Tree of Life

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In the Garden, there were many trees, but two were mentioned specifically. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Because Adam and Eve ate of the former, they could not eat of the latter and life forever. (Genesis 2&3)

That is the tree of life, only referenced again in Revelation. And it’s amazing. From Genesis, we learn that this tree grants those that eat of it to live forever, but Revelation tells us more. It is the paradise of God (Rev 2:7).

And then this next part is too marvelous for me to paraphrase.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:1-2)

Did you catch that? The “river of the water of life, bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” feeds this tree that bears TWELVE kinds of fruit. And its leaves were for the healing of the nations. I told you I couldn’t paraphrase it. I basically just quoted it again. How good is our God?! He gives fruit for each month and leaves for healing. This tree is never not producing goodness and health for all who are granted to eat of it.

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Did you catch the description of the river? Flowing with the water of life, bright as crystal coming from the throne of God! I love rivers. Who could hear of this not be amazed? But it feels like a special kiss from Heaven, because He knows how I love rivers, so He delights my heart with particularly joyful expectation.

And can you imagine a different fruit each month of the year from the same tree? And healing leaves! Sweet Jesus, is there going to be tea in Heaven?! Can I have tea made from the leaves of the tree of life? Okay, forgive me. I got a little excited. Tea makes me happy. 🙂 Now I am imaging a cup of healing tea under the tree of life by the bright crystal river flowing from the throne…

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And I am sure now beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something else I am missing. The glory of God in Heaven on His throne will certainly be more awe-inspiring than any created thing – even this delightful river and tree. Will I ever tire of bowing before His throne? Or want to take my gaze away from my King long enough to look at any other living thing? I will be surrounded by so much beauty, but He alone will forever be the most beautiful thing.

Goodness! I was planning on writing about lesser “trees”, but God knows this is the meditation I need.

If you want to look up what I was going to write about, here are the passages: Proverbs 3:18Proverbs 11:30Proverbs 13:12Proverbs 15:4.

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Timely Reminder

When I got home last night, I knew I couldn’t go straight to bed. My mind was running, going nowhere but going in a frenzy. “Well, if I cannot make another’s heart my home, might as well make this room more like a home,” I said out loud to no one, as awfully melodramatic as it sounds. But I proceeded to turn on a couple lamps and sit in my arm chair with my journal.

It was a dark place. And I gave my thoughts room to roam. This is how I journal. I write down my feelings and ask for God to lead my thoughts. Though I didn’t get full relief, I did settle on knowing that God made me for Himself.

I slept restlessly and fought the morning until I had no choice but to get up. But then I got outside. It was cloudy, with a slight breeze. The greens seemed greener, and I wanted nothing more than to roll down the windows and drive with nothing on my mind. Just me and the wind, traffic roaring and birds singing.

Though I longed to keep driving, responsibility stopped my wheels. I sat down at my desk inside. When I opened my e-mail, cup of tea in hand, I found the link to this article – Will I Be Single Forever?

And the words hit home.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

That’s what I was doing. And it happened so seamlessly. I lost focus on eternity with as much ease as a toddler losing focus on his green beans.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

I’ve known this. I could have written this article. How quickly I forget! Even in my despair, I knew I could not rest my hopes on a man. I literally said those words last night, but my heart wasn’t hearing it.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

God is so faithful to remind me of truth I am so prone to forget. This world and all it’s pain does not get the final word. And every blessing is only a taste of an unshakable reality to come.

Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

A Cloudy Day

I had to leave. I felt so alone in that crowded home. No one knew the ache in my heart. No one even asked.

“I have to go,” I told them, not mentioning where. That wasn’t necessary information. If they knew I was going for a walk, someone might offer to come with, and I wanted to be alone to talk to Jesus.

It was a cloudy day. Raining just barely. A fresh mist falling from the sky. Everything looked so beautifully green. I walked, embracing the rain, giving no thought to my lack of umbrella and, therefore, damp appearance.

And I cried. How could there be so much beauty in the world, when there is so much pain? And my thoughts drew to the ground, beneath the dirt. The seeds had to die for life to give birth. It’s the way things work. People too. I know this is an old truth, but I have to re-learn it every season. These work together – beauty and pain. One does not diminish the other.

“It makes me sad that you are sad,” were the tender words of my emotionally intelligent 7 year old nephew. And in that hurting together, there is the strength of bittersweet beauty that sends our roots deeper.

I walked back to the house to use the bathroom, and say my final goodbyes. I was going to leave, anyway, but then my friend started to play his guitar, and I stayed. We sang our praises to Jesus our King, and my spirit soared above the trees I wished I could climb. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. ❤

Silence, Gravity, and Serenity

Lately, I’ve not had much to say. On the phone with a friend last night, I mostly let him talk. There came that oft’ dreaded silence… “Well… I should let you go…”

I had thoughts, but none seemed important. Or they may have seemed valuable, but my voice did not have the strength to carry them. They resided in a place more honored by my silence.

Lately, I feel the same when talking to God. I don’t have much to say. He knows my troubles, and even the thought of mentioning them exhausts me. Not that they are much more than anyone else’s woes. The more I talk with people, the more I see that they are common. And maybe that’s what makes them feel heavier. A very deep and wide weight that affects us all, like gravity.

Waking up is hard. But this morning, I had somewhere to be, though I felt like I had nothing to bring. And that’s enough. It is enough to simply bring myself. As much as I want to be worthy of eternal love on my own, Christ gives this gift to me freely. He sees my weakness and loves me completely. It’s enough to be me. And this world I try to carry was carried for me.

It’s not about what I could bring,
But all about Jesus Christ my King.

And in that place, I felt the sweetness of His friendship. Not detached from sorrow, but more like my feet could be planted in it while my arms reached all the higher in love and hope. My Savior loves my friendship. And this is not some irreverent thing. It is entirely holy. Built on my weakness and His strength, and He carries me happily. He carries me – this happy, hurting, and growing tree. I drink freely of His love as He waters me.

 

Like Those Who Built Cathedrals

We went around answering the question, “How would you like to be remembered after you die?” As someone who loved well, someone who risked all, someone who lived unafraid… And my answer surprised them.

I want to live a fearless life filled with love and risk-taking, yes. But I do not long for the memory of me to be glorified or praised. In my death, I do not desire to have your view of me elevated.

I love the story of the people who built those massive gorgeous cathedrals. The ones who never saw the completion of their work in their lifetime, who never received accolades or their names in history books. I want to devote my life to something bigger than me; that I care about more than my reputation.

Unless I am mistakenly assumed to be dead, I won’t be reading my eulogy. And the praise of man won’t mean a thing to me while I am kneeling before the throne of God in Heaven, basking in His beauty.

At my funeral, people can say whatever they want, wear what color they want, and grieve however best serves them. My eulogy can be as simple or complex as the person writing it wants it to be. In the end, what matters is not what people remember about me, but that God gets the glory in my life and death.

The world may never mention my name again, but if people are changed by the love of God through me, that is enough. I need no credit. All I have done or will do that is good, is not of my strength but His.

I want to lay some bricks in the cathedral of His glory, where people may walk in and be in awe, but not in awe of me.

I remember a small part in The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis in which he describes a woman given honor, unbearable beauty, and a grand procession in Heaven…

“Is it? … is it?” I whispered to my guide.
“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of…

“She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

I want to be like this woman. You might think I am contradicting myself now. Do I want the glory or not? Yes and No. Yes, eternally, in Heaven with Jesus. Not here.

Phil 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Other related links to check out:

As a footnote, I just found out the this quote “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History” wasn’t intended to be used as it is these days. Read more from DesiringGod.org

Also, this poem by C.T. Studd with the ever-applicable lines “Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Read the rest of the poem here.

 

Stay Awake & Become

This has been my lifelong struggle – simply getting out of bed in the morning. It should be simple, right? I’m not talking about difficulty with waking, but more so staying awake and physically moving my limbs towards activity.

I was almost successful this morning! I woke up and got out of bed when my alarm went off, stayed out of bed… grabbed a pillow and blanket and laid down on the floor. This is progress, people! Haha. You’ve got to laugh at yourself every once in a while.

There is this “5 Second Rule” authored by the brilliant Mel Robbins, that I have been attempting.

So here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 second rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

She recommends, when your alarm goes off, count down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – and act! Which is a great idea, and I am going to try it again. Clearly, I haven’t perfected the method, given the example from this morning. If only my self-sabotaging instincts weren’t so strong! My brain tries to talk me out of action while I am counting. I think the trick is to only think about counting and move – not to give space to the voice in your head talking you out of a good thing.

Becoming 

On a tangent (which is essentially related, but you’ll have to read on to find out how), I rented “Becoming Jane” from the library, and it’s a heartbreaking story of the life of Jane Austen – who, though she wrote extensively of love and marriage, never married. I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending – but it rattled me a bit anyway. As realistic as I tend to be, I do like a happy ending. (Though, of course, not marrying is not the worst thing that could happen, by a long shot.)

But it reminded me of a simple fact – no matter whether or not I ever marry, there is one person I will have to spend the rest of my life with… myself.

I share this to say that there is value in becoming someone you would like to be around. And I would like to become someone who can get out of bed in the morning… And someone who gets outside and talks to people. Someone who loves without fear.

So I’ll try the 5 Second Rule Again.

For the love of the God Man who first loved me; for the praise of Him in His glory.

1 John 49-10 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 

Don’t Let Your Spirit Die Before Your Body Does

It was for my 26th birthday. We had been planning on getting tattoos together for years, and finally we scheduled an appointment and saved up the money.

The most obvious reason that I got this tattoo is that I am a Jon Foreman fan, and these are lyrics from his song Terminal.

(The lines before and after go like this:

“…Some folks die in offices one day at a time.
They could live a hundred years,
But their soul’s already died.
Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.
We’re terminal…”

These lyrics could be unpacked and expounded upon. So here is what these words mean to me, especially now that they are a part of me. (Disclaimer: It has nothing to do with dying in an office.)

To begin with, let’s unpack what the spirit is (though not exhaustively). In certain instances, it could be appropriately used interchangeably with soul, or a separate but intricately connected compliment to the soul; consciousness, or zeal; the part of us that is in communication with the Spirit of God and the supernatural.

I’ll try to address all of the above a little more closely.

The Human Spirit in Relationship with God

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” C.S. Lewis

Therefore, I would argue that the spirit does not die, but either resides in eternity with Jesus or separated from Him in hell. So, you might ask, “How do you reconcile the words “don’t let your spirit die..” if indeed your spirit cannot die?”

That is a very good question.

A figurative death

The simplest explanation is that I am talking figuratively. Kind of. Here, I would like to touch on a few of my own personal examples.

Figuratively dead could also look like being numb and unresponsive to things of the spirit. If my spirit is numb, it cannot receive from the His Spirit. If I am not in constant communication with the Spirit of God, I am living by the flesh – doing whatever I feel like, giving in to harmful thought patterns and behaviors. In this state, I get very cynical and bitter. Quite literally, I hate everyone (myself included), when disconnected from and grieving the Spirit of God. Everything is awful in this frame of mind. Nothing is beautiful to me. Everything is irredeemable. Not even a majestic sunrise can touch this hardened heart. I am more likely to gossip, slander, and act out of irritation. I am simply mean and utterly depressed when living in the flesh. The author of Ephesians put it perfectly – “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander… along with all malice.”

 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:29-31

 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

The fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-23

Look at all that beautiful fruit. That is the kind of life I want to live; the kind of person I want to be. Joy. Love. Peace. With that, I can appreciate and enjoy life; the beauty in nature and mankind. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. With these, I can be a blessing instead of a curse, and receive blessing with a grateful heart. Self-control. Here’s the kicker, the hardest fruit to hold on to. To be self-controlled is to save yourself and your loved ones needless heartache. Life in the Spirit is truly the recipe for abundant life. With Christ in me, I can forgive like I have been forgiven, and let go of hate.

Referring once again to Ephesians, this bounty of this fruit of the Spirit is available to us as Christians if we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, and we “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Being Present, Consciousness

I am very naturally excessively analytical and live much of my life within my own head. This life in communication with the Spirit of God is not one of mere introspection. “Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.” This reminder to me yells, “Hey, you’re alive in this body. Live like it! Get out of your head, and experience the present.”

I wrote in my journal on my 26th birthday, “Every birthday is a reminder that I haven’t died yet.” This is partly a reflection on my depression and hopeful expectation to die. I know, you must think that is pretty sad. It’s true, and more often than not, it is subtle background noise to my daily life. I’ve not actively sought death, but prayed for it.

God has not granted that request, so He must have a reason for me to be here. That reason is not to be preoccupied with my own thoughts, avoiding the lush beauty of life in the present, and avoiding the love that I can give and receive. The spirit in this body engaged with the Spirit of God is to be active through this body, actively engaging in the lives around me, forgetting about self-consciousness to live for others in each precious moment in light of eternity.

In Other Words

Don’t let your spirit die before your body does,” means to me: Stay alive to the life Christ has given to you, treasuring every moment until the last. Be the person you are in the Savior. Dead to self, alive in Jesus. — All of this is not possible without a relationship with Jesus Christ, accepting the sacrifice He made to redeem us, save us from the death we were headed to for eternity and the death we were living in separated from Him. He is our source of life in the spirit as well as in the body. The source of all life.

“16 O Lord, by these things men live,
and in all these is the life of my spirit.
Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.” –Isaiah 38:16-17

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10

Peace to you all. Hope this has blessed you to read as much as it has blessed me to write.

 

The Job You Were Never Given

Here is a sample of a conversation that happens periodically:
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Honey, I’m a mom. It’s my job to worry.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard these words from my own mother (props to my mom). Other people’s moms like to figuratively adopt me as an object of their concern. I love their nurturing tendencies and care towards their children. Their attention and care for me is so incredibly cherished and valued. But I do not want their worry.

The fact is that it’s not your job. It is no one’s job, not even if you’re really that person’s mom. Please forgive me if this sounds harsh. Yet, I see no room in the scripture for excusing worry.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

Matthew 6:31 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Luke 12:25 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I believe this applies to worrying about other people’s lives as well. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your child’s life? to anyone’s life? Correct me if I am missing something, but I don’t see any exceptions. Jesus does not say here, “Do not worry, unless you are a mom.” Or “…unless you are held responsible for people under your care.” 

Regardless of whether it is our own lives, or the lives of our loved ones, Jesus can handle it. Our worry exhibits a lack of faith and trust. The God of the universe has got this. You not only don’t have to worry, you are commanded not to. How kind is that command? It is the best for us and everyone around us.

Risking Failure

What am I afraid of when confronted with the opportunity to chase a dream? I could fall on my face, face rejection, or I could succeed – leading to far more unanswered questions. It would be so much easier to not take a step. My own pride asserts that I ought to get my life together before I go further. Others are certainly more qualified.

His Glory or Mine
But waiting to move until I am confident in my own awesome ability and credentials robs God of an incredible opportunity to be glorified in my weakness. Moreover, my reluctance reveals a sinful lust for my own glory over His.

Faith Is Never Failure and Obedience Doesn’t Always Look Like Success
I could try and fail, but a step of faith and obedience is never failure, not in the eyes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Since Jesus’ obedience led to death, I believe I can say with confidence that God’s plan does not always look like success to the world.

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(Quote by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf)

I fear obtaining my goals and finding myself unable to rise to the challenges they present. But here lies another blessed opportunity for Christ’s power to be made known in my weaknesses. Dreams that scare you are more likely going to need more than you can offer. When God comes through, there will be no stealing His glory if it is something you couldn’t do.

Believe and Trust
If this door is presently closed to me, I will trust that He will use it to teach me what I could not have known and grow me in ways I could not have grown otherwise. If it is opened, trust that He will provide for all of the uncertainties and challenges that follow.

Father, I want to trust You beyond what my eyes can see or my mind imagine. You are worthy of all my trust and faith. Lead me. There is none more skilled in guiding me. I’m sorry for worrying and trying to work things out in my own strength.  You are good. I trust You.  Amen

 

 

 the face

OneThing Recap: Wholeness and Healing

After years of feeling so broken, my Heavenly Father spoke wholeness and healing over me. Restoration. Through a stranger and through a new friend.

A stranger wrote to me: “He knows where all the broken pieces are! He wants His child whole – His mission – His heart’s desire is to gather those pieces – to mend, to make whole His child! … His great desire is to lovingly take each broken piece and restore it – under His grace – as we sit in His presence and allow Him to speak. As we allow ourselves to receive, He will heal. So simple. So hard. To rest and receive. Receive, sweet sister. The world doesn’t understand coming to a conference and crying… They don’t understand our God, our Beloved Savior weeps with us; that the tears are healing! It’s communication with Him. It’s connection with Him. It’s His great desire for tender hearts to come before Him.”

I receive that, sweet sister. Thank you stranger. For all the strangers and friends that have prayed for me this week, thank you! God hears you, and God is healing me.

To the gentleman I did not know who told me that there is purpose in pain, thank you. To the young man called me his sister and prayed for deeper healing than merely physical and shared practical wisdom with me, thank you.

To the woman in the restroom who stood and persisted in prayer over me with my friends until the warmth of healing spread from the top of my head to my toes and peaceful rest filled my soul in sweet communion with the Father, thank you. I think we stood there for 10 minutes.

To my new and old friends who persisted with me this week, giving me a place to stay, transportation, and even going with me to the hospital, thank you. I am so blessed by you all, and I pray God blesses you abundantly beyond your wildest dreams.

To the speakers and singers at the OneThing Conference, thank you. Especially Francis Chan, Matt Maher, and Audrey Assad… I was drawn into worship like I haven’t been in a long time. I am blessed by the love of Christ and His church exhibited. I understand 1 Peter 4 like never before, and I am equipped to go into this new year with the joy to embrace suffering as Christ did for me.

Even though the pain of whiplash did not entirely subside, it is dramatically better now. Even though I will have learn how to get to work without a car, I am encouraged knowing that in Christ I have everything, and I shall not want. If he did not provide one more physical comfort to me, He would still be enough. His sacrifice on the cross is still enough to prove His love.

Thank you for my little brother, who is not so little anymore, who prayed for my  health and drove me home this morning. I don’t know if you know how much that means to me.

“In my darkest hour, in humiliation, I will wait for You. I am not forsaken. Though I lose my life, though my breath be taken, I will wait for You. I am not forsaken. One thing I desire, to see You in Your beauty. You are my delight. You are my glory. You, my sacrifice, oh Your love is all consuming. You are my delight. You are my glory. You’re the lover of my soul. Even unto death, with my every breath, I will love You. Jesus, the very thought of You…”Audrey Assad

After all the good and the bad, after feeling so full and so broken, so needy… It is easy to over-emphasize what I lack. It is easy to focus on how I have disappointed myself and frustrated others… I want to focus instead on the beauty of God’s people, thankfulness, what I have in Christ, wholeness, love…

” Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James 1:2-4

I am whole. I am loved. There is nothing that I lack. I am laying to rest the past on the bosom of Christ.