inspirational

One-Liner Wednesday: Change

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer

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Note: This post was created as part of Linda G. Hill’s “One-Liner Wednesday” blog prompt — check it out for some fun and inspiring entries each week!

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One-Liner Wednesday: Planning

“Many people spend more time planning a two week vacation than they do planning their life.”

–Zig Ziglar

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 Note: This post was created as part of Linda G. Hill’s “One-Liner Wednesday” blog prompt — check it out for some fun and inspiring entries each week!

 

God’s Hidden Treasures: What the Appendix, Black Holes and Trees Have in Common

Scientific discoveries are gifts from God, to inspire and encourage us.

Despite my Christian faith, I’ve often found myself questioning what God’s plan is for me during the difficult times of my life. Although I’m comforted when I read about His wonders in the Bible, I have to admit I haven’t always been able to apply that knowledge to my own life. That’s why, during a particularly tough season in the past couple of years, I was especially moved by a few recent scientific discoveries that showed me that God’s purposes, in everything from our bodies to our world and beyond, aren’t always immediately visible from a human perspective—reminding me that the same can be said for the circumstances of our personal lives as well.

The—Useless?—Appendix

Take, for instance, the fact that the appendix has been considered an unnecessary organ. Experts theorized that while the appendix may have once served a purpose, it seems that it no longer does.

Until now. In April 2017, new research from Midwestern University suggested that the appendix is not the “vestigial organ with little known purpose” it was once thought to be. Rather, researchers say it may have the “important purpose” of serving “as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria.”

Considering that “good” bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems have been shown to positively affect virtually every part of our bodies, including our immune systems, brain function, weight, and energy and nutrition, it’s clear that the appendix could be playing a surprisingly significant role in our health.

This finding proves that just because we can’t figure out a reason for something, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one! God makes no mistakes.

Black Holes: Consumers and Creators

I felt similarly moved by the latest findings about black holes in space.

I was passionate about astronomy growing up, and to this day I still have a particular fascination with black holes. Having been taught that they were areas of intense gravity into which nearby matter is absorbed with no chance of escape, black holes always intrigued me—was there any purpose to these dangerous, mysterious regions? Or were they at most a cosmic cleansing system of sorts?

Well, reported evidence from March 2017 shows that black holes are much more than that. Black holes have not only been observed to consume and destroy matter such as stars, but to create new stars as well.

ESO-stars forming

According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), black holes “expel gases in powerful winds” containing “colossal flows of material” in which “newborn stars” were recently spotted.

A March 2017 Voice of America report described the essence of this star-creating process. It stated that as a black hole attracts and consumes matter, some matter remains immediately outside the swirling opening of the black hole. When cosmic winds then blow out of the black hole, it is this matter combining with hot gases from the consumption process which forms the new stars. The winds are so powerful that they can propel these new stars to great distances, even outside a galaxy.

The full ESO report, which was published in the journal Nature on April 13, 2017, stated that this breakthrough could also explain how some galaxies get their unique shapes.

Before this discovery, observing how these powerful winds blow had been a noteworthy finding in and of itself. In 2015, NASA had reported that these winds “blow outward in all directions,” and were “a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.” At that time, however, the winds were thought to have inhibiting effects on the growth of new stars within galaxies since they resulted in decreasing a galaxy’s mass and gas supply, both of which are necessary factors in star formation.

The ESO’s news a couple of years later, then, has provided a new perspective on these winds and how they actually contribute to black holes’ creation of stars using nearby matter.

It also shows us firsthand why God tells us repeatedly in Scripture not to be afraid—because new creations can be birthed in even the darkest of places!

Trees Can “Talk”

There have been recent surprising discoveries right here on our own planet, too. A tree is a perfect example.

As a child, I used to talk to the tree outside my bedroom window. Being young and naïve, I assumed it could process communication since it was a living thing just like me. It never struck me as odd to do this—until people started saying it was.

As it turns out, trees really can communicate, albeit not with words like we do. While browsing a bookstore recently, I was pleased to come across the September 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. In it, author and forester Peter Wohlleben writes that trees communicate in a number of ways and situations. One method involves the emission of a “warning gas” when a tree is experiencing pain or a hazard, like when a giraffe is feeding on its leaves. During this process, the tree also emits toxins to create a bitter taste and drive away its predator. Nearby trees then begin producing the same gases and toxins in response to the warning scent. As a result, grazing animals have been witnessed to stop eating, move on and then walk past the surrounding trees without even stopping to taste them due to their unpleasant odors. The injured tree has effectively warded off its predator and communicated its distress to its neighbors—and they were able to understand and respond to the message!

Hidden Life of Trees

In this book as well as in a September 2016 interview with The Guardian, Wohlleben said that trees also release chemicals and electrical impulses via their underground fungal root systems to communicate across longer distances, since scents can only travel so far; he cleverly refers to this network as the “wood wide web.”

In the June 2016 TED Talk How Trees Talk to Each Other, forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard also discussed this “massive belowground communications network” within a forest. Through experiments she conducted measuring the transfer of nutrients such as carbon between trees, she discovered trees engaged “in a lively two-way conversation.” Simard states that she knew this finding would “change the way we look at how trees interact in forests.”

TED talk on trees

Even more interestingly, both Simard and Wohlleben state that tree interactions vary, similar to how human ones do. For instance, Wohlleben states that trees will often help fortify weak trees and nurture specific “most beloved child” saplings. Wohlleben explains in The Guardian that this is possible because “trees may recognize with their roots who are their friends, who are their families, where their kids are.”

In her TED Talk, Suzanne Simard described these special bonds between trees. “We found that mother trees will send their excess carbon…to the understory seedlings, and we’ve associated this with increased seedling survival by four times.”

Simard also confirmed that trees go out of their way to help their own “children.” In an experiment conducted on Douglas firs in which “mother trees” were grown using “kin and stranger’s seedlings,” she determined that the mother trees did recognize their own seedlings as demonstrated by sharing more nutrients such as carbon with them as well as sending them defense signals, all of which “increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses.” In fact, “they even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids,” Simard said. Even more surprisingly, Simard stated that “when mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.”

Since trees use not only their root cells but also fungal cells, they are able to transmit a great deal of information and resources. “It turns out they were conversing not only in the language of carbon but also nitrogen and phosphorous and water and defense signals and allele chemicals and hormones—information,” Simard said.

Ultimately, not only do trees interact, but they decide how and when to do so. As Wohlleben told The Guardian, “We think about plants being robotic, following a genetic code. Plants and trees always have a choice about what to do.”

My tree-loving inner child felt vindicated after learning that trees do interact! Beyond that, though, I was awed by the unseen richness of life around us. Reading about the hidden communication of trees brought to mind what Romans 1:20 says about God’s “invisible attributes” being evident “ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (ESV). It really should be no surprise, then, that there’s much more to His creation than meets the eye.

The same can be said for our own existence. If God has given trees such rich inner lives, we can be sure that much more is going on behind the scenes in our own lives, even when we can’t perceive it.

Science: The Perfect Gift

There are countless Bible verses that speak about God’s wisdom. Isaiah 55: 8-9 is a favorite of mine: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

Despite what we know from His Word, however, I feel God continues to gift us with scientific discoveries like these so we can see His higher ways in action for ourselves. He wants us to see that everything has a purpose and a function, no matter how impossible, confusing or scary surrounding circumstances may seem. He knows that as humans we have weak moments, so concrete reminders of His wisdom can refresh us in our faith and uplift us during trials. I know this has been the case with me, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

I also think he hides these treasures so that we can share in His joy over His creation each time we unearth a rare find, similar to receiving a gift-wrapped present: part of the fun lies in opening a gift and finding the surprise yourself.

In fact, I suspect that if we could somehow have all of this knowledge already, many of us wouldn’t appreciate His wisdom and all He has done in quite the same way. When you work for something, it means that much more, and you’re less likely to take it for granted.

Ultimately, as we learn more about God through science, we’re better able to celebrate all He has done in and around us and to trust in His higher purposes, no matter what we’re facing.

One-Liner Wednesday: Self-Care

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“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures.”

Irish Proverb

 

* This post was created as part of blogger Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series. I chose to share this quote in the hopes that it’ll help anyone who’s stressed or feeling out of balance. We can all use a friendly reminder to not neglect ourselves or feel guilty for taking some time to regroup. Self-care is a necessity for all of us — and it actually helps us to accomplish what we want and need to do. So, I hope you have a blessed day that includes some humor and adequate rest!

 

 

“Someday Everything Will Make Perfect Sense.”

“Someday everything will make perfect sense.”

-Seen on the T-shirt of a woman walking by me down the street, and I found it inspiring.

 

*Note: Although this has been written as part of One-Liner Wednesday organized by the ever-inspiring Linda G. Hill, I have to add a couple of more lines to explain something. It’s been a long time since my last blog post. After being a caregiver, I’ve been grieving a significant loss, all of which came along with some other life changes that have taken up a lot of time and energy. I’m now able to return to regularly participating in the blogging community I’d grown to love, though. I decided to make this quote my first post back after so long because I hope it’s as useful to you as it has been for me!

Staying in the Present

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SoCS Badge by Doobster of MindfulDigressions.com

This week’s thought-provoking Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, planned and organized by Helen Espinosa of This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time while LindaGHill is traveling, is “present.”

I love this choice, as the word can be used in so many different ways. I’ve chosen to use it to refer to staying in the present moment.

I was inspired to interpret the prompt this way after recently seeing a quote about this concept online which immediately resonated with me. I couldn’t remember it exactly now, so I quickly looked it up so I could share it with you here:

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
— Corrie Ten Boom  

Beautifully said, and so true. Yet how often don’t we all persist in ruminating on the past or obsessing over the future? We know this rarely produces any positive results, but we do it anyway. And all it does is ruin the present day.

I know I do this. I’ve obsessed over decisions I’ve made (could I have done something different, and better?) or concerns about what lies ahead (will there be layoffs at my job?)…the list goes on and on.

But what do these thoughts really accomplish, short of scaring and/or depressing me?

Nothing.

In fact, this all reminds me of something else I recently read, the book Choose Yourself! by James Altucher (which is an interesting read that I recommend, by the way). In it, he stresses that this way of thinking is pointless. I decided to briefly stop my stream-of-consciousness writing one more time to look up his point on my Kindle and share it with you word-for-word in order to do it the justice it deserves. Altucher writes:

“Most people obsess on regrets in their past or anxieties in their future. I call this ‘time traveling.’ The past and future don’t exist. They are memories and speculation, neither of which you have any control over. You don’t need to time travel anymore. You can live right now.”

I had never thought of it this way, in terms of it being worthless time traveling, and immediately found this perspective so brilliantly simple. That’s exactly what this is, and who wants to spend their days focused on “memories and speculation?”

Not me.

Anything not happening now is not the present, and therefore there’s nothing you can do about it. So stop trying! It’s an exercise in futility!

Of course, this isn’t to say you should just give up on planning for the future and working to achieve your life’s goals — that’s all well and good. But once your thinking gets to a point of lying awake at night in fear of events you can’t control, that’s when it has to end.

For example, what if there are layoffs at your job, as I mentioned worrying about before? Can you control that? Not likely — and certainly not by worrying about it.

What you can do is stay up-to-date with your marketable skills and keep performing to the best of your ability on your current job so that if there are layoffs that affect you, you’re in the best position possible to find new employment, prepared with good references and abilities. Or maybe your employer will see how hard you’ve been working and you’ll be spared. Either way is win-win.

Plus, many times our worst fears never end up happening anyway, as I found out firsthand years ago when faced with this worry about layoffs. I’d heard rumors of cutbacks at my job, but as it turned out, no layoffs ever occurred, luckily — so I went through weeks of self-imposed stress and anxiety for no reason at all.

And when it comes to questioning your past, particularly decisions you’ve made and now regret, someone I worked with once shared a good perspective on this. He told us that we’ve made the best possible decision every single time we’ve had to make one.

Every single time.

Sounds a bit simplistic and overly positive, doesn’t it? But it makes sense. See, while you may now see a way that might have been better, you made your choice based on what you knew at the time, so it was in fact the best decision you could make.

For instance, let’s say you were offered two comparable jobs at similar companies and went with job A, which offered a better salary and shorter commute. However, you’re no longer happy there because your company is struggling, resulting in a tense environment and severe budget restrictions. You may wish you had gone with job B, which is at a company that has since experienced lots of rapid expansion and success. Sure, it’s easy to feel some regret, but you have to brush that off and certainly not blame yourself — you need to recognize that you made the best possible decision you could have at the time, given the information available to you at that present moment. There’s no value in thinking, “That was so dumb of me, why did I do that?” There’s likely no way you could have known otherwise back then. In other words, everything only looks so clear in hindsight.

Or, as “they” say, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback!

Plus, who’s to say with 100% certainty that job B would have worked out better for you personally anyway? Perhaps your colleagues wouldn’t be as easy to work with as your current ones, or your direct supervisor wouldn’t be as reasonable as the one you have now. All of these are just simple scenarios, but I’m trying to point out that you never truly know how another route would have worked out, so there’s no point in worrying about it now.

Besides, even when we have made a mistake, that’s part of life — and nothing is a lost cause. You’re in a less-than-fulfilling job? Start looking now for a new one. You moved to a bad apartment? You can always move again. I’m not saying it’s a snap to make these changes, but they’re always possible.

In moments like these, whether I’m questioning past decisions or getting stressed thinking about the future, it helps me to remember that doing so isn’t worth it. I should just stay in the present moment. I hope this is a helpful reminder for you too!

One-Liner Wednesday: Wasting Time

“You cannot afford to waste another minute being unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and underutilized.”

-from Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life’s Riches, published by Amistad (September 9, 2014).

Note: This post was written as part of blogger LindaGHill’s One-Liner Wednesday. Hope you you found it helpful!