Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Life of a Tree

Sitting under an old maple tree, I’m enjoying the relief that the shade brings to the heat of summer. As I lean up against the trunk, I investigate the jagged, splintered, uneven crags of the bark. The brown and gray covering of the tree protects it much like skin protects humans.

Peeled bark reveals the inner workings of the tree. Moisture sipped from the roots, moves up the trunk, to the branches and then the leaves. Some trees grow tall and spread their branches out horizontally, while others shoot their fingers straight up towards the sun. Branches vary too. Some are smooth and reach upward, while others twist and tangle endlessly from the trunk. And once you follow the branches to their spindly fingering ends, you encounter endless varieties of leaves that blossom out providing shape and shade. Each tree is unique.

Trees are a lot like people. Each human is unique and each one needs to be cared for. Some people are short and stocky, while others are long and spindly. Life causes our branches to either reach out to others, or triggers us to keep them close to us.

The weather of life affects us just like it affects trees. We start out as small seedlings with smooth bark. As we grow, heat, cold, wind and rain shape who we become. If we live in moderate climates where life is good, our branches reach up and out and the leaves of our lives blossom. If we dwell in harsh climates, our bark, branches and leaves become tangled and splintered.

But no matter what climate we reside in, our bark changes as we grow older. We start out as smooth skinned babies and as we grow our skin cracks with age. Just like trees, exposure to life causes us to change. At times someone peels away our bark and causes us to be wounded, whether by words or actions. Sometimes we wound others causing their bark to scar.

But through the careful application of salve and bandages, our bark can heal and we can recover. If our wounds are left exposed, something about us withers. Either a branch dies, or our leaves wither, leaving us crippled emotionally or spiritually.

We as well as trees thrive on nourishment. That nourishment can take many forms. But for us, there is nothing better than kind words from others that help us grow. We can receive those kind words in many forms. Friends, family and even strangers can aid us in our development. And there is a secret place that provides words of encouragement. The Bible. Nothing takes the place of the supernatural nourishment of reading, reflecting and praying on the words we’ve received from the Word of God.

So if you’re feeling splintered, parched, and wilted from the heat of life, know there is healing. Sink your roots into the pages of the Bible and drink up the words of everlasting life. Dig deep into the comforting words of our God and find the healing your heart desires. Then turn your leaves toward the Son and soak up the healing love he has to offer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Being Dirt

Clay is dirt…minerals and dirt.

According to Genesis Chapter 1, we are dirt too.

So, you could say, we have a great deal in common with pottery. We’re both dirt.
Being dirt makes us special. Dirt, when used as clay is special. It is used to fashion pottery and art. The Bible talks about it distinctly in Isaiah 64:8, “we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.”

There are days when being the clay is easy. I sit back and observe life around me and allow God to show me His love in nature and in others. There are days when it’s not so easy too. There are times when every movement, every moment is a struggle. The difficult situations, tired relationships, and the general day to day activities wear me out.

I think there must be times that it’s difficult for the Creator to mold me too. Times when my brain just won’t wrap around the concept of suffering or injustice, those must be challenging moments when the clay that is me, just won’t bend.

What do potters do when the clay is tough to work with? They add water. (Anyone who reads my blog with some regularity knows how much I talk about water!) It sustains life, it heals life and it is used so many places in the Bible that we understand it to be a powerful symbol used by our God.

The very molecular makeup of water reflects the Trinity—there are two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom in one molecule of water. Water binds with every element that allows binding and it fastens itself in all directions—much like our God.

I can tell when I’ve not had enough water to drink during the day. I get cranky or move slow, sometimes I get a headache. We all wilt without water. I can also tell when I’ve not had enough God during the day too.

Adding water to clay to make it more malleable makes sense on a science level. But it also makes sense on a theological level. Whenever we allow God to permeate our being, we allow the Potter to add water and make us more flexible. We learn to bend, twist, shape and move. Whether it’s through reading the Word of God in the Bible, taking in nature, dealing with rude people in traffic or experiencing the pain of suffering, those occurrences are opportunities to be molded the way the Potter wants. Sometimes the tough work of being molded yields the best results.

My job is to stop resisting the rough parts of life, so the Potter can do His work.