Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When It Cuts to the Core

Ever had one of those revelations that unexpectedly cuts to the core of who you are? You just want to crawl into the fetal position and leave the world behind. Sometimes you crawl in so deep that you don’t even trust God with your brokenness, your misery.

As I drive around town I notice the winter nakedness of the trees. Once lush with flowing green leaves, the branches are bare. All the growth that offered shade, is now revealed for what it is…twisted snarled branches exposed for all to see.

How do branches get that way? Cold snaps of weather, wind and lack of water can all damage a tree.

It’s no different with life. The cold snaps when we feel alone bend us in ways which we don’t understand. The bitter winds rush through us as harsh words seethe through us, freezing the core of our being to the bone. But the lack of water, the lack of nourishment is what damages most. Trees need water, we need love.

A few weeks back I shared my thoughts on the seasons of our lives and compared them to the seasons of nature, Weather of the Heart and Life Imitates Art.

Seeing the bare branches reminded me of the winter of our lives. What we think is so cleverly hidden beneath the lush leaves of our summer lives, at some point is revealed and lies naked for all to see. No matter how much we pack away the hurts of our hearts, eventually the truth comes out.

In order to avoid ending up a dry withered stump, we must face our knotted, distorted wounds and work through them. Sometimes it’s best to prune the dead branches of our past out.

Gardeners shape their trees for best growth and aesthetic viewing. The dead branches sit all winter while the tree sleeps. In the spring, the careful gardener cuts back a 1/3 of the new growth.

It’s no different with us. At times we must sit and stare at ourselves to determine the dead parts and how we can trim ourselves for the best growth possible. We must sit in our misery and be patient while God works on us. Then in the spring, we prune back the dead branches and cut back a third of whatever growth we’ve done over the winter recognizing that not everything we take in is useful.

Pruning is necessary and John 15:2 describes it aptly: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

So while the revelations we realize during the winters of our lives might be difficult and painful, they are necessary for our growth. I rest peaceful—even if I am twisted and knotted—in the knowledge that this life prepares me for the next.

The pictures of the trees in this post are pictures of some of the same trees from my post Life Imitates Art without their leaves. Life is interesting, isn’t it?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Love With a Twist

I spent a couple days this week talking to preschoolers about the love of Jesus. And of course I read my books to them. It was a great experience and I it reminded me of a post I did a long time ago, but with a twist.

Thought I’d share it with you this week.

One of the things I talk about with the kids is how much Jesus loves them. In my book, Peek-a-boo Jesus!, there is a page towards the end that asks, “Where are Jesus’ arms?” The answer is of course, “Holding you tight.” That’s how I really feel. Our Christ holds us tight; he walks with us and waits patiently while we work through our failings.

In this particular preschool, there was a crucifix in the room. A crucifix is different than a cross in that the image of the crucified Jesus hangs on the cross. I asked the kids the same question as the book, “Where are Jesus’ arms?” They all agreed Jesus arms were stretched out.

We talked about how sometimes we reach our arms out wide and say, “I love you this much!” to our parents and they do the same. I then asked if it was possible Jesus doing the same thing. Perhaps the reason why Jesus’ arms were stretched out wide is that Jesus was showing us just how much he loves us. I asked the kids to close their eyes and imagine Jesus repeating just that, “I love you this much.”

What I saw next put tears in my eyes. One little boy went right over to a little girl who was sitting by herself (I had been told was very shy). He got on his knees and simply said to her, “Kiara, I love you this much!” and stretched his arms out as far as they would go. I almost cried. He got it. This little guy transferred the love in his heart to action and that shy little girl responded by hugging him back. It was a sweet moment I won’t soon forget.

It’s a simple concept—a savior taking on the sin of the world, our sin, and making it his own. It’s the ultimate love. A man, yet the Son of God, stretched his arms out, allowed the executioners to stretch them until they were dislocated. This Prince of Peace said, “I love you this much.”

How often do we stop and consider this? For me, I know it’s not enough.

We are reaching that time of year again when we celebrate the birth of one who would love us more completely than any ever could. I hope you will go back and read my posting from 2008, called “I Love You This Much,” and I hope it reminds you of the love that only God can give.