After a morning of chopping, sawing, digging, and prying it is still unmoved!

At first I thought it would be an hour long project. That was before I dug down and looked at what was below the surface.

Let me back up. I cut that tree down over a year ago to make way for planting grapes, blackberries and blueberries. Since then I have repeatedly cut away new growth emerging from an ugly stump barely six inches across. So I decided I would get rid of the thing. How hard could that be?

Before I cut it down this tree did not stand out as different from the others. But on the morning I decided to get rid of its stump I discovered a real difference in this tree just below the surface where no eye had seen. Beneath the surface there were huge roots, nearly as big in diameter as the stump itself stretching in every direction. After cutting each one (with considerable effort) it still would not budge! Obviously, deeper still there are roots holding it in place, tenaciously to the ground in which it once emerged as a tender, young sapling.

This week we learned of yet another mass shooting at a Naval yard in Washington. Other weeks we are faced with healthcare problems or the threat of government shutdowns and war, or a recessionary economy. We struggle with broken homes, wayward children, or a shocking diagnosis from the doctor. The list goes on. How can we be prepared for such a world as this? These problems seem intractable because there is more to them than meets the eye.

I believe the answer is in that tree stump. The word “stumped”, meaning there seems to be no easy solution to a problem, emerged during the days of building our national rail system. As the tracks expanded great trees were encountered. There was no way around removing the stumps but that was easier said than done. The setting of the sun on many days left the workers “stumped” with how to remove them.

Jesus came not as a general, a president or a philanthropist because God knew the solution to a troubled world could not be found in war, politics or finances. Our world is “stumped” because we have not learned to look beneath the surface. When we allow God to probe our hearts and reveal to us our broken human nature which is beneath all our problems we are taking the first steps. Only the God who made us, and who loves us can root out all that keeps our lives and our world broken.

The Christian Life and Tree Rings

The Christian Life and Tree Rings

I remember being taught about the rings inside of trees as a child in elementary school. I learned that you can tell a lot about the life of a tree by studying the pattern of the rings. A tree can contain both thick and thin rings. The patterns in which they are arranged may vary. We can discern various things that occurred in time by observing these things. This year a very dry season. That year, unusually cold or wet. What becomes evident is that conditions unknown and unmade by the tree caused various rates of growth. In the end, however, all that’s evident when we examine the towering tree is its strength and beauty. The internal arrangement of the rings is not seen or understood by the outside observer.

So it is with the ways of God. Days, weeks, months. Worship, studies, conversations, prayers, all in irregular spurts and lulls. Times of peace, times of conflict. Times when we are focused and attentive to our growth. Other times when we seem to be in a dry season. But God, the master gardner, holds the source of water, weather and nutrients in His hands. What matters is not that the tree of our lives grows in any predictable way, but rather that in the end, we become a towering tree of strength in Him. May each believer in Christ grow into the towering tree of faith and strength that He desires each of us to be. Amen!

Winter Brings Life!


Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

In winter the cold weather, short days, and seemingly endless nights force all signs of life from the trees. Late in autumn the last leaf clings reluctantly to the branch fearing that its last gasp will end in the death of its’ mother tree. Yet little does the leaf know that its’ death is key to the life of many, future leaves awaiting birth in the spring.

It is only in this season of retreat from life, hidden from every mortal eye in the roots deep beneath the soil, that the promise of life renewed resides. There, hidden by the difficult rigors of winter’s cold breath, where light cannot penetrate, rests the promise of abundant life. This cold winter Sabbath of God holds the ever present promise of timely release from death’s cruel grasp. There, in this season of dormancy, the tree begins to give life to new roots. It is the renewal of these roots that allows the tree to draw strength from untapped earthly resources.

To those unschooled in the wisdom of our great Creator, the joyous blossom of the tree in spring is a mystery. But deep beneath the sun’s warming rays there lies the secret of life this new life… death and renewal. This life-giving death is not true death at all, but a temporary condition awaiting the blessed end of that third day. After which we experience the sure and certain promise of an ever-loving God- eternal life!

Perfect Imperfection

Perfect Imperfection

Not everything in nature is lovely. I recently noted a very old gnarled tree. There was little symmetry and no beauty to it at all. There were several dead branches marring it’s appearance and mistletoe, a parasite, leeching the life away from the tree growing near the top. This tree was in a word- ugly.

Yet in an odd way, it was exactly the tree’s imperfections which caught my attention and made me stop and notice it in the first place. It was the tree’s unusual appearance which made it arresting to look at. Certainly things of perfection, such as a perfectly manicured lawn, are beautiful as well. But oh how much more lovely is sweeping field filled with clover and wildflowers! The towering ancient gnarled tree! The cactus in bloom in the violent desolation of the desert! The perfect lawn pales in comparison to these!

People, in general, seem to prefer the perfection of the manicured lawn to the wild, unpredictable asymmetry of nature. We insist on conformity to our image of manicured people in our circle of friends, neighbors, or church family. We perhaps do not adequately appreciate the amazing variety and unexpected eccentricities that God has built into his human Kingdom. Just as He built the unexpected into nature, He has also done in his crowing glory- the children He calls His own! We are all creatures of wondrous variety.

The temptation we must resist is that of attempting to turn each field of clover we encounter into a well manicured lawn. When we approach our neighbor with the intention of cutting clear all that we do not understand or appreciate, and then implant our own weedkiller and fertilizer, we risk altering their own unique essential being. We may tell ourselves that this is for the greater good, but it is still interfering with God’s perfect creation. Think of it this way. How incredibly boring would a world full of nothing but perfectly manicured lawns as far as the eye can see be? How incredibly boring would our lives be if they were peopled by nothing but perfectly manicured and conformed people? Let us instead look at each other with the eyes of God who created and sustains both nature and human beings in all their perfect imperfection. Amen!