by week. However, she wanted to try a few new things for her birthday dinner. Fine. No problem, sweetie, I will help you shop for ingredients and make a few suggestions, but the work is yours. The food was great. Everything tasted wonderful. The problem with amateur chefs? My kitchen was a disaster! Every dish, every appliance, every spoon and platter was well used and left for dead on every counter space left available. Sigh. These are memories. We can clean up later.

Life, like cooking, is sometimes messy. Challenges abound. Sometimes we have to be under fire to grow, change and “glow”. Life is not meant to be perfect and predictable.

“Governments make plans, but the Lord checks them. He does not let people do everything that they want to do. The plans that the Lord makes will always happen. His ideas will always be with us.”

Psalms‬ ‭33:10-11‬ ‭(EEB)

It’s pretty clear — God doesn’t let people do everything they want. The governments — and the common people, make plans; plans they think are best, but only God has the last say. None of us have been through this life before. We cannot predict the outcome or guarantee that our methods for living will be the most ideal ones. We are like my daughter… following the recipe hoping we interpret the instructions well, and that our efforts will somehow resemble the glossy picture in the book. More often than not, we create a fairly good tasting, but messy delectable delight. This world is full of sin and it’s going to get messy. Life with God will require patience. But God is infinite and promises to bring good out of the mess. 

Photo Credit: Do it yourself from Scratch on WordPress

Perhaps you are like me, tired and at a loss for words about all the things that have been weighing on the world lately. Maybe it has lit a fire under you and your faith has been made stronger in the face of opposition. Maybe you are just trying to eat some good-tasting stuff and will deal with the clean-up later. Take heart to the assurance that “the plans that the Lord makes will always happen” and I don’t think He’s done with us just yet. Be blessed with the journey, friends.

Match Game

Welcome back, friends! Have you noticed that I have a little theme going on these past few weeks? I didn’t intend for it to happen, but my muses seem to be going “back to basics” as I think about such simple objects… pencils, snowflakes and this week… the simple match stick. I was cleaning out a cupboard recently and found a collection of matchsticks. The box was nowhere to be found and they were scattered all over the bottom of the (one of many) junk drawers in my house. I’m discovering how crazy complex seemingly simple things are. Worth a post or two, I am discovering, as I look up content. Anyway, back to the junk drawer matches. As I gathered them up, I wondered if I needed the original box. Turns out, I may. Apparently, there is a difference between the cheap, safety box o’ matches a la dollar store, and the “strike anywhere” matches via the old movies where the cowboy lights his pipe on the bottom of his cowboy boot.

It comes down to the calculation of complex chemical reactions. And a little friction and fuel. Our safety matchbox holds that strip along the side. The strip contains red phosphorus and teeny bits of powdered glass. The tip of the match stick contains sulphur and a bit of wax (plus the wood of the stick itself). Here’s where the magic happens: match strikes the box, friction via the bits of glass create heat, heat changes the chemical composition of red phosphorus to white phosphorus, white phosphorus is highly flammable and reacts to the oxygen in the air to create heat… the heat is fueled by the oxygen and the wax and sulphur and: poof! FIRE!

Photo by Yaoqi on Unsplash

All of this happens in a fraction of a second. The strike-anywhere matches have all the chemicals contained in the match head… making them a “quick fuse” shall we say? And therefore labelled as “dangerous goods”. They are hard to find easily on the shelves and are accompanied by the appropriate safety guidelines nowadays. Don’t play with matches, kids! My hubby loves a good fire. He’s a big kid when it comes to that mesmerizing flame. The bigger the bonfire the better. Maybe the box is out by our firepit. Currently drowned by the snow. Probably safer there.

I read recently that following Christ is a lot like building a fire. We receive salvation in an instant… like the matchstick igniting. But the matchstick will quickly die out if a fire is not tended and fueled. At first with kindling and tinder. Quick lessons ignite our passion when we first come to faith… we are “on fire”. Then, our journeys slow down and we slow burn for a while… we take time to eat away at the big logs and rejoice that burning embers make for good marshmallows. Yet, without stoking and refuelling, even a giant bonfire with eventually burn itself out. We must continue to fan the flame in our hearts… but the good part is, God is there to help along the way! His word is a constant catalyst for the fire in our hearts. And it never gets used up.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

I’m finding it hard to keep the kindling hot during zoom calls and online. Despite the lockdowns, my time gets eaten up with other things than personal Bible study. I want to go to concerts, retreats and conferences. I want to meet with other believers who can fuel my fire and ignite the glowing embers of my heart. Still, simple match sticks are complex enough to bring forth a flame on the tiniest of toothpicks. And it only takes a spark to set a whole forest ablaze. Perhaps I need a bit of patience. Or a really good marshmallow skewer and a bit of time to revel in the sweet goodness of burning embers.

The Simple Pencil

It’s been said that back in the 1960s during the space race, NASA spent a whack load of government money on designing a pen that would write in zero gravity. After all, how will ink run down a page if there is no gravity to pull it that way? How would the astronauts make notes on all the scientific stuff they had to do up there? A new and improved writing instrument must be designed! The Russian astronauts took a simpler approach: they used a pencil.

Photo: Yoann Siloine

All joking aside, I was musing this week about the simple pencil. I’m not sure why… it just happened to come to my brain. So, I looked it up. Faber-Castell, the who’s who of pencils, has been producing top-quality pencils for over 257 years. The leads (both coloured and the typical grey) are made with a clay-graphite mixture that is mixed, dried and basically glued between a sandwich of wood. The wood has to be strong enough to not snap under the weight of the writer’s hand, yet flexible enough to bend slightly for the stroke of the letter. That wood can be shaped in the round, hexagonal or square shape that we all know and love. Not to mention, sharpened to the perfect “tip”. Final exam writers, rejoice!

I love a sharp pencil. It just evokes great memories of the start of something new. A blank canvas if you will. Plus, it makes for remarkable colouring and shading. (re mark able — see what I did there?) Anyway… Have you ever thought about a simple pencil and the possibilities it holds? A funny little muse, isn’t it? Did all sumptuous writers think about the ink or the pen or the pencil they used? Plain paper or ruled? A notebook? Does everyone use a keyboard now? Have we lost touch with the true art of letter writing and letter making? They don’t even teach penmanship in schools anymore (and believe me, it shows!)

The ancient scriptures are one of the most unique collections of writing on the planet! I have no idea how the writers penned the scrolls… ink? chalk? Graphite pencil? Whatever method they used, we can be assured that the words bring promise and hope from an eternal God who cares for His people. And the simple words are our guides for both now and for all future generations! It always amazes me that the Bible is timeless. People have been reading it for hundreds of years… and the words still ring true. It’s because there is something supernatural immersed in those written words. Psalm 119 tells us it is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path… our truth and our hope”.

Nothing like a sharp pencil — and the words it can make!

I’m guilty of not diving into the Word enough. There is such richness in the written word, and I don’t take full advantage of it as I should. Perhaps I should write out passages. Does anyone do this? I hear it is a great discipline to adhere to, especially in these days of digital screens. Graphite pencils and loss of handwriting skills be banished! Please share in the comments if you’ve tried this. I’d love to hear how it impacted you! Perhaps you’ve journalled with coloured pencils and brought scriptures to life. Share!

And so, my faith journey continues as I think about simple things and how they influence the complex. Oh, and that thing about the space pen? Apparently, some guy named Paul C. Fisher did spend millions in developing what later became known as “the space pen”… which uses a pressurized cartridge to make the ink flow. Even the Russians began using them. Who knew? We earthlings can purchase one for about $50. Maybe I should get one for jotting down sermon notes. Nah, I’ll stick with the simple pencil.