One of the most famous explorers of modern history is Scott of the Antarctic. Sadly, Scott and his party died during their trip. But only recently have scientists begun to understand perhaps why they died. It seems they starved themselves to death while eating!
Sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? But it’s not. Scientists tell us that we need to take in about 6300-7500 kilojoules of food each day in order to survive. Now Scott and his party took in around 3 times the normally required amount of food – about 18000 kj each per day. You’d think that was enough, but it wasn’t. You see, when you’re doing really demanding work such as dragging sleds across the Antarctic you need around 42000 kj of food energy (or 6-7 times the normal amount) to survive. Scientists suggest that each member of Scott’s team, despite eating 3 times the normal food requirements, probably lost around 35 kgs. In fact they most likely starved to death!
You know, there are times in life when we’re like those Antarctic explorers. We’re faced with crisis and we need much greater levels of support, care and prayer than normal. And when our friends are going through those times we must expect that they will need greater servings our our love, care and prayers than normal, perhaps even 6-7 times greater than normal!
Alternate Application: Our spiritual life is often like this. We feel that when things are tough or busy that we can cut down on our intake of prayer, reflection and fellowship. Yet it’s precisely at these times that we need greater inputs if we are to avoid “spiritual starvation”
Source: Scientific info from Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s New Moments in Science #1
Two teachers were once applying for the same Vice-Principal position at a local high school. One had been teaching a total of 8 years and the other a total of 20. Everyone expected the teacher with the greater experience to get the job, but when a decision was made it was the person with 8 years teaching who was chosen. The teacher overlooked for the job complained bitterly – “I’ve got 20 years teaching to her 8” he cried. “I’m vastly more qualified.”
The School Board’s reply went like this: “Yes sir, you do have 20 years teaching to her 8, but where she has 8 years experience you have 1 years experience repeated 20 times.”
Simply experiencing the passage of time doesn’t mean we have grown or learned from those things we experience during that time.
Hanging in the US National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is a series of four paintings by Thomas Cole. The series is called “The Voyage of Life”. Each painting depicts a stage of life: childhood, youth, manhood and old age.
The first painting is of childhood. It shows a mountain with a dark cave at its base and a river flowing out of the cave. A beautiful timber boat glides out of the cave into a world of lush vegetation, flowers in bloom and a peaceful, gentle surface on the water. Inside the boat is a laughing baby with a Guardian Spirit standing right behind. The painting shows childhood as a time of wonder and joy.
The second painting is called “youth”. We see the same boat now travelled further downstream. The baby has grown into a teenage boy. He stands in the rear, confidently steering the boat towards a majestic white castle off in the distance. The riverbanks are still lush and green and the Guardian Spirit stands on those banks, watching the young man boldly chart his course. The painting shows youth as a time of dreaming and absolute self confidence that nothing can hold me back.
When we look at the third painting the scene has changed dramatically. The youth has become a man, the river has become a raging torrent, and the sky has become dark and threatening. The castle of dreams is nowhere to be seen and the boat’s rudder has broken. Up ahead lie treacherous rocks, with white water crashing all around them. The man in the boat is caught up by forces he can’t control. With the rudder broken he cannot steer his boat. All he can do is look up to the sky and pray. Meanwhile the Guardian Spirit sits hidden in the clouds. Cole is picturing adulthood as a time when the joy and wonder of childhood have been tamed by the difficult and tragic experiences of life, when the confidence and boldness of youth have been swept away by the harsh realities of life.
The final painting is called “Old Age”. The battered and weathered boat has finally reached the ocean. The dark clouds remain but the water is still. The boat’s occupant is now an old man, and his gaze is fixed firmly on the clouds out there in front of him, clouds pierced by the glorious light of heaven, the light pierced by angels coming to and fro. For the first time in his life the man sees the Guardian Spirit that has accompanied him on his journey. It comes, takes him by the hand and prepares him for his journey into the heavens.
Source: Scott Higgins, based on the artwork
Marjorie William’s children’s story book, The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed toy rabbit given to a young boy as a Christmas present. The velveteen rabbit lives in the nursery with all the other toys, waiting for the day when the boy will choose him as a playmate.
In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made “real” through the love of a human. One night we get to overhear their conversation..
‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, as they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, just before Nana came in to tidy up the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off; and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.’
Source: Quote from Marjorie Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit.
One of the most inspiring sights in nature is the eagle in flight. With an endless expanse of blue behind it the eagle spreads its mighty wings and soars majestically and gracefully across the sky. Free, powerful, complete. Because of this the eagle becomes a symbol for how we’d like to be. We all want to soar like an eagle in life.
But I wonder if you know how it is an eagle learns to soar? I am told that there is a particular species of eagle which builds its nest high up on the face of a cliff overlooking the sea. In this nest the eagle chick is hatched and spends its first days watching its mother come and go, collecting food and bringing it back.
One day mum decides it’s time her chicks learned to fly. You know how she does it? She forces her way right into the nest and then pushes her chicks out. The chick starts plummeting down the cliff-face, terrified, shocked, heartbeat racing, aware that death is just seconds away. And then something amazing happens. The chick instinctively stretches the wings it never knew it had, the plummet becomes a fall, then a gentle rise. Soon the chick is soaring like its mother.
It’s in that split second of terrifying danger that the chick comes face to face with itself, and face to face with wider reality. In that terrifying moments the chick discovers what it is. And without that terrifying moment it will never learn to soar.
Source: Scott Higgins
Many people find beetles and bugs somewhat creepy, but if there’s one beetle in the world that could turn you into a beetle lover – the jewel scarab. Jewel scarab’s live in the jungles of Honduras and have the shape of your regular Christmas beetle. But their colours are so dazzling and beautiful that they can sell for up to $500 a beetle. Beautiful flaming reds, bright golds, silvers that resemble bright, shiny chrome. Even the beetle hater finds jewel scarabs dazzling and beautiful!
But the jewel scarab’s beauty doesn’t come automatically. Every scarab has modest, even ugly beginnings. The scarab starts life as a soft, mushy, grey-white grub growing inside a rotting tree stump. They spend their life like this for around a year, until finally, when the rainy season arrives, the adult scarabs emerge soft bodied and pale. The within hours, their bodies harden and their splendid colours show. They only live for another three months, but what a glorious existence it is.
People are just like scarabs. We may not feel terribly beautiful and attractive. In fact there may be parts of you that feel distinctly ugly – and I’m not talking just about your body, but about your sprit, your mind, your thought life, your character. But it’s the work of the Spirit of God to make us beautiful. It may seem to take a lifetime, but as the Spirit works on us, we will emerge as beautiful, dazzling, shining creatures gloriously bearing the image of our Creator.
Source: Scientific information from National Geographic, Feb 2001.
One of the things most of us find stomach churning and revolting is the maggot. Finding them in your garbage bin is enough to make you puke, but imagine finding them on your body! In 1982 an orthopaedic surgeon by the name of John Church was asked to treat someone who had been in a car accident and lain unconscious for three days in a ditch at the side of the road. The victim had deep cuts to his face and body, and those wounds were crawling with massive infestations of maggots.
But here’s the amazing thing. When John Church peeled away those maggots to examine his patient he was astonished to discover that the wounds were so clean they had already begun to heal! In fact, this discovery led to a revival of the practise of maggot therapy.
You see as revolting as they may be, maggots can be agents of healing. Put them on a wound and they’ll eat up the diseased flesh but leave the healthy flesh alone. The bacteria they don’t eat they kill with a chemical they excrete. And to top it off when they crawl all over your wound they provide the healthy flesh with a gentle and therapeutic massage.
In fact, doctors have discovered that in many cases maggots are more effective than antibiotics!
Sometimes the circumstances in our life function like maggots. They may be very unpleasant, but they can also be healing. We speak of them as “character forming”. They cause us to identify what’s important in life, to develop endurance and perseverance, to depend more on God and others. And in doing so they eating away the rotting parts of our character and leaving behind healthy parts.
Source: Scientific information from Karl Kruszelnicki’s New Moments in Science #3.
What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a nightmare of grief. Randy Hoyt watched helplessly as his wife Kris went into hospital for an emergency Caesarean section operation when only 5 months pregnant. The bleeding was tremendous. Kris required 30 units of blood. As the doctors battled to save her life Randy cried out to God “God, what do you want? I know you can heal her; why don’t you?”
God didn’t heal her. Kris and 16 days later their prematurely born daughter Grace lost her struggle for life. Randy was left the single parent of six children.
“What about our plans, God?” he asked. “Who will teach the kids, guide them, and love them like their mother?”
Randy soon found out. A program was started which became known as “Help Bring Hope to the Hoyt Kids.” Over the next six months, hundreds of people worked, sent money, donated meals and supplies and poured love into Randy’s family. Randy received more than 500 letters, e-mails and cards from people who said they were praying for us.
At the end of the six months the medical bills are all paid, the mortgage has been paid and Randy is back at work. God did not save his wife, but God’s love was ministered to Randy and his children in deeply profound ways after Kris’ death.
The pain of Kris’ and Grace’s death of course remained. Yet when he started to sink into despair Randy could imagine the two of them in heaven together, fully alive, healthy and full of joy. “See her as she is now,” he felt the Holy Spirit saying. “She is alive.”
Reflecting upon his experience Chris says, “I asked God for the life of my wife; I received instead a lesson on the nature of God. God is good. Armed with that knowledge, I have no fear for today or the future. God will always be enough…for any situation.”
Source: reported by Randy Hoyt, “Seeing God,” Pentecostal Evangel, January 21, 2001, pp.14-15
Philip Island, in Victoria Australia, plays host to one of the greatest nature experiences possible. On the shores of Philip Island are the burrows of thousands upon thousands of fairy penguins, extraordinarily cute little birds that stand only 30cm or so tall. Every morning the adult penguins head out to sea to catch fish. At the end of the day they return to land to bring back food for their chicks. Watching them get from the water to their burrows is both funny and exhilarating. The penguins surf in on the waves, then gather in groups at the water’s edge. Their burrows are 100 metres or so away, with the open space of the sandy beach between them. All of a sudden a group of penguins will take off, waddling as fast as their little legs will carry them across the beach. But then, having got 10 or 20 metres they’ll suddenly turn around and waddle back to the water. They wait, then try again. One group makes it, but another performs this strange ritual of turning back. And on it goes, through the dying light of day, until finally the penguins have all crossed the beach and met their chicks in their burrows.
What’s going on? Why the strange stop-start-return ritual? The answer’s quite simple. At sea the birds are fast swimmers, able to dive deep. At sea they’re safe from predators such as eagles and hawks and dogs and cats. In their burrows their safe below ground. But on the open beach they’re vulnerable and exposed. On the beach they can only waddle slowly and are easy pickings for predators. And so, as they cross the beach, the moment they see a shadow or something out of the corner of their eye, they turn back and race for the safety of the water.
It seems that we humans are a lot like those fairy penguins. When confronted with challenging situations we find ourselves like the penguins standing at the water’s edge. We know where we’ve got to go, we know we’ve got to get across that beach to get back to the burrow, but it can be so terrifying. When we step out of the water and start waddling across the beach we leave our safety zone behind, we’re in no-man’s land where it’s dangerous, uncertain and where we’re vulnerable. Yet to get to the burrow we must leave the safety zone behind and strike out into the danger zone.
Source: Scott Higgins.
Once upon a time there was a baby eagle called Eddie. Eddie had entered this world by violently forcing his way out of an eggshell, to discover himself sharing a nest with his brothers and sisters at the top of a very tall tree. One day a strong wind blew up, and the nest was rocked wildly from side to side, at one point rocking so far that poor little Eddie was tipped out. Not yet old enough t fly down he fell, down, down through the branches, and amazingly right down into a rabbit burrow at the base of the tree. When he got to his feet Eddie found himself among a group of bunnies born around the same time as he.
Now rabbits may be good breeders, but they’re not exceptionally smart, so no one realised Eddie was in fact a baby eagle. They all assume dhe was just an odd-looking rabbit. So Eddie was adopted into the family and grew up learning to live as a rabbit. He hopped and jumped, lived in the family burrow and lived on a diet of grass and lettuce.
Of course, all his life Eddie struggled with a sense of terrible inferiority. He didn’t look like the other rabbits, he was always the last one chosen when it came to hopping games, and he was often sick from eating grass.
Then one day his life changed. Eddie and his rabbit siblings were out in a field playing, when a dark shadow spread across the ground. The rabbits looked up and there hurtling towards them was a mighty eagle. With squeals of fear the rabbits ran as fast as they could for the undergrowth. Eddie knew he was a goner. He couldn’t run as fast as the others and saw them all reach safety while he was still hopping like crazy out in the open. The mighty eagle drew closer and closer, until Eddie could feel its shadow right above him. Eddie braced himself for the inevitable when he heard the eagle cry, “What are you doing hopping around on the ground like a rabbit?! You’re an eagle. Spread your wings and fly!”
Startled by the shock of what had happened, confused by the eagles words, Eddie started to move those useless things at his side. He stretched them out and began flapping until he found himself lifting up from the ground, then soaring effortlessly through the heavens. That day Eddie discovered he wasn’t made to hop along the ground but to soar through the skies.
The same is true of us. God created us with enormous dignity and honour, to be his image on earth. We grow up in societies that tell us that we are something other than magnificent creatures made to image God, but when we discover our true nature, we are able to soar through the skies, becoming everything we were created to be.
Source: Scott Higgins
A Hasidic story tells of a tailor who approaches his rabbi and says, “I have a problem with my prayers. I am a tailor, and from time to time people compliment me on my skills. It is very satisfying to hear their praise. One kind word can keep me going for a week. But if people came to me all day every day saying, “Mendel, you are a wonderful tailor”, “Mendel, you are a wonderful tailor”, “Mendel, you are a wonderful tailor” it would drive me crazy. It would get to the point I wouldn’t want to hear another compliment every again! I would tell everyone to go away and leave me to work in peace. And this is what bothers me about prayer. If just once a week we told God how wonderful he is, and just a couple of us did this each week, that is all God would need. Is God really so insecure that he needs us all to praise him morning, noon and night? Hundreds, thousands, millions of people praying, all praising him. Surely this would drive God crazy?!”
The rabbi smiled and said, “Mendel, you are absolutely right. You have no idea how difficult it is for God to listen to all our praises, day in, day out, 24 hours a day. But God knows how important it is for us to offer our praise, and so, because of God’s great love God tolerates all of our prayers”
Topics: prayer, praise, worship
Source: Told in H Kushner, Who Needs God (Fireside, 1989)
A number of years back the codfish industry on the northeast coast of the US had a problem. The fresher the fish the better. So how could they keep the codfish fresh while they transported them across the country? When they froze the fish they lost too much flavour. When they transported them live in tanks filled with saltwater the fish got soft and mushy.
Finally they found a solution. They placed catfish in the tanks. Catfish are a natural enemy of codfish, so the catfish would chase them around the tanks all the time they were being transported. The cod now arrived in better condition than ever.
Relating this story, Chuck Swindoll points out that we all need catfish in our lives – the difficult people or situations in life that may not be pleasant but keep us healthy and growing.